Socialist Register 2020: Beyond Market Dystopia

Beyond Market Dystopia: New Ways of Living
Volume 56 of the Socialist Register

Each year a new volume of the Socialist Register appears, effectively laying out for socialists and communists what are burning issues of the day—we now have 56 years of coverage, and many of the burning issues are now in a full blaze. This year’s edition was published before the global pandemic, the 40 million additional unemployed in the US alone, and the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd. The whole world watched the video and responded with a movement that is more widespread than was Occupy Wall Street in 2011 or the first Black Lives Matter upsurge in 2014.

In the preface to Socialist Register 2020, co-editors Greg Albo and Leo Panitch discuss much of what the working classes of the world are confronting with capital’s market dystopia. At one point they cite Colin Leys, a former co-editor of the Register from his 2001 text, “Market-Driven Politics, Neoliberal Democracy and the Public Interest”

A strong non-market domain, providing various core services, as the common sense of a civilised and democratic society may sound far-fetched in an era of market-driven politics. But it is debatable whether it is really as far-fetched – as hard to imagine or as absurd – as the world towards which market-driven politics is tending, in which more and more of the workforce is absorbed in ever-intensified competition for ever higher output and consumption, while the collective services for which democracy depends gradually decay.

The editors go on to state that “It is precisely this sensibility that informs this volume, Beyond Market Dystopia: New Ways of Living. By challenging our contributors to address what are the actual and possible ways of living in this century, we saw this as way of probing how to get beyond the deep contradictions of neoliberal capitalism. We did not want contributors to conceive their remit as future-oriented per se, but rather to see their mandate as locating utopic visions and struggles for alternate ways of living in the dystopic present. To this end, a number of he essays interrogate central dimensions of ‘how we live’ and ‘how we might live’ in terms of educating our children, housing and urbanism, accommodation of refugees and the displaced, and (to lean on that all too common phrase) the competitive time pressures for ‘work-life balance’. These are all key questions, of course, of ‘social reproduction’, a theme Register. They are the counterpoint to ‘economic reproduction’ and ‘how we work’ at the heart of several essays here. Today, this involves exploring and exposing all the hype and contradictions of the so-called ‘gig economy’, where automation’s potential for increased time apart from work is subordinated to surveillance, hazardous waste, speed-up, and much else that makes for contingent work and precarious living. Finding new ways of living cannot but confront both these obstacles.Yet even amidst all that appears so new in today’s capitalism, classical socialist themes, dilemmas, challenges, and struggles are still very much with us. Indeed, several essays in this volume undertake political archaeologies of the past to find their vestiges providing new meaning for the practices of socialism in the twenty-first century.

We will meet for ten weeks to consider eleven of this year’s presentations, one essay per week except for our last session (see schedule below). This reading of the Socialist Register could become a regular feature of MEP summers: it allows for frequent participation but takes into account that all of us may miss a week or more due to summer travel and vacations.

Four of the ten sessions remain as follows:

August 24 • What Should Socialism Mean in the Twenty-First Century?
Nancy Fraser author will be present

August 31 • The Affordable Housing Crisis: Its Capitalist Roots and the Socialist Alternative
Karl Beitel author will be present

September 14 • Communism in the Suburbs?
Roger Keil
And The Retroactive Utopia of the Socialist City
Owen Hatherley
both authors will be present

Discounted copies of the book (2 remaining) are available from The MEP. Write to: info@marxedproject.org or to revsgroup@gmail.com for information. A separate product line will be an on-line item —check website after 6/20 for ordering information.

Fridays As In Murder: Women, Violence & Genre Formulas

Convened by Jacqueline Cantwell
Fridays, 6:00 to 8:00
10 meetings, November 10 through February 2
No session on Friday, November 24, December 29 or January 19

In traditional hard-boiled and crime novels, women either provoke violence as femme fatales or need protection as paying clients or wandering daughters. Some authors were dissatisfied with this pulp convention and worked in an extension of pulp, film noir, writing scripts with more complicated women. Drawing upon the potentials of film noir’s formula of restlessness, dread, and discontent within social corruption, women novelists wrote of threats to the domestic sphere and American society emerging as the global hegemon. As women’s opportunities improved and the conventions of the detective novel changed, women writers explored crime and violence resulting from the racism and class exploitation while some male authors began writing of more complicated women.

Our Friday readings will consist of the following:

Attica Locke, The Cutting Season
The body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds of a former plantation turned into an historical amusement park, complete with slave quarters. Outside the plantation, the hard-pressed owners of sugar cane fields are selling their land to a corporation that relies upon undocumented migrants. A mystery from the time of slavery parallels the modern murder.

Dorothy B. Hughes, The Expendable Man
Driving toward Phoenix, Densmore sees a young white woman hitchhiking. Even though he knows that a black man should not offer a white girl a ride, he fears for her safety. Then, he gets charged with her murder. Complicating his lackluster defense is that the woman has died from complications of an illegal abortion and he is a medical student.

Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fatale
Can a man portray a woman with a gun differently? Maybe when by Manchette. A woman comes to town to kill the corrupt. Stripped down language. Bloodier than Red Harvest. Manchette brought politics back to French thrillers.

Nina Revoyr, Lost Canyon
Four hikers whose ethnic and cultural backgrounds represent a diverse Los Angeles get lost in the mountains and find a murder. Moving effortlessly between city and wilderness, Lost Canyon explores the ways that race, class, and culture shape experience and perception while examining the choices good people must face in desperate situations.

Jacqueline Cantwell has explored the depths of crime fiction along with the heights the desperate will often want to throw themselves from. These fictions will lay bare many of the facts of the cold as ice killings and cover-ups present in a modern world where we are expected to behave better—but very often do not. What better night than Fridays in Autumn for murder and mayhem.

Fridays As In Murder: Women, Violence & Genre Formulas

Convened by Jacqueline Cantwell
Fridays, 6:00 to 8:00
10 meetings, November 10 through January 26
No session on Friday, November 24 or December 29

In traditional hard-boiled and crime novels, women either provoke violence as femme fatales or need protection as paying clients or wandering daughters. Some authors were dissatisfied with this pulp convention and worked in an extension of pulp, film noir, writing scripts with more complicated women. Drawing upon the potentials of film noir’s formula of restlessness, dread, and discontent within social corruption, women novelists wrote of threats to the domestic sphere and American society emerging as the global hegemon. As women’s opportunities improved and the conventions of the detective novel changed, women writers explored crime and violence resulting from the racism and class exploitation while some male authors began writing of more complicated women.

Our Friday readings will consist of the following:

Attica Locke, The Cutting Season
The body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds of a former plantation turned into an historical amusement park, complete with slave quarters. Outside the plantation, the hard-pressed owners of sugar cane fields are selling their land to a corporation that relies upon undocumented migrants. A mystery from the time of slavery parallels the modern murder.

Dorothy B. Hughes, The Expendable Man
Driving toward Phoenix, Densmore sees a young white woman hitchhiking. Even though he knows that a black man should not offer a white girl a ride, he fears for her safety. Then, he gets charged with her murder. Complicating his lackluster defense is that the woman has died from complications of an illegal abortion and he is a medical student.

Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fatale
Can a man portray a woman with a gun differently? Maybe when by Manchette. A woman comes to town to kill the corrupt. Stripped down language. Bloodier than Red Harvest. Manchette brought politics back to French thrillers.

Nina Revoyr, Lost Canyon
Four hikers whose ethnic and cultural backgrounds represent a diverse Los Angeles get lost in the mountains and find a murder. Moving effortlessly between city and wilderness, Lost Canyon explores the ways that race, class, and culture shape experience and perception while examining the choices good people must face in desperate situations.

Jacqueline Cantwell has explored the depths of crime fiction along with the heights the desperate will often want to throw themselves from. These fictions will lay bare many of the facts of the cold as ice killings and cover-ups present in a modern world where we are expected to behave better—but very often do not. What better night than Fridays in Autumn for murder and mayhem.