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Two leftist visions of the future


At the n+1 website, Greg Afinogenov reviews two recent books that outline diverging visions of the future from the left: Wolfgang Streeck’s How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System, and Peter Frase’s Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. Afinogenov finds that as path’s forward, Streeck’s quasi-nationalist social democracy and Frase’s vague prescriptions are inadequate to the crisis of the present. Here’s an excerpt:

Where Frase leaves his political subject conveniently undefined, Streeck offers one that is both impossible on his own terms and misguided, casting as distractions or dangers precisely those parts of the left-wing coalition that are becoming most essential to its fight. His program would be less troubling if there weren’t a strong streak of Streeckism in the democratic socialism now beginning to revive in the West. As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, I believe in the importance of this movement as a harbinger of things to come. But in the heat of a bitter struggle against both liberalism and fascism we are liable to miss some profound dangers. What if we win, but what we create is a socialism of wealthy countries, barricaded off from an immiserating world of climate change refugees and other surplus populations? Even support for immigration and internationalism is not, by itself, sufficient to address the neocolonial relations of inequality that continue to structure the global North’s relationship to the global South—if nothing else, because not everyone wants to move to someone else’s socialist future. We face the troubling possibility that the emotional vision at the core of much emerging left-wing politics, that of the Fordist national welfare state that takes care of its own citizens, may be both dangerous and obsolete.

We need a socialism that is as global in its structure and its ambitions as capitalism has become. But how do we get one? I am left to take uneasy solace in the fact that first-world socialism is a long way from winning. The foreboding future that awaits us will confront all of humanity as its object even if we do not rise to meet it as subjects.

Image of Wolfgang Streeck via n+1.