Posts Tagged 'capitalism'

The Red in the Rainbow, by Hannah Dee

Since 1970, struggles against LGBT oppression have won impressive legal gains alongside a sea-change in social attitudes. Liberation remains a distant prospect, however, and in this context Dee constructs an entertaining and thoroughly cogent exposition of the classical Marxist theory of sexuality. In examining how economic organisation underpins social structures surrounding sexuality – and what this means for transforming such structures – Dee presents a rich seam of historical detail; for instance the often-neglected sexual radicalism of early Social Democratic perspectives. Despite tending to the mechanistic in an over-hasty rejection of queer theory, this is recommended reading for any non-expert.

Bookmarks; 2011; 192 pages

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Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liiberal World, by Alex Callinicos

Plenty of illusions but no bonfire. The problem with this book’s title – acknowledged by Callinicos – is that the ruling neoliberal ideology is very much alive and kicking. Fixing as his point of departure the timely conjunction of the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Russia-Georgia war, the author argues that these events marked the end of the post-Cold War epoch of unipolar US supremacy and neoliberal orthodoxy. A detailed accounting of the financial crisis, informed by an understanding of falling profit rates, gives way to a weaker outline of geopolitical strategy that frequently reiterates the earlier economic arguments. SS

Polity; 2010; 179 pages

Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Global Development, by David Harvey

Here are three lectures delivered by Harvey, a geographer by trade, in 2004. In the first he analyses neoliberalism in what is a finely composed exposition of its meaning: the restoration of ruling class power. The second is focused on uneven geographical development and Harvey masterfully employs his Marxian analytical toolbox to demonstrate how this unevenness is inherent to the system via processes of primitive accumulation, competing capitals and commodity fetishism. Finally, for the specialist Harvey tackles the notion of ‘space’, producing a nine-coordinate ‘matrix’ of different conceptions which we are asked to consider simultaneously and dialectically; it’s challenging stuff. SS

Verso; 2006; 154 pages

What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank

Why do working class Kansans support a Republican Party that consistently acts against their interests? Frank’s simple answer is that culture has substituted for class; moral righteousness functions as an outlet for underlying anger at economic injustice. He examines the rhetoric of talk radio ‘shock jocks’, evangelicals, Fox News and right-wing politicians. Unfortunately the book is overly journalistic in places and the analysis is occasionally lightweight. Acknowledging the working class’s abandonment by the Democrats, Frank recommends a return to an old-fashioned economic populism. Despite its limitations, it’s encouraging to see a bestseller placing class at the heart of its analysis. SS

Holt McDougal; 2005; 336 pages

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein

Comparing economic theory to psychology and CIA torture, Klein argues that neoliberalism’s rise was intimately intertwined with the notion of ‘shock’, of exploiting populations reeling from man-made or human disasters to implement reforms beneficial to capital. Klein charts the global progress of such ‘shock treatments’ and argues a new form of economy has arisen in recent years: disaster capitalism. It’s a neat formulation but it’s ultimately unconvincing; many of Klein’s examples actually undermine her thesis. Nevertheless, with her customary tight prose the ‘No Logo’ author marshals an impressive array of facts which serve to make this a frequently fascinating history. SS

Picador USA; 2008; 720 pages

Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, by Paul Mason

This is a superb primer on the economic crisis of 2009 for anyone who wants to get a better handle on the immediate causes of the financial meltdown that at one stage threatened to plunge the world into another great depression. Mason, economics correspondent for the BBC’s Newsnight, begins with a colourful first-hand survey of the day-by-day drama of the crisis from what he saw on Wall Street and Washington. He identifies the deeper roots of the crisis in financialization, the ‘subprime’ housing boom and, ultimately, neoliberal economics. His prescriptions are somewhat weak, however; he recommends merely a revamped Keynesianism. SS

Verso; 2009; 198 pages


Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell

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