Category Archives: Marxism

On the photography and communism of Henri Cartier-Bresson

The subtitle of the Pompidou Centre’s retrospective of the 20th century’s best-known photographer could be: Almost Everything You Know About Henri Cartier-Bresson is Wrong. Or, at least, Long Overdue a Rethink.Its curator, Clement Cheroux, has risen to the unspoken challenge that any Cartier-Bresson exhibition now presents: how to shed new light on the life and work of an artist who so defined the medium that yet another celebration of his genius might seem superfluous.

Cheroux has wisely chosen to tackle his life chronologically, mapping out through around 500 images the stages of Cartier-Bresson’s creative development, while allowing us surprising glimpses of the private individual behind the legend. The show includes family albums, portraits of the artist as a young and old man, his early paintings, late drawings, and even a couple of striking, surrealist-influenced collages. Here, the two aspects of Cartier-Bresson’s life that have long defined him – his coining of the term “the decisive moment” to describe street photography and the co-founding of Magnum in 1947 – are not so much ignored as woven into the creative tapestry of a restless but intensely focused life.

Continue reading On the photography and communism of Henri Cartier-Bresson

Ingo Elbe on early Marxism, Western Marxism and Neue Marx Lektüre differences

III. The “Neue Marx-Lektüre”

It was first within the frame­work of the “neue Marx-Lektüre” (“New Read­ing of Marx”), which emerged in the mid-1960s, that prob­lems of state the­ory and eco­nomic the­ory once again played a role out­side of Marxism-Leninism. This new wave of recep­tion of Marx’s the­ory was also more or less sit­u­ated out­side of Stal­in­ism and Social Democ­racy. Along­side the new read­ing in West Euro­pean coun­tries, there were iso­lated rudi­ments of a “new read­ing of Marx” occur­ring in East­ern Europe.68 Its gen­e­sis in West Ger­many coin­cided with phe­nom­ena such as the stu­dent move­ment, the first jolts to belief in a per­pet­ual and polit­i­cally man­age­able post-war pros­per­ity, the break­ing up of the anti-communist con­sen­sus in the course of the Viet­nam War, etc., yet remained, despite its rad­i­cal eman­ci­pa­tory claims, con­fined largely to acad­e­mia. Here, we dis­tin­guish between this “new read­ing of Marx” in a broader sense69, and one more nar­rowly defined.70 Whereas the for­mer was an inter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non, the lat­ter was con­fined pri­mar­ily to West Ger­many. If the for­mer still remained pre­dom­i­nantly trapped within Engel­sian dogma with regard to the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­omy, the lat­ter fore­grounded the revi­sion of pre­vi­ous his­tori­cist or empiri­cist inter­pre­ta­tions of Marx’s form analy­sis. In terms of con­tent, a three­fold aban­don­ment of cen­tral topoi of tra­di­tional Marx­ism was con­sum­mated in the main threads of the debate, them­selves con­tra­dic­tory and in no way shared by all par­tic­i­pants: a move away from a sub­stan­tial­ist the­ory of value71; aban­don­ment of manipulative-instrumental con­cep­tions of the state72; and a move away from labor movement-centric inter­pre­ta­tions of the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­omy, or inter­pre­ta­tions based on a “labor-ontological” rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory (or even upon rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory as such).73 This new read­ing artic­u­lates its the­o­ret­i­cal efforts in the form of a recon­struc­tion of Marx’s theory.

Continue reading Ingo Elbe on early Marxism, Western Marxism and Neue Marx Lektüre differences

Ingo Stützle on David Graeber – or why debt and labor have not existed until the XVIII century

Debt and Punishment. A critical review of David Graeber’s ›debt‹. The book is missing an analysis of capitalism

The last few years of cri­sis poli­tics were a prime example of how on the one hand pro­fits are pri­va­ti­zed, while on the other hand los­ses are socia­li­zed. The deep cri­sis of capi­ta­lism has left in its wake a sover­eign debt cri­sis. The ans­wer of the poli­ti­cal class has been fis­cal con­so­li­da­tion. Finance capital’s claims on returns are gua­ran­teed and collec­ted by the state. The invi­si­ble hand of the mar­ket is joi­ned by the visi­ble fist of the state. Strugg­les over state finan­ces will be cen­tral batt­le­fields in the next few years.

That is no doubt the rea­son why the publi­ca­tion of David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5,000 Years was gree­ted with eupho­ria, even by the bour­geois press. In the Frank­fur­ter All­ge­meine Sonn­tags­zei­tung, Frank Schirr­ma­cher wrote that Gra­eber »opens the reader’s eyes to what’s going on right now,« and fur­ther­more, »Graeber’s text is a reve­la­tion, since one is no lon­ger forced to react to the sys­tem its­elf wit­hin the sys­tem of appa­rent eco­no­mic ratio­na­lity.« Der Spie­gel opi­nes: »his book on the nature of debt and its eco­no­mic and moral basis is alre­ady regar­ded as an anti-capitalist stan­dard work of the new social move­ments which have emer­ged during the world eco­no­mic cri­sis.« This is in refe­rence to the Occupy pro­tests. Even the chief eco­no­mist of the Deut­sche Bank group reviewed Graber’s book posi­tively in the monthly eco­no­mic policy jour­nal Wirt­schafts­dienst (4/2012) with regard to the ques­tion of the future of cen­tral ban­king. Since May 2012, the book has been avail­able in a Ger­man edition.

Continue reading Ingo Stützle on David Graeber – or why debt and labor have not existed until the XVIII century