Butler on Spivak (was SZ)

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Mon Nov 22 15:11:41 PST 1999

At 12:37 22/11/99 -0500, you wrote:
>Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
>>That said, Butler doesn't sound too interested in Marxism, practically or
>>theoretically. Generally speaking, late modernists define their politics
>>_against_ Marxism.
>True. She's much too uninterested in Marxism - and issues of class &
>economic power - for my taste. But just because writers are non- or
>anti-Marxist doesn't mean that Marxist and Marxish readers and
>writers should return the favor; you learn what you can where you can.

Reading a number of posts in this thread, I would like to suggest that the reason for this polarisation lies with a certain narrowness in the conception of marxism that sets up a polarisation into either emphasising class and economics OR emphasising gender/cultural issues. There is a lack of an overarching marxist conception of the interconnectedness of these two realms. And I suggest a rather concrete understanding of Marx's method of abstraction.

Marx of course concentrated on analysing the process of accumulation of surplus under the capitalist mode of production. But that did not mean he assumed this did not take place within a wider sensuous social life. Commodity exchange is only one compartment of the social life process of any community/nation. Much human interaction that has material or psychological use value for the reproduction of the community, takes place outside the compartment of commodity exchange, or not exclusively within it.

Human beings interact powerfully as part objects to one another, inevitably seen in part not in the whole, often focussed on aspects with especial meaning. We project and introject powerfully, and it seem almost instantaneously. We almost instantly set up webs of dependence, dominance, and interdependence. Signals of age and sex are among the most widespread. The point is that late capitalism privileges certain symbols and roles in a way that distorts previous patterns of relationship, and can be simultaneously liberating and oppressive.

Nowhere does Marx imply that such a sensous interpersonal flux is separable from his economic analysis. He merely argued the relevance of the capitalist mode of production being dominant. Because capitalism continually eats into the non-commodity sphere of human relations it has powerful effects on this sphere.

Perhaps that is far from Butler's type of discourse but it seems to me the sense of polarisation is the fault of a mechanical model of marxism which is not necessary in a dialectical version of marxism.

Chris Burford


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