World Hunger: Twelve Myths, by Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, Grove Press, 1986.
This book seeks to prove that there is enough food in the world to end world hunger, but political structures perpetuate mass starvation.
In a brief 149 pages, the authors bring potent facts to bear to support numerous theories of theirs (taken from others) that could fill several books. For example, Lappe cites a World Bank study to show that overpopulation results from the conditions of the poor. When the poor enjoy a secure life, they no longer have so many children. (p.27) Another example used to criticize export- led development is that Kenyan export income quadrupled between 1970 and 1980, but malnutrition increased. (p. 87) Also, Lappe and Collins make an interesting feminist observation that where women are central to the economy and enjoy reproductive rights, hunger is lower. As such, women oppose the trend towards the cash- crop economy in their own subsistence interests. (p. 90)
Ultimately though, the book does not deserve to be on the MIM literature list in this author's opinion because it has a worked out line on capitalism and socialism. The Lappe and Collins support a populist capitalism against landlord oligarchies. They do not oppose private property, but only want the peasants to be able to use the land as part of their right not to be hungry. They do not oppose market society, but they support income redistribution so that the world's half a billion starving people can eat. (p. 81,82)
They have praise for Nicaragua, Mondragon and China. They side with the Eritreans. They criticize the struggle between the East and West blocs as detracting from efforts to end world hunger. Their line on the Soviet Union is that it is a "statist" society.
Lappe and Collins consciously oppose state intervention in the market except where necessary to save the market from statist revolution. They view "statism" as an "economic dogma" and they support civil liberties as necessary to ending world hunger.
If there is such a thing as progressive capitalist revolution against feudalism anymore, Lappe and Collins would be spokespeople for the ascendant capitalist class. On these grounds one could argue that the book deserves MIM's support as part of the two-stage revolution still required in parts of the Third World. Perhaps this review is only the beginning of a debate within MIM about the book. If so, cast this vote against distributing it. (From MN 30, May 29, 1987)
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