In this issue
Marxist contributions to the debate over international political economy receive first attention. Adam Morton engages in a wide-ranging and engaging survey of what he calls the neo-Gramscian theory of hegemony, which emerges in the seminal work of Robert Cox as a break from and alternative to mainstream neorealist understandings of international relations. Morton explains how Cox borrows key concepts from Antonio Gramsciâ€™s distinctive approach to Marxian theoryâ€”especially the notions of hegemony, historical bloc, the state, and civil societyâ€”in order to fashion a â€ścritical theory of hegemony,â€ť one that â€śdirects attention to questioning the prevailing order of the world.â€ť Among the distinctive features of Coxâ€™s framework are a focus on an expanded conception of hegemony (which represents a form of class rule, and thus includes but is not reduced to state dominance), the coalescing of historical blocs of social forces at a national level (as a condition for world hegemony), and a nonbourgeois view of the state (which is closely related to the work of Gramsci in that it encompasses institutions of political society and civil society). Morton then explains how this framework can be and has been creatively used (by Cox and other neo-Gramscians) to analyze various global configurations, including the post-World War II Pax Americana, the erosion of that order in the 1970s, and the emergence of a new global order (based on the internationalization of production and the state). Finally, he takes up some of the valuable criticisms of the neo-Gramscian approach from within the Left and puts forth an agenda for further research. What is particularly important, Morton argues, is for neo-Gramscian scholars to engage directly with the writings of Gramsci (instead of relying on secondhand accounts or non-Gramscian understandings of key concepts) and, especially, to consider systematically the forms of resistance (on the part of organized labor, landless peasants, and many others) to contemporary global hegemony.
â€śThe world to be won is the world in which the imperative to mandatory care has real practical effect because it is a world which no longer represses my Desire continually to give the world to you.â€ť That is the way Gad Horowitz and Asher Horowitz define communism, from the perspective of what they consider to be Emmanuel Levinasâ€™s â€śrevolution in ethical theory.â€ť Beginning with a sympathetic but critical discussion of Norman Gerasâ€™s â€ścontractualistâ€ť contribution to a socialist ethics, Horowitz and Horowitz outline the phenomenological path Levinas takes to arrive at a position in which the obligation to bring aid is absolutely mandatory. In a clear and carefully articulated â€śprimer,â€ť they explain the role of the Other in Levinasian ethicsâ€”in terms of the sui generis status of obligation with respect to others (such that it cannot be derived from reason, religion, or any other foundation), the absolute Otherness of the other (which avoids a consideration of the other in terms of similarity or identity), the desire for the other (according to which subjectivity involves a fundamental sensibility to the other), and the asymmetry of the ethical obligation (thus avoiding the condition of reciprocity or mutual obligation). For Horowitz and Horowitz, various aspects of Gerasâ€™s formulation do come close to that of Levinas. What ultimately separates them, however, is whether or not there are conditions placed on ethical obligations: conditional â€śbonds of mutual obligationâ€ť (Geras) versus the unconditional â€śmy responsibilityâ€ť (Levinas). Horowitz and Horowitz are mindful both that Levinas never calls for radical social transformation and that his work has been domesticated and appropriated for conservative ends. Their view, however, is that a Marxist ethics needs to relinquish its ties to contractualism, based as it is on a set of common interest calculations, and to embrace what Levinas offers, a â€śprophetic drive as the real material ethical orientation to the other.â€ť
Performance art as cultural analysis. Sauna as communal practice. Combine them and you have Pia Lindmanâ€™s representation of the wide range of issues that were elicited from her attempt to assemble, and invite audience-participants into a Finnish sauna at two different locations in the United States. As Marxists have come to learn (especially from feminism, queer theory, and Marx himself), and to begin to incorporate into their analyses of economic and social life, the body is an important register of the practices and fantasies enacted in that world. It is marked by race, gender, class, and much moreâ€”and it is one of the sites where those identities are performed. It signifies the ever-shifting divide between private and publicâ€”and the way capitalism forces the two spheres to intersect and, at times, implode. And, as both Lindman and Christ clearly and creatively demonstrate, the bodily identities that are assumedâ€”and interrogated and contestedâ€”in something as â€śsimpleâ€ť as a sauna reveal much about both the worlds in which we live and the ones we desire to create.
The significance of the proliferation of nongovernmenal organizations (NGOs), many of them associated with and shaped by left-wing causes and social movements, has been hotly debated by progressive thinkers and activists, especially during the past decade. Do NGOs represent a new form of participatory democracy? Do they serve to complement, or even replace, traditional forms of political participation and contestation, such as political parties and trade unions? Are they the new agents of social change, especially on a global level? However interesting and important this debate has been, it has often been carried out apart from (and even as a challenge to the relevance of) Marxist theory. Here, we have assembled a symposium on NGOs in relation to the state and civil society, three essays previously available only in German, in order to explore the role of NGOs within and for Marxism.
For Alex Demirovic, much of the existing discussion of NGOs as â€śdemocratic actorsâ€ť has suffered from a pluralist definition of civil society and, with it, an uncritical conception of the bourgeois state. He thus sets out to embed the investigation of the nature and role of NGOs in a Marxist theory of the state by building on and extending key concepts borrowed from the work of Gramsci and Nicos Poulantzas. Gramsci allows him to view the emergence of separate and autonomous realms of the stateâ€”civil society plus political societyâ€”as a condition for the reproduction of capital within a society that is constantly being transformed and revolutionized. From Poulantzas, he develops a notion of the state as the â€śmaterial condensation of the relationship of power within society.â€ť NGOs acquire a new significance in this context in that, as harbingers of a new form of democracy, they do not stand in opposition to the state; rather, they may serve â€śnot only to anchor the state within civil society but also to reproduce the internal separation of the state and the economy.â€ť This is especially true in the context of globalization, in which the manner in which relations of power are condensed within the state is changing and nation states themselves are being reconstituted. Demirovicâ€™s argument is that the emergence of a new kind of NGO, as it trains â€śglobalized intellectualsâ€ť and contributes to the formation of opinion within international decision-making processes, actually contributes to the construction of the internationalized state and gives rise to a â€śnew conflict within civil society in relation to the question of hegemony.â€ť
The internationalization of the state apparatus is also the starting point for Joachim Hirschâ€™s assessment of the role and significance of NGOs. For Hirsch, the contemporary context of neoliberalism or post-Fordism is defined by three main features: denationalization (i.e., the internationalization of production and the rise of the â€śnational competitive stateâ€ť), destatification (or the â€śprivatizationâ€ť of politics), and an internationalization of political regulatory systems (and thus the creation of a â€śdense networkâ€ť of supranational organizations and institutions). The resulting crisis in the structures of traditional political representation on an international level has led to the increasing importance of NGOs. With their ability to mobilize scientific and technical expertise and public opinion, NGOs have come to play a significant role in setting agendas, establishing channels of communication, and carrying out practical projects. They are able to accomplish these tasks by combining an orientation toward the state (to the extent that they depend on both funding and official sanction from the state) and a degree of independence (financially, politically, and organizationally) from the state. NGOs thus form part of the system of â€śglobal governanceâ€ť; as such, they remain part of the â€śextended stateâ€ť and cannot be seen as alternative to â€śradical actionâ€ť against the state. In Hirschâ€™s view, NGOs will be able to contribute to new forms of democracy and liberation only when their advocates and activists move from talking about civil society to actually changing it.
One key area of NGO activity is the international regulation of biodiversity. According to Christoph GĂ¶rg and Ulrich Brand, NGOs have been involved politically both in constituting â€śloss of biological diversityâ€ť as a problem area and in defining the options (such as those contained in the Convention on Biodiversity)â€”and thus NGOs, despite their unevenness and conflicting interests, have come to play an important role in the â€śextended state.â€ť This does not mean that NGOs have not had influence on the outcomes: GĂ¶rg and Brand cite the case of conflicts over intellectual property and patent law, where the interests of local and indigenous communities have been brought into the negotiation process, as one arena in which NGOs have been able to contest the profit-making activities of corporations. But the incorporation of â€śweakerâ€ť interests into the regulatory framework does not eliminate either the conflicts or the exercise of power, at the national or international level, within the â€śnetwork of international regulations.â€ť NGOs are effective, GĂ¶rg and Brand explain, precisely because â€śthey remain oriented towards a process within and between states.â€ť Therefore, in their view, NGOs fall short of carrying out the promised radical transformation of politics.
The provocative thesis elaborated by Benedito Rodrigues de Moraes-Neto in his essay in the Remarx section is that a Marxian analysis of technology and the labor process has become more, not less, relevant with the â€śexplosionâ€ť of Taylorism and Fordism. The usual argument is that twentieth-century industryâ€”characterized by scientific management, the assembly line, and the deskilling of laborâ€”represented the Marxist conception of the capitalist labor process par excellence. Therefore, to the extent that it has been replaced by a post-Fordist mode of industry, one based on microelectronic automation and the â€śunmanned factory,â€ť the theory of capitalism and the transition to socialism elaborated by Marx are called into question. Moraes-Neto turns this argument on its head, showing that Fordist industry is not a good illustration of Marxâ€™s conception of capitalist industry and that the process of automation based on microelectronics is much closer to Marxâ€™s theory of the role of technology in the capitalist labor process. Therefore, in Moraes-Netoâ€™s view, the forms of industry that have superseded Fordism lead not to the burial of Marxism but, rather, to its rebirth.
Geoff Mann describes his reading of Mike Davisâ€™s study of colonial famine in Late Victorian Holocausts as akin to being â€śkicked in the stomach.â€ť Mann explains that, unlike Amartya Sen and others, for whom famine in the global south results from a failure of the political system, for Davis it was precisely the success of colonial administration that, in the midst of environmental instability, created the conditions for mass starvation in India and elsewhere. While Mann credits Davis with using the methods of political ecology to explain both the emergence of a Third World and its vulnerability to extreme climate events, he also expresses a worry that Late Victorian Holocausts distances the reader from these phenomena, by constructing â€śan evil that is clearly bounded, and in the past.â€ť
Finally, please accept our apologies for any confusion that has been created in RMâ€™s transition to a new publishing house. Unavoidable production delays have meant that, this year, subscribers will be receiving the remaining issue of volume 14 from our previous publisher even as issues of the current volume 15 come from our new publisher. However, by the time of the November gala conference at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, we expect the production of RM to be back on schedule. We look forward to seeing you there.