Monday, 1 September 2014

Just out: Cox / Nilsen, "We Make Our Own History"

#wmooh: We Make Our Own History

Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen,
We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism.
London: Pluto Press, 20 August 2014
ISBN 9780745334813 (paperback); e-book and hardback editions also available
272pp; £17 from Pluto

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this - "ya basta!" - appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to the cities of the global North.
From this network of movements, new visions are emerging of a future beyond neoliberalism. We Make Our Own History responds to these visions by reclaiming Marxism as a theory born from activist experience and practice.
This book marks a break both with established social movement theory, and with those forms of Marxism which treat the practice of social movement organising as an unproblematic process. It shows how movements can develop from local conflicts to global struggles; how neoliberalism operates as a social movement from above, and how popular struggles can create new worlds from below.
Short pieces related to some of the book’s arguments can be found at Discover Society, E-International Relations and the Pluto Press newsletter.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Laurence Cox refresh historical materialism and social movement theory in this imaginative, lucid book. Their patient explanations, motivated by striking examples from actually existing collective struggle, both clarify and inspire. At once handbook and provocation, We Make Our Own History will reach a broad spectrum of readers in many parts of the world, benefiting analysis, strategy, and action.
(Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Golden Gulag: Labor, Land, State, and Opposition in Globalizing California)
Like most books, Laurence Cox and Alf Nilsen’s We Make Our Own History has its pluses and minuses, but overall it is a stunning read, one that every activist – and anyone concerned with the world around us – should read. Beautifully written in many places – with elegant, lucid argument, and with some great turns of phrase that open whole new windows of understanding -, it puts forward two seminal propositions about social movement that help us understand not only ‘movement’ but society itself, and through this ourselves as individuals and our relations to the world around us. An astonishing achievement, and a great contribution to social and political thinking that among many other things, revisits Marx and reveals the relevance of his thoughts to contemporary activism.
(Jai Sen, director of Critical Action: Centre in Movement and author / editor of several books on the World Social Forum and social movements)
Armed with a vocabulary able to grasp the structured agency of social movements and militant particularisms in constructing collective identities, readers will be vastly rewarded by this outstanding book and its understanding of the class struggles of social movements and their campaigns and projects across the past, present, and future transformations of capitalism.
(Adam David Morton, author of Unravelling Gramsci and Revolution and State in Modern Mexico)

1: ‘The This-Worldliness of their Thought’: Social Movements and Theory
2: ‘History Does Nothing’: The Primacy of Praxis in Movement Theorising
3: ‘The Authors and the Actors of their Own Drama’: A Marxist Theory of Social Movements
4: ‘The Bourgeoisie, Historically, Has Played a Most Revolutionary Part’: Social Movements from Above and Below in Historical Capitalism
5. ‘The point is to change it’: movements from below against neoliberalism

About the authors:
Laurence Cox directs the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and co-edits the social movements journal Interface. He is active in a wide range of movements and has co-edited Marxism and Social Movements (2013) and Understanding European Movements (2013).
Alf Gunvald Nilsen is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen. His research focuses on social movements in the global South. He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India (2012) and co-editor of Social Movements in the Global South (2011) and Marxism and Social Movements (2013).