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Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liberal World

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4875-0
144 pages
May 2010, Polity
Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liberal World (0745648754) cover image
Something dramatic happened in the late summer and autumn of 2008. The post-Cold War world came to an abrupt end. This was the result of two conjoined crises. First, in its brief war with Georgia in August 2008, Russia asserted its military power to halt the expansion of NATO to its very borders. Secondly, on 15 September 2008 the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed. This precipitated a severe financial crash and helped to push the world economy into the worst slump since the 1930s.

Both crises marked a severe setback for the global power of the United States, which had driven NATO expansion and forced through the liberalization of financial markets. More broadly they challenged the consensus that had reigned since the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 that a US-orchestrated liberal capitalist order could offer the world peace and prosperity. Already badly damaged by the Iraq debacle, this consensus has now suffered potentially fatal blows.

In Bonfire of Illusions Alex Callinicos explores these twin crises. He traces the credit crunch that developed in 2007-8 to a much more protracted crisis of overaccumulation and profitability that has gripped global capitalism since the late 1960s. He also confronts the interaction between economic and geopolitical events, highlighting the new assertiveness of nation-states and analysing the tense, complex relationship of interdependence and conflict that binds together the US and China. Finally, in response to the revelation that the market is not the solution to the world's problems, Callinicos reviews the prospects for alternatives to capitalism.

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Preface and Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: How the World Changed in 2008 1

1 Finance Humbled 20

What is fi nancialization? 23

Three perspectives on financial crises 34

More than just a financial crisis 50

Dilemmas of recovery 83

2 Empire Confined 95

The state roars back 95

Collision of empires 106

Orchestrating disharmony 121

Conclusion: Regime Change or System Change? 127

The end of neoliberalism? 127

State, market and planning 134

Notes 144

Index 169

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Alex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at King's College, London
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• The author is one of the leading radical thinkers in the world today and has a large following.
• Callinicos provides a clear analysis of the economic crash of 2007-8 and traces its origins back to the late 1960s.
• This is an authoritative account of global capitalism over recent decades, written in an accessible style.
• This topical text will appeal to all students of economics and politics.
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"A superb book which exhibits engaging though authoritative scholarship of a kind which is sadly too rare."
Sociological Imagination

 

"As one would expect from Callinicos, this book is forensic in its detail and is a useful tool in the armoury of anyone who wishes to see beyond the platitudes of the yellow press."
Morning Star

"A powerful critique; a serious engagement with a crucial contemporary debate."
Political Studies Review

"An important book for anybody wanting an introduction to how Marxist political economy can help to understand the times in which we live."
Marx and Philosophy

"The crisis of 2007-9 is an event of historic importance that has affected economy, society and politics. Callinicos analyses its causes within the broader development of capitalism in recent decades. Particularly relevant is his stress on financialisation as well as the implications he draws regarding the balance of imperial power across the world. Written with the author's customary skill, this is a welcome contribution from the left to the public debate."
Costas Lapavitsas, SOAS, University of London

 

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