Leftist intellectual Leo Panitch died earlier this month of Covid-19.
Leo Victor Panitch, one of the intellectual pillars of the Canadian left and a leading scholar of the global depredations of neoliberalism, died Saturday from COVID-19. He was 75.
Born into a working-class Jewish family in Winnipeg in 1945, Panitch was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Distinguished Research Professor in Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York University in Toronto. He was one of the world's most respected students of the writings of Karl Marx.
His influential 2012 book, The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire, co-authored with former Canadian Auto Workers Union research director Sam Gindin, illuminated the intimate connection between modern neoliberal capitalism and the American state and argued capitalism is inherently unjust and undemocratic.
It is a bitter irony that the novel coronavirus that causes the disease that took Panitch appears to have evolved to exploit the vulnerabilities of the modern neoliberal state -- two-tier health care, low wages, precarious work, weak unions, the gig economy, each one of them nurturing the conditions that have made the spread of the virus virtually impossible to stop.
In The Making of Global Capitalism, Panitch and Gindin asserted that such institutions as the U.S. Federal Reserve and State Department were far more important in the creation of the informal postwar American empire than were the likes of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. "Capitalists, literally almost everywhere, generally acknowledged a dependence on the U.S. for establishing, guaranteeing, and managing the global framework within which they could all accumulate," they wrote. However, they argued optimistically that emerging conflicts within modern capitalist societies created the potential for new political movements that could transcend global markets kept afloat by U.S. state intervention.
In 2013 The Making of Global Capitalism won the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize for a new book published in English "which exemplifies the best and most innovative new writing in or about the Marxist tradition."
Panitch earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from the University of Manitoba in 1967. That year, at 22, he left Manitoba for England, where he earned Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees from the London School of Economics in 1968 and 1974. His doctoral thesis, The Labour Party and the Trade Unions was published by Cambridge University Press in 1976 with the title Social Democracy and Industrial Militancy. In all, Panitch was the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and nine books, and taught at Ottawa's Carleton University and at York. In addition to being a leading scholar of Marx, Panitch was a raconteur and a star of the lecture circuit, genially ready to welcome anyone to his table -- and presumably to entertain them in English, French or Yiddish, all of which he spoke. ...
Panitch was in hospital for treatment for multiple myeloma when he contracted COVID-19.