What Should the Left Propose?

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Author Verso $23 (179p) ISBN 978-1-84467-048-2
A moribund Left gets zapped with a cattle prod in this stimulating visionary manifesto. Brazilian social theorist Unger (Democracy Realized: The Progressive Alternative) paints leftists as hidebound and backward-looking, clinging to a vestigial social democracy that ameliorates the ills of a market economy instead of trying to transform it. Rather than resist economic and social change, he argues, the Left should drive ""the permanent creation of the new"" by championing New Economy managerial techniques of cooperative innovation, promoting state support for small entrepreneurship and venture capital formation and exploring ""experimental"" forms of markets, property and contract. Properly guided by ""high-energy"" politics, he insists, such initiatives can enhance equality, security, social solidarity and returns to labor, broaden opportunity, usher in ""the divinization of humanity"" and bestow on the individual ""a more god-like self."" Some readers will no doubt find his sweeping indictment of social democracy unfair, his co-optation of avant-garde management theory naive, and his celebration of change and upheaval utopian. Many of his proposals, like privatizating social services or making everyone hold a second job in the ""caring economy"" tending to the old, the young, the sick, the poor or the desperate (no, family members don't count), are ill thought-out. Still, he offers an incisive critique of social and economic discontents, one that turns traditional Marxist formulations on their heads (""we... are, in large numbers, petty-bourgeois now."") The result is a provocative challenge to left orthodoxies that should spur plenty of controversy-and fresh thinking.
Reviewed on: 03/20/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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