Political Power and Social Theory: Volume 18

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Table of contents

(15 chapters)
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Political Power and Social Theory is a peer-reviewed annual journal committed to advancing the interdisciplinary understanding of the linkages between political power, class relations, and historical development. The journal welcomes both empirical and theoretical work and is willing to consider papers of substantial length.

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True to our stated mandate, this year's volume of Political Power and Social Theory opens new windows of understanding on the relationship between political power, class politics, and historical development, and does so through a wide range of articles that present research or commentary on Russia, Chile, several countries in Africa, Israel, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. As much of our readership knows, Political Power and Social Theory prides itself on offering a venue where serious scholarship can meet normative concerns with justice, equity, inequality and their implications as well as social and political change. We also see our mandate as providing a setting for scholars to explore these questions in comparative and historical context, thereby offering a geographic and methodological eclecticism frequently absent in a single journal. As a scholar of the developing world, I know well that the ethnocentrism of U.S. social science often limits the peer-review process, and that scholars who write on locations outside the advanced capitalist context frequently find themselves relegated to area studies journals. As an historical sociologist, I also know that scholars who focus on the past, or employ an historical methodology, must struggle hard to convince reviewers of the larger sociological relevance of their claims or of the importance of taking history seriously in a modern world. To a certain extent these trends seem to be changing slowly, perhaps because globalization is making the world a smaller place, and because history is always a good reference point in times of significant transition, which, as some suggest, characterizes the current rise of the information/internet economy. In any case, because of our wonderfully diverse editorial board and our stated mission, Political Power and Social Theory has always sought to represent a wide range of comparative and historical scholarship, and we continue to do so this year with Volume 18.

State building in pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa is a much-neglected subject in historical sociology. This paper, which begins to close that gap accounts for state building and transformation in pre-colonial Yorubaland and highlights slavery, slave-taking, and other distinctive features of the Yoruba states. The paper argues that slavery and slave-taking affected warfare in the Yoruba states with remarkable consequences for the Yoruba state system. Furthermore, the paper applied some aspects of existing analytical approaches in historical sociology and comparative politics to elucidate our understanding of the role and limitations of warfare, slave-taking, and slavery in state development in pre-colonial Yorubaland.

This paper focuses on an analysis of the factors that contribute to differences in political attitudes and political participation of Russian capital owners. Such factors may include different size and type of capital, the degree of past political socialization, the respondents’ age and generational experiences, past/present well-being comparisons and education. The paper begins with a discussion of different theories that make hypotheses about the political behavior of capital owners. These hypotheses were tested in a small, exploratory study of Russian capital owners that I conducted in Russia in the late 1990s. The results of the study are then analyzed within two different but closely interrelated contexts: the wider historical context of social, political and economic changes of the first decade of post-Soviet transformation, and the micro-context of the respondents personal political, economic and social history. In the end, I return to the analyses of the original hypotheses and conclude with a discussion of which theory comes closest to predicting and explaining the results of the study.

This paper argues that structural and institutional reforms imposed by the military regime and accepted by the Concertación impose substantial impediments to collective action among Chile's popular sectors. In particular, labor market and social welfare policies exacerbate social stratification, deprive the public of vital resources, reinforce workers’ vulnerability to market forces and undermine social trust. These dynamics and the state structures that perpetuate them indicate the state's role in either facilitating or impeding collective action among subordinate segments of the population. They further suggest the negative impact neoliberalism has on the quality of democracy by constraining popular participation.

The Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (CIO) choice to build a labor party in New York was facilitated by an unusual institutional context that permitted unions to back a labor party while simultaneously endorsing other party's candidates. Though the CIO–ALP (American Labor Party) became a major political force in New York, CIO links to the party were ultimately severed after factions in the CIO–ALP opted to back a third party presidential candidacy. The rise and fall of the CIO–ALP highlights the need to be attentive to institutional context when explaining organized labor's “exceptional” choice to forgo building a national labor party in the United States.

In this paper, I suggest that prediction is a useful methodological strategy for evaluating political opportunities/political process models of social movements. I demonstrate the utility of this theory by analyzing the current political opportunities facing anti-war/interventionist/hegemony/imperialist movements in the contemporary United States. I conclude that the prospects for a mass movement are slim relative to previous wars but that the prospect for alliances with military elites has increased. This conclusion supports Ian Roxborough's position in a recent volume of this journal that sociologists should engage military policy makers.

The late twentieth-century spread of interest in the notion of “reparations” cannot be understood apart from the semantic meanings of the word itself. The term is one of the “re-words” that Charles Maier has identified as the object of rising interest among various groups in recent years.6 The first thing that must be said is that the word came to be transformed, sometime after World War II, from its earlier connotation of “war reparations” into something much broader. Before the Second World War, the use of “war” as a modifier here would have been nearly redundant; in that era, it went without saying that “reparations” were an outgrowth of war. The paradigmatic case of reparations, perhaps, was that mandated by the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I and imposed heavy obligations on the Germans to compensate the Allies for their wartime losses. In cases such as this, the term was synonymous with “indemnities”; again, the use of “war” to modify the main term would have been largely superfluous. It went without saying – in English at least – that “reparations” was an exaction imposed by the winners of a war on the losers, who were said to have been responsible for the damage caused by the conflict.7

Demands for atonement for past wrongs to ethno-cultural groups have become popular in Canada. On November 12, 2005, the Government of Canada announced to the Italian–Canadian community a package to atone for wrongs to individuals of Italian origin unjustly interned as enemy aliens during World War II. This package was part of the government's Acknowledgment, Commemoration, and Education Program.1 The prime minster acknowledged, but did not apologize for, the injustice of the internment. $Can 12 million were set aside for commemorative projects, but not to compensate any individual survivors of the internment, or their heirs.2 This money is part of a package of $Can 50million – double the $25million originally set aside in the 2005 federal budget – to compensate a number of ethno-cultural groups for injustices their real or fictive ancestors experienced.3 The editorial writers of Toronto's Globe and Mail objected to the government's encouragement of a “currency of grievance,” calling it “the antithesis of a forward-looking public policy.”4 This objection encapsulates the debate about public policies and monetary payments designed to compensate for past wrongs to groups, as opposed to policies and payments designed to redistribute wealth to groups and individuals suffering in the present.

In this commentary I take issue with Torpey's claim that political developments at the dawn of the new millennium caused liberal democracies to tilt away from those visions that have the potential of promoting an inclusive and just society. I argue that the politics of identity and its modes of repair do not necessarily undermine these visions but rather render them often possible and even infuse them with their true meaning. I present my argument against Israel's recent policies to privatize state-owned lands and of the various strategies employed by different social groups to influence these policies in their favor. These policies, I claim, involve all the ingredients that figure in Torpey's lamentation against the politics of identity and its modes of repair. In a way, they buttress Torpey's disdain for the politics of difference, for they show how the category of culture or cultural affiliation figure detrimentally in the articulation of social groups’ demands for reparation based on their past. But nonetheless, and in contrast to his condemnation of identity politics, I present this account with the aim of underscoring its significance and of stressing the importance of reparation as a means to promote equal and full citizenship. My claim is that social and political arrangements in the nation-state are so ordered – either formally or informally – that they promote the interests of the dominant groups, based on their alleged past contribution to the res public, i.e., the common good of the nation. Put differently, the promotion of these interests is grounded in what we may label republican meritocracy. Republican meritocracy amounts to a reward system allocating benefits to dominant groups for the efforts they allegedly exerted in the past in promoting the ‘vital interests’ of the nation. Thus, this system takes on board the notion of compensation but incorporates it within a meritocratic system. It does not grant these groups with a compensation for past injustices inflicted upon them but a compensation for their alleged past contribution to the nation. Hence, when marginalized and oppressed groups embark upon identity politics they do not actually depart from a political system that looks askance at the idea of reparation and compensation, but rather they employ moral vocabulary which is already embedded in that system.

In his article, “Modes of Repair: Reparations and Citizenship in the Dawn of the New Millennium,” John Torpey argues that reparations claims are mere extensions of identity politics and its preoccupation with group victimization and historical injustice. This essay takes another view, arguing that reparations politics is both a tactic used by groups to enhance their citizenship and a response to government's failure to address enduring and deeply rooted inequalities. Historical grievances are part of the political toolbox that groups employ to advance their interests. Reparations claims are pluralist politics by another name. Why would we expect them to be otherwise?


Pages 259-265
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Let me begin my response to the foregoing critiques by saying how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to engage in this exercise. My work on the issue of reparations has been inspired by the desire to make a contribution to contemporary debates about how to achieve a more just and egalitarian world. I am honored to have had such thoughtful and generous interlocutors in that endeavor.

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Political Power and Social Theory
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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