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209 ‘Vertical’ versus ‘Horizontal’ Economics: Systems of Provision, Consumption
Norms and Labour Market Structures
A Review Article by Alfredo Saad-Filho in which he discusses thefollowing books
Ben Fine: Labour Market Theory: A Constructive Reassessment
Ben Fine: The Political Economy of Diet, Health and Food Policy
Ben Fine, Michael Heasman andJudith Wright: Consumption in the Age of
Affluence: The World of Food
Ben Fine and Ellen Leopold: The World of Consumption
215 A Triple Review by Nigel Lee in which he discusses the following books
Ariel Salleh: Ecofeminism as Politics: Nature, Marx and the Postmodern.
Mary Mellor: Feminism and Ecology.
Nancy CM. Hartsock: The Feminist Standpoint Revisited and Other Essays.
217 Richard Huggett: Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets, and Other Dynamic Events in Earth
History. (David Harvie).
219 Andrew Collier: Being and Worth. (Jonathan Joseph).
221 Geoffrey M Hodgson: Economics and Utopia Why the learning economy is not the end of
history. (Pete Clarke).
223 George McKay (ed.): DiY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain. (Keir Milburn).
227 Bob Russell: More with Less: Work Reorganization in the Canadian Mining Industry.
(Luis L.M. Aguiar).
229 Jeffrey Broadbent: Environmental Politics in Japan: Networks of Power and Protest. (Paul
232 Akhtar A. Badshah: Our Urban Future: New Paradigms for Equity and Sustainability.
(Luis L.M. Aguiar).
234 David E. Camacho (ed.): Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles, Race, Class, and
the Environment. (lan MacMillan).
236 George Robertson et al (eds.): Future/Natural. nature/science/culture. (Bettina Lange).
238 Ben Watson: Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play. (Karl Haselden).
239 David Harvey: Spaces of Hope. (Neil Curry).
240 Joe R. Feagin: The New Urban Paradigm: Critical Perspectives on the City. (Derek Kerr).
Capital & Class #72
edited by Derek Kerr
When I started reading these books I
thought, rather sombrely, that their choice
of themes was a reflex of Fine’s desperation
at the sterility of value debates, and of his
decision to focus on more tractable and
rewarding problems instead. I am glad to
report that I was wrong. Fine remains as
committed as ever to his intellectual roots,
and one of the main purposes of his work
is ‘to press the case for an appropriately
constructed labour theory of value that
incorporates a full understanding of the
Book Reviews 209
‘Vertical’ versus ‘Horizontal’ Economics:
Systems of Provision, Consumption Norms and
Labour Market Structures
An extended book review by Alfredo Saad-Filho
BEN FINE IS WELL KNOWN in Marxian and radical cirdes for his research,his
teaching at Birkbeck College and SOAS, and his involvement with the CSE.A
superficial look at Fine’s publications gives the impression that his intellectual
trajectory is badly fragmented. Fine seems to have abandoned his highly acclaimed
(by Marxists) work on value theory in the mid-80s (especially Fine and Harris,1979,
and Fine 1980,1982, 1986; see,however, Fine,1989 (1st ed. 1975),1990a, 1992a),in
order to pursue a disparate collection of ‘softer’ themes such as the South African
industrialisation (Fine and Rustomjee, 1997),the contemporary British economy (Fine
and Harris, 1985), the history of the British coal industry (Fine, 1990b), female
participation in the labour market (Fine, 1992b), and labour market theory and
the political economy of food and consumption (in the books discussed below).
Books reviewed in this artide
Ben Fine
Labour Market Theory: A Constructive Reassessment
Routledge, London, 1998. ISBN 0-415-16676-4 (hbk) £50.00
Ben Fine
The Political Economy of Diet: Health and Food Policy
Routledge, London, 1998. ISBN 0-415-16366-8 (hbk) £45.00
Ben Fine, Michael Heasman and Judith Wright
Consumption in the Age of Affluence: The World of Food
Routledge, London, 1996. ISBN 0-415-13155-3 (hbk) ISBN 0-415-13579-6 (pbk)
Ben Fine and Ellen Leopold
The World of Consumption
Routledge,London,1993. ISBN0-415-09588-3 (hbk) ISBN0-415-09589-1 (pbk)
complexities of the dynamics of the
capitalist economy’ (Labour Market
Theory: 264). This ambitious exercise is
necessary, first, on analytical grounds,
because conventional (Marxian)
economics is unable to shed light on many
complex and concrete problems (see
below). Second, it is politically urgent,
because Fine (1997) believes that Marxian
(and, more broadly, alternative)
approaches are at risk of disappearing
because of the onslaught of neoclassical
economics. This approach has been force
fully consolidating its monopoly within
economics while, at the same time,
‘colonising’ the other social sciences with
its peculiar methodology based on individ-
ualism (treating individuals as optimising
agents and the source of social structures)
and equilibrium (both as an organising
principle and as the ‘natural’ state of the
world, from which deviations should be
Systems of Provision and the Theory of
In these books, Fine develops the ‘systems
of provision’ (SOP) approach, as the basis
for a reconstruction of Marxian economics
and its synthesis with history, sociology,
anthropology, and other neighbouring
sciences. Its potential is demonstrated by
the light it sheds on such complex
problems as the causes of eating disorders,
the determinants of fashion changes, the
impact of advertising on consumer choice,
and the relationship between the Common
Agricultural Policy and our diet. Other
‘economic’ puzzles are also considered,
such as the origins of the industrial
revolution, the impact of minimum wages,
and the reasons why the concepts of
human capital and non-accelerating
inflation rate of unemployment should be
rejected. Value theorists will be interested
in Fine’s innovative analysis of use value,
the value of labour power, commercial
capital, and consumption (which has been
badly neglected vis-à-vis production,
exchange and distribution). As I do not
have the space or the expertise to discuss
everything I found interesting in these
books, I will focus mainly on a narrow
range of methodological and economic
questions. I hope that this will not unduly
distort Fine’s results, and that it will
motivate the readers to consider carefully
the potential relevance of the systems of
provision approach to their own work.
In order to evaluate the usefulness of
the systems of provision approach I will,
first, examine Fine’s criticism of
conventional (‘horizontal’) approaches.
Horizontal analyses are usually contained
within individual sciences, and they
typically investigate specific problems—
for example, the determinants of
consumption—by applying one single
explanatory factor across all goods
(whether motor cars, fur coats or bananas)
and all societies. These key ideas may
include, for example, utility maximisation,
status, ritual, or, alternatively, the pressures
from the system of production, culture, or
advertising. Paradoxically, these concepts
are generally incompatible across
disciplines, which limits the range of
phenomena they can explain, and seriously
weakens their claim to generality. For Fine,
horizontal approaches are invalid for three
reasons; they over generalise the analytical
significance of certain explanatory factors,
they are blind to the (shifting) role of other
determinants of consumption, and they
cannot appreciate that the consumption
of each good at each point in time should
be explained by a (potentially shifting)
combination of factors. Consequently,
horizontal approaches inevitably lump
together commodities produced and
consumed in distinct ways, and whose
social significance is widely different. Their
210 Capital & Class #72
distinctiveness is sacrificed in a futile quest
for analytical simplicity, which makes it
impossible to explain meaningfully what is
consumed and why.
Awareness of the insufficiencies of
horizontal approaches has led to the
development of ‘middle range’ theories
such as consumption and food studies
(and, more famously, regulation theory).
Middle range theories draw on the
strengths of several disciplines, but eschew
‘grand’ (basic) theories because this would
unduly constrain their analytical freedom.
Instead, they depart from a set of stylised
empirical observations, and transform
them into structures which are used to
explain these stylised facts (The World of
Consumption: 43-4; Labour Market Theory:
137). Fine is heavily critical of middle range
theories, because this procedure smacks
of tautology, and it is scientifically unsound
because the theory is not grounded by a
wider structure that supports its elementary
concepts and contextualises its
conclusions. Imprecision and ambiguity
at critical junctures allows middle range
theories to be potentially compatible with
several ‘grand theories,’ and to appeal to
writers of widely distinct persuasions.
However, this is also the cause of their state
of perpetual crisis, and continuous lack of
In contrast, SOP is a ‘vertical’ approach.
Its starting point is the claim that each
group of commodities is materially
produced, and has its cultural significance
determined, within a separate chain of
activities that comprises its production,
circulation, distribution and consumption.
These chains, or systems of provision (e.g.,
the housing, energy, transport, fashion and
food systems), express the distinct
combinations of socio-economic forces
(such as the class relations of production,
competition, state power, ideology, etc.)
that determine the level of output, demand,
and the meaning of each element of the
consumption bundle. The study of SOPs is
necessarily interdisciplinary because,
within each SOP, ‘horizontal’ and other
explanatory factors combine and acquire
significance in potentially very different
ways. The analysis must be flexible enough
to determine correctly the limits of each
SOP, and to appreciate how the causal
factors are integrated in practice, rather
than pretending that they are mutually
exclusive, and homogeneous across all
goods. In sum, rather than emphasising
homogeneity and stasis, this approach
focuses on the tensions and displacements
underlying the production and consump-
tion of distinct commodities.
A detailed analysis of the systems of
provision of food and fashion (in The
World of Consumption), and of sugar, meat
and dairy products (in Consumption in the
Age of Affluence) provides the back ground
for more detailed empirical analyses and
policy recommendations (in The Political
Economy of Diet). Remarkably, in these
studies Fine and his collaborators argue
that consumption norms and demand are
structured vertically through the chain of
activities linking production and
consumption, and that consumer choice is
determined historically within each SOP. In
other words, concepts such as supply and
demand are reconstructed, and receive a
new meaning and significance, as integral
parts of each system of provision, rather
than being distinct forces which confront
one another only on the market. Let me
give you a taste of the explanatory power of
this approach. In The Political Economy
of Diet, Fine argues that the Common
Agricultural Policy determines not only
how much is produced of each food, but
(broadly) how much is consumed, and
that education and advertising campaigns
for ‘healthy eating’ are mostly unable to
change that outcome. He also claims that
the forces underlying the food and fashion
systems of provision generally work
Book Reviews 211
harmoniously for capital, as is demons-
trated by the profitable co-existence of the
food and diet industries. However, at the
individual level they may induce potentially
fatal eating disorders, such as obesity,
bulimia and anorexia nervosa. These are
not simply disorders of the individual
psyche, but alternative forms of resolution
of the conflicting pressures to eat and to
diet, which have affected women in
particular because of their prominent role
in the fashion SOP.
Labour Market Structures
Theories of the labour market, such as the
neoclassical theory, are heavily criticised in
Labour Market Theory because they are
unable to recognise the inextricably human
aspect of the wage relation (and, therefore,
to distinguish adequately this from other
markets), and because they presume that
labour markets are essentially symmetrical
and can be analysed at a highly abstract
level. In contrast, Fine argues that the
opposition between capital and labour is
essential, but that it is structured differently
in each labour market. These markets can
be distinguished through the commodities
being produced and through their
(historically contingent) internal structure,
which determines how the capital relation
is (re)produced, how the value of labour
power is determined and, more specifically,
how the wages, career structures, working
conditions, and the consumption norms of
the workforce are defined.
Unfortunately, there is no direct
relationship between labour market
segments and systems of provision. Labour
is generally structured vertically in the
sectors where it is employed (e.g., in the
mining or steel industries, or in service
activities such as teaching); however, it is
also mobile across the economy, while
goods are not mobile across SOPs. If
occupation mobility predominates (such
as in low-skill service activities, or in the
market for company chief executives) the
labour market may even be structured
horizontally. The vertical and horizontal
structures which define each segment of
the labour market, and that distinguish
them from one another, are the result of
complex social processes which have to be
identified analytically (Labour Market
Theory: 175-9).
This has an important implication for
value theory, which I will consider in some
detail because of my own interests. The
value of labour power is usually
understood either as the value of a standard
bundle of goods that the (presumably
homogeneous) workers can buy, or as the
share of the net product which is
commanded by the working class (which
presumes that the workers are paid the
maximum wage that they can get, and
spend it in ways that do not have to be
examined). Fine departs from these notions
to argue that the value of labour power,
the wage, and the workers’ composition
norms, are part of the conditions of
(re)production of the work force. They
vary systematically across the segments of
the labour market, and have to be
distinguished in order to avoid ‘averaging
out’ across the working class in spite of
differences in occupation, income, gender,
age, and household composition. This is
complicated further by Fine’s
incorporation of a wider set of
determinants of the value of labour power,
such as the state, the household and other
social relations, structures and processes.
Moreover, the determinants of changes in
the value of labour power should also be
explained, in order to avoid the deficiencies
associated with equilibrium analyses. These
patterns are established, and evolve,
differently between systems of provision
and segments of the labour market,
primarily because productivity increases
212 Capital & Class #72
affect them differently, which may lead to
substantial inequality in pay and conditions
across the workforce.
Another important implication of
Fine’s analysis of systems of provision and
labour market structures is his un-
compromising rejection of the concept of
‘human capital.’ This concept was, until
recently, either ignored or rejected by left
wing writers and most conventional
academics across the social sciences (except
in economics). This has changed
remarkably over the past two decades.
Partly as a reflex of neoclassical economics’
colonisation, ‘human capital’ is now widely
used by historians, sociologists, and
anthropologists, and others. This is
unacceptable, because this concept
synthesises much of what is wrong with
neoclassical thought. It is ahistorical, and
reifies the capital relation. Worse still,
‘human capital’ treats the individual
capacity to work as the unproblematic
result of a well-defined production process.
This harmonious view is at odds with
Fine’s analysis, which presumes that there
is no ‘horizontal’ norm underlying the
harmonious creation and rewarding of
‘human capital’ across the economy.
These books can be evaluated at two
different levels. In spite of my general
appreciation of the argument (see below),
and admiration at the breadth and depth of
Fine’s research, I think that his case would
have been stronger (especially among
Marxists, presumably one of his main
constituencies) if he had incorporated
explicitly the recent developments in the
Marxian literature. For example, it is
impossible to discuss the value of labour
power without reference to Lebowitz (1992)
path-breaking work, or to Moseley’s (1992,
1997) analysis of the relationship between
labour market structures and the profit
rate. It would also have been important to
relate Fine’s work to similar efforts
elsewhere (e.g., Cockburn, 1996; Gereffi
and Korzeniewicz, 1994, and the analysis of
supply and value chains in the business
literature). Finally, Fine should have
confronted in further detail the post
Keynesian argument that the labour market
simply does not exist (e.g., Arestis, 1992;
Reynolds, 1987).
However, these observations are largely
irrelevant, and they may be unfair because
my emphasis on value theory is at odds
with the structure of Fine’s books, which
focuses on literature reviews, empirical
analysis and policy recommendations. It
is much more relevant to say that I have
been persuaded by Fine’s argument that
‘horizontal’ theories should be rejected,
and that the systems of provision approach
may provide the basis for the inter-
disciplinary synthesis I that have been
looking for. I am also convinced that the
SOP can contribute to my own work, for
example in the analysis of industrialisation
and development finance. In sum, the
significance of these books goes far beyond
their (deserved) impact on the study of
consumption, food, or labour markets.
They should be read widely primarily on
methodological grounds. For they offer a
fresh perspective with which to analyse
issues that have troubled Marxists for many
years, as well as problems which have, until
now, escaped our attention because of their
complexity or concreteness, or because of
our inability to engage with the orthodoxy
in its own terrain.
Book Reviews 213
214 Capital & Class #72
Arestis, Philip (1992) The Post-Keynesian Approach
to Economics. Edward Elgar, Aldershot.
Cockburn, Alexander (1996) ‘A Short History of
Meat’, in New Left Review 215, January-
Fine, Ben (1980) Economic Theory and Ideology.
Edward Arnold, London.
__________ (1982) Theories of the Capitalist
Economy. Edward Arnold, London.
__________ (ed.) (1986) The Value Dimension:
Marx versus Ricardo and Sraffa. Routledge &
Kegan Paul, London.
__________ (1989) Marx’s Capital, 3rd ed.
Macmillan, Basingstoke.
__________ (1990a) ‘On the Composition of
Capital: A Comment on Groll and Orzech’, in
History of Political Economy, 22 (1): 149-55.
__________ (1990b) The Coal Question: Political
Economy and Industrial Change from the
Nineteenth Century to the Present Day.
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
__________ (1992a) ‘On the Falling Rate of Profit’,
in G.A. Caravale (ed.) Marx and Modern
Economic Analysis. Edward Elgar, Aldershot.
__________ (1992b) Women’s Employment and
the Capitalist Family. Routledge & Kegan Paul,
__________ (1997) ‘The New Revolution in
Economics’, in Capital&Class 61, Spring: 143-8.
Fine, Ben, and Laurence Harris (1979) Rereading
Capital. Macmillan, London.
__________ (1985) The Peculiarities of the British
Economy. Lawrence & Wishart, London.
Fine, Ben, and Zavareh Rustomjee (1997) South
Africa’s Political Economy: From Minerals-
Energy Complex to Industrialisation. Hurst,
Gereffi, Gary and Miguel Korzeniewicz (eds.) (1994)
Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism.
Praeger, Westport, Conn.
Lebowitz, Michael A. (1992) Beyond Capital: Marx’s
Political Economy of the Working Class.
Macmillan, London.
Moseley, Fred (1992) The Falling Rate of Profit in
the Postwar United States Economy. St. Martin’s
Press, New York.
__________ (1997) ‘The Rate of Profit and the
Future of Capitalism’, in Review of Radical
Political Economics, vol 29/4: 23-41.
Reynolds, Peter, J. (1987) Political Economy: A
Synthesis of Kaleckian and Post-Keynesian
Economics. Edward Elgar, Aldershot.
most interesting areas of critique of
Marxist theory in recent times. Yet
feminist development of Marxism has been
largely neglected within mainstream
(malestream?) Marxism. The three books
reviewed here all provide
different critiques of
Marx from a feminist
perspective. Salleh and
Mellor consider them-
selves ecofeminists.
Hartsock and Mellor employ a feminist
standpoint. All write from an explicitly
materialist perspective which is described as
‘embodied’ and ‘socially embedded’
(Salleh: ix; Mellor: vii; Hartsock: 77). This
review focuses on some of the lessons which
these authors have for Marxist theory.
All three support a dialectical approach
but challenge Marxian ambivalence on the
relationship of people to nature. Salleh goes
straight to the heart of this problem. Do
we follow the Marx and Engels who see a
dialectical interplay of Humanity and
Nature? Or do we follow the Marx and
Engels who embrace ‘the old dualism of
Humanity versus Nature'? (Salleh: 70-3).
Marx in the Grundrisse comments on
how humans evolve with nature and so are
an intrinsic part of it. But this ecological
understanding was undermined by an
Enlightenment conviction that reason with
technology might shape the ‘forward
march’ of history. Salleh
rejects Marx’s transcend-
ent ego which seeks the
instrumental mastery of
nature. She insists that the
attempt to control nature
as Other gives rise to class society as men
harness the labour power of Others to help
subdue the wild. Alienation of workers is
rooted in alienation from nature.
This leads to a more fundamental
critique of Enlightenment notions of
‘freedom’ than are provided by either
Marxism or postmodernism. The tran-
scendent ego of the Enlightenment seeks
freedom from necessity. Ecofeminists like
Salleh and Mellor reject such freedom.
Transcendence can’t be achieved without
an Other to do the work of embodiment
(Mellor: 101). Salleh supports Engels’
observation that ‘freedom is the appreci-
ation of necessity’ (Salleh: 76). But that
Book Reviews 215
Ariel Salley
Ecofeminism as Politics: Nature, Marx and the Postmodern
Zed Books Ltd, London, 1997. pp.208.
ISBN 1 -85649-400-4 (pbk) £14.95
Mary Mellor
Feminism and Ecology
Polity Press, Cambridge, 1997. pp.221.
ISBN 0-7456-1418-3 (pbk) £12.95
Nancy C.M. Hartsock
The Feminist Standpoint Revisited and Other Essays
Westview Press, Oxford & Boulder, Colorado, 1998. pp.262.
ISBN 0-8133-1558-1 (pbk) £.12.50
A Triple Review
by Nigel Lee
should have led to a greater respect for the
sort of knowledge which has been gendered
female than Marx and Engels were prepared
to accept.
It is not just Enlightenment liberalism of
the eighteenth century which is questioned
here, but more fundamentally the Cartesian
dualism of the seventeenth century which
separated mind from matter. This dualism,
which is fundamental for Western science,
claims that only the human mind has
agency (Mellor: 113). Ecofeminism
counters that mind as well as body is
embedded in the material world, and that
mastery is not the only model of agency
(Salleh: 190). Mellor extend this argument
to develop a critique of Roy Bhaskar’s
transcendental critical realism. She argues
instead for an immanent critical realism
(Mellor: 186). Ecofeminism is both realist
and critical in the sense that
Humanity’s immanence will always mean
that any knowledge about the natural
world is bound to be partial … This
requires recognition of the essentially
dialectical and non-dualist nature of the
relation between humanity and the
dynamic ecological whole. It would also
recognize the independent agency of the
interconnected whole. This does not deny
human agency, but human agency would
always need to show ecological reflexivity
and humility. (Mellor: 186-7)
The ecofeminist distinction between
immanent and transcendental forms of
knowledge echoes Hartsock’s distinction
between two different conceptions of
power—power as energy, and power as
domination—which she has been develop
ing for the last 25 years (Hartsock: 21 ) . She
argues that women tend to conceptualize
power in the immanent sense of power
within, while men (including Marxists)
tend to conceptualize power in the tran-
scendental sense as power over. (This is
developed in more detail in her previous
book on feminist historical materialism—
Hartsock, 1985). Building on this under
standing of power, Hartsock develops the
idea of a feminist standpoint explicitly as a
variation of the idea of a standpoint of the
proletariat, recognizing that it can only be
produced by a collective subject (Hartsock:
81-2), but expanding the Marxian account
to include all human activity rather than
focusing on
activity more characteristic of
males in capitalism’ (Hartsock: 105). As
Hartsock says,
The Marxian category of labor, including
as it does both interaction with other
humans and with the natural world, can
help to cut through the dichotomy of
nature and culture, and, for feminists, can
help to avoid the false choice of
characterizing the situation of women as
either ‘purely natural’ or ‘purely social.’
(Hartsock: 106)
Ecofeminism can be seen as expanding
Hartsock’s account further to include
recognition of non-human agency and not
just human activity.
An immanent definition of power
becomes important in questions of
political organization. A topical question
is whether unity is possible without
dominance. If we start from a
transcendental definition of power, it is
easy to conclude that all forms of unity
are coercive. Both standpoint feminism
and ecofeminism lead us to conclude the
opposite. If we proceed from an immanent
definition of power and agency then unity
need not threaten diversity. The challenge
is to develop our own forms of co
operation which are not coercive while
understanding the coercive nature of the
forms of organization we are opposing
(Hartsock: 50).
All three of these books are critical of
postmodernism. As Salleh notes,
216 Capital & Class #72
First, its anti-realism becomes defeatism
by assuming the relation between words
and actions to be unknowable. Second,
its micro-political focus on texts distracts
attention from the New World Order and
its materiality. Third, as a discursive
pluralism it has no way of grounding an
alternative vision. (Salleh: xi)
Mellor supports Maria Mies and Vandana
Shiva in maintaining that there is a basis for
a common global politics which is neither
‘totalizing’ nor denying of difference. ‘It is
not universalism per se that is at fault, but
the false universalism of western hegemony’
(Mellor: 67). As Hartsock reasserts, ‘The
understanding available to the oppressed
group must be struggled for and represents
an achievement that requires both
systematic analysis and the education that
grows from political struggle to change
social relations’ (Hartsock: 236-7).
If Marxism is to reinvent itself, we
should take seriously the work of feminists
like Hartsock, Mellor and Salleh. They can
be said to have taken some aspects of Marx
more seriously than many Marxists.
Hartsock, Nancy C.M., (1985) Money, Sex
and Power: Toward a Feminist Historical
Materialism. Northeastern University
Press, Boston.
Book Reviews 217
Richard Hugget
Catastrophism: Asteroids, Comets,and Other Dynamic Events in
Earth History
Verso, London & New York, 2nd edition 1997 (1st ed. 1990), pp.xix+262.
ISBN 0-85984-129-5 (pbk) £14.00
Reviewed by David Harvie
‘Catastrophism’, as a paradigm, is exciting.
How could a theory (or collection of
theories) which suggests that major events
in the world—changes in the landscape or
climate, the emergence of a new species or
extinction of an existing one, say—are
violent and sudden, be anything but
exciting, even if ‘sudden’ means taking
place over tens of thousands of years? It is
this paradigm which Richard Hugget’s
book aims to survey, placing it in context
against its ‘uniformitarian’ rivals.
Catastrophism, the book, is divided into
three parts. Part I sets out definitions of
what a catastrophe is and explains the
various classifications of understanding
the history of the world. Competing
theories of Earth change can be
distinguished on three criteria. First, the
rate of change, with the polar extremes
being gradualism (constant rate) and
catastrophism (changing rate). Second, the
characterisation of the underlying state,
with non-directionalism or steady state
being opposed to directionalism (changing
state). Third, the mode of change. For
organic history, mode of change refers to
whether change is believed to be driven
externally (‘environmentalism’) or
internally? For inorganic history, it refers to
the question: have the same kind of
processes or laws been operating through
out the Earth’s history (‘actualism’) or have
these processes changed over the four
billion years (‘non-actualism’)? The various
combinations of these criteria give rise to
eight possible systems of both inorganic
Earth history and organic history.
Discussion of the historical development of
each of these systems is the subject of Part
II. In Part III the author comes up to date
and surveys modern theories of Earth
history, both organic and inorganic.
The book’s scope is incredibly
ambitious, far too ambitious. The author
attempts to give the reader an insight into
both the historical development and current
thinking of all major schools of thought of
both organic and inorganic history.
Unfortunately, in a book of less than 250
pages this means there is little depth. Too
many arguments are presented as ‘so-&-
so thought this, such-&-such believed that’,
but the positions are not really explained or
critically examined, nor related to their
other rivals or developments in other areas
of research. For example the fossil record is
central to assessing many competing
theories, especially in organic history, one
of the subjects of Hugget’s book, but
although the author of course alludes to it,
he never explains or emphasises its
importance. In this respect, the book tends
towards being a mere catalogue of theories.
Many of the hypotheses mentioned are
fascinating, but none is developed over
more than a few pages. One (catastrophist)
idea is that the Earth might be tumbled
upside down, so called pole shift, perhaps as
a result of the external gravitational torque
produced by a close encounter with a large
extra terrestrial body. Such a shift or tumble
would cause an apparent inversion of the
stars and (possibly—it depends on the type
of shift) an apparent reversal of the motion
of the sun. Moreover, this tumble might
be completed in only 24 hours! Another
idea is that new crustal plates are created,
but old ones are not destroyed. As a result
the Earth might be expanding. I find both of
these propositions incredible. But are they
serious, or simply crack-pot ideas? Who
says so and, more importantly, why? And if
they can be taken seriously, then what are
the implications? The neglect of these
questions left me often frustrated.
Moreover, the author rarely gives
suggestions for further reading for the
interested lay reader.
Much of Hugget’s explanation is
inadequate. Usually this is simply a result
of technical terms not being defined, or
their explanation being deferred for several
paragraphs or pages. In the first chapter,
where the author is discussing what a
catastrophe is, he mentions the so called
‘cusp catastrophe’ and gives an example
from river-channel dynamics. But neither
the mathematical terms— ‘control variable’
and ‘state variable’—nor the example-
specific terms are defined. Given that I
don’t know what ‘channel sinuosity’
means, given that I don’t know what an
‘alluvial fan’ is and am equally ignorant of
‘fan-head trenching’, the author might as
well talk in terms of x, y and z! Throughout
the book, the use of similarly ill-defined
rather specialist terms—‘etchplanation’,
‘Pangean’, ‘static “D” layer’, ‘Oort cloud’,
‘epeirogeny’, ‘orogony’, etc., etc.—besides
thwarting my own understanding, made
me wonder who the intended audience is. I
also found curious the numerous directions
(as opposed to simple references) to papers
published in specialist journals or
conference proceedings for readers wishing
to follow up arguments or counter-
In the final chapter, Hugget offers a
synthesis of the paradigms of Earth history.
Of course, all the systems of thought are
to some extent mixtures of gradualism and
catastophism; actualism and non-actualism;
directionalism and steady-statism;
218 Capital & Class #72
internalism and externalism. The contrasts
are not as stark as some polarised accounts
might suggest. Moreover, Hugget suggests
that many disagreements and misunder-
standings can be put down to semantics: is
‘rapid gradualism’ the same as ‘slow
catastrophism’, for example? He also notes
a reluctance amongst many researchers to
let go of the term ‘uniformitarian'; as a
result both its meaning has been perverted
and understanding has suffered. Hugget
suggests that gradualist and catastrophist
theories might be reconciled through the
theory of non-linear dynamics (‘chaos
theory’), which allows both slow, small
changes and rapid, big ones within the same
system. This final part of the Catastrophism
I found stimulating and accessible. But, the
lack of both depth and clear explanation
elsewhere has left me both frustrated with
this book and without a very much clearer
understanding of how the Earth is (might
be) changing and has (might have) changed
in the past.
Book Reviews 219
Andrew Collier
Being and Worth
Routledge, London, 1999, pp.ix+125.
ISBN 0-415-20736-3 (pbk) £14.99
Reviewed by Jonathan Joseph
This interesting little book has been
published as part of Routledge’s new
Critical Realism Interventions series.
However, after reading the opening few
pages with their many references to
Spinoza, Augustine, Macmurray and
Heidegger, we might start to wonder
whether this really is critical realism.
The aim of the book is to establish an
objective conception of worth, or more
particularly, the worth of beings, based
on values that are independent of human
kind. Rather than accepting the Sartrean
view that things can only have a worth for
us, Collier attempts to argue that
things/beings have an intrinsic worth in
Even lower organisms have needs and
active tendencies to fulfil them. Collier’s
use of Spinoza’s notion of conatus (a
tendency of a thing to persist in its being)
will already be familiar to followers of
critical realism. It can be argued that even
an outcrop of rock has a conatus. For higher
entities the conatus, in terms of a tendency
to persist, includes values appropriate to
this persistence. We may therefore conceive
of a scale of values based on the nature of
beings. (p.3)
This links Spinoza to Augustine and
the claims 1 ) that ‘being as being is good’
and that everything that exists is, to a
degree, a value and 2) that there is an
objective order of beings of greater or lesser
good. Hence value and goodness are
attributes of beings in themselves.
The book makes use of Spinoza’s
ethics and the existentialism of the
Scottish philosopher John Macmurray
(don’t be put off by Tony Blair’s reputed
admiration of him!) to argue that morality
is about emotions and that (contrary to
the traditional separation of reason and
emotion) emotions are rational in that
they include representations of other
beings. Emotions should therefore be
assessed on the basis of how adequately
they correspond to the way that other
beings are. (pp.33-4)
Collier also combines the Spinozist
notions of conatus and extension with
Marx’s view that nature is our inorganic
body and Heidegger’s notion of Dasein or
Being-in-the-world. Through our relation-
ship with the wider environment this
environment becomes, in effect, a part of
our body. Our extension is to have relations
with our wider environment and our
rationality is based on the adequacy of our
ideas and emotions. This is related to the
notion of our caring for our environment.
To take the Spinozist view of human beings
as composite individuals invites us to
examine, not only the interactions of the
‘organic’ or bodily parts, but also the
inorganic parts as extended over our wider
An aspect of our conatus is the drive
for more interaction with our environment.
This gives a grounding for our beliefs and
their authenticity. Thus: ‘If we consider
belief under the attribute of extension, we
see that true beliefs, insofar as they are not
accidental but constitute knowledge,
correspond to a high degree of interaction
between the organism and its environment,
the capacity to affect and be affected by
many things in many ways.’ (p.75) True
beliefs imply an extension of the organism
into the world underlying knowledge which
is lacking in false ideas. Thus false belief
can be seen not just as a lack of true belief,
but as a real lack.
It is now possible to see the relevance of
these ideas to critical realism. They
continue recent attempts to establish an
objective dimension for morality, one
which it is up to us to discover, not
something we merely invent. This develops
the critical realist distinction between the
transitive processes of human knowledge,
and the intransitive or independent objects
of this knowledge so that historical
moralities are the transitive dimension of
morality while the intransitive dimension
refers to the intrinsic worth of beings,
independent of human valuations or utility.
(p.62) Again, to reinforce the critical realist
aspect of this argument Collier argues: ‘If
nature exists independently of our
knowledge of it, then there is at least a
chance that it has worth independently of
our valuation of it.’ (p.85)
A theory that argues that our beliefs
and moral values should be assessed
according to intransitively existing worth
has important consequences for a Marxist
approach to environmental issues. Nature
is part of our inorganic body, but this is
not because it is ours, but because we are
out there in it. This moves away from a
simple anthropocentrism and causes us to
rethink why our relations with nature are an
issue for us and why we should express a
concern for nature.
While an extension of the arguments
of this book to study our relations with
nature would make interesting reading, a
yet more difficult task would be to extend
our understanding of worth to go beyond
nature itself. The book does not really get
beyond living being, yet it would be useful
to examine on what basis we can asses the
worth of all entities in order to rescue the
Marxist concept of use-value.
This has recently been subject to attack
in Derrida’s Specters of Marx where he
argues that the social world has a spectral
character which is based, in part, on the
phantom form of the commodity or
exchange-value. Derrida argues that
Marx’s talk of use-value is an essentialist
left-over that falsely presumes that a
commodity may come to the stage after
220 Capital & Class #72
having already been an ordinary thing or
use-value. As Derrida challenges us: ‘But
whence comes the certainty concerning
the previous phase, that of this supposed
use-value, precisely, a use-value purified of
everything that makes for exchange value
and the commodity form?’ (Derrida,
I have always found the term use-value
problematic in that it suggests a kind of
past utopia, as if some sort of pre- or non-
capitalist form of measurement is possible.
Perhaps it is better to talk of use rather
than use-value—although this returns us to
the Sartrean problem of anthropo-
centricity (to talk of use implies that we
see the object, not in itself, but as an object
for us). But perhaps again, the notion of
value as intrinsic worth—as something
qualitative as opposed to the quantitative
connotations that use-value still implies—
might provide the solution to this dilemma
and counter those like Derrida who would
wish to deprive the concept of any
ontological status. Here lies the next
challenge for critical realism, an extension
of the concept of worth beyond living
being. Although this is quite clearly a
different project to the one outlined in
Being and Worth, this book, in developing
the concept of conatus and the idea of the
inorganic body, has already begun the
Derrida, J. (1994) Specters of Marx. Routledge,
New York & London..
Book Reviews 221
Geoffrey M. Hodgson
Economics and Utopia: Why the learning economy is not the end
of history
Routledge, St. Ives, 1999, pp.337.
ISBN 0-415-07506-8 (hbk)£55.00
ISBN 0-415-19685-X (pbk)£17.99
Reviewed by Peter Clarke
This is a book that deserves to be widely
read, and should be by anybody with an
interest in the discipline of economics. It is
an ambitious work that seeks to question
the current state and direction of the
subject, and raises questions which the
current mainstream of economics does
not even consider. In some ways it is a
return to topics that have been the concern
of economists in the past, but it is a book
that is very much concerned with the
future. It challenges the Fukuyama ‘End
of History’ hypothesis and suggests
economies are not static but dynamic.
History then, does not end. Hodgson is
concerned with the processes of change,
and considers future possible social
The main theme of the book is that the
‘desired utopias of both the traditional left
and of the neo-liberal right are unfeasible’
(p.9). The claim is that both of them fail to
understand the role of knowledge and
learning in a modern economy. ‘History
has no pre-ordained path’ (p.10) and there
are a number of directions in which
evolution could take capitalism. So
Hodgson does suggest that capitalism will
evolve into something else and then goes
on to explore the possibilities.
Clearly mainstream economics with its
equilibrium analysis cannot analyse
dynamic change. The starting point for
this book is Marx, and the preface to the
book states, ‘Capital remains one of the
greatest achievements in economic theory
since Adam Smith’ (p.xviii). However,
although influenced by Marx, this is an
institutionalist rather than a Marxist
analysis. The ambitious aim is to transcend
Marx. Clearly this aim will not appeal to
the committed Marxist, but even they
should find the book challenging and
thought provoking.
The book is split into three parts. Parts
one and two are a critique of the tradit-
ional approaches of both left and right,
and an introduction to institutional
economics. In part three possible future
directions are considered. The left will find
much more to agree with than the right,
but a major point of disagreement is likely
to be the definition of socialism that is
used. Hodgson sees ‘traditional’ socialism
as being synonymous with central
planning, which is perhaps questionable,
especially in a book entitled Economics
and Utopia. It seems ta confuse a method
of attempting to achieve a socialist utopia
with the vision of that utopia. The writer
does quote Polanyi in the book and so he
must be aware of his more elegant
definition of socialism as a system that
seeks the primacy of thc social system over
the economic system, rather than vice
versa, as occurs under capitalism. How
ever, equating socialism with central
planning does make it an easier target.
It is the attempt to transcend Marx
though, that is particularly interesting. The
analysis has much in ccmmon with that
of Marx, but departs from it in two
important ways. The first is concerned with
Marx’s belief that ‘commodity and market
relations could grow to the eventual
exclusion of all non-capitalist features’
(p.147). Hodgson argues that no pure
socio-economic system can ever exist.
There are, in this analysis, different types of
capitalism because different ‘impurities’
existed in the different pre-capitalist
societies. It further argues that the existence
of non-capitalist structures within
capitalism is a functional necessity. So, for
example, will the family ever come to be
dominated by market relations? For Marx
this would be the case, but for Hodgson
such areas that are outside of such relations
will and must exist for the continuation of
capitalism. If capitalism does destroy such
non-market relation ships, then it destroys
itself. Hodgson suggests that they will
always exist, and ‘some degree of variety
will always be with us’ (p.147). In defence
of Marx though, the fact that they currently
do exist does not mean that they always
will. We do seem to have experienced over
the last 20 years or so, the extension of
market relationships into areas where they
did not previously exist. It would also seem
that the Marxist would have no problem
with the notion that capitalism will destroy
the very thing that its existence relies upon.
For Hodgson though, the differences will
also exist in whatever comes after
The second way in which this work
differs from Marx is concerned with what
does replace capitalism, as Hodgson does
believe that something else will evolve. In
a section provocatively entitled ‘Where
Marx Got it Wrong’ (p.184), he suggests
that the growing complexity of the socio-
economic system, and the need for
knowledge based skills, will lessen the
power of capital over labour. The more
skill is required, the argument runs, the
more independent the worker becomes.
222 Capital & Class #72
The effect of this will, for Hodgson, lead to
the end of capitalism as it changes the
capital/labour relationship. It is seen as
leading to the end of employer/employee
relationships and their replacement with
the situation where ‘the degree of control of
the work process by the employer becomes
closer to that of a contract for services’
(p.219), which effectively means that the
worker is now self-employed and has
control over their own working lives. This
is a direct denial of the de-skilling
hypothesis of Braverman, for which
Hodgson argues there is no empirical
evidence. Crucially though, we cannot
determine the outcome of this process,
and a number of possible scenarios are
discussed. One of these does correspond
with traditional Marxism, but this is seen as
only one possibility.
There is much to like about this book. It
is well argued, stimulating and thought
provoking, and deserves to be widely read.
The political right will find little to their
liking but there is much here for the left. It
is an optimistic work. Ultimately though,
this may actually be its weakness. It
concludes with the comment, ‘Once we
realise that we are not at the end of history
then we can begin, with eyes open, the task
of making it’ (p.262). That may well be the
case, but will it be of our own choosing?
Book Reviews 223
George McKay (Ed.)
DiY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain
Verso, London & New York, 1998, pp.310.
ISBN 1-85984-878-8 (hbk) £40.00
ISBN 1-85984-260-7 (pbk) £12.00
Reviewed by Keir Milburn
Editor George McKay defines ‘DiY culture’
as ‘a youth-centred and directed cluster of
interests and practices around green
radicalism, direct action politics, new
musical sounds and experiences, [which] is
a kind of 1990s counterculture’ (p.2). The
book broadly refers to the movements
which came together around the 1994
campaign against the Criminal Justice Bill.
This campaign led to new alliances and
political practices. In particular it was the
point when anti-roads and related green
activism joined forces with the free-party
dance scene. What emerged was probably
one of the most important and imaginative
movements of post-war Britain, the story of
which is far from played out.
In his previous book, Senseless Acts of
Beauty (Verso, 1996), McKay attempted
to provide a running commentary and
some context to the explosion in popularity
of direct-action politics. The rooting of his
analysis in ‘cultural studies’ led to a certain
amount of distortion and a narrow focus
which led to the book receiving a mixed
reception from the movement. McKay
outlines the purpose of the book DiY
Culture as: ‘…to open up some space for a
number of key figures and other happeners
in it, to tell their stories, their histories,
their actions and ideas’ (p.2). This approach
allows some of the shakers and movers
involved in ‘alternative’ political culture
over the last decade to speak in their own
voices. There are chapters by and about
the video group ‘Undercurrents’ and the
squatters’ magazine SQUALL. There are
histories of the groups ‘Reclaim the Streets’,
‘Earth First!’ and ‘The Land is Ours’, and of
the ‘Exodus Collective’ and the ‘No M11
Link Road’ campaign. The book ends with
three chapters on aspects of the nineties
dance music scene.
By far the longest chapter is McKay’s
own introduction and it’s here that
problems are most apparent. A particular
problem is his projection of his own politics
on to the movement: ‘I do think that even if
it doesn’t overtly espouse it, DiY culture
practises an intuitive liberal anarchism’
(p.3). Perhaps a case could be made for
this line when the chapter was written—
presumably early 1998—but two years on
there has been a political sea change. The
buzzword in the DiY movement in Britain
now is anti-capitalism. As with any loose
movement, its political development has
been untidy and uneven but there has,
without a doubt, been a change in the
rhetoric and focus of this movement’s
politics. The J18 ‘Carnival against Capital-
ism’ was both the public expression of a
political development that had been under-
way for some years and a catalyst for a new
hegemony in the movement. This quote
from a participant at J18 is not atypical of
current thinking:
I was at Newbury, and we lost. I saw the
land being trashed. A lot of us in the
environmental movement are absolutely
disenchanted with the old approach. You
can only appeal to NIMBYism so often;
there is no point fighting little battles
across the country. We have to be more
ambitious, and attack the system itsel£
That’s why we targeted the City itself.’1
By providing an almost yearly national
focus, the big Reclaim the Streets (RTS)
demonstrations provide a useful barometer
of the movement’s thinking. It is clear that
some of the originators of RTS saw their
form of protest as displaying an implicit
critique of capitalism right from the
beginning. But the overt focus was
originally on ‘car culture’ and the
reclaiming of public space. This focus
expanded when solidarity actions with
striking Tube workers and the more famous
coalition with the Liverpool dockers led to
a 20,000 strong ‘march for social justice’
on the day of the 1997 general election.
RTS’s contribution was a ‘never mind the
ballots’ party in Trafalgar Square, with
heavy fighting to defend the party from
riot police. John Jordan’s chapter leaves
the story of RTS here. He uses a framework
of radical art theory to situate RTS but
makes its anti-capitalist basis clear. The
next big event was a street party against
the meeting of the G8 countries in
Birmingham—with simultaneous street
parties taking place around the world. From
here it is easy to see a progression leading to
the ‘Carnival against Capitalism’ in the City
of London.
A vital part of this political development
is the worldwide circulation of information
about struggles in which the Zapatistas
have played a large role. Their initiation
of the international encuentros
(‘encounters’)— the first in the Mexican
jungles, the second in Spain—has
accelerated the linking of anti globalisation
struggles and, in particular, led to the
setting up of Peoples Global Action (PGA).
This organisation links the UK DiY
movement with large inventive movements
from the Southern hemisphere, like
Movemento Sem Terra, the Brazilian
landless peasants’ movement, and KRRS,
the radical Indian farmers’ union. The
Birmingham anti-G8 protest was part of
four days of international protest and a
first outing for PGA coordination. This
‘globalisation of our own’ has made
capitalism’s global system hard to ignore,
224 Capital & Class #72
whereas in 80s and 90s academia this truth
largely moved out of view. With global
institutions such as G8 and the WTO,
capitalism has allowed it’s mask to slip.
Without the mediation of nation states
there has been a lack of legitimacy. These
institutions also present a unified target in
an immaterial system which has been hard
to pin down. Unfortunately McKay misses
out on these global influences which have
proved so important.
You could argue that McKay just
backed the wrong horse, but the direction
of the movement was clearly visible to those
studying the form. In their review of the
No M11 Link Road campaign Aufheben
provide the most prescient chapter. They
view the book itself and the term ‘DiY
culture’ in particular as an attempt at
The term ‘DiY Culture’ serves to restrict
our historical antecedents to post war
Britain, privileging explicitly cultural
phenomena, at the expense of
connections to, say, the Russian, German
and Spanish revolutions, or the history of
the workers’ struggle in the UK (pp. 128-
283, note 26).
There are chapters which are overtly re-
cuperative. For example, George Mombiot
in his piece on The Land is Ours campaign
says: ‘Direct action is not the whole answer,
nor is it an end in itself; but it is an unparal-
leled means of drawing attention to issues
which have languished in obscurity to the
cost of us all’ (pp.185-6). Mombiot’s line
reduces direct action to a form of militant
lobbying of power. The early DiY move-
ment sprang up in opposition to exactly
this sort of politics, embodied by organisa-
tions like Greenpeace and Friends of the
McKay’s introduction is a useful
example of the limitations of a liberal
anarchism to a movement struggling to
understand what capitalism is and how to
oppose a social relationship. In a section he
calls ‘Lacunae’ he produces a familiar
shopping list of identity politics and berates
DiY culture for failing to measure up to
their demands. The identity politics of the
80s and 90s failed to deal with or con-
ceptualize capitalism, which under the
strategy of ‘neoliberalism’ had been
extending capitalist relations both geo-
graphically and into new areas of life. All the
new social movements have found
themselves floundering on the rocks of
neo-liberalism. These movements have had
to face up to capital’s attempted reduction
of all life to the economic. The result has
either been defeat or incorporation with
the danger of backlash.
The move to anti-capitalism has enabled
the ‘DiY’ movement to at least see the
possibility of moving beyond that impasse.
It has been understood as moving away
from ‘single issues’, and towards a unity-in
diversity that happened first in practice.
As the Zapatistas say ‘One No, Many Yeses’.
Capitalism has enveloped the world and
our lives: a shared opposition to it provides
a point of unity. The yeses are the different
areas of struggle, the different lines of flight
to possible different worlds. This holds out
the prospect of avoiding both the old
monolithic unity of the party and the
rainbow coalition of liberalism.
1. ‘How virtual chaos beat city police’, in The
Observer 20/6/99.
2. ‘Recuperation’ is term borrowed from the
Situationist International and defined by
Aufheben as ‘an attempt (not necessarily
deliberate) to appropriate antagonistic
expressions, transforming them into
something harmless and integrating them
ideologically into the aims and purposes of
capitalist relations’ (p.128/283, note 27).
Book Reviews 225
Two competing discourses have recently
emerged within the labour process
literature, each offering different interpret-
ations and languages to explain the
reorganization of work. One argues that
changes in the workplace in the name of
‘flexibility’ benefit capital and further
entrench the fordist organization of work
leading to the intensification of work for
the working class. The other accepts the
transcendence of the fordist organization
of work and argues that post-Fordism
means ‘empowering’, and ‘challenging’
workers by re-combining conception and
execution and validating their experiences
and tacit knowledges of the organization
of work. Moreover, a new and harmon-
ious relationship between capital and
labour is evident as each has something to
gain in the new workplace. The post
Fordist workplace is a ‘win-win’ political
climate where cooperation between labour
and capital has replaced confrontation.
Where does Bob Russell locate himself in
this literature? What evidence is there in
the Canadian mining industry to support
his own contribution to this paradigm?
Russell sets out to investigate the
changing labour processes in the mining
industry in Canada since the 1960s. At the
same time, he empirically evaluates the
post-industrial thesis that workplace
change entails the introduction of more
challenging and enskilling work leading to
a workforce capable of diagnostic and
analytical skills in the reorganized
production process. Finally, Russell seeks to
ascertain the extent to which new industrial
relations protocols corresponds to the
reorganization of work in the mining
The book contains seven chapters.
Chapter one reviews the literature on the
(re)organization of work, provides a
rationale for the study, and describes the
methodological approaches used to
collected data. Russell investigates four
companies at five different sites with three,
rather solidarity-lacking, unions represent-
ing workers. Site visits, surveys of mining
and mill workers, interviews with union
leaders and managers, and observations of
union meetings discussing change in the
workplace are the methods used. What
surely must be an oversight, he forgets to
inform the reader of the total number of
interviews carried out.
Chapter two describes the market share
of the Canadian Potash and Uranium
industries, and the characteristics of their
workforces. It is largely a (white) male
workforce, with the exception of the crews
at Key Lake in Northern Saskatchewan.
Here, 37% of the workforce (147 of 399
workers) are Aboriginal. Women of
Aboriginal descent are numerous here as
well, and 13% of Russell’s sample at this
mine includes them. Typically, Aboriginals
work in the mining department as heavy
equipment operators (61% of them). In
chapters three and four, Russell identifies
two ‘cultures of employment’. By this he
226 Capital & Class #72
Bob Russell
More with Less: Work Reorganization in the Canadian Mining
University of Toronto Press, 1999.
ISBN 0-8020-4354-2 (hbk) £40.00
ISBN 0-8020-8178-9 (pbk) £14.00
Reviewed by Luis L.M. Aguiar
means the ‘specific strategies that are
directed to managing workforces and
influencing the work effort bargain’ (p.28).
Across the companies, two cultures of
employment are identified—fordism and
post-fordism. Chapter five evaluates the
findings in chapters three and four with an
eye to the literature. Chapter six examines
the extent to which industrial relations
protocols follow suite with the introduction
of new work reorganization. The study is
briefly concluded in chapter seven.
Russell begins his argument by stating
that capital accumulation is primary and its
achievement can take different forms in
the capitalist organization of production.
Thus, there is nothing inevitable about the
choices management makes in securing
profit, and by extension, it need not take
specific form. More specifically he
concludes that the introduction and
implementation of work reorganization is
not due to arguments put forth by pro-
ponents of post-Fordism, (contradictions
of fordism; concerns over monotony of
work process; etc) but instead by
managerial strategy of reducing workforce
and making the remaining workforce do
‘more with less’. This being so, post
Fordism has little to offer: ‘[a]bout the
empowerment of workers, households and
communities, it is not. About the creation
of more participatory, skilful labour
processes, it is at best, tangential. Rather,
the emerging economy is, first and
foremost, about doing more with less and
for less’ (p.199). His investigation of the
politics of production in a changing
industrial relations climate reveals that
workers have not been ‘empowered’, but
nor is there evidence that post-Fordism is
displacing the union as primary source of
identity and political vehicle for workers.
Instead, post-Fordism ‘has failed to resolve
management’s ‘union problems’ or to ‘put
the union away’ (p.194). And,’ [b]y no
stretch of the imagination have workers
been empowered by the new forms of work
organization, unless by that we mean a
willingness to more readily undertake
dangerous work’ (p. 194).
Sceptics familiar with Canadian political
economy might question the need for yet
another study of the mining industry in
Canada. Several good (and recent) studies
of the industry already exist, and mining,
like forestry for example, has often been
harnessed by writers intent on discourses of
nation-building. Perhaps in anticipation
of this question, Russell suggests three
reasons for his study: the industry remains
crucially important for the Canadian
political economy since Canada is the
world’s largest producer of Potash; it is a
major employer in Saskatchewan’s
economy; and more importantly, his
‘comparative sectorial study’ allows for
comparison of the ways in which doing
work is changing.
This is an impressive study for several
reasons. First, Russell demonstrates deft
skill in research design, analysis, and
description of the formal structures of
workplace organization. The detail of his
describing of the labour processes and the
accessible style in which it is presented, is
outstanding. Second, so is his ability to
bring together several data into clear and
coherent arguments linked to an immense
(and growing) body of literature. But there
are some weaknesses in the study. One,
for a study of workers’ experiences of a
changing workplace, little is actually
presented from the point of view of
workers themselves. With the very rare
exception of the inclusion of a passage
from an union leader in the book, there
are no workers’ ‘voices’ in this study. What
there is are summaries of workers
responses to survey questions. In this case,
the reach of survey methodology comes
at the cost of workers’ voices and rich data.
Two, he misses an opportunity to discuss at
length ‘race’ and the labour process. One
Book Reviews 227
would have expected Russell to develop
further analysis of the position and
experiences of Aboriginal workers in the
study. The following questions seem
particularly important to me: why and how
were Aboriginal workers placed largely in
one occupation only? By what basis was
this discrimination made? What were their
specific experiences of the changes in the
labour process? Did they not have a
different opinion from ‘white’ workers?
Were any Aboriginals part of the union
leadership? Russell also identified the
Aboriginal female composition of the
workforce but once again fails to explore
their specific experiences of what is taking
place in their workplace. This is too bad
since the impact of the post-Fordist labour
processes on women, and their reactions to
it, are sorely lacking in Canadian research
and elsewhere. In my view, a synopsis of
Aboriginals occupational and educational
background is insufficient to understand
their workplace experiences. Three, this is
a conventional study of the organization of
work. It ignores the more recent literature
on ‘discourse’ and the labour process. It
would have been useful for Russell to
discuss, for example, the meaning of work
and masculinity for a (primarily male)
workforce experiencing tremendous
change to their work and their identities as
workers. Is it possible that the ‘more with
less’ thesis is more than an economic
discourse? To what extent is this idea tied
to managerial assumptions about the
working class body and masculinity, and
the latter’s ability to endure shifts in
managerial programmes? The literature
today argues that not only is work
organization changing and the politics of
production, but also workers’ identities.
Pity this focus was not defined in an
otherwise very good study.
228 Capital & Class #72
Jeffrey Broadbent
Environmental Politics in Japan: Networks of Power and Protest
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 1998, pp.xviiii + 418.
ISBN 0-521-56424-7 (hbk) £59.95
Reviewed by Paul Burkett
According to the New York Times, (January
13, 2000), since the September 1999 nuclear
accident in Tokaimura, 70 miles north of
Tokyo, Japan has experienced a ‘sharp
movement of public opinion against
nuclear power …a genuine groundswell
[of] small civic groups that have started
petition drives against the industry’s
expansion.’ Grassroots environmental
protests ‘have been springing up and
asserting themselves more boldly,’ after
‘having mostly died out since Japan
attained the level of affluence of many
Western countries, starting in the 1960s.’
Those interested in learning from and
supporting this new upsurge of environ-
mental activism will find essential
background in Jeffrey Broadbent’s book,
which provides detailed information on
the real reasons behind the rise and fall of
Japan’s localised environmental move
ments in the 1960s and 1970s. Broadbent’s
analysis shows that the ebbing of this earlier
round of protests was hardly due simply to
Book Reviews 229
rising consumer affluence as mainstream
views would have it; rather, it had
everything to do with the ability of Japan’s
unique capitalist power structure and its
‘ruling triad’ (big business, government
bureaucracy, and the Liberal Democratic
Party) to muffle, co-opt, out flank, and
repress popular concerns and aspirations.
At the same time, Broadbent uses the
Japanese experience of environ mental
protest to test the relevance of alternative
approaches to capitalism’s ‘growth/
environment (GE) dilemma,’ and to argue
for the importance of a ‘network’ analysis
of environmental conflicts.
The main site for the book’s analysis
is Oita Prefecture (on the island of Kyushu,
in southwestern Japan), where Broadbent
lived and worked during the 1978-81
period. This area experienced, in a kind
of microcosm, the whole gamut of
phenomena comprising Japan’s postwar
GE dilemma: rapid industrialization,
growing pollution problems, rising
environmental protests, and the ‘solving’ of
these problems and quieting of these
protests by the combined efforts of the
ruling triad. With a narrative built out of
rigorously tabulated field interviews and his
personal involvement in environmental
actions, Broadbent recounts the rise and
fall of Oita’s environmental protest
movements over the 1960s and 1970s at
the neighbourhood, hamlet, city, township,
and prefectural levels. While the narrative
is itself mainly inductive, the analysis
(especially in the extended chapter
conclusions) is also presented as an
interplay between the empirical raw
materials and extant theoretical models.
The story begins with the national-level
debate over the ‘New Industrial Cities’—
industrial decentralization—law passed in
1962, followed by the prefectural squabble
over the type of industry to be attracted to
Oita (early 1960s and subsequent). The
narrative then turns to the national-level
conflict over growing pollution problems,
culminating in the 1970 ‘Pollution Diet’
with its new environmental regulations.
Broadbent uses this national debate to
help explain the development of environ-
mental protests in Oita, leading to the
prefectural governor’s promise to fulfil
three conditions (‘consensus, harmony,
and assessment’) prior to any further
expansion of Oita’s shoreline industrial
development. Finally, the struggle over the
definition of each of these conditions (i.e.,
the interpretation of their fulfilment or lack
thereof) provides the thematic for the
peaking and ebbing of grassroots protest
under the incessant pressures exerted by
the ruling triad.
In using the Oita/Japan experience as a
case study, Broadbent divides extant
analyses of the GE dilemma into three
broad categories: political-economic,
institutional, and cultural. He also
considers alternative models of state power
including ‘the pluralist, elite, class,
corporatist, state-autonomy and party
centric (principal-agent) models developed
in studies of the United States and
European societies, as well as distinctive
models of the East Asian state—the
“network state” and the “bureaucratic
paternalist” state’ (p. 338). Broadbent’s
methodological preference is clearly for
an extension of the network state approach
to the general process of industrialization,
pollution, and attendant conflicts.
Networks occupy the ‘plastic zone’ between
structure and individual agency, where
interpersonal relations and collective
actions are germinated and reproduced.
They are thus variously characterized as
‘networks within social institutions,’
‘normative, informal networks,’ ‘informally
institutionalized social networks,’ ‘informal
hierarchical institutions,’ ‘embedded social
networks,’ and ‘social structures infused
with ideological cultural structures’ (pp.
24, 26, 28, 30, 65, 92, 178, 186). As such,
they operate across all ‘three forms of
interaction: political economic, social
institutional and cultural dimensions’
There is a healthy concern behind
Broadbent’s embrace of network theory.
The motivations of individuals and their
bonding together in class and other
movements should never be reduced to
either personal preferences or structural
imperatives; an irreducible intersubjective
element always remains (even though this
element is itself both material and social).
This is, after all, the stuff of which Gramsci’s
rich analyses of power and hegemony (not
to mention Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire)
are largely made. Indeed, Broadbent’s
narrative is at its insightful, intuitive best
when unveiling and sorting through the
complex web of informal and semi-formal
relations through which environmental
protests developed, and by which the ruling
triad’s power was exerted. One gets a real
feel for what was happening in these
movements and conflicts—the exhilara-
tion of networks being transformed from
instruments of class rule into instruments of
protest and partial liberation, and the
resignation attendant to the reversal of this
dynamic by elite power and by the failure of
movements to forge an alternative vision of
more environmentally friendly production.
Nonetheless, Broadbent’s somewhat
wooden treatment of alternative theories
—especially Marxism—does lead him to
overstate the independent advantages of
the network approach. In fact, the
substance of Broadbent’s very intuitive
narrative strongly supports a Marxist
approach emphasizing the relevance of
class power (in all its forms) as a
determinant of environmental outcomes in
the Japanese case. As Broadbent himself
puts it, ‘networks softened the borders of
structural contradictions generated by
different immediate interests … enabl[ing]
compromise solutions sufficient to
preserve the collective interests of the ruling
triad’ (p.92). His narrative also clearly
shows that Oita’s environmental protest
movements were basically working-class
formations, not middle-class interest
groups as is commonly presumed in
mainstream circles.
Perhaps it is Broadbent’s rigid, fractured
conception of alternative theories that
prevents him from recognizing the obvious
implications of his own narrative. Instead,
his main conclusions are that Japan’s
relatively intense environmental conflicts
were due to the high social intensity of its
pollution (the number of people affected),
and that class had very little to do with
Japan’s specific GE dilemma. In the end,
institutional and cultural factors, and
networks themselves, are treated as mere
propagation mechanisms for a
predetermined GE dilemma which is
basically the same for all ‘advanced capitalist
industrialized democratic societies’ (p.10).
Without a unified, holistic and dialectical
methodology to inform the network
approach, it remains incapable of
organically linking the respective networks
of power and of protest as two sides of one
class relation involving the dual exploitation
of social labor and nature. Hence the realm
of industrial production and pollution
problems is basically taken as a technical
‘given’ (one exhibiting a generic conflict
between society and nature), not as a
historically transient form of human
production to be overcome through the
struggle for non-exploitative production
relations. This may help explain the
alternately optimistic and fatalistic tone of
Broadbent’s analysis—depending on his
stance toward the ruling triad’s techno-
cratic ‘solutions’ of the GE dilemma (which
included such methods as taller
smokestacks, bogus impact assessments,
and the relocation of Japan’s most overtly
dirty industries to the poorer countries of
East Asia and Latin America).
230 Capital & Class #72
Fortunately, these methodological
rigidities and biases do not negate the
usefulness of Broadbent’s main narrative
embodying his extraordinarily detailed field
work and his intuitive grasp of the Japanese
power structure. This book is an important
and timely contribution to our knowledge
of Japan’s environmental struggles.
Book Reviews 231
Akhtar A. Badshah
Our Urban Future: New Paradigms for Equity and Sustainability
Zed Books, London. 1996.
ISBN 1-85649-405-5 (hbk) £39.95
ISBN 1-85649-406-3 (pbk) £14.95
Reviewed by Luis L.M. Aguiar
This book focuses on the housing crisis in
the ‘Third World’ and describes the ways in
which some communities are organizing to
meet this crisis. The author proposes an
‘appreciative inquiry’ approach focusing
on ‘building capacity, valuing the strongest
features of the community under
consideration, envisioning what “might
be”, discussing what “should be” and
achieving innovative solutions’ to delineate
ways of resolving the crisis (p.ix). He claims
this will develop ‘a vision that sees develop-
ment nurtured by empowering the people
so that they can create their own identities
and their own institutions’ (p.ix). This is
preferred to an analysis centred on
‘problem-solving’ since it defines the issues
narrowly and often is implemented on a
time-delay basis long after more pressing
issues have arisen to grip the community.
This ‘appreciative inquiry’ method,
however, is largely based on secondary
sources with little contribution from
community members themselves.
The book is divided into three parts.
In the first, chapters 1 and 2, the author
contextualizes the issue of housing and
the severity of the housing shortage in
the ‘Third World.’ The severity of the
housing challenge is alarming especially
since urbanization continues at an
accelerated rate. The discussion here is
poignant and represents some of the best
sections in the book. Part two (chs.3-6)
describes in detail five cases studies
where housing shortages are being
addressed by communities. There are
two examples from Pakistan, and one
each from Egypt, Indonesia and India. It
is not entirely clear why these specifics
communities were chosen as examples
of housing initiatives. Nonetheless, the
level of detail in the description of the
assembly of tools and materials for the
construction of housing projects is
impressive. The last part of the book
(chs.7-8) summarizes the findings and
discusses the implications of the evidence
for the transplantation of the approach
beyond the cases discussed in the text.
The author concludes that urban
development services programmes have
a better chance of success in
sustainability and equity ‘if they are
developed through the following:
consensus rather than confrontation;
encouraging and promoting private
sector involvement under conditions that
are clearly understood and instituted,
and when NGOs and other intermediary
organizations play a vital role in
community empowerment and manage-
ment’ (x-xi). This conclusion stems from
Badshah’s own political beliefs that the
political right rejects state intervention
in favour of market force to resolve the
housing crisis. And, the left is suspicious
of the private sector and the latter’s focus
on exploitation for profit gain. Badshah
opts for a ‘middle ground’ between these
two polarities arguing that research and
solutions will only come about through
cooperation between the private sector,
government and communities. The latter,
in particular, must show ‘self-help’
initiative to attract the other two partners.
The book has a lot to offer, especially its
description of each case study and the
coordination of unpaid labour power and
effort in erecting housing structures. But it
is the ‘self help’ advocacy that most
concerns me. Few would question the
severity of the housing crisis in the ‘Third
World,’ and increasingly in the ‘First’.
There is little doubt that community
defined priorities and initiatives are
necessary elements in any serious attempt
to deal with the housing situation. This
should not, however, be pursued at the
cost of side-stepping structural inequalities
and systemic barriers reproduced by local
and international capital, as well as supra-
national organizations such as the World
Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. While one might acknowledge that
communities must indeed get on with
sheltering themselves, this should not
preclude a serious critique of international
political economy. It is disappointing that
this book contains little about foreign
investment, ‘Third World’ debt, ‘bloody
Fordism’, etc. What there is is a discussion
of housing issues and development
separate from an increasingly impinging
political economy.
The view of ‘self-help’ is worrisome for
a second reason. Undeniably, communities
have always identified their issues and
developed ideas on how to resolve them.
To suggest otherwise, as the author seems to
(see the quote in the opening paragraph of
this review), is false. Badshah’s implicit view
that ‘self-help’ is the initiative and motivator
that is going to attract ‘partners’ from
government and the private sector alike,
and thus likely to bring results, is also
problematic since it skirts the state and the
role it has played in civil society. One of the
discourses of neo-liberalism is precisely the
view that the state can no longer be relied
upon for intervention, support, or providing
alternatives in improving people’s living
conditions and standards. Instead, it is the
individual citizen/ community that is held
responsible for improving her own life
situation. This is best displayed in arguments
about ‘self sufficient’ and the ‘self
enterprising’ citizen/community that the
new right makes repeatedly. Such a view
cannot go unchallenged.
The book also suffers from a serious
omission—the views of the people in the
communities involved in the housing
projects. To my count, Badshah conducted
just six interviews; none with the actual
community leaders and activists engaged in
finding new ways of erecting shelter for
their community. This is a shocking
omission which raises serious doubts about
the author’s ability to evaluate the ‘success’
of the various projects described. Is it
possible to clearly and accurately formulate
an assessment of a project without
discussing it with the people it most
effects—the community members
themselves? I’m afraid that without
commentary from the communities
affected, little is understood about the
mobilization of housing initiatives in the
‘Third World.’
232 Capital & Class #72
In the past decade one of the budding social
movements in the United States has been
the environmental justice movement
(EJM). It seeks to reduce incidences of
environmental hazards being placed in
communities dominated by African
Americans, American Indians, Asian
Americans, Latinos, and those with low
income. The EJM has emerged through the
intersection of race, gender, and class
groupings. This has resulted in multi-racial
coalitions that are thought to perceive the
nexus between racial and gender inequality,
lack of healthcare and social services,
housing, poverty, and economic barriers
that in the past have been the focus of the
civil rights and social justice movements.
Editor David Camacho has assembled a
group of academics to explore the EJM and
bring attention to political and social
aspects of environmental problems
previously dominated by ‘scientific’
thinking. The contributors of the eleven
essays (divided into four sections) are
predominantly political scientists from the
southwestern United States with a sprinkl-
ing of authors from the northeast and
northwest. Camacho begins by asking what
is politics and answers using the theoretical
framework of the ‘political process model’
that rests on the assumption that wealth
and power are concentrated in the hands of
a few groups that deprive most people from
influence over decisions affecting their lives.
From this promising beginning the
introductory section, (A Framework for
Analysis), often lapses into an impenetrable
and vacuous academic perspective that
serves only to obfuscate rather than clarify
issues through abstract models that do not
address the existing political economy.
Fortunately the case studies of com-
munity environmental organizations, (in
the sections covering Environmental
Injustices, and Confronting Environmental
Injustices), are illuminating and well
researched, providing an understanding of
how these issues are comprehended in
contemporary American society. Specific
chapters dealing with Hispanic and
aboriginal communities in urban and rural
settings in the southwest are grounded in
empirical situations and demonstrate how
the respective communities have organized
around environmental justice issues to
ensure access to a cleaner environment.
The last two essays in the concluding
section of the book (on Environmental
Justice) are less than satisfactory. Robyn
and Camacho’s ‘Bishegendan Aku: Respect
the Earth’ has underlying elements of
essentialism in employing Native American
environmental values as a prospective
model for broader society. In the last essay,
‘Environmental Ethics as a Political Choice’,
Camacho repeatedly asks ‘What is to be
done?’ to solve environmental problems
through effective social, political, and
environmental organizing.
However, the question is never asked
or answered in the spirit of Lenin. Instead
the reader is subjected to a schizophrenic
Book Reviews 233
David E. Camacho (Ed.)
Environmental Injustices,Political Struggles,Race,Class,and the
Duke University Press, Durham & London. 1998.
ISBN 0-8223-2225-0 (hbk)
ISBN 0-8223-2242-0 (pbk)
Reviewed by Ian MacMillan
(dare one say dialectical) debate between
‘the individual as rational actor’ and the
need for ‘collective forms of resistance.’ In
the absence of the latter Camacho concludes
that ‘In the final analysis, changing
individual behavior is the only way of
responding to environmental problems.’
Class (and working class issues) are the
singular universal factor in communities
subjected to environmental injustices. Yet
class appears not to be a fundamental
organizing principle of the EJM, or at least
of Camacho’s book. Marxism, socialism,
or any variation thereof are not to be found.
The sole mention of a Marxist economist
has the unwitting appearance of a caricature
since the example deals indirectly with
Cuba, leaving the impression that the only
people that could or would utilize a Marxist
analytical perspective are found in the last
western redoubt of Marxism.
Despite tracing the roots of the EJM back
to community organizing skills and tactics
learned during the civil rights movement
the various authors do not account for
setbacks in civil rights initiatives and the
former role of the state in building the ‘Great
Society.’ Would an EJM not also be
concerned with (the lack of) universal
medical care, social welfare, and housing?
Even though the numerous EJM groups
possess common organizing attributes,
(class, gender, and race/ethnicity), they
remain localized and disparate entities which
have not challenged the political hegemony
of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Yet in the age of ‘new labour’, any smugness
concerning the continuation of American
exceptionalism, (the absence of working
class or socialist political parties), would be
misplaced since social democratic, socialist,
and Marxist political parties in the west have
faired little better.
Historically, in relation to the United
States, we must ask whether the EJM is in
fact ‘new.’ Contemporary and foregone
organizations such as the United Farm
Workers and the Southern Tenant Farmers’
Union could also be considered as examples
of an ‘EJM’ since they often combined
issues of property relations, modes of
production, class, race, and environmental
issues. Furthermore earlier generations of
English and American authors ranging
from Engels and the Webbs, to Jacob Riis,
(How The Other Half Lives), and Hutchins
Hapgood (Spirit of the Ghetto) documented
and sought to alleviate social and
environmental conditions of the underclass.
Given the limitations of Environmental
Injustices, Political Struggles, Race, Class,
and the Environment, I can’t help
recommending Robert Gottlieb’s Forcing
The Spring: The Transformation of the
American Environmental Movement, an
excellent overview of the historical evolution
of the American environmental movement.
For a Red/Green perspective on American
environmental issues the journal Capitalism
Nature Socialism is also useful while a recent
edition of the Environmental History journal
suggests that environmental justice issues in
urban America long predate the EJM. David
Harvey’s, Justice, Nature and the Geography
of Difference is instructive in advancing a
critique of the limitations and possibilities of
the EJM as it is presently formulated.
In addressing equity issues in society
there is definitely a Green stripe within the
EJM. Sadly, at present, there is no Red
stripe. However, as with the EJM, socialist
and other new social movements have
generally been struggling to form a coherent
social vision. After the WTO’s ‘Battle of
Seattle’ tepid optimism was expressed in
some quarters based on the experimental
labour and environmental coalition known
as the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the
Environment. Though it is far from a
Red/Green alliance, the incongruous sight
of the usually productionist steelworkers
and neo-Malthusian Earth First!ers leading
demonstrations may carry promise for the
234 Capital & Class #72
This is an interesting collection of articles
which, although published in 1996, has
lost none of its topicality. The theme
common to the diverse contributions in
this volume is, as the title indicates, the
future of the natural, in its
conceptualizations, its material realities
and the interactions and elisions between
them. Although not stated, the overall
purpose of the collection could be
described as inviting the reader to (begin
to) take the measure of a crisis, of how
nature—whether human, non human or
‘post-human’—is, depending on one’s
point of view, threatened, exploited,
distorted, challenged, enriched but in any
case changing. The crisis exploration takes
the form of a cultural inquiry. The
introduction sets out the problematic: ‘the
current crisis is not only out there in the
environment; it is also a crisis of culture.’
(p.1). The inquiries in response to this
problematic negotiate in diverse ways
tensions between ‘essentialist’ or ‘naturalist’
and ‘constructionist’ ways of understand-
ing the natural. ‘We are living in an age
nature” seems on the brink of
extinction yet, at the same time, “nature” is
becoming increasingly ubiquitous and
unstable as a category for representation
and debate.’ (editors’ blurb).
Bringing together theorists of and
commentators on culture and science,
FutureNatural consists of a series of
cultural inquiries into science and
technology but not in the sense of either
interrogating the cultural consequences of
technology or highlighting the cultural
embeddedness of science (as Kuhn may
be said to have done). Rather, and rather
more interestingly, science and technology
are treated as culture: ‘Contributors discuss
… how scientific theories and models have
been taken up as cultural metaphors that
have material effects in transforming “ways
of seeing” and “structures of feeling”’.
(editors’ blurb) They do this through a
considerable range of topics, academic
disciplines, and styles of presentation.
Topics include the relation between
ecology and postmodern cultural theory
(Kate Soper), the fetishization (Neil Smith)
or commoditization (Les Levidow) of
nature, the history of biological research up
to transgenic organisms (E. Fox Keller),
the construction of woman as Other in
medical practice (Nelly Oudshoorn),
Artificial Life (N. Katharine Hayles) and
Virtual Reality (Mark Poster). Between
them, the contributors have academic
backgrounds in English, Media Studies,
Science and Technology, Psychoanalysis,
Geography, and Philosophy. Styles of
presentation range from the dense
psychoanalytic reconstructions in Karl
Figlio’s ‘Knowing, loving and hating
nature’ over Kate Soper’s sober, carefully
considered exposition in ‘Nature/“nature”’
to Trinh T. Minh-ha’s ‘musical swoon’
(her expression) in ‘“Nature’s” r’ to the
Book Reviews 235
George Robertson, Melinda Mash, Lisa Tickner, Jon Bird, Barry Curtis and Tim
Putnam (eds.)
FutureNatural. nature/science/culture
Routledge, London & New York. 1996, pp.310.
ISBN 0-415-07013-9 (hbk)
ISBN 0-415-07914-7 (pbk)
Reviewed by Bettina Lange
journalistic (post) human interest story in
Tom Wilkie’s ‘Genes
R” Us’.
Space and time do not permit an essay
by-essay account of the contents of this
collection, so I confine myself to examples
of the most and the least convincing
aspects. Four criteria have influenced my
judgement: 1. Is useful information
provided, and in an accessible form? 2.
Are the terms of the debate genuinely
advanced? 3. Is the reader’s imagination
invited to qualitatively new spaces? 4. Are
political implications and opportunities
adequately addressed?
Andrew Ross provides (disturbing)
insights into how environmental risk
assessment and preventative and reparative
action carried out by the Pentagon ‘may
result not in the greening of the military but
in the militarization of greening’ (p.15).
Les Levidow’s closely argued account
details how the commoditization
characteristic of recent developments in
biotechnology relies on two related fictions:
biological properties as things (or
products) rather than aspects of (relations
between) living beings; and technological
omnipotence vis-à-vis ‘unruly’ nature
(p.62). These two are perhaps the most
explicitly politically aware and econom-
ically rigorous pieces, although the force of
Ross’s contribution is in my view
somewhat weakened by his polemic style
(e.g. ‘an IT quack like Hernstein and a
welfare-basher like Murray’, p.19) . Other
contributions are less explicitly political—
not necessarily a disadvantage as the reader
is sometimes provided with enough
informative, thought-provoking material to
draw her/his own conclusions. This is true
of Fox Keller’s and N. Katharine Hayles’
contributions. It is not true of Karl Figlio’s
or Mark Poster’s articles, although for
different reasons. Figlio (in so far as I
understand his aim) treats our longing for,
and guilty feelings towards ‘mother nature’
as science’s (irrational) unconscious. This
potentially very illuminating psycho-
analytic approach is considerably
weakened by the traditional way in which
Figlio casts the psychological strategies
involved as ‘inherent in all social
formations’, leaving little room for social or
political action. Poster claims to be able
to show that, and presumably how, new
electronic media ‘cultivate new
configurations of individuality’ (p. 184)
but the evidence he uses to substantiate
this claim is virtually limited to VR role
play— something which, it seems to this
reader’s admittedly not very computer-
literate mind, a child’s imagination exceeds.
It is also disappointing that Poster only
states that the political questions raised by
new media are ‘at the moment extremely
difficult’ (p.191) rather than sketching what
these questions might be.
Kate Soper, by contrast, does just that
and in a way which moves beyond received
opinion. For instance, while she cautions
against the way in which underlying
exploitative social relations are often
effaced from veneration of ‘natural’
landscapes in preservationist campaigning
groups, she also emphasizes that we should
not treat the ‘preservationist impulse’
purely as ‘the vehicle of a patrician and
conservative sentiment’ (p.24).
In conclusion, this is a collection well
worth reading for its diversity and insights.
Those looking primarily for political
economy accounts of the crisis of nature
will be disappointed, however.
236 Capital & Class #72
Ben Watson’s critical evaluation of the work
of the late Frank Zappa is both a fascinating
and important read. Zappa of course, is
notoriously difficult to pigeon hole. As a
musician he was comfortable in both the
idiom of rock and modernist atonality.
Similarly as a Iyricist and polemicist he was
both a consistent critic of corporate
capitalism (in particular ‘the culture industry’
and organised religion) and a very spikey
lampooner of new social movements.
Radical or reactionary? This has been the
question that has troubled many a cultural
critic for the past thirty years. Watson’s
solution to this conundrum is an effective
one. Using marxist class analysis he identifies
Zappa essentially as a petite bourgeois artist
who stood betwixt the contesting class
agenda’s of advanced capitalist America.
Now as an SWP member there is little
surprise in this aspect of Watson’s analysis,
however what is interesting is the critical
theory spin he introduces. Thus where
orthodox marxists might dismiss Zappa as a
defender of the status quo masquerading as
a radical critic (and here one can sight the
pro-family, pro-cottage industry, anti-trade
union and seemingly misogynistic content to
his Iyrics). Watson in the tradition of
Theodor Adorno in particular, seeks not
only to identify the confusion and
contradictions in Zappa’s politics, but also
his great worth as a commentator, who by
virtue of his autonomy from the constraints
of class loyalties, was able to make some
telling observations on the nature of
existence within the vortex of hyper-
capitalism. For example, his derision of
hippydom (‘plastic people’) is portrayed by
Watson as a much needed antidote to the
highly commodified pseudo-escapism of
Californian ‘new ageism’.
On the vexed issue of Zappa’s attitude
towards women, Watson makes a fairly
strong case for viewing Zappa as less
concerned with the gender or sexual orient-
ation of those he chooses to focus upon,
but rather the socially (re)constructed and
exploitable forms that they take (in the case
of women, the groupy, WASP womenhood,
S&M lesbians). In addition, Zappa’s targets
are many and varied and not exclusively
women (evangelists, music tycoons,
parents, rock bands, the audience),
although it must he said that women do
figure prominently and when coupled with
his stage antics (the infamous ‘panti-quilt’),
one is left feeling that Watson’s defence of
Zappa here, rather minimises the
problematic nature of his Iyrics.
One final point concerns Watson’s
theoretical sources. Zappa’s frequent use
of popular musical jingles as an affirmative
shell in which to make powerful criticism is
probably better understood not by using
Adorno, who we know retreated into high
art as the last bastion of authenticity, but
rather those critical theorists who were
genuinely appreciative of such dialectical
techniques. Walter Benjamin and Herbert
Marcuse spring to mind here.
In spite of these reservations however,
Watson has succeeded in putting together
a formidable study of an important late
20th Century cultural figure who is likely to
become the stuff of numerous under
graduate dissertations in the years to come.
Sociologists you have been warned!
Book Reviews 237
Ben Watson
Frank Zappa: the negative dialectics of poodle play
Quartet Books. 1995, pp.597.
ISBN 0-7043-0242-X (pbk)
Reviewed by Karl Haselden
In Spaces of Hope, David Harvey attempts
to piece together a ‘Dialectical Utopianism’
based around the continuing relevance of
Marxism. This, he says, is what haunts him
in his sleep, the idea that the realm of
possibility remains open, the implicit
closures, which we impose upon the world,
are only transitive, historical and cultural
constructs in relation to the world itself.
Hauntology, it seems, is at work once again.
This is a wide ranging book drawing
upon a vast number of sources and yet
the point of inspiration never dims. The
shear scope of Harvey’s work makes doing
justice to it all the more difficult in a short
review. The first part of the book is taken
up with the contemporaneity of the
Communist Manifesto in relation to
Globalization. In the second section
Harvey comes over all Foucauldian in
relation to concerns about materiality and
the body. The third and fourth parts are
the beginnings of how to think through a
way out of the perceived impasse of
contemporary capitalism. It is the latter
half of the book, however, which is
interesting for the hopes and fears of a
Harvey, one of the most astute
commentators when it comes to the thorny
issue of the postmodern, raises the
important question why bother with
Marxism today? This question is both
meant for the reader and for himself in his
continuous teaching of Capital, when most
seem only too keen to write Marx off as
‘the weaver of an impossibly huge master-
narrative of history and an advocate of
some totally impossible historical
transformation that has in any case been
proven by events to be just a fallacious
politically and practically as it always was
theoretically’. This question is on the
horizon of anyone working in the field of
Marxism, under the conditions of
contemporary capitalism (and perhaps it
always was).
Yet Harvey’s developing oeuvre over
the last twenty years seems to offer more
than a hint of optimism for himself and
perhaps also for his current and former
students. There is much in this book that
recommends itself to the reader, but the
three main strands one can draw from is
that Capital is still important if not
necessary today; this seems fuelled by the
anniversary of the Communist Manifesto
and the variety of optimistic writings
stemming from the occasion (see chapters
two and three); and also as an antidote to
the TINA (there is no alternative) school of
thought that profelgates the Market as the
only possible way to organise ourselves —
all we can do is smooth off some of the
rougher edges. For Harvey, what is new
about Capitalism today is not the spirall
ing inequality, which is the inevitable result
of Capitalist exploitation, but rather the
will to do anything about it. This is what
Harvey, and ‘Radical Geography’ more
generally are responding to. Building on
the notion of Dialectics set down in his
previous book Harvey shows that, not only
is Marxism of relevance today, but it has
become more pertinent than ever because
the inequalities it produces are so striking.
238 Capital & Class #72
David Harvie
Spaces of Hope
Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. 2000, pp.293.
ISBN 0-74861-268-8 (pbk) £14.95
Reviewed by Neil Curry
He endeavours to follow up his
theoretical endeavours in a concrete study
of the city of Baltimore. Yet, here again,
Harvey says what fuels his indignation is
not the ‘mess’ (perhaps this has never
changed), but the lack of belief that
anything can be done about it. This lack of
vision, the ability to begin to think that
things can be different, is what seems to
push Harvey in the direction of a Utopia
against the Market Utopia, one in which
‘dialectical utopianism’ comes to the fore.
Harvey derives inspiration from a whole
array of thinkers from within and without
the Marxist tradition, and yet operates
firmly within the reasonable limits of the
tradition. This book is a collection of
essays written over the last few years and
its chief concern seems to be the holding of
one’s nerve when everything points to
abandonment. Yet Harvey manages to
guide the reader through a diverse and
often difficult terrain, whilst mapping a
sort of personal balance sheet on a whole
variety of issues. A sort of dialectical
playing out of presence and absence seen
through the eyes of a renowned Marxist
Geographer. The book is eminently
readable and highly recommended
because the figure that strings together its
complex array of concerns and asserts a
presence at every possible moment is none
other than Marx. What many Marxists
may find rather disconcerting is his
approach to ‘the Post-Modern’. Harvey
suggests somewhat uncritically, that
postmodernism, severed the connections
between the universal and the particular,
fragmenting the social structures, which
reproduce the inequalities he vehemently
deplores. But he seems at times to suggest
that this may not have been such a bad
thing after all, and that having been
through this process, it is now time to
reconnect the particular with the universal.
Spaces of Hope is primarily about the
attempt to think the unthinkable, or at
least offers the possibility of doing so.
Book Reviews 239
Joe R. Feagin
The New Urban Paradigm: Critical Perspectives on the City
Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, USA & Oxford, England, 1998, pp.357.
ISBN 0-8476-8498-9 (hbk) £ 46.00
ISBN 0-8476-8499-7 (pbk) £ 18.95
Reviewed by Derek Kerr
Over the years, Joe Feagin has made an
important contribution towards developing
what has been referred to as ‘the new urban
paradigm’. This book seeks to elucidate
that new paradigm by bringing together a
number of Feagin’s works that have been
published elsewhere. As its subtitle suggests
the new paradigm seeks to break free from
the mainstream. Urban research projects
guided by the latter are atheoretical or are
linked to dated or unimaginative ecological,
demographic, or urban problem perspect-
ives. They therefore fail to grasp the ways in
which various urban realities are inter-
connected and mediated by relations of
domination and exploitation. In its place is
an approach to the study of cities that
focuses more heavily ‘on their political
economic histories and the rise and fall of
their social institutions; on the character
and impact of their underlying systems of
capitalism, racism, and patriarchy; and on
how all of this plays out in the everyday
lives of contemporary urbanites’ (p.x). The
nature and power of this new approach to
the city comes out clearly though the form
and content of this book by Feagin. Its
fifteen chapters are divided into five
sections: cities in global perspective;
powerful economic actors in city develop-
ment; the political dimension of city
development; race, racism and city
development; and review and reprise.
The three chapters in the first section
consider the way in which the development
of large cities is linked to the world
capitalist economy. This includes a case
study of Houston, ‘oil capital of the world’,
and a comparative analysis of Houston
with Europe’s reputed ‘oil capital’,
Aberdeen. Taken together these chapters
show that corporate expansion in the world
capitalist system has a major impact on
urban regions around the globe. That is,
corporate investment and disinvestment
are linked constantly to state action and
have major economic, social and political
effects on urban households and
communities. The second section (three
chapters) focuses on the role of major
economic actors and their political allies in
the structuring, growth and decline of
cities. Here the focus is on the production
of urban space in terms of the important
role of real estate speculators and the ways
in which capital flows from one sector,
such as manufacturing or office towers, to
another, such as land and real estate. The
latter draws upon what Henri Lefebvre,
David Harvey and others call the secondary
circuit of capital. A case study of Houston
points to the irrationality of real estate
investment in terms of the boom-bust cycle
which not only affects capitalists but also
impacts on the ordinary residents of cities.
The third section (three chapters) turns
to the political dimension of city
development. It points to the way in which
specific government programmes and
actions, such as land-use zoning and urban
renewal programmes, have been shaped
and used by business coalitions to displace
residents of colour and to bring white-run
businesses and white residents back into
central cities. In America, racial and ethnic
separation and exclusion have been at the
heart of urban land-use regulation since
the 1880s. Indeed, the first zoning actions
were taken in San Francisco in the 1880s in
order to stop the spread of Chinese
laundries. The data in this section provides,
‘a corrective to the notion that state
intervention and the “free market” are in
opposition. Indeed, most of the zoning and
planning regulations—including exclusion-
ary racial zoning—were initially proposed
or substantially created by those represent-
ing dominant real estate interests in the
cities…’ (p.168). This section also returns
to the comparative study of Houston and
Aberdeen, this time with a close look at the
impact of oil-related economic and real
estate development in the two regions. It
illustrates the range and severity of the
many social costs that have stemmed from
over-investment and the associated boom-
town growth in the two metropolitan areas.
Houston, the much larger city, has had the
more severe social costs. One reason for
this, according to Feagin, has been the lack
of any zoning laws and the much weaker
urban planning system in the Houston area,
compared to the more extensive planning
system in Aberdeen.
The last four chapters covering Feagin’s
work, section four, turns to racism as a
fundamental relation shaping the processes
of urbanisation and city-living. This marks
an important concern of the new urban
paradigm. As Feagin demonstrates, the
system of informal segregation central to
urban racism in America today was set in
place in northern cities in the form of Jim
Crow laws in such areas as public
accommodations and housing and in
informal practices not set out in laws. These
240 Capital & Class #72
practices developed in northern cities well
before the end of slavery in the South. The
current situation still reveals a ‘slavery
unwilling to die’ (p.246). Two chapters in
this section provide fascinating detailed
accounts of everyday experiences of African
Americans with whites in urban areas and
institutions. While the 1960s civil rights
acts theoretically abolished most
discrimination, they have been very weakly
enforced. In spite of denials by white
commentators of the persistence of racism,
antiblack discrimination remains common
in public accommodations, business,
education, housing, and jobs.
The final section is given over to two
authors who each evaluate Feagin’s
contribution. Interestingly, these two
chapters refer to Feagin as developing a
new urban sociology. As one of these
authors (John Gilderbloom) puts it: ‘Feagin
never gets trapped by pessimism that is too
often a trademark of traditional Marxist
analysis. He shows how capitalism can be
redirected to create a more sustainable
economy that will benefit everyone’ (p.345).
This perhaps sums up the present limits of
the ‘new urban paradigm’: its critical
perspective is not critical enough. Despite
this limit, Feagin has done much to shake-
up the mainstream and establishment and
this collection of his work provides many
interesting insights and deserves to be
widely read.
Book Reviews 241
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a theoretical basis upon which the counter-intuitive results in preceding chapters, showing the relative stability of employment in the UK, can be explained. This draws on a range of sources within critical and heterodox political economy: Karl Marx and Karl Polanyi, as well as contemporary theorists such as Kevin Doogan, Ben Fine and Lise Vogel. It presents a concept of a mutual interdependence of employers and employees, showing how this leads to contradictory pressures on employers, one impelling them towards greater flexibility the other to greater efforts to retain employees. In addition, long-term reproductive imperatives shape how labour markets work under capitalism. These processes are affected by gender divisions, the role of the legislation and the state more generally. Finally, it is argued that distinct labour markets are structured in distinctive ways, necessitating concrete examination of specific forms of employment rather than extrapolation from particular instances of precarity. The chapter suggests that approaches to the analysis of labour markets drawing on critical and heterodox political economy, particularly those rooted in a Marxist approach, offer substantial advantages over conventional views in coming to terms with the relative stability of employment in the UK.
This study attempts to put together the constituent elements of the post-Keynesian economics school of thought. This is pursued from the point of view of its methodology, its theoretical constructs, and its policy implications. The major policy implications of post-Keynesian thinking turn out to be some form of socialization of investment accompanied by explicit and permanent planning of incomes under the umbrella of a social construct among trade unions, industry, and state. Appropriate industrial policies to promote participation of the workforce in decision-making is a further important policy implication. Potential constraints to these types of policies are identified and discussed. Copyright 1990 by Taylor and Francis Group
A Short History of Meat
  • Alexander Cockburn
Cockburn, Alexander (1996) 'A Short History of Meat', in New Left Review 215, January- February.
Economic Theory and Ideology __________ (1982) Theories of the Capitalist Economy The Value Dimension: Marx versus Ricardo and Sraffa Marx's CapitalOn the Composition of Capital: A Comment on Groll and Orzech
  • Ben Fine
Fine, Ben (1980) Economic Theory and Ideology. Edward Arnold, London. __________ (1982) Theories of the Capitalist Economy. Edward Arnold, London. __________ (ed.) (1986) The Value Dimension: Marx versus Ricardo and Sraffa. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. __________ (1989) Marx's Capital, 3rd ed. Macmillan, Basingstoke. __________ (1990a) 'On the Composition of Capital: A Comment on Groll and Orzech', in History of Political Economy, 22 (1): 149-55.
On the Falling Rate of Profit Marx and Modern Economic Analysis Women's Employment and the Capitalist FamilyThe New Revolution in Economics
__________(1992a) 'On the Falling Rate of Profit', in G.A. Caravale (ed.) Marx and Modern Economic Analysis. Edward Elgar, Aldershot. __________ (1992b) Women's Employment and the Capitalist Family. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. __________ (1997) 'The New Revolution in Economics', in Capital&Class 61, Spring: 143-8.
The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy. St. Martin's PressThe Rate of Profit and the Future of Capitalism
  • Fred Moseley
Moseley, Fred (1992) The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy. St. Martin's Press, New York. __________ (1997) 'The Rate of Profit and the Future of Capitalism', in Review of Radical Political Economics, vol 29/4: 23-41.