Friday, January 5, 2018

Marxist University Press?

Perhaps, "Carolus illuminatio mea" ?
A few days ago I received via email and advertisement from Oxford University Press about their 50% Holiday Sale. That email came to me out of the blue, by the way, the first to have arrived at my inbox from OUP since I ordered my Oxford Latin Dictionary and Liddell Scott Greek Lexicon in college over a decade ago. Anyway I perused the titles and quickly noticed a particular bent.

Take a few examples along with the descriptions from OUP, which are often hilariously cliche-ridden. I'm not sure whether we can handle any more "explorations" or the earth any more "ground-breaking."

The Long Reach of the Sixties by Laura Kalman

The Warren Court of the 1950s and 1960s was the most liberal in American history. Yet within a few short years, new appointments redirected the Court in a more conservative direction, a trend that continued for decades.

The Reinvention of Atlantic Slavery by Daniel B. Rood

Offers a new version of capitalism, technology and slavery that differs from the Cotton South version that dominates nineteenth-century history. [Ed. That is, 19th century capitalism was "racial capitalism," i.e. "the process of deriving social and economic value from racial identity."]

Unequal by Sandra F. Sperino and Suja A. Thomas

A ground-breaking analysis of why most employment discrimination cases are dismissed, despite evident discrimination.

Healthier: Fifty Thoughts on the Foundations of Population Health by Sandro Galea

A trenchant argument for the urgency of population-level interventions in health -- and a strong rebuttal to those who question it.

Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity by Lori G. Beaman

Rigid identity imaginings, especially religious identities, block our vision to the complexities of social life and press us into corners that trap us in identities that we often ourselves do not recognize, want, or know how to escape.

Beethoven & Freedom by Daniel K. L. Chua

By exploring the musical philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno through a wide range of the composer's music, Beethoven and Freedom arrives at a markedly different vision of freedom. Author Daniel KL Chua suggests that a more human and fragile concept of freedom can be found in the music that has less to do with the autonomy of the will and its stoical corollary than with questions of human relation, donation, and a yielding to radical alterity.

The Return of Ordinary Capitalism: Neoliberalism, Precarity, Occupy by Sanford F. Schram

As Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward argued in the early seventies, in a capitalist economy, social welfare policies alternatingly serve political and economic ends as circumstances dictate. In moments of political stability, governments emphasize a capitalistic work ethic (even if it means working a job that will leave one impoverished); when times are less politically stable, states liberalize welfare policies to recreate the conditions for political acquiescence. Sanford Schram argues in this new book that each shift produces its own path dependency even as it represents yet another iteration of what he (somewhat ironically) calls "ordinary capitalism," where the changes in market logic inevitably produce changes in the structure of the state. In today's ordinary capitalism, neoliberalism is the prevailing political-economic logic that has contributed significantly to unprecedented levels of inequality in an already unequal society.

Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism by Charles W. Mills

Mills argues that rather than bracket as an anomaly the role of racism in the development of liberal theory, we should see it as shaping that theory in fundamental ways. As feminists have urged us to see the dominant form of liberalism as a patriarchal liberalism, so too Mills suggests we should see it as a racialized liberalism. It is unsurprising, then, if contemporary liberalism has yet to deliver on the recognition of black rights and the correction of white wrongs.

Limits to Globalization The Disruptive Geographies of Capitalist Development by Eric Sheppard

...globalizing capitalism tends to reproduce social and spatial inequality; poverty's persistence is due to the ways in which wealth creation in some places results in impoverishment elsewhere.

Black Natural Law by Vincent W. Lloyd

A Black intellectual class emerged that was disconnected from social movement organizing and beholden to white interests. Appeals to higher law became politically impotent: overly rational or overly sentimental. Recovering the Black natural law tradition provides a powerful resource for confronting police violence, mass incarceration, and today's gross racial inequities.

Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises by Anwar Shaikh

Competition and conflict are intrinsic features of modern societies, inequality is persistent, and booms and busts are recurrent outcomes throughout capitalist history. State intervention modifies modified these patterns but does not abolish them. My book is an attempt to show that one can explain these and many other observed patterns as results of intrinsic forces that shape and channel outcomes. Social and institutional factors play an important role, but at the same time, the factors are themselves limited by the dominant forces arising from "gain-seeking" behavior, of which the profit motive is the most important. (Description via

Two books seem non-Marxist:

Pieces of Tradition: An Analysis of Contemporary Tonal Music by Daniel Harrison

Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate by Andrew Paxman

Plenty of the books seem apolitical, but I can't account for the lack of non-leftist politics. I don't know, either, just what the apparent disparity might indicate. Perhaps left-leaning books are disproportionately printed at OUP, perhaps non-Marxist authors are being turned away or are not sought, perhaps non-Marxists authors seek publication elsewhere, or maybe the liberal stuff is just what's new, popular, put forward, or on sale.

I'm not sure that any of that is good news.


  1. Thank you for taking note of my book. I describe myself as a centrist, not a conservative. My biography Jenkins of Mexico is as much as possible an impartial, warts-and-all account. Jenkins built Mexico's biggest fortune, but he was an entrepreneur and a crony-capitalist in equal measure.

  2. Thank you for taking the time comment and for the details about your premises, which surely commend you and your book. I regret to have given it short shrift in this post and to have painted it (and indirectly, you) with a broad brush. I should have said "non Marxist" and not conservative, both because not all non-Marxists are conservatives, but not all conservatives are pro business.) I'll gladly emend my statement.

    At any rate I welcome a warts-and-all account, certainly far more than the Marxist or blind pro-business cheer-leading to which ideologues are prone.