Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Avant-Garde Poetry in the Time of Crisis
and Resistance:
by E. San Juan Jr.

By Karlo Mikhail I. Mongaya

If E. San Juan, Jr. has continued to write poetry on subjects that many would deem radical or
even subversive, it is because the essential
conditions of exploitation and oppression that he has
written about in his younger years have remained basically unchanged up to the present. The
world capitalist system continues to wreak havoc on the workers, peasants, and oppressed people
around the wor
ld who suffer from rising levels of inequality, unemployment, and hunger.
Global capitalism condemns ever widening sections of humanity to poverty and misery even as
the ruling classes who own the means of producing the material wealth of society become ri
than ever. The unabated crisis of this system has meant the intensifying exploitation and plunder
of Philippine cheap labor and natural resources by the monopoly capitalists and financial
oligarchs living the life in the United States, European Union,
and Japan, among others.
The dominant culture legitimizes and prettifies this unjust and ugly dispensation. Most art and
literature, including poetry, consequently draw the people’s attention away from the fundamental
problems confronting them through the
proliferation of banal and sensational consumer
spectacles. Anything else is deemed unmarketable.
But this has not kept E. San Juan, Jr. from continuing to challenge the dominant order and
offering an alternative vision of the world through his writings.
It is precisely this stamp that
cemented San Juan’s standing as a writer of world
renown in the fields of literary criticism,
cultural studies, and poetry. And it is precisely in this way that San Juan inscribes the new into
the shell of the old rotting or
Ambil: Mga Pagsubok, Pahiwatig & Interbensyon
is only San Juan’s latest book of poetry in
Filipino that serves as a means of social critique and the dreaming of a better world. It is a
continuation of a long trajectory from
Kung Ikaw ay Inaapi Bakit H
indi ka Magbalikwas
which was published amidst the dark years of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, up to his newer
volumes of poetry such as
Sapagkat Iniibig Kita
(2004) and
Kundiman sa Gita ng Karimlan
The poems in
do not
only represent the contemporary realities of exploitation
and resistance as content. San Juan’s method of representation

the poetic form itself

in illuminating these realities. Inspired by avant
garde movements from Dadaism, Surrealism, up
to Con
ceptual Art, San Juan seeks, in his own words, “to provoke critical resistance to consumer
culture and the narcotic spectacles saturating the corporate mass media and the public sphere.”
San Juan’s poems in the collection take on the form of distinctive va
riations of
, a Filipino
word which is defined as an “interpretation of a word, phrase or statement different from that
originally intended; pet name; constant repetition of a word or expression for the pleasure of the
sound or for its being a favorit
e expression.”
garde inspired
Taking its cue from its avant
garde conceptual art inspirations,
goes beyond the traditional
concern with traditional formal devices (like sound, rhyme, metaphor, irony, etc.) and instead
trains its attention to
making the circumstances of the poem’s conceptual construction more
discernable to the reader.
The poem “Pagpapasubaling Di Mabali
Bali? Makabagong Litanya,” for example, repeats the
(trans. however) to begin line after line in order to piece
together a litany of facts
that give witness to the seemingly never
ending list of human rights violations by the Philippine
Subalit kamakailan pinatay si Dionisio Garite kasunod ni
Capalla sa Panay
walang imik ang military at rehimen sa karumal
krimeng nangyari
Subalit patuloy pa ang dasal at misa sa memorya ni Cory
Subalit wala pang hustisya ang 13 pinuksa nila sa Mendiola
noong Enero 22, 1987
Juan adroitly places ironic details side by side in order to highlight the absurdity of a social
order wherein fair trade advocates helping the poor are killed by state forces with impunity while
the scions of the Aquino
Cojuangcos, a landlord clan respon
sible for the massacre of poor
peasants calling for land reform are praised to high heaven.
Much of contemporary writing aims this interrogation of the text within the field of language,
discourse, and the play of meanings divorced from any reference outsi
de of the writing itself.
San Juan, however, goes beyond textual surfaces and is much more interested in pointing the
readers to the material realities referred to in the poems

that is, in situating them back to the
real world.
The simple recombination o
f previously created texts instead of creating fresh material is another
method culled by San Juan from the arsenal of avant
garde conceptual art. The ruling order,
crumbling under the weight of its manifold contradictions, is a walking corpse that is mine
d for
texts and other materials that can be used for the recreation of the new.
“Asignatura sa Mga Anarkista (Hinangong ambil mula kay Yoko Ono)” comes in the form of an
instruction manual for the treatment of formalist literary texts and grammatical books
. This text
represents an interesting counterpoint to Jean Luc Godard’s film
La Chinoise
where student
radicals proposed criticizing conservative books as opposed to burning them:
C. Tipunin lahat ng librong nagkukunwaring siyang
pinakamabuting balarila o
gramatika ng wika, pati
lahat ng mga
arte poetika
mula sa
Noceda at Sanlucar hanggang mga turo nina Lope K
Santos at Julian Cruz Balsameda, pati na lahat ng
tulang may tugma’t sukat ayon sa regla ng mga
awtoridad at premyadong pantas.
Ilagay sa isang trak, dalhin sa Payatas, buhusan ng ilang
balde ng gasoline, at sunugin.
“Diskarteng Pag
urirat sa Cogito
Sum ni Descartes” meanwhile plays on the famous
dictum “I think, therefore I am” to playfully tease out how consciousness, in the
last instance,
cannot be the ultimate guarantee of being. Discourse as expressed in the poetic lines abruptly end
when the persona runs out of breath. The material is primary over consciousness:
Tumutol ako’t nakibaka, samakatwid ako ay
Nakulam ako,
samaktwid ako ay
Naghihingalo, samakatwid ako
Humingi ng saklolo, samaktwid
Wala nang hininga, sama ka
Production of the new
San Juan’s utilization of devices inspired by conceptual art is not mere artistic whim. This is not
simply borne out of a desire to
be fashionably novel but a serious attempt to represent
contemporary realities of economic crisis and global disorder in new ways. The new here,
following Fredric Jameson, “is not some unusual object, as in so many avant
garde conceptions
of modernist inn
ovation, but a whole new world of relationships . . . into which writer and reader
alike must penetrate by means of daring exploration, and appropriation.”
This brings us to avant
garde conceptual art’s interrogation of the notion of authorship. While
of contemporary literary theory considers the author as a mere function of the structure of
the text, San Juan hints as to how the text are not only the poet’s or the reader’s but are also
shaped by the social and historical world in which he is situated.
In “Pinakahuling Paalam ng Koro ng mga Taga
Salin ng ‘El Ultimo Pensamiento’ ni Rizal,” for
example, San Juan plays with varying Filipino translations of a line from Jose Rizal’s last poem
before his execution by Spanish colonial authorities in 1896.
s, queridos eres, morir es
is translated differently according to the standpoint, language, formal style of the
purported translator from Andres Bonifacio, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Idelfonso Santos, Felix
Razon, among others:
Mamatay ay siyang pagk
Mamatay ay ganap na katahimikan.
Paalam na, giliw, at pamamahinga tadhana ng mamatay.
Adios, mga iniibig na nilalang, kamatayan ay pagpapahinga lamang.
Conceptual art construes the idea as the machine that generates art. San Juan takes off from
tenet but never fails to refer to the social basis of all consciousness. He engages in playful games
of making the reader participate in the creation of meaning, but not as the end goal but rather as a
step towards making more visible the social reali
ties surrounding the reader.
“Transkripsyon ng Ilang Bytes ng Kompyuter ng NSA, Washington DC, USA” concretely
illustrates the overwhelming scale of the online spying on the global population and the
consequent massive violation of people’s rights to priva
cy perpetrated by the United States
government through its National Security Agency’s Prism Program:
Makibaka ba, huwag matakot? Nilabasan ka ba? Kailan tayo
tutugpa? Sino iyang nakamaskara? Peks man? Sino ang
nagsuplong? Swak na swak ba? Dapat ba nating d
alhin ang
kargada? Mabigat ba o magaan? Sino si Yolanda? Liku
San Juan’s poetry is often labeled as difficult, even incomprehensible to the common reader. His
poetic writing’s affinity with the artistic avant
garde and references to other literary te
philosophical ideas, events, and socio
historical conditions is often cited to prove this branding
on his works. It is hence surprising how at the immediate level surprisingly lucid San Juan’s
poems are. They are often mistaken as daunting only becaus
e they require the reader to think.
In the end, this is poetry that seeks to push the reader away from just submitting to the text
uncritically and be disabused of the illusion of simply being a passive consumer of the poetic
line. San Juan’s poetry shows
us the way in how progressive writing must not only descend to
what is already popular but also to endeavor in the popularization of the new. As the Guatemalan
poet Otto Rene Castillo eloquently st

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University
It has become axiomatic for postmodernist thinkers to condemn the nation and its corollary terms, "nationalism" and "nation-state," as the classic evils of modern industrial society. The nation-state, its reality if not its concept, has become a kind of malignant paradox if not a sinister conundrum. It is often linked to violence and the terror of "ethnic cleansing." Despite this the United Nations and the interstate system still function as seemingly viable institutions of everyday life. How do we explain this development?
Let us review the inventory of charges made against the nation-state. Typically described in normative terms as a vital necessity of modern life, the nation-state has employed violence to accomplish questionable ends. Its disciplinary apparatus is indicted for committing unprecedented barbarism. Examples of disasters brought about by the nation-state are the extermination of indigenous peoples in colonized territories by "civilizing" nations, the Nazi genocidal "holocaust" of Jews, and most recently the "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia, Ruwanda, East Timor, and so on. Echoing Elie Kedourie, Partha Chatterjee, and others, Alfred Cobban (1994) believes that the theory of nationalism has proved one of the most potent agencies of destruction in the modern world. In certain cases, nationalism mobilized by states competing against other states has become synonymous with totalitarianism and fascism. Charles Tilly (1975), Michael Howard (1991), and other historians concur in the the opinion that war and the military machine are principal determinants in the shaping of nation states. . In The Nation-State and Violence, Anthony Giddens defines nationalism as "the cultural sensibility of sovereignty" (note the fusion of culture and politics) that unleashes administrative power within a clearly demarcated territory, "the bounded nation-state" (1985, 219). Although it is allegedly becoming obsolete under the pressure of globalization (for qualifications, see Sassen (1998), the nation-state is considered by "legal modernists" (Berman 1995) as the prime source of violence against citizens and entire peoples.
Postmodernist critiques of the nation (often sutured with the colonialist/imperialist state) locate the evil in its ideological nature. This primarily concerns the nation as the source of identity for modern individuals via citizenship or national belonging, converting natal filiation (kinship) into political affiliation. Identity implies definition by negation, inclusion based on exclusion underwritten by a positivist logic of representation (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991). But these critiques seem to forget that the nation is a creation of the modern capitalist state, that is, a historical artifice or invention.
It is a truism that nation and its corollary problematic, nationalism, presupposes the imperative of hierarchization and asymmetry of power in a political economy of commodity-exchange. Founded on socially constructed myths or traditions, the nation is posited by its proponents as a normal state of affairs used to legitimize the control and domination of one group over others. Such ideology has to be deconstructed and exposed as contingent on the changing grid of social relations. Postcolonial theory claims to expose the artificial and arbitrary nature of the nation: "This myth of nationhood, masked by ideology, perpetuates nationalism, in which specific identifiers are employed to create exclusive and homogeneous conceptions of national traditions" (Ashcroft et al 1998, 150). Such signifiers of homogeneity not only fail to represent the diversity of the actual "nation" but also serves to impose the interests of a section of the community as the general interest. But this is not all. In the effort to make this universalizing intent prevail, the instrumentalities of state power--the military and police, religious and educational institutions, judiciary and legal apparatuses)--are deployed. Hence, from this orthodox postcolonial perspective, the nation-state and its ideology of nationalism are alleged to have become the chief source of violence and conflict since the French Revolution.
Mainstream social science regards violence as a species of force which violates, breaks, or destroys a normative state of affairs. It is coercion tout court. Violence is often used to designate power devoid of legitimacy or legally sanctioned authority. Should violence as an expression of physical force always be justified by political reason in order to be meaningful and therefore acceptable? If such a force is used by a state, an inherited political organ legitimized by "the people" or "the nation," should we not distinguish between state-defined purposes and in what specific way nationalism or nation-making identity is involved in those state actions? State violence and assertion of national identity need not be automatically conflated so as to implicate nationalism--whose nationalism?-- in all class/state actions in every historical period, for such a move would be an absolutist censure of violence bereft of intentionality--in order words, violence construed as merely physical force akin to tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and so on.
Violence, in my view, signifies a political force that demands dialectical triangulation in order to grasp how nation and state are implicated in it. A historical-materialist historicization of this phenomenon is needed to determine the complicity of individual states and nations in specific outbreaks of violence. But postcolonialists like Homi Bhabha (1990) resort to a questionable use of the discursive performativity of language to ascribe a semiotic indeterminacy to the nation, reducing to a formula of hybridity and liminality the multifarious narratives of nations/peoples. History is reduced to the ambiguities of culture and the play of textualities, ruling out critique and political intervention.
In this light, what makes the postcolonialist argument flawed becomes clear in the fallacies of its non-sequitur reasoning. It is perhaps easy to expose the contingent nature of the nation once its historical condition of possibility is pointed out. But it is more difficult to contend that once its socially contrived scaffolding is revealed, then the nation-state and its capacity to mobilize and apply the means of violence can be restricted if not curtailed.
We can pose this question at this point: Can one seriously claim that once the British state is shown to rest on the myth of the Magna Carta or the United States government on the covenant of the Founding Fathers to uphold the interests of every citizen--except of course African slaves and other non-white peoples, then one has undermined the power of the British or American nation-state? Not that this is an otiose and naive task. Debunking has been the classic move of those protesting against an unjust status quo purporting to be the permanent and transcendental condition for everyone.
But the weapon of criticism, as Marx once said, needs to be reinforced by the principled criticism of weapons. If we want to guard against committing the same absolutism or essentialism of the imperial nationalists, we need a historicizing strategy of ascertaining how force--the energy of social collectivities--turns into violence for the creation or destruction of social orders and singular life-forms. Understood as embodying "the pathos of an elemental force," the insurrectionary movements of nationalities has been deemed the source of a vital and primordial energy that feeds "the legal Modernist composite of primitivism and experimentalism," a fusion of "radical discontinuity and reciprocal facilitation" (Berman 1995, 238).
The question of the violence of the nation-state thus hinges on the linkage between the two categories, "nation" and "state." A prior distinction perhaps needs to be made between "nation" and "society"; while the former "may be ordered, the [latter] orders itself" (Brown 1986). Most historical accounts remind us that the modern nation-state has a beginning--and consequently, it is often forgotten--and an ending. But the analytic and structural distinction between the referents of nation (local groups, community, domicile or belonging) and state (governance, machinery of sanctioning laws, disciplinary codes, military) is often elided because the force of nationalism is often conflated with the violence of the state apparatuses, an error compounded by ignoring the social classes involved in each sphere. This is the lesson of Marx and Lenin’s necessary discrimination between oppressor and oppressed nations--a nation that oppresses another cannot really claim to be free. Often the symptom of this fundamental error is indexed by the formula of counterpointing the state to civil society, obfuscating the symbiosis and synergy between them. This error may be traced partly to the Hobbesian conflation of state and society in order to regulate the anarchy of the market and of brutish individualism violating civil contracts (Ollman 1993).
It may be useful to recall the metaphysics of the origin of the nation elaborated in Ernest Renan's 1882 lecture, "What is a nation?" This may be considered one of the originary locus of nationalism conceived as a primitivist revolt against the centralized authority of modernizing industrial states. While Renan emphasized a community founded on acts of sacrifice and their memorialization, this focus does not abolish the fact that the rise of the merchant bourgeoisie marked the start of the entrenchment of national boundaries first drawn in the age of monarchical absolutism. The establishment of the market coincided with the introduction of taxation, customs, tariffs, etc. underlined by the assertion of linguistic distinctions among the inhabitants of Europe. M. Polanyi's thesis of The Great Transformation (1957) urges us to attend to the complexities in the evolution of the nation-state in the world system of commodity exchange. We also need to attend to Ernest Gellner’s (1983) argument that cultural and linguistic homogeneity has served from the outset as a functional imperative for states administering a commodity-centered economy and its class-determining division of social labor.
Postcolonialists subscribe to a post-structuralist hermeneutic of nationalism as a primordial destabilizing force devoid of rationality. And so while the formation of the nation-state in the centuries of profound social upheavals did not follow an undisturbed linear trajectory--we have only to remember the untypical origins of the German and Italian nation-states, not to speak of the national formations of Greece, Turkey, and the colonized peoples–that is not enough reason to ascribe an intrinsic instability and belligerency to the nation as such. States may rise and fall, as the absolute monarchs and dynasties did, but sentiments and practices constituting the nation follow another rhythm or temporality not easily dissolved into the vicissitudes of the modern expansive state. Nor does this mean that nations, whether in the North or the South, exert a stabilizing and conservative influence on social movements working for radical changes in the distribution of power and resources.
In pursuing a historical analysis of violence, we need to avoid collapsing the distinction between the concept of the "nation-state" and "nationalism." Whence originates the will to exclude, to dominate? According to Anthony Giddens, "what makes the ‘nation’ integral to the nation-state…is not the existence of sentiments of nationalism but the unification of an administrative apparatus over precisely defined territorial boundaries in a complex of other nation-states" (1987, 172). That is why the rise of nation-states coincided with wars and the establishment of the military bureaucratic machine. In this construal, the state refers to the political institution with centralized authority and monopoly of coercive agencies coeval with the rise of global capitalism, while nationalism denotes the diverse configuration of peoples based on the commonality of symbols, beliefs, traditions, and so on.
In addition, we need to guard against confusing historical periods and categories. Imagining the nation unified on the basis of secular citizenship and self-representation, as Benedict Anderson (1991) has shown, was only possible when print capitalism arose in conjunction with the expansive state. But that in turn was possible when the trading bourgeoisie developed the means of communication under pressure of competition and hegemonic exigencies. Moreover, the dissemination of the Bible in different vernaculars did not translate into a monopoly of violence by the national churches. It is obvious that the sense of national belonging, whether based on clan or tribal customs, language, religion, etc., certainly has a historical origin and localizing motivation different from the emergence of the capitalist state as an agency to rally the populace to serve the needs of the commercial class and the goal of accumulation.
Given the rejection of a materialist analysis of the contradictions in any social formation, postcolonial critics in particular find themselves utterly at a loss in making coherent sense when dealing with nationalism. Representations of the historicity of the nation in the modern period give way to a Nietzschean will to invent reality as polysemic discourse, a product of enunciatory and performative acts. Postcolonialism resorts to a pluralist if not equivocating stance. It sees nationalism as "an extremely contentious site" in which notions of self-determination and identity collide with notions of domination and exclusion. Such oppositions, however, prove unmanageable indeed if a mechanical idealist perspective is employed. Such a view in fact leads to an irresolvable muddle in which nation-states as instruments for the extraction of surplus value (profit) and "free" exchange of commodities also become violent agencies preventing "free" action in a global marketplace that crosses national boundaries. Averse to empirical grounding, postcolonialism regards nationalist ideology as the cause of individual and state competition for goods and resources in the "free market," with this market conceived as a creation of ideology. I cite one postcolonial authority that attributes violence to the nation-state on one hand and liberal disposition to the nation on the other:

The complex and powerful operation of the idea of a nation can be seen also in the great twentieth-century phenomenon of global capitalism, where the "free market" between nations, epitomized in the emergence of multinational companies, maintains a complex, problematic relationship with the idea of nations as natural and immutable formations based on shared collective values. Modern nations such as the United States, with their multi-ethnic composition, require the acceptance of an overarching national ideology (in pluribus unum). But global capitalism also requires that the individual be free to act in an economic realm that crosses and nullifies these boundaries and identities (Ashcroft et al, 1998, 151).
It is misleading and foolish then to label the slogan "one in many" as the U.S. national ideology. Officially the consensual ideology of the U.S. is neoliberal pluralism, or possessive individualism with a pragmatic orientation. Utilitarian doctrine underwrites an acquisitive, entrepreneurial individualism that fits perfectly with mass consumerism and the gospel of the unregulated market. It is within this framework that we can comprehend how the ruling bourgeoisie of each sovereign state utilizes nationalist sentiment and the violence of the state apparatuses to impose their will. Consequently, the belief that the nation-state simultaneously prohibits economic freedom and promotes multinational companies actually occludes the source of political and juridical violence--for example, the war against Serbia by the NATO (an expedient coalition of nation-states led by the United States), or the stigmatization of rogue and "terrorist" states (North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) by the normative standards of hegemonic capitalism. The source of political violence--and I am speaking of that kind where collective energy and intentionality are involved--is the competitive drive for accumulation in the world market system where the propertied class is the key actor mobilizing its symbolic capital made up of ethnic loyalties and nationalist imaginaries.
We have now moved from the formalistic definition of the nation as a historic construct to the nation as a character in the narrative of capitalist development and colonialism. What role this protagonist has played and will play is now the topic of controversy. It is not enough to simply ascribe to the trading or commercial class the shaping of a new political form, the nation, to replace city states, leagues, municipal kingdoms, and oligarchic republics. Why such "imagined communities" should serve as a more efficacious political instrument for the hegemonic bloc of property-owners, is the question.
One approach to this question is to apply dialectical analysis to the materialist anatomy of the nation sketched thus far. Historians have described the crafting of state power for the new bourgeoisie nations in Enlightenment philosophy. Earlier Jean Bodin and Hugo Grotius theorized the sovereignty of the nation as the pivot of centralized authority and coercive power (Bowle 1947). The French Revolution posited the "people," the universal rights of man, as the foundation of legitimacy for the state; the people as nation, a historical act of constituting the polity, gradually acquires libidinal investment enough to inspire movements of anticolonial liberation across national boundaries. Its influence on the U.S. Constitution as well as on personalities like Sun Yat-Sen, Jose Rizal, and other "third world" radical democrats has given the principle of popular sovereignty a "transnational" if not universal status (on Filipino nationalism, see San Juan 2000a). Within the system of nation-states, for Marxists, "recognition of national rights is an essential condition for international solidarity" (Lowy 1998, 59) in the worldwide fight for socialism and communism.
Now this universal principle of people's rights is generally considered to be the basis of state power for the modern nation, "the empowerment, through this bureaucracy, of the interests of the state conceived as an abstraction rather than as a personal fiefdom" (Ashcroft et al 1998, 153). A serious mistake occurs when the nation and its legitimating principle of popular sovereignty becomes confused with the state bureaucracy construed either as an organ transcending the interest of any single class, or as the "executive committee" of the bourgeoisie. A mechanical, not dialectical, method underlies this failure to connect the ideology, politics, and economics of the bourgeois revolution. This quasi-Hegelian interpretation posits the popular will of the post-Renaissance nation-states as the motor of world expansion, of 19th-century colonialism. Instead of the substance of the "civilizing mission" being informed by the gospel of universal human rights, according to postcolonial orthodoxy, it is the ideology of national glory tied to "the unifying signifiers of language and race" that now impels the colonial enterprise.
So nationalism, the need to superimpose the unifying myths of the imperial nation-state, is not only generated by the bourgeois agenda of controlling and regulating the space of its market, but also by the imperative of seizing markets and resources outside territories and peoples. Nationalism is then interpreted by postcolonial theorists as equivalent to colonialism; the nation is an instrument of imperialist aggrandizement, so that if newly liberated ex-colonies employ nationalist discourse and principles, they will only be replicating the European model whose myths, sentiments, and traditions justified the violent suppression of "internal heterogeneities and differences." The decolonizing nation is thus an oxymoron, a rhetorical if not actual impossibility.
Lacking any historical anchorage, the argument of postcolonial theory generates inconsistencies due to an exorbitant culturalism. Because they disregard the historical genealogy of the nation-state discussed by Gellner, Anderson, Smith (1971), among others, postcolonial critics uphold the sphere of culture as the decisive force in configuring social formations. Not that culture is irrelevant in explaining political antagonisms. Rather, it is erroneous when such antagonisms are translated into nothing but the tensions of cultural differences. The dogma of cultural difference (for Charles Taylor, the need and demand for recognition in a modern politics of identity; more later) becomes then the key to explaining colonialism, racism, and postcolonial society. Ambivalence, hybridity, and interstitial or liminal space become privileged signifiers over against homogenizing symbols and icons whose "authority of cultural synthesis" is the target of attack. Ideology and discursive performances serve as the primary field of analysis over against "localized materialism" and vulgar Marxism.
Violence in postcolonial discourse is thus located in ideas and cultural forces that unify, synthesize or generalize a range of experiences; such forces suppress difference or negate multiple "others" not subsumed within totalities such as nation, class, gender, etc. While some culturalist critics allow for different versions of the historic form of the nation, the reductive dualism of their thinking manifests a distinct bias for a liberal framework of analysis: the choice is either a nation based on an exclusionary myth of national unity centered on abstractions such as race, religion or ethnic singularity; or a nation upholding plurality and multiculturalism (for example, Canada or the United States). This fashionable vogue of pluralism and culturalism has already been proved inutile in confronting inequalities of class, gender, and "race." Moreover, it cannot explain the appeal of nationalism as a means of reconciling the antagonistic needs for order and for autonomy (Smith 1979) in the face of mechanistic bureaucratism and the anarchic market of atomized consumers.
The most flagrant evidence of the constrained parameters of this culturalist diagnosis of nation/nationalism may be found in its construal of racist ideology as "the construction and naturalization of an unequal form of intercultural relations" (Ashcroft et al 1998, 46). If racism occurs only or chiefly on the level of "intercultural relations," from this constricted optic, the other parts of a given social formation (political, economic) become superfluous and marginal. Politics is then reduced to an epiphenomenal manifestation of discourse and language-games.
A virtuoso application of a culturalist contextualism may be illustrated by the legal scholar Rosemary Coombe who defends the right of the Canadian First Nations to claim "ownership" rights to certain cultural property. Coombe correctly rejects the standard procedure of universalizing the Lockean concept of property and its rationale, possessive individualism, which underlies the Western idea of authorship and authentic artefacts. She writes: "By representing cultures in the image of the undivided possessive individual, we obscure people’s historical agency and transformations, their internal differences, the productivity of intercultural contact, and the ability of peoples to culturally express their position in a wider world" (1995, 264). Although Coombe calls attention to structures of power and the systemic legacies of exclusion, the call remains abstract and consequently trivializing. Above all, it obscures the reality and effect of material inequities. The postmodernist leitmotif of domination and exclusion mystifies the operations of corporate capitalism and its current political suppression of the indigenous struggles for self-determination. Coombe ignores precisely those "internal differences" and their contradictory motion that give concrete specificity to the experiences of embattled groups such as the First Nations. Here ironically the postmodernist inflection of the nation evokes the strategy of bourgeois nationalism to erase class, gender, and other differences ostensibly in the name of contextual nuances and refined distinctions.
Notwithstanding her partisanship for the oppressed, Coombe condemns "cultural nationalism" as an expression of possessive individualism and its idealist metaphysics. But her method of empiricist contextualism contradicts any emancipatory move by the First Nations at self-determination. It hides the global asymmetry of power, the dynamics of exploitative production relations, and the hierarchy of states in the geopolitical struggle for world hegemony. We have not transcended identity politics and the injustice of cultural appropriation because the strategy of contextualism reproduces the condition for refusing to attack the causes of class exploitation and racial violence. Despite gestures of repudiating domination and exclusion, postmodernist contextualism mimics the moralizing rhetoric of United Nations humanitarianism that cannot, for the present, move beyond reformism since it continues to operate within the framework of the transnational corporate globalized market. Such a framework is never subjected to critical interrogation.
In the fashionable discourse of postmodernists, nation and nationalism are made complicit with the conduct of Western colonialism and imperialism. They become anathema to deconstructionists hostile to any revolutionary project in the "third world" inspired by emancipatory goals. This is the reason why postcolonial critics have a difficult time dealing with Fanon and his engagement with decolonizing violence as a strategic response of subjugated peoples to the inhumane violence of colonial racism and imperial subjugation. Fanon's conceptualization of a national culture is the direct antithesis to any culturalist syndrome, in fact an antidote to it, because he emphasizes the organic integration of cultural action with a systematic program of subverting colonialism: "A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence" (1961, 155). Discourse and power are articulated by Fanon in the dialectics of practice inscribed in the specific historical conditions of their effectivity. Fanon’s universalist-critical theory of national liberation proves itself a true "concrete universal" in that it incorporates via a dialectical sublation the richness of the particulars embodied in the Algerian revolution.
Given his historicizing method, Fanon refuses any demarcation of culture from politics and economics. Liberation is always tied to the question of property relations, the social division of labor, and the process of social reproduction–all these transvalued by the imperative of the revolutionary transformation of colonial relations. Opposed to Fanon's denunciation of "abstract populism," Said and Bhabha fetishize an abstract "people" on liminal, borderline spaces. Such recuperation of colonial hegemony via a "third space" or contrapuntal passage of negotiation reveals the comprador character of postcolonial theories of translation and cultural exchange. Transcultural syncretism devised to abolish the nation substitutes for anti-imperialist revolution a pragmatic modus vivendi of opportunist compromises.
An analogous charge can be levelled at Edward Said's reading of Fanon’s "liberationist" critique. Said locates violence in nationalist movements (unless it is "critical") since they deny the heterogeneity of pre-colonial societies by romanticizing the past. For Said, a liberationist populism is preferable to nativism and the fanatical cult of "minor differences." Said presents us a hypothetical dilemma: "Fanon's] notion was that unless national consciousness at its moment of success was somehow changed into social consciousness, the future would not hold liberation but an extension of imperialism" (1993, 323). Said thus posits a spurious antithesis between the project of national self-determination and a vague notion of social liberation. For Said, nationalism is always a tool of the hegemonic oppressor and holds no socially emancipatory potential. Said's answer evacuates Fanon's popular-democratic nationalism of all social content, postulating an entirely abstract divide between a nationalist program and a socially radical one. For Said, the violence of anticolonial movements becomes symptomatic of a profound colonial malaise.
National liberation and social justice via class struggle are interdependent. As Leopoldo Marmora observes, "While classes, in order to become predominant, have to constitute themselves as national classes, the nation arises from class struggle" (1984, 113). The popular-democratic aspiration for self-determination contains both national and social dimensions. In "On Violence," Fanon invoked the ideal of decolonizing freedom as the legitimizing rationale of mass popular revolution. It is force deployed to accomplish the political agenda of overthrowing colonial domination and bourgeois property relations. Violence here becomes intelligible as an expression of subaltern agency and its creative potential. Its meaning is crystallized in the will of the collective agent, in the movement of seizing the historical moment to realize the human potential (Lukacs 2000). If rights are violated and the violence of the violator (for example, the state) held responsible, can the concept of rights be associated with peoples and their national identities? Or is the authority of the state to exercise violence derived from the nation/people? Here we need to ascertain the distinction between the state as an instrument of class interest and the nation/people as the matrix of sovereignty. The authority of the state as regulative juridical organ and administrative apparatus with a monopoly of coercive force derives from its historical origin in enforcing bourgeois rights of freedom and equality against the absolutist monarchy. National identity is used by the state to legitimize its actions within a delimited territory, to insure mobilization and coordination of policy (Held 1992). Formally structured as a Rechststaat, the bourgeois nation-state functions to insure the self-reproduction of capital through market forces and the continuous commodification of labor power (Jessop 1982). Fanon understands that national liberation challenges the global conditions guaranteeing valorization and realization of capital, conditions in which the internationalization and nationalization of the circuits of capital are enforced by hegemonic nation-states.
We are thus faced with the notion of structural violence attached to the bourgeois state as opposed to the intentionalist mode of violence as an expression of subject/agency such as the collectivity of the people. Violence is thus inscribed in the dialectic of identity and Otherness, with the bourgeois state’s coherence depending on the subordination (if not consent) of workers and other subalterns.
We can resolve the initial paradox of the nation, a Janus-faced phenomenon (Nairn 1977), by considering the following historical background. The idea of state-initiated violence (as opposed to communal ethnic-motivated violence) performs a heuristic role in the task of historicizing any existing state authority and questioning the peaceful normalcy of the status quo. The prevailing social order is then exposed as artificial and contingent; what is deemed normal or natural reveals itself as an instrument of partial interests. But the relative permanence of certain institutional bodies and their effects need to be acknowledged in calculating political strategies. The long duration of collective and individual memories exerts its influence through the mediation of what Pierre Bourdieu calls "habitus" (1993). We begin to understand that the state's hierarchical structure is made possible because of the institutionalized violence that privileges the hegemony (moral and intellectual leadership crafted via negotiating compromises) of a bloc of classes over competing blocs and their alternative programs. Hegemony is always underwritten by coercion (open or covert, subtle or crude) in varying proportions and contingencies. The demarcated territory claimed by a state in rivalry with other states becomes for Max Weber one major pretext for the state monopoly of legitimate violence in order to defend private property and promote the overseas interests of the domestic business class (Krader 1968).
Georges Sorel argued for the demystificatory use of violence in his Reflections on Violence (1908; 1972). Sorel believed that the only way to expose the illusion of a peaceful and just bourgeois order is to propagate the myth of the general strike. Through strategic, organized violence, the proletariat is bound to succeed in releasing vast social energies hitherto repressed and directing them to the project of radical social transformation. This is still confined within the boundaries of the national entity. Open violence or war purges the body politic of hatred, prejudice, deceptions, and so on. Proletarian violence destroys bourgeois mystification and the nationalist ethos affiliated with it. Sorel's syndicalist politics of violence tries to convert force as a means to a political and social end, the process of the general strike. This politics of organized mass violence appeals to a utopian vision that displaces the means-ends rationality of bourgeois society in the fusion of force with pleasure realizable in a just, egalitarian order.
The classical Marxist view of violence rejects the mechanical calculation of means-ends that undermines the logic of Blanquist and Sorelian conceptions of social change. Marx disavowed utopian socialism in favor of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie through a combination of violent and peaceful means. Instrumentalism is subordinated to a narrative of emancipation from class bondage. The objective of emancipating labor associated with the laboring nation/people requires the exposure of commodity-fetishism and the ideology of equal exchange of values in the market. Reification and alienation in social relations account for the bourgeois state’s ascendancy. Where the state bureaucracy supporting the bourgeoisie and the standing army do not dominate the state apparatus completely (a rare case) or has been weakened, as in the case of the monarchy and the Russian bourgeoisie at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the working class might attain their goal of class liberation by peaceful means; but in most cases,"the lever of the revolution will have to be force" harnessed by the masses unified by class consciousness and popular solidarity.
Based on their historical investigations, Marx and Engels understood the role of violence as the midwife in the birth of a new social order within the old framework of the nation-state. In his later years Engels speculated that with the changes in the ideological situation of the classes in any national territory, "a real victory of an insurrection over the military in street fighting is one of the rarest exceptions." In an unusual historic conjuncture, however, the Bolshevik revolution mobilized mass strikes and thus disproved Engels. Nevertheless, Marx’s "analytical universality," to use John Dunn’s (1979, 78) phrase, remains valid in deploying the concept of totality to comprehend the nexus of state, class and nation. We can rehearse here the issues that need to be examined from the viewpoint of totality: Was Lenin's "dictatorship of the proletariat" an imposition of state violence, or the coercive rule of the people against the class enemy? If it is an instrumental means of the new proletarian state, did it implicate the nation? Is violence here both structured into the state system of apparatuses and inscribed in the collective agency of the working masses cognized as the nation? Is the political authority invoked by the proletarian state embodied in the class interest of all those exploited by capital (in both periphery and center) ascendant over all? Marxists critical of the Leninist interpretation denounce the use of state violence as an anarchist deviation, an arbitrary application of force. They affirm instead the law-governed historical process that will inevitably transform capitalism into socialism, whatever the subjective intentions of the political protagonists involved. Such fatalism, however, rules out the intervention of a class-for-itself freed from ideological blinders and uniting all the oppressed with its moral-intellectual leadership, the cardinal axiom of socialist revolution.
Rationalist thinkers for their part reject violence as an end in itself while accepting the force of the market as normal and natural. This is epitomized by legal thinkers who contend that primordial nationalist claims should be regulated by autonomous international law, "the domain of the metajuridique" (Berman 1995). By identifying nationalism as a primitive elemental force outside the jurisdiction of positive law, the modernist legal scholar is alleged to be receptive to its experimental creativity so that new legal techniques are devised to regulate the destabilization of Europe--and, for that matter, its colonial empires--by "separatist nationalisms." The aim is to pacify the subalterns and oppressed classes by juridical and culturalist prophylactic.
As I have noted above in dealing with Fanon’s work, the nature of violence in the process of decolonization cannot be grasped by such dualistic metaphysics epitomized in the binarism of passion-versus-law. What is needed is the application of a historical materialist critique to the complex problem of national self-determination. Marxists like Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, despite their differences, stress the combination of knowledge and practice in analyzing the balance of political forces. They contend that class struggle is a form of knowledge/action, the civil war of political groups, which can synthesize wars of position (legal, peaceful reforms) and the war of maneuver (organized frontal assault by armed masses, to use Gramsci's terminology) in the transformation of social relations in any particular nation. Violence itself can become a creative force insofar as it reveals the class bias of the bourgeois/colonial state and serves to accelerate the emergence of class consciousness and organized popular solidarity. Insofar as the force of nation/national identity distracts and prohibits the development of class consciousness, then it becomes useless for socialist transformation. In colonized societies, however, nationalism coincides with the converging class consciousness of workers, peasants, and the masses of subjugated natives that constitute the political force par excellence in harnessing violence for emancipatory goals.
From the historical-materialist perspective then, violence cannot be identified with the nation or nation-state per se under all circumstances. We need to distinguish between the two positions--the postmodern one of indiscriminate attack on all totalities (such as class, nation, etc.) premised on a syllogistic Kantian means-ends rationality, and the historical-materialist one where means/ends are dialectically calibrated in historically inventive modalities--so as to illuminate the problem of violence in this new millennium. The impasse between these two positions reflects the relation of unceasing antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the nationalities they exploit in the world system of commodity-exchange and accumulation.
On another level, the impasse may be viewed as a theoretical crux. It signifies the antinomy between agency and structure, the intentionalist-nominalist pragmatism of liberals and the structuralist views of historical materialists. The former looks at the nation as always implicated in the state while the latter considers the nation as historically separate and contingent on the vicissitudes of the class warfare. One way of trying to elucidate this contradiction is by examining Walter Benjamin's argument in "Critique of Violence" (1978).
Taking Sorel as one point of departure, Benjamin considers the use of violence as a means for establishing governance. Law is opposed to divine violence grasped as fate and the providential reign of justice. Bound up with violence, law is cognized as power, a power considered as a means of establishing order within a national boundary. The abolition of state power is the aim of revolutionary violence which operates beyond the reach of law-making force, an aspiration for justice that would spell the end of class society. Proletarian revolution resolves the means-ends instrumentalism of bourgeois politics. Violence becomes problematic when fate/justice, once deemed providential, eludes our grasp with the Babel of differences blocking communication and also aggrandizing particularisms found below the level of the nation-form and its international, not to say cosmopolitan, possibilities.
Violence is only physical force divorced from its juridical potency. Benjamin's thesis may be more unequivocal than the academically fashionable Foucauldian view of subsuming violence in power relations. It takes a more scrupulous appraisal of the sectarian limitations as well as empowering possibilities of violence in the context of class antagonisms. While the issue of nationalist violence is not explicitly addressed in his essay, Benjamin seeks to explore the function of violence as a creator and preserver of law, a factor intricately involved in the substance of normative processes. Benjamin writes: "Lawmaking is powermaking, and, to that extent, an immediate manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine end making, power the principle of all mythical lawmaking" (1978, 295). Lawmaking mythical violence can be contested only by divine power, which today, according to Benjamin, is manifested in "educative power, which in its perfected form stands outside the law." Benjamin is not entirely clear about this "educative power," but I think it can only designate the influence of the family and other agencies in civil society not regulated by the traditional state apparatuses. In another sense, Benjamin alludes to "the proper sphere of understanding, language," which makes possible the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Since language is intimately linked with the national community, national consciousness contradicts the disruptive effects of violence in its capacity to resolve antagonisms.
Benjamin goes on to investigate violence embodied in the state (as contradistinguished from the national community) through a process of demystification. Critique begins by disclosing the idea of its development, its trajectory of ruptures and mutations, which in turn exposes the fact that all social contract depends on a lie, on fiction. "Justice, the criterion of ends," supersedes legality, "the criterion of means." Justice is the reign of communication which, because it excludes lying, excludes violence. In effect, violence is the mediation that enables state power to prevail. It cannot be eliminated by counter-violence that simply inverts it. Only the educative power of language, communication associated with the national collectivity, can do away with the need to lie. But since the social contract displaces justice as the end of life with legality connected with the state, and law is required as an instrument to enforce the contract, violence continues to be a recurrent phenomenon in a commodity-centered society.
Benjamin is silent about the nation and the efficacy of popular sovereignty in this text. His realism seeks to clarify the historic collusion between law, violence, and the state. He wants to resolve the philosophical dualism of means and ends that has bedevilled liberal rationalism and its inheritors, pragmatism and assorted postmodernist nominalisms. His realism strives to subordinate the instrumentality of violence to law, but eventually he dismisses law as incapable of realizing justice. But we may ask: how can justice--the quest for identity without exclusion/inclusion, without alterity--be achieved in history if it becomes some kind of intervention by a transcendent power into the secular domain of class struggle? How can justice be attained as an ideal effect of communication? Perhaps through language as mediated in the nation-form, in the web of discourse configuring the nation as a community of speakers (San Juan 2000b), the nation as the performance of groups unified under the aegis of struggle against oppression and exploitation?
Benjamin’s speculation on the reconciling charisma of language seems utopian in the pejorative sense. Peoples speaking the same language (e.g., Northern Ireland, Colombia, North and South Korea) continue to be locked in internecine conflict. If violence is inescapable in the present milieu of reification and commodity-fetishism, how can we use it to promote dialogue and enhance the resources of the oppressed for liberation? In a seminal essay on "Nationalism and Modernity," Charles Taylor underscores the modernity of nationalism in opposition to those who condemn it as atavistic tribalism or a regression to primordial barbarism. In the context of modernization, Taylor resituates violence in the framework of the struggle for recognition–nationalism "as a call to difference,…lived in the register of threatened dignity, and constructing a new, categorical identity as the bearer of that dignity" (1999, 240).
What needs to be stressed here is the philosophical underpinning of the struggle for recognition and recovery of dignity. It invokes clearly the Hegelian paradigm of the relation between lord and bondsman in The Phenomenology of Mind. In this struggle, the possibility of violence mediates the individual’s discovery of his finite and limited existence, his vulnerability, and his need for community. Piotr Hoffman’s gloss underlines the Hegelian motif of freedom as risk: "Violence …is the necessary condition of my emergence as a universal, communal being…for I can find common ground with the other only insofar as both of us can endure the mortal danger of the struggle and can thus think independently of a blind attachment to our particular selves" (1989, 145). Since the nation evokes sacrifice, the warrior’s death on the battlefield, honor, self-transcendence, destiny, the state seeks to mobilize such nation-centered feelings and emotions to legitimize itself as a wider, more inclusive, and less artificial reality to attain its own accumulative goals. Weber reminds us: "For the state is the highest power organization on earth, it has power over life and death…. A mistake comes in, however, when one speaks of the state alone and not of the nation" (quoted in Poggi 1978, 101).
The nationalist struggle for recognition and the violence of anticolonial revolutions thus acquire a substantial complexity in the context of modernity, the fact of uneven development, and the vicissitudes of capitalist crisis. In any case, whatever the moral puzzles entailed by the plural genealogies of the nation-state, it is clear that a dogmatic pacifism is no answer to an effective comprehension of the real world and purposeful intervention in it. Given the continued existence of nation-states amidst the increasing power of transnational corporations in a geopolitical arena of sharpening rivalry, can we choose between a "just" and an "unjust" war when nuclear weapons that can destroy the whole planet are involved? Violence on such a scale obviously requires the dialectical transcendence of the system of nation-states in the interest of planetary justice and survival.
Overall, the question of violence cannot be answered within the framework of the Realpolitik of the past but only within the framework of nation-states living in mutual reciprocity. Causality, however, has to be ascertained and responsibility assigned even if the nation is construed as "an interpretive construct" (Arnason 1990, 230). My view is that the hegemonic bloc of classes using the capitalist state machinery is the crux of the problem. If nations have been manipulated by states dominated by possessive/acquisitive classes that have undertaken and continue to undertake colonial and imperial conquests, then the future of humanity and all living organisms on earth can be insured only by eliminating those classes that are the origin of state violence. The nation-form can then be reconstituted and transcended to insure that it will not generate reasons or opportunities for state-violence to recur. That will be the challenge for future revolutionaries.
Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. Verso: London.
Arnason, Johann. 1990. "Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity." In Global Culture. Ed. Mike Featherstone. London: Sage Publications.
Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. 1998. Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. New York: Routledge.
Balibar, Etienne and Immanuel Wallerstein. 1991. Race, Nation, Class. London Verso.
Benjamin, Walter. 1978. Reflections. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Berman, Nathaniel. 1995. "Modernism, Nationalism and the Rhetoric of Reconstruction." In After Identity. New York: Routledge.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press.
Bowle, John. 1947. Western Political Thought. London: Methuen.
Brown, Michael. 1986. The Production of Society. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.
Coombe, Rosemary. 1995. "The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity: Native Claims in the Cultural Appropriation Controversy." In After Identity. Ed. Dan Danielsen and Karen Engle. New York: Routledge.
Dunn, John. 1979. Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fanon, Frantz. 1961. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.
Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Giddens, Anthony. 1985. The Nation-State and Violence. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
---. 1987. Social Theory and Modern Society. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Held, David. 1992. "The Development of the Modern State." In Formations of Modernity. Ed. Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Hoffman, Piotr. 1989. Violence in Modern Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Howard, Michael. 1991. The Lessons of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jessop, Bob. 1982. The Capitalist State.
Krader, Lawrence. 1968. Formation of the State. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Lukacs, Georg. 2000. In Defense of History and Class Consciousness. London: Verso.
Marmora, Leopoldo. 1984. "Is There a Marxist Theory of Nation?" In Rethinking Marx. Ed. Sakari Hanninen and Leena Paldan. New York: International General.
Ollman, Bertell. 1993. Dialectical Investigations. New York: Routledge.
Poggi, Gianfranco. 1978. The Development of the Modern State. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Polanyi, Karl. 1957. The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press.
Said, Edward. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto & Windus.
San Juan, E. 2000a. After Postcolonialism. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
-----. 2000b. "Bakhtin: Uttering the ‘(Into)nation of the Nation/People." In Bakhtin and the Nation. Ed. San Diego Bakhtin Circle. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.
Sassen, Saskia. 1998. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: The New Press.
Smith, Anthony. 1971. Theories of Nationalism. New York: Harper.
-----. 1979. Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York University Press.
Sorel, Georges. 1906 (1972). Reflections on Violence. New York: Macmillan.
Taylor, Charles. 1999. "Nationalism and Modernity." In Theorizing Nationalism. Ed. Ronald Beiner. New York: SUNY Press.
Tilly, Charles. 1975. "Western State-Making and Theories of Political Transformation." In The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Ed. Charles Tilly. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Monday, November 17, 2014

BENEDICT SPINOZA: The Body, Race, Freedom

Spinoza and the War of Racial Terrorism

E. San Juan, Jr.

A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is a meditation on life, not on death…. If men were born free, they would form no concept of good and evil so long as they remained free. — Benedict de Spinoza
Well, my view is very prejudiced and personal, I’m afraid. I’ve no religion. I was born a Jew, but I’m an atheist. I believe we are totally responsible for ourselves.— Nadine Gordimer [Response to a question about a "clash of religions" behind the Sept. 11 attack]

Disrupting the brief multiculturalist interregnum in the North between the fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11, 2001, the current war on terrorism has exposed the roots of the irreversible crisis of global capitalism. Ploughshares have been re-shaped into swords. U.S. "national security" agenda fuels a more aggressive intervention against perceived enemies, a "humanitarian" crusade legitimized by the rationale of the "clash of civilizations" and a politics of invidious cultural difference. Resurgent nationalism everywhere targets immigrants and non-western aliens who threaten free-market operations. Liberal racism, covertly if not openly based on white supremacy, has refurbished the old Manichean ideology of the benevolent "Free World" and the demonized "terrorists" reminiscent of Cold War triumphalism, a symptom of the bourgeoisie’s world-historic decline.
Let us revisit the time when the bourgeoisie as a historic class, though soaked in the blood and sweat of slaves and colonized peasants, still harbored the seeds of future progress and liberation. The seventeenth-century thinker Benedict de Spinoza easily comes to mind, universally celebrated as the prophet of free thought and reasoned dissent. In the frenzy of military irrationalism, Spinoza’s philosophy of freedom can be redeployed as an intellectual weapon for the victims of imperial power, a resource of hope against nihilism and fatalistic commodification. Spinoza’s principle of the inalienability of human rights can renew the impulse for reaffirming the ideal of radical, popular democracy and the self-determination of communities and nations. Defined by conatus, the principle which impels every organism to persevere and strive to increase its effectivity, Spinoza’s free rational subject can become the agency for social liberation. His ideas and historic example may help clarify and resolve the predicament of Asian Americans and, by extension, all exploited and oppressed peoples long ravaged by institutional racism and predatory capitalism in the metropolitan centers and in the war zones of the borderlands.
In the sedimented chronicle of past class wars, we discover the exemplary combat between critical reason and superstition. Spinoza’s thought fusing mind and nature (deus sive natura) interrupts the postmodernist narrative with its seductive deployment of contingency and difference. Why Spinoza? The quite surprising fascination, at least in academic circles, with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s treatise, Empire (2000), may have reinforced the suspicion that Spinoza is behind (to appropriate Negri’s phrase) this not-so-savage "anomaly." Mistakenly idolized as a mystic, arch heretic and atheist of his time, Spinoza himself continues to be a provocative enigma.
The rehabilitation of this "god-drunk" mystic strikes the genteel crowd as a risky peremptory wager. Empire’s invocation of Spinoza’s philosophy for the goal of cosmopolitical liberation runs through this manifesto of post-revolutionary anarchism. Hardt and Negri ascribes to Spinoza’s intransigent naturalism, its horizon of immanence, the discovery of the omnipresent "creative and prophetic power of the multitude" (2000, 65). This power of singularity realized by "the democracy of the multitude as the absolute form of politics" requires, for Hardt and Negri, no external mediation by any organization or party; the multitude’s constituent power somehow will by itself actualize desire in action in a possible form of direct democracy as the absolute form of government. Spinoza’s critique of modern sovereignty, according to Empire, originates from this primary goal: "the ontological development of the unity of true knowledge and the powerful body along with the absolute construction of singular and collective immanence" (2000, 186). While Spinoza repudiated all teleological speculation, he affirmed the identity of reason and virtue, virtue and blessedness, as the path to freedom.
This fin-de-siecle revival of interest in Spinoza was sparked by French thinkers like Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, who in turn inspired Negri and some American academics to reappropriate this baroque response to Cartesian dualism. Consigned to oblivion is the achievement of formidable Russian scholars led by A.M. Deborin who have celebrated Spinoza as one of the precursors of dialectical materialism (Kline 1952). This "new Spinoza" deviates from the traditional pantheist of European romanticism (idealized by Goethe) and from the complaisant saintly thinker of Bertrand Russell and Lewis Feuer. Feuer’s book Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism (1958) reconfirmed the traditional prestige of Spinoza as the torchbearer of the European Enlightenment, the apostle of ego-centered liberalism, albeit a diehard materialist who formulated certain disturbing propositions about the barbaric masses. We don’t need to recapitulate this well-trodden path. My interest in Spinoza is, for this occasion, limited to what ideas about citizenship and the power of racial/ethnic difference we can extrapolate from his philosophy. Racial supremacy, it seems, has nothing to fear from secularism, monistic naturalism, immanence, nor from the multitudes who are for now its chief support. Does Spinoza have anything to say to people of color besieged by the resurgence of neoconservative, more precisely neoManichean, nationalism consonant with the rise of a racializing program of free-market civilization? Can Spinoza be counted with the party of order or with the guerillas of liberation?
Given Spinoza’s reputation as a radical democrat, for some even an anarchist-libertarian, I am particularly intrigued by the way he has been recast as a proponent of conformity to the "common culture" straitjacket. Was Spinoza an assimilationist in spite of himself, a model minority conformist ahead of his time? I have in mind Steven B. Smith’s book Spinoza, Liberalism and the Question of Jewish Identity (1997). Smith enrolls Spinoza into the ranks of the defenders of the status quo based on the erasure of differential particularisms. He imputes to Spinoza the ideology of a "civic ethos" premised on what a later scholar (George Lipsitz) would call "the possessive investment in whiteness":
Spinoza’s solution to the theologico-political problem can be summarized in a single word: assimilation. The assimilation he has in mind does not mean conversion to Christianity or any of the revealed faiths but assimilation to a secular society that is, formally, neither Christian nor Jewish but liberal. The idea of the fides universalis, the common civil faith, seems to embody the liberal idea of the "melting pot," where all the old religious and ethnic particularities of a people are refined in order to produce a new universal human identity. This new identity can trace its beginnings back to the early modern wars of religion and the need to put an end to the continual conflict between the contending sects of Christian Europe. Thus it was not uncommon to find the framers of liberal democracy arguing that allegiance to a common creed was necessary to both ensure civil peace and guarantee religious freedom. The purpose of such a creed was to find a common ground for a shared civic identity while still allowing ample room within which individual and group differences could be given free expression. Inevitably, the kind of culture that came to dominate took on a largely Protestant hue. America may not have been a Christian nation, but it was a nation composed overwhelmingly of Christians, as has been noted by the most astute observer of our civil creed. The image of the melting pot, though in principle open to all, was far from neutral. An amalgam of liberal political institutions and cultural Protestantism virtually defined the uniquely American version of this civic ethos well into this century (1997, 200).
Spinoza the "outsider" has become a zealous booster for the Establishment. Oversimplifying the record drastically, Smith recruits the excommunicated Marrano into the fold of those who condemn "identity politics" for imposing "narrow orthodoxies and conformity." Rejecting the "tyranny of group differences," which allegedly destroys "the values of individual freedom and intellectual independence," Smith ascribes to Spinoza the espousal of "the universalistic norms and principles of the liberal state," more precisely, a civic republicanism which rejects cultural pluralism. Is this plausible?
Two recent biographers—Gullan-Whur (1998) and Nadler (1999)—underscore Spinoza’s intransigent free-thinking. While it is true that during Spinoza’s time, the believer had been transformed into a creditor, it strains credulity to imagine Spinoza insisting on rational-choice theory, or espousing the methodological individualism of Rawls and Rorty. We need to re-establish our historical bearings. This doctrine of a late-capitalist dispensation in crisis cannot surely be ascribed to the bourgeoisie in the stage of primitive accumulation, to the rule of booty merchants whose power derived from the phenomenal harvest of profits in the slave trade. Let us review Spinoza’s fundamental principles of political philosophy to ascertain his true position on the question of identity, power, and representation.
Right Equals Power
One of the most scandalous propositions to have been invented by Spinoza is the equivalence or co-extensiveness of right (jus) and power (potentia). Spinoza conflates right with power: "Every individual has sovereign right to do all that he can; in other words, the rights of an individual extend to the utmost limits of his power as it has been conditioned. Now it is the sovereign law and right of nature that each individual should endeavor to preserve itself as it is…; therefore this sovereign law and right belongs to every individual, namely, to exist and act according to its natural conditions… Whatsoever an individual does by the laws of its nature it has a sovereign right to do, inasmuch as it acts as it was conditioned by nature, and cannot act otherwise…" (Theologico-Political Treatise, afterwards TPT, 1951, 200-01). Moreover, each individual who is "conditioned by nature, so as to live and act in a given way," possesses natural rights as part of nature; nature’s rights "is co-extensive with her power."
While each person acts according to his or her own nature, humans "are liable to emotions which far exceed human power" (Ethics IV37S2), hence conflicts occur. Under the laws of nature, only such things that no one desires and no one can attain are prohibited; otherwise, strife, hatred, anger, deceit and the other effects of passion/desire prevail. Nature is clearly not bounded by human reason which still fails to comprehend "the order and interdependence of nature as a whole." But for the sake of preserving life, and avoiding the misery brought about by fear, hatred, enmity, anger and deceit, humans have judged it best to use reason and resort to mutual aid "if they are to enjoy as a whole the rights which naturally belong to them as individuals." Hence the social covenant—not an originary or foundational myth but an a posteriori effect—whereby the force and desire of individuals are displaced by "the power and will of the whole body," of the state, civitas, imperium. This replaces the multiplicity of desires and its anarchic operation with the dictates of reason so as to prevent "any desire which is injurious to a man’s fellows," and insure that people "defend their neighbor's rights as their own" (TPT XVI; 1951, 200-201).
All human beings are born ignorant and "are not naturally conditioned" to act according to the laws and rules of reason. Based on piety (doing good according to reason) and friendship, Spinoza posits the necessity of solidarity and community: "The principle of seeking what is useful to us teaches us the necessity of uniting with men" (Ethics IV37S1). Humans agree to build a commonwealth for its utility, as dictated by reason. Unlike Hobbes, who assumed that hatred and envy will make life "nasty, brutish and short" and thus we surrender our right of self-defense to a sovereign, Spinoza believed that humans retain their power but authorizes the regime or government to use them in the name of the democratic conatus—the immanent cause of any state (Matheron 1997). By uniting, humans "have jointly more power and consequently more right over nature than each of them separately." Therefore, "the more there be that join in alliance, the more right they will collectively possess" (PT II13; afterwards PT). Mutual aid tempers narrow private egoism. Spinoza’s naturalistic concept of the socius, entails a realistic view that not all are guided by reason, so people can act deceitfully and break promises and agreements unless "restrained by the hope of some greater good, or the fear of some greater evil." When humans authorize the sovereign to use their natural rights (right of self-defense), their powers are also ceded, but this authorization can always be revoked (in contrast to the contractarian theory of Hobbes, Grotius and Rousseau) by the multitude.
Experience shows that "men have never surrendered their right and transferred their power to others so completely that they ceased to be feared by the very rulers who received their right and power, and, although deprived of their natural right, became less dangerous to the state as citizens than its external enemies…" (This may explain why John Walker Lindh, as an example to citizens, is more fearsome than the hundreds of Taliban/Al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo.) The right to rebel against tyrannical and oppressive government can never be outlawed. Whether the individual’s right produces an effect or is of no consequence, depends on the balance of political forces in a condition of precarious and unstable equilibrium (Curley 1996).
In a democratic polity, Spinoza argues, the aim is to bring all under the control of reason to insure peace and harmony. Obedience to rational commands does not make individuals into slaves if the object of the action is the welfare of the whole people, the common interest; they are made into subjects. In a democratic regime, which Spinoza considers "the most natural and the most consonant with individual liberty," "no one transfers his natural right so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in a state of nature, equals" (1951, 206-07). An effective government exists when the state exercises absolute authority over its citizens, that is, when its right extends as far as its power. In this case, the state enjoys obedience from its subjects who seek to preserve their lives and pursue their personal advantage under the law, which is the rational thing to do; only within this law-governed space can justice or injustice make sense. But no matter how absolute the sovereign, the individual’s natural right remains intact: "In a free state, everyone is permitted to think what he wishes and to say what he thinks."
In the Political Treatise, Spinoza elaborates on the theme that the right of every subject extends as far as his power does under the rule of reason: "Just as in the state of nature the man who is guided by reason is most powerful and most fully possessed of his own right… so also the commonwealth which is based on and directed by reason will be most powerful and most fully possessed of its own right" (III7; 1951, 303). Right is coextensive with power, both subserve the conatus of every individual who seek his/her own good. In striving to persevere and increase one’s capabilities of affecting other bodies, Spinoza observes, "No one will promise to give up the right he has to all things…" and "no one will stand by his promises unless he fears a greater evil or hopes for a greater good." If hope and fear dominate instead of reason, the right/power of each individual is nullified. Assimilation may be one of the greater good, or lesser evil, if the state adopts a policy that everyone should give up her/his cultural particularities in order to be full-fledged citizens. But a commonwealth that relies on civic unity would not demand such a sacrifice, so long as the ethnic subject follows just and fair laws—laws that would not discriminate, or apply exclusiveness and selective bias. Spinoza considered the Netherlands Republic his "homeland" without ceasing to be identified as a "Jew" and to some extent an alien, as Yovel observes (1989, 173).
Empire of Reason
Spinoza’s teaching thus affirms the inviolable singularity of each person within the domain of a civil society ordered according to rational principles. In this setup, right translates into power and the right to self-preservation is made concrete or determinate in "an organized community" or polity. Notions of wrong and right are conceivable only within the polity. Laws need to enable the practice of justice—giving every person his/her lawful due—and charity; those administering the laws "are bound to show no respect of persons, but to account all men equal, and to defend every man’s right equally, neither envying the rich nor despising the poor." Spinoza adds that those who follow desire, not reason, and who live by sovereign natural right outside the polity, are still enjoined to practice "love of one’s neighbor, and not do injury to anyone, since all are equally bound to the "divine" command—"divine" here being a shorthand for natural necessity.
Seven years after the anonymous publication of the Theological-Political Treatise in 1670, and the killing of Spinoza’s patron, Johan de Witt, by a politically motivated mob, Spinoza reaffirms his equation of power with right: "every natural thing has by nature as much right, as it has power to exist and operate." What is notable at this point in Spinoza’s life is his recognition of the power of the masses, the multitude, which determines the general right called "dominion" or sovereignty. Earlier Spinoza stressed the value of mutual help to establish the conditions for the cultivation of the mind and exercise of reason. Now, in the Political Treatise, he envisages "general rights" of the community "to defend the possession of the lands they inhabit and cultivate, to protect themselves, to repel all violence, and to live according to the general judgment of all" (297).
A democratic society materializes, according to Spinoza, "without any violation of natural right" when individuals cede their "power of self-defence" as reason and necessity demand. Reason, that is, the imperative of preserving one’s life and enhancing one’s capabilities, dictates choosing to join others in the civitas and authorize the state to act on our behalf. The state or sovereign can compel men by force and threats, or by deploying an array of incentives and deterrents. Spinoza reminds us that based on historical experience, rulers know that if they imposed irrational commands without "consulting the public good and acting according to the dictates of reason," their tyranny will be short-lived.
Rights thus prove their efficacy through rational collective activities. According to Deleuze, the thrust of Spinozan politics inheres in the "art of organizing encounters" leading to useful and composable relationships or assemblages (Hardt 1993, 110). These assemblages are mediated through "common notions" (Deleuze 1988). The "common notions" or general ideas that Spinoza associates with the interactions of bodies (humans as finite modes) are effective because of the historical conditions that define civil society and its articulation with the state, a pivotal linkage that gives rise to the contradictions in a market-centered system: "Now to achieve these things the powers of each man would hardly be sufficient if men did not help one another. But money has provided a convenient instrument for acquiring all these aids. That is why its image usually occupies the mind of the multitude more than anything else. For they can imagine hardly any species of joy without the accompanying idea of money as its cause (Ethics IV, Appendix 28; Spinoza 1994, 243). What an insight! Spinoza discerned the cash-nexus as the cause of reification and alienated labor long before Marx and Engels anatomized that mysterious object, the commodity, especially the individual’s labor-power.
Collectivities endowed with general rights, not individuals, are the real actors in the ever mutable field of political forces envisaged by Spinoza. They are composed by the interaction and encounter of singular individuals; from this conjuncture springs networks of individuals who have been constituted by past experiences and customary dispositions. Warren Montag points to the historical concreteness of groups: "The conjunctural agreement of complex elements that defines the specific ‘character’ or complexion of an individual (Spinoza emphasizes the Latin term ingenium) is found on a larger scale in the collective forms of human existence: couples, masses, nations all have a specific ingenium that makes them what they are and no other" (1999, 69). What defines the character of a people (ingenio gentis) are those specific historical features that distinguish them relative to others: language, religion, customs, etc. Nature comprehends this variety of embodied rights/powers exemplified, for example, in national-liberation movements discussed in Part Two of this book.
Sovereignty, or the power/right of the state to command, is measured by the power not of each individual but of the multitude in its various forms, among them, ethnic groups, racialized peoples, indigenous communities. These groups cannot simply be dissolved or liquidated in the "melting pot" of liberal pluralism, as official additive multiculturalism would have it, without risks of dissension and revolt. If the chief purpose of the state is freedom—principally, freedom of thought and its expression—which enables the formulation of a common will and the definition of the common good among citizens, then every group—while ceding its natural right (that is, power) to the state—needs to be recognized and treated as a distinct entity with its peculiar customs, rituals, traditions, aspirations, and so on.
Without the heterogeneity of singular subjects in constant exchange and communication, as the Ethics urges, the ideal of freedom as augmented power of the mind and body cannot be achieved: "Whatever so disposes the human body that it can be affected in a great many ways, or renders it capable of affecting external bodies in a great many ways, is useful to man; the more it renders the body capable of being affected in a great many ways, or of affecting other bodies, the more useful it is; on the other hand, what renders the body less capable of these things is harmful" (IV, P38). The richer these social exchanges and contacts, the greater the power of the mind to comprehend the order of nature through adequate ideas. Since the mind’s aptitude increases in proportion to the number of ways in which the body can be disposed, the thinking body graduates to the universal plane when it becomes an active link in the endless chain of causal relations in the totality of Nature. As E.V. Ilyenkov puts it, "the specific form of the activity of a thinking body consists in universality," the attainment of intuitive knowledge as the rational understanding of the laws of its own actions within the totality of nature (1977, 46, 61).
Politics of Recognition
How then was the dialectic of unitary commonwealth and the plurality of thinking bodies realized in Spinoza’s historical situation?
A good example of how the Jewish community—mainly, exiles and refugees from Portugal—interacted with the Dutch may be cited here. In the beginning, each group regarded each other with suspicion: the European hosts did not formally recognize the Jews as a religious community until 1615 when the States General of the United Provinces allowed residents to practice their religion. Amsterdam forbade public worship. In 1616, the municipal authorities ordered the Jews to avoid criticizing Christianity, refrain from converting Christians to Judaism, and stop having sexual relations with Christian women. Clearly the local Calvinists placed a limit on tolerance. In 1619, however, the city council officially granted the Jews the right to practice their religion, though various restrictions on economic and political rights continued (Nadler 1999, 10-12). Only in 1657, fifty-seven years after Spinoza’s family arrived in Amsterdam and two years after Spinoza himself was banished from the Jewish community, did the Dutch republic grant citizenship to the Jews. They ceased to be foreigners when the sovereignty of the Dutch Republic was finally recognized by Spain, the former colonizer, at the Treaty of Munster in 1648.
A compromise was reached, but there was no assimilation or surrender of group integrity. Though economically prosperous, they remained insecure. No doubt, the behavior of this recently "naturalized" community cannot be understood without taking into account the ascendancy of the conservative faction of the Dutch Reformed Church. The religious leaders had to constantly reassure their Dutch rulers that they were able to safeguard their community and maintain orthodoxy by internal disciplinary measures. Spinoza’s excommunication was thus meant to prove to the Dutch authorities that the Jews, in conformity with the conditions of their settlement, "tolerated no breaches in proper Jewish conduct or doctrine" (Nadler 1999, 150). They enforced voluntary segregation. The lesson Spinoza derived here was clearly not the virtues of liberalism, nor was it the evil of "groupthink" which Smith condemns without qualification.
Over and above geopolitical origin or location, religious belief and practice defined the ethnic particularity of the Jewish community. Spinoza’s family belonged to the group of marranos who fled religious persecution from Spain and Portugal and joined the Sephardim community in Amsterdam which thrived as merchants and brokers in the flourishing foreign commerce from Portugal, Spain, and Brazil. They became relatively wealthy, even though restricted from the retail trade and craft guilds; they were allowed to engage in diamond cutting and polishing, tobacco spinning, silkweaving, and clandestine refining of sugar. Although Jewish merchants could purchase non-transferrable citizenship, that did not entitle them to burgher rights. An Amsterdam ordinance of 1632 stipulated that "Jews be granted citizenship for the sake of trade…" In general, the Jewish community was not isolated or quarantined so that in less than three decades since they arrived, they succeeded in recreating on the banks of the Amstel "the rich, cosmopolitan but distinctly Jewish culture" they left 140 years earlier (Nadler 1999, 26).
Singularity germinated from the confluence and mixture of peoples. It was the influx of Jews from Poland, Sweden, Russia and Germany, survivors of pogroms, that precipitated Spinoza’s rigorous affirmation of "common claims" against eccentric particularisms. The "racial discrimination" against these "children of Jacob" not only for their inferior lineage but more precisely for their menial occupations may have reinforced an equivocation: aliens not welcome to a hitherto foreign enclave. Margaret Gullan-Whur describes a complex realignment of collectivities that, assuming that "mind is the idea of the body," may have registered in Spinoza’s reflection on his own "extension" or placing as a finite mode of Nature:
The work ethic of Jews was well-known: neither ‘Portuguese’ nor ‘German’ had proved criminal or wanted Dutch charity… But their strictures over ritual upset social harmony by inflaming Gentile imaginations… As early as 1616 a rabbi had warned that ‘each may freely follow his own beliefs but may not openly show that he is of a different faith from the inhabitants of the city… While Spinoza’s later writings poignantly addresses the question of racial oppression, it also sternly upholds, on grounds of logical necessity, the Dutch precept that racial and religious differences must not be paraded. Any religious or racial concept that applied only to one section of society could not, by definition, he said, be universally true… (1998, 45)
In TPT, Spinoza emphasized the historical specificity of Mosaic law and its value for defining Jewish nationality as an imaginary construct. But that level of social cohesion based on obedience to rational precept derived from Old Testament revelation should not be confused with a polity or civitas founded on philosophical reason. Reason urges tolerance where pietas or devotion is manifested through deeds rather than profession of dogmas which, if allowed to dictate government policy, only foments religious conflicts and persecution (Hampshire 1961). Hence Spinoza conceived of a rational state as one committed to fostering freedom, where "every man may think what he likes, and say what he thinks." The purpose of the state is "to enable men to exercise their mental and physical powers in safety, and to use their reason freely, and to prevent them from fighting and quarreling through hatred, anger, bad faith, and mutual malice." Consequently, "the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over" (TPT XX). We are reminded of Spinoza’s expulsion from the synagogue, his friendship with dissidents like the Collegiants, the free-thinker Van den Enden, and other liberal-republicans, well as the fate of the radical philosopher Adriaan Koerbagh, arrested by the city authorities for blasphemy at the instigation of the Calvinist consistory and executed (Nadler 1999, 170).
We now confront the problem of citizenship and historical belonging. If Spinoza upholds the rationality of the state as coinciding with its devotion to freedom, does this freedom to think and speak arise from consensus, from adherence to a "common culture"? In short, does the giving up of one’s rights—not all--preclude the recognition of one’s identity as different? Is the government or state justified in using its power to make everyone conform to a monolithic standard of values, a majoritarian ideology? Den Uyl argues that Spinoza does not use the language of individual rights when he expounds on the political value of reason, for what is involved in the establishment of a free state is a desirable communal order, norms of community action, that would prove useful in promoting peace and security for everyone. Granted the norms of the communal order, can the ethnic and racialized minority exercise free speech and free rational judgment?
Judging from Spinoza’s own example, we can say that such freedoms are guaranteed within limits. Yovel (1989) has convincingly argued that Spinoza was the first secular Jew of Renaissance modernity. Spinoza was free to think and write in opposition to the traditional consensus. What is problematic are actions or deeds that destroy the precarious equilibrium of political-social forces subtending the peace and safety of citizens in the commonwealth. Right (jus) is contingent on utility (utile), but this utility depends on who is in command, who formulates and implements rational decisions for the state agencies. For Spinoza, a subject of a mercantile polity founded on capitalist principles of accumulation, private ownership of the means of production, and the sale of "free" labor-power, the disjunction between the ethical (private, personal) and the political (public) realms serves as the condition of possibility for the equivocation about natural rights and the shifting boundary between the prescriptive/normative and the descriptive modes of elucidating power relations (Den Uyl 1983). What rights the ethnic group or cultural minority may enjoy in private, they do not have as individual citizens in the public realm—liberalism mixed with totalitarian or authoritarian attitudes. This explains the enigmatic duplicity over the role of the multitude in Spinoza’s political discourse.
This enigma cannot be resolved by an anarchist reading (Hardt and Negri) or a conformist liberal interpretation (Smith). The concept of the multitude, which Negri defines as a contradictory social practice of singularities in pietas and therefore "the foundation of tolerance and universal freedom" (1997, 236), is unable to bridge the gap between private self and political identity in modern bourgeois society. The ambiguity of the person in a society of commodity-exchange can only be clarified by a historical-materialist optic that can illuminate the paradox of citizenship, assimilation, model minority myth, and pluralist democracy as the framework of white supremacy or racial polity. Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right provides the most cogent historical framework in which to situate the freedom/authority dialectic in Spinoza. But of more relevance is the short preliminary study entitled "On the Jewish Question" (composed in the same year when Marx published his critique of Hegel). We need to recall that Marx admired Spinoza, copying verbatim the TPT with his signature on it.
Dialectical Inquiry
We need to recall Spinoza’s major philosophical breakthrough in solving the classic dualism of mind/body by positing Substance with the twin attributes of thought and extension. Within this monistic framework, Spinoza urged us to consider the essence of the mind as consisting in the idea of an actually existing body. Marx performed an analogous diagnosis of modern alienation. In "On the Jewish Question," Marx showed the aporia of dualistic and mechanical thinking about individual and society, minority and majority interests, the ethnic group and the nation-state. The antithesis between "political society" as a spiritual or heavenly commonwealth and "civil society" as a fragmented domain of private interests and egoistic drives warring against each other is the locus of the problem. In a free state, Marx argues, citizens live a double life: the real life of isolated, private persons in civil society, and the imaginary life of the citizen in a political sphere (state; civitas). Civil society is characterized by the pursuit of money and self-interest, the real world of everyday affairs, where humans function as means, "a plaything of alien powers"; while in the state, individuals are integrated and unified as citizens. Can these two halves be comprehended as aspects of a totality?
Bourgeois civil society and the state are dialectical opposites in unity. This bifurcation explains why political emancipation in terms of citizenship does not coincide with real, human emancipation—which is not a religious but a secular question. As Marx emphasizes: "A state can be a free state without man himself being a free man" (1975, 218). This is because freedom involves the species-life of humans (the subject as citizen) as opposed to the material, egoistic life of the bourgeois individual. In the state, however, when religion, language and other particularistic cultural properties have been confined to the sphere of private law, the individual remains "an imaginary member of a fictitious sovereignty, filled with unreal universality"—the free rational subject in Spinoza’s Ethics.
The bourgeois revolution in France (translated into jurisprudence and political principles by the American version), according to Marx, demonstrates a dialectic of opposites. The idealism of the state coincides with the materialism of civil society, with egoistic man in the latter as the foundation or presupposition of the former. In history, the bourgeois state emerged from the dissolution of feudal society into independent individuals, the world of atoms, in the theories of Locke, Mill, Rawls, Rorty, and assorted nominalists inspired by Kant and Foucault. I would like to quote this extended passage from Marx’s 1843 essay for its bearing on the topic of rights and power:
The rights of man [with the triumph of the bourgeoisie] appear as natural rights, for self-conscious activity is concentrated upon the political act. Egoistic man is the passive and merely given result of the society which has been dissolved, an object of immediate certainty, and for that reason a natural object. The political revolution dissolves civil society into its component parts without revolutionizing these parts and subjecting them to criticism. It regards civil society, the world of needs, of labour, of private interests and of civil law, as the foundation of its existence, as a presupposition which needs no further grounding, and therefore as its natural basis. Finally, man as he is a member of civil society is taken to be the real man, man as distinct from citizen, since he is man in his sensuous, individual and immediate existence, whereas political man is simply abstract, artificial man, man as an allegorical, moral person. Actual man is acknowledged only in the form of the egoistic individual and true man only in the form of the abstract citizen… Political emancipation is the reduction of man on the one hand to the member of civil society, the egoistic, independent individual, and on the other to the citizen, the moral person… Only when real, individual man resumes the abstract citizen into himself and as an individual man has become a species-being in his empirical life, his individual work and his individual relationships, only when man has recognized and organized his forces propres as social forces so that social force is no longer separated from him in the form of political force, only then will human emancipation be completed (1975, 233-34).
What divides state and civil society is the alienation of laboring bodies. Once freed from private ownership, this cooperative labor (the collective body of producers) functions as the social subject of thinking and action—in effect, Spinoza’s wise man who orders the affections of the body according to the order of the intellect. The current debate over citizenship as the site of transcendence—the point where the formal or abstract dimension of citizenship is supposedly fleshed by the social and cultural dimensions (Glenn 2000, Rosaldo 1999)—may have missed the crucial interface or reciprocity of the private and public aspects.
To recapitulate Marx’s thesis: in the world of alienated labor and commodity exchange where competing private interests dominate, the general interest embodied in the civitas or commonwealth can only be realized in a formal way, via abstraction. Thus the basis and substance of the political organism we call state, sovereignty or commonwealth remains civil society with its class divisions and internecine warfare. In fact, the unified state sanctions and legitimizes the unequal economic relations and other differences that constitute civil society. In order to overcome those actual differences, like religion, the hypostatized idealized state—the modern representative democracy with its liberal, tolerant ethos--has to acknowledge the limitations of the profane world, that is, it has to reinstate and confirm the crass materialism of bourgeois society. Estrangement and unsociability inform the very nature of the polity, the state; hence, uncritical idealism or spiritualism coexists with uncritical positivism and crude, vulgar materialism.
Citizenship in a liberal democratic order is necessarily premised on difference. The citizen is an abstraction, a formal product of a "thoroughgoing transubstantiation" of all the particular qualities, elements, and processes that are synthesized in the constitution of the modern liberal state. But this constitution is nothing else but the exaltation of private property, in short, the sanctification and legitimation of the basis of the disintegration of the state. Everything is turned upside down: the ideal of equality is praised in order to defend the cause of inequality, private property, as fundamental and absolute. From this perspective, what becomes evident is the fact that it is not the separate but consonant categories of normative and descriptive languages in Spinoza that explains the ambiguous co-presence of liberal and authoritarian tendencies; rather, it is the essence of the contradictions in the development of the capitalist mode of production and its ideological-political forms of reproduction. Spinoza’s libertarian heretical impulse concurs with his appreciation of necessity and finitude.
Historicizing the Thinking Body
We find in Spinoza’s thought a mediating expression and symbol of "the most systematically commercialized economy" in 17th-century Europe. We discern in Spinoza’s achievement a reflection of the civic virtues, intelligence and enterprise that the bourgeoisie were "ideally capable of" together with the limitations of the social relations that sustained and reproduced those qualities (Muller 1963, 225). Deborin stressed the dialectical kernel of Spinoza’s thought in positing the reciprocal interaction of all finite things within the "absolutely positive determinations" of Nature as a whole (1952, 110). This also enabled Spinoza to craft a realistic anatomy of the multitude as vulnerable to passions, external causes, and infirmities for which the Ethics was designed, even while he assured us that bondage can be remedied and freedom gained. Amid the wars and dissensions of his time, Spinoza urged men of reason to work for humanist conviviality: "To man, then, there is nothing more useful than man. Man, I say, can wish for nothing more helpful to the preservation of his being than that all should so agree in all things that the minds and bodies of all would compose, as it were, one mind and one body; that all should strive together, as far as they can, to preserve their being; and that all, together, should seek for themselves the common advantage of all" (1994, 209-10).
"Caute," be careful or take care, was the emblem on Spinoza’s ring. Yirmihayu Yovel contends that Spinoza’s dual language was his response to the existential realities of Marrano life in seventeenth-century Netherlands: the ever-present danger of the Inquisition, Spinoza’s status as a dissenter within the Jewish community and (after his excommunication) as a freethinker and reputed atheist in Calvinist Holland. Aside from this, another factor sheds light on the ambivalence in Spinoza’s discourse: his belief that the vulgus or multitude cannot liberate itself from the bondage of the sad passions and the lure of the imagination. Inadequate ideas makes the body vulnerable to external causes whose power over the finite mode of humanity proves itself in confused passivity, hence the superstition of prejudice: "If someone has been affected with joy or sadness by someone of a class, or nation, different from his own, and this joy or sadness is accompanied by the idea of that person as its cause, under the universal name of the class or nation, he will love or hate, not only that person, but everyone of the same class or nation" (PIII46). Human beings are generally prone to envy and vengeance than compassion, Spinoza observes, so it requires "a singular power of mind to deal with each according to his own understanding."
Spinoza’s fundamental principle inheres in the conatus or endeavor of each person, in so far as he is in himself, to preserve his rationality and persevere in living within the realm of necessity that Nature ordains (Parkinson 1975). But this standard of exercising one’s agency can not be maintained by the majority. Only a few can attain the grade of the scientia intuitiva, the third kind of knowledge, without which freedom and personal salvation are meaningless. Nonetheless, the apparatus of the liberal state and rationalized universal religion may help convert "the activity of the imagination into an external imitation of reason, using the power of authority and obedience" (Yovel 1989, 32), mobilizing the masses to cooperate in the constitutional state’s task of implementing a program of justice and charity.
Despite the psychologizing tendency of the conatus doctrine, Spinoza’s materialism (on this feature, see Curley 1988) allowed him to grasp the determining pressure of social relations on individual conduct. He certainly did not view society as an aggregate of atomized individuals calculating the varying ratios of pleasure and pain. Assessing the dialectics of substance and its attributes in Ethics, Genevieve Lloyd discerns a revealing movement: "From a dynamic physics of bodies emerges a new naturalization of collective social power" (1996, 142). Smith’s portrait of Spinoza as the consummate liberal which I noted earlier will not survive the evidence of Spinoza’s inclination for cooperative endeavor. His "democratic" state is also interventionist and paternalistic. Perhaps this is peculiar to Spinoza’s reaction to the Jewish situation and the political alignment of forces in 17th-century Netherlands, as well as to his longing for a more solid republican hegemony against the menace of an intolerant monarchist absolutism.
Let us revisit Marx’s provocative insights into the "Jewish Question" from another angle. Michael Walzer recounts how the French revolutionaries debated the issue of the emancipation of the Jews in 1790-91. One centrist deputy then declared: "One must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation, and give everything to the Jews as individuals… It would be repugnant to have…a nation within a nation." And so Jews as individuals with rights were recognized; they could be regenerated by becoming citizens in political society (as Marx extrapolated from experience) while sustaining their corporate existence in civil society. Thus, "the price of emancipation was assimilation" (Walzer 2000, 192-93). Smith would go along with that process. In which case we are reminded of what Jean-Paul Sartre cautioned us sometime ago, in his memorable essay Anti-Semite and Jew, about the democrat who is the only friend of the Jews, who tirelessly dialogues with the anti-Semite with whom he shares the penchant for resolving "all collectivities into individual elements and making an individual the incarnation of universal human nature (1965, 55). Here, the utopian kernel of Spinoza’s view of an inalienable right disappears into the "melting pot" of consumption and laissez-faire negotiation. Forgotten is Spinoza’s axiom that "no one has yet determined what the body can do" for the body, "simply from the laws of its own nature, can do many things which its mind wonders at" (1994, 155-56). Meanwhile, racism and ethnic exclusion acquire new life and virulence in the "New World Order" of globalized finance capital and its terrorist dispensation.
Specter of United States Nationalism
What advice then can Spinoza give to Asians Americans who are today beleaguered, nay besieged, by law enforcement agencies implementing the Patriot Act in the war against stipulated terrorism? How can the "Marrano of reason" assist the stigmatized pariahs of this moribund cosmopolitanism?
An inventory of incidents can scarcely register the pain inflicted by neoliberal fascism. We’ve read of the hate backlash after September 11, 2001, among others: Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, an Indian-American immigrant in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered without much fanfare; Saad Saad, 35, of Scottsdale, Arizona, was shot by Frank Roque who shouted as he was handcuffed: "I stand for America all the way." In Arcadia, California, Adel Karas, 48, an Egyptian American mistaken for a Muslim, was killed pointblank at the International Market, a store he owned. The list is endless. Nameless hundreds, maybe thousands—the Justice Dept and Attorney General are keeping it secret—are now detained on mere suspicion, despite challenges by Federal Court judges; many, including those held in Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, will undergo secret trials before a military tribunal. The early incidents featuring Vincent Chin, or the killing of the Filipino postal worker Joseph Ileto by a white supremacist in 1999, pale in comparison with recent outrages. The latest is the firing of tenured professor Sami Al-Arian from the University of South Florida (Walsh 2002). We cannot speak anymore of toleration, fairness, charity nor justice; war against what the hegemonic power elite considers "terrorism" justifies such extreme measures, some say a "just" and measured response, to defend U.S. sovereignty.
The "repressed" now returns in the strange mix of vigilantism and utopianism. In the last two decades, the "model minority myth" has seduced most Asian Americans into believing that they have finally lived through the period when the country needed an "indispensable enemy" (to use the historian Alexander Saxton’s epithet)—everyone has made it, almost. In fact, testimonies like Eric Liu’s The Accidental Asian, or more recently, Helen Zia’s Asian American Dreams (a vulgarized rendition of Ronald Takaki’s Strangers from a Different Shore), are symptomatic of what Spinoza diagnosed as the state’s power to encroach into the psyche. The state not only rules by coercion or by fear, but employs all means "since it is not the motive for obedience which makes a man a subject, but the will to obey." Spinoza contends that "obedience is less a matter of the outward action than of the mind’s inner activity, so that the man who wholeheartedly decides to obey all the commands of another is most completely under his rule; and in consequence he who rules in the hearts of the subjects holds sovereignty as much as possible" (TPT, Ch. 20). It is certainly not amor dei intellectualis that motivates Helen Zia to extol Asian American dynamism (personified by her extended family) as the distinctive quality of this heterogenous assemblage of "American people." Zia concludes that Asian Americans, by pulling their bootstraps, have already become fully acculturated or melted; what is lacking is their acceptance by the larger society. The pathos of this anxiety evokes the sad passions in Spinoza’s Ethics, an affect of mimicry determined by external forces, the appetite of the "model minority."
Rationality now translates into the entrepreneur’s war strategy. "Turning American" for Zia means moving away from stereotypes, from tales of campaign donations and espionage, to reciting the litany of "model" successes in politics, business, mass media, and so on. Meanwhile, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese-American scientist formerly employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and recently acquitted of the charge of espionage, has just published his account of his arrest and trial, My Country Versus Me. The title ominously captures the prudential strategy Spinoza deployed in his work, but without the drive for joyful wisdom. Lee reflects during his 278 days of solitary confinement without benefit of trial: "I sometimes felt like I must have made a mistake and should not have come to America in 1964 for my Ph.D. I must have done something terrible to have ended up like this. As I sat in jail, I had to conclude that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, a Chinese person, an Asian person like me, will never be accepted. We always will be foreigners" (2002, 37). Too late a discovery, it seems.
And so, in these days of Enron/WorldCom corporate orgies, we will witness more media scandals of secret campaign contributions, espionage, human rights violations, and so on. It is probably because of the re-invention of the "indispensable enemy" (not Al Qaeda but Saddam Hussein and his doubles) to serve the ongoing US national identity formation, not so much because of the Los Angeles riots, that the genre of the initiation-cum-spy thriller novel, exemplified by Chang Rae-Lee’s Native Speaker, will be the most appropriate vehicle to register our current predicament. All talk of postcolonial hybridity, "double consciousness" performed by transnationals or transmigrants, globalized knowledge-production, deconstruction of binary epistemologies and essentialist discourses, and so on that we read in anthologies like Orientations (Chuh and Shimakawa 2001), becomes complicit with "cynical reason" if it does not confront the racial polity and its ideological state apparatuses operating in the international arena. This exceeds the objective of the disciplinary Kulturkritik of Establishment Cultural Studies and the cosmopolitan populism of high-salaried "public intellectuals" (Mulhern 2000). What is needed is political recharging of both the pessimistic intellect and the optimistic will which Gramsci invoked during times of revolutionary retreat and regrouping.
The "Inscrutable"Enemy
Espionage becomes the theater for discriminating enemies and friends. The reporter from Newsweek who interviewed Lee describes this Chinese-American intellectual as clueless, and despite Lee’s acquittal not entirely blameless for his predicament. Who is responsible for such cruel procedures? "Washington politics and government overreaching," the Feds’ "over-the-top tactics," say the pundits; the "unfair manner" of the executive branch, according to the Judge who acquitted Lee. Citizenship rights seem otiose, irrelevant here, even though Lee claims he was innocent. In medias res, Lee subsists in a condition of duality, suspended on that divide between na├»ve, obedient citizen and a suspect, recalling his life before he was "branded a spy and an enemy agent—a disloyal, lying traitor, one of the most base and awful labels imaginable" (2002, 37). Where are the impartial jurors who can countervail against the premeditated judgment of the fixed majoritarian gaze?
Let us be generous in reviewing the case. We can conjecture that Lee not only practiced a cunning ratio but also carefully tried, in his memoir, to devise a method of reaching the "third kind of knowledge," the knowledge of necessity, even though mediated by a journalistic narrative. This knowledge concerns not so much the causal order of the universe but the logical operations of the government to which he has sworn loyalty, its Realpolitik, its pragmatic modus operandi in enforcing its commands. He has not surrendered his right to pursue his own advantage, to demand that the social contract be properly carried out; however, his knowledge is inadequate because it assumes that the national-security state plays fair and only commits minor errors. Superstition has gotten the better of the scientist’s mind. His understanding is inadequate because it does not examine the nature of the racial polity of what is now called "homeland," its long and substantial record of inferiorizing and subordinating the historically differentiated Other, and its mode of idealizing or abstracting those differences and alterities in order to claim moral ascendancy and spiritual superiority.
Despite these reservations, it is clear that insight of acute significance has been registered by the break between Lee’s past life as Federal employee and his present effort to vindicate his honor. What Lee’s case has dramatized most poignantly is the problematic articulation of pact and law, the tension between what Balibar calls "the physics of individual conatus or powers and the metajuridical form of the social contract" (1997, 171). For Lee, unwittingly perhaps, has proved Spinoza’s thesis that "no one transfers his natural right to another so completely that he is never consulted again, but each transfers it to a majority of the entire society of which he has a member. In this way all remain equal, as they were before in the state of nature" (TPT, Ch. 17). It is this freedom which guarantees the strength and security of the state: "Peace is not freedom from war but a virtue, which springs from strength of mind" (Jaspers 1966, 72).
The contradictions of bourgeois society sharpen as the crisis worsens. What cannot be elided over, despite such ruses and subtle legalisms, is the truth that exploitation and oppression thrives on those very same principles of liberal democracy, individual liberties tied to property, and market-determined civilization on which Western hegemony continues to ride roughshod over all of nature and humanity—a paradox which Spinoza tried to unravel and demystify. As noted earlier, Marx succeeded in casting light on the interdependency of bourgeois liberty and private property. Cultural pluralism thrives on inequity. Multiculturalism is the cultural logic of globalized neoliberal capitalism as it seeks to conceal class antagonisms behind the cover of abstract individual liberties. So it is quite possible that the terror of racism which Spinoza envisaged will continue to haunt us in this new millennium as long as the material conditions that produce and reproduce class relations, in effect the material-ideological armature of the U.S. racial polity, remain the sine qua non for the reproduction and legitimation of the dominant social structures and institutional practices of everyday life.
Social contradictions persist everywhere. Given the recalcitrance of citizens in the racial polity, the right of the state—even what claims to be an imperium democraticum—-is not identical, nor co-extensive, with its power in the case of the unruly, oppositional subaltern. Spinoza argued that such states are irrational and deserve to be overthrown. So long as the power of the individual, in this case the conatus immanent in natural right, remains his own within the respublica, it subverts the "society effect," the production of obedience which validates the effective unity or sovereignty of the imperium. One can counterpose to this proto-fascist legality and military tribunals the Enlightenment solidarity of "progressive humanism" (Palumbo Liu 2002); but such humanism, I fear, has already been thoroughly incorporated into the constitution of the racial polity.
Social justice, the recognition and validation of people’s singular identities and worth, remains the goal of popular mobilization. Not everything is foreclosed. For despite the liberal state’s pragmatic politics of incorporation, and its power to command and enforce its commands, the collective subjects of this racial polity continue to exercise their right to dissent, protest, and rebel not just out of self-interest ("self" here read as a "common notion")—but precisely for the sake of affirming self-determination, rational autonomy, and communal dignity. What is ultimately at stake, the survival of the planet, inheres in the conatus of every living creature. As Ethics IV, 37, proposes: "Every individual has a sovereign right to everything which is in his power." In reminding us of this inalienable right of resistance lies, I submit, the permanent resourcefulness and value of Spinoza’s political teaching for people of color, in this period of barbaric anti-terrorism.
Amin, Samir. 2001. "U.S. Hegemony and the Response to Terror." Monthly Review 6 (November): 20-22.
Applebaum, Richard P. 1996. "Multiculturalism and Flexibility: Some New Directions in Global Capitalism." In Mapping Multiculturalism, ed. Avery Gordon and Christopher Newfield. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Balibar, Etienne. 1997. "Jus-Pactum-Lex: On the Constitution of the Subject in the Theologico-Political Treatise." In The New Spinoza. Ed. Warren Montag and Ted Stolze. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
----. 1998. Spinoza and Politics. New York: Verso.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical Reason. Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press.
Buck-Morss, Susan. 2002. "A global public sphere?" Radical Philosophy 111 (Jan-Feb): 2-10.
Carby, Hazel. 1990. "The Politics of Difference," Ms. (Sept-Oct.): 84-85.
Chitty, Andrew. 2002."Moralism, terrorism and war—reply to Shaw," Radical Philosophy (Jan-Feb): 16-19.
Cox, Oliver Cromwell. 1984. Caste, Class and Race. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Curley, Edwin. 1996. "Kissinger, Spinoza, and Genghis Khan." In The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Ed. Don Garrett. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.
Den Uyl, Douglas J. 1983. Power State and Freedom. Assen, the Netherlands: Van Gorcum.
Falk, Richard. 2001. "A Just Response," The Nation (October 8): 11-15.
Feuer, Lewis Samuel 1958; 1987 Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.
Fraser, Nancy. 1997. Justice Interruptus. New York: Routledge.
Garrett, Don. 1995. "Baruch Spinoza." In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Ed. Robert Audi. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Glenn, Evelyn. 2000. "Citizenship and Inequality: Historical and Global Perspectives," Social Problems 47: 1-20.
Goldberg, Theo. 1994. Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.
Goldfield, Michael. 1997. The Color of Politics. New York: New Press.
Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers.
Guillaumin, Colette. 1995. Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideology. London: Routledge.
Gullan-Whur, Margaret. 1998. Within Reason. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Hampshire, Stuart. 1979. Spinoza. Baltimore, MD: Penguin.
Hardt, Michael. 1993. Gilles Deleuze. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
------ and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Huntington, Samuel. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Jaspers, Karl. 1966. Spinoza. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Kline, George L. 1952. Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy. New York: The Humanities Press, Inc.
Kolko, Gabriel. 1976. Main Currents in Modern American History. New York: Pantheon Books.
Lee, Wen Ho. 2002. "A Scientist’s Secrets." Newsweek (January 21): 34-37.
---. 2001. "Hate Backlash." Los Angeles Times, September 17.
Lipsitz, George. 1998. The Possessive Investment of Whiteness. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Marcuse, Herbert. 1968. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press.
Marx, Karl. 1975. Early Writings. Tr. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton. New York: Vintage Books.
Mills, Charles. 1999. "The Racial Polity." In Racism and Philosophy. Ed. Susan Babbitt and Sue Campbell. Ithaca, NY" Cornell University Press.
Montag, Warren. 1999. Bodies, Masses, Power. New York: Verso.
Mulhern, Francis. 2000. Culture/Metaculture. New York: Routledge.
Muller, Herbert J. 1963. Freedom in the Western World. New York: Harper and Row.
Nadler, Steven. 1999. Spinoza: A Life. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Peller, Gary. 1995. "Race Consciousness." In After Identity, ed. Daniel Danielsen and Karen Engle. New York: Routledge.
Perea, Juan. 1998. "Am I an American or Not? Reflections on Citizenship, Americanization, and Race." In Immigration and Citizenship. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Reed, Ishmael, ed. 1998. MultiAmerica. New York: Penguin Books.
Rosaldo, Renato. 1999. "Cultural Citizenship, Inequality, and Multiculturalism." In Race, Identity and Citizenship: A Reader. Ed. Rodolfo Torres, Louis Miron and Jonathan Inada. New York: Blackwell Publishers.
San Juan, E. 1992. Racial Formations/Critical Transformations. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1965. Anti-Semite and Jew. Tr. George J. Becker. New York: Schocken Books.
Saxton, Alexander. 1971. The Indispensable Enemy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Scott, Joan. 1992. "Multiculturalism and the Politics of Identity." October 61 (Summer): 12-19.
Spinoza, Benedict de. 1994. A Spinoza Reader. Ed and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
----. 1951. A Theologico-Political Treatise / A Political Treatise. Tr. R.H.M. Elwes. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Stam, Robert. 1997. "Multiculturalism and the Neoconservatives." In Dangerous Liaisons. Ed. Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Steinberg, Stephen. 2000. "Occupational Apartheid and the Origins of Affirmative Action." In Race and Ethnicity in the United States, ed. Stephen Steinberg. Oxford: Blackwell.
Takaki, Roland. 1994. "Reflections on Racial Patterns in America." In From Different Shores. Ed. Roland Takaki. New York: Oxford University Press.
Walsh, Sharon. 2002. "Blaming the Victim?" The Chronicle of Higher Education XLVIII (February 8): 10-13.
Walzer, Michael. 2000. "What Does It Mean to be an ‘American’?" In Race and Ethnicity in the United States. Ed. Stephen Steinberg. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.
Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.
Yovel, Yirmiyahu. 1989. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Zia, Helen. 2000. Asian American Dream: The Emergence of an American People. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Walzer, Michael. 1994. "Multiculturalism and Individualism." Dissent (Spring): 185-191.
Zizek, Slavoj. 1997. "Multiculturalism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism," New Left Review 225 (Sept-Oct): 28-51.

E. San Juan Jr. was a Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium in the Spring of 2003. His recent books include:Beyond Postcolonial Theory (Palgrave), After Postcolonialism (Powman and Littlefield), and Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke University Press).