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CULTURAL POLITICS 255 REPRINTS AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE PUBLISHERS. PHOTOCOPYING PERMITTED BY LICENSE ONLY© BERG 2006 PRINTED IN THE UK CULTURAL POLITICS VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2 PP 255–258 BOOK REVIEW HOW TO BE A BAD MARXIST KATYA MANDOKI Bad Marxism: Capitalism and Cultural Studies, by John Hutnyk, London: Pluto Press, 2004, 251 pages, $24.95/£15.99, PB ISBN 0–7453–2266–2 The provocative title of Bad Marxism that John Hutnyk chose for this book appears to promise several things: 1) on the theoretical level,a careful analytical deconstruction of bad readings of Marx, point by point; 2) on the political level, a reexamination of Marx’s writings, proving that the collapse of “really existing socialism ” was merely a bad dream resulting from a deficient reading of Marx; 3) on the economic level, a reevaluation of the bibliographical capital invested by Marxists who have spent so much time and money reading other Marxists like them,an investment they may now hope to recuperate; 4) on the historical level, perhaps a post-postmodern comeback of Marxism. But no, none of the above is attempted: for Hutnyk declares himself to be a bad Marxist, a Marxist who is trying to avoid good Marxism, which would amount to a totalitarian party dogma. Exactly what is to be understood DR KATYA MANDOKI IS PROFESSOR OF AESTHETICS, SEMIOTICS, AND CULTURAL THEORY AT THE UNIVERSIDAD AUTÓNOMA METROPOLITANA IN MEXICO. HER PUBLICATIONS INCLUDE PROSAICA: INTRODUCCIÓN A LA ESTÉTICA DE LO COTIDIANO (1994), FOUR BOOKS IN PROCESS OF PUBLICATION (2006), AND MORE THAN 100 PAPERS ON AESTHETICS AND SEMIOTICS. > CULTURAL POLITICS 256 BOOK REVIEW by “bad Marxism” remains quite ambiguous throughout the book: the bad Marxism of the party is the good Marxism of the critic, yet Hutnyk seems to uphold both party and critic. With a sizzling, eloquent style, Hutnyk attempts a critique of what he diagnoses as the present political “paralysis, uncertainty and undecidability” prevalent in the field of Cultural Studies. He does so via the appraisal of some of today’s best-known cultural theorists (known only within the Anglo-American–European intellectual axis, of course), namely James Clifford, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, and Homi Bhabha, who, according to the author, have had a substantial impact in the last ten years, albeit with an eclectic, misconstrued version of Marx (p. 1). As Hutnyk declares, he will pursue this critique under the guidance of Bataille, the Frankfurt School (mainly Adorno), post-structuralism, reflexive anthropology, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Subaltern Studies, Slavoj Zizek, and Samir Amin (these last two mentioned only briefly), as well as the Holy Trinity of Marx–Lenin–Mao “in a mode of inquiry that should not be parochially defined.” The main task Hutnyk sets out to fulfil is “to ask if the theoreticians that cultural studies draws upon, as well as those in anthropology and related socio-cultural disciplines, offer an adequate theorization, and a politics, commensurate with circumstances in which those theorists are read.” His point: “to show how theory reading is an ongoing lived critical political practice,warts and all, and to make it matter” (pp. 1–2). He thus “examines four topics as exemplars of the debate: the notion of travel as a metaphor for our times, the work of Derrida on Marx and the Party; the origins of capitalism and anti-capitalism in the scene of the first Indian revolution; and the history of antiwar communism as a critique of fascism and liberal charity” (p. 2). Hutnyk attacks what he calls “trinketisation,” which he appears to understand as the obsession with trinkets (such as Malinowski’s kula) and the use of popular cultural studies buzzwords like “hybridity” (specifically by Homi Bhabha), a term which, for Hutnyk, is “more marketable than coherent” (p. 10). Hybridity in fact became a very successful term in the context of Latin America, particularly in countries whose population was mestiza, a mixture of aboriginal Indians and Europeans, such as in Mexico, Venezuela, and Peru. Much earlier than Bhabha’s use of the term, however, the concept of hybridization was proposed by Bakhtin to denote “a mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1751-7435
Print ISSN
1743-2197
Pages
pp. 255-258
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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