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Towards the Precipice

Robert Brenner: The Continuing Collapse of the US Economy, 6 February 2003

... programme and, in particular, the agenda of the great banks. Under the watchful supervision of Robert Rubin, who, having been CEO at Goldman Sachs, was made Clinton’s Treasury Secretary in 1993, the already disintegrating barriers between investment banks, commercial banks and insurance companies – originally erected by the New Deal, in response to the ...

Maurice Thomson’s War

Perry Anderson, 4 November 1993

Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict and London’s Overseas Traders 1550-1653 
by Robert Brenner.
Cambridge, 734 pp., £40, March 1993, 0 521 37319 0
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The Nature of the English Revolution 
by John Morrill.
Longman, 466 pp., £32, June 1993, 0 582 08941 7
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... Merchants and Revolution, dedicated to Stone, comprehensively overturns that judgment. Its author, Robert Brenner, belongs to that rare group of historians who have given their name to a whole literature – the ‘Brenner Debate’ on the origins of agrarian capitalism in Europe recalling the ‘Pirenne Thesis’ of ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen, 28 January 2010

Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... challenged, especially by historians working in the Marxist tradition, from E.P. Thompson to Robert Brenner; and the old technological determinism was already giving way to very different interpretations of Marx. Cohen’s account of Marx’s theory of history, for all its ‘analytic’ refinements and ‘functional’ explanations, in the end ...

How Much Is Too Much?

Benjamin Kunkel: Marx’s Return, 3 February 2011

The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism 
by David Harvey.
Profile, 296 pp., £14.99, April 2010, 978 1 84668 308 4
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A Companion to Marx’s ‘Capital’ 
by David Harvey.
Verso, 368 pp., £10.99, March 2010, 978 1 84467 359 9
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... David Harvey’s Limits to Capital (1982), Giovanni Arrighi’s Long 20th Century (1994) and Robert Brenner’s Economics of Global Turbulence (2006), all expressly concerned with the grinding tectonics and punctual quakes of capitalist crisis. Yet little trace of this literature, by Marx or his successors, has surfaced even among the more ...

Nation-States and National Identity

Perry Anderson, 9 May 1991

The Identity of France. Vol. II: People and Production 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sian Reynolds.
Collins, 781 pp., £25, December 1990, 0 00 217774 9
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... backwardness of the French countryside down to Bloch’s own time.Some fifty years later, Robert Brenner was to develop the kernel of Bloch’s insight into a magisterial comparative analysis of the variant property relations thrown up by class struggles on the land across Europe, and their consequences for the development of agrarian capitalism ...


Perry Anderson, 6 July 1989

A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. II: Substantive Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 493 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 521 24959 7
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... Roman society (Chris Wickham), of capitalist farming from the unravelling of English manorialism (Robert Brenner) – all innovations of central importance to Runciman’s own account of social evolution. But there is nothing specific to historical materialism in such enquiries. Perhaps the greatest modern example of one is Peter Brown’s masterpiece ...

Short Cuts

Donald MacKenzie: Wall Street’s Fear Gauge, 25 January 2018

... Making simplifying assumptions of the kind common in economics, Fischer Black, Myron Scholes and Robert C. Merton devised an elegant way of doing just that. Their mathematical model of options prices was quickly picked up by options traders, who started to use it in Chicago’s crowded trading pits. In so doing, they changed patterns of options prices (which ...

Forgive us our debts

Benjamin Kunkel: The History of Debt, 10 May 2012

Paper Promises: Money, Debt and the New World Order 
by Philip Coggan.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, December 2011, 978 1 84614 510 0
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Debt: The First 5000 Years 
by David Graeber.
Melville House, 534 pp., £21.99, July 2011, 978 1 933633 86 2
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... dynamics, so it has fallen mainly to Marxian thinkers to search for the causes of ebbing growth. Robert Brenner has adduced overcapacity in international manufacturing as the trigger of a systemic slowdown starting in 1973. Others have pointed to ‘the rising organic composition of capital’ or – a related phenomenon – the dwindling economic ...

Confronting Defeat

Perry Anderson: Hobsbawm’s Histories, 17 October 2002

... be put on them. Yet they remain conventional, and surprisingly unaffected by contrary indications. Robert Brenner has shown, pretty conclusively, how little the onset of the Slump in America can be explained by wage repression, or the end of the postwar boom by wage explosion. He has also proposed a genuine theoretical explanation, of the kind Kondratiev ...

Images of Displeasure

Nicholas Spice, 22 May 1986

If not now, when? 
by Primo Levi, translated by William Weaver.
Joseph, 331 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2668 8
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The Afternoon Sun 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 297 78822 1
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August in July 
by Carlo Gebler.
Hamish Hamilton, 188 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11787 9
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... outside ourselves of all that is bad in the world and in us. In The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil called this process the making of ‘displeasure-images’, and identified it as ‘part of the oldest psychotechnical apparatus mankind possesses’. Together with our tendency to take things figuratively, this is the mechanism which complies with ...

New-Model History

Valerie Pearl, 7 February 1980

The City and the Court 1603-1643 
by Robert Ashton.
Cambridge, 247 pp., £10.50, September 1980, 0 521 22419 5
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... Indies – a ‘free trade’ lobby which greatly expanded in the 1620s and 1630s. As Professor Brenner has shown in his valuable thesis, Commercial Change and Political Conflict (1970), which is not used by the author, the number of settlers grew from around 1000 in the early 17th century to about 30,000 by 1640. In these markets, the City ‘free ...

You Dying Nations

Jeremy Adler: Georg Trakl, 17 April 2003

Poems and Prose 
by Georg Trakl, translated by Alexander Stillmark.
Libris, 192 pp., £40, March 2001, 1 870352 51 3
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... inheritance – 100,000 Austrian crowns – to Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of the journal Der Brenner, to be shared out between worthy poets. When Ficker chose Georg Trakl as one beneficiary, Wittgenstein said that he didn’t understand Trakl’s poems, but felt they bore the stamp of ‘genius’. In the autumn Wittgenstein was serving on the Eastern ...


Francis Spufford, 3 May 1984

... burnt it, it was destroyed when the new tenants arrived shortly after he drove away across the Brenner Pass. They turfed everything out of the house – furniture, carpets, pictures – into the home meadow to rot, and ran past the heap each morning in singlets before breakfasting and folding away the camp beds. Later on the new tenants ran a black ...

Fed up with Ibiza

Jenny Turner: Sybille Bedford, 1 April 2021

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 432 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 1 78474 113 6
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... from Germany to Italy, from her father to her mother: ‘The train crossed the Alps over the Brenner Pass and on its slow descent I had the first sight on a September morning of a southern sky and light, and took to it with the alert joy of a creature born in and emerging from the north.’ Max and Lisa had finalised their divorce three years earlier and ...

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