Left in the Wilderness: The Political Economy of British Democratic Socialism since 1979

By Leitch, Richard | Capital & Class, Autumn 2005 | Go to article overview

Left in the Wilderness: The Political Economy of British Democratic Socialism since 1979


Leitch, Richard, Capital & Class


Noel Thompson Left in the Wilderness: The Political Economy of British Democratic Socialism Since 1979 Acumen Publishing, Chesham, 2002, 320 pp. ISBN 1-902683-53-6 (hbk) £45 ISBN 1-902-68354-4 (pbk) £16.99

It is more than twenty years now since Perry Anderson drew attention to two fundamental flaws in the Left's traditional avoidance of Utopian thinking. In its absence, we had radically underestimated the complexity of future political and economic institutions, and failed to politically persuade subordinate classes of their feasibility as alternatives to the existing capitalist order. For Anderson, these weaknesses had severely undermined the socialist project:

In recent years the very notion of socialism as an alternative form of civilisation has become effaced and remote ... In these conditions, it is all the more necessary to put a quite renewed emphasis on socialism as a future society ... whose articulated form it is essential to debate at once as boldly and as concretely as possible. (Anderson, 1983: 97)

Institutional specification was crucial here: '[W]ithout serious exploration and mapping of it, any political advance beyond a parliamentary capitalism will continue to be blocked. No working class or popular bloc in a Western society will ever make a leap in the dark, at this point in history' (ibid: 99).

One of the areas for institutional investigation that Anderson pointed to was 'the pattern of an advanced socialist economy'. Following the demise of Keynesianism, but in an historical and political context certainly no more favourable to socialism than that of two decades ago, Noel Thompson has rounded up the main contenders for the mantle of 'economic blueprint for the future', and subjected them to comprehensive critical analysis.

Thompson's book covers a wide range of models and projects for a Left political economy and, not surprisingly, there is a significant degree of variation amongst the contenders. One central dimension concerns their political aim. Certain models make no claim to be transcending the forms and relations of capitalist production, merely reforming it as best as possible in highly inhospitable circumstances-the recent examples of New Labour and 'radical stakeholderism' clearly fall into this category.

Of those whose political horizons stretched further, aiming to make significant inroads into the capitalist economy up to its ultimate transformation, key distinctions can be drawn over their geographical scope and reach. Thompson's optic ranges over multinational efforts, traditional national state strategies, novel attempts that harness local states and economic regions, right down to the reorientation of single economic units.

Some are clearly vulnerable to the well-known charge of being too small in their scope to ever realise their anticapitalist aims, their distortion and eventual capitulation to capitalist modes of operating in actual practice being all too evident. Such a fate befell worker co-ops and local state strategies alike in the hostile and constraining economic contexts of the 1980s and 1990s, as Thompson has little difficulty in showing.

Others of potentially greater substance have proved equally unsuccessful. The 'alternative economic strategy' (AES) promised a thorough democratisation of national economic power through its policy mixture of public ownership, industrial democracy, national planning agreements and planned trade. Thompson argues that it proved unable to be implemented unilaterally in any one nation-state in a context of global economic recession and increasing integration-as vividly demonstrated in the experience of the Mitterand government in France during the early 1980s. Combined with its domestic failure to politically conquer the Labour party, and internally beset by divisions between revolutionary and reformist impulses, its brief moment of glory in the early 19805 was followed by a steep decline and a shrinkage of the horizons of Left political economy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Left in the Wilderness: The Political Economy of British Democratic Socialism since 1979
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.