This quarter’s selection

Issue: 132

Two issues of New Left Review have appeared since our last issue. In a very timely lead article to NLR 69, Isidro López and Emmanuel Rodriguez scrutinise the variant of capitalism that has come to dominate in Spain. They argue that it is a particularly clear case of what Robert Brenner has called “asset price Keynesianism”—ie boosting property prices as a way of encouraging private households to spend and thereby generating economic growth. The expansion of the bubble exacerbated regional divisions and caused ecological devastation. Its collapse since 2007 pushed up unemployment—among under-25s to over 40 percent. The movement of the indignados that began on 15 May is the response.1

NLR 70 contains two valuable articles on India, where a combination of rising inflation and growing popular anger over corruption have taken the shine off the country’s image as a rising power fit to challenge China. Kheya Bag subjects the Left Front government in West Bengal—swept from office in May after 34 years—to remorseless examination.2 Meanwhile Achin Vanaik adopts a broader optic, giving an overview of the two main versions of the Indian left, armed-struggle Maoism and the “parliamentary Stalinism” of the two Communist parties (the bigger of which, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), dominated the Left Front government). It’s hard to disagree with Achin that neither variant has served the Indian masses well and that what is needed is “a much more radical and offensive perspective, guided by an explicitly anti-capitalist politics” (something that both the Maoists and the CPs abjure).3

Ben Fine and Dimitris Milonakis start off the latest issue of Historical Materialism (19.2) with their 2010 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize Lecture. This is a splendid cannonade against the intellectual disgrace that is mainstream economics, though Fine and Milonakis are a little sketchy about the shape that alternative approaches should take. And in an impressive and rigorous article, Vivek Chibber reviews the debate provoked by the late Jerry Cohen’s book Karl Marx$7_$_s Theory of History and Brenner’s interpretation of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The latest Economy and Society (volume 40, number 3) includes Ben Selwyn’s critical comparison of Alexander Gerschenkron’s theories of state-led development with Trotsky’s concept of uneven and combined development. Selwyn argues that despite their similarities, they ultimately represent “fundamentally opposed approaches to human development”.

Finally, John Molyneux’s excellent website now hosts a Marxist analysis of the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien. The lively article will be of interest to Tolkien’s fans and detractors alike.4