Ross Wolfe and Pam Nogales of the Platypus Affiliated Society recently interviewed Domenico Losurdo about issues present in his intellectual history, Liberalism: A Counter-History. Losurdo argues that the “dialectic between emancipation and de-emancipation is the key to understanding the history of liberalism.” Reviewing Locke as a “champion of slavery” and Mandeville as a zealous advocate of the death penalty, Losurdo demonstrates how 17th century defenses of liberty belied an affirmation of the power of property-owners while legitimizing, even celebrating, the subjugation of wage-laborers as “work machines.” When pressed on the (seemingly progressive) liberal project of de-emancipating the serfs that subsequently created an urban proletariat of revolutionary potential, Losurdo elaborates:
[T]his possibility of liberation was not the program of the liberals. The struggle of this new working class needed more time before starting to have some results. In my view, the workingmen of the capitalist metropolis were not only destitute and very poor, they were even without the formal liberties of liberalism.
COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
Win the complete Counterblasts series!
HOW TO ENTER: Those in North America, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For the rest of the world, including the UK, email email@example.com. Please put COUNTERBLASTS COMPETITION in the subject line or your entry may not be counted. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 10th April.
Can truth really be stranger than fiction? If anyone can answer that question definitively, it is Thomas Friedman, who occupies pride of place in the Counterblasts series in The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández.
Starting today, to celebrate the publication of Verso's new Counterblasts series, we will be posting three quotations every day relating to each of these three neoliberal defenders of empire and capital. All you need to do is spot the real one from among the fakes.
The prize is the full set of Counterblasts - Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? by Derrick O'Keefe, The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández and The Impostor: BHL in Wonderland by Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte - AND Britain's Empire by Richard Gott and Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo.
As the year draws to a close, newspapers have been asking the great and the good which books have most impressed them in 2011. Here we have collected the Verso books that were featured.
In the New Statesman, Guardian and Observer Books of the Year round ups, Hari Kunzru selected two Verso books as standing out from other books published this year. He explained the appeal of the titles to the New Statesman:
With the Occupy movement gaining ground throughout the world, McKenzie Wark's smart overview of the situationist movement, The Beach Beneath the Street: the Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International, feels particularly timely. For years, Laura Oldfield Ford, who is very influenced by situationism, has produced a fanzine, based on her derives around London, with words and beautiful, confrontational line drawings of the city's forgotten people and neglected places. Now, Savage Messiah has been collected in book form. It is a wake-up call to anyone who can only see modern cities through the lens of gentrification.
In the Guardian feature on the Best Books of 2011, a number of Verso titles were selected by those asked.
Among the 2011 books that came my way I particularly welcomed Owen Jones's Chavs, a passionate and well-documented denunciation of the upper-class contempt for the proles that has recently become so visible in the British class system.
I loved two very different books of criticism...[one was] Owen Hatherley's furiously pro-Modernist A Guide to the New Ruins of Britain
Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked.
I'm reading Chris Harman's A People's History of the World. It's really helpful to zoom out from time to time when you're living massive events at very close quarters.
Ed Rooksby reviews Domenico Losurdo's Liberalism: A Counter-History in an in-depth two-part article for the New Left Project. In Rooksby's words, questioning "liberal hagiography," "Losurdo's argument is certainly striking" and
highly effective ... Even those familiar with radical critique of liberalism and, indeed, with the historical crimes committed in liberalism's name, will find some of the practices and political positions uncovered by the author shocking.
According to Rooksby, the crux of Losurdo's argument is that the hallmark of liberalism is an "internal logic of inclusion/exclusion" that "separat[es] the legitimately free from the legitimately unfree, masters from servants, ‘us' from ‘them'."
In a post entitled 'Liberals and Reactionaries,' Lenin's Tomb reviews Domenico Losurdo's acclaimed Liberalism: A Counter-History. Richard Seymour, author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, focusses on the relationship between property rights and liberal ideology. Seymour emphasises that, whereas Marxist thinkers generally see private property as the mainstay of liberal ideology, Losurdo seems rather to point to "the logic of exclusion"—that is to say, to those subjects who did not benefit from liberal rights and freedoms.
According to Seymour, Losurdo's approach does not question the revolutionary essence of liberalism itself—it rather underlines the distance between its ideals and practice. The socialist blogger instead stresses the interrelation between capitalism and liberalism:
Property rights have always been structured in such a way as to allow white Europeans to expropriate non-white non-Europeans, from Locke to Vattel onward. After Katrina, the property rights of working class Americans, especially African Americans, were cancelled by fiat—but this didn't disturb the basic politico-legal order of property rights. In fact, I would bet on the idea that the state authorities and companies who carried out this expropriation worked very hard on devising a legal justification for this theft. Moreover, it is the nature of capitalist property relations, to which liberalism is committed, that builds exclusions into liberalism.