On ‘The Problem with Brenner’: The Paradox of Agency and the Heresy of Reification

In: Historical Materialism
Michael Andrew Žmolek University of Iowa Iowa City, Iowa United States

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Knafo and Teschke’s surprisingly polemical critique of Brenner’s work is derived from earlier work which applies the same critique arising out of the agency/structure debate in International Relations theory. Casting Brenner’s work as increasingly structuralist over time and therefore increasingly prone to reify social relations, thereby suppressing or downplaying the role of agency, Knafo and Teschke ask their readers to take such claims at face value, offering no close textual reading of Brenner’s work. Focusing almost entirely on method rather than on substance and by framing their critique within the confines of the unending debate over structure and agency, Knafo and Teschke’s claim that Brenner’s work consistently reifies social relations – presuming but not demonstrating that this is his intent – obscures and fails to engage substantively with his powerful historical contributions, or to offer alternative definitions or historical theories.

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