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Books: Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism

STEVE ANDREW says author Michael Albert has a confused view of what could follow capitalism

Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism

by Michael Albert

(Zed Books, £12.99)

ONE of the left’s biggest problems today is that it spends far too much time condemning capitalism and far too little on developing its vision of what it would replace it with.

Yet if we don’t have a concrete and viable alternative, how can we really argue that today’s set up isn’t just the natural way of running things and, if we don’t bring vision and a degree of imagination to our politics, how can we ever inspire others to get involved?

Taking democracy as central to any revolutionary project, Michael Albert’s book on the forms that a post-revolutionary society could take attempts to answer those questions.

He argues that it is only with the establishment of both a participatory economy and society that the fundamental values of solidarity, diversity, equity and self-management will find their highest realisation.

High-minded stuff but then that this the goal of most utopian literature.

There are interesting notes on how revolutionary councils in the workplace and community might operate and some persuasive points about how better societies might approach questions of work and  remuneration, while chapters on on kinship, art, athletics and journalism take the debate into more original territory.

Albert’s views on drug legalisation and animal welfare are also a recognition that consensus about key issues is hard to establish, whatever type of world  we manage to create.

Yet this is a book that all too often reads like a shopping list of nice ideas but without any convincing strategy about how they can be achieved.

It’s as if Albert is starting from year zero, where no-one has ever considered such issues before, and it’s this failure to place his subject into a social, political and economic context that makes much of the text a sadly wasted effort.

Marxism comes under fire for its “economism” and, according to the author, it has only ever resulted in the creation of authoritarian and repressive police states where the rule of managerial “co-ordinators” has deepened rather than abolished class rule.

That’s complete historical nonsense and a bleak and simplistic perspective, to say the least.

Surprisingly enough, anarchism doesn’t fare any better, with little reference to Kropotkin or Rocker and none to the mass movements that they were part of.

Instead, an ill-defined “counterproductive” anarchism is criticised and greater attention given to John Zerzan, who is in no way representative of any faction on the libertarian left.

Not one to rush out and buy. If you’ve got a copy of News From Nowhere by William Morris, revisit that — you’ll probably get more out of it.


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