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The Mushroom at the End of the World

On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins
Written by: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
Narrated by: Susan Ericksen
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2015 Princeton University Press (P)2017 Tantor

What listeners say about The Mushroom at the End of the World

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jo
  • 2019-10-28

great ethnography

loved it, the narrator is great. excellent version of a great ethnography. hard to explain, but it is well done

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  • G B.
  • 2019-08-19

so much to tell about a mushroom

First of all I should say that this kind of anthropological, ethnographic combined with biological, environmental research is quite new to me. Tsing takes you through the complete value chain of the Matsutake mushroom and uncovers as far as I can remember two kinds of stories about capitalism that are intertwined. The mushroom was a delicacy in Japan because it was so rare and only grows in certain pine forests. However, due to human intervention in the forests of Oregon, the mushroom started to flourish. This is where southeast Asian migrants (war refugees) started to make a living from this mushroom, picking them on common land and selling them in the 'open ticket' market in Vancouver. This is what she calls 'salvage accumulation', whereby common resources are turned into private profits. At the same time she tries to take these scenarios as examples for living in precarity. She goes into great detail in how the mushroom is foraged and traded and what the customs and beliefs of the migrant as well as the white pickers and sellers are. She draws parallels in between the mushroom itself and how it only grows in a ravaged landscape and how people (could) live. She analyses how the mushroom makes its journey from spore to fruiting body of the mycelium, picked and sold, until once it's on its way in a crate it has become a 'full capitalist commodity', whereafter it becomes entwined again in cultural practices of giving and ceremony and the non-capitalist values that encompasses. Because her book branches out into so many detailed accounts of these different aspects of the mushroom, it's sometimes hard to keep track of the point she's trying to make. I started listening not knowing what I would hear exactly and perhaps a sort of map, chart or legend (book summary) would have helped. It's only after finishing that I start to see the web and links that she has been spinning. The narrator does a really good job and takes you into the story. I did however, start listening at 1.3 times the speed to keep myself more engaged.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Richard B.
  • 2019-07-16

Tsing is brilliant

As in other ethnographies I've read, there were a few parts that were a little too drawn out for me, but Tsing's writing made even those pretty good. Ericksen's narration was as lively as Tsing's prose, and she pronounced with ease the names in various languages. It was a pleasure to listen to. love that books like these are made available as audiobooks. Thanks, Tantor Media!

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  • Huong
  • 2019-04-11

Had to make her talk faster

It’s a heavy text book, but with the slow reading, I couldn’t see the big picture and the concept Tsing was highlighting. As for the writing itself, I wish she would go in depth more with technogical terms, and stop saying “i imagine”- redundancies...?maybe just my taste...? Yet, I don’t mind rereading and listening to this again though. Super interesting topic.

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  • ellen
  • 2020-09-22

About capitalism?

This book is mostly about fungus and forests and forest management and the people who pick the mushrooms. It is an interesting description of those things, particularly if they interest you. The book presents commentary and insight on certain aspects of capitalism but does not provide real insight on a post-capitalist world that can sustain 7 billion people.

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  • Cosmicsolo
  • 2020-08-12

Captivating and mind-opening

I'm a fan of Tsing's work, and while I prefer Frictions for academic purposes, this is a magnificent book conveying and developing her work in a way that's easy to follow, and therefore great at as audio-book. I highly recommend it!

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  • Sasha Acker
  • 2019-12-05

my favorite book ever

Capitalism, mushrooms, geopolitical history, human behavior. I couldn't ask for a better book. it is very entertaining and educational.

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  • Bryce
  • 2019-10-31

Great read for economists and naturalists alike

This has become one of my most highly recommended books to the point I convinced my brother in law whom is a literary professor at CU Boulder to add it to one of his courses. Fungi is a connector and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing uses this wondrous mushroom to connect vastly different worlds and economies by following the lines in the soil. Read this book and share it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-04-04

tears apart capitalism. no nature

was hoping to learn a bit about mushrooms, not hear about how bad my political system is

1 person found this helpful