Costas Lapavitsas is a Marxist political economist of a rare and unusual type in at least three different aspects. Firstly, as a Greek who has lived most of his adult life in the UK, he is a genuine internationalist, not just in the vague, feel-good sense but in practice. His reading and theoretical engagements range far wider than the usual bubble of anglophone Marxist economists, who often end up citing and refuting each other only: Costas’s references encompass also French, German, Greek and other authors and, most interestingly, he developed a particular fascination in an earlier period of his life for Japanese Marxism, spurring him to learn the language, spend time there and discuss with this surprisingly strong (if almost entirely academic) tradition.
Secondly, unlike so many Marxist economists who operate as “lone wolves” roving the outer steppes of value theory with only perhaps a research assistant or PhD student for company, Costas is master at coordinating collaborative projects (although he is also the author of some crucial monographs under just his signature, such as Profiting without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All). In the throes of the Greek crisis of 2015, Verso was able to rapidly and successfully publish his booklet co-written with Heiner Flassbeck, Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone. But Costas had already laid the groundwork for this volume with his text Crisis in the Eurozone, which was composed with eleven other authors from his Research in Money and Finance group. Also rushed out in a timely fashion was the pamphlet The Cost of Living Crisis (and how to get out of it) with James Meadway and Doug Nicholls. In the new book, The State of Capitalism: Economy, Society and Hegemony, Costas has brought together ten co-authors from European Research Network on Social and Economic Policy – authors based in Germany, Spain, Greece, the USA, Turkey and the UK – for a volume that, just like the aforementioned volume on the Eurozone, is not a compilation of articles or papers but a genuinely collaboratively written work.
Finally, Costas is no Kathedersozialist or ivory tower radical with only the university campus as his horizon. On the contrary, for Costas, radical scholarship is a tool in the practical, political struggle here and now to transform working people’s lives, even when this means dirtying his hands, such as when he served as an MP in the Greek parliament after 2015, first as a member of Syriza and then as a left dissident and member of the Popular Unity party. More recently, Costas was actively involved in coordinating an electoral alliance between Popular Unity and Yanis Varoufakis’s MeRA25 organisation.
All these elements come together in this new book, which is simultaneously an arresting global conspectus of the tendencies and countertendencies of international capitalism today (in a phase, since the 2008 crisis, that Costas describes as an “interregnum”), in the wake of the pandemic, Ukraine war and inflation crisis; a theoretical investigation of the key concepts required in an updated form to understand the contemporary situation (hegemony, imperialism, core and periphery, financialisation and so on); and a call to arms to the global left to reformulate a radical programme of economic policies, rooted in a defence of combined national and popular sovereignty, that both respond to immediate demands and which could open up the paths towards a postcapitalist future.
Sebastian Budgen, Editorial Director, Verso Books
Paris, July 2023
The State of Capitalism by Costas Lapavitsas is one of our August Verso Book Club reading selections! See more about the Verso Book Club here.
[book-strip index="1" style="buy"]
[book-strip index="2" style="buy"]