Daniel Šitera: On New Travels in Space-Time: Theoretical Rediscoveries after the Crisis in (Comparative) Capitalism(s)

New Directions in Comparative Capitalisms Research

By Daniel Šitera

Using the ‘travelling theory’ paradigm, this article reviews two progressive books in the Comparative Capitalisms (CC) scholarship; New Directions in Comparative Capitalisms Research: Critical and Global Perspectives (eds.: Matthias Ebenau, Ian Bruff & Christian May) and The Future of Capitalism After the Financial Crisis: The Varieties of Capitalism Debate in the Age of Austerity (eds.: Richard Westra, Dennis Badeen & Robert Albritton).

I surveyed both volumes as metaphorical Baedekers of capitalism which invite us, the travelers-researchers, to (re)discover forgotten as well as new horizons of inter-spatial and -temporal travelling (i) within the intellectual realms of CC agenda and (ii) across the unlimited span of capitalism’s geo-historical landscapes of regulation. These Baedekers contain commonly accepted features of true guidebooks such as “maps and introductions; [and] information about routes and travel facilities.”[1] And thus, both volumes urge us to reevaluate our mapping of ever globalizing capitalism, while introducing us simultaneously into its unceasing socio-spatio-temporal diversity. For that purpose, they inform us about forgotten as well as new intellectual routes and facilities that might ease our own positioning strategies in producing knowledge in CC scholarship and about capitalism itself. All this allows to conclude that both pieces pass the test of ‚travelling theory‘ because they reinvigorate the radical potential of contemporary CC field to critically engage with capitalism across the globe; including the engagement with new empirical discoveries in the post-socialist capitalisms of Central and Eastern Europe.

However, I sympathetically warn the historical/critical-materialist core of both volumes against tracing capitalism solely at its worst. Such a tendency translates into an overstretched pessimism which undermines the pedagogical potential of both projects because they potentially navigate us to intellectual dead ends. Instead, I suggest that the critical research could devote more systematic attention to the equally important quest for actually existing (emancipatory) alternatives to and within (neoliberal) capitalism. This could make the critical accounts more resonant with wider audience and simultaneously resilient in the face of unsympathetic criticism.

  • This is Daniel Šitera’s teaser for his article On New Travels in Space-Time: Theoretical Rediscoveries after the Crisis in (Comparative) Capitalism(s) that has appeared in the latest issue of the New Perspectives

[1] See e.g., – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1975/09/22/the-house-of-baedeker and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baedeker