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It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the torrent of information about environmental catastrophes taking place all over the world. In this powerful and provocative book, Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh shows how it is still possible for individuals and communities to take on the might of corporate power and emerge victorious. As a founder of the IslIt is easy to feel helpless in the face of the torrent of information about environmental catastrophes taking place all over the world. In this powerful and provocative book, Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh shows how it is still possible for individuals and communities to take on the might of corporate power and emerge victorious. As a founder of the Isle of Eigg Trust, McIntosh helped the beleaguered residents of Eigg to become the first Scottish community ever to clear their laird from his own estate. And plans to turn a majestic Hebridean mountain into a superquarry were overturned after McIntosh persuaded a Native American warrior chief to visit the Isle of Harris and testify at the government inquiry. This extraordinary book weaves together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new philosophy of community, spirit and place. His daring and imaginative responses to the destruction of the natural world make Soil and Soul an uplifting, inspirational and often richly humorous read....

Title : Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power
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ISBN : 9781854109422
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power Reviews

  • Jeremy
    2018-10-19 12:12

    This was a great read on several levels. McIntosh is an "independent scholar" having been deeply involved in the founding (and decline) of the Center for Human Ecology at the University of Edinburgh. The book is an autobiographical account of his participation in activism in Scotland on a variety of levels, particularly in seeking to defeat the Harris superquarry (a group of European entrepreneurs wanted to basically level a Scottish island in order to make... gravel) and the remarkable story of the Isle of Eigg. He combines an appreciation for indigenous Scottish cultures, the preservation of precious island ecologies, and what he describes as "psychospirituality." McIntosh is an eclectic thinker, drawing on a very wide variety of sources, too wide in many cases, eliding important differences between very well developed theological traditions. This is my one reservation with McIntosh, in that he thinks of himself as a theologian, but isn't apparently invested enough in any particular theological tradition to really earn the title, remaining at best a theological hobbyist, a venture which I consider to be potentially somewhat dangerous.With that said, his work in defense of the Islanders at Eigg is a fascinating story. For those who aren't aware, much of Scotland still operates under feudal land-ownership policies, by which a wealthy person or family owns the entirety of the land, and then benevolently leases it to the remaining islanders. The fact that such an unjust pattern of land-ownership still persists is nothing short of remarkable and I wouldn't believe it before I read the book.In summary, I really recommend you read McIntosh in order to get aquainted with some of the issues and culture in environmental and social justice activism in Scotland. Don't, however, expect life-changing theological insight.

  • Gary
    2018-11-17 04:03

    The first part of the book about the Highland Clearances had me, as a sassenach, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Also I'm too much of a rationalist to feel happy with talk of faeries. Once he gets on to analysing our society in terms of Mammon and Moloch I begin to feel some kinship with McIntosh. A great happy chance find on GR.

  • Diane Rheos
    2018-10-22 08:13

    One of my favorite books. So much poetry and beauty. It ties together the spiritual -soul with the -soil of the planet. He weaves stories, the bible, poetry, with references to many writers. Lovely

  • Sam Willis
    2018-11-01 06:49

    Soil and Soul has sat in my basement having had my wife give up on it after 30 pages. As I was clearing some bits out down there the book jumped out at me and I sat down to read it (a favourite procrastination technique of mine). It has fast become one of my favourite books. Having read other reviews, it seems McIntosh's style in blending psychology, spirituality, theology and poetry with his account of the Isle of Eigg's community land-takeover and the Isle of Harris super-quarry campaign can leave some people overwhelmed or cold on certain fronts. For me, I loved his narrative style, particularly his ease in taking a very particular anecdote and teasing out its universal implications.Personally, I am a fan of the perennial wisdom tradition and so do not find too problematic the way McIntosh will quote theologian Walter Wink alongside Gaelic poets and historians. This winding narrative is invitational as much as descriptive and so invites the reader to a metaphorical fire-place to hear the wisdom gleaned from McIntosh's experience in community and social activism. At the heart of his accounts I find a compassion not only for the community he advocated and belonged to but also the 'Keith Schellenbergs' or lairds, who were in some respects the "enemy". This compassion arises through McIntosh's leaning on Walter Wink's (in my view, brilliant) reading of the 'Domination System' which can be understood not as the evil of a human being itself but the Spirit (interiority) of oppression that the system generates as an emergent property of organisations structured around greed. In that sense, what is to be tackled in terms of corporate power is these Powers that remain masked and which present themselves as ideological givens rather than contingent arrangements based upon the choices of people throughout history. As such, there is great hope in challenging these dominant narratives despite the loaded dice. McIntosh delineates three 'modes' of humanity in taking on these powers which, in the chapter "The Womanhood of God", are described as logos, mythos and eros. Crudely speaking, logos is the modality of truth which can be characterised by rationality and proceeds along a course worked out through the intellect. Mythos, however, rather than being an irrational story believed for moral purpose, is the narrative structure which couches and therefore renders the work of logos meaningful. Although McIntosh does not spend much time arguing this point, within this picture there is an implicit critique of the possibility of logos to underpin our deepest convictions, as though the truths we live by can simply be formed by pinning together our various rational conclusions - an assumption very much active in modern thought. Instead, mythos is that which we are caught up in. Ultimately, the two are both necessarily and can operate in complementarity:"The rational mind, if bereft of the soul's touchstone of beauty that poetry [in the broadest sense] offers, may come to know the world with great precision, but at the cost of fragmentation... By contrast, however if the poetic mind is stripped of logos, it will loses its co-ordinates. It will lose its sense of proportion, of the ratio, of order - and so readily fall prey to fanaticism, demagoguery, neurotic nostalgia and chaos." (p, 208)Finally, eros can be understood as that more primal energy which animates our course along the lines of mythos and logos. This part particularly stood out to me as it seemed to be a reflection upon the work and methodology of Soil and Soul as a whole. It is a framework that can provide new ways to conceive of our place in the world and a sense of hope and purpose that is all too often lost in the West by way of distraction, mistrust, addiction and blame. In short, this book renewed my hope.I haven't yet mentioned, though it is so central (and evident in the title) that McIntosh's work centres around our relationship to the soil and the earth and therefore asserts that the work of community regeneration is coincidental with a right relationship with the earth which is moreover, its proper foundation. Therefore, McIntosh invites us to see that the oppression and subjugation of this wild world's resources results and is of the same cloth as the oppression and subjugation of its people. What McIntosh offers here is not a blueprint or plan for how to make this work (at least not directly) -though it is evident throughout the text that much of his academic work focuses on precisely this and that he has thought this through in terms of its pragmatism - but a fresh invitation to see the world in its beauty and possibility and claim this as deeply revelatory of the meaning of the world, not merely as incidental moments ultimately to be drawn under the slow steam-roller of time. McIntosh testifies in his own bardic way that what we do matters and how we do it matters and change is possible. I have already ordered another of his books.

  • Rob
    2018-11-05 12:07

    I saw this book as having 3 inter-twined strands.One was the facts about the movement to rid Eigg of its Laird and take it into community ownership and also to stop a super-quarry on Harris.The second was social-political-environmental commentary about how things are and how they could be better if there was a focus on community and if we were connected to the land that we inhabited.These two parts I found interesting and there was plenty sections that I read out to Ann as I agreed whole-heartedly to what was being suggested.The third strand was a spiritual analysis of events which I did not really relate to. However, it was obviously part of the author's journey and maybe the problem was that is was a bit over my head!

  • Fred Langridge
    2018-11-09 11:47

    I really, really enjoyed the first half of this book, which explores the history, theology, geography and culture of the Hebrides. The second half is the story of the long campaign of work by the people of Eigg to take their own island into community ownership. The story's very interesting; I found myself a bit irritated with McIntosh's style in this part of the book, but not enough to put me off reading it altogether.

  • Ashley Catt
    2018-10-31 11:48

    Curiously, one of the quotes on the front cover of my copy of this book proclaims that the work is 'No Logo in fair isle jumper', which is a pretty apt description for anyone who has read 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein. In actuality, I find that Alastair McIntosh is a bit like a cross between Naomi Klein and George Monbiot (who, perchance, wrote the foreword for this book). McIntosh imbues the case studies of forced corporate dispossession that Naomi Klein talked about in 'No Logo' (and also a lot of the ecology that she espoused in 'This Changes Everything') and does it with the poetry and spirituality of Monbiot. Oddly enough, I had actually read both 'No Logo' and 'Feral' (by Monbiot) earlier in the year, with this work and Klein's work being the most coherent and convincing.Unlike Naomi Klein's wide ranging case studies, Alastair McIntosh sticks with a detailed example that he has been a part and a driving force of. McIntosh sets the context of landownership in Scotland, where a ridiculous amount of it is concentrated in a very small number of wealthy (and often absentee) landowners. His own case, on the Isle of Eigg is an example of how a community can take on both a laird who manipulated that native population, and the extraction industry in the face of increasing corporate deregulation.Spirituality can be a very difficult aspect to write into a book without alienating your atheist and agnostic (like myself) readership. It can be hard to write it in without sounding like you're preaching, or being evangelical; how do you relate it to a potentially multi-faith group of readers when this isn't a Christian work? The answer is that spiritual belief is key in this work, and adds an extra dimension. It illustrates the reverence that McIntosh holds for the land, and how incompatible such avaricious and profligate land ownership is to this belief. Whilst the spirituality is grounded in flexible Christian theology (tinged with hints of Celtic and Native American mysticism), McIntosh is at pains to express that, whatever you believe, the essence of spirituality is applicable to all. He extols the sacred feminine, and insists that we see the female sides of both Jesus and God - his concepts of ecofeminism as related to spirituality and the land appeal to me greatly.This is a greatly inspiring work. I'm not a Christian in any sense of the word, nor do I have any defined beliefs on the spirituality behind the land - however I feel like it gives the reader a new outlook on traditional Western, non-Indigenous views on land ownership. Communality seems like something to extol, and whatever force lies behind nature should be revered and respected. It makes me think that maybe I should look into my own spirituality a little bit more, and see the more personable side of the land I walk on. But that's just the kind of introspection that it's brought up in me.If you're coming from Klein's work, you might find this a bit too poetic, but give it a go; McIntosh holds much of the same sentiment as she does. It tends to be far more optimistic than Klein (which is no criticism of her, as she writes in the hope to galvanise worthy changes to be made) For anyone who has wanted to reconnect with the intangible forces of nature, or simply wants the satisfaction of reading about the defeat of corporations and the gentry, this is the book for you. I'm sure it has a more general appeal than this, but I'll let that be determined by anyone who happens to stumble across this. My testament is that it is a wonderful, life affirming, buoyant and poignant book.

  • Laura
    2018-10-29 04:15

    What a great book! The author tells the story of two environmental protection movements in the Hebrides in the 1990s. In one project, a group of crofters challenges the abusive practices of their landlord, and in another, a diverse coalition successfully halts efforts to site a super quarry on the Isle of Harris. Both projects are successful, in part because they have cooperation and inspiration from a group of like-minded Native Americans in Nova Scotia. Mcintosh traces centuries of Scottish history to reconstruct the economics and the politics that gave rise to feudalism and explain its strange persistence into the waning decades of the twentieth century. Part of that story includes the forced eviction of some 18th century tenants who were displaced to Nova Scotia, and who were welcomed and sheltered by the Mikmaq tribe. McIntosh explains how he reached out to the tribe and sought solidarity in their contemporary struggles over land tenure and ecological protection. He also relates how he and some academic partners established the Isle of Eigg Trust. This story is really amazing, because it involves empowering a community of crofters who have been abused by their feudal landlords for seven generations. Watching them make the transition from being fearful of speaking out against their modern-day laird to taking full ownership of the Trust and its activities--and ultimately succeeding in their campaign to buy the laird out and restore the island to community ownership--is really inspiring. The book (and indeed the mobilization that it describes) rests solidly on religious ideas from Celtic paganism and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Parts of the book are heavy sledding and a bit repetitive, but McIntosh explains all of the religious and theological linkages between notions of land, community, and faith (soil, society, and soul). So much contemporary scholarship on social movements draws on theories of rational choice, examining the strategic and tactical motivations of the actors. A more recent current of social movement scholarship has started to look at the role of emotions in identity formation--McInosh's work falls squarely into that camp, although he traces those ideas back centuries. The book is laid out in two parts; the first book recounts Scottish history and some of that theology, and then the second part of the book is about the two campaigns from the 90s. A lot of the theology is in discrete chapters, so you could skim or skip those if you just want to get the basics of the history and the campaign. But the second part, about them winning the campaign is really gripping stuff, especially when Chief Stone Eagle travels to Scotland to tour the Hebrides. It's there that we really see the emotional work of social movement organizing in action.

  • David
    2018-11-09 04:13

    Inspiring, infuriating, and in many ways, heart-rending. An account of two major power clashes in recent Scottish history, which have led to the birth of the Land Rights Reform Movement and may ultimately change the way relationships between local people and corporate bodies are mitigated. Alastair frequently dips into the well of esoterica (and occasionally fades into the Mystic) but it makes for an interesting, lively read all the way through, and lends insight as to the scope of what is at stake in the battle to save our ecology, our cultures, our sense of belonging to this world and our purpose in it.The history of colonization (of both land and minds) is explored in relation to the ongoing extraction of natural resources by multinational corporations and national governments, as well as victim blaming and the oppressive influences of politics and religion. A truly human story, human failings and all. It inspired me to travel to Harris and climb Mount Roineabhal, whose reprieve from being reduced to a 200-metre-deep hole in order to supply southern Britain with road gravel is described herein. It was a great climb, and I had my first close up view of a White Tailed Eagle at the summit, a powerful (and exceptionally relevant) moment I will never forget.

  • Abailart
    2018-11-02 06:56

    Everything else has to take second place for a while. A chance meeting with someone, and I ordered and got this from amazon in the last week. "About' the successful campaign against vested interests and corporatism to secure the Scottish island of Eigg for a community, what I have read so far just wants to me to keep on going for 384 pages. It's erudite and wild in its references but is essentially 'heart politics'; the first chapter will put you straight on this. Not an autobiography but that best of history which radiates from a real narrator who is there, a people, a place. Part anthology, part eye opener to history and mythology, written with love, this promises to be the celebration I have looked for which is reached by dismissing the sentimental and consumerist marketing strategies of the 'new age' ondustries. I'm only on page 50 at the time of writing, but you kind of know ealy from the voice in the writing whether you are being called to listen.

  • Margo Pratt
    2018-11-07 10:06

    This book has been an absolute life changer for me. It caught me at a good time, my perspectives were widening, my faith in politics diminishing, my place in the universe coming into question - must be a nearly 40 thing...It has made me reconsider the role of community whilst giving me a rich overview of the political and community landscapes and how economic refocus changed all of that.I hanker for simpler times, and this book paints a beautiful picture of possibilities.Genuinely - a life changer. If you read one book in your life - make it this one...

  • Chris
    2018-11-10 10:54

    A beautiful account of the intimate relationship between God, humanity, and the environment, explored through the lens of the struggle for land reform in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. This book is a wonderful testimony to the indefatigable spirit of those who seek to live in authentic and loving communities that cherish their role as stewards of the natural world.

  • Laura
    2018-10-31 08:03

    I loved this book. It's a moving tale of activism, community, justice, fighting the good fight, connecting with nature and the divine. Growing up with the mythology of the British Isles, it also felt like home.

  • Christy
    2018-11-18 04:07

    Five stars for political analysis and participation in a true to life David vs Goliath story, 3 stars for gassy, Starhawkian eco-spirituality, much too much of it. But a great insight into the Western Hebrides, in which I was traveling at the time.

  • Lauren
    2018-10-25 08:53

    recommended by a friend - looks very good.

  • Eleanor Dow
    2018-10-28 05:49

    Beautiful. Poetic, insightful and informative. Provides much hope for the those concerned about social and climate injustice.

  • Becky
    2018-11-12 06:53

    Not many books are of the life-transforming sort but this one sure was. You just have to read it to see what I mean.

  • Sally McRogerson
    2018-11-02 05:13

    David beats Goliath again! This time on the isle of Eigg where the tenants actually get to buy out the landlord, eventually. Good read

  • Jessica
    2018-11-14 05:03

    Very good book that establishes the basis of human ecology. One of those books that gives your viewpoint a shift, so that you wind up thinking a little differently about the world.

  • Robert
    2018-10-28 11:57

    A hugely enjoyable book. McIntosh weaves numerous strands of his own life with that of Scotlands history to form a coherent world view.

  • Shaun Chamberlin
    2018-11-17 03:55

    Utterly wonderful - inspiring, helpful and fascinating.

  • Joshua Welbaum
    2018-10-25 08:17

    A book that came out of no where that combined social justice and theology. Highly recommend.