Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review: The Poverty of Capitalism ... but a wealth of insight


Andrew Fisher, LEAP Co-ordinator, reviews John Hilary's 'The Poverty of Capitalism: Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next'. Published by Pluto Press.

War on Want's Executive Director John Hilary has been an outspoken and radical advocate of the global movement for social justice. Unafraid to speak plainly, to step outside and even condemn the cosy coalitions and tame agendas of some other NGOs. As such, it was with much anticipation that I started to read The Poverty of Capitalism.

The book not only draws upon Hilary's encyclopaedic knowledge of the global players and the struggles they provoke around the world for social justice, but also develops new theoretical underpinnings and useful concepts to better understand the global struggle against the power of almighty capital.

Hilary's fearless analysis not only takes on the known evils of globalisation - including the big corporations, the far from objective global economic institutions and the bought and paid for politicians. But it also takes aim at the wolves in sheep's clothing: the philanthropists, aid agencies and NGOs providing a humanitarian facade for a corporate agenda (reminiscent of the role of missionaries for the British Empire).

Like any well-researched book, it contains a number of great tidbits to develop the main thesis, including the quotes from Pentagon's 2012 paper on the 'Joint Operational Access Concept' which make it clear the US will go to war for resources - as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq - stating:
"the United States must maintain the credible capability to project military force into any region of the world in support of those interests. Thus includes the ability to force both into the global commons to ensure their use and into foreign territory as required."
Another also relates to the US, as we learn that 60% of personal bankruptcies in that country are caused by medical bills.

But the most important point in the book is to detail the corrupt power structures that keep the poor poor and the rich rich. In doing so, concepts like 'popular sovereignty', 'common ownership' and 'social production' are introduced and explained in developing the case for a democratic and ecologically sustainable transition in the global economy.

This is not an abstract vision, but rooted in social movements from across many of the most developed and successful of which are from Latin America, Africa and Asia. And it is this that perhaps gives the book its power - as the reader is transported along a compelling narrative from technical analysis of the realities of global realpolitik and economic institutaions, to an conceptual outlining of alternatives to the discontented struggling and often succeeding to make those alternatives a reality.

Those realities could take us, as Hilary labels the final chapter, 'Beyond Capitalism'. I'm in.

Andrew Fisher edited 'Building the new common sense: social ownership for the 21st century'.

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