March 9, 2010

On Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century, by Michael A. Lebowitz

The title of this thin book is misleading. Only truly in the last chapter, which was written solely for this volume, does the author come anywhere close to discussing what a 21st century socialism would look like. And when he gets around to it, the blueprint is entirely involved with the formation of the Chavez-lead state in Venezuela.

While the left can and will take away many valuable lessons from the struggle in Venezuela, I am curious on looking for theory driving an idea behind revolution of the post-industrial service economy like the one we suffer under in the United States. Venezuela's economy was more agrarian and resource driven than the one in which we live under. While it is interesting in seeing the transition and the flux encountered by that nation, I feel that the revolution of our brothers in South American can at any time fall apart. Chavez risks becoming another Castro instead of the impetus for the creation of a democratic, socialist state.

Where my own expectation were not met may be the the failings of my own expectations. The book , however, lacks in its structure. There is no coherent whole bringing it together except for the common author and the individual chapters reflecting on the author's talking points. The six individual chapters stand alone because they were written as speeches, papers or book chapters for other sources. Putting these together with an introduction and conclusion does not a book make. There are several instances in which the essays were not edited for internal consistency. This strikes one reader as pure laziness, but I don't know at whom to point the finger. One final critique is that Lebowitz's writing style can be detached and professorial. Even though I'm sympathetic to the cause described here, and I do want to "Build It Now!", I found this book hard to get through, in spite of its brevity.