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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Babette J Neuberger, JD, MPH (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Description: In this book, Theodore MacDonald offers a panoramic view of the damages wrought by the neoliberal policies of the past three-plus decades, with particular focus on how such policies have moved us further from the laudatory goals embodied in the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 wherein health was declared a "fundamental human right." The author examines a wide range of seemingly unrelated topics and in so doing, weaves together the underlying threads of neoliberal policies to enable readers to gain a fuller understanding of how global inequities are embedded within the fabric of neoliberalism. Finally, this book is a call for a new moral conscience, one that abandons "moral parochialism" in favor of a global community perspective.
Purpose: "By examining the underlying causes of global health inequity, the author strives to put forth solutions which refocus our moral compass on the needs and concerns of global civil society rather than those of multinational corporate interests and, in so doing, identify the barriers which need to be removed to attain the goal of health for all. While this ambitious book is greatly needed, the author ultimately fails in his efforts. In the final chapter, he proposes an array of solutions, amassed from the work of others in addition to some of his own. Examples include Jeffrey Sachs' 10 principles for addressing communicable and noncommunicable diseases, a potential application of solar energy, and an argument for regional free trade agreements. Whether viewed individually or taken as a whole, the solutions fail to offer a satisfying, coherent, moral, and sociopolitical alternative to multinational corporate domination evidenced in decades-old neoliberal policies. To quote one of my mentors, MacDonald sadly offers up "the embarrassing last chapter." "
Audience: The book may serve as a useful starting point for students who are interested in global health and political economy. It will also resonate with, and point to new information for, those on the political left who are most concerned about the issues the book covers. The chapters include important case studies that may be used to fortify arguments attacking structural adjustment programs and other tenets of neoliberal policy. Academicians will be frustrated by the author's citation of bibliographic references which include not only scholarly, peer-reviewed articles but also Wikipedia entries and news articles and editorials from the popular press. Others will be disappointed by the somewhat shallow or limited examination of some of his topics. (For example, the chapter on global mismanagement of food resources aptly shines light on the causal relation between the rise in biofuel production and the global food crisis, but mentions nothing about the complicity of agribusiness and international trade regimes in the rise of genetically modified food crops.) Finally, academic purists will reject the book as nothing more than a strident, biased polemic.
Features: "A basic primer on neoliberal policy begins the book, setting the analytic framework for the rest of the discussion. The initial chapters are followed by an examination of how the neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and regional lending institutions have adversely impacted access to safe water, healthcare, food, and pharmaceuticals. A chapter also explores war as a barrier to global health equity. The penultimate chapter explores the moral imperative of internationalism, suggesting that we must defeat moral parochialism if we are to create a more sustainable world. The final chapter suggests specific actions to create a more just and humane global society. "
Assessment: "While I was pleased to find a new book dedicated to exposing the ugly side of neoliberalist policies and particularly their deleterious impact on the health of global civil society, I would have preferred a better edited, more finely honed scholarly discussion of the challenges before us. "