In this issue
we have assembled three incisive commentaries on George DeMartinoâ€™s important book, Global Economy, Global Justice, along with a response by the author himself. Initially presented in a symposium that was organized by Jack Amariglio for the Marxism and the World Stage conference, these essays explore the resonance and reach both of DeMartinoâ€™s critique of the social ethics associated with contemporary neoliberalism and of the alternative approach to economic and social justice he advocates.
William Milberg, in the first essay, outlines the major changes that have taken place during the postwar period in neoclassical economistsâ€™ analyses of international trade. According to Milberg, mainstream academic economics has largely abandoned its highly abstract, welfare-oriented model-building in favor of a more empiricist approach, thereby creating a theoretical void that ironically has been filled by a return to the market-celebrating claims of neoliberalism. Milberg then credits DeMartino with making explicit, and posing fundamental criticisms of, the ethical norms inherent in contemporary claims concerning the welfare-enhancing effects of free global markets. For Milberg, the task that must accompany contemporary expressions of justifiable outrage concerning the failings of global neoliberalism is precisely the one taken up by DeMartino: to think â€˜â€˜carefully through the logic of neoliberalism, its moral underpinnings and its alternatives.â€™â€™
Julie Graham, for her part, applauds DeMartinoâ€™s â€˜â€˜courageâ€™â€™ and â€˜â€˜strength of visionâ€™â€™ in confronting a series of difficult issues*affirming a workable model of social justice in the face of the grandiose claims of neoliberalism, identifying and avoiding the pitfalls of both moral objectivism and cultural relativism, and elaborating a concrete policy alternative even when using an antiessentialist framework of analysis. But Graham also expresses her misgivings concerning DeMartinoâ€™s proposal for a Social Index Tariff Structure, particularly the â€˜â€˜dreary actualitiesâ€™â€™ and violence of institutionalizing and universalizing such a system. The alternative, she suggests, is to see DeMartinoâ€™s proposal less as a final outcome and more as an initial attempt to interpellate the â€˜â€˜subjects of global justice,â€™â€™ calling into being a politics that can constitute a new global order.
DeMartinoâ€™s critical approach to the ethical claims of global neoliberalism explicitly draws on the â€˜â€˜functioningsâ€™â€™ and â€˜â€˜capabilitiesâ€™â€™ approach of Amartya Sen. But, suggest Maliha Safri and Eray Düzenli, it also embodies a latent politics of radical democracy along the lines proposed by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, albeit with a â€˜â€˜sexy twist.â€™â€™ Extending radical democracy into the economic realm and to the global level, DeMartino offers a new â€˜â€˜suture,â€™â€™ a criterion of economic and social justice that is open to different ways of envisioning and bringing about equality, fairness and justice within the global economy. Safri and Düzenli are particularly drawn to the idea that there is no telos to this process, as new social demands are posed and new debates emerge, and that issues of class justice (of the sort more fully elaborated by DeMartino in the January 2003 issue of RM) can take their rightful place on the progressive agenda.
In his rejoinder, DeMartino takes up the challenges posed in all three commentaries and focuses on the politics of confronting and enacting alternatives to global neoliberalism. Whereas Milberg emphasizes the general avoidance of issues pertaining to human welfare on the part of orthodox economists, DeMartino observes their continued attachment to the imperative of economic growth and a libertarian defense of free markets, which serve to distance hegemonic economic discourse from even investigating the possibility of global equality. Thatâ€™s one of the yokes his work on the ethical imperative of egalitarianism is designed to throw off. Another aim is to demonstrate that a political economy informed by poststructuralism need not remain silent on questions of policy. Responding to the fears of violence and universality attendant upon a large international bureaucracy expressed by Graham, DeMartino suggests that the alternative global regime he proposes is more tolerant than global neoliberalism precisely of the goal he and Graham share: creating a discursive and social space for experiments in economic difference and class justice. Finally, DeMartino joins with Safri and Düzenli in articulating capabilities equality as a normative commitment that entails an open-ended politics. It is also a way, DeMartino hastens to add, of challenging the Left to abandon its traditional criticisms of neoliberalism (trapped as they often are on the terrain of neoliberalism) and to take up the banners of global equality and class justice.
Shifting our attention from global capitalism to the history of noncapitalism, the aim of the next article, by Serap Kayatekin and S. Charusheela, is to radically reconceptualize Marxian approaches to feudalism. In particular, the authors set out to retain Marxismâ€™s traditional interest in and knowledges concerning exploitation and social transformation while overcoming the legacy of invoking the â€˜â€˜modernâ€™â€™ as the reference point for analyzing feudal*and, more generally, all noncapitalist*forms of culture and agency. Kayatekin and Charusheela begin by defining feudal exploitation as the open or â€˜â€˜noncovertâ€™â€™ appropriation of the surplus in the form of rent, which immediately raises the question of the particular noncapitalist hegemony under which the feudal class process takes place. As they conceptualize it, the feudal relationship between exploiter and exploited is produced as an effect of hierarchy, reciprocity, and the discursive construction of an inferior*and hence exploitable*
Other. These concepts are further refined with respect to the history of sharecropping in the postbellum U.S. South, in which a cultural order and a set of subjectivities were established such as to enable feudal exploitation based on a complex, changing combination of coercion and consent. Equally important, the feudal notions of reciprocity, dignity, and justice allowed for various nonmodernist forms of resistance to feudal exploitation. The more general lesson Kayatekin and Charusheela draw from this analysis is that understanding the languages of feudal and other noncapitalist agencies on their own terms expands the possibilities of subversion and resistance open to all of us.
The 2002 election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) as president was greeted with enthusiasm not only by the Brazilian Left but also by leftists throughout the hemisphere and around the world. After many years of political organizing (the PT was founded in 1980) and local electoral successes (most notably in Porto Alegre)*amidst the ravages of first a brutal military dictatorship, then widespread corruption, and finally a neoliberal democracy that was attempting to remodel the country along the lines prescribed by the International Monetary Fund*a mass-based party committed to economic and social transformation and led by a metalworker and trade-union militant had won the top prize! Almost immediately, however, ardent support gave way to guarded optimism, as charges of cronyism, corruption, missed opportunities, and the adoption of IMF-style policies mounted. Then, on 14 December 2003, the National Directorate of the PT voted to expel three PT federal deputies (equivalent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives) and one PT federal senator, Heloisa Helena. Carlos Nelson Coutinho, RM author and internationally known Gramsci scholar, announced his own decision to leave the PT at the same time. In the interview with Coutinho that we secured for this issue, he not only explains the changes in the PT that led to his disenchantment with the party but also the vision of socialism and left-wing politics that, in his view, have continued relevance in Brazil today. Readers should know that, in June of this year, Coutinho, Helena, and other PT dissidents met in BrasÄ±Â´lia and formed a new party, the Party of Socialism and Liberty (P-SOL).
Does the recent introduction of microelectronics-based forms of automation, and the attendant raising of the education and training requirements of workers, refute the Marxian thesis of the deskilling of labor? Does the â€˜â€˜unmanned factory,â€™â€™ based on the automated assembly line and flexible manufacturing systems (such as can be found in the metal-mechanical industry), contradict the lessons Marx drew from the introduction of machinery in textile production? The problem, as Benedito Moraes-Neto sees it, is that we have lost sight of Marxâ€™s own theory of the capitalist labor process, because his writings have been conflated with those of Harry Braverman and Adam Smith. It is Braverman who focused on the ways in which Taylorism and Fordism reduced the skill requirements for assembly-line labor*and Smith who emphasized the increasingly minute division of labor in factory production. But, according to Moraes-Neto, Marxâ€™s theory of the effects of automation is based on a different conception of deskilling: instead of increased specialization (as emphasized by Braverman and Smith), the transformation of work through the technological application of science leads to a â€˜â€˜negation of living workâ€™â€™ within the production process itself. Therefore, he concludes that the â€˜â€˜unmanned factory,â€™â€™ which utilizes a small number of highly qualified workers, does not invalidate Marxâ€™s theory. Indeed, for Moraes-Neto, the challenge today is precisely the fact that the continued automation of capitalist industry demonstrates the contradictory nature of capital—which depends on labor as the measure and source of value while making labor itself superfluous.
Margaret Fay is one of the few commentators who has noted and elaborated the significance of the physical features of the â€˜â€˜Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.â€™â€™ Gary Tedman introduces readers to Fayâ€™s innovative work (including her unpublished doctoral thesis) in the context of his own attempt to produce a more accessible, online version of the â€˜â€˜Paris Manuscripts.â€™â€™ The novel argument put forward by Fay and Tedman is that the textual design of these manuscripts reveals important aspects of the authorâ€™s method. For example, the negative and positive aspects of Marxâ€™s â€˜â€˜immanent criticismâ€™â€™ of Adam Smith and G. W. F. Hegel are evidenced by such features as the use of varying numbers of columns (three, two, and one), the strategic placement of section headings, and the sequence of notebooks that comprise the manuscripts, which simply cannot be seen in traditional presentations of the manuscripts and hence escape interpretation. Moreover, according to Tedmanâ€™s aesthetic-textual interpretation, Marx can be shown to move beyond the â€˜â€˜radical humanistâ€™â€™ position of Feuerbach in these manuscripts, thus emphasizing the materialist (and not merely philosophical) dimensions of alienation. In this, Tedman connects what he takes to be the deliberate artistic design of the 1844 manuscripts with the theoretical revolution accomplished by Marx.
The new art/iculations section continues with Charity Scribnerâ€™s essay on the artistic and theoretical work of Alexander Kluge. Awarded in 2003 one of Germanyâ€™s most prestigious honors, the Büchner Prize, Kluge is one of Europeâ€™s most important public intellectuals but notice of his work in Anglo-American cultural circles has virtually disappeared in the last twenty years. After reminding us of his books in cultural philosophy and his major films (as well as the criticism directed at them by second-wave feminists), Scribner turns her attention to the play of image and text in his â€˜â€˜difficult, yet ever-proliferating visual and literary productions.â€™â€™ She identifies Klugeâ€™s use of the subtitle*in the form of brief captions on pages with one or more illustrations*as central to his strategy of telling stories outside the limits imposed by the standard narrative devices of plot, character, and action. Scribner credits Kluge with presaging and even championing the visual turn of contemporary cinema and digital media while resisting any easy reconciliation of image and text. In this sense, his ongoing work serves to expose the ideological operations and destructive power of the new media and to safeguard, in its commitment to texts, the â€˜â€˜grammar of time.â€™â€™
Most Marxists will probably welcome a story of success in classroom teaching, especially in helping students in the United States to learn more about class exploitation. Clifford Staples, who teaches Sociology at the University of North Dakota, presents just such a story in his Remarx essay. The course was â€˜â€˜Social Inequality,â€™â€™ and Staples first exposed students to the limitations of liberalism and then to the basic concepts of Marxian class analysis (particularly as interpreted and developed by Stephen Resnick, Richard Wolff, and J. K. Gibson-Graham). Using a variety of forms of documentation (essays, email messages, online postings, and exam answers), Staples reports that students welcomed, if â€˜â€˜somewhat warily and uncertainly,â€™â€™ the challenge of analyzing class exploitation and imagining nonexploitative alternatives. What is particularly interesting in Staplesâ€™s account is that students brought with them prior knowledges of class and exploitation, although often they applied it to others and not to themselves. Encouraging the students to examine their own work experiences, Staples was able to create a new set of dialogues concerning the existence of exploitation and the possibility of transforming their workplaces in a nonexploitative manner. In the end, the course was*not surprisingly, given its subject matter*a mixed success but Staples invites us all to reflect on and talk about our own experiences in encouraging students to take up the project of rethinking Marxism.
Karl Marx and the Classics , by John Milios, Dimitri Dimoulis, and George Economakis, represents both an original interpretation of and an accessible introduction to Marxian value theory. That is the verdict of reviewer Alfredo Saad-Filho who, notwithstanding his â€˜â€˜minor disagreementsâ€™â€™ with specific claims made by the authors, recommends that their book â€˜â€˜be read widely.â€™â€™ Saad-Filho credits Milios et al. with writing a comprehensive review and clear presentation of the basic concepts of Marxâ€™s value theory, including its distinctiveness with respect to the classical political economy of David Ricardo. In addition, he applauds their effort to develop a distinctive class interpretation, emphasizing the centrality of both history and class relations in the determination of value. Thus, in their hands, Marxâ€™s theory of value goes from being a technical treatment of markets and production and becomes of theory of â€˜â€˜capital as a class relation of production and struggle.â€™â€™
The other book reviewed in this issue is the revised edition of Michael Hudsonâ€™s Super Imperialism . According to Elizabeth Ramey, Hudson has successfully updated his original study of U.S. financial diplomacy to take into account the events subsequent to Nixonâ€™s 1971 closing of the dollar window and their implications for the current global monetary system. Although clearly disappointed with his â€˜â€˜doomsdayâ€™â€™ conclusion (to wit, reforms will only be enacted after a global financial meltdown), Ramey does find compelling Hudsonâ€™s analysis of the nature of U.S. imperialism (exercised as a form of monetary coercion, and by the U.S. government as distinct from private business interests) as well as his indictment of mainstream economics â€˜â€˜for providing Washington with the ideological weapons necessary to continue the conquest of the worldâ€™s commanding heights.â€™â€™ Where Ramey differs is in seeing the emergence today of a new set of challenges to U.S. hegemony, which short of a global crisis may be the harbingers of a more stable and just global economic order.
The photograph of a hooded prisoner standing on a box, electrodes attached to his outstretched arms, has no doubt become the icon of the abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison*and, given its recognizability and symbolic meanings, it has rapidly been reproduced, appropriated, and transformed throughout the world. Scattered throughout this issue, readers will find a series of other hooded, masked, and â€˜â€˜defacedâ€™â€™ images that were selected from the media and altered by Peter Lasch as a continuation of his project of â€˜â€˜Naturalizations.â€™â€™ The icon of Abu Ghraib changed the hood from a sign of the persecutor (the executioner, the Klansman) to that of the victim. Laschâ€™s images introduce another set of possibilities*the active, creative subject (who can be variously individuated or massed by assuming an effaced identity). In turn, the mirror-masks introduced by Lasch disturb and reorient the social and spatial relations of the original photographs and, by doing so, invite readers to â€˜â€˜reinscribe power in the faces of those who actively refuse to be stripped of all dignity.â€™â€™