Monday, April 04, 2005

Review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - John Perkins

This book is at once an autobiography, a 20th century history of America and a call to action. These elements are balanced very well with a very readable narrative style.

The history covered in this book is admittedly controversial. It primarily covers the less-shiny aspects of history, which I doubt are taught in US schools, but which are easily accessible if one only looks. It is also quite well-documented and supported by evidence. Perkins discusses American corporate and governmental involvement with Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador and many other nations from a first hand perspective.

What is interesting is that we see this history as the setting for a very personal story, through the eyes of a participant. As the title suggests, it is in fact a confession. Perkins was an important player in some of the darker aspects of subtle non-governmental foreign policy, and he is not an apologist.

He shows a little bit of the psychology of people who commit evil acts on behalf of organizations to which they belong. For example, structures set up to do harm can generally find people with the right personality characteristics to be capitalized upon - greed, ambition, etc. What this means is, rather than simply provoking hate towards individuals who are perpetuating exploitation, Perkins reveals the underlying broader issues, such as the consequences of the misuse of power and profit. I think he very effectively places the specifics of historical facts (as well as his story) in context in a way that historical texts typically do not.

Although it is not a prescriptive book as such, Perkins does offer some ideas and suggestions at the end as to what individuals can do if they believe in trying to ameliorate the situation he has presented.

I found it to be both a compelling page turner and very factual at the same time. Highly recommended for the history buff, social activist, avid biography reader, news junkie, or really anyone who cares about the world we live in.

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