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EDITORIAL PERSPECTIVES (continued)

To fully grasp the broad shape of recent history, geographical determinism must be supplemented by historical materialism. Large-scale states in East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East failed not in the development of politics, art and science (China, in particular, from about four thousand years ago, has been at the forefront in all these areas and the Islamic empires were the sites of much early scientific and cultural development), but in the geographically determined capacity to transform the primary tribal, or communal, social units into subaltern classes — something civilizations elsewhere than in Western Europe and Britain, for different reasons, were not able to accomplish. The incentive/control structures that we customarily (and Eurocentrically) call "slave" and "feudal" are at the heart of this evolution. The sudden disappearance of large-scale, slave-based empires in Europe in the first centuries A.D., and their replacement by a disunified (but intensively organized) patchwork of manorial units facilitated small-scale technical development in a way broadly not present in other large centers of civilization; this contrast is the source of the ironic observation that Europe was visibly outstripped by African, Fertile Crescent, and Asian civilizations in the first millennium A.D. The expansion of the Islamic world around 700 A.D. eastward into Persia and westward into North Africa and Spain did not transform production and internal class relations in those regions. By contrast, the European involution, seemingly a regression from earlier stages of high civilization, served precisely as the cocoon-stage of capitalism. All of these insights, if borne out by further empirical investigation, are unavailable to the perspective of geographical determinism, with its unilinear stages of complexity and its failure to distinguish among different qualitative class structures.

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CALL FOR PAPERS / SPECIAL ISSUE

THE DEEP STRUCTURE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 brought the question of the nature of the current state of the world painfully to the forefront. On a slightly longer time frame, the 1989­91 demise of the Soviet Union and most of its affiliated regimes represents a crucial turning point. The post-bipolar world is in a state of flux, containing what most people sense as unprecedented dangers, and (less obviously) opportunities.

The situation clearly requires a bottom-to-top reexamination of fundamentals — the nature and present stage of capitalist accumulation and class formation; the changing role and nature of imperialism; and the sources and current forms of structural crisis. Among possible areas to be addressed: the evolution of race, ethnicity, nationhood and gender in working-class communities and movements; the sources and significance of the new polarization and concentration of wealth, both within capitalist states and internationally; the probable shape of international power and alliances in the near future; the nature of the social and political movements addressing globalization; the changing role of religion, both in regions of the world with strong precapitalist elements and in advanced capitalist societies; and new processes of ideology formation and dissemination, especially with regard to the rise of the Internet. The list is not intended to be complete; only indicative.

We clearly both want and need a diversity of views, and do not expect to arrive at settled conclusions. There are two guiding general constraints. First, the issue cannot and should not duplicate the current reportage available in many publications that appear much more frequently than S&S and have much shorter lead times to publication. The focus must be on the general and structural aspects of a Marxist understanding of the world at the beginning of the 21st century. Second, we recognize that the sought-for creativity and theoretical transformation represents an ambitious goal; that a useful tension will exist between continuity and novelty in this effort; and that the projected synthesis must strive to avoid both mindless repetition, on the one hand, and careless rejection, on the other, of categories inherited from the various Marxist and critical traditions in social theory.

The Guest Editor for the issue is Dr. Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History (Emerita), Brooklyn College (CUNY) and member of the S&S Editorial Board. Send two hard copies of proposals and papers, one to Dr. Bridenthal (440 Riverside Drive, #87, New York, NY 100270), and one to the Editor, S&S (445 W. 59th St., New York NY 10019). Inquiries may go to rbriden1@juno.com or to dlaibman@jjay.cuny.edu. Deadline for papers is January 1, 2004, with projected publication in Fall 2004 (Volume 68, Number 3).

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IN THIS ISSUE

The multiple oppressions and indignities of life in modern societies, especially for working people, find their ultimate source in the core insufficiency of capitalist production relations, but they are not reducible to that core. At the same time, only by grasping the core can the full concreteness of the experienced social reality be grasped. In her study, "Disability Oppression in the Contemporary U.S. Capitalist Workplace," sociologist Pamela Robert reports on her research into the continuing struggle of people with disabilities against seemingly irrepressible structural and cultural obstacles, even in the present period after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To identify the requirements for a genuine assault against disability oppression is to learn a great deal about the priorities and limitations of our society, and of their source. Robert’s study also outlines and illustrates the evolving technique of qualitative research, which seeks to arrive at non-arbitrary results concerning social realities without the loss of texture involved in quantification.

In the enduring debate concerning the Law of Value — especially identification of abstract labor as the source and substance of value — the argument has been made that from a purely formal point of view any "other" commodity than labor can serve in that role; that claims for the necessity of labor in that role fail. In S&S, Vol. 18 (1954) the famous heterodox economist Joan Robinson tweaked our nose a bit by suggesting peanuts as the source of value, and a distinction between peanuts and peanut power. Now economist Cheol-soo Park examines similar arguments, by the 19th-century Austrian critic Böhm-Bawerk and the more recent Analytical Marxist work of John Roemer. Applying a simple set of reasonable criteria to these arguments, Park finds that the intended analogies between labor, on the one hand, and peanuts, steel, or whatever, on the other, cannot be sustained. He carefully notes that his argument does not replace, but merely supplements, the argument that value theory’s critics miss the qualitative dimensions, the central object of Marx’s original investigations.

In our Winter 2001­2002 issue, we presented a major study by Ricardo Duchesne, "Between Sinocentrism and Eurocentrism: Andre Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient." Frank has been a major critic of the view that Europe (perhaps especially England) was the cradle of capitalism, and therefore more advanced than other civilization centers in the world, notably China. Duchesne mounted a multi-pronged empirical attack against this critique. Now two well-known world historians, R. Bin Wong (University of California/Irvine) and Jack A. Goldstone (University of California/Davis) offer forceful counterarguments — raising, in particular, the question of appropriate units for comparison. This has resulted in the present Symposium on "Eurocentrism, Sinocentrism and World History," with the critiques by Wong and Goldstone, a rejoinder by Duchesne, and an intriguing related study by M. Shahid Alam, "Articulating Group Differences: A Variety of Autocentrisms." It is perhaps not open to question that the breakthrough to advanced capitalism did eventually first occur in Western Europe, rather than in the Middle East, Central Asia or Northern China (the connection to the substantive discussion in this issue’s "Editorial Perspectives" will be evident). The question remains as to how this fact is to be explained, and how a non-Eurocentric (or maybe we should simply say "non-centric") historiography is to be achieved. We anticipate further contributions on this old but enduring and important subject.

Our "Communications" section contains three discussion papers. Gerald Meyer, in "Anarchism, Marxism and the Collapse of the Soviet Union," faults the "Editorial Perspectives" statement on "Anarchism, Marxism and the Cunning of Capitalism" (Winter 2001-2002) for ignoring the link between the Soviet debacle and the current resurgence of anarchism on the left. The special issue on "Building Socialism Theoretically" (Spring 2002) comes under scrutiny in Ted Pearson’s comment on "Models of Socialism," which expresses, if only briefly, the view that any attempt to pre-envision socialism is necessarily utopian and abstract at the present time. Finally, we present a comment ("The NATO-Serbia War and the Left") by Jason Schulman, which questions Gregory Elich’s favorable review of Tariq Ali’s Masters of the Universe?: NATO’s Balkan Crusade (Summer 2002). At issue is what principles should apply to evaluating the reality of a country or region that is under attack by imperialism, when there are strong indications that the country/region in question does not embody progressive or working-class ideals to any significant degree.

We round the issue off with three review articles. Al Campbell ("Cuba: Realities and Debates") reviews the special issue of Socialism and Democracy (Spring­Summer 2001) devoted to "Cuba in the 1990s." That issue contains a wide range of contributions, including many from Cuba. Gregory Elich ("The Arrogance of the Imperial Mind") dissects the hardline militaristic mindset of Donald Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, as expressed in their While America Sleeps. Finally, Frank Cunningham offers a retrospective on the important Canadian political theorist C. B. Macpherson, in his review of Jules Townshend’s C. B. Macpherson and the Problem of Liberal Democracy.

D. L.

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