Saturday, August 18, 2012

Capitalism in our Time: Crisis, Austerity and What Spaces for Change?

Matilde Adduci 
2012: 401-410

The present crisis scenario —which came into being with the 2007/8 financial meltdown triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and which, by 2009,  had turned into an economic contraction of worldwide proportions— is ever more pervaded by insistent calls for austerity politics. In some countries, such as Greece and Italy, these politics are being implemented by so-called technical governments, as if such a label could ratify the supposed ineluctability, as well as the neutrality, of austerity measures. As a matter of fact, while the spaces for politics may appear to be all the more shrunken in the face of the austerity dogma what with the vast majority of the political spectrum in many different countries sadly echoing Margaret Thatcher’s famous slogan, «there is no alternative» —austerity politics are fundamentally affecting the labour arena. The increasing normalization of the process of labour precarization, together with the rise in unemployment levels, is in fact accompanied in the core capitalist countries by a new wave of cutbacks casting a gloomy shadow over the social entitlements of the labouring classes. With a severe shrinking of social welfare and pension systems, this politics looks like a bitter farewell to the welfare institutions that came into being during the «golden age» of capitalism and constitutes a major setback in the struggle for social rights.

In the face of this scenario, the two most recent volumes of the Socialist Register —Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time 1 and Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left 2— provide the reader with important analytical tools to fathom the social, economic and political depths of the current crisis. Starting from the centrality of the materialist conception of social development, the various essays in the two volumes interrogate economic processes in the light of the historically underlying class dynamics and power relationships, bringing a plurality of arguments into the debate. In so doing, they provide a multifaceted
and nuanced analysis of the current capitalist crisis and its social implications, which takes into account both general trends and specific regional contexts. The present review is pursued with the aim of accounting for some crucial and wideranging issues which cut across both volumes and which, taken together, can be used to draw up a sort of conceptual map which contributes importantly to a critical understanding of our times.

Read more HERE.

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