RETHINKING MARXISM Volume 11, Number 1 (Spring, 1999)
In this issue we are pleased to publish Mohamed Zayanis translation of and introduction to another dimension of Henri Lefebvres most important contribution to the rethinking of Marxism: the study of everyday life. Readers are no doubt familiar with Lefebvres wide-ranging analyses of modern society, including the role of consumption, the reproduction of the relations of production, and the production of space. Here, in an essay coauthored with Catherine Régulier toward the end of his life, Lefebvre focuses his attention on the times of everyday life, on the modalities of the conflictual unity of the adventure of cyclical rhythms (so-called natural time) and the repetitiveness of linear time (associated with the capitalist regulation of production, consumption, movement, and housing). Coming to understand this "unity of diversity," a packet of polyrhythms, which characterizes both the habits and the disruptions of everyday life, is the goal of the "rhythmanalytical project" . . . Walid Raads aim was to document a photographic project organized on the eve of the civil war in Lebanon and carried out in the midst of that war in the streets of Beirut. His photoessay is going to press just as the ceasefire for another war has been announced, a war with all the death, destruction, and disorder that accompanied the one in Lebanon. While Raads project is fictional—all the names of the sponsoring organizations, its board of directors and staff, the funding sources, and the museums and galleries are fabricated—the issues he poses are quite real. Together, the text and the images invite us to examine "the constellation of relations amongst the discourses of photography, geography, nationalism, and war" . . . Does Capital yield an ethical foundation, a manifest political agenda, and a revolutionary subject? According to Vidya Ramakrishnan, this has been the traditional expectation of Marxs magnum opus. However, a rereading of volumes 1 and 2 of Capital reveals significant aporias in the relations both between agent and subject and between ethics and politics and, therefore, a different understanding of socialism in relation to capitalism. In particular, on Ramakrishnans interpretation, the labor theory of value leaves us with, at best, the agent as part-subject; it refuses the immediate identification of the worker with the revolutionary proletariat and, therefore, "the possibility of a politics that seamlessly preserves justice for the worker" . . . 12 Million Black Voices, published in 1941 and composed of Farm Security Administration photographs and a text composed by the novelist and (then) Communist Richard Wright, was an attempt to create a narrative of the evolution of black "folk" in the United States. Leigh George analyzes the volume, on one hand, as a product of the difficult and changing discussion of the relationship between race and class within the Communist Party USA during the 1930s and 1940s and Wrights own attraction to (and struggles to remain within) the party and, on the other hand, in terms of the representational structure of the photographic layout and text of the book itself. In Georges view, the volume represents an attempt—ultimately undermined by a combination of essentialist Marxism, the we/you voice of the text, and the photographic gaze of the New Deal state— to articulate the identities of racial difference and transracial solidarity . . . Andy Merrifields provocative thesis is that the relationship between human suffering and freedom links Marx to Dostoevsky—specifically, the early "existential" ideas of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts to the mature fiction of the "spiritual" novelist, species-being to the Underground Man. While not denying the profound differences between the "ultimate implications" of the views expressed by Marx and Dostoevsky (but, even there, he finds surprising points of convergence), Merrifield notes their shared rejection of a purely rational conception both of human beings (since, for both, humans realize themselves through suffering and desire) and of a world of human freedom (which, in neither case, is reduced to rational progress or "mathematical exactitude") . . . Alejandro Raiter is concerned with the ideological defeat of the Marxist left in Argentina and elsewhere after the fall of authoritarian military regimes. For this, he argues that Althussers concept of ideological state apparatuses needs to be supplemented by a theory of dominant and emergent discourses, by an analysis of the speech acts of Marxist groups themselves. For Raiter, the failure of Marxists to challenge the dominant discourse can be traced to their inability to question the systems of references that sustain that discourse—to change the social system of references, the prevailing "common sense," in order to inaugurate a radically different discursive formation . . . A class analysis of the charter school movement reveals opportunities for improving public education by transforming exploitative class structures—that is the novel argument developed by Ken Byrne in the first Remarx essay. Most charter schools (there are now more than 240 in the United States, and their number is growing) are organized in a capitalist manner. What founders of charter schools have failed to appreciate is the possibility of forming communist institutions, schools in which education takes place on the basis of the communal production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor. In fact, Byrne, using Massachusetts as a case study, develops one model of what such communist schools could look like and the advantages (especially for teachers and other school workers) it might offer . . . The second Remarx essay focuses on two conferences— one in Sardinia, the other in Naples—devoted to the political thought and action of Antonio Gramsci. Frank Rosengartens report reveals the wide-ranging and creative rethinking of Marxism that is taking place on the basis of contemporary Marxist thinkers engagement with Gramscis writings, especially the Prison Notebooks . . . G. M. Goshgarian revisits the modus operandi of the "Sokal affair" in his sharp and witty review of Impostures intellectuelles coauthored by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Goshgarian takes to task the insinuations, summary dismissals, quotations out of context, guilt by association, "gotchas," and so on that comprise Sokal and Bricmonts attack on the "intellectual dishonesty" of postmodernism and ultimately mark the book as a self-referential exericse: "a series of intellectual impostures that decries a series of intellectual impostures" . . . Writing on John Bergers Photocopies and Mary Anne Staniszewskis Believing Is Seeing, Amitava Kumar focuses our attention on the question of what might constitute revolutionary art and criticism today. The elusive answer, he suggests, lies in the style—in the engagement with the material details of both life and art and in the blurring of the boundaries between the two . . . Finally, Andrew Light reviews Norman Gerass sustained argument against Richard Rortys political philosophy in Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind. After summarizing the ways in which Gerass critique is based on a defense of a common human nature and of realism in political philosophy (a defense with which he expresses his own sympathy), Light finds the appeal to human nature as a foundation for political theory in need of more support than Geras is able to provide.
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