Critical Political Studies

Critical Political Studies: Debates and Dialogues from the Left

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Critical Political Studies
    Book Description:

    Written as a tribute to the remarkable intellectual career of Colin Leys, the debates in this book deal with some of the most pressing problems confronting the majority of citizens in both first world and third world contexts. Their contributions provide the confidence to pursue new possibilities that permit a more optimistic, if critical, outlook. Topics covered include contemporary debates about globalization and the nation state, African development, prospects for British socialism after Blair, social movements, and current issues in political and social theory. Contributors include Laurie Adkin (University of Alberta), Abigail Bakan, Bruce Berman (Queen's University), Manfred Bienefeld (Carleton University), Alex Callinicos (University of York, UK), Bonnie Campbell (University of Quebec at Montreal), Michael Chege (University of Florida), Radhika Desai (University of Victoria), Lauren Dobell (PhD candidate, Oxford University), Phil Goldman (Queen's University), Banu Helvacioglu (Bilkent University, Turkey), Robert Jessop (University of Lancaster, UK), Colin Leys (emeritus, Queen's University), Eleanor MacDonald, Marguerite Mendell (Concordia University), Leo Panitch (York University), Anne Phillips (London School of Economics and Political Science), and John Saul (Atkinson College, York University).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6956-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Key to Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Biography: Colin Temple Leys
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction: From Colin Leys to Counter-Hegemony: Debates and Dialogues from the Left
    (pp. 3-10)

    As we enter the new millennium, a rising interest in social change and the prospects for the achievement of social justice is capturing the imaginations of intellectual communities and wider social forces in countries around the world. This sentiment was expressed with explosive determination when the World Trade Organization’s Millennium Round Meeting was successfully shut down by mass protests in Seattle, Washington, usa, in late November and early December of 1999. Since that time, a new movement for global justice has found its voice. Yet the sentiment that found expression in Seattle did not emerge from nowhere. For months and...

  7. National Politics in a Global Economy: Reflections on the British Experience
    (pp. 11-36)

    It is no longer possible to understand the national politics of any country – except perhaps those of the one remaining superpower – without analysing the impact of global market forces. The economic environment can no longer be treated as a fixed parameter, still less a dependent variable. The influence on a country’s domestic policies of external agencies like the World Trade Organization (WTO), or foreign investors in the bond markets, is now as significant in the politics of most Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) countries as the influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank and the Paris Club...

    • Introduction
      (pp. 39-40)

      For centuries, British politics has been at the centre of international debates. The articles in part 1 of this collection consider the impact of politics in Britain over the recent turn of the millennium, focusing on the years of transition from Margaret Thatcher’s ultra-conservative Tory rule to Tony Blair’s pro-market Labour government.

      In this section the authors grapple with such issues as the implications of the decline of the Keynesian welfare national state, the relevance of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony to conditions of late capitalism, the rise and fall of the Labour left, and the potential longterm impact of...

    • Revisiting Thatcherism and Its Political Economy: Hegemonic Projects, Accumulation Strategies, and the Question of Internationalization
      (pp. 41-56)

      I am pleased to participate in this festschrift on Colin Leys and his work. Colin Leys and I have long shared interests in postwar British politics and Thatcherism, as exemplified by his critique, inNew Left Review, of a monograph onThatcherismthat I co-authored.¹ Amidst some characteristically generous comments on our book, Colin offered three main criticisms. First, in emphasizing the political economy of Thatcherism, we neglected its hegemonic moments. We thereby understated how far its success was politico-ideological rather than economic. Second, our political economy was one-sidedly concerned with more domestic aspects of the background, overall project, and...

    • Rethinking the Labour Party’s Transition from Socialism to Capitalism
      (pp. 57-66)

      In what sense can we speak of a “transitionfromsocialism” under Tony Blair?¹ After all, the Labour Party was never predominantly or unproblematically socialist. What Blair symbolizes is a social democracy that has rid itself of all socialist pretence and, more important, of all socialist possibility; that is, it represents a party that revels in its defeat of those elements within its ranks that sought to revive socialist strategies and prospects in our era. It presents this triumph over socialism as the necessary condition of its electoral success. Blair’s success will likely be taken as a model by other...

    • Tony Blair and the British Left
      (pp. 67-88)

      The British general election of 1 May 1997 may be one of the great watersheds in modern electoral politics. An estimated 3.2 million voters who had backed John Major’s Conservative Government in April 1992 now abandoned the Tories.¹ They helped to produce a landslide victory for the Labour Party under Tony Blair, whose majority of 179 seats was even greater than the majority won by the historic Attlee government in 1945. The Tories were reduced to their smallest number of seats since another great landslide, the Liberal victory of 1906. The eighteen years in which Britain had been a testing...

    • Introduction
      (pp. 91-93)

      Part two shifts the focus to a region that has reaped few benefits from its long-standing integration with global capitalism. Looking at politics in Africa, this section considers a region that has been a focal point for Colin Leys’s contribution to critical scholarship and, also, that has been at the centre of debates regarding underdevelopment theory since the 1960s. The essays in this section will be highly informative for those who are regional specialists, and no less engaging for those interested in the theoretical problematic of the uneven impact of the global market.

      John S. Saul introduces this section with,...

    • Afropessimism/optimism: The Antinomies of Colin Leys
      (pp. 94-112)
      JOHN S. SAUL

      It is at least fifteen years since the literature began to be full of references of an African “crisis.” Today it seems more appropriate to use another word, not just because “crisis” has been so overworked in so many contexts, but because Africa is not in fact balanced on a knife between recovery and collapse: it is a tragedy that is already far advanced. Millions of people have already died from hunger, disease and violence, and millions more face Hobbesian existences in conditions of accelerating environmental and social degradation: famines, chronic malnutrition, the collapse of health services, the erosion of...

    • Caught in the Contradictions: The State in Kenya, 1945–2000
      (pp. 113-134)

      During the “Kenya debate” of the early 1980s, proponents on both the Marxist and dependency sides of the issue generally assumed the existence in Kenya of a dominant and effective state, capable of acting to ensure the conditions of accumulation, whether by international capital or the indigenous bourgeoisie.¹ Focused on evidence from the Kenyatta years (1963–78) of generally robust economic growth and relative political stability, neither side of the debate was capable of effectively dealing with the changed circumstances of the 1980s and 1990s, when increasing economic stagnation, growing political disorder, and increasing evidence of decay of the state...

    • Constructing a Development Agenda for Namibia
      (pp. 135-155)

      In early 1996, a new species of joke was all the rage among the wellgroomed young urbanites populating Windhoek’s trendy hangouts. The following is illustrative of the genre: “Two cows were perched in a tree playing cards. One of the cows, obviously exasperated, suddenly flung down her cards, climbed down from the tree and stormed away. Just then an egg flew by. ‘Say egg,’ said the remaining cow, ‘wouldn’t you like to play cards with me?’ ‘Not now,’ the egg replied, ‘I must go comb my hair.’” It is possible to read too much into such a surreal brand of...

    • Political Dimensions of the Adjustment Experience of Côte d’Ivoire
      (pp. 156-178)

      There was a certain degree of incredulity in October 1995 when former President Konan Bédié decided that in order to win that year’s elections convincingly he would be attributed an inflated 95 per cent majority. His victory had, in any case, left nothing to chance: the electoral code had been modified to exclude the only realistic opponent. Even his most loyal supporters within the French Government must have been somewhat embarrassed by this disregard for appearances. Had he had the opportunity, he would most probably have attempted a similar score in the October 2000 election, where once again he had...

    • Introducing Race As a Variable Into the Political Economy of Kenya Debate: An Incendiary Idea
      (pp. 179-202)

      The debate on whether indigenous capitalism in Kenya could underwrite the economic transformation of the country, with or without the support of international capital, was all the rage in the late 1970s and early 1980s.¹ Writing in what appeared to be the terminal phase of it, Gavin Kitching predicted that the debate would end – like the famous “Brenner” controversy on the origins of agrarian capitalism in Europe – in mutual exhaustion and with no identifiable victor.² In Kitching’s view, two major factors had inexorably steered the debate to a dead end: first, inability to acquire hard data on the inner strategies...

    • Introduction
      (pp. 205-207)

      In part three, we turn our attention to strategic questions in the politics of transformation. These articles address global hegemonic forces and institutions, the politics of justice, and the theory and practice of social movements.

      Manfred Bienefeld’s “Development Theory: A New Hegemonic Ideology?” asks a provocative question. Why is it that, over recent decades, a concept “so weak and implausible” as the neoliberal “manufactured consensus that both reflects and rationalizes the accelerating advance of market forces around the world” could claim pride of hegemonic place in development policy and theory? Bienefeld considers what is necessary for an ideology to obtain...

    • Development Theory: A New Hegemonic Ideology?
      (pp. 208-231)

      In the last twenty years, development theory, like development policy, has been overwhelmed by a manufactured consensus that both reflects and rationalizes the accelerating advance of market forces around the world. But, no matter how often the universality of this new hegemonic ideology is proclaimed, skepticism remains widespread outside of the corridors of power. This is likely to remain so as long as the resulting policies continue to wreak havoc with so many people’s lives, and as long as the theoretical, empirical, and historical foundations of this ideology remain so weak and implausible. Indeed, what needs to be explained is...

    • Capital, Marxism, and the World Economy: APEC and the MAI
      (pp. 232-257)

      In the twenty-first century, it it is widely accepted that we live in a new era in the world economy. One of the most notable features of the times is the apparent proliferation of international trade and investment agreements, organizations, and accords, notably the World Trade Organization (WTO), which became a target of anti-corporate protest when its representatives met in Seattle, Washington in November-December 1999. Other trade arrangements include the move towards a single European common market and the establishment of the Euro currency, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA),...

    • Amnesty: An Essay in Law and Politics
      (pp. 258-280)

      One of the difficult truths of contemporary political life is that there can be little if any justice measured out to the victims of great political crimes. The position can be argued in different ways. For example, truly horrific crimes necessarily escape redress because there is no proportionate penalty that can possibly make up for the evil committed. Even capital punishment is a diminished response to torture, rape, and murder committed on a large scale. Or, simply too many people are involved in carrying out the violence against the innocent to ever allow for rooting out enough of them to...

    • The Rise and Fall of New Social Movement Theory?
      (pp. 281-318)

      Since the mid-1980s, contending perspectives have called into question the modernist assumptions underpinning post-Marxist new social movement theory (nsmt). The latter was itself an attempt to surpass the reductionism, economism, and evolutionism found in Marxist theory, while retaining the emancipatory impetus of Marxism and other radical critiques of the hegemonic order. From the perspective of post-Marxist nsmt, two things have been at stake all along: one, reformulation of a historical theory of emancipation and, two, the search for new collective actors or historical movements that could be the “carriers” of an emancipatory project. For some writers, nsmt has been about...

    • The Social Economy in Québec: Discourses and Strategies
      (pp. 319-344)

      In 1992, Colin Leys and I edited a collection,Culture and Social Change,¹ which was the result of several meetings we had organized between activists and academics in Québec and Ontario to debate the role of social movements in these two provinces. The exchanges were fascinating; the differences between these two provinces were even more profound than we had imagined, as our discussions and debates traced the history of popular movements, their relationship to the labour movement, their mobilization strategies, and their place in the political culture in both provinces. Indeed, the left in Québec – the labour movement and social...

    • Introduction
      (pp. 347-349)

      Alongside global changes in economy and politics, theoretical debates about how to understand and respond to those changes continue. In part four, the articles grapple with how to theorize about politics and the political, about ethics, and even about theory itself.

      In “Politics in Isolation? Recent Developments in Political Theory,” Anne Phillips problematizes the “return to the political” that characterizes much contemporary political thought. This “return” arises from critiques of economic determinism (which limited the political to a function of the economic) and liberal theory (which equated political liberalism with economic liberalism), both of which had served to limit the...

    • Politics in Isolation? Recent Developments in Political Theory
      (pp. 350-367)

      Throughout his career as a political analyst, Colin Leys has covered an exceptionally wide terrain, ranging geographically from East Africa to Britain to Canada, spanning the analysis of neo-colonialism¹ and of declining post-colonial power,² and engaging variously in what is termed political economy, political analysis, and political theory. Two ideas have persisted throughout his wide-ranging work. The first is that we cannot understand contemporary politics unless we place it within its longer-term historical formation; the second is that, while politics is “distinguishable from economic and social life, it cannot be understood as a distinct ‘field’ of activity, occurring in a...

    • An Ethical Politics of Our Times: Moral Selves or Solidarity?
      (pp. 368-386)

      Since the 1980s there has been an ongoing controversy on what constitutes critical thinking and political action. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, developments such as the rise of ethnic and religious nationalisms, the violent reconfiguration of cultural and geographical boundaries, the increasing salience of neoliberal policies, and the growing influence of identity politics around the world intensified this debate by challenging conventional frameworks used in political studies. The theoretical renaissance brought by postmodern, poststructuralist, postmarxist, and feminist analyses guides us in different directions to reflect critically on the formations, since about the eighteenth century, of the modern, colonial,...

    • Fetishizing Phantoms: Carl Schmitt, Chantal Mouffe, and “The Political”
      (pp. 387-408)

      With no meagre relish in the disconcertation of the prosaic, certain left and democratic post-structuralist political theorists have turned to the revolutionary conservative and “Crown Jurist” of the Nazi regime, Carl Schmitt. He allegedly offers “hard and valuable lessons” about the nature of politics: “Schmitt can legitimately be regarded as the Hobbes of the twentieth century and his ideas are inescapable as surely as his personal politics were repellant.”² Shorn of its fascist detritus, Schmitt’s “realist” concept of “the political” is to serve the emancipationist purposes he resolutely opposed. Eager to deflect criticism, aware of the potential for controversy, new...

    • Incredulity and Poetic Justice: Accounting for Postmodern Accounts
      (pp. 409-424)

      Postmodernism, states Lyotard, is incredulity toward metanarratives. And, under the rubric of postmodern definitions and exegesis, we find not only this loss of faith but a critique of theory more generally – of theoretical approaches to historical and social structure, of the theoretical grounding of ethics in truth, and of the relationship of theory to its objects. In light of this postmodern critique of theory, what are we to make of the fact that postmodern theorists go on theorizing? Does all this theorizing about the apparent impossibility of theory indicate a deliberate self-contradiction, a flouting of the theoretical demand for coherency...

  12. Afterword: Critically Studying Politics
    (pp. 425-426)

    The articles in this volume speak persuasively of our contemporary need for a consistently critically engaged intellectual practice. Around us, in our investigations of countries like Britain or continents like Africa, in state policies, social movements, and the practices of international institutions, we witness complex and rapidly changing economic, political, cultural, and social practices and institutions. Whether we are considering the role of the state or the possibilities of democracy, the impact of globalization or the problematics of theoretical inquiry, we are humbled by the analytical challenges that face all our investigations. There are no easy formulas or simplistic solutions...

  13. About the Authors
    (pp. 427-432)