In this issue's Up for Debate, Tony Judt's posthumous book, Ill Fares the Land, serves as a provocative vehicle to discuss the simultaneous rise of neoliberalism, growing inequality, and collapse of the Euro-American Left across recent decades. In the spirit of Judt's own unapologetic, clear-eyed argument, four iconoclastic historians go after the big ideas here. According to neoconservative critic Fred Siegel, it is the Left itself that has undermined the “social solidarity” required for social democracy—first in a 1960s-1970s cult of individual expressionism and identity politics, then in a failure to discipline government spending in an era of limits. Alternatively, Alice O'Connor sees the 2008 financial collapse not only as a moment, like Judt, to “think the state again” but also to re-think the larger political economy. The slowly sinking possibilities for doing so at the national level, she concludes, will require a major act of political as well as intellectual will. In Judith Stein's view, the collapse of social democratic politics stemmed less from cultural or political causes cited by Judt than economic ones. Likewise, only close attention to the role of manufacturing (and state support for same) in undergirding economic prosperity can re-kindle majoritarian support for a politics of social provisioning. Geoff Eley points to a still-larger tableau, the changing global economy of the postwar world, to account for the drastic transformation of “political common sense” in the West. Moreover, he argues, any new politics of solidarity will need to transcend a Keynesian bubble built on subjugation of Third World workers and resources as well as reckon with revolutions of sexuality and women's empowerment, the decline of the mass political party, and environmental crisis.

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