John Gray: False Dawn

The Delusions of Global Capitalism

Granta Books, 2009 (1998)

Book Description, 1st ed.:

This is an analysis of an important issue facing the world in the 1990s, whose outcome will determine the kind of world in which children will grow up in. John Gray argues that societies and peoples all over the world are being forced to participate in an experiment in liberal social engineering. The new world order created by the fall of communism has given birth to its own utopian delusion: the idea that only the complete freeing of the market in all areas of human life, from global trade to private health, can deliver prosperity and stability. This dogma, energetically promoted by institutions, such as the World Bank, the IMF and the US Government, would have people believe that only the most radically libertarian version of capitalism can work. Anglo-American capitalism, as perfected Thatcher and Reagan, is seen as the only possible model for the coming century. In Gray’s view, this cult of the unfettered free market will result, in most countries, in a mixture of anarchy and squalor on the one hand, and concentrated wealth and irresponsibility on the other. By ignoring the peculiarities of different cultures, the global utopians will dissolve the very networks that made the civilization possible in the first place.
2000 ed.:
Powerful and prophetic challenge to globalization from a former partisan of the New Right. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as both “a convincing analysis of an international economy” and a “powerful challenge to economic orthodoxy,” False Dawn shows that the attempt to impose the Anglo-American-style free market on the world will create a disaster, possibly on the scale of Soviet communism. Even America, the supposed flagship of the new civilization, risks moral and social disintegration as it loses ground to other cultures that have never forgotten that the market works best when it is embedded in society. John Gray, well known in the 1980s as an important conservative political thinker, whose writings were relied upon by Margaret Thatcher and the New Right in Britain, has concluded that the conservative agenda is no longer viable. In his examination of the ripple effects of the economic turmoil in Russia and Asia on our collective future, Gray provides one of the most passionate polemics against the utopia of the free market since Carlyle and Marx. Review:
Back when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of Great Britain, John Gray was an influential conservative thinker, whose writings helped influence the revitalization of the laissez-faire market in that country. Now, as free-market champions seek to make over the (mostly) postcommunist world in their own image, Gray has experienced a moment of apostasy. False Dawn argues that, far from bringing about economic paradise, global capitalism, left unchecked, “could well destroy liberal civilization.” Gray is careful to distinguish “global capitalism” from “globalization,” which he identifies as a broader tendency encompassing “the increasing interconnection of economic and cultural life in distant parts of the world.” That societies around the world are coming into closer contact with each other is inevitable; that they will have to do so in a free market, particularly one largely shaped by Anglo-American economic values, is not. In fact, Gray says, pointing to the recent economic crises in Asia and Russia, such a model will not bring societies together, but may well tear them apart. “A worldwide free market,” he warns, “is no more self-regulating than the national free markets of the past…Unless it is reformed radically, the world economy risks falling apart in a replay, at once tragic and farcical, of the trade wars, competitive devaluations, economic collapses and political upheavals of the 1930s.”
Booklist Review (2000 ed.):
Gray’s “false dawn” is an allusion to what he sees as the failures of global capitalism. He finds his evidence in the economic collapse of Asia, Russia, and Mexico, but also in the “social disintegration” of the U.S. The “breakdown” of the American family, crime and mass incarceration, and growing disparities in income can all be traced to the global free market and the unregulated growth of trade and transnational corporations. Gray is now professor of European thought at the London School of Economics, but he was also an early influence on Margaret Thatcher and a New Right polemicist. Like those of a small but vocal and growing number of conservatives in the U.S., Gray’s arguments are flavored by populism and nationalism. False Dawn was published last spring in Britain, and it stirred a flurry of criticism. Gray has not changed the text in this edition but has added a final, lengthy chapter that addresses many of the arguments that were targeted in the first. – David Rouse
“The central message is that we are going to hell in a handcart, as free markets rip up established communities. The idea of a world of liberal democratic and prosperous states on the American model is, he argues, a fantasy…Gray is right.”  Andrew Marr, Independent
“This book is teeming with arguments and ideas…it is hard to put down, and economic liberals would do well to test their ideas against it.’  Economist
“We needed a powerful challenge to the simple-minded advocates of globalization. Now we have one. A compelling, important and original book.”  Will Hutton
False Dawn is a powerful analysis of the deepening instability of global capitalism. It should be read by all whom are concerned about the future of the world economy.”  George Soros
“A convincing analysis of an international economy headed for disaster…Listening to this powerful challenge to economic orthodoxy could improve human prospects.”  Kirkus Reviews
“A worthwhile book talks to you. A really worthwhile one invites you to talk back. It won’t take you many pages to enter into a dialogue with False Dawn.”  Bloomberg
“Gray is surely one of Britain’s leading public intellectuals…[his] economic theory…offers a useful reminder that the global economy need not look the same everywhere.”  The Wall Street Journal

“[Gray’s] new book argues – actually, thunders – that the global economic system is immoral, inequitable, unworkable, and unstable…He recognizes that the movement toward free markets, goods and ideas is not a naturally occurring process but rather a political project that rests on American power.”  The New York Times Book Review

About the Author:
John Gray is [emeritus] Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement and the author of over a dozen books, including Heresies and the bestselling Straw Dogs. False Dawn has been translated into fourteen languages.

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