The global economic crisis continues almost unabated and yet neo-liberalism still reigns supreme. In this blog post, I bring together a range of book reviews, which all challenge neo-liberal economics, point to its devastating effects on people’s lives as well as reflect on alternatives. Together, this set of reviews intends to provide a useful critical resource for discussions against the currently dominant economic thinking.
The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State
In his book The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State (Pluto Press, 2011) Asbjørn Wahl makes two important claims. First, the welfare state is the result of class struggle, when workers were successful at balancing capital’s power in society. It was not tripartite institutions between labour, capital and state, which brought it about. Second, the welfare state was a compromise, in which capital accepted full employment, expansive public services for workers and a role for trade unions in social and economic decision-making in exchange for retaining control over the means of production. It had never been the end goal for workers, which initially demanded a socialisation of the means of production on the road to socialism. For the full review, click here.
The book Grounding Globalization: Labour in the Age of Insecurity (John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2008) by Eddie Webster, Rob Lambert and Andries Bezuidenhout analyses labour’s current role in the global economy through an analysis of the white goods industry in Australia, South Korea and South Africa. Importantly, the book also examines the ‘hidden abode of reproduction’, the concrete impact restructuring has on the life of families and communities beyond the hardship inflicted on workers at the work place. And yet, as the authors make clear, it is not all doom and gloom. Global restructuring has also provided workers with new weapons for their struggles against exploitation including symbolic or moral power as well as logistical power. For the full review, click here.
Global History: A View from the South.
In the broad historical sweep in his book Global History: A View from the South (Pambazuka Press, 2011), Samir Amin provides an important corrective to our standard, Eurocentric understanding of development, which links issues of development back to medieval Italian Renaissance and the industrial revolution in Britain from the 18th century onwards. In his analysis of the period between 500 BC and 1500 AD, Amin outlines that Europe was little more than a barbarous and backward periphery lacking behind major tributary systems such as India, China and the Islamic Orient and their scientific, intellectual and general civilizational achievements. The question then is why was it Europe, where capitalism took off rather than one of these other, much more advanced regions in the world? For the full review, click here.
The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class?
In this path-breaking book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), Guy Standing illustrates well how the informal economy characterised by short-term, atypical and insecure work contracts becomes ever more the norm within industrialised countries. Especially female and young workers are often left without alternatives to accepting one of these precarious, generally low paid jobs. Importantly, Standing argues that these informal workers constitute a new class in itself; a class, which may become the agent for transformative change. For the full review, click here.
Mark Anner analyses transnational labour solidarity in buyer-driven value chains as well as producer-driven chains in his book Solidarity Transformed: Labor Responses to Globalization and Crisis in Latin America (Cornell University Press, 2011). His main argument is that the type of value chain has crucial implications for trade unions’ potential strategies. Analysing trade union strategies in the automobile sector in Argentina and Brazil, and the apparel industry in Honduras and El Salvador, Anner presents a large number of fascinating case studies of individual union campaigns illustrating examples when transnational solidarity strategies worked as well as when they failed. For the full review, click here.
The Poverty of Capitalism
John Hilary’s book The Poverty of Capitalism: Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next (Pluto Press, 2013) not only analyses the current economic crisis, it also provides a stinging critique of global capitalism. The destructive power of transnational capital is revealed in three economic areas, extraction, garments and food production. While the environment is severely damaged, basic human rights of workers are attacked. And yet, TNCs have managed to hide behind elaborated company policies of corporate social responsibility. As Hilary makes clear, only a transformation of capitalism can overcome exploitation. Importantly, he discusses several examples of alternatives beyond capitalism, which are already existing today. For the full review, click here.
3 February 2014
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net