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Abstract

This article seeks to review the recent incarnation of a long-standing engagement in international political economy (IPE) and critical theory between open Marxist perspectives (OMPs) and their critics. The article aims to identify the enduring relevance of this debate in order to think about the possibility and future of critical social inquiry in our time constructively. It criticises elements on both sides of the debate that no longer serve but rather hinder achieving this objective. We argue that the recent criticisms make a number of important constructive points that could help enhance the explanatory power of OMPs yet still portray the latter uncharitably. We propose to take the emphasis on openness in OMPs seriously as a scholarly and political orientation without immersing the debate with the charges of reductionism, instrumentalism, determinism and functionalism which are frequently raised by various versions of Marxism against one another—often to little avail.
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This% article% seeks% to% review% the% recent% incarnation% of% a% long-standing% engagement% in% international%
political% economy% (IPE)% and% critical% theory% between% open% Marxist% perspectives% (OMPs)% and% their%
critics.% The% paper% aims% to% identify% the% enduring% relevance% of% this% debate% in% order% to% constructively%
think%about%the%possibility%and%future%of%critical%social%inquiry%in%our%time.%It%criticises%elements%on%both%
sides%of%the%debate%that%no%longer%serve%but%rather%hinder%achieving%this%objective.%We%argue%that%the%
recent% criticisms% make% a% number% of% important% constructive% points% that% could% help% enhance% the%
explanatory% power% of% OMPs% yet% still% portray% the% latter% uncharitably.% We% propose% to% take% the%
emphasis%on%openness%in%OMPs%seriously%as% a% scholarly% and%political%orientation%without%immersing%
the%debate%with%the%charges%of%reductionism,%instrumentalism,%determinism%and%functionalism%which%
are%frequently%raised%by%various%versions%of%Marxism%against%one%another%–%often%to%little%avail.
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In#this#paper#our#key#objective#is#to#revisit#a#long-standing#scholarly#debate#to#explore#and#assess#
the#possibility# and# future# of# critical# social# inquiry# within# politics# and# international# studies-# an#
endeavour#initiated#originally#by#Bieler#and#Morton#(2003:#467)#in#the#early#2000s.#To#this#end#we#
aim#to#review# and#critically#engage# with#a#number# of#criticisms# (Bruff,# 2009;#Bieler# et.# al.,#2010;#
Tsolakis,#2010;#Susen,#2012;# Elden# and#Morton,#2015)#directed# against#a#heterogeneous#body# of#
scholarship#which#has#come#to#be#identified#as# open# Marxismi.# These# criticisms#have#focused#on#
OMPs’# explanation# of# the# dynamics# of# international# political# economy# and# the# interaction#
between# globally-defined# capital# and# the# territorially-defined# state-form.# They# take# issue# with#
the#ways#in#which#both#the#object#and#method#of#inquiry#(Roberts,#2002)#are#defined#according#to#
OMPs#and#pose#thought-provoking#questions#with#regards#to#the#possibility#of#critique#and#critical#
theory#broadly# understood.#These#critiques,#which#we#present#under#four#main#categories# in#due#
course#following#their#proponents’#categorisation,#represent#the#latest#incarnation#of#an#on-going#
critical# engagement# (Barker,# 1978;# Lacher,# 2002)# between# the# two# theoretical# strands# which#
arguably# take# their# common# starting# point# in# the# Marxist# critique# of# social# relations# and# social#
inquiry.##
#
With#particular#reference#to#the#more#recent#wave#of#criticisms,#we#argue#that#they#make#a#
number#of#important#constructive#points#that#could#help#enhance#the#explanatory#power#of#OMPs#
but# portray# the# latter# uncharitably.# We# further# argue# that# a# similar# representation# can# also# be#
found#in# the#first# wave#of# criticism.#This# representation#takes# the#form# of#a# tendency#to# equate#
OMPs# to# orthodox# Marxism.# Indeed,# this#is# the# red# thread# binding# these# critiques# together,#
impacting#on#their#constructive#value#which#has#had#quite# a# considerable#effect#on#the#tone#and#
2
value#of#the#debate#between#OMPs#and#their#critics#not#unlike#the#debates#of#previous#decades#in#
critical# social# theory.ii#It# should# be# added# that# responses# from# OM# scholars# have# similarly#
reciprocated# this# tone# in# tackling# the# criticisms# which# has# ultimately# reproduced# the# previous#
debates#and#led#to#an#unproductive#impasse.##
#
Given# the# current# level# of# the# debate# between# OMPs#and# their# critics,# particularly# neo-
Gramscian#approaches,#it#seems#odd#to#recall#that#collaborative#work#was#undertaken#by#authors#
from#both#perspectives#(Bieler#et#al.#2006).#Indeed,#the#debate#has#now#ossified#to#such#an#extent#
that# not# only# does# collaborative# work# now# seem# unlikely# but# dialogue# itself# has# broken# down.#
More# importantly# the# manner# in# which# the# debate# evolved# has# forestalled# the# further#
development# of# critical# theory# in# IPE# and# IR# as# originally# intended# by# its# proponents.# A# recent#
example# of# this# debate#can# be# observed# in# the# exchange# between#between# Greig# Charnock#
(2010:1283,#1295-1296),# who# identifies#the# work# of#Henri# Lefebvre# as#compatible# with# OMPs#in#
challenge# of# the# regulation# approach# and# new# state# spatialities# literature,# and# Stuart# Elden# &#
Adam# Morton# (2015:1f1),# who# accuse# Charnock# of# claiming# exclusive# “proprietorship”# over#
Lefebvre’s#work.iii#We#do#not#mean#to#claim#that#any#and#all#criticism#is#unfair#but#that#the#nature#
of# the# criticism,# through# uncharitable# readings# and# the# conflation# of# differing# perspectives,#
diminishes#the#quality#of#the#debate.##
#
This#is#not#to#suggest#that#this#debate#is#no#longer#meaningful,#or#that#it#has#been#resolved#
to# everyone’s# satisfaction.# On# the# contrary,# in# this# paper# we# intend# to# emphasise# and# draw#
attention# to# the# importance# of# this# debate# for# the# scholarship# as# a# whole# and# to# trace# the#
possibilities#of# how# productive#dialogue# between#two# important#strands# of# radical#thought# may#
resume#on#this#basis.#
#
To#achieve#this,# we#emphasise# which# criticisms# in# fact#address# the#challenges# of# Marxist#
theorising,# critical# theory# and# empirical# inquiry# as# a# whole# and# which# are# specifically# aimed# at#
OMPs.# We# intend# to# position#the# open# Marxist# critique# of# mainstream# and# other# Marxist#
approaches#while# clarifying# its# purpose#and# boundaries.# In# doing#so# we# hope# the#nature# of# this#
critical# engagement# could# move# away# from# a# pattern# where# each# side# of# perspectives# pull# the#
other#towards# the#contours# of#their# frameworks#of# reference#and# push#back# when#these# efforts#
fail.# Instead# the# two# vantage# points# could# be# acknowledged# and# delineated# in# a# manner# which#
would#enrich#rather#than#undermine#one#another.#Finally#we#conclude#with#the#implications#of#this#
critical#dialogue#between#these# critical# IR/IPE#theories#on#the#possibility#and#the#future#of#critical#
theory# and# social# empirical# inquiry.# This# is# deemed# particularly# important# as# related# to# the#
analyses#of#the# recent#and#on-going# global#crisis,# which# present#theoretical# and# methodological#
challenges# and# should# provoke# new# forms# of# thinking# within# the# study#of# critical# political#
economy.#
#
The# paper# begins# by# outlining# the# current# critiques# of# OMPs#which# is# followed# by# an#
account# of# open# Marxism# that# responds# to# these# criticisms# in# a# constructive# fashion# before#
outlining#the#significance#of#this#debate#more#broadly.#The#goal#of#this#paper#is#to#emphasise#the#
importance# of# openness# and# historical# enquiry# to# critical# social# theory,# and# particularly# the#
3
Marxist# tradition# with# an# understanding# that# these# two# strands# of# radical# scholarship# have# as#
many# commonalities# as# differences# to# be# able# to# build# more# constructively# on# furthering# the#
debates# and# struggles# of# emancipation# in# contemporary# capitalism.# We# do# not# argue# that#
differences# should# be# overlooked,# and# criticisms# side-lined# but# rather# that# they# should# not# be#
allowed#to# overshadow# the#common# basis#on# which#OMPs# and# their#critics# stand#so# that#future#
scholarly#exchanges#can#expand#the#horizons#of#this#debate#meaningfully.#
#
# # # ##
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In#a#fashion# similar# to#and#almost# mirroring# the#debates#of# Marxist# theorising#on#capitalist# state#
and#state-society#relations#in#the#pastiv,#the#initial#as#well#as# the# latest#lines#of#critique#advanced#
by#scholars#present#four#main#objections#against#open#Marxist#perspectives:#
#
1. A# “reluctance# to# develop# a# historicised# account# of# the# uneven# and# combined#
development# of# capitalism”,# which# is# problematic# as# it# does# not# explain# the#
development# of# capitalism# within# already# extant,# pre-capitalist# territorial#
structures,#states#(Bieler#et.#al.,#2010:27)#
2. The# rejection# of# historical# periodization# as# a# means# of# identifying# capitalist#
development.#(Bieler#et.#al.,#2010:27#)#
3. A#“residual#state-centrism#within#Open#Marxism,#which#is#anchored#in#a#view#of#the#
state#as#a#de#facto#functional#guarantor#of#the#rotation#of#capital#and#securer#of#the#
conditions#of#capital#accumulation”#and#prioritising#the#“dominant#reproduction#of#
capitalism# over# resistance”# (ibid.;# Bieler# and# Morton,# 2003:# 469,# 475;# Tsolakis,#
2010:389;#Bieler#&#Morton#2013:29)#
4. A#determinism#concerning#revolutionary#change#based#on#the#assumption#that#the#
capitalist#state#is#doomed#to#collapse.#This#is#based#on#the#idea#that#social#change#is#
itself# driven# by# individual# revolutionary# acts# rather# than# collective# action.# (Bieler#
and#Morton,#2006:161-162;#Bieler#et.#al.,#2010:27)v#
#
It#could#be#noted#that#the#earlier#critiques#(Bieler#and#Morton,#2003)#were#detailed#and#balanced#in#
their# specific# targets# of# criticism# within# OMPs# but# the# tone# of# the# critiques# has# changed# more#
drastically#in#the#recent#debate#(Bieler#et.#al.#2010)vi.#Nevertheless#the#articulation#of#open#Marxist#
and#neo-Gramscian#perspectives#as#“competing#historical#materialist#perspectives#within#IPE”#has#
been#a#shared#starting#point#of#both#the#initial#and#latest#wave#of#critiques.#The#above#critics#reach#
these# conclusions# following# an# inquiry# into# the# “foundations# of# Open# Marxism”# (ibid:26;# Bruff,#
2009:333).#In#our#view,#however,#the#representations#of#OMPs#in#these#criticisms#suffer#from#a#lack#
of#acknowledgment# of# the# heterogeneous# character# of# this# scholarship# and# conflating#
“foundations”# with# subtleties# in# individual# scholars’# perspectives.# The# character# of# the# latest#
debate#also#reflects#frequent#uses#of#argument#from#analogy#by#both#sides#which#aim#to#point#out#
to# perceived# methodological# and# conceptual# issues# relating# to# uses# and# abuses# of# abstraction#
(Bonefeld,# 2009;# Bruff,# 2009,# Bieler# et.# al.# 2010).# We# believe# that# it# is# vital# to# approach# such#
frequent#usage# of# analogies# with# caution# and# acknowledge# their#limitations# since,# despite#their#
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discursive#strength,#they#may#risk#averting#our#attention#from#the#key#areas#of#consideration#and#
dispute.#
#
In# various# accounts# (Bieler# &# Morton# 2003;# Bruff,# 2009;# Bieler# et.# al.,# 2010),# the#
aforementioned#problems#are#argued#to#stem#from#an#elemental#issue#underlying#and#intrinsic#to#
OM:#a#“totalising#ontology”#which# conceives#capitalist#social#relations#as# the# “single#constitutive#
source”# of# human# activity# (Bieler# and# Morton,# 2003:# 473;# Bruff# 2009:333).# This# point# echoes# an#
earlier#critique#where# abstraction# in# OMPs# is# argued#to#be#reduced#to#the#constituting#power#of#
labour# within# a# mode# of# production”# with# an# “almost# exclusive# concern# with# the# capital-labour#
relation”#(Roberts,#2002:#98,#101).#Coupled#with#the#charges#of#state-centrism#and#functionalism#
that# correlate# the# purpose# and# function#of# state# action# to# the# maintenance# of# capitalist# social#
relations,# critics# suggest# that# the# issue# of# pre-capitalist# social# formations# and# the# varieties# of#
capitalism# and# state# forms# they# detect# in# different# historical# periods# and# territorial# contexts#
present#themselves#as#aspects# of#social#reality#unacknowledged# and# unaccounted#for#within#the#
ranks# of# OMPs#(Bieler# and# Morton,# 2003:# 474).# This# is# further# epitomised# in# the# concept# of#
“epistemological#austerity”#inherent#in#OMPs#(Bruff,#2009:334,#337-339).#
#
Bruff#(ibid.)#in#particular#attributes#to#OMPs#a#latent#essentialism#and#a#tendency#towards#
totalisation#through#a#careful#tracing#and#interpreting#of#particular#phrasing#and#wording#allegedly#
indicative#of#determinism#(such#as#“derive”,#“need”,#“inherently”)#within#the#works#of#a#number#of#
scholars# who# have# been# homogeneously# identified# as# Open% Marxists.# Rather# than# taking# into#
account# the# heterogeneous# approaches# within# OMPs,# authors# are# clumped# together# such# that#
one# author’s# view# must# be# shared# by# all# OMPs.# As# such,# Bruff# concludes# that# OMPs# offer# a#
determinist# and# totalising# ontology# in# their# account#of# capitalist# social# relations# as# inherently#
contradictory# in# nature# (ibid.).# This# line# of# critique# is# very# much# in# line# with# the# initial# wave# of#
criticisms#charging# OMPs#of# producing# “a# variant# of#‘Theological# Marxism’”#(Bieler# and# Morton,#
2003:160-1).vii#
#
A#closer#look#into#these#objections#also#reveals#that#there#are#two#distinct#directions#that#link#the#
first#two#points#on#the#one#hand#and#the#final#two#points#on#the#other.#The#argument#against#the#
alleged# reluctance# within# OMPs#to# pay# close# attention# to# the# pre-capitalist# transition# into#
capitalism#appears#to#resonate#well# with# the# criticism# against# its# subsequent# refusal# to# provide#a#
historical# periodisation# of# capitalist# development.# Similarly# the# alleged# state-centrism# and#
functionalism# detected# in# OMPs# connects# to# the# critique# against# determinism# regarding# social#
change#which#is#also#a#point#that#links#to#the#aforementioned#objections#on#the#basis#of#the#role#of#
history# and# a# historicised# methodology.# Similar# lines# of# criticism# from# OMPs# have# also# been#
voiced# against# their# critics# in# their# response.# Since# this# proves# to# be# a# largely# unproductive#
intellectual#exchange,#the#role#of#evident#challenges#at#the#heart#of#the#theorising#of#state#within#
Marxian# schools# of# thought,# not# solely# within# its# OM# or# Neo-Gramscian# variant,# should# be#
emphasised# here.# They# demonstrate# the# difficulties# present# in# each# strand# of# theorising# of# the#
state# despite# the# fact# that# they# appear# in# the# form# of# individual# charges# directed# from# one#
perspective#to#another.##
#
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GNB)T*")T2-'%$&$.')&.)L-0$&-:$%6)-'=)&*")9,%"'5").@)U$%&.2$5-:)4"2$.=$%-&$.')$')/14%#
The#debates# regarding# the# transition# from# feudalism# to#capitalism# have# long# introduced#
fault#lines#within#different#Marxist#approaches#since#their#inception#in#the#1970s#(Anderson,#1974;#
Brenner,# 1977;# Sweezy# et.# al.,# 1978;# Holton,# 1985:# Burnham,# 2002;# Wood,# 2002;# Bieler# and#
Morton,#2013).#As# Wood#(2002:#30)# notes,# it#represents#an# “irreducible#contradiction…#rooted# in#
the#nature#of#capitalism”#itself.#
It# has#also# become# one# of# the# fundamental# lines# of# critique# against# OMPs.# This# critique#
forms# the# key# component# of# an# alleged# totalising# ontology# centred# solely# on#capitalist# social#
relations# and# its# state-centrism.# This# is#due# to# the# purported# correspondence# between# the#
functions#of#the#capitalist#state#and#the#maintenance#of#capitalist#social#relations.#In#other#words,#
the# totalising# nature# of# the# open# Marxist# account# of# social# relations# leads# to# the# state# being#
inherently# a# capitalist# state.# Moreover,# recent# critics# have# claimed,# following# the# first# wave#
(Barker# 1978:118),# that# open# Marxism# has# not# only# failed# to# account# for# the# historical#
development#of#the#contemporary#state#system#but#argued#that#the#contemporary#state#system#
can#only#be# understood# in#terms#of# capitalist#social#relations# (Bruff#2009:340;#Tsolakis#2010:397;#
Lacher# 2006:54).# Bieler,# Bruff# and# Morton# (2010:28)# maintain# this# criticism# by# arguing# that#
Holloway# (1991:231;# 1994)# understands# the# state# only# in# terms# of# the# development# of# global#
capitalist# relations# (see# also# Susen,# 2012:# 299# with# respect# to# Holloway# (2010)).viii# They# further#
support#it#through#reference#to#Bonefeld’s#(2008:67)#assertion#that#the#modern#state#system#and#
the#capitalist#mode#of#production#developed#at#the#same#time,#and#in#tandem.#Their#point,#on#the#
other# hand,# is# that# not# all# states# developed# as# manifestations# of# capitalist# relations# but# that#
capitalism#emerged#into#an#already-existing#state#system.#
#
The# contemporary# relevance# of# the# transition# debate# for# criticisms# charged# against# OM#
rests#more#on#the#alleged#ahistoricism#and#reluctance#to#distinguish#between#“different#forms#of#
state”# and# develop# “a# periodisation# of# the# capitalist# mode# of# production”# (Bieler# and# Morton,#
2003:#474;#2006:#161,#Bruff,#2009:339-340).#The# main# motivation#here,#and#rightfully#so,#appears#
to#be#the#need#for#conceptual#tools# for# the# analysis# of# peripheral,# developing# capitalist# countries#
where#the#likelihood#of#the#co-existence#of#pre-capitalist#and#capitalist#forms#of#social#relations#is#
higher#than#in#the#case#of#the#particular#case#of#English#capitalism#and#state#(Wood,#2002:#21-22).#
An# additional# and# related# motivation# is# also# to# theorise# “the# international”,# which# is# to# say# the#
multiplicity#of#states,# adequately# within#a#Marxist# framework# without#losing#sight#of# a#theory#of#
the#state.#OMPs#are#argued#to#have#failed#in#providing#such#theoretical#tools#due#to#their#alleged#
conviction#that#capitalist#social#relations#and#the#national#state#system#developed#simultaneously#
and#complementarily#(Bruff,#2009:340;#see#also#Tsolakis,#2010:397-8).##
#
Bruff#re-iterates#his# critique#outlined#in# the# first#section# along# these#lines# to# suggest#that#
open# Marxism# puts# forward# not# a# “historical# determination”# (quoting# Bonefeld,# 1993:# 21)# but# a#
“universal-within-historical#determination#of#all#social#relations#by#capitalist#social#relations”#now#
that#the#latter#is#the#“constitutive#source#of#human#social#practice#in#capitalist#societies”#(ibid.:339,#
emphasis#added).# It#is# unclear# how#such# a#reading# of# the# OM# scholarship#could# be# upheld# from#
existing# scholarly# works# without# adhering# to# and# building# upon# Bruff’s# initial# criticism# of#
“totalising#ontology”#within#OMPs.#The#critique#is#furthered#with#reference#to#another#quotationix#
6
which#was#interpreted#to#mean#“that#all#other#social#relations,#which#in#the#pre-capitalist#era#may#
have#been#constitutive#of#human#activity,#have#in#effect#been#dissolved-#and#even#if#they#continue#
to#exist#in#capitalist#societies,#they#do#so#as#nothing#more#than#expressions#of#the#class#struggle”#
(ibid.:#340,#emphasis#added).#With#reference#to#the#transition#debate#and#the#non-correspondence#
of#the#evolution#of#the#global#capitalism#and#territorial#state#system,#the#conclusion#is#that#“Open#
Marxism#ignores# the#possibility#that#human#social#practice#is#constituted#by#elements#other#than#
simply#the#need#to#extract#surplus#value#from#labour.”#(ibid.).##
#
#
Either# the# criticism# offered# is# that# OMPs# reject# the# existence# of# states# prior# to# the#
development#of#capitalism,#or#that#the#mode#of#production#exists#somehow#separately#from#the#
state.# The# former# would# be# an# absurd# claim# and# a# very# uncharitable# interpretation# of# OM#
accounts#of#the#state#and#its#historical#development,#the#latter#is#a#deeply#problematic#reading#of#
the# historical# development# of# capitalism# that# necessarily# separates# the# economic# and# political#
facets#of#social#relations#–#the#very#antithesis#of#a#Marxist#account#of#social#relations.#The#problem#
of# historical# periodization# within# capitalism# derives# directly# from# this# point.# OMPs’# critics# have#
suggested#that#absolutism,# a#transitional#social# form,#existed#between# feudalism#and#capitalism#
(Bieler# &# Morton# 2013:30;# Morton# 2005:497;# Teschke# 2003:74).# This# distinct# period# saw# the#
formation#of#the#sovereign# state# and#the#modern#state# system;# however,#the#authors#argue# this#
period# took# place# “before# the# emergence# and# spread# of# capitalism”# (Bieler# &# Morton# 2013:30).#
The# identification# of# this# peculiar# transitional# society,# however,# raises# within# Marxist# historical#
materialism#a#question#about#why#absolutism#needs#to#be#identified#as#a#distinct#historical#epoch#
and# if# so#how# its# relationship# with# social# relations# of# production# is# established.# In# other# words,#
why#is#it#not,#for#example,#presented#as#the#nascent#manifestation#of#capitalist#social#relations?#
#
This# point# of# criticism# has# been# directed# before# (Barker,# 1978:118;# Lacher,# 2002:153;#
Roberts,#2002:#88)#problematising#the#international/national#linkages#and#the#conflation#from#the#
singular#and#abstract#(capital#relation/#state)#to#the#plural#and#concrete#(capitalist#social#relations/#
states)#as#detected#in#OMPs.#With#reference#to#Holloway#and#Picciotto#(1978),#Barker#notes#that#
the#scholars# treat# the# state# “as# if# it# existed# only# in# the# singular”# (1978:# 118).# Lacher# (2002:# 153)#
similarly#emphasises#that#“that#the#capitalist#state#does#not#exist#in#the#singular#but#as#one#among#
many#is#thus#not#directly#given#by#the#capital#relation”.#It#is#worth#noting#that#Lacher’s#own#views#
of# historical# materialism# diverge# from# the# Marxist# tradition# in# a# number# of# key# ways# (Burns#
2010:236).# Indeed,# Lacher# (2006:31)# rejects# the# importance# of# the# mode# of# production# to# the#
historical# materialist# method# as# well# as# to# an# understanding# of# the# state# system.# Tony# Burns#
(2010:240)#also#criticises#Lacher#for#arguing#that#just#because#the#development#of#capitalism#and#
the#international#state#system#may#have#been#contingent#rather#than#necessary#(an#assertion#that#
Lacher#attributes#to#all#Marxists),#it#does#not#mean#that#they#are#not# related.# Rather,# whether#in#
Burns’# view# or# not,# we# contend# that# the# open# Marxist# account# takes# the# view# that# the#
development# of# the# state# system# and# capitalist# social# relations# was# contingent# but# inextricably#
linked.#It#is#perhaps#best#to#understand# this# in#terms#of#Marx’s#own#characterisation#of# historical#
development#in#The%18th%Brumaire:#
#
7
“Men# make# their# own# history,# but# they# do# not# make# it# as# they# please;# they# do# not#
make#it#under#self-selected#circumstances,#but#under# circumstances# existing#already,#
given#and#transmitted#from#the#past.#The#tradition#of#all#dead#generations#weighs#like#
a# nightmare# on# the# brains# of# the# living.# And# just# as# they# seem# to# be# occupied# with#
revolutionizing#themselves# and#things,# creating# something# that# did#not# exist#before,#
precisely#in#such#epochs#of#revolutionary#crisis#they#anxiously#conjure#up#the#spirits#of#
the#past#to#their#service,#borrowing#from#them#names,#battle#slogans,#and#costumes#in#
order# to# present# this# new# scene# in# world# history# in# time-honored# disguise# and#
borrowed#language”#([1852]#2012:1)#
#
Following#Marx,#it#could#be#argued#that#capitalism#was#not#born#into#a#vacuum#but#instead#
into#an#already#existing#society.#So,#too,#with#the#state#and,#indeed,#Marx#himself#makes#this#point#
directly#in# On% The% Jewish%Question#([1843]# 2010:14)# by# articulating# how# the# capitalist# state# now#
constitutes#a#different#form#of# relations# between# people.# Marx# ([1858]# 1993:107)#later#developed#
this#point#in#a#broader#sense:#
#
“Since,#furthermore,#bourgeois#society# is# but#a#form#resulting# from# the#development#
of# antagonistic# elements,# some# relations# belonging# to# earlier# forms# of# society# are#
frequently#to#be#found#in#it#but#in#a#crippled#state#or#as#a#travesty#of#their#former#self,#
as# e.g.# communal# property.# While# it# may# be# said,# therefore,# that# the# categories# of#
bourgeois#economy#contain#what#is#true#of#all#other#forms#of#society,#the#statement#is#
to#be# taken#cum# grano#salis.# They#may# contain#these# in# a# developed,# or# crippled,# or#
caricatured#form,#but#always#essentially#different.”#
#
In#essence,#therefore,#the#OM#account#of#the#transformation#from#feudalism#to#capitalism#
maintains# the# emphasis# Marx# placed# upon# understanding# the# complexity# of# social# life# more#
broadly.# Social# relations# have# to# be# contextualised# in# terms# of# their# historically# conditioned#
circumstances;# however,# they# can# only# be# understood# in# the# here# and# now# in# terms# of# the#
capitalist#mode#of# production#in# all#of#its# inherent#antagonisms# and# contradictions#(Marx# [1859]#
1971:20-21;# Bonefeld#2009,# 2014:166).# Once# this# is# understood,# history# then# stops# being# a#
“collection# of# dead# facts”# (Marx# [1845]# 1998:43).# OMPs,# despite# their# heterogeneity# in# their#
treatment#of#a#number#of#issues#of#common#concern#for#Marxist#theorising#as#a#whole,#emphasise#
this#explicitly#in#their#eponymous#embrace#of#openness:#the#content#and#form#of#class#struggle#is#
not#pre-determined.#
##
The# general# OM# account# of# state# development# is# not# to# deny# its# existence# prior# to# the#
development#of#capitalism,#nor#is# it#to#say#that#the#state#exists#independently#of#social#relations,#
but#instead#that#the#state#only#exists#in#and#through#temporally-#and#spatially-conditioned#social#
relations.#As#such,# to#say# that#capitalism#was# born#into# an# already-developed#state-system# is#as#
analytically# helpful# as# saying# that# capitalism# was# born# into# an# already-developed# international#
trading#system.#
#
A# helpful# basis# for# describing# the# OM# understanding# of# the# state# is# to# consider# Marx’s#
8
characterisation#of#apparently#transhistorical#phenomena:#
#
“Proudhon# and# others# naturally# find# it# very# pleasant,# when# they# do# not# know# the#
historical# origin# of# a# certain# economic# phenomenon,# to# give# it# a# historico-
philosophical#explanation#by#going#into#mythology.#Adam#or#Prometheus#bit#upon#the#
scheme#cut#and#dried,#whereupon#it#was#adopted,#etc.#Nothing#is#more#tediously#dry#
than# the# dreaming# locus% communis…# Whenever# we# speak,# therefore,# of# production,#
we# always# have# in# mind# production# at# a# certain# stage# of# social# development,# or#
production#of#social#individuals.”#([1858]#1993:84-85)#
#
And#again#
#
#“The#bourgeois# economy# furnishes#a# key#to# ancient# economy,#etc.# This#is,# however,#
by# no# means# true# of# the# method# of# those# economists# who# blot# out# all# historical#
differences#and#see#the#bourgeois#form#in#all#forms#of#society.#One#can#understand#the#
nature#of#tribute,# tithes,#etc.,#after#one#has#learned#the#nature#of#rent.#But#they#must#
not#be#considered#identical”#([1858]#1993:106)#
#
The#important#point#to#take#here#is#not#that#the#state#did#not#exist#prior#to#the#existence#of#
capitalism#but#this# was# not,#obviously,#a#manifestation#of#the#capitalist#mode#of#production.#The#
state#is#not#a#transhistorical#entity;#moreover,#to#consider#the#modern#state#system#as#something#
that# is# not# somehow# linked# to# the# characteristic# of# social# relations# as# a# whole# is# deeply#
problematic,#especially#from#a#historical#materialist#standpoint.#Therefore#it#seems#more#sensible#
to#conceive#that#the#emergence#of#capitalist#social#relations#transformed#pre-existing#entities#into#
contemporary#capitalist#states.#Undoubtedly,#this#retained#a#phantom#of#their#pre-capitalist#form#
hence# the# particular# national# character# of# these# states.# The# geographical# organisation# of,#
particularly#European,#states#conforms#to#ancient#(yet#still#arbitrary)#divisions#–#which#in#our#view#
comprises#the#rationale#for#pursuing#historical#enquiry#within#OMPs.#With#respect#to#the#analysis#
of#economic#policymaking#in#Britain,#Kettell#(2004:#24)#articulates#this#point#clearly#in#noting#that#
alongside# the# constraints# imposed# by# the# capitalist# state# form# and# class# struggle,# “the# various#
political,#economic,#cultural,#and#ideological#attributes#of#the#particular#state#in#question”#need#to#
be# taken# into# account# in# order# to# comprehensively# understand# the# underlying# dynamics# of#
particular#contexts.###
#
Form-analysis#seeks#to#understand#the#variety#of#forms#that#capitalist#social#relations#take;#
however,#this#does#not#necessitate#rejecting#commonalities. Nor#does#it#suggest#that#all#types#of#
assessment# of# different# periods/stages# and# forms# of# capitalist# social# relations# within# or# outside#
OMPs# are# problematic# or# prone# to# reification.# Typologies# of# state# and# stages# of# capitalist#
development# are# problematised# by# OMPs#as# potentially# side-lining#the# significance# of# class#
struggle#and#capitalist#social#relations#in#the#analysis#of#the#complexity#of#social#life#(Clarke#1992).#
The#goal#of#OMPs#instead#is#to#understand#how#class#struggle#manifests#in#the#particular#historical#
circumstances#within#and#through#which#the#state#exists#(Burnham#2006:79-81).#
#
9
GNG) T*") ;&2<5&<2-:VO<'5&$.'-:$%&) 955.<'&) .@) &*") ;&-&") -'=) +"&"26$'$%6) !"(-2=$'() ;.5$-:)
L*-'("#
The#underlying#logic#behind#this#dual#line#of#critique#of#OMPs,#as#Tsolakis#(2010:393-4)#puts#it,#lies#
in#the# definition# of# the# state# solely# in# regard# to# its# function# in# capitalist# social# relations.# In#
criticising#Burnham’s# understanding#of# the#state,# Tsolakis#notes# that#“the# state,#as# a#regulative,#
well-defined#complex#of#institutions,# always#sustains#the# abstract# discipline#of#the# world# market#
by#upholding#the#‘general# interest’#of#capital#against# particular#corporative#interests#and# against#
labour#demands”# (ibid.:394).#Moreover# he# contends#that# OM# “often# conceptualises# the#state# as#
unitary# and# free# from# internal# contradictions# and# struggle# (a# territorial# entity)...# by# virtue# of# its#
own#disciplining#by#world#money”#(ibid.).#
#
We#contend#that# the#very#fact# that#class# struggle# rests#at# the# heart#of# OMPs#means# that#
the# state# is# conceived# of# as# fundamentally# contradictory:# its# functions# cannot# be# carried# out#
successfully.# Indeed,# this# criticism# supposes# that# the# interests# of# capital-in-general# can# be#
understood# unambiguously,# and# that# strategies# in# pursuit# of# them# can# even# be# meaningfully#
measured# in# terms# of# success# or# failure# in# a# transhistorical# fashion.# Both# of# these# points# are#
explicitly# rejected# by# OMPs# (Burnham# 1994b;# 2006,# Kettell,# 2008).# It# is# also# worth# considering#
that# OMPs’# use# of# form-analysis# clearly# rejects# the# functionalist# account# of# the# state,# instead#
inclining#towards#adopting#what#Burnham#(1994b:#5)#refers#to#as#the#“organisational”#view#of#the#
state.#This#view# of# the#state# derives# first#and#foremost# from#social#relations,# from# which#we#can#
then#understand#how#and#why#the#state#tends#to#behave#in#the#way#that#it#does.#The#criticism#of#
functionalism#presents#this#back#to#front:#one#assumes#the#state#has#a#function#and#from#this#one#
can# perceive# the# hand# of# capital# everywhere.# This# criticism,# then,# can# be# characterised# as#
anachronistic#–#a#throwback#to#the#Miliband-Poulantzas#debate.###
#
The#Miliband-Poulantzas#debate#perhaps#set#the#terms#and#tone#of#much#theorising#of#the#
state# and# subsequent# debate# in# Marxist# theory# leading# to# inherited# issues# which# are# currently#
under# criticism# in# this# paper# in# the# context# of# the# OM/non-OM# debate.# In# its# predominantly#
accepted,#and#for# some#misconstrued# form,#the#(non-)# debate#(Jessop,# 2008:# 149)#was# between#
an#instrumentalist#perspective#that#favours#the#overpowering#nature#of#capitalist#elites#upon#the#
state#and#structuralist#perspective#conceiving#the# state#as#structurally#determined#by#the# overall#
characteristic# of# the# social# formation# within# which# it# operates# (Clarke,# 1991:# 19-20).#With#
hindsight# there# has# been# a# recent# appreciation# of# the# subtleties# of# the# debate# beyond# the#
simplistic#and#formulaic#assessments#(Wetherly#et.#al.,#2008).#It#has#been#acknowledged#that#both#
scholars#in#fact# explored#the#different# aspects#of# the# problem#employing# different# methods#and#
focus,# both# perspectives# carried# pitfalls# and# shortcomings# within# themselves# and# that# scholars#
attempted#to#overcome#these#limitations#in#their#later#works#towards#a#non-reductionist#analysis#
(Poulantzas,#1978a;#2000,#Wetherly#et.#al.,#2008).#
#
Returning#to#the#contemporary#debate#with#OMPs#on#this#basis,#it#should#be#emphasised#
that#OMPs#place#an#emphasis#on#the#state’s#management#of#the#role#of#money,#labour#and#inter-
state#relations# due# to# the#very# fact# that# it# arises# out# of#these# contradictory# social# relations#and#
appears#autonomous# from# them# (Bonefeld,# Brown,# Burnham,# 1995:# 166).# However,#in# line# with#
10
the#points# made# by#Roberts# (2002:#91-99)#regarding# the#role# of# abstraction#in# Marxist#theory,# it#
should#be#noted#that#the#level#of#abstraction#in#the#specification#of#the#state-form#is#not#the#same#
as# the# specification# of# state# management#(Burnham# 1995:# 102),# and# more# precisely,# statecraft#
(Burnham#1994a:5;#2007).#Therefore#it#fails#to# extend# beyond#the#standard#charges#made#within#
different# Marxist# strands# against# one# another,# as# OMPs#do#not# suggest# that# the# functions# are#
fulfilled#completely#and#without#contradiction#and#disruption.#
#
Bieler#et# al.#(2010:27)# criticise#OMPs# for#state-centrism# and,#as# with#Tsolakis# (2010),#also#
condemn#OM’s#characterisation#of#the#state#as#a#“functional#guarantor”#for#capital#accumulation.#
This#undoubtedly#derives#from#an#account#by#OM#authors#of#states#as#“regulative#agencies”#in#the#
reproduction# of# global# capitalist# society# (Burnham# 2001a:110;# see# also# Clarke# 1983:118).# This#
representation,#however,#fails#to#treat#fairly#the#point#that#these#regulative#agencies#are#seen#by#
OMPs#not#solely#as#regulating# the# reproduction#of#society#by# acting# in#the#interests#of#capital-in#
general,# which# they# cannot# definitively# know# or# act# on,# but# rather# they# are# first# and# foremost#
understood#as#moments#of# social# reproduction#themselves#which#preclude#immediate# moments#
of#closure#and#resolution#to#contradictions#(Clarke#1983:118).#Indeed,#this#point#is#further#clarified#
by#Burnham#(2006:80):#
#
“The#relation#between#the#state#and#the#reproduction#of#capital#is#a#complex#one#and#
it#cannot#be#assumed,#in#a#functionalist#manner,#that#the#state#is#simply#‘determined’#
by#capital#or#that#everything#the#state#does#will#be#in#the#best#interests#of#capital”##
#
As#Panitch#(1994:#65)#similarly#adds:##
#
“To#speak#in#terms#of#functions#is#not#necessarily# improperly# 'functionalist'# insofar#as#
the#range# of# structures# that# might# undertake# their#performance,# and# the# conditions#
which#might#mean#their#non-performance,#are#explicitly#problematised”#
#
In# fact,# for# OMPs,# the# state# has# a# plethora# of# strategies# available# to# it# with# which# to#
manage#social# relations,# each# of# which#has# to# be# contextualized# under#very# particular# historical#
and# geographical# circumstances# as# also# noted# in# the# previous# section# (Holloway# 1995:121).#
Moreover,#as#the#state#is#seen#as#a#manifestation#of#capitalist#social#relations,#which#are#inherently#
contradictory,#these#strategies#are#not#successful#in#perpetuity#and#require#continuous#adaptation#
and# change.# These# changes# have# been# characterized# by# OM’s# critics# at# a# level# of# abstraction#
different#from#OMPs#as#either#typologies#of#state,#or#stages#of#capitalist#development.##
#
# The# criticism# that# OMPs# conceive# of# the# state# as# a# unitary# political# actor# seems# hard# to#
accept,# especially# given# the# work# of# a# number# of# scholars# in# determining# the# various# struggles#
over# policy# (Burnham# 1990,# 2003;# Bonefeld# 1993;# Kettell# 2004;# Rogers# 2012).# Bieler# &# Morton#
(2013:29)#also#make#the# claim#that,#while#authors# such#as#Burnham,#Kettell# and#Rogers#produce#
interesting# work,# they# do# not# offer# a# “class# analysis# but# [revert]# back# to# the# state-centrism# so#
characteristic#of#mainstream#IR”.#This#seems#a#particularly#unconstructive#critique#given#the#class#
analysis# built# into# the# methodology# of# these# works# and# a# clear# acknowledgment# of# the# form-
11
analytical#characteristic#of#capitalist# state.# Peter#Burnham#(2006:81)#explicitly#acknowledges#and#
addresses#how#OM’s#abstraction#must#be#complemented#by#historical#analysis,#and#the#analytical#
value#that#can#be#derived#from#it:#
#
The#high-level#abstractions#of#state#theory#and#the#circuitry#of#capital#are#essential#in#
helping# to# clarify# the# key# political# economy# problems# which# beset# modern#
governments,# but# the# twists# and# turns# of# the# policymaking# process# can# only# be#
revealed#by#close#empirical#study#of#government#personnel#at#particular#moments#… It#
is# important# therefore# that# the# component# parts# of# the# ‘state’# are# disaggregated# to#
reveal# the# struggles# that# took# place# and# alliances# that# were# formed# among# the# key#
actors.”#
#
Rather#than#perpetuating# these#lines#of# critique#and#mutual# accusation,# we#would# like# to#
emphasise# that# both# approaches# in# fact# retain# their# starting# point# in# the# Marxist# theorising# of#
state#and#social#relations#and#provide#insights#into#different#yet#complementary#and#equally#valid#
aspects# of# critical# social# inquiry.# They# both# also# retain# shortcomings# in# common# with# Marxist#
theorising#of# state.#Tsolakis# (2010:#388)# suggests#that#both#OM#and# neo-Gramscian#approaches#
do# not# directly# specify# the# state# as# a# terrain# of# struggle# between# different# social# forces# and#
fractions#of#capital,# endowed#with#the#kind#of#contradictions#brought#by#these#internal/domestic#
actors#and#forces.#In#that#sense#it#is#true#that#OM#does#not#treat#the#state#as#such,#which#could#be#
considered# as# a# strength,# especially# in# comparison# with# perspectives# that#often# use# such# a#
position#to# propose#the# so-called#neutrality# of# the# liberal# pluralist#state.# However,#this# does#not#
mean#that# the# state-form#itself# is# devoid# of# internal#contradictions.# Quite# the#contrary.# Various#
concrete#manifestations#of#these#internal# contradictions# can#be#found#in#the#specific# analyses#of#
statecraft# and# governing# strategy# (Burnham,# 2001;# 2007;# 2011;# Kettell,# 2004;# Rogers,# 2009).#
Following#the# logic#of# critique#employed# by#OM# critics,#Tsolakis’# emphasis#on# conceiving#of# the#
state#as#a# site# of#struggle#whilst# at# the#same#time# endowing#it#with# a# strategic#selectivity#to# the#
point#where#the#state#“may#be#temporarily#dominated#by#fractions#of#capital...#or#labour”#may#risk#
instrumentalising# it# rather# than# becoming# a# definitive# solution# to# OM’s# alleged# structural-
functionalism#(2010:#396).#Conceived#in#this#manner,#the#choice#seems#to#be#between#“capitalist#
state”#or#“state#in#capitalist#society”.#Again,#this#line#of#critique#recreates#older#debates#and#isms#
within#Marxist#thought,#and#coerces# one#to#take#sides#with# one# or#the#other#instead#of# rejecting#
this#false#dichotomy#and#conceptualising#both#moments#within#the#state-form#(ibid.).##
#
The#conceptualisation# of# the#state# as#a# manifestation#of# capitalist#social# relations# means#
that#OMPs# are#at# least#sceptical# of# claims# that# the#state# can#be# a#force# for# emancipatory# social#
change,#and#at#most#totally#rejects#such#claims.#Bieler#at#al#(2010:32-34)#criticise#the#philosophy#of#
revolution# in# OM# as# indistinguishable# from# the# egocentric# philosophy# of# Max# Stirner.# This#
criticism#is#established#through#close#reading#of#the#work#of,#principally,#Psychopedis#(2005)#and#
Holloway# (2005a;# 2005b).x# Susen# (2012:# 311)# similarly# charges# Holloway’s#(2010)# approach# of#
engaging# with# all# possible# –isms# as# outlined# above.# #On# this# basis# a# further# criticism# is# derived#
(Bruff# 2009a,# 2009b;# Bieler# at# al.# 2010)# that# OM# rejects# transhistorical# qualities# of# human#
existence.#This# seems# particularly# galling# from#a# Marxist#historical# materialism,# especially#given#
12
the# preference# of# the# critics# to# quote# from# The% German% Ideology# ([1845]# 1998:2),# which#
emphasises# that# “whenever# we# speak,# therefore,# of# production,# we# always# have# in# mind#
production#at#a#certain#stage#of#social#development,#or#production#of#social#individuals.”##
#
Regardless#of#the#particular#criticisms#that#could#be#directed#against#these#assessments#in#
terms# of# their# understanding# of# OMPs,# we# would# like# to# emphasise# that# there# is# considerable#
variation# among# the# individual# perspectives# of# scholars# within# broader# OMPs# and# specific,#
relevant#points#of#critique#and#objections#are#certainly#needed#to#move#the#debate#and#dialogue#
forward.# To# re-iterate# our# core# argument,# constructive# critical# engagement# is# hindered# when#
broad#generalisations#and#conflation#are#proposed#on#the#basis#of#specific#scholarly#assessments.#
#
)
EN A')+"@"'5").@)/0"''"%%)-'=)&*")A60:$5-&$.')@.2)L2$&$5-:);.5$-:)T*".2W#
Before# initiating# a# response# to# the# aforementioned# two# directions# of# critique,# which# take# their#
starting# point# from# the# argument# that# OM# rests# upon# a# “totalising# ontology”,# it# is# crucial# to#
delineate# the# shared# premises# of# OM# as# a# whole# rather# than# generalising# from# the# individual#
differences#of#viewpoints.#As#noted#earlier#the#body#of#work#under#scrutiny#is#heterogeneous#and#
it# should# be# treated# as# such.# This# is# an# often-adhered# sensitivity# by# the# proponents# of# Neo-
Gramscian#analysis,#who#characterise#their#works#under#the#term#of#“perspective”#and#“approach”#
rather#than#a#“school”#or#an#“-ism.”#Contrastingly#in#the#case#of#OMPs,#the#critics#themselves#tend#
to#totalise#diverse#views# and# perspectives#at#times#and# present#a#line#of# critique# where#different#
and# often# divergent# views# of# scholars# are# argued# to# produce# an# incoherent# and# inconsistent#
general#theory#of#capitalist#state#and#social#relations.##
#
The#alleged#state-centrism# and# functionalism#of# OM# is#criticised# referring#in#particular# to#
works#such# as# Burnham#(2001),# Kettell# (2004;#2008),# Rogers# (2009).#Simultaneously# the#fluidity#
and# imprecision# (i.e.# excessive# openness)# of# the# OM#concepts# and# the# absence# of# a# socially#
embedded# theory# of# revolution# are# criticised# with# reference# to# the# works# of# Gunn# (1992),#
Holloway#(2005a;# 2005b)#and# Psychopedis# (2005)#in# particular.# This# is# particularly#striking# given#
the#fact#that#Bieler#et.#al.#(2010)#criticise#the#selective#citation#of#Gramsci#and#retreat#to#analogies#
by#Bonefeld#(2009)#in#his#response#to#the#points#raised#by#Bruff#(2009).#Even#though#critics#could#
view#these#divergent#aspects#as#internal#inconsistencies#within#OMPs,#it#nevertheless#yields#an#all#
too# convenient# and# generic# line# of# critique.# These# subtleties# tend# not# to# be# acknowledged# and#
OMPs# come# to# be# dismissed# on# the# broad# grounds# that# any# other# theoretical# perspective# (let#
alone#Marxist)#could#be#judged.##
#
To#avoid#such#shortcomings#it#is#crucial#to#have#a#contextual#account#of#OMPs#since#critical#
ways#of#understanding#society# cannot# be#divorced#from#political# strategies#of#emancipation#and#
transformation.#Therefore#the#emergence#and#evolution#of#conceptual#frameworks#are#influenced#
by#the# political# and#ideological# orientation# and#strategies# of# different# Marxist# interpretations# in#
transcending#capitalist#social#relations#within#different#historical#contexts.#This#holds#true#also#for#
the#motivations#of# the#recent# criticism#of#OM.# It#is# important,# then,#to# come#to#terms# with#why#
the#state-form#has#been#conceptualised#in#a#way#which#would#yield#criticisms#in#terms#of#its#close#
13
association#with#capitalist#social#relations#and#the#alleged#inflexibility#to#acknowledge#the#latter's#
pre-capitalist#inheritance.##
#
Following#the#principle#of#contextualisation#that#OM#scholars#applied#in#the#case#of#placing#
Gramsci's#thought#within#historical#perspective#(Burnham#1991),#it#is#worth#noting#that#the#global#
crisis#of#the#late#1970s#was#seminal#in#the#emergence#and#development#of#OM.#This#derived#from#
the# exacerbation# of# the# problems# within# existing# socialist# countries# and# their# repercussions# on#
theory# on# the# one# hand# and# the# issues# intrinsic# to# the# social# democratic# project# and# larger#
emancipatory# political# practice# in# Europe.# Whilst# both# the# Soviet# experience# and# social#
democratic# political# practice# suggested# the# possibility,# albeit# in# different# forms,# that# the# state#
apparatus#could#be#taken#over#and#transformed#for#emancipatory#ends#in#transforming#capitalist#
social# relations,# the# reality# increasingly# seemed# to# be# proving# these# assumptions# wrong# in# the#
context# of# the# 1970s.)The# limitations# set# against# state# action# due# to# the# dynamics# of# capitalist#
accumulation# were# a# recurring# theme# of# the# Conference# of# Socialist# Economists# (CSE)#that#
ultimately#gave# birth#to# the# development#of# open#Marxist# perspectives#(Clarke,# 1991).#In# such#a#
context,#it#is#not#surprising#that#themes#of#capitalist#crisis#and#the#workings#of#the#capitalist#state#
to#stave#off#the#effects#of#crisis#have#been#the#preliminary#starting#point#and#focus#of#debate#and#
theorising# within# OMPs.# Its# close# interaction# with# various# then-prominent# Marxist# strands# of#
thought#from#its#very# inception#also#made#the# OM’s# critical#streak#particularly#pronounced# from#
the#very#start.##
#
Having#provided#this#brief#contextualisation,#Bieler#and#Morton's#characterisation#emerges#
as#a#reasonable#starting#point#in#order#to#fulfil#the#task#of#delineating#the#aforementioned#shared#
premises# of# the# heterogeneous# OM# perspectives.# They# characterise# open# Marxism# as# a# ‘critical#
theoretical#questioning#of#taken-for-granted#assumptions#about#the#social#world#and#the#practical#
conditions#of#dominance#and#subordination#in#capitalism’#(2003:468).#While#it#seems#likely#that#all#
varieties# of# Marxism# would# make# claim# to# the# same# critical# credentials,# open# Marxist#
perspectives’#value#lies# in# their#starting# point#and# its#critical# reappraisal#of# the# class# antagonism#
between#capital#and#labour.#
#
#OMPs’#openness#derives#from#an#acknowledgement#of#the#fluidity#and#unpredictability#of#
social# relations,# particularly# class# struggle.# This# openness# is# certainly# a# response# to# the#
determinism#of#structural#Marxism#(Bieler#and#Morton,#2003:#470)#but#reflects#a#more#significant#
acceptance# of# how# class# struggle# manifests# in# myriad# and# unexpected# ways# (Bonefeld# et# al.#
1992:xvi).# As# such,# openness# also# refers# to# the# exploration# of# social# categories# in# order# to#
comprehend# the# social# relations# that# underlie# them# (ibid.).# However,# stemming# from# this#
acceptance# of# openness# is# a# reliance# on# historical# enquiry:# an# acknowledgement# that# only# the#
study#of#history#can#reveal#to#students#of#social#relations#the#ways#in#which#class#struggle#can#and#
has#manifested.#This#aspect#of#open#Marxist#thought#can#be#seen#as#clearly#grounded#upon#Marx’s#
own#musings#on#his#historical#materialist#method.#
#
Most# of# the# aforementioned# critiques# have# been# directed# against# an# allegedly# totalising#
ontology# of# OM# at# its# source# as# noted# earlier.# However,# the# alternative# proposals# appear# to#
14
involve# historical# periodisation# of# capitalist# development,# introduction# of# various# categories# of#
different#types#and#forms#of#states.#This#pluralises#the#conceptual#tools#and/or#introduces#distinct#
categories# in# order# to# account# for# the# specificity# of# each# moment# and# form# of# broader# social#
relations.#This#can#be#more#accurately#identified#as#a#golden#mean,#or#Goldilocks,#fallacy#in#which#
OM’s# theoretical# practice# is# found# epistemologically# austere# and# an# infinite# pluralisation# of#
heuristics#is#equally#found#to#be#undesirable#but#a#middle#point#is#considered#to#be#“just#right.”##
#
The#crux#of#this#rather#esoteric,#but#still#important,#debate#is#the#fact#that#it#addresses#the#
vital#question#of#the#possibility#and#conditions#of#critique#in#social#theory.#When#stripped#from#the#
particularities# of# the# OM# vs.# Neo-Gramscian# (or# broadly# non-OM)# debate,# a# broader# discussion#
could# be# determined# in# terms# of# the# implications# on# the# nature,# boundaries# and# method# of#
critique#in#the#field#of#IR/IPE#as#well#as#more#generally#in#social#theory#and#political#practice#(for#a#
recent#in-depth#assessment#in#this#vein,#Bonefeld,#2014).##
#
The#rationale#of#critics#in#their#quest#to#introduce#myriad#analytical#tools#of#explanation#to#
grasp# the# complexity# of# social# reality# is# straightforward# when# the# goal# of# inquiry# itself# is#
understanding# and/or# explanation.# The# challenge# arises# when# the# issue# of# critique# is# taken# on#
board# and# elevated# to# become# a# key# objective# of# inquiry# especially# given# the# fact# that# the#
concepts#often#tend#to#assume#thing-like#qualities#and/or#treated#as#such.#The#latter#aspect#in#the#
act#of#theorising#and#devising#conceptual#tools#is#what#progressively#brings#critique#its#internally#
connected# dual# character:# critique# of# social# reality# and# critique# of# the# ways# of# theorising# social#
reality#when#those#theories#fall#into#the#aforementioned#trap#(Bonefeld,#2014,#Chapter#2).##
#
We#believe#this#is#where#OM’s#approach#to#the#abstract-concrete#dialectic#is#the#strongest#
and#most#useful#as#it#forces#us#to#continuously#examine#our#approaches#and#perspectives#with#the#
same# critical# gaze# we# examine# our# objects# of# inquiry,# applying# the# same# criteria# against#
reification.#Indeed,#this#appears#to#be#one#of#the#major#points#of#Bruff#(2009):#that#OM#does#a#lot#
of#critiquing,# very# little#explaining# and#to# do#well# in# the#latter# one#needs# his#tools# –#and# a# lot#of#
them.#Against#this#background,#OM#could#surely#be#criticised#if#it#has#indeed#come#to#think#that#its#
abstract#constructs#fully#correspond#to#concrete#reality.#However#there#is#plenty#of#evidence#from#
earlier# and# more# recent# OM# scholarship# to# argue# the# opposite# as# outlined# earlier.# If# anything,#
there#seems#to#be#remarkable#caution#shown#by#these#works#to#avoid#such#forms#of#fetishisation#
to#the#point#where#critics#would#call#it#epistemologically#austere.#
#
On#the#basis#of#the#four#objections#discussed#in#the#first#section#of#the#paper,#critics#argue#
that# OM# conceives# the# concrete# to# be# solely# represented# by# its# abstraction# of# capitalist# social#
relations.# Therefore,# the# critique# is# synchronised# between# a# “totalising# ontology”# and#
“epistemological#austerity”# as#the# latter#is# linked#to# a#more# elemental#form# of# reification# of# the#
abstract# in# concrete# in# OM.# Bieler# et.# al.# (2010)# emphasise# that# the# unresponsiveness# of# OM#
scholars# toward# these# repeated# critiques# has# ultimately# made# the# OM# standpoint# difficult# for#
them# to# constructively# engage# with.# Moreover,# concerns# have# arisen# whether# it# could# ever# be#
conceived# to# be# a# plausible# critical# IR/IPE# theory# at# all# or# be# positioned# rather# as# a# “neo-realist#
moment# within# a# Marxist# perspective”# (Bieler# et.# al.,# 2010:# 29).# To# put# forward# such# a# critique,#
15
however,#brings#about#the#difficulty#of#settling#accounts#with#the#Marxist#building#blocks#of#OMPs#
as# noted# earlier# if# the# latter’s# grounding# in# critical# theory# will# not# be# denied# altogether# by# the#
critics.xi#
#
Having#elaborated#these#objections,#it#could#be#argued#that#they#tend#to#move#the#line#of#
critique#toward#that#of# Marxism# as#a#whole#rather# than#just#OMPs.#This# would# contribute#to#the#
continuation#of#constructive# dialogue# and#debate#between# the#perspectives#if#the# critics#framed#
the# aforementioned# criticisms# as# shared# concerns# and# challenges# of# theorising# state# and# social#
relations#from#within#a#Marxist#framework.#In#its#current#form,#however,#the#common#ground#the#
OMPs#share# with#the# different# strands# of# critical#theory# remains# unacknowledged#and# pulls# the#
different#sides#of#the#debate#further#away#from#each#other.#
#
That#is#why#it#is#crucial,#in#our#opinion,#to#locate#this#debate#and#its#seemingly#“competing”#
sides#within#the#common#ground#of#critical#theory#and#inquiry#in#order#to#direct#it#towards#a#more#
constructive# path# rather# than# allow# it# undermine# each# side# on# the# basis# of# the# charges# of#
reductionism,# instrumentalism,# determinism,# functionalism# and# not# being# truly# or# sufficiently#
critical.# As# is# well# known,# such# charges# are# frequently# raised# by# various# versions# of# Marxism#
against#one#another#to#little#avail.#In#our#view#this#calls#for#an#urgent#change#in#the#approach#and#
language#of#critical#engagement#within#critical#theory#in#IR/IPE#if#meaningful,#creative#responses#
to#capitalist#crisis#and#ways#of#advancing#theory#and#practice#of#emancipation#is#to#be#thoroughly#
pursued.##
#
XN L.'5:<%$.'#
In#this#paper,#we#aimed#to#revisit#a#long-standing#scholarly# debate# on# open#Marxist#perspectives#
to# explore# and# assess# the# possibility# and# future# of# critical# social# inquiry# within# politics# and#
international# studies.# Our# focus,# as# such,# has# been# on# the# value# that# can# be# provided# by# a#
substantial#engagement#with#OMPs#in#particular.#We#argue#that#OMPs#deserves#the#utmost#credit#
for# their#specific# contribution# to# and#emphasis# on# the# openness# of# our# theoretical# constructs.#
However,#the#latest#critiques#in#particular#tend#to#overlook#and/or#mischaracterise#this#aspect#in#a#
fashion#that#would#discredit#its#applicability#to#the#analysis#of#concrete#empirical#cases.##
#
Instead#of#questioning#or#critiquing#the#theoretical#and#conceptual#traditions#on#which#the#
recent#critics#are#based,#we#took#the#main#lines#of#criticism#on#board#in#the#subsequent#sections#of#
the#paper#and#acknowledged#the#valid#points#of#critique#where#applicable.#We#also#demonstrated#
the#unjustifiable#and#misplaced#aspects#of#the#reasoning#behind#some#of#the#criticisms.#
#
On#this#basis#we#argue#that#OMPs’#central#conception#of#critique#and#the#abstract-concrete#
dialectic#continues#to# assert# the#strongest#resistance# against#diverse#modes#of# fetishism# and#for#
this#reason#alone#deserves#to#be#treated#seriously.#The#current#circumstances#of#global#crisis#not#
only#demystify# the# class#character# of# social# relations# and# state#but#also# shake# the#ground# upon#
which#many#widely#held#theoretical#assumptions#and#frameworks,#both#mainstream#and#critical,#
have#been#historically#built.##
#
16
As#such,#the#emphasis#on#the#organic#conception#of#crisis#and#critique#as#well#as#the#openness#
found# in# its# critique# will# continue# to# be# vitally# useful# and# necessary# so# will# a# resumption# of# a#
constructive#dialogue#between#different#strands#of#critical#theory.#We#would#like#to#re-iterate#our#
point#from#the#introduction#that#these#strands#have#as#much#in#common#as#differences#to#be#able#
to#build#more#constructively#on#furthering#the#debates,#struggles#and#strategies#of#emancipation.##
#
YN >$,:$.(2-0*W)
)
Anderson,#Perry#(1974)#Lineages#of#the#Absolutist#State#London#New#Left#Books#
Barker,#Colin#(1978)#A#Note#on#the#Theory#of#Capitalist#States#Capital#&#Class#4#
Bieler,#Andreas,#Werner# Bonefeld,#Peter#Burnham# and#Adam# David# Morton#(eds.)# (2006)# Global#
Restructuring,# State,# Capital# and# Labour:# Contesting# Neo-Gramscian# Perspectives# Palgrave#
London#
Bieler,#Andreas#&#Adam#David#Morton#(2003)#Globalisation,#the#state#and#class#struggle:#a#‘Critical#
Economy’#engagement#with#Open#Marxism#British#Journal#of#Politics#and#International#Relations#
5:4##
Bieler,#A.,#Bruff,#I.#&#Morton,#A.D.#(2010)#Acorns#and#fruit:#From#totalisation#to#periodisation#in#the#
critique#of#capitalism#Capital#&#Class#34:1##
Bieler,# Andreas# &# Adam# David# Morton# (2013)# The# Will# O# The# Wisp# of# the# Transnational# State,#
Journal#of#Australian#Political#Economy,#72#
Bonefeld,#Werner#(2014)#Critical#Theory#and#the#Critique#of#Political#Economy:#On#Subversion#and#
Negative#Reason,#Bloomsbury.#
Bonefeld,#Werner# (2009)# Society#and# Nature:#some# notes#on# Ian# Bruff#British# Journal#of# Politics#
and#International#Relations#11:3#
Bonefeld,#Werner# (2008)#Global#Capital,#National#State#and#the#International#Critique:#Journal#of#
Socialist#Theory#36:1#
Bonefeld,# Werner# and# Kosmas# Psychopedis# (eds)# (2001)# The# Politics# of# Change:# Globalization,#
Ideology#and#Critique#Palgrave#Hampshire##
Bonefeld,# Werner,# Alice# Brown# and# Peter# Burnham# (1995)# A# Major# Crisis?:# The# Politics# of#
Economic#Policy#in#Britain#in#the#1990s#(Dartmouth#Aldershot)##
Bonefeld,#Werner#and#John#Holloway#(eds)#(1995)#Global#Capital,#National#State#and#the#Politics#
of#Money#Macmillan#London##
Bonefeld,# W.,# Gunn,# R.,# Holloway,# J.# &# Psychopedis,# K.# (eds)# (1995)# Open# Marxism# Volume# III:#
Emancipating#Marx#(Pluto#Press#London)##
Bonefeld,# W.# (1993)# The# Recomposition# of# the# British# State# during# the# 1980s# (Aldershot:#
17
Dartmouth)##
Bonefeld,# W.,# Gunn,# R.# &# Psychopedis,# K.# (eds)# (1992b)# Open# Marxism# Volume# II:# Theory# and#
Practice#(Pluto#Press#London)#
Bonefeld,#W.,# Gunn,#R.# &# Psychopedis,# K.# (eds)# (1992a)# Open#Marxism# Volume#I:# Dialectics#and#
History#(Pluto#Press#London)#
Bonefeld,#W#&#Holloway,#J# (eds)# (1992)#Post-Fordism#and#Social#Form:# A# Marxist#Debate#on#the#
Post-Fordist#State#Basingstoke:#Palgrave#Macmillan#
Bonefeld,#W#(1987)#Reformulation#Of#State#Theory#Capital#&#Class#11:3,#96-127#
Brenner,# Robert# (1977)# The# Origins# of# Capitalist# Development:# A# Critique# of# Neo-Smithian#
Marxism#New#Left#Review#I#104#
Bruff,#Ian#(2009b)#The#Totalisation#of#Human#Social#Practice:#Open#Marxists#and#Capitalist#Social#
Relations,#Foucauldians#and#Power#Relations#British#Journal#of#Politics#and#International#Relations#
11:2#
Bruff,#Ian##(2009a)#Assertions,#Conflations#and#Human#Nature:#a#Reply#to#Werner#Bonefeld#British#
Journal#of#Politics#and#International#Relations#11:3#
Burnham,#Peter#(2006)#Marxism,#the#State,#and#British#Politics#British#Politics#1##
Burnham,# Peter# (2003)# Remaking# the# Postwar# World# Economy:# Robot# and# British# Policy# in# the#
1950s#Palgrave#Macmillan#London#
Burnham,#Peter#(2001b)#New#Labour#and#the#Politics#of#Depoliticisation#British#Journal#of#Politics#
and#International#Relations#3:2#
Burnham,#Peter#(2001a)# Marx,# International#Political#Economy# and#Globalisation#Capital# &# Class#
75##
Burnham,#Peter#(1995)#Capital,#Crisis#and#the#International#State#System#in#Werner#Bonefeld#and#
John#Holloway#(eds)#Global#Capital,#National#State#and#the#Politics#of#Money#Macmillan#London##
Burnham,#Peter#(1994b)#The#Organisational#View#of#the#State#Politics#14:1##
Burnham,# Peter# (1994a)# Open# Marxism# and# Vulgar# International# Political# Economy# Review# of#
International#Political#Economy%1:2##
Burnham,#Peter#(1991)#Neo-Gramscian#Hegemony#and#the#International#Order#Capital#&#Class#45##
Burnham,#Peter#(1990)#The#Political#Economy#of#Postwar#Reconstruction#Macmillan#London##
Burns,# Tony# (2010)# Capitalism,# Modernity# and# the# Nation# State:# A# Critique# ofHannes# Lacher#
Capital#&#Class#34:2#
Charnock,#Greig,#(2010)#Challenging#New#State#Spatialities:#The#Open#Marxism#of#Henri#Lefebvre,#
18
Antipode#42:#5#
Clarke,#Simon#(1999)#Capitalist#Competition#and#the#Tendency#to#Overproduction:#Comments#on#
Brenner’s#‘Uneven#Development#and#the#Long#Downturn’#Historical#Materialism#4:1##
Clarke,#Simon#(1994)#Marx's#Theory#of#Crisis#Macmillan#London##
Clarke,#Simon#(1992)#The# Global#Accumulation#of#Capital# and#the#Periodisation# of# the#Capitalist#
State# Form,# in# Werner# Bonefeld,# Richard# Gunn# and# Kosmas# Psychopedis# (eds.)# Open# Marxism#
Volume#I:#Dialectics#and#History#Pluto#Press#London#
Clarke,#Simon#(ed)#(1991)#The#State#Debate#Macmillan#London#
Clarke,#Simon#(1983)#State,#Class#Struggle#and#the#Reproduction#of#Capital#Kapitalistate#10:11#
Elden#S.#and#Morton#A.#(2015)#Thinking#Past#Henri#Lefebvre:#Introducing#“The#Theory#of#Ground#
Rent#and#Rural#Sociology”,#Antipode#
Germain,#R.D.#(2007)#Critical”#Political#Economy,#Historical#Materialism#and#Adam#Morton,#
Politics#27:2#
#
Gunn,#R#(1992)#Against#Historical#Materialism:#Marxism#as#First-Order#Discourse,#in#Bonefeld,#W.,#
Gunn,# R.# &# Psychopedis,# K.# (eds)# # Open# Marxism# Volume# II:# Theory# and# Practice# (Pluto# Press#
London)#
#
Hay#C.#(2006)#State:#Theories#and#Issues#Basingstoke:#Palgrave#Macmillan#
#
Holloway#J.#(2005a)#No.#Historical#Materialism#13:4#
Holloway#J.#(2005b)#Change#the#World#Without#Taking#Power:#The#Meaning#of#Revolution#Today.#
London:#Pluto#
Holloway#J.#(2010)#Crack#Capitalism.#London:#Pluto#
Holloway,#John#(1994)#Global#Capital#and#the#State#Capital#&#Class#52#
Holloway#J.,# Picciotto# S.# (1991)#Capital,# Crisis# and# the# State,# in# Clarke# S# (ed)# The# State# Debate#
Basingstoke:#Macmillan#
Holloway,# J.# (1991)# The# State# And# Everyday# Struggle,# in# Clarke# S# (ed.)#The# State# Debate%
Basingstoke:#Macmillan#
Holloway,#J#(1988)#The#Great#Bear,#post-Fordism#and#class#struggle:#A#comment#on#Bonefeld#and#
Jessop#Capital#&#Class#36#
Holloway,#John#and#Sol#Picciotto#(1977)#Capital,#Crisis#and#the#State#Capital#and#Class#2##
Holton,#Robert#J#(1985)#The#Transition#from#Feudalism#to#Capitalism#Houndsmill#Macmillan#
Jessop,#B#(2008)# Dialogue#of# the# Deaf:#some# Reflections#on# the#Poulantzas-Miliband# Debate,#in#
Class#Power#and#the#State#in#Capitalist#Society:#Essays#on#Ralph#Miliband#(eds)#P.#Wetherly#et.#al.#
19
New#York:#Palgrave#Macmillan.#
Jessop,#B#(1988)#Regulation#Theory,#Post#Fordism#And#The#State:#More#Than#A#Reply#To#Werner#
Bonefeld#Capital#&#Class#12:1#147-168.#
Kettell,# S# (2008)# Does# Depoliticisation# Work?# Evidence# from# Britain's# Membership# of# the#
Exchange#Rate#Mechanism,#199092#The#British#Journal#of#Politics#&#International#Relations#10:4#
Kettell,#S#(2006)#Circuits#of#Capital#and#Overproduction:#A#Marxist#Analysis#of#the# Present#World#
Economic#Crisis#Review#of#Radical#Political#Economics#38##
Kettell,#S#(2004)#The#Political#Economy#of#Exchange#Rate#Policy-Making:#From#the#Gold#Standard#
to#the#Euro#Palgrave#Macmillan#Hampshire#
Lacher,# Hannes# (2006)# Beyond# Globalization:# Capitalism,# Territoriality# and# the# International#
Relations#of#Modernity#Routledge#London#
#
Marx,#K#and#Engels,#F#(1998#[1845])#The#German#Ideology#Prometheus#Books#New#York#)
#
Marx,# K# (1971# [1859])# Contribution# to# the# Critique# of# Political# Economy# Lawrence# and# Wishart#
London##
#
Marx,#K#(1993#[1858])#Grundrisse:#Foundations#of#the#Critique#of#Political#Economy#Penguin#New#
York#
#
Marx#K#(2010#[1843])#On#The#Jewish#Question##
#
Morton,# A# D# (2005)# The# Age# of# Absolutism:# Capitalism,# the# Modern# States-# system# and#
International#Relations)Review#of#International#Studies#31:3)#
#
Morton,# A.D.# (2006)# The# Grimly# Comic# Riddle# of# Hegemony# in# IPE:# Where# is# Class# Struggle?#
Politics%26:1#
#
Panitch#L.,#(1994)#Globalisation#and#the#State#Socialist#Register,#New#York:#MRP.#
#
Poulantzas#N.,#(2000)#State,#Power,#Socialism#London:#Verso#
#
Poulantzas#N.,#(1978a)#Classes#in#Contemporary#Capitalism#London:#Verso#
#
Psychopedis#K#(2005)#‘Social#critique#and#the#logic#of#revolution:#From#Kant#to#Marx#and#Marx#to#
us’# in# Bonefeld# W,# Psychopedis# K# (eds)# Human# Dignity:# Social# Autonomy# and# the# Critique# of#
Capitalism#Ashgate#Aldershot#
#
Roberts#M.#J.#(2002)#“From#Reflection#to#Refraction:#Opening#up#Open#Marxism”,#Capital#&#Class,#
26:#3.##
20
#
Rogers,# Christopher# (2012)# Managing# Financial# Crises:# The# IMF# and# Advanced# Economies# since#
1976#Palgrave#Basingstoke#
#
Rogers,#Christopher#(2010)#The#Labour# Government,# the#Treasury,#and#the#£6#Pay# policy#of#July#
1975#British#Politics#5:2#
#
Rogers,# Christopher# (2009b)# From# Social# Contract# to# ‘Social# Contrick’:# the# Depoliticisation# of#
Economic#Policy-Making# under# Harold# Wilson# 1974-75# British# Journal#of# Politics# &# International#
Relations%11:4#
#
Rogers,#Christopher#(2009a)#‘The#Politics#of#Economic#Policy#Making#in#Britain:#A#Re-assessment#
of#the#1976#IMF#Crisis’#Politics#&#Policy%37:5#
#
Soderberg,# Johan# and# Netzen,# Adam# (2010)# When# all# that# is# Theory# Melts# into# (Hot)# Air:#
Contrasts#and#Parallels#between#Actor#Network#Theory,#Autonomist#Marxism#and#Open#Marxism#
Ephemera#10:2#
#
Sutton,#Alex# (2015)#The# Political#Economy# of#Imperial# Relations:#Britain,# The#Sterling# Area,#and#
Malaya,#1945-1960#Palgrave#Basingstoke#
#
Sutton,#Alex#(2013)#Towards#an#Open#Marxist#Theory#of#Imperialism#Capital#&#Class#
#
Teschke,# Benno# (2003)# The# Myth# of# 1648# Class,# Geopolitics# and# the# Making# of# Modern#
International#Relations#Verso#London#New#York#
#
Wetherly#P.#Barrow#C.#Burnham#P.,#(2008)#Class,#Power#and#the#State#in#Capitalist#Society:#Essays#
on#Ralph#Miliband#New#York:#Palgrave%
#
Wood,#Ellen#Meiksins#(2002)#The#Origins#of#Capitalism:#A#Longer#View#Verso#London#
i#We#shall#however#be# using# the# term# open# Marxist#perspectives#(OMPs)#to#be#able#to#better#reflect#the#
heterogeneous#character#of#this#body#of#scholarship.#
ii#A# particularly# egregious# example# of# the# interaction# between# OM# and# neo-Gramscian# authors# can# be#
found#in#the#exchange#between# Bonefeld# (2009)#and#Bruff#(2009a;#2009b)#in#BJPIR#11:3.#Indeed,#this# is#an#
unproductive#exchange,#with#little#charity#or#solidarity#from#either#author.#
iii#The#particular#exchange#here#is#a#good#example#of#both#the#lack#of#charity#in#the#debate.#Elden#&#Morton#
(2015:1fn1)#clearly#state#that#Charnock#(in#their#sole#reference#to#him)#offers#a#good#example#of#a#"further#
troubling# aspect”# in#“such# Open# Marxism”# by# claiming# proprietorship# over# Lefebvre’s# work.# However,#
Charnock#(2010:1292)#himself#(on#their#page#reference)#merely#claims#“it# is# possible#to#derive#a#challenge#
to# the# structuralismregulationism# of# the# NS S# literature# from# Lefebvre’s# writing# on# space,# if# we# acce pt#
that#Lefebvre’s#ideas#are#consistent#with#his#open#Marxist#mode#of#critical#thought”.#This#is#a#very#distinct#
and#conditional#claim#to#the#one#alleged#by#Elden#&#Morton#and#could#easily,#we#argue,#have#been#taken#
more#charitably.#Thanks#go#to#an#anonymous#reviewer#for#highlighting#this#point.#
iv#One#indeed#is#reminded#of#the#different#aspects#of#the#infamous#Poulantzas-Miliband#debate#within#the#
OMPs-NG# debate# despite# the# fact# that,#in# the# case# of# the# former,# it# has#long#been# acknowledged# that#
21
there# was# more# in# common# betw een# both# positions# than# differences# (Jessop,# 2008:# 149;# Holloway# and#
Picciotto,#1991:#117;#Hay#et.#al.,#2006:#71).#
v#Soderberg#and#Netzen#(2010:106)#also#make#a#criticism,#following#this#same#point,#that#open#Marxists#are#
antagonistic#towards#‘empirically#oriented#sociology’.#This#seems#like#a#problematic#claim#given#the#works#
of#Bonefeld#et#al.#(1995)#Burnham#(1990;#2001b;#2003;#2006),#Kettell#(2004),#Rogers#(2009a;#2009b;#2010)#
vi#We#would#like#to#thank#one#of#our#anonymous#reviewers#for#highlighting#this#point.#
vii#Adam# Morton# (2006:63-64)# has# previously,# and# quite# rightly,# criticized# mainstream# ‘critical’# IPE#
scholarship# for# its# lack# of# engagement# with# class# struggle,# instead# characterizing# this# writing# as# “liberal#
pluralist# idealism”.# Ironically,# Randall# Germain# (2007:128),# offering# an# alternative# and# non-Marxist#
historical# materialism,# then# portrayed# Morton# in# the# same# way# that# Morton# himself# characterizes# OM,#
describing# his# approach# as# a# kind# of# “monological# Marxism”.# In# another# example# of# scholarly# parallels,#
Morton’s#own# criticism#of#IPE#mirrors#that# of# Peter#Burnham’s#(1994:221),#who# describes#it#as#“a#vulgar,#
fraudulent#discipline”.#
viii#Holloway#(1991)#was#originally#writing#in#terms#of#an#exchange#on#similar#issues#between#Jessop#(1988)#
and#Bonefeld#(1987)#in#the#journal#Capital%&%Class.#These#exchanges#were#ultimately#published#in#Bonefeld#
&#Holloway# (1992).# See# also#Holloway# (1988).# Thanks# go#to# an# anonymous#reviewer# for# suggesting#this#
point.#
ix#“[h]istory#is#nothing#but#the#movement#of#the#class#struggle”#(Holloway,#1991:#236#quoted#in#Bruff,#2009:#
340).##
x#However# the# content# of# this# critique# relies# mainly# on# guilt# by# association# in# our# view,# deriving# from#
Psychopedis’# (2005:78)# direct# reference# to# Stirner# and# his# influence# on# Marx’s# understanding# of# social#
change.#Psychopedis’#claim#does#not#accept#the#ego-centrism#of#Stirner,# rather# his# argument# follows# the#
form# of# Marx’s# own# understan ding# of# social# change.# Psychopedis# (2005:88-92)#also# makes# a# number# of#
references# to# Kant’s# contributions# to# the# debate# on# social# change# but# OM’s# critics# have# so# far# refrained#
from#labeling#OM#a#Liberal#Idealist#theory.#
xi#This# could# be# explicitly# seen# in# Bruff's# “alternative”# proposal# of# taking# the# transhistorical#elements# of#
human#social#practice,#the#need#to#produce,#survive...etc,#as#the#constitutive#starting#point#and#accept#the#
multidimensional# characteristics# of# sources#of# human# practice# despite# still# attributing# a#certain# primacy#
over#capitalist#social#practices#within#capitalist#social#formations#(2009).#For#a#critique#see#Bonefeld#(2009).#
... Debates between advocates of Open Marxism and competing perspectives have contributed a great deal to sharpening our analytical tools (Bieler and Morton, 2003;Bieler et al., 2010;Bruff, 2009;Dönmez and Sutton, 2016;Roberts, 2002;Tsolakis, 2010). Of particular importance is the work of Bieler et al. (2010: 30), who argue that Open Marxist contributions presenting depoliticisation as a governing strategy (Burnham, 2001b;Kettell, 2004;Rogers, 2009;Sutton, 2016) betray a latent state-centrism. ...
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