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New Left Review 94, July-August 2015


rob lucas

SOCIALISM AS A REGULATIVE IDEA?

Kōjin Karatani’s Structure of World History is a book so strange and ambitious, and of such striking theoretical imagination, that any approach to it risks misrepresenting its object. [1] Kōjin Karatani, The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange, trans. Michael Bourdaghs, Durham and London 2014. It is a bid to refound Marxist theory and historiography in general, unearthing the fundamental structures of human society and tracing their transformations over time, from the earliest nomadic hunter-gatherer bands to the present, in a sort of universal history. In doing so, Karatani offers to remedy a deficiency that he traces back to Marx: the lack of an adequate concept of the state or the nation and a reductive—arguably bourgeois—understanding of ‘the economic’. It is also a philosophical work, exemplifying Karatani’s mode of Kantian–Marxian ‘transcendental critique’ in its re-examination of the essential structures of society. Finally, it is an attempt to revise the strategic orientation of his Transcritique (2003), anticipating how a simultaneous world revolution might yet be possible.

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