Tibor Rutar’s text The Specter of Materialism offers an indepth analysis of Vivek Chibber’s book Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital (2013).

When Marxists claim their conceptual tools apply across the capitalist world, they’re highlighting a small set of basic properties that are operative in any capitalist society, including the profit motive, wage labor, and competition. How these properties express themselves or what sociocultural dynamics exist alongside and shape them remains open — a problem to which Marxism isn’t at all blind.

By realigning Marxism with its materialist roots, Chibber places human action not only at the center of capitalism but also at the heart of resistance.

[…] Marxism views people as having both minds and bodies and that people’s minds are fundamentally embodied. This foregrounds humanity’s biological endowments — the capacity for self-awareness, intentionality, reflexivity, and rationality as well as the need for material well-being, meaningful activity, and personal autonomy.
In short, the materialism in historical materialism meant that, alongside historical conditioning, alongside social structures that enable, constrain, and motivate human activity, nature also plays a causal role.

[…] If people were nothing but ‘infinitely malleable’ sociocultural constructs, they’d simply internalize the prevailing ideology — not question, challenge, and subvert it. It is precisely because people aren’t ‘infinitely malleable’ that oppressive sociocultural practices affect, frustrate, and hurt them.

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