Theoretical research summaries

Self-Exploitation in China

Under Deng Xiaoping’s famous slogan, “liberating the productive forces” (jie fang sheng chan li), the official policy of liberal reform – strong state intervention in the labor market – has worked in support of commodification of labor, rather than constructing a system of social welfare that restricts the impact of market forces in China. When it comes to the price for labor power, there are two kinds of remuneration: the direct and the indirect salary (or fringe benefits). The first resembles what we know as hourly wage, whereas the second “is redistributed through a social agency.” For most welfare states, this social agency refers to the State, or a statutory agency that manages the social security fund, for example. As regards the Chinese context, it is the household solidarity characterized by auto-exploitation and auto-deprivation of rural households that has played this role.

By |2020-05-27T13:23:11-04:00May 27, 2020|

An Organic Crisis Is Upon Us

While all of the various crises that comprise the larger organic crisis are inextricable, I’ve tried to map out in schematic form a number of the crises I see cascading across our conjuncture. As you will see, it’s nearly impossible to talk about one without talking about all, but that’s what I’ve tried to do here: provide a roadmap to the organic crisis that’s only just begun.

By |2020-05-06T16:39:58-04:00May 1, 2020|

Is China Socialist or Capitalist? How Marxism Breaks the Binary

In China, contrary to the usual sequence, the socialist revolution preceded, rather than followed, the democratic breakthrough. For China to progress beyond its current early socialist stage, massive political change will be needed, and this poses serious challenges for the Chinese Communist Party. This way of looking at China does not coincide with CCP official doctrines, of a “harmonious society,” “market socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and the “Chinese dream.” But it also rejects the very common facile Western notion that China’s society is “capitalist,” or has been since the death of Mao and the reform and opening-up policies were promulgated. Socialist ideology has sunk deep roots in the country’s political consciousness, and this is a real force – just as the classical philosophies of earlier Chinese social formations were a force exceeding their material foundations.

By |2020-04-23T11:13:45-04:00Apr 23, 2020|

Understanding the Emergence of Authoritarian Capitalist States: Looking Backward to See Forward

The emergence of dictatorial rule in capitalist societies once organized by parliamentary institutions can best be interpreted as a response to an intensifying crisis of representation within parliamentary democracy.

By |2020-03-19T13:20:49-04:00Mar 19, 2020|

Debt-Led Exploitation in Brazil

In Brazil, fiscal and monetary policies have favored the financial fraction of capital and established a state and institutional apparatus through which finance extorted income from labor. Together, public debt and taxation form a fiscal complex that, in addition to redistributing surpluses, deepens labor exploitation.

By |2020-02-19T13:13:37-05:00Feb 19, 2020|

Why Didn’t Marx Finish Capital?

Several scholars have suggested that Marx never finished his planned volumes on Capital due to his recognition of unsolvable problems with his theory, in particular the so-called transformation problem of labor values and the law of the falling rate of profit. However, the ultimate culprit for Capital remaining unfinished seems to be the combination of such theoretical riddles – theories he continued to work on but never abandoned – with Marx's perfectionism and his insatiable appetite for knowledge. Marx’s perfectionism and severe self-criticism repeatedly led him to the latest scientific findings in many fields, but it also prevented the finishing of the manuscripts. This is most clearly evidenced by Marx reading frantically about the newest economic and social developments in the major capitalist countries in fields ranging from agriculture to financial panics.

By |2020-02-12T17:46:23-05:00Feb 12, 2020|

Laboring Bodies at the Choke Point

By focusing my research on the laboring body from a materialist perspective, I seek to bring in a third perspective to the debate on logistics choke points, that so far oscillates between a euphoric framing as a "magic bullet" to trade union movement revitalization, on the one hand, and a dysphoric framing as laboratories for company and state surveillance, control and security measures, on the other.

By |2020-01-30T16:43:20-05:00Jan 30, 2020|

Variegated Social Reproduction as Critical Thinking

Variegated social reproduction as a conceptual lens is meant to acknowledge that the unfolding of the contradiction between capital accumulation and the conditions of social reproduction is not uniform but uneven and variegated, involving developments that are sometimes unanticipated.

By |2020-01-23T09:15:32-05:00Jan 22, 2020|

Lessons of Rojava and Histories of Abolition

Abolitionists and anti-authoritarians are right to be inspired by example of Rojava but translating the lessons of the Revolution to a wildly different political context like the United States is no simple task. The impasse between a rejection of abolition and the tired revolution/reform binary can be resolved by returning to fundamentals of historical materialism, and particularly, W.E.B. Du Bois' analysis of “abolition democracy” in his seminal work, Black Reconstruction.

By |2020-01-15T18:11:30-05:00Jan 15, 2020|