Politics and the critique of totality
Presented at Sussex University SPT graduate faculty seminar on 26th October 2002 by Erik Empson
This paper concerns the concept of totality. In short this refers to problem of society�s understanding of itself and ultimately whether such objective knowledge is actually possible. Here I aim to investigate this problem of totality with reference to the contemporary politics and theory of the left within western societies, the politics of difference and the development of postmodernism.
All three terms of this discussion are closely connected, yet by posing them in their unity and in respect to the notion of totality, the critique already presupposes the importance of the concept of totality. Most contemporary mainstream and radical thinkers, it will be seen, reject this stance. Despite this the paper does invoke analysis in the vein of �the objective conditions of possibility and limitation� that is a totalising approach.
The tradition of totalising thinking about social reality has a long history. Arguably the most fundamental contributions to its modern incarnation were the dialectics of Hegel and Marx and the corresponding conception of the social whole that each respectively sought to elaborate. Throughout the C20th the thought of these two thinkers has been continually reassessed, and they have formed the backbone of many subsequent positions in philosophy and politics. Not least relevant of these positions for the concept of totality are the works of Georg Lukacs and Louis Althusser, two thinkers who though of very different bent, have secured themselves a canonical place in the history of western Marxism. These two thinkers crucially informed the debates concerning totality that have influenced social and political thought since the 60s. That is to say the content, colour and tone of the reading of Marx and his relation to Hegel were distinctively (though not exclusively) flavoured by the debates that waged between the adherents of Lukacs�s historicist and agent centred Marxism and the structuralist anti-humanist theoreticism of Althusser.
Indeed both of these thinkers have given concrete working definitions of totality in conceptual and philosophical terms that - though pitted against one another � perhaps inform the current critiques of totality far more than the �pedagogic� teachings of their masters. However, in contemporary critiques of totality it sometimes seems that these debates might never have occurred. As such, in the face of erstwhile left wing thinkers like Lyotard declaring �a war on totality�, the target of abuse is seen as so obtuse and undifferentiated, that we need not theorise it with any subtlety at all. Indeed we might investigate whether Lyotard is inveighing against a specifically Hegelian totality (as is now understood to be the case) wherein the essence of the system is derived from the adventures of a totalising spirit; a Lukacsian totality where the latter is all method and the bearer of the principle of revolution in science; or indeed the Althusserian model, where the totality is the structure of structures and the representation of the object of society in thought. But why should we?
Here it is argued that the post-modern scepticism towards knowledge and specifically towards the totality should not be dismissed in the same blas� fashion we are accustomed to in the postmodernist reductive treatment of these matters. Rather, the proliferation of the diverse arguments against totality in a postmodernist vein could be seen as expression of some deeper problem existing within Western societies. As argued in this paper, the excitement and enthusiasm that abounds for the debunking of totality does tell us something specific about the state of our societies.� (Radical scepticism towards the �modernist� confidence in the possibility of knowing our world has converged with a refutation of the existence of our social complexes as inter-related and hierarchical systems of social power.) This makes this paper unfortunately negative.
One of the enduring attractions of Lukacs�s discussion of totality was the connection made therein between politics and epistemology. For left-wingers in the post-war generation who had consciously applied themselves to the �class-struggle�, the notion that by forming an alliance between members of a class, who, through augmenting consciousness of their objective situation - their universal predicament - could know and change society, must have appealed greatly. The centrality given to the working-class was itself a development of the principle that in capitalist societies, the relation between capital and labour represented an antagonism between two fundamentally antithetical social forces whose actuality was only given by their mutual relation. In a world where the economy is ontologically primary and necessarily divided, a development of the consciousness of class is coincidental to the development of objective knowledge of society.
Whilst side-stepping the many critiques of this formulation both by Frankfurt school thinkers and the structuralist Marxist school, we can proffer a curious observation that might enable us to get closer to the contemporary problem of totality. The perceived major problem with Lukacs is his essentialist reading of class. The optimism of a standpoint approach to the totality, labelled expressive or centred by its theorists, clearly suffers much when the alleged agent of change does not conform to its concept. In contemporary times the Lukacsian formulation seems to perform the reverse of its intentions. That is to say, in the absence of a subjectively aligned and self-conscious working class, we seem to guiltily arrive at the position that it is impossible to know the objective situation. In circumstances of class defeat or class unconsciousness, suturing knowledge of the actuality of social relations to the subject of those relations, denies the possibility to adherents of this formula of understanding their historical totality.
Yet despite this, the expressive notion of totality, the connection between thinking politics and epistemology, remained strangely pervasive in some of the least likely places. So, for instance, second wave feminist theories of patriarchy made much use out of the idea of standpoint theory. Summarising somewhat unfairly, the Lukacsian formula could be retranslated by specifying a different subject and object. The determinate social division is in this guise no longer class, but gender and the subject objectified by those relations are women (or �gender subjects�), who, through their mutual experience of oppression, have a potentially universal framework that - through the sharing of experience � can approach something like a collectivised knowledge of the objective situation i.e. patriarchy.
Of course in modern feminist theory, as much as in contemporary Marxian thinking, few regard this type of totalising thinking as tenable. Yet a residue of the connection between politics and epistemology remain even in the post-modernist and post-structuralist incarnations. What accelerated the decline in the 70�s confidence in feminist standpoint theory was again, similar (at least conceptually) to the framework of class politics. Women, it was said, though systematically oppressed, do not share a common experience of oppression: other considerations, other social, cultural and economic factors, inform their experiences. �Woman� as a singular entity became seen as an ideological totalisation performed by a patriarchal designation and subsequently feminists began to talk of �women� as plural and diverse constituted subjects; similarly feminism became feminisms. Collapsing under the weight of this plurality, the totalisation �patriarchy� became similarly perceived as an imposition that only theorised the perspective of dominant white women. We no longer have patriarchy, but complex and multiple patriarchies. And so on.
This brief excursion into feminist theory shows remarkable analogies in form to the decomposition of Marxism (using some creative licence). From the perspective of the collapse of an expressive centred totality, they both bear the markings of the move from an essentialist to a non-essentialist subject, from an understanding of society as a unified system of power relations to that of a fragmented and local terrain in a relatively condensed form.
This discussion of feminism is instructive in a number of ways. It enables us to see that the debate about the expressive totality is not peculiar to Lukacsian Marxism but represents a directly political concern with the ways in which society is seen when agents determine to change it. It also assists us in thinking out the implications of the expressive totality not just in the form of its concept, but in its content too. It cannot be discussed here but recent feminisms have done much to popularise the anti-totality component of post-modern thought.
Indeed feminist thought did much for a time to popularise the work of Louis Althusser, whose role in the decomposition of totality that has� been abstractly delineated so far, was instrumental in attacking any residue of essentialism. The battlefield of this argument was of course again the literary corpus of Karl Marx. Althusser�s heavily theoretical argument was, more or less explicitly, waged against the surviving historicist\ humanist camps of Marxism, such as the mentioned expressive totality of Lukacs, but including also the �absolute historicism� of Antonio Gramsci and the existentialism of his countryman Jean- Paul Sartre.
What complicates this attack is that French structuralism as well as establishment thinkers like Karl Popper and a host of others already set the anti-historicist agenda. Althusser seized the moment lending credibility to these arguments by arguing that all along Marx�s own thought was concerned with attacking the philosophy of origins and the Bourgeois humanist ideology. Thus he intervened in a debate that was already waiting in the wings on the left because of the battering the historical totality had already suffered. The terms of Althusser�s critique were famously that Marx�s early works were largely irrelevant to his later anti-humanist and structuralist phase that is seen in Das Kapital. Das Kapital with its often perplexing form of presentation provided Althusser with powerful weapons in his quest to elaborate what theorists describe as the decentred totality. Taking much from existing anthropological and linguistic structuralism, Althusser made the totality a matter of the principle of neither essence nor method in Marx, but of his object of study. Thus, with plenty of opportune quotations to hand Althusser argued that for Marx (and clearly himself) society was a structure of structures, with an absent cause. That is to say that the totality was seen only in its effects, in the institutional structures of it�s functioning. Marx, so Althusser argued, saw the totality as a theoretical artifice that aimed to reproduce the concreteness of society in thought. Marxism in this guise was the �theory of theoretical practice�, the major motif of which was to reproduce the �articulated hierarchy� of relations existing within society, in a philosophically significant exposition that rested on firm scientific principles. Herein was restated the principles of dialectical materialism, and thus provoked the not illegitimate response that there was not really much to choose between the French Professor and Russia�s very own, and by then very dead, Josef Stalin.
The enduring popularity of Althusser owes a lot to his capacity to explain why Lukacsian historicism was failing to prove useful to the left in understanding and changing the problems of post-war Western society. Indeed one of the powerful aspects of this critique was the argument that the expressive totality was not historical at all, but rather an abstraction from a concrete historical reality that was reread as a more or less eternal or essential truth of Marxism. Thus Lukacs was himself ultimately complict with the ideological illusions produced by the system: guilty of a reification of categories that, echoing the increasing crisis of faith in the working class, failed to capture the actual processes of Marx�s own thought which were directed at the investigation of the structural integrity of the bourgeois social system in their synchronic totality. Yet Althusser equally undermined the specificity of Marx�s critique by over-emphasising its scientific credentials and presenting its project as a science of modes of production per se, or worse still a science of society. Though well known for description of ideological state apparatuses, the overall dynamic behind Althusser�s theory was to present ideology not in its specific integument within a historical reality, but as a necessary condition of every society. As such Althusser�s overall project comes across as an attempt to legitimise Marx by favourable comparisons to popular structuralist theories, rather than trying to make that theoretical movement accountable to Marx.
In Althusser�s structuralism then, social agents were little more than actors on a stage or bearers of the economic relations going on around them. The description of the actuality of capitalist society and the specific tensions between ideology and consciousness within the class struggle were violently wrenched from their concrete actuality. In this reading of Marx, the objective conditions of possibility of social change were relatively unknowable or indeterminate and the role of subjects within that change impossible to register. With the structuralist theory of over-determination, the political agenda of Marxism was lost. This de-politicisation of Marxism, its incapacity to explain contemporary political struggles, or to derive their character from a decipherable historical totality (namely the relation between capital and labour) that develops alongside the increasing pessimism for social change, is precisely the precondition to the elaboration of the post-modern agenda.
It is striking to see how many post-modern theorists have at some stage of their intellectual development ground their theoretical teeth on Althusserian pumice. Yet most involve a fundamental turn around, as for all Althusser�s faults of decentring capitalism from the equation, he did entertain that society was a complex whole which could be represented theoretically. Debunking such an idea is often seen as the raison d�etre of post-modernism. However, even though post-modern theory simultaneously rejects both the objectivity of social unity and the possibility of a reasoned representation of it in thought, it is not altogether clear whether either of these moments is primary. Postmodernists seem to proffer a sensibility towards society, rather than a defined or coherent position on it. Let us interrogate this further.
One way of thinking about post-modernism, is as a practical response to a situation where the dynamic to de-centre both the subject of society and society itself and expose them as myths of the modernist mind, has been instantiated as a social condition. This is said to be a sensibility in the mind of the subjects of society as well as the �objective� condition of things. The justifications for this are manifold and can only be presented as sharing the same logic, if we attempt to step outside of the paradigm of the post-modern itself. For postmodernists both are impossible. They cannot be defined because their philosophy is � er�defined by�having no position or definition. We cannot escape this because this is our condition. For this reason, much that will here be generalised as the condition of the post-modern will be refuted by those that go under that name. This one will appreciate cannot be helped. My use of the post-modern does not reflect any position of its internal debates. I am concerned primarily with what is invoked when there are appeals to its concept for theoretical licence to make statements about totality, difference and experience. In itself the concept of postmodernism is fundamentally just as ambivalent as the concept of modernity. This seems appropriate for two definitions that only exist because they are posited by the existence of the other.
One central justification for the societal critique of totalising epistemology is the direct association drawn between its concept and political forms of totalitarianism, domination, and repression that have painted the house of our glorious western �civilisation� with blood. Thus the worst excesses of totalitarianism in the last century, whether fascistic, communistic or parliamentary are regarded as complicit with orders of knowledge, cultural hegemony and political power that totalise the experience of their victims. Conceiving of the whole is conceiving of its domination. Thinking things through a totality is said to reproduce in knowledge the power of the jackboot on the ground.�
This negative connection between political power and thought as simultaneous practices of marginalizing, and colonising or excluding groups is said to be implicit in the very concept of totality (its rationalist imposition of order over the diverse). It seems to me that for the post-war political generation this conjoins with another distinct aspect of the climate. This was the fact that the emerging forms of political expression were lacking in class content. A fundamental collusion had occurred between the cooption of workers struggles and the left�s acquiescence to the programme of institutional reform of capitalism. The aristocratic and parochial working class of 1960s America and Britain fuelled the growing dismay with which it was regarded by the left. The coincidence of this with the critique of totality made class and Marxism embodiments of principles that were even worse than capitalism. This blow to Marxism within the left clearly coincided with the newfound enthusiasms for dissolving the centrality of economic relations between classes as the objective conditions that enable western capitalist societies to function . Thus the left, re-ignited by the sexual revolution and the reinvigoration of the democratic agenda, found new purpose in the politicisation of other schisms and divisions within the world. This operated in an intellectual climate already disposed to celebrate the manifold over the universal.
So the conscience of the politics of left post-modern theorists is given by the struggles of the subaltern, the dispossessed and the socially excluded. Preoccupation with these groups is not exclusive to postmodernism, yet what is particularly relevant about their post-modern treatment is that their very existence is said to undermine the possibility of considering them in a general framework.� Again here the link between politics and epistemology is reposed, but this time negatively. Socially legitimised by the general stigma for representative schemas, what postmodernism does is to challenge the very possibility of relating the existence of these �parts� and particularities to the �whole�. Not only is it the case that they are not reducible to a systematic conception of society � the system itself (whether capitalist, modernist, structuralist) is also a mere illusion, and one invented perniciously to further the domination of the existing hierarchy.
What needs to be stated is that the conditions of possibility of the post-modern do not arise in antithesis to the left, but largely as the extension of the logic of decomposition of the left seen alongside the general societal crisis of political legitimation. I would say that it is the neurosis of those individuals whose moral conscience was informed largely by the rhetoric of the left - and now find themselves sitting uncomfortably as socially responsible members of communities - that constitutes the acute sensibility and desire called the post-modern. Others say it is just a middle class anxiety.
Where thinkers of the new left have not themselves indulged in this desire they have not seemed able to convincingly distinguish their positions from them. What affirms their propinquity is the anathema for capital centred explanations of social relations, and their notion that different identities must, in their particularity exist in opposition to the whole. Again this rhetoric of identity politics and the recognition of multifarious, diverse and anti-institutional forms of social allegiance returns. As does the celebration of difference as a positive dimension of social reality constituted as external to capitalism. It is not difficult to see how closely this follows the logic of attacking a social totality that centres what is objective and universal in accord with a singular logic.
The celebration of these new types of social awareness, identifications and personalised politics has given sway to the idea that truth statements only have validity if secured to particularist epistemes. The conception where truth is related to experience and to localised communities subjectivises the criterion of validity of any political gesture or statement [i] . This relativisation of truth is not unique to the post-modern; rather it forms the basis too of various critiques of liberalism whether neo-conservative like Stanley Fish, or communitarian in the guise of Etzioni. It is precisely in this intellectualised political milieu where postmodernism finds its rationale and moral justification. This is the world of the �incommensurability of language games� and the reality of a society whose objectivity is questioned by the proliferation of its multifarious parts and the celebration of diversity. Post-modern theorists play with the contradictions of a commonsensical cultural relativism and extend the logic of difference to challenge every type of foundationalist certainty.
Postmodernism does not arise solely out of left wing thinking, and in many ways its hostility to progress, to representation and to �the objective situation� have been condemned by left wingers who can see the real danger behind this rhetoric. Yet this sensibility of radical scepticism to truth is bound to continue so long as the left accepts that difference is primary because in the political vacuum of progressive allegiances it is universally experienced as such.
However there are a number of theorists who have given post-modernism a social explanation. Herein the logic of postmodernism is connected to a particular state of capitalism and the exhaustion of the project of the establishment to cohere society around �traditional Bourgeois values�.� For a thinker like Jameson, what post-modernism reflects is a society wherein political assumptions operate as part of the unconscious side of our culture. As such, for Jameson, every statement about the post-modern is a comment on the state of capitalism. With other thinkers like Terry Eagleton, A.Callinicos and David Harvey, Jameson has shown in a more or less Marxian fashion, the connection between this type of experience and further extension or totalisation of the logic of capitalism. Here credibility is given to the idea that the rhetoric of uncertainty, flux and un-fixity is provided by a definite economic reality - the changing shape of market relations � and is generalised as a condition necessary to capitalism rather than particularised as the experience of a politicised generation that finds itself in positions of social power, with responsibilities to educate, culturally enrich and protect the order of society and its vulnerable elements.
What is attractive about such social explanations of the post-modern is their capacity to re-centre the mechanism of the market and its commodification of previously autonomous spheres of life in a political context through a critique of the ideological underpinnings of the post-modern. Here totality is given a new lease of life, reasserted as the reflection of a societal process that can still be interpreted in its representations. One dimension of that societal reality is that it forces a radical disjuncture between our experience of the world and the reality of our place in it. It is only in the conditions of a privatised and isolated constituted individual that the representation of the world can appear as the substance of the world. In so far as the post-modern does reflect an experiential crisis of members of western society it is a surface representation that needs to be grounded in depth to the actual workings of the system. The danger of post-modern rhetoric is that the surfaces are seen as all there is to the world, hence the disavowal of any underlying system that gives them the form they assume. What the post-modern has done implicitly is to reaffirm that societal relations produce illusionary surfaces. Moreover its explicit rejection of totality belies the insidious type of totalisation that it does perform. This is the reduction of society to its isolated fragments and the ontologisation of difference as essential to social being. This is an implicit totalisation that only appropriates reality in its ideological veneer. It reproduces the ideological truth, that there are no solid truths on which to understand the reality of our experience. Unfortunately the left�s movement away from confronting capital both practically and theoretically has fostered this climate wherein it is impossible to theorise capital as fundamental to the structuration and constitution of social experience. Peculiarly at the very apex of the domination of the market, - when almost all political positions accept it as the only alternative - when in its totality it might be at its most transparent, its functioning appears as even more mystified than before.
The identity struggles that form the popular backdrop to the possibilities of a new radical democratic alliance do themselves appear to be colonised almost entirely by the logic of commodification and it�s structuring of our experience and self-definition. Excited by these surface differences of identification theorists like Chantal Mouffe fail to comprehend that in this isocially constituted reality the language of difference sits very closely to free-market discourse of freedom to choose.� Seeing particularity as a negation of capital, rather than the direct product of its homogenisation at another level, the diverse pseudo-political struggles like those recently held in Seattle, London and Prague are taken at face value as a progressive negation of capitalism. The systemic and structural processes that make difference possible within this social system have been lost from view along with the theory of capitalism that recognises its function as a system of social power that necessarily perverts the possibility of social collectivism. And the consequence of this is that the subtlety of some of the original thinkers about totality � who did not perceive the concept as implying a one sided domination - are drowned out by the chorus of free-market choir.
The fate of the concept of totality is inextricably related to the politics of the left. It was held onto in three specific forms. In the form of expressive collective agencies. As a conceptualisation of the absolutising and instrumental power of capital or the ruse of its 'reason'; its power of colonisation of the life world. And finally as a theoretical framework wherein the objectivity of the social could be conceptually reproduced. In such guises they all involve a break with the immediacy of experience and all are forced to confront the materiality of ideology. The harsh reality of trying to reformulate totalistic thinking as part of a left agenda (a thinking that looks for the connectivity of relational processes) means that the left needs embark collectively on a project to critically purge all traces of ideology in our conceptualisation of our specific historical situation. One of the most radical facets of such an ideology critique entails critiquing the ideology of difference. The theoretical challenge this sets is to show how anti-totalistic thinking is the epistemological variant of the retreat from seeing capital as a central social problem and its objectivity as fundamentally structuring the distribution of social power.
Readers might take this as a problem internal to a Marxian discourse. But it could be said that it is broader societal problem, wherein a basic socially constituted experience entails an acceptance of capitalism. It is the social relations of capitalism, not the merits of the theory of it that makes it unknowable. Capitalism simultaneously socialises and particularises our experience. It constitutes us as individuals whilst destroying our individuality.� But it is not the concept of capital -my theory or your theory - that rides tyrannical over the manifold, but its reality as a complex form of crucially no longer contested social power.
The rejection of totality and its theoretical counter position to difference has seemed to coincide with rejection of the foundations of difference. The radical agendas preoccupation with de-centring capitalism has precluded them from seeing the positive side of capitalisms role in providing the very conditions of possibility for us to bear witness to difference. We think in terms of heterogeneity because capitalism is instrumental to developing needs and creating new identities that it can produce for us to consume. Much of the different identities are mass consumer markets but the counter-consumer, resistance movements are applauding the logic of identity, more than anyone else. It seems this is a twist of fate, where the rhetoric of a flailing left � just be- is brought in to provide a language for the commodity to speak, and an ideological framework for a social philosophy of acquiescence. To remain in the realm of the differential and to applaud the disconnection of the particular from its other systemic unities � to treat problems partially - is to remain on only one side of an imaginary fence.
This paper is quite negative. Its diagnosis is of a society dominated by a system of social power that precludes or presupposes the form in which it understands itself. It points to the problem of a critical politics that celebrates this failure and ends up in bed with its worst enemy (the pillow talk being �there is no alternative� and �there is no such thing as society�).� And it challenges the imbibing of the medley of epistemological scepticism, blatant irrationalism and parodic play of post-modern theorists. It registers these trends as the ideological substance of much contemporary politics on the intellectual left and as the virtue made of defeat. Its one positive appeal is that it implies that the production of a counter-ideological knowledge of the totality is not counter to but an essential part of reinventing anti-capitalist politics.
For a discussion of the history of the concept of totality within Marxism and its history indispensable is Martin Jay�s � Marxism and Totality, Berkley, 1984 especially Chapter 13 pp 384 �422. Useful too is John. E Grumley History and totality, Routledge, 1989. For a solid introduction to the historical\ structuralist debate see Alfred Schmidt, History and Structure. For reflections on Laclau and Mouffe�s use of totality see their post Marxism debate with Norma Geras in New Left Review Issues 163, 166, 167 and 169.
For the formers� discussion of the Althusserian totality see Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Verso, 1985 pp- 97-105.
For Lukacs totality:
Obviously History and class consciousness and the Ontology of social being. The work of Istvan Meszaros is also extremely important, especially for his insistence on the centrality of mediation to the Lukacsian totality and the concept of alienation in Marx. See especially The power of ideology, NYUP
For a more critical view see Paul Piccone, �Dialectical and Materialism in Lukacs�, Telos 11, Spring 1972. For an extremely particular account of Lukacs� appeal to post-war generation Marxists see Marshall Berman Adventures in Marxism, Verso, 1999.
Althusser�s work is voluminous. The philosophical underpinnings of his critique of the expressive and Hegelian totalities can be found in For Marx and Reading Capital both published by Verso. His engagement with the content in Hegel can be found in the recently published �early writings� The spectre of Hegel, also by Verso, 1997.
For the use of post-modern theory in social thought see: Wayne Hudson, �Postmodernity and contemporary social thought� in Politics and Social theory, Peter Lassman ed. Routledge, 1989, pp 138-160. And Billig and Simons (eds) After Postmodernism, Sage, 1994. A good example of some of the discussions around critiques of postmodernism can be found in E. Ann. Kaplan ed., Postmodernism and its discontents.
Stanley Fish�s conventionalist situationism can be found in There�s no such thing as free speech. For a discussion of his contradictions and neo-conservatism see Chapter 2 in After Postmodernism.
On postmodernism�s insidious totalisations see Terry Eagleton, The Illusions of Postmodernism, Blackwell, 1996. For this argument specifically addressed to Lyotard�s postmodernism see the argument of D.Kellner. Lyotard�s central argument can be found it The post-modern condition trans. Bennington which includes a critical preface by Jameson and a smaller essay of Lyotard's What is postmodernism., MUP, 1989.�
For attempts to ground the post-modern by exposing its social basis refer to David Harvey�s work The condition of Postmodernity � Blackwell 1990. Similarly Callinicos�s Against Postmodernism has been influential.
Jameson�s work is voluminous as are the debates around it. Verso published The cultural turn in 1998 which is a collection of well-known essays that deal with the social explanation of postmodernism. More can be found in the two volume collection Ideologies of Theory 1988 Routledge, the second of which contains the remarkable essay Periodizing the 60s. This essay states controversially that this era marks the point at which all pre-capitalist enclaves are colonised; the high point of late capitalism (pp. 207 Vol. 2).
For a favourable account of Jameson see Perry Anderson�s recent work and particularly The origins of postmodernity, Verso 1998. An argument that Jameson absolutises capital has been made by Warren Montag; What is at stake in the debate on postmodernism? In Kaplan ed. Verso 1988. For a general taste of the debates see Kellner ed. An interview with Jameson conducted by Anders Stephanson is informative of the way that Jameson thinks of (and ultimately celebrates) difference and the power of totality as critique this can be found in Universal Abandon?��� Ed A.Ross EUP1989. This collection of essays also contains telling statements of Mouffe�s desire for the post-modern (pp 33) and her thinking about the particular; �universalism is not rejected but particularised...�! (pp 36). And a sample of Nancy Fraser and Linda Nicholson�s connection between feminism and the post-modern (pp 83-104) as well as a lot of rubbish! For more in the vein of postmodernism and feminism see the collection Feminism/postmodernism Ed L.J.Nicholson 1990, Routledge. This book contains the important essay by Benhabib (also published in New German Critique) on the epistemologies of the post-modern, and instructive contributions by the prolific Judith Butler and a section on identity and differentiation. For Butler's position see also Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, Routledge. For a critical attack on Butler see Martha Nussbaum�s article The professor of Parody http://www.tnr.com/archive/0299/022299/nussbaum022299.html . Issue date: 02.22.99 Post date: 12.14.99.
For a useful exhibition of the use of post-modern and identity politics see Kobena Mercer �welcome to the jungle: Identity and Diversity in Postmodern politics� pp 43-73. And for an itinerary of the proliferation of postmodernisms don�t miss Carl Jencks�s What is postmodernism (pp 14) Academy Editions 1996.
Hans Bertens makes an all too important connection between mainstream postmodernism and the middle class as a sociological group; see The idea of he post-modern, a history, Routledge, 1995. This chastises Scott Lash for failing in his attempt to theorise the sociology of he post-modern as de-differentiation to link it to any concrete social group; see Scott Lash, The sociology of postmodernism, Routledge 1990� pp 21 -51
For Habermas�s reflections on postmodernism and the unfinished business of modernism see �Modernity versus Postmodernity� in New German Critique No. 22 Winter, 1981. Plus in the same issue the influential essay by the influential Andreas Huyssen pp 23 �41.
interesting argument for centring capital can be found in M.Ryan�s Marxism
and Deconstruction (pp 82 �102) especially for its use of the �conditions
of possibility� (pp 97). Also useful is a book by Chris Norris Reclaiming
truth 1996, Lawrence and Wishart. This gives an Althusserian treatment
of post-structuralism and the connection between cultural relativism
and epistemology. See also Robert Resch� 1998.