After the election: 5 must-read books on the challenges facing Obama

The grand spectacle of the US elections is over. It was a disappointing night for Republican ‘rich white guys’ and ‘angry white guys’, as well as the Tea-Party brigade. But will the election lead to significant change in the distribution of privilege and power in the US? Whose interests will Obama serve – ‘the nation’ or an elite? Then there is the question of US imperial power – how will Obama respond to the emergence of other global powers and regions which challenge US hegemony?

Here we present 5 must-read books for anyone who wants to understand the likely direction of the US economy, politics and foreign policy. The rhetoric of election night is over, and huge problems now confront the US economy and empire which in turn will impact on the global situation. These books are vital reading in getting to grips with these issues and how they might resolved.

1. Jack Rasmus, Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few

After a historic re-election, Barack Obama presides over a deep economic malaise. Radical economist Jack Rasmus shows how the Obama administration has failed to deliver economic recovery and social justice and puts forward alternative proposals which could realise these goals.

Whilst corporate profits are up, economic hardship is the bitter reality for millions of US citizens. Rasmus argues that the weakest economic recovery since 1947 is the direct result of the Obama administration’s failure to take decisive action. From Obama’s presidential election to the passage of his 2012 budget, this book explains how the US economy got where it is today and why the risk of a ‘double dip’ recession is rising.

In a crucial election year, Obama’s Economy will be vital reading for students of US politics and economics, and all those looking for a way out of the current crisis of capitalism.

 

2. Rob Larson, Bleakonomics: A Heartwarming Introduction to Financial Catastrophe, the Jobs Crisis and Environmental Catastrophe

Bleakonomics is a short and darkly humorous guide to the three great crises plaguing today’s world: environmental degradation, social conflict in the age of austerity and financial instability.

Written for anyone who is wondering how we’ve come to this point, Rob Larson holds mainstream economic theory up against the grim reality of a planet in meltdown. He looks at scientists’ conclusions about climate change, the business world’s opinions about its own power, and reveals the fingerprints of finance on American elections.

With a unique and engaging approach to each crucial subject, students, academics and activists will find a lot to appreciate in this quiet call-to-arms for a saner and more stable world.

 

 

3. Vassilis K. Fouskas and Bülent Gökay, The Fall of the US Empire: Global Fault-Lines and the Shifting Imperial Order

Whither the US empire? Despite Washington’s military supremacy, its economic foundations have been weakening since the Vietnam war – accelerated by the great recession and credit-rating downgrade – and its global authority dented by the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this accessible, punchy text, Vassilis K. Fouskas and Bülent Gökay intervene in the debates that surround the US’s status as an Empire. They survey the arguments amongst Marxist and critical scholars, from Immanuel
Wallerstein and others who argue that the US is in decline, to those who maintain that it remains a robust superpower. By explaining how America’s neo-imperial system of governance has been working since WWII, Fouskas and Gökay link the US’s domestic and foreign vulnerabilities.

The Fall of the US Empire argues that the time has come to understand the US empire not by its power but by its systemic vulnerabilities of financialisation, resource depletion and environmental degradation. Its informed and accessible style will have wide appeal to students looking for an introduction to these issues.

4. Andrew Kliman, The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession

The recent financial crisis and Great Recession have been analysed endlessly in the mainstream and academia, but this is the first book to conclude, on the basis of in-depth analyses of official US data, that Marx’s crisis theory can explain these events.

Marx believed that the rate of profit has a tendency to fall, leading to economic crises and recessions. Many economists, Marxists among them, have dismissed this theory out of hand, but Andrew Kliman’s careful data analysis shows that the rate of profit did indeed decline after the post-World War II boom and that free-market policies failed to reverse the decline. The fall in profitability led to sluggish investment and economic growth, mounting debt problems, desperate
attempts of governments to fight these problems by piling up even more debt – and ultimately to the Great Recession.

Kliman’s conclusion is simple but shocking: short of socialist transformation, the only way to escape the ‘new normal’ of a stagnant, crisis-prone economy is to restore profitability through full-scale destruction of existing wealth, something not seen since the Depression of the 1930s.

5. Horace Campbell, Barack Obama and Twenty-First-Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA

Barack Obama has been called a transformative and transcendental figure, this book shows us just how significant the movement behind him was for the politics of the United States.

Horace Campbell examines the networks that made the electoral victory possible and discusses the importance of self-organization and self-emancipation in politics. Situated in the context of the agency of new social forces galvanised in the 2008 electoral season, the book develops a theory of politics that starts with the humanist principles of ubuntu, healing and reparations for the 21st century. It argues that key ideas like quantum politics anda ‘network of networks’ move away from old forms of vanguardism during a period in history that can be characterised as a revolutionary moment.
This book is an essential guide to new forms of political organisation in the US.

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