Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rethinking Marxism 2006

I was always intrigued how the RCP always had their week of fun filled intellectual revolutionary frolics adjacent in the calendar to the equally fun filled revolutionary frolics of the SWP.

"Get down all those posters".

"Put up our posters".

Anyway, I've found this conference in October 2006. The plenary session is headed "Imperialism and the Fantasies of Democracy". Because it's such a spiffing read here's the abstract.
Many of today's left analyses of imperialism make note of the neoconservative turn to democracy. At the same time, such analyses are often too quick to discard this reference to democracy as empty rhetoric, as a mere cover for the real imperial economic interests (generally centered on oil). Parting ways with such simple critiques of imperialism, this plenary recognizes the constitutive role democratic discourse plays in structuring today's imperial vision and poses the following questions: How does taking the rhetoric of democracy seriously (and conceiving of it as fantasy) aid us to understand what is new and different in contemporary imperialism as well as to grasp the ways in which neoconservative hegemony elicits popular consent? The reason we use the term "fantasies" is to introduce a deliberately ironic and also a disputed term in making the connection between imperialism and democracy. That is, we think that "fantasies" could be read, alternatively, as connoting a source of desire/pleasure, an ideological formation, a possible "illusion," and much else. What kinds of economic, political, legal orders are formed and imposed through imperial fantasies of democracy? What kind of new and unique contradictions are spawned by them that disrupt their smooth functioning? What are the material practices by and through which determinate democratic movements have been able to articulate their projects in the midst of, in spite of, or in conjunction with the forms of imperialism that are currently in play? Does the contemporary turn toward religious and ethnic ideals and movements attest to the failure of these particular democratic fantasies? Or are they conditioned by the inherent limits to the democratic promise?

Alternatively, to the extent that democracy exceeds its articulation to imperialism, it also becomes a potential to mobilize the growing reactions to imperialism in the form of diverse anti-globalization and peace movements. The question then becomes: How can the left critiques of imperialism rethink the promise of democracy that animates the desires of many who wish for economic and political justice, drawing, partly, from rich traditions and current new thinking stemming from Marxism?
At least it doesn't take the, all too common, approach of rejecting democracy as it is used for purposes we do not agree with. If there are "inherent limits to the democratic promise" what do Laclau, Shohat and Callari, propose to do about them? What is the alternative to democracy? Are "religious and ethnic ideals and movements" considered a valid progressive alternative to democratic movements?

Or is it just

"a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing"?

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