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Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society


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Editors' Introduction
Published online: 17 Dec 2013.

To cite this article: (2014) Editors' Introduction, Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society, 26:1, 1-8, DOI: 10.1080/08935696.2014.857835 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08935696.2014.857835

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Rethinking Marxism, 2014 Vol. 26, No. 1, 18, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08935696.2014.857835

Editors Introduction

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At the time of the writing


of this introduction, different parts of the worldmost visibly, Syria, Egypt, and Turkeyare going through deep social convulsions. Among these, one place for some time became the focus of global attention, where social protests illustrated many of the concerns raised in this issue. In May 2013, a group of activists gathered in Gezi Park in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, to protest the governments decision to build a shopping mall to be housed in reconstructed military barracks in the park. The violent reaction by police triggered waves of protest that quickly expanded to different localities. These protests embraced concerns ranging from freedom of speech, state violence, and growing authoritarianism to the redefinition of secularism, environmental destruction, and womens right to control their bodies. The protestors included communists, socialists, trade unionists, social democrats, anarchists, nationalists, certain religious groups (such as anticapitalist Muslims), LGBT groups, and even football club fans, often existing in antagonistic relation with one another. Remarkable was the fact that the protests largely developed outside the control of any of the parliamentary parties, instead comprising spontaneous formations. There was also an explosion of artistic modes of transgressive expression, most visible in acts of performance art as epitomized by a male dancer who wore a long pink skirt and a gas mask while performing the whirling dervish dance of the Sufis. We likewise witnessed a proliferation of genres of expression; above all, sarcasm and comedy became part of everyday life. What Gezi showed us, among other things, is the desire and capacity of social movements to accommodate and in fact encourage difference, which translated into forms of solidarity, albeit ephemerally. In observing such an unforeseen diversity of groups of different political persuasions becoming part of an amorphous protest movement, as Marxists of all kinds we are faced with a very wide array of important questions surrounding how to understand the dynamics of contemporary capitalism(s), subjectivities, class-based and non-class-based political alliances, and aesthetic sensibilities. If Marxism has the desire to be politically relevant, it must have the courage and honesty to continuously reflect on these questions, which are cast upon us repeatedly. In keeping with the commitments of our journal, some of these questions also run through the contributions of this first issue of volume 26. In Keywords, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak travels through Marxisms uneven territory in search of the different meanings the term strike has acquired over time, with a focus on the general strike as a European phenomenon, historically. She observes
2013 Association for Economic and Social Analysis

EDITORS INTRODUCTION

that, while manifestations of the strike had existed previously, Marx sought to engender an epistemological transformation in which workers understood themselves as agents of production who could decide to stop production. Over time, the many and varied understandings of the strike as an act have ranged from the grabbing of state power to bringing about Communism to expressing the desire to bring about social democratic change, thus covering, among other things, the political tendencies of anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, and social democracy. Spivak also notes the significance of the strike as an anti-imperialist political act. In the context of current changes, which have seen what Spivak calls capitals sublation to electronification, we are invited to rethink both strike activity and the agent(s) of such activity. Historically, she observes, this imperative to redefine the agent of activity was part of Gramscis effort in linking the industrial proletariat with impoverished agricultural workers. It was also important to DuBois, a kindred thinker, who attributed agency to the slave laborers of the U.S. South, leading us to question yet again the belief that the bearer of change from capitalism to its others is the industrial proletariat. We are thus left to ponder seriously, as the remaining contributions in this issue do, the theoretical and political vistas opened up to us once we account for possibilities of noncapitalist forms of economic activity, even if within a broadly capitalist context, as well as the transformative politics that can possibly emerge from the different agencies within such structures. It is such pondering that in part inspires the artwork entitled Song Delays, or the A B C of Pedagogy presented by Jesal Kapadia and Brian McCarthy. Their work comprises musings about the conditions capitalism imposes while at the same time pointing to cracks or alternativessometimes visible, at other times invisibleof noncapitalism, often in the very sites capitalism has shaped. Sir Thomas More once used the expression sheep eating men to describe the horrors of the enclosure movement, examples of which we continue to see in the twenty-first century. Kapadia and McCarthy lay bare contemporary examples of capitalisms vicious tendencies to expropriate, territorialize, and commodify; they also narrate stories of challenges presented to the very same phenomena. The challenges to capitalisms insatiable desires are varied and multitudinous. Sometimes, they take the form of alternative institutions. Gyan panchayat, for example, is an alternative to universities operating within the logic of capitalism: it is a site without physical boundaries, symbolizing the free movement of thought among different localities and people. At other times, challenges take the form of strike activity. We remember Spivak when Kapadia and McCarthy observe myriad forms of strike activity, in intention as well as in form: a hunger strike by activists to protest the corporate grabbing of land, which leaves farmers destitute; protest against the building of a megadam; the encircling of an employer who doesnt meet employees demands. Diverse as well are the agents of these actions, whether they are poor rural women, students, monks, or landless agricultural workers. Kapadia and McCarthy suggest that such developments of protest call forth new pedagogical and aesthetic practices, individual as well as collective, that question private, individualized, and monetized forms of practice. After all, the mode in which we want to change reality is intimately connected with how we see, understand, and represent it. Change occurs partly through challenging the fundamental assumptions of our extant pedagogic and aesthetic practices,

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EDITORS INTRODUCTION

beautifully and concisely expressed in a banner displayed at a protest by evicted farmers: We want land not money. In the second and final part of the symposium edited by Esra Erdem and dedicated to our beloved friend and comrade Julie Graham, contributions explore themes of seeing, finding, and activating the alternatives referred to by Spivak and Kapadia and McCarthy. In the lead article to this symposium, Potentiality and Impotentiality in J. K. Gibson-Graham, Scott Sharpe excavates the notions of potentiality and impotentiality in the work of Gibson-Graham, emphasizing the significance of the latter notion, which he argues, though being crucial to the content of their work and their research practices, has not been fully recognized. Deriving from the work of Agamben, who describes potentiality as our capacity for action and impotentiality as our capacity to not act, Sharpe argues that Gibson-Grahams evolving analysis, embedded in the concept of affect, provides us with an imaginary of the world that is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Persisting in their criticism of the capitalocentric narratives of various different political persuasions, which display an omnipresent and all-embracing capitalism, Gibson-Graham simultaneously refuse to give in to the corollary narratives of impotenceor omnipotence, as the case may be. As the performance of the imaginary of an alternative economy, a community economy arises neither as a measurement against the yardstick of capitalism, as that which already exists, nor as an ideal of a system the work for which has yet to be done. This refusal to allow the colonization of the economic imaginary by capitalism enlivens our (re)cognition of the many, diverse, and already existing daily economic activities in their multitudinous class forms, capitalist as well as noncapitalist. As this discourse which narrates the diverse forms of existing economic activitiesis created, community economys affectsits diverse class processesare activated in ways that are unforeseen. Potentiality, Sharpe argues through Bergson, is not about realizing a set of pregiven possibilities but is about becoming; hence, it is inherently openended. Of equal significance in Graham-Gibsons work and research practice is the notion of impotentiality, which contrary to what is often thought is in fact an ability that enables us to think and act. The hesitancy to act and silent moments of thinking when it seems we are not doing anything can be, and in fact are, moments of action. Sharpe reveals that both potentiality and impotentiality are central to the ethical concerns of Gibson-Graham, which extend to the practice of research itself. The performance of an alternative economy is a collaborative process between the researcher and members of the community as well as among the members of the community, who do not merely receive knowledge from the researcher but also contribute actively to the process of knowledge creation. The construction of discourse is therefore not monopolized by a privileged group, which connects beautifully with the argument made by Kapadia and McCarthy on the necessity to transform our pedagogical practices. The same point was central to the teaching practices of Paulo Freire, who argued that the traditional methods of teaching limit the learners role by making the learner a passive receptacle into which knowledge is deposited.

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The decolonization of the mind and the critique of capitalocentric discourses is also Chizu Satos aim in her contribution to the symposium. In her essay, Toward Transnational Feminist Literacy Practices, Sato offers an alternative reading of Chandra Mohantys work, focusing on the latters interpretation of Maria Miess research on women involved in home-based lace making for the export-led puttingout industry of Narsapur, India. Although similarly dedicated to enabling noncapitalist politics, Mohanty (unlike the approach proposed by Gibson-Graham) operates within a capitalocentrism in which women, dominated and exploited by an all-embracing capitalism, need to form solidarity across borders, thus becoming agents of change. Satos critique derives her inspiration from Graham-Gibsons analysis of a different political imaginary in which the caste and class diversity among women is recognized, thus opening the space for an alternative transnational feminist practice that aims to transform, not a centralized and concentrated focal hegemony, but rather scattered hegemonies. Through a detailed alternative class-analytic reading of the lace workers described by Mies, Sato reveals the rich diversity of capitalist and noncapitalist economic activities extant in this community, cracking open the imaginary of an omnipresent capitalism and suggesting, along the way, alternative forms of organizing the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor. The building of a community economy through what Sato calls a feminist literacy practice thus depends crucially on the recognition of this diversity, as well as the recognition of the agency of the other and of the interdependence between different agents, not all of whom are exploited. Sato, like Sharpe, draws our attention to the creation of a community in the course of also building a discourse. In this state of becoming, the division attributed to the subaltern and the nonsubaltern extant in traditional analyses is also thrown into question. In a final critical assault on a political economy that looks at the world as constructed and shaped by the needs of capitalism, Esra Erdem, in Reading Foucault with Gibson-Graham: The Political Economy of Other Spaces in Berlin, develops an alternative reading of present-day Berlins rich urban diversity, drawing on the be berlin campaign. Erdem emphasizes that the performative effect of discourse lies not only in rendering visible what is invisible but also in the possibilities this opens to alternative political futures, a common thread that runs through the first three symposium essays. She notices the absence, in this rigorous campaign, of any differentiation between capitalist and noncapitalist economic activities, as well as between market and nonmarket exchanges. In this way, for her the campaign represents a capitalocentric urban policy that seeks to commodify authentic urban spaces and experiences. She proposes instead the picture of a heterotopia, drawing from Foucault, as an assemblage of diverse noncapitalist economic activities. These are sites of differential, scattered, diverse, and contradictory activities and praxes. Among such heterotopic sites, the idea of development as social progress becomes problematic. What can rather be put in its stead is the idea of the collective and myriad ways to experiment with and think about ways of becoming and beingin-common, which is an implicit reference to Sharpes notion of potentiality. In J. K. Gibson-Grahams contribution to this symposiumwhich is also the text of the inaugural Julie Graham Memorial Lecture given at last years Rethinking Marxism conference, entitled Being the Revolution, or, How to Live in a More-Than-Capitalist

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World Threatened with ExtinctionKatherine Gibson states that the motivation for the theoretical interventions of Gibson-Graham derived from a reaction to the discursive dominance of capitalism in leftist politics at the expense of an economy that is becoming. The first such effort in creating an alternative path was the deconstruction of the economy in terms of its rich heterogeneity, thus opening the possibility of alternative imaginaries. She notes with emphasis that researchers have an ethical responsibility that goes together with the discursive politics or the politics of language central to GibsonGrahams project. We need to reflect continuously on what we are rendering real or visible through the discourse we are using. Gibson also observes the importance of both the idea of impotentiality and the sense of nonknowing to the evolution of the thinking of Gibson-Graham. Ethical moments in this approach are multitudinous and forever appearing, not simply in what we do, but also in what we do not doin our potentiality as well as our impotentiality. Gibson acknowledges the critics of their work, who claim that Gibson-Graham cannot point to clear pathways for assuming power or resisting the violence of the existing regimes. She notes the seriousness of the question surrounding what collective action is, and indeed the question of who acts collectively, in the context of a world that is exposed to the threats of global warming and species extinction. Gibson then concludes her response by developing a conception of a politics beyond a human-centered postcapitalist politics of community economy building, giving concrete examples along the way. The idea of noncapitalist economic processes existing alongside and sometimes within capitalist structures, which runs through several contributions to this issue, is implicit also in Kenneth M. Levins analysis of class hybrids in Class Hybrids: From Medieval Europe to Silicon Valley. Class hybridity occurs when different forms of surplus-labor production and appropriation exist as part of the same social site. Levin argues that theorizing such combinations of capitalist and noncapitalist class processes is important in a number of ways. In line with the preceding articles, also implicit in this analysis is the criticism of an omnipresent capitalism that exists everywhere and dominates everything. Levin traces hybrid forms from those studied by Marx in his analysis of the medieval artisan masters to the most recent manifestations in the Silicon Valley high-tech industry, arguing that social change need not be cataclysmic. Rather than waiting for the next crisis, which will then lead to a revolutionary rupture in capitalism, Levin suggests that perhaps we should seize the possibilities of social transformation in this heterotopia of class forms that already exist. We need not wait for the revolution but ought rather develop a language that renders visible the already existing forms of noncapitalism around us. Articulating such language is a part of change in which Silicon Valleys high-tech engineers earning six-digit incomes, too, can be a part. When the neoliberal agenda was unleashed on the world more than three decades ago, it was accompanied by the political and philosophical claim that the liberation of market forces from the stultifying and corrupting forces of the state would be accompanied by the fostering of democracies. Ian Bruffs essay, The Rise of Authoritarian Neoliberalism, challenges this claim by concentrating on the contradictory transformations of the state in advanced capitalist societies, culminating in

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the rise of what he calls authoritarian neoliberalism. Bruff analyzes the profound changes witnessed in social-democratic states during the neoliberal era, drawing his theoretical inspiration from the earlier analyses of Stuart Hall and Nicos Poulantzas. He observes that the foundational idea of neoliberalism is the withdrawal of the state from the economy (i.e., an attack against nonmarket forms in the economy), which has been accompanied by an intensification of the use of nonmarket institutional forms rather than the state being against them. Consequently, institutions often viewed as forms of social protection against socioeconomic restructuring can and have been used as the very instruments of these processes. He gives examples, such as the use of collective-bargaining processes to discipline labor rather than empower it, the move to workfare from welfare, and the decline of Third Way parties along with the rise of right-wing authoritarian parties. Equally significant is the rhetoric of inevitability and necessity used to justify changes toward more authoritarian rule. The widening of economic neoliberalism, it seems, has been perfectly compatible with rising authoritarianism. Bruff is careful to note, however, that these processes of transformationwhich are neither predetermined nor moving in predictable directions and which have led to stronger statesare the same processes that have exposed authoritarian neoliberalisms fragilities, as evidenced by the growing importance of movements of social protest, such as the Occupy Movement, the Indignados, and more recently the movements that were triggered by the protests in Turkey at the time of the writing of this introduction. The events that followed the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in the summer of 2013 contain several of the themes raised in the articles that are a central part of this issue. Among other things, the timing of these events points to the contradictions of an increasingly authoritarian state headed by a government that was elected by majority vote and that in turn is following a relentless neoliberal economic agenda. The diversity of the protestors and the spontaneity of alliance formation leave us wondering about the heterotopia of political subjectivities, and the infinite and everchanging forms of expression point to new questions about aesthetic sensibilities and their place in social resistance. Such observations add to a growing set of aporias that are of a certain urgency to any rethinking of Marxism. Christian Lotzs Remarx essay, The Transcendental Force of Money: Social Synthesis in Marx, is an exegesis of Marxs analysis of money found in the Grundrisse. Lotz finds in Marxs analysis a reconceptualization of Kants thinghood, in social and material terms, that goes unnoticed in the existing scholarship. He argues that we find Kant among the roots of Marxs analysis of money, as Kant argued that the abstract concept that makes possible the experiencing and representation of reality is the universal concept of object. Money, in capitalism, plays the role of the universal superobject that contains and makes possible social relationships. When we go to the supermarket, what makes it possible for us to see all the items on display is the money form, which gives them their hidden objecthood. By playing this role in all exchanges, money becomes the only independently existing thing, a transcendental force; this concept in the hands of Marx, via Hegel, becomes however a historically determined form rather than a universal structure. This is how Marx transforms the concept of universal objecthood in Kant into a materialist concept

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that then makes possible a theory of social synthesis. Money becomes the general frame in which social relations are formed. Money is also the theme in the Reviews section of this issue. Rohit Azad reviews Prabhat Patnaiks book, The Value of Money, which explores the reasons behind the stability of money. In the book, Patnaik discusses two traditions: the monetarist theory argues that the positive and finite value of money derives from the demand for and supply of it, from within the system; the propertyist tradition, on the other hand, proposes that money, in addition to being used for transaction purposes, is also a store of wealth. So, the argument goes, the demand for it is not necessarily in proportion to prices and, additionally, is highly unstable. According to this line of thinking, the capitalist system is inherently unstable, deriving its stability necessarily from outside. While Patnaik argues for the superiority of the propertyist position, he also finds it wanting in its ability to explain the stability of money across periods, for which reason he offers the explanation of the existence of a noncapitalist periphery. While generally recommending the book, Azad ends his review by pointing to certain possible areas in which the argument could be developed: for instance, the role the capitalist state plays in the core countries to stabilize the output and the disciplining impact of the potential for outsourcing. It is interesting that, though conceived through a different analytical lens, the importance of noncapitalist structures for the stability of capitalism surfaces in Patnaiks work, as well. The final contribution to this issue is the review by Smita Ramnarain of Peter Custerss Capital Accumulation and Womens Labour in Asian Economies. Custerss effort, argues Ramnarain, represents an engagement with existing feminist literature on the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy, informed by Custerss primary research on factory work in India, home-based production in Bangladesh, and technology production in Japan. Ramnarain recommends the book overall, especially for its use of primary data but also for emphasizing the absence of a unifying framework to explain the connections between the varieties of womens work under capitalist patriarchy. For instance, in his research on Toyotism in Japan, Custers observes the placement of women on the conveyor belt under the gaze of male supervisors. He interprets the increasing practice of hiring middle-aged women as temporary or part-time workers as an extension of the patriarchal notions of women being secondary earners, less skilled, and more disposable. Ramnarains reading on how diverse kinds of womens work, capitalist accumulation, and patriarchy are connected in Custers reminds us of Satos call for a feminist literacy that renders visible the diversity of economic relations within which womens work is enmeshed. This issue marks the transition to a new editorship for Rethinking Marxism. With a word of thanks to those who are leaving the editorial team, as the coeditors of the journal we would like to start our tenure welcoming new members to the editorial collective. Enid Arvidson and Suzanne Bergeron are both previous members of the editorial board. We welcome them back and also welcome Drue Barker, Joseph Gner-Rebello, and Boone Shear, all new members. We are delighted and encouraged to see that Rethinking Marxism, after twenty-five years of existence, is a home to many generationsa home that people return to as it also extends its hospitality to newcomers.

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EDITORS INTRODUCTION

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We would also like to welcome a new associate editor, Stephen Healey. Stephen has served on the editorial board of RM for some time and has been an active member of AESA. We look forward to working with him. Last but not least, we would like to thank S. Charusheela for her resourceful, committed, collegial, and spirited editorship during the past four years. Her editorship marks yet another transition in the history of the journal. She along with three associate editors, Joseph Childers, Yahya M. Madra, and Maliha Safri, introduced another mode of collectivity to the running of the journal. The flourishing of our symposia and special issues testifies to Charus commitment to going deeper and giving more space to issues of importance to members of the editorial board and AESA. Her mode of work in the day-to-day running of the journal reflected her trust in and desire to include the members of the collectivity. It was not lost on us that she continued her work with grace and optimism even during a period of mourning while suffering a deep personal loss. For everything you have done, Charu, we thank you. As we take on the editorship, we look forward to asking for assistance with the intricacies of the editorship and also to collaborating with you as a member of the editorial board.

The Editors