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

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Staff Reviews

A book I will definitely have to come back to! Reading about the Matsutake market in this book felt like a privileged glimpse into an unfamiliar world, one which exists outside the idea of scarcity. For example, I will be thinking about the image of a "pipe" of wealth waiting to be broken open for a long time.The idea of an almost playful economy based on work that defies our typical classifications for labor is fascinating.  

— From Alyson


"A poetic and remarkably fertile exploration of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment."--Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian
"I'm very grateful to have this book."--Ursula K. Le Guin
The acclaimed and award-winning book about what a rare mushroom can teach us about sustaining life on a fragile planet
A Flavorwire and Times Higher Education Book of the Year

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.

About the Author

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (both Princeton).

Product Details
ISBN: 9780691220550
ISBN-10: 0691220557
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Pages: 352
Language: English