Musings of a Brennerite

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Nov 26 13:50:01 MST 2000

>don't you think these attempts to make connections have the sense of a
>religious discourse. who is the devil, and where is he hiding?I never knew
>there were such people as Brennerites. why not stick to questions about
>"stage theories", if that is what is important? debates over the origins of
>capitalism are important because of eurocentrism. I also did not know anyone
>cared about G. A. Cohen. after his book was publlished 20 years ago, there
>was some interest. but the way, I thought Jim Blaut's work on
>eurocentrism was very important because it caused us to rethink our own
>understanding of Marxism.

George, try to get a hold of Marcus Roberts book on Analytical Marxism. It
places Brenner in the context of this school. Brenner's essay "The Social
Basis of Economic Development" appears in the collection Analytical Marxism
edited by John Roemer (Cambridge, 1986). Analytical Marxism no longer
occupies a central place in Marxist discourse as it did 10 or 15 years ago,
but we have a responsibility to identify the intellectual roots of a major
figure in academic Marxism.

This discussion is not just about Eurocentrism, it is about what it means
to be a Marxist and a revolutionary. I can not separate Brenner's ideas
about 14th century England from his role as an editor at New Left Review,
which has gone through a dreadful evolution in the past several years. I
was trained in the Trotskyist movement to examine the trajectory of a
thinker. Even though James Burnham was a valued member of the socialist
movement in the late 1930s, it was urgent to challenge him on the key
questions of Marxist philosophy.

It is not incumbent on me to find some autobiographical material somewhere
that has Robert Brenner confessing that after he read G.A. Cohen, the
scales dropped from his eyes. This might be the method of responsible
scholars but nobody would ever mistake me for that.

Louis Proyect
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