Sunday, August 15, 2010

Holiday Reading 1: Paul Mason - Meltdown

You know that capitalism lurches into crises, you know this one is something to do with bankers making risky loans, you are familiar with terms like subprime, credit crunch, and you've heard of Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae - or was it Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac? But you would really like to understand it all a bit better.

My recommendation? Read this book.

Paul Mason's 'Meltdown' was published in February 2009, and provides a highly readable, indepth-yet-easy-to-understand account of the current economic crisis. His account is very much helped by lively descriptions of people and places, cultural references, and the personal touch of his own presence at press conferences and lurking in various places waiting for developments.

It is also helped by straightforward explanations and by regular mentions of the poor and working-class victims of the bankers' behaviour. Its style is much more journalistic than theoretical, but it feeds your theoretical understanding nonetheless.

Now a year-and-a-half old, the book can not provide up-to-date accounts of governments' slash-and-burn response to the crisis. These extraordinary-scale cuts, and the accompanying pathetic-scale curbs on the bankers, perhaps cast doubt on Paul's central argument: that this economic crisis has killed neo-liberalism. He contends that the 'age of greed' is at an end; capitalism has no choice but to reign in and regulate its financial mega-gamblers.

Even if the ConDems' savage attacks suggest otherwise, though, they do not prove that Paul is wrong, and I still find his argument very convincing. Obviously, it's an argument that I'd very much like to be convinced by, especially as he also argues that the organised labour movement will have a much bigger role from here on in.

That last bit is something that we do not have to wait on and observe, but that we can assist with our own efforts.

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