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Neil Smith (1954-2012) Setembro 30, 2012

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in Uncategorized.
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Neil Smith faleceu ontem. Uma das figuras cimeiras do marxismo na geografia escreveu essencialmente sobre teoria de desenvolvimento desigual e questões urbanas. Ai a sua reflexão sobre os processos de gentrificação/nobilitação são destacados, polémicos e fortemente citados por quem faz investigação sobre a temática. Mas a sua reflexão é também dedicada em muitos casos a teoria social e ao marxismo.

Por isso a minha homenagem aqui fica. Uma citação do texto “Another revolution is possible: Foucault, ethics, and politics” editorial da revista “Society and Space” (vol.25, 2007) e onde polemiza entre Marx e Foucault.

Foucault’s breach is philosophically familiar, of course, even if it is not a purely philosophical question. The tension between structured social position and the agential possibility of changing both social structure and social process is common to all with an ambition for social transformation, revolutionary or otherwise. But Foucault’s version of this dilemma, juxtaposing universality and inevitability with subjectivity, widens the breach significantly. Marx bridged precisely this breach with a historically specific and situated analysis of capitalism and its discontents and the consequent identification of its grave diggersöthe working class. “Theoretical ethics”, by contrast, invites a confusion between ethics and politics, even a substitution of the former for the latter, and a consequent demobilization of politics. Foucault obviously did not go so far; rather this is a dilemma he kept struggling with. There can be a politics to ethics, then, and ethics is inevitably bound up with politics, but politics is a lot more than, and sometimes less than, ethics, and an ethics unhinged from politics runs the danger of nestling inside a status quo of which it may yet be superbly critical. This is precisely the dilemma of a social liberalism which properly abhors all of the deleterious effects of capitalism without mobilizing that ethical revulsion toward a practical confrontation with causes. Marx’s analytical choice of the working class as the revolutionary class surely involves an anti-exploitation ethics built into the analytical category of surplus value but it equally involves an analytical calculation about which social groups can and which cannot be expected to revolt, and why. It in no way excludes other revolutionary possibilities, nor does it assume a narrow definition of the working class as somehow unchanging, industrially defined, or devoid of gendered, racial, national, or sexual identification. Even less does it suggest a one-dimensional future for a socialist society. Quite the opposite. The dismantling of economic difference should presumably unleash unbridled social difference, long brutually repressed by poverty, one-dimensional consumerism, socially coerced identities, and what Herbert Marcuse called repressive tolerance.

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