Despair & Utopia (was Re: "Post-Modernism")

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Nov 6 09:06:12 PST 1999

>Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
>>The basic theme of late modernist culture is impossibility (of society,
>>knowledge, revolution, etc.), a theme in keeping with the age of the
>>retreat of the Left.
>So is this a false perception, a failure of will? Or are there real
>reasons to feel the impossibility of it all?

No, it's an empirically correct description of the actual weakness of the Left. It is just that late modernist culture substitutes 'an empirically correct description of the actual' for an analysis that explains the transfactually efficacious (= real) mechanisms that generate the actual. (And remember, in science & politics, that the real > the actual > the empirical. The real contains the possible whose thwarted potential powers can sometimes only leave faint traces in the actual, which may or may not be perceived by the empiricist eyes.) Furthermore, forgetting that the actual and the empirical are contingent, late modernist culture tells us, 'No Future!'

I find it heartening that you don't subscribe to this late modernist tenet when it comes to your analysis of political economy:

>Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1999 14:57:21 -0500
>To: lbo-talk at
>From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at>
>Subject: RE: glass steagall
>Carl Remick wrote:
>>Yes, but that begs the question. Since there is no chance
>>whatsoever that oversight of financial capital will be tightened in
>>the current political climate, why recreate the seamless web of
>>institutionalized chicanery that existed in the 1920s?
>Look, I think it's time that folks on the American left, such as it
>is, rethought their relationship to the inherited wisdom of populism,
>one of whose sacred tenets is that a fragmented financial system is a
>beautiful thing. This is supposed to encourage dispersion of
>ownership and power. Has it? If so, why is the U.S. the most
>polarized society in the First World, with a long history of
>financial crises? Why is it that most social democratic countries
>have more concentrated financial systems than ours? Why is it that
>the EU, as part of its war on the welfare state, is moving towards a
>more American style financial system?
>To: lbo-talk at
>From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at>
>Subject: Re: glass steagall
>Dennis Breslin wrote:
>>I don't know about beautiful, but I don't quite understand your point.
>>Was glass steagal ever about dispersing power as opposed to risk or
>>about reducing social inequality?
>It emerges from a traditional preference for dispersion -
>institutional and geographical barriers to combination. It relates to
>lots of classic populist beliefs about localism, and even the "fetish
>of the grassroots" that came up here recently.
>>I assume eliminating the glass steagal restrictions will create stronger
>>financial firms. What benefits of this should the left endorse?
>Who said anything about benefits? I think the heavy breathing about
>it is way overdone, and the theoretical arguments against it aren't
>very persuasive. If there's a left position on institutional
>arrangements in finance, I think it'd be to create public and
>cooperative institutions capitalized through a tax on the big guys.

Here, you are resisting a late modernist cultural impulse toward an automatic preference for fragmentation. Your position on centralization makes sense, however, only if you are still hopeful (if not certain) of a future socialist appropriation of socialized powers of production. Without your hope, your comments would degenerate into a simple apology for financial concentration. No future, no desire, no struggle, no truth. Trust me when I say: "The good (or bad) of any human endeavor cannot be correctly evaluated from the point of view that doesn't posit a future without classes (and keep in mind that this future is not guaranteed in a Hegelian fashion -- it is what we can but may very well fail to create)." That is the historical materialist view of the present (contra Fukuyama's End of History as well as late modernist cries of 'No Future!'). 'No Future!' = the eternalization of the market in futures.

retrofitting the future in service of the present struggles,


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