This quarter’s selection

Issue: 129

The latest issue of New Left Review (II/65, September/October 2010) starts with a superb article by Robert Wade and Silla Sigurgeirsdottir on the crisis in Iceland. In a piece that combines careful analysis with the pace and tension of a thriller by Henning Mankel or Stieg Larson, Wade and Sigurgeirsdottir show how a tiny, incestuous political and economic elite dominating a country of 300,000 people engineered a financial bubble that saw three banks build up assets eight times national income and penetrate much bigger European economies—all the time with the collusion of an “international community” that until 2009 still rated Iceland the least corrupt state in the world!

The same issue of NLR carries an interesting exchange on the relationship between market, state and capitalism in contemporary China—a critique by Joel Andreas of Yasheng Huang’s influential book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics, and a reply by Huang himself.

In a fascinating piece in December’s Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York explore the paradox first outlined by the Victorian economist WS Jevons that improving energy efficiency leads to higher energy consumption. The authors argue that this result, a powerful challenge to mainstream attempts at a “technological fix” for climate change, is not, as Jevons thought, a “natural law”, but rather a consequences of capitalism being driven by competitive accumulation.1

Two articles stood out in the October issue of Monthly Review. First, a piece by David Bacon on organising and unionising immigrants in the US. Bacon argues that the unionisation of immigrants is not simply a case of looking out for the downtrodden but rather a vital task for the rebuilding of working class power in the US.2 The same issue contains an interesting overview of the influential Chinese author Qiu Xiaolong by Jonah Raskin, whose seminal The Mythology of Imperialism was reviewed by Gareth Jenkins in International Socialism 127.3

The 2011 edition of the Socialist Register is now available. This year’s theme is “The Crisis this Time”. We will be carrying a full review in a forthcoming issue.

Finally, October’s Rethinking Marxism contains a wonderful essay by Mark Osteen on the links between jazz improvisation and gift giving. “Both”, he argues, “are complex rituals that may, at their most powerful, attain the status of secular religious ceremonies. So let us play.”

AC and JJ