Editors' Introduction

Volume 30  Issue 3  July 2018

This special issue went into production in May 2018, during Israeli massacres in Gaza. That such massacres seem almost routine—periodic, like stormy weather—testifies to our dreadful sense of being stuck, unable to move from the present horror toward some other future. These recurring violent events present us with an inversion of the notion of the end of history as the realization of reason and freedom: in each Gaza bloodbath, history seems to have ended but has left us only with the negation of freedom and reason as we face scenes of degradation and madness. This inversion should be understood in a strict dialectical sense; the project of realizing freedom within a capitalist system inevitably leads to unfreedom—just as in Marx’s critique of the Proudhonists, which applies to all liberal projects today. To grasp how bleeding in Gaza relates to capitalist prosperity, one has to move beyond the immediate shock of the events themselves and toward a totalizing perspective that can grasp the violence as an expression of the capitalist world. Such an analysis, made today, is not necessarily reductive, and it has the potential to open new avenues of thought and action rather than keeping us locked within paradigms that (for all their sensitivity to injustice) may block critical thought.

This collection of essays was born out of a deep dissatisfaction with the impasse of the present, an impasse reflected by waves of violence on the ground but also a political Left whose liberal-reconciliatory agenda has long ago produced its opposite (“pacification”) and has since lost all political effectiveness. This inability to invent a new collective project—in Palestine-Israel but also globally by the international Left—prompted us to assemble this special issue. It seeks to unsettle the positions on Palestine-Israel to which we on the left are accustomed. It aims to show that a return to Marxist theorizing of Palestine-Israel has the potential to produce insights that cut against the grain of what exists. It tells us, in other words, that to remain faithful to a Leftist project in Palestine-Israel, we should consider abandoning those older positions that were once at the core of this project, for the course of history inevitably transforms any vanguardism into conservatism. And so to restart history in Palestine-Israel would mean taking a different relation to reality than the one we know.

This special issue is precisely an attempt to revitalize our thinking about Palestine-Israel. Each essay offers one such new interpretation. Hence, the pieces are eclectic, in terms of both their disciplinary fields and their theoretical commitments. This is intentional. The reader will find no fully elaborated political agenda or conceptual system. Are the essays entirely Marxist? To that we answer with Fredric Jameson’s (1996, 19) assertion that “Marxism is not … a philosophy at all,” in the customary sense. Rather,

It may be clearest to say that it can best be thought of as a problematic: that is to say, it can be identified, not by specific positions (whether of a political, economic or philosophical type), but rather by the allegiance to a specific complex of problems, whose formulations are always in movement and in historic rearrangement and restructuration, along with their object of study (capitalism itself).

We end this brief introduction by expressing our gratitude to all those whose help was essential to the process of publishing this special issue. First and foremost, we would like to wholeheartedly thank the coeditors of Rethinking Marxism, Serap Kayatekin and Marcus Green, for their endless encouragement, guidance, and very active promotion of this special issue. We would also like to thank the many scholars—who shall remain nameless—who attentively reviewed these essays on a very tight schedule, and thanks to the Rethinking Marxism collective for providing us with the opportunity to put together this special issue.

—Oded Nir and Joel Wainwright


  • Jameson, F. 1996. Actually existing Marxism. In Marxism beyond Marxism, ed. S. Makdisi, C. Casarino, and R. Karl, 14–55. New York: Routledge.

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