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Neil Davidson


This article is a response to some of the criticisms made of How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? by Gerstenberger, Post and Riley. In particular, it focuses on two issues of definition – that of capitalism and the capitalist nation-state – which arise from the book’s ‘consequentialist’ claim that bourgeois revolutions are defined by a particular outcome: the establishment of nation-states dedicated to the accumulation of capital.

Luis Tapia Mealla


René Zavaleta set out to deepen the explanation of the history of Bolivia by developing a set of ideas about long-term structures of pre-Hispanic and colonial origin and their forms of overlap. This paper analyses the conceptual structure of Zavaleta’s proposal and the place of history within it.

Brian Kelly


For more than a generation, historical interpretations of emancipation in the United States have acknowledged that the slaves played a central role in driving that process forward. This is a critically important advance, and one worth defending. But it is also a perspective whose influence seems increasingly precarious. This article explores the complex relationship between the slaves’ ‘revolution from below’ and the bourgeois revolution directed from above, in part through an appraisal of W.E.B. Du Bois’s argument about the ‘slaves’ general strike’ and the wider revolutionary upheaval encompassing civil war and reconstruction. Grounded in a close familiarity with sources and interpretive trends, the article offers a detailed reading of shifting perspectives in current historiography, a comprehensive review of left engagement with Du Bois’s work, and an extended ‘critical and sympathetic’ appraisal of his major work from within the framework of the Marxist tradition.

Motley Society, Plurinationalism, and the Integral State

Álvaro García Linera’s Use of Gramsci and Zavaleta

Anne Freeland


This article examines Bolivian vice president Álvaro García Linera’s use of concepts originating in the work of Antonio Gramsci and Bolivian sociologist René Zavaleta Mercado. Zavaleta’s concept of sociedad abigarrada (usually translated as ‘motley society’) has a history of misappropriation in which García Linera participates by articulating it with the related concept of the estado aparente to claim that the merely ‘apparent’ state which does not effectively represent the heterogeneous social reality of a country like Bolivia is abolished with the official establishment of the Plurinational State in 2009. This ideologeme of the Plurinational State as one that faithfully represents Bolivia’s abigarramiento is equated with the Gramscian stato integrale, which in Gramsci refers to the state proper plus civil society where these are thoroughly integrated to function as an organic whole (the modern capitalist nation-state). Beyond merely misusing the borrowed terms of this discursive operation, García Linera gives a prescriptive value to concepts developed for an analytical purpose to validate the existing regime.

The Central Office of Factory Councils in 1919–20

A Forgotten Chapter in the German Council Movement

Axel Weipert


This article is a shortened version of a chapter from Axel Weipert’s 2015 book, Die zweite Revolution.

Self-Knowledge and Self-Determination at the Limits of Capitalism

Introduction to René Zavaleta Mercado’s Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia: 1879–1980

Sinclair Thomson


This text is an introduction to the new English translation of critical theorist René Zavaleta Mercado’s Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia: 1879–1980. It surveys principal themes in the book and discusses why Zavaleta (1935–84) is a pertinent thinker for the global South and capitalist periphery today.

Nadia Breda

Can anthroposophists be considered environmentalists? Based on the author’s recent ethnographic research, this article seeks to delineate the profile of the anthroposophical environmentalist, a figure belonging to a particular form of environmentalism. In the last two centuries, anthroposophy (founded by Rudolf Steiner, 1861-1925) has elaborated a universalistic narrative named “spiritual science.” Today, through a “salvific approach” and a “karstic life,” anthroposophy informs different, blended, environmental practices intertwined with ecological and social issues that include spirituality, anti-modernism, human-nonhuman relationships and alternative sciences. Consequently, the ecological movements inspired by anthroposophy have a wide and increasing diffusion globally and this, in turn, stimulates anthropology to produce appropriate ethnographic knowledge of this form of environmentalism.

Greg Beckett

The humanitarian is often seen as the great moral figure of our time. In this article, I explore how the idea of the humanitarian, as a global public figure, is related to broader ideas of liberalism, agency, ethics, and care. I draw on ethnographic examples from Haiti to first paint a portrait of the humanitarian as a person concerned with certain ideas of care, suffering, and salvation. I then offer a more general theoretical account of the figure of the humanitarian and suggest that this figure is tied to a larger story about liberal responses to cruelty and suffering. In the end, I suggest that the figure of the humanitarian tells us much about the normalization of emergency around the world and about what I call the banality of care.