September 23, 2021

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Review of Albina Azmanova's book "Capitalism on the Edge"

Review of Albina Azmanova’s book “Capitalism on the Edge”

It almost sounds good: Left-wing political scientist Albina Azmanova at Britain’s University of Kent in Brussels describes in her new book Capitalism at the Edge in a spirit of hopeful optimism radical change in capitalism without crisis. One might think that something radical cannot be without a crisis, but Azmanova paints a completely different picture.

In their view, the dark sides of capitalism – inequality and persistent economic insecurity – have long damaged not only the “poor and marginalized”, but also all those who were previously allowed to feel that they were the “winners of the distribution of power”. Therefore, for Azmanova, we do not simply live under capitalism, but under “unstable capitalism”, capitalism in which every life is likely to be constantly threatened by poverty.

But how is the “deep transformation” of the system possible without a real crisis under the precarious state of capitalism? Many left-wing political theorists are now likely to be convinced that without a real – and sometimes violent – revolution there can be no significant change.

Albina Azmanova: Capitalism on the Brink: Radical Change without Crisis. Konturen Edition, Vienna 2021. 240 pages, €22.

Azmanova, who was once an active dissident in the struggle against the communist dictatorship in her native Bulgaria, bases her hope for significant peaceful change on the fact that the need for reforms that address social and economic insecurity is very clear. However, these reforms then create the basic physical prerequisites to “orient the protest in a more radical and constructive direction,” which in turn will put the “angry public” in the position of a political actor with a “positive agenda” to overcome capitalism.

In this way, a “political economy based on trust” will arise in which “entrepreneurship” and “experimentation” can flourish. Unfortunately, the question that remains open is whether an economy in which everyone enjoys wealth and secure income is possible. Doesn’t this go hand in hand with a very high ethical standard that it is impossible for everyone to agree on? The basic assumption that without adequate livelihood security people lose control of their lives is, of course, quite desirable. However, the question is whether the “socialist millennials,” the new generation, can and will develop enough purposeful political power to overcome capitalism in this way.

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