Erik Olin Wright – om klass och akademisk aggressivitet

Erik Olin Wright, klassteoretisker , Wisconsin UniversityLibertas läser och reflekterar. Idag har turen kommit till Erik Olin Wright som är en av de mest omtalade klassteoretikerna från andra halvan av nittonhundratalet, och enligt vänner till mig också en läsvärd författare. Wright ligger bland annat bakom den stora studien Class Counts: Comparative studies in class analysis (1997), som jämför klasstrukter, klassmedvetande och klassformering i USA, Kanada, Sverige och Norge.

Hans senaste bok, Envisioning Real Utopias (2010), har berömmande blurbar av både Göran Therborn och Michael Burawoy. Alla är dock inte lika övertygade, och boken har också genererat denna fantastiska sågning.  Väl läsvärt som beskrivning av den ena sortens uselhet som vänsterteori kan drabbas av (obegripligt för alla som inte är filosofiexegeter) och underhållande i all sin akademiska aggressivitet.

För er som inte hinner, några väl valda citat:

“The book is startling and depressing evidence of what has happened to American academic Marxism, at least its sociological variant, over the last thirty years. It has become turgid, vapid, and self-referential. Wright lives in a bubble of like-minded sociologists and political theorists. On page 322, he thanks Marcia Kahn Wright, his wife, for suggesting to him “the term ‘interstitial’” as a way of expressing something about “strategic logic,” whatever that is. Apart from Mrs. Wright, Erik Wright’s favorite source is Erik Wright. He has read all of his works and finds them remarkable.”

“He is more eager to pronounce on how to think about how to approach the preconditions that underlie the claims that support “real utopias” or on the numerous principles and subprinciples of social transformation they infer than to tell us anything about these practical ventures.”

“In fact a macho element wafts through his “Real Utopias Project,” which Wright has launched as an ongoing discussion and series of books. Real Men think about Real Utopias—or at least their punishing theoretical implications and lessons.”

“Professor Wright will explain before turning to the four “limits and contradictions” of social reproduction such as “strategic intentionality and its ramifications” and “contingency and unpredictability.” Get that before we turn to the second component of social transformation? Actually, Wright is just warming up for his ensuing discussions of “interstitial” and “symbiotic” transformation, which are numbingly baroque and that he clarifies with diagrams that might as well be satires. He gives us a graph of “Interstitial Transformations Paving the Way to Rupture” with one axis: “Historical Time.” Wright doesn’t plot history, but Time itself.”

“To call this book dull as dish water maligns dish water.”

“Figure 2.1 gives us “Three Criteria for Evaluating Social Alternatives.” Viability, for instance, breaks down into two parts, “Nonviable Alternatives” and “Viable Alternatives.” We have yet to get to the third component of his social science, “Transformation,” which relies on four theories, such as “A Theory of the underlying dynamic and trajectory of unintended social change.” So far, Wright’s book might be classified as an Undesirable Nonviable Alternative.”

Tipstack till Johannes Åsberg och Erik Bengtsson.

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