Book Review: Richard Davies ~ Extreme Economies: Survival * Failure * Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits (2019)

Davies book has three parts. Each part is a case study. Davies’s book reflects global fieldwork, which is done brilliantly.

Section one: Survival features an eye-catching analysis of Angola prison in Louisiana, USA. American justice(?) is barbaric,…average sentence for an inmate in Angola is 92 years…1 Not being sequoias these are death sentences by other means. Some prisoners have developed rudimentary businesses. Davies celebrates this. He also accepts Louisiana’s barbarism. Davies has a chilling, inhuman, dispassionate gaze.

Section two: Failure is also eye-catching. One case study is Glasgow. This is a shock for British readers who don’t mind poverty porn situated in faraway places: but Glasgow? His case is built on Glasgow’s historic failure to adapt to new economic realities producing welfare junkies.

.in Calton, a Glaswegian suburb, male life expectancy was just 54. (In Swaziland, where 27 per cent of the adult population has AIDS, it is 57.)2

The collapse of the social glue that holds people together and learning by osmosis destroyed Glasgow.

Section three: Future: Instinctively I reeled back from this section. The case study is Akita, Japan. The future according to Davies is super-aged people dominating and shaping the lived environment.

Akita is…. Japan’s most aged region: with an average age over 53 it was the first prefecture where more than half of the population is over 50 and more than a third is over 65.3

The future according to Davies is that old people will be catered for by cuddly robots with Artificial Intelligence benignly looking on. It’s an interesting thesis and may even happen

On balance sections one and two are invaluable and the third is a matter of taste. Warmly recommended.

1 Richard Davies. Extreme Economies (p. 77). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

2 ibid p. 179

3 ibid p. 213


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