RETHINKING MARXISM Volume 12, Number 4 (Winter, 2000)
In this issue we are pleased to launch an exciting new series, “Globalization Under Interrogation.” Coedited by board members Yahya Madra and Jack Amariglio, the series begins from the premise that globalization is a “terrain of struggle,” a site of contending theoretical representations and political projects, not a singular entity whose conditions and consequences can be taken as given. Madra and Amariglio, in their introductory essay, note that many of the representations of globalization that are invoked and deployed on the Left have had the effect of displacing existing conceptual schemes (such as imperialism), reinserting the foundational role of the economy, and limiting the possibilities of an effective left politics. The goal of the series, then, is to interrogate these representations and to begin the task of formulating novel theoretical and political strategies to “frontally engage with globalization.” We invite readers to send us their own interrogations of globalization, either by contributing articles and other pieces (such as artwork and fiction) or by responding (in the form of correspondence or brief commentaries) to work that is published in the series. Either way, our hope is to create a lively and open-ended forum in which our expectation is nothing less than a “ruthless criticism of everything existing.”
Arif Dirlik, in his essay “Globalization as the End and the Beginning of History,” begins the project of such a criticism by admitting his own skepticism concerning the usefulness of the term globalization but then assuming what he considers to be the risk of treating it as a “self-consciously new way of viewing the world.” The first step in Dirliks argument involves distinguishing between globalization “as process and paradigm,” a move that makes it possible for him to emphasize the relative autonomy of the paradigm and, at the same time, to insist on its historicity: “its contradictory relationship to the history of which it is a product, and the history it is in the process of producing.” Thus, for Dirlik, contemporary globalization comprises both a response to changing configurations in global relations and a project to reshape those relations in ways that “[serve] some interests better than others,” an awareness of the postcolonial (and, importantly, postnational) reorganization of societies and the creation of new forms of exploitation and marginalization. From a historical perspective, Dirlik admits that the globalizing force of capital today emerges from and shares important features with that of the late-nineteenth century (as presaged by Marx and Engels in the mid-nineteenth century, in the Communist Manifesto). However, Dirlik also wants to focus on the political and cultural differences between the two periods: whereas the earlier period was characterized by the “globalization of Euroamerican norms,” such that colonialism and nationalism involved a hierarchical ordering of the world according to a single conception of modernization, that Eurocentric hegemony has broken down in the contemporary world. For Dirlik, the proliferation of multiple alternative forms of capitalism and modernity that can be witnessed today are precisely the products of capitalist globalization, which simultaneously unified and fragmented the world. Thus, in Dirliks view, the globalization paradigm emerges not only in the wake of the cold war but also after the appearance of new capitalist economies in East and Southeast Asia, thereby representing the decentering of both economic and social institutions and claims to knowledge. Globalization therefore represents, for Dirlik, both an end and a beginning: the culmination of the Euroamerican expansion across the globe and the possibility, perhaps for the first time, of making history.
We continue our project of reinventing RM by devising ways to promote exchanges of ideas instead of limiting ourselves to publishing individual articles. Toward that end, we are gratified that Deirdre McCloskey, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and S. Charusheela agreed to participate in a conversation that we sponsored at the annual meeting of the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) and to submit their remarks for publication in this issue. We should note that URPE and other groups representing nonmainstream approaches to economics are increasingly being marginalized within the Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA), whose center of power is the American Economics Association (AEA). The AEA, which has not been known for its acceptance of alternative theories for at least the last half century—since the “victory” of its neoclassical wing—has decided to decrease the number of sessions organized by Marxists and other heterodox scholars while, elsewhere; students and professors of economics are beginning to raise their voices against the sterile mathematization and “Stalinization” of the discipline of economics. Even recent Nobel economics laureate James L. Heckman has felt compelled to decry the lack of pluralism in economics and to express his support for “a very inclusive view of economics that recognizes the way our field is used by people outside of it and the strong disagreements over correct ways to view a number of important issues.”
Our own heterodox minisymposium, which was coordinated by Charusheela, was designed to explore the divergent theoretical approaches and political strategies that emerge from poststructuralist feminist scholarship on such important topics as female agency in the economy, the relationship between womens oppression and capitalism, and conceptions of progress. McCloskey begins the conversation by proclaiming her allegiance to postmodernism, feminism—and free-market capitalism. For McCloskey, classical (Soviet-style, centrally planned) socialism was a modernist project and, yet, while in her view postmodernists are often critical of markets, “theres nothing in postmodernism entailing socialism.” Indeed, McCloskey wants to make the opposite case: that postmodernists should embrace a market society that in her view is “alert, flexible, innovative, bubbling up, democratic, unintended, creative.” McCloskey then connects feminism to postmodernism and markets because, according to her reading of economic history, markets have been “the great liberator of women.” The logic of her argument is that markets have led to economic growth, and higher levels of per capita income have increased the choices available to women.
Thus, McCloskeys story of the “three centuries past and the century to come” is one of progress—for women as well as for poor people, religious minorities, and sexual minorities. Moreover, McCloskey believes that, in contrast to what she finds in Spivaks writings, imperialism is neither the principal cause of underdevelopment in the third world nor a key ingredient in the levels of wealth achieved by the imperial powers. McCloskeys final point is that, while feminists rightfully do not identify with one-dimensional notions of homo economicus, the variety of human motivations in Adam Smiths writings—including both prudence and love—can serve as the starting point for “a feminist theory of desire and economy.”
Spivak continues the conversation by arguing that, in her view, there is “no necessary connection between capitalism and specifically womens oppression.” Instead, the relationship between capitalism and womens oppression depends on the situation in which capitalism operates, on whether or not “women can be dominated as women with cultural consent.” Thus, one cannot rely on the abstract logic of capital (which “must equalize but also keep inequalities in place”) but, instead, must take into account the concrete conditions that mark the emergence of each nation within capitalism as an international system, as well as the different ways in which women (in Asia and North Africa as against Central and Southern Africa) have been written into the narrative of capital. Similarly, for Spivak, no single concept of female identity can serve as the basis for a feminist theory of desire and economy. Instead, Spivak considers it a “methodological necessity” to distinguish between subjectship and agency—between, on one hand, the complex, incessant dynamic of woman-becoming in which differences are made and, on the other, the “general equivalent” of woman which is an outcome of the international womens rights movement. For Spivak, the distinction between subjectship and agency acquires its significance precisely in the attempt to create a rhetorical model of resistance, of “a constant interruption, a constant thwarting of the ends of globalization.” Instead of the usual model of manufacturing free choice in the context of “gender-training,” which subjects women in the name of global capital, Spivak proposes a program of changing economic institutions, which represents an intervention in the sphere of agency. For this, Spivak suggests that is necessary to overcome the limitations imposed by global capital and learn to take anticapitalist mind-sets seriously.
Charusheela joins the conversation in an afterword, “On History, Love, and Politics,” in which she interrogates the terms of the debate between McCloskey and Spivak and makes the case for a poststructuralist rethinking of Marxian conceptions of capitalism and subaltern struggles. According to Charusheela, the dispute over the relationship between capitalism and womens oppression stems not from different ethical positions but, rather, from contrasting conceptions of capitalism: McCloskeys celebration of bourgeois virtue and free markets and Spivaks focus on the polarizing effects of the social relations of production. Charusheela finds fault with both the formers refusal to separate culture and economy and the latters view of capitalism as a selfsufficient motor of history. Her proposed alternative takes its point of departure from two central ideas: “that capital does not emerge automatically, and does not have the structuration to reproduce itself automatically.” It is this undoing of the automaticity of capitalist development that, for Charusheela, is key to addressing the problem of “ethics under difference”—of promoting feminist alliances that cut across differences—not just in the realms of identity and culture but within the economy itself. Combining insights from both McCloskey and Spivak, Charusheela concludes that love is both a condition of the feminist project of promoting institutional agency without exercising ontological control and an ethic that requires an institutional reorganization of the economy. Only then can we “learn to love as equals.”
The war in Kosovo has been quickly effaced and all but forgotten in the United States. However, in Western Europe, the effects of the war continue to haunt everyday sensibilities and political possibilities. The questions abound: What is the meaning of human rights when it serves as the pretext for launching the machinery of war against the citizens of a contested state? What are the prospects for the European Left when putatively socialist governments connive with the U.S. administration to perpetrate the war? What is the role of the critical artist when those same left-wing governments orchestrate an intense media campaign in a determined attempt to justify and to drum up support for the war? German artist Babette Eid responds with her own “agit-prop” campaign by reappropriating the images (most taken from daily newspapers) that were used to manufacture consent during the war and adding captions from her “trip.” The resulting travelogue reveals both the pornography of wartime propaganda (do we miss it?) and the possibility of disrupting that propaganda (how could we have missed it?) so as to ensure that it will not simply be effaced and forgotten (and, thus, that it not be missed).
While negotiations at the Hague concerning the actual implementation of the Kyoto Treaty are being undermined by powerful national and corporate interests, Andriana Vlachou warns us that the policies being considered depend crucially on the theoretical assumptions buried within the models used to analyze the economics of global warming. In particular, Vlachou points out the severe limitations of the neoclassical models that are often used to value the damages occasioned by, and the benefits of reversing the process of, global warming. While the models employed are put forward as complete and objective, Vlachou shows that there are subject to considerable uncertainty (e.g., regarding which costs and benefits are included and excluded or a particular rate is inserted to “discount” the implications for future generations) and social bias (e.g., when valuational schemes presume that “workers choose freely to get exposed to risks”). Such models also ignore the class aspects of global warming: from the historical patterns of capitalist development that have caused greenhouse emissions through the different groups of capitalists who stand to lose or gain by controlling such emissions to the class positions of scientists themselves. Vlachou concludes her critical assessment by reminding us that the “possibility of socialism could be enhanced if it became grounded in ecological and social practices that challenge capitalism effectively.”
We conclude this issue with three Remarx essays, the final set edited by Carole Biewener before completing her long and productive tenure on RMs editorial board. Carole joined the board with the second volume and, for more than a decade, she performed many roles that were invaluable not only to the production of the journal but also to the workings of the editorial board itself. She managed subscriptions, stepped in to supervise the process of producing the journal, and, when we finally hired a managing editor, she was elected as the editor of the Remarx section. In addition, and certainly of equal importance, Carole was one of the most active participants in the internal organization of the editorial board—as a member of innumerable committees (all that unglamorous labor that goes on behind the scenes and without which the journal simply wouldnt exist) and, especially, as one who worked indefatigably to make the collective nature of the RM project a reality. We want readers to join us in publicly thanking Carole for all that she contributed to RM over the years. We are also delighted to introduce Rob Garnett as the new Remarx editor and Eric Glynn as the editor of the reviews section.
Kai Nielsen, in the first Remarx essay, defends Quebec nationalism as a project that, in contrast to many Marxists suspicions of (or outright opposition to) nationalism, should be supported by socialists, for two major reasons. First, Nielsen argues that it would yield “cultural protection for a people,” and therefore serve as a local identity that not only is not incompatible with but, in his view, is a necessary condition for the kinds of “cosmopolitan universalist humanist commitments” favored by socialists. Second, Nielsen views a sovereign Quebec as having, from the start, a more social-democratic orientation than elsewhere in North America. Thus, while acknowledging that fostering Quebec nationalism falls short of full-scale socialist transformation, Nielsen believes that a “more progressive” Quebec might play “an effective part in the building of socialism” in Canada and elsewhere.
The problems of theorizing “the political” in architectural discourse is the focus of the second essay in the Remarx section, by Thomas A. Dutton and Lian Hurst Mann. As architects, academics, and community activists, Dutton and Mann criticize recent discussions of the political dimensions of contemporary architecture because such discussions tend to reduce the relationship between architectural strategies and the social world to “aesthetic radicalism.” The conceptual problems that Dutton and Mann discover in these academic exchanges include the conflation of form and content, the subsumption of the critique of society within a critique of architecture, and the substitution of radical discourse for social action. The alternative proposed by Dutton and Mann begins with Gramscis notion of “organic intellectual practice” and points toward a different—critical, strategic, and affiliated—practice of architectural activism.
How ironic (and tragic) that the authors of the late-1970s critique of Eastem European socialism, Dictatorship Over Needs—Ferenc Fehér, Ágnes Heller, and György Markus, students of Lukács and leading representatives of the so-called Budapest School—would become the “leading ideologues” of the new neoliberal order in Hungary. That is the provocative argument advanced by László Andor in the final Remarx essay. In Andors view, the demise of socialism and the restoration of capitalism in Eastem Europe were the result not only of internal forces but also of an array of extemal pressures from the surrounding capitalist world, which the main figures of the Budapest School failed to appreciate and to criticize. The result, for Andor, is that the original proponents of a “democracy of needs” have, in returning home, become the architects of an IMF-inspired “democracy of wants.”
We conclude by noting our pleasure at the success of the fourth international conference sponsored by RM, “Marxism 2000: The Partys Not Over,” that took place at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in late September. Some 1200 students, scholars, artists, and activists gathered over the course of four days, in over 150 individual sessions and 4 plenary meetings, to explore the richness and diversity of the Marxian tradition and to move Marxisms future forward into the new millennium. We want to recognize the tremendous time and effort on the part of the organizing committee (cochaired by Stephen Cullenberg and John Roche), as well as that of many others who raised money, designed and distributed posters, assembled the program, made local arrangements, and mostly joined together in a collective project to put together the conference. They deserve our thanks. Readers can look forward to future issues of RM, which will include many of the creative and thought-provoking papers that were originally discussed and debated in Amherst.
<---Previous | Next--->