what to do

Nasreen Karim karim at rnet.com
Mon Mar 27 23:51:33 PST 2000

Well, I don't disagree with Yoshie's analysis of a disintegrating welfare state, an increasingly centralized corporate state, or the fragmentation of the U.S. left. What I don't understand is how that analysis is incompatible with an argument for a "decentering" of the Statecentric left politics. We can argue endlessly whether "decentering" is an unfortunate term or not, but that semantic polemic ultimately does not interest me. What I argued in my brief post was for a radical attempt to take politics beyond an exclusive focus on the state, not in an either-or (either state power or Foucauldian micropolitics) but by producing organic/political connections between the the agenda of state power and the politics of everyday life.

I am troubled by the fragmentation of the U.S. left as well. ( Although I don't think a monolithic, totalizing left would have been a viable alternative either. As I mentioned elsewhere, it would be a sad day for the left if the only choice available to us is between Stalin and Lyotard.) In other words, unless I am missing some implicit subtext of her post, I share Yoshi's concern with the current state with of the U.S. left.

By the way, I am perfectly aware that Gramsci did not use the term "counterhegemony." Marx didn't use the phrase "historical materialism" either, but we don't seem to have any problem in using that signifier to describe Marx's reading of history. The very nature of Gramsci's text makes itself more opentextured and plurivocal than almost any other classical Marxist text that I can think of (having said that, let me also say that I am sufficiently contaminated by deconstructionist method of reading to argue that any text opens itself to plural, opentextured readings). Even more conventional non-pomo type readers of Gramsci will agree that one can see an interesting copresence/tension among radical Jacobinism (prison insulated Gramsci from the full implications of Stalinism), left-Hegelianism, and Sorelian syndicalism, among others. However, there is enough democratizing promises in Gramsci to make it justifiable to appropriate him for a democratic socialist politics.

Manjur Karim

----- Original Message ----- From: Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> To: <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com> Sent: Monday, March 27, 2000 12:31 PM Subject: Re: what to do

> Manjur Karim wrote to Carl Remick:
> >I don't see anything defeatist about the argument for reassessing the
> >traditional defense of government. A certain "decentering" of the state
> >seems to be a legitimate task for the democratic socialist left. This
> >decentering does not signify a departure from the question of state
> >but extends the project of politics beyond the terrain of the state to
> >possible frontier of the social space. To me, this seems to be a valid
> >extension of the Gramscian project of counter-hegemony, the radical
> >construction of an alternative civil society.
> Except that in the case of the United States, most functions of government
> were already too decentralized to begin with (e.g., states' rights in
> service of racism). And in the age of neoliberal attacks on social
> programs, the trend has been further down the path of devolution, of which
> the end to AFDC & the institution of TANF is a part. On the other hand,
> economic management of capitalism has become further centralized (from
> legislatures to central banks, from Keynesian states to international
> institutions, from poor nations to rich ones, etc.). The federal
> government has meanwhile acquired further policing power (here & abroad),
> blurring the distinctions between the military, the national guards, and
> the police, fighting the wars on drug, crime, and terrorism. And while
> social programs have become un- or underfunded, citizens have been
> by slimy politicos, officious journalists, & naive academics to become
> civic-minded, donate more to charities, volunteer more often, etc.
> At the same time, the U.S. Left (broadly defined) has been quite
> decentralized as well: a flowering of micropolitics of all varieties (and
> micro-politicking _within_ micro-orgs, too -- yikes!), but neither a
> coherent program nor real political power. Many of them had already
> adapted themselves to the post-Carter status quo ("Habitat for
> Inhumanity"!), moving to the right, even without Ehrenreich's advice.
> Given this reality, I doubt that further "decentering" is the way to go.
> BTW, Gramsci, I don't think, was adovocating an oppositional project of
> "counter-hegemony" (first of all, I don't recall Gramsci using the term
> "counter-hegemony"). He was, even in prison, thinking of how the
> Party (the "Modern Prince") might become an organizing instrument
> (politically & culturally) for communist hegemony.
> Yoshie

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