from 25 june 2006
blue volV, #8
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The Economics of Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movements
by Derek Wall
from Pluto Press
ISBN: 0745323901 / Paperback

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Babylon & Beyond:
The Economics of Anti-Capitalist,
Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movements

by Derek Wall

Babylon and Beyond is a modern guidebook to the complicated terrain of alternatives to global capitalism. Derek Wall explains and summarises the rich variety of theories available within the anti-capitalist movement.

[editors note - BlueGreenEarth / European Social Ecology Institute will be reviewing this book soon]

"A thoughtful and inspiring guide to capitalism and anti-capitalism. This really is the first book that carefully explains the different varieties of anti-capitalist thought ... I thoroughly recommend that you read Babylon and Beyond."
- Caroline Lucas, MEP

"There are far too many books on anti-capitalism out there already - but with Babylon and Beyond, Derek Wall has removed the need to read most of them. Just read this one: a succinct, intelligent and witty summary of what it's all about." - Paul Kingsnorth, author of One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement

"A synthesis of Red and Green is the future of progressive politics. Wall illuminates the interface of ecological and socialist ideas; divining common threads and offering the hope of a democratic, just and sustainable future for humankind." - Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Babylon and Beyond provides the first clear and accessible guide to the economics of anti-capitalism. Anti-capitalism is a diverse movement: critics accuse it of knowing what it is against, but not knowing what it is for. Anti-capitalists want radical change, but what shape should that change take?

The truth is that different sections of the movement advocate distinct - sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory - programmes for change. This book concentrates on perhaps the most divisive issue of all in the anti-capitalist struggle: how to transform the economy.

There are greens who think we must hold back economic growth and Marxists who believe the economy must move forward along capitalist lines before there can be revolutionary change; there are those who remain faithful to notions of collective or state ownership of all aspects of the economy, and those who think various kinds of reform or regulation of capitalist practice is more appropriate.

Babylon and Beyond is a modern guidebook to the complicated terrain of alternatives to global capitalism. Derek Wall explains and summarises the rich variety of theories available within the anti-capitalist movement. Chapters cover Marxism, Autonomism, Anarchism, Ecosocialism, Capitalist reformers (like George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz), Green localists (like Colin Hines), and others. Unique in its coverage, clear and accessible, the book is ideal for activists, and anyone who is trying to find a useful way forward.


Foreword: Nandor Tanczos
1 Warm Conspiracies and Cold Concepts
2 Vaccinating against Anti-Capitalism: Stiglitz, Soros and Friends
3 White Collar Global Crime Syndicate: Korten, Klein and other Anti-Corporates
4 Small is Beautiful: Green Localism
5 Planet Earth Money Martyred: Social Credit and Monetary Reform
6 Imperialism Unlimited: Marxisms
7 The Tribe of Moles: Autonomism, Anarchism and Empire
8 Marx on the Seashore: Ecosocialist Alternatives
9 Life After Capitalism: Alternatives, Structures, Strategies

Babylon and Beyond

Richard Scrase interviews green economist, Derek Wall, about his latest book:

What were you trying to achieve by writing Babylon and Beyond?

Scientists say that the great apes will all by extinct by 2051, I'm a great ape, so pretty much everything I do, from joining the Party 25 years ago to my religious stuff to my interest in Marx to writing, is motivated by the struggle to get to another green world where our survival is not under threat. Well I suppose the clich? is to show that another world is possible! So many of the books I read on anti-capitalism seemed a bit tame, we really have to realise that even without Bush and Blair we have a whole civilisation where money runs everything. And as Bob Dylan used to say "money doesn't talk, it swears". We worship the economy, if something makes cash it is seen to be good, if not forget it. So I really wanted to talk about a different way of doing things.

It also has a more straightforward purpose as a kind of "everything you wanted to know about anti-capitalism but were afraid to ask". Since the Seattle World Trade talks thousands have taken to the streets to protest but what do anti-capitalists believe. I have tried to outline as clearly as possible the different forms of anti-capitalism on offer. I move through the anti-capitalist capitalists George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz through to autonomist 'anarchists', social creditors/monetary reformers, ecosocialists and Caroline Lucas with her green alternatives to globalisation has virtually a whole chapter. Incidentally the book has a very nice photo of Caroline being carried off by the police, thanks Caroline!

Your book presents and explains a wide variety of anti-capitalist thought, but says less about the possibility of taming capital by regulation, the social-democratic road to sustainability. Why is that?

Well, I think the essence for me of green politics is to say we live in a system that cannot do without continual economic growth, unfortunately from peak oil to climate change to the rain-forests and maybe a dozen other ecological issues such growth is incompatible with the basic physical realities of our planet. So for good or for ill Green politics is rather more revolutionary than social democracy. The key is to come up with transitional policies that start to shift the world in the direction of a new ecological dynamic, not just to manage the chaos. I think that this is something that we do in the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society and I have talked about in some depth in earlier books like Getting There - steps to a Green Society.

Regulating supermarkets to take a one example is good, having worker/consumer localised food markets is a better step, expanding the 'for-free permaculture' that has existed on this planet for thousands of years better still.

I met a man recently who has just started a car-pool in Yeovil and he was relieved to share the responsibility and hassle of ownership. I enjoyed your account of various times and instances when people have voluntarily come together into collectives, but could you not have found more examples existing today of people sharing things in common?

I think this is a definite weakness of the book, the open source principle which is a very big deal was something that I only learnt about about three weeks from finishing. Car pooling is another example. However the principle of prosperity without GNP growth means that through social sharing we can have access to some very nice things without having to work so hard, worry over possessions or waste resources, may be even cars.

My next book, (and I am looking for a publisher who can do large picture books and isn't afraid of a creative commons license (so people can photocopy the whole thing!)) is going to be Shopping without Money: A reader in very alternative economics which will be an encyclopaedia of open source, perm culture, commons regimes, and so on.

One of the problems I personally have with alternatives to capitalism is I see little evidence that these alternatives can deliver the goods. I'm writing this message on a computer produced by one corporation, my broadband connection is provided by another corporation (although it has to be said that it relies on a BT infrastructure that was originally in public ownership). The food in my kitchen was transported into London in the vehicles made by yet another company and so on. How can these leviathans be brought under control? Public ownership in the old state-corporatist model?

Open source shows that we don't have to have big government pushing us around or the unlimited free market. We have to tame the market and as Karl Polanyi argues, to embed it in local communities, and we need to start expanding the parts of the economy which are beyond the government and market. I know people who build pcs from bits, I get most of my vegetables from the farmers market, open source free software such as the Mozilla browser or open office is much better than microsoft.

And Libraries are great, don't buy my book, order it from the library, these are a state institution that needs strongly defending and expanding, why not libraries for virtually everything?

Practically a crusade against Tescos and the other big supermarkets is something the Green Party should be doing but both Waitrose and the Co-op are utopian institutions owned respectively by the workers and the consumers! There is so much moving in South America, Naomi Klein's film The Take is about workers taking over bankrupt factories including Argentina's largest ceramics firm Zenon. One day they might make your pc.

Your explanation of how banks create money was a delight. The Green Party always seems to struggle to pay for those bits of the economy we cannot do without. I wonder, and I'm being serious here, do you think our party should set up an 'open-source' bank/building society/credit co-op, to make homes and jobs for people without making a profit, and also help people out of debt-slavery?

Well tricky slippery stuff money - it is essentially created out of nothing, so there is some scope for the community to create it rather than the banks. According to the Economist there is already an open source banking service that brings borrowers and lenders together called ZOPA and Smile has its virtues along with Tridos. But you can't print too much or you have inflation, equally none of the stuff is clean, we need to do more without cash.

At times your argument wanders from the world of scientific materialism into the italism of Rastafarianism and Zen. There is a long tradition of anti-materialism in Christianity but you seem to prefer italism, why is that? And do you think society requires a spiritual or religious component to transform itself?

I am devoted to Zen and sit every week in South London. However this is a very materialistic pursuit not in the greed sense but in the sense of being rooted in the material world. The poet William Blake who saw angels in Peckham, said that "everything that lives is holy" but most of us are trying to escape our beautiful world. The idea of spirit versus matter is an evil to me, religion that preaches that we should escape from a world of original sin is wrong. Likewise the insane pursuit of ego whether a new car or even wanting to be Britain's first Green MP can become a prison. So I am not interested in whether god exists or not and I am a materialist but practical forms of paganism are essential to me. Italism is great, there are some amazing green strains in Rastafarianism and other African/Carribbean religions but the black contribution is almost always written out of history.

And lastly, the what next question. Another book? teaching people using this one?

Well Shopping without money would be fun and I always enjoy teaching, I would like to do more in the Green Party. I am always afraid that we lose the big picture and get absorbed in internal argument and wheely bins. However as the German novelist Heinrich Boll said, "the Greens are our only hope". The Green Party is vital because it makes people rethink capitalism in a way no other party does, fighting elections and canvassing gets ideas across. We can't wait until 2046 to get into government, which only gives us five years to save the apes, we have to change things now and I want to be part of this change.

Babylon and Beyond, the economics of anti-capatalist, anti-globalist and radical green movements by Derek Wall. Printed by Pluto Press

And please ask your library to order it!

– Review: Derek Wall

About the Author

Derek Wall is the author of five books including Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement (Routledge, 1999) and, with Penny Kemp, A Green Manifesto for the 1990s (Penguin, 1990). He teaches Political Economy at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

He has a Blog at

Another Green World

"How to be green? Many people have asked us this important question. It's really very simple and requires no expert knowledge or complex skills. Here's the answer. Consume less. Share more. Enjoy life." - Penny Kemp and Derek Wall

This blog by Derek Wall, a member of the Green Party since 1980 (Ecology Party then!), promotes anti-capitalism, green politics, direct action, practical lifestyle change, Venezuela/Cuba and a touch of Zen. Ecosocialism or muerte!

About Pluto Press

Pluto Press has a proud history of publishing the very best in progressive, critical thinking across politics and the social sciences. We are an independent company based in London, with a sales and marketing office in the United States and distribution rights throughout the world.

Pluto Press has always had a radical political agenda. Founded in 1969 as a publishing arm of International Socialism, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK, in 1979 we broke with this political affiliation and became truly independent. Today, we represent authors from a wide range of progressive political viewpoints. With over 550 titles in print, Pluto Press is one of the world's leading radical book publishers. We publish more than 70 new titles each year.

We commission the best in critical, progressive writing that bridges trade and academic markets, and our authors include many of the world's leading thinkers, past and present. We publish political classics by writers including Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Leon Trotsky, Frantz Fanon, Andre Gorz, Manning Marable, Jack London and Antonio Gramsci. Contemporary political writers and voices of conscience include Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, Ariel Dorfman, Susan George, John Pilger, Ziauddin Sardar, Israel Shahak, Greg Palast, Milan Rai, William Rivers Pitt, Boris Kagarlitsky, Robin Hahnel, Saul Landau, Sheila Rowbotham, Peter Fryer, Joseph Rotblat, Frank Füredi, Eduardo Galeano and Vandana Shiva. We also have a fine list of European literature in translation that includes Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem and Pierre Bourdieu.

Our strengths are in the fields of politics, current affairs, international studies, Middle East studies, political theory, media studies, anthropology and development.

The political climate that resulted from the events of 11th September 2001 has had an immense impact on our publishing programme. Now, more than ever, we find that there is an appetite for dissenting opinion that challenges the mainstream. We are increasingly publishing in the area of Islamic studies - some of it in translation - to enable writers from outside the West to be read more widely in the English-language world.

Pluto Press also works closely with several small independent American publishers. We have a long-standing and very fruitful partnership with South End Press, sharing rights on many titles, and we distribute the South End Press list in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Following the success of this relationship, in 2003 we were delighted to become the distributor for three more successful, independent publishing houses: Autonomedia, Ocean Press and Paradigm Publishers


RA - Robert Allen
TB - Tim Barton
SB - Steve Booth
ED - Éanna Dowling
EV - Eric Valencic
CG - Chellis Glendinning
RR - Rob Ray

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