The Levelling gets some things right. O’Sullivan’s warnings of the growing debt crisis is prescient and should be listened to. His concern for the impact of social and economic inequality is also well argued. But the elephant in the room is the socio-economic model underpinning globalisation, namely neo-liberal capitalism, which O’Sullivan conspicuously avoids discussing.
Globalisation was always about much more than increased trade. Its origins lie in the liberalisation of finance and the weakening of nation states through the erosion of taxes on wealth and corporations, which in turn drove ever increasing levels of debt and inequality.
The best sections in this book by far — perhaps not surprisingly — concern economics and finance. They are really good. A close observer of the business cycle, O’Sullivan notes that the current (weak) expansion, now at 120 months, is the second longest on record. The largest economies, including the US and China, are heading towards their next natural dip and he expects a world recession next year. But, O’Sullivan argues, things are much worse than that. A real change in direction is coming...This is both a good book and a bad book. It’s a bad because it includes too many ideas as the author veers and zigzags between cascades of dazzling texts he’s been impressed by. In his comfort zone, he is very good. Out of it, less so. And yet it’s a good book for many of the same reasons — crammed with energy and ideas and unafraid to make big propositions. I read every word but my advice is, study the money chapters closely, then skim the rest.