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Georgi M. Derluguian's Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus tells the extraordinary story of Musa Shanib from Abkhazia, the leading intellectual of this turbulent region whose incredible career passed from Soviet dissident intellectual through democratic political reformer and Muslim fundamentalist war leader up to respected professor of philosophy, his entire career marked by the strange admiration for Pierre Bourdieu's thought. There are two ways to approach such a figure. The first reaction is to dismiss it as local eccentricity, to treat it with benevolent irony - "what a strange choice, Bourdieu - who knows what this folkloric guy sees in Bourdieu...". The second reaction is to directly assert the universal scope of theory - "see how universal theory is: every intellectual from Paris to Chechenia and Abkhazia can debate his theories..." The true task, of course, is to avoid both these options and to assert the universality of a theory as the result of a hard theoretical work and struggle, a struggle that is not external to theory: the point is not (only) that Shanib had to do a lot of work to break the constraints of his local context and penetrate Bourdieu - this appropriation of Bourdieu by an Abkhazian intellectual also affects the substance of the theory itself, transposing it into a different universe. Did - mutatis mutandis - Lenin not do something similar with Marx? The shift of Mao with regard to Lenin AND Stalin concerns the relationship between the working class and peasants: both Lenin and Stalin were deeply distrustful towards the peasants, they saw as one of the main tasks of the Soviet power to break the inertia of the peasants, their substantial attachment to land, to "proletarize" them and thus fully expose them to the dynamics of modernization - in clear contrast to Mao who, in his critical notes on Stalin's Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (from 1958) remarked that "Stalin's point of view /.../ is almost altogether wrong. The basic error is mistrust of the peasants." The theoretical and political consequences of this shift are properly shattering: they imply no less than a thorough reworking of Marx's Hegelian notion of proletarian position as the position of "substanceless subjectivity," of those who are reduced to the abyss of their subjectivity.


Slavoj Žižek

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