[Marxism] Troubled Times

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 25 12:28:22 MST 2006

Joaquin's latest does not seem headed toward postmodernism. What he does seem to be doing is looking for ways to integrate class, gender and national dynamics, and to insist on a material grounding for this, including -- and this is the difficult part -- in analyzing their respective contributions to the production of value.

Louis however is right that others have grappled with this before. No-one has yet come up with a synthetic theory, but various elements of such a theory do exist.

In the 1970s and 1980s you had all sorts of dual systems theorists seeking to equate class and gender, which at least have to be read to understand why they couldn't succeed in the tasks posed in my first paragraph. In the same vein, see the South End Press book "Liberating Theory" in which ALL forms of exploitation and oppression are supposedly part of a single system but with NO material explanation of their interaction.

OK, now having dispensed with that, I would add to Louis' recommendations, vis-a-vis imperialism, beyond the MR crowd there is also Mandel's analysis in "Late Capitalism" of contending theories of the material dynamics of imperialism. He looks at claims about superprofits, unequal exchange, etc. based on the dynamics of surplus extraction both within imperial and colonial countries and across them. In doing so he contrasts the theories of Lenin, Kautsky, Luxemburg, Amin, Gunder Frank, etc.

Vis-a-vis internal colonialism, Robert L. Allen must be looked at.  (By the way, I remember being pleasantly surprised to see how some theorists in the 1990s had applied the theory to Appalachia.) Or folks like Omi and Winant on "racial formations."

As for gender, many socialist feminists have looked at the MATERIAL impact of reproduction of the family, both every day and across generations, on class formation and reproduction, as well as (although fewer here) how that plays out differentially in different nationalities (by the way I'm reading a good book on Latina workers on welfare ("Not Working") which has some great empirical material on this). See also the special issue of Science and Society on Marxist-Feminism of a couple years ago. 

And don't miss the latter's current issue with the article on Mariategui's debate with the Comintern on indigenous peoples. And in the same issue, David Laibman's review of Silvia Federici's book on women's oppression and capitalism, including how the witchhunts were part of a genocidal campaign to drive women back into the home to prepare the conditions for a system based on the extraction of value from male wage workers.

Laibman likes much of what she writes, but his main problem with the book is the punch line for what I'm arguing here: she doesn't specify how the evolution of gender structures and relations intertwined with the evolution of those of class. Specifying those, and the same with national structures and relations, and all three together, is our task.

But we are not starting from scratch on this.

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