Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that, with the collapse of Com- munism, the theoretical project of Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more timely and important. Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “ postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency. Ellen Meiksins Wood. · Rating details · 94 ratings · 9 reviews. This study argues that understanding Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more important.
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Nevertheless, despite bitter opposition, political participation was extended eolen to all free white men, then to all men and finally to cspitalism citizens. The standard alternative to mechanical determinist interpretations, however, was a vague humanism. In a profound sense, the whole of the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science, beginning with Copernicus through to Darwin, was a democratising process – undermining the entrenched powers of the older society, redefining humanity’s place in the universe and establishing ‘reason’ as the overriding principle, from which flowed the preoccupation with the ‘rights of man’, and so on.
This will enrich the socialist project — and is crucial to the success of both, femocracy there is wood chance of building a mass socialist movement today without taking very seriously issues of race, gender and sexuality. Wood suggests that one important source of the prevalent defeatist sense that nothing other than capitalism is possible, is the idea that capitalism has always existed, which she shows to be implicit in many theories of history. Clearly, something must be wrong with theoretical tendencies that would so disarm us.
How did we agajnst up using the same name both for a system where every citizen participated and public officers were chosen by draw and for one where public officers are chosen and then virtually execute all power? Plainly, what attracts EMW to ancient Athens is its character as a citizen-state; that the direct producers peasants and artisans themselves exercised political power and that in terms of political power, were equal to larger landowners.
Still, it’s worth trying to summarise her argument and offer some tentative thoughts. I don’t think she would deny this; but the precise political relevance of the Athenian model is never spelled out – and since the whole question of democracy is at least in some regard a debate about institutional forms, this seems an odd omission.
Taking an overview of world history, that the period preceding modern capitalism was the period involving the conquest of the Americas, etc, does not seem accidental – as if the really important developments were taking place elsewhere.
Darren Poynton rated it it was amazing Feb 05, Human liberation means freeing ourselves from this form of rule.
Renewing Historical Materialism
She now resides in England. It seems to me that the political implications of Wood’s argument are harder to define that she thinks they are. What distinguished Marx from the start of being a ‘Marxist’ was the merging of the young working class and communist movement with the traditions of revolutionary democracy, and we should beware of cutting Marxism adrift from this historical background.
And Wood proceeds to show us just what is wrong. I don’t propose here to review much of it – I have neither the time nor the ability to cover it all, for one thing because it would require expert historical knowledge I make no pretence to having. Meiksins Wood admits that she raises more questions than she answers; I want to explore a few possible questions.
At the heart of all this is an argument that capitalism has narrowly defined democracy in the words of Eduardo Galeano, democracy is more than an electoral ritual and that a politics that takes democracy beyond those limits imposed by capitalism is essential to human liberation.
This colours the interaction between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ which is envisaged not as a rigid hierarchical relationship but as an interaction, something to be analysed in a specific historical conjuncture rather than assumed to fit a pattern. For she argues that Marx revealed what had been concealed by economists, that the essence of capitalist production is political in that it rests on the relations of power between those who own the means of production and those who do not.
Renewing Historical Materialism
The relationship between ‘bourgeois revolution’ and the bourgeoisie itself, wod capitalist development itself, has always been, I think, more schematic in Marxist theory than Wood suggests. But the communist movement emerged from the historical processes thus unleashed.
The struggle against capitalism will continue as long as capitalism does, and sharpened ideological weapons are more essential than ever.
It is smart, edgy and well written. Therefore a abainst of human liberation requires a theory and practice of a more universal form than current identity politics provides. This was understood both by supporters of democracy and their opponents, like Plato and Aristotle. Mekksins Materialism and the Specificity of Capitalism. The historical specificity of capitalism is much more remarkable than these theories suppose: She answers these question not only through philosophical arguments and concepts but using history in a way that’s narratively very effective and not too heavy at all.
There is much that is interesting and persuasive in her account. It is a late and localised product of very specific historical conditions’ p – and on that basis offer a more defined and coherent socialist critique. It redefines historical materialism’s basic concepts and theory of history to specifically identify capitalism as a system of social relations and political power. Capitalism and human emancipation race gender and democracy.
Capitalism, EMW argues, is a unique social system because it revolutionises the means of production in way that no previous society did or indeed, previous modes of production may have ‘petrified’ them. Trivia About Againsr Against Want to Read saving….
In fact there were meiksin ways out of feudalism’. EMW sees this as basic to the ‘critique of capitalism’, and of course it is. There is, as some Marxists used to like to say, a certain ‘relative’ autonomy to the history of ideas. It also provides a philosophical underpinning to more modern thinking on the challenges for the left for example the work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams in ” Inventing the Future “.
Wood’s argument is gaainst other contemporary approaches can critique elements of capitalism and its culture but only marxism can get to grips with both the idea and the practice of capitalism. The first part of this book is a magnificent re-statement of the relevance and usefulness of historical materialism as an analytical tool. Wood criticizes Gerald A.
Inevitably, as a summary, what I say here will be crude, but I hope not false. Thompson economic effect example existence explain exploitation extra-economic feudalism forces of production formal democracy freedom Greek historical materialism historical process historical specificity human Ibid identities ideological imperatives industrial juridical liberal democracy logic Marx Marx’s means of production mechanism medieval mode of production modern objective oppression particular peasant pluralism polis political economy principle private property production relations productive forces property relations relations of production relationship Roman sense simply slavery slaves social form social relations socialist specificity of capitalism sphere status structural superstructure surplus extraction surplus labour technological determinism teleology theoretical Thompson tion tradition transformation unique Weber Western.
Her general arguments are a trenchant critique of anti-Marxist ‘market triumphalism’ on the one hand and ‘post-modernist’ refusals to deal in meta-narratives on the other.
Democracy Against Capitalism
But there is something counter-intuitive about much of it. Somewhat frustratingly, she does not spell out very specific political consequences. First, they assume what needs to be explained. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. This isn’t always successful however, particularly in the second part which makes something of a break from the argument put forward in the first. Looked at with, so to speak, more distance, there meiksinz an obvious cumulative development in the history of ideas in Europe.