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THEME SECTION

Introduction
Marxian anthropology resurgent

Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

Abstract: This introduction, coming out during the two hundredth anniversary of
Karl Marx’s birth, discusses the distinctiveness of Marxian anthropology and what
it has to offer to our efforts at understanding, and confronting, the complexities
of the social contradictions constituted by—and constitutive of—twenty-first cen-
tury capitalism. The article points out common denominators of Marxian anthro-
pology going back to Marx’s insights, but also offers a cursory social history of the
diverse lineages of enquiry within Marxian anthropology, shaped by the relations
and inequalities of the context in which they emerged. Finally, we discuss certain
crucial fields of engagement in contemporary Marxian anthropology as reflected
in this theme section’s contributions.
Keywords: capitalism, Karl Marx, global and relational analysis, Marxian
anthropology

Something is rotten in the state of the capitalist American “pink tide” response to yet another
world-system. As we finalize this introduction wave of structural adjustment programs enabled
in mid-2018, the world economy is still in the electoral gains for leftist movements (Kalb and
grip of a crisis that began around 10 years ago in Mollona 2018; Kasmir and Carbonella 2014;
the financial centers of advanced capitalist na- Lem and Barber 2010).
tions and spread out from there across the Eu- Yet, successful resistance was often short
ropean Union and into much of Latin America, lived. Syriza budged in the face of German-led
Africa, and Asia (Carrier 2016; Friedman 2015; European Union threats, the pink tide now
Kalb 2012; Narotzky and Besnier 2014). Global faces violent backlashes in Brazil and Argentina,
uprisings emerged soon after the 2008 financial Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement was starved
meltdowns. The Spanish Indignados and the out by Beijing, and the largest workers’ uprising
Greek Syntagma Square movements, for exam- in recent Indonesian history, around the Bekasi
ple, led to the rise of new political parties such Special Economic Zone that employs around
as Podemos and Syriza, much like the Latin one million workers, was beaten down by riot

Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 82 (2018): 1–15


© Stichting Focaal and Berghahn Books
doi:10.3167/fcl.2018.820101
2 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

police forces (Panimbang and Mufakhir 2018). aware—inquiries into the forces that drive the
Beyond this, the so-called Arab Spring upris- current global condition and how they may be
ings across North Africa and the Middle East overcome. At the core of this analytical and em-
were either quashed in similar ways—in Bah- pirical paradigm is a refusal to romanticize, and
rain, for example—or otherwise instrumental- thereby fictionalize, political economies at any
ized by various “holy” alliances that either used scale. Marxian anthropologists do not conjure
armored vehicles and machine guns to spread secure, radically different safe spaces outside of
clerical fascist Islam or used aerial bombing capitalism but rather focus on analyzing peo-
raids, proxy armies, and mercenaries to spread ple’s various struggles within and against his-
Western capitalist democracy. tories dominated by global capitalism—a force
Anthropologists have been vigilant partic- that structures not just people’s economic lives
ipant observers and often activists in many of but also, for instance, their political possibilities
these moments of crisis, resistance, and back- and intimate relationships (Sider 2003). Indeed,
lash. Yet, their empirical accounts and analyzes one strength of Marxian anthropology is its
of what happened, why, and what is to be done analysis of how capitalist logics seep into peo-
differ with regard to their choice of paradigm, ple’s struggles at all scales to the extent that even
the way they frame their research, and the the most intimate terrains, which tend to feel
themes they emphasize. On the one hand, there the most “authentic,” or “our own,” are already
is a strong focus on hope, on care and morality, implicated, usurped, and enclosed by capitalist
and on possibilities for a better future—“anthro- logics.
pologies of the good,” as Sherry Ortner (2016) One central task for any political movement—
calls them. They often engage in meta-descrip- and hence for a critical anthropology of the
tive ethnographic theories and focus on the sub- unevenness of capitalism’s multifarious agency
jective positioning of individuals and sodalities in establishing, consolidating, and refining ex-
in the present—sometimes with due attention ploitation (Gill and Kasmir 2016)—is thus an
to their unwitting complicity with the geon- acute awareness of the successes and pitfalls of
topowers that dominate social conceptions of past struggles. In recent years, faced with a world
life and nonlife (Povinelli 2016; Robbins 2013; they perceive as one of dismay and decay, aca-
Zigon 2018). demics, activists, and, in fact, the global public
This special issue, on the other hand, con- have devoted significant attention to several
tributes to a different trend in anthropology, rounds of anniversaries of historical uprisings.
which emerges from ethnographies and the- As we write this, conferences; features in news-
ories that are critical of the political economy papers, TV, radio, and blogs; academic special
of neoliberal globalization and earlier global issues, edited volumes; and monographs revisit
modes of capitalist exploitation and thus mark a and discuss the significance of the works of Karl
resurgence and advancement of the discipline’s Marx on his two hundredth birthday as well as
long-standing, polyphonic Marxian approaches. the global uprisings of 1968. And whereas many
Their shared focus is not only to record and an- of the 2008 anniversary reflections of 1968 saw
alyze the vicissitudes of neoliberal capitalism student uprisings and worker protests through
but also to build on an active involvement in po- a Western-centric lens, there is an explicit effort
litical and economic struggles (Lem and Leach in 2018 to understand the global character of
2002). It requires anthropologists to continue to protests across all continents. Anthropologists
reflect critically on their own relevance as intel- are making important contributions here, ad-
lectuals embedded in movements for a better vancing an understanding of the sometimes co-
future for the majority of humankind (Narotzky ordinated and certainly entangled and mutually
2015; G. Smith 2014). This requirement facili- referential anti-colonial, anti-imperial and also
tates processual—future-oriented yet historically anti-fascist movements (Becker 2018).
Marxian anthropology resurgent | 3

What is more, current anthropology, and es- thought and links these to the present genera-
pecially so a Marxian anthropology, in its active tion of Marxian anthropologists, of which we
contribution is critical about relegating debates are part.
about 1968 to an ill-defined nostalgia (Baca Our introduction and the contributions to
2018). Instead, there is a serious engagement this special issue are part of a larger project, car-
with the many actors searching for new pathways ried by dozens of scholars who contributed to
toward agency and efficiency in overcoming cap- panels at the American Anthropological Associ-
italist exploitation and its various manifestations ation meetings in Montreal (2011) and Chicago
in global warring and escalating inequalities (2013) and at the International Union for An-
(Carrier and Kalb 2015; Narotzky 2016; Reyna thropological and Ethnological Sciences world
2016). Another anniversary, the 2017 centenary conference in Manchester in 2012. In preparing
of the Russian Revolution, has received far too and running these events, we were fortunate to
little attention. Yet, an extended review article have the support from leading Marxian anthro-
by Don Kalb (forthcoming) establishes the rele- pologists and their networks, such as the An-
vance of that revolution and of related uprisings thropology and Political Economy Seminar and
for anthropological theory. In a juxtaposition the colleagues involved in the editorial board
of the political activities and analytical writings of Focaal, Dialectical Anthropology, Identities,
of Leon Trotsky and Marcel Mauss, Kalb con- and Anthropological Theory. The next section
trasts Trotsky’s class position and active “being seeks to position these contemporary initiatives
there,” which were crucial for his monumental within the long history of Marxian anthropol-
critical assessment of the successes and failures ogy and the diversity of lineages of thought
of 1917, with Mauss’s privileged upbringing un- and enquiry. The second section extends this to
der the wings of his anti-revolutionary, republi- the four articles in this special issue and points
can uncle Émile Durkheim and his Eurocentric toward further crucial fields of engagement in
armchair anthropology comparison of Roman contemporary Marxian anthropology.
and Sanskrit law with contemporary societies in
Melanesia and the Northwestern United States.
With this in mind, this special issue seeks Common denominators and
to contribute to emerging reflections on the multifarious lineages in
role of Marx’s writings for anthropology on the Marxian anthropology
two hundredth anniversary of his birth. In tak-
ing some foundational principles of Marxian For obvious reasons, lineages of Marxian an-
thought in his writings as a starting point, the thropological thought have a common denom-
following also broaches the works of Trotsky, inator, an ancestry in the works of Karl Marx
Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, and other contem- and his coauthor and comrade Friedrich Engels.
poraries of the interwar period in Europe that A fairly recent, detailed introduction into their
have been foundational texts for leading anthro- works, Karl Marx, Anthropologist by Thomas
pologists of the twentieth century such as Peter Patterson, highlights their two-pronged tack-
Worsley (1964, 1970), Eric Wolf (1969, [1982] ling of the analysis of contemporary conditions
2010, 1999), Sidney Mintz (1974, 1985), Kath- of capitalism in the second half of the nine-
leen Gough (1968, 1990), and Jonathan Fried- teenth century.
man (1994, [1979] 1998). In light of the fact that First, Marx and Engel’s early works emerged
these texts remain fundamental inspirations from a keen interest in the localized everyday
for twenty-first century anthropology, this in- life challenges of their contemporaries. Those
troduction revisits and seeks to shed new light were the German and even more so the English
on the many and diverse engagements of earlier working class, with Engel’s The Condition of the
generations of anthropologists with Marxian English Working Class, first published in 1845,
4 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

based on a two-year stint in the then center of Marx’s magnum opus, Das Kapital, opens
English industrial capitalism, Manchester, and with a detailed study of the industrial labor
“a legitimate claim at being the first urban eth- process, on the basis of which Marx identifies
nography” (Patterson 2009: 2). Beyond Europe, and defines how capital is accumulated by the
Marx did his best to draw critical attention, owners of the means of production; capitalists
in the pieces he wrote for the New York Daily (Marx and Engels 1965). The topics and themes
Tribune, to the ambiguities of British colonial covered in those volumes are too numerous to
rule in India: whereas he harbored no roman- list in this introduction, but suffice it to note
ticism for India’s caste system and thought the that an explicit and lively dialogue with Marx
development of India’s railways might shake up and the Marxian thinkers that succeeded him
feudal inequalities (the Indian railways indeed continues today in anthropological work on
grew into a major historical bastion of labor finance, divisions of labor and labor struggles,
unionism), he also analyzed colonialism’s de- ideologies of dispossession, identity politics,
structive impact on the Indian textile industry. migration, social movements, and the incorpo-
Second, besides these works dealing with the ration of kinship structures into social processes
transformations of social life under capitalism, (Aiyer 2008; Friedman and Friedman 2008,
Marx and Engels researched and analyzed the 2013; Glick-Schiller and Çağlar 2016; Goddard
historical emergence of capitalism as a global and Narotzky 2015; Kalb 1997; Kasmir and
systemic force. In the process, Marx put for- Carbonella 2014; Neveling 2015: Nilsen 2010;
ward a theory of world historical change that Strümpell 2014; Steur 2017; Trapido 2016a;
identifies antagonistic classes and their political Weiss 2015).
movements as the major actors. Marx’s focus One of several contemporary currents that
was thus actor-centered and in explicit opposi- emerge from Marx and stand out in anthro-
tion to other nineteenth century scholars, whose pological debates is the notion of primitive
rather mechanistic modeling of change revered accumulation and the related concept of accu-
a Weltgeist (Hegel) or an early version of Super- mulation by dispossession (Franquesa 2016;
man (Nietzsche) as the engines of progress and Hirslund 2016; Kaminer 2015; Narotzky 2016;
regress. Marx developed a critique of the former Nonini 2015; Glick Schiller and Çağlar 2016;
in his famous Theses on Feuerbach and then in Salemink and Rasmussen 2016). In this regard,
The German Ideology, which both attacked the it is paramount to note that Marx’s chapter on
so-called Young Hegelians for their essentialist “The Original Accumulation of Capital” in the
view of the history of humankind as isolated first volume of Das Kapital presents this as a
from political economic processes. Marx and multilinear evolution from the end of the four-
Engels (1998: 571, their italics) insisted that teenth century onward, a combined and uneven
“philosophers have only interpreted the world development driven in part by the growing
in various ways; the point is to change it.” They demand for wool on international markets
lived this ambition as leading figures in the that increased wool prices and thus motivated
communist and socialist movement throughout the British gentry to expropriate dependent
much of their lifetime (Neveling forthcoming). smallholder farmers from their lands and turn
Yet, Marx also set out to criticize and rewrite these into pastures. Whereas some members of
“political economy,” the name given in the that same gentry would fall prey to the seven-
nineteenth century to the social-cum-humanist teenth-century uprisings led by Oliver Crom-
science that, in the legacy of thinkers such as well and his army of levelers that succeeded in
Adam Smith and David Riccardo, informed decapitating the English king, the expropriated
much of the national and imperial policies re- smallholders would be forced into the industri-
sponsible for the poverty and abject exploitation alizing urban centers. By the eighteenth century,
of the global working class. these former smallholders had formed into an
Marxian anthropology resurgent | 5

army of cheap laborers, welcomed by a new of injustice that requires synchronic and dia-
breed of industrialists, whose super-exploitative chronic analysis is certainly and necessarily
factory regimes thrived not least because they incomplete. Still, it underlines the foundations
enjoyed the state’s backing in vagrancy laws that of Marxism, socialism, and communism in its
forced those unwilling to dwell in urban mis- initial design: an impetus for changing a world
ery into workhouses and coerced labor. Yet, characterized by the exploitative rule of the few
Marx’s focus went beyond the usual suspects over the many, which mobilizes a certain dose
that feature in ordinary histories of the making of skepticism toward all too immediate or ha-
of industrial Britain. He also analyzed global bituated, often religiously inspired, moral sen-
processes, such as the problem of creating a suf- timents and instead seeks to align our sense of
ficient number of dependent wage laborers in justice with an analysis of historical processes
the vast British settler colonies where land was profoundly rooted in the lived realities and inti-
available in abundance as long as one was ready macies of human agency. The complex, situated,
to kill local populations. Marx was also explicit and dialectical nature of this endeavor—in both
about the complicity, if not active involvement, the activist and the academic spheres of Marx-
of Scottish highland clan chiefs in the making of ism—is reflected in the historical diversity of
English capitalism, as they used a combination socialist and communist movements that have
of privileged market access, kinship hierarchies, always come in plurals and disagreed on the
and authority to appropriate clan lands and thus analysis of contemporary and historical social
turned their clanspeople into dependent wage process and struggles as much as on the ways
laborers (Marx and Engels 1965 1: 507–547). and means needed for changing the world. This
This global emphasis—where “global” is not diversity, logically, is also reflected in the lin-
simply about “international connections” or eages of Marxian anthropology, which we will
“transnational flows” but rather about keeping go deeper into now.
a constant eye out for the relational totality that In starting our short social history of Marx-
shapes the more seemingly concrete realities of ian anthropology, it should be noted, however,
local social life—remains a unique strongpoint that despite the anthropological tendency in
of Marxian analysis and one that continually Marx and Engels’ writings, academia was void
challenges established facts and fictions of yet of Marxian anthropology until well after World
unenclosed outsides to capitalism (e.g., Turner War II (Kalb forthcoming). In Europe, where
2009). Don Kalb’s forthcoming “Trotsky over sociology and anthropology as the institutional
Mauss,” mentioned in our opening section, for disciplines we recognize as such today devel-
instance, demonstrates that despite the intense oped, canonical thinkers other than Marx worked
synchronic and diachronic analysis of the con- with very different political-intellectual aims. In
ditions of the Russian working class and peas- France, Durkheim was a staunch supporter of
antry that was central to the projects of both the republican counterrevolution that cracked
Lenin and Trotsky before, during, and after down on the Paris Commune uprising in 1871
the revolutionary years, these same revolution- (Hobsbawm 1983). In Germany, Max Weber’s
ary leaders were unprepared for the food and idea-centric, spirited analysis of the origins of
trading embargo from Western advanced capi- capitalism in a Protestant Ethics offered a similar
talist. If anything, Kalb’s analysis of key publica- antidote to Marxian critiques of capitalism’s po-
tions from 2017 and of the works of Lenin and litical economy (Allen [2004] 2017; Frank 1975;
Trotsky thus points to a relative neglect, even by Wolf 1999). Likewise, anthropology’s canoni-
these revolutionaries, of global relations over cal studies before 1945—the writings of Frantz
local data. Boas, Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski, and
This overview of the two-pronged tackling Richard Thurnwald, as well as Edward Evans-
of capitalism as both a local and a global force Pritchard, Meyer Fortes, and Raymond Firth, to
6 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

name but a few—were all published in an aca- cess that would later be brought to perfection in
demic environment that knew little debate and the cotton mills of Lancashire.
certainly no interventions from established left- In taking forward Marx’s work on the global
ist academics. entangledness of capitalist transformations,
Marx, Engels, and their empirical and an- Mintz (1966, 1985, 1996) identified the crucial
alytical project, to large extent, were ghosts in role that refined cane sugar had as a commod-
anthropology until the gradual opening of uni- ity that provided cheap calories for the British
versity education to working-class students in working classes throughout the eighteenth and
Western Europe and the United States in the nineteenth centuries and how, vice versa, the
years after 1945. From then on, demobilized enslaved and indentured populations of the Ca-
soldiers from the US Army had access to grants ribbean were modern-day consumers of British
for university education. One of these was the industrial produce. Mintz’s close engagement
late Sidney Mintz, who worked with other Marx- with political organizations and activists in
ian anthropologists, among them Eric Wolf and Puerto Rico—and other field sites—was more-
Stanley Diamond, on a project at Columbia over evident in his monograph about the life of
University. Headed by Julian Stewart, a cultural Don Taso, his close friend in the Puerto Rican
ecologist with a keen interest in the impact of cane fields. In this he captured how the shift
material conditions on human sociality, these of the once radical, socialist, and anti-colonial
graduate students engaged in the People of Puerto Rican Partido Popular Democratico to-
Puerto Rico project that pioneered the compre- ward embracing US rule and abandoning New
hensive and comparative study of non-Western Deal economic policies had turned his friend
societies as contemporary, modern societies in from one of the leading party and trade union
a capitalist global economy that impacts all hu- organizers in his community to a devout, oth-
mans in comparable, albeit uneven and unequal erworldly Pentecostal Christian (Mintz 1974).
ways (Baca 2016; Palmié et al. 2009; Silverman In similar ways to Mintz, yet from a more
2011). global angle, Wolf engaged anthropology in cen-
Mintz’s contribution to Marxian anthropol- tral conversations among critical social sciences
ogy emerged from his lifetime engagement with and humanities scholars of the era of the Cold
the Caribbean, which from early on he under- War and decolonization. Where Mintz inserted
stood as a sociocultural arena in its own right, an emphasis on the agency of supposedly pe-
shaped by the vicious impact of colonial slavery ripheral locations into the paradigm of depen-
and imperial indenture, plantation cultures, and dency theory and world systems analysis, Wolf
transcolonial capital. In this he often referred developed an anthropologically grounded global
to—and was directly inspired by—radical Ca- history of capitalism in his seminal monograph
ribbean scholars like Eric R. Williams (1942, Europe and the People without History. Central
1944) and C. L. R. James (1938), who thereby to Wolf ’s global historical anthropology was
influenced Marxian anthropology, despite an- “to challenge those who think that Europeans
thropology lacking an institutional presence as were the only ones who made history” and at
a discipline in the Caribbean, as in most of the the same time remain wary of the dangers of ig-
Global South.1 An important intervention in noring the significant power imbalance in any
Marxian thought that Mintz’s engagement with era of world history by adhering to the Marxian
Caribbean realities—and thinkers—produced paradigm that people “make their own history
was the argument that rather than originating but not under conditions of their own choosing.
in England, the capitalist mode of production They do so under the constraints of relation-
in its factory-based format in fact developed ships and forces that direct their will and their
in these Caribbean plantation societies, which desire” (2010 [1982]: xx, 386). In this, Wolf of
were laboratories for the industrial labor pro- course addressed the long-standing practice of
Marxian anthropology resurgent | 7

supremacist Western historiography that had capitalism from feudalism and yet do not see
relegated the study of non-Western societies to the emergence of a bourgeoisie to challenge the
anthropology and the study of European so- feudalist state (e.g., Banaji 1977; Foster-Carter
cieties to sociology. Yet, Wolf also rejected a 1978). The debate began with French Marxian
primitivist strand in anthropology that had anthropologists’ efforts—from Pierre-Philippe
embraced such a division of labor—in Claude Rey, Claude Meillassoux, and Maurice Godelier,
Lévi-Strauss’s notion of societies “whose histo- for example—to systematically expand the no-
ries have remained ‘cold’” and in the otherwise tion of class and class struggle (or its absence)
widespread understanding that non-European to societies in former French colonies in Africa
societies could be regarded as “contemporary (for recent summaries and advances, see Kalb
ancestors” in whom anthropologists of Mauss- 2013; Trapido 2016b). As those societies were
ian and Malinowskian inclination could find considered precapitalist, there was a strong
evidence of the prehistory of Europe. structuralist element in early French analyzes,
In insisting that working classes as much which was successfully shoved aside in Samir
as non-Western societies are contemporaries, Amin’s 1973 book on Le Développement inégal
Wolf engaged with the Marxist notion of the about the uneven articulation of capitalism on
“mode of production” in an emphatically an- African peripheries. Wolf extended Amin’s ap-
thropological manner, rejecting its usage as a proach, which rubricated numerous competing
way of distinguishing—let alone teleological categories of modes of production in precapi-
ordering—societies in favor of using the con- talist, complex, centralized political systems
cept as a means to base any analysis of “cultural” and early empires under the heading “tributary
phenomena in “a specific, historically occurring mode of production,” toward an understanding
set of social relations through which labor is de- of the articulation of such modes, thus captur-
ployed to wrest energy from nature by means ing the interaction of a plurality of organized
of tools, skills, organization, and knowledge.” ways of labor exploitation within an overall cap-
Marx’s axiomatic binary of humans as active italist world economy ( [1982] 2010: 81–85).
agents in their evolution and of the sociality of French Marxian anthropology certainly did
humans—their existence in “organised plurali- not stop at the somewhat failed efforts to explain
ties,” which circumscribe such agency—was thus precapitalist class differentiation in Western
brought into anthropology (74–75). Africa. If Emmanuel Terray (1969) and others
An equally important—and rarer—achieve- initially identified age-group related class strug-
ment of Marxian anthropology was however gles with younger men unhappily subject to the
to turn empirical and theoretical work from financial power and authority of elders and de-
anthropology into a focal point of attention of pendent on bride-price financing, they did so
a major debate in the social sciences and hu- from a position of committed engagement in the
manities around the concept of the mode of French communist movement and in the 1968
production. Throughout the 1970s, major ac- uprisings in Paris, which they sought to steer
ademic journals and numerous monographs toward explicit solidarity not only with the Viet-
debated the modes of production approach as namese liberation movement but also with com-
a paramount pathway for understanding what munist and socialist struggles in Cote d’Ivoire
Trotsky had termed the uneven and combined and other African field sites. Crucially, Terray
development of global, imperial capitalism and and other French Marxian anthropologists were
its coexistence and articulation with non-cap- among the few in the discipline to develop an
italist political economic relations—also with explicit taste for Maoism in the 1970s, which,
reference to Marx’s concept of an Asiatic mode in concert with their training in Lévi-Straussian
of production as a historical condition of polit- structuralist thought and the huge influence of
ical economies that could take the pathway to Louis Althusser in leftist French academia, led
8 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

them to develop their own variant of an ad- United States tackled present-day exploitations,
vanced modes of production research agenda. produced several important reviews and rectifi-
Most studies of the late 1970s and 1980s cations of canonical studies from the Kwakiutl
moved toward detailed analyzes of household potlatch to Edmund Leach’s work on highland
budgets and hierarchies and inequalities driven Burma, and took on the nascent culturalist turn
by kinship structures and beyond. In this sense, and Clifford Geertz as the leading figure of the
French Marxian anthropology was equipped Reaganite backlash in anthropology (Cannizzo
with possibly the wrong tools and foci in or- 1983; Friedman [1979] 1998; Kobrinsky 1975;
der to take on the Foucauldian hype and other Roseberry 1982).
manifestations of the post-structuralist anti-hu- In fact, British anthropology had actively
manism of the late 1980s. Yet, a work such as rid itself of a potentially world-leading figure in
Maidens, Meals and Money by Claude Meillas- Marxian anthropology. Peter Worsley, who was
soux (1981) stands out until today as a formida- from a working-class background, like Mintz,
ble empirical and analytical fusion of the major and managed to enter university as a demobi-
strengths and unique calling points of classical lized soldier of World War II, had published
anthropology—research on kinship, myths, and forceful critiques of the work of Margaret Mead
domestic economies—with major manifesta- in the 1950s already and won prestigious prices
tions of late twentieth-century capitalism—the as a PhD student. Yet, his membership of the
rise of multinational corporations and the super- British communist party meant he was banned
exploitation of a new international division of from entering the then Australian territory of
labor in global sweatshops. Likewise, Maurice Papua New Guinea for field research and had
Godelier’s (1999) work on how the mythopraxis to write his book on Melanesian cargo cults as
of the Baruja in Papua New Guinea is a pillar of anti-colonial movements, The Trumpet Shall
gendered exploitation and, at the same time, a Sound, based on a collection of accounts of oth-
deliberate fabrication that the Baruja men anx- ers (Worsley 1970). Certainly, his forceful call
iously guard from the knowledge base of women, for anthropologists to show solidarity with the
and his 1990s masterful materialist overview of Kenyan Mau Mau rebellion and protest the vi-
The Enigma of the Gift is as timely as ever in an olent British colonial repression in Kenya and
anthropology debate that increasingly revives an elsewhere did little to improve his standing in
outdated and widely falsified canon ritually cen- a British anthropology dependent on funding
tered on Marcel Mauss’s (1954) Essay sur le don. from late British imperial institutions (Worsley
Whereas US and French Marxian anthro- 1957a). When it was made clear to him that he
pology made genuine and widely recognized would have no place in a British anthropology
contributions to wider debates in the social department, Worsley went on to become one
sciences and humanities, especially so in the of the best-selling authors in British sociology
1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, British anthropology and was one of the first authors to write a com-
kept a critical, if appreciative, distance to Marx- prehensive, field-research-based monograph on
ian thought. This is possibly best evidenced in the People’s Republic of China—which he vis-
Maurice Bloch’s introduction to an otherwise ited in 1973, the year of US President Richard
important edited volume on Marxist Analysis Nixon’s world-changing visit to China. His 1964
and Social Anthropology (1975) and in his short publication The Three Worlds, which rewrote
book on Marxism and Anthropology: The History the canon of anthropology from an early world-
of a Relationship (1983). The latter is overly con- system’s angle, is possibly the most underrated
cerned with Marx’s Ethnographic Notebooks and book in anthropology to this day (Worsley 1957b,
thus with the Marxian analysis of precapitalist 1964, 1975).
societies, which is remarkable at a time when If this introduction remains cursory, and
contemporary anthropology in France and the overly focused on the trajectories of Marxian
Marxian anthropology resurgent | 9

anthropology in a few Western countries—by tries like India where, until recently, few bridged
necessity as most anthropological knowledge the gap between the encyclopedic, govern-
production throughout the twentieth century ment-commissioned ethnographies of various
took place in these nation-states—it was in- “tribes” and “castes” and the highbrow, usually
tended to highlight common features. These are, Brahmin-dominated Marxian scholarship of
in the legacy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the subaltern studies school where the written
a lasting commitment to the critique of capi- word (in literary or archival form) took central
talist and other political economies and to the stage and eventually spelled a marked “decline
uneven and combined development of capitalist of the subaltern in subaltern studies” (Sarkar
accumulation and exploitation across the globe. 1996).
Further, Marxian anthropology is an anthropol- That said, the above overview of Marxian
ogy of the contemporary as a necessary product anthropologies is certainly incomplete. Anthro-
of multidimensional and interlinked historical pologists in Brazil and Portugal, for example,
processes, with the synchronic and the dia- have published important critiques of national
chronic as two sides of one coin that is chiefly elites, developmentalism, and migration politics
rooted in ethnographic research in both the (de Lima 2003; Feldman-Bianco 1992; Ribeiro
centers and on the margins of capitalist accu- 1994), and we would hope that our overview is
mulation. Also, Marxian anthropology was and an invitation to others to insert an explicit focus
is subject to historical processes in academia: as on Marxian anthropology into the world an-
David Nugent (2002) so clearly demonstrates, thropologies movement. What is more, younger
anthropological knowledge, including Marx- generations of radical scholars in various coun-
ian anthropology, cannot be analyzed as a lin- tries where anthropology is an institutional
ear process of growth but in fact gets produced latecomer or has been actively suppressed, are
under the same conditions of inequality and attracted to the discipline precisely for its abil-
struggle that characterize the social worlds that ity to facilitate the kind of empirically curious
anthropologists research. yet globally theorizing research that Marxian,
Decades of backlash against progressive anti-imperialist analysis foregrounds and are
thinkers not only affected the career of Peter finding creative ways of entering the disci-
Worsley but also forced many Marxian anthro- pline. Meanwhile, there is a revival of interest
pologists in the United States to tone down the in Marxian anthropology in the older centers of
historical materialist foundations of their re- anthropological knowledge production where
search and analysis in order to maintain a ca- the 2008 crisis and its gradually intensifying ef-
reer (Price 2016). Nazism and fascism as global fects has instilled the awareness that the logic of
ideologies, the Cold War, and other eras of anti- capital may well, after all, be “the real that lurks
Marxist witch hunts certainly also shaped the in the background” (G. Smith 2006, quoting
trajectory of German anthropology and, more Zizek). The contributions to this special issue
profoundly, the massacres of alleged commu- showcase some of the themes and currents de-
nists in Indonesia, Kenya, and elsewhere across bated within Marxian anthropology today.
the decolonizing Third World may have stopped
Marxian anthropology very early in its tracks.
At the same time, communist and socialist na- Contemporary engagements
tions under Stalinism—and after—reduced an- with Marxian anthropology
thropology to ethnology and folklore studies
that were not allowed access to contemporary Each contribution to this theme section engages
issues in their own societies and were extremely overlapping research fields; socialist and post-
nationally-oriented (Hann et al. 2005). This was socialist infrastructures, property regimes, and
even the case in democratically socialist coun- vertical urbanism in Michal Murawski’s arti-
10 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

cle; tourism, heritage, gentrification, and urban ban politics of dispossession. The act of dispos-
planning in the case of Marc Morell; pastoral session is not a standardized pattern, however.
nomadism, boundary making, and uneven his- What happens in Palma is a contemporary ex-
torical incorporation into global capitalism in tension of “the original accumulation of cap-
Riccardo Ciavollela’s article; and human-envi- ital” that Marx analyzed with a focus on land
ronmental relations and materiality from Penny grabbing, turning farmland into pastures for
McCall Howard. Each contribution moreover sheep, and supplying the English wool industry
seeks to show a way beyond mainstream anthro- (1965 1: 507–547). In Palma, the tourism indus-
pology’s “idealist refusal to even recognize cap- try consumes the products of past and present
italism as a coherent category” (N. Smith 2010: human sociability, and the democratic state is
241). If anthropology is threatening to become a a leading facilitator of this, as urban develop-
discipline driven by keywords—“globalization,” ment and heritage policies allow only a limited
“hybridity,” “trans-” and now “millennial capi- and select number of actors to extract surplus
talism,” “neoliberalism,” and “crisis” (Friedman from the global economic processes that are the
2015: 185)—these articles help to overcome the tourism industry. This way, Morell helps address
deficit of explanatory power in the discipline. a hiatus in research and analysis that exists be-
Michal Murawski’s analysis of the Palace of cause the anthropology of tourism is focused
Culture and Science in Warsaw treats this Stalin- on symbolic analyses and not on the politics
ist skyscraper as an emblematic structure. Mov- of (re)production, which determine, for exam-
ing between the palace’s many floors and the ple, what may or may not become marketed as
manifold historical entanglements of the palace heritage at some point. Morell’s discussion of
and the city, Murawski establishes a bird’s eye the relationship between human oeuvres and
view on the state of urban anthropology, as well human labor engages the fact that tourism is a
as on yet another recent turn: the infrastructural world-leading industrial sector and makes this
one. Warsaw’s real-world urban politics have al- central to empirical research and analysis.
ways been concerned with the vertical and the Riccardo Ciavolella’s analysis of political ini-
horizontal. Postmodernist scholars’ claims to tiatives of subaltern groups in the Beninese sa-
“complexify” (Murawski, this issue) deny this vanna also deals with the entangled exploitation
productive dichotomy and thus end up flatten- that transnational migration facilitates. Here,
ing the representation of urban sociality and several subaltern groups with different geneal-
political economy. The multifaceted inequalities ogies of immigration to the region encounter
that planning the planet for capitalism’s ven- the remnants of the developmental state that
tures nurtures, such as gentrification, real estate the Cold War generated throughout the Third
trading, and other stratifying and fragmenting World. This state is Janus-headed in that it offers
features of life in the twenty-first century, city the possibility for social mobility to all while at
come to light as Murawski liberates urban an- the same time nurturing the concentration of
thropology, and, more generally, anthropology’s capital among a few “big hats,” who seek in var-
recent rediscovery of infrastructure, from post- ious ways to incorporate the different groups
modernist analytical bracketing and disappear- into their entrepreneurial ventures. Ciavolella
ance strategies. disassembles the romance of resistance that
Mainstream anthropological analysis—this many anthropologists cling to as they maintain
time of tourism—is also served a helping in Marc static, libertarian misinterpretations of Gramsci’s
Morell’s analysis of the historical political econ- analysis of hegemony under capitalism. Instead,
omy of Palma, the capital of Majorca and the his analysis of hegemony as an unstable project
Balearic Isles. Much like Murawski’s findings reveals that in the Beninese savanna there is not
on capitalist “complexification” in present-day an amoral capitalist economy eating up a pre-
Warsaw, Morell brings to the fore a vertical ur- capitalist moral economy. Accordingly, every ef-
Marxian anthropology resurgent | 11

fort to establish an alternative to a given pattern missive tendencies—vis-à-vis its subaltern inter-
of exploitation in an unstable local social space- locutors and, in the inverse, vis-à-vis its neo-
time is yet also a potential reification for the imperialist funders—Marxian anthropology
same exploitative pattern. This is why, contrary does cherish the (limited) power we have as
to the common celebration of subaltern agency intellectuals to intervene in public debate and
and the romanticist image of organic intellectu- propose emancipatory visions and strategies.
als leading localized struggles, the struggle for a Indeed, in the year of Marx’s two hundredth
better life among Fulani herders and others re- birthday we may finally, as a discipline, make
quires capacities for changing global, translocal the move beyond Cold War fears and myths and
configurations of capital. rediscover Marx as someone who combined a
The final article in this theme section, by powerful analytical and public role in confront-
Penny McCall Howard, addresses the character- ing capitalism with a continuous doubt and
istic of the configuration of global capital that is restlessness about even his own analyses and
perhaps most rapidly emerging in political con- strategies. Rather than seeking to escape into
sciousness, namely its tendency to destroy the the search for a purer, less cumbersome outside
planet’s vital systems. Fully sympathetic to the to these contradictions, doubts pushed him to
concerns behind new trends in anthropology always try to go deeper in his analysis, embrac-
that focus on global environmental crisis and ing the new theoretical complications and po-
that have developed new methodological and litical challenges that emerge as capitalism as a
theoretical approaches to do so, McCall How- relational process continues. What perhaps dis-
ard’s article, however, warns that “post-human” tinguishes us most as Marxian anthropologists is
or “beyond-human” anthropologies avoid en- likewise this determination to struggle intellec-
gagement with the greatest rift causing environ- tually within the social and relational contradic-
mental destruction, that is, the capitalist class tions of capitalism, convinced that it is only as a
relations that assign the control of human rela- whole, and through class struggle, that human-
tions with their environments to a tiny elite who kind can truly escape injustice. Thus, in the pres-
subject these relations to capital’s endless need ent, with neoliberal capitalism’s house of divisive
for accumulating surplus. The article backs this cards on fire and everyone smelling smoke and
argument up with detailed ethnographic in- feeling the heat, a resurgent Marxian anthropol-
sights into the changing working lives and sub- ogy illuminates the particular intimate, lived re-
jectivities of Scottish fishers. At the same time, alities of turmoil and at the same time confronts
however, it offers a clear and sophisticated ex- the exploitative, exclusionary logics of the rela-
posé of the difference between the new wave of tional process of capitalism as a whole.
materialism in anthropology and the relational
and historical materialism of Marxian anthro-
pology, demonstrating why the latter can pro- Acknowledgments
duce the kind of sharp analysis and critique that
can confront the planet’s present crisis. We would like to dedicate this special issue to
The contributions to this special issue thus the memory of our friend and comrade Ananth
propose Marxian ways out of the predicament Aiyer, who passed away unexpectedly in the
that capitalism has posed and continues to pose spring of 2015. Ananth provided generous and
for mainstream anthropology. They contribute constant support to our project, and his cha-
to an anthropology that is not so intimidated risma, commitment, and insights are much
by “grand narratives” that it jettisons the search missed. We also owe much to all other speakers,
for coherent, unifying theories altogether. And discussants, chairs, and audience members on
while continuing the effort to scrutinize anthro- panels at the 2011 AAA meeting in Montreal,
pology’s imperialist and at the same time sub- the 2013 AAA meeting in Chicago, and the 2012
12 | Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

IUAES world conference in Manchester. Special Aiyer, Ananth. 2008. “The allure of the transna-
thanks go to Nicholas de Genova for proposing tional: Notes on some aspects of the political
the project title, “Marxism Resurgent”; to Don economy of water in India.” Cultural Anthropol-
Kalb and Stephen Reyna, who both have been ogy 22 (4): 640–658.
invaluable advisers; and to the peer reviewers Amin, Samir. 1976. Unequal development: An essay
on the social formations of peripheral capitalism.
for this special issue.
Hassocks: Harvester Press.
Baca, George. 2016. “Sidney W. Mintz: From the
Mundial Upheaval Society to a dialectical
Patrick Neveling (PhD, Social Anthropology, anthropology.” Dialectical Anthropology 40 (1):
Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg) 1–11.
is Researcher at the Historical Institute of the Baca, George. 2018. “Class without production,
University of Bern. He is also an Associate at the history without materialism, and US politics
Department of Social Anthropology at the Uni- without racism.” Dialectical Anthropology 42 (1):
versity of Bergen. Patrick has published widely 17–23.
on the historical anthropology of capitalism and Banaji, Jairus. 1977. “Modes of production in a
is an editor of FocaalBlog. He is currently final- materialist conception of history. “ Capital and
izing a book manuscript on the global historical Class 1 (3): 1–44.
Becker, Heike. 2018. “‘Global 1968’ on the African
anthropology of export processing zones and
continent.” FocaalBlog, 9 February. http://www
special economic zones since 1947. .focaalblog.com/2018/02/09/heike-becker-
Email: Patrick.Neveling@uib.no global-1968-on-the-african-continent.
Bloch, Maurice. 1975. “Introduction.” In Marxist
Luisa Steur (PhD, Sociology and Social Anthro- analyzes and social anthropology, ed. Maurice
pology, Central European University, Budapest) Bloch, xi–xiv. London: Malaby Press.
is Assistant Professor in the Department of An- Bloch, Maurice. 1983. Marxism and anthropology:
thropology at the University of Amsterdam. She The history of a relationship. Oxford: Claredon
is the author of Indigenist Mobilization: Con- Press.
fronting Electoral Communism and Precarious Cannizzo, Jeanne. 1983. “George Hunt and the
Livelihoods in Post-reform Kerala (Berghahn invention of Kwakiutl culture.” Canadian Review
of Sociology and Anthropology 20 (1): 44.
Books, 2017). She is also managing and lead
Carrier, James G. 2016. After the crisis: Anthropo-
editor of Focaal. Her current work focuses on
logical thought, neoliberalism and the aftermath,
Afro-Cuban/black activism, socialist ideology, Routledge studies in anthropology. London:
and everyday politics in the context of capitalist Routledge.
transformation in Havana. Carrier, James, and Don Kalb, eds. 2015. Anthro-
Email: L.J.Steur@uva.nl pologies of class: Power, practice and inequality.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
de Lima, Maria Antónia Pedroso. 2003. Grandes
Note famílias, grandes empresas: Ensaio antropológico
sobre uma elite de Lisboa [Grand families, major
companies: An anthropological study of Lisbon’s
1. For other such important cross-disciplinary
elite]. Lisbon: D. Quixote.
influences from the Global South, see Nugent
Feldman-Bianco, Bela. 1992. “Multiple layers of time
(2002).
and space: The construction of class, ethnicity,
and nationalism among Portuguese immigrants.”
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 645
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