Even after five years of relentless austerity and the continuing disorientation and weakness of much of the Left around the world, the fire ignited by the 2008 economic meltdown has yet to be extinguished. One need only be reminded of Syriza’s rise to power in Greece – arguably the most important electoral victory for a Left party in Europe in almost half a century. In Spain, Podemos presents the biggest challenge to the country’s two-party system since the end of the Francoist dictatorship four decades ago. As such, the hopes of capitalism’s ideologues for a ‘return to normality’ remain as elusive as ever.
In this context, the critique of capitalism has re-entered the public discourse in ways previously unimaginable. Indeed, a number of the most celebrated publications of recent years, have in different ways oriented themselves around re-investigating and understanding the meaning of capitalism, be they social democratic, Marxist, Keynesian or neo-conservative. In universities across the world, students and scholars are now collaborating in ways that seek to challenge ruling class orthodoxies. As a recent New York Times article put it: ‘A specter is haunting university history departments: the specter of capitalism’. This renewed attention to the study of capitalism is a much welcomed development; particularly so as it allows us to critically question claims that capitalism is the natural order of things, or the highest expression of human nature.
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