Announcing Catalyst

June 3, 2017

Jacobin is launching Catalyst: A Journal of Theory and Strategy. Edited by Robert Brenner and Vivek Chibber.

First issue out now!


Vivek Chibber: Rescuing Class from the Cultural Turn.

Mike Davis: The Great God Trump and the White Working Class.

Cedric Johnson: The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now.

Nivedita Majumdar: Silencing the Subaltern.

Joshua Murray & Michael Schwartz: Collateral Damage.

Charles Post: Slavery and the New History of Capitalism.

Visit here to subscribe:

Charles Post – The Roots of Trumpism


Donald Trump’s nomination and election is the most recent chapter in an ongoing leadership struggle that began in the aftermath of the global recession and the 2008 Democratic electoral victory. Capital successfully beat back the first wave of middle-class radicalism in the Republican Party—the Tea Party—during the 2014 Congressional elections, but these rebels were not vanquished. They were radicalized.

Since the 1960s, the mass voter base of the Republican Party has been made up primarily of older, suburban, white, middle-class, small businesspeople, professionals, and managers, and a minority of older white workers. Until recently, the particular passions of the Party’s base —especially its hostility to the democratic gains of people of color, women, and LGBT people—could be contained. Minor concessions to the social conservatives on abortion, affirmative action, voter restrictions, and same-sex marriage/legal equality maintained their loyalty, while capitalists set the substantive neo-liberal agenda for the Republicans (and the Democrats as well). As in the Democratic Party, the non-capitalist elements of the Republican coalition were clearly junior partners to capital.


Read the rest here:

What now? The roots of the present economic crisis and the way forward: a discussion with David Harvey and Robert Brenner

Sponsored by the Advanced Research Collaborative, Center for Place, Culture and Politics, and Center for the Humanities.

The Graduate Center, CUNY
New York City
December 1, 2016


Full video here –

“For over eighty years, the reformist left in the United States has sought to transform one of the capitalist parties into a “people’s” party. Both the Communist Party’s popular front strategy and the social-democratic strategy of “realignment” (formulated by the brilliant ex-Marxist Max Shachtman) sought to transform the Democratic Party. The Democrats, through the 1950s, were a coalition of urban real estate developers, Jewish and Catholic capitalists and southern planters who enjoyed the voting support of northern industrial workers, black and white, middle-class liberals, and most southern whites. The reformists’ goal was to drive out the conservative, pro-capitalist elements—especially the Dixiecrats—leaving the labor officialdom and middle-class liberals to dominate a “labor-liberal” Party. As Paul Heideman pointed out in a recent essay in Jacobin,1 there was a realignment in the Democratic Party in the 1970s—but not the one the reformists hoped for. The southerners abandoned the Democrats for the Republicans, but with urban growth the non-WASP capitalists were joined by new capitalists in high technology and the media, and an increasingly neo-liberal urban middle class. Rather than becoming a labor-liberal party, the Democrats moved sharply right in the 1980s as the official leaders of the labor, civil rights, and women’s movements were marginalized.”

Continue reading –

Thursday, 20th of October (13h-15h): Pedro Lucas Dutra Salgado (Sussex), ‘International Historical Sociology and the Problem of Geopolitical Agency – The Case of Brazilian State Formation’. Venue: Freeman Center – F39 (University of Sussex).

Thursday 24th of November (13h-15h): Workshop on ‘International Historical Method’. Readings and venue to be determined.

Thursday, 8th of December: Michael McIntyre (DePaul University), title and venue to be determined.




This innovative text provides a compelling narrative world history through the lens of food and farmers. Tracing the world history of agriculture from earliest times to the present, Christopher Isett and Stephen Miller argue that people, rather than markets, have been the primary agents of agricultural change. Exploring the actions taken by individuals and groups over time and analyzing their activities in the wider contexts of markets, states, wars, the environment, population increase, and similar factors, the authors emphasize how larger social and political forces inform decisions and lead to different technological outcomes. Both farmers and elites responded in ways that impeded economic development. Farmers, when able to trade with towns, used the revenue to gain more land and security. Elites used commercial opportunities to accumulate military power and slaves. The book explores these tendencies through rich case studies of ancient China; precolonial South America; early-modern France, England, and Japan; New World slavery; colonial Taiwan; socialist Cuba; and many other periods and places. Readers will understand how the promises and problems of contemporary agriculture are not simply technologically derived but are the outcomes of decisions and choices people have made and continue to make.


Praise for the book:


In this audacious book, Isett and Miller argue that the key to understanding the emergence of the modern world is the epochal transformation of agrarian class structures. They show how their framework can account not only for the ‘Great Divergence’ between East and West, but also the ‘Little Divergence’ between Northwest Europe and the rest of the continent. Written with tremendous clarity and verve by two scholars in complete command of their subject, this is one of the best works of analytical history to have been published in recent years.
Vivek Chibber, New York University

In an extraordinary feat of interpretation, Christopher Isett and Stephen Miller have produced a theoretically informed history of agriculture, from its origins nine thousand years ago to the present. They have synthesized vast historical literatures on every major phase in the development of farming, from the rise of sedentary production, through the transition to capitalism, to the green revolution and beyond. They have also provided their own, always-illuminating resolutions of the debates over conceptual framework that have defined the field. An invaluable contribution for scholars, students at all levels, and general readers alike, it truly is a tour de force.
Robert Brenner, University of California–Los Angeles

“In her seminal work “The Origin of Capitalism,” the late scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood took on the credo that “capitalism emerged when the market was liberated from age-old constraints and when, for one reason or another, opportunities for trade expanded.” Schoolchildren in the US are commonly taught to conceive of the broad variety of political-economic systems, both those extant and those possible, as divisible into two essential and opposing categories: “markets” and “planning.” “Markets,” in this formulation, offer opportunities for commerce which make people free, while “planning” oppresses people through inefficient resource rationing. It is taken for granted that “markets” and “capitalism” are synonymous; likewise “planning” and “socialism.” The problems with this formulation are legion, but particularly egregious is its utter ahistoricity: inconveniently for the schoolteachers formulation, markets predate capitalism by thousands of years.”


Markets in the next system

“My version of an early and a late Marx can be traced to the account that Robert Brenner presents of two stories of the origins of capitalism in Marx. There’s an earlier account in which bourgeois society arose out of the spread of commerce from its modest medieval beginnings. In his later work Marx develops another conception – that of the agrarian origins of capitalism unfolding through structural changes in the English countryside, involving the separation of direct producers from their means of subsistence. That separation from subsistence launches a pattern of socio-economic development that distinguishes England from the larger persistence of the socio-economic old regime on the continent. I expand that distinction between Marx’s earlier and later conception of a transition out of feudalism – two different accounts of primitive accumulation – to two different conceptions of the nature of capital, and their respective laws of accumulation. While the early Marx’s “grave digging” conception had a determinate political corollary, no corresponding theorization of the political arose from Marx’s later conception.”


Full interview here.

“The Republican Party has a problem. At the time I am writing (March 24, 2016), Donald Trump enjoys a clear lead in the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. With nearly 60% (739) of the 1,237 delegates required for the nomination, more than both of his remaining opponents, Ted Cruz of Texas (465) and John Kasich of Ohio (143). According to Nate Silver’s website, Trump is expected to win all or a majority of delegates from Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia, Washington, California, and New Jersey. If he wins significant minorities of delegations from the remaining states (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana, and New Mexico), he will be in striking distance (1,208 pledged delegates) of the nomination by June 7…”


Read on here.

Friday, 11 March, 12.00 – 14.00h, Silverstone Building (SB 309): Frido Wenten (SOAS), ‘Workingman’s Dead? Workers’ Agency and the Convergence/Divergence Debate’.

Frido just submitted his PhD in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS. His doctoral work, based on extensive fieldwork, examines industrial relations in the automotive industry in China and Mexico. Frido’s presentation is based on his theory-chapter, re-assessing the question of intra-capitalist variety (convergence/divergence in terms of national economies and more specifically industrial sectors) and the lack of agency-sensitve approaches therein, especially when it comes to the agency of non-elite groupings of people, i.e. workers. It reviews the questions of convergence and divergence in mainstream economics and Marxism, and then goes more deeply into Silver’s world system approach, and in particular into institutionalism (VoC, NIE, Streeck, and Régulation School-insipired industrial sociology) and problems of comparative ideal-type construction. The second part briefly propose an agency-centric mode of inquiry to questions of intra-capitalist variety that takes up a few insights from the institutionalist tradition – and concludes with a reflection on the category of ‘working class’.

Frido’s paper will be circulated in time.
Friday, 22 April, 12.00 – 14.00h, Silverstone Building (SB 309): Book-Discussion, Alex Anievas & Kerem Nisancioglu (2015), How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (London, Pluto Press 2015).

From the blurb: 
‘Mainstream historical accounts of the development of capitalism describe a process which is fundamentally European – a system that was born in the mills and factories of England or under the guillotines of the French Revolution. In this groundbreaking book, a very different story is told. How the West Came to Rule offers a unique interdisciplinary and international historical account of the origins of capitalism. It argues that contrary to the dominant wisdom, capitalism’s origins should not be understood as a development confined to the geographically and culturally sealed borders of Europe, but the outcome of a wider array of global processes in which non-European societies played a decisive role. Through an outline of the uneven histories of Mongolian expansion, New World discoveries, Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry, the development of the Asian colonies and bourgeois revolutions, Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu provide an account of how these diverse events and processes came together to produce capitalism.’

The book will be introduced by Pedro Dutra Salgado. Maia Pal’s review of the book will be circulated before the meeting.
Friday, 6 May: Adrienne Roberts (University of Manchester), jointly organised with CGPE, Gendered States of Punishment and Welfare: Feminist Political Economy, Primitive Accumulation and the Law.

Adrienne did her postgraduate work at York University, Canada, and will present her doctoral thesis which she is currently turning into a monograph. It looks at the gendered nature of the criminalisation and policing of poverty in Canada, the US and the UK from mercantilism to the present era of disciplinary neoliberalism.

Room & Time tbc.

Friday, 10 June, 12.00 – 14.00h: Benno Teschke, Arts A103, ‘British Grand Strategy, the Peace of Utrecht, and the Invention of the Balance of Power: Historicising Diplomatic Agency in International Historical Sociology‘.

What theoretical revisions are required to capture the efficacy of diplomatic agency in International Historical Sociology? Most grand theories in IR – from Neorealism to Marxism – rely on structural-functionalist modes of reasoning, collapsing foreign policy formation and diplomatic agency back into permissive or antecedent contextual causes. This procedure externalises international politics – the multiple sources of foreign policy formation and their negotiated multilateral resolutions – from the remit of IR Theory. In this perspective, decisions are not made, but reduced to outcomes. This paper seeks to examine this problematique theoretically and historically by developing the historicist promise of Political Marxism in relation to the case study of the Peace Treaty of Utrecht (1713).  The historical argument is that Utrecht constitutes a pivotal moment in the evolution of British grand strategy, decisively altering the constitution and political geography of Europe and beyond in ‘the long 18th Century’. Analytically, the paper proceeds in three steps: (1) tracking multiple (British, French, and Dutch) and open-ended pre-Settlement trajectories of intra-state socio-political conflicts around state power and social purpose; (2) assembling the changed institutional context for post-1688 British foreign policy making and how this affected British war-time strategy and its peace plan; (3) and showing how the multilateral peace negotiations led to a specific European-wide peace settlement whose intended and unintended effects led to a-sysmmetric inter-state relations, new post-conflict political geographies, and specific socio-political post-Settlement responses by the defeated peace parties. Utrecht codified a new and unique type of British foreign policy – the dual ‘blue-water policy’ – for the geopolitical management of European international relations and beyond. It cleaved into a defensive policy towards the Continent, involving the ‘rationalisation’, i.e. de-ideologisation, de-confessionalisation, and de-territorialisation of Britain’s continental objectives, plus the invention and active manipulation of power balancing towards continental rivals; and an offensive policy overseas, expressed in the unilateral pursuit of oceanic mercantile primacy. This strategy was grounded in an altered institutional foreign policy context – the post-1688 ‘revolution in foreign affairs’ – subsequent to constitutional changes in the British polity during the 17thC Revolution. It allowed the co-articulation of British foreign policy by Parliament, henceforth grounded in the bi-partisan deliberation of the ‘national interest’. This implied the socialisation and domestication of British foreign policy making and the contested construction and calculus of the secular interest of the ‘political nation’, as opposed to the whims of executive dynastic interests. The British peace plan, enacted at Utrecht, constitutes a sui generis phenomenon that cannot be exhaustively captured with prevailing IR concepts, including hegemony, formal or informal imperialism, automatic power-balancing, collective security, or hierarchy.

Room and time tbc.