This quarter’s selection

Issue: 127

The latest issue of Historical Materialism (18.1) has a symposium devoted to the late Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing. Two of the contributions stand out. The American Marxist geographer Dick Walker in a lively, wide-ranging piece takes on both Arrighi’s long-term history of capitalism and his rose-tinted view of contemporary China.

A young Italian scholar, Lucia Pradella, zeros in on Arrighi’s critique of Marx. Demolishing the accusations of “Eurocentrism” still made against Marx, she provides a fascinating analysis of the way in which the patterns of interstate competition and colonial expansion that gave rise to modern imperialism find “an organic place” in Capital.

In the same issue Alberto Toscano offers a meticulous study of Marx’s writings on religion. He convincingly demonstrates how far Marx went beyond the Enlightenment dismissal of religious faith as mere ignorance and illusion which is repeated now by figures such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. It’s a pity, however, that such a useful article is couched in an off-puttingly academic style.

The April issue of Monthly Review contains an interesting exchange about Hyman Minsky, the post-Keynesian economist. Minsky’s argument that capitalism is inherently prone to financial instability has, not surprisingly, attracted much attention since the onset of the crisis in 2007. Thomas Palley argues for integrating Minsky’s “Financial Instability Hypothesis” into a broader Marxist-Keynesian framework,1 but John Bellamy Foster and Robert W McChesney are more sceptical, for reasons summarised by the title of their article: “Listen Keynesians, It’s the System!”2

June’s Monthly Review features an article by Patrick Bond on the effects of the economic crisis in South Africa.3 The speculative residential property bubble in South Africa dwarved those in Europe—from 1997 to 2008 there was a price rise of 389 percent, more than double that of Ireland. Bond looks beyond the hype surrounding South Africa’s World Cup football tournament at the mass protests that have shaken the country and the prospects for their future development.

The most recent edition of Revolutionary History is the first of two volumes on the left in Iran. Covering the period 1905-40, the collection includes many documents never before published in English and throws new light on the development of the early Iranian socialist movement.

Henry Heller contributes an interesting article about the Great French Revolution to the April issue of Science and Society. Heller argues against the revisionist historians who seek to deny the Revolution’s bourgeois character. But he also argues against Marx that the French bourgeoisie did develop a sense of themselves as a “class-for-itself”. He thinks this was consciously downplayed by the Revolution’s leaders in favour of republicanism so as to avoid social divisions amongst the revolutionary forces.

Two articles in the Spring issue of Radical History intervene in the debates around capitalism and climate change. Ted Steinberg looks at the rise of “Green liberalism” and the contradictions within the arguments of those who claim capitalism can save the planet. Mart A Stewart looks at the role played by carbon trading and market solutions to climate change in naturalising social and economic relations.

The May issue of Interface, a journal for and about social movements, contains a piece by longstanding International Socialism contributor Colin Barker. Colin’s piece looks at Poland’s Solidarno´s´c movement in 1980-1 and includes a fascinating discussion of the role of emotion in social movements.4

Finally, the Research in Money and Finance group recently hosted a roundtable discussion on the crisis in the eurozone. The wide-ranging discussion explored responses well outside the purview of most media commentators, such as refusing to repay debt and exit from the eurozone. The event is available to listen to in its entirety online.5

AC and JJ