Marxism, coloniality and ontological assumptions

Coleman, Lara Montesinos (2021) Marxism, coloniality and ontological assumptions. International Relations Journal, 35 (1). pp. 166-172. ISSN 0047-1178

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At the heart of Global Capitalism, Global War, Global Crisis is a revolt against fetishism: the appeal to abstract categories, treating concepts as if they referred to things ‘out there’ in the world, independent of social relations). It is commonplace to note that studies of international relations routinely fetishise a system of ‘sovereign’ states, abstracted from history and the social relations, practices and ideologies that sustain state power. What Bieler and Morton emphasise is that even ‘Left’ analyses routinely make fetishistic appeal to concepts – ‘the state’, ‘the market’, ‘security’, ‘production’, ‘finance’, ‘knowledge’ – which are treated as things-in-themselves, devoid of human beings in their concrete social relations.1 Despite some scholars’ careless applications of the label ‘Marxist’ to such work, Bieler and Morton’s critique is very much in line with Marx’s own critique of a tradition of classical political economy so beholden to the modern obsession with uniformity and universality that it forcibly read history through the categories of bourgeois ideology (abstract individuals interacting in ‘the market’ and so on) that were made to look like ‘general preconditions of all production’.2 For the authors of Global Capitalism, Global War, Global Crisis, these concerns take on particular urgency at a juncture marked by global economic ‘crisis’, the developmental ‘catch-up’ of emerging economies and inter-state rivalry shaped by the dynamics of global political economy.3 The last thing we need is more fetishism, more mindless repetition of abstract categories like ‘states’, ‘markets’, ‘security’ and so on. All this does is naturalise the existing order and insulate it from critique. Instead, Bieler and Morton insist, we must confront the historical contingency of capitalism and ‘be on guard against the use of fetishised concepts, categories or raw facts’.4 This is, in other words, a ‘necessarily historical materialist moment’.5

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2021 06:49
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2021 18:21

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