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Savage Capitalism And The Myth Of Democracy

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    Problems and Solutions in Latin America: A View from the Ground

    With his latest book, Savage Capitalism and the Myth of Democracy, Michael Hogan takes his place among writers and analysts, such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, and Amy Goodman, who analyze complex political, economic, cultural, and educational issues in the Americas and around the world. They are not politicians, not supporters of any particular party or movement. They are truth tellers in the Socratic tradition. They travel, study, write, research, and analyze. They make suggestions on how to improve education, governments, and economies so that they serve all people rather than just the wealthy elite. They are liberal in the traditional sense of that word and its associations with liberty, generosity, tolerance, and humanitarian reform.

    Hogan has lived and worked as an educator and writer in Mexico for twenty years. He has written in many major genres, including poetry, fiction, essays, and history. One of his best known books, The Irish Soldiers of Mexico, brings to light, through painstaking research and analysis, a little known but telling episode during the Mexican American War when a group of Irish American soldiers deserted the American Army and went over to the Mexican side. Indeed, this book became the basis of a movie released in 1999, One Man's Hero, starring Tom Berenger. His latest book, Savage Capitalism, combines many of his prior interests with keen political and economic analysis based on his extensive knowledge of Latin America, much of it gleaned from personal, professional experience throughout this diverse region. Some of the most poignant passages in the book, such as the chapters on Central America, give detailed first-hand accounts of the poverty, gang violence, crime, and repression that haunt the streets and barrios of its principal cities. Through historical analysis, he shows how these conditions have evolved over two hundred years. He shows how prisons and slums have become breeding grounds for large, powerful gangs on both sides of the border. We see how crime, violence, and corrupt government are undermining and replacing the native traditions of order, decency, and self-sustaining industry. Other passages probe the intimate details, so often hidden from American view, of how inequities in the coffee trade directly affect thousands of workers in Colombia, keeping them burdened with backbreaking labor for very low wages. We learn how huge agri-businesses, fueled by unfair subsidies, have seriously damaged traditional agriculture and industry in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. Through his detailed analysis of the role of the Catholic Church in countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, we come to share his deep, abiding disappointment in the failure of the Church bureaucracy to recognize and to support leaders of reform, such as Archbishop Oscar Romero, who fought against the horrors of economic and military dictatorship in support of basic rights for all people.

    But what is makes this book different from mere academic analysis is that Hogan gives practical suggestions on how things can be changed from an on-the-ground, non-ideological point of view. Noam Chomsky writes that Hogan's "lucid and thoughtful essays provide a valuable picture of Latin America from a point of view that is perceptive, often controversial, but always instructive." It is rare praise indeed, and well-earned.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    Recommended by Noam Chomsky, this book identifies the problems Latin American societies face today.

    Recommended by Noam Chomsky, this book identifies the problems Latin American societies face today, including the lack of accountability for serious human rights violations, environmental damages, social inequality and serious deficiencies in education. Dr. Hogan's research both in the field (where he visited all sixteen of the countries discussed), and his academic research as a historian (he is the author of the definitive work on the Irish battalion in the Mexican War), demonstrates the link between these problems and neoliberal policies that have been forcefully implemented for decades. Savage Capitalism addresses the impact the United States has had in Latin America historically. Hogan provides this background, not to place blame, but to have a better understanding of the origins of the problems we face today. He opens a line of dialogue in the hopes that all Americans (North Americans, Central Americans and South Americans) can unite to become a secure, sustainable and just region. The book proposes several concrete policy solutions focusing on the role of quality education. Hogan highlights what education should be: it should not just allow, but encourage students to challenge assumptions, i.e., that laissez faire economics is the most democratic economic system, or that one single system is right for every country. Speaking of great teachers of the past, Hogan writes, "All of them (Socrates, Aristotle, Einstein, etc) saw the job of the teacher as one of questioning ideological certitude, contradicting overly simplistic formulations, and encouraging their students to do so." Contemporary teachers working abroad must challenge themselves to do the same despite pressure from school administrators and government agencies. Savage Capitalism and the Myth of Democracy in Latin America is relevant for students and educators, leaders and future leaders and for all those who participate in this Hemisphere's political system, constituents and policy makers alike.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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