The Great Recoil
Politics after Populism and Pandemic
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Hardback with free ebook
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288 pages / August 2021 / 9781788730501
August 2021 / 9781788730532

What comes after neoliberalism?

In these times of health emergency, economic collapse, populist anger and ecological threat, societies are forced to turn inward in search of protection. Neoliberalism, the ideology that presided over decades of market globalisation, is on trial, while state intervention is making a spectacular comeback amid lockdowns, mass vaccination programmes, deficit spending and climate planning. This is the Great Recoil, the era when the neo-statist endopolitics of national sovereignty, economic protection and democratic control overrides the neoliberal exopolitics of free markets, labour flexibility and business opportunity.

Looking back to the role of the state in Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hegel, Gramsci and Polanyi, and exploring the discourses, electoral programs and class blocs of the nationalist right and socialist left, Paolo Gerbaudo fleshes out the contours of the different statisms and populisms that inform contemporary politics. The central issue in dispute is what mission the post-pandemic state should pursue: whether it should protect native workers from immigration and the rich against redistributive demands, as proposed by the right’s authoritarian protectionism; or reassert social security and popular sovereignty against the rapacity of financial and tech elites, as advocated by the left’s social protectivism. Only by addressing the widespread sense of exposure and vulnerability may socialists turn the present phase of involution into an opportunity for social transformation.


“With remarkable intellectual reach, Paolo Gerbaudo draws on centuries of political thought to analyse and tackle big questions arising from society’s ‘recoil’ from the failed project that was/is neoliberal globalisation. This is a vital and timely text for a fuller understanding of how the left should react to the pandemic in order to ‘build back better.’”

“A fascinating journey from neoliberal hegemony, through anti-globalist populist backlash, to the neo-statism of the pandemic world; it is a critical text for progressives seeking to orient themselves in a world marked by both dirigisme and cultural reaction. Gerbaudo rightly argues that a left populism in the post-pandemic world must centre on the deepening of political and economic democracy in order to combat a right-wing politics of domination and control.”

“In this intriguing book that weaves together the ideas of authors such as Hegel and Polanyi, Paolo Gerbaudo follows the swinging pendulum of global capitalism moving from its expansive form to the inwardness of statism. The global crisis of 2008 and the pandemic have ushered in a great recoil in which Western capitalism looks like a giant pulled down by its own strength, and the return of the interventionist state is viewed as a possible solution to its ills.”

“Counter-movements against neoliberal globalisation have been gathering momentum for a number of years, but are now reaching a critical mass. The Great Recoil provides a definitive account of how the nation state has been revived and transformed, bringing much-needed clarity and critique to the vast political questions of our present moment.”

“What will replace neo-liberalism? Will it be a new big state capitalism overseen by a populist political right? In this timely and important book, Paolo Gerbaudo shows how the left can contest the meaning of sovereignty, protection, and control, and put forward its own progressive populism founded on economic and social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and radical republican politics.”

“Persuasive … [Gerbaudo’s] historical analysis gives his prescriptions for the left heightened urgency.”

“Gerbaudo avoids a simplistic account of neoliberalism … [he] is an astute and rigorous analyst, and The Great Recoil is perhaps the most thorough yet compact synthesis of the crises and challenges that have reset the parameters for state action in the twenty-first century.”


“Brilliant … essential reading for those interested in the current state of European social democracy.”

“Asks interesting questions for those looking to navigate a pathway between right-wing populism and liberal cosmopolitanism.”

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