In this issue
the first with our new publisher, all the material comes from members of the Association for Economic and Social Analysis (AESA). AESA, as readers will remember from the historical reflections we have presented in previous issues (see 1/1, Spring 1988 and 10/1, Spring 1998), is the organization that sponsors the journal and elects the members of the editorial board. We have had the opportunity to publish many articles and essays by AESA members over the years. But this is the first time we have had the occasion to devote an entire issue to the theoretical and artistic work that has emerged from discussions and debates within the group.
Publishing such a number raises interesting issues about our mode of collaboration as an organization. The pieces we have chosen constitute, in some sense, a representative sample of the topics and treatments that characterize the work of AESA. They can and should be considered â€śsymptomaticâ€ť of the particular concerns and intellectual strategies that have emerged as individual AESA members have sought to critically engage the Marxian tradition and its relation to other theoretical and political traditions. At the same time, there are limits to this representation: there is plenty of interesting work going on that is not included in this issue; nor does the organization as a whole, much less its individual members, necessarily â€śsign onâ€ť to or underwrite the ideas expressed. Itâ€™s the way we think about and engage in this collective projectâ€”recognizing that our ideas spring from and dissolve into a borderless community, as one of their many â€śconditions of existence,â€ť and creating a space for generating new and different contributions to the rethinking of Marxism.
George DeMartino, in the first article, seeks to challenge global neoliberalism on the basis of a specifically Marxistâ€”and avowedly antiessentialistâ€” normative standard, that of â€śclass justice.â€ť DeMartino begins by noting that radical thought is disarmed if it cedes the normative ground to neoclassical economics, attempting to demonstrate that neoliberalism â€śfails to make good on its own promises.â€ť The alternative is to devise a distinct set of normative principles that will serve both the socialist project and a wide variety of local political initiatives. From the Marxian tradition, DeMartino retrieves two such principles: a general antipathy toward exploitation and the famous maxim, â€śfrom each according to ability, to each according to need.â€ť Antiessentialism leads him to introduce the ideas of heterogeneity, complexity, plurality, and feasibility into the approach. The result is a focus on three distinct moments of class justice: productive, appropriative, and distributive. The first refers to â€śfairness in the allocation of the work of producing the social surplusâ€ť; the second, to â€śfairness in the processes by which some individuals and/or groups in society receive the surplusâ€ť; while the third means â€śfairness in the processes by which the social surplus is divided among societyâ€™s members.â€ť Next, DeMartino explores the ways in which this Marxian notion of justice can be included within the â€śequality of capabilitiesâ€ť approach associated with the work of Amartya Sen and, then, applied to the problem of neoliberalism. He continues his discussion by directly addressing the extent to which this new standard of class justice can be made both legitimate and compelling for contemporary social analysis. DeMartinoâ€™s theoretically inventive and politically relevant conclusion is that, given the class diversity present in the world today, â€śperhaps we are already discovering ways to achieve class justice,â€ť in the very midst of global capitalism.
Professional baseball represented a form of slavery, in the era before free agency. This is the innovative (and no doubt controversial) conclusion of Ross Weinerâ€™s analysis of the class relations that obtained when young men â€śchoseâ€ť to sign contracts that denied them certain freedomsâ€”a situation, he argues, which led to their enslavement. In order to be able to rethink the history of organized baseball in the United States, Weiner distinguishes different slave systemsâ€”of the antebellum South, ancient Rome, and Greeceâ€”according to the range of freedoms that were variously denied and available to slaves. Thus, for example, baseball slaves were like the agricultural slaves of the South, in not being able to choose freely for whom they would work, and yet unlike them (but similar to the slaves of Rome) in having the freedom to choose whom they might marry or where they might live. Weiner also criticizes other, deterministic approaches to slavery because they tend to essentialize the dimension of power and to hide the particular ways in which slaves were involved in processes of exploitation. By opening up the concept of slavery in this manner, Weiner seeks not only to shed new light on the history of professional sports but also to contribute to the â€śanalysis of slave systems at other points in history.â€ť
The â€śGlobalization Under Interrogationâ€ť series resumes in this issue with two noteworthy contributions. The first, by J. K. Gibson-Graham, asks us to imagine a scheme in which an â€śethics of the localâ€ť were not confined and constrained by the global but, instead, were allowed to flourishâ€”as a new â€śspace of freedom and capacity.â€ť The path to the local traced by Gibson-Graham involves, first, the specification of a set of basic principles or guidelines and, then, the description of a set of research projects in which local subjects are encouraged to cultivate themselves in accordance with an ethics of the local. The principles are drawn from recent work in postmodern or poststructuralist social theory: a recognition of particularity and contingency (which â€śestablishes parity between global and localâ€ť), a respect for different and otherness (â€śbetween localities but also within themâ€ť), and cultivating local capacities (such as the â€ścapacity to modify ourselvesâ€ť and â€śto enact a new relation to the economyâ€ť). The second step, the process of resubjectifying local actors, is already taking place in research projects in Australia and the United States. There, Gibson-Graham has sought to overcome the fixation on capitalism in order to uncover and produce a new language of diversity within the regional economy. Such a language has made it possible for the people involved in their research conversations to â€śencounter themselves differently.â€ť But she also discovered the need, beyond language, for social practices and bodily sensations that are capable of nurturing and sustaining communal subjectivities. For Gibson-Graham, these capacities point toward a new ethical stanceâ€”making it possible to move beyond the politics of opposition within global capitalism, cultivating ourselves as â€śsubjects of freedomâ€ť within diverse, local economies.
David Ruccio suggests a complementary way of untangling the juggernaut of globalization: to recover and rethink the traditional Marxian concept of imperialism. For Ruccio, contemporary discourses of globalization (including those on the Left) exaggerate the novelty of the current process of global expansion and fail to appreciate the parallels with the expansion that took place in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Such discourses also produce false choicesâ€”both theoretical and politicalâ€”between, for example, free trade and regulated trade, that are defined by and limited to the terms of mainstream economics. One alternative move available to radical thinkers and activists is to retrieve the notion of imperialism in order to â€ścharacterize and oppose at least some significant events and activities, frameworks and projects, in the world today.â€ť In order to place imperialism back on the agenda, Ruccio challenges the apparent resistances to the notion (which led to its virtual disappearance from radical thinking about the Gulf War) and distinguishes it from globalization (such that imperialism can be seen as a partial and incomplete project to remake the world, thereby shedding the inevitability and uniformity often associated with globalization). He then turns his attention to analyzing the economic dimensions of the new â€śimperial machine,â€ť focusing on the flows of value associated with the class dimensions of global capitalism. Finally, he challenges the â€śdisciplinary machineâ€ť of economic discourse, which conditions the existence of imperialism, in order to open up a space for imagining and enacting â€śnew, noncapitalist class arrangements and forms of globalization.â€ť
Someone is playing a trick on us. That is the pretext of Susan Jahodaâ€™s â€śFlight Patterns,â€ť a narrative composed over the course of a sequence of letters and photographs that neither arrive at their destination (because itâ€™s now a vacant lot) nor successfully make their way back to the return address (also an abandoned plot of land). But the tricksterâ€”Esu-Elegbara, of Yoruba mythology, in Jahodaâ€™s caseâ€”is not a malevolent figure. He serves, instead, as a messenger (of information and images), a mediator (hence, his limp, one leg shorter than the other, each anchored in a different realm) and a meddler (creating instances of parody, indeterminacy, ambiguity, chance, and disruption). In this, Esu-Elegbara allows people both to inhabit recognizable places and to move through borderless places, to live in the moment and to collect the memories of a life gone by, to write an ordered correspondence and to reshuffle the pages of a bookâ€”not unlike the patterns of identity associated with capitalist exchange, which are alternately fixed and unhinged as commodities take flight.
Marxian value theory has long been used, with great effect, to analyze class exploitation and capitalist crises. But David Kristanjson-Gural argues it has a third role, which has been overlooked: understood as a theory of price formation, a value-theoretic framework enables us to see how competition distributes and redistributes labor-time within a capitalist economy. The problem is, in order for Marxian value categories to play such a role, it is necessary to build a theory in which the implications of short-run deviations of demand from supply are explicitly addressed. Using the familiar (in this literature) tools of matrix algebra and a two-sector schema, Kristanjson-Gural illustrates how values (the amount of labor-time embodied in commodities the course of production) and prices of production (the amount of labor-time for which commodities exchange) are interrelated, and how differences between the two magnitudes are key to understanding how competition affects the distribution of labor-time. He then shows how changes in the level of demand (above or below the amount of a commodity supplied) involves the development of a new value categoryâ€”the â€śmarket price of productionâ€ťâ€”and a way of analyzing the redistribution of existing value among capitalist producers. The result, Kristanjson-Gural argues, is an approach that allows us to understand how â€śall of the factors which overdetermine both demand and supply play a role in the competitive struggle between workers and capitalists and among capitalists themselves.â€ť
In the Remarx essay that concludes this issue, Richard Wolff intervenes in the debate concerning colonialism in Africa and reparations by proposing to shift the focus from net resource flows to class changes. Wolffâ€™s contention is that colonialism and neocolonialism have had far-reaching implications for the class structures of both the colonizers and the colonized. Therefore, in his view, the specific effects of reparations payments will depend on how they interact with and lead to changes in the class structures of both sets of countriesâ€”those making the payments as well as those receiving them. Using the example of Britain and East Africa, Wolff shows that colonialism had diverse effects: in some cases destroying and in other cases reinforcing nonexploitative class structures for the colonized; strengthening (although not without contradictions) capitalist class structures along the colonizers. Wolffâ€™s conclusion is that, only when combined with the requisite class transformations, involving a fundamental â€śbreak with the exploitative class structures inherited from the colonial experience,â€ť will reparations (or aid payments more generally) have any hope of reducing global inequality.
The move from one publisher to another is always difficult. We want to thank the members of the staff at both Guilford and Routledge for making this transition as smooth as possible. We also want to acknowledge the efforts of one of our own, Jesal Kapadia, who produced the elegant design on which our new cover is based.