In this issue
we note our sadness, shared by so many, in learning of the recent death of Stephen Jay Gould. Professor Gould was an internationally recognized paleontologist, a dedicated historian of science, a controversial participant in debates on the theory of evolution, a prolific author. . .and a committed man of the Left. Unfortunately, Gouldâ€™s radical political sympathiesâ€”including his membership in the Advisory Board of our journal and his participation in a 1998 public event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, to cite but two examplesâ€”were systematically silenced within the â€śofficialâ€ť obituaries. As Fred Jerome, the author of The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hooverâ€™s Secret War Against the Worldâ€™s Most Famous Scientist, asks in a letter that was submitted to but never published by the New York Times, â€śmust we wait for someone to unearth the FBIâ€™s Gould file to reveal what Dr. Gould himself wanted us to know?â€ť
The current obsession with terrorism and â€śhomeland security,â€ť and the ensuing battle over personal freedoms and civil liberties, have had the effect of further delaying the fashioning of a politics of redistribution to address the gross inequalitiesâ€”both nationally and internationallyâ€” inherited from Clintonism. On top of this, as John Oâ€™Kane explains in the first article, the Left itself needs to confront the manner in which it has been disempowered by a postsocialist ideology that privileges demands for social identity and cultural recognition over effective remedies for economic injustice. For an increasing number of left thinkers and activists, the point is not to choose one over the other but to chart a path that enables a â€śpotential integration of recognition and redistribution.â€ť An important first step to such a path, according to Oâ€™Kane, is to reconstruct the system as a whole (instead of resting content with partial and local critiques) and, especially, to analyze the particular ways in which culture and economy have become â€śsaturatedâ€ť in recent capitalism. The goal is to make sense of the â€ścomplex illusionsâ€ť created by the new cultural economy of capitalism in order to formulate an effective response to a system that, in the end, reinforces the antagonism between free cultural expression and the continued existence of economic disparity and exploitation.
If Oâ€™Kane emphasizes the ability of capitalism to obscure its unequal effects, Jason Read, in the next article, focuses attention on the â€śsheer contingency of the [capitalist] mode of production, the possibility that things could be and thus can still be otherwise.â€ť Readâ€™s argument is based on a novel reading of Marxâ€™s treatment of the so-called primitive accumulation of capital (in the last section of volume 1 of Capital), encompassing three steps: the capitalist mode of production emerges from an encounter (e.g., between money-capital and free workers) that is aleatory or contingent rather than necessary or teleological; the primitive accumulation of capital encompasses not only the historical formation of capital but also its extension into other spaces and modes of production; both the coming into being of capitalism and its continued existence are constituted by and constitutive of particular norms, laws, codes of behavior, and habitsâ€”in short, capitalist subjectivities. Therefore, Read concludes, the Marxian critique of primitive accumulation remains relevant today, as the â€śpersistence of the encounter at the heart of the capitalist mode of production,â€ť a way of seeing how the conditions and effects of capitalism can always â€śbecome unhinged from their particular articulation,â€ť a confirmation of the necessity of contingency.
John Falzonâ€™s poems, collected here as â€śThe Writing of the Epics that Are Black and Vanishing,â€ť also represent a confirmationâ€”of the ability of poetic language to provoke and disturb, to alert us to the twists and turns of the stories by which we live (and, of course, die) and to the possibility of writing new stories. In borrowing the words of others (from Barreno to Marx) and interweaving them with his own, Falzon succeeds both in conferring poetic status on fragments of political texts and in converting poetic reflections into calls for action. The result is a memorable sequence of linguistic muralsâ€”composed of lyrical quotations, provocative aphorisms, playful tropes, and hard-nosed poetic phrasesâ€”that are not afraid of their blackness and do not simply vanish.
David Kotzâ€™s essay on the resurgence of neoliberalism is the latest entry in the â€śGlobalization Under Interrogationâ€ť series. Against those who argue or presume that neoliberalism represents the dominant theory and set of policies for contemporary capitalism, Kotz adopts the view that the neoliberal modelâ€”defined as the dismantling of government regulations and the freeing up of international trade and capital flowsâ€”is inferior to the state regulationist model in creating the conditions for the long-term stability and survival of the capitalist system. What then explains the return to the ideology and policy stance of neoliberalism? Kotzâ€™s answer is that recent trends in globalization have made capitalism more competitive and that, in order to confront increased competition from foreign and transnational corporations, â€śbig businessâ€ť deserted the political coalition supporting state intervention that, in the previous period, has served it so well. For Kotz, the more or less inevitable consequence is that, in the absence of state regulation, world capitalism â€śfaces a future of stagnation, instability, and even eventual social breakdown,â€ť which may also â€śprod the socialist movement back to life at some point.â€ť
In his response to Kotzâ€™s essay, George DeMartino considers the basis thesis â€śintuitively appealing.â€ť However, DeMartino also raises questions about an approach that seeks to explain policy shifts on the basis of changing class forces brought on by more or less fundamental transformations in the underlying economy. An alternative method, he suggests, needs to take into account norms and behaviors (that cannot simply be deduced from or taken to be identical to interests)â€”such as the normative shift that privileged individualism and personal/corporate freedom over communal obligations, best represented by the election of Ronald Reaganâ€”that can exert a powerful influence over how corporate leaders come to define corporate interestsâ€”leading, among other things, to the well-known attacks on union power and protective regulations. For DeMartino, such an approach, while perhaps â€śmessier,â€ť does have the advantage of illustrating how â€śstruggle and contest. . .could have been then and could be today decisive in charting an alternative political and economic course.â€ť
The problem of homelessness has been variously ignored and debated, blamed on the victims and â€ścleaned upâ€ť by late-night police sweeps, but it continues to grow, in the United States and around the world. Michael Rakowitzâ€™s â€śparaSITEâ€ť project, a series of temporary shelters constructed with readily available and low-cost materials to be attached to buildingsâ€™ external vents, was emphatically not designed to be a general solution in the form of â€śaffordable housing.â€ť Instead, as can be seen in his photo essay for this issue, Rakowitz sought both to dramatize the persistence of homelessness and to register, at the symbolic level, a strategy of survival for the homeless within the city. Rakowitzâ€™s project differs from other attempts by linking (literally and materially) the precarious existence of homeless people to those who inhabit and work in permanent structures and, at the same time, inciting pedestrians to consider the ways in which their own lives are intertwined with those for whom decent housing continues to be a remote possibility.
â€ś9-11 and Its Aftermathâ€ť is the theme of the six essays that comprise the Remarx section of this issue. Rather than reporting on current news from a left perspective (a task better suited for other writers and publications), the authors of these contributions take some distance and offer analyses of the larger issues provoked by the events and debates surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The result is the end of the silence imposed on disquieted voices and the beginning of a specifically Marxian understanding of the significance of 9-11.
Gugliemo Carchedi focuses his attention on the discussion concerning the causes and consequences of military expenditures in the Western World. Starting from the idea that â€ścapitalism is a system that tends towards crises and that anti-cyclical measures are impotent to rid the system of those crises,â€ť Carchedi argues that increased military commitments serve both to counter capitalismâ€™s crisis tendencies within the imperialist nations and to advance the geopolitical interests of those same nations. For Eric Schocket, the fact that a small group of Hampshire College students had the temerity to criticize nationalism as the best reply to mass violence exemplifies the need to challenge the discourse of the nation in and through which the events of 9-11 have been routinely constructed. The alternative is to conceive of the mounting numbers of deadâ€”in the United States but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhereâ€”â€śas multinational civilian casualties of a global struggle for regional hegemony and access to oil.â€ť Max Fraad Wolff, for his part, draws a parallel between the situation leading up to 9-11 and that of Germany in the 1930s, characterized by global policy based on the assumption of â€śanything but the Left.â€ť Such a policy has strengthened both the forces that support the present globalization and those that seek backward-looking alternatives, against which the Left needs to provide a â€śprogressive and collective visionâ€ť for the billions who have been brutalized and impoverished by the twin pillars of the status quo. The abuse and cynical manipulation suffered by many terms and concepts, like terrorism, in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 invites us to simply discard them. Pierre Mesnard y Mendez, however, suggests that there is a â€śuseful kernelâ€ť to the notion of terrorism such that, appropriately redefinedâ€”as a â€śstrategy which consists in pursuing political power by striking dread into the civilian population through exemplary killings among themâ€ťâ€”it can be used to prevent mass killings by state and nonstate terrorists alike. The war on terrorism is also a war for oil. And that, according to Richard McIntyre, means that U.S. foreign policy is built on unsustainable premises that can only supplanted by a â€śstrategy of theoretical diversity in foreign policy and source diversity in. . .energy and transportation policies.â€ť Finally, Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff analyze the conflicting domestic and foreign pressures that have culminated in the militarization of U.S. policy toward corporations and foreign governments. If the demand to combat terrorism accounts for only a small percentage of the shift, the rest has to do with other factors: the political weakness of the Bush administration, the deepening recession, and the shakiness of U.S. allies in the Third Worldâ€”for which, similar to a previous period, long-term global war has become the answer.
Amitava Kumarâ€™s recently published Passport Photos is an example of â€śborder crossingâ€ť which, according to reviewer Peter Hitchcock, avoids the perils of much postcolonial studies literature. In Hitchcockâ€™s view, Kumar has produced a book of poetry and politics that â€śtickles the borders of academic proprietyâ€ť and succeeds where others have failed: first, by focusing on the material conditions that create and constrain the activity of crossing and, second, by not reproducing images of the Other associated with orientialism. The result is a type of cultural critique, a new form of diasporic protest, that effectively manages to grapple with the tensions of identity defined by the diaspora and to question the meaning of â€ścultural transnationalism.â€ť
We want to acknowledge the work of Eric Glynn who, at the end of this term, has decided to step down from the editorial board and, thus, from his position as Reviews Editor. Besides soliciting and editing a series of timely and evocative book reviews, Eric has also been the mainstay behind our web site (now burgeoning with current information about RM and related activities). We wish him well in his future projects. We also want to take this opportunity to welcome Joseph Childers, who will be assuming the responsibility of editing the Reviews section of the journal.
Lastly, we are pleased to announce that RM has signed a new five-year publishing agreement with Routledge, starting with the first issue of volume 15. We have been fortunate, during the past decade, to collaborate with the attentive and hardworking staff of Guilford Publications. With their assistance, we were able to transform RM from a desktop publishing project into a professionally produced and managed journal. Now, in conjunction with Routledge (now part of the Taylor and Francis publishing group), we look forward to continuing our exciting editorial endeavors and, especially, to expanding our international profile.