In this issue
readers are invited to consider the results of an original and provocative theoretical project that has taken place over the past three years in a seminar on âsubjects of economyâ at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. As Julie Graham and Jack Amariglio explain in their introduction to the symposium, the Subjects of Economy project emerged in relation to two other projects: the rereading of Marx that has been the focus of the Association for Economic and Social Analysis for the past 25 years, and the theorizing of economic difference pioneered by the Community Economies Collective. What has been distinctive about the work of both groups from the very beginning is their emphasis on the social performativity and ontological constitutivity of discourse, which has been linked in turn to the goal of creating new spaces to envision and create nonexploitative, collective forms of economy and social being. What was missing, however, was a theorization of the subject that went beyond the poststructuralist destabilizing of identity, a conception of the active âwhoâ engaged in political practices and projects of economic and social transformation. The participants discovered that psychoanalysis, particularly the Lacanian tradition, served as a âway inâ to the threefold task of imagining spaces of ethical and political possibility, recognizing the obstacles to the emergence of subjects capable of actualizing such possibilities, and bringing into beingâfor example, by âtraversing the fantasyââsubjects that seek to affirm and perform communist practices.
Situated squarely within this problematic, Yahya Madra seeks to affirm an âaxiom of communismâ as a new frame of class justice through a critique of two ongoing debates: one concerning the ethics of class justice, the other involving subjectivity. For Madra, participants on both sides of the ethics debateâin which exploitation is seen either as âsocial theftâ (Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff) or as a form of âexclusionâ (Stephen Cullenberg and George DeMartino)âconceptualize the injustice of exploitation as the violation of a natural right, and therefore as the âviolent betrayal of the originary unity of the transcendental subject.â And while Madra sees the subjectivity debate (including the work of Jack Amariglio, Antonio Callari, David Ruccio, and Jonathan Diskin), according to which different class structures are associated with different forms of subjectivation, as representing a break from the singular ontology presumed within the ethics of class injustice, it fails to move beyond a multiplicity of ontological projects. Madra formulates a way out of the impasse created by both debates by invoking the terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis: when ethics is interpreted in terms of sexual differenceâin particular, when the feminine logic of non-all is used to rethink class analysisâit becomes possible to see communism as a break from the ontological project of the capitalist-all and of inaugurating a radically new ontological orientation. Finally, Madra utilizes this reformulation of the axiom of equality announced in the Critique of the Gotha Programââfrom each according to their ability, to each according to their needsââto challenge the terms of the current Social Security debate in the United States. The communist axiom requires a break from defining social security in terms of a deferred exchange or personal retirement plan, which makes capitalist restructuring inevitable, and understanding it instead as a matter of communal responsibility, according to which social security payments âshould be financed from the already appropriated surplus.â
Ceren ĂzselĂ§uk, for her part, borrows the concepts of melancholy and mourning from Freudian psychoanalysis as a way of moving beyond the political closures associated with identities of injury and loss and formulating a new, more productive relationship among affective attachments, identity politics, and class transformation. For the Left, identity politics are a problem to the extent that they forestall the possibility of resubjectivation, and with it the capacity to act, when âwounded attachmentsâ become complicit in reproducing the conditions of marginalization and powerlessnessâas, for example, when, in the face of economic restructuring, working-class struggles born of ressentiment lead to a ânostalgic defense of a threatened worker identity.â But if it is arrogant to simply dismiss or ignore narratives of injury, ĂzselĂ§uk is interested in positing a âspontaneous interdependencyâ between working through such losses and a noncapitalist resubjectivation. For the affects of loss to become productive, it is necessary to distinguish melancholy (a paralyzing attachment to loss) from mourning (understood as a productive articulation that integrates the loss into a transformed structure of identity). This allows ĂzselĂ§uk to diversify the politics of loss and to imagine a different kind of identity politics, in which the process of mourning is also a process of resubjectivation. It also allows her, in the context of a project of âpoststructuralist action researchâ with workers from state-owned enterprises in Turkey that were undergoing privatization, to see the workersâ defense of a âpublic economyâ and their aversion to self-governance as a complicated affair: representing both the emergence of a new form of collective economy and, at the same time, a lack of wanting to radically rethink and reconstruct the public economy. For ĂzselĂ§uk, this reinforces the Marxist idea that the class language of communism needs to incorporate both an economic definition (collective appropriation of the surplus) and a political one (the revolutionary activity of resubjectivation).
Ken Byrne and Stephen Healy also find a certain complementarity between Marxian theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis; each contributes to a left politics of social transformation by (from Marxian class analysis) depicting a diverse class landscape and imagining forms of social being beyond exploitation and (from Lacan) seeking to unsettle people's fantasies, thereby âarriving at a different relationship to fantasy.â Byrne and Healy understand fantasy not in the usual sense (e.g., the fantasy of a successful sexual relationship) but as the subject's response to a lack in identity, which both promises a return to an imaginary wholeness and produces the object that frustrates such a return. And they detect the problematic presence of such a fantasyâin particular, of a uniformly capitalist economyâin the texts of Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe and other âradical democrats.â The alternative is to traverse the fantasy and to develop postfantasmatic economic identities and relationships, which Byrne and Healy find among members of various worker cooperatives. At least some of these worker-owners identify not with the âbig Other,â the fantasy of the perfect cooperative space, but with the lack or gap, the contingency and mutability associated with the internal structures (the forms of decisionmaking, the difference between necessary and surplus labor, etc.) and external conditions (markets, legislation, etc.) of cooperatives. This nonutopian functioning of the worker cooperative is further reinforced when there is a permeable border between cooperative firms and the community within which they exist, as in the case of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts and the new cooperative movement in Argentina. The result is an alternative language of economy, a âdifferent symbolic representation of the economy,â that serves as an alternative to the debilitating capitalist fantasies of both the Right and the Left.
Joseph Rebello's path to a new subject of economy passes through an ethical reading of the work of Gilles Deleuze (alone and in conjunction with FĂ©lix Guattari). Specifically, Rebello argues that Deleuze's epistemology of the virtualâwhich refuses the paranoia that operates within the logic of the possible-real and, instead, offers schizophrenia as a mode of changing historyâgives rise to both an ethics of theory and an ethical subjectivity oriented toward joyful passions. Rebello then links the joyful investment in the virtual-actual (as against a sad attachment to the real-possible) to the realm of economic theory, such that the limitations imposed by totalizing narratives of the economyâsuch as post-Fordism, globalization, and so onâcan be overcome through stories of economic difference. Of particular interest to Rebello is the way Marxian class concepts can be utilized in conjunction with Deleuze's molecular approach in order to differentiate the economic landscape in terms of multiple ways of arranging the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor. Utilizing the work of Carole Biewener, Rebello shows how, instead of subsuming all flows to dominant nodes of power, connections can be made that promote the existence and expansion of nonexploitative class processes. Rebello's ethical reading of Deleuze therefore suggests that Marxists interested in creating communism would do well to pair their understanding of the discursive production of the economy with the production of economic subjectivities.
Chizu Sato sets her sights on using Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxism to extend the critique of developmentalism initiated by the postdevelopment project. Arturo Escobar and others first used the work of Michel Foucault to make visible the mechanisms of power within the apparatus of development. Her argument is that, because of the way Foucauldean-inspired critics of development conceptualize the subject in terms of regimes of power, they undertheorize the role of enjoyment. Thus, for example, the subjects who are constituted on either side of the development divideâDeveloped and Underdevelopedâcan have affective attachments both to the Law of Development (hoping, e.g., to achieve the respect of the other) and to the repetitive failure to satisfy the requirements of the Law (since they may derive libidinal enjoyment from an inability to resolve the questions created by the split between conscious and unconscious desires). What is crucial here is that, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the project of Development can never be as powerful and complete as either its advocates or the postdevelopment critics believe it is. For Sato, the fragility and radical contingency of Development stem from the impossibility of fully symbolizing the repressed excess, the surplusâwhether the subaltern or the exploitative class dimensions of capitalism. The consequent failure of Development (as Sato puts it, âDevelopment does not existâ) is accompanied by the emergence of postmodern subjects who, although they may lack a strong identification with the symbolic authority of modern development, still search for a harmony that reinforces the Law of Development. In Sato's view, the postmodern attempt to âempowerâ the victims of development, to serve as their benevolent savior, continues to hide from view issues of the subaltern and of class. The only way to move beyond all forms of developmentalism is to identify the symptoms of psychic investment in development and to denaturalize them, thereby producing terrains âwithin which we may form radically different relationships to the subjectsâ fantasies of development.â
In the final contribution to the symposium, Kenan ErĂ§el uses postcolonial theory and the class analytics of overdeterminist Marxism to take a critical look at the discourse of the growing antisweatshop movement. His conclusion is that, for all its commendable achievements in exposing dismal working conditions in the Third World and the effects of unequal exchange by giant multinational corporations, the antisweatshop movement hides from view exploitative production conditions within the nations that comprise the North and the South. This problem arises because both critics and advocates of the overseas factories associated with Nike, GAP, Wal-Mart, and so on tend to orientalize exploitation by seeing it âas a phenomenon peculiar and confined to the Orient, i.e., the undeveloped/developing countries of the Third World.â By the same token, the labor practices within the advanced Western nations are deemed civilized and fair and therefore nonexploitative. The âhumanitarian universalismâ of the antisweatshop activists and the âcultural relativismâ of the free-trade apologists turn out to be two sides of the same orientalist coin, which renders invisible the violence of exploitationâthe appropriation of surplus labor by those who do not perform such labor. In other words, according to ErĂ§el, âexploitation is orientalized because orientalism is âexploited,â and vice versa.â When the categories of Marxian class analysis are mobilized to produce a nonorientalist understanding it becomes possible to disrupt the terms of international political economy and to render visible the multiple loci of exploitation, especially within countries, and the flows of surplus labor that take place between countries.
The fantasies offered by global capitalism assume a variety of forms. One of the most enticing, at least during the past half-century, has been the enclosed shopping mall. While many older malls have died (those in the United States can be tracked at deadmalls.com), creating urban and suburban greyfields, other, even more elaborate and larger, ones are being constructed and expanded, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (where the biggest shopping mall in North America is located) to Beijing, China (site of the world's largest mall, with even grander ones projected for Wenzhou and Qingdao). There are even children's and adolescent literary works set in malls, including David Steinberg's The Monster Mall and Other Spooky Poems and Charles O'Connor's All Night Mall Party. Here, Jenny Perlin uses clips and text from âPossible Models,â a 16-mm stop-motion animation, to probe the allure of freedom in capitalism's ongoing attempts to create economic and social paradises: the failure of the Southdale Center to live up to its designer's dream of a utopian urban environment, replete with parks, schools, and apartment buildings; the Mall of America and the Mall of Dubai as examples of the new transcultural, supranational, theme-park super-mall; and the plans for a âfreedom ship,â a floating, self-sustained, tax-free, mall-based community that encircles the globe.
The Remarx section is devoted to Guglielmo Carchedi's analysis of imperialism and economic blocs and his warning that the European Union, having become a powerful economic rival of the United States, âis set to develop its own military arm,â a process that cannot be reversed. Criticizing those who see the United States as the world's only imperialist power, Carchedi locates the âimperialist and militarist natureâ of the EU in its initial constitution as the European Economic Community. While the strategic and military importance of the Western European Union remained marginalâdue to its subordination to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and internal divisions among member nationsâthat situation changed in 1999. For Carchedi, the launching of the Common Security and Defense Policy âmarks the opening of the military competitionâ between the United States and the EU. In his view, U.S. unilateralism is both an expression of the weakness of the United Statesââthe decline of their hegemony and thus of the need to appropriate international value without having to share out the spoils (today oil, tomorrow water) with the âalliedâ countriesââand a factor that contributed to the weakening of the NATO alliance and pushed the allies to create a military competitor. Just as the Euro rose from its origins as a virtual currency to become a real international currency, so Carchedi believes the current virtual European army will become a real threat to U.S. military mightâand, far from fostering a peaceful multipolar world, âwill be a further threat to peace anywhere in the world.â
The two book reviews in this issue take up themes in and around contemporary economic theory. In the first, Asatar Bair considers John McDermott's Economics in Real Time to be a âserious...and quite balancedâ treatment of the thorny issues concerning the impact of different notions of time in various areas of microeconomics. People outside of economics are often bewildered by the extent to which many economic modelsâespecially those of mainstream, neoclassical economicsâoperate in a âtimelessâ world, in which all decisions and actions are presumed to take place simultaneously. Bair applauds McDermott's studied consideration of the role of time in both neoclassical and Marxian economic theories and the attention he gives to commodities (such as cars, electronics, semiprepared foods, and medical plans) for which time is central to their consumption. However, Bair considers the conclusions of McDermott's theoretical explanation to be somewhat disappointing, to the extent that they suggest nothing more than a call to expand pricing policies to include social and environmental externalities and because his approach fails to engage the class dimensions of Marxian value theory.
In the second review, Joseph Childers states that Postmodernism, Economics, and Knowledge, edited by Stephen Cullenberg and David Ruccio, âhas the potential to be as significant as Nelson and Grossberg's Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture.â In addition to the range of contributors and the editorsâ introduction, what Childers finds particularly compelling are, first, the ability of postmodernism to put thinkers from a wide variety of disciplines in conversation with one another and, second, the book's organization, such that each section concludes with a commentary on the essays within it, thereby continuing the conversation. And while Childers expresses a frustration that the collection does not show how postmodern theory has taken up additional categories (such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class) that are relevant to contemporary economic discourse, and occasionally ignores the multiplicity and permeability of the term postmodernism itself, he allows that âthere are few interested in poststructuralist thought or the articulations of postmodernism who cannot gather something important and provocative from its pages.â
We want to take this opportunity to remind readers that now is the time to send their proposals and to register for the sixth in the series of international conferences sponsored by RM, Rethinking Marxism 2006, which will be held from 26 to 28 October at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The conference web site, www.rethinkingmarxism2006.org, includes the official Call for Papers, as well as additional information concerning the submission of proposals and preregistration. The sessions, workshops, and events planned for the conference w ill serve as a unique opportunity for scholars, students, and activists to gather in one place to critically examine the state of contemporary Marxism and its ability to confrontâby recognizing and learning from, as well as expressing and shapingâthe new demands for economic and social justice in the world today. We look forward to seeing you there.