SIU Journal of Management, Vol.6, No.2 (December, 2016)

Volume 6, Number 2, December, 2016

Download the full issue 6-2-full.


Editor’s Introduction 4 (6-2-editor)

1. The Future of the Ready-Made Garment Industry of Bangladesh – Mohammed S. Chowdhury, Zahurul Alam and Mohammed Mizanur Rahman (6-2-chowdhury)  7

2. Effectiveness of Collective Bargaining as a Tool for Industrial Disputes Resolution – Obadara, Olabanji E. (6-2-obadara)  34

3. Public Private Partnerships: a Study on the Power Sector of Bangladesh – Suman Dey, Md. Sahidur Rahman and Mouri Dey (6-2-dey)  53

4. An Empirical Study of Corporate Governance and Banks’ Performance in Vietnamese Commercial Banks – Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, Pham Manh Hung and Thi Lan Anh (6-2-thu) 87

9th International Conference on Management, Finance and Entrepreneurship and the 8th International Conference on Global Business Environment, Shinawatra International University, Graduate Campus, Bangkok, July 23rd, 2016  (6-2-ifrd)  116

International Case Management Conference, 2016, BIMTECH, Greater Noida, India, December 1st-2nd, 2016 (6-2-icmc)  120

Food Insecurity Experience Workshop with Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) (6-2-fies)  124

1. Piketty, Thomas, The Economics of Inequality – by John Walsh (6-2-piketty) 127
2. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Transformative Industrial Policy for Africa – by John Walsh  (6-2-uneca)  130
3. Heidegger, Martin, Nature History State 1933-1934 – by John Walsh (6-2-heidegger) 135

CALL FOR PAPERS                                    (6-2-cfp)            140
AUTHOR’S GUIDELINES                         (6-2-author)     142
ABOUT SHINAWATRA UNIVERSITY    (6-2-about)       145
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD              (6-2-eab)           147

Call for Papers: Food Insecurity

In the wake of the SIU Research Centre’s successful cooperation with Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), the SIU Journal of Management is planning a special issue of the journal on the theme of food insecurity.

Food security was defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) as a situation in which all of the people of a country, all of the time, have access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and which meets their food preferences for a healthy and active life (FAO, 1996). It does not matter whether the food is produced in the same country or not but it does mean that the country involved has sufficiently efficient distribution networks and market mechanisms to ensure that food reaches everybody when it is required (Pinstrup-Anderson, 2009).

Food insecurity, therefore, may be found in a country or area of land in which sufficient good quality food is not available for all people on a permanent or temporary basis. This may be for a number of reasons, including natural disaster, political or military disorder, famine or market failure.

Our project called for 200 questionnaires in each of four countries: Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Food insecurity was found at a higher level than might be expected, with more than 50% of the overall sample reporting insecurity at the least severe end of the scale. However, the prevalence of food insecurity tended to decline as the severity of items increased. These changes are quite strongly associated with (among respondents) low levels of education, low levels of income and lack of access to land. There are some country-level relationships which do not comply with the expected relationships.

Evidence from Thailand in particular shows that food insecurity remains an important urban phenomenon, despite it having been considered to have become overwhelmingly a rural phenomenon in recent years. However, various factors, including rural-urban migration and the policies adopted by the current Thai regime vis-à-vis working people have made precarity an increasingly obvious manifestation of economic change.

Now we would like to share our research findings and extend knowledge and understanidng of food insecurity in the Mekong Region and beyond. As part of this attempt, we would welcome submissions that cover relevant themes. Papers could consider any of the following, non-exclusive list of topics:

  • empirical studies of food insecurity, perhaps using the FIES questionnaire;
  • food insecurity and nation-building
  • food insecurity and precarious living
  • poverty eradication
  • the role of the private sector in economic development and poverty eradication
  • government and NGO-provided extension services
  • bringing subbsistence farmers into regional and international markets
  • the use of ICT in tackling food insecurity

Abstracts of approximately 2-300 words may be submitted at any time up to June 30th, 2017, while full papers of 4-7,000 words should be submitted by July 31st, 2017.

For any questions or additional information, please contact the editor,


Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome Declaration on World Food Security (1996), available at:

Pinstrup-Anderson, Per, “Food Security: Definition and Management,” Food Security, Vol.1, No.1 (2009), pp.5-7.

Review of Marc Morris’s King John

Morris, Marc, King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (Jan-Apr, 2016), pp.58-61.


King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta
Marc Morris
London: Windmill Books, 2015
ISBN: 9780099591825
XVIII + 382 pp

King John is perhaps best known among British people for being so bad a monarch that there can never be a John II and for losing the crown in the Wash (part of the sea to the east of the country off Lincolnshire). His representations on stage, screen and printed page are mostly limited to being the bad guy in contrast to Richard the Lionheart and using his proxy the Sheriff of Nottingham to persecute the sainted Robin Hood. Who, really, can quote from Shakespeare’s play? However, much of this is little more than hearsay and accurate information about the life and times of the historical king is comparatively limited, at least for non-specialists. Consequently, a work of popular history on the subject is most welcome.

The value of works of popular history is that they are obliged to tell the actual story in as clear terms as possible. Academic history is required to present the myriad of quiddities and contradictions that appear in the sources and to take various theoretical frameworks of analysis as a means of examining the material in such a way that it is possible for the reader to remain unsure of what, if anything, actually did happen. One of the more notable benefits of the current book is that it is made clear why this confusion takes place: it was so difficult actually to get anything done, while there were powerful incentives to try to broadcast quite the opposite in a world in which significant enemies could respond aggressively to any show of weakness. Indeed, it is not difficult to find evidence of weakness in John’s performance since, during the first part of his reign, he managed to lose possession of England’s (this was the pre-union era) extensive holdings in what is now known as France. As Morris announces (p.5): “Travellers could pass from the border of Scotland to the border of Spain without ever leaving his territories. Millions of people, speaking at least half a dozen different languages, were his subjects. By any measure, his was the most important and powerful dominion in Europe.”

The Norman Yoke had been imposed upon the British people only 150 years before and it had led to the creation of the empire which had become anglicized at the highest-level because of the agricultural value of England. This could have been used for the benefit of all people through such means as more integration of economic and social systems to help create a civilization that would rival Byzantium. Instead, it was used for predatory raids on the working people and frittered away in needless wars and diplomatic failures. John lost France and his influence in Ireland was greatly reduced after a disastrous adventure there. Yet all of this was effected not so much by active misrule as by the inability to get things done. So much effort had to be expended persuading minor nobility to do what was expected of them and acting as the gift-giver able to create and sustain patronage networks that it was almost impossible for a limited monarch like John (whose ascent to the throne was made possible by a relentless plague visited upon his many older relatives in the direct line) to find the time to do anything else. Furthermore, a great deal of what he wanted to achieve was subject to forces beyond his control, notably including the weather. British weather is notoriously changeable and British sea power, its traditional strength in European politics, was limited in the pre-steam era to the prevailing conditions. Any foreign military venture required naval support both for transportation and for bringing needed supplies, reinforcements and information. An inconvenient storm could, therefore, waste months and even years of planning as the gathered troops and their leaders wait in port eating the food and spending the money raised by taxation while waiting for the rain to stop.

However, irrespective of the vagaries of getting things done, what John actually did get done was often quite despicable. A notable example of this was his predatory taxation policy (back to the Sheriff of Nottingham theme), which extended to various ruses aimed at acquiring assets, including people, from those who felt they had a legal claim to them. This was not only wrong for ethical reasons but actively dissolved the bods between monarch and nobility on which the political order of the country depended. The more that John alienated his erstwhile supporters, the closer he came to the creation of Magna Carta, that restatement of the social bonds between the classes that has become so central to the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom. Had John’s reign not taken place or had taken place in a different manner, then the Magna Carta moment would have happened somewhat later. That it would have happened in some form appears to be an unavoidable fact.

Morris is to be praised for producing a clear and readable book that highlights the major themes of the life and times of an important but little understood period of British history. One would be forgiven for thinking, based on popular culture, that little happened between the Norman invasion and the six wives of Henry VIII. This book helps to fill that gap in knowledge. If, occasionally, the reader might hope for a little more information about some of the contextual or background issues, that is beyond the scope of this book and Morris provides enough information in the footnotes and references for that reader to create a personal reading list for further investigation.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University

Review of Slavoj Zizek’s Against the Double Blackmail

Žižek, Slavoj, Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (Jan-Apr, 2016), pp.55-8.


Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours
Slavoj Žižek
London: Allen Lane, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-241-27884-0
117 pp.

In the inside back cover of this new book by the irrepressible Slavoj Žižek, the author is described as ‘a Hegelian philosopher, Lacanian psychoanalyst, and political activist.’ He makes full use of all three of these aspects in this slender volume on the challenges surrounding the flow of refugees aiming to reach Europe from war-torn countries in Asia and Europe. The first of these is the political aspect (Marx is not noted on the back cover but his influence soon makes an entrance nonetheless). Žižek draws on Fredric Jameson’s concept of the lack of ‘cognitive mapping’ to suggest why it is difficult for people to understand their relationship with the rest of the world and that, of course, is because of the immanence of late capitalism which dictates the conditions of life but in a way that remains invisible to those who lack the ideological vocabulary to identify the contours of class struggle in the symptoms of apparent chaos all around. This inability to identify the problem has led to the rise of supposed maverick outsider politicians, the riots without demands in Paris and elsewhere and the outbreak of sexual violence in India. The same of course is true of the reception of the refuges. Citing (as he often does) Peter Sloterdijk, he observes that “… capitalist globalization stands not only for openness and conquest, but also for the idea of a self-enclosed globe separating its privileged Inside from its Outside (pp.15-6).” The refugee, like the economic migrant, short-circuits capitalist globalization by seeking to move from the peripheral Outside to the core Inside. In this context, the refugees are worse than the migrants because (particularly when young and vulnerable) they come shaking their gory locks and force us to face the consequences of what we (of Europe and of the west) have done in history and what is now being done in our name.

Here Žižek adds the Lacanian aspect of his approach (while Hegelian dialectics form part of the very fibre of his discourse) by considering the importance of the ability of people to be able to tolerate others. This is a theme he has considered before – to be honest, he writes so much and publishes so often that there is not always very much in any of his books which could not have been found in some other part of his oeuvre. He refers to Freud: “Since a Neighbour is, as Freud suspected long ago, primarily a Thing, a traumatic intruder, someone whose different way of life (or, rather, way of jouissance materialized in its social practice and rituals) disturbs us and, when the Neighbour comes too close, throws the balance of our way of life off the rails, this can also give rise to an aggressive reaction aimed at getting rid of this disturbing intruder (p.74).” The Lacanian term jouissance refers to “… excessive pleasure coinciding with pain (p.75).” Pleasure and pain are defined on an individual basis: the ascetic or forest monk who lives outside society in poverty actually does so, it can be argued, because that is how pleasure appears to such a person and the pain involves not so much the physical deprivations as the self-knowledge that the purpose of asceticism is actually to gain that pleasure. We human beings all live together in communities of different sorts and our communal forms of jouissance have evolved to enable life to continue in a way we consider to be normal but when we are faced with an alternative form, unless we have the relevant cognitive mapping available, we may well reject this “ex-timate intruder (p.75)” with disgust. This is one reason why the maintainers of capitalist globalization are so opposed to any form of internationalism and regularly denounce the Others, whoever they might be, as threats to our way of life, our standard of living (they steal jobs and welfare payments) and our personal property (which for many people continues to include women).

However, Žižek does not just stop there with the implicit conclusion that if only, as so many t-shirts have it, we could live in “a world without strangers) then we could all just get to know each other and live together peaceably (i.e. 42). Instead, we should recognise that those we might consider to be Other can still behave very badly, as the sexual abuse of young white girls in Rotherham by ethnic Pakistani men and the large-scale incidences of sexual assaults in German cities by migrants and refugees demonstrates. Here Žižek likens these activities to those of paedophile Roman Catholic priests (which is one of the reasons he has so many enemies) and argues that (pp.31-3) it is the very nature of the institution of which they are a part that makes the men behave in the way they do: “One can well imagine a non-paedophile priest who, after years of service, gets involved in paedophilia because the very logic of the institution seduces him into it. Such an ‘institutional unconscious’ designates the obscene disavowed underside that sustains the public institution (p.32).” This argument, which flows from his Hegelian-Lacanian approach combined with the pessimism of the intellect characteristic of Marxist thinkers, will outrage many. This is perhaps part of the point of it all but there is no doubt that Žižek constructs his arguments with integrity as well as his customary broad humour. However, just as soon as he reaches one conclusion he is skipping away at an apparent tangent to search for quite a different one. He is best challenged, I would say – for those who wish to challenge him – in terms of his method rather than his assertions.

Having said which, there is some concern in my mind about his use of data and references. He does seem to rely too much on a thin number of sources for the data to support his wide-ranging subjects. Most references used in this book are online and, while that is not in itself problematic, quite often it is a single newspaper story that fuels an entire argument. Certainly he writes with great rapidity and in extraordinary profusion but a watchful editor might perhaps have required a little more justification. Still, the pleasure is in the breathless journey.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University


Review of Joseph Y.S. Cheng (ed.)’s The Use of Mao and the Chongqing Model

Cheng, Joseph Y.S., ed., The Use of Mao and the Chongqing Model, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (Jan-Apr, 2016), pp.53-5.


The Use of Mao and the Chongqing Model
Joseph Y.S. Cheng, editor
Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-962-937-240-8
XIX + 331 pp.

Chongqing is one of China’s largest cities and, since most of China’s dramatic industrialization and poverty reduction has taken place in cities, it is one of the sites of rapid modernization and economic development. That development has featured a variant of the Factory Asia paradigm, which is based on export-oriented, import substituting, intensive manufacturing with competitiveness based on low labour costs. Those low labour costs are achieved by drawing people from agriculture into industry through better wages and, after the Lewisian point of equalization of supply and demand for labour is passed, through repression of workers’ rights and exploitation through permitting a parallel workforce of illegal or unregistered migrant workers. This paradigm is often successful in achieving its goals but it is likely to be time-limited in effect as it triggers the Middle Income Trap. It is also inimical to the desire for equality of treatment promised by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideology which many millions of Chinese people still hold to be important. Consequently, there is scope for differences in approach from the application of the Factory Asia paradigm by enacting policies within a city that tackle the corruption that inevitably attends rapid capitalist development while reducing market failures by providing good quality low cost housing and promotion of microenterprise start-ups to help provide employment to rural migrants and university graduates who might otherwise have had to leave. One result of this was to attract 200,000 of the half a million Foxconn jobs that had been located in Shenzhen. The concept was: “Chongqing provided cheap public rental housing to Foxconn workers. This allowed it to break away from the ‘global labor arbitrage’ pattern and re-embed transnational capital in society (Zhao, 2012).”

This was always likely to be a problematic approach because of the forces lined up against just such an idea: “ … a powerful hegemonic bloc transnational capital, domestic coastal export industries, and pro-capitalist state officials – as well as neoliberal media, intellectual leaders, and their middle class followers – [which] continues to block any substantial efforts at re-orienting the Chinese development path (ibid.).” Bo Xilai, mayor of Chongqing, attempted to enlist the support of the people of the city by the changhong campaign of singing red songs. Songs, that is, that are associated either historically or ideologically with the person of Mao Zedong, who is described as both the Lenin and Stalin of China. It is quite clear that the relationship between the CCP and Mao and his legacy is both complicated and evolving. Mao has never been repudiated but he has been found culpable of some mistakes. As Sebastian Veg writes in this volume (237-75): “… the 1981 ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party,’ … distinguished among five periods: the pre-1949 and 1949-56 periods, during which the line of the Party and Mao’s leadership are deemed ‘correct,’ the 1956-66 decade, marked by some errors, the responsibility for which is shared by Mao and the collective leadership, and the ‘Cultural revolution decade’ of 1966-76, which is entirely condemned, including Mao’s role. Finally, the post-Mao era was, unsurprisingly, endorsed (Veg, 2015).”

The figure of Mao remains quite capable of stirring controversy and the use of his personality through the changhong campaign to challenge policies endorsed by the CCP might well have provoked an official response. Bo Xilai’s campaign brought him considerable levels of political success (he would scarcely have become mayor of Chongqing if he had not had some measure of personal ambition and determination) and undoubtedly caused him to attract a number of enemies, especially as the result of the Strike the Black anti-corruption campaign. In the central paper of this volume, editor Joseph Y.S. Cheng (pp.181-211) describes Bo’s success in terms of living environment and housing, transport network, afforestation, safety as well as law and order and health services. However, it is evident that other authors take a different view, perhaps cynically assuming that the whole campaign was just a smoke and mirrors attempt to propel Bo to his political goals. In any case, Bo’s world began to unravel after falling out with key Strike the Black ally Wen Qiang. Just before Chinese New Year in January, 2012, Bo had his Politburo membership suspended while his wife, the celebrity lawyer Gu Kailai, was indicted for the ‘intentional homicide’ of the British businessperson Neil Heywood. Heywood had lived an unusual life cultivating contacts in numerous agencies of the Chinese government in his successful attempt to move from being a teacher of English to a consultant to companies with non-specific contacts with Britain’s MI6 spy service. Heywood was found dead and his corpse cremated without a proper examination having taken place (Watts & Branigan, 2012). A special investigator subsequently announced numerous charges against Bo Xilai and tried to obtain political asylum with the Americans in Chengdu while Chinese security forces surrounded the building. There had been rumours of torture employed during the Strike the Black campaign and son Gua Gua seemed to be enjoying an exceptionally affluent lifestyle while studying at the University of Oxford (ibid.). It was enough and Bo was finished.
What then, does the study of the confluence of the image of Mao and the Chongqing model teach us about contemporary China? One thing that is clear is that the CCP maintains a pretty strong grip on the levers of state power. Émilie Tran (pp.213-35) writes that pro-Maoist websites were swiftly closed down and “… the authorities removed actual signs (posters and inscriptions on walls) and online testimonies, practically overnight. The next day, the residents of Chongqing woke up from their ‘Red’ fever in a freshly harmonized Chongqing. In that heavy atmosphere of suspicion, they behaved as if nothing had happened, being cautious not to mention anything related to Bo Xilai and his ‘Red culture movement’ to anyone (Tran, 2015).” An informant observes that it would not have been so easy to silence the Red Guards and this is symptomatic of contemporary China, according to a consensus of papers in this collection.
Mao has become inextricably linked with the Cultural Revolution and the continued silence about that period remains an obstacle to genuine rather than inflicted harmony – Bo Xilai himself was once a Read Guard and was subsequently imprisoned for five years for no properly explained reason.

Indeed, the CCP has provided some guidance as to how Mao should be considered in the future through sanctioned feature films which, as Veg (2015) observes, portray him in more humanistic terms dealing with a wide range of the great women and men of modern Chinese history in a vista from which the masses appear to have been deleted. This is both an expression of the neoliberalism of the political elite and, also, an attempt to sever the link between Mao and the people for the purpose of further legitimizing the present regime in its current manifestation. By doing so, it is presumably the case that it will become less possible for populist leaders to obtain broad support through the use of Mao imagery and ideology.

As is common with collections of academic papers of this sort, the extent to which authors actually address both parts of the title varies from case to case. As mentioned previously, the central paper is by Cheng himself and it is this one that most closely outlines the various themes explored. However, many of the other papers do make interesting contributions in their own right and it is noteworthy that most of them appear to have been published by academic journals since the time of the original conference of 2012. The production standards are good and the quality of editing more than acceptable. It is unlikely that the book will be of widespread interest but for scholars of contemporary Chinese society and economy it has a great deal to offer.


Cheng, J.Y.S. (2015). The ‘Chongqing model’ – what it means to China today, in Cheng, J.Y.S., ed. The use of Mao and the Chongqing model (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press), 181-211.

Tran, E. (2015). In the red 2.0 – online reactivation of Maoist mobilization methods and propaganda, in Cheng, J.Y.S., ed. The use of Mao and the Chongqing model (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press), 213-35.

Veg, S. (2015). Propaganda and pastiche – visions of Mao in The founding of the republic, Beginning of the great revival and Let the bullets fly, in Cheng, J.Y.S., ed. The use of Mao and the Chongqing model (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press), 237-75.

Watts, J. and Branigan, T. (2012). Neil Heywood case: death, corruption, intrigue … the story so far. The Guardian (April 20th), available at:

Zhao, Y. (2012). The struggle for socialism in China: the Bo Xilai saga and beyond, Monthly Review, 64(5), 1-17.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University

Review of Saskia Sassen’s Expulsions

Sassen, Saskia, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (Jan-Apr, 2016), pp.51-3.


Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy
Saskia Sassen
Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
ISBN: 978-0-674-59922-2
298 pp.

Saskia Sassen focuses on two systemic shifts in the global economy to explain how brutality has produced the eponymous expulsions that inform the basic concept of this book. One of these is the ascendancy of finance capitalism and she remarks on “… the capacity of finance to develop enormously complex instruments that allow it to securitize the broadest-ever, historically speaking, range of entities and processes; further, continuous advances in electronic networks and tools make for seemingly unlimited multiplier effects (p.9).” The other relates to space: “… the material development of growing areas of the world into extreme zones for key economic operations. At one end this takes the shape of global outsourcing of manufacturing, services, clerical work, the harvesting of human organs and the raising of industrial crops to low-cost areas with weak regulation. At the other end, it is the active worldwide making of global cities as strategic spaces for advanced economic functions, this includes cities built from scratch and the often brutal renovation of old cities (p.9).” Both time and space, therefore, have been assaulted and wrestled to the ground by the forces of capitalism as they subject the world to a new stage of nature: first nature was the world before the impact of humanity; second nature was the world after humanity began to extract and take advantage of its resources; third and subsequent forms of nature are the world after capitalism has reshaped it so as to intensify capital accumulation. Inevitably, this form of creative destruction produces both winners and losers and it is Saskia Sassen’s claim that the losers are not only increasing in number but are being expelled from the system and from communities with ever increasing rapidity and brutality, with obvious implications both for inequality and for the inherent instability of the system.
She explores these themes through a series of empirically-based chapters which include issues of land ownership and degradation, the role of finance in the formation of permanent crises and the role of global climate change. She builds a powerful if somewhat unoriginal picture of a world in which through accumulation by dispossession, in various guises, millions are forced into becoming refugees while a tiny minority increasingly hoovers up all the wealth, resources and future available. These chapters are competently enough written but seem slightly underwhelming because customarily she offers so much more than the accumulation of evidence. So, we look to the conclusion for the conceptualization to take place. Here, she describes the systems considered in the book to be economic, social and biospheric and (given the two themes outlined above) they veer ever further away from geographical borders and, hence, are emblematic of the declining relevance of states vis-à-vis capital. This leads to the core hypothesis “… that the move from Keynesianism to the global era of privatizations, deregulations, and open borders for some, entailed a switch from dynamics that brought people in to dynamics that push people out (p.211).” This is evident both at the international scale and also at the national scale, where China, as a large nation, has demonstrated its own movement towards inequality that is locking people out of the overall economic wealth creation process. The unit of analysis in this case is the ‘systemic edge,’ because that is: “… the site where general conditions take extreme forms precisely because that is “… the site where general conditions take extreme forms precisely because it is the site for expulsion or incorporation (p.211).”

Having established this position, which has an attractive logic, Sassen can then broaden her analysis to cover the world from the early 1980s, which is approximately the moment when neoliberalism began to replace the previous rather successful (as Paul Krugman regularly argues) Keynesian economic settlement and concomitant social institutions. That settlement was fundamentally inclusive, as demonstrated by the rising wages and living standards for most sectors of society around the world. That this took place was not related to some kind of good old days phenomenon of moral decay so much as the awareness of the desperate need for peace and security after the horrors of the Second World War. People realised the need to build stable ties between countries and with communities to prevent those horrors recurring. That thinking has been replaced. Neoliberalism, of course, reduces all of the additional effects of work and of social arrangements to the lowest common denominator of money. People thereby become customers rather than clients, patients or passengers and the financial bottom line of the corporation is the master narrative of the age. In other words, “The relationship between today’s advanced capitalism and more traditional forms of market capitalism can, at the limit, be characterized as one of increasingly primitive accumulation: complexity and technical progress serve causes of brute simplicity (p.216).” This is a powerful argument and one which I would have liked to see developed further.

Sassen concludes by wondering about the ‘spaces of the expelled (p.222)’ and this consideration leads to a number of emergent questions which might have shed light on whether any of these effects might be eliminated or reversed. As is so often the case, the book is more concerned with what has happened and its problems rather than what might now be done to try to improve the world. However, the closing words do offer some sense of tempered optimism: “… the spaces of the expelled cry out for conceptual recognition. They are many, they are growing, and they are diversifying. They are conceptually subterranean conditions that need to be brought aboveground. They are, potentially, the new spaces for making local economies, new histories, and modes of membership (p.222).” Perhaps these will be addressed in another book.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University

Review of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach


On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan
London: Vintage Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781784870003
169 pp.

In the early 1960s, before the Beatles, two young people travel to a small hotel in Dorset to begin their honeymoon and their married life together. They believe themselves to be in love and are confident that they have made the right decision. They have the support of all parents and in-laws and the day has passed off successfully. Yet, as they sit in their room while waiting for their room service dinner to be over, both are anxious about the forthcoming act that has not yet taken place between them. This one simple act, which everybody else seems to manage without difficulty, not to mention all of nature, has produced performance concern in each of them. Although they have had physical contact during their engagement, the progress towards a harmonious conclusion has, in fact, been problematic, obstructed and subject to sudden unexpected reverses. The anxiety turns out to be justified as failure leads to a disastrous rupture between the two.

The central scene takes place on the eponymous beach and the couple are drawn into revealing concerns about other aspects of their lives that might divide them in the worst possible way. He is a working-class boy upwardly mobile by virtue of having qualified for university and she is from a comfortably wealthy family and in which her father keeps a boat and sails with her to France and back. At her house, where he is welcomed and given work, he is introduced to exotic consumables such as olives, avocadoes, freshly-ground coffee and entire meals without potatoes, to all of which he partly adjusts. She is destined for prominence as the leader of a string quartet but classical music to him is not just a closed book but one that has been animated and is beating him about the head and shoulders. And yet they are in love and with the one act of union, might these differences have been negotiated away as compromises are made and a method of daily living established? This is perhaps the main question posed at the heart of this short but very powerful and often beautiful novel. From the purely human perspective, the suggestion that Florence has been sexually abused by her father would account for her behaviour during the encounter and the reticence that prevented discussion of sexual matters of all sorts is the critical factor that destroys their marriage. From a class perspective, it would appear that the situation in the country was not yet sufficiently developed as to free people to create and recreate their own social relations because of the shackles placed upon them by the accident of birth. From the psychoanalytical point of view, we are in the realm of what bad boy Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek describes as the great contribution to world history made by Saint Paul, which is the ability to tolerate our neighbour, the other. Certainly, Edward and Florence have some differences but these are very minor compared to the ways in which they resemble each other. Is it inevitable that they must part or could matters have been arranged to permit them to overcome what does divide them?

The version that I have of this novel, which was first published to great acclaim in 2007, is by Vintage and is part of a series entitled ‘Vintage Summer.’ This series includes works by Thomas Hardy, Yukio Mishima and William Faulkner, among others, so it does not really reflect my understanding of what a summer reading list should look like. I got my copy from the San Min bookshop in Taipei, which offers several ranges of low cost series in the English language, should you happen to be in the vicinity. I plan to read more of these and if I enjoy those as much as I did On Chesil Beach, I shall be well satisfied.

Review of Peter F. Hamilton’s Night without Stars

Night without Stars
Peter F. Hamilton
London: Macmillan, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-509-82039-9
XIII + 766 pp.

Peter F. Hamilton is renowned for big books about big ideas and here he does not disappoint with another journey to the distant planet Bienvenido. This is a planet we know well from earlier issues in the Chronicle of the Fallers series of which this is part (and there will evidently be at least one more to come). It is stuck in the Void, which is a mysterious region of space that has been explored previously. On the planet, the citizens have become locked in mortal combat with the Fallers, who are tree-based life forms who fall unexpectedly from the sky and take over the bodies of unsuspecting people, rendering everyone a potential enemy and generally having a negative effect on trust among people and social relations as a whole. Planetsiders have an ambivalent attitude towards the Commonwealth, which is the Earth-based intra-galactic government that appears more oppressive to some than to others. As a result, the few Commonwealth assets on Bienvenido have to act in secret.

However, there are many other actors in play here, ranging from ancient alien artifacts, human geniuses with extensively prolonged life expectancy resulting from becoming welded to a spaceship and ne’er-do-well drug dealers and thieves. A variety of characters pursue their individual storylines within the overall plot with vim and vigour. Hamilton always takes time in his narratives to describe the entirety of a society and a subset of all the kinds of people who are needed to keep it going. He is also acute about the uneven distribution of technology and the equivalent of the digital divide than can provoke, as well as the jealousy and resentment that can give rise to crime. In addition, he has a member of tropes which tend to recur and Hamilton bingo requires spotting whichever of them pop up in any particular book. Here he has the young man who gets to sleep with a woman who is well out of his league, the external observer who can see a bigger picture than any of the characters involved in the action and the corruption that might be found in the heart of the bourgeois household. There is also, of course, a lot of action and a lot of cool new technology people can use either to slice each other into pieces or for more constructive purposes. This being the Commonwealth rather than the new USA, technology is typically designed for the good of society as a whole rather than for privileged individuals and so we have trains and public transport rather than individual flying belts and civil servants who try to play be the rules rather than routinely acting the maverick beyond the reach of a rotten system. At the same time, powerful and charismatic individuals can single-handedly affect the nature of large societies.

I have read, I think, all of Hamilton’s major works and I will be happy to continue to do so as long as he cares to write them. His plots always zip along at a good pace – quickly enough that the reader is not tempted to dwell on possible plot holes – and enough of the characters are sufficiently engaging as to be enjoyable companions. I do recall him being reported as saying during the writing of his first big trilogy, The Night’s Dawn, that he made the story up as he went along and that would explain a certain shapelessness about the books individually and as series. However, this is not a serious flaw for a science fiction writer who has demonstrated the ability to keep in control of his creation. Let’s see how many more episodes he needs to write before wrapping up this chronicle.