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

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Princeton University Press, Sep 29, 2015 - Social Science - 352 pages
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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.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - willszal - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dbsovereign - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

Contents

PROLOGUE AUTUMN AROMA
1
PART I Whats Left?
11
Salvage Accumulation
55
Unintentional Design
149
PART IV In the Middle of Things
251
Notes
289
Index
323
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About the author (2015)

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Friction and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen (both Princeton).

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