Marxist scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood

I post on the passing of Marxist scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood and recommend her analysis
Ellen Meiksins Wood: Some Personal Recollections by John Bellamy Foster
In my graduate class on Political Economy at the University of Oregon this term we are reading two books by Ellen Meiksins Wood: The Retreat from Class and Democracy Against Capitalism Renewing Historical Materialism.
Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that with the collapse of Communism the theoretical project of Marxism and its critique of capitalism is more timely and important than ever. Current intellectual fashions of the left which emphasise ‘post-modern’ fragmentation, ‘difference’, contingency and the ‘politics of identity’ can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subject the capitalist system to critique. In this book she sets out to renew the critical programme of historical materialism by redefining its basic concepts and its theory of history in original and imaginative ways, using them to identify the specificity of capitalism as a system of social relations and political power. She goes on to explore the concept of democracy in both the ancient and modern world, examining the concept’s relation to capitalism, and raising questions about how democracy might go beyond the limits imposed on it by capitalism.
Democracy against capitalism talk

“The separation of the economic and the political in capitalism” – Ellen Meiskins Wood

The Retreat from Class (1986), she argued that, without an organic connection to the needs and aspirations of working people, socialism becomes rudderless, a dream without an agent that might realise it.

Democracy Against Capitalism (1995) dissected the conflict between capitalism and democracy. Ellen showed that by legally relegating issues of property, ownership and work to the private sector, capitalism confines public power to electoral politics. In so doing, it empties democracy of its original meaning as the power of the common people, leaving workers precariously exposed to market forces. In order to counter this, she advised that we need to reimagine democracy as containing freedom from the dictates of the market. This would require democratic control by those who produce the wealth over the conditions of its production and distribution.Read here

A towering intellect


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