RETHINKING MARXISM Volume 9, Number 4 (Winter, 1996/7)
In this issue, we open with Andrew Parkers reflections on the "prehistory" of a text still in the making: his own Re-Marx. His look back at the past decade during which he has "rewritten" this text three different times has less the feel of a self-critique or self-analysis (though it has those moments, too) than a conjunctural investigation of the failures and fortunes of Marxism and deconstruction and especially their relation during this period. Parker is clear that the past decade has not been particularly kind to either Marxism or deconstruction, as the former has fallen on hard times as part and parcel of the demise of numerous Communist regimes, while the latter has been blunted by its "calcification" in the U.S. academy as well as by such scandals as the revelation of Paul de Mans wartime, pro-Nazi journalism. Yet, as he points out, it is in the context of these developments that an additional element has appeared which, if truth be told, has also been part cause for Parkers return to his own text while reenlivening interest in the Marx/deconstruction relation: the publication of Jacques Derridas Specters of Marx. Parkers own project during this decade has changed, at least in part in relation to these and other events, from seeking "to approach Marxism and deconstruction on the model of neither their difference nor their sameness, but in terms of a tension between difference and sameness that resists dialectical resolution," to pursuing the question of the conflicts between class-based and representational concepts of politics, and finally to bringing to light the history of Marxs own writing. While these phases do not perfectly correspond to or anticipate the major events of the decade, they do indicate another history, one that began with promise in the early 1980s for there to erupt a literature dedicated to finding intersections and forms of productive interchange between Marxism and deconstruction but that ran into the post-Marxist refusal of Marxism by the end of that decade. In the aftermath, Parker experienced a "double surprise" with the appearance of an important interview with Derrida on Marxism (and his relation to Louis Althusser) and with the publication of Specters of Marx, both of which brought forth new questions and mixed emotions. He found in the Marx-struck Derrida (as well in Gayatri Spivak, Derridas predecessor over the past three decades in considering the Marx/deconstruction relation) the "undeconstructively symmetrical" and familiar debate concerning Marx the metaphysician versus Marx the first deconstructer, early and late Marx. or continuity (one Marx) versus discontinuity (two or more Marxes). Parkers own late attention to Marxs writing—and specifically to his early forays into "literature"—is intended, in fact, to bring us out of this insistent impasse, to raise the question of how Marxs literary procedures take leave of literature and begin to sign themselves as science, and with a difference. Perhaps his attention to Marxs own writerly prehistory thus marks the end of the prehistory of the Marx/deconstruction conjunction, and perhaps as well, the end (or beginning) of his own Re-Marx.
Harriet Fraad asks the question, why is incest as a form of sexual child abuse so prevalent in U.S. society despite its being widely regarded as an extreme taboo? Searching to bring some insight and also a sense of political determination to this issue—one brought to the fore historically by the feminist movement—she outlines the conditions of existence of incest ranging from the ideological status of children as "property" of their parents to the narcissism that seems to be the most common psychological profile of incest abusers. In her practice as a psychotherapist, Fraad has seen many clients who are the victims of father-daughter incest, and she presents one such typical case as the focus of her discussion here. Fraad is attuned to the complex forces and effects that surround paternal incest, but she includes among them— perhaps for the first time—the class ideologies and processes that permit "feudal" patriarchs to practice sexual abuse on serflike children (both dependent on the "lord," and obligated to return the favor through "love," devotion, and silence). She shows nicely the various and sometimes competing ideologies inhabiting current gender roles, diverse class and economic positions, legal practices, and religious discourses, which combine to produce both the incest abuser and his prey within the confines of that most idealized institution, the family. As Fraad points out, the very idealization and separation of the family and its concerns from public scrutiny along with the scarcity of public resources to deal with incest "creates an atmosphere in which children are prisoners in families whose sexual mistreatment of them will be concealed." And, despite studies which show that there is a higher risk of incest to girls living in higher-income families than lower-income ones, the access to private resources of richer folk to deal with or hide incest leads to the familiar result in U.S. society that the majority of perpetrators who are caught and convicted are poor and nonwhite. Fraad also details the human costs of incest to young women who are more prone to depression, entering into dangerous relationships with abusive men, neglecting (perhaps even hating) the needs of their own children, and much else. For Fraad and many of us, these costs are too dear. But the changes required to lower them are extensive, while necessary; in Fraads words, "we may repress the extent to which children are incested because if we faced the practice of incest, we as a nation might have to rescue our children from the exploitation and oppression they suffer in our most sentimentalized institution, the nuclear family."
The fear of the debilitating effects of postmodernisms relativizing tendencies, or worse, the claim that postmodernity has enshrined commodification and the subjugation of aesthetic and ethical values to that of capitalist economy have had the result of placing the question of value at the forefront of current left theoretical and practical endeavors. The recovery of value as a prerequisite for political action has now become a standard battle cry for Marxists and others who have sought refuge from the "decentering" set off by postmodern interventions. Roby Rajan squarely confronts the issue of the familiar tripartite separation of economic, aesthetic, and ethical value, and locates in the rise of modernity the origins of the presumed autonomy of these realms (and the marginalization of aesthetics, if not ethics, in the recent spread of a global "postmodern culture," created by unbounded capitalist economic expansion). As Rajan notes, this separation is decried by Marxists not simply for the consequent political impotence and irrelevance of contemporary art and the abstract universalism of a lofty, "indifferent" ethics. It is denounced as well because of the synthesis that supposedly has been achieved lately within which artistic productions and ethical platforms are thoroughly subsumed to the capitalist dynamics of worldwide exchange-value expansion and profit creation. The call either to accept this subsumption as fait accompli (and expunge from art all aspirations of transcendence and/or opposition) or to confront this subsumption "through a heave of aesthetic power," as Rajan puts it, is to miss the possibilities of critique that are still present in art, though largely constrained by the form of its autonomy. He finds a viable critical position for Marxists—one that detects the subtle dialectic between aesthetics, economics, and ethics—in Theodor Adornos work. Most important, Rajan assigns to Adorno the position that while economy holds sway as dominant in the tripartite, modernist separation, this does not imply that art, in particular, is completely preempted by the instrumental rationality of market economy, in which all objects and others are subsumed to the will and needs of utility-seeking subjects. For Adorno, says Rajan, art is that which uniquely encompasses both rationality and "mimesis," the ability of something or someone to "assimilate itself" to another. This assimilation is different from attempts of subjects to subdue objects, and it allows for "nonidentity" and "dissonance" to comprise the truth value and the ethical stance of all art worthy of the name. Such inharmonious, even "irrational" art, says Rajan following Adorno, while trapped within its own autonomy and subject to economic forces, is nonetheless capable of interrogating critically the separation of the three realms of value that constitute the "value regime" of modern capitalism. So, Rajan concludes, "while arts own praxis is devoid of any direct, socially transformative effect in the era of the hegemony of economy . . . [it] nevertheless keeps alive within modernity a reminder as to what a nondominating mode of cognition and a nondifferentiated praxis might be like."
Juha Koivisto and Veikko Pietilä present a summary for an English-speaking audience of the laudatory and extensive work during the past two decades of Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Projekt Ideologie-Theorie on specifying and utilizing for empirical analysis the Marxian concept of ideology. Koivisto and Pietilä credit Haug and his colleagues with preserving by synthesizing, but also going beyond, several different strands of past Marxist attempts to theorize ideology, most importantly those of Marx and Engels and also of Althusser and Gramsci. Similar to Marx and Engels and to Althusser, Haug and Projekt IdeologieTheorie see the ideological not as the sphere of consciousness, but rather as an ensemble of practices and social relations that articulate consciousness with other reified social forms such as the state. Specifically, Koivisto and Pietilä focus on Haugs notion that "ideological powers" are those that emerge out of the "real" contradictions of society to produce "socialization from above" as a way of resolving those contradictions without violence, but in favor of dominant classes and groups. Thus, for example, the fractures in real communities that stem from the emergence of classes may be displaced and then seemingly "resolved" in the imagined community of the state, itself a quintessential ideological power. This view of ideology, while similar to Althussers "ideological state apparatuses," differs decisively from the Althusserian concept in seeing ideology not only as standing above society, but also as a set of "celestial" institutions and practices that can indeed be transformed and ultimately eliminated by an anti-ideological, communal movement. Koivisto and Pietilä use Haugs notion of ideology and its elimination to shed light on Richard Rortys recent appeals to a "mythic America" in his critique of multiculturalist activism. Rejecting as supremely ideological Rortys resort to a unified populace—disciplining discontented "others" into remaining subalterns within a largely white, suburban America—Koivisto and Pietilä entertain alternative visions of how to create community in the face of ideological powers. Here, too, they turn to Haug and Projekt Ideologie-Theorie to find Gramscian notions of counterhegemony and historical blocs built on the anti-ideological strategy of helping individuals caught by oppression and exploitation to "develop their own social capacity for action" through a new articulation of social forces.
Paulo Freires death this past year took from the world, in Henry Girouxs estimation, "a grand figure who had a wonderful sense of life, living, and passion." In his remembrance of Freire for our Remarx section, Giroux pays tribute by recalling Freires lifelong, deep commitment and contributions to radical democratic pedagogy. Giroux is concerned to make clear that Freires work can be a superb guide to democratic educators, but only if they resist the temptation to reduce his writings to a simple method of "good" teaching techniques. He argues that the lessons of Freire can be learned and taught only by adopting a stance of "critical respect rather than reverence." Freires writings and teachings exemplify a spirit of hope and a passion for justice and equality that build upon the idea that the poor and oppressed can and must act to create democratic movements and institutions. In this regard, as Giroux notes, Freires work transcends the narrow bounds of a pedagogical method, but rather opens up to a "social theory whose aim is the liberation of the oppressed as historical subjects through a critical educational process that involves making the pedagogical more political and the political more pedagogical." Giroux shows as well Freires distaste for the simple-minded (and often illusory) refusals of pedagogical "authority" that some readers of his work have taken as his lasting contribution. Not wishing to romanticize the experiences of dominated groups, including students, Freire called for a critical pedagogy that didnt stop with shifting power from teachers to students, but also demanded of teachers that they "assert authority in the service of creating a participatory and democratic classroom." As Giroux notes, the process of democratizing the classroom is not in aid of making students "feel good," but instead is intended to make students confront actively and critically their place in society. Freires work, says Giroux, "is always unsettled and unsettling, restless yet engaging"; his gift was "to elaborate a theory of social change and engagement that was neither vanguardist nor populist." It would be a terrible loss, in this age of corporatist attacks on democratic education, to allow Freires voice to be silenced with his passing. As Giroux concludes, not only would such silencing be the democratic lefts great loss, as it searches for strategies to face the forces of privatization and elitism intent on dismantling public education, but we would deny ourselves the pleasure—or perhaps the responsibility—of remembering a "presence in the world" that "turned poetry into politics, and humility into a requisite for political engagement."
Cyberspace has become a primary site of natural and social scientific research. This is best seen in the use of computer simulations to create artificial life and, more recently, artificial societies. In his contribution to Remarx, Shai Ophir considers the possibilities for demonstrating the proclivity of human societies for forms of cooperation through experiments on replicating evolutionary processes within cyberspace. Ophir calls attention to several successful simulations that, to his mind, provide solid evidence that cooperation among animal agents (including humans) "emerges in evolutionary processes and in complex adaptive systems." He adds that this cooperation "is unconscious to itself. It is only a mechanism, which is part of the behavior of the most primitive creatures on earth." And he adds that computer simulations can lend support to an additional claim. Reviewing experimental work on artificial societies in which trade figures prominently, Ophir notes that the disequilibria that are endemic to these models may be resolved by the imposition of "social rules" and resource sharing that would introduce greater equality among trading agents. Ophir suggests, then, that computer simulations may allow us to "realize" in one venue the socialist vision that forms of collective concern and sharing may join cooperation as cornerstones of social evolution and stability.
When the Association for Economic and Social Analysis (AESA) began the work of creating RM back in the early 1980s, we understood from the outset that our best hope for success and survival depended on being able to constitute a working collective that would share tasks, rotate jobs, and periodically reinvigorate the journal with new ideas through the accession of different people to positions of primary responsibility. We also understood that without access to major sources of funding and in the face of changing political currents, we needed to draw on our own labor as the main means of RMs production and dissemination. From our initial issue in 1988 this labor has sustained us through nine complete volumes. From the years we produced RM entirely ourselves (and "ourselves" here included the magnificent, unselfish labor of a team of then graduate students and some of our editors) to the present issue, we have benefited enormously from the willingness of so many people to work several full-time jobs to put out RM.
True to our original intent, during the past year and a half, some important transitions have been occurring within RM. To begin with, we have finally been able to hire a managing editor, Jacquelyn Southern, whose impeccable work on production, taking over from the equally capable (but unpaid) Carole Biewener, has made us all wonder how we were able to manage without her. As another crucial change, we have had peaceful, harmonious transitions to new section editors. After having helped to inaugurate and set an exciting tone for the Remarx and Book Review sections respectively, both Rick Wolff and Steve Cullenberg have now stepped down from these positions and have been replaced by Carole Biewener (Remarx) and Rob Garnett (Book Reviews). Several years before that, Harriet Fraad, who in the spirit of adventure agreed to take on the initial, monumental task of making art and fiction a regular part of RM, also stepped down as arts editor and was replaced by Susan Jahoda. In one of our most crucial changes, our longtime treasurer (and fiscal conservative), John Roche, also stepped down a few years back and was replaced by Jonathan Diskin (no wastrel either!). We have gained new members for our editorial board each year, and have seen others "retire," some for a short period of time. This past year, valuable, longtime members Enid Arvidson (who continues to work on subscriptions with our publisher), Julie Graham, and John Roche stepped off the Board and into other AESA projects. We have also recontracted for several more years with our first-class publisher, Guilford Publications. And finally, with the next issue we will have two new main editors of Rethinking MARXISM, Steve Cullenberg and David Ruccio, both of whom have been there from the beginning and have already made countless contributions to the life and health of RM. In Davids case, as we noted in RM, Spring 1994, his work was tantamount for many years to serving as coeditor, though this was never stated in print. As for me, I remain on the Board involved in several of RM/AESAs nascent projects, including a book series entitled Articulations that I will coedit with Julie Graham and Kathie Gibson.
As a result of these changes, RM is now positioned to expand upon its initial promise of serving as the outlet for all those many projects that are under way dedicated to keeping Marxism(s) alive in all fields and in many registers, but most crucially to extend the reformulations—especially nondeterminist Marxism—that we have championed. It must be said that our ability to survive and indeed flourish in the current hostile climate is at least in part testimony to the commitment and hard work that our collective has been able to muster. Though events can change in a flash, we have until now been peculiarly fortunate to have expanded steadily our readership and to have brought dispersed Marxist scholars and activists into increased contact with one another through RM and the three massive international conferences (in 1989, 1992, and 1996) we sponsored. And this has occurred during a period in which many of our friends and comrades have faced harder times with the so-called demise of Marxism. Our own relative good fortune to date, we hope, will encourage others to see that the death of Marxism is greatly exaggerated.
Friends have commented to us that it is nice to have the wind at our backs, but of course one cant always count on the wind to be up. So, while we will continue with the past practices that have gotten RM this far, readers can be sure that we have many ideas for innovation and exciting initiatives in motion, as befits the transitions described above. It is my firm belief that readers will be the prime beneficiary of the changes we are making as we prepare to enter our tenth year of publication. I am convinced our rejuvenated editorial collective will deliver a greatly improved journal whose impact on left scholarly and practical debates will be enhanced in the process.
As I step down as the editor of RM, my most public job is also coming to an end: writing the introductions to each issue. I have been amazingly thankful (though sometimes I treated it as my own, private purgatory) to have had this task, as I have learned more about Marxism in the process than I could ever have imagined. I am grateful to all the authors upon whose work I have commented, and I am thankful to readers as well for the goodwill you have shown, without much complaint, in allowing me to provide a bit of a road map to each issue. In writing the introductions, I strove to do two things. I attempted to highlight the theoretical contributions and contextual importance of each piece. I did this in the hope that putting the best foot forward for everything we published would make readers appreciate the difficult work involved in creating a meaningful Marxism and would make readers engage with each piece at its strong points rather than focus on its lapses. I also attempted to remain true to the goal and direction of the editorial board and its own collective sensibility. I tried to make clear that the editors had enormous respect for authors and readers, but also that we were most interested in projects of rethinking (and not just repeating) Marxism. SO, I scrutinized each piece for the connection to this project, even in debate and disagreement. As I have said, I learned an immense amount about Marxism and its current practitioners; on the basis of this experience, I am happy to report that there is an incredible vitality to contemporary Marxism though, of course, there are weaknesses and problems to boot.
It is out of our collective division of labor that I wrote the introductions, and it was always in relation to this collective that I envisioned the shape of each issue. While our editorial group has changed many times, it has also involved some people who have worked together and known each other for as much as thirty years, while others perhaps for as little as thirty weeks. But they have all been good friends and trusted comrades. Since our earliest days, I have been happily blessed to represent them in these pages. SO, it is with my deepest gratitude to this group as well as to the authors and readers who have built RM, that, for this one time, I sign the introduction under my own name.
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