It's in our food, our cosmetics, our fuel and our bodies. Palm oil, found in half of supermarket products, has shaped our world. Max Haiven uncovers how the gears of capitalism are literally and metaphorically lubricated by this ubiquitous elixir. From its origins in West Africa to today's Southeast Asian palm oil superpowers, Haiven's sweeping, experimental narrative takes us on a global journey that includes looted treasures, the American system of mass incarceration, the history of modern art and the industrialisation of war. Beyond simply calling for more consumer boycotts, he argues for recognising in palm oil humanity's profound potential to shape our world beyond racial capitalism and neo-colonial dispossession. One part history, one part dream, one part theory, one part montage, this kaleidoscopic and urgent book asks us to recognise the past in the present and to seize the power to make a better world.
- Whose grease?
- Whose punishment?
- Whose fetish?
- Whose weapon?
- Whose fat?
- Whose surplus?
- Whose sacrifice?
- Whose story?
Max Haiven is Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University, Canada. His books include Revenge Capitalism, Art after Money, Money after Art, Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power and The Radical Imagination.
"Powerfully demonstrates how, by following the history of a key commodity, we can reconstruct the logic of imperial capitalism: its destruction of land and bodies, its drive to constantly reduce the means of our reproduction, its relentless production of oppressive regimes. The story it narrates is crucial for our understanding of the terrains of struggle and the material conditions of solidarity between different social justice movements"
– Silvia Federici
"Jampacked with insights that will surprise and haunt readers, Haiven's arguments about the centrality of palm oil to colonial history and modern life are compelling, persuasive, and far-reaching"
– Andrew Ross, author of Stone Men: The Palestinians Who Built Israel
"Whether you're reading this on a screen or a printed page, you're implicated in the global palm oil trade. In this lovely book, Max Haiven takes us on a whirlwind tour of how that came to be, guiding us through the workings of the global engines that have long been lubricated by the grease of empire"
– Raj Patel, co-author of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet