1 Dec 2022, 9:17 pm
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
While tensions over historical issues between Japan and South Korea have long served to impede US strategic goals in East Asia, mainstream International Relations theory has largely been unable to explain the stubborn persistence of such issues. Instead, I interpret East Asia’s post-war history through the lens of Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution, thereby situating the ‘history problem’ in the context of the dialectical relations between state (re)formation, geopolitical contestation and transnational capital accumulation in the post-war era. I argue that US intervention in 1945 was a process in which a set of state–society relations was established whereby democratising tendencies from below were repressed through the establishment of US-aligned capitalist regimes. This implied the partial restoration of certain aspects of the pre-1945 regimes in a manner that served to forestall any genuine coming to terms with past colonial history. Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution thus provides a framework for rethinking how bilateral relations between countries can be explained with reference to the broader dynamics of geopolitical contestation, transnational capital accumulation and the dynamics of state–society contestation within national social formations. While existing empirical applications of passive revolution have typically focused on particular national instances of state formation and transformation, I argue that the concept can be utilised to analyse the region-wide processes whereby the US empire was established in the aftermath of the Second World War, and by extension, how supranational processes of passive revolution subsequently generated their own tensions and contradictions as manifested in contested bilateral relations between states.
1 Dec 2022, 9:15 pm
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
The political and organisational routes opened up on the contemporary left following the financial crisis have seen a revival of class composition analysis as a means of comprehending a broad array of social and economic phenomena both within and beyond the workplace. Contextualising contemporary class composition analysis as a long-standing component of autonomist Marxism, this article argues that its application amid the left’s electoral turn exposes to scrutiny deeper-running weaknesses. The article first presents a history of class composition analysis through operaismo into postoperaismo. The second part of the article discusses four interconnected new directions in class composition analysis: Hardt and Negri’s Assembly; the analysis of social composition offered by the Notes from Below collective; Keir Milburn’s analysis of ‘generation left’; and, finally, the uptake of some of these ideas among commentators on the left of the British Labour Party like Paul Mason. The article then discusses the theoretical and strategic implications of these contributions through the prism of critiques of class composition analysis put forward by other theorists in the autonomist Marxist tradition. Noting the possible limitations confronting the application of class composition analysis to contemporary challenges faced by the post-crisis left, the penultimate section considers Labour Process Theory as a theoretical alternative implicit in recent critiques of contemporary class composition analysis, arguing that while Labour Process Theory’s analysis of the ‘politics of production’ captures the contingency of the connection between the workplace and formal politics, it leaves unresolved the lack of a distinctive theory of the latter on the contemporary left. The final section reconnects the discussion to the legacy of operaismo by exploring Mario Tronti’s recently translated work on the ‘autonomy of the political’ as a more substantial articulation of the specificity of politics against the backdrop of class conflict at the point of production. The conclusion relates this back to recent strategic issues in the Labour Party and broader labour movement.
29 Nov 2022, 5:30 pm
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
Contemporary social movements and organizations have increasingly embraced the notion of ‘leaderfulness’. This development has the possibility of affecting the current struggles these movements face as well as the activist landscapes of the future. Due to its distinct contribution to developing an analysis of leadership, this article seeks to position Gramsci’s intellectual work at the heart of understanding the ways in which these contemporary movement organizations are using organizational structures to address social objectives and the implications this has on the movement. Specifically, this article examines the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which openly advocates for leaderfulness, through documentary content analysis and 22 interviews of activists across 18 local chapters. We find that the structures for promoting leaderfulness which Gramsci had advocated for were lacking and, we argue, this was the reason why the development of leaderfulness was limited. This article helps to shed light on the difficulties of social movement momentum and proposes a solution drawn from Gramsci’s work.
19 Nov 2022, 12:37 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
Many recent protest movements, from the 2011 square occupation movements to the Gilets Jaunes display typical populist features, starting from an appeal to the people vs the elites. Drawing on my work on social movements in the 2010s in this article, I discuss the different components and implications of this ‘populist turn’ and its differences vis-à-vis other forms of populism, and in particular right-wing populism. I claim that social movements’ populism involves the adoption of a ‘popular identity’ as a unifying notion as a means to compensate for identity fragmentation; an identification with social majorities evident in Occupy Wall Street’s famous ‘we are the 99%’ slogan, which departs from the minoritarian identification of previous movements; and an appeal to common sense and the nation vis-à-vis the militant antagonism and cosmopolitanism prevalent in many previous social movement waves. This cultural transformation within social movements is, on the one hand, an indication of changing political opportunities and the unlocking of new areas of support for protest movements and, on the other hand, the product of social movements’ self-reflection and the attempt to escape the self-ghettoising tendencies of previous protest waves. However, this populist turn has also raised concerns among some activists, especially concerning the association of the ‘popular’ with the ‘national’ and a perception that popular identity involves undermining internal diversity and pluralism.
19 Nov 2022, 12:34 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
Just as scholars used culture to ‘fill in’ our understanding of what was happening inside structural processes, so emotions can fill in many cultural concepts deployed in theories of social movement recruitment, decision-making, and impacts. Looking at the controversy around Moscow’s Renovation, a giant urban renewal project launched in 2017, we describe how both sides tried to recruit and persuade others. We analyze two examples of carriers of cultural meaning that are often described in idealistic, cognitive fashion, to reveal the emotions that give them their power to move people. Moral batteries are pairs of emotions, one positive and the other negative, which draw people toward one pole as they repel them from the other. In particular, we discuss binaries based on time, before-and-after contrasts, which have not previously been adequately recognized. In addition to moral batteries, we look at public characters, especially villains who get blamed and minions who are ridiculed; these are often contrasted with good characters such as victims or heroes. Characters can be applied to public figures such as politicians or take the form of group stereotypes. Like moral batteries, characters fuse cognitive elements, such as words and images, with the emotions that are supposed to accompany them. Energized by the recent inclusion of emotions, cultural theory still has something new to offer to explanations of social movements.
19 Nov 2022, 12:30 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
Developing in a period of perceived decline of the labor movement, social movement studies have for a long time paid only limited attention to struggles against social inequalities and, more generally, the structural conditions for the development of some fundamental conflicts. Only recently, addressing social struggles for global justice and against austerity, they have started to return to the social bases of protest. In this article, I point at the particular relevance in this historical moment of revisiting the contribution of Italian sociologist Alessandro Pizzorno to the understanding of class conflicts in turbulent times. While class analysis has been more and more focused on social stratification, reflecting on waves of intense contention is therefore important in order to single out how organizational resources and identification processes can indeed develop in action, from the mobilization itself, rather than being a precondition for it. While much research on social stratification seems to have forgotten the complexity of class conceptualization, looking mainly at statistical aggregates, the work of Alessandro Pizzorno helps refocusing attention on the ways in which class solidarity emerges during workers’ struggles. In this sense, it talks to recent reflections on a return not only of labor action but also of classes as driver of history.
17 Nov 2022, 3:36 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
Open Marxists argue that capitalist society is mediated through forms of alienated and dispossessed labour from the means of production. For Open Marxists, then, labour is fluid in its constitution because it is constantly struggling to various degrees in and against its alienated and dispossessed capitalist form. Static sociological concepts of social class therefore cannot fully grasp this fluid and antagonistic relationship between labour and capital. In this paper, we agree that the starting point for an analysis of class under capitalism is the dispossession of labour from its means of production. But we further argue that even at this relatively high level of theoretical analysis, it is still possible to isolate a more complex account of social class than many Open Marxists would accept. We then employ this alternative class perspective to highlight some weaknesses in respective Open Marxist accounts of class and social and political movements. Following these critical observations, and with the theoretical assistance of Gramscian analysis, we demonstrate how Open Marxism can develop a more robust account of the class nature of contemporary social and political movements.
15 Nov 2022, 2:46 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
14 Nov 2022, 4:17 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Ahead of Print.
The article explores how the future is imagined through disability activism. It highlights how UK Disabled People’s Movement members, established and newcomers, envisage inclusive and accessible societies and what role disability activism has in realising such visions. To achieve this, conceptualisations of the future are mapped within a framework of three topias (places/worlds): utopia, retrotopia and heterotopia. These topian configurations provide a way to make sense of activist visions for progressing disabled people’s emancipation. The article argues that the UK Disabled People’s Movement currently produces two dominant conceptualisations of the future: a deterministic, radical overhaul of political and economic arrangements (utopia); and a return to ‘purer’ forms of disability activism produced by historical activists and their networks (retrotopia). Young disabled activists who do not align with such conceptualisations are denied opportunities to influence broad activist strategies and are, instead, relegated to opportunities that necessitate a youth perspective. Young disabled activist’s conceptualisations of the future can be best understood as the production of counter sites, which generate activities, politics and discourses around notions of inclusion, social justice and accessibility (heterotopia). These produce possible and preferable alternatives to the current ordering of the social world – with disability activism becoming spaces that encourage creativity of new ideas, new practices and new options against existing norms and inaccessible worlds.
3 Nov 2022, 2:46 am
Capital & Class
Capital &Class, Volume 46, Issue 4, Page 587-589, December 2022.