The Mushroom at the End of the World

On The Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

331 pages

English language

Published April 4, 2015

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4 stars (2 reviews)

What a rare mushroom can teach us about sustaining life on a fragile planet

Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world—and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made?

A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, …

4 editions

There Must Be Something I'm Not Getting

3 stars

Because of how much I see this book praised in lefty circles, I thought I would love it when I checked it out from the library. But as the title says, there must be something that I'm not getting about this book, because it really didn't click with me. Of course the mushroom imagery and contemplation on living a life in the ruins of capitalism were exquisite, but there were a few niggling things that bothered me. Firstly, I was not too convinced by the author's claim of "We can learn to live in the ruins of capitalism if we follow the example of people who either are or are descended from people who fought explicitly to uphold capitalism and imperial exploitation of their own countries, and people who claim what they're doing is capitalism in its purest form!" Undoubtedly, these people are living a pericapitalist existence to borrow the …

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  • Environmental degradation
  • Human ecology
  • Economic development
  • Environmental aspects