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The Extreme Centre: A Warning - Tariq Ali

This slim, weighty book is ideal for anyone wanting to better understand the world in which we now live and the political-economic forces which exercise power and control in the UK, most of Europe, and the U.S.

 

According to Tariq Ali - a political thinker, activist, filmmaker, and writer who I've heard in several radio interviews over the years; he's a very fascinating person - "[s]ince 1989, politics has become a contest to see who can best serve the needs of the market, a competition now fringed by unstable populist movements. The same catastrophe has taken place in the US, Britain, Continental Europe, and Australia." (To that number, one can add Canada, which since 2006, has been under the firm grip of the Conservative Party and its Prime Minister, an extreme control freak who has put the country on a more militant footing abroad, put curbs on free expression and civil liberties at home, and embraced the gospel of neoliberal economics.)

The sections of the book which dealt with the evolution of British politics since Thatcher, the growth of Scottish nationalism in Scotland since the 1970s (as a challenge to "Tory-fied Britain" as embodied by the Tories and Tony Blair's 'New Labour' --- in favor of promoting popular sovereignty and more humane values in the marketplace and society), the change in NATO's purpose and functions since the end of the Cold War (in a chapter named "Natopolis"), and the European Union were really eye-opening to me.

One of the bestselling points of "The Extreme Centre" is that terrorism as embodied by Islamic extremism (e.g. ISIS and Al Queda and its auxiliaries) is not the only threat to democracy today. There is also "the enemy within" as represented by an unholy alliance between many of our political leaders and the corporate elites interested more in maintaining and enhancing their power and control across countries - oftentimes to the detriment of the middle-class, working poor and marginalized elements of society.

Ali does offer, in the concluding chapter, alternatives that can be promoted as effective challenges to the extreme centre. He emphasizes that progressive movements, if well-organized and unafraid to challenge the status quo, can make a difference and undo the corrosive effects of neoliberal economics, creating a truer egalitarian society. This is a book (at 294 pages) to be read for education and inspiration.