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Rethinking Overdetermination, Structural Power, and Social Change: A Critique of Gibson-Graham, Resnick, and Wolff

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Abstract:

Working in the wake of theoretical tendencies that became prominent within geography during the 1980s, many studies of resistance have either bracketed or ignored structural power, with some versions of poststructuralism simply denying that structural power is a useful concept in a world where power is putatively highly fluid and dispersed. These sorts of approaches, exemplified by the recent works of J K Gibson-Graham, Stephen A Resnick, and Richard D Wolff (GGRW), limit the ability of studies of resistance to articulate the conditions under which political and social struggles might transcend resistance and succeed in liberating groups of humans from the oppressive conditions against which they struggle. In this paper, I discuss issues surrounding analysis of structural power in the wake of poststructuralist critiques of “structural Marxism,” presenting an alternative to GGRW's interpretation of Louis Althusser's concept of “overdetermination.” Overdetermination is a crucial concept, because it is rightly seen as the key to a noneconomistic Marxism and has been championed as such by GGRW. I re-examine the roots of Althusser's concept in the writings of Lenin and Mao, arguing for a way of reading overdetermination that is both noneconomistic and compatible with a notion of structural power.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1467-8330.2003.00345.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada;, Email: glassman@geog.ubc.ca

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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