Decolonizing Development Colonial Power and the Maya Edited by Joel Wainwright Copyright by Joel Wainwright. Conclusion

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1 Decolonizing Development Colonial Power and the Maya Edited by Joel Wainwright Copyright by Joel Wainwright Conclusion However, we are not concerned here with the condition of the colonies. The only thing that interests us is the secret discovered in the new world by the Political Economy of the old world, and proclaimed on the housetops: that the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore capitalist private property, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of self-earned private property, in other words, the expropriation of the laborer. Karl Marx (1992: 724) Its execution directed at the question of capitalism as a mode of production, Marx s critique of political economy in the first volume of Capital had to unravel the question of the commodity. This is a condition for an analysis of value, the exploitation of labor by capital, and, at the very end of the book colonialism. 1 Yet if we were to write an itinerary (since Capital) of the relationship between Marxisms defined vis-à-vis value,on one hand, and anti-imperial theories of colonialism, including postcolonialism, on the other, we would find no shortage of failed connections and miscommunications. These leave the end of Capital unhinged: there is a radical break, both in tone and substance, separating Marx s triumphal conclusion of chapter 32 where the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, rise of monopoly power, and oppression, along with the revolt of the working-class... at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument... [and] burst asunder, sounding the knell of capitalist private property and the beginning of chapter 33, which is taken up with a cool critique of Wakefield s theory of colonialism. A Marxist-postcolonialist reading of the

2 CONCLUSION 283 itinerary of the differential spaces of these two traditions must reconsider the relation between property and territory, between the social relations of property and the production of the state s space. In this brief chapter 33, Marx famously explains that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons. Today the postcolonialist would insist the same of territory. Marxism has been largely defined from its origin by opposition to property as a social relation, whereas postcolonialism has emerged from the ruins of nationalist struggles against colonialism what Said once called the great achievement of the twentieth century which were predicated on the reconquest of national territory. Consolidating the theoretical gains of postcolonial Marxism, we should be able to conceive of colonial power as the simultaneous extension of territorial and capitalist social relations. 2 Yet the different emphases placed on territory and property is not the only matter that has separated postcolonialism and Marxism. There are also the contentious problems of orientialism in the Marxist tradition and the complicity of imperialism sanctioned by actually existing socialist states. These should seem minor next to the points of collaboration and solidarity between Marxism and postcolonialism: their critiques of imperialism, of representation, and of nationalism. Yet, again, their différance, the matter of property/territory, is no small matter. How can we forge solidarity on these grounds? This book has demonstrated that the answer centers, today, on the problem of development. It is development, after all, that both Marxism and anticolonialism have tried to provide to subaltern classes and generally failed to deliver. And it is development that structures our conceptions of global space (developed-or-developing) and gives cover to the violence of capitalist social relations. Remember Chatterjee s conclusion: the historical identity between Reason and capital has taken on the form of an epistemic privilege, namely, development. 3 Today we cannot responsibly repeat Marx s gesture from the end of Capital and say that we are not concerned here with the condition of the colonies. The postcolonial condition is one where nothing is of greater concern than the condition of the colonies, that is, the living geography of the world s intense divisions between rich and poor. Because this condition is still addressed as a question of development, rethinking the historical identity between Reason and capital requires attending specifically to capitalism qua development. As I have shown through the analysis of the colonization and development of the Maya, we may take hold of development conceptually in such a way as to be able to think more critically of capitalism s great historical-geographical achievement of becoming

3 284 CONCLUSION capitalism qua development. My purpose in writing this book was to show how this became possible in one place, but as a consequence of the planetary hegemony of capitalism qua development, no doubt this analysis could be repeated elsewhere. But in the mean time, you may rightly ask, what exactly is to be done? Within the genre of development studies, nearly every book concludes by answering, explicitly or not, Lenin s famous question (though typically not in Lenin s register). Like Hollywood films that always end well, the tendency to cite illustrations of successful development (or worse, progress in development studies) reflects, I think, a facile dishonesty by suggesting that an easy way out of our immense difficulties lies right around the corner. This implies that development is, despite all the indications to the contrary, a simple matter to be resolved. It is not. There are no simple formulæ for real development, and a gesture toward a particular radical program as the solution to the question of development ( look at the Zapatistas ) cannot do justice to the diverse contexts and substantive differences that make, for instance, the EZLN so remarkable. If I refuse to offer any such directions here it is not for lack of respect for my reader or the importance of the task, nor for lack of ideas, but only to remain true to the mode of analysis I have used throughout this book. I am presently collaborating with Maya activists on radical, noncapitalist projects in southern Belize, but to cast these as alternatives to development would be dishonest, for they are not, and these current political struggles were not my object in this book. We should respect the distance between theory and political risk-taking even as we may try to overcome it. 4 A more honest and proximate gain would be for us to connect the dots between the conceptual destruction of capitalism qua development and what Gramsci called the analysis of situations, i.e., a careful discerning of social class relations, organic-versus-conjuctural forces and tendencies, etc., that allow for strong political strategies. In this register it is difficult to say anything about what is happening generally with a responsible clarity: Gramsci, for his part, did not write in such terms; nor, for different reasons, did Derrida. Owning up to such great challenges may be the most responsible way to conclude, but that is not my end here. Facing difficulties in writing about Beethoven s late style certainly one of the most complex situations in all of Western music even a writer as brilliant as Adorno was moved to admit: In the face of the late works... one has the feeling of something extraordinary, and of an extreme seriousness of a kind hardly to be found in

4 CONCLUSION 285 any other music. At the same time, one feels an uncommon difficulty is saying precisely... in terms of the composition in what this extraordinariness and seriousness actually consist. One therefore escapes into biography. 5 But biography, of course, will not do, since it is precisely the music, not Beethoven, that must be analyzed. On this point I venture the following parallel: this is like saying it is capitalism qua development, not any particular illustration of alternatives, that matters most. The escape toward concrete examples of good strategies, or proper development, at the end of so many otherwise critical development studies reflects the escape to biography. And yet as Adorno writes of the Missa Solemnis, the extraordinary difficulty which [this question] presents even to straightforward understanding should not deter us from interpretation. 6 The same must be said of the aporia of development. I turn here to Adorno s magnificent essays on the late style of Beethoven s final compositions not only for this metaphor, but because Adorno offers us a wonderfully concrete way of rethinking the aporia of development, again in a passage on Beethoven s Missa Solemnis: But the question still remains why the late Beethoven, who must have stood very aloof from organized religion, devoted many years of his most mature period to a sacred work and at the time of his most extreme subjective emancipation experimented with the rigidly bound style. The answer seems to me to lie in direct line with Beethoven s critique of the classical symphonic ideal. The bound style allows him a development which is hardly permitted by instrumental music. 7 Adorno proposes seven reasons that explain why Beethoven s style in the Missa allows him this unpermitted and unanticipated development. The first of these is: there are no tangible themes and therefore no development. 8 What can this mean? An unanticipated development derives from the absence of development? A great, unpermitted, unanticipated development from no development? Adorno s insight suggests a way of thinking through the aporia of development, a way of thinking development that begins where it ends. Adorno indicates that one of the conditions that allows Beethoven s radical, unprecedented development (i.e., the sort of development that we may want) lies in its total lack of thematic development. This allows us to ask: what are the tangible themes of development? What themes must be detached from development to permit an unanticipated, novel

5 286 CONCLUSION development? What would we need to destroy to allow us, in Derrida s words, to think and put development to work otherwise? 9 As this book has shown, the dominant, tangible themes of development today are capitalism, settling, and trusteeship. These themes, inherited from Western colonialism, dominate development. To think anew, to think toward unanticipated forms of development, requires releasing development from these themes. To carry this out will require an experimental postcolonial Marxism. The unity of capitalism and development in its twofold sense, capitalism qua development, was forged in colonialism, and sustains imperial power. We have yet to unsettle this power and to break capitalism s attachment to development. Such is the challenge of decolonizing development. Notes 1 Marx (1992: ). I have imitated the form of Derrida s opening lines from Ousia and gramme: Note on a note from Being and time (1982: 31). (See chapter 6, note 51.) 2 Ismail (2006). 3 Chatterjee (2001: 169), my italics. 4 This breach is represented by the semicolon of Marx s famous thesis on Feuerbach: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it (1992: 423). The latter clause does not cancel the first. Marx underscores the need for both interpretation and change, as well as the distinction between them, even as he celebrates change. 5 Adorno (1998: 138). 6 Ibid., italics in original. Beethoven s Missa Solemnis is Opus Ibid., pp Ibid., p Elsewhere Adorno writes that Beethoven s late style still remains process, but not as development (cited in Said 2006: 10). 9 Derrida (1994: 90).

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