January 27, 2007 – Perry Anderson: “Reflections on the Current Conjuncture”

WITH PANELISTS: Giovanni Arrighi, Gopal Balakrishnan, Robert Brenner, Barbara Epstein, and Wang Hui

Saturday / January 27 / 2–5 PM / Humanities Lecture Hall

In January of 2000, the New Left Review launched a new series of its journal; its orientation was outlined in Perry Anderson’s analytical and programmatic essay “Renewals.” The essay took stock of the state of capital, and of opposition to it, at the close of the decade that had witnessed the collapse of the USSR and its allied regimes, the indisputable rise of China as a new economic power, and the consolidation of the global neoliberal order. It suggested that an engagement with the period demanded recognition of a terrain that had shifted in major ways since the time of the journal’s founding in the early 1960s. While some on the left criticized the move for its seeming abandonment of a revolutionary agenda, Anderson’s essay held that an intellectual journal’s “first commitment must be to an accurate description of the world, no matter what its bearing on morale might be.” Indeed, noting that the advance of neo-liberalism through the 1990s met with almost no resistance world-wide, Anderson commented:

No collective agency able to match the power of capital is yet on the horizon. We are at a time, as genetic engineering looms, when the only revolutionary force capable of disturbing its equilibrium appears to be scientific progress itself—the forces of production, so unpopular with Marxists convinced of the primacy of relations of production when a socialist movement was still alive. But if the human energies for a change of system are ever released again, it will be from within the metabolism of capitalism itself. We cannot turn away from it.

In his writing since “Renewals,” Anderson has maintained that the consolidation he described had remained fundamentally unshaken, that neo-conservatism was not a repudiation of neo-liberalism, but its continuation. In this symposium, we take stock of the present state of capitalism, its opposing forces, and the intellectual and theoretical agenda that the present age requires, through a reconsideration of “Renewals.”

All audience members are requested to read “Renewals” prior to the event. It can be accessed at http://www.newleftreview.net/A2092

The symposium will begin with some remarks by Perry Anderson followed by our panelists’ comments, and then a discussion with audience members and panelists.


Perry Anderson is an editor of New Left Review and Professor of History at UCLA. His most recent book is Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas (Verso, 2005). His book of interviews with Jean-Paul Sartre has just been reissued.

Giovanni Arrighi is Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins. His The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (Verso, 1994) is a major work in world-systems history and theory. He has also written widely on the rise of East Asia. His book Adam Smith in Beijing is forthcoming.

Gopal Balakrishnan is Associate Professor in the History of Consciousness department at UCSC and writes on intellectual history and political economy. His current project is a book on war and inter-state relations.

Robert Brenner is Professor of History at UCLA, and writes on economic history and political economy. His 2006 The Economics of Global Turbulence (Verso) is an analysis of the contemporary character of global capitalism.

Barbara Epstein is Professor in the History of Consciousness department at UCSC and a historian of social movements. She is currently completing a book on Jewish communist anti-Nazi resistance in Minsk.

Wang Hui is Professor of History at Qinghua University in Beijing.

This symposium is part of the year-long event series in the final year of the Rockefeller-funded Other Globalizations program at the Center for Cultural Studies.