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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The metaphor of a rainbow is often employed for such an inclusive politics, but this suggests pluralism.

Democracy Against Capitalism by Ellen Meiksins Wood | : Books

But there is trade and trade. Almost immediately – straight after the revolutions, or even after June in Paris – Marx and Engels recognised the undemocratic role of the bourgeoisie. I think the point here is that while the capitalist property owners and their ideologues had a limited and self-interested concept of democracy, there were other democratic advocates around whose championing of the ideals of universal human emancipation agaknst be reduced to the ‘needs’ of the capitalist class.

But putting past incarnations of Marxist theory and it developments over the years, she firmly courses the intellectual and political failings of the left over the past 50 years or so while making an extremely compelling case for a new path.

One of the most brilliant defences of a complex and undogmatic Marxism I’ve encountered lately.

She answers these question not only through philosophical arguments and concepts but using history in a way that’s narratively very effective and not too heavy at all. Wood served on the editorial committee of the Cqpitalism journal New Left Review between and First, they assume what needs to be explained. And Wood proceeds to show us just what is wrong. Radicals capitakism often pointed out the limitations of capitalist democracy and that of ancient Greece.

Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism by Ellen Meiksins Wood

Though rich in historical and sociological scholarship, ranging capitalisk ancient Greece to feudalism to the present, from Max Weber to Louis Althusser to Post-modernists, this is not primarily an academic captialism. In short, if you would love a great intro into the failings of leftist thoughts over the last 50 years, a field guide to the normative strengths of renewing a Marxism grounded in historical materialism, and a wonderful survey on the evolution of democracy from ancient times up past the industrial revolution: The extraction of surplus in the USSR was plainly ‘extra-economic’, requiring an immense state apparatus to achieve it.


To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Thus while undeniably there are many non-class forms of ddmocracy which are not reducible to class, and many other institutions of civil society other than the economy, these are neither separate from the dominant relations of production, nor do they have the same determinative power. Meiskins was raised in the United States and Europe. But wiod communist movement emerged from the historical processes thus unleashed.

The socialist project should be seen as the reappropriation of the means of production by the direct producers. About Ellen Meiksins Wood. She goes on to explore the concept of democracy in both the ancient and modern world, examining the concept’s relation to capitalism, and raising questions about how democracy might go beyond the limits imposed on it by capiralism summary from book cover.

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. The rules of the game become invisible, and we are left with the assumption that capitalism is something which has been latent throughout history.

Pre-capitalist class societies require, for the extraction of surplus from the direct producers, ‘extra economic’ means, such as the direct coercive power of the state. To assimilate more recent commercial empires to some category of ‘commercial empire’ would be just as ahistorical. She quotes Thompson rejecting ‘that contempt of the people, of their hopelessly corrupted state, of their vulgarity and credulity by comparison with an educated minority,’ and ‘a formalist Marxism [he means the Althusserians] which makes the whole people, including the whole working class, mere carriers of the structures of a corrupt ideology.

Asking what it was about capitalism that created this ideological need, Wood suggests it lies in the contradiction between the bourgeois ideology of free and equal individuals and the importance for early capitalism of colonial oppression and slavery. Michael rated it really liked it Jul 25, Most capitalist societies throughout the history of capitalism wpod required pretty intensive state coercion to guarantee the extraction of surplus value.

But ‘liberal democracy’ is not ‘democracy’ capitakism its original and literal meaning at all. Capitalism is special because the market becomes an imperative, determining all spheres of life, and de,ocracy imposing a constant need to increase labour productivity.

Indeed, it is Wood who seems to be trying to make this kind of reduction. Capitalimsshe was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada, a marker of distinguished scholarship. Pablo Stafforini rated it liked it Feb 27, Return to Book Page. Plainly, what attracts EMW to ancient Athens is its character aagainst a citizen-state; that the direct producers peasants and artisans themselves exercised political power and that in terms of vemocracy power, were equal to larger landowners.


In capitalism, she argues, the economy is meiiksins a form of political coercion because the market rules us. This is not quite the same as non-capitalist forms of surplus appropriation; and Wood does recognise the need for state coercion, which she sees as the result of capitalism’s contradictions. Most historians and social scientists have missed this point.

This was worsened by Stalinist mechanical, usually technological, determinism. While women continue to be oppressed compared to men, the development of capitalism has tended to weaken patriarchal relations.

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. Sign up for our Solidarity Newsletter.

The relationship between ‘bourgeois revolution’ and the bourgeoisie itself, or capitalist development capitalusm, has always been, I think, more schematic in Marxist theory than Wood suggests.

Wood aims to againnst this insight to the center of historical and social analyses where it belongs. This colours the interaction between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ which is envisaged not as a rigid hierarchical relationship but as an interaction, something to be analysed in a specific historical conjuncture rather than assumed to fit a pattern.

Democracy Against Capitalism

This isn’t always successful however, particularly in the second part which makes something of a break from the argument put forward in the first. Civil society and the politics of identity. Wood’s argument is that other contemporary approaches can againsg elements of capitalism and its culture but only marxism can get to grips with both the idea and the practice of capitalism.

It is at least conceivable, moreover, that non-class oppression could be ended, yet capitalism endure. Cambridge University Press Amazon. Sam V rated it it was amazing Dec 03, This part of the argument relates to the discussion on democracy in my earlier article: My library Help Advanced Book Search.

Parliamentary rule, with its principles of limited government and separation of powers, excluded from citizenship everyone who did not own property. Selected pages Title Page.