Editors' Introduction

Volume 32  Issue 2  April 2020

With a reactionary tide sweeping the world stage, including in Brazil, Hungary, the United States, and India, to name only the most controversial exemplars, it is pressing to examine more closely the generation and character of fascism. In the opening essay, “Late Fascism in Brazil? Theoretical Reflections,” Jeffery R. Webber describes the constituencies that brought Jair Bolsonaro’s government to power in Brazil. Theoretical debates on classical fascism allow him to map Brazil (and along the way he has something to say about reactionary regimes in both India and the United States) onto that range of possibilities. One pole of scholars holds fascism as a historical category arising from unrepeatable conditions in Europe, making it impossible to deploy outside that specific context, while others pose fascism as an analytical category, a regime arising from capitalist crisis “combined with a revolutionary threat from the left” (in the words of Dylan Riley), which could be seen outside the European interwar context. Ultimately, Webber sees potential for fascism particularly because there are elements of fascist ideology in Bolsonaro’s government alongside real and deadly alliances with private militias. However, he argues that fascist ideology does not automatically result in a fascist dictatorship, no matter how badly Bolsonaro might wish it to, because conditions on the ground are proving that his government is paralyzed and unable to put his agenda into action.

Chamsy el-Ojeili and Dylan Taylor offer an extensive review of theoretical perspectives on anarcho-primitivism in their essay “‘The Future in the Past’: Anarcho-primitivism and the Critique of Civilization Today.” They take us through a variety of anarchists who have drawn on historical epochs as far back as hunter-gatherer modes of life, indigenous social orders, and so on, both to criticize capitalism (as not the only way we have ever organized society) as well as to offer a utopian vision. Additionally, anarchist anthropological work questions misconceptions about “primitive” or indigenous societies. el-Ojeili and Taylor help us see that anarcho-primitivism is a call not to return to the past but to use the past and present to configure our future utopian visions. They maintain (echoing Robinson and Tormey) that anarchism’s future “is ‘already here’—present in microstruggles and alternate ways of being together.”

The next two essays take up post-Marxism in the works of different thinkers. Pedro M. Rey-Araújo’s essay “Ernesto Laclau’s Oblivion of Political Economy: Capitalism and Institutions in Post-Marxist Discourse Theory” focuses on Laclau and Mouffe’s critique of class determinism or class essentialism in Marxism. Continuing the work of Diskin and Sandler (RM vol. 6, no. 3) and Özselçuk and Madra (Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, vol. 10, no. 1), Rey-Araujo looks at what is left of class after Laclau and Mouffe’s pathbreaking, serious grappling with class determinism. By making class contingent, not determinate, Laclau and Mouffe have become known as the progenitors of a new strain of thought: “post-Marxism.” Rey-Araújo also points out that “evacuating the tradition of political economy” created the symptoms of an undeclared omission, one example being the lack of any structural analysis of capital. Here is where post-Marxism is different than its cousins, “postracial” and “postcapitalist”: post-Marxist (and this is what both Rey-Araújo and Caleb Bernacchio help us see) does not mean anti-Marxist; instead, it means a rethinking of Marxism via a nonessentialist understanding of class, but sometimes the rush to throw out essentialism has meant throwing the baby (i.e., class) out with the bathwater, to use a popular adage.

Caleb Bernacchio’s “Morality Between Taboo and Ideology: Reading MacIntyre as a Post-Marxist” does something different than Rey-Araújo’s essay. If Rey-Araújo took up the work of the master of post-Marxism himself, Ernesto Laclau, Bernacchio urges us to examine closely a thinker rarely seen as post-Marxist at all: Alasdair MacIntyre. Perhaps this is because MacIntyre himself declared that “Marxism is exhausted as a political tradition.” Nonetheless, Bernacchio identifies the Marxist threads that end up being foundational in MacIntyre’s work, as well as the ways that MacIntyre’s treatment of morality can be likened to and differentiated from Althusser’s treatment of ideology. Bernacchio argues that “MacIntyre’s appropriation of Marx reflects a pluralist approach to a postcapitalist future,” an approach that is complementary to the work of Gibson-Graham and many others associated with the project of diverse economies. MacIntyre is interested in how people participate in cooperative practices and commons in their existing social contexts.

In “When Personal Becomes Political,” Marcelo Brodsky’s images are woven with Serap A. Kayetekin’s text. Kayetekin bases her text on four of Brodsky’s works: Buena Memoria (la marca editora, 1977), Nexo (la marca editora, 2001), 1968: The Fire of Ideas (RM, 2018), and Migrants (Paço das Artes, 2018), as well as on personal communication with the artist. In the first half of the work, images of student protests in Calcutta, Dakar, Tucumán, and Tokyo are placed in a series with images from Paris, Berkeley, and Chicago, which as Kayatekin describes, breaks with the Eurocentric memorialization of those years of protests. The second half of the piece begins with the last image taken of Brodsky’s brother—a psychology student and socialist who was detained and “disappeared” by the Argentinian dictatorship, leading to his death. Kayatekin explains in her closing text that she arranged the images in chronological order despite the fact that the second half of the images (of Brodsky’s brother, of his case file on a shelf with other case files of the disappeared in Argentina, of a bust of his brother sculpted by their mother after his death) are from his first two collections while the protest images are from his later works. She suggests that Brodsky’s personal pain connected him to political solidarity and protests, offering a thread through his life’s work.

Kfir Cohen Lustig’s “Equal Distribution of Inequality: Totality and the Limits of Identity Politics” examines what have often been sterile debates on the primacy of race or class. He frames much of his discussion on Moishe Postone’s work, and in the last third of the essay he uses the case of Israel and Palestine. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is a prime case to examine “racial capitalism” in action and unfolding in our contemporary age. Lustig (along with the generation of scholars influenced by Sara Roy’s work on the de-development of Palestine) argues that the encounter between Arabs and Jews is not simply of two identity groups in conflict. Rather, Jewish employers sought out Palestinian workers who could be paid lower wages than Jewish workers, generating conflict between Jewish workers and Jewish employers. Labor Zionism sought to exclude Palestinian workers, not so much on the basis of identity but on the basis of eliminating competition in the labor market. Today, the Israeli state is allocating billions of dollars to further integrate Arabs into the labor force through training and education, with a specific focus on Palestinian women, as a feminist policy. Lustig argues that this new policy demonstrates that there is no Arab identity in general and that the encounter between Jews and Arabs is mediated by capital’s needs for cheap labor.

And last, we have two book reviews. In the first, Nikos Karfakis explores Materialism, by Terry Eagleton. Karfakis describes how Eagleton criticizes “new materialism” as drawing too much on poststructuralism, and he suggests that Eagleton is setting up a sterile binary between the two. Ultimately, Karfakis says that Eagleton’s book is an entertaining and informative account of studies both of the body and of materialism, even if some of the critiques of poststructuralism could have been worked through a bit more. In the second review, Elsa Wiehe describes the strengths and weaknesses of Steven Snow’s Bourgeois Ideology and Education: Subversion through Pedagogy. Snow’s book approaches critical pedagogy from Marxist and anarchist frames, offering both a critique of bourgeois myths (such as meritocracy and Malthusian explanations of poverty) embedded in U.S. education as well as ideas on how instructors and students can subvert these myths.

Finally, we announce the 2020 Stephen A. Resnick Graduate Student Essay Prize, in honor of one of the first editorial board members of this journal. Stephen Resnick continues to influence the pages of this journal in so many ways: as mentor, as a writer, collaborator with Richard D. Wolff, and as a thinker who shaped many of our published authors. His eye unfailingly trained on class and because he did this via a deep commitment to anti-essentialism, this distinguished Resnick from a generation of class theorists who did the same but from a different epistemological stance. We invite graduate Ph.D. students to draw on the work of this unparalleled thinker, or the mode of analyses published in the pages of Rethinking Marxism, and submit essays by June 1, 2020 that will be considered for an essay prize.

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