In this issue
we inaugurate an exciting new section of the journal, under the editorial guidance of Jack Amariglio. Our goal in â€˜â€˜art/iculationsâ€™â€™ is to encourage the formulation and dissemination of distinctively Marxian discourses concerning contemporary art and culture. As Amariglio explains in his introduction to the series, we encourage submissions from a wide variety of contributors, including artists, cultural critics, and nonspecialists. The essays in art/iculations will, we hope, push the limits of particular disciplines to investigate both the â€˜â€˜politics and economics (and political economy)â€™â€™ of artistic and cultural artifacts, events, and institutions and the â€˜â€˜intertwining of political and aesthetic experience.â€™â€™ Through these contributions, we look forward to demonstrating the relevance of Marxian perspectives to the ongoing discussions and debates concerning the artistic, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of social life today.
Amariglioâ€™s essay on two controversial art exhibitions in Berlin is an example of precisely the kind of Marxian-inspired work that we hope to elicit for the art/ iculations section. â€˜â€˜From Wall to Fence (and Pillar to Post)â€™â€™ focuses attention on the politicized aesthetics of representing spatial division, with reference to the territories of Palestine and Germany. One exhibition, at the KW gallery (a former margarine factory), concentrated on the role of architecture and architects in constructing and contesting the horizontal and vertical forms of segmentation and surveillance created by such ongoing events as the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the erection of the so-called security fence. The other exhibition, at the â€˜â€˜horribly uglyâ€™â€™ Neue Nationalgalerie, was devoted to showcasing the range of contemporary art produced in East Germany. While Amariglio found that it was impossible to detect differences in political aesthetics of the artists who were in and out of favor with the regime, and that at least some of the pieces were as mediocre and uninspired as their counterparts in the West during the same period, he also discovered â€˜â€˜some fascinating piecesâ€™â€™ that contradict the usual dismissal of socialist art as â€˜â€˜merely political.â€™â€™ What both exhibitions succeed in demonstrating is that the politicized aesthetics of spatial division contribute to a â€˜â€˜much-needed dialectics of seeingâ€™â€™*and, at the same time, that itâ€™s still possible for many not to see the persistent divisions of class.
â€˜â€˜Traceâ€™â€™ is one of the key concepts in poststructuralist theory, serving to destabilize a wide variety of metaphysical binaries, particularly that of presence/ absence. Michael Marder, in his article â€˜â€˜Retracing Capital,â€™â€™ finds striking similarities between the concept of trace as a â€˜â€˜signification of the other,â€™â€™ especially as it is elaborated in the work of Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, and the method of Marxâ€™s Capital . Marder begins by explaining that, in different ways and using different strategies, both Derrida and Levinas invoke trace to expose the limits of representa-tion*by pointing to that which is â€˜â€˜unrepresentable, unthinkable, and unthematizable.â€™â€™ He then shows that in what he considers to be Marxâ€™s analysis of â€˜â€˜pure capitalism,â€™â€™ trace has a similarly â€˜â€˜subversive energy.â€™â€™ Marder argues, for example, that Marx does not attempt to relate a commodityâ€™s value to some kind of pure origin. Rather, since use-value can be interpreted as a trace of nature and of concrete labor (much as value is a trace of socially necessary abstract labor-time), a commodity that passes through successive stages of production becomes a trace â€˜â€˜of what has been stripped from it and retained in it.â€™â€™ Other â€˜â€˜moments of trace productionâ€™â€™ include the role of the commodity in the economic text (as a social hieroglyphic), the buyer-seller relation (involving an erasure of qualitative differences), the circuits of capital (which, among other things, create the illusion of capitalâ€™s independence from labor), and capitalist crisis (which creates capitalâ€™s other in the form of a surplus population). In Marderâ€™s view, Marxâ€™s method demonstrates the limits of classical political economy, by showing how it emulates capital itself in attempting to efface the traces of capitalism. Marder also links Marx with Derrida and Levinas in seeking to uncover the trace of the other*in Marxâ€™s case, by exposing the â€˜â€˜deepâ€™â€™ structure of exploitation and by illuminating the traces imprinted on the â€˜â€˜surfaceâ€™â€™ of capital. If we extend Marderâ€™s analysis, the gaps created by the â€˜â€˜ignorant/ignoringâ€™â€™ epistemology of conventional economic thought today invite new applications of the trace in the method of Marxian political economy.
â€˜â€˜Hybridityâ€™â€™ is central to the postcolonial writings of both Nestor GarcÄ±Â´a Canclini and Homi Bhabha. However, Hosam Aboul-Ela argues that GarcÄ±Â´a Cancliniâ€™s work, in contrast to that of Bhabha and to much mainstream postcolonial theory, emerges from a Latin American intellectual tradition that connects â€˜â€˜material inequalities between the metropolis and the periphery with culture in the South.â€™â€™ Aboul-Ela traces GarcÄ±Â´a Cancliniâ€™s particular conception and use of hybridity back to the early-twentieth-century Peruvian Marxist JoseÂ´tegui who, in contrast to many
Â´ Carlos MariaMarxists of that time, focused on the so-called indigenous problem, the importance of decolonization movements (even for formally independent countries), the revolutionary role of the peasantry, and a nonreductive and nonlinear conception of history. Like MariaÂ´tegui, GarcÄ±Â´a Canclini emerges as the paradoxical figure of an â€˜â€˜empirical theoretician,â€™â€™ a thinker who focuses on the contradictions created by the unequal development of Latin American culture, which contains both traditional and avantgarde postmodern elements. For Aboul-Ela, such books as Transforming Modernity and Hybrid Cultures , emphasize not only the â€˜â€˜heightened occurrence of hybridity in Latin America due to its historical experienceâ€™â€™ but also the hybridization that has taken place within the traditional and modern dimensions of Latin American culture. According to Aboul-Ela, while Bhabha focuses almost exclusively on the role of hybridity in the semantic field of language, GarcÄ±Â´a Canclini (like many others in the field of Latin American cultural studies) is more concerned with the social base of cultural processes of hybridization. This leads Aboul-Ela to conclude that â€˜â€˜the tendency to suppress the workings of the colonial economy in contemporary postcolonialism is both surprising and discouraging and should lead to a revision of postcolonial studies.â€™â€™ The recent controversy surrounding the definition of anti-semitism as â€˜â€˜opposition to Zionismâ€™â€™ and â€˜â€˜sympathy for the opponents of Israelâ€™â€™ in Merriam Websterâ€™s reissue of the Third New International Dictionary*Unabridged highlights what Ayreen Anastas considers to be the â€˜â€˜violent interpretative conflictsâ€™â€™ that attempt to fix the meaning of words and put them to use. In her own version of the Oxdorf English Dictionary*the Useful Edition , Anastas separates a group of twenty-seven words*ranging from Arab to Zionism*from their â€˜â€˜properâ€™â€™ meanings in order to create a new guide to a world â€˜â€˜lacking in absolute guarantees.â€™â€™ Like Rudolf Baranikâ€™s â€˜â€˜Excerpts from the â€˜Dictionary of the 24th Centuryâ€™â€™â€™ (published in the summer 1989 issue of RM), provocative definitions of words create a politicized juxtaposition of old and new meanings. In contrast to Baranik, however, Anastas has produced a series of indeterminate meanings, casting the words adrift and allowing their multiple definitions to represent the â€˜â€˜uncertain terrain of the political.â€™â€™
Does the appearance of a visible â€˜â€˜queer blocâ€™â€™ in the antiglobalization movement signify a closing of the historical distance between antihomophobic and anticapitalist politics? Or will the reinvigoration of anticapitalist stances within queer struggles be undermined by the ongoing tension between the antifoundationalism of queer theory and a Marxism characterized by a universalizing historicism? In â€˜â€˜Material/Queer Theory,â€™â€™ Rob Cover recognizes the tensions but then seeks to overcome them, by showing that queer theories of identity performativity are compatible with a Marxian critique of capitalist exploitation. Cover begins by noting that there has been a recent upsurge in anticapitalist politics within lesbian/gay activism. The problem, as he sees it, is that this new movement has emphasized the fixity of sexual identities and rejected the idea that they are constituted through performativity*a position that has been reinforced by the work of such new base/superstructure materialists as Donald Morton and Teresa Ebert. Coverâ€™s solution is not to do away with the distinction between culture and economy, nor merely to reverse the presumed hierarchy between them, but to view the relation between base and superstructure as â€˜â€˜problematic, dynamic, and flexible.â€™â€™ He suggests focusing on the manner whereby all performative subjectivities*sexual, class, and so on*are marked by an â€˜â€˜imperative of coherenceâ€™â€™ associated with capitalist reproduction. It thus becomes possible to overcome the false opposition of materialism and performativity, thereby creating a space â€˜â€˜in which a queer theoretical articulation of the instability of sexual identities can be made without undoing the need for an oppositional anticapitalist stance.â€™â€™
Needs must be prioritized over rights as the appropriate ground of social morality for a democratic society in the face of corporate globalization. In order to elaborate and defend this claim, Jeff Noonan first distinguishes the dominant idea of negative individual rights (which justifies the unlimited accumulation of individual resources and the unfettered use of individual property) from the competing notion of fundamental needs (which mandates the use of social resources to ensure that the basic requirements of all citizens are met). Even when the ground of equal rights has been successfully used to organize movements for self-determination, it reaches a limit: â€˜â€˜Having a right to work ... is not the same as working, let alone collectively controlling the work environment.â€™â€™ Noonan then locates the emergence of both grounds of social morality in the English Revolution, arguing that invoking rights (e.g., in the democratic discourse of the parliamentary forces) was a class-based attempt to exclude and exercise control over the propertyless majority, while the appearance of an alternative ground (e.g., in the oppositional discourse of the Levellers) was based on the links among freedom, the satisfaction of needs, and the development of human capabilities. The contrasting effects of these two grounds are exemplified in the struggle over housing in Toronto, where a rights-based approach to democracy preserves voting but leaves unmet the need for adequate housing. In examining the case of a small housing project built by an alliance formed between a local community and homeless survivors of the mental health system, Noonan finds that a needs-based approach represents an effective alternative to both the market and the welfare state. His conclusion is that the use of the needs ground â€˜â€˜can evolve into the organizing principle democratic movements have lacked since revolutionary socialism was taken off the agenda.â€™â€™
In his Remarx essay, Philip Goldstein focuses attention on the later work of the French Marxist Pierre Macherey, a series of texts in which Macherey repudiates some of the well-known (and much-criticized) elements of his influential early writings on literary production, especially the Althusserian opposition between science and ideology and the disciplinary divisions of literature and philosophy. From the 1980s onward, Goldstein identifies a different problematic in which Macherey accords much greater influence both to the episteme within which literary and philosophical texts are written and to readersâ€™ reproductions of those texts. While acknowledging that Althusser also rejected the broad opposition between science and ideology (as a form of â€˜â€˜theoreticismâ€™â€™), Goldstein argues that Macherey went even further in the direction of taking into account the effects on society of ordinary readersâ€™ â€˜â€˜rich misreadings.â€™â€™ This distinguishes Machereyâ€™s â€˜â€˜Foucauldian materialismâ€™â€™ not only from the direction in which Althusser moved but also from the work of such Marxist thinkers as Terry Eagleton and Etienne Balibar. It means that instead of presuming that Marxist science is able to transcend ideology and grasp the essential truth, Macherey â€˜â€˜situates theory within the divided historical contexts revealing the productive activity and social influence of both writers and readers, both literature and philosophy.â€™â€™
Tim Kasserâ€™s recent book, The High Price of Materialism , seeks to unmask the fraudulent claim that human well-being flows from the accumulation of wealth, possessions, and fame. In his critical review of the book, Richard Wolff recognizes its usefulness (especially for those who seek to debunk the claims that capitalism maximizes individual and social welfare) but also its weaknesses. In particular, Wolff faults Kasser for failing to move beyond a moralistic denunciation of materialist values*which serves merely to console the disaffected*and not seeing how â€˜â€˜capitalist exploitation creates and sustains consumerismâ€™â€™*which would serve as a rallying cry for a social movement that seeks to eliminate the source of their disaffection.
In the second review, Andrew Kliman discovers in a new edition of the selected writings of the late Marxist-humanist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya, The Power of Negativity, a strong claim for the importance of critical-dialectical as against positive or affirmative thinking for a successful revolutionary movement. He directs particular attention both to the editorsâ€™ introduction and to the writings of Dunayevskayaâ€™s final years, in which the focus is on harnessing the creative power of cognition*which is capable of breaking through the barriers of the status quo and offering a direction forward*as an alternative to both â€˜â€˜vanguardist and spontaneist concepts of revolutionary organization.â€™â€™ It is this â€˜â€˜negation of the negationâ€™â€™ that Kliman finds particularly relevant in a time when â€˜â€˜imperialist militarism and fundamentalist terrorismâ€™â€™ appear to be the only alternatives.
The transition between publishers is now complete. Fortunately, with the encouragement of our readers and the hard work of our staff, we have been able to remain on schedule with our new publisher. Now we can look forward to expanding our existing projects (in the journal, on the web, and through our series of international conferences) and to formulating and pursuing new initiatives. We encourage readers to let us know what you think of the â€˜â€˜new RMâ€™â€™ and to send us ideas about novel ways in which, together, we can contribute to the rethinking of Marxism.