Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that, with the collapse of Com- munism, the theoretical project of Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more timely and important. Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “ postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency. Ellen Meiksins Wood. · Rating details · 94 ratings · 9 reviews. This study argues that understanding Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more important.

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Looked at with, so to speak, more distance, there is an obvious cumulative development in the history of ideas in Europe. The capitslism of a rainbow is often employed for such an inclusive politics, but this suggests pluralism. It does not seem to me that there is anything in such an approach which automatically ‘naturalises’ capitalism.

Democracy Against Capitalism

If the emergence of capitalism is regarded as some kind of teleological inevitability which is the view she is opposingand history is ‘read forwards’ with each step seen as the unfolding of an immanent process, it is true. Some Marxist theories of history make the same mistake.

There was no such thing as ‘bourgeois revolution’, either in England or elsewhere, if by this is meant ‘capitalist revolution’. Marxism itself, in all sorts of ways, is the inheritor of this democratic tradition. A mode of production analysis can help to explain how non-class forms of oppression arise and increase or decrease democracu importance.

This issue is at the heart of disagreements over ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ and ‘state capitalism’. No trivia or quizzes yet. This is not quite the same as non-capitalist forms of surplus appropriation; and Wood does recognise the need for state coercion, which she sees as the result of capitalism’s contradictions. Most capitalist societies throughout the history of capitalism have required pretty intensive state coercion to guarantee the extraction of surplus value.

Clarke rated it it was amazing Sep 24, EMW’s critique of the redefined democracy of the modern era seems to me to ignore this, to reduce the modern meaning of ‘democracy’ to its most ‘right-wing’ and anti-democratic versions. Clientelism, Interests, and Democratic Representation: One of the most brilliant defences of a complex and undogmatic Marxism I’ve encountered lately.

She now resides in England. A debate about a ‘federal republic’ with or without quotes from Marx and Lenin inhabits a different conceptual universe from the one in this book. Her entire argument is constructed around the claim that to accept any version of the ‘commercialisation model’ – the emphasis on the growth of trade prior to the emergence of industrial capital – is to naturalise capitalism, and assume what should be explained.


Kevin rated it liked it Nov 16, Kenan Malik, in his interesting book ‘The Meaning of Elleh, traces how the Enlightenment project of human equality faced the contradiction of class inequality. It is at least conceivable, moreover, that non-class oppression could be ended, yet capitalism endure.

This book is like leftist brain bleach for anyone who looks at our world’s decaying ecological state, rising far-right extremism, and decaying standards of life across the Western world. Instead, I intend to focus on one of her most important books, ‘Democracy Against Capitalism’.

The concern with the specificity of capitalism, and with class struggle as the motor for historical change rather than globally-defined ‘economic’ processesis clearly visible in the account of the origin of capitalism offered here by Wood.

Alexandre Klaser rated it really liked it Aug 20, The specificity of capitalism that Wood stresses in her interpretation of historical materialism is also the basis of her analysis of democracy and how it came to be associated with capitalism. Aykut Kansu rated it it was amazing Jun 16, I don’t think Marxists have attempted to reduce this intellectual history directly to the ‘needs of capitalist development’ or the interests of the capitalist class or if they have, they shouldn’t.

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The debates MW attempts with post modernists and social democrats from a more traditional sort of left are very interesting too, and despite the book’s age, I believe, very current. Wood served on the editorial committee of the British journal New Left Review between and Where Athenian democracy was eellen fusion of the citizen and the state and aganist and politicsmodern democracy is, in a sense, the opposite. Its ‘literal’ democracy is in contrast to the separation of ‘citizen’ from real social power under capitalism.

There’s one aspect of all this which is relevant to our debate, so I’ll come back to it later; otherwise, I’ll leave that there – except to say that I agree with EMW.

Selected pages Title Page. Thanks for telling us about the problem. For sure, the bourgeois advocates of democracy, in America and shortly afterwards in France, wanted freedom, fundamentally, for themselves, freedom to trade, freedom for non-‘feudal’ property, rights for themselves not simply divinely-appointed kings and aristocrats, etc.

Therefore, for the first time in history citizenship could be extended to all, without compromising the economic power of the ruling class — but the significance of this citizenship was greatly restricted. Wood received a B. Finally, then, on this question of revolution. Even the American constitution is based on a radically different concept of democracy to the meikksins Athenian one.


The CPGB’s attempt to enrol her in the fight against economism seems to me somewhat misplaced.

Notes on Ellen Meiksins Wood’s “Democracy Against Capitalism” | Workers’ Liberty

Current intellectual fashions of the left which emphasize ‘post-modern’ fragmentation, ‘difference’, contingency and the ‘politics of identity’ can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subject the capitalist system to critique. Early modern colonialism the conquest of what became Latin America, etc is seen as merely the means whereby large amounts of wealth were amassed which could feed demofracy industrial development when the time came; the commercial empires of Spain, Portugal, the Dutch are assimilated to capitalism, whereas in fact they were not capitalist at all.

Conor Reid rated it really liked it Oct 28, The paradoxical argument here is that the collapse of communism in its actually eplen form that is has made marxism more important and more necessary than ever, mainly because it is one of the few if not the only mode of critical thought that can accommodate the idea of capitalism. Aug 09, Tam rated it really liked it.

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Meiksins Wood stresses the importance of class stru The first part of this book is a magnificent re-statement of the relevance and usefulness of historical materialism as an analytical tool.

Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism

Get articles and upcoming events delivered every month. Factually, also, therefore, the ‘commercialisation model’ misses the point. Gavin rated it really liked it Aug 14, In particular, regarding democcracy emergence of capitalism from feudalism, she attacks the ‘commercialisation model’, according to which capitalism was already present in feudal cities, and as the market spread was gradually able to outgrow feudal fetters until eventually ‘bourgeois revolution’ caused a qualitative breakthrough.

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