Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mubarak, your plane is waiting!

The spreading of the resistance from Tunisia to brutal Western backed dictatorships across the Arab world, above all in Egypt is tremendous - - see here and here for updates - an inspiration to everyone who wants liberation in the region and internationally. In Britain, it is the task of socialists to not only stand in solidarity with such heroic and revolutionary struggles but through ideas and organisation to try and help ignite a similar revolutionary spirit here to bring down Cameron and Clegg's rotten regime here - which means initially trying to build the protests over education cuts and fees this Saturday in London and Manchester.

Incidentally, observers of the Tunisian Revolution might spare a thought for Beatrice Hibou, author of a forthcoming Polity press book, The Force of Obedience: The Political Economy of Repression in Tunisia:

This highly original book is a detailed analysis of the everyday mechanisms of domination and repression that enable political regimes to function and to secure the submission of their populations. It takes modern-day Tunisia as its object of analysis but this book is not just a case study of a particular country: it is a brilliant analysis of the politics and economic life under which we all live today. Hibou combines two intellectual traditions, drawing on Weber and Foucault, in order to scrutinize the modes of government and the apparatuses that regulate the concrete exercise of power. Starting from an analysis of the Tunisian economy, she lays bare the mechanisms of subjection. She explains how the debt economy, the tax system, the management of privatizations, and the organization of social solidarity and welfare all create processes of mutual dependence between the governing and the governed. As a result, repression and police control appear to play a less central role than the accommodations, calculated stratagems, day-by-day compromises, and reciprocal interdependencies which, together, secure the daily legitimizing of the regime. Above and beyond the case of Tunisia, this brilliant work unveils the processes through which authoritarian regimes are perpetuated. It sheds light on the mechanisms of domination at work in apparently democratic states too.

Sadly, her methological reliance on Weber and Foucault to study the 'mechanisms of domination and repression that enable political regimes to function and to secure the submission of their populations' mean that by the time her book about how 'authoritarian regimes are perpetuated' appears later this year, the book - whatever other undoubted other merits it has - will have been rather a little outdated and undermined in the most glorious fashion by the force of events...

Anyway, shades of Andre Gorz in 1968 aside, it would perhaps be unfair to suggest to say that a more old-fashioned use of Marx might have helped Hibou's study - after all revolutions by their nature take everyone by surprise when they happen to some extent - as well, Marx himself put it, they come 'like a thief in the night'. However, it is the beauty of revolutionary upheavals - and this is something Marx grasped better than anyone - that their very possibility is rarely even countenanced by traditional intellectuals, for the whole foundation of bourgeois thought (Weber/Foucault etc) is predicated on the idea that revolutionary upheavals are in the past, finito. They can apparently no longer happen in advanced capitalist societies, where people are apparently forever submissive, locked into eternal small power struggles, where 'accommodations, calculated stratagems, day-by-day compromises, and reciprocal interdependencies which, together, secure the daily legitimizing of the regime' (to quote Hibou again). Accordingly, as Marx put it, for the bourgeoisie, 'there has been history, but there is no longer any'. Fortunately, those who stand in the classical Marxist tradition with its understanding of the centrality of social class, and class struggle, are unlikely to stress 'The Force of Obedience' in any study of 'the political economy of repression', even in the most obscenely vicious and brutal dictatorships, for they tend to have a slightly better sense of the ever-present possibilities of social change, resistance and revolt...

Labels: , , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home