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VERSO, THE PREEMINENT RADICAL PRESS, LAUNCHES PUBLISHING’S MOST INNOVATIVE WEBSITE
40th anniversary celebrations begin for Verso Books this week with the unveiling of a new website—one that at long last brings the largest independent, radical publishing house firmly into the twenty-first century:

www.versobooks.com

  • The largest independent, radical publishing house Verso Books is proud to announce the launch of its new website: http://www.versobooks.com/
  • The new site has a sleek and clean design and a fluid homepage that is constantly updated, beautifully showcasing Verso’s books and authors.
  • It’s also the new home for the Verso Blog and now includes discussion forums where users can engage in debate about the issues raised by Verso’s books.
  • There are pages devoted to each book and to each author. The Blog is fully syndicated to both Book and Author pages—something never before done on a publisher’s website.
  • As well as keeping readers updated on reviews, articles, interviews, radio and television appearances by our authors, the blog will announce details of forthcoming events.

For more information call: 718-246-8160

  • Verso’s London office is throwing a party in November – more details to follow.

[All forthcoming information about Verso books will now appear on our new website and this blog will now be used simply as an archive.]

The Guardian‘s economics editor, Larry Elliott, has employed Giovanni Arrighi’s seminal The Long Twentieth Century to help explain the current state of the U.S. economy:

Giovanni Arrighi in his book The Long Twentieth Century argues that there have been four major phases of capitalist development since the Middle Ages, starting in Genoa and moving on to Holland and Britain before the start of American dominance during the Great Depression of 1873-96.

It was during this period, Arrighi argues, that commerce started to play second fiddle in Britain to finance, just as it had in Genoa and Holland when their phases of pre-eminence were drawing to a close. The financialisation of the American economy in turn can be traced back to the mid-1970s, so by this interpretation of history, the dotcom collapse of 2000-01 and the financial crisis of 2007-08 (with the military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan sandwiched in between) are part of a much longer term development. According to this thesis, the concentration of economic power on Wall Street, the stagnation of incomes for all but the rich, the structural trade deficit, the military overreach, the switch from being the world’s biggest creditor nation to its biggest debtor add up to a simple conclusion: we are in the twilight years of the long American century.

Such a conclusion is contested in Washington but may help explain why, as Albert Edwards of Société Générale puts it: “Unprecedentedly strong monetary and fiscal stimulus has led to unprecedentedly weak recovery.” This will worry Bernanke, who made his name explaining how policy makers could avoid repeating the mistakes made during Japan’s lost decade and can anticipate the dire consequences of a period of deflation for a nation wallowing in debt.

Read the full article here.

Arrighi, who died last year, was also the author of Adam Smith in Beijing and a regular contributor to New Left Review. You can read David Harvey’s obituary here.

NEW TITLE:

ENVISIONING REAL UTOPIAS

By ERIK OLIN WRIGHT

Published 10th September 2010

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PRAISE FOR ENVISIONING REAL UTOPIAS:

“A benchmark contribution to necessary radical thinking.” Goran Therborn

“Hugely rich and stimulating.” Adam Swift, Balliol College, Oxford

“Encyclopedic in its breadth, daunting in its ambition, this is the culmination of Erik Olin Wright’s revamping of Marxism … Only a thinker of Wright’s genius could sustain such a badly needed political imagination without losing analytical clarity and precision.” Michael Burawoy, UC Berkeley

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As the economic and environmental crises compete to usher in the apocalypse, the perils of unfettered capitalism are increasingly thrown into sharp relief. Big oil, big money, endless war, and rising inequalities of income and power all make the search for alternatives more urgent than ever.

Many argue that the Left is adept at rehashing critiques of capitalism, yet unable to suggest concrete, viable alternatives. Inured to the new globalised neoliberal paradigm, analysts are quick to dismiss as utopian any attempts at a solution. As Fredric Jameson poignantly remarked, it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternative to capitalism.

Renowned sociologist Erik Olin Wright fills the vacuum with a call for an emancipatory social science. After decades of examining the changing modes of class relations, Wright now turns his attention to the critique and diagnosis of capitalism—and in turn, its alternatives and possible transformations. Instead of yet another idealized blueprint, his transitional program is more like a compass, oriented to the goal of putting the ‘social’ back in socialism.

Wright’s vision is one of radical democratic egalitarianism; a society that is mutualist, communitarian, and liberates social power from its state and market counterparts. From worker owned cooperatives and Wikipedia to basic income and participatory city budgeting, his comprehensive case studies present inspiring examples of real utopias and emancipatory alternatives that are tangibly changing the world.

Erik Olin Wright has been elected President of the American Sociological Association from 2011-2012. He will choose the theme for the 2012 ASA symposium.

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REAL UTOPIAS WEBSITE

A special website has been set up for the book at www.realutopias.org. Along with collections of Wright’s articles, book extracts and video lectures, the site contains a section detailing the other six books in the Real Utopias project, all of which are available from Verso. A set of supplementary materials discussing the development of the Real Utopias project and the process of writing the book will also be made available via the website shortly.

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ERIK OLIN WRIGHT is Vilas Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. He is the editor of the REAL UTOPIAS series, which includes his DEEPENING DEMOCRACY (cowritten with Archon Fung), and is the author of many other books, including CLASS COUNTS, INTERROGATING INEQUALITY, THE DEBATE ON CLASSES AND CLASSES.

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ISBN: 978 1 84467 617 0 / $26.95 / £16.99 / CAN$33.50 / Paperback / 412 pages

ISBN: 978 1 84467 618 7 / $95.00 / £60.00 / CAN$118.50 / Hardback / 412 pages

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For more information visit:

http://www.versobooks.com/books/tuvwxyz/w-titles/wright_e_envisioning_real_utopias.shtml

To buy the book in the UK:

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781844676170/Envisioning-Real-Utopias

or

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Envisioning-Real-Utopias-Erik-Wright/dp/184467617X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282556436&sr=8-1-spell

To buy the book in the US:

http://www.amazon.com/Envisioning-Real-Utopias-Erik-Wright/dp/184467617X/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282556478&sr=8-10

Visited the wonderful Bookseller Crow yesterday in Crystal Palace. A great selection – at what indie can you  pick up a copy of David Markson’s This is Not a Novel or Edward Douglas Fawcett’s Hartmann the Anarchist (as well as various Verso books)? Such a pleasure to find a shop where you’re introduced to new titles by virtue of the intelligent selection.

The Fawcett is, incidentally, illustrated by Stanley Donwood – Verso published his (along with Dr Tchock) collection of artwork for Radiohead Dead Children Playing.

To see images from the book go here.

Stewart Lee’s new book How I Escaped My Certain Fate has just come out to rave reviews. But where can you find Stewart writing about the Fall?

Over the years, the group has mixed rockabilly rhythms, pounding riffs, experimental collages, misappropriated electronica, a subversive pop sensibility, and a dark and often deceptive sense of the absurd. Frontman Mark E Smith’s immediately recognisable antivocals, stream of consciousness lyrics and left-field literary references create a body of work unequalled in scope and sheer size by any other rock outfit. Smith, The Fall’s single longterm constant, is publicly disdainful of the cult of short-term nostalgia. Fall sets rarely include any songs older than the last couple of albums, unless they are seasoned covers of 1960s garage punk classics and old rockabilly riffs ripe for reinterpretation. Smith refuses to become a keeper of sacred relics, the living interpreter of his own back catalogue. The very notion of a Primer on The Fall would no doubt irritate Smith a little, as if someone were preparing his obituary, and the nature of the group’s output and the passion of its followers makes it impossible to agree on generally accepted highlights. The most recent Fall record is always the most important one.

Stewart Lee’s primer on the Fall can be found in The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, edited by Rob Young of the Wire Magazine and author of Electric Eden.

Moshe Lewin 1921-2010

Moshe Lewin, the historian, passed away on 14th August 2010. We have no information in English yet, but here is the obituary from Le Monde.

Moshe Lewin, historien
17.08.10 | 15h46  •  Mis à jour le 17.08.10 | 15h49 Grand spécialiste de l’histoire, notamment sociale et économique, de l’Union soviétique, Moshe Lewin est mort à l’âge de 88 ans, le 14 août, à Paris, où il s’était retiré il y a trois ans, s’éloignant du débat intellectuel et scientifique qu’il avait tant aimé. Il était né le 7 novembre 1921 à Wilno, alors polonaise, aujourd’hui Vilnius, capitale de la Lituanie.

Sa mère était russe, son père juif polonais. Ce dernier avait fait de nombreux petits travaux ; devenu acrobate, il avait ensuite pris la direction du cirque de Wilno. Tous deux disparaissent en 1939 durant l’extermination des juifs de cette ville. Moshe Lewin y échappe en sautant dans un camion soviétique qui quitte la Lituanie à l’approche de l’armée nazie. Il portera toute sa vie une reconnaissance particulière à ces soldats soviétiques qui lui permirent d’échapper à la mort, reconnaissance qu’il gardera aussi vis-à-vis de l’URSS, tout en posant sur l’histoire de ce pays un regard profondément critique.

Une fois en URSS, il travaille dans un kolkhoze, puis dans une fonderie de l’Oural, avant d’entrer, quelques mois avant la fin de la guerre, dans une école d’artillerie. En 1945, il est autorisé comme étranger à quitter l’URSS : de Pologne, il rejoint la France, y vit de divers “petits boulots” (il sera un temps représentant d’un théâtre juif en France). Puis il part pour Israël, en militant sioniste de gauche qu’il était, et entreprend des études d’économie à l’université de Tel-Aviv.

Il revient à Paris en 1961, écrit une thèse sous la direction de Roger Portal, qui conduit à son ouvrage majeur, La Paysannerie et le pouvoir soviétique : 1928-1930 (Mouton, 1966), première étape intellectuelle d’un historien qui a profondément marqué l’historiographie soviétique de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle.

Dans cet ouvrage, il se saisit du monde paysan russe pour le révéler dans toute sa complexité, analyse les relations conflictuelles qu’il entretenait avec le pouvoir soviétique, ainsi que les tensions qui le traversaient. Il donne une lecture entièrement nouvelle des sources bureaucratiques soviétiques, y traque la moindre trace de profondeur sociale et humaine. Il affronte avec une intelligence toute particulière les immenses difficultés que provoquaient le travail sur ces sources, la presse, les documents officiels publiés et les ouvrages d’historiens et économistes soviétiques, donnant une grande leçon de méthode qui n’a rien perdu de son importance avec l’ouverture des archives.

Après avoir travaillé à la VIe section de l’Ecole pratique des hautes études (EPHE, future Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, EHESS), il devient professeur à l’université de Birmingham (1968-1978) puis à celle de Pennsylvanie, jusqu’en 1995. Il vient souvent en France, pays auquel il est resté attaché toute sa vie. Il donne un séminaire régulier à l’EHESS entre 1982 et 1985.

Dans des ouvrages essentiels, en particulier La Formation du système soviétique. Essais sur l’histoire sociale de la Russie dans l’entre- deux-guerres(Gallimard, 1987) ou encore Le Siècle soviétique (Fayard/ Le Monde diplomatique, 2003), il développe une théorie de la formation de l’Etat soviétique, de la transformation du parti révolutionnaire en parti d’administrateurs-bureaucrates qui tourne le dos à l’idée révolutionnaire ; il démonte avec précision les mécanismes de prise de décision, mais aussi, dans le second ouvrage, la place des personnalités dans les orientations de l’URSS après le stalinisme.

Dans Le Dernier Combat de Lénine (Editions de Minuit, 1967) ou The Political Undercurrents of Soviet Economic Debates : From Bukharin to the Modern Reformers (Princeton University Press, 1974), il soutient que le stalinisme n’était pas la suite inéluctable de la révolution, mais qu’une solution alternative eût été possible, dans le domaine politique ou économique, se référant pour ce dernier aux thèses de Boukharine.

Moshe Lewin s’engage ensuite dans une réflexion comparative entre stalinisme et nazisme, dans l’un des premiers ouvrages ayant traité d’un sujet désormais classique, dirigé en compagnie du grand historien du nazisme Ian Kershaw : Stalinism and Nazism : Dictatorships in Comparison(Cambridge University Press, 1997).

SES ENNEMIS INTELLECTUELS

Tous deux choisissent là d’orienter la réflexion vers une comparaison éclatée des diverses composantes de la dynamique des deux systèmes.
Soulignant les points communs de certaines formes politiques et sociales qui précèdent l’apparition du stalinisme et du nazisme (monarchies autoritaires, bureaucraties envahissantes, expansionnismes et impérialismes), Lewin et Kershaw donnent une place particulière aux théories de la modernisation, en soulignant les fondements anticapitalistes des deux idéologies.

Moshe Lewin adorait la polémique. Il aimait faire penser qu’il n’aimait pas ses ennemis intellectuels, tout en respectant à l’extrême leur travail. Il était sans concession. S’opposant à de multiples reprises aux tenants les plus marquants de l’école totalitaire, il est vite désigné comme le chef de file d’une école dite révisionniste.
Récusant les thèses de ceux qui voyaient dans l’Union soviétique un système monolithique exclusivement politique, dans lequel seuls quelques leaders déterminaient le cours de l’histoire, il chercha à comprendre l’URSS comme un système social dans lequel le politique ne pouvait s’entendre que comme un système complexe, où la bureaucratie, vue comme groupe social en formation, était déterminante. Il prenait au sérieux les luttes entre groupes sociaux qui ont en partie porté la révolution soviétique, ainsi que les conflits internes à la formation d’une classe bureaucratique.

Moshe Lewin n’a pas de disciples à proprement parler, car il tenait à la liberté d’esprit. Il laisse pourtant un champ entier de l’historiographie soviétique profondément marqué par son oeuvre, mais aussi par sa personnalité, aussi dérangeante qu’attachante. Ce polyglotte (il maîtrisait le polonais, le russe, l’anglais, le français, l’allemand, le yiddish et sa variante lituanienne le litvak,
l’hébreu) était un esprit brillant, toujours à l’écoute de la moindre transformation du monde contemporain. Il aimait, lors des longues discussions qu’il tenait, changer de langue, surprenant toujours son interlocuteur, passant du sérieux à l’humour le plus acide qui soit.

Moshe Lewin was the author of The Soviet Century.

See here for a review by Neal Ascherson in the Observer.

To hear Moshe Lewin discussing the book see this post on our blog.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Gideon Levy, author of The Punishment of Gaza, has come under attack from UK pro-Israel activists. Read the full article here.

The remaining dates on Levy’s tour are as follows:

VENUE CHANGE – Thursday 19 August, Manchester, Friends Meeting House, 7.00pm (Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign open meeting). More info here.

Tuesday 24 August 2010, London, Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, 8.15pm (in conversation with Jon Snow). More info here.

Wednesday 25 August, London, Frontline Club, 7.00pm (in conversation with Jeremy Bowen). More info here.

Both the London events are filling up quickly so book now!

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