Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University

Review abstracts, vol. XXX, 2007

 

Review XXX, 1, 2007

 

Immanuel Wallerstein, “Naming Groups: The Politics of Categorizing and Identities”

 

We are faced today with a cornucopia of types of groups that lay claim to priority analytically and politically—race, gen­der, class, religion, nationality, among others. Such categories are socially constructed and can be reconstructed, always depend­ing on a minimal level of reciprocity of perception between any group and others. We are confronted with two questions about such groups: which ones are the important ones? and, given the fact that their names often change with remarkable rapidity, what is the importance of the specific names used to denote a particular group? We explore how the importance of types of groups depends regularly on the specific context of the world-system at any given time. And we explore the fact that terminology matters, but also is a slippery slope. Politically and analytically, in the current era of transition, it is important to take great care in categorizing groups and in asserting priorities. For we need always to keep our eye on the ball, noting how doing these things affects real power relations.

 

Franco Barchiesi, “Labor and Social Citizenship in Colonial and Postcolonial Modernity: South African Perspectives in a Continental Context”

 

A major topic of interest in African studies is the role of wage labor in relation to shift­ing state policies from colonialism to independence. Early colonial policies, which were aimed at avoiding the formation of an urbanized African proletariat, were re­placed in the late colonial and postcolonial state with strategies of labor stabilization and co-option. Wage labor underpinned, in particular, developmental ideologies and forms of discipline that perpetuated the lack of democracy and political rights. Using Aníbal Quijano’s notion of “coloniality of power” this article situates South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy in the long duration of the continental trajectory from colonial to postcolonial modernity. It reveals that the social policies of the post-1994 South African democracy reflected a hierarchical view of social citizen­ship, with waged employment at its center, which resembled colonial patterns of govern­ance that influ­enced Africa’s independent nation-states. The ideological central­ity of wage labor in post-apartheid policy discourse is also expressed in its moral vocabu­lary opposed to welfare dependency, which obscures the material decline of waged work in a context of deepening unemployment and casualization. In the final analysis, the work-centered policy discourse of South Africa’s postcolonial transition raises important questions concerning state legitimacy, and new forms of social movements and social conflicts.

 

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From Global Lines to Ecologies of Knowledges”

 

Modern Western thinking is an abyssal thinking. It operates through radical lines that divide social reality into two realms, the realm of “this side of the line” and the realm of “the other side of the line.” The division is such that “the other side of the line” vanishes as reality, becomes nonexistent, and is indeed produced as nonexistent. What most fundamentally characterizes abyssal thinking is thus the impossibility of the copresence of the two sides of the line. The other side of the abyssal line is the realm of beyond legality and illegality (lawlessness), of beyond truth and falsehood (incomprehensible beliefs, idolatry, magic). These forms of radical negation together result in a radical absence, the absence of humanity, modern subhumanity.

            This article argues that although colonialism provided the model for modern radical negation and exclusion, this is as true today as in the colonial period. Modern Western thinking goes on operating through abyssal lines that divide the human from the subhuman in such a way that human principles don’t get compromised by inhuman practices. First, the tension between regulation and emancipation (on this side of the line) continues to coexist with the tension between appropriation and violence (on the other side of the line) in such a way that the universality of the first tension is not contradicted by the existence of the second one. Secondly, abyssal lines continue to structure modern knowledge and modern law. Thirdly, these two abyssal lines are constitutive of Western-based political and cultural relations and interactions in the modern world-system. The struggle for global social justice must, therefore, be a struggle for global cognitive justice as well. In order to succeed, this struggle requires a new kind of thinking, a postabyssal thinking.

 

 

Review XXX, 2, 2007

 

Kolya Abramsky, “The Underground Challenge—Raw Materials, Energy,
the World-Economy, and Anticapitalist Struggle: Reflections on Globalization and the Race for Resources by Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell”

 

Globalization and the Race for Resources seeks to understand the present from a world-historical perspective in order to help strategize collective intervention and resistance aimed at shaping the future, for example, to lessen the social inequalities and ecological destruction inherent in the production, trade, and consumption of global extractive industries, such as iron ore, wherever they may occur. Major questions are posed to those readers who believe that the world around us is constructed through conscious human action, choice, and above all struggle, as opposed to fate. The authors’ ”new materialist” approach provides the tools, concepts, and historical background to grapple with the issue of world raw materials politics and its past, present, and likely future struggles. This book is of the utmost relevance for contemporary anticapitalist struggles and their global networks, such as World Social Forum, Peoples Global Action, and Via Campesina.

 

 

Jonathan Leitner, “An Incorporated Comparison: Fernand Braudel's Account of Dutch Hegemony in a World-Ecological Perspective”

 

In a section near the end of the chapter on Amsterdam’s hegemonic era in his The Perspective of the World, Braudel discusses Amsterdam’s relations with its various peripheries, making a brief sketch of the Dutch hegemonic system. Methodologically resembling McMichael’s incorporated comparison, Braudel eschews a top-down approach and historically reconstructs Dutch hegemony by examining each periphery (the Baltic, France, England, and the East Indies) and its core-periphery relationship with Amsterdam.  While an apt piece of framing, he neglects the methodological emphasis on human-environmental embeddedness in his other works, which others have attempted to draw out in more explicit terms. This article fleshes out the historical-ecological underpinnings of the extractive/productive systems involved in each of the three Dutch peripheries Braudel examines, but starts with a look at the agroecological roots of Dutch ascent up the European world-economic hierarchy. The ecological constraints dealt with by Dutch agriculture evolved into an internal pattern of ecologically “coherent” inter-regional trade within the northern Netherlands that in turn prefigured the later patterns that marked seventeenth-century Dutch hegemony. This comparison is also expanded spatially to the Americas (Brazil and New Netherland). Though less important to Amsterdam’s hegemonic edifice overall, these two lost Dutch colonies provide exceptions that help prove some of the ecological rules of Dutch hegemonic praxis.

 

Dennis O’Hearn, “Bringing the Human Back into the Material: Embodied Perception in Stephen Bunker’s Political Economy”

 

Stephen Bunker’s late work improved our understanding of the nature and causes of cycles of capitalist accumulation and hegemony and, especially, how they are driven by the technologies and economics of extracting key raw materials that are necessary for the expansion of capitalism. In posthumously published work, he added an impressive critique of Marx’s labor theory of value and attempted to develop a theory of natural production of values. In these works, however, Bunker failed to address how hegemonic projects organized labor, including the ways in which indigenous people and their forms of knowledge and perception interacted with, were displaced by, resisted, and in some cases superseded hegemonic projects and technologies that have successively attempted conquest since the arrival of Europeans to the Americas in the fifteenth century. His last work on ancient Peruvian ditch building and maintenance, The Snake with Golden Braids, is perhaps his most important because it examines ancient technologies, cosmologies, and sensations and, in the process, begins to lay the basis of how we may solve the problem of devising human technologies in ways compatible with the material forms in which nature transforms and stores energy.

 

 

Dale Tomich, “Stephen Bunker: Material Process and the World-System”

 

This article is a remembrance of Stephen G. Bunker and an appreciation of his environmental and resource approach to world-systems scholarship.

 

 

Review XXX, 3, 2007

 

Blaise Farina, “A Portrait of World Historical Production and World Historical Waste after 1945”

This article situates world waste production within the systemic dynamic of the historical geography of capitalism. A sketch of the post-1945 upsurge of world commodity production and exchange is presented, because this global upsurge fostered the novel historical conditions within which the dramatic changes in social waste production and disposal emerged. The article suggests that no previous socio-historical epoch reveals an acceleration in commodity production producing so much world-scale waste, and argues that for the first time in history the empirical character of social waste underwent commodification on a world-scale whereby commodity production and waste and waste disposal melded as integral parts of the same historical process. It also argues that, like the global landscapes of commodity production and exchange, the global landscapes of waste production and disposal were shaped after 1945  according to the contradictory criteria of world historical capitalism, so much so that the crosscurrents of the weight of past investment in the physical landscape of waste, together with socio-political dissatisfaction with those landscapes, prompted capital to search the globe for investment solutions which inevitably became part of the problem.

 

Richard E. Lee, “Legitimating Hierarchy and Constructing Consensus, or the ‘Cultural’ Aspect of the Modern World-System: The Morant Bay Uprising, the Irish Rebellion, and English Franchise Reform”

 

The “structures of knowledge” as a set of processes constitutive of and constituted by the evolution of the modern world-system ground the hierarchies of inequality that have favored capital accumulation and that have resulted in polarization over time. In looking at the Morant Bay uprising, the Irish rebellion, and the English Reform movement, our concern is with how the rhetoric of social commentators associated status assignment with economic, that is, class position and how such rhetoric was deployed in the parliamentary debates of the 1860’s that fixed a consensus on social policy at the world level for years to come. From this perspective, it is argued that by challenging the premises on which structures of inequality have been erected worldwide, contemporary social movements, despite their diversity, may act at the level of accumulation directly, at the level of the axial division of labor, thus at the level of the world-system.

 

Review XXX, 4, 2007

 

Shelley Feldman, “Households, Labor, and Global Capitalism: A Close Encounter with Joan Smith”

 

This article offers a close reading of Joan Smith’s research on households in order to identify a number of her significant, if less recognized contributions.  Importantly, Smith brings into conversation an emergent feminist literature with the adjustments signaled by the economic changes of the 1970’s and subsequently the crises of the 1990’s. As I suggest, while there is room to critically engage with the way that Smith poses the relationship between world-systems analysis and feminist inquiry, when her combined popular and lesser known work is examined, the complex epistemic terrain she engages becomes evident.  I draw attention to the epistemic ground of her position on households, unpaid and non-waged work, and intra-household dynamics to reveal her commitment to processual analysis, holism, and contradictory relations while also extending the creative and critical feminist sensibility that undergirds her analytic imagination. 

 

 

Torry D. Dickinson, “(Hetero)Sexism as a Weapon of the World-System: Feminist Reflections on Household Research by Joan Smith and the Fernand Braudel Center

 

As one of the intersecting hierarchical institutions of the capitalist world-system, global sexism includes heterosexism and ageism. Sexism constitutes and is constituted by other institutions, such as racism, the state, for-profit firms, and global divisions. As a fundamental institution of the world-system, global sexism sustains, embodies, and consolidates all forms of abstract to intimate domination by, for example, enabling the (re)creation of the household as the reproductive unit of labor (divorcing families from collective work for the common good), the (re)organization of adult heterosexual men against members of their households and ethnic-class groups, and—at any one moment in time—the simultaneous (re)production of a relatively small proportion of global labor that is well paid by the state and firms and a large pool of global labor that is under-paid, unpaid and/or self-sustaining (which experiences economic stress, chronic hunger, and sometimes starvation). Joan Smith and the Fernand Braudel Center’s Household Research Working Group have demonstrated how gendered, household-organized work has generated non-monetized value that has supplemented unequal global wages. By examining Joan Smith’s feminist writings on households and patriarchal domination, this article explores how global (hetero)sexism has shaped and consolidated global inequality, and why global social change includes the unraveling of sexism, and its hetero- and ageist aspects, as movements and organizations dismantle other intersecting institutions and cultivate change.

 

Jane L. Collins, “The Paradox of Poverty in the Transition from Welfare to Work”

 

Drawing on Joan Smith’s use of “paradox,” from an article on women’s poverty that she published in 1984 in the feminist journal Signs, this article explores a contemporary paradox of welfare reform: While they work forty hours a week, often for private sector employers, women who receive state support cannot access many of the rights and protections that normally accompany paid work. The article draws on theories of how welfare intersects with labor markets and affects citizenship to argue that, like recent attacks on the rights of legal and illegal immigrants, these assaults on poor women’s citizenship are mechanisms that lower wages and circumscribe the rights of workers in place-bound sectors where unions have begun to gain ground over the past few years. 

 

 

Wilma A. Dunaway & M. Cecilia Macabuac, “‘The Shrimp Eat Better Than We Do’: Philippine Subsistence Fishing Households Sacrificed for the Global Food Chain”

 

Despite increased commercial outputs, less fish and seafood is now available to peripheral populations, and malnutrition and hunger are on the rise in those countries engaged in export aquaculture. After 1975, the Philippines expanded its commercial aquaculture until it rose to be one of the world’s most important shrimp exporters. Since 1989, however, the Philippines has been a food extractive enclave in the bust stage of export-oriented aquaculture and commercial fishing. This study analyzes the impacts of that boom to bust process on subsistence fishing households and describes the inequitable strategies through which women have struggled to cope with economic and ecological crisis.

 

 

 

 


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