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Capitalism, Alienation and Critique

Studies in Economy and Dialectics (Dialectics, Deontology and Democracy, Vol. I)

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Asger Sørensen

Edited by Lisbet Rosenfeldt Svanøe

In Capitalism, Alienation and Critique Asger Sørensen offers a wide-ranging argument for the classical Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, thus endorsing the dialectical approach of the original founders (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse) and criticizing suggested revisions of later generations (Habermas, Honneth). Being situated within the horizon of the late 20th century Cultural Marxism, the main issue is the critique of capitalism, emphasizing experiences of injustice, ideology and alienation, and in particular exploring two fundamental subject matters within this horizon, namely economy and dialectics. Apart from in-depth discussions of classical political economy and Hegelian dialectics, the explorative and inclusive argument also takes issues with Émile Durkheim’s theory of value, the general economy of Georges Bataille and the dialectics of Mao Zedong.

Labour Markets, Identities, Controversies

Reviews and Essays, 1982-2016

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Tom Brass

Debates about labour markets and the identity of those who, in an economic sense, circulate within them, together with the controversies such issues generate, have in the past been confined by development studies to the Third World. Now these same concerns have shifted, as the study of development has turned its attention to how these same phenomena affect metropolitan capitalist nations. For this reason, the book does not restrict the analysis of issues such as the free/unfree labour distinction and non-class identity to Third World contexts. The reviews, review essays and essays collected here also examine similar issues now evident in metropolitan capitalism, together with their political and ideological effects and implications.

The Political Thought of Václav Havel

Philosophical Influences and Contemporary Applications

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Daniel Brennan

The book considers Václav Havel’s body of writing as a cohesive whole offering a consistent political philosophy. This bold claim is backed up through a close examination of Havel’s plays, letters, essays and aphorisms. The political philosophy that a close reading of Havel reveals is a liberal one. However, Havel is not the run-of the-mill liberal having influences from the field of phenomenology, Masaryk, Husserl, Levinas Patočka and Heidegger which give him a nuanced view of the self. Havel sees the self as something always being formed. Hence for Havel man has an ability to ‘shake’ his current state and invite transcendence into his life. This agonistic process reveals our responsibility and liberates the self from forces which coerce behaviour.

The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900–68)

‘Neither Lenin nor Trotsky nor Stalin!’ - ‘All Workers Must Think for Themselves!’

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Philippe Bourrinet

The Dutch-German Communist Left, represented by the German KAPD-AAUD, the Dutch KAPN and the Bulgarian Communist Workers Party, separated from the Comintern (1921) on questions like electoralism, trade-unionism, united fronts, the one-party state and anti-proletarian violence. It attracted the ire of Lenin, who wrote his Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder against the Linkskommunismus, while Herman Gorter wrote a famous response in his pamphlet Reply to Lenin. The present volume provides the most substantial history to date of this tendency in the twentieth-century Communist movement. It covers how the Communist left, with the KAPD-AAU, denounced 'party communism' and 'state capitalism' in Russia; how the German left survived after 1933 in the shape of the Dutch GIK and Paul Mattick’s councils movement in the USA; and also how the Dutch Communistenbond Spartacus continued to fight after 1942 for the world power of the workers councils, as theorised by Pannekoek in his book Workers’ Councils (1946).

Antonio Gramsci

Towards an Intellectual Biography

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Alistair Davidson

Many large Italian cities have a main thoroughfare ‘via Gramsci’, showing that the Communist leader has become part of Italy’s ‘national patrimony’, while internationally, the interest in Gramsci’s writings is second to none.
As a consequence of this fame, Gramsci’s heritage is claimed by rival groups: on the one hand by those who hope to establish his writings as ‘sacred texts’ for their own policies and on the other by those who stress any differences with Lenin in order to prove Gramsci a ‘rebel’.
A great merit of this biography is that it lifts the study of Gramsci away from the sterile debate about whether he was or was not a Leninist; another achievement of the author has been to integrate the circumstances of Gramsci’s life – the childhood in Sardinia, the politics of the left in the 1920s, the years of exile and prison – with his developing political and philosophical ideas.

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Anders Sorensen

In Plato on Democracy and Political technē Sørensen argues that the question of democracy’s ‘epistemic potential’ was one that Plato took more seriously than is usually assumed. While he famously rejected democracy on the basis of its inherent inability to accommodate political expertise ( technē), he did not think that this failure on democracy’s part was necessarily inevitable but a concept that required further examination. Sørensen shows that in a number of his most important dialogues ( Republic, Gorgias, Statesman, Protagoras, Theaetetus), Plato was ready to take up the question of democracy’s epistemic potential and to enter into strikingly technical and sophisticated discussions of what both rule by technē and rule by the people would have to look like in order for the two things to be compatible.

God, Guns, Gold and Glory

American Character and its Discontents

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Lauren Langman and George Lundskow

America, beginning as a small group of devout Puritan settlers, ultimately became the richest, most powerful Empire in the history of the world, but having reached that point, is now in a process of implosion and decay. This book, inspired by Frankfurt School Critical Theory, especially Erich Fromm, offers a unique historical, cultural and characterological analysis of American national character and its underlying psychodynamics. Specifically, this analysis looks at the persistence of Puritan religion, as well as the extolling of male toughness and America's unbridled pursuit of wealth. Finally, its self image of divinely blessed exceptionalism has fostered vast costs in lives and wealth. But these qualities of its national character are now fostering both a decline of its power and a transformation of its underlying social character. This suggests that the result will be a changing social character that enables a more democratic, tolerant and inclusive society, one that will enable socialism, genuine, participatory democracy and a humanist framework of meaning. This book is relevant to understanding America’s past, present and future.

The Mismeasure of Wealth

Essays on Marx and Social Form

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Patrick Murray

The Mismeasure of Wealth: Essays on Marx and Social Form gathers Patrick Murray’s essays reinterpreting Marx and Marxian theory published since his Marx’s Theory of Scientific Knowledge (1988), along with a previously unpublished essay and an introduction. Murray’s essays concentrate on Marx the historical materialist, the investigator of historically specific social forms of wealth and labour. There is no production in general; the production of wealth always involves specific social forms and purposes that matter in many ways. Marx’s attention to the dynamics and far-reaching consequences of historically specific social forms – in particular those that are constitutive of the capitalist mode of production – sets him off from classical political economy and traditional Marxism. In probing Marx’s dialectical accounts of the commodity, value, money, surplus value, wage labour and capital, The Mismeasure of Wealth establishes Marx’s singular relevance for critical social theory today.


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Martyn Ives

In Reform, Revolution and Direct Action amongst British Miners, Martyn Ives offers a new perspective on one of the most volatile periods in labour history. His research into the astonishing coalfield militancy of 1919 reveals it was a watershed year on a par with 1926. Indeed the General Strike was in many ways merely its dim echo.

Whilst historians have skated over the labour unrest of 1919, Martyn Ives uncovers a remarkable incidence of unofficial mass strikes in the coalfields, waged against mine-owners, government and trade union leaders alike. Led by revolutionaries, and infused with political radicalism, this mass movement offered a glimpse of an alternative road to socialism, based upon the organised industrial power of the working class.

The Rhythm of Thought in Gramsci

A Diachronic Interpretation of Prison Notebooks

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Giuseppe Cospito

Many scholars have recently shown great interest in a diachronic re-examination of Antonio Gramsci’s main theoretical-political categories in the Prison Notebooks. This method would uncover the origins and development of Gramsci’s concepts using the same method that Gramsci himself believed would allow us to grasp ‘the rhythm of thought’ in Marx. The present work embraces this perspective and puts it to work in two ways. Its first part analyzes the relation between structure and superstructure and the concepts of hegemony and the regulated society. Its second part extends the diachronic analysis to the conceptual pairings which represent alternatives to structure-superstructure, encompassing questions of political and cultural organisation as well as the relation between Gramsci and the major proponents of historical materialism (Marx, Engels, Lenin).

English translation of Il ritmo del pensiero: per una lettura diacronica dei «Quaderni del carcere» di Gramsci published by Bibliopolis, Naples (2011).