Plunging Christine So’s Economic Citizens

So, Christine. Economic Citizens: A Narrative of Asian American Visibility. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

So’s book is informed by an emergent paradigm in Asian American Studies not to read for resistance, but for “how Asian Americans enter and appropriate U.S. mainstream culture and ideologies” (6). As her title would suggest, this study concerns the appropriation of Asian Americans as economic subjects, rather than subjects formed by discourses of sexuality, gender or politics. Her book is appropriate in a time of global capitalism and mass commodification of culture, as a way of seeing how Asian Americans co-opt powers of global capital and neo-liberal orientalism, and “to explore more fully Asian American culture’s production of not only difference but sameness, nativization, assimilation, and belonging” (8). So then seeks ways for how Asian Americans have entered the U.S. imaginary within economic discourse, as “agents of capitalism gone awry,” as always symbolizing an excess of capitalist markets within a hyperembodied racialized subject(8).  For So, it is the logic of global capital that has largely determined how Asian Americans are imagined, as a constant threat that “has enabled the consolidation of the white, middle-class family identity” (10).

So’s method for dissecting the economic identities from Asian American literature relies upon a vast subject knowledge of economics, and not just classical economics. Using the economic theories of Georg Simmel, Maurice Bloch, Jonathan Parry, Antonio Callari, Marc Shell and Jean-Joseph Goux, So shows how Asian Americans were able to see use the economic realm to influence their position in the social realm, and vice versa: “Simmel…sees economic  exchange as a means of widening existing social circles and transferring an adherence to one’s community to a larger dependence on an abstract system of exchange” (15). For So, the appropriation of commodified identities by Asian Americans is to gain power by entering themselves within the circulation of commodities. By becoming commodified bodies, Asian Americans were thus able to obtain some limited form of recognition during times of immigration exclusion, internment and segregation, to “articulate abstract citizenship and to construct an idealized relationship to the nation state” (23). However, for Asian Americans, being recognized as units of exchange was always seen through a racist lens of capitalist excess, where “surplus becomes a common means of establishing Asian American subjectivity,” therefore undermining the logics of universal equivalence (29). For So, the “economic undercurrent” in Asian American texts “undermines the texts’ presumed messages of racial healing as well as much larger assumptions regarding the predictability of economic exchange and the ability to move easily between the economic, social and symbolic realms” (24).

By reading these texts against traditional interpretations, So aligns with Viet Nguyen and Tomo Hattori, who seek to make critics more aware of their own cooptation in reading texts, where the use of a racial identity as a mode of resistance, according to Viet Nguyen, “accrues symbolic rather than economic capital.” Rather than focus on critics, however, So wants to show how the appropriation of economic subjectivity disrupts logics of economic exchange. So performs this admirably through Chinese American narratives of hoarding, fetishization and other excesses of money. Though the characters in novels like Virginia Lee’s The House That Tai-Ming Built enter themselves in the logic of economic exchange as a necessary means of establishing Chinese American culture, the “slippery nature of exchange” serves as “a tool for disorientation, displacement and alienation” (70). For Japanese American return narratives, the demands to adhere to logics of exchange produces a globalized Asian American subject, one who can appropriate cultural forms of the homeland, and where home is seen as “a means of rescuing Asian Americans from the margins of United States politics and culture” (76). “Asian American” here becomes a universal signifier, one able to transcend borders of race, gender, nation, etc. by transcending borders. However, the freedom and healing offered by the homeland are still possible only “through the dominant and universal languages and logic of economic exchange,” thus still rendering the universal Asian American as still determined by forces of global capital.

So’s third chapter, “The Embodiment of Exchange,” was printed first as an article in Feminist Studies, and maps the body of the Asian mail-order bride as a figure dominated completely by rhetoric of capital and profit. For So, the Asian mail-order bride is an especially disruptive figure because it signals a direct involvement with the American home, a “collision between the needs of capital and U.S. ideologies surrounding the home, family, and nation,” where rhetoric of the family is very often used to exploit third-world women labor into a type of domestic slavery. The mail-order bride then becomes a “repository for national fears about global competition, loss of U.S. jobs and cultural identity, and the ‘invasion’ of immigrants of color” (103). So’s analysis of Wanwadee Larsen’s Confessions of a Mail Order Bride finds Larsen’s voice to be one of economic subjectivity, where the investment of the American male in the Thai woman yields rich results, as Larsen ends up saving her American husband first from a traffic accident, then from a marijuana addiction. Rather than simply reiterating the discourse of saving brown women from brown men through capitalist participation, Larsen inverts this discourse but refuses to see past it, and presents the Thai woman as “the rescuer of those who profit from…economic exchanges” (119). Though Larsen is able to redefine herself, she is unable to redefine her relationship to economic exchange, and is still subjected to its totalization, where Thailand must always be seen as “a primordial, pre-capitalist state” that can likewise be invested in (125)

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Patricia Clough’s The Affective Turn

Clough, Patricia Ticineto, and Jean O’Malley Halley. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.

Preface:

Paraphrasing Spinoza, Michael Hardt states that  “the mind’s power to think corresponds to its receptivity to external ideas; and the body’s power to act corresponds to its sensitivity to other bodies”

the term affective labor is meant to…grasp simultaneously the corporeal and intellectual aspects of the new forms of production, recognizing that such labor engages at once with rational intelligence and with the passions or feeling (xi).

Affective labor allows us to “consider [affective labor] together with the various other forms of labor whose products are in large part immaterial, that is, to think together the production of affects with the production of code, information, ideas, images and the like” (xii).

Introduction:

Clough is clear that the affect turn is linked to “the production of multiple subjectivities and multiple modernities expressed in new forms of history, often presented at first in autobiographical experimental writings by diasporic subjects. As she says:

The affective turn throws thought back to the disavowals constitutive of Western industrial capitalist societies, bringing forth ghosted bodies and the traumatized remains of erased histories. It also sends thought to the future—to the bodily matter and biotechnoscientific experimentation (3).

These experimental forms of writing render the traumatic effect of the long exclusion from writing, which haunts the writing as a motive force. These writings are traumatizing as they call into question the truth of representation, the certainty of memory, if not the very possibility of knowledge of the past” (6).  Clough expands upon what Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, in their edited volume The Shell and the Kernal: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, call “trangenerational haunting,” where the “forgetting of trauma is passed down from one generation to another, mesmerizing multiple egos, putting all in a transgenerational bodily trance” (7). The haunting of a lost or forgotten trauma, one deracinated from a history across groups of inter-related generations, Jacqueline Rose sees as potentially “creating a monstrous family of reluctant belonging” (qtd. in Clough 7).

A family of reluctant belonging is still thus a family, monstrous as it might be named, but a community of similarly affected subjects who find shared subjective states found in a collapsed notion of time, where the future becomes only a constant reliving of an inescapable and unknowable past, a pathological state of entanglement with the lost object. Clough takes Deleuze’s concept of “the crack” from his book The Logic of Sense to rethink memory, image, time and trauma beyond the collapsing of time, where the crack in time is “a potential for swerving in terms of inheritance, the potential for swerving to the future” (13). There is no “overcoming” of the present because the past, as an unknowable and lost “lack” entangled with the ego, is ontologically among the present, and “is not even past,” as Faulkner has said. Clough compares this feeling with Lacan’s imaginary state, where “it is unclear whether one is in the past or the present, resulting in a haunting in time” (14).

Finally, Clough takes up Negri’s “Value and Affect” essay, where Negri emphasizes the new forms of migration and labor due to a phenomenon of affective labor, where “labor finds its value in affect, if affect is defined as ‘the power to act’” (79). Affective labor—the immaterial labor of the service industry, of housemaids, nannies, sex workers—emphasizes the value placed on dispositions of the worker, on the moods and affective capacities of the worker, such that the “use value of labor cannot be measured” (24). This immeasurability of affective capacity leaves room for what Clough calls a

worldwide meshing of biopolitics with an affective economy. There is a marking of populations—some as valuable life and others as without value. Increasingly it is in these terms that differences such as those of ethnicity, race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation become materialized. Some bodies or bodily capacities are derogated, making their affectivity superexploitable or exhaustable unto death (25).

The trend of migrant affective labor coming out of the third world, specifically in Southeast Asia, in the form of domestic and service labor in global cities of the first world, makes the union of an affective economy and biopolitics an especially prescient global phenomenon. Furthermore, regimes of the affect are also exported from the first world to the third, sometimes in the form of social management and human rights work that emphasizes “empowerment” rather than material access to public goods.

Plunging Anne Cheng’s The Melancholy of Race

Cheng, Anne Anlin. The Melancholy of Race. Race and American culture. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, 2001.

It is hard to ignore racial politics today, the grievance of minorities without histories, the guilt and anxiety of social histories that prove, time and again, the hypocritical ideals of the nation. The effort to attend to the contradictions of the nation have exposed wounds in national ideology, and there is a social and legal articulation of grief emerging throughout the nation.

Anne Cheng means to attend to these wounds, to theorize the melancholia of race (not just minorities) in an attempt to articulate an inarticulable loss. As Cheng says:

if grievance is understood to be the social and legal articulation of grief, then it has also been incapable of addressing those aspects of grief that speak in a different language—a language that may seem inchoate because it is not fully reconcilable to the vocabulary of social formation or ideology but that nonetheless cuts a formative pattern (x)

The psychical experience of grievance is articulated through the languages to law and society, rather than hidden within them. Yet, racial melancholia, which Cheng calls “a theoretical model of identity that provides a critical framework for analyzing the constitutive role that grief place in racial/ethnic subject formation,” puts emphases on the “lack” of the racialized subject, through “the interjection of a lost, never-possible perfection,” leaving the subject in a suspended position through a culture’s rejection and yet attachment to the racial other (xi). Racial melancholia and a vocabulary for grievance directs our attention to take seriously “the more immaterial, unquantifiable repository of public and private grief that has gone into the making of the so-called minority subject and that sustains the notion of ‘one nation’” (6).

The psychoanalysis depiction of melancholia as a consumptive condition of “endless self-impoverishment,” lends new methods of analyzing social acts as “entangled with loss” and a “legislation with grief.” Here complaints, bickering and insults are given more agency in situations of highly asymmetrical power, where such speech acts are really plaints, utterances of grief or sorrow, where loss becomes exclusion, and a denial of the very object that has been lost and incorporated within the subject provides no outlet for grief in the day-to-day of the subject.

The project of racial melancholia is close to a project that essentializes the subject into a “diagnostic” literary theory, where the negotiation with pain becomes the very reason to segregate, and all such diagnoses become sociological descriptions of a race/ethnicity. Cheng is all to aware of this pitfall, and insists that one must treadcarefully in this psychoanalytic vocabulary, using literature to “tease out the complex social etiology behind the phenomenon of racial grief,” rather than as symptomatic of a descriptive melancholia (15). Melancholia is thus more than a sadness or affect, but “a structural, identificatory formation predicated on—while being an active negotiation of—the loss of self as legitimacy,” as both a “sign of rejection and a psychic strategy in response to that rejection” (20).  The project of racial melancholia then is to find new forms of agency within an affective formation, and to pinpoint the ideological fissures that reinforce or engender the affective form. Therefore, at the risk of meeting essentialization headlong, one “must begin to acknowledge the deep nexus of psychical negotiations being engaged and develop a political vocabulary accordingly” (21). As Cheng states at the end of her Introduction, “the stringent fear of essentialism…prevents certain categories from being discussed, categories that, for all their inherent instability, nevertheless operate in powerful, fantasmatic ways” (27). Essentialism then is taken as a guise of subjectivity, and the psychoanalytic subject as a historical being produced by a haunted history. In this sense, we must always be altered to context.

For Asian Americans, the grief seems to originate from their specific history of racism “directed against immigrants and Asian labor,” economic competition, and between “immigrant and slave relations to American nationality” (22). Asian Americans have straddled the binary between black and white, facing a European inheritance of Orientalism that places the Asian American subject within a “truly ghostly position in the story of American racialization” (23). The Asian immigrant, as the direct targeted racial group of immigration acts, is rethought within a melancholic paradigm as not simply a sadness, but conditioning their very livelihoods and shaping subjectivity.

Plunging Marcuse’s Affirmative Character of Culture

Marcuse, Herbert. Negations; Essays in Critical Theory. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.

“The Affirmative Character of Culture”

If the appearance of the Egyptian civilization, which occurs over two thousand years prior to the Greeks, seems like one of history’s greatest mysteries, then one must be lacking in the perspective of the historical materialist, who might explain the entire span of pyramids, obelisks and pharaohs as having two geographical explanations. The life force of the Nile, combined with the easy access to neighboring peoples for slavery, were perhaps the two main factors that spoiled the Egyptians and thus spurred the appearance of cultural beauties that lay beyond necessity. Herbert Marcuse states that the world was once split into “the materialism of bourgeois practice on the one hand and…the appeasement of happiness and the mind within the preserve of ‘culture’ on the other”, yet it seems needless to say that before there was civilization enough to provide a written history, life was defined by agriculture and necessity (89). The Egyptians thus show the emergence of a culture that “signifies the totality of social life in a given situation” wherein the ideational culture and the culture of material reproduction “form a historically distinguishable and comprehensible unity” (94). Yet this unity is broken apart by the very geographical factors of the Nile and slave labor, which acted as the conditions of possibility for Egyptian civilization, emphasizing that “man’s first concern is the struggle for the preservation of mere existence” (96).

If culture to the ancient Egyptians grew out of the satisfaction of necessities, and therefore the appearance of a non-working class of elites, then one must ask why such a culture of ideal pyramids, obelisks, and gods permeate the minds of the elite, rather than, say, the exhaustion of sports or work for work’s sake? Marcuse says that “in antiquity, the world of the beautiful beyond necessity was essentially a world of happiness and enjoyment” (96). This longing for happiness can also be seen as the desire to fulfill a common ‘lack’, which Marcuse describes as a type of ‘anxiety’:

Anxiety stands at the source of all idealistic doctrines that look for the highest felicity in ideational practice: anxiety about the uncertainty of all the conditions of life, about the contingency of loss, of dependence, and of poverty, but also anxiety about satiation, ennui, and envy of men and the gods. (96)

Anxiety here functions as the semblance of a ‘lack’, of certainty, of fulfillment, of satiation, interest and most of all, meaning. As is seen in Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic, the new non-working class, deprived of the daily struggle of the working subject, experiences anxiety in the loss of meaning, since meaning cannot be derived from another, and therefore must create an “other” through meaning can be derived.

As culture emerges from the non-working elite, so does the fulfillment of the lack of anxiety, which produces meaning towards a being of the transcendental imaginary—in this case, the Egyptian Gods that were exalted in every aspect of Egyptian civilization. Thus the ‘objective’ aspect of culture, which Marcuse calls ‘affirmative culture’, can be seen inherently as a response to the lack of meaning experienced through the anxiety of the non-working class. Such an anxiety itself comes to engulf all classes, utilizing the transcendental ‘other’ inherent in culture as the objective, higher power that gives meaning to all people, and by giving meaning, exalts “the individual without freeing him from his factual debasement” (103).

“Separating the useful and necessary from the beautiful and from enjoyment initiated a development that abandons the field to the materialism of bourgeois production on the one hand and to the appeasement of happiness and the mind within the preserve of ‘culture’ on the other” (89).

Affirmative culture

“By affirmative culture is meant that culture of the bourgeois epoch which led in the course of its own development to the segregation from civilization of the mental and spiritual world as an independent realm of value that is also considered superior to civilization. Its decisive characteristic is the assertion of a universally obligatory, eternally better and more valuable worth that must be unconditionally affirmed: a world essentially different from the factual world of the daily struggle for existence, yet realizable by every individual for himself ‘from within,’ without any transformation of the state of fact…their reception becomes an act of celebration and exaltation” (95).

Affirmative culture to Marcuse means “a world to be brought about not through the overthrow of the material order of life but through events in the individual’s soul. Humanity becomes an inner state….[that] exalts the individual without freeing him from his factual debasement” (103).

Anxiety –

The common desire for belonging cannot be sufficiently theorized here, except to say that the origins of this desire may spring from a type of anxiety of existence (Heidegger), or as Marcuse says, “anxiety stands at the source of all idealistic doctrines that look for the highest felicity in ideational practice: anxiety about the uncertainty of all the conditions of life, about the contingency of loss, of dependence, and of poverty, but also anxiety about satiation, ennui, and envy of men and the gods” (96).

New culture

When all links to the affirmative ideal have been dissolved, when in the context of an existence marked by knowledge it becomes possible to have real enjoyment without any rationalization and without the least puritanical guilt feeling, when sensuality, in other words, is entirely released by the soul, then the first glimmer of a new culture emerges” (117).

Walter Benjamin’s “On Some Motifs on Baudelaire”

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968. “On Some Motifs on Baudelaire”

 

Who is the man of the crowd? In Baudelaire’s poetry, it is the flaneur, the man who surrenders to the intoxication of the city and the commodity, surging among the crowd from one street to the next. The flaneur is an intoxicated subject, one whose eyes scroll through commodities like a piece of metal in an assembly line as it is propped and “perfected” with new ornaments in an effort to become complete. Likewise, in Walter Benjamin’s essay, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” he positions the flaneur as a passionate spectator:

 

the crowd [as] his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes.  His passion and profession are to become one flesh with the crowd.  For the perfect flaneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense job to set up house in the middle of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.

 

The “immense job” of completing themselves, to set house—to live in the multitude—is thus no more achievable than the ideal “completeness” in a drug addiction, in the intoxication of the flaneur as a scroller among commodities. Though his passion is merged with the crowd, he at once “becomes their accomplice even as he disassociates himself with them” (172). Benjamin then makes some attempt to distinguish the flaneur, who walks the city in order to experience it, from the conforming, one-dimensional man of Marcuse’, the “man of the mob”. Where the flaneur functions as a deliberately aimless pedestrian, the one-dimensional man of the mob is akin to Benjamin’s “boy of the street corner,” an expert in the social eco-system of the streets and who is yet subject to the ever-present uniformity of the crowd and its potential to mob violence. To Marcuse as well as Benjamin, in the mob mentality commodities turn from being an external object to an extension of the self, other “parts” that built on a “one-dimensional man’s” completeness: “The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile…social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.”[1] The synthesis of the man with the commodity creates a one-dimensional man, a man of the mob, while it is the hollowness and the egotism of commodities as external objects that is reflected in the flaneur and the figure’s countless attempts to fill in the empty void through the arcades.

Is it possible then that the “loss of self” in the urban crowd has thus transferred, in Marcuse’, to the “Crowd of commodities”, and it is no longer the crowd that becomes an extension of the self, but rather technological objects and commodities as the very whole of which the self becomes only a part. In other words, rather than a piece of metal strolling on a conveyor belt, has the man of the mob finally experienced that “Completeness?” Has he filled in the void so completely with the commodity that what is left becomes a disintegrating self, a self inebriated by television, which comes to act, as David Foster Wallace put it, as an “anesthetic against loneliness?” The loneliness of the crowd continues even when that crowd is a more perfect commodity form.

The use of this mass production of commodities that sets the attitude of the flaneur has yielded new ways for the Bourgeois artist to become a producer through the mediated influence towards the crowd. Benjamin saw this method reflected in Brecht’s “Epic Theater.” Brecht defines his dramaturgy as “the careful choice of theme and formal structural means, to inculcate in the audience the detached, distancing attitude of the historian towards the events portrayed.”[2] Brecht sought to utilize the very means of creating the “one-dimensional man” into a more reflective individual, a cigar smoker, and as Brecht would say, a judge and arbiter of values.

 


[1] Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man; Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. 11.

[2] Brecht, Bertolt, and John Willett. Brecht on Theatre; The Development of an Aesthetic. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964.

Plunging Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton studies in culture/power/history. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. “Two Histories of Capital”

 

Marx’s critique of Aristotle’s economic deliberations in Nicomachean Ethics are a biting cultural/historical analysis of what Aristotle was not able to see, because of his lack of Enlightenment reasoning – that human lives were of equal value, and therefore the human labor of slaves was able to produce the exchange value between his house and five beds. Likewise, Chakrabarty’s reading of Marx as an Enlightenment and Hegelian thinker allows Chakrabarty to both analyze the assumptions of Hegel and the Enlightenment. As Aristotle could not see slaves, so Chakrabarty points out that there are historical differences and forces working against the Capitalist “life-process” that Marx himself could not see, as he was an Enlightenment thinker. This leads Chakrabarty to criticize current proliferations of Neo-liberalism and the “Protestant Ethnic”—the residue of Enlightenment philosophy.

The title of Chakrabarty’s essay, “Two Histories of Capital”, emphases the blind spots in Marx’s theories of the historical logic of capitalism. According to Marx, the resistance of laborers and factory workers are part of the very logic of capitalism, and these forces of resistance function in a limitless dialectical that assist in the emergence and growth of capital, but as Chakrabarty says, “[Marx] locates [resistance] in the structural ‘being’ of capital rather than in its historical ‘becoming’” (59). The “being” of capital is sustained by reducing “human labor expenditure of energy to a minimum” and that “it is capital’s tendency to replace living labor by science and technology…that will give rise to the development of the ‘social individual’ whose greatest need will be that of ‘the free development of identities’” (61-2). In other words, the constant improvement of labor work hours and the small pockets of resistance from collectivities like labor unions, are actually all partial to Capitalism’s logical progression. Since the dialectical pendulum never oscillates strong enough in one direction to swing itself entirely off its pedestal, so too the amount of hard labor and exploitation is never so intense as to necessitate a full-fledged revolution, be it cultural or national.

From Marx, Chakrabarty pulls two types of histories, the “being” stated above as “the state where capital has fully come into its own”, and “becoming”, the historical process in and through which the logical presuppositions of capital’s being are realized…the past that the category retrospectively posits” (62). Chakrabarty then derives two types of histories from Marx, the “being” that generates the enlightenment philosophies of human equality, liberalism and protestant ethics which support capitalism, and the “becoming”, which encounters antecedent histories that retrospectively were not of a dialectical nature—which were either indifferent to, or effectually resistant to capitalism’s logic and “life-process” (63). Money and the Commodity Form, according to Marx, are examples of the neutrality of historical events that Capitalism has merely “found” and then “destroyed as independent forms and subordinated to industrial capital. [Then] Violence (the State) is used against interest-bearing capital by means of compulsory reduction of interest rates” (64). By categorizing Money and Commodity into neutral phenomena, indifferent to capitalism, Chakrabarty shows that such “difference…is not something external to capital. Nor is it subsumed into capital. It lives in intimate and plural relationships to capital, ranging from opposition to neutrality” (66). Money and the Commodity Form are not necessarily inherent to Capitalism’s logic, nor do they function as dialectical resistance, but are neutral phenomena that are merely the conditions for wage-labor and debt.

The “becoming” of Capitalism in Chakrabarty’s argument shows that resistance, even in small pockets spread out over time, do not have to be seen necessarily as “the reproduction of the logic of capital” (67). In India, where the money form and the commodity form have become prevalent, capitalism is marking its territory through an ideological battle between Indian pluralism and acceptance of difference and the universal, protestant ethics. To Chakrabarty, India can accept certain neutral categories, like money and the commodity, without reproducing the logic of capital and the ideologies that it implies. As he says, “the idea of History 2 [‘Becoming’] beckons us to more affective narratives of human belonging where life forms, although porous to one another, do not seem exchangeable through a third term of equivalence such as abstract labor” (71). The Enlightenment ethos of universal dialectical history is then separated from the history of human belonging, difference and the specificities that are unseen by abstract labor power.

Louis Althusser’s Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972.

 

“Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses.”

 

Using Pascal’s defensive dialectic “to kneel and pray and belief will come,” Althusser seeks to invert the order of the notional schema of ideology (168). This inversion insists on the inconsistency of the subject to separate their[AP1] action from their beliefs[AP2] , that whether or not they believe in the imaginary relationships of individuals present—their ideology—their actions engender ideological ideas that dominates their beliefs. The domination of ideology is thus “inscribed in the actions and practices governed by rituals” (170). These rituals are always material rituals, and such external objects[AP3] are the means which ideology interpolates[AP4] individuals as subjects.

In interpellation, the action of the voice in the “hailing” and the turning around to face that voice, precedes the notion of subjectivity in the individual, which eventually manifests into ideology. Althusser describes this phenomenon as the “recognition function”, where an individual transforms into a subject because he or she is immediately recognized as one. Judith Butler describes the interpellation in the “recognition function” as “the authority of the ‘voice’ of ideology, the ‘voice’ of interpellation…figured as a voice impossible to refuse”[i]. To Butler, the “Hey you!” of the policeman is an accusatory voice. If the individual were to attempt an escape from the voice, the guilt would be exacerbated by the refusal to yield to another human being, or in the least, the refusal to confront the voice. Immediately one perceives of this guilt and seeks to exemplify themselves from it. This idea can be better explained in Althusser’s description of the voice of God, which is also based upon a recognition: “You are Peter! This is your origin, you were created by God for all eternity”[ii]. The voice at once offers identity to the pre-ideological individual, and at once, interpolates the individual into a subject[AP5] .

Through both of these texts, the notion of interpellation is at once divorced from individual agency and tenacity of mind. By agency I mean the idea that the subject may be totally aware of their own subjectivity, but yet takes part in the rituals for material gain and substantial reward that makes the entirety of ideological subjectivity nothing but a symbolic order that must be mastered in order to obtain a divine object, some amount of reward, which Althusser alludes to as the subjects who need the “Other Subject,” the Big Other. To Butler this reward is always freedom of guilt, yet this freedom from guilt may be expanded to a freedom from fear—and what is that fear if not the fear of freedom itself?

This may be the point where one would write “think about it!” and move on, or, as Althusser, write: “I simply ask that the reader be favorably disposed towards it, say, in the name of materialism” (166). Where Althusser might invoke idealistic materialism, this writer would invoke the pleasures of interpellation—the incorporation within a community, the security of the family, the promise or “fair” reward, and lastly, recognition in a political and social order through which one can obtain a practically benevolent lifestyle. These promises suggest not a retreat from guilt, but a retreat from everything that the symbolic order does not represent, its excessive opposite, as Zizek would call it, its real, traumatic kernel—the fear of total freedom.[AP6]

Let us take a more concrete example, that of the ethnic mimic, the person of color that ceaselessly mimics the identity of their ethnicity by the interpellative forces of multiculturalism, the mimicking “the mask of the plural”, an interpellation by their own ethnic community—the interpellation of “community interdependence”. Can it not be argued that this self-mimicry, this community-based interpellation, is not done out of the interest of political recognition, cultural capital as well as capital proper?[AP7] How is the ethnic subject, who may indeed switch these guises based on the opportunity of the moment, an ideological subject?

In interpellation, Althusser denies agency to the individual, and Butler associates the individual with cowardice and guilt. Zizek, as we will see on Thursday, sees the “traumatic kernel/leftover” of the interpellative process as the very condition of ideological command, and thus the self-conditioning of the subject as a response to interpellation is so that one may “avoid and postpone the terror of a radically open field of significatory possibilities[AP8][iii]. In other words, to don the “mask” of the imaginary is a reaction to the terror of complete freedom rather than the ideological process of being interpellated. The internalization of interpellation therefore patches over the chasm of “mind” and it is this acceptance of recognition that is rather a voluntary surrender of one’s own agency—the will to freedom. Freedom here may be compared to the void that “stares back,” the absolute unadulterated desires of the self that appears only in frightening excess[AP9] . The acceptance of interpellation is thus an act of the will as an escape from total freedom, from facing the real, traumatic kernel, as Zizek would put it.

What does this mean for interpellation? Well, if it’s anything like Lukacs’ reified consciousness, it means that the unreified consciousness remains unreified despite the body’s ritualistic practices and ideological materialism. This suggests a chasm that has yet to be sutured, a practicality of mind that seeks material gain through an imaginary order. What must be changed then is the form of that material gain, the rationalist response of Marx that the material gain is really no gain at all, and it is not the mind’s perception itself that can be altered, perhaps it already acknowledges its own contradiction, but it is the external objects that are the cause and desires of the subject that must change. [AP10]

Althusser uses the term interpellation to explain the inculcation of the subject an ideology, one that causes a consistent behavior and defines the individual as a subject of the ruling class. Interpellation can be seen as an invocation of guilt into a subject through material action, on the condition that the subject is a “pre-ideological” individual. Althusser describes this material action as the voice of a police officer, saying “Hey you!”. The individual who is called then turns around to face the policeman, which suggests an immediate obedience to the voice calling him, and thus the subject is created by an action. In other words, the action of the voice and the turning around to face that voice precedes the notion of subjectivity in the individual, which eventually manifests into ideology. Althusser describes this phenomenon as the “recognition function”, where an individual transforms into a subject because he or she is immediately recognized as one.

Althusser further explains interpellation through Pascal’s religious mantra that if one feels too much doubt in religion, to ‘kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe’[iv]. In this case the interpellation occurs through ritualistic behavior, the action again preceding the ideology or belief.  In Mladen Dolar’s “Beyond Interpellation”, Dolar rethinks the notion of interpellation in Althusser’s example of Pascal. When the man kneels to pray, Dolar asks “What made him follow the ritual? Why did he/she consent to repeat a serious of senseless gestures?” Dolar reverses the notion of interpellation with these questions, suggesting that ideology, in this instance, precedes action. One might then wonder if Althusser’s “recognition function” of the voice and the turning around to see the voice, can be reversed as well. The questions, in this case, would then be: “What causes the individual to turn around? Why did he/she consent to turn, if not for an unconscious ideology?”

Judith Butler describes the interpellation in the “recognition function” as “the authority of the ‘voice’ of ideology, the ‘voice’ of interpellation…figured as a voice impossible to refuse”[v]. The policeman’s voice creates an ineluctable pull when it is heard from behind because it is disembodied, and one must turn around in order to visualize the speaker, thus falling victim to recognition. But the desire of the individual to visualize the abstract isn’t the only “pull” of the voice; the turn can also be seen as a way to explicate the guilt felt by the individual for not turning around. The “Hey you!” of the policeman is an accusatory voice. If the individual were to attempt an escape from the voice, the guilt would be exacerbated by the refusal to yield to another human being, or in the least, the refusal to confront the voice. Immediately one perceives of this guilt and seeks to exemplify themselves from it. This idea can be better explained in Althusser’s description of the voice of God, which is also based upon a recognition: “You are Peter! This is your origin, you were created by God for all eternity”[vi]. The voice at once offers identity to the pre-ideological individual, and at once, interpellates the individual into a subject. The voice, in this case, is totally disembodied, and thus the “turn around” of the individual on the sidewalk, who seeks to identify the “Hey you!” figure, can never be satisfied when it comes to the deific voice. The effort to turn around and see the voice becomes inexhaustible, and the infinite action of the turn becomes a consistent reinforcement of the ideology within the subject.

 


[i] Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1997. 110

[ii] Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses.” 120

[iii] Rey Chow, 110.

[iv] Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses.” Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972.  114

[v] Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1997. 110

[vi] Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses.” 120

 

David Kazanjian’s Mercantile Exchanges, Mercantilist Enclosures

Kazanjian, David. “Mercantile Exchanges, Mercantilist Enclosures: Racial Capitalism in the Black Mariner Narratives of Venture Smith and John Jea.” CR: The New Centennial Review. 3. 1 (2003): 147-178.

 

While Balibar’s focus on the Nation formation as an alternative “origins” myth to Marx’s “Primitive Accumulation”, David Kazanjian sees the capacity both in Marx and in Balibar to acknowledge that there are multiple causes of capital accumulation, all of them concomitant with the rise of racial, national and gender formations. The stakes for this argument are especially high, for while it may be speculative to posit that the Nation Form gave rise to racial exclusion, as Balibar does, the idea that prejudiced formations occur in multiple causes—not a one of them free from the synchronous “origins” of capital accumulation—thus ties the refinement of capitalism in an irrevocable bind with the formations of racial, gender and national prejudice.

The first homology that Kazanjian points out between Mercantilism and the ideological biases inherent in Capitalism is the State’s intervention with mercantilist policies, which are instituted based on nationalist doctrine. As Kazanjian says, the creators of these policies, “Madison, Ames, and Hamilton offer a formula for the creation of a precise logic of equality that would take the political form of citizenship—the very logic and form that Marx…calls the value form” (36). The tariffs imposed on mercantile travelers were done in the name of an egalitarian universalism restricted to national citizens, creating a range of rational abstraction that forced its equivalence upon the particulars of the nation. According to Marx, moments of private accumulation turn into vast accretions of capital through “the commercial war of the European nations, which has the globe as its battlefield” (915). The commercial war begins with the rights of citizens and their imposed favor with national tariffs, while the war on the globe turns into that of mercantile capitalism.

Limited by the scope of official histories corrupted more or less by the powers that Kazanjian seeks to dissect, Kazanjian instead utilizes literary texts, which he refers to as “texts of subjection, texts that vividly perform the paradoxical simultaneity of the subordination by power and the creation of subjectivity” (43). In Marxian language, Kazanjian seeks to provide subjective examples of the equalization present within the value form, and the limits of universal abstraction that still, to the subject’s bewilderment, relies upon the differences in the particular to structure itself. Kazanjian shows the simultaneity of equalization by humanitarian ideals—freedom, equality, citizenship—with subordination. He begins with Equiano’s narrative, in which the Black sailor is only “free” insofar as he keeps to his ship and builds capital. Similarly, John Jea’s narrative reveals that he must become a trickster of his own identity in order to accumulate capital, sometimes disguising himself as a slave and sometimes as a citizen, yet his identity must remain mobile—he can never consistently be a free citizen. Likewise, with George Henry’s narrative shows that the racial subject in mercantilism must do women’s work while onboard ships, as he attempts to regain “an individuated masculinity…to compensate for his feminized labor on the sea by turning against shoreside femininity” (82). The perception of mercantilism as “manly”, the forced guises of slave and citizen, and the reliance on the ship itself to prove the freedom of the racial subject, are all examples of “formative moment[s] in which race, nation, gender, and equality are paradoxically constitutive of one another, forming what Eteinne Balibar has called a ‘historical articulation’” (84).

All of these subjective texts that Kazanjian uses show “an emerging understanding of equality as entirely consistent with the codification of racial and national identities,” and their accounts, specifically Equiano’s, “suggests that mercantilism played a role in articulating this consistency” (56). Though their accumulation of capital was performed with the promise of a free identity, these racial subjects inevitably discover that this free identity is abstract and lacking of any real substance, where Equiano is only “free” on his ship, and George Henry only free so long as he does “women’s labor”. By pairing the value form with mercantilism in the beginning of the essay, Kazanjian thus shows that capitalism itself breaks down “current ways of giving value to social relations, while simultaneously instituting new ways of giving value to social relations” (86). The particular identities of these black racial subjects are thus exchanged for a formal and abstract identity that is ultimately lacking in substance—the real substance is in the new, particular identities that the subject unknowingly accepts through this process of exchange: that of race, nationality and gender.

Kazanjian presents mercantilism then not as an alternative to the origins story present in Marx and to an extent in Balibar, but rather he offers mercantilism as one of many phenomena that refined capitalism into the highly prejudiced capitalism that Marx witnessed when he wrote Capital. As Kazanjian says, “for Balibar…capitalism emerged and even thrived under a variety of political forms,” and “mercantilism can be thought of as discursive practice that gave a national shape to merchant capital at the beginnings of historical capitalism” (42).  The sea was a symbol for mercantile non-capitalists in the way that the factory is a symbol for industrial non-capitalists, that is, as space resembling the means to become inducted into the ranks of a free and equal humanity, into a formalized egalitarianism that will free the worker from their more primitive roots and accept them as a player in the game of global accumulation—as a human, more or less. Yet this total equalization can never be realized, and while the subject may be acquiring capital for equality—because such a system of accumulation relies solely on the subjects remaining in new particular subject positions—their entire “performance” of capital accumulation occurs as if for its own sake. Marx says that the effects of primitive accumulation are, overall, the “making of profit as the ultimate and the sole purpose of mankind” (918). Capitalism then becomes a semi-autonomous force, accreting capital for its own ends, rather than for the ends of the workers who seek a better life.

Marx’s Capital

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Capital; A Critique of Political Economy. 1867.

 

“On Primitive Accumulation”

In Marx’s metaphor for primitive accumulation, the theological concept of original sin is juxtaposed with the myth that the beginnings of accruing capital began when, as my mother would put it, the squirrel began gathering nuts while the grasshopper continued his late night debauchery.  In contrast, the theological myth of original sin (Adam and Eve) is lacking in this direct comparison, for there is no “good” Adam who stays in the garden and simply doesn’t care for the tree of knowledge, in other words, it seems as if all mankind would have done the same as Adam. This missing “good Adam” may indeed be an anticipation of Adam Smith, whose notion of “previous accumulation”—as opposed to Marx’s primitive accumulation—assumes that economic development progresses through participants engaging in voluntary acts, a notion that Marx believes is only half correct.

According to Marx, “primitive accumulation plays approximately the same role in political economy as original sin does in theology” (873). With this idea, it might be better to take Marx as many American political theorists have, that is, to follow him halfway, but turn our backs at the last second—therefore I go to the myth of Cain and Abel. Like with the squirrel and the grasshopper, this mythical legend presents two archetypes with conflicting characteristics, where one is exemplified (squirrel) while the other is vilified (grasshopper) and held as an example of the negative. No wonder then that the bad seed, Cain, works the agricultural fields, is rejected by God for an insufficient offering and becomes the progenitor of evil, while Abel, who is usually portrayed as a fair skinned adolescent that is both his father’s and God’s esteemed favorite, becomes the first martyr. For the rest of history, there would be races that “bore the mark of Cain” and would become working slaves (both in the sense of serfdom and “free workers”) to those who had accepted the paradigm of Abel, and who, by the grace of God, were in positions of higher esteem. Thus this mythical paradigm serves to separate mankind, justify inhumane acts and promote the exploitation of the “cursed”.

So too are the roots of primitive accumulation not so idyllic. In Marx’s  myth, two classes are formed by historical events (colonialism, the move from feudalism to modernity and industrialization), one a class of commodity owners and the other “free workers” who do not own their own means of production, and yet are not obliged to work for another (except of course for their own subsistence). To Marx, “primitive accumulation…is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production” (875). This bifurcation from self employed peasant proprietors to commodity owners and free workers was the beginning of primitive accumulation that would be completed with the advent of colonization and the proliferation of the myth of previous accumulation: “long ago there were two sorts of people: one, the diligent, intelligent and above all frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living” (873).

Moments of private accumulation turn into vast accretions of capital through “the commercial war of the European nations, which has the globe as its battlefield” (915).  How does this myth of previous accumulation coincide with the myth of original murder in Cain and Abel? Despite the obvious fact that “the barbarities and desperate outrages of the so-called Christian race….are not to be paralleled by those of any other race,”—that the believers in these myths are the same people—both of these myths are in fact idyllic tales of which the European races and bourgeois class become direct inheritors. Naturally, the danger in this ideological cohesion isn’t that the “Abel” and “Squirrel” archetypes lead believers to adopt certain role models, but that both myths inadvertently imply justification for a hyper-stimulated mimicry: that one must re-enact God’s curse upon the descendents of Cain—the primitive and disfavored peasant farmer who was perhaps too lazy to provide a decent offering—and that one must too become a hyper-stimulated squirrel by “making of profit as the ultimate and the sole purpose of mankind” (918). The archetypes that make up the ideological strata was thus firmly formed for  the “ethics” of merchant capital—provided that such soil be formed from a lava bed of slavery, colonialism, blood and fire!

Balibar and Wallerstein’s Race, Nation, Class

Balibar, Etienne, and Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein. Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. London: Verso, 1991.

Response to: “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,”

In Etienne Balibar’s essay “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” the nation is presented as a twofold illusion that consists of “believing that generations…have handed down to each other an invariant substance,” and secondly, in “believing that the process of development from which we select aspects retrospectively, so as to see ourselves as the culmination of that process” (86).  In both of these instances the formation of the nation is presented as a system of belief, not as a simple “adherence to” or “identification with” the nation. The first illusion that Balibar discusses is the belief in the “core” of an ethnic history, a purity that throughout time has gone on uncorrupted, and therefore has been “handed down” through a genuine spirit of nationality, turning even the national territory into an ideal signifier: “Fatherland.” The second illusion is also historical; it consists of a determinate historical progression, a univocal development that will eventually culminate in a state of utopia, and so far has culminated in the present, which must then consistently serve the utopic “ends” of the nation. As contentious as these ideas may appear, Balibar’s essay does not disclose a method in which to overthrow the nation, rather, by noting the similarities between nationality and belief, Balibar addresses the need to expose formulations of nationality as a purely ideological form—as a process of belief. In that sense, Balibar too must work backwards.

Balibar begins addressing the process of belief in the nation with the pre-history to nationalism, which consists not of a dominant narrative that combines events into a dialectical historicism, as he sees inherent in national belief, but instead he addresses history as “a multiplicity of qualitatively distinct events spread out over time, none of which implies any subsequent event” (88). The Fall of Rome, in pre-national history, was not a necessary step forward in a process that would bring about the European tribes, such as the Franks, rather, before nationality, the Franks would have seen the Fall of Rome as a history of the Roman people, not to be confused with the history of the Franks, the only exceptions being in the common ancestors with the Romans, Gauls and Franks. To understand the ideological effects of nationality, Balibar explores this type of historicism, which is free from seeing history as a necessary evolution that will culminate in our own nation. For pre-nation times, history was “a series of conjectural relations,” and just because certain historical events were interrelated, did not imply an overarching historical progression (88).

According to Balibar, the emergence of the nation occurs when a certain threshold is crossed, when “state apparatuses aiming at quite other objectives have progressively produced the elements of the nation-state” (88). These “other objectives,” as I read it, is the direct colonization of other countries and the necessity for an abstracted, idealistic form of an international capitalist market. In order to obtain this objective of “world-economy,” as Balibar puts it, the dominant class (which Balibar is adamant to point out: not specifically the bourgeois class) must organize its interest in the form of an economic center, a “core” and a “periphery.” As the prime objectives in a capitalist agenda to exploit colonized countries, the dominant and mercantile classes then required a way to legitimize such exploitation, a means to inculcate an “us” and “them” mentality that went beyond family kinship, state sovereignty and religious institutions. Through the interests of colonization, “Nation” was then conceived as a means to exercise military dominance and to justify the exploitation of anyone who was not a part of that nation, i.e. “foreigners.”

In order to obtain this “uncritical acceptance of the nation-state as the ‘ultimate form’ of political institution,” the national bourgeoisie first had to create a new type of class struggle, one that united the heterogeneous class under a common ideology in order to control it (89). This meant a modification in class status to create a new type of individual, one that still felt privileged over others, but not over the multiple classes—only over the exploited workers among the colonized peoples within the new global economy. Such a unification of classes was achieved through nationality and citizenship, wherein “we,” as subjects, all became a part of an overarching national history that culminates into the present day, and therefore the nation naturally is not only the state, but the private lives of the people, in their education and family life as well. The effect of the national ideology was an immediate subordination of all classes into an equal status as “citizens” of the nation-state.

But the process of creating this new belief system, creating what Anderson called an “Imagined Community,” also meant putting the nationality of the individual as a citizen above the individual as a political party, a religious believer, a family member, etc. In other words, the nation needed a method in which to “relativize” all traditional differences among citizens of the nation, “and subordinating them to itself in such a way that it is the symbolic difference between ‘ourselves’ and ‘foreigners’ which wins out” (94). Because of this immediate need to “win out” among other traditional communities—religion, family, kinship, class—it is exactly here, in the gap between citizenship and the imagined community of nationalism, that nation first begins to adopt the characteristics of a religious ideology. Nation reinterprets the religious model first to unite the national subjects into a single and equal community through individual identity (as in, identity as both individual and as a part of a collective). The religious notion of the “soul,” a fundamental and eternal characteristic that was equal among everyone and which inherently prescribed a “social morality,” then became the model for the “citizen,” who had “natural rights,” and therefore was ruled by a humanitarian set of truths and laws. As Balibar says, “theological discourse has provided models for the idealization of the nation and the sacralization of the state” (95). Only by adopting ideal signifiers (Balibar uses the example of “fatherland”) and transferring the sense of the sacred onto a national ideology, can the nation hope to win priority over traditional communities, religion being the nation’s foremost competitor.

I’ll end this essay in the nationalistic tradition of reading backwards, as in the beginning of Balibar’s essay, when he discusses the pre-national separation of Church and State, not in a political sense, but as two separate apparatuses which functioned, for the most part, as autonomous, competing groups. Balibar starts with this reference because it illuminates the function of “Church” and “State” within the nation, which came after the extreme combination of “State religion.” In my reading of Balibar, State religion no longer appears as a brief period in history, nor does it merely show its ugly face in totalitarian societies, but the concept of state-religion only changes its form as a national ideology in order to incorporate a wider amount of “citizens.” As Balibar says, “there is only one dominant ‘Ideological State Apparatus’ in Bourgeois social formations, using the school and family institutions for its own ends…and the existence of that apparatus is at the root of the hegemony of nationalism” (103). Education and family, in pre-national times, were apparatuses of the Church, which was capable of disagreement with the state and even direct conflict with it. Nationalism however, brings State and Church together into a single, ultimate hegemony, one that uses the power of the Church’s mystified grip on history in order to determine a future for the state, and a legitimization of all the state’s practices abroad, to the “foreigners” outside of it.

 

 

Response to: Class Conflict in the Capitalist World-Economy

 

Wallerstein attempts to reconcile the classical Marxist class conceptions of Bourgeois and Proletariat with the contemporary ideologies of class formation, and derives three variations of class conflict in the contemporary moment: That of “nationalism”, of “peasants”, and of “core and periphery” (World Systems Theory).

In stunning lucidity, Wallerstein encapsulates the bourgeoisie as “those who receive a part of the surplus-value they do not themselves create and use some of it to accumulate capital” (117). The accumulation of capital then, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, is a never-ending process of accumulation and “underserved” surplus-value, and therefore the bourgeoisie must be in “perpetual recreation and hence of constant change of form and composition” (118). He discovers different types of bourgeois in this period of capitalism, the New Money—‘nouveaux riches’—the ‘coasters’—those who are just barely drifting along—and the inheritors, the class that makes up almost all the bourgeoisie at nearly any given moment in Capitalism.

Wallerstein identifies the Proletariat as “those who yield part of the value they have created to others,” thus creating a polarity between bourgeoisie and proletariat. This phenomenon of yielding value to the bourgeoisie, according to Wallerstein, is a condition created by wage-labor and its expansion throughout the world (Proletariatization), which enables the smaller bourgeoisie to adequately live off of the surplus-value of the larger Proletariat.

My question for this section comes in Wallerstein’s summarization of the State: “the fundamental role of the state…is to augment the advantage of some against others in the market” (122).But Wallerstein doesn’t go into greater detail about the unequal tax revenue dealt to the bourgeoisie in order to increase the livelihood of the Proletariat, especially in Welfare states. Still, he insists that “Many bourgeois share the surplus-value of one proletarian,” though he passes by the intervention of the state. Where does tax and welfare come in for Wallerstein? Doesn’t a system of capitalism operating within a welfare state contradict his theory class formations?

 

 

 

 

Response to: The Ideological Tensions of Capitalism: Universalism versus Racism and Sexism

 

In this essay, Wallerstein considers the dichotomy between two concepts within capitalist ideology: that of the universal brotherhood of man, and that of racism and sexism. As in the previous essay, Wallerstein designates a bourgeois ideology that puts forth the notion that capitalism is a system of meritocracy. The contradiction is that most bourgeois become bourgeois by inheritance, and it is the ideological notion of meritocracy (and full brotherhood of man) that keeps the “outsides” incorporated within the class systems, while it is racism and sexism that keeps them in the lower rungs of the economic ladder: “If one wants to maximize the accumulation of capital, it is necessary simultaneously to minimize the costs of production…Racism is the magic formula that reconciles these objectives” (33).

My question for Wallerstein in this essay is his insistence that universalism can never “triumph” over racism and sexism in any immediate way, or as Gramsci would put it, in a conjunctural moment. He says: “one has to eliminate…the internalized patterns of ethnicization, and this inevitably requires at the very least a generation,” (35). I’m wondering where he would place the cultural revolutions of the 60s, the social democratic reforms in Europe, or the failed revolutions in France during the same period, or even the “Great Revolution” in Britain during the Restoration period.

Also, about what he says concerning the “housewife.” I wonder if he is advocating her job to turn into wage-labor, and if so, can it be argued that she charge certain prices for sexual favors, hourly wages for being with a child, for cleaning up in her own household? To whom would she request this money from? I understand that his argument is to show the ideological contradictions of both wage-labor based on meritocracy and sexism, yet this example seems stunningly problematic, especially when thought about in conjunction with Capitalism’s effect on the family, and how shared capital materializes through marriage—would the demand for wage labor still be as strong without it?