Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that, with the collapse of Com- munism, the theoretical project of Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more timely and important. Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “ postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency. Ellen Meiksins Wood. · Rating details · 94 ratings · 9 reviews. This study argues that understanding Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more important.

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Inevitably, as a summary, what I say here will be crude, but I hope meisins false. On the mainstream account of the history of democracy, it originated in Athens but then disappeared from the historical stage until its victory in capitalism.

Is the Bolshevik approach to the Constituent Assembly a model, or not? But I think the democratic impulse was stronger than this implies. The struggle against capitalism will continue as long as capitalism does, and sharpened ideological weapons are more essential than ever.

Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism

While it makes sense to say that the latter differences deserve recognition and validation, class differences should not againt recognized and validated, but abolished! Selected pages Title Page. Collapsing capitalism into ‘the market’ robs us of a serious analysis of capitalism, and treats it, in effect, as natural in Adam Smith’s words, natural human ‘truck, barter and exchange’.

And I’ll forgive this oversimplification for her bold recentering of democracy outside of capitalism and againwt regrounding in much, much different terms capitalim the current liberal democracy creates. Melle rated it really liked sgainst Oct 28, A mode of production analysis can help to explain how non-class forms of oppression arise and increase or decrease in importance.

Inshe was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada, a marker of distinguished scholarship. But in the theory of bureaucratic collectivism it takes on a new, or sharper, significance. Early modern colonialism the conquest of what became Latin America, etc is seen as merely the means whereby large amounts of wealth were amassed which could feed againxt industrial development when the time came; the commercial empires of Spain, Meikxins, the Dutch are assimilated to capitalism, whereas in fact they were not capitalist at all.


It does not seem to me that there is anything in such an approach which automatically ‘naturalises’ capitalism. This study argues that understanding Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more important than ever because of the collapse of Communism. Capitalism can therefore tolerate a broad degree of political freedom because the fundamental structure of society and appropriation will remain untouched.

This issue is at the heart of disagreements over ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ and ‘state capitalism’. I said in my review of ‘Democracy Against Capitalism’ that Ellej didn’t feel qualified to judge some of the historical questions she raises, since at least to some degree they depend on detailed knowledge outside my competence.

The specificity of capitalism that Wood stresses in her interpretation of historical materialism is also the basis of her analysis of democracy and how it came to be associated with capitalism. Despite this, it is a superb outline of how historical materialism can be used to analyse history.

Renewing Historical Materialism

Slavery in the ancient world was largely recognized to be conventional e. And Wood proceeds to show us just what is wrong. Although it is important to expose idealizations of Athenian democracy by showing how many people were excluded from participation, notably slaves and women of all classes, what is striking, Wood argues, is whom it included.

Delegation is a necessary function of any modern democratic system.

Even the American constitution is based on a radically different concept of democracy to the ancient Athenian one. The main argument, throughout, is derived from her general theoretical priority, which is to assert the historical specificity of capitalism – ‘ Instead, I intend to focus on one of her most important books, ‘Democracy Against Capitalism’.

It was, of course, a tradition shot democeacy with contradictions. See the current issue. The rules of the game become invisible, and we are left with the assumption that capitalism is something which has been latent throughout history. Plant Conversion to Save Workers and the Planet. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.


But these democratic notions dmocracy the new, explicitly socialist and communist movements which emerged in the wake of the French revolution. The standard alternative to mechanical determinist interpretations, however, was a vague humanism. Paperbackpages.

The relations of production definitive of capitalism are such that for the first time in history, a ruling class can rule without monopolizing political power. There’s one aspect of all this which is relevant to our debate, so I’ll come back to it later; otherwise, I’ll leave that there – except to say that I agree with EMW. In fact, she suggests, one way of understanding the uniqueness of the modern social form of civil society is to say that the coercive power of the state has been privatized: She answers these question not only through philosophical arguments and concepts but using history in a way that’s narratively very effective and not too heavy at all.

Renewing Historical Materialism

I don’t think Marxists have attempted to reduce this intellectual history directly to the ‘needs of capitalist development’ or the interests of the capitalist class or if they have, they shouldn’t. Sam V rated it it was amazing Dec 03, But putting past incarnations of Marxist theory and it developments over the years, she firmly courses the intellectual and political failings of the left over the past 50 years or so while making an extremely compelling case for a new path.

She does not, of course, argue against ‘representative’ democracy. Open Preview See a Problem? There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

We must therefore consider merchants as the natural representatives of these classes of the community. Drawing much inspiration from the work of EP Thompson, Meiksins Wood critiques determinist and structural versions of Marxism. Aykut Kansu rated it it was amazing Jun 16,