Varities of neo-marxian theory economic determinism



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PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL

themeans of production to the production of space. To put it an­other way, he wants to see a shift in focus from things in space (for example, means of production such as factories) to the actual production of space itself. Marxian theory needs to broaden its concerns from (industrial) production to the production of space. This is reflective of the fact that the focus needs to shift from production to reproduc­tion. Space serves in various ways to reproduce the capitalist system, the class structure within that economic system, and so on. Thus, any revolutionary action has to concern itself with the restructuring of space.

A key aspect of Lefebvre's complex argument lies in the following tripartite distinc­tion. He begins with spatial practice, which for him involves the production and the re­production of space. Overlying and ultimately dominating spatial practice is what Lefebvre calls representations of space. This is space as it is conceived by societal elites such as urban planners and architects. They think of this as "true space," and it is used by them and others to achieve and maintain dominance. Thus, for example, urban plan­ners and architects conceived of the once popular program of "urban renewal" that was designed, theoretically, to tear down the dilapidated housing of the poor and replace it with far better and more modern housing. However, urban renewal came to be known as "urban removal." The poor were moved out to make room for new housing, but when that housing was built, it was more often for the middle and upper classes interested in gentrifying the city. Frequently, the poor had to move to new areas, often finding them­selves in housing little, if at all, better than what they had left. They also were forced to adapt to new areas, communities, and neighbors. Thus, the "spatial practices" of the poor were radically altered by the "representations of space" of those who supported, created, and implemented urban renewal.

Representations of space are dominant not only over spatial practices but also over representational spaces. While representations of space are the creations of dominant groups, representational spaces flow from the lived experiences of people, especially from those that are underground or clandestine. While, as we have seen, representations of space are considered "true space" by those in power, representa­tions of space yield the "truth of space." That is, they reflect what really happens in lived experience rather than being an abstract truth created by someone such as an urban planner in order to achieve dominance. However, in the contemporary world, representations of space, like spatial practices, suffer because of the hege­mony of representations of space. In fact, Lefebvre (1974/1991:398) goes so far as to say, "Representational space disappears into representations of space." Thus, a ma­jor problem for Lefebvre is the predominance of elite representations of space over day-to-day spatial practices and representational spaces. Furthermore, if the new and potentially revolutionary ideas that flow out of representational spaces are disap­pearing, how is the hegemony of elites such as urban planners ever to be contested, let alone threatened?

While the preceding is a strongly ideational way of addressing space, Lefebvre offers u second tripartite distinction that addresses it in more material--and more optimistic--terms. Paralleling Marx's notion of species-being, Lefebvre begins with what he calls absolute spaces, or natural spaces (e.g.. "green" areas) that are not colonized, rendered inauthentic, or smashed by economic and political forces.

CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 163

Just as Marx spent little time analyzing species-being (and communism), Lefebvre spends little time on absolute space. While Marx devoted most of his attention to cri­tiquing capitalism, Lefebvre is interested in critically analyzing what he calls abstract space. Like representations of space, this is space from the point of view of an abstract subject such as an urban planner or an architect.6 But abstract space is not just ideational; it actually replaces historical spaces (which are erected on the base of ab­solute spaces). Abstract space is characterized by the absence of that which is associated with absolute space (trees, clean air, and so on). It is a dominated, occupied, controlled, authoritarian (even involving brutality and violence), repressive space. Lefebvre em­phasizes the role of the state, more than economic forces, in exercising power over ab­stract space, although that exercise of power is hidden. Furthermore, "abstract space is a tool of power" (Lefebvre, 1974/1991:391). That is, not only is power exercised in it, the abstraction of space is itself a form of power. While those in power have always sought to control space, what is new here is that "power aspires to control space in its entirety" (Lefebvre, 1974/1991:388). Thus, the ruling class uses abstract space as a tool of power to gain control over increasingly large spaces. While Lefebvre deemphasizes economic factors and forces, he does recognize that power of and over abstract space does generate profit. That is, it is not just the factory that generates profits, but also the railway lines and highways that provide routes in to the factory for raw materials and out of the factory for finished products.

Being a good Marxian theorist, Lefebvre emphasizes contradictions. While abstract space serves to smother contradictions, it simultaneously generates them, including those that have the potential to tear it apart. Although he wonders why people accept the kind of control exerted over them by abstract space and are silent about it, he seems to accept the idea that they eventually will be spurred to action by these contradictions. In­deed, as in Marx's analysis of contradictions in capitalism, Lefebvre argues that the seeds of a new kind of space can be glimpsed within the contradictions of abstract space.

That new kind of space, the third of the types of space to be discussed here, is differ­ential space. While abstract space seeks to control and homogenize everyone and every­thing, differential space accentuates difference and freedom from control. While abstract space breaks up the natural unity that exists in the world, differential space restores that unity. Again, Lefebvre has much more to say about that which he critiques-abstract space--than he does about his hoped-for alternative to it.

Lefebvre argues that space can play a variety of roles in the socioeconomic world. First, it can take the role of one of many forces of productions (other, more traditional such forces, are factories, tools, and machines). Second, space itself can be a vast com­modity that is consumed (as, for example, by a tourist visiting Disneyland), or it can be consumed productively (for example, the land on which a factory is built). Third, it is politically instrumental, facilitating control of the system (building roads to facilitate troop movements to put down rebellions). Fourth, space underpins the reproduction of productive and property relations (for example, expensive gated communities for the capitalists and slums for the poor). Fifth, space can take the



6Although the abstract subject also could be a more mundane figure such as the driver of an automobile.

164 PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL


form of a superstructure that, for example, seems neutral but conceals the economic base that gives rise to it and that is far from neutral. Thus, a highway system may seem neutral but really advantages capitalistic enterprises that are allowed to move raw materials easily and cheaply. Fi­nally, there is always positive potential in space, such as the creation of truly human and creative works in it, as well as the possibility of reappropriating space on behalf of those who are being controlled and exploited.

The production of space occupies two positions in Lefebvre's work. First, as dis­cussed above, it constitutes a new focus of analysis and critique. That is, our attention should shift from the means of production to the production of space. Second, Lefebvre puts this all in terms of a desired direction for social change. That is, we live in a world characterized by a mode of production in space. This is a world of domination in which control is exercised by the state, the capitalist, and the bourgeoisie. It is a closed, sterile world, one that is being emptied out of contents (e.g., highways replacing and destroy­ing local communities). In its stead we need a world characterized by the production of space. Instead of domination, we have here a world in which appropriation is predomi­nant. That is, people in concert with other people work in and with space to produce what they need to survive and prosper. In other words, they modify natural space in or­der to serve their collective needs. Thus, Lefebvre's (1974/1991:422) goal is "producing the space of the human species ... a planet-wide space as social foundation of a trans­formed everyday life." Needless to say, the political state and private ownership of the means of production that control the mode of production are seen as withering away. Thus, the production of space is not only Lefebvre's analytic focus but also his political objective in much the same way that communism is Marx's political goal, and with many of the same characteristics.



Trialectics
Edward Soja (1989) was heavily influenced by both Foucault and Lefebvre. For exam­ple, like Foucault he critiques the focus on time (and history) as creating "carceral his­toricism" and a "temporal prisonhouse" (Soja, 1989:1). He seeks to integrate the study of space and geography with that of time. Lefebvre has had a profound influence on Soja's thinking, but Soja is critical of some aspects of his work and seeks to go beyond it in various ways.

Perhaps the core of Soja's (1996, 2000) theoretical contribution to our understanding of space is his notion of trialectics. Obviously, Soja is building, and expanding, on the Marxian (and Hegelian) notion of dialectics. However, a more immediate source is Lefebvre's work, especially the distinction discussed above among spatial practice, rep­resentations of space, and representational spaces. Most generally, Lefebvre is making a distinction between material practices and two types of ideas about space. Soja uses this basic distinction in order to theorize what he calls cityspace, or "the city as a historical-social-spatial phenomenon, but with its intrinsic spatiality highlighted for interpretive and explanatory purposes" (Soja, 2000:8). This definition highlights one of Soja's basic premises; that is, while he privileges space, he insists on including in his analysis history (or time more generally) and social relations. While the move to­ward including space in social analyses is to be encouraged, it should not be done to the

detriment of the analysis of history and time. Furthermore, the inclusion of social rela­tions sets Soja's perspective squarely in the tradition of the sociological and social the­ories dealt with throughout this book.

CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 165


The Firstspace perspective is basically a materialist orientation that is consistent with the approach most often taken by geographers in the study of the city (and Lefebvre's sense of spatial practice). Here is the way Soja (2000:10) describes a Firstspace ap­proach: "cityspace can be studied as a set of materialized `social practices' that work to­gether to produce and reproduce the concrete forms and specific patternings of urbanism as a way of life. Here cityspace is physically and empirically perceived as form and process, as measurable and mappable configurations and practices of urban life." A Firstspace approach focuses on objective phenomena and emphasizes "things in space."

In contrast, a Secondspace approach (encompassing Lefebvre's representations of space and representational space) tends to be more subjective and to focus on "thoughts about space." In a Secondspace perspective, "cityspace becomes more of a mental or ideational field, conceptualized in imagery, reflexive thought, and symbolic representa­tion, a conceived space of the imagination, or ... urban imaginary" (Soja, 2000:11). Ex­amples of a Secondspace perspective include the mental maps we all carry with us, visions of an urban utopia, and more formal methods for obtaining and conveying in­formation about the geography of the city.

Soja seeks to subsume both of the above in Thirdspace, which is viewed as

another way of thinking about the social production of human spatiality that incorporates both Firstspace and Secondspace perspectives while at the same time opening up the scope and complexity of the geographical or spatial imagination. In this alternative or "third" perspec­tive, the spatial specificity of urbanism is investigated as fully lived space, a simultaneously real-and-imagined, actual-and-virtual, locus of structured individual and collective experience and agency.


(Soja, 2000:11)
This is a highly complex view of cityspace. Because of its great complexity and because much is hidden and perhaps unknowable, the best we can do is to explore cityspace se­lectively "through its intrinsic spatial, social, and historical dimensions, its interrelated spatiality, sociality, and historicality" (Soja, 2000:12). Throughout his career, Soja's fa­vorite cityspace has been Los Angeles, and he returns to it over and over to analyze it from various perspectives, including his own integrative sense of Thirdspace.

Spaces of Hope

We began this section with the point that the categorization of theories is somewhat ar­bitrary. In fact, the work of Edward Soja fits as much into a category--postmodern Marxian theory--we will discuss below as it does into neo-Marxian spatial analyses. The same is true of the work of the thinker we will discuss next--David Harvey--and, in fact, we will discuss his work not only under this heading but also under that of post­modern Marxian theory.

In fact, Harvey has produced analyses of space under a variety of guises as his work has undergone several twists and turns over the years. In reflecting on his early work,
166 PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: THE MAJOR SCHOOLS

Harvey thought of himself as lax scientifically, but he underwent a first change of ori­entation in the late 1960s and declared himself a positivist guided by the scientific method and, as a result, oriented toward quantification, the development of theories, the discovery of laws, and the like (Harvey, 1969). However, within a few years Harvey (1973) had undergone another paradigm change and rejected his earlier commitment to positivism. He now favored materialist theory with a powerful debt to the work of Karl Marx.

While, as we will see later, Harvey flirted with postmodern theory and certainly was influenced by it in many ways, he has retained his commitment to Marxian theory, and this is clear in one of his most recent books, Spaces of Hope (Harvey, 2000). One aspect of Harvey's argument that is particularly relevant to this discussion of neo-Marxian the­ory is his analysis and critique of the geographical arguments made in the Communist Manifesto. Harvey sees the idea of the "spatial fix" as central to the Manifesto. That is, the need to create ever-higher profits means that capitalist firms must, among other things, continually seek new geographical areas (and markets) to exploit and find more thorough ways of exploiting the areas in which they already operate. While such geo­graphical arguments occupy an important place in the Manifesto, they characteristically are subordinated in a "rhetorical mode that in the last instance privileges time and his­tory over space and geography" (Harvey, 2000:24).

Harvey (2000:31) begins by acknowledging the strengths of the Manifesto and its recognition that "geographical reorderings and restructurings, spatial strategies and geopolitical elements, uneven geographical developments, and the like, are vital as­pects to the accumulation of capital and the dynamics of class struggle, both histori­cally and today." However, the arguments made in the Manifesto on space (and other matters) are severely limited, and Harvey sets out to strengthen them and bring them up to date.

For example, Harvey argues that Marx and Engels operate with a simplistic differen­tiation between civilized-barbarian, and more generally core-periphery, areas of the world. Relatedly, the Manifesto operates with a diffusionist model, with capitalism seen as spreading from civilized to barbarian areas, from core to periphery. While Harvey ac­knowledges that there are instances of such diffusion, there are others, both historically and contemporaneously, in which internal developments within peripheral nations lead to the insertion of their labor power and commodities into the global marketplace.

More important, Harvey (2000:34) argues that "one of the biggest absences in the Manifesto is its lack of attention to the territorial organization of the world in general and of capitalism in particular." Thus, the recognition that the state was the executive arm of the bourgeoisie needs to be buttressed by recognition that "the state had to be territorially defined, organized, and administered" (Harvey, 2000:34). For example, loosely connected provinces had to be brought together to form the nation. However, territories do not remain set in stone once they have been transformed into states. All sorts of things alter territorial configurations, including revolutions in transportation and communication, "uneven dynamics of class struggle," and "uneven resource endow­ments." Furthermore, "I f]lows of commodities, capital. labor, and information always render boundaries porous" (Harvey. 2000:35). Thus, territories continually lire being re­defined and reorganized, with the result that My model that envisions a final formation of the state on a territorial basis is overly simplistic. The implication is that we need to be attuned continuously to territorial changes in a world dominated by capitalism. Another of the spatial


CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 167

arguments in the Manifesto is that the concentration of capi­talism (for example factories in the cities) leads to the concentration of the proletariat, which formerly was scattered

throughout the countryside. Instead of conflict between isolated workers and capitalists, it becomes more likely that a collectivity of workers will confront capitalists, who are themselves now more likely to be organized into a col­lectivity. Thus, in Harvey's (2000:36) words, "the production of spatial struggle is not neutral with respect to class struggle." However, there is much more to be said about the relationship between space and class struggle, and this is amply demonstrated in the more recent history of capitalism. For example, capitalists in the late nineteenth century dispersed factories from the cities to the suburbs in an effort to limit the concentration of workers and their power. And in the late twentieth century we witnessed the disper­sal of factories to remote areas of the world in a further effort to weaken the proletariat and strengthen the capitalists.

Harvey also points out that the Manifesto tended to focus on the urban proletariat and thereby largely ignored rural areas, as well as agricultural workers and peasants. Of course, the latter groups over the years have proved to be very active in revolutionary movements. Furthermore, Marx and Engels tended to homogenize the world's workers, to argue that they have no country and that national differences are disappearing in the development of a homogeneous proletariat. Harvey notes that not only do national dif­ferences persist, but capitalism itself produces national (and other) differences among workers, "sometimes by feeding off ancient cultural distinctions, gender relations, eth­nic predilections, and religious beliefs" (Harvey, 2000:40). In addition, labor plays a role here in sustaining spatial distinctions by, for example, mobilizing "through territo­rial forms of organization, building place-bound loyalties en route." (Harvey, 2000:40). Finally, Harvey notes the famous call in the Manifesto for workers of the world to unite and argues that given the increasingly global character of capitalism, such an exhorta­tion is more relevant and more important than ever.

This is only a small part of a highly varied argument made by Harvey, but what does he mean by "spaces of hope"? First, he wishes to counter what he perceives to be a per­vasive pessimism among today's scholars. Second, he wants to acknowledge the exis­tence of "spaces of political struggle," and therefore hope, in society. Finally, he describes a utopian space of the future that offers hope to those concerned about the oppressiveness of today's spaces.

Thus, in these and many other ways, Harvey builds on Marx's (and in this case Engels's) limited insights into space and capitalism to develop a richer and more contem­porary perspective on their relationship to each other. In that sense, what Harvey is doing here is an almost paradigmatic example of neo-Marxian theory.



POST-MARXIST THEORY

Dramatic changes have taken place in recent years in neo-Marxian theory (Aronson, 1995; Grossberg and Nelson, 1988; Jay, 1988). The most recent varieties of neo­Marxiun theory arc rejecting many of the basic premises of Marx's original theory as




  1. PART TWO: MODERN SOCIALOGICAL

well as those of the neo-Marxian theories discussed earlier In this chapter. Hence, these new approaches have come to be thought of as post-Marxist theories (Dandaneau, 1992; Wright, 1987). While these theories reject the basic elements of Marxian theory, they still have sufficient affinities with it for them to be considered part of neo-Marxian the­ory. Post-Marxist theories are discussed here because they often involve the synthesis of Marxian theories with other theories, ideas, methods, and so on. How can we account for these dramatic changes in neo-Marxian theory? Two sets of factors are involved, one external to theory and involving changes in the social world and the other internal to theory itself (P. Anderson, 1984; Ritzer, 1991a).

First, and external to Marxian theory, is the end of the Cold War (Halliday, 1990) and the collapse of world communism. The Soviet Union is gone, and Russia has moved to­ward a market economy that resembles, at least in part, a capitalist economy (Piccone, 1990; Zaslavsky, 1988). Eastern Europe has shifted, often even more rapidly than Rus­sia, in the direction of a capitalist-style economy (Kaldor, 1990). China clings to com­munism, but capitalism flourishes throughout that nation. Cuba is isolated, awaiting only the death or overthrow of Fidel Castro to move in the direction of capitalism. Thus, the failure of communism on a worldwide scale made it necessary for Marxists to re­consider and reconstruct their theories (Burawoy, 1990; Aronson, 1995).

These changes in the world were related to a second set of changes, internal to theory itself, the series of intellectual changes that, in turn, affected neo-Marxian theory (P An­derson, 1990a, 1990b). New theoretical currents such as poststructuralism and postmod­ernism (see Chapter 13) had a profound impact on neo-Marxian theory. In addition, a movement known as analytical Marxism gained ground; it was premised on the belief that Marxian theories needed to employ the same methods as those used by any other sci­entific enterprise. This approach led to reinterpretations of Marx in more conventional in­tellectual terms, efforts to apply rational choice theory to Marxian issues, and attempts to study Marxian topics by utilizing the methods and techniques of positivistic science. As Mayer puts it more specifically, "Increased humility toward the conventional norms of science coincides with diminished piety toward Marxist theory itself' (1994:296).

Thus, a combination of social and intellectual changes dramatically altered the land­scape of neo-Marxian theory in the 1990s. While the theories discussed earlier remain important, much of the energy in neo-Matxian theory as we enter the twenty-first cen­tury is focused on the theories to be discussed in this section.

Analytical Marxism

Here is the way one of the leaders of analytical Marxism, John Roemer, defines it:


During the past decade, what now appears as a new species in social theory has been forming: analytically sophisticated Marxism. Its practitioners are largely inspired by Marxian questions, which they pursue with contemporary tools of logic, mathematics and model building. Their methodological posture is conventional. These writers are, self-consciously, products of both the Marxian and neo-Marxian traditions.
(Roemer, 1986a:1)

CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 169


Thus, analytical Marxists bring mainstream, "state-of-the-art" methods of analytical philosophy and social science to bear on Marxian substantive issues Mayer, 1994:22).

Analytical Marxism is discussed in this chapter because it "explicitly proposes to syn­thesize non-Marxist methods and Marxist theory" (Weldes, 1989:371).

Analytical Marxism adopts a nondogmatic approach to Marx's theory. It does not blindly and unthinkingly support Marx's theory, it does not deny historical facts in or­der to support Marx's theory, and it does not totally reject Marx's theory as fundamen­tally wrong. Rather, it views Marx's theory as a form of nineteenth-century social science with great power and with a valid core but also with substantial weaknesses. Marx's theory should be drawn upon, but that requires the utilization of methods and techniques appropriate to the twenty-first century. It rejects the idea that there is a dis­tinctive Marxian methodology and criticizes those who think that such a methodology exists and is valid:

I do not think there is a specific form of Marxist logic or explanation. Too often, obscurantism protects itself behind a yoga of special terms and privileged logic. The yoga of Marxism is "di­alectics." Dialectical logic is based on several propositions which may have a certain induc­tive appeal, but are far from being rules of inference: that things turn into their opposites, and quantity turns into quality. In Marxian social science, dialectics is often used to justify a lazy kind of teleological reasoning. Developments occur because they must in order for history to be played out as it was intended.

(Roemer, 1986b:191)

Similarly, Elster says: "There is no specifically Marxist form of analysis ... there is no commitment to any specific method of analysis, beyond those that characterize good so­cial science generally" (1986:220). Along the same lines, analytical Marxists reject the idea that fact and value cannot be separated, that they are dialectically related. They seek, following the canons of mainstream philosophic and social-scientific thinking, to separate fact and value and to deal with facts dispassionately through theoretical, con­ceptual, and empirical analysis.

One might ask why analytical Marxism should be called Marxist. Roemer, in reply to this question, says, "I am not sure that it should" (1986a:2). However, he does offer several reasons why we can consider it a (neo-) Marxian theory. First, it deals with tra­ditional Marxian topics such as exploitation and class. Second, it continues to regard so­cialism as preferable to capitalism. Third, it seeks to understand and explain the problems associated with capitalism. However, while it is Marxist in these senses, it also "borrows willingly and easily from other viewpoints" (Roemer, 1986a:7). Again, ana­lytical Marxism is very much in line with the move toward theoretical syntheses dis­cussed throughout this book.

Three varieties of analytical Marxism will be discussed, at least briefly, in this sec­tion. First, we will discuss the effort to reanalyze Marx's work by utilizing mainstream intellectual tools. Second, we will deal with rational choice and game-theoretic Marx­ism. Finally, we will touch on empirical research from a Marxian perspective that uti­lizes state-of-the-art methodological tools.



Reanalyzing Marx As pointed out above, analytical Marxists reject the use of such idiosyncratic concepts as the dialectic and seek instead to analyze Marx (as well as

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