Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Marx, Education and the Possibilities of a Fairer World: Reviving Radical Political Economy through Foucault

Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Marx, Education and the Possibilities of a Fairer World: Reviving Radical Political Economy through Foucault

Article excerpt


Although this paper constitutes a revision of a paper originally published in 2007 (see note 1), the editors are pleased to republish this paper due to its theoretical importance for the critique of Marxism as well the interest it creates for establishing the possibility of a new political economy based upon the work of Michel Foucault. The paper documents and interrogates the contradictions between postmodernism and poststructurahsm with Marxism. Starting by documenting the crisis of the Left at the start of the twenty-first century, an attempt is made to radically critique and reappraise Marxism in a direction set out by Foucault. The paper is not so much an attempt to meld Marxism and poststructurahsm but rather to generate a new poststructuralist historical materialism which still has equality and fairness as its central concerns, but which goes beyond the traditional problems of Marxism based on its adherence to outmoded methodologies and theoretical modes of analysis. Echoing well known critiques of Marxist historical materialism, the paper focuses on forms of articulation drawn from the revolution m language influenced by post-modernism and by historically more recent post-quantum complexity theories.

Keywords: Marxism; the Left; political economy; poststructurahsm; Michel Foucault; historical materialism; complexity; global politics; neohberahsm

It is clear, even if one admits that Marx will disappear for now, that he will reappear one day. What I wish for is not so much the defalsification and restitution of a true Marx but the unburdening and liberation of Marx in relation to party dogma, which has constrained it, touted it, and brandished it for so long (Foucault 1998, p. 458).


Marxism, we are told by politicians and the popular press is dead. The Left, as a historical movement tied to the labor movement, is frozen over, caught between the collapse of actually existing communism in Eastern Europe and the triumph of global market forces. Union membership in the traditional industrial economy in the United Kingdom is dwindling as multinationals relocate offshore; even insurance, information, banking and call-centre jobs of the "new economy" are increasingly outsourced to India and other emergent economies literate in information and computing technology and English. China has joined the World Trade Organization and committed itself to a post-socialist market economy. At a time of an intensification of inequalities between regions and, perhaps more significantly, between North and South - between the developed world and the developing world - the Left in Britain, the USA and most of Europe seems ideologically gutted by the Third Way preoccupation with the social market and with citizenship "responsibilities" rather than with traditional concerns of equality and advancing rights. The best offer on hand seems to be a socialization of the market and an acknowledgement of its moral limits. Neoliberalism, in the age of privatization reduces the state's role more and more to one of regulation, rather than provision or funding of public services. The US-UK neoliberal model of globalization has dominated the world economy and world politics for the last 20 years, defining the present crisis of fundamentalisms and restyling imperialism as a new age of barbarism. In this age, American-style democracy is exported alongside the ideology of "free trade." Yet many Americans have shifted their view since the Vietnam War on whether the USA is a force for good in the world or an imperialist power, and this is so despite Bush's recent election victory. Even the philosophers of '68 have given way to a new breed of fashion-conscious savants, who now turn their attention to extolling the virtues of liberal individualism or sneer at the last great generation of Left-Nietzscheans, such as Foucault and Derrida.

The Left has certainly been marginalized and even in the home of European socialism it seems confused and crisis-ridden. …

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