HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in…

by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4441448,814 (4.02)11
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, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction. By investigating one of the world's most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 11 mentions

English (13)  French (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Tsing moves back and forth from the subterranean to the global, exposing patterns of human-botanical interaction in vivid four-dimensional context and reconsidering concepts in science and political economy from surprising angles. Rich in information and insight, this is a fascinating book of unexpected rewards.
  MusicalGlass | Jun 6, 2022 |
I heard about this book from three sources, including Adam Tooze's Substack, before deciding to get a copy.

I love fungi. I've been in the permaculture world for over a decade, where the kingdom has a strong presence. That said, this book is less about fungi, and more a social anthropology of people that harvest the matsutake mushroom in the Pacific Northwest of the United States for export to Japan.

I had heard the name a few times, but before reading this book, I knew very little about matsutake. The author goes as far as to say that white people don't like the mushroom, but after speaking to a few white friends, it sounds like this is an over-generalization. Now that I've heard so much about it, I am interested in tasting it someday.

The author latches onto to some themes in the book which I didn't find illustrative. The term that stands out to me the most is "indeterminacy." It seems like the author would like to make a point about hazard, about risk, about uncertainty and possibility. But in the context of this book, it felt so vague, slippery, and hollow so as to muddle her thesis as opposed to strengthening it. Yes—the world is fundamentally indeterminant, but that in itself is not much of a rhetorical foundation. The author my have been trying to contrast this with the determinacy of capitalism, but this didn't come through for me, and I'm not sure either.

As the subtitle suggests, the author is a subscriber to the Myth of Progress. Despite her statements to the contrary, even the term "capitalist ruins" assumes an arc of history (which says a lot about worldview, cosmology, etc.). That said, many authors write in reference to the Myth of Progress; it is one of the stories we fall back on to orient ourselves, even if it is just an abstract mental construction.

There were some entertaining bits on the way that the author stereotypes the American sense of "freedom." She describes Americans as wanting the freedom to gamble. Americans don't want stability, they want volatility, because it is only through volatility that there is the possibility of wild success.

I found it a slow-going book. I put it down a few times to pick up texts with more momentum to them. That said, if you like sociology and like mycology, you'll probably find this book worth reading. ( )
  willszal | Mar 3, 2022 |
This is the story of how a humble mushroom has transformed commerce and become an almost priceless commodity. It is also an exploration of how value can be so relative – how “stinky” to some can remind others of the smell of autumn. Through a unique combination of supply and demand, the matsutake mushroom has become legend. And it has become emblematic of a way through ecological disaster – a rare treasure that offers us hope. A wonderful book that can be appreciated on many levels, it also triggers seemingly unrelated thoughts. Highly recommended. ( )
  dbsovereign | Mar 21, 2021 |
Absolute garbage that I spent hours digging through only to realise it's a pile of barren graphomanic twaddle even a mushroom would fail to metabolise. Full of multi-temporal assemblages of narrative marxist precarity and similar word salad. The only interesting thing is the level of ignorance of the world at large even by standards of university professors.

This is the last time I used goodreads to find related books. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
This is a fascinating examination of how capitalism and common capitalist ways of thinking about labor, production, and value don't always hold up.

Matsutake mushrooms do not fit well in a capitalist system. Under capitalism, when a commodity has value, the logical response is to systematize the production of that commodity so you can make more of it so you can sell lots of it so you can make money. Matsutake mushrooms are valued in Japanese culture, not only because they are tasty, but because they symbolize prosperity. They are traditionally offered as gifts, and the gift of matsutake mushrooms has more value than the mushrooms would normally have themselves. The problem from a capitalist point of view is that you can't intentionally grow matsutakes. Scientists have tried to get them to grow on farms, but they haven't figured out how to do it. They only grow where pine trees grow. Pine trees grow best in forests that have been recently disturbed or damaged - after a forest fire, pine trees are one of the first things to grow back, but as soon as slower-growing broadleaf trees come in, they crowd out the pine trees and the pines die. So matsutake mushrooms will only grow in forests that are recovering from some disturbance - creating the right conditions for them on purpose is very difficult, so it's very hard to scale matsutake production the way a capitalist system would like to.

Matsutake can be found in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, so a lot of people make money by hunting for matsutake. However, these people generally don't fit into a capitalist system either - they are immigrants, veterans, and various drifters who don't want to have traditional jobs, but want to be free to live their lives however they please.

Tsing examines the entire supply chain of matsutake mushrooms, the life stories and cultures of the people who collect them, and how they don't fit into the capitalist system. She is constantly looking for the outliers, the exceptions to the rules, and the phenomena that capitalism would like to ignore. This gives her opportunities to critique capitalism, by examining the people, products, and processes that it excludes and demonstrating the damage it has done, but also to offer some hints of what the world might look like if capitalism weren't dominant. Tsing also shows that the reality of our world is a lot messier than we would like it to be - scientists, economists, and anthropologists all want to fit everything in the world into tidy taxonomies, but the real world doesn't work that way, and the things that don't fit into those categories often get ignored, but we can learn a lot about the world by paying attention to them.

Because the book resists capitalism, it also resists traditional modes of academic writing. It is interdisciplinary, and also not organized around a traditional thesis, but instead offers a variety of related ideas and perspectives. As someone who is used to reading traditional academic writing and who wants to be able to think about how every chapter supports the thesis, I found this a little unsettling, but that's exactly Tsing's goal. My discomfort with the book's organization is part of her larger project of showing that there are alternative ways of doing everything.

This is a fascinating book that covers a lot of literal and metaphorical ground. There's a lot to unpack and think about. ( )
2 vote Gwendydd | Oct 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

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, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction. By investigating one of the world's most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.02)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 2
2.5
3 5
3.5 2
4 19
4.5 2
5 16

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 180,134,143 books! | Top bar: Always visible