Reading the Text in its Worldly Situation: Marxism, Imperialism, and Contemporary Caribbean Women's Literature[1]

Helen Scott
University of Vermont

Emboldened by rampant U.S. American imperialist military incursions, ideologues of empire are confidently espousing a new colonialism.[2] One such figure, Niall Ferguson, celebrating the British Empire and advocating for American colonialism, explicitly condemns "a generation of postcolonial' historians anachronistically affronted by [the British Empire's] racism" (1) and calls for universities to prepare a new imperial elite to once more take up the "white man's burden." Another neo-imperialist, Michael Ignatieff, argues that "imperialism doesn't stop being necessary just because it becomes politically incorrect" (26). Against a backdrop of brutal wars of domination and unapologetic racist mythmaking, critical exposs of the material history and continuation of imperialism are crucial. Unfortunately in its current orthodox form, postcolonial studies is often not up to the task. Dominated by the impenetrable language of postmodern theories that prohibit the attempt to understand history or explain social forces, postcolonialism has focused on the cultural detritus of previous moments of empire — the discursive and ideological remnants of European colonialism — while neglecting the economic, political and military forms of imperialism that survived formal colonialism's demise.

Postcolonial studies as a field has also been marred by disdain for social movements and "totalizing" theories of liberation. There is much to learn from the global justice movement, which has scrutinized economic institutions of global capitalism — the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and Free Trade Area of the Americas — and from the global mass movement against the war on Iraq, which has drawn attention to the material motivations for "wars of liberation." Marxist analyses of imperialism's centrality to capitalism remain invaluable for cutting through the ideological mystifications of capitalism’s current forms.

Postcolonial literature overwhelmingly refutes the champions of empire. In the introduction to his Reflections on Exile, Edward Said, one of the most important interpreters of the relationships between art and empire, contemplates literary criticism's regrettable abstraction of texts from their historical and social surroundings: "The sway of semiology, deconstruction, and even the archaeological descriptions of Foucault, as they have commonly been received, reduced and in many instances eliminated the messier precincts of life' and historical experience" (xviii).[3] These same tendencies have influenced postcolonial criticism, "reducing and eliminating" the "messier precincts" of imperialism's current forms. If postcolonial critics are to meet the challenge of the new imperialist ideologues, we should heed Said's call to reunite texts with their "worldly situation" — one of imperialist conquest and global inequalities. Taking contemporary Caribbean women's literature, my field of expertise, as a reference point (although in this space I can only sketch a general approach), I suggest the usefulness of established marxist categories (imperialism, class, ideology) and critical practice (as informed by Georg Lukcs and Raymond Williams) for this project. In so doing I follow the many scholars in the field who hold that historical materialism provides an important corrective to the idealism of postmodernist postcolonialism.[4]

The "New" Imperialism

A response to crises in global capitalism that began in the early 1970s, "neo-liberalism," sometimes known as "the Washington consensus" or simply "globalization," rests on economic deregulation, financialization and privatization — implemented by the main global powers and the multilateral financial institutions they govern, most importantly the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — in the name of the "free market" and "free trade." In the 1970s Third World nations were encouraged to take out loans from foreign governments, private banks and international institutions.[5] After the debt crisis of 1982 (when Mexico told its creditors it was unable to service its debt) many indebted countries were forced to carry out Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in return for loan assistance from the World Bank or IMF. SAPs involve devaluation of currency, an orientation on exports and foreign capital investment, liberalization of financial markets, and cuts in government spending, subsidies, and wages. As Eric Toussaint demonstrates in his global study, Your Money or Your Life, the consequence has been a massive transfer of wealth from workers to capitalists:

This is not a mere draining of the periphery's resources by the center. Rather, a class analysis reveals that this transfer of wealth is part of the ... generalised offensive of capital against labour. This offensive aims specifically to re-establish the capitalists' rate of profit — known as company performance' — in the long term. (8)

Neoliberalism is typified by the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which replaced economic aid with a policy of trade benefits and investment incentives. In reality the rhetoric of free trade was belied by terms and regulations that benefited U.S. corporations. As James Petras and Morris Morley point out, "the CBI experiment was a windfall for U.S. manufacturers able to take advantage of low-cost labour, not a boon to Caribbean traders" (55). In much of the Caribbean such policies have been devastating to ordinary people (especially women), even when sometimes succeeding in shrinking budget deficits and maintaining debt payment.

Neoliberalism, like previous varieties of foreign intervention in the Caribbean, has ecomonic and geo-political motivations, takes economic, political, and cultural forms, and is ultimately backed by the threat or reality of military force. Globalization thus conforms to the definition of imperialism first developed at the start of the twentieth century and codified by Lenin in his Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Laura Chrisman, in her introduction to a postcolonial studies reader, maintains that marxists have "made the most sustained and differentiated examination of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism" (2), and that Lenin's framework continues to be germane in the current world:

In this view, colonialism, the conquest and direct control of other people's land, is a particular phase in the history of imperialism, which is now best understood as the globalisation of the capitalist mode of production, its penetration of previously non-capitalist regions of the world, and destruction of pre- or non-capitalist forms of social organisation. (2)

Such an analysis reveals the "persistence of neo-colonialist or imperialist practices in the contemporary world" and forestalls what Anne McClintock has called the "premature celebration of the pastness of colonialism, (which) runs the risk of obscuring the continuities and discontinuities of colonial and imperial power" (294).

Identity, Oppression, Class

This analysis of imperialism as "the globalisation of the capitalist mode of production" draws attention to the class antagonisms that operate internationally. Contemporary scholarship on postcolonial women's literature has an abiding concern with questions of "identity," according to which class (like gender, race, sexuality, nationality, and ethnicity) is primarily understood discursively. Irene Gedalof, drawing on Foucauldian paradigms, identifies what she considers to be the key problems facing theorists of identity:

[C]an feminists keep open a space in which to consider the intersections of sex, gender, race, nation and the embarrassed et cetera' in constituting identities (Butler 1990: 143) while holding on to a category women' that is sufficiently coherent to form the basis of effective theory and politics? (1)

What is noticeable about this and many other critical commentaries is the absence or marginalization of the category "class." Gedalof acknowledges and explains this omission in her own investigation of postcolonial feminisms:

Because of this particular focus on the relationship between community identities, origins and women … my embarrassed et cetera' only occasionally includes class. I would agree with some aspects of recent feminist criticisms that the turn to questions of identity in feminist theory has led to losing sight of questions of class and economic inequalities … But I also suspect that questions of class-belonging and class-positions, while certainly engaging women in very important ways, might not relate to the question of origins in the same way as do narratives of racial and ethnic identities. (15)

For Gedalof's study, the material coordinates of oppression are secondary to the "conceptual space where the social and the self meet … within particular discourses of gender, race, national and class identities" (2). Her focus is on "narratives" and "discourses" and she subscribes to a Foucauldian understanding of power as "not just a privilege possessed by a dominant group; it is rather exercised by and through us all, situated as we are in multiple networks of nonegalitarian and mobile relations'" (19). This formulation effectively jettisons the primacy of social structures and class antagonism and instead generalizes power as something omnipresent, equating the expression of a system of ideas with the exercise of social domination.[6] It thus has much in common with the post-Althusserian "rejection of economism and … reprioritization of ideology" and disposal of "Althusser's rather nebulous but necessary affirmation of the primacy of the material in the last instance' in favor of a conception of ideology as absolutely autonomous" (Brenner 12-13). The problem with discourse theory is that "once ideology is severed from material reality it no longer has any analytical usefulness, for it becomes impossible to posit a theory of determination — of historical change based on contradiction" (Brenner, paraphrasing Michle Barrett, 13). Marxists understand class in contrast not as an “identity” but rather as a material relationship to the governing mode of production.[7] In extension, all forms of oppression — racial, national, gender and sexual — have specific material causes and effects and are shaped by the compulsions of capitalism.[8] As Deborah Levenson-Estrada maintains in a study of women union activists in 1970s Guatemala: "There is no more important' or prior' issue — class or gender — these are inside one another, and the struggle against gender conventions and sexist ideologies is integral to any project of liberation. A critical consciousness about class needs a critical consciousness about gender, and vice versa" (227).

Considered as material coordinates rather than systems of thought, gender and class are inseparable and interdependent: "‘Gender is created not simply outside production but within it … It is not a set of ideas developed separately from the economic structure but a part of it, built into the organization and social relations of work’" (French, quoting Ava Baron, 7). Women’s oppression is not a trans-historical constant but is produced through class structure and serves the needs of capitalism.[9] Women both disproportionately provide the unpaid labor of privatized reproduction — the childcare and other domestic responsibilities that are necessary to service future generations of workers — and form a low paid work force: globally women earn two thirds of the average male wage, and in some countries the gap is far larger.[10] These dynamics are particularly pertinent for discussion of postcolonial countries in the neoliberal period:

The vanguard of industrial investment in the world capitalist system is in the lowest paid segment of those countries paying the lowest wages. Young women in developing countries are the labor force on this frontier … Escaping the patriarchal restrictions of domestic production, young women workers are segregated in the new industrial compounds where they are subject to the patriarchal control of managers. (x)

While gender based oppression cuts across class to the extent that all women are impacted by sexism, the experience of that oppression varies qualitatively and quantitatively by class. In both colonial and postcolonial societies, while a minority of women are in positions of economic and social privilege, the vast majority view the idea of "male privilege" as but a chimera, the absence of specific oppression not translating into active advantage. At the same time gender inequality keeps working class women in "the most marginalized, lowest paid occupations" (Senior 119, writing of the Caribbean), and overwhelmingly responsible for unpaid domestic labor. Working class women are therefore particularly vulnerable at times of economic crisis, absorbing the devastating impact of layoffs and structural adjustment programs, while not experiencing tangible benefits at times of economic expansion. Writing in 1997, Mary Johnson Osirim summarized the situation in the Caribbean: "At the close of the twentieth century … the majority of women in the English-speaking Caribbean persist in unrewarding, gender-segregated activities that severely restrict their upward mobility" (Osirim 55).

Yet in critical discussions of Caribbean literature, the failures of independence are often seen primarily through the lens of gender in isolation from class: national liberation is not infrequently positioned in opposition to women's liberation and understood as empowering men while leaving women in subjugation. Isabel Hoving, for example, remarks that "if a masculinist nationalism informed cultural and political life in the 1940s and 1950s, the late 1960s and especially the 1970s opened up to Caribbean feminism" (5). An exorbitant focus only on this antagonism, however, leaves a very incomplete picture: while independence did not lead to women's liberation, and certainly the movement for women's rights and its academic and cultural corollaries took on new momentum "within an international feminist climate and the growing body of feminist literary criticism" in the 1970s (Davies and Fido 12), women were crucially involved with national liberation struggles, and independence at least initially raised greater possibilities for sexual equality in spheres such as education, employment and social services. Olive Senior, in a study of Caribbean women, points out that after 1962, newly independent nations addressed educational development in a systematic way, and "[w]hile the five-year plans which became the new blueprints for state policies might have contained no explicit references to female education, they implicitly conveyed the idea of equality between the sexes" (47). Senior also emphasizes the involvement of women in the political movements and institutions that accompanied independence:

A great deal of the women's activism of the 1970s took place within the framework of political parties, in Jamaica and Guyana especially, where there were socialist governments, and through other small but active left-wing parties and organizations in these and other countries such as Trinidad. (183)

In her 1986 overview, Pat Ellis confirms that despite their restricted role in formal politics, women were active in the independence era revolutionary parties and governments of Grenada and Guyana at the same time that they developed their own grassroots organizations such as the Sistren Theatre Collective in Jamaica and Concerned Women for Progress in Jamaica and Trinidad. Ellis also finds that "[m]any women in the region participate in trade unions; like political parties many trade unions have a women's auxiliary." Despite a limited official role "they actively participate in union activity and support strike action when necessary" (Ellis 13-14).

However, national liberation did not fulfill its promise for the majority of women or men. Independence failed to bring equality and justice to all formerly colonized subjects because political independence did not fundamentally transform social relations and structures, but rather installed national bourgeoisies whose task was to manage capitalism, while the world's superpowers developed new systems to maintain their influence over strategically significant regions. In "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," Frantz Fanon famously describes the treacherous role of the national bourgeoisie: "To them, nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period" (152). The new ruling class reaches agreements with "foreign capitalists" but "does not share its profits with the people, and in no way allows them to enjoy any of the dues that are paid to it by the big foreign companies" (165). While women remain a small but growing minority of this ruling class, their structural role when in this position is indistinguishable from their male equivalents.[11]

The climate of post-independence disillusion generated by these developments understandably for some underscored the need to reject "western" discursive and epistemological frameworks and create "non-western" ways of thinking and communicating. Some attributed the failures of nationalism, including its patriarchy, to its Eurocentrism. Critic Kathleen Renk captures this position:

Anglophone Caribbean women writers reject a narrow nationalism as they seek to redefine the term nation by reimagining what constitutes national community … Given the diversity of the Caribbean and the cross-cultural process in the Caribbean as a whole, it is easy to see why the national ideal, based on one truth, is rejected by these writers. (143)

"Eurocentrism" is equated with particular formal and epistemological qualities; Nationalism, like imperialism, is held to be oppressive because both are "singular," "hierarchical," and "linear."

While in part an outgrowth of post-independence skepticism, this reflexive suspicion is also deeply connected to the postmodernist orthodoxy that accompanies many spheres of postcolonial criticism.[12] While there is an explicit tension between the central tenets of poststructuralist theory and postcolonial critical investigations, the figures associated with the former — Derrida, Lyotard, Lacan, Foucault, Kristeva, Deleuze, Guatari and interpreters thereof — pervade the latter.[13] Caribbean writers and scholars not infrequently express suspicion of such "high theory," but much critical scholarship, while noting "its universalism and eurocentrism," nonetheless accepts the "perfect relevance of poststructuralism in any anticolonial, anti-Enlightenment project..." (Hoving, following Stuart Hall, 8). This impulse can be seen in Alison Donnell's suggestion that Sylvia Wynter's theoretical framework is paradigmatic for reading Caribbean women's writing:

the density of argument, which Wynter adopts, is a gesture against Western Theory, the discourse of which she deliberately takes to extremes in order to force questions about reader accessibility, who can speak and what manner of voice is granted authority... (Routledge 447-8)

Here it is suggested that Wynter is simultaneously using and undermining the language and precepts of poststructuralism, but the assumption of a generalizable "Western Theory" and the supposition that clarity and "singularity" are always already implicated in structures of domination, are both within the parameters of poststructuralist thought.

And yet postmodern paradigms can, ironically, given their habitual celebration of multiplicity and specificity, lead to formulaic — one dimensional, mono-focused, reductive — readings of texts as linguistic, discursive allegories, and exclude multiple possibilities for more specific, grounded readings. And despite postmodernism's vaunted radicalism, as many of its critics have argued, the "linguistic turn" and "descent into discourse" in postcolonial studies have obscured the material coordinates of imperialism, arguably depoliticizing a field of study that is from its inception engaged with inherently political questions of empire, race, colonialism and their relationship to cultural production.[14] In her study of Caribbean women writers, Isabel Hoving equates "high theory" with "political criticism" and attributes the crisis in postcolonial studies to "weariness with the issues of gender, class and race" which is being met with a "return to the literary" (7). Yet it could be argued that it is "high theory" that insistently pulls us away from concrete histories, lived experiences of oppression and resistance, and specific artistic movements and works, and leads us towards monotonous questions of discourse, representation, language, and identity.

In his account of the critical challenges posed by "the new and complex varieties of historical experiences now available to us all in the post-Eurocentric world" (470), Edward Said finds "the various post-modern theories put forward by J.F. Lyotard and his disciples, with this disdain for the grand historical narratives, their interest in mimicry and weightless pastiche, their unrelenting Eurocentrism" unequal to the task ("History" 471). Not the least of its inadequacy is postmodernism's hostility to theories of liberation, which, even when explicitly anti-imperialist, are held to be implicated in Eurocentrism. Marxism is routinely rejected as a "western discourse," crudely "economist," and unable to respond to cultural forms and complex issues of ideology and representation, especially those emerging from non-western societies.[15]

The "eurocentrism" identified by Said as endemic to postmodernism is apparent in its reliance on terms that artificially homogenize competing ideologies and cultures, and its tacit acceptance that the world can be broken down into "West" and "East," although the so-called "western tradition" is itself a historically recent construct, one that is only sustainable by ruthlessly masking the non-western roots of classical thought and obscuring the cultural cross-pollination that is central to human history. The anti-colonialists of the national liberation period opposed eurocentrism, but in the words of Said "they did not at all mean that all whites and Europeans, or all white and European culture, were to be thrown out and rejected" (Reflections xvii). The anti-imperialist giants of this era saw that within "western societies" dominant ideologies have always been in tension and conflict with oppositional currents in correspondence with capitalism's antagonistic class forces and relationships. In his book-length study of postcolonial theory, African scholar Ato Quayson reiterates this position:

[U]nlike most postcolonial commentators I do not think it is possible or desirable completely to debunk Western-inspired theories … It is undeniably the case, of course, that discourses manufactured in the West have regularly been used as tools for marginalizing others. And yet at the same time these same tools, in the hands of both Westerners and others have also been used in serious struggles for liberation, not just from the West but from constrictive patterns of thought. There is no question, for instance, of the efficacy of Marxism in providing progressive ways by which non-Western nations have grasped the processes of globalization and helping them to position themselves strategically with regard to these processes. In fact, there is no question that without Marxism, some of the best ideas that postcolonialism has produced, from Fanon through to C.L.R. James and Gayatri Spivak, would have been much less interesting than they have turned out to be. (12-13)

This figuration of discursive and cultural forms as "tools" to be wielded for imperialist or anti-imperialist ends is very helpful for discussions of Caribbean literature, which even more obviously than other regional literatures is multifaceted and plural, drawing on and synthesizing multiple influences — from Amerindian, African, Asian, European traditions — to produce something unique. Concepts such as transnationalism, hybridity, nomadism, syncretism, and creolization continue to be central to critical exploration of Caribbean culture. But, as Quayson argues, we cannot afford to overlook "the efficacy of Marxism in providing progressive ways by which non-Western nations have grasped the processes of globalization" (12). While a straw-man version is assumed to be unable to negotiate multiplicity or to challenge oppression around nation, race, gender and sexuality, marxism on the contrary provides a framework from which to probe the inter-dependence of class exploitation and other forms of oppression, and to apprehend imperialism as an integral, though flexible, feature of capitalism. The materialist dialectic, moreover, provides an apt starting point for analysis of postcolonial literature, capable as it is of engaging with the material coordinates of imperialism without reducing "the literary" to a mimetic relationship with an unproblematic empirical reality.

Historical Materialism and Literature

Georg Lukcs' History and Class Consciousness illustrates how the materialist dialectic can enable a grounded, nuanced, and specific analysis of the ideological and aesthetic ramifications of literary texts and movements. This work, which encompasses “almost all the area now settled on by critical discourse: representation, reflection, reification, reception, epistemic unity, dynamism in the artwork, sign-systems, the relations of theory with practice, the problems of the ‘subject’” (Said, “Between Chance and Determinism” 63), is particularly useful at the current conjuncture as a corrective to the new idealism that eschews crude or reductive materialism. Timothy Bewes shares this sense of timeliness in his book-length exploration of the theory of reification:

For all that the concept of reification is criticized as embodying a dualistic topography of truth and appearance, use-value and exchange-value, transcendence and worldliness, pre-revolution and post-revolution, the consciousness of the bourgeoisie and the consciousness of the proletariat, etc., the concept elucidated by Lukcs is at every moment set against such a dualistic topography. Reification, potentially, is as nuanced as any term within the post-structuralist arsenal of elaborate metaphors and non-originary' concepts. (14)

Lukcs' tour de force was germinated during an era of revolutionary upheavals that fostered attendant revolutions in the world of ideas — in contrast to postmodernism, born in an era of defeat and retreat — and it provides a remarkably pliant framework for tracing the relationship between social and ideological forces while avoiding the twin perils of Cartesian reductionism and idealism.[16]

Lukcs develops an incisive critique of "the antinomies of bourgeois thought," and the assumed opposition between subject and object, which he describes thus:

The belief that the transformation of the immediately given into a truly understood (and not merely an immediately perceived) and for that reason really objective reality, i.e. the belief that the impact of the category of mediation upon the picture of the world is merely subjective', i.e. is no more than an evaluation' of a reality that remains unchanged' (150)

Bourgeois empiricism further specializes and compartmentalizes knowledge into discrete self-contained units, or "monads," making "of every historical object a variable monad which is denied any interaction with other — similarly viewed — monads and which possesses characteristics that appear to be absolutely immutable essences" (153). The predominance of the idea that literature should be separate from "politics" illustrates the continuing force of such habitual artificial specialization, as though political science, geography, economics, and literature, are not linked and interdependent faces of what Edward Said has called "one worldly space."[17] Lukcs explains that this "specialisation of skills leads to the destruction of every image of the whole" (103), but this fragmentation is not the product of the disciplines, rather the disciplines themselves are constituted by historical material forces:

[T]he more intricate a modern science becomes and the better it understands itself methodologically, the more resolutely it will turn its back on the ontological problems of its own sphere of influence and eliminate them from the realm where it has achieved some insight. The more highly developed it becomes and the more scientific, the more it will become a formally closed system of partial laws. It will then find that the world lying beyond its confines, and in particular the material base which it is its task to understand, its own concrete underlying reality, lies, methodologically and in principle beyond its grasp. (104)

While empiricism is thus mired in disconnected specializations, the flip side of bourgeois thought consists of holistic accounts couched in mystical or idealist terms — in other words explicitly disconnected from material referents, and still altogether dependent on the original antinomy between object and subject.

In many ways the postmodernist rejection of enlightenment thought enacts precisely this idealist retreat from the intractable problems of bourgeois empiricism. The Foucauldian notion that history is not intelligible by the human subject; Lyotard's radical dislocation of subjective knowledge and the objective world; Baudrillard's exorbitant claim that the Gulf War did not occur. All of these ultimately accept the antinomies of bourgeois thought while jettisoning the possibility of reaching anything other than purely idealist, mystified accounts, at the expense of history. In his Bodies of Meaning David McNally elaborates a similar critique, showing that ironically, given the seemingly ubiquitous critical focus on "the body," such theories "eliminate the messier precincts" of corporeality:

[P]ostmodernist theory, whether it calls itself post-structuralism, deconstruction or post-Marxism, is constituted by a radical attempt to banish the real human body — the sensate, biocultural, laboring body — from the sphere of language and social life. As a result, I argue, these outlooks reproduce a central feature of commodified society: the abstraction of social products and practices from the laboring bodies that generate them. (1)

This elision can be seen in readings of Caribbean literature that constantly move away from material relationships and experiences towards allegorical interpretations emphasizing language and representation.

In contrast, historical materialism takes the key components of Hegel's dialectic — "the unity of opposites," the "transformation of quantity into quality," and the "negation of the negation" — and transforms them into a historically grounded and dynamic system of thought with working class self-activity at its center (Rees 8-9). As British marxist John Rees explains, this dialectic "is not a suprahistorical master key whose only advantage is to turn up when no real historical knowledge is available" (9). Its starting point is that all truth is relative, and "there is no final, faultless, criterion for truth which hovers, like god, outside the historical process," but nonetheless "some theories … are less internally contradictory and have greater explanatory power than others" (Rees 235). While bourgeois ideology is systemically compromised by the necessity of maintaining the status quo, thus "the unexplained and inexplicable facticity of bourgeois existence as it is here and now acquires the patina of an eternal law of nature or a cultural value enduring for all time" (Lukcs 157), the perspective of the oppressed has the potential to achieve a less compromised position by generalizing from the lessons of collective struggle — the end goal of which is the "fundamental transformation of the whole of society" (Lukcs 163) — and in turn testing those generalizations in praxis. This does not imply a pristine, unified, and unproblematic proletarian consciousness. On the contrary, consciousness is always uneven, riven with contradictions and divisions, and kinetic rather than static. What is implied is rather a method and perspective that is more likely to achieve "superior explanatory power … in comparison with its competitors" (Rees 237).

Lukcs' History and Class Consciousness is not the academic product of a "great individual" but rather the distillation of the lessons of a period of revolutionary upheaval.[18] Its key terms are "totality," "contradiction," "mediation" and "change." Capitalist society is a totality, yet is immediately experienced as disconnected parts; the parts are in a relationship of mutual conditioning, or mediation, and this relationship is not static but contradictory and fluid. First and foremost, "the dialectical method aims at understanding society as a whole … (it) simultaneously raises and reduces all specializations to the level of aspects in a dialectical process..." (28). While acknowledging the illusory nature of empirical reality, Lukcs replaces the subject/object antinomy with a model of change that does not "abandon immanent (social) reality:"

[T]o leave empirical reality behind can only mean that the objects of the empirical world are to be understood as aspects of a totality, i.e. as the aspects of a total social situation caught up in the process of historical change. Thus the category of mediation is a lever with which to overcome the mere immediacy of the empirical world … Mediation would not be possible were it not for the fact that the empirical existence of objects is itself mediated and only appears to be unmediated in so far as the awareness of mediation is lacking so that the objects are torn from the complex of their true determinants and placed in artificial isolation. (162-3)

Lukcs' formulations in History and Class Consciousness bear no relation to the version of marxism that is linear, rigid, reductive, simplistically unified: "it is the nature of the dialectical method constantly to produce and reproduce its own essential aspects, as its very being constitutes the denial of any smooth, linear development of ideas" (164); "the dialectical antithesis of quantity and quality … with all its implications is only the beginning of the complex process of mediation whose goal is the knowledge of society as a historical totality" (169);

the single aspect is not a segment of a mechanical totality that could be put together out of such segments, for this would lead us to see knowledge as an infinite progression. It must be seen instead as containing the possibility of unraveling the whole abundance of the totality from within itself … if every movement beyond the immediacy that had made the aspect an aspect of the dialectical process … is not to freeze once more in a new rigidity and a new immediacy. (170)

As these quotations indicate, although History does not discuss "what it is like to read or experience an author, or … what impresses and disorients one in a given novel" (Said "Between Chance" 63), it locates culture as an arena where "fissures and dissonances are crucial" (Lukcs 53) and provides a framework which can "systematize the processes by which reality gets into and is reflected by art" (Said "Between Chance" 69).

Reading Caribbean Women Writers

Raymond Williams' discussion of authors remains one of the most helpful in clarifying the relationship between individual artists and social formations. He starts with the marxist principle that "the separated concepts of individual' and society' are radically unified, but reciprocally and indeed dialectically," quoting the following passage from Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844:

The individual is a social being. The manifestation of his life — even when it does not appear directly in the form of a social manifestation, accomplished in association with other men — is therefore a manifestation of social life … Though man is a unique individual — and it is just his particularity which makes him an individual, a really individual social being — he is equally the whole, the ideal whole, the subjective existence of society as thought and experienced. (194)

Williams then elaborates "more precise theoretical positions" to assist in drawing out the implications for considering authors, and specifies different "levels of sociality — from the external forms of the political economy of literature, through the inherited forms of genres, notations, and conventions, to the constitutive forms of the social production of consciousness" (195). Turning to the latter, Williams identifies "effective social relations in which, even while individual projects are being pursued, what is being drawn on is trans-individual, not only in the sense of shared (initial) forms and experiences, but in the specifically creative sense of new responses and formation;" such forces are apparent in the periodic emergence of specific patterns of "forms and structures of feeling" that are shared by many different authors (195). At the same time any such pattern will show variations, with some authors conforming to and others departing from the archetype, and "this very process of development can be grasped as a complex of active relations, within which the emergence of an individual project, and the real history of other contemporary projects and of the developing forms and structures, are continuously and substantially interactive" (196). We are left with the "reciprocal discovery of the truly social in the individual, and the truly individual in the social" (197) as a model for contemplating authorship. Williams draws on Goldmann for much of this, but departs from his distinction (which deploys Lukcs' "actual" and "possible" consciousnesses) between "great writers ... who integrate a vision at the level of the possible (complete') consciousness of a social formation" and "most writers (who) reproduce the contents of (incomplete') actual consciousness" (197). Williams acknowledges that this may at times be the case, but warns against such broad categorical abstractions: "The real relations of the individual, the trans-individual, and the social may include radical tension and disturbance, even actual and irresolvable contradictions of a conscious kind, as often as they include integration" (197).

While socio-economic realities and power relationships define our world, art constantly chafes against the limits of lived reality and provides a vision of alternative possibilities. Any such perspective inevitably raises definitional and analytical questions about the categories "art" and "aesthetics," questions that are often superseded in ideology critiques. Lukcs worked towards a definition of "art" as a distinct realm of human activity that "‘represents a human generality: a real mediation between (isolated) subjectivity and (abstract) universality; a specific process of the identical subject/object’’" (quoted in Williams 151). Williams addresses the difficulty behind this formulation:

The problem is to sustain such a distinction through the inevitable extension to an indissoluble social material process: not only indissoluble in the social conditions of the making and reception of art, within a general social process from which these can not be excised; but also indissoluble in the actual making and reception, which are connecting material processes within a social system of the use and transformation of material (including language) by material means. (152)

Two different kinds of error are possible in trying to reach a materialist understanding of culture: one is to hold that "all literature is ideology', in the crude sense that its dominant intention (and then our only response) is the communication or imposition of social' or political' meanings and value;" the other is to accept "that all literature is aesthetic' in the crude sense that its dominant intention (and then our only response) is the beauty of language or form" (155). Williams suggests that we reject "the aesthetic" as a separate and abstract phenomenon but "recognize and indeed emphasize the specific variable intentions and the specific variable responses that have been grouped as aesthetic in distinction from other isolated intentions and responses." (156).

Such an analysis has immensely productive implications for readings of contemporary fiction by Caribbean women writers. Critics often see in this body of work a feminist and postmodernist rejection of the male literature of national liberation (variously associated with "realism" or "modernism"). Such analyses attribute ideological significance to particular literary forms. Critics of the literature of Jamaica Kincaid, for example, see in her poetic prose feminine "fluidity," "indeterminacy," and a postmodern refusal of the "linearity," and "certainty" of masculine/colonialist discourse. Many also see in the broader body of work a move away from "political" questions of imperialism, nationalism and class towards "personal" issues of familial relationships, sexuality and identity. These positions re-inscribe the antinomies of bourgeois thought (the oppositions between the "political" and the "personal," the rational, certain, masculine and the emotional, fluid, feminine) while seeing particular artistic forms as static rather than kinetic: some forms (realist, modernist) are inherently implicated in dominant ideology; others (postmodernist) inherently liberating.

While the generalizations are not sustainable — women writers are as likely to choose social realism as modernist experimentation; many women writers of the current moment explicitly see their literature as politically oppositional — it is true that contemporary Caribbean women's literature overall marks a shift away from the literature of national liberation of mid century. Rather than explaining these differences in terms of idealist generalizations about identity and discourse, the starting point of a materialist explanation would locate both the greater visibility of women writers and the apparent differences between the (mostly) male literature of mid-century and the (newly burgeoning) female literature after 1980 in the changed social and political climate. From the 1930s through the 1960s movements for national liberation forged alliances between middle class and working class sectors: writers such as Jan Carew in Guyana, Roger Mais in Jamaica, and CLR James in Trinidad, actively participated in the politics of national liberation and saw their artistic endeavors as contributing to this movement. While social realism was a popular form, some of these writers — such as Guyana's Wilson Harris — developed experimental techniques displaying all the qualities attributed to postmodernism. These writers both made established literary forms their own and, as happens in all new literary movements, searched for fresh forms of artistic expression.

To understand the increase in women writers after 1980 we need to consider the concrete preconditions for the "actual making and reception" of literature. The period leading up to and immediately following independence saw social reforms across the region that gave women more access to formal education. These reforms, combined with the generalized impact of movements for women's liberation — globally and in the Caribbean — generated a climate far more favorable to the emergence on the world stage of Caribbean women writers, including black and women's studies departments in universities, black and feminist publishing houses and bookstores. And yet this generation of writers reached maturity in a period characterized by the failure of political independence to deliver the freedom, equality and liberation it had promised. Instead, as Frantz Fanon famously predicted in "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," a new domestic bourgeoisie took over governance from the departing European colonial ruling class, while conditions for the majority remained in fundamental ways unchanged. The temporary cross-class alliances fell apart. At the same time, U.S. imperialism exerted new control over the region: dictating terms of trade favorable to Trans-National Corporations; using economic "aid" as a tool to ensure domestic policies compatible with neoliberalism; ousting governments whose platforms went against the grain of U.S. priorities (Cheddi Jagan in Guyana; Michael Manley in Jamaica); propping up anti-democratic regimes when friendly to U.S. economic and geo-political goals (the Duvaliers in Haiti; Forbes Burnham in Guyana; Lester Byrd in Antigua); and reserving the right to invade militarily if other mechanisms failed (Haiti; Grenada). One consequence was a high level of out-migration; the condition of living elsewhere than one's place of birth is "trans-individual" among Caribbean writers.

As the following brief discussions of two different authors illustrate, the literature of the later period, as much as the earlier, demonstrates the extent to which socio-historical forces exert powerful influences above and beyond individual and aesthetic impulses (both of which are also shaped by those forces): no longer saturated with the political optimism of the earlier age, late century Caribbean literature (which is much more visibly female, though contemporaneous male writers exhibit the same trends) is more likely to be marked by a mood of disillusion or even despair. What hope remains is confined to the individual realm; women may "make it" by leaving their home country to seek opportunities abroad or by freeing themselves from oppressive family situations, but the victory is tainted by an awareness of those left behind.

Born in Jamaica, Margaret Cezair-Thompson at the time of publication of her first novel, The True History of Paradise, was a professor of literature and creative writing at Wellesley College in the U.S. The narrative present of True History is the 1981 state of emergency in Jamaica, and it follows the story of Jean Landing, daughter of a family of wealthy business-owners located in the capital city, Kingston. This central narrative conforms to the conventions of a realist novel, but is repeatedly interrupted by a range of italicized first person accounts told by "ghosts" from Jamaica's history. (The two kinds of narrative voice merge at the end, when Jean's voice is italicized, suggesting that she is now one of Jamaica's "ghosts".) The novel looks back with nostalgia to the days of political optimism surrounding independence and then the rise of Michael Manley, and strives to understand the present, which is overshadowed by political instability, social inequality, and terrifying social violence that shakes the Landings' middle class world. While more sympathetic to those characters supporting Manley and advocating for the poor than those representing right-wing business interests, the primary perspective of the narrative is that of the elite, who experience Jamaica's black, working class, and poor majority as a threat. The story ends with Jean leaving the island to start a new life in New York City with her British boyfriend, seeing no hope for personal autonomy or security in her country of birth, and believing that a long term, heterosexual relationship with a Jamaican man is not possible for her in any fulfilling way.

With no apparent political solutions to the nation's crises, the novel at times suggests that Jamaica's perennial problems are the inevitable product of a violent national personality. Jean is obsessed with the idea of "Congotay" or future reckoning, fearing that Jamaicans are fated to pay the price of a history of violence. This is expressed in the words of one of the ghosts, Mary "Iya Ilu," an African slave who speaks these words: "Wha' g'wan now in Jamaica is a sin.../One day, one day Congotay" (300). Elsewhere it is cultural creolization that is held responsible, as when Jean contemplates her ancestry: "She is the descendant, not of runaway Africans, but of African slaves. And not only Africans but of English, Irish, Spanish, Jewish, Germans, and Chinese. Does this motley ancestry make her spirit a less able traveler? Does confusion of the blood cause the spirits to flounder and lose their sense of direction?" (297). In these ways it could be said that the novel mystifies social conditions — they are inexplicable and inevitable — and expresses the jaded perspective of the Jamaican bourgeoisie. The violence of slavery is equated with the violence of dispossessed black youth; the novel's central identification is not with the hungry and homeless masses but with the elite whose luxury homes have become fortresses gated against them.

But this picture alone does not tell the full story of the novel, which has other individual traits interacting with — or mediating — these trans-individual and social forces. First, even while it reflects the generalized political despair and particular isolation of the middle class Caribbean writer, True History is specifically Jamaican, recreating its precise geography, urban and rural environments, drawing on and referring to national, cultural, as well as political, traditions. Second, this novel, like much of the fiction written in this period, also provides insight in to the workings of neoliberalism in a particular context: it explores the consequences of American destabilization and structural adjustment on individual Jamaicans (shady CIA agents and voracious American businessmen operate behind the scenes to topple Manley; the latest IMF plans are the main topic of conversation everywhere); it reveals much about the conditions of the Jamaican majority, and about class inequality, even when taking a characteristically middle class perspective.

This is also the case for the literature of a very different author, Jamaica Kincaid, perhaps the best known Caribbean woman writer in the U.S. Born in Antigua, she came to New York City initially as a servant (the term she prefers to the euphemistic "nanny") and is now a prolific and acclaimed published writer. Her literature has been read for its critique of patriarchy and colonial discourse, its exploration of the maternal-colonial matrix, and the "transgressive" "undecidability" of its (often "postmodern") voice. A materialist reading might locate this "undecidability" in the contradictory class location of a narrative persona removed from a modest life in Antigua and now living a materially privileged life in Vermont. Kincaid's texts are positioned at different coordinates of this overall trajectory: Annie John (set in Antigua; published in New York in 1983) is the bildungsroman, with strong connections to Merle Hodge's Crick Crack Monkey (Trinidad 1970) and Zee Edgell's Beka Lamb (Belize 1982), that maps out the protagonist's movement away from her colonial childhood towards a life abroad and delineates the forces that determine class mobility. A Small Place (1988) represents the return home after independence, and articulates a refutation of colonialist ideology, locating slavery and imperialism firmly within the development of capitalism, while revealing the continuation of new forms of foreign domination after colonialism:

Do you know why people like me are shy about being capitalists? Well, it's because we, for as long as we have known you, were capital, like bales of cotton and sacks of sugar, and you were the commanding, cruel capitalists, and the memory of this is so strong, the experience so recent, that we can't quite bring ourselves to embrace this idea that you think so much of. (37)

The fact that Kincaid adapted the text to provide the commentary for Stephanie Black's documentary Life and Debt — which examines the impact of tourism, unequal terms of trade, and structural adjustment on Jamaica — suggests its regional applicability; at the same time much in A Small Place is concerned with the specific personality of Antigua under the rule of the Bird dynasty, whose neoliberal orientation was accompanied by high levels of political corruption. The text offers a shifting, contradictory subject position: sometimes speaking as an Antiguan, sometimes as an outsider, sometimes as neither "they" (Antiguans/the poor) nor "you" (tourists/the wealthy). My Brother (1997) extends this conflict even further, telling the story of the author's brother dying of AIDS in a country without adequate medical care, while the narrator, flying back and forth bringing much needed drugs from the U.S., reflects upon the alternate reality that could have been hers. The dominant voice of My Garden Book (1999) is that of the tourist: one who travels around China searching for special botanical samples, and is appalled not so much by the poverty as by the "unsanitariness of everything" (206): "the toilets that did not work — the toilets will never work, they have a different idea altogether about hygiene" (215). The attitude recalls many a colonial report of the West Indies, such as Dr. Howard Coleman's 1917 observation of Grenadians:

[P]eople with little responsibility, few desires, and practically no wants, they get along quite contentedly in a small thatched house with a minimum of household furniture. Breadfruit and plantains are too easily obtainable to make real hunger possible. There is no home life. Scant obedience to parents by children; a variable interest in cleanliness; no conception of sanitation. (quoted in Steele 291).

It is possible to emphasize these elements to produce a reading of the text's bourgeois ideology: like colonial writers of the past, the text attributes lack of hygiene not to poverty but to (inferior) cultural values: the Chinese peasants, like the Grenadian, are fixed in the moment of observation, monolithic, inherently and inexplicably unhygenic, and tolerant of their own and others' filth. This text is not unaware of the contradictions: living in Vermont with a large house and an expensive garden the narrator thinks, "how I had crossed a line; but at whose expense? I cannot begin to look, because what if it is someone I know? I have joined the conquering class: who else could afford this garden — a garden in which I grow things that it would be much cheaper to buy at the store?" (123). Especially in the later texts, this double voice — the one marked by patronizing scorn akin to Naipaul, the other self-reflexive and internally divided — is increasingly dominant.

But at the same time one of the most compelling qualities of Kincaid's work is its ability to reconnect the atomized monads of bourgeois ideology, revealing the mutual conditioning — the mediation — of forces immediately experienced as disconnected parts. This moment in Mr. Potter (2002) is illustrative:

The trousers he wore were made of cotton that had been grown in fields not far from the village where he lived and that had then been sent bale on top of bale to England, where in a factory it had been made into yard on top of yard of cloth and sent back to a store that was in a village not far from the one in which he lived and it was there that he bought yards of this cloth and had it made into the garment covering that part of his body. The shirt he wore had the same origin and destination as his trousers, and shirt and trousers clung to his lean frame as if they were another kind of skin, clung to his lean body as if he had been born wearing only them, and in that way even his body was mixed up with the world and he could not extricate himself from it, not at all could he separate himself from the world. Each intake of breath was a deep cry of pain, each sigh was an expression of unbearable sorrow. (47)

Such passages show "the objects of the empirical world...as aspects of a total situation caught up in the process of historical change" (Lukcs 162). This revelation of the deep interdependence of seemingly disparate forces and experiences is embedded also in the very form of Kincaid's writing: the constant flow of its mesmerizing sentences (sometimes irritatingly repetitive, long and meandering) forces you to hold many contradictory thoughts and realities together while drawing attention to the way that "the empirical existence of objects is itself mediated" (163). The text thus dismantles central tenets of bourgeois ideology even while it naturalizes others.

These brief sketches begin to suggest some of the ways that literature is shaped by general and trans-individual social forces and yet also expresses and strains against them in particular ways. The very idea of "literature" as a special area of life separate from the realm of economic production is itself specific to capitalism and rests on ruthless suppression of the material and ideological conditions that shape it. These realities are visible in contemporary Caribbean women's literature: works are shaped by, speak to, and sometimes mystify, social forces. But literature also has the potential to crystallize or illuminate elements of human experience and relations, to imagine a world other than this and to communicate the desire for an alternative at a profoundly emotional level. Marxism continues to offer a way to read the myriad literary responses to imperialism without losing sight either of global forces of domination or the specificity of individual works of art in their capacity, in the words of Arundhati Roy,

... not only to confront Empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.
(War Talk 112)

Notes

[1]

An adapted and expanded version of this essay will appear as the Introduction to my book, Caribbean Women Writers and Globalization: Fictions of Independence, which is forthcoming from Ashgate Publishers.

[2]

I follow Mary Renda in using the term "U.S. American" to avoid the problems associated with equating the United States of America — which is only one region — with the whole of America (xvii). Where I abbreviate to "U.S." or "American" the full designation is implied. See Mary Renda's Note on usage' for a pithy explanation of the terminological difficulties.

[3]

The immense body of work produced by Edward Said, which has undeniably influenced the development of postcolonial literary studies, is indelibly marked by a persistent investment in political praxis beyond academic study, most noticeably his enduring commitment to Palestinian liberation. While not marxist, Said's work is characterized by a materialist attention to history, combined with a sensitivity to the aesthetic and cultural, and has been consistently influential in my attempts to read postcolonial literature.

[4]

See Crystal Bartolovich's introduction to Marxism, Modernity and Postcolonial Studies for a thoughtful discussion of this pole within the field. Within Caribbean literary studies M. Keith Booker and Dubravka Juraga, Selwyn Cudjoe, Carole Boyce Davies have contributed to a marxist current. There is also a strong strain of marxist-feminist scholarship, exemplified by June Nash, Helen Safa, Maria Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, that has addressed the Caribbean within the broader context of Latin America and the global economy. Marxist politics have of course been extremely influential in the anti-imperialist movements of the region, as figures such as C.L.R. James and Eric Williams illustrate. These forces are clearly visible within the region's fiction throughout the last half century.

[5]

"Third World" is an inaccurate and at this time obsolete term, but in the post-war decades, sections of the newly emerging colonies of Asia, Africa and Latin America used this designation as they attempted to develop a "new international economic order" and built new political groupings under such headings as "Non-Aligned Movement" — i.e. subservient to neither Washington nor Moscow.

[6]

This move can be seen through the lens of the "retreat from class" analyzed by Ellen Meiksins Wood in her book of that title. Ironically, in a period when neoliberalism exacerbates class divisions within rich and poor nations alike, and cultural and political discourses recognize the heavy hand of the market and transnational corporations globally, class is problematized if not dismissed as an explanatory framework for understanding postcolonial culture.

[7]

 The UN Human Development Report of 2002, which can be read online at http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2002/en/ finds that "The level of inequality worldwide is grotesque … the world's richest 1% of people receive as much income as the poorest 57%" (chapter one 7); at the same time "the limited available evidence indicates that worldwide within-country income inequality has been increasing for the past 30 years" (8).

[8]

For materialist accounts of the roots of racism in capitalist slavery, see Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery and Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery. For a brief overview of the marxist account of racism see my chapter "Was there a Time Before Race?: Capitalist Modernity and the Origins of Racism" in Bartolovich and Lazarus, eds. Marxism, Modernity and Postcolonial Studies 167-182.

[9]

In The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels developed an account of the simultaneous rise of women's oppression and class society. While some of the anthropological data on which this argument drew has been subsequently found to be incorrect, much of the argument has been substantiated. See, for example, Eleanor Leacock's Myths of Male Dominance. For debates around the merits and weaknesses of Engels' argument see Sayers et al. Engels Revisited.

[10]

According to UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), "Women account for about 40% of all workers worldwide, and their participation rate has risen steadily. The largest increase over the past 20 years was in South America (up from 26% to 45%), while the lowest rates were in North Africa and West Asia, where only a third of all women are economically active. But women still earn about two thirds of what men earn. The manufacturing wage gap ranges from 52% in Botswana and 75% in Egypt to 81% in Costa Rica and 86% in Sri Lanka" (http://www.unctadxi.org/templates/Page____509.aspx).

[11]

This is vividly demonstrated by women who become heads of state: Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom promoted neoliberal policies at home and abroad that had devastating consequences for working class women, as did Eugenia Charles as head of the right wing Freedom Party and Prime Minister of Dominica.

[12]

Postmodernism is itself a product of the same historical moment. Terry Eagleton argues, in The Idea of Culture, that postmodernism "has abandoned a belief in radical mass movements, having precious few of them to remember. As a theory, postmodernism came after the great mid-century national liberation movements, and is either literally or metaphorically too young to recollect such seismic upheavals" (14).

[13]

In contrast to Eagleton, Robert Young, in Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction acknowledges the extent of poststructuralist theory's influence in postcolonial studies but draws the opposite conclusion, arguing that figures such as Derrida and Foucault are postcolonial in an oppositional sense.

[14]

For critical analyses of postmodernism's political roots and consequences: Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory; Paul Bov, In the Wake of Theory and Mastering Discourse; Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism; Christopher Norris, The Truth About Postmodernism; What's Wrong with Postmodernism; Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism Intellectuals and the Gulf War; David McNally, Bodies of Meaning.

[15]

Such ostensible rejection of "western theory" of course in fact amounts to the selective use of some western theorists (Derrida, Lacan, Kristeva), at the expense of others. I do not mean to reject poststructuralism on these grounds, however, but rather to question both the feasibility of the category "western discourse" and the suitability of theoretical models that are unable to engage with the social and historical realities that define the postcolonial world, and to advocate instead for a critical theory informed by marxist dialectical materialism.

[16]

In The Dialectical Biologist marxist biologists Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin use the term "Cartesian reductionism" to describe positivist systems of thought that accept isolated empirical facts on face value and understand them not as the products of larger historical forces mediated by particular ideological frameworks but as discrete facts with inherent and unchanging attributes. "Idealist" systems of thought uncouple ideas from their socio-historical moorings and endow the former with determinant power.

[17]

Said observes that the naturalization of such specialized divisions is such as to impact even academic marxists otherwise alert to the workings of ideology. He points out that in The Political Unconscious Fredric Jameson betrays "an unadmitted dichotomy between two kinds of Politics': (1) the politics defined by political theory from Hegel to Louis Althusser and Ernst Bloch; (2) the politics of struggle and power in the everyday world..." The latter is "only discussed once, in the course of a long footnote" and "in a general way" ("Opponents" 133). Jameson thus reinscribes the supposition that literature and culture broadly understood are separable from the social forces that give rise to them.

[18]

Timothy Bewes argues that Lukcs' later renunciation of his theory of reification should be seen as contiguous rather than manichean in its relation to History and Class Consciousness: "Immanent in the total reification' thesis is its own immediate repudiation … Reification is a self-reflexive, or dialectical concept ... Lukcs' repudiation of his theory was an enactment of its logic that was at worst premature'..." (89). Yet such an analysis erases the impact of the historical shift from an environment of revolutionary upheaval to one of Stalinist counter-revolution and thus "'divorces the concept from its foundations in the economic base,'" a move warned against by Lukcs (quoted in Bewes 93).

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