The Mushroom at the End of the World: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

The Mushroom at the End of the World: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Matsutake, the world's most expensive mushroom, is here both a metaphor for the life we face and the basis of an economic detective story. Tsing spent years in the field (literally)researching the supply chain from Oregon to Japanese restaurants. The entire chain is dependent on refugees and others, typically from forests and thus with the finding skills. Forget deskbound economics, this is real life experience of neoliberalism in action. It is precarious, segregated by choice, and complex. Her analysis is systemic. Here - and for our future? - progress as the unwritten objective is replaced with the ever present. She introduces notions of contaminated diversity, pericapitalism, non-scaleable, and 'a vital accounting of the actions of nonhumans, such as fungi, pine trees, and nematodes, that fundamentally shape the trade and the people who engage with it.' The supply chain would not exist without the biosphere and all its intricate connections. It was the exhaustion of commercially run forest plantations that laid the ground for nature to grow the matsutake. 'The book is a multispecies ethnography that aims to displace the human-centric perspective that ordinarily guides social science scholarship, which downplays the significance of nonhuman contributions to events and outcomes.' 'The most ethnographically rich sections of the book take place deep in this forest, in and around a location that Tsing dubs “Open Ticket,” named for a mushroom-buying practice. These chapters remind readers that the matsutake trade is about more than just money in a commodity exchange. She asserts that the value of matsutake in this forest assemblage is also defined by freedom: Mushroom foraging facilitates in a life in the woods. For some, the forest offers a refuge from the effects of posttraumatic stress or freedom from the rules of mainstream society. For the immigrant communities, foraging affords a way to embrace freedom in the United States while continuing to maintain key features of the hill community lifeways they had purportedly left behind in Southeast Asia.' (Excerpts taken from the blurb). Tsing's perspective is extraordinary. The book is a fascinating read too. It will change how the world is viewed and our place in it. '

Points

Fresh thinking. Deep study. New concepts. Subject integration. Exposé of real world neoliberalism. Great story.

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