Reviews

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"Eric Hobsbawm's Marx"
Terry Eagleton

How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011
by Eric Hobsbawm
Little, Brown, 470 pp, £25.00, January 2011, ISBN 978 1 4087 0287 1

In 1976, a good many people in the West thought that Marxism had a reasonable case to argue. By 1986, most of them no longer felt that way. What had happened in the meanwhile? Were these people now buried under a pile of toddlers? Had Marxism been unmasked as bogus by some world-shaking new research? Had someone stumbled on a lost manuscript by Marx confessing that it was all a joke?

Tags:
"The Net Delusion": Do Cell Phones Work During Revolutions? Cory Doctorow We need a serious critique of net activism. Morozov's book "The Net Delusion" argues that technology isn't necessarily good for freedom – but how else can the oppressed have a voice?
"Desire Was Everywhere" Adam Shatz Reviewing Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives By François Dosse, translated by Deborah Glassman [Columbia, 651 pp, £26.00, August 2010, ISBN 978 0 231 14560 2] The ‘philosophy of desire’ was born in 1969, Serge Gainsbourg’s année érotique, when the radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari met the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Today, it’s hard to imagine them not knowing each other, and easy to forget how unlikely their partnership was. François Dosse begins his biography of the two men with their first encounter, a year after the ‘events’ of 1968, which, more than anything, inspired their collaboration.

Alex Butterworth's "The World That Never Was:
A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents"
Reviewed by Seetha Vijayakumar

Welcome to the world of dreamers, schemers, anarchists and secret agents. Alex Butterworth's book, The World That Never Was is a stunning account of the anarchist movement that shook Europe in late 19th and early 20th centuries. The anarchists started building a violent network in early 1870s. Butterworth, a historian by profession, says the roots of the anarchist movement lay in the retribution faced by the Communards in 1871. What followed was a chain of violent incidents, including the assassination of a Tsar and several aristocrats. What was their aim? 'Anarchism's ultimate aim was to usher in a society of human beings, a heaven on earth in which harmonious coexistence was achieved without coercion or the imposition of distant authority, but rather arose out of each individual's enlightened recognition of their mutual respect and dependency.'

Comments on Li Minqi's The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy Lang Yan The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy attempts to fit the rise of China into the world-systems approach of Immanuel Wallerstein. Luckily Li is much more critical of the contemporary Chinese model of development for creating a post-capitalist world than Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing. For all the talk about the rise of China and China’s relationship to the US-centered world economy, this is not something that has been well-theorized to date. The book, however, focuses more on introducing the world-systems approach than on contemporary China. The strongest chapter on China shows well the contradictions of socialist accumulation during the Maoist period. I wish there was an equally strong chapter on the political economy of the reform period, for such a chapter would surely support Li’s argument about China’s place in contemporary global capitalism. His section of China’s macroeconomic imbalances could benefit from a discussion of present attempts by the state to generate expanded internal demand, such as the New Socialist Countryside policy.
Insurrectional Anarchism vs. Class-Struggle Anarchism Wayne Price There has been a spurt of interest in a small radical book titled "The Coming Insurrection" ("TCI"), with authorship attributed to the "Invisible Committee" (IC). It was originally published in France in 2007. That country's police cited it as evidence in a trial of "the Tarnaq 9," radicals who were accused of planning sabotage. The French Interior Minister called it a "manual for terrorism" (quoted on p. 5). A U.S. edition got an unlikely boost by the far-right tv talk show clown Glen Beck. He has repeatedly identified it as a manual for a take-over of the U.S. by the left, by which he means everyone from the mildest liberal Democrats leftward. "This [is a] dangerous leftist book....You should read it to know what is coming and be ready when it does" (Beck, 2009). The interest of many on the left has been piqued; Michael Moore is reported to have read it. From the perspective of revolutionary-libertarian socialism (class-struggle anarchism), I believe that many things are wrong with this pamphlet. But it is right on some very big things. That is a major part of its attraction, despite its opague style (the authors have studied French radical philosophy and it shows). The IC members say that, on a world scale, our society is morally rotten and structurally in the deepest of crises. They denounce this society in every way and oppose all reformist programs for trying to improve it at the margins. They say that a total change is necessary and that this can only be achieved through some sort of revolution. Their goals are the right goals: a classless, stateless, ecologically-balanced, decentralized, and self-managed world. These views are well outside the usual range of acceptable political conversation. Unfortunately, I believe that the tactics and strategy which they propose are mistaken and unlikely to achieve their correct goals.

"Alchemical Economics"
Herman Daly

A review of H C Binswanger's Money and Magic: A Critique of the Modern
Economy in Light of Goethe's Faust
(University of Chicago Press, 1994)

H C Binswanger is founder and director of the Institute for Economics and
Ecology at the University of Saint Gallen, Switzerland. Long an important
figure in the German-speaking world, his work has been too little known
among English readers. That alone makes this little volume very welcome.
The importance of his theme, and the scholarship and insight with which he
develops it, merits the widest possible readership.

The theme of the book is that mainstream economics is alchemy carried on
by other more effective means. Perhaps ecological economists should stop
using the term "mainstream economics" and substitute "alchemical
economics" as a more descriptive name for that which we are trying to
reform. This is by no means a mere rhetorical flourish. It is historically
and logically well founded. The prince of Orleans, like other royalty,
employed court alchemists in the hope that they would produce gold, with
which he could pay off his debts. But when the prince attracted Scottish
financier John Law to his court, he promptly dismissed his alchemists
because the paper money scheme introduced by Law was a more effective way
to redeem his debts. The goal of alchemy, to turn worthless material into
gold, remained unchanged. The worthless material of paper just proved more
receptive to transmutation than lead had been. The transmutation of paper
into money remains fundamentally a "chymical wedding" of mercurial, liquid
imagination (imagining it to represent unmined gold still in the ground)
and fiery, sulfurous impression (the impressive authority of the emperor's
signature on the note). But this is getting ahead of the story and into
"technical" alchemy.

The Truth About The Coming Insurrection
Or, the Misadventures of a 'Pataphysical Hoax
by The Indigestible

[Reposted from Not Bored]

A member of the College of 'Pataphysics, at which I have a seat on the Commission of Liceites and Harmonies (Usury Sub-Commission), I have judged the moment favorable, notably with respect to the most recent developments in the "Tarnac Affair," to make several clarifications concerning both the activities of the aforementioned College and the true motivations behind my text, The Coming Insurrection.

Who Were the Witches? Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism Alex Knight This Halloween season, there is no book I could recommend more highly than Silvia Federici’s brilliant Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia 2004), which tells the dark saga of the Witch Hunt that consumed Europe for more than 200 years. In uncovering this forgotten history, Federici exposes the origins of capitalism in the heightened oppression of workers (represented by Shakespeare’s character Caliban), and most strikingly, in the brutal subjugation of women. She also brings to light the enormous and colorful European peasant movements that fought against the injustices of their time, connecting their defeat to the imposition of a new patriarchal order that divided male from female workers. Today, as more and more people question the usefulness of a capitalist system that has thrown the world into crisis, Caliban and the Witch stands out as essential reading for unmasking the shocking violence and inequality that capitalism has relied upon from its very creation.
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