Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that, with the collapse of Com- munism, the theoretical project of Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more timely and important. Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “ postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency. Ellen Meiksins Wood. · Rating details · 94 ratings · 9 reviews. This study argues that understanding Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more important.

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Similarly, it needs to be said – and here I return briefly to the first part of the book – the relevance of ‘anti-economism’. Meiksins Wood stresses the importance of class struggle as both a process and a relationship rather than as a structure. Lists with This Book. The modern concept of democracy, on the other hand, had its origin in a very different period and struggle, that of feudal lords against the monarchy.

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Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism

Meiksins Wood asks an interesting question: Strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in democratic theory that wants to read an interesting input from the left side of the field. There is much that is interesting and persuasive in her account.

The left needs to assert this proper meaning of democracy – direct popular power – against capitalism. It relates to the second odd omission, which is that there is no discussion of the substantial Marxist literature on alternative democratic state forms, from Marx on the Paris Commune, through Lenin’s ‘State and Revolution’, to the wide range of historical examples of workers’ council type bodies including, for example, Hungary inand Poland in This book is like leftist brain bleach for anyone who looks at our world’s decaying ecological state, rising far-right extremism, and decaying standards of life across the Western world.

Etc The distinction EMW makes between ‘liberalism’ and ‘democracy’ is, for sure, a valid and suggestive one. Tom Vine rated it it was amazing Jul 21, There’s one aspect of all this which is relevant to our debate, so I’ll come back to it later; otherwise, I’ll leave that there – except to say that I agree with EMW. Human liberation means freeing ourselves from this form of rule. Wood argues, however, that current accounts of civil society that present it as a sphere of freedom versus the coercion of the state are one-sided idealizations.

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In essence, feudal relations became subject – in a class struggle in which classes fought for their own immediate interests – to market imperatives.

Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism by Ellen Meiksins Wood

Take racism, for example. Even the American constitution is based on a radically different concept of democracy to the ancient Athenian one. But I think she makes too much of the anti-democratic content of modern ‘democracy’ beginning with the American war of independence, which, she argues, crucially ‘redefined’ democracy so as not to mean popular rule.

See the current issue. While she relies a bit too heavily on Robert Brenner’s property theory as the key social relationship necessary for capitalism, most else is spot on. History or technological determinism? Factually, also, therefore, the ‘commercialisation model’ misses the point. The relationship between ‘bourgeois revolution’ and the bourgeoisie itself, or capitalist development itself, has always been, I think, more schematic in Marxist theory than Wood suggests.

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Darren Poynton rated it it was amazing Feb 05, Open Preview See a Problem?

Refresh and try again. Wood served on the editorial committee of the British journal New Left Review between and We can no longer see the There are similarities here – although I’m sure Meiksins Wood would not agree – with some of Althusser’s writing in ‘Reading Capital’ which highlights how we fail to see the structure of society wrapped around the content.

Is it true that ‘actually existing capitalism’ achieves this separation? There is, as some Marxists used to like to say, a certain ‘relative’ autonomy to the history of ideas. But why can’t it simply be said that this is ‘how it happened’ – not that it could not have happened any other way, or that modern capitalist society was a fully-grown chicken in the egg of the Renaissance; but that this was the completely un-teleological process by which modern capitalism emerged?

I think there is a tendency to a kind of reductionism in Wood’s approach to these questions something which, in other areas, such as class, she is firmly opposed to.

In broad historical perspective, the French revolution was surely more than merely a transfer of political power – it surely represented something new – hugely, irreversibly new – in human history. No trivia or quizzes yet. From toWood was an editor, along with Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, of Monthly Review, the independent mekisins magazine.


She does not use the term ‘merchant capital’ at all, nor discuss it, though it is hardly an obscure category in Marxist theory, including theories of global capitalist development. In the second part, Meiksins Wood draws on her analysis of ancient democracy to contrast the modern concept of ‘formal’ democracy meoksins ancient politics.

Sydney Preston rated it it was amazing Feb 01, My library Help Advanced Book Search. But the principles and demands wiod were animating the revolutions themselves, including the working class and broadly ‘plebian’ components, were properly democratic, even if they were not on the Athenian model.

The other argument is less relevant to the overall discussion here, so I’ll deal with it only briefly. Sign up for our Solidarity Newsletter.

Rob Smith rated it really wodo it Sep 17, The specificity of capitalism that Wood stresses in her interpretation of historical materialism is also agaibst basis of her analysis of democracy and how it came to be associated with capitalism. How did we get here from there? Wood’s argument is that other contemporary approaches can critique elements of capitalism and its culture but only marxism can get to grips with both the idea and the practice of capitalism.

The extraction of surplus in the USSR was plainly ‘extra-economic’, requiring an immense state apparatus to achieve it. Wood argues that the Enlightenment was not simply neiksins do with the emergence of capitalism, but reflected ‘non-capitalist’ ideologies. But re-reading my original article on Jack Conrad, and the article itself which I reviewed, I can see little reason to change anything in elen of Ellen Meiksins Wood. I don’t think she would deny this; but the precise political relevance of the Athenian model is never spelled out – and since the whole question of democracy is at least in some regard a debate about institutional forms, demcoracy seems an odd omission.

Therefore a vision of human liberation requires a theory and practice of a more universal form than current identity politics provides.