Mapping the theoretical left

marx1.jpgSeit dem unvergesslichen „What Does the Ruling Class Do when it Rules?“ (1978) hat Göran Therborn über Modernität, Globalisierung, den Wohlfahrtsstaat oder Europa geschrieben. In der neuen Nummer (43 Januar/Februar 2007) der New Left Review publiziert er eben unter dem Titel After Dialectics (nur über Subskription, aber im Moment auch noch hier!) den Versuch eines Überblicks über „Radical Social Theory in a post-communist World“. Dazu entwickelt er eine Reihe von Richtungsdifferenzierungen innerhalb der Linken, legt vielleicht doch fehlgehendes übergroßes Gewicht auf die Relation Modernität:Postmodernität bei der Verortung der gegenwärtigen theoretisch-politischen Linken und konzentriert sich vor allem auf das akademische Feld im europäisch – angloamerikanischen Raum. Osteuropa, Rußland, Asien, großenteils auch Afrika und China sind ihm nicht sonderlich im Blick. Interessant seine Einschätzung vom großen Gewicht der nordamerikanischen theoretischen Linken, die mit den Beiträgen dieses Blogs zum US-amerikanischen akademischen Marxismus übereinstimmen. Therborn schreibt am Ende seines Beitrags:

What emerges, first of all, from this overview is the uneven effect of the broken triangle of classical Marxism—politics, social science and philosophy. In the North Atlantic region (and the rest of the world is not so different, with a few local exceptions in Indo-Latin America), Marxist politics has either disappeared or become completely marginalized; at best, as a sympathetic observer of Kerala, Tripura or West Bengal might put it, it has been suspended. The socialist horizon, bright red just three decades ago, has vanished. On the other hand, left-wing intellectual creativity has not ceased. Its greatest moments may have passed: not only that of Marx and Engels, but also of the Second International, from Kautsky to Lenin; of Western Marxism from Lukács to Gramsci; and of Eastern and Southern Marxism from Mao to Mariátegui; even the more recent moments of Althusser, Bourdieu and their different national equivalents. But there is much more of an intellectual left production today than, say, fifty or forty years ago. The left-wing generation of the 1960s, particularly of those radicalized before the romantic moment of 1968, has not surrendered. The value of the thematic changes in discourse, noted above, is debatable; but they do not appear as promising objects of denunciation. The existing repertoire of positions is unlikely to please everyone, but it does nevertheless include rallying-points for nearly everybody on the left. However, formative generational experiences tend to have enduring effects, and this writer’s critical distance is, of course, suspect. His views are those of someone from the 1960s generation, writing about his contemporaries, about his comrades or former comrades. What about the prospects ahead? Capitalism still produces, and will continue to produce, a sense of outrage. To that extent, a line of continuity between the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries will remain, in resistance as well as in critique. Coming philosophers are almost certain to publish new readings of Marx. Twenty-first century anti-capitalist resisters and critics are unlikely to forget the socialist and communist horizons of the past two hundred years. But whether they will see the dawn of a different future in the same colours is uncertain, perhaps even improbable. New cohorts of anti-capitalist social scientists will certainly emerge, many will read Marx, but it may be doubted whether many will find it meaningful to call themselves Marxists. The classical Marxist triangle has been broken, and is most unlikely to be restored. The resilience of the 1960s left is spanning an important historical caesura. This was the generation that lived both the peak of working-class strength in developed capitalism, and the beginning of its decline. It saw both the image of revolution, in 1968, and the close of the revolutionary perspective opened up in 1789 and 1917, in the implosion of 1989–91; in the interim, it experienced the real sex and gender revolution of the late 20th century. It was the generation that lived through, and criticized, the peak of North Atlantic capitalism, and who went on to witness the return of East and South Asia to the front stage of the world. For contingent, practical reasons—of space-time availability and of linguistic limitations—this overview has been confined to the North Atlantic/North American area. That is still the base from where the most deadly bombers and missiles take off, but it is no longer the chief front on which the destiny of capitalism in the 21st century will be decided. Hence the extraordinary importance of global theorizing and, even more, of global empirical investigations. In the current situation, a certain defiant humility seems to be the most adequate intellectual stance. Defiance before the forces of capital and empire, however powerful. Humility before the coming new world and the learning and unlearning that it will call for.“

Bliebe festzuhalten, dass auch dieser Versuch einer ersten Ortsbestimmung und Kartierung der sozialtheoretisch operierenden Linken trotz klugem Beurteilungsvermögen nicht die innovativen Feinstrukturen und disziplinären, nationalstaatlichen, medialen und kognitiven Felder detailliert erfassen kann – hier geht es um ein bestimmtes qualitatives, diskutables Assessment. Ein international organisiertes konkretes mapping dieses Feldes wäre ein schickes Projekt!

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