ZAVERZADEH

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Mon Jul 24 10:12:33 MDT 1995


Some time ago Seamus Malone criticized Mas'ud Zaverzadeh for the retention
of an outdated understanding of the base-superstructure relation.
According to  Ralph Dumain and many others, Derek Sayer's Violence of
Abstraction: The Analytical Foundations of Historical Materialism is one of
the most sophisticated works on this relationship yet.  Is this what we
should (re-)read in order to analyze the adequacy of MZ's theoretical
underpinnings?

 However, it should be noted that Zaverzadeh, as well as Teresa Ebert in
her entry on Red Feminsim, is quite aware that his  understanding of this
relationship is controversial, and attempts to defend it.

  For example, MZ persuasively  shows how many post-al theorists have
idealistically asserted  a logic of binarism as the   driving force of
history and then he compares such a position to the one worked out by Marx
and Engels in The German Ideology. And so he writes:

"In the post-al scheme of history, the historical materialist understanding
of 'mode of proudction' as the material base that 'determines the condition
of society' and thus necessitates that the history of humanity always be
studied  and treated in relation to history of industry and excahnge (The
Geman Ideology)is put aside as beloning to the Platonic party [referring to
Derrida--rb].  Instead history is seen as the pre-post-erous theatre of
epistemology.  The 'pre-post-erous,' in other words views the
superstructure as the primary mover of history.  It is binarity (the logic
of the totalizing sign) that acts as the dynamics of oppression and not the
laws of motion of capital.  This pre-post-erous idealism, as Marx and
Engels explain (the German Ideology), is part of the dominant ideologies
that represent the 'rule of a certain class' which is determined by its
ownership of the means of production, as the 'rule of certain ideas' (such
as binarism)." p. 29 of Post-ality: Marxism and Postmodernism, ed. Mas'ud
Zaverzadeh. Washington DC: Maisonneuve Press. 1995

( If Zaverzadeh is going to demonstrate the import of the Derrida's
deconstruction, MZ has to go onto former's terrain--otherwise all one can
say is that Derrida is jargon-ridden and elitist).

In the popular "Can the Subaltern Speak" Gayatri Spivak also  asserts the
existence of a transhistoric master-narrative-- logocentricism (not
binarism), which she then calls a Western problem.  This Derrideanism
refers to a logic by which the other is ferociously assimilated in order to
consolidate the center. But this logic is inexplicably made the driving
force of history and then confined to the West, which is a terrible
reification. It may be crude to criticize this as idealism, but then what
is it?

I also found persuasive Teresa Ebert's  study of how Marxian materialism
has been caricatured and then replaced by what she calls 'matterism' in
contemporary feminism. The distinction between Marxian materialism and
matterism is an important one I believe.   More on this later.

Rakesh

ps Alex Callinicos' commentary on Homi Bhabha's work in the same volume is
a model of restrained, careful  critique.



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