Thursday, May 18, 2017

An Agribusiness Perspective on Farm Labor & Immigration

Please see my post at the Agricultural Law blog. And for further reading and research:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nakba Day, May 15 (Arabic: يوم النكبة Yawm an-Nakba, meaning ‘Day of the Catastrophe’)

“By the end of the wars of 1947-49, an estimated 750,000 Palestinians had either fled Palestine or been expelled from their homes by the Haganah. Palestinians … call this seminal happening the Nakba, or the Great Catastrophe. [The events of this period are commemorated by Palestinians in both the Palestinian territories and elsewhere on May 15th, Nakba Day.] Over 90 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants of Haifa, Tiberias, Beit She’an, Jaffa, and Acre had vanished. Expulsions from towns and villages were common along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road in the eastern Galilee. Palestinians in Nazareth and the southern Galilee for the most part stayed, and today these areas form the core of the Palestinian Israeli population. Altogether, roughly 15 percent of Palestinians remained behind and became Israeli citizens, some staying where they lived, other moving to other parts of the country, all losing their property to expropriation.
In the course of the wars [and ethnic cleansing], ‘531 villages had been destroyed, and 11 urban neighborhoods had been emptied of their inhabitants.’ When the guns fell silent, the Israelis controlled 78 percent of Palestine, a far cry from the 55 percent mandated under the UN partition plan. UN Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948, affirmed the right of Palestinians to return to their homes once hostilities had ended. That resolution has been reaffirmed every year since then under international law. [Shelly Fried is quoted in a note by O’Malley: ‘Archival sources now available show that Israel never had any intention of implementing this proposal’ to allow the 65-70,000 refugees to return.]
[While it was once a matter of impassioned debate as to whether Palestinians fled their homelands or were expelled, the preponderance of evidence now available has come] down on the side of expulsion. [….] … Israel’s position has remained unequivocal: Under no circumstances will Palestinian refugees be allowed back to their homes or land under the rubric of the Right of Return. The number of Palestinians who remained in their homeland in the 1948 territory after the Nakba was estimated at 154,000 persons, and at 1.4 million on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Nakba in May 2014.”
The Colonial-Settler project of Zionism
“When Jews constituted less than 5 percent of the population living on that land, there is now available compelling evidence that the Zionists’ objective from the beginning, in the late nineteenth century, was the creation of a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Even David Ben-Gurion came to Palestine in 1906 not to escape persecution but to fulfill Hertzl’s dream of a national Jewish home in Eretz Israel and in the years to come he was unambiguous regarding the boundaries of that nation. On January 7, 1937, in evidence before the Peel Commission, he stated, ‘I say on behalf of the Jews, that the Bible is our Mandate, the Bible which was written by us, in our language, in Hebrew, in this very country [Palestine]. This is our Mandate, it was only the recognition of this right which was expressed in the Balfour Declaration.’ The Zionists—worldly, pragmatic men—meticulously planned the new state from within Palestine and from safe havens far beyond. In the first half of the twentieth century, they deployed sophisticated diplomacy in Western capitals, adroitly courting their leaders. They understood that achieving their ultimate objective required the backing of a great power, and they successfully attached themselves to the greatest power at the time, Great Britain. When Britain turned from aid to obstacle, they turned on Britain and, following World War II, hitched themselves to the new greatest power, the United States.” — Padraig O’Malley, The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine—A Tale of Two Narratives (New York: Penguin Books, 2015): 170-172.
Recommended Reading:
  • Beit-Hallahmi, Benny. Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel. Oliver Branch Press. Brooklyn, NY: Olive Branch Press, 1993.
  • Benvenisti, Meron (Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, tr.) Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Finkelstein, Norman G. Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. London: Verso, 2nd ed., 2003.
  • Fischbach, Michael R. Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab -Israeli Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
  • Flapan, Simha. The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. New York: Pantheon, 1987.
  • Kattan, Victor. From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949. London: Pluto Press, 2009.
  • Kattan, Victor, ed. The Palestine Question in International Law. London: British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2008.
  • Maoz, Zeev. Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006. 
  • Masalha, Nur. The Expulsion of Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992. 
  • Masalha, Nur. A Land Without People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. 
  • Masalha, Nur. Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: The Politics of Expansion, 1967-2000. London: Pluto Press, 2000. 
  • Masalha, Nur. The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem. London: Pluto, 2003.
  • Masalha, Nur. The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology, and Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine. London: Zed Books, 2007. 
  • Masalha, Nur, ed. Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees. London: Zed Books, 2005. 
  • Pappé, Ilan. The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951. London: I.B. Tauris, 1994. 
  • Pappé, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2006. 
  • Pappé, Ilan. The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. London: Verso, 2014. 
  • Quigley, John. The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Quigley, John. The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Rodinson, Maxime. Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? New York: Anchor Foundation/Pathfinder, 1973/
  • Rogan, Eugene L. and Avi Shlaim, eds. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Said, Edward W. and Christopher Hitchens, eds. Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question. London: Verso, 1988.
  • Sand, Shlomo. Invention of the Jewish People. London: Verso, 2010.
  • Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland. London: Verso, 2012.
  • Tilley, Virginia, ed. Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Territories. London: Pluto Press, 2012.
  • Yiftachel, Oren. Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Further Reading & Research:

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Resistance & Revolutionary Aspirations in the Middle East: some recent titles

I want to draw your attention to some books that fall, loosely (e.g., may be indirectly relevant to…), under the heading, “resistance and revolutionary aspirations in the Middle East.” The list is confined to books I’ve read or am currently reading, with the exception of Blumenthal’s title on the last war in Gaza, which I hope to read anon. I had planned on confining the list to ten works, all less than ten years old, but I’ve ended up exceeding the first constraint by two titles. Given the arbitrary nature of the constraints and the fact that I’ve not been able (of late) to keep up on the number of books that might meet our criteria for inclusion, there invariably will be titles worthy of mention that are missing from this list. But at least it’s a start, especially for those for whom this is not an area of expertise or one of predominant interest in assembling a reading regimen.

  • Achcar, Gilbert. The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.
  • Alexander, Anne and Mostafa Bassiouny. Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: Workers and the Egyptian Revolution. London: Zed Books, 2014.
  • Allegra, Marco, Ariel Handel, and Erez Maggor, eds. Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017.
  • Beinin, Joel. Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford Briefs/Stanford University Press, 2016.
  • Blumenthal, Max. Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. New York: Nation Books, 2013.
  • Blumenthal, Max. The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. New York: Nation Books, 2015.
  • Chamberlin, Paul Thomas. The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Gana, Nouri, ed. The Making of the Tunisian Revolution: Contexts, Architects, Prospects. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.
  • Honwana, Alcinda. Youth and Revolution in Tunisia. New York: Zed Books, in association with International African Institute, Royal African Society, and World Peace Foundation, 2013.
  • O’Malley, Padraig. The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine—A Tale of Two Narratives. New York: Viking Penguin, 2015.
  • Pappe, Ilan. The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. London: Verso, 2014.
  • Tilley, Virginia, ed. Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. London: Pluto Press, 2012. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Happy May Day! (International Workers’ Day)

Time constraints have conspired to preclude me from cross-posting my May Day post, so please see here (you may want to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, as there is lots of stuff for your enjoyment).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Professor John Esposito on “Islam and Religious Pluralism”

Gök Jami mosque of Yerevan, Armenia

John Esposito on “Islam and Religious Pluralism”—This is an excellent introductory lecture (click on the title for the video) by one of this country’s foremost scholars on Islam that was filmed for UCTV at the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UC Santa Barbara.
Additional Resources (from yours truly):
I also have several bibliographies that overlap somewhat with the above material:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

“Economic growth stumbles to worst rate in two years ….”

The power of states to intervene in the operations of contemporary globalized capitalism is severely constrained in a world of deregulated capital markets: states no longer have the same degree of power they once held in the period of “national capitalism” (a term that reminds us of the diminished power of Keynesian-inspired states to robustly ‘steer’ the economy, as well as the prescient arguments made by Claus Offe in Contradictions of the Welfare State and Disorganized Capitalism). The current round of globalization is a conspicuous “combination of deregulated capital movements, advances in information/communication/transport technologies, and a shift in ideology away from social democracy [as well as the ‘Liberal’ capitalist ideologies that buttress liberal or corporatist welfare policies] and statism towards neoliberalism and libertarianism.” “One consequence of this new phase,” writes Meghnad Desai, “is that the state no longer controls the economy, but is one player (a major one of course) among many. The state has to adapt and adjust to forces which it cannot control but must respond to.”

In short, nation states cannot control all of the terms and conditions of economic growth, thus when Trump repeatedly blames Obama for the comparatively disappointing rates of such growth during his two terms of office, he evidences failure to appreciate this conspicuous feature of contemporary economic reality. And, in any case, a high rate of economic growth is not a necessary condition for, say, eliminating endemic undernourishment and deprivation or making considerable improvements in standards of living, as countries that have relied on public policy strategies oriented around what A. Sen and J. Drèze termed “support-led [socio-economic] security” (rather than ‘growth-mediated [socio-economic] security’) such as China (in its ‘pre-reform’ period, that is, prior to its turn toward Party-State directed capitalism), Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Jamaica, and the Indian State of Kerala, have made remarkable accomplishments in eliminating poverty and improving the standards of living or quality of life, attaining comparatively impressive heights in more than a few significant socio-economic  indices concerning welfare and well-being (eradication of hunger, literacy, education, health care, etc.). In fact, these socio-economic indices are frequently high or higher than those attained by (sometimes far) “richer” countries (based on standard measures of GNP per head) devoted in the first instance to economic growth.* Thus, for example, the elimination of poverty and child hunger in this country need not depend on higher rates of economic growth if the government makes a wholehearted commitment to public “support-led security.” The conditions of affluence and opulence characteristic of the U.S. generally and the upper classes in particular, provide no guarantee that poor children will not go hungry, that the needs of the homeless will be met, or that absolute and relative poverty will be eliminated.

Which brings us to today’s “business” headline: “Economic growth stumbles to worst rate in two years, underscoring Trump’s challenge.” Of course we’re all too familiar with Trump’s penchant for taking credit for any “good” news while disavowing any association with “bad” news, be it political or economic. But in this case, it would be unfair to blame Trump and his cronies for the fact “total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, increased at just a 0.7% annual rate from January through March as consumer spending posted its worst performance in more than seven years….” At the same time, Trump appears to believe he has—with the Republican party behind him—the power to significantly affect if not control such economic phenomena as are causally linked (both rightly and wrongly) with economic growth as conventionally measured in GDP terms. And his proposed tax reforms (alongside other economic-related policies, like deregulation), such as we can discern them (e.g., ‘one of the biggest tax cuts in American history’), are premised on the axiomatic belief that they will fuel the engine of economic growth at rates not seen for at least several decades. Expert analyses to date from disparate sources leave us bereft of any reason to believe Trump’s economic policies will have significant redistributive effects downward so as to move this country in an egalitarian direction. Indeed, it appears they will only exacerbate existing trends in inequality and enhance the conditions of opulence for the wealthy. The recent history of trickle-down economics, as well as our variation on the theme of “capitalist democracy” generally,** provides ample evidence of economic policies that possess a disturbing capacity to distort and subvert the values, processes, and institutions of a would-be democratic polity, a history lesson of the sort Trump lacks all disposition toward learning. 

* Please see the analysis in chapter 10, “Economic Growth and Public Support,” in Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989): 179-203.

** See, for example, the following titles:

  • Chang, Ha-Joon. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism. Bloomsbury Press, 2011. 
  • Cohen, Joshua and Joel Rogers. On Democracy: Toward a Transformation of American Society. Penguin Books, 1983. 
  • Goodin, Robert E., et al. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge University Press, 1999. 
  • Przeworski, Adam. Capitalism and Social Democracy. Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  •  Quiggin, John. Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. Princeton University Press, 2010. 
  • Therborn, Göran. The Killing Fields of Inequality. Polity Press, 2013. 
  • Wolin, Sheldon. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton University Press, 2008.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

“African Arguments” series from Zed Books


Zed Books (London) has a series of publications under the rubric, “African Arguments,” that I enthusiastically recommend to those with even the slightest interest in what has (recently) happened, is happening, and might happen on the African continent. I have several books in the series and plan on getting more (provided Di will indulge me!). They are published in conjunction with the International African Institute, the Royal African Society, and the World Peace Foundation. There is a diverse and stellar group of editors. The webpage for books published to date is here. 

What follows below is a taste of one of the books pictured above.

“The overarching question in the economic growth literature has been about why Africa has grown relatively slowly. This question has overshadowed other more important questions, such as how African economies have grown. If the question had been about how African economies are developing, there would have been more to explain and the literature could have given policy makers something useful to work with. Unfortunately, this question was not asked.

We currently have an economic growth literature that explains why bad policies mean that there is no growth in Africa. The trouble with this model is that the current explanation problem is not one of a lack of growth but rather of how to interpret rapid economic growth. With the help of the historical data sets on slaves, colonial settlers, and linguistic mapping, economists have been able to find different variables that can explain why African states have ‘bad’ institutions, have failed and are stuck in zero-growth traps. The difficulty with this analysis is that, despite all their shortcomings and despite all their institutional differences from their European counterparts, African states have experienced periods of economic growth.

The fact that mainstream economics continues to get this wrong is of great importance. This is not just an academic disagreement. International financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) give economic models and economists a central role in the decisions they make. Because of this, economists’ mistakes spill into the policy world. Indeed, the story of how economists explain economic growth in Africa is strongly linked to the history of policy making in Africa, and particularly to the role of external policy advice and policy directives.

The question ‘Why is Africa is growing slowly?’ appeared in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The most influential answer was given in what is known as the Berg report, a World Bank report that firmly placed the blame for the slow growth in Africa with African policy makers. According to the report, African state intervened too much in markets, gave too low a priority to agriculture, and otherwise pursued misguided policies. The economic growth literature … went to considerable lengths to affirm this orthodoxy, and, despite empirical evidence to the contrary, has managed to present a history of African economic growth that finds a correlation between ‘bad’ policy—defined as state intervention in markets—and slow growth. The literature has thereby provided empirical ‘proof’ that the mainstream diagnosis and prescription for poor countries were correct and that there was a relationship between ‘good policy’—as embodied in the liberalization package termed the ‘Washington Consensus’—and positive economic performance. 

Yet the economic record tells us rather clearly that the liberalization policies of the 1990s failed in many ways, and that state intervention in the 1960s and 1970s was not always catastrophic. It is important to remember that state intervention does not always equate to states suppressing markets. Sometimes states substitute for nonexistent markets or they nudge economic actors to engage in markets. Therefore liberalizing agricultural marketing simply by closing down a state –run agricultural marketing board does not mean that a free market and fair market that organizes fertilizer, seeds, advances, purchases, transportation, forecasting and information will suddenly appear. It is not safe to assume this will happen. Economic growth did not revive after liberalization policies were implemented. Instead, the economic—and particularly the political—crisis deepened and arguably persisted for two decades.

Instead of engaging in wholesale reconsideration of the diagnosis made in the 1990s, with its emphasis on ‘good’ policies and the market mantra of ‘getting the prices right,’ the economics literature shifted its focus in the 2000s. In the second-generation growth literature, the emphasis of scholarly work changed from investigating relations between policy and growth to linking current development outcome with historical events such as colonialism and the slave trade. Instead of introspection about whether ‘bad’ policy was actually to blame for slow economic growth, some economists determined that advising ‘good’ policy was not enough. The root cause was not enough. The root cause was not ‘bad policy,’ it was ‘bad governance’ and ‘poor institutions.’

The second-generation growth literature focused on policy makers and policy implementation as the sources of the problem with economic growth. The refrain that it was ‘getting the prices right’ that mattered changed: now governance and institutions mattered. This is when the idea that some places were destined to fail at development was born, and this provided the foundation for the question and the answer in The Economist ten years ago. Do African states have a character flaw that makes them incapable of development? ‘Yes,’ said The Economist (and the economists on whom the magazine relied).

But while that analysis coheres well with the consensus in the economics literature, it does not match what is going on in the economies concerned. Some even say that Africa is rising. This book shows that there is nothing surprising or new about that.

This emphasis on finding what was wrong with the history and politics of Africa meant that ‘Africa’ itself was launched as an explanatory category. [….] African states were misdiagnosed and dismissed as being incapable of development based on observations made during the 1980s and early 1990s, a period when most African economies were experiencing the deepest recession of the twentieth century. The characteristics they exhibited during this period were not representative of longer trajectories. It is true that most states have not been perfectly efficient for the past five decades, but it is equally evident that their dealings have not been perfectly disastrous either. Herein lies the crucial error of comparison. The verdict about the quality of these states, or ‘governance,’ was made by comparing actual states in the Africa of the 1980s with idealized perfectly functioning states that do not exist.* While it is true that African states have fallen short of these kinds of expectations, such comparisons have not told us how serious these relative shortcomings have been in terms of economic growth.

[….] The question is not ‘Why has Africa failed?’ but ‘Why did African economies grow and then decline only to grow again?’ It is important to get the history of economic growth in Africa right, but perhaps it is more important to know that the right history fundamentally changes the policy implications for future growth on the African continent. The pessimism about policies and institutions in Africa has been overstated. In most cases, a wholesale change of institutions or governance is not necessary for economic growth.”—From the Introduction to Morten Jerven’s “highly readable and absolutely devastating critique,” Africa: Why economists get it wrong (London: Zed Books, in association with the International African Instituted, Royal African Society, and the World Peace Foundation, 2015): 6-8. **

* The “idealization” cited here by Jerven is symptomatic of a methodological approach that afflicts both neoclassical and heterodox economics (e.g., post-Keynesian economics) in general. As Anwar Shaikh explains in his recent book, Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises (2016), the two prevailing “schools” of economics

“end up viewing reality through an ‘imperfectionist’ lens. Neoclassical economics begins from a perfectionist base and introduces imperfections to the underlying theory. Heterodox economics generally accepts the perfectionist vision as adequate to some earlier stage of capitalism but argues that imperfections rule the modern world. In either case, such approaches actually serve to protect and preserve the basic theoretical foundation, which remains the necessary point of departure and primary reference for an ever-accreting list of real-world deviations. After all, how can the basic theory ever be wrong if there is a particular ether for every troublesome result?”

Shaikh elaborates an alternative theoretical structure whose “object of investigation is neither the perfect nor the imperfect but rather the real,” that is, “the actual operation of existing developed capitalist countries.” 

** A helpful theoretical backdrop to Jerven’s argument is found in the discussion of “growth-mediated [socio-economic] security” and “support-led [socio-economic] security” in Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989): passim (see the subject index for the precise pages). 

[Please note: I am not being paid by Zed Books, I did not receive a (or any) free book(s) from the publisher, and I was not asked to promote the series.] 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Marx, Marxists, Marxians … and (democratic) socialism

I do not think the following is generally true: “Economists who follow Karl Marx in adopting a labor theory of value or in other ways but do not share the political ideology of communism typically call themselves ‘Marxians’ to distinguish their views from the views of political ‘Marxists.’” This remark was but a small if not incidental part of a larger blog post by Michael Dorf (‘Advice to Conscientious Originalists: Rebrand’) and is probably not crucial to its main argument. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to respond both to this and a few related comments by Professor Dorf.

The Marxist economists I am familiar with, by and large, are at the same time “political Marxists” (and there are economists who are not afraid to learn and cite from Marx who are not avowedly ‘Marxist’ or ‘Marxian,’ like Amartya Sen), and those same (at once economic and political) Marxists do not believe the various “Communist Party-State regimes” of the twentieth-century that were nakedly authoritarian and thus in many respects anti-democratic (hence, for instance, the need to label your regime ‘the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea,’) could lay claim to being “Marxist” (the regimes themselves frequently preferred the epithet, ‘Marxist-Leninist’) in any meaningful sense (yes, it is true, that there were some self-described Marxists who came, for example, to a distressingly belated recognition of the horrors of Stalinism, or acknowledgement of the Chinese famine of 1959-1962, or the cruelties associated with the Cultural Revolution), as messianic historical determinism and authoritarian politics cannot accurately or charitably be ascribed to any halfway credible interpretation of Marx’s work in toto. These Marxists are often political in the wider sense that they identify, say, with the critique of capitalism and the ideals of socialism and communism, or cherish Marx’s writings on alienation and exploitation, or, like Jon Elster, hold views that are “true and important” that “can [be] trace[d] back to Marx,” including “methodology, substantive theories, and, above all, values.” In other words, Marx’s views (and sometimes his political work as well) has a significant and conspicuous effect on their own political views and actions related to same. The distinction between “Marxist” and “Marxian” is rather intended as follows: “a Marxian belief is one that can safely be attributed to Marx himself. A Marxist belief may also be a Marxian one, but not necessarily. A Marxist belief is one held by anyone, academician or political stalwart, who thinks or can persuade others that the belief in question is in accordance with Marx’s intellectual or political legacy.” As Paul Thomas also notes, “We have today a galaxy of different Marxisms, within which the place of Marx’s own thought is ambiguous.”

In short, I do not think the distinction between “Marxian” and “Marxist” is correctly characterized or canalized as arising out of “the need to distance oneself from real-world political communism.” To be sure, and especially in this country, the need to rhetorically distance oneself from being associated with or held retroactively responsible for (?!) “real-world political communism,” finds many of us on the Left (which may have liberal components but is not synonymous with ‘Liberalism’) refusing to speak in public fora of socialism simpliciter, compelled to add—what should be—the redundant adjective “democratic.” And yet around the globe, Marxists and Marxians alike well appreciate, with such luminaries on the Left as G.A. Cohen, Michael Harrington and Eric Hobsbawm that, in the words of the latter, more than “150 years after Marx and Engels’ manifesto [socialism] … is still on the agenda.” As to the probable or possible implications for Michael Dorf’s “admittedly imperfect analogy” (i.e., those different from the reasons he listed for why the analogy is ‘imperfect’), I’ll leave that to our esteemed professor and his devoted reader

Finally, I think the proposition that “the influence of Marxian economists on the real world is negligible,” is also not true (it may be partially or largely true of the Anglo-American world, but it is eminently arguable outside that provincial domain), especially (but not only) if one is able to assess this influence in “indirect” or second-order terms, and thus the willingness of economists and policy makers to be seduced by the appeal of Keynesian and neo-Keynesian ideas and the peculiar form of “New Deal” or “social security” capitalism (the golden years of which were from 1946 to 1973); and their demise suggesting the limits of Keynes’ legacy and the value of a Marxist approach (see, for example, the respective works of Meghnad Desai and Anwar Shaikh), or the singular historical and comparative achievements of social democratic welfare regimes. (None of this is to deny or ignore the impressive economic achievements of capitalism, achievements which Marx himself well understood before they came to full fruition.) Marxist economists and Marxists generally remind us that,

“by subordinating humanity to economics, capitalism undermines and rots away the relations between human beings which constitute societies, and creates a moral vacuum, in which nothing counts except what the individual wants, here and now. At the top, men sacrifice entire cities to profitability, as in the film Roger and Me, which shows what happened to the town of Flint when General Motors shut down its works. At the bottom, teenage boys kill others for their sheepskin jackets or fashionable trainers, as happens every day in New York. [….] Socialists are there to remind the world that people and not production come first.”

Indeed, socialists today are here to make imperative the ideal if not idea that people are capable of living lives worthy of (self-realizing in the Marxist sense) human beings: “not just in comfort, but together, and in dignity” (Eric Hobsbawm) 
Addendum: absolutely none of this has anything whatsoever to do with “rebranding.”

References & (and a select list of) Further Reading:

  • Bahro, Rudolf. The Alternative in Eastern Europe. London: NLB, 1978.
  • Blackburn, Robin, ed. After the Fall: The Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism. London: Verso, 1991.
  • Bottomore, Tom, ed. A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2nd ed., 1991.
  • Bourguignon, François (Thomas Scott-Railton, tr.) The Globalization of Inequality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
  • Carver, Terrell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Marx. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Cohen, G.A. History, Labour, and Freedom: Themes from Marx. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Cohen, G.A. Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Cohen, G.A. Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defense. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, expanded ed., 2000 (1978).
  • Cohen, G.A. If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re so Rich? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  • Cohen, G.A. Why Not Socialism? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Desai, Meghnad. Marx’s Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism. London: Verso, 2002.
  • Drèze, Jean, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain, eds. The Political Economy of Hunger. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  • Eagleton, Terry. Why Marx Was Right. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011. 
  • Eatwell, John, Murray Milgate, and Peter Newman, eds. The New Palgrave: Marxian Economics. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1990. 
  • Elson, Diane, ed. Value: The Representation of Labour in Capitalism. New York: Verso, 2015 ed.
  • Elster, Jon. Making Sense of Marx. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  • Elster, Jon and Karl Ove Moene, eds. Alternatives to Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Oxford, UK: Polity, 1990.
  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. Politics Against Markets: The Social Democratic Road to Power.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.
  • Goodin, Robert E. Reasons for Welfare: The Political Theory of the Welfare State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Goodin, Robert E., et al. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Harrington, Michael. Socialism: Past and Future. New York: Arcade/Little, Brown & Co., 1989.
  • Harvey, David. Limits to Capital. London: Verso, 2006 ed. (first ed., 1982).
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.
  • Luntley, Michael. The Meaning of Socialism. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1990.
  • Milanovic, Branko. The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality. New York: Basic Books, 2011.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.
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Friday, April 07, 2017

Beyond Agribusiness: Toward Agroecology & Food Justice

I’ve made a fair amount of additions to this bibliography: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’). In a future post at the Agricultural Law blog I aim to provide an introduction to agroecology, providing several definitions as well as references (online and otherwise) to some of the best literature on the subject. At its best, agroecology is in part utopian (in a non-pejorative sense) insofar as it embraces concerns with “food sovereignty” and “food justice” (and social justice generally) while attempting to transform—or at least enlist—contemporary science and technology into—or on behalf of—emancipatory tools for “the people,” that is, something intrinsically tied to (participatory and representative) democratic principles, values, and practices that are not deformed, distorted, or trumped by capitalist imperatives. It is also “utopian” in the sense that it aims to be interdisciplinary with respect to both the natural and social sciences. More on this anon.