Back to the ‘30s?

Recurring Crises of Capitalism, Liberalism, and Democracy

Editors: Rayner, J., Falls, S., Souvlis, G., Nelms, T.C. (Eds.)

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  • A timely investigation of comparisons between contemporary sociopolitical life and the 1930s, a salient feature of contemporary public debate
  • Covers a wide swath of geographies, topics, and disciplines to provide a multifaceted and scholarly understanding of our relationship to the ‘30s
  • Raises fundamental theoretical questions about the temporality of global capitalism, the meaning of historical materialism, and the limits of liberalism
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About this book

The essays in this volume address the question: what does it mean to understand the contemporary moment in light of the 1930s?  In the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and facing a dramatic rise of right wing, authoritarian politics across the globe, the events of the 1930s have acquired a renewed relevance. Contributions from a diverse, interdisciplinary group of scholars address the relationship between these historical moments in various geographical contexts, from Asia-Pacific to Europe to the Americas, while probing an array of thematic questions—the meaning of populism and fascism, the contradictions of constitutional liberalism and “militant democracy,” long cycles and crisis tendencies in capitalism, the gendering and racialization of right wing movements, and the cultural and class politics of emancipatory struggles. Uncovering continuity as well as change and repetition in the midst of transition, Back to the 30s? enriches our ability to use the past to evaluate the challenges, dangers, and promises of the present.  

About the authors

Jeremy Rayner is on the faculty of the Center for Public Economics and Strategic Sectors at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, in Quito, Ecuador.

Susan Falls teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design, USA, and is the author of Overshot: The Political Aesthetic of Textiles (with J. Smith, 2020) and White Gold: Stories of Breast Milk Sharing (2017).

George Souvlis is a teaching fellow in history and sociology at the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece. He is the author of Voices on the Left (2019).

Taylor Nelms, Senior Director of Research at the Filene Research Institute, USA, is co-editor of Journal of Cultural Economy and A Cultural History of Money in the Modern Age (forthcoming).


“All history is contemporary history. But very few historians self-consciously explicate what this might mean. Translating the dictum into concretely focused investigations is rarer still. Pressing beyond the facile analogies and over-hasty comparisons, this finely conceived volume demonstrates carefully and persuasively how exactly Europe's interwar crises can help us to think effectively about the present.”

—Geoff Eley, Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History, University of Michigan, USA

 “Breaking with the schematic and formalistic approach that dominates much of social science, this volume applies the resources of critical theory to a wide range of case studies to generate new insights into the current moment. A must read for anyone interested in contemporary politics.”

—Dylan Riley, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, USA

 “By juxtaposing the last decade of global politics with the decade that followed the New York Stock Exchange crash of 1929, Back to the 30s? piles up parallels between fascism's golden age and the most recent rise of authoritarianism. Masterfully compiled, this book offers a compelling socio-political thesis, an exceptional collection of analyses, and a keen sensitivity to history's most important questions. Its strong emphasis on the Global South, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Australia, and the European periphery lends it a unique force and relevance. All readers interested in the rise of international right-wing populism and neo-fascism will want this on their shelf.”

—Nitzan Lebovic, Associate Professor of History, Lehigh University, USA

 “Comparing the 1930s to the 2010s, through a multidisciplinary approach applied to a variety of cases, this very interesting collection helps to understand today's Gramscian Interregnum by pointing to the interrelation of specific forms of capitalist accumulation and authoritarian political turns, as well as to counter-hegemonic practices.”

—Donatella Della Porta, Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy

 “Amidst the maelstrom of financial emergencies, violent institutional readjustments, hegemonic crises and exploding counter-hegemonic alternatives, the first decades of the twenty-first century have invited direct comparisons with the ‘dark’ 1930s. Mapping critical insights from, while also underlining caveats that inhere in, historical analogies between the two moments offers a much-needed corrective to the extremes of historical uniqueness or the notion of a ‘back to the 1930s’ déjà vu. This uniquely wide-ranging and intellectually prolific volume provides so much more that a collection of diverse methodological and geographic perspectives on the merits and limits of historical parallelism. Collectively, the twenty contributions chart ways in which the experience of the 1930s can be productively summoned to inform both critiques and validations of a historically analogous perspective no matter how distinctive and different the current moment may be.”

—Aristotle Kallis, Professor of Modern & Contemporary History, Keele University

 “Capitalism and liberal democracy are once again in crisis. What can we learn about our future and the possibilities for mass action from looking back at the 1930s? The authors of this volume provide insightful and penetrating answers by examining rightwing movements of the 1930s and today in a variety of countries and by exploring the role of ideas in shaping peoples’ understandings of their historical moments and in inspiring both action and resignation. This volume will spur new thinking and can help left activists gain a better understanding of where to focus their energies.”

—Richard Lachman, Professor of Sociology, University of Albany, State University of New York, USA

Table of contents (20 chapters)

Table of contents (20 chapters)
  • Introduction: Back to the 30s?

    Pages 1-34

    Rayner, Jeremy (et al.)

  • The Spectre of the 1930s

    Pages 37-54

    Gandesha, Samir

  • Reading Contemporary Latin America in the Light of the 1930s: Cycles of Accumulation and the Politics of Passive Revolution

    Pages 55-74

    Rayner, Jeremy

  • Organic Crisis and Counter-Hegemonic Responses in the Interwar Era and the Era of Memoranda in Greece

    Pages 75-96

    Souvlis, George (et al.)

  • The State of Capitalism and the Rise of the Right in the 1930s and Today: Hungary as a Case Study

    Pages 97-110

    Pogátsa, Zoltán

Buy this book

eBook $89.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-030-41586-0
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase Institutional customers should get in touch with their account manager
Hardcover $119.99
price for USA

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Back to the ‘30s?
Book Subtitle
Recurring Crises of Capitalism, Liberalism, and Democracy
  • Jeremy Rayner
  • Susan Falls
  • George Souvlis
  • Taylor C Nelms
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG
eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN
Edition Number
Number of Pages
XXVII, 421
Number of Illustrations
16 b/w illustrations, 18 illustrations in colour