Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Historical Materialism 12,3

I'm associated with Historical Materialism's editorial process, so expect me to say how good it is. Yes, it's great. The covers in particular make this journal a thing of beauty. This issue, and this came as a surprise, features Anna Kournikova launching her sports bra range on the NASDAQ, along with that creepy guy from Amazon.

The major part of this issue is devoted to a symposium on Moishe Postone's eleven year-old book, Time, Labor and Social Domination. That's twelve articles and about 240 pages, so Postone fans are in for a treat, and for everyone else here comes the chance to find out what its all about. And to make that easy there is an elegant introduction to the symposium by Guido Starosta in his 'Editorial Introduction: Rethinking Marx's Mature Social Theory', which situates the book in terms of responses to the last thirty years or so, including what Guido describes as the 'defeat of the working-class movement', which is a bit too bald for me, but we know what he means. One response has been some variety of 'post-Marxism', another has been to critically reconstruct and rethink Marx and Postone's work is presented an outstanding expression of this. Postone engages in an 'in-depth radical reconsideration of the fundamental categories of Marx's critique of political economy - commodity, money, capital -...'

Okay, this isn't going to be easy, but the case for the book's importance and a 'rigorous and pluralist discussion' is made.

The symposium is made up of pieces by Postone himself: 'Critique and Historical Transformation' (and another piece byPostone taking up the arguments and criticisms in the rest of the symposium in a future issue)
Robert Albritton 'Theorising Capital's Deep Structure and the Transformation of Capitalism'
Chris Arthur 'Subject and Counter-Subject'
Werner Bonefeld 'On Postone's Courageous but Unsuccessful Attempt to Banish the Class Antagonism from the Critique of Political Economy'
Joseph Fracchia 'On Transhistorical Abstractions and the Intersection of Historical Theory and Social Critique'
Peter Hudis 'The Death of the Death of the Subject'
Geoffrey Kay and James Mott Concept and Method in Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination'
Dave McNally 'The Dual Form of Labour in Capitalist Society and the Struggle over Meaning: Comments on Postone'
Karen Miller 'The Question of Time in Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination'
Michael Neary 'Travels in Moishe Postone's Social Universe: A Contribution to a Critique of Political Cosmology'
Marcel Stoelzer 'Postone's Marx: A Theorist of Modern Society, Its Social Movements and Its Imprisonment by Abstract Labour'

And the rest of the journal. There's another very high-level article by Dimitri Dimoulis and John Milios on 'Commodity Fetishism vs. Capital Fetishism: Marxist Interpretations vis-à-vis Marx's Analyses in Capital', which is I think a valuable mapping out of these concepts in Marx and Marxism.

Of the reviews Sumit Sarkar's 'The Return of Labour to South-Asian History' looks at a number of case studies that focus on labour history in South Asia and uses them to explore the trajectory of labour history in India in the context of economic and social developments over the last 30 years. The significant role of Dipesh Chakrabarty's work on Calcutta jute mill workers as a kind of Thompsonian challenge to orthodox Marxist history and more generally Subaltern Studies as the vehicle for a recovery of peasant history and consciousness before moving to a post-colonialist culturalist history in which working class organisation and activity seemed to have little relevance. But since then there has been a revival of interest in labour history and these books, including two by Raj Chandavarkar and others looking at particular localities or sections all sound like remarkable and fascinating achievements*. In particular one called Lost Worlds: Indian Labour and its Forgotten Histories by Chitra Jandhi stands out. Really this review stands out as inspiration for anyone who might want to delve in South-Asian labour history.

* The books reviewed are: Raj Chandavarkar The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business Strategies and the Working Classes in Bombay, 1900-1940
and Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, c. 1850-1950
Ian Kerr Building the Railways of the Raj
Dilip Simeon The Politics of Labour under Late Colonialism: Workers, Unions and the State in Chota Nagpur, 1928-1939
Janaki Nair Miners and Millhands: Work, Culture and Politics in Princely Mysore
Chitra Joshi's Lost Worlds: Indian Labour and its Forgotten Histories

There is also a review by Chris Harman of two academic books on important Marxist theorist and politician Rudolf Hilferding, which gives a good and clear, but probably already familiar SWP critique of any blurring between the categories of 'reform' and 'revolution'.
William Smaldone Rudolf Hilferding: The Tragedy of a German Social Democrat
F. Peter Wagner's Rudolf Hilferding: The Theory and Politics of Democratic Socialism

Loren Goldner reviews three volumes on medieval history by unorthodox Portuguese theorist João Bernardo (Poder e Dinheiro. Do Poder Pessoal ao Estado Impessoal no Regime enhorial, Séculos V-XV) as a call for their translation into English. They do sound interesting, and Goldner's own work on his 'Break Their Haughty Power' web-site deserves exploration.

And finally Branwen Gruffydd Jones reviews Sean Creaven's Marxism and Realism: A Materialistic Application of Realism in the Social Sciences. Sean attempts to bring together the perspectives of Roy Bhaskar's early critical realism and Marxism into a 'critical materialism' and 'emergentist Marxism', and here gets both praise and criticism.


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