Vijay Prashad: The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

Author:Nilsen, Alf Gunvald
Position:Book review

Vijay Prashad The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, Verso: London, 2012; 304 pp: 9781844679522, 16.99 [pounds sterling] (hbk)

With The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, Vijay Prashad concludes his project of 'telling the history of the contemporary world (the past hundred years) from the standpoint of the South' (see Prashad 2013)--a project that started with his seminal study of the third world project, The Darker Nations: A Biography of the Short-Lived Third World (Prashad 2007). In fact, The Poorer Nations flows from the author's sense of dissatisfaction with the prequel's conclusion, which, according to him, 'was told in haste and ... appeared to be without a dynamic that led any further, [implying] that there was no hope for the rejuvenation of a Southern agenda' (Prashad 2013).

This shortcoming is amply rectified in the volume under review, which subjects the decline of the third world project as a radical force, its many and contradictory metamorphoses during the 1980s and 1990s, the current rise of the BRICS states, and the proliferation of popular resistance to neoliberalism in the global South to a discerning analysis. Admittedly, Prashad covers very familiar terrain in this book: the decline of the post-Second World War capitalist order, in which market forces were embedded in regimes of state intervention and regulation; and the rise to global hegemony of the neoliberal project. However, it is singularly to his credit that he manages to do so in a genuinely original way, which brings to light aspects of this trajectory that are far too often neglected in the extant Marxist literature on the subject.

Prashad's point of departure is the unraveling of the third world project in the context of the political and economic crisis of post-Second World War capitalism dubbed here 'Northern Atlantic Liberalism' (p. 15)--during the 1970s. This was not, Prashad argues, merely the effect of the internal contradictions of the third world project--which were dissected and discussed at length in The Darker Nations--but the result of a coordinated offensive by the G7 powers to advance a project of neoliberal restructuring. This offensive was multi-pronged: it did not just target the third world project, but also the Communist bloc and the remaining vestiges of social democracy in western Europe. It entailed a change of guard in international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, as well as in...

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