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Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory

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The Left Alternative

Watcharabon Buddharaksa Published online: 31 May 2013.

To cite this article: Watcharabon Buddharaksa (2013): The Left Alternative, Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, 41:1, 137-139 To link to this article:

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Critique, 2013 Vol. 41, No. 1, 137 142,


Roberto Mangabeira Unger: The Left Alternative London and New York, Verso, 2009 ISBN: 978-1-84467-370-4 (paperback)
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Recently, the world under the existing neo-liberal economic and political regime has been in question. On the one hand, the capitalists or the Rich enjoy prosperity from economic development. On the other hand, most people in the third-world countries are excluded from the pool of power and are distant from any kind of wealth. The disparity in incomes in developing countries has been widening every day. In such a situation, the Left, as a leading force in bringing about change, is also in doubt. Roberto Mangabeira Ungers book entitled, The Left Alternative*previously named What Should the Left Propose? (2005)* presents itself as a proposal for the Left to change the world and offers many crucial directions to the Left in order to achieve genuine democracy. The 12 chapters (excluding a preface) in this book can be categorized into the following four main themes: first, preliminary ideas to change the world; second, the question of social and political agencies; third, directions for the Left in each country; and finally, a summary of ideas. The author provides some preliminary ideas regarding the limitations of the contemporary Left and redefines revolutionary perspectives, mostly in the first three chapters. The central argument of Ungers book is that there is always an alternative with which to change the world. Unger attempts to argue in the first chapter, and also throughout the book, that the means of achieving true democracy are actually available. Prior to proposing directions for the Left, the author offers a critique of the obstacles confronting the Left movement, which include the lack of alternatives, the support for a set of ideas, agency, and crisis. Subsequently, the author argues that the main aim of the Left should be to ensure social inclusion and individual empowerment in political, economic and social life. In order to achieve this goal, he proposes five major directions: a high level of domestic saving; education for all; democratization of the market economy; care for others as social solidarity; and the formation of high-energy democratic politics. The following three chapters could be grouped under a second theme that concentrates on social and political agencies. The author believes in the class system. He illustrates the structure of social classes in contemporary industrial countries.


Book Reviews

However, the author focuses more on the determinants of social classes, and suggests that there are the following two distinct types: inheritance and meritocracy. Unger argues that the Left should focus on guaranteeing that ordinary men and women will have a chance to become freer and greater. In order to achieve this goal, the author suggests that people should establish an atmosphere of cooperation that will ultimately bring everyone together to have a better life. The following four chapters focus on the third theme, that is, the direction for the Left in each country, including developing countries, European countries and the United States, as well as issues of globalization. The author shows that, in the case of developing countries, recent economic development raises the following two important issues: the sharp increase in inequality and the implementation of policies under pressure from the Rich countries. He concludes that, in order to transcend the existing problems of the third-world countries, the Left in those countries should create growth with inclusion by the democratization of the market economy, improvement of the education system, and the organization of a high level of popular engagement in politics. Subsequently, Unger argues that, although European countries are more inclusive and egalitarian than the rest of the world, they still face three major problems: the narrowing of the social and educational base of access to the advanced sectors of the economy; the weakening of the basis of social cohesion; and the need to give people further opportunities to live a better life. The next chapter pays attention to the problems of the United States that should concern the Left, such as racial discrimination, the reshaping of the market economy, as initiated earlier in the book, and the reformation of democratic politics. While dealing with the issue of Americas reformation of democracy, the author suggests that it should not be a constitutional re-design under the institutional framework; instead, it should increase the level of civic engagement and diminish plutocratic influence over politics. Moreover, the last chapter in this theme argues that the invincible stream of globalization should be reformed as well. Globalization, the author argues, should be restructured in three aspects: re-design of global trading; redirection of the multilateral organizations; and transformation of the American hegemony. The last two chapters summarize the ideas that the author presented in the earlier chapters. The central proposal as well as the central argument that the author puts forth is to construct true democracy, which is high-energy democracy. In order to develop this kind of democracy, the author provides five crucial actions that the Left should take. First, the Left should develop a high level of popular engagement. Second, the Left should employ constitutional government as a machine to energize politics. Third, the Left should construct an inclusive regime, in both the economic and political arenas. Fourth, the Left should commit to increasing opportunities for experimental deviation in particular places and sectors. Finally, the Left should combine the features of representative and direct democracy. In conclusion, this book provides some interesting proposals to change the world. However, the author does not entirely deny the existing economic and political

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Book Reviews 139

systems but attempts to reform, reshape and improve them. This book should be recommended to anyone who questions the legitimacy of the capitalist world and to those who have faith in the idea that another world is possible. WATCHARABON BUDDHARAKSA # 2009, Watcharabon Buddharaksa

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Anselm Heinrich: Entertainment, Propaganda, Education: Regional Theatre in Germany and Britain between 1918 and 1945 Hatfield, University of Hertfordshire Press/Society for Theatre Research, 2007 ISBN-10: 1902806751 ISBN-13: 978-1902806754 Anselm Heinrichs truly interdisciplinary monograph, Entertainment, Propaganda, Education: Regional Theatre in Germany and Britain Between 1918 and 1945, charts some of the history of regional theatre and, to a lesser extent, other arts (music, cinema) in Britain and Germany during and in between the two world wars, situating it in a carefully drawn historical and cultural context. Successfully connecting concerns and methodologies of theatre studies and cultural historiography, Heinrich provides a detailed and vivid picture of the cultural, mainly theatrical, life of the two titular nations in the first half of the 20th century, yet relating the stories of these regional theatres from the time of the birth of modern theatres in the selected cities of two regions (Westphalia and Yorkshire), primarily Mu nster and York, but to some degree also Dortmund, Hagen, Bielefeld and Bochum alongside Bradford, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds. With exemplary detail in archival research, Heinrichs study convincingly demonstrates that the two national theatres at the time examined were not as fundamentally different as it is often posited. The authors careful examination of artistic policies and management on one hand and the tendencies in shaping the repertoires on the other suggests that state intervention in what today would be termed cultural and creative industries was emphatically noticeable, albeit in different modes and to a different extent, in the two countries during the Second World War, and for a similar reason (in the name of patriotism*as a means of national self-assertion during the time of war). As Heinrich puts it, the outbreak of the Second World War prompted a similar reaction in Germany and Britain with the realisation on the part of government that theatre could play a decisive role in the war effort. This is certainly not a new finding with regard to Nazi Germany but it may come as a surprise in a country that constantly stressed the commercial and political independence of its entertainment industry (p. 10). Attempting to place the artistic output of the discussed regional theatres on the entertainment education axis, the monograph highlights the insight that, while the educational function of theatre has famously been present in the German context