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07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 133

Book Reviews 133

Steiner sets up a dialectic of civilization: the expansion of the limits of society,
which goes hand in hand with the growing control of danger, leads to the
progressive internalization of danger and the progressive destruction of limits.
At the end of this process lies the unlimited exercise of power in the Holo-
caust. In Steiner’s words: ‘What had in past ages been outside society, what
was later inside society, will at one time be, when society has triumphed,
inside the individual. This is the process. The process of civilization is the
conquest of man through the powers of nature, through demons. It is the
march of danger into the heart of creation (p. 145). In this triumph of nature
over social limits, triggered by the transition from the limited to the unlim-
ited universe of modernity, we come close to Steiner’s and to Canetti’s
counter-vision of society which defines their eccentric position in relation to
the dominant self-understandings of modernity. For both the mythical legacy
of the ‘primitives’ needs to be rescued and preserved as a precious source
of an alternative conception of human and social being.
The merit of Mack’s study lies not only in bringing Steiner back into
focus through his intellectual affiliations and friendship with Canetti but
above all by bringing out the necessary and essential marginality of both
thinkers, evident in their search for a position outside of the blindness of
modern civilization and its social sciences. Anthropology as Memory marks a
new and productive phase of Canetti scholarship, directing the task of recon-
structing the intellectual horizon of his work in relation especially to his
anthropological sources and of his world in relation to the émigré circles in
England during the war years and after.

Reviewed by David Roberts
German Studies, Monash University

Stefan Gandler, Peripherer Marxismus: Kritische Theorie in Mexico
(Argument Verlag, 1999)

This book – a reworked version of a doctorate thesis in the area of phil-
osophy and history presented at the University of Frankfurt am Main – seeks
to introduce and discuss the work of two Mexico-based unorthodox Marxist
philosophers, Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez and Bolívar Echeverría. By drawing
attention to the work of these two peripheral Marxists the study seeks to con-
tribute to the critique of Eurocentrism and in doing so also sheds light on a
little known chapter of the history of Latin American left-wing thinking.
The two theorists discussed have in common that they came to Mexico
as exiles, but they belong to different generations and came from different
countries. Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez (b. 1915) reached Mexico in June 1939
after having fought in the Spanish Civil War. Mexico had, like the USSR, been

Although the Mexican regime at the time was rather . His hopes soon were dashed and he moved to Berlin where he became acquainted with the radical student movement and discovered Marxism. took up his studies again. Through his literary critiques and his studies on art and consciousness he gradually took an increasing distance from ‘socialist realism’ and official dialectic materialism. Back in Mexico. as well as containing local contributions. based on his doctorate dissertation. By the late 1950s. Echeverría came to regard his work as about equally radical as the Cuban Revolution and decided to set out for Germany in 1961 in the hope of studying philosophy with the master in Freiburg. he was invited to the Special Forum on State Reform. and some months after the end of the Civil War then President Lázaro Cárdenas opened the country to Spanish refugees. Bolívar Echeverría (b. which appeared from 1974 until 1990 and became a major platform for debate among the Latin American Left. In 1968. He arrived in Mexico just before the repression of the student movement in the Tlatelolco Massacre. a second substantially revised edition would be published. In 1967 he published the first edition of his main work. which led him to return to Berlin to organize solidarity with the Mexican democratic movement. when USA policies in the context of the Cold War made clear that a return to Spain could not be expected. which brings his circle of friends to the work of Martin Heidegger. Sánchez Vázquez was among the first to arrive. Sánchez Vázquez joined with the Mexican student movement. Two years later the UNAM honored him with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa and in Septem- ber 2000 the left-wing Government of Mexico’s Federal District named Sánchez Vázquez Distinguished Master of Mexico City. of Ecuadorian origins. unorthodox Marxism would become increasingly influ- ential at the UNAM and Sánchez Vázquez became the publisher of the Theory and Praxis book series that made important European texts available to the Mexican and Latin American public. he sent a contribution. the revelations of Stalinist crimes and the Cuban Revolution led to a final break with the Spanish Com- munist Party in exile while the offer of a full-time post at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) allowed him to dedicate himself to an intense study of Marx’s writings. Ignoring much about Heidegger’s trajectory. belongs to a different generation of exiles and shows a distinct trajectory. he became an assistant of Sánchez Vázquez and was involved in the edition of the Cuadernos Políticos. which was violently repressed in the Tlatelolco Massacre. By the late 1950s he became involved in high-school protests and in discussions of the work of Sartre and other ‘exemplary’ existentialist philosophers. Although he did not travel to the southern Province of Chiapas.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 134 134 Thesis Eleven (Number 71 2002) a country that had supported the Spanish Left. 1941). started to contribute to various magazines and. organized by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). By 1968 he moved to Mexico since a return to Ecuador had become impossible in view of the authoritarian regime installed there in 1963. Filosofia de la praxis (The Philosophy of Praxis). In subsequent years. In 1996. In 1980.

which allows for a creative intervention. rather than racial. that is. In the case of Sánchez Vázquez the discussion thus centers on his Philosophy of Praxis. . Such everyday consciousness. through the need to confront historically given circum- stances and the possibility to do so on the basis of already developed theoretical premises. By the late 1980s he became a full-time teacher at the UNAM and increasingly dedicated himself to the study of culture from a Marxist perspective. In turn. aspect and the sub- jective. mixing). aspect of praxis in order to develop a philosophical con- sciousness of revolutionary praxis. The objective is to save the meaning of praxis from both mechanistic and Hegel-inspired idealistic readings by stressing the unity of the objective. In 1996 he participated in the Special Forum on the Reform of the State as one of the many Zapatista ‘advisors’. however. the country became a refuge for exiles from the Southern Cone countries where military dictatorships held sway. objectivism. such ‘common sense’ views translate into pragmatic rather than emancipatory politics. This resulted in the publication of an anthology entitled Mod- ernity. active. Echeverría also translated various important texts such as Marx’s Parisian Manuscripts. will not be overcome through a theory-immanent critique but. Such an understanding of praxis then opens the way for a discussion of the Feuerbach theses and transformative action. the active unity of subjective and objective aspects of praxis is highlighted. material. which centers on the over- coming of the materialism-idealism dichotomy. This entails a critique of ideology as the seemingly unmediated knowledge of the world guided by naïve realism according to which things reveal themselves unmedi- ated by human action. Cultural Mestizaje and Baroque Ethos as well as a book entitled The Illusions of Modernity. As to the first thesis. according to which the meaning of things seems to be naturally give.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 135 Book Reviews 135 repressive. The study under review focuses on the main works of these two philosophers. Praxis always is present in the creation of knowledge. through politics but also in art. a critical consciousness. which is a critique of the common or everyday con- sciousness of praxis and seeks to elaborate a theoretical understanding. in addition to focusing on the theme of mestizaje (understood here as cultural. which reduces the practical to usefulness. and utilitarianism. but Sánchez Vázquez seeks an intermediate position between those who adopt a more or less realist position and those who emphasize the humanist aspect (Gramsci) by stressing the creativity of praxis and at the same time according primacy to the object. This leads to an interpretation of some of the Theses on Feuerbach. in other words ‘practical politics’ and ‘practical a-politicism’. The second thesis concerns the truth-value of praxis and is interpreted in the sense that the ‘truth’ of a theory cannot simply be reduced to the criterion of its pragmatic utility. which greatly relies on the Theses on Feuerbach. given the unity of the objective and the subjective resulting from the always present active element in the for- mation of knowledge. Theory by itself cannot provide the criterion (idealism).

according to the author of this study. However. This introduces a critical principle of uncertainty. active. Such deliberations bring Sánchez Vázquez to a sort of midway position that rejects Gramsci’s absolute historicism and humanism. . which often goes together with the manipulation thesis. the effect of the rejection of economism. However. The neglect of the elaboration of the notion of alien- ation and its function in the reproduction of capitalist social formation through the analysis of commodity fetishism makes Sánchez Vázquez fall back on a strange mix of veneration of ‘Marxism-Leninism’ and ‘proletkult’ as a sort of spontaneous resistance to massification by professional con- sciousness manipulators who produce an alienated ideology. Thus. Sánchez Vázquez underlines political and artistic practice rather than merely the economic aspect. shows affinity with that of Alfred Schmidt and his views on how the ‘laws of matter’ come to be known through the active subjectivity of workers in the labor process. also stands in the way of a more sophisticated understanding of consciousness and ideology as it leads to the idea that ‘false consciousness’ is produced by manipulation instead of being the effect of commodity fetishism and therefore not as easily superseded as the ‘proletkult’ viewpoint. this implies that he rejects the idea of an ‘epistemological rupture’ à la Althusser and rather sees continuity. despite a shift of emphasis from creative and political praxis toward an analysis of the practices that sustain systemic reproduction. This last point leads the author of the study under review to some further arguments regarding the absence of references to Capital in Sánchez Vázquez’s work. The trick is to develop a reflexive relation to this active inter- vention of common sense practicality. defends the relative autonomy of theory. At the same time. in contrast to Schmidt. would suggest. In spite of the view of conti- nuity of Marx’s work. Perhaps. this critique is limited in the sense that it does not lead to a full liberation from dogmatism. after which consciousness directly derives from economically determined class positions. that is to develop an understood praxis. His position. This finally ushers in a consideration of thesis 11 and the argument that this thesis does not imply an ‘end of philos- ophy’ but a renewed. this absence can be explained by Sánchez’s rejection of economism as part of the attempt to break with dog- matism. which involves both the transformation of circumstances and the transformation of human activity or of mankind itself. is that economism creeps in again through the backdoor. philosophy. the stance against vulgar economism. paradoxically. On the other hand. which involves a critique of socialist realism and Marxist dogmatism. However. his ‘mature’ work is conspicuously absent in Sánchez Vázquez’s ruminations. Traces of dogmatism thus remain. but therefore also distances itself from the Althusserian view of ‘theoretical praxis’. such considerations stress the creative and critical function of art. The third thesis concerns revolutionary praxis.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 136 136 Thesis Eleven (Number 71 2002) but practice by itself cannot either (empiricism). which leads Sánchez Vázquez to prefer the ‘more philosophical’ young Marx. he argues.

In other words. Bolívar Echeverría seeks to develop a more down to earth notion of praxis by highlighting the notion of use value and develop- ing a critique of Eurocentrism. In his text entitled Postmodernidad y cinismo (Postmodernity and Cynicism). Such . this makes for a synchronic perspective that can account for different pathways in geographically distinct regions with different historical and cultural experiences. Instead of measuring such regions against a ‘uni- versal’ teleological and Eurocentrically constructed time-scale. which at least points out the historical limits of the model. while acknowl- edging the dominance of exchange value under capitalism. The distancing from ortho- doxy also is revealed in the skipping of a critique of Marcuse’s view that Leninist theory turned the proletarians into the object rather than the subject of revolution. whereas the former tended to focus on political praxis. Including cultural features of consumption and use value points to another direction. this sets Echeverría off from the postmodern- ists who are regarded as equally abstract. the notion of praxis comes to include both production and consumption and. capitalism as such does not explain why some people prefer dogs over hot dogs. The dis- tinctive use value of dogs and their hot variety prompts distinctive produc- tion processes. the use value concept is employed to develop a critique of an abstract and universalistic praxis concept. ‘Consumer preferences’ are rooted in cultural history and will influence the process of production. this approach suggests a difference with that of Sánchez Vázquez in that the relation between productive and con- sumptive praxis is highlighted. Employing the notion of use value and Marx’s notion of the natural form of societal reproduction makes it possible to direct the attention toward the cultural or semiotic substratum that defines use values. universalizing Eurocentrists in their critique as the abstract universalism of capitalism. as coping in distinctive ways with the preponderance of exchange value. it shows them. the attention is directed to what is exchanged and how this influences production.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 137 Book Reviews 137 On the other hand. To put it bluntly and in ‘my way’. Instead of adopting a diachronic perspective which views difference from the model as a sign of ‘not yet having reached the standard’. On the other. A one sided emphasis on praxis as production thus can be shown to go hand in hand with a one sided Euro- centric view of modernization as it implies a homogenizing notion of mod- ernity which identifies difference from the model as a sign of pre-modernity: dogs are pre-modern and hot dogs are the emblem of modernity. On the one hand. though both may be dominated by the logic of exchange value and capital’s expanded reproduction. first published in 1994. as we will see. that of alternative modernities. Whereas in the work of Sánchez Vázquez the concept of praxis remains a rather abstract one. the second edition of The Philosophy of Praxis (1980) reveals a further development and critique of orthodoxy in the addition of a chapter on the Leninist theory of party organization. This prevents the post- modernists formulating a concrete critique of ‘real existing modernity’.

been exposed as a hoax. but it cannot overcome them. a ‘romantic’. The Jesuit Reducciones in Paraguay in the 18th century are cited as an early example of the utopian attempt to develop a non-capitalism form of com- modity production and this seems to be the programmatic outcome of Echev- erría’s reflections: do away with capitalism. among others. Echeverría comes to distinguish a ‘realistic’. consists of a paradoxical mix between the admission that exchange value dominates and the attempt to live the ‘Truth in Falsity’. Hirsch recommends a socially and politically regulated capitalism. point the way to a new praxis. and the dominant exchange value form of capitalism. Whether presenting it as programmatic or as pragmatic. for the time being. The author of the book under review contrasts Echeverría’s programmatic proposal of a market without capitalism with the pragmatic proposal of ‘riding the capitalist tiger’ as a momentary viable form of Left wing politics formulated by Joachim Hirsch. a ‘classic’. while Echeverría seems to accept the universality of the commodity form but wants to dissociate it from capitalism. and what would the author of ‘Peripheral Marxism’ say? The book under review. This. It is an attempt to break the rules of capitalist production. to which all would contribute according to capac- ities and receive according to their needs. sacrifices use value in a naïve celebration of exchange value. the ‘baroque’ ethos. Anthony Giddens’ ‘third way’ has already. which contains an extensive list of publications . which puts him into an awkward position in relation to chapter one of Capital. The objective is to explore the relation between historically con- stituted forms of use value and their semiotics.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 138 138 Thesis Eleven (Number 71 2002) considerations lay the groundwork for Echeverría’s reflections on the ‘historical ethos’ of different societies. 1998). to give one example. but does ‘grassroots post-modernism’ (Esteva and Prakash. characteristic of the ‘Northwest’. and a ‘baroque’ ethos in order to develop a materialist history of culture in a critical dialogue with. The problem is that as yet no plausible alternative has been developed to the tiger swallowing the lady and comrade Lenin’s view of the withering away of the State and the organization of the economy after the model of the postal services. sufficiently. characteristic of the Mediterranean and Latin America. commodity exchange and fetishism that underlie alienation. Echeverría’s programmatic outcome thus stands in the way of seriously dealing with a radical critique of ideology as developed by Lukács. but not with the market. Max Weber’s theorizing on the Protes- tant ethic. both Echeverría and Hirsch seem to look for a way of at least acting under the present circumstances. may come at a price since it is exactly the market. Thus. / They returned from the ride / With the lady inside / And the smile on the face of the tiger’. / Who rode with a smile on a tiger. rooted in the ‘soil of cultures’? What would Sánchez Vázquez and Echeverría say about it. This suggests that there should be some sort of revolutionary praxis. The latter put his suggestion into perspective by citing a limerick: ‘There was a young lady of Riga. however. whereas the ‘realist’ ethos.

Throughout the book we find pointers to the Zapatista rebel- lion. but we should not be too tell us about the praxis of a rebellion largely rooted in indigenous culture. Reviewed by Willem Assies El Colegio de Michoacán. Mexico email: assies@colmich. the peripheral Marxists discussed have developed a critical view on the dogmatic naïve optimism regarding praxis. there is little systematic reflection on the views of the two ‘peripheral Marxists’ on the innovative praxis and the aesthetics of neo-Zapataism. to say the least? This invites further thinking about Theses 1 to 11. shows that outside the center worthwhile contributions to Marxist philosophy have been formu- lated. by looking beyond ‘phil- osophy’ and taking into account ‘anthropological’ works like Marshall Sahlins’ Culture and Practical Reason (1976) and the recent debates on culture.07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 139 Book Reviews 139 of both philosophers as well as references to comments. We may tend to scoff (or smile indulgently) at the naivety of some of the insights of that period. that is denying that history has come to an end and at the same time showing that geography has been transformed. As to the last point. and newly emerging praxes. 2001) In the] Dennis Altman. On the other hand. As the author points out in his final chapter. for example. Developing this question would have shed further light on the concrete relation between culture and praxis. which by now has generated voluminous commentary. they made innovative con- tributions to the debate on ideology and its capacity to ‘naturalize’ existing social relations. the 1970s was an influential period in the development of the conceptions of sexual identity and the sexual mores currently being dis- seminated by capitalism and other global forces. What does the baroque ethos. which contain points of departure for a critique of Eurocentric theor- izing that might be radicalized and expanded. and they contributed to a critique of Eurocentrism. differ- ence and identity. the author notes that. It is now generally accepted that the dichotomies public/private and sex/politics are more . without the aim of ‘taking power’. but despite the fact that the author interviewed them. and taking place in ‘real time’. Their legacy remains an important one that forms a solid base for theorizing global sexual politics. although for Echeverría the development of the notion of a baroque ethos is a central objective. in his reflections on aes- thetics Sánchez Vázquez also distances himself from the Eurocentric dis- qualification of baroque art for not meeting the ‘standards of classicism’. Such critique might be further developed. for example. the book charts a little known chapter of the history of the Latin American Left and might inspire further research on this subject. Global Sex (University of Chicago Press.

Number 71. For the present. it is better that the 1960s are remembered by social- ists in elegiac rather than prophetic terms. The cafes multiply and the books of French intellectuals are still to be found on the tables – some even read – but for now they are of the postmodern and post-Marxist variety. typical of the most earnest left scribbler endeavour- ing to mimick the dialectical acrobatics of the old Hegel and the young Marx. Even if the concepts of ‘totality’. The post- humous reputations of the French Marxists have not fared well into the new century. Sacha Rabinovitch.106–146. November 2002: 106–146 SAGE Publications (London. ‘dialectical man’. and a critical theory of modernity that opens up utopic horizons that Thesis Eleven. especially so in Paris grey-on-grey. He remained a Marxist throughout his life and on the page.028129] . Why so? Lefebvre was a member of the French Communist Party until 1958 (dates are never insignificant in the reckoning of the Cold War era and especially so in the heavily Stalinist mode of the French Communist Party).) Slogans aside. moreover a revolution cannot be other than total’. Thousand Oaks. The one notable exception who proves the rule is Henri Lefebvre (1901–91).07 Reviews (jr/ho) 11/20/02 1:40 PM Page 106 REVIEWS Henri Lefebvre. there are at least three main uses of Lefebvre’s ideas: the sociology of everyday life. Yet many of his books have been and continue to be translated into English and he has multiple readerships across the academy and the fossilized ideo- logical divides of left and right. with a new introduction by Philip Wander (Athlone Press. French Marxist intellectuals of the 20th century were once compulsory reading for would-be revolutionary cadres in provincial cafes the world around. the production of space. Many of his writings are polemical and some comically so with the benefit of our backward-looking Hegelian spectacles. Everyday Life in the Modern World. 2000) Fashions are fickle and intellectual fashions are no less seasonable. trans. in over 60 books. CA and New Delhi) Copyright © 2002 SAGE Publications and Thesis Eleven Pty Ltd [0725-5136(200211)71. this book closes with a polemic entitled ‘Towards a Permanent Cultural Revol- ution’ where he proclaims that ‘the concept of revolution – even of total revolution – is still valid. Lefebvre was also capable of turgid prose. (With rhetoric like this. in the Anglophone West. for example. and ‘revolution’ are no longer endorsed it would seem that there is life in the old Lefebvrian corpus yet.