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Re: capitalism's rejection: theoretical/empirical troubles or anti-eu rocentrism
by Trich Ganesh
24 March 2002 00:41 UTC
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Two quick responses to your questions: first, it is the "empirical 
troubles" ( 'crises' is a better concept) arising out of the 
contradictions of capital that make "capitalism" a historical 
system.  Second, "historical materialism" does not have "origins in 
European society": historical materialism is both a tool and an 
object of inquiry whose genealogy (rather than "origins") may be 
traced to the rise and expansion of capital as a cyclical, crisis-
ridden, world-embracing phenomenon.  In this unfolding, the so 
called "underdeveloped" world has been central.  (In the first 
phases of the rise of capital much of Europe was "underdeveloped" 
as well).  The task of the historical materialist is to register the 
effects of this incorporation of the "underdeveloped" world so as to 
be able to state clearly the nature of capital's finitude, and to speed 
up the directions of transformation into a world in which it is 
possible to affirm life and the work of thought that affirms this life in 
its irreducible forms.  No "underdeveloped world", no capital either.  
The unevenness of capitalist development is its most characteristic 

The possibility of Eurocentrism arises, I think, in failing to see two 
things at the same time: (1) The fact that the tradition of the 
oppressed tells us that the state of emergency that we live in is not 
the exception but the rule (Benjamin): the task of the historical 
materialist is to take this as the object, to fashion a theoretical 
practice consistent with the state of emergency, and to abide with 
it until a "better" theoretical practice is possible. (Perhaps a certain 
experience of radical destitution is necessary for any historical 
materialist).  (2) The fact that the oppressed are overwhelmingly 
located in the peripheral and semiperipheral spaces - does that 
suggest what the substantive content of any theoretical practice in 
the historical materialist tradition should be?  TKGanesh.

From:                   "Austin, Andrew" <austina@uwgb.edu>
To:                     wsn@csf.colorado.edu
Subject:                capitalism's rejection: theoretical/empirical troubles 
or anti-eu
Date sent:              Mon, 18 Mar 2002 13:04:46 -0600

Is the theory that capitalism is not a historical system based on
theoretical/empirical troubles surrounding its existence or is it because
historical materialism finds its origins in European society and this is
troubling to the ideology of anti-eurocentrism?

If it is the former, I am unconvinced by the arguments. If it is the latter,
then this is a puzzling position, since it would seem to assume that
capitalism is a good thing and therefore wrongly credited to Europeans.

Andrew Austin
Green Bay, WI

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