Welcome to Stephen Philion

Patrick Bond pbond at SPAMwn.apc.org
Mon Jun 4 00:24:08 MDT 2001


> Date:          Sun, 03 Jun 2001 18:04:45 -0400
> To:            marxism at lists.panix.com
> From:          Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> And why would Doug Henwood tout Hardt-Negri to his mailing list
> and newsletter?

A good question. I also "tout" H-N to my students here in Jo'burg,
and in a summer school I'm teaching next month at York U in Toronto
for reasons I'll explain. Doug can answer for himself. I can't get
him to explain what his crowd of cross-over cultural/poli-econ
critics (around Zizek) are up to when it comes to strategy. And H-N
really bomb when it comes to their two very unfleshed out arguments
at the end of Empire: a movement for global citizenship, and a global
social wage. Hey, who can oppose either? And who can oppose their
sometimes breathtaking arguments about what's wrong with corporate
globalisation? But ultimately what is so annoying about Empire, to
me, is this conclusion, for it comes without any sense of why
the "multitudes" are capable of moving, however unevenly, in such
directions, and with what vehicles, what resistance, and what short-
and medium-term targets within the existing embryonic global state.

But there's lots more to worry about in the H-N worldview. In the
current Journal of World Systems Research (I found the correct URL:
http://csf.colorado.edu/jwsr ) I take on H-N's dangerous notion that
you cannot do ANYthing with existing nation-states (I take would
probably amount to their best possible case, perhaps--Zimbabwe).

So, why "tout" this stuff? I don't think, Louis, you're right about
Bersteinian analysis and politics. To me the metaphor is rather the
Warrenite neo-marxian moment in development studies: "imperialism is
good for you." (I.e., you have to develop the forces of
production so as to develop the relations of production.) Bill
Warren's late 1970s book, published posthumously, was
"Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism." There are at least a few
academics who still push this line today, and we see them in South
Africa occasionally (e.g. John Sender of SOAS and Teddy Brett of
LSE, sort of). The parallel between the "policy implications" of
Warrenite theory and what the World Bank pushes is often amazing, and
indeed it's not surprising that some of these chappies are found in
Bank consultancies.

Why is this interesting? Though "imperialism is good for you" entails
work within the alleged ambit of marxian theory, with conclusions
that are totally at odds with both common sense and the actual
movement of the working-class and poor. In short, I always find
lacking in this work a sense of uneven development--not just the
development of underdevelopment (which Bill Warren specifically
emerged to attack when Gunder Frank was at his strongest), but more
precisely the crisis-prone nature of capital as it ebbs and flows
over spaces, scales and temporalities. The Sender/Smith book on The
Development of Capitalism in Africa (I think it's called) is striking
in this flaw, notwithstanding the real history of capitalism in the
Third World.

Anyhow, we are going to have on our recommended reading list for the
anticorporate-globalisation course at York some of that stuff,
because students will indeed come across it. And the WB personnel
trawling the globe to push their wares are making arguments in the
same way about productive forces, about international trade as great
leveller and raiser of living standards, about the potential for
engaging in international institutional reform (like their GEF, or
various other protocol like Kyoto aimed at alleged market solutions
to market problems, such as carbon trading).

I once played some Boccherini guitar quintets with virtuoso violinist
Michael Hardt, and found him enormously talented (this was as
undergrads in 1980, I think). I was a Kennedy liberal then and we
didn't talk politics. I take it from looking at his website that he
does an extremely good set of courses on Kapital and marxian social
theory at Duke. But perhaps that setting, the experience of Negri in
the Italian autonomist left, and the overall ideology-vaccuum in the
anticorpo-globalisation movement can all be blamed for the very
unstrategic nature of Empire. I'll be rereading it this month and may
have other more substantive thoughts later.

Let me know if offlist you want to see others of my required and
recommended readings... I know it'll attract some quibbling from
comrades!

P.

Patrick Bond (pbond at wn.apc.org)
home: 51 Somerset Road, Kensington 2094 South Africa
phone:  (2711) 614-8088
work:  University of the Witwatersrand
Graduate School of Public and Development Management
PO Box 601, Wits 2050, South Africa
work email:  bond.p at pdm.wits.ac.za
work phone:  (2711) 717-3917
work fax:  (2711) 484-2729
cellphone:  (27) 83-633-5548
* Municipal Services Project website -- http://www.queensu.ca/msp





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