[OPE-L:2348] Re: Carpe diem!

From: H.K. Radice (ipihkr@lucs-02.novell.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Feb 11 2000 - 09:56:32 EST

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Having joined the list several weeks ago when a number of strands
were in full flow, I found it hard to get involved: so thanks, Gerry,
for your intervention in organising a search for new strands.

It seems to me that Ernesto's proposal AND the recent mailing on
LTV versus VTL could form part of a broader focus on labour, not
just as object of theoretical analysis, but as potential agent of
social change. My own interest in this (apart from obviously a
continuing desire for social change) arises from working on/in two
areas of debate in recent years: first, 'globalization'; and second,
'comparative capitalisms'. Both these subjects should be of great
interest to Marxists, but at the moment they are very much
dominated by more-or-less progressive, but non-Marxist, social

In the debates on globalization, the predominant 'sceptical'
tendency - e.g. Hirst & Thompson, Robert Wade, Linda Weiss -
ignore labour pretty much entirely, focusing instead on whether 'the
state' retains any powers to manage the national economy, and
usually assuming that no progressive agenda can be pursued
unless this is the case. I have tried in a couple of papers to offer a
critique of these writers, proposing instead a Marxian approach to
the state and the world economy (that is, based on the analysis of
accumulation and class relations); some of you may have seen
my contribution "Taking globalization seriously" in Socialist
Register 1999.

The debates on comparative capitalisms (e.g. recent volumes
edited by Berger & Dore, Crouch & Streeck, and Hollingsworth &
Boyer) also provide a good arena for us to develop more concrete
analyses of contemporary capitalism. Mostly this literature
examines the institutional particularities of the different national
capitalisms, and is rooted in orthodox sociological theory and
method. Among the institutional 'sub-systems' much studied are
those that surround labour: education and training; internal versus
external labour markets; the labour process (a subject of study
now dominated by 'progressive' specialists in 'human resource
management'; and industrial relations. For the most part, these
comparative institutional writings abstract from the 'political
economy' context: indeed, they often explicitly start by rejecting
the 'determinism' and 'economism' which they say characterized
the old-fashioned Marxist writings on labour. At the same time,
these writings have difficulty in locating the sources of institutional
change, tending to claim that particular institutional configurations
are deeply 'embedded', creating 'path-dependence', and so on.

Speaking for myself, I take it for granted that the socialist critique
of capitalism centres on labour. I have an unpublished paper on
"Globalization, labour and socialist renewal" which I wrote for a
recent workshop in Moscow and which I would be happy to send to
the list. It is pretty tentative, very much written on the spur of the
moment (I still have trouble with deadlines...), but might stimulate

A second and related possible topic could be a discussion of the
recent volume on "Globalization and Progressive Economic
Policy", edited by Dean Baker, Gerald Epstein and Robert Pollin.
Crudely: does this volume represent a big step forward in
constructing a realistic left alternative economic strategy; or is it
just a re-hash of left-Keynesian thinking that (as before) assumes a
'space' for reformism that no longer exists?
Hugo Radice
Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy,
Institute for Politics and International Studies,
University of Leeds,
Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.
tel: 44-113-233-4507
fax: 44-113-233-4400

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