Moishe Postone is Professor of History at the University of Chicago, and his seminal book Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory investigates Marx’s categories of commodity, labor, and capital, and the saliency of Marx’s critique of capital in the neoliberal context of the present. Rescuing Marx’s categories from intellectual and political obsolescence, Postone brings them to bear on the global transformations of the past three decades. In the following interview, Postone stresses the importance of an analysis of the history of capital for a progressive anti-capitalist Left today.
Why do we need a “history of the Left?”— Platypus differs from other tendencies and organizations on the Left to the extent that we find it necessary and desirable to reexamine the history of the Left to help understand problems on the Left in the present. For focusing on the history of the Left and its problems, Platypus has been accused by a variety of Marxists of obscuring the “fundamental social divide” of the “class struggle” of the “proletariat” vs. the “bourgeoisie,” in favor of emphasizing the ideological and political difference between the Right and the Left.
Since the 1960s the saturation of brutality and violence in Iraq has caused considerable confusion among Leftists in regards to both its political meaning and causes. One cannot fully understand the character of Saddam Hussein’s Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party without taking into account that it achieved political power by systematically killing off the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and quelling other political dissent with acts of extreme cruelty. The eight year battle of attrition instigated by Hussein, known as the Iran-Iraq War, caused over half a million Iraqi deaths, and the ethnic cleansing campaigns directed against the Kurds resulted in countless more. It is estimated that during the 1988 Anfal Campaign alone over 100,000 Kurds were massacred. In addition to the many catastrophic events that mark the history of Ba’athist society, it is perfectly clear that Hussein’s one-party-state was maintained through the use of relentless day-to-day violence directed against its citizens.
One of the highlight exhibitions of the summer of 2007 in Chicago was The Art Institute’s retrospective exhibition on the work of Jeff Wall. This occasion marked the first time that the Art Institute exhibited a solo show of a photographer. Jeff Wall’s large-scale color transparencies, mounted in light boxes, covered the same walls that have previously displayed Rembrandts, Girodets, and Manets. The exhibition provided the opportunity to reconsider the present condition of photography as art.
In the spring of 2006, after years of activity on the Left, I joined the IWW. I joined because it cared little for Leftism. And because it began every meeting with a song.
The present-day crisis in Pakistan resists adequate historicisation in pithy news headlines. Yet its concrete expressions include the autocratic state-of-emergency imposed by General Musharraf; the violent rise of Islamic fundamentalism, first in the anarchic north-west, but increasingly also in the cities; the over-dependence on economic as well as military assistance from the U.S.; the massive expansion of the army into civilian sectors, especially commerce; and the ever growing socioeconomic disparities—in short: the failure of Pakistan.
There was a gathering of about fifteen people on the evening of December the 13th at Mess Hall, a small artist-run storefront in Rogers Park dedicated to community education and organizing. Sponsored by the 49th St. Underground and the Industrial Workers of the World, the topic of the event was described as “anti-capitalist street protest,” but the presenter made it clear from the beginning that he was going to talk about the Seattle anti-WTO summit protests of 1999 and their aftermath.
Platypus has earned recognition from the new British publication Mayday: magazine for anarchist/libertarian ideas and action, in its inaugural issue #1 (Winter 2007-08) "Introduction: Open letter" (pp. 2-7). Mayday cites the initial Platypus statement, "What is a platypus? On surviving the extinction of the Left:"
On two occasions, Sigmund Freud observed that politics, pedagogy, and psychoanalysis are all impossible professions. Cornelius Castoriadis attempted to make sense of this cryptic observation in a 1994 essay entitled “Psychoanalysis and Politics,” in which he argued that, not only are these three “professions” structurally analogous, they are also entangled with each other such that the “impossible” realization of pedagogical or psychoanalytic aims is ultimately conditional upon an emancipatory political transformation.
Confronting the confusion and fragmentation that wrought progressive politics in recent decades, Ernesto Laclau’s work attempts to theorize the path to the construction of a radical democratic politics. Drawing on Gramsci’s concept of hegemony to devise his own theory by that name, Laclau describes the processes of social articulation that creates popular political identities.