Sunday, March 03, 2013

What's Left of the Political Left?

From Bookforum's Omnivore blog, a collection of links on the state of leftist politics in the "advanced industrialised economies." The title article of this collection is definitely worth the read.

What's left of the left?

MAR 1 2013

  • Joe Guinan (Maryland): Social Democracy in the Age of Austerity: The Radical Potential of Democratising Capital.
  • From Anarchist Studies, Brian Martin (Wollongong): Reform: When Is It Worthwhile?
  • From Renewal, what’s left of the left? A roundtable on democrats and social democrats in challenging times.
  • Darko Suvin on phases and characteristics of Marxism/s.
  • Gavin Jacobson writes in defense of Jacobin rage: You can’t divorce fiery emotions from the politics of revolution.
  • Thoughts of a veteran anarchist: An interview with Stuart Christie, author of Granny Made Me An Anarchist, General Franco Made Me A Terrorist and Edward Heath Made Me Angry.
  • Victor Osprey reviews Anti-Capitalism by Ezequiel Adamovsky.
  • Slavoj Zizek, visionary of violence: Henry Hopwood-Phillips examines one of today’s most lionized Leftists.
Here is the beginning of the title article:

What's Left of the Left? Democrats and social democrats in challenging times

Renewal 20.4 16/01/2013

James Cronin, George Ross and James Schoch’s edited collection, What’s Left of the Left:Democrats and Social Democrats in Challenging Times (Duke University Press, 2011) is a major contribution to the debate on the prospects of left parties in the advanced industrialised economies. In collaboration with the Labour Movements Group of the Political Studies Association, Renewal gathers here five reflections on the essays contained in the volume from leading academics, and a response from editor James Cronin.


Mark Wickham-Jones, Professor of Political Science in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol It comes as no surprise that advocates of progressive politics across Europe, as well as North America for that matter, currently confront a number of severe challenges to their favoured project. The crisis in the eurozone raises profound question marks about the nature of the left’s economic model, most obviously in its capacity to combine economic recovery with the social commitments that define a reformist approach. The banking crisis of 2008 filtered through the collapse of housing markets, most notably in the United States, and an explosion of public debt, paved the way for prolonged recession across many advanced industrial economies. Though left governments were by no means the only candidates for blame, the economic downturn challenged assumptions about a number of variants of the progressive model, whether in terms of New Labour’s predominantly neo-liberal approach with its emphasis on a lightly regulated financial sector or of the differing forms of the social model to be found across continental Europe. Most obviously, of course, the emphasis currently placed on retrenchment and spending cuts as the necessary means of stabilising debt challenges the notion of a progressive politics.

At the same time, many European social democratic parties have experienced severe reversals at the ballot box. After thirteen years in power and three successive general election victories, New Labour lost office in May 2010. It was not alone. Since September 2009 and September 2006 respectively, the German SPD and the Swedish social democrats have been in opposition. The success of Barack Obama in 2008 seemed an isolated example of progressive success, one that is arguable in its orientation and, in the mind of many, disappointing in its execution. Only recently with the success of Francois Hollande in the 2012 French presidential elections, and the re-election of Obama, have the fortunes of the left turned up slightly.

The publication of What’s Left of the Left, edited by James Cronin, George Ross and James Shoch, marks, accordingly, a particularly useful point at which to appraise the conjuncture. How did progressive politics come to be in such a situation and what are the prospects for such an outlook at the present time? What’s Left of the Left brings together an impressive range of scholars, mostly based in North America. Different chapters in the volume develop historical and thematic perspectives as well as a number of case studies and the book is notable in offering a direct comparison between European social democracy and progressive politics in the United States. This round table, held at the University of Bristol in June 2012 and organised by the Labour Movements Group of the Political Studies Association, addresses these questions through a discussion of the volume.Perhaps inevitably, a particular focus is on the British situation and the case of New Labour (tackled by James Cronin in the book).
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