Gramsci, Laclau, Mouffe (and Bhaskar)

Andy Daitsman adaitsma at
Mon Mar 6 21:28:31 MST 1995

>Andy writes
>Jury is still out on whether a socialism -> feudalism transition is going to
>occur, but in Latin America and the Caribbean, we saw a lot of transitions
>from slavery to feudalism -- some of them even before slavery was abolished.
Paul responds:
>A transition  from slavery to feudalism is exactly what historical
>materialism would lead you to expect.

Ooops, forgetting my classical literature.

Still, I want to defend my point.  I routinely teach that chattel slavery as
practiced in the New World is a fundamentally different social system from
classical slavery; from the point of view of the plantation owner, I
contend, plantation slavery in fact resembles capitalism to a large degree.
>From the point of view of the slave, it's a little bit different...

In other words, I look at plantation slavery as an intermediate mode between
feudalism and capitalism, so I see a transition from slavery to feudalism as

>Do you have any evidence that transitions from socialism to feudalism
>are either underway or likely, or is it a proposition of the form
>that pigs might just one day fly?

Well, even though I have no evidence that it's happening, I don't think it's
on the order of pigs flying.  For example, I wouldn't be real surprised if
feudal forms arose in Yugoslavia or Chechnya, following the almost total
collapse of the social order.

When I was in El Salvador in 1992 I visited a "cooperative" farm, which in
its heyday had been owned by a member of the oligarchy and had been one of
the most efficient  mechanized cotton plantations in the country.  The labor
force was resident but they were wage workers (I should add that wages were
extremely low, and attempts to unionize were met with murder).  At the
height of the war, the owner abandoned the property and a cooperative was
formed.  Now it's a big subsistence farm, and its organizational structure
is much more like an Indian village than anything else.

There's no electricity on the place, no running water, no cooking gas.  The
tractor parked in the lot of what had been the foreman's house was a toy for
the kids to play on.  Missing parts, no one had the slightest idea how to
fix it.


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