Perry Anderson

Perry Anderson’s books include Lineages of the Absolutist State, The Origins of Postmodernity, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism and Ever Closer Union? Europe in the West. He is a professor of history and sociology at UCLA and sits on the editorial board of New Left Review. He has written more than fifty pieces for the LRB, on subjects including his father’s career in the Chinese Customs Service, Lula’s Brazil, Michael Oakeshott, Anthony Powell, Dmitri Furman, the modern political histories of Italy, Turkey, France, and India and the failings of the EU.

Peace without Empire

Perry Anderson, 2 December 2021

Financial instability, immigrant pressure and proximate war are not the only subterranean shocks to unsettle the European Union. There are two others, of potentially comparable magnitude. One is the deep change that the passage of generations is likely to bring, as a youth no longer haunted by memories of the Cold War, or buoyed by the illusions that followed it, develops a new agenda of social equality and care for the natural environment. The other is the deterioration of the physical climate that threatens life everywhere. The two intersect in a growing passion among the young for a cause that scarcely had any popular traction in the 20th century, the preservation of the planet. Gradual changes like these have already started to act as counterforces to the follies of unbridled speculation, fears of uncontrolled immigration and contagions of civil war. For Stella Ghervas, balance of power principles, and the needs of military defence, retain their validity against any would-be empire. But the gains of the lasting peace Europe has achieved should not be compromised by them.

The Breakaway: Goodbye Europe

Perry Anderson, 21 January 2021

The masses who voted for Brexit believed they were striking a blow at Brussels and the neoliberalism under which they had suffered for a quarter of a century. In reality, that neoliberalism – harsher than anything on the Continent – was British in origin, and could be overthrown without any of the instant penalties that would have been incurred if the UK had been a loyal member of the EMU. As for those who voted against Brexit, their warnings of disaster were for all immediate purposes irrelevant. In their different ways, the two sides in the referendum battle shared the same illusion: in the world at large, defeat for their position would mean a loss of standing for Britain that was bound to be fatal to its prosperity. Neither of them paid the slightest attention to the obvious fact that (if we exclude toy-states like Liechtenstein, Monaco or Luxembourg) the two richest countries in Europe, with the most advanced welfare systems, do not belong to the EU: Switzerland and Norway.

Ever Closer Union?

Perry Anderson, 7 January 2021

Can democracy, sovereignty and globalisation be happily combined? Regrettably, an EU-wide democracy does not exist, and the reforms adopted since the crisis of 2008 – banking union, stricter fiscal oversight – have made the Union more technocratic, less accountable and more distant from European electorates. What American examples show is that European elites must make a choice, opting either for political union at the cost of national sovereignty, or for national sovereignty at the cost of political union. Intermediate solutions – a little democracy at national level, a little more at EU level – won’t work.

The European Coup

Perry Anderson, 17 December 2020

The key to understanding the success of the construction of Europe lies in the term that recurs with compulsive insistence at the turning points of Luuk van Middelaar’s story: the ‘coup’. The court’s decisions of 1963 and 1964 establishing the supremacy of Community over national legislation, without any warrant in the Treaty of Rome, were successive brilliant coups; the confection of the European Council was a coup; the imposition of a path to revising the treaty at the Council in Milan was a magnificent coup; the foundation of the Union itself was a coup. In each case, the definition of a coup is an action taken suddenly, by stealth, catching its victims unawares, and confronting them with a fait accompli that cannot be reversed. It is not a term associated with any form of democratic politics – just the opposite – and so finds no place, let alone celebration, in the polite vocabulary of liberal politics or jurisprudence. But its central role in van Middelaar’s thought is not a caprice. 

Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Perry Anderson, 7 February 2019

By comparison with the scale of the upheaval through which Brazil has lived in the last five years, and the gravity of its possible outcome, the histrionics over Brexit in this country and the conniptions over Trump in America are close to much ado about nothing.

You need a gun: The A-Word

Wolfgang Streeck, 14 December 2017

What​ is the relationship between coercion and consent? Under what circumstances does power turn into authority, brute force into legitimate leadership? Can coercion work without consent? Can...

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‘It is a sign​ of true political power when a great people can determine, of its own will, the vocabulary, the terminology and the words, the very way of speaking, even the way of...

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What We Have: Tarantinisation

David Bromwich, 4 February 1999

Post-Modernism entered the public mind as a fast-value currency in the late Seventies and early Eighties, in the field of architecture, where its association with gimmicky tropes of visual play...

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Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 December 1992

For the past thirty years, New Left Review has been the most consistently interesting political journal in the country. And Perry Anderson, who used to edit it and still helps direct it, has been...

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What would socialism be like?

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 March 1984

Joseph Schumpeter had a refreshing sense of socialism. For him, it had almost no fixed sense at all. ‘A society may be fully and truly socialist and yet be led by an absolute ruler or be...

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English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

The Englishness of English historians lies in their eclecticism. Few would admit to being unswerving Marxists, Freudians, Structuralists, Cliometricians, Namierites, or even Whigs. Most believe...

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