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First, when we ask how mature capitalism is in today's world, we are inquiring into the degree to which conditions for its transcendence have ripened. There is an understandable tendency to believe that the pace of evolution speeds up from one epoch to the next. Thus, in a famous quip that scandalized the Hungarian officialdom of the 1950s, Georg Lukács remarked: "It took six centuries to get from feudalism to capitalism; so it will take six decades to get from capitalism to socialism." We can note the foreshortening assumption at work here. In fact, preparation for capitalism occurs in the form of small "plankton blooms" of proto-capitalist relations as far back as the ancient world -- witness Aristotle's characterization of "service for hire" (wage labor) as "unnatural acquisition," in the Politics. These prefigurations, going back thousands of years, did not have the critical mass to become self-sustaining, as the underlying conditions for that transition were not yet in place.

The transition to socialism, in turn, has roots in all periods of history. As Gramsci's work makes clear, it requires an entirely new kind of hegemony, and therefore must rest upon a long historic development of organizational, cultural and intellectual capacities in the working class. It also requires a political, self-conscious transition unlike any that came before; the late Herbert Aptheker emphasized this reversal, in which the political envisioning precedes the economic transformation, rather than following and legitimating that transformation.5 All of this suggests that the preparatory process for lasting socialist transition, and the associated maturity of world capitalism, may in fact be quite drawn out, in comparison even with the several nested cycles of preparation for the emergence of capitalism -- in contrast to the "six decades vs. six centuries" conception.

Second, to understand the evolution of capitalist social formations from shaky infancy to healthy adolescence and youth to painful maturity and senility, a new approach to the stadial -- stage-relevant -- aspects of capitalist accumulation must be sought. The Marxist tradition offers a rich variety of materials for this search. The Bauer-Kautsky-Lenin-Hilferding-Bukharin generation proposed a "late" stage,6 called variously imperialism, finance capital, monopoly capital. Transition from early to late in this conception rests, in some unspecified manner, on the concentration and centralization of capital, and the stages are apparently identified by means of descriptions of capitalist institutions, as we observe their development. The state-monopoly-capitalism formulation, central to Communist Party thinking and ignored or deprecated outside of that circle, produced a rich and important literature, but also in the descriptive mold. Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy dropped the qualifier "state" (see their Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review, 1968), in order to differentiate themselves from "state monopoly." Their monopoly stage is based on the demand constraint, and aligns with a variety of stagnationist positions (Steindl, Minsky).

Outside of this stream, Western Marxist literature gave rise to Regulation Theory and the Social Structures of Accumulation position, both attempts to ground stage theory in a succession of regimes, or social contracts. Fordism and post-Fordism are central moments in this approach.7 The Uno school, which takes its inspiration from the Japanese Marxist Kouzo Uno, proposes to separate three levels of analysis: Principles of the pure capitalist economy, Stages theory, and Historical analysis. Uno theorists thus turn the strict separation of stages from the theory of accumulation as such into a matter of high principle; their stages, usually Mercantilism, Liberalism and Imperialism, are therefore almost programmatically deprived of a foundation in theory, and remain, from the point of view argued here, essentially arbitrary and untheorized.8 Finally, this brief survey should mention concepts of stages based on use-values -- i.e., railroads, automobiles, electronics, each determining the features of a stage of accumulation. The problem, of course, is that "stages" of this sort have no clear relation one to each other, and provide no basis for anticipation of the number and character of stages that might succeed; this is, once again, an abandonment of explanation in favor of historical description.

The challenge is to move in the other direction: precisely to provide a theoretical foundation for the stadial component of accumulation theory, i.e., to avoid what John Willoughby has called "theoretical adhocery." This huge undertaking is just one component of the even larger synthetic task outlined above, and I will not try to characterize or envision its outcome in this small space. This essay ends, therefore, not with an answer, but with a challenge: to bring all of the studies -- capital, nation, state, class -- together, to bear on each other and on the central issue of the present stage of world capitalist development. Despite neoliberal dominance in today's post-bipolar world, recent years have witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of opposition to the current forms of globalization. This resurgence of popular and working-class struggle, uniquely international, diverse and connected, is the beginning of a genuine counter-agency, and the historical materialist project in the present arises from and serves that broad movement. What we understand more fully, we might also be able to challenge most effectively.



Tensions between short- and long-range objectives, between the needs of working-class and revolutionary organization, on one hand, and broad alliance building, on the other, are inherent in all periods of movement building and struggle, and can only be overcome through debate among different tendencies. Moreover, it is important to grasp the specifics of the tensions and resulting debates among different positions in particular geographic and historical settings, despite the fact that the core elements transcend these particularities. Leftists in Latin America have debated goals and strategies in that continent's specific conditions, as recounted in Steve Ellner's study of "Leftist Goals and the Debate over Anti-Neoliberal Strategy in Latin America." Ellner identifies three broad streams in the Latin American discussion, as exemplified by the work of Jorge Castañeda, Marta Harnecker, and James Petras. His presentation of these streams and their cross-interrogation offers a useful basis for re-examination of fundamentals -- especially the relation among anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist and pro-socialist goals, and the problem of the gains and losses from alliances with centrist political forces.

Part of the ideology that worships the "free market" is the totalizing and one-dimensional conception of market (commodity) relations that is central to capitalist thinking. In his article, "Commodities and Gifts: Why Commodities Represent More than Market Relations," political economist Costas Lapavitsas examines the distinction between commodities and gifts, referring both to foundation concepts from political economy and to the rich literature on this distinction within cultural anthropology. Opposing a rigid and binary version of this distinction, according to which market relations are essentially devoid of the qualitative and evaluative dimensions associated with gift-giving, in both pre- and post-industrial revolution contexts, Lapavitsas argues that gift-like aspects of economic interaction persist into present-day capitalist exchange, and in fact are essential to a full understanding of the social relations of power and reciprocity, which take the outward form of market relations. Lapavitsas' invocation of the complex dialectics of commodity and gift is an important contribution to theorizing the rich and textured nature of exchange and exchange-oriented social forms.

Next, we offer a contribution by Japanese Marxist economist Kiyoshi Nagatani, who has an extensive body of work in Japanese but has not yet been widely published in English. The opportunity to correct this lack is provided here by Nagatani's intervention into the debate over the status of Marx's theory of value and exploitation between Gilbert Skillman and Paresh Chattopadhyay (S&S, Winter 1996-97; Summer 1998; Fall 1999). Nagatani associates himself with Chattopadhyay's critique of Skillman, who finds Marx's attempt to ground the theory of exploitation in labor value equivalence to be incoherent and unsustainable. He nevertheless feels that Chattopadhyay's argument did not go far enough in laying sound foundations for development of Marx's categories of value and exploitation, in a way that completely answers the charges of the skeptics. Nagatani writes in the tradition of the Uno School (referred to above), but also seeks to make his own contributions to the development of that tradition.

Finally, the issue contains a continuation of the Europe-Asia (or England-China) discussion among Ricardo Duchesne, Jack Goldstone, and R. Bin Wong (S&S, Winter 2001-02; Summer 2003); here Wong returns with a new, more nuanced formulation that tries to get to the heart of the differences ("Early Modern Economic History in the Long Run"). Ajit Sinha offers a review of the first 20 years of a scholarly Marxist journal, Research in Political Economy. And Richard Wolff -- a leading activist in another journal of the left, Rethinking Marxism -- reviews the new book by Andrew Levine, A Future for Marxism? As Wolff's title ("A Future for Marxism or a Retreat from Marxism?") suggests, the distinction between forward and backward directions is by no means obvious or uncontested, and post-Althusserian, Analytical and other Marxisms will continue to wrestle with this central problem, and with each other.

D. L.

5. See his pamphlet, The Nature of Freedom, Democracy and Revolution (New Century, 1960).

6. Ernest Mandel used the term "late capitalism," which has the advantage of not foreclosing on the principle underlying the early/late distinction, but might also be seen as an end run around the need to nail down that principle. In fact, the notion that the current stage is "late," if not "the highest," already contains a conclusion that is not warranted by an underlying theory.

7. For a useful introduction to these schools, see David Kotz, "A Comparative Analysis of the Theory of Regulation and the Social Structure of Accumulation Theory," Science &Society, Spring 1990.

8. A useful recent compilation, with a major orientation from the Uno school, is Phases of Capitalist Development, edited by Robert Albritton, Makoto Itoh, Richard Westra and Alan Zuege (Palgrave, 2001).

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