Issue 103 (Autumn 2014)

103boritoThe contents of this issue – not for the first time in the journal’s history – reflect upon the contradictions and tendencies of the changing world order of our time, building upon the experiences of the last 25 years. In the last quarter of a century wars and genocides – often waged under the banner of democracy – have remained a part of the life of many nations around the world. Peripheries and semi-peripheries have suffered the most under the different processes of change as the very structures and hierarchies of their societies reflect their subordination to the centers of the world-system. Even most movements attempting to decouple and gain more elbow-room are more often than not misguided extensions of this developmental trend.

We look back at the fate of left-wing, anti-capitalist intellectual initiatives by dissidents in the era of state socialism, with the benefit of hindsight we have today. Should we reconcile ourselves to hopelessness?

We pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the economist András Vígvári, who died recently.

Table of contents

Current affairs

Samir Amin: The European election of May 2014. A further stage in the implosion of the European project.
History

Rwanda: roots of a genocide. Interview by Mehdi Ba, editor of the journal Jeune Afrique , with the historians Jean-Pierre Chrétien and Marcel Kabanda

Jean-Pierre Chrétien: A „tropical nazism” in Rwanda? The logic of genocide

The genocide that occurred in Rwanda 20 years ago, resulting in almost a million deaths cannot be considered simply as a consequence of ‘traditional tribal conflicts’ between ethnic groups engaged in different kinds of agricultural activities that had coexisted along the African Great Lakes for over half a millennium. An undeniable responsibility is borne by European colonizers (first German, later on Belgian) who, following the pseudo-scientific, ethnicist and racist ‘Hamitic theory’ – much in the fashion of Nazi race theory – classified African societies into inferior and superior ‘races’, constructing the mental framework for Hutis being regarded as the ‘Jews of Africa’, which ultimately led to genocide.

Dániel Vázsonyi: Social theory by neo-Marxist dissidents during the “long Sixties” (1963-1974) in Hungary

This study reviews the attempts following de-Stalinization to apply Marxist theory in Hungary as a tool of social critique under the constraints of the state socialist system. Philosophical theories of human needs and autonomy, critical sociology exposing hierarchies and alienation under state socialism and attempts to reinterpret Marx’s economic theories (above all the well-known book by Bence and Kis, How is a Critical Economy Possible?) are surveyed by the author.

While the first two attempts came to an abrupt end largely thanks to political decisions in the seventies which blacklisted critical Marxism, the last one, due to a narrow and mechanical reading of Marx, led to a position of radical social-democracy, later on metamorphosing into simple bourgeois liberalism, surrendering totally the principle workers’ self-management.

Analysis

Marcello Musto: Az Rethinking the concept of alienation

Is alienation in human societies a supra-historical phenomenon, or something specific to a particular historical epoch? We find widely differing answers to this question from Existentialists, representatives of the Frankfurt School, in American sociology and from Marx and his followers. Different answers serve different purposes in our society.

Vivek Chibber: Capitalism, Class, and Universalism: Escaping the Cul-de-sac of Postcolonial Theory

Post-colonial theories reject the main conceptual categories of the socialist tradition. The advocates of post-colonial theory find fault with the ‘universalist’ inclinations of the latter, in other words, with the attempt – dating back to the Enlightenment – that certain categories can be considered valid irrespective of the cultural context and location of the object of analysis. Marxism is thereby regarded as an extreme representative of this ‘deadly’ tradition of the Enlightenment. Marxists claim that certain concepts such as class, domination, capitalism, exploitation and so on can be applied across cultural boundaries. Should we then abandon the conceptual tools enabling the analysis of contemporary capitalism in the name of cultural pluralism and local Gods?

Péter Szigeti: The relevance of Karl Marx in today’s global capitalism

The soundness of critical social theory based on Marx’s theories is investigated from two angles. One is the question of continuities and discontinuities in the history of capitalism, the other the novelty and tenacity of the intellectual foundations of the Marxian edifice.

Rebuttals

Partha Chatterjee: Subaltern Studies and Capital

A rejoinder to the article of Vivek Chibber above. Partha Chatterjee provides more background to understand the paradigm of ‘Subaltern Studies’ better, and therefore the specificity of the ‘Third World’. To what extent and exactly how is the Marxian methodology applicable here?

Bookmark

Alpár Bezzegh: Psychological warfare

Sz. I. Filonyenko – M. I. Filonyenko: Psychological Warfare at the Don-river. Myths of fascist propaganda 1942–1943. Budapest, L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2012.

Faces

Ágoston Fáber: Determinism, epistemological rupture and social critique in the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski

The article compares the views of the 2 great French sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski concerning the question of determinism, the relation between the social scientist and social actors, and the possibility of social critique. Bourdieu focused more on deterministic macro-laws shaping individual behavior and considered it the duty of a social scientist to expose the mechanisms of domination, laying the basis for social critique and political action. In contrast Boltanski’s work puts more emphasis on the relative freedom of individuals and their discursive and self-interpreting capacities, which can and should be mobilized for social critique as well. These questions keep on recurring in the history of critical sociology.

A different way – a different view

László Tütő: Acquiescence, „better to ignore” and the ethics of the eager beaver. The many faces of withdrawal

Does an artist mean to communicate something with her/his work? Does a work of art have a role to assist the individual’s orientation in the world? If the answer is affirmative, we may justifiably confront art with not only aesthetic criteria, but also substantive. The study highlights these latter, and analyzes the general social function of art.

 

Documents

Giovanni Arrighi: The Developmentalist Illusion: A Reconceptualization of the Semiperiphery

We republish this foundational article of the recently deceased great theoretician of world-systems theory, Giovanni Arrighi, in a new and improved Hungarian translation (published previously in Eszmélet, 1992. 4 (15–16): 145–180.). Not only has the article not lost any of its relevance, the last 25 years have proved its validity more than ever. On Arrighi’s biography and intellectual development see the interview by David Harvey, published in Eszmélet issue 84 (winter of 2009).

 

András Vigvári

Following the recent death of András Vigvári, member of the advisory board of Eszmélet, we pay tribute to him by publishing his talk, delivered in 12 March 1993 at a debate on privatization organized by Left Alternative Collective (Baloldali Alternatíva Egyesülés), where he was a founding member. While official eulogies made no mention of the left-wing commitment of András Vígvári, we find it important to highlight once more his political beliefs.

 

Associations

Péter Szigeti: Dear Lukács

Thirty years have passed since the publishing of András Nagy’s fine philosophical novel, Dear Lukács. Proceeding in the same vein, we commemorate the journey of György Lukács by this apocryphal letter, looking back at the life of the philosopher as a young man.