The Great Recoil

The Great Recoil:Politics after Populism and Pandemic

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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'.

    Ann Pettifor, author of The Case for The Green New Deal
  • 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.

    Grace Blakeley, author of Stolen
  • 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.

    Nadia Urbinati, author of Me, The People