LIKE MANY CRITICS OF GLOBALIZATION, David Graeber does not seem to understand what capitalism is. Otherwise he would not emphasize time and again that a market economy is something fundamentally different, as he does in his book, Debt: The First 5000 Years. Graeber’s distinction fits with a lot of left-wing currents, from old-fashioned anarchists in the tradition of Proudhon to young militants of Attac.
THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY (SWP) is the largest political party left of the Labour Party, and has been active on the far left since 1977 and before that as the International Socialists since the 1960s. The party was led by Tony Cliff until his death thirteen years ago, and Ian Birchall, who has written this diligently researched memoir, is still a member since joining in the 1960s. Birchall’s “warts-and-all” examination is motivated by a marked unhappiness about A World To Win, the autobiography which Cliff apparently wrote based on recollection, without access to the relevant documentation.
Alain Badiou claims that the twenty first century has yet to begin. We stand mired in the ideology of democratic materialism, which insists there are only bodies and language, and that we can persist without an idea. Our “atonal” environment of weak differences is riddled with a type of nihilism that crushes every master signifier, even those struggling to point in the direction of equality. Emancipatory politics is confronted with the nearly impossible task of going beyond the subject of the market, but with no clear means by which to do so.
NEGATIVITY AND REVOLUTION seems to fly in the face of the Adorno revival over the last twenty years. The editors bravely assert in the introduction to their book that their focus will not be on Adorno, nor about the body of his work, and, above all, that it is not written by Adorno specialists. The intent of this book, which is the outcome of a seminar at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Alfonso Vélez Pliego of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, is to elaborate on what Adorno called negative dialectics and how it might serve as a counter-strategy to other forms of theorizing the present, and could thus be of benefit to radicals, political activists, and Adorno scholars.
T. J. Clark, in “For A Left With No Future,” compares the “immobilized” state of the present-day Left with the impasse of Enlightenment radicals in the years between the Restoration of 1815 and the Revolutions of 1848. He argues that any “reconstruction of the project of the Enlightenment” for today requires a “deeper” look at the history of the Left, and for that, “[t]he book we need to be reading—in preference to The Coming Insurrection, I feel—is Christopher Hill’s The Experience of Defeat.”