Saturday, 16 July 2016
links of noltland sauna
Kojin Karatani’s The Structure of World History (Duke University Press, 2014) is an astonishing work of synthetic historical theory. Karatani views world history as a history of modes of exchange. He rejects the classical Marxist view of history though as modes of production, to which political, religious and cultural levels are superstructures.
The Marxist base and superstructure model always conjures up for me an image of the social formation as a three-story building, with an economic ground floor and politics and ideology or culture as the second and third. Karatani’s alternative model is more like three elevator shafts running through the social formation from top to bottom. The inadequacies of the base-and-super three-story image led Marxists such as Althusser to stress the relative autonomy and materiality of the political and cultural ‘levels’. Karatani sees two problems with this. One is a loss of a totalizing and systematic approach to history. The other is that it is really only in the west that politics could even be imagined as autonomous from economics.