This quarter’s selection

Issue: 133

The 2012 issue of Socialist Register is entitled The Crisis and The Left. It contains a number of interesting pieces alongside a symposium on the eurozone crisis. It leads with an article by David Harvey on the urban roots of financial crisis and strategies for the left.1

There are a couple of strengths to Harvey’s analysis of the way forward. First, he points to the limitation of workers’ control within the constraints of capitalism, ie workers’ co-operatives, against the rhetoric of the autonomists. Second, he rejects a narrow view of the proletariat as “factory workers”, insisting that the term should include “all those who facilitate the reproduction of daily life: the care givers and teachers, the sewer and subway repair men”, etc.

However, Harvey’s privileging of geographical organisation leads him to some questionable conclusions (for example, the supposedly innovative nature of Labour’s anti-Thatcher “municipal socialism” of the early 1980s).

Other useful pieces include David McNally’s survey of the crisis, the ruling class’s drive towards austerity and the rise of resistance across the globe. Adam Hanieh presents a fascinating account of the links between the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab uprisings. Ho-fung Hung looks behind the “Sinomania” that has gripped many Western commentators to uncover the “mega bubble” that has built up in China which threatens to be “the trigger of a second wave of the global financial crisis”.

An otherwise conventional social democratic critique of the triumph of markets over democracy by Wolfgang Streeck in New Left Review 71 (September/October 2011) carries a sting in its tail, since Streeck suggests riots may be good for democracy.2

The same issue contains a thorough demolition by Dylan Riley of the historical scholarship of the late Tony Judt, a vastly overpraised liberal anti-communist publicist.3

There is solider fare in Historical Materialism 19.3. Rohini Hensman reassesses the important 1970s debate on women’s labour within the household from an Indian perspective.

In a long and important essay, “Antonio Gramsci’s Contribution to a Critical Economics”, Michael Krätke backs up Peter Thomas’s argument in The Gramscian Moment that it is a mistake to see Gramsci as having a semi-idealist
interest primarily in politics and philosophy. On the contrary, it is now clear that a distinctive interpretation of Marx’s critique of political economy is central to Gramsci’s own project. Krätke’s survey is all the more valuable because of his own deep knowledge of Marx’s economic manuscripts—and his willingness to criticise Gramsci where appropriate.

Finally, Pepijn Brandon gives an excellent account of the distinctive form of capitalist development that underlay the Dutch “Golden Age” of the 16th and 17th centuries (though it is puzzling that he ignores Jonathan Israel’s fundamental study of Dutch foreign trade).

The December issue of Monthly Review includes a couple of articles which will be of interest to film and literature fans. Mervyn Nicholson examines the role of class struggle in the films of Alfred Hitchcock,4 while Jonah Raskin looks at the works of the German novelist Hans Fallada, best known for his extraordinary posthumous novel Alone in Berlin. Raskin argues that despite Fallada’s ambiguous life, his work is anti-fascist to the core.5

Finally, the Research on Money and Finance group have released a new report entitled Breaking Up? A Route Out of the Eurozone Crisis, which is available from their website.6



1Many aspects of the article related to Marxist political economy were discussed by Harvey in his Deutscher Prize lecture at the London Historical Materialism Conference in November 2011. A video of the lecture is available here: