In this issue
we register our sense of loss with the recent passing of Edward W. Said. For a variety of reasons (some of which he addressed, for example, in a 1999 interview with Nouri Jarah), Said chose not to explicitly discuss â€śthe question of Marxismâ€ť (although he did acknowledge the importance of â€śthe Marxist analysisâ€ť for â€śunderstanding the situation we live in nowâ€ť and the significance for his work of individual Marxist thinkers, such as Gramsci and LukĂˇcs). But, in our view, Saidâ€™s contributions to Marxism, and to radical thought generally, go far beyond the refused label; they can be found in his unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause and the plight of oppressed peoples everywhere, his pathbreaking identification and critique of â€śorientalism,â€ť his ongoing exploration of the relationship between culture and imperialism, and his penetrating statements concerning the role of intellectuals whose duty is â€śto challenge and defeat both an imposed silence and the normalized quiet of unseen power wherever and whenever possible.â€ť We are pleased, therefore, to share with readers the eloquent tribute to Said by his longtime friend Joseph Buttigieg, which was first delivered at the Marxism and the World Stage conference on 7 November 2003.
Translation is much more than a technical exercise of rendering into one language words originally written in another. It is also an inherently intellectual and, indeed, political project of interpretation and transformation. Consider the long line of Marxist intellectuals who have labored in the practice of translation. In our own time, these include Buttigieg as well as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Michael Hardt. We are delighted, then, to publish Jason Smithâ€™s mellifluous translation of Pierre Machereyâ€™s discussion of Judith Butlerâ€™s The Psychic Life of Power, which comprised Machereyâ€™s presentation of Butlerâ€™s book to his study group, â€śLa Philosophie au sens large,â€ť at the University of Lille 3. Macherey begins by noting that Butler manages to bring together, on a â€ślevel playing field, while avoiding a simple amalgamation,â€ť key texts from Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, and Althusser. He credits her â€śsymptomatic readingâ€ť with opening new lines of inquiry into the question of powerâ€” in particular, a questioning of the distinction that has traditionally erected an exclusionary barrier between the â€śexteriorâ€ť world of power and the â€śinteriorâ€ť world of the subject. Macherey uses the example of a teacher calling on two students in class. He then argues that the seemingly same gesture of studentsâ€™ responding to the teacher has different values and calls on different aspects of the psychic machinery. According to Macherey, what Butler is able to show is that this psychic life of power operates through â€śsubjection,â€ť which is the manner whereby the subject becomes â€śtwistedâ€ťâ€”and eventually negatedâ€”in dealing with both another and itself. The result is a subject that, in losing itself, moves from mourning (the experience of something lost) to melancholia (the denial of that loss). And here Macherey applauds and extends Butlerâ€™s conclusion: the only way out of melancholia is not religious but political; the challenge therefore is to â€śfearlessly confront the fear of power.â€ť
Appalachia has long captured the attention of radical (including Marxist) thinkers and organizersâ€”as the victim of capitalist industrialization and the site of anticapitalist organizing. In 2000, Dwight Billings and Kathleen Blee published their much-acclaimed rethinking of the historical roots of Appalachian inequality, The Road to Poverty: The Making of Wealth and Hardship in Appalachia. Here, they respond to some of the key issues raised in a symposium on their book at the Marxism 2000 conference, focusing in particular on the role of class processes prior to capitalist industrialization. After discussing the prevailing theoretical models with which their own investigation took issue (namely, the culture of poverty and internal colonialism), as well as the reasons behind their choice of a longitudinal analysis of a particular county in rural Kentucky, Billings and Blee present the historical interactions among class, markets, culture, and the local state that, in their view, combined â€śto help set Appalachian Kentucky on its distinctive road to rural poverty.â€ť The factors they cite include the early integration of Appalachia into distant markets, the particular forms of wealth associated with slavery, the prevalence of subsistence farming and nonmarket traditions of reciprocity, and the local stateâ€™s lack of autonomy vis-Ă -vis specific fractions of the dominant class. As a result, they are able to challenge the idea that Appalachian poverty can be adequately explained either by persistent economic isolation or by absentee capitalism; for Billings and Blee, the social origins of impoverishment need to be located in the â€śclass processes in the early history of the region.â€ť Moreover, they argue, the existence of various forms of noncapitalism today is key to understanding the potential for building â€śequitable and sustainable alternatives to capitalist exploitation.â€ť
Blame Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck. Or credit them if, like many of us, you enjoy the experience of shopping from mail-order catalogs. In either case, tracking down and listing all 15,194 catalogs that, as of 2002, were available on the Internet must have been a painstaking task for artist Penelope Umbrico. First produced as a Web piece (accessible at http://www.rhizome.org/artbase/16641/ Umbrico-rhizome/), All the Catalogs (A to Z) is printed for the first time in our pages. The initial impression, in both media, is of an undecipherable sequence of codelike symbols. But, under magnification, it is possible to see that the black-and-white noise comprises an ordered sequence of proper names, which run from A & A Jewelry Tools & Findings to Zzip Designs. How many names do we recognize? How do we feel when we realize that each one of us has direct contact with only a small subset of such catalogs (which, themselves, are only a small subset of the ways products are marketed these days)? And how do we react when faced with the inevitable collision between consumption and consumerism, need and pleasure, between the finite number of objects we actually purchase and the grayish field of seemingly infinite sources of potential buying? How, in other words, do we read the actual and promised worlds of the mail-order catalog?
The theme of Documenta 11, the latest in the series of art exhibitions in the German city of Kassel, this time organized by Okwui Enwezor, was â€śTruth and Reconciliation.â€ť Enwezorâ€™s departure from formal aesthetics was subject to much criticism, because artists were asked to share the stage with, among others, experts in the fields of legal theory and human rights and theorists of globalization. For her own part, Charity Scribner sees the eventâ€™s engagement with the political trajectory of much contemporary culture as a success. Her question, though, is whether Documenta 11 risked â€śeclipsing art with document and discourse.â€ť Scribner returns to Adornoâ€™s discussion of aesthetic theory, especially his notion of artworks that do not present themselves as art, and uses it to evaluate the work of Peter Weiss (whose early 1960s play The Investigation dramatized fragments of the Frankfort Auschwitz trials) and Eyal Sivan (whose mid-1990s film The Specialist recounts the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann). In her view, because artists such as Weiss and Sivan are able to resist the temptation to develop photographic documents of war trials, their work manages to negotiate â€śboth the juridical and aesthetic implications of truth and reconciliationâ€ťâ€”a lesson that both confirms the validity of Adornoâ€™s insights and sets the agenda for the next Documenta.
Building on his previous discussion of aesthetics (Winter 1999), Gary Tedmanâ€™s goal here is to defend the idea that the level of human practice associated with feelings is founded on instincts and, yet, â€śremains immune to the humanist, essentialist, and structuralist expressive totality.â€ť His solution is to produce the concept of an â€śaesthetic dialectic.â€ť Tedman argues that, as a first step, it is necessary to recognize Althusserâ€™s failure to see in Marx a â€śconcept of felt alienation brought about by sensual experience,â€ť which was encouraged by the influence of both Lacanâ€™s denial of sensual language and the â€śconjuring awayâ€ť of aesthetic mediation by French academic philosophy. Tedman is then able to turn his attention to the work of the pre-Freudian scientist Ewald Hering, for whom the human nervous system was conceived as a â€śtotality in process,â€ť and the contemporary psychologist Anne Senghas, whose work on sign systems among the deaf appears to confirm the existence of an innate linguistic capacity. For Tedman, these legitimate what he takes to be Marxâ€™s concept of species-being (â€śthe existence of specific but universal social-creative human instinctsâ€ť) which, among other things, enables the transmission of culture over generations. The last step in Tedmanâ€™s argument is to invert the terms of the Hegelian dialectic by way of Althusserâ€™s concept of overdetermination. The result is that Hegelâ€™s idealist notion of the aesthetic as the experience of significant content can be made to disappear, â€śreplaced by human sensual activity.â€ť
Within the discipline of economics, the evolutionary framework proposed by Thorstein Veblen has become a favored source for critics of the static and apologetic nature of orthodox theory. Andrea Micocci, however, sounds a word of caution; in his view, while capitalism must be analyzed in a historical manner, the anthropology that lies at the core of Veblenâ€™s work makes it inadequate as the source of a radical alternative to mainstream economics. Micocci proposes, instead, an anti-Hegelian Marxist concept of historical dynamism, one that recognizes the importance of historyâ€™s ruptures as well as its continuities, as the only way of â€śgranting historicity to economics.â€ť The key problem with Veblen, as Micocci sees it, is that he associates the growth of capitalism with a particular kind of psychology and culture, which originate in specific racial characteristics. Even aside from this issue, Veblen does not offer a coherent philosophical framework for understanding the dynamics of capitalism. Micocci therefore turns to the anti-Hegelian (and, in his view, anti-dialectical) traditionâ€”of Feuerbach, the young Marx, Galvano Della Volpe, and Lucio Collettiâ€”in order to sketch the broad outlines of what he considers to be a truly dynamic economics. (In an appendix, Micocci explains the differences between his version of anti-Hegelian Marxism and the approach of Althusser and of Resnick and Wolff.) The purpose of his proposed â€śgenealogy of the materialâ€ť is, on the basis of a â€śtaxonomy of the present,â€ť to determine the â€ślaws of motionâ€ť of the economy system and the relationship between the economy and the â€ślaws of motion of the material in general.â€ť For Micocci, only such an approach is capable of returning â€śto reality . . . the dynamism stolen from it by capitalism and its apologists.â€ť
The Remarx section contains two incisive and engaging essays. The first, by Robert Tanner, is a critical appraisal of Allan Megillâ€™s recent book, Marx: The Burden of Reason (Why Marx Rejected Politics and the Market). For Tanner, the main shortcoming of Megillâ€™s treatment of Marx is that it is confined to the texts up to the mid1840s and fails to analyze the implications of the later critique of political economy in Capital. Tanner proceeds by comparing two of Marxâ€™s statements concerning political consciousness, one from 1843 (Marxâ€™s letter to Ruge), the other from 1865 (the conclusion to the speech â€śValue, Price, and Profitâ€ť). He shows that Marx changes positions between the two statementsâ€”there is a breakâ€”from that of the rationalist philosopher to the critic of the â€śwhole wages system.â€ť The latter is the Marx, entirely absent from Megillâ€™s book, whose thought Tanner considers to be particularly relevant for our time.
Richard McIntyre, in the second essay in this section, sets his sights on Joseph Stiglitzâ€™s best-selling volume Globalization and Its Discontents. McIntyreâ€™s view is that Stiglitzâ€™s treatment of globalization is quite conventional (confined, as it is, to debates within mainstream economics and to personal politics) and the â€śfawning treatment of Stiglitz by some on the Left . . . is more an indication of the weakness of critical political economy than the strength of Stiglitzâ€™s argument.â€ť Drawing on the obvious parallel to Freudâ€™s Civilization and Its Discontents, McIntyre admonishes Stiglitz and other social democratic critics of globalization for functioning as â€ścultural therapists,â€ť promising just the right treatment so that the discontent with globalization can be overcome. Imagining and creating something better than â€ścapitalist globalization with a human faceâ€ť will take a radically different kind of critique.
In the first of two shorter book reviews in this issue, Richard Wolff notes that Slavoj ZË‡ekâ€™s Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? operates on a number of different
Ë‡izlevels, from attacking the concept of totalitarianism through deploying key concepts borrowed from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis to critically engaging with postmodernism. What strikes Wolff is that, aside from its various contradictions and oversights, ZË‡ekâ€™s book offers a glimpse at a moment â€śwhere Marxism is struggling
Ë‡izin transition to new revolutionary forms.â€ť The theme of psychoanalysis is also central to Richard Lichtmanâ€™s Dying in America. Harriet Fraad reads Lichtmanâ€™s book as both a poignant memoir of his father and a Marxian attack on the psychology and politics of aging and death in a capitalist society. She applauds Lichtman for critically investigating the ways in which capitalism creates a consumerist ideology that equates old age with obsolescence and seeks to segregate the elderly. In Fraadâ€™s view, Lichtman has provided a â€śbrilliant outlineâ€ť that others will be able to supplement and complete.
By all accounts, â€śMarxism and the World Stage,â€ť the fifth in the series of international gala conferences sponsored by RETHINKING MARXISM at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was a resounding success. Hundreds of scholars, artists, students, and activists were able to assembleâ€”in four plenary sessions, an art exhibition, and more than 125 different panelsâ€”to critically explore the traditions and trajectories of Marxism. We want to publicly thank the members of the conference organizing committee (Enid Arvidson, Stephen Cullenberg, Robert Burns, S. Charusheela, George DeMartino, Stephen Healy, Susan Jahoda, and John Roche), along with numerous other members of the Association for Economic and Social Analysis, for the extraordinary time and energy they devoted to making the event possible. Readers can expect to see, in future issues of RM, a selection from the many exciting papers that were originally presented in Amherst.