The dialectics of Marxist politics, Jameson, young Proyect, green politics and Gerry's Farewell once more

David McInerney davidmci at
Sun Nov 26 18:17:22 MST 1995

Sunday, 26 November, Gary MacLennan wrote:

>Marxism within the Academy.  This has been under siege and thoroughly
>beaten down by postmodernism first and now the New Realism.  Things have
>come to such a pass that we marxists are continually referred to as
>"dinosaurs" and are expected to beat our breasts and apologise for being
>at best old fashioned.
>Which brings me to young Proyect.  For some on the list it must seem
>that when they were handing out the Chutzpah, Louis was first in line.  I
>prefer to see his trenchant orthodoxies as a necessary antidote to the
>kind of self-conflicted defeatism of much contemporary Marxism.  I was
>for instance very moved by his description of his intervention at the new
>York meeting where the Prophets of Localism spoke.  For me Louis' posts
>are a constant reminder that we have given too much ground to our
>critics.  In our anxiety to show that we are "sophisticated",
>"intellectual", "up to date" etc we have
>capitulated or been silent when the greatest banalities have been trotted
>out.  If you doubt me pop into the Post-colonial list for a while.
>Let me clear here. I am not arguing for a return to marxist triumphalism.
>Nor am I arguing that we should not attempt to advance Marxist theory.  Far
>from it.
>But I am saying that we do need to develop a confidence in our history.
>This condidence should of course be critical but above all it should be
>confident.  It is in this spirit then that I welcome young Proyect's
>contribution to this list because as I see it he constantly addresses the
>political problem of how to  transform the realm of necessity into the
>kingdom of freedom.

Thanks for this post.  We need to remember that these professors who think
they are saving Marxism by "updating" or "rethinking" it by treating it as
a collection of axioms which must then be tested by subjecting it to the
criteria of contemporary social science and philosophy - and here I am
thinking of, on the one hand, "Marxists" such as John Roemer, Jon Elster,
G.A. Cohen, Pranhab Bardhan and the other "analytical marxists" who use
rational-choice theory and neo-ricardian economics, and on the other, the
"marxian theorists" such as Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff who use a
strange reading of Althusser's papers on 'overdetermination' and
'process-without-a-subject-or-goal' in a relativistic sense inspired by the
likes of Paul Feyerabend and Michel Foucault.

It seems to me that there is nothing wrong with reading Feyerabend or
Sraffa.  It is the way that you read it that counts.  These academics use
these non-Marxist as some sort of measure by which the "axioms" of Marxism
can be assessed, rather than engaging with these theories in a Marxist way,
through a Marxist problematic.  It may seem that the "marxian theorists"
make an attempt to do the latter, however, what the really do is to go back
through 'Marxist texts' and read their particular understanding of
"overdetermination" (which in their usage is nothing more than an
"everythingism" - "everything is overdetermined by everything else" - WOW)
into them - Marxism becomes nothing more than this doctrine of

These are symptoms of a defeatism with Marxism and a retreat into the
academy, as Gary has noted.  We need to follow Louis's lead an put the
academic representatives of the bourgeoisie on the back foot, not through
dogmatism or sectarianism, but through engaging with them in a confident
and strident MARXIST manner.  Thanks Gary for a timely post.


P.S.  Post-colonialism is an abomination, led by the most bourgeois and
nationalistic of South Asian academics (much like the 'localists' that
Louis intervented against - such as Vandana Shiva) who claim, in the ,most
elitist and arrogant manner, to be speaking for the 'subalterns'.  Everyone
should take time out to read Aijaz Ahmad's critique of them in his recent
article in _Race & Class_ and his paper ('Postcolonialism: What's in a
Name?') in R. De La Campa et. al. (eds.), _Late Imperial Culture_, Verso,
London, 1995.  The latter articles will be part of a new book out through
Verso next year, apparently.

Mr. David McInerney,
Political Science Program, Research School of Social Sciences,
The Australian National University, Canberra, A.C.T., AUSTRALIA  0200.
e-mail: davidmci at; ph: (06) 249 2134; fax: (06) 249 3051

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