In his book The Collected
Explanations for The State of The World (in the original Finnish: Maailman
tilan kootut selitykset), Olli Tammilehto discusses explanations for
environmental disaster, wars, hunger, poverty and the destruction of cultures.
Since explanations and suggestions for solutions are often tightly connected,
Tammilehto also studies the validity of solutions proposed for global problems.
He takes under examination common explanations in both popular and scientific
literature such as population growth and economic underdevelopment, and
looks into them one by one. By pointing out their shortcomings, he little
by little ends up with a social explanation based on power structures and
The themes of the book are
closely linked to discussions on globalisation, yet this is not just one
book on globalisation among all the others. This work is also linked with
much older discussions about the nature of the prevalent form of the economy
and the state as well as the relation of people and society. Along with
globalisation, 1t is also connected with other new discussions which occur
among ecological philosophy and critical social theory. Despite the fact
that this book is against postmodernist relativism in spirit, it utilises
the subject and discourse theories of postmodernist debate.
Since this book brings together
the streams of thought which are very versatile and hail from different
sources, it offers a lot even for someone who has followed international
discussion for some time. On the other hand, as an intelligible text, it
is also suitable for someone who has recently discovered the problematics
concerning global issues. Tammilehto's way of presenting is dialogical:
he presents statements of an imaginary critical reader, and aims to reply
to them. This may also contribute to making it easy to follow his thought
The book starts with an introduction
of good and evil by examining what is valuable in the world and what is
in the process of being demolished. The first target of Tammilehto's criticism
is economy as a general explanation, and a proposal for a solution. Economic
growth and its green variations are seen as hopeless attempts to quantify
human good. They do more to hide the destruction taking place through economy
than to alleviate it.
Tammilehto moves on to discuss
the technological explanation of problems. He observes that technological
general solutions fail because the political nature of technological change
is not taken into account. The book provides us with ample examples, generally
ignored by popular history, of how social power and technological change
are intertwined. Tammilehto also studies soft technology in some depth,
and the problems involved with that.
From there, he moves on to
slightly more unconventional explanations: supernatural and natural forces.
Even though supernatural forces are not largely mentioned in public discussions,
explanations linked with these are often a comfort for many. In addition,
according to the author, supernatural explanations often take after biological
explanations which are very popular in public debate. After going through
the contradictions and shortcomings of these explanations, the author moves
on to population growth, which is one of the most popular explanations
for poverty in the third world. Based on a large sample of current and
historical literature, Tammilehto argues that explanations of population
growth are always insufficient and often greatly misleading.
After this, Tammilehto deals
with explaining the state of the world on the basis of individual human
shortcomings. Despite the fact that people's ignorance, weakness and wickedness
undoubtedly are problems, he doesn't find it feasible to explain the state
of the world on this basis - e.g. because it is not the case that the same
individuals would always hold the same opinion but instead, people vary
their speech and deed according to their social situation.
Tammilehto continues his
presentation by going through feminist accusations targeted at male population.
He claims that there is some truth in these male explanations, but they
are insufficient without a more general examination of power. This is what
he does next and studies the nature of social power. According to the book,
power machineries have been created with the help of hierarchical structures
and information management, which renew themselves effectively and keep
society on its path of destruction. Of power structures, Tammilehto looks
into states and corporations in some detail. He dedicates one chapter to
the physical structures created by power hierarchies and their ability
to maintain once-selected negative development. The book also discusses
in depth global power practised by multinational corporations, coalitions
of states, and superpowers, and its destructive effects on the state of
Even though it appears that
everything has been explained, Tammilehto won't give up. In the last actual
chapter, he brings forth the weaknesses of explanations of power. According
to him, to complement these explanations, it is necessary to comprehend
the nature of current ideologies and discourses as social putty that fills
up the holes in the actual use of power.
In order to understand the
effects of current seemingly irrational discourses, the book examines subject
theory, the starting point of which is a slight split of the self even
in those who are considered mentally healthy in our current world. Finally,
the book makes the ideological study concrete through a historical review
of the state and economic ideologies of the Europe of the new era.
With all this explaining,
Tammilehto's purpose is not to prove the inevitability of current poverty
and destruction. On the contrary, he aims to show that the current state
of the world is a result of processes started as a consequence of some
people's aspirations to power, and that it is possible to stop these through
cooperation. Although the book is no guide to social activism, one of its
aims is to provide social movements with some instructions.
The references, a detailed index and a bibliography of over 1000 headings take up the last 80 pages of the book.
|Please send your comments on this
article to the address firstname(at)secondname.info