Keynesianism, Social Conflict and Political Economy

Article excerpt

Massimo De Angelis. Keynesianism, Social Conflict and Political Economy. Macmillan, London. ISBN 0-333-71513-7X L45.00

Keynesianism, Social Conflict and Political Economy aims to reveal the class nature of economic models by looking at the significance of class conflict and working class resistance for the social construction of Keynesianism. By providing 'a retrospective look at the rise and fall of Keynesian economic orthodoxy in relation to social conflict' (p.3) this book revitalises a significant political discussion, usually obscured by technical and economistic discourses. The book offers a critique of the economic theory that transformed Keynes' proposal into a paradigm. It does this through critical analyses of Keynes' theory, the consti-tution of Keynesianism, and Fordism in historical context as well as making an assessment of the possibility of revitalising Keynesianism on a global scale. This is a welcome project.

In its eleven chapters, the book addresses the question of how Keynes' criticism of laissez-faire economics originated and how his categories 'developed under the pressures of economic social turmoil' (p.8) (chapter two). It discusses the key aspects of Keynes' work and interprets them in political terms, showing that they were inspired by the intention to handle social conflict (chapter three). It also provides a classic case study of Ford's labour organisation as an example of the strategies that, in different forms, were to be 'attempted at the social level in the post-war period and which constituted the basis for the operationalism of Keynesian policies: the attempt to implement a "social deal" in the context of mass production' (p.9) (chapter four). The next two chapters (five and six) outline the 'various developments during the Second World War that lead to the realisation of this "social deal"' (p.9), including class unrest, institutionalisation of trade unions, grassroots activities and the 'formation of an economic orthodoxy' (p.9). In the following chapter (seven), De Angelis explores the institutional features of post-war Keynesianism, which are theoretically deconstructed in chapter eight. By means of a Marxist analysis of Keynesian Fiscal Multiplier and Inflation and the Phillips Curve, chapters nine and ten aim to show that economic models are underpinned by class struggle.

The principal idea of the book is that Keynesianism is not about economics but about politics. De Angelis defines Keynesianism as a paradigm, a 'form of social practice' which implied 'a vision of power relations among classes in society' (pp.2-3) but of course this was at a particular historical conjuncture. However, in the conclusion De Angelis poses a question about the present 'viability' and 'desirability' of Keynesianism. …