The Default Line

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Faisal Islam, Head of Zeus, £15.99

It's now over half a decade since the "credit crunch" hit in 2007. Despite talk from the Financial Times that the global economy is "back on track", the reality remains one of depressed growth and austerity. Britain's economy is still 2.5 percent smaller than it was before the recession and workers' living standards continue to be attacked.

Faisal Islam's latest book, The Default Line is both a chronicle of the global crisis and an attempt to analyse its roots. The book is written as a series of frontline dispatches from key flashpoints in the crisis. He takes us on a tour that begins with the European Central Bank (ECB) frantically sending shipments of Euro banknotes to Athens to avoid a run on the banks and ends with the banking crash in Cyprus.

Islam opens the book by stating that "Economics is not meteorology", deriding the idea that crises "befall helpless nations" just like natural disasters. This is a welcome break with mainstream economics, which presents the "market" as a force of nature. Bourgeois commentators constantly talk about the "market doing this or that". It may seem that the "market" is an entity unto itself, but it is actually the coming together of products created by human labour that has come to dominate the lives of workers.

But this is where Islam's analysis falls down. For him economics is about "choices", which are "made on our behalf by politicians or central banks".Indeed, he dedicates his book to the "incompetence of the generation of European political leaders born in the 50s and 60s" whom he primarily blames for taking us to the edge of the "default line".

This means he doesn't understand the underlying causes of the crisis, which is rooted in a falling rate of profit. Whilst the likes of Alan Greenspan, former Chair of the US Federal Reserve, played a major role in stoking stock market bubbles, capitalism does not go into crisis because of bad decisions made by irresponsible politicians or rogue traders.

Islam's analysis leads him to bizarre conclusions. At one point he asserts that the Eurozone crisis is a "diplomatic game", nothing to do with a crisis of capitalism. If only Germany was willing to spend its reserves on supporting the "comparably trivial" problems in Greece and Ireland and force Rome and Madrid to increase competitiveness, then the Euro could be a success!

To his credit, Islam presents it as a human drama; while focusing on the politicians and bankers whose choices he blames for the crisis, he also talks about ordinary people. But in his drama workers are essentially passive, and he dismisses the abiltiy of labour to fight back against austerity, the logic of which he partially accepts.

The Default Line is available from Bookmarks bookshop.