I first read parts of this book (the earlier edition) in 2002 as part of an international political economy class at my community college. However, I dropped the class halfway through the semester and never really knew what that meant. So, while the themes were sort of familiar, it was as if I was reading this book fresh for the first time. This is also one of the books for which I have to lead discussion for the class in which I am assisting this summer, so that was a bit daunting as well.
A lot of the material she covers is not new as the book was written about ten years ago (as gathered by the statistics used), but seeing it all in black and white paints quite a stark picture of our current material culture and how that has impacted all aspects of our lives. The first half of the book is quite compelling and appalling as she details how brands have impacted the lives of people around the world, producers and consumers alike. She does veer off track a bit when she starts to talk about the "resistance" to this, giving too much credence to underground groups and alternative protest machines. Her afterword leaves a lot to be desired and I think that if she were to revist this book in earnest a lot of her arguments would change.
This is the first of four books I am reading for the class I am TAing, Intro to American Politics. The professor I am working with wanted to try something new in this summer session, assigning current critiques of American political culture to inspire critical thinking about what we believe, why and what the future of our core political values might hold.
Most of this book was a provocative and harsh critique of the invisibility of the black poor in this country who became visible when the government they trust to help them through a "natural" disaster failed them. There were some tangential issues that, while interesting in their own right, had little to do with the original thesis of the book. Dyson weaves a tight narrative of the events leading up to and during the Hurricane Katrina incident, with heartbreaking detail. Some of the ancedotes are almost laughable in their absurdity, except most of the time, someone died because the right papers weren't signed or someone didn't have the right credentials and there's nothing funny about that. I will remember the doctor, who wasn't a licensed FEMA physician and was made to stop doing chest compressions on a dying man because of that fact. While I may not agree with all of Dyson's points (and in fact, I think he missed a big one with his lack of exploration into the white and non-white labels in regards to class), but this book will stay with me for a long time and I highly recommend it.