Pick of the quarter

Issue: 114

David Harvey’s recent books The New Imperialism and A Brief History of Neoliberalism (reviewed here) have been influential in shaping understanding of these issues, and some of his ideas have been subject to rigorous critical scrutiny from a range of different Marxist standpoints. One of the most important—and most readable—issues of Historical Materialism for a long time (issue 14:4) brings much of this discussion together, with contributions from Ellen Wood, Bob Sutcliffe, Robert Brenner, Ben Fine, and Alex Callinicos and Sam Ashman (both on our editorial board), with a reply by Harvey. Anyone interested in Marxist political economy should try to read this discussion.

Robert Brenner also writes in the January-February issue of New Left Review where he gives a very pessimistic analysis of political developments in the US over the past few decades. Alongside this is a rather more optimistic analysis of last November’s congressional elections by Mike Davis. Both authors agree that the Democrats are incapable of providing any real alternative to Bush. Both articles can be read on the New Left Review website www.newleftreview.org

The most interesting of the recent issues of Monthly Review was February’s, containing a series of pieces spelling out the degree of support for capitalism provided by Lula’s government in Brazil. The authors argue that Lula is following in the tradition of Latin American populism, turning his back on the organised working class while buying votes with limited and ­inadequate handouts for the very poor. Some of the pieces are freely available online. Similar in tone is an article by João Machado and José Corrêa Leite in the March‑April edition of Against the Current.

Aasim Sajjid, writing in last July’s issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies, gives an account of important peasant struggles in Pakistan on the ‘canal colonies’ in Okara.

For those who can read Spanish, Claudio Katz has produced a very interesting analysis of the economic policies of the Kirchner government in Argentina (available, among many other places, on www.aporrea.org/imprime/a30832.html).
Katz shows how Argentina’s current ‘neo‑developmentalism’ differs from the neoliberal policies of the 1990s, putting a Keynesian emphasis on state intervention to help industrial capital. This has led to some industrial expansion (in itself an important argument against those who see ‘deindustrialisation’ as a relentless process taking place virtually everywhere). But, as Katz demonstrates, this development rests on the continued impoverishment of wide sections of the population, cannot restore the sort of dynamism Argentina experienced in the years immediately after the Second World War and could be the prelude to further destabilisation.