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EDITORIAL PERSPECTIVES - WINTER 2001-2002 (continued)

The delegation of capitalist power to state officials and institutions is another major masking, perhaps the most widespread application of Machiavelli's advice to his Prince. Government power, in both overt and subtle forms, is enlisted in the service of capitalist priorities and needs; it then serves a secondary function by acting as the lightning rod for spontaneous mass protest against the effects of those priorities. (Note that the DAN call is for resistance "against state authority and repression.")(4)

"State" and "market" are therefore twin disguises. The entire mainstream political discourse, on the spectrum between "free market" conservatives and "interventionist" liberals, appears in this light as a battle between two strategies for ruling-class control, with differing degrees of emphasis on the two different masks.

The other disguises may be mentioned briefly. "Bureaucrats" are the actual human beings who act out roles in the system of oppression. They are the ones who hire, fire, explain why things can or cannot be done, why additional forms must be filled out, etc. They are visible and therefore easy targets; if people lose their tempers, bureaucrats are usually at the receiving end. The "existential scarcity" mask is the notion that exploitative deprivation is nothing but a specific instance of natural limits beyond human control; the ruling class in effect conceals its own free ride by telling us that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." (Cute talk about "a world free of charge" gives an opening to this sort of posturing.) Finally, "experts" are visible as an "other," and may therefore serve as a scapegoat. Technical and scientific personnel of course, not to speak of most academic intellectuals, act at the behest of their employers, so it is easy to confuse the capitalist prerogatives guiding and limiting the application of expertise with expertise in general.

Anarchists are sensitive to the fact that the state, bureaucrats and experts occupy distinct social locations, which may serve as sources of privilege and power in a society without capital or capitalists. But do they fail to see that, unless we grasp the non-obvious linkages of these various roles to the underlying source of oppressive power in capitalist society, we will never arrive at the point where they can be transformed and made to serve the majority?

The battle to democratize administration, science, and creativity will be protracted. It will pass through stages ("stages" is yet another concept that is foreign to simplistic anarchist thinking): an early one at which democratic control over these functions -- their mandate and execution -- is established, a higher one at which the functions themselves progressively cease to belong to distinct and separate strata; and perhaps a still higher one at which some of the functions themselves disappear. (Science and creativity, I would hope, will always be around.) But to attack the administrative/technical strata as such, without perceiving their masking function for capitalist power, is to fall into the Prince's trap: we will then fail to build the alliances, political instruments, and understandings that we need if we are to mount an effective challenge to capitalism.

In sum: we need to not fear administration, politics and science. We do need to learn how to use them against the cunning of capitalism, how to build movements uniting "those who stand to lose the most" and the vast majority with a great deal to gain. This will mean using every tool at our disposal, including specific evolved forms of both the state and markets. Finally, we must find a way to use the Internet -- to let it serve communication without allowing it to prevent serious thinking. If all this amounts to a defense of science, and politics, against their detractors, then so be it. Knowledge and democracy will change the world; "blockaders, saboteurs and drummers" will, at best, make a momentary impression on it.

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IN THIS ISSUE

Marxist thought has been in the forefront of study of the large-scale dimension of social reality, in which entire social systems undergo evolution and transformation over long time periods. Recent work by Andre Gunder Frank, expanding upon the core assumptions of world-systems theory, extends capitalism as a world system in time and space, well beyond its presumed origins in the European late middle ages. Thus, the notion of Chinese civilization over four millennia as an integral part of a capitalist world system is used in an assault on Eurocentrism -- the doctrine that capitalism, and with it all sources of technology and progress, have their origins in some unique moral or intellectual characteristics of Europeans.

The critique of Eurocentrism may run aground, however, if its empirical foundation is doubtful or if it rests on categories that inappropriately universalize capitalism and lose sight of stadial specificity in history. Ricardo Duchesne's study, "Between Sinocentrism and Eurocentrism: Debating Andre Gunder Frank's Re-Orient: Global Economy in the Asian Age" is a thorough examination of both the empirical and conceptual aspects of this issue. It raises once again the central question of the sources of divergence in social development -- especially the problem of explaining the breakthrough to trade and commercialization in Renaissance Europe, and why that explosion led to capitalist development in Northern Europe and Britain while similar commercial development in the ancient Mediterranean, China, India, Africa and elsewhere did not, despite the evident parity in technical and scientific achievement in many of those places, especially China. Explanations based on contingent factors, such as geographical proximity to the Western hemisphere and the role of infectious diseases in conquering the peoples of that hemisphere, are not sufficient in themselves.

When we published the landmark study by William I. Robinson and Jerry Harris, "Towards a Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class" (Spring 2000), we expected a strong response. That expectation proved to be correct, and we are pleased to present, as what we hope will be only the beginning of a process of continued exploration in our pages into the nature and evolution of the capitalist ruling class, a collection of five critical responses to the Robinson-Harris paper. "The Transnational Ruling Class Formation Thesis: A Symposium" brings together contributions by Michael Mann, Giovanni Arrighi, Jason W. Moore, Robert Went, and Kees van der Pijl, together with a response by William I. Robinson. In this connection, the decision of the joint authors of the Robinson-Harris paper, is for one author (Robinson) to reply on his own behalf, so that he can present his position in relation to his own work developed in a series of prior publications; the other author (Harris) may weigh in with his own contribution at a later stage.

Without "taking sides," I would simply point out that Robinson's "Response to Critics" brings the discussion to a vital frontier: the evolving nature and role of the nation-state in capitalist inter-cum-trans-national relations. Coming to terms with the nation-state as such alone can ground -- provide validity criteria for -- a characterization of any particular line of thought as "nation-state-centric." This observation should be construed as what it is: an invitation for state-theory adherents to enter the discussion. State theorists and political economists should add their unique analytical dimensions to the exciting work on the global capitalist class which -- judging by the preponderance of the contributors to this round -- seems to be occurring largely in sociology departments (and their European equivalents).

The second collective discussion in this issue is "A Debate" on "Time, Logic and Structure in Value Theory," occasioned by David Laibman's article "Rhetoric and Substance in Value Theory: An Appraisal of the New Orthodox Marxism" (Fall 2000). Guglielmo Carchedi's title, "On Temporality, Simultaneity and TSS," refers to the "Temporal Single System" (TSS) school in Marxist political economy, which defends the literal truth of Marx's formalizations in Capital III by tying value to the passage of time, differential dating of inputs and outputs, and (in some versions) continual change in technology. Carchedi presents a clear and useful account of this position, based on his own work going back some years before the most recent flurry of TSS activity. Fred Moseley's paper, "Marx's Alleged Logical Error," is a tour de force of Marx scholarship, using both the published sources and some hitherto unpublished passages to establish the exact nature of Marx's intentions with regard to value, cost price and price of production. Needless to say, Marx's "logical error" turns out in this account to be "alleged," but non-existent. David Laibman's reply focuses on his view of what the theory of value is intended to accomplish, and what should be the relation of ongoing study of Marx's texts to the wider pursuit of Marxist scholarship. As with all discussions in the pages of S&S, we look forward not to "completion" but to progress, and to ever-wider ranges of participation.

D. L.

1. "The Basic Ideas of Anarchism," chapter 1 of Anarchism: From Theory to Practice. Online at www.geocities.com.

2. Some of Bakunin's insights are especially noteworthy; viz., "man" is both "the most individual and the most social of the animals." We will return to the "species being question" in future editorials; cf. "Editorial Perspectives," Winter 1997-98.

3. I have previously quoted Bakunin: "Marx spoils the workers; he makes logic-choppers out of them" ("Editorial Perspectives," Fall 2001). Here he contradicts his own insight noted above.

4. The state is to the capitalist class as the managing agent is to the landlord. How many New York housing tenants still think that their managing agent, to whom they write the rent checks, is the landlord? In some cases it is no easy matter to ascertain the identity of the landlord, so well hidden is this information in the obfuscating maze of corporate control.

I do not mean to assert a narrow instrumental view of the state here, or to preempt the ongoing investigation into the relation between agency and structure in the state, the degree of relative autonomy, etc. The derivative role of the state is entirely objective; it is consistent with quite different degrees of perceived and/or actual independence on the part of state functionaries.

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