Book Reviews


Marx and the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-‐Western Societies. By kevin b. anderson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 336 pp. $66.00 (cloth); $22.50 (paper and e-‐book). Marx’s writings and Marxism have had a tumultuous fate in West-‐ ern academia. Scholars revered Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s, when social history was booming, but since the 1980s, they reproach Marx-‐ ism from a number of different perspectives. We could explain the shift in attitudes toward Marxism in reference to an array of social causes, including the shift from a fordist to a neo-‐liberal mode of capitalism, which instigated a crisis in and the eventual fall of the Soviet bloc, the emergence of market capitalism in China, a dynamic increase in the growth rates of various non-‐European nation-‐states, and a global defeat of leftist politics. In the wake of this defeat, numerous theories attempted to replace Marxism as theories for the left, including post-‐ structuralism, cultural studies, subaltern studies, postcolonialism. Post-‐ structuralists rebuked Marxist epistemology, contending that Marx-‐ ists were wedded to positivistic notions of science, and postcolonial theorists claimed that Marxism used the scientific model to promote a Eurocentric mode of development. Influenced by Maoism, postcolo-‐ nial theorists contended that Marxists failed to grasp the particularities of Third World and colonial development. These were scholars who originated from or studied countries on the margins of the global capi-‐ talist system, and they argued that Marx presupposed a unilinear model of growth, which implied that Third World nations had to follow the model of their European counterparts. Among other things, such critics allude to Marx’s inability to analyze adequately Third World nation-‐ alism and anticolonialism, because both of these phenomena involve taking seriously non-‐Western conditions. Recently Marxist scholars have responded to charges of Eurocentri-‐ cism,1 but Kevin B. Anderson’s Marx at the Margins makes a unique contribution by bringing to readers’ attention a vast array of recently published works by Marx in which he discusses non-‐Western societ-‐ ies and addresses questions of ethnicity and colonialism. At issue here is particularly to what extent Marx advocated a “unilinear” model of history. In other words, the question is: Did Marx believe that all regions of the world had to pass through the same stages of develop-‐

1 See Arif Dirlik’s essay, “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism,” Critical Inquiry 20, no. 2 (1994): 328–356, and Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations and Literatures (London: Verso, 1994).

the second does not imply the first. the Asiatic mode of production had the characteristic of reproducing itself and being resistant to capitalist development. capitalist. implies the second. imperialism must be . but then socialism would also not be an issue. without this external force it would be possible for some countries not to undergo capitalism. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss race. six chapters. At one level. Chapter 5 examines how Marx’s writings in the Grundrisse and Capital provide a theoretical foundation for the histori-‐ cal writings discussed in the other chapters. The first chapter offers a new look at Marx’s writings on the European impact on India. while motivated primarily by profit. even without looking at new sources. respectively. imperialist nations. The two points are of course related but not mutually entailing. such as slave. and a conclusion. How-‐ ever. the various chapters of the book mobilize a vast array of sources. from a Marxist perspective. Moreover. Chapter 2 deals with national emancipation and revolution in Russia and Poland. namely. and slavery in the Civil War in the United States and nationalism. and the labor movement in Ireland. that all nations must experience capitalism before realizing socialism. which was the condition for their becom-‐ ing free. and socialist? Another characteristic of the unilinear model is that Marx valued the capitalist mode of production more highly than previous modes and believed that the various societies of the world had to pass through the capitalist mode of production before creating socialism. However. on the standard interpretation of Marxism. had the unintended consequence of breaking Asia out of stagnation and catapulting them into the world of capitalist development. such as through imperialism. it is clear that Marx did not believe that all countries had a uniform path of growth. march 2012 ment. After all. class. feudal. namely. In other words. Anderson’s book is divided into an introduction. on the usual narrative. In other words. Indonesia. In other words. to argue that Marx neither held that all nations had to pass through the same stages nor believed that countries had to pass through capitalism in order to realize socialism. the first claim. because it is possible that a country becomes capitalist through a logic imposed from the outside. class. theorized in terms of modes of production. that all countries must pass through the same stages. Taken as a whole. the reason he developed an Asiatic mode of production was precisely to show that social organization in Asia was different from what existed in Europe and in other parts of the world. some of which were only recently made available. and chapter 6 provides us with a study of Marx’s last writings on non-‐Western and precapitalist societies.210 journal of world history. and China. from this perspective.

Said took Marx to task for judging that the British destruc-‐ tion of previous communities was a precondition for real social revo-‐ lution. a type of necessary evil on the path to development. a stepping stone on the way to socialism. since if one accepts a grand developmental narrative of history and places capi-‐ talism above non-‐Western modes of production. be 2 Edward Said. and China. Marx spent much of his later life researching the histories of places around the world to expand his sense of the pos-‐ sible. Anderson concedes that there are elements of Eurocentrism in Marx’s above-‐mentioned text. namely capitalist development.” which was Marx’s first major publication on a non-‐Western society. but also multiple paths toward social-‐ ism. . Moreover. but one who creatively combines rigorous social theory and meticulous empirical research to promote revolutionary political action.Book Reviews 211 seen in a partially positive light. “The British Rule in India. In chapter 1. Anderson contends that Marx reworked his ideas about the non-‐ Western world in other writings published shortly after “British Rule in India. Here Marx is presented as a humanist for whom socialism provides a moral framework from which to evaluate the potential of various social systems. any more than the struggle of the Western classes. The Marx that emerges from this book is not one who grafts an already existing theory onto history. Orientalism (New York: Vintage. and (2) that Britain repre-‐ sented a higher civilization. Indonesia.” Anderson confronts Edward Said’s famous criticism of Marx as Eurocentric and offers an alterna-‐ tive reading. In his enormously influential Orientalism 2 Said based his judgment on an article that Marx wrote in 1853. This regeneration would not. and in particular two problematic ideas: (1) that the various countries are destined to follow the path of Europe. “Colonial Encounters in the 1850s: The European Impact on India. however. The novelty of Anderson’s book is precisely that it questions the above interpretation of Marx and contends that Marx allowed for not only multiple paths in the past.” He argues that although “Chinese (and Indian) walls continue to be battered down by what Marx sill evidently considered to be the progressive effects of world trade and even colonial conquest. 1978). then one would have to conclude that capitalist culture is also more advanced than that of precapitalist societies. people from within non-‐Western societies are now credited with the poten-‐ tial of ‘throwing off the English yoke altogether’ and self-‐starting the ‘regeneration’ of their societies and cultures. These two points are interrelated.

[A Study of Marx’s Theory of History] (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten. many of which were edited by Engels. but also of their path to a postcapitalist future. Many Maoists clung to this hope as they combated imperialism and what they called semi-‐feudal-‐ ism. the image of its own future” (p. italics in the original). Japan. 173). .3 Anderson provides textual evidence to suggest that the French edition was less linear than the German and English editions. This is a crucial passage. 24). He attempts to respond to this question in chapter 5. which Marx’s critics never grow tired 3 For example. For example. 1973). con-‐ trasted Marx and Engels in order to develop what he claimed was Marx’s original theory of civil society. See for example. See Mochizuki Seiji. Arthur. At issue here is the difference between Marx and Engels. and India. However. a famous passage in the preface to the 1867 German edition of Capital reads. march 2012 aimed at a return to the precapitalist past. intellectuals often expressed this desire to retain the achieve-‐ ments of capitalism while surpassing it. Marx has a multilinear vision not only of various societies’ precapitalist pasts. which was the last edition that Marx personally prepared for pub-‐ lication (p. This passage suggests a grand narrative of development. Anderson must answer the question of whether there is basis in Marx’s mature theoret-‐ ical work to make such claims. while at the same time creating a society that moves beyond it. but he nonetheless stresses that capitalism and civil society are the conditions for the possibility of socialism. since socialism. while hoping to find a path to socialism. 1996). as a goal that stems from the logic of human emancipation remains the telos of history and it is possible to draw on different resources to attain this goal. Ander-‐ son reexamines the somewhat understudied French edition of Marx.. Moreover.” In support of a new multilinear interpretation of Marx. “The country that is more developed industrially only shows. to the less developed. His vision is not relativist. it is possible for them to imagine a path that retains the achieve-‐ ments of capitalist modernity. ed. because these pre-‐ or noncapitalist countries have come into contact with the capitalist world.212 journal of world history. such as China. A number of scholars have written about the difference between Marx and Engels in English. 177. “From the Grundrisse to Capital: Multilinear Themes. in the 1970s Japanese scholar Marxists. since it shows that on Anderson’s reading. such as Mochizuki Seiji. It would retain the achieve-‐ ments of capitalist modernity” (p. Engels Today: Centenary Appreciation (London: Macmillan. which Marxists have been discussing for a number of decades. Christopher J. In a number of non-‐Western countries. Mochizuki stresses that Marx’s use of concepts such as the Asiatic mode of production showed that he had a multilinear model of develop-‐ ment.

and today there are few places. Anderson has perhaps separated social and intellectual mediation because here achievements of capitalism include the humanist ideals.” Moreover. So perhaps the . This is a point that most Marxists today would not accept. which had not yet embarked on the industrial path. which are not present in previous societies. such as India and Russia. if not reproduce another form of capitalism. 180). Marx wrote to Vera Zasulich and other Russian revolutionaries saying that Rus-‐ sians could draw on their particular forms of community and possibly bypass capitalism. But one must ask what was or is the social base of these ideas in countries that encounter capitalism from the “outside. he excluded countries. around the world that are not capitalist. Anderson points out that in the French edi-‐ tion. “The country that is more developed industri-‐ ally only shows. regions with lower levels of productivity that attempt to define alternative paths will inevitably be confronted by capitalist competition. Anderson also argues that when Marx rejected a stage theory of history. This is important because even today there are Marxists who discuss Marx’s historical materialism as a universal theory of his-‐ tory. This is arguably what happened in the case of the Soviet Union and Communist China. As is well known. However. if any. such as free-‐ dom and equality. Anderson has made a major contribution to Marxist scholarship by pointing out the extent to which Marx did not develop a universal the-‐ ory of history. more controversially. he also gave up the idea that socialism must develop out of the contradictions of capitalism. Notice that in the French version. the image of its future” (p. while it is impor-‐ tant to note multiple paths in a precapitalist world. Once they face capitalist competition. Anderson suggests that multilinear history implies multiple paths to socialism and hence must face the question of whether these socialisms are qualitatively similar and whether they have a social basis. italics in the original). and a host of other changes emerge. and Anderson has perhaps saved for a later work how one could square the claim that some countries could possibly avoid capitalism and develop socialism with his theory in Capital about how socialism becomes a possibility as relative-‐surplus-‐value.Book Reviews 213 of criticizing. large-‐scale industry. Anderson argues that this is because he had come into contact with Russian revolutionaries who had read Capital and asked Marx whether Russia had to pass through the same stages as had England (p. the passage read. to those that follow it on the industrial path. However. By claiming that noncapitalist countries that confront capitalism can retain the achievements of capitalism while surpassing it. 178. in a world of capi-‐ talist expansion. they will be forced to mimic aspects of capitalist factory organization.

00 (cloth and e-‐book). Princeton. the nation’s export of Protestant morals indeed shaped the course of America’s cultural expansion and its formal imperial designs from 1880 to 1930.214 journal of world history. Princeton University Press’s latest addition to its America in the World series provides further evidence of the depth and reach of U.S.: Princeton University Press. empire and religion in America to rethink the connections between the two. empire in terms of economy and politics. 2010. In Reforming the World. The careers and actions of American moral reformers. forces scholars of both U. created important nexuses at which American Protestant evan-‐ gelical culture intersected with colonialism. argues that while pundits and policy makers might easily debate the current realities of U. march 2012 task for the future is. and the politics of race and anti-‐imperialism both at home and abroad. “Who Needs Postcolonialism? A Reply to Linder. to discover political possibilities to negate or rather to sublate (aufheben) capitalism from within. and temperance advo-‐ cates.” Radical Philosophy 164 (November–December 2010): 38–44. see Harry Harootunian. By ian tyrrell. his-‐ tory. 4 For another recent attempt to tackle this issue. . Tyrrell’s emphasis on informal networks of moral reform-‐ ers that transcended national and colonial borders and cultures and attempted to create a global moral order rooted in Protestant values. $35. N. a cohort that included missionaries. and the possibility of a future beyond capitalism. viren murthy University of Ottawa Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire. critics of Eurocentrism. the growing hegemony of capitalism. in addition to finding resources on the outside of capitalism. preeminent scholar in the field of transnational U.S. 336 pp. Ian Tyrrell.4 It should definitely be required reading for people who are interested in Marxism. fundraisers.J.S. culture beyond its own borders and of how the myriad experiences of Americans abroad impacted domestic policy and culture in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.S. Anderson’s book is impor-‐ tant precisely because it forces us to ask whether uneven development could lead to a different future and thus hopefully will open a new field of research in the study of Marx and capital.

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