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The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230230750
ISBN-10: 023023075X
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Editorial Reviews


"Timely and accessible, a must read for anyone interested in the competing explanations of the current financial crisis and possible solutions." -- Professor Herman M. Schwartz, University of Virginia

"A very timely, eloquent and learned introduction to the nature and causes of capitalist crises. It delivers just what students and citizens need to help navigate through these trying economic times." -- Professor Jonathon W. Moses, NTNU, Norway and Visiting Scholar, University of Washington

"A highly readable account of the current global crisis, its likely trajectories and possible consequences, embedded in a brief but informed overview of theories of capitalist crisis. I really like the book and, in particular, the clear way in which it draws out the roots of the crisis in the neo-liberal response to the collapse of Keynesianism in the 1970s." -- Professor Henk Overbeek, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
“I was particularly excited by Andrew Gamble's The Spectre at the Feast  - both a superb dissection of the economic crisis that broke last year and a profound analysis of the implications for the future. Gamble rates this as a major crisis of capitalism, comparable with those of the 1930s, the late 1970s and early 1980s. As such, it is political as well as economic, and has created an opening for new ideas, new programmes and a new politics. But the choice between these will depend on the outcome of political struggles and on the intellectual daring and tactical skill of the leaders engaged in them. The left has a better chance to escape from the iron cage of market fundamentalism than at any time in the past 30 years - provided it has the courage to seize the opportunity. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, please note. This book is a must for both men's Christmas stockings” -- David Marquand, New Statesman

“The big subject has been the recession and the financial crisis. Gillian Tett's Fool's Gold and Andrew Gamble's The Spectre at the Feast offered compelling complementary analyses” -- Peter Riddell, New Statesman

About the Author

ANDREW GAMBLE is Professor and Head of Department of Politics at University of Cambridge. His many books include Britain in Decline, The Free Economy and the Strong State and Between Europe and America also published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy of Social Sciences and was awarded the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies by the UK Political Studies Association in 2005.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023023075X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230230750
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,740,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I came to this book as someone who has always hid in the bushes whenever someone mentioned the word economics. Educated in the arts, I kind of hoped I could go through life without ever thinking about inflation or John Maynard Keynes. I would not have read this book had it not been recommended to me.

However having now read it I now feel like a bit of a wise guy.

Gamble begins by spelling out the difference between the liberal capitalism of the nineteenth century, which came to a shuddering halt in 1929, the Keynesian protectionist policies pioneered by the New Deal in the States as introduced by Roosevelt, and neo-liberalism introduced by Thatcher and Reagan and spread to the rest of the world from Britain and America which fundamentally is economics which focuses on money rather than industry, makes an industry out of finance, and is supposed to result in greater mobility of capital and unparalleled facility for growth.

Well as we all know something went wrong. Gamble rehearses the story we probably have all read a little of about how 'sub-prime' mortgages led to finance packages with no solid base which got repackaged and repackaged until no-one knew what they were dealing with and the bubble burst.

He then looks at the different shades of economic theory which might lead us forward. Along the way he explains how neo-liberalism has led to economic globalization because it all adds to the mobility of capital and developing nations have had to sign up or not get aid. He has a very interesting chapter on how the crisis has affected different countries, especially China and questions whether the USA will retain its dominance as arbiter of the world economy.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Andrew Gamble is Professor of Politics at Cambridge University. In Chapter 1 he explains how 2007's credit crunch turned into 2008's financial crash and then into 2009's global recession. In Chapter 2 he examines capitalism's crises, comparing 2007-9 to the 1930s and the 1970s and exploring various theories of crisis. Chapter 3 studies globalisation and neo-liberalism, Chapter 4 the politics of the recession and Chapter 5 the consequences for the global economy and relations between states. In Chapter 6 he asks, what is to be done?

Chapter 1 is much the best, describing the chaos of casino capitalism, which brought us debts worth 300% of our GDP. He points out that the mistake the governments made was to put banks in charge of housing low-income families.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is very conventional and academic in the worst sense. He ends by opposing national protectionism and waffles about building `a new economy', without any real plans.

He ignores the kind of new thinking that we need to rebuild our country to get out of the current mess. If we are to have a new high-speed rail network, we should be demanding that it be made in Britain, with British-made steel and British-constructed rolling stock. We should demand that the new generation of nuclear power stations be built by British workers using British technology, not by a French firm using east European labour. We should involve unemployed young workers in these projects, alongside skilled workers who can pass on their skills.

We could fund the work by using the state's controlling interest in RBS, Lloyds and Northern Rock to form a new state bank. All banks and firms should be forced to pay their taxes without recourse to offshore tax havens. These could all become demands of the trade unions in those industries, which would be far more useful than any academic disquisition about the `meaning' of crises.
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Format: Paperback
While many sectors of the economy are collapsing the output of books on the economic crisis is booming. Many are shameless attempts by an author to cash in on their expertise or background and lack the capacity to cover complicated financial and macroeconomic issues well. Quite simply put, the economic crisis has too many causes to be easily addressed in a comprehensive manner no matter how talented the author on the subject. Typically speaking the best books on finance or microeconomics focus more narrowly on a single company or deal, such as "Barbarians at the Gate" about the takeover of RJR Nabisco or "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about the Enron fiasco. Other authors take a different tack, using the crisis as an opportunity to attack particular schools of economic theory or to advance other courses of action. Professor Gamble's entry is just such a polemic, taking to task the neo-liberal economic policies from the Reagan and Thatcher era up to the present. As a political scientist it's only logical that Gamble would view the crisis as an opportunity to look at the politics of the past 30 years and argue for a rethinking of the policies of nationalization and stabilization of certain core businesses and industries. And while Gamble does present a brisk survey of the economic history of the past three decades there's precious little here in the way of original insight or specific arguments about what course of action should be taken. Gamble's prose shows the crisp writing of an academician, but in the end there's little new here to recommend it over the vast multitude of better books on the subject. Readers will ultimately enjoy or detest this book based largely on their own political ideology.
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