[Marxism] A toothless MR review

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 2 13:40:28 MST 2004


Although I don't have plans to read Doug Henwood's "After the New 
Economy", I do have some comments on a point made in Sasha Lilley's 
review that appears on the Monthly Review website 
(http://www.monthlyreview.org/0404lilley.htm). It is something that I 
have raised with Lilley publicly in the past:

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/economics/LivingRoomHenwood

I have also dealt with this in a reply to an excerpt from Henwood's book 
that appeared in the Nation a while back and that is referred to in 
Lilley's review:

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/economics/Henwood_Globalization.htm

Basically, I question whether Doug's attack on "globalization" theory is 
coming from the standpoint of Marxism, despite his lip-service to Marx. 
Sasha Lilley writes:

"While After the New Economy does not preach to the choir, aimed as it 
is at readers outside of the socialist left, Henwood would still have 
done well to have addressed the issue of how imperialism fits into an 
analysis of globalized capitalism. He objects to the use of the fuzzy 
term 'globalization' when people really mean imperialism, but it would 
strengthen the persuasive force of his argument if he offered his own 
view of how capitalism’s inequalities operate at the global level. 
Nonetheless Henwood’s critique is a much needed breath of fresh air, 
given the simplistic assumptions that much of the left holds about 
globalization and the absence of criticism of these views from within 
the left."

I would question whether Doug has a firm grasp of the nature of 
imperialism at all. While it might be a secret to comrade Lilley, I am 
sure that John Mage knows that Henwood has publicly and repeatedly cast 
doubt on the relevance of Lenin's writings on imperialism to the current 
world. It is really too bad that she chose to flatter Doug rather than 
to confront some tough questions about where he is coming from 
ideologically.

I am sure that Sasha is aware that Doug has come out in favor of the 
WTO. Can this position be reconciled with Marxism? Maybe the Marxism of 
Meghnad Desai, but not Harry Magdoff. He has also questioned whether it 
is worth the trouble to defend Korean farmers from the vicissitudes of 
free trade. Maybe it is better, he opines, that their outmoded (and 
uncompetitive) farming give way to more efficient farming systems from 
other countries--presumably from the West. I was under the impression 
that people like Fred Magdoff and Samir Amin would regard this sort of 
thinking as disgustingly reactionary.

These positions have about as much to do with Marxism in general (and MR 
in particular) as the man in the moon. It amazes me that somebody can 
put forward positions that are nearly indistinguishable from Brad 
Delong's and not get challenged in the Marxist press. MR had no problems 
making pointed criticisms of David Harvey and Immanuel Wallerstein in 
the past, whose contributions to Marxism far exceed Henwood's. As Karl 
Marx once said that he favored "ruthless criticism" of the existing 
order. It is too bad that MR chose another path when it came time to 
review Henwood's new book.

-- 

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