In this issue
Marcus Green draws our attention to the concept of the â€śsubaltern,â€ť which was borrowed from Gramsci and is now widely used (constituting, according to the author, a veritable â€śpopuular enterpriseâ€ť) in discussions of politics and history in India, South America, Ireland, and many other contexts. What Green finds problematic is that the concept is â€śoften misunderstood and misappropriatedâ€ť because it is â€śrarely defined or systematically analyzed within Gramsciâ€™s own work.â€ť Green provides a useful corrective to much of the existing literature, by examining the development of the concept over time, from Gramsciâ€™s pre-prison writings (such as the â€śSouthern Questionâ€ť) through the entire Prison Notebooks (not just the Selections), and locating it in the general trajectory of Gramsciâ€™s thought (in conjunction with other key concepts, such as civil society, the state, and hegemony). While recognizing that Gramsciâ€™s work on subalternity remained an unfinished project, Green demonstrates that Gramsci did succeed in laying the cornerstones for carrying out a Marxist history of subaltern social groups and formulating an actual strategyâ€”encompassing both ideology and practical politicsâ€”that would â€śliberate subaltern groups from their subordinated existence.â€ť Eric Schocket organized a lively and wideranging symposium on the relationship between Marxism and working-class studies at the May 2001 conference organized by the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. We are pleased to be able to publish essays from that symposium, along with Schocketâ€™s introduction and a transcript of the discussion that followed the formal presentations.However ironically, neither the resurgence of interest in class nor the institutionalization of working-class studies represents an increased acceptance of Marxism. In Schocketâ€™s view, multiculturalism and idententarian social theory are perhaps even more responsible for highlighting and placing such concerns on the academic table. What, then, is the role of Marxism in working-class studies? What does Marxism have to offer in creating a language appropriate to this incipient field?
Barbara Foley delivers her answers to these questions in the form of 10 propositions, which run from a critique of social identity (â€śclass is a social relation. . .notâ€”or at least no primarilyâ€”a subject positionâ€ť) to a set of clear-cut teachings (concerning the nature of ideology, the role of racism and sexism in capitalism, the existence of a unified ruling class, and much more). The challenge, Foley argues, is to use this Marxism to remake working-class studies into a project of â€śclass studies.â€ť For Laura Hopke, too, these are â€śexciting timesâ€ť for analyzing the potential role of Marxism in working-classâ€”including sweatshopâ€”studies. But furthering that project needs to confront both the negative and positive dimensions of U.S. exceptionalism: on one hand, the fostering of anti-Marxism in American Studies; on the other hand, the need to appreciate an important history of radicalism among artists (such as photodocumentarians Lewis Hine and Ben Shan) who, while perhaps indifferent to Marxism, provide insight into the â€śpower of tropes such as the loner, the open road, the search for community, the distrust of factory life, even the construction of the immigrant as Other.â€ť
Jack Metzgar, for his part, considers Marxism to be a potential liability for working-class studiesâ€”because it fails to capture the â€śdizzying diversity of actually existing working-class lifeâ€ť but especially because the academics who conduct working-class studies are not themselves â€śworking class.â€ť Metzgar believes that practitioners of working-class studies need to understand themselves better as a class in order to participate in creating a cross-class coalition, an endeavor in which Marxism can be â€śa part, but in principle it cannot and must not be the whole.â€ť Bill Mullen sees existing working-class studies as being founded on several â€śanti-Marxist assumptionsâ€ť that limit the field in a manner analagous to the limits placed by capitalism on the working-class itself. Mullenâ€™s claim is that â€śmore, not less Marxist analyses and methodsâ€ť would assist working-class studies in negating the kinds of academic and disciplinary boundaries that can lead to â€śantiworking class sectarianism,â€ť inside and outside the academy. Michael Zweig also understands that Marxismâ€”as a theory of class, defined in terms of relationships of powerâ€”should play a central role in working-class studies. Zweig argues against using the â€śjargon of Marxâ€ť (for a variety of reasons, including the fact that â€śpeople who are not Marxists have vital contributions to makeâ€ť), in favor of focusing on the â€ślived experienceâ€ť of class, in production and the wider society.
The ensuing discussion returned to many of the issues raised in the symposium papers. The relevance of Marxist concepts and categories in carrying out working-class studies, the use of Marxist terminology in teaching about capitalism and class struggle, the relationship between academic discourse and lived experience, the appropriate definition of classâ€”the fact that these issues are being raised and discussed and are subject to wideranging and penetrating debate attests to the vitality of Marxism within and for the project of working-class studies.
Like Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg in an essay published earlier this year (see their Remarx essay in the Spring 2002 issue of RM), Thomas Lemke argues that Michel Foucaultâ€™s concept of governmentality is not inconsistent with a Marxist critique of contemporary neoliberal society; indeed, in their view, it provides a necessary supplement to that critique. Lemke begins by exploring the central place the problem of government assumes in Foucaultâ€™s work. In linking technologies of the self with technologies of domination, governmentality fulfills three tasks: it offers a view of power beyond either consenus or violence; it connects the constitution of the subject to the formation of the state; and it serves to distinguish power from domination. Lemke then demonstrates how Foucaultâ€™s work can be used to move beyond existing criticisms of neoliberal government. Instead of accepting the dualisms offered by neoliberalismâ€”thus â€śconfronting knowledge to power, state to economy, subject to repressionâ€ťâ€”Lemke explains that governmentality provides a way of rejecting such dualisms: by seeing neoliberal rationality as a particular â€śpolitics of truth,â€ť in which the exercise of power is â€śrationalâ€ť; by recognizing how neoliberalism does not represent the retreat of the state but, rather, the creation of new technologies of government; and, finally, by understanding how neoliberal forms of government constitutes a continuum, which extends from traditional state practices government through to modes of self-regulation. In the end, governmentality makes it possible to criticize neoliberalism â€śas a political project that endeavors to create a social reality that it suggests already exists.â€ť
Mainstream political thought promises that globalization has ushered in and lent support to a new wave of democratization around the world. Steve Ellnerâ€™s contrary view is that, at least in the case of Latin America, neoliberalism has a â€śdeplorable record on the political front.â€ť In shifting the focus from globalization to the national level, Ellner finds that neoliberal-style democracy (in Peru, Venezuela, and elsewhere) has strengthened presidential power and undermined â€ścountervailing institutionsâ€ť such as political parties, congresses, and trade unions. He doesnâ€™t argue, however, that centralism is the root cause of the distortions (as do many, conservative and liberal, political scientists). Instead, Ellner wants to shift attention to socioeconomic developments that are often left out of the discussionâ€”such as the growth of the so-called informal economy, increased foreign ownership, and growing income inequality. Moving beyond the formal trappings of democracy toward a future â€śreconstruction and deepening of democracyâ€ť will depend especially on the ability of political parties, social movements, and trade unions to include and represent the the members of the informal economy, â€śwho have grown the most in numbers and have been the most victimized by neoliberal policies.â€ť
In the latest contibution to the Globalization Under Interrogation series, R. Radakrishnan begins by embracing the â€śambivalenceâ€ť and â€śtensionâ€ť expressed in the earlier essay by Arif Dirlik, which so successfully launched the discussion of globalization in our pages. But Radakrishnan wants to push further, in order to uncover the â€śdeterminate geopoliticsâ€ť built into the â€śindeterminacy of globalization.â€ť For him, the only defensible version of globalization is one that is carried out in the name of the third world, in the name of the â€śmost vulnerable, the weakest, and the least powerful elements,â€ť both out there and within. But this raises â€ścertain complicationsâ€ťâ€”such as nationalism, the indigenous question, cultural hybridity, representation, intentionality, and so on. Ultimately, Radakrishnan argues, the panoply of questions that surround the processes and representations of globalization devolves onto one: â€śhow to create the one world out of the many?â€ť The answer lies, he suggests, in posing this question not from within the dominant discourses but, rather, from the perspective of the subaltern.
Haiku is the poetic form par excellence of condensed, lyrical and enigmatic, thoughts and observations about the world. Here, Steve Ziliak offers a series of pertinent and provocative haikus about economicsâ€”from Lord Robbins (whose claim to fame is the definition of economics as the efficient allocation of scarce resources) to Allan Greenspan; the celebration of profits, the invisible hand, and rational â€śeconomic manâ€ť; the sentiments of Adam Smithâ€™s â€śotherâ€ť book that are routinely ignored; the morality of supply curves and equilibrium; and much more. It may be difficult (most would say, impossible) to make economic discourse poetic but it is certainly possible, as Ziliak clearly demonstrates, to use poetry to penetrate the myths that circulate in the world of the Econ.
Enrique Dusselâ€™s article on the four drafts of Capital, along with Fred Moseleyâ€™s introduction, appeared in the Spring 2001 issue (volume 13, number 1). Here, we publish Patrick Murrayâ€™s response to Dusselâ€™s work, along with a rejoinder by Moseley. Murray begins from the proposition that, when it comes to Marxian value theory, there is an important difference between â€śtraditional Marxismâ€ť (which Murray refers to as Ricardian Marxism) and a line of engagements that stems from the work of I. I. Rubin, Roman Rosdolsky, and others, which â€śflows against the dominant current of interpretation.â€ť For Murray, the advocates of the traditional approach fail to grasp â€śthe dialectical nature of Marxâ€™s concepts,â€ť thereby downplaying the significance of Marxâ€™s â€śreal starting point,â€ť the theory of commodity exchange, and focusing exclusively on the theory of surplus-value as the â€śheart and soul of Marxâ€™s critique of capitalismâ€ťâ€”which leads them, Murray argues, to advocacate market socialism. Moseley responds to Murrayâ€™s critique by arguing that the theory of surplus-value and the theory of exchange are both central to Marxâ€™s work and that Marxian value theory provides a quantitative theory of prices (which are determined by values), a point that he believes is missing from Murrayâ€™s account. What Murray and Moseley do agree on is that Dusselâ€™s scholarship on the various drafts of Capital have contributed to improving the quality of discussion and debate on the key concepts of Marxian value theory.
Two reviews conclude this issue. Ricardo Duchesne critically examines the bold claims contained in The Origins of Capitalism by Ellen Meiksins Wood. In Duchesneâ€™s reading, Meiksins Wood sets out to defend, 20 years later, Robert Brennerâ€™s definition of capitalism as a system of compulsion and his theory of the transition to capitalism in England based on the imposition of economic leases by feudal landlords. While Duchesne is generally sympathetic with Woodâ€™s settling of accounts with a wide variety of non-Marxian conceptions of opportunity as the central characteristic of capitalist markets, he raises two fundamental issues that run counter to the Wood/Brenner approach: first, recent research indicates that the rise of agrarian capitalism in England should be attributed to the activities of freeholding and copyholding tenants (rather than feudal landlords); and, second, Marxian treatments of the transition to capitalism need to move beyond the â€śEurocentric presumptionâ€ť of the uniqueness of England or Europe with respect to China and the rest of Asia.
Richard Wolff suggests that readers of RM will be able to put to good use the critique of global capitalism developedâ€”with â€śhumor, sarcasm, and surgical dissectionâ€ťâ€”by Vivienne Forrester in The Economic Horror. However, Wolff also argues that the authorâ€™s â€śstudied distance from Marxismâ€ť weakens her theoretical framework and the political implications of her analysis. He contrasts Forresterâ€™s conception of unemployment as the central problem of capitalism, which invites state intervention to increase employment, to the critique of capitalist exploitation, which means challenging the conditions and consequences of capitalist class structures, including capitalist employment.