the trick of academic low pay, no overtime pay, and eroded conditions, in an underfunded sector, in a world of fat cattery… leads to charity

AUT – the Union makes us strong and all that – are locked in a dispute with the university bosses and some of the press seem to be doing a good job pointing out the ‘anomolies’ that need to be “rectified”. Here’s a good illustration –

“Lecturers ‘donating’ £10,000 a year to their employers.

A study by the TUC shows that lecturers and others are donating up to£10,000 in unpaid wages to their employers by working long hours. “

See the AUT news release on this at
Also: Big “credits” to all those students at Goldsmiths who attended the Students Union meeting to confirm support for the staff industrial action.

From: Contemporary South Asia vol 14, no 3 Sept 2005

Review of Bad Marxism: Capitalism and Cultural Studies
by Lee Jarvis.

Although this book represents a more general theoretical engagement with cultural studies and global capitalism, much of John Hutnyk’s analysis contains direct significance for contemporary South Asian politics, particularly when contextualised internationally. The sections of Bad Marxism more explicitly relevant to this region are reviewed in greater detail below, although a brief overview of Hutnyk’s broader concerns will assist in locating this relevance. The dominant theme around which the structure of this book is organised concerns Hutnyk’s critical account of the (often limited) engagement of key cultural theorists with Marx’s ideas. Two related lines of critique are threaded together here. Firstly, Hutnyk criticises the myopic obsession with the absurd and the incongruous that characterises much theorising within contemporary cultural studies. The increasing marginalisation of Marx’s (global) political project behind, for example, James Clifford’s ‘fascination with spicy little details’ (p 42) or Jacques Derrida’s ‘new astonishment at time and technology’ (pp 63–64) is forcefully condemned throughout the book. Accompanying this derision of the ‘stunned contemplation’ (p 183) marking contemporary cultural analysis runs Hutnyk’s concurrent attack on the subsequent political paralysis within which leftist theorising has remained content to reside. For Hutnyk, the complicity of this ‘institutionalised quietism’ (p 12) to a world still ravaged by imperialism, plunder and war represents nothing less than a ‘pathetic giving up of the loser who thinks he or she still has some degree of credibility’ (p 193).

Having critiqued, then, a number of ‘bad Marxisms’ within which the transformative project of Marx’s writings have been lost, Hutnyk turns to the book’s second theme: the demand for a re-engagement with these questions of political prescription and action. He forcefully insists on a critical, open-ended and practical engagement with a Marxism capable of intervention and resistance. Emphasising the truly global dimensions and consequences of capitalist accumulation and exploitation, Hutnyk contextualises this demand with reference to the current geopolitical climate of South Asia.

Pouring scorn upon those for whom de-industrialisation in the ‘advanced West’ (p 136) has been equated too readily with globalisation and the end of proletarian internationalism, Hutnyk reconfirms the significance of Marxian analysis in understanding the continuation of imperialism and neo-colonial exploitation within the global South. Locating Asia as capital’s ‘flashpoint of extraction and exploitation’ (p 122) and, therefore, more accurately seen as the core rather than the periphery of the capitalist world-system, Hutnyk demands a new set of concepts capable of organising resistance to this global order of Empire. Stressing the need to link the struggles of rural insurgents in India and China with the global predicament of the anti-capitalist movement, he suggests the possibility of ‘a reconstituted proletarian internationalism’ (p 137) to pilot this much-needed opposition to imperialist aggression. That capitalism’s worst exploitations still blight those rural regions of South Asia and beyond, whether in the guise of free trade zones, gene-modified crop plantations or forced displacements from the construction of dams, requires increasingly more than content conceptualisation among avowedly leftist academics. Throughout this book, Hutnyk sustains his forceful yet eloquent demand for a resuscitation of the political and activist traditions of Marxism. Although his account of the paralysis marring contemporary cultural theorists is perhaps a little overstated, this book successfully articulates the ongoing need to read Marx in order to understand the structures of capitalist exploitation within South Asia and beyond, and, more importantly, for resisting those structures.

Lee Jarvis
University of Birmingham, UK

From: Contemporary South Asia vol 14, no 3 Sept 2005


This is a pic of Imogen Bunting on her first day of school in New York. I am thinking of her and want her well.

We have been editing a book together, to be called “Communist Trinkets” but as its one of a million other great things she does, we have let it drag on a little, but it is underway (chapters by Alneng, Thoburn, Dutton, Phipps…).

So, she really needs to give me a call and not be in a coma as she has been since 10 Feb. Imogen, Wake up. This just cannot be happenning. Please.

I will write more when I am able, but my thoughts go to her and her folks and friends at her bedside. Oh Bog, give her a phone. Somehow it must happen.


added later:


It is probably important not to allow the vignette to replace analysis, the two are tied together, but we don’t want the story to provide an alibi for those who would avoid the implications of the theory. Here, elegance of prose can camouflage politics. This is particularly the case amongst those who would emphasize the post in post-colonialism, and use this as an opportunity to pretend colonialism has past, and in effect to write as if it never happened. This does happen, and is the modern equivalent of those anthropologists who benefited from the infrastructural facts of colonial power but claimed to have no part in the project. Staging opposition. The founding myth of fieldwork – of Malinowski almost accidentally ‘shipwrecked’ in the South Seas – rehearses this deceit.

There are several versions. The idea that missionaries – or anthropologists – were not also participating in the colonial order, however much some revisionist apologist (anthr-apologists) might want to complicate the position, cannot be ignored. Definitely, looking at the ways the ‘West’ travelled and was transformed in travel, is something that deserves more attention, but should not be taken as some sort of alibi for the violences of that travel (as sometimes happens with such work – I consider Dick Werbner’s various citations of the ‘anthropologists were not always complicit in colonialism’ routine to be in very poor taste/bad faith). The descendants of Gluckman may revere his little run-ins with the colonial authorities in Africa as ‘proof’ that he was not part of colonialism, when of course he was etc.

Why does it matter that telling stories clarifies the colour of politics? – perhaps because the slippage is the hinge of reaction. At the pomo workbench the maintenance of ongoing colonialisms slips past on the palanquin of narrative – even where the analysis oscillates between anecdotal evidence and the illustration of capitalist violence, the too-easy take up of only the storybook gems from the colonial scene rehearses again the Raj extraction process. Violence of partial explanations that serve the conquest (which of course does not mean we dream of a ‘full’ explanation, but that there are some less credible than others and we know which ones serve masters and which lead elsewhere).

Think for a moment of the way selective listening forges the subjectivity of oppression (perhaps in this telling the Emperor’s new clothes is not so much a story of the sycophantic courtiers as an exposure of the necessary blindness of naked power). As ever, the complexities of the circumstance can be recruited to tell another tale, more amenable to capital. The Emperor’s new clothes also tells of transition to the social relations of contemporary production – the young boy who exposes it all is nothing if not a culture hero of a brutal reality we face and embrace for good and bad.

Anthropologists who were recalcitrant and troublesome for colonialism may still unwittingly (or not – so often wittingly) be those best placed to extend colonial hegemony and power. This can be seen to happen through several modes; through the promotion of culture, through the mechanisms of inscription (cf. copies of the book of Nuer prophets in the hands of contemporary Nuer – Johnson), through focus on identity, and identifications, through reification and so on. It is important not only to see this in anecdotal terms, even where the anecdotes are so compelling, but rather to recognize the vignettes as examples of a web of institutionalized power (persuasive AND coercive force) deployed systematically across the globe. That the term post-colonialism has one part of its heritage in literature has enabled some to make the anecdotal narration of post-modern anthropology into a methodological doxa, and along the way renounced any theoretical specificity and ushered in a still more reactionary politics than ever before. The other more explicitly political sources for the term post-colonial require a more nuanced comprehension of the ironic and restricted way in which the term was used to refer to a certain betrayal of anti-colonial struggle on the part of national elites and the comprador classes after the so-called fact of decolonisation (Spivak). Within the horizon of this conception of the post-colony anecdotal post-modernisms appear as spurious frivolity. And we could go on and on in this tone forever.

I do think sometimes those who get on with the job have it slightly more together than those who vignette-dalliance with words for waffle (here).

SOUTH LONDON PACIFIC Tiki Lounge Cocktail Bar

SOUTH LONDON PACIFIC Tiki Lounge Cocktail Bar

this is the venue. Kenninton’s unique bit ofg cheesy pacific. (its not like this anywhere I ever swam).

You can eat your cake and read him too

A gloriously delicious birthday cake (yes, I am 45 in a week) arrived at the start of the Marx reading group last night – this slightly out of focus pic does not do it justice at all. Proof was in the eating. It was so much better than “Godfrey’s cordial” (mentioned on p518n) and took all pain away (521, 522, 587 – see as an alternative the section on baking on 358). Thanks to everyone, but especially Janina and Jeff who baked the bearded one. But also, folks, thanks for the chocolate version, with candle, Andy, Daisy, whoever was responsible. And happy birthday Mark too. Now how do I deal with this hangover? I have a class in two hours. Gulp of cordial perhaps would help.