1 a Critique of John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power

Description Capital & Class The online version of this article can be found at:   DOI: 10.1177/030981680809500101 2008 32: 3 Capital & Class Colm McNaughton Change The World Without Taking Power A critique of John Holloway's     Published by: On behalf of:   Conference of Socialist Economists can be found at: Capital & Class Additional services and information for
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Transcript  Capital & Class online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/030981680809500101 2008 32: 3 Capital & Class  Colm McNaughton   Change The World Without Taking Power  A critique of John Holloway's Published by: On behalf of:  Conference of Socialist Economists  can be found at: Capital & Class  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations:  What is This? - Jan 1, 2008Version of Record >>  by Pepe Portillo on July 29, 2014cnc.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Pepe Portillo on July 29, 2014cnc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   3  John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power is an attempt to translate the Zapatista experience into Marxist categories—an undertaking fraught with many difficulties. This review interrogates the four key issues addressed by Holloway: the state, the nature ofpower, commodity  fetishism and the meaning and relevance ofrevolution.Born in Dublin and now living and working in Mexico City, John Holloway is one ofa small group ofintellectual–activists whose work emerges from and contributes to an autonomist reading ofMarxism. Holloway’s work within this milieu has largely been concerned with revitalising a Marxist comprehen-sion ofthe state—that is, until January  , when the masked Zapatistas of  Chiapas, Mexico, burst onto the global scene. After this, he became a commenta-tor on the role and impact ofthe Zapatistas on the resistance to exclusive forms ofglobalisation. Indeed, his most recent work, Change The World WithoutTaking Power , is an attempt to translate the Zapatista experience into Marxist categories. Holloway is often criticised for focusing so heavily on the Zapatistas, but in his defence, they do seem to constitute a significant shift with-in the emancipatory imagination and, as such, their contribution warrants fur-ther scrutiny and reflection. In examining Holloway’s contribution, I will address four key issues: the state, the nature ofpower, commodity fetishism and the meaning and relevance ofrevolution. H olloway’s critical theory in Change the World Without Taking Power  begins with a reflection on the scream   —an expressionofour collective anger at witnessing and experiencing The question of the state A critique of JohnHolloway’s Change TheWorld Without Taking Power Colm McNaughton Abstract  by Pepe Portillo on July 29, 2014cnc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   oppression. This rage at oppression connects us: it is a recognitionthat the world is fundamentally flawed in some way, and thisentails opposition, negativity and struggle against oppression(Holloway, :  ). For Holloway, it is from the anger expressed inthis scream, and not from reason, that thought is born. While it ispossible to sympathise with this perspective to an extent, it seemssomewhat overstated: oppression entails resistance, but this is notthe whole picture, for it also invokes despair, self-destructivebehaviours, and more subtly, conscious and unconsciousidentification with the oppressor. Consequently, it is as well to bewary ofany perspective that grounds itselfin anger, not onlybecause it separates reason and emotion, 1 both ofwhich areneeded to inform our decisions, but also because anger is a doubleedged-sword—for in overcoming oppression, how can anger alsobe transformed so as not to become the very oppressor we startedout fighting against? Any reinvention ofthe emancipatoryimagination needs to address this crucial problematic. In contemporary capitalist societies, Holloway points out, thereare numerous ideological mechanisms designed to limit thereverberations and impact ofthe scream, and he argues: ‘It is notso much what  we learn as how  we learn that seems to smother ourscream. It is a whole structure ofthought that disarms us’(Holloway, :  ). He wants to offer a counter to this strategy of containment, not only so that we can hear the rejection of oppression, but also so that we can creatively respond throughcollective action. For Holloway, the scream presupposes we as asubject. We are the starting point oftheory, for the very acts of reading and writing are based on the assumption ofsome sort of community, however contradictory or confused (Holloway, 2002:4). The idea, though attractive, remains somewhat unconvincing:‘we’ certainly exist in an objective sense, that is, as a collection of humans with shared faculties and histories; but we do not exist in asubjective or conscious sense, and in making this argument I ammindful ofMarx’s distinction between a class-for-itself   and a class-in-itself   (Marx, :  ). Thus, it is through the struggle to realisecollective projects, grounded in recognition ofourinterconnections—to realise what Marx referred to as the social individual   —that we truly come into being. In a fragmenting andtumultuous world, it is understandable but also politicallydangerous to assume that we already exist. For Holloway, the scream reveals a utopian dialectic integral toour collective subjectivity, which he frames as a tension between what is  and what is not-yet  . Our scream, he argues, implies that thereis a two-dimensionality available, in turn, within the tension 4 Capital & Class 95  by Pepe Portillo on July 29, 2014cnc.sagepub.comDownloaded from   5 between the two dimensions, which is predicated on theassumptions that:We are, but we exist in an arc oftension towards that whichwe are not, or are not yet. Society is, but it exists in an arc of tension towards that which is not, or is not yet. There is iden-tity, but identity exists in the arc oftension towards non-identity. (Holloway, :  )Bloch’s notion ofthe not-yet is grounded in a positive dialectic,albeit one used in an unorthodox manner. Consequently, Holloway’sutopian proposal emanates from the scream, which proposes a fusionofBloch’s not-yet with Adorno’s negative  dialectical appreciation of identity, is unconvincing. Positive and negative dialecticalappreciations cannot so readily be overcome, for what becomesapparent in Holloway’s articulation is not a fusion but rather thedominance ofAdorno’s negative dialectics. While there is a latentutopianism implicit in Adorno’s thinking, it is also understated; andmoreover, it is marred by the inability ofthe negative dialectic toproduce concrete  knowledge (see Habermas, ,  ). In coming to terms with the failed promises ofrevolution withinMarxism, Holloway focuses on the relationship ofthese movementsto the state, and argues: ‘The mistake ofMarxist revolutionarymovements has been, not to deny the capitalist nature ofthe state,but to misunderstand the degree ofintegration ofthe state into thenetwork ofcapitalist social relations’ (Holloway, :  ). Thus the false premise that informs revolutionary groups is theirassumption that society is the state, and that it is through capturingthe state that society can be transformed. Drawing on the moreanti-statist Marx of  The Paris Commune  , Holloway contends thatsocial relations have never coincided with national frontiers, and indeveloping this argument he points to the de-territorialising role of money, wherein ‘There is no reason why employer and employee,producer and consumer, or workers, who combine in the sameprocess ofproduction, should be within the same territory’(Holloway, :  ). In making this argument, he is referring to hisown work in theorising the state from an autonomous perspective,which is not so much concerned with how the economicdetermines the political superstructure but rather, with what it is inparticular about the social relations ofcapitalism that gives rise toa state (Holloway, :  ).From the  s through to the mid-  s, Holloway’s work waslargely concerned with the shifting relationship ofthe state tocapital. He contributed to an autonomous Marxist response to the  John Holloway’s Change The World Without Taking Power  by Pepe Portillo on July 29, 2014cnc.sagepub.comDownloaded from 


Jul 28, 2017
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