RETHINKING MARXISM Volume 10, Number 4 (Winter, 1998)
In this issue we begin with Carla Willards fascinating study of late-nineteenth-century images of segregation, commodity markets, and the emerging consumer culture of the high income professions and jobs occupied by "white subjects" in the United States. Willard uses the 1893 advertising pamphlet, The Life of Aunt Jemima, The Most Famous Colored Woman in the World, to exemplify how this type of advertising, through the repetition of highly condensed—racialized and sexualized—images of "Aunties" and "Uncles," represented the intersection of brand advertising and social Darwinism and served to produce a new "reality" of docile and loyal former slaves. It is in and through these images that a messy and painful Southern past is made tame and acceptable, both to Northern capital and to the national conversation on race relations. Throughout, Willard weaves a rich and complicated story of the Aunties and Uncles to investigate the role of racial images (then as now) in stabilizing and naturalizing the economic and social hierarchies of U.S. capitalism . . . Marc Becker examines the formation of the first Indigenous and peasant organizations in the canton of Cayambe in the northern Ecuadorian highlands during the first half of the twentieth century. He analyzes the role that various Marxist forces (including urban political parties and labor unions) played in the formation of these rural organizations, the relative equality that characterized the relations between ethnically diverse rural and urban movements, and the radical demands that together these organizations presented to the Ecuadorian government. In particular, Becker focuses on a peasant strike during 1930-1, and a subsequent thwarted attempt to hold a peasant congress and forrn a national organization of agricultural workers. It is these early "communist" movements in Cayambe, Becker argues, that helped to define the issues and strategies which later ethnic-based Indian movements in Ecuador would address, and he insists that movements today (in Ecuador and elsewhere) would do well to learn from the historical solutions forged in Cayambe . . . John OKane believes that the discourse of cultural materialism is in crisis, torn as it is between the more poststructuralist-inflected form of cultural studies found in university humanities departments and the cross-disciplinary, critical Western Marxism often found, as he points out, in different voices in this journal. In this light, OKane discusses Fredric Jamesons ambitious efforts to map cultural indeterminacies within postmodern capitalism that build from his interrogations of the idea of complex causality found both in Althusserian overdetermination and in postmodern depthlessness and excess. OKane sees in Jamesons various theoretical encounters with the idea of totality (in the texts of Lukács, Adorno, Althusser, and others) the potential—still largely unrealized—to construct a framework that builds on and consistently extends the notions of overdetermination and contradiction, and which offers a way out of the crisis of cultural materialism . . . Stephen Philion seeks to bridge the theoretical and political divide that all too often has separated those advocating new social movements in contrast to a more traditional Marxian approach to class analysis. For Philion, new social movement theory is critical of Marxian class analysis for three primary reasons: the social conditions of production have qualitatively changed since Marx wrote Capital and are now seen as "postmaterial"; a class compromise has been reached in advanced industrial countries over the postwar period; and the economistic logic of class-based movements is fundamentally inconsistent with what motivates the new social movements. For Philion, these phenomena account for the failure of class-based and new social movements to unite. Philion then seeks to show how an alternative conceptual framework, one that employs a new language of class to address both economic and noneconomic forms of oppression, makes it possible to encompass difference within contemporary social movements. As an example, he suggests that the Piedmont Peace Project is one such social movement that has organized around the issue of nuclear disarmament by "speaking the language of class" and thereby bridging the class/peace movement divide . . . Franco Barchiesi uses autonomist Marxist theory to study worker subjectivity and the resulting contradictory responses of workers to new technological and managerial processes in the South African automobile industry. Barchiesi links an analysis of the concrete manifestations of industrial antagonism to changes in production structures and processes in South Africa. Further, he explores the ways in which industrial change provides both opportunities and constraints for workers to modify such changes, and he shows how this is related to different forms of identification that are responsive to intra- and extraworkplace strategies of acceptance, adaptation, and resistance to a changing workplace environment. As a result, Barchiesi argues for the potential of the contested character of the workplace as a site for the development of class consciousness . . . Shannon Bell offers a rereading of her 1994 book Reading, Writing, and Rewriting the Prostitute Body using the Marxian categories of fetishism and value as well as Derridas and Levinass concepts of justice and law in order to explore, as Derrida put it, the "mystical foundation of [prostitutes] authority." Similar to Derridas notion of a specter or ghost haunting Marx, Bell argues that it is the ghost of Aphrodite that haunts the contemporary prostitute. For Bell, the purchase of the prostitutes body elides the fact that the payment escapes value, as what becomes fetishized in the prostitute is not the phenomenal commodity form but what exceeds that form. It is the excess that undermines the commodification not only of sex but of all social life . . . In our first Remarx essay, Timothy A. Gibson takes up the issue of the ideological power of common sense in order to frame a case study of race, crime, and urban geography in Philadelphia. There, Gibson discovers the common-sense equation of racial difference with neighborhood decay which serves to undergird everyday stories about "good" and "bad" neighborhoods. The alternative, Gibson suggests, is to refuse this common sense and to uncover marginalized stories in order to rearticulate new, more progressive ways of seeing and being within our neighborhoods . . .Fernanda Navarro writes eloquently of the Zapatista movement in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, by relating that struggle to Althussers later ideas on political philosophy. Subcomandante Marcos has been widely identified in Mexico as an Althusserian philosopher and even the New York Times has referred to him as a "postmodern guerilla." Althussers aleatory materialism, and his later belief that organized minorities at a microscale could provide the basis for a different kind of liberatory politics, suggest to Navarro that the Zapatista movement represents an example of precisely the new practice and hope for political struggle that Althusser attempted to articulate. She argues that the Zapatista refusal to seek state power, and instead to establish a new decentered relationship to power, is key to the success of the Zapatista Front and its attempt to establish an alternative political culture in Mexico . . . Finally, as we arrive at the end of volume ten, we are sad to report that, after serving as coeditor of RM during the course of the past volume year, Stephen Cullenberg has decided to step down from the position (while, fortunately, remaining as a member of the editorial board). We are pleased, however, to disclose that Steve has done so in order to work full time in the important, difficult, and time-consuming role of coorganizing (together with John Roche and others) the next RM gala conference, "Marxism 2000," to be held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on 21-24 September 2000. We are also very happy to announce that David Ruccio has agreed to take over as editor of RETHINKING MARXISM. So, please keep an eye on our Web page (www.nd.edu/~remarx) for further information and updates about the upcoming conference. And thank you, Steve and David, for your longstanding and continuing service to our readers and to the project of rethinking Marxism.
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