Re: [OPE-L] Historical Materialism Book Series

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Jan 13 2005 - 00:00:30 EST

Hi Rakesh,

I wrote that China Mieville's "rejectionist stance towards international
law" meant IL "is a thoroughgoing instrument of imperialism and there can be
no use of it for progressive purposes,"

and you responded:

"Howard, this confuses me because Mieville (whose science
fiction/fantasy novels my wife tells me is brilliant, and a thorough
going radicalization of the genre) seems from this summary to be
advancing an instrumentalist theory of law, though Pashukanis from
whom Mieville  was a critic of instrumentalism."


The word 'instrument' was poorly chosen.  It would misread CM to say he
advances an instrumentalist view.  Here is a quote from his article in the
Leiden Journal of International Law, v. 17, no. 2 (2004) (if I'm not
mistaken), that presents the point more in the fashion he would want it

"The forms of international law are the forms and relations of imperialism."

The article is a short version of the core theoretical argument of his book.

Also, he would not foreclose the possibility of any progressive success
whatsoever on the terrain of IL, so my comment there too was misleading.
His overarching point is that "[a] world structured around international law
cannot but be one of imperialist violence."  Still, I doubt he would approve
Samir Amin's appeal.

Some further clarification.  The book does focus exclusively on
international public law.

Legal nihlism in international law typically means denying that there is any
such thing as international law.  That is not CM's position.  He argues that
international law is definitely real and definitely law, but denies that it
can figure as part of an emancipatory project.

I would certainly agree with him that the idea of fashioning utopia by law
is nonsense, but I want to hold out for a stronger sense of contested
terrain, and I certainly consider it meaningful to say the Iraq war is

The problem in CM's account is that he has taken over, and attempted to give
a materialist grounding to, essentially postmodern analyses of law's
indeterminancy.   This is coupled with a reliance on the commodity form
theory that is problematic.  That said, Mieville will I think push forward
the study of Pashukanis because coming to grips with his analysis will
require rereading Pashukanis in light of postmodernism.

I oversimplify, but CM's argument goes something like this:

1. Law is taken to be a body of rules -- the parties disagree over their
interpretation.  Critical legal theorists have shown that whatever argument
is made in defense of this or that rule an argument with an equivalent
pedigree can be offered to support an opposite conclusion.
2.  This presents an antimony of claim and counterclaim.  Exploiting
Pashukanis's analysis of the commodity form as the source of law (and
drawing on Marx on the Working Day), CM argues that both claim and
counterclaim bear equally the seal of exchange.  Law's indeterminacy is an
intrinsic characteristic of legal form because legal dispute and, as a
consequence, law's form, has its source in commodity exchange.
3.   Violence also is intrinsic to exchange and is the thing that stablizes
legal relationships.
4.   So between equal rights, force decides.  The international legal actor
who brings superior force to the dispute is able to actualize its
interpretation, norm, rule, as law.

There are problems here.  I wonder if one isn't the so-called 'problem of
legality':  legal form has its source in legal dispute which has its source
in commodity exchange which, as CM makes clear, presupposes private
ownership.  But then legal form presupposes an economic relationship which
presupposes a legal one.  Perhaps another is the failure to fully integrate
content and form.  As a result, law's specificity as relations of force is
not clear.  The question is how and why violence gets "enformed," and as
important as the commodity is to explaining that question it doesn't work as
the alpha and omega.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2005 3:57 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Historical Materialism Book Series

At 11:51 PM -0500 1/5/05, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
>I've worked quickly through China Mieville's work on Pashukanis and
>international law and recommend it.  This is well written, provocative, and
>a wonderful introduction to the sweep of international law, both
>historically and theoretically.  International law, by the way, finds
>at the moment a very rich intersection of theoretical styles -- updated IR
>realism, law and economics, feminism, new stream (critical legal studies),
>marxism, New Haven policy studies, and no doubt I've omitted some.  The
>Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) seems particularly
>important.  The principal contributors to this thread edited a volume in
>2003 called 'The Third World and International Order:  Law, Politics and
>Gloobalization" that introduces the movement.  Mieville's book also
>contains, as an appendix, an article length encyclopedia entry by
>on international law.
>I suspect, though, that CM's most fundamental conclusions need challenging:
>relying on the critical international legal theorist Martti Koskenniemi,
>Mieville concludes that international law, all law, is indeterminate -- you
>cannot sensibly say that the Iraq war was either legal or illegal, and CM
>adopts a thoroughly rejectionist stance towards international law --
>international law is a thoroughgoing instrument of imperialism and there
>be no use of it for progressive purposes.

Howard, this confuses me because Mieville (whose science
fiction/fantasy novels my wife tells me is brilliant, and a thorough
going radicalization of the genre) seems from this summary to be
advancing an instrumentalist theory of law, though Pashukanis from
whom Mieville  was a critic of instrumentalism.

I am also wondering whether the focus is on international public law
rather than private law, e.g. the attempt by the US to bring private
law in other countries into accord with its own.

>   It is not, as I read him, to any
>degree contested terrain.  (Compare this with Samir Amin's appeal to the
>defense of international law in the November Monthly Review.)

Well the legal nihilism seems consistent with Pashukanis.

I look forward to reading this book, and to any further comments and
criticisms that you have the time to make.

Thanks so much.


>We learn from the book, incidentally, that some of the law teachers who
>wrote the important letter to the Guardian that appeared on March 7, 2003,
>calling the then proposed invasion of Iraq illegal wondered afterwords
>whether they had abandoned their theoretical commitments by invoking
>international law.   A half dozen of them have written about this conflict
>in the June 2004 issue of the Leiden Journal of International Law.  This
>appears online.  The article is called "We Teachers of International Law,"
>after the introductory words of the Guardian letter.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>
>Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 11:49 AM
>Subject: [OPE-L] Historical Materialism Book Series
>Historical Materialism Book Series
>More than ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the
>disappearance of Marxism as a (supposed) state ideology, the need for
>a serious and long-term Marxist book publishing programme is now
>clear. Subjected to the whims of fashion, most contemporary
>publishers have abandoned any of the systematic production of Marxist
>theoretical work that they may have indulged in during the 1970s and
>early 1980s. The HM book series addresses this great gap with
>original monographs, translated texts and reprints of 'classics'. At
>least three titles will be published every year. All editorial
>enquiries and proposals to
>Editorial board:
>Paul Blackledge, Leeds; Sebastian Budgen, Paris; Jim Kincaid, Leeds;
>Stathis Kouvelakis, Paris; Marcel van der Linden, Amsterdam; China
>Miéville, London; Paul Reynolds, Lancashire.
>Between Equal Rights
>A Marxist Theory of International Law
>China Miéville
>* December 2004
>* ISBN 90 04 13134 5
>* Hardback (xii, 380 pp.)
>* List price EUR 69.- / US$ 93.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 6
>This book critically examines existing theories of international law
>and makes the case for an alternative Marxist approach. China
>Miéville draws on the pioneering jurisprudence of Evgeny Pashukanis
>linking law to commodity exchange, and in turn uses international law
>to make better sense of Pashukanis. Miéville argues that despite its
>advances, the recent 'New Stream' of radical international legal
>scholarship, like the mainstream it opposes, fails to make sense of
>the legal form itself. Drawing on Marxist theory and a critical
>history of international law from the sixteenth century to the
>present day, Miéville seeks to address that failure, and argues that
>international law is fundamentally constituted by the violence of
>'Respectful of the Marxist classics, Between Equal Rights is the most
>sophisticated Left critique of international law available today as
>well as one of the most significant contributions to the theory and
>history of international law I have read. It raises the debate about
>law's role in a globalised world order to a completely new level.'
>Martti Koskenniemi, Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of
>International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki.
>'China Miéville's brilliantly original book is an indispensable guide
>for anyone concerned with international law. It is the most
>comprehensive scholarly account available of the central theoretical
>debates about the foundations of international law.
>... Miéville's insistence that any adequate account of the
>foundations of contemporary international law must explore its inner
>connection with the sociology of capitalism is both a novelty in the
>field and surely the right starting point for a new, much needed
>debate about this important subject.'
>Peter Gowan, Professor of International Relations, London
>Metropolitan University.
>   'S Between Equal Rights represents a real oasis in the desert for
>those of us teaching the law of nations, international relations, or
>diplomatic history. We have waited a long time for a comprehensive
>and progressive critique of international law. Miéville proves the
>wait was worth it.'
>Anthony Chase, Professor of Law, Nova Southeastern University Law Center
>China Miéville, Ph.D. (2001) in International Relations, London
>School of Economics, is an independent researcher and an
>award-winning novelist. He is a member of the editorial board of
>Historical Materialism.
>The German Revolution, 1917-1923
>Pierre Broué, Translated by John Archer. Edited by Ian Birchall and
>Brian Pearce. With an Introduction by Eric D. Weitz
>* November 2004
>* ISBN 90 04 13940 0
>* Hardback (1000 pp.)
>* List price EUR 129.- / US$ 169.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 5
>On 12 October 1923, Grigory Zinoviev, president of the Communist
>International wrote the following in Pravda: The German events are
>developing with the inexorability of fate. The path which it took the
>Russian Revolution twelve years to cover, from 1906 to 1917, will
>have taken the German Revolution five years, from 1918 to 1923. S The
>proletarian revolution is knocking at Germany's door; you would have
>to be blind not to see it. S Very soon, everyone will see that this
>autumn of 1923 is a turningpoint, not just for the history of
>Germany, but for the history of the whole world.
>In fact, far from being on the point of triumphing, the German
>Revolution was on the verge of an irredeemable disaster which would
>soon inflict terrible consequences on Germany and the world. In this
>magisterial work, first published 1971 and still unsurpassed, Pierre
>Broué meticulously reconstitutes the six decisive years during which
>- between 'ultra-leftism and 'opportunism', 'sectarianism' and
>'revisionism', 'activism' and 'passivity' - the German
>revolutionaries attempted to begin a new chapter in the history of
>the proletariat.
>Pierre Broué (born 1926) was for many years Professor of Contemporary
>History at the Institut d'études politiques in Grenoble. A world
>renowned specialist of the communist and international workers'
>movements, he is the founder of the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, editor of
>Leon Trotsky's writings in French and the author of many publications.
>Pavel V. Maksakovsky:
>The Capitalist Cycle
>An Essay on the Marxist Theory of the Cycle
>Translated with introduction and commentary by Richard B. Day
>* In print 2004
>* ISBN 90 04 13824 2
>* Hardback (xlviii, 152 pp.)
>* List price EUR 59.- / US$ 84.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 4
>The Capitalist Cycle is a translation of a previously unknown work in
>Marxist economic theory. Originally published in 1928, this
>rediscovered work is one of the most creative essays written by a
>Soviet economist during the first two decades after the Russian
>Revolution. Following the dialectic of Hegel and Marx, Maksakovsky
>aims to provide a 'concluding chapter' for Marx's Capital. The book
>examines economic methodology and logically reconstructs Marx's
>analysis into a comprehensive and dynamic theory of cyclical economic
>crises. The introductory essay by Richard B. Day situates
>Maksakovsky's work within the Hegelian and Marxist philosophical
>traditions by emphasizing the book's dialectical logic as well as its
>contribution to economic science.
>Table of Contents
>Translator's Introduction: Maksakovsky's The Capitalist Cycle
>Pavel V. Maksakovsky
>The Capitalist Cycle: An Essay on the Marxist Theory of the Cycle
>Foreword by A.S. Mendel'son
>1. Methodological Foundations of the Theory of the Conjuncture
>2. The General Theory of the Cycle
>3. The Role of Credit in the Conjuncture
>4. The Problem of Crises in the Works of Marx
>5. In Place of a Conclusion
>Richard B. Day, Ph.D. (1970), University of London, is Professor of
>Political Economy at the University of Toronto. He has written
>extensively on early Soviet debates and translated several books,
>including works by N.I. Bukharin and E.A. Preobrazhensky.
>Making History
>Agency, Structure, and Change in Social Theory
>Alex Callinicos
>* In print 2004
>* ISBN 90 04 13627 4
>* Hardback (liv, 290 pp.)
>* List price EUR 49.- / US$ 70.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 3
>Making History is about the question - central to social theory - of
>how human agents draw their powers from the social structures they
>are involved in. Drawing on classical Marxism, analytical philosophy,
>and a wide range of historical writing, Alex Callinicos seeks to
>avoid two unacceptable extremes: dissolving the subject into an
>impersonal flux, as poststructuralists tend to; and treating social
>structures as the mere effects of individual action (for example,
>rational-choice theory). Among those discussed are Althusser,
>Anderson, Benjamin, Brenner, Cohen, Elster, Foucault, Giddens,
>Habermas, and Mann. Callinicos has written an extended introduction
>to this new edition that reviews developments since Making History
>was first published in 1987. This republication gives a new
>generation of readers access to an important intervention in Marxism
>and social theory.
>Alex Callinicos, D.Phil. (1979) in Philosophy, University of Oxford,
>is Professor of Politics at the University of York (UK). He has
>written widely about Marxism and social theory. His most recent books
>are Social Theory (1999), Equality (2000), Against the Third Way
>(2001) and An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto (2003), all published by
>The Theory of Revolution
>in the Young Marx
>Michael Löwy
>* In print 2002
>* ISBN 90 04 12901 4
>* Hardback (x, 206 pp.)
>* List price EUR 49.- / US$ 70.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 2
>This book proposes a Marxist analysis of young Marx's intellectual
>evolution, from left neo-Hegelianism to his new philosophy of praxis.
>It distinguishes itself from most other books on the early Marx by
>its object - the theory of (proletarian) revolutionary
>self-emancipation - and its method: to understand the movement of
>Marx's political and philosophical ideas in relation to the most
>radical currents in the labour movement of his time (beginning with
>Chartism and the uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844). The
>central theoretical argument of the author is that Marx's philosophy
>of praxis - first formulated in the Thesis on Feuerbach - is at the
>same time the founding stone of a new world view, and the
>methodological basis for the theory of revolutionary
>Table of Contents
>CHAPTER ONE The Transition to Communism (1842-1844)
>CHAPTER TWO The Theory of Communist Revolution (1844-1846)
>CHAPTER THREE The Theory of the Party (1846- 1848)
>CHAPTER FOUR Party, Masses and Revolution, from Marx's Time to Ours
>Michael Löwy, Ph.D. (1974) in Human Sciences, Sorbonne, is Research
>Director in Sociology at the Centre National de la Recherche
>Scientifique, Paris. He has published on Marx, Lukács and Walter
>Benjamin, as well as (with Robert Sayre) Romanticism Against the Tide
>of Modernity (Duke, 2001).
>The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital
>Christopher J. Arthur
>* In print 2002
>* ISBN 90 04 12798 4
>* Hardback (viii, 264 pp.)
>* List price EUR 49.- / US$ 70.-
>* Historical Materialism Book Series, 1
>Also available in paperback:
>* ISBN 90 04 13643 6
>* Paperback (viii, 264 pp.)
>* List price EUR 32.- / US$ 32.-
>This book both argues for, and demonstrates, a new turn to dialectic.
>Marx's Capital was clearly influenced by Hegel's dialectical figures:
>here, case by case, the significance of these is clarified. More, it
>is argued that, instead of the dialectic of the rise and fall of
>social systems, what is needed is a method of articulating the
>dialectical relations characterising a given social whole. Marx
>learnt from Hegel the necessity for a systematic development, and
>integration, of categories; for example, the category of 'value' can
>be fully comprehended only in the context of the totality of
>capitalist relations. These studies thus shed new light on Marx's
>great work, while going beyond it in many respects.
>Christopher J. Arthur studied at the Universities of Nottingham and
>Oxford. For 25 years he taught Philosophy at the University of
>Sussex. He is a leading Marx scholar whose publications include
>Dialectics of Labour: Marx and his Relation to Hegel (Blackwell,
>Order information
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