I want to highlight two pieces I’ve read in recent days.
The first is an interview with Erik Olin Wright, Analytical Marxism and Real Utopias. The University of Wisconsin sociologist was one of the central figures of the analytical Marxist movement, which arose in the 1980s as an attempt to clarify and sharpen historical materialism into a social scientific mode of analysis. In Wright’s words,
“The central elements on this approach are a commitment to conventional scientific norms, an emphasis on the importance of systematic clarification of concepts, a concern with very fine-grained specification of the steps in theoretical arguments, and a concern with linking micro-analysis of individuals and their motivations to macro problems.”
Although the movement has died down, Wright has remained one of the most prominent social scientists working with a focus on the changing dynamics of class in Western, developed societies. Today he is best known for his Real Utopias Project, which focuses on discovering and explicating the latent elements of emancipatory social practices within capitalist societies. These include participatory budgeting, worker co-ops like the Mondragon model, and the idea of an unconditional basic income.
The second piece is Goran Therborn’s “Class in the 21st Century”. For Therborn, economic stagnation and the unfulfilled promises of neoliberalism have led to an uneven development in today’s geopolitical picture. “Europe can no longer provide a global perspective for emancipation, development and justice,” he writes; “For now, such visions are lacking even for the continent itself.” The struggle between the masses and the middle class will take place elsewhere. The Left’s success now depends not on the organization of the working classes in the Western industrial democracies, but on East Asia and Latin America.
I hope to blog further on this topic – namely the emancipatory potential of new institutions and organizational practices in light of the changing global dynamics – at greater length in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the articles.