There is a new website in town. Now, perhaps you are already maxed-out on new websites, but I would urge regular readers to consider paying a bit of attention to this new site as it is a bit unique. The project is called “Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles” (NCTS). You might remember that about a year ago I spoke at a panel at a conference in New York called “The Economic Crisis and the Left Response” that featured some heavy characters like Rick Wolff and Andrew Kliman. The conference was a great success, bringing together a lot of disparate thinkers all interested in exploring the relevance of Marx not just to the academic exercise of analyzing the crisis but to the concrete problem of politics. An idea came out of the conference: the formation of a platform for theoretical struggles that brought together many people interested in Marx for real discussion. Let’s face it, a great deal of discussion that happens on the left happens in echo chambers, where leftists preach to the choir. A great deal of “conversation” is often just people talking past each other, using discussions for platforms to advocate a party line rather than a real place for exchange of ideas.
This website, the Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles, aims to provide a platform for real dialogue between disparate tendencies, not with the goal of coalescing around a party line, or deciding on one correct analysis, but instead of fostering the development of a theory-praxis relation that will be relevant to contemporary political struggles. There has been a large resurgence of interest in Marx in recent years, including Capital reading groups and the like, and we seem to be in a unique historical moment for the development of Marxist thought.
I was honored to be asked to compose an introductory essay to help start discussion on the site. My essay is a critique of David Harvey’s crisis theory, which I find to be problematic on many counts. But the essay is more than that. It is also a call to those of us looking for ways to develop Marxist thought in a new way to also be critical of our role-models and teachers. We have to remember that their ideas come from a specific place and time and that they don’t necessarily have to be the ideas of this time. It appears my essay was a bit long (14 pages) so it will appear on the site in 3 installments.
Here is the site: Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles
(note this link changed since the first day I posted it… technical glitch!)
And here is the first installment of my essay: That 70’s Show, Starring David Harvey, Overaccumulation, and the Baggage of the 70’s
Commenting is restricted to members in order to foster the community of discussion mentioned above. Consider this your invitation to become a member of the Network. You read this blog. You care about this stuff. You have something to say. Join the site. It’s a brand new project and its direction will be shaped by the ideas of participants.
This is what you will feel like when engaged in theoretical struggle:
And here is the official invitation to join the website:
We are writing to invite you to become a participant in a new international initiative, the Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles (NCTS). Capitalism’s most severe financial crisis since the 1930s and the Great Recession have left us with an especially uncertain future. “The new normal” may prove to be very difficult, economically and politically. In order for the Left to be prepared for what may happen and prepared to respond effectively, more and more activity and organization will not be enough. We also need the organization of thought. Wide-ranging dialogue is key, not only so that all views can be heard, but, above all, so that we can test different ideas in debate and work out answers to the questions we face.
We are encouraged by the relatively large number of reading groups (study groups) on Marx and Capital that have sprouted up in the U.S., the UK, Germany, and elsewhere, largely in response to the crisis and slump. Nothing like this has been seen since the economic crisis of the 1970s. We are also encouraged by the seriousness with which the causes and consequences of the recent crisis have begun to be discussed.
We have formed NCTS to help facilitate and bring together these and similar initiatives. Everyone throughout the world who is interested in this project is invited to participate in it. We hope to bring together individuals in reading groups and related projects, and all other interested people, so that we can engage in dialogue, provide mutual assistance, and share information. NCTS will supplement, not replace, the activity that is already taking place.
The term “theoretical struggles” combines two seeming opposites, theory and practice, that NCTS will try to help unify. It is for people who recognize that activity and organization, without theory, will not be sufficient, and who are deepening their grasp of theory not simply for the sake of knowledge, but so it can serve as a guide to action.
What is needed, in our view, is not a theory, but the doing of theory. The point is to work out answers to the questions we face on a rational basis, and this requires critical examination of all ideas, taking nothing for granted. So NCTS is not a project that will select some particular theory from among the existing alternatives, and certainly not an opportunity for adherents of different positions to fight to have their position adopted as the “correct” one. We want it to be an ongoing, collaborative process in which we engage with one another, explore and test ideas, and develop our thinking in order to respond in a rational and effective manner to the new challenges of our times.
The doing of theory does not mean adopting political positions, but rather digging deeply into the ideas that underlie differing views of the crisis. In order to contribute to the fight against capitalism, we need to examine the theories that are contending and what their ramifications may be. NCTS therefore does not have a political or theoretical “line.” It is open to all who share its goals, participate in it, and abide by the procedures and rules it sets for itself. All participants have equal voice and vote.
NCTS’ first project is the website we have established, http://www.nctswebsite.wordpress.com. It will provide a forum for dialogue as well as an archive of articles, readings, and links.The first topic for discussion is a critique of David Harvey’s crisis theory and “the theoretical baggage of the 1970’s” by Brendan Cooney. One of NCTS’ initiating participants, Brendan also operates the Kapitalism101 YouTube channel and associated blog, and he was active in a reading group on Marx in Philadelphia for several years.
Because we want NCTS to facilitate dialogue and mutual assistance, not just be a source of information, use of the website is limited to active participants in NCTS. Our working definition of “active participant” is someone who engages with what others say and write. (Those who just express their own views or publicize what they’ve written are not actively participating in the project we’ve outlined above.) In order to facilitate dialogue, the website’s moderator(s) will ensure that posts do not divert, engage in ad hominem critique, or contain remarks that are racist, sexist, heterosexist, or that demean members of any nation, nationality, or ethnic group.
Please consider becoming a participant in NCTS, and please forward this invitation to others who you think may be interested. For information on how to apply, and to view sample content from the NCTS website, please visit nctsinfo.wordpress.com.