The Socialist Register Series

The Socialist Register 1999

Global Capitalism versus Democracy

edited by Colin Leys and Leo Panitch  

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  • January 1999
  • ISBN: 9780850364804
  • 354 pages
  • $36.00
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About the book

This volume examines the changing contours of global capitalism at the end of the century, and demonstrates that no democracy worth the name can any longer be conceived except in terms of a fundamental break with it. In the process, it exposes many illusory responses to globalisation. The essays published here on the contradictions that have been undermining the Swedish, Rhineland and East Asian ‘models’ go far towards showing how vacuous are the currently fashionable proposals for a ‘third way’ (even those advanced in Cuba). But it is not only the crisis of all models implicated in globalisation that concerns us here. The essays in this volume also reveal the shallowness and growing instability of the ‘democracy’ peddled and often put in place by global capitalism’s ideologues and state functionaries from Latin America to Russia. That it was always a serious error to take East Asia as offering a ‘progressive” model of any kind was very clear long before the economic cataclysm that has now engulfed that region. But even in the core capitalist countries, as several of the essays here also show, democracy is increasingly thin, the public sphere and the autonomy of the state having been drastically curtailed by market forces, and the social democratic parties having been hollowed out by the very political elites who pretend that their ‘third way’ is a solution to, rather than a symptom of, the crisis of the left. Yet there is no easy way forward. Among the obstacles examined by the contributors to this volume are, for example, the western working classes’ complex implication in globalisation through their pension funds as well as through trade union support for ‘progressive competitiveness’, and the readiness of some left intellectuals to embrace the idea of a new non-material ‘cyber-economy’. Many such problems will have to be confronted and overcome before effective movements able to challenge and transcend the forces that have brought us globalisation will be able to emerge and develop strategies, not only for democratising the economy and the state, but for reconstructing a public sphere where socialist voices can once again be heard. Such movements will need to discover how to make democracy simultaneously meaningful and effective at the local, national and global levels, not least by building new linkages between these levels.

Capitalism & Alternatives


Colin Leys

Before coming to Queen’s in 1975 Colin Leys taught at Balliol College, Oxford; Kivukoni College in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; and the Universities of Sussex, Nairobi, and Sheffield. His work has primarily been on the theory and politics of development, with particular reference to Africa and the UK. His publications include European Politics in Southern Rhodesia; Underdevelopment in Kenya;The Political Economy of Neocolonialism; Politics in Britain; Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword (with John S. Saul and others); The Rise and Fall of Development Theory; The End of Parliamentary Socialism (with Leo Panitch); and Market Driven-Politics: Neoliberal Democracy and the Public Interest.

Leo Panitch

Leo Panitch was a Distinguished Research Professor, renowned political economist, Marxist theorist and editor of the Socialist Register. He received a B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Manitoba in 1967 and a M.Sc.(Hons.) and PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1968 and 1974, respectively. He was a Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor at Carleton University between 1972 and 1984. He was a Professor of Political Science at York University since 1984. He was the Chair of the Department of Political Science at York from 1988-1994. He was the General Co-editor of State and Economic Life series, U. of T. Press, from 1979 to 1995 and is the Co-founder and a Board Member of Studies in Political Economy. He was also the author of numerous articles and books dealing with political science including The End of Parliamentary Socialism (1997). He was a member of the Movement for an Independent and Socialist Canada, 1973-1975, the Ottawa Committee for Labour Action, 1975-1984, the Canadian Political Science Association, the Committee of Socialist Studies, the Marxist Institute and the Royal Society of Canada. He was an ardent supporter of the Socialist Project.


  • Taking Globalization Seriously (Hugo Radice)
  • Material World: The Myth of the Weightless Economy (Ursula Huws)
  • Globalization and the Executive Committee: The Contemporary Capitalist State (Constantine Tsoukalas)
  • Contraditons of Shareholder Capitalism: Downsizing Jobs, Enlisting Savings, Destabalizating (Wally Secombe)
  • Labour Power and International Competitiveness: A Critique of Ruling Orthodoxies (David Coates)
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: The German Model Under the Pressure of Globalization (Birgit Mahnkopf)
  • East Asia’s Tumbling Dominoes: Financial Crisis and the Myth of the Regional Model (Mitchell Bernard)
  • State Decay and Democratic Decadence in Latin America (Atilio Boron)
  • Comrades and Investers: The Uncertain Transition in Cuba (Haroldo Dilla)
  • Unstable Futures: Controlling and Creating Risks in International Money (Adam Tickell)
  • Globalization, Class and the Question of Democracy (Joachim Hirsch)
  • The Challenge for the Left: Reclaiming the State (Boris Kagarlitsky)
  • The Public Sphere and the Media: Market Supremacy versus Democracy (Colin Leys)
  • The Tale that Never Ends (Sheila Rowbothan)


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