Building Education for the Commons
Leo Victor Panitch, FRSC (born May 3, 1945, Winnipeg, Manitoba,Canada) is a Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science andCanada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy atYork University. Since 1985, he has served as co-editor of the Socialist Register, which describes itself as “an annual survey of movements and ideas from the standpoint of the independent new left.” Panitch himself sees the Register as playing a major role in developingMarxism‘s conceptual framework for advancing a democratic, co-operative and egalitarian, socialist alternative to capitalist competition, exploitation and insecurity.
Since his appointment as a Canada Research Chair in 2002, Panitch has focused his academic research and writing on the spread of global capitalism. He argues that this process of globalization is being led by the American state through agencies such as theUnited States Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Panitch sees globalization as a form of imperialism, but argues that the American Empire is an “informal” one in which the US sets rules for trade and investment in partnership with other sovereign, but less powerful, capitalist states. His latest book, The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (2012), written with his close friend and university colleague Sam Gindin, traces the development of American-led globalization over more than a century. In 2013, the book was awarded theDeutscher Memorial Prize for best and most creative work in or about the Marxist tradition.
WATCH PROF. PANTICH
Panitch taught at Carleton University between 1972 and 1984, and has been a Professor of Political Science at York University since 1984, serving as the Chair of the Department of Political Science from 1988-1994. In 2002, he was appointed Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York. The appointment was renewed in 2009. His research involves examining the role of the American state and multinational corporations in the evolution of global capitalism.
He was the General Co-editor of the State and Economic Life series, University of Toronto Press from 1979 to 1995, and is the co-founder and a board member of theStudies in Political Economy journal. He is also the author of numerous articles and books dealing with political science including The End of Parliamentary Socialism: from new left to new Labour. He has been a member of the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada (1973-1975), the Canadian Political Science Association, the Committee on Socialist Studies, the Marxist Institute, and the Royal Society of Canada.
Panitch is a prominent exponent of Marxism who sees his own work as theoretically innovative within that tradition, because he maintains that the dominance of the United States in the early years of the twenty-first century can’t be understood using theories ofimperialism that are themselves a century old.
He has argued, for example, that the concept of imperialism developed for the Victorian era over-emphasized the matter of the export of capital. Yet if one uses that as a yardstick today (he reasons) Great Britain is more a victim of U.S. imperialism than Kenya—since American investors have much more at stake in the former than in the latter. The advanced industrial nations, in other words, are interpenetrating—exporting capital to one another, not to the ‘South,’ and this requires a great deal of revision in Marxist-Leninist models.
Panitch has also argued that Marx was wrong to contend that the rise of trade unions would develop a socialistic class-consciousness in the working class. The association of workers for the purpose of collective bargaining has proven quite compatible withcapitalism—since such bargaining concerns the terms of wage labor, not the legitimacy of wage labor. He argues that Marxist political parties must abandon the assumption that there is anything inherently revolutionary about any class, so that they can get to work creating a self-conscious revolutionary class of wage earners, “articulating the articulation.”
At the “Globalization, Justice and Democracy” symposium (Delhi University, November 11, 2010), Panitch, drawing on his book In and Out of Crisis (with Greg Albo and Sam Gindin), addressed a lack of ambition on the left which has been more debilitating than its lack of capacity in the current global economic crisis, and outlines the kinds of immediate demands for radical reforms as well as longer term socialist strategic orientation that is needed today.