How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World | Francis Wheen

Summary of: How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions
By: Francis Wheen


Embark on a journey to unravel the world of modern delusions in Francis Wheen’s ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World.’ Our enlightening summary will guide you through the depths of neoliberalism, exposing its detrimental effects on societies and economies, like those of the UK and US in the 1980s. Dive into the murky waters of self-help literature and unmask the charlatans who capitalize on people’s desperation. Examine how post-structuralism has infiltrated academia with its vague and ambiguous language, and ultimately explore the breathtaking landscape of ‘The Third Way’ politics that blend right and left while coating it in so-called ‘progressive’ values. Throughout this summary, we’ll discover the power of irrationality and nonsense and contemplate the importance of challenging them for a better future.

Neoliberalism and its Disastrous Effects

The book examines the philosophy of neoliberalism that promotes free markets instead of government intervention as the key to economic prosperity, as well as its devastating effects on the working and middle classes. The supply-side economics that became popular in the 1980s was a rebranding of the debunked trickle-down theory that argued that allowing the rich to get richer would help wealth to trickle down to lower- and middle-class individuals. However, history has proven this philosophy to be misguided, as evidenced by the disastrous effects of neoliberal policies implemented in the UK and US. These policies led to the dismantling of the welfare state, which was a social safety net set up at the end of World War II, and the offshoring of jobs to cheaper labor markets like China. The consequences were rampant inflation, job loss, high unemployment rates, and a drop in real wage levels for the majority of society.

The Truth Behind Self-Help Books

Self-help books became popular during the rise of neoliberalism in the US and UK. However, not all self-help books have original content. Authors like Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra cloak common-sense principles as groundbreaking ideas. Despite this, they still earn millions from their books and spiritual retreats. People are misled into buying more of these books with the hope of learning how to get rich or successful. It’s important to be critical of the content of self-help books and not fall for their marketing schemes.

The End of History and Other Nonsense

Self-help gurus and academics often gain fame not for their contributions but for their flamboyant styles. The “end of history” theory is a prime example, which gained attention during the end of the Cold War. Francis Fukuyama’s best-seller, The End of History and the Last Man, argues that Western neoliberal capitalism is the dominant and final political and economic force. However, his book lacks logical grounding and even suggests that Nazism and Communism had little effect on the world. Similarly, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations claims that future conflicts will arise from cultural differences as opposed to politics or economics. But his theories are misguided, as he categorizes countries and civilizations in illogical and inconsistent ways. Overall, the “end of history” and “clash of civilizations” theories lack factual evidence and rely on emotional appeal.

The Dangers of Post-Structuralism

Post-Structuralism is a school of philosophical thought that rejects stable meaning, asserting that everything is subject to infinite interpretation. This belief has led to the use of vague, complex language to sound intelligent and has caused dangerous consequences. Post-structuralism has created an environment where history is overinterpreted, and tragedies like the Holocaust are considered exceptions. It’s crucial to recognize the dangers of this philosophy and the potential harm it can cause.

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