Founded In    1956
Published   quarterly
Language(s)   English, German

Fields of Interest


literature, cultural studies, history, political science, linguistics, critical theory, teaching of American Studies

ISSN   0340-2827
Publisher   Winter
Editorial Board

General Editor:
Oliver Scheiding

Review Editor:
Christa Buschendorf

Editorial Board:
Christa Buschendorf
Andreas Falke
Hans-Jürgen Grabbe
Alfred Hornung
Sabine Sielke

Managing Editor:
Damien B. Schlarb

Assistant Editor:
Nele Sawallisch

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Manuscripts and books for review should be submitted to the editorial office in Mainz. There is no obligation to review unsolicited books.
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding
FB 05 Dept. of English and Linguistics Amerikanistik
Johannes Gutenberg - University Mainz
Jakob Welder Weg 20 (Philosophicum II), room 02-229
55128 Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131 39 20 296
Fax: +49 6131 39 20 356
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Amerikastudien / American Studies


Amerikastudien / American Studies is the journal of the German Association for American Studies. It started as the annual Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien in 1956 and has since developed into a quarterly with some 1200 subscriptions in Europe and the United States. The journal is dedicated to interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives and embraces the diversity and dynamics of a dialogic and comparatist understanding of American Studies. It covers all areas of American Studies from literary and cultural criticism, history, political science, and linguistics to the teaching of American Studies. Special-topics issues alternate with regular ones. Reviews, forums, and annual bibliographies support the international circulation of German and European scholarship in American Studies.
Editor: Oliver Scheiding
Address: Amerikastudien/American Studies
FB 05 Dept. of English and Linguistics Amerikanistik
Johannes Gutenberg - University Mainz
Jakob Welder Weg 20 (Philosophicum II), room 02-229
55128 Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131 39 20 296
Fax: +49 6131 39 20 356


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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017: Marx and the United States, Vol. 62, No. 4

The United States of Marx and Marxism: Introduction

The Mysteries of Capital

"The Mysteries of Capital" argues that Marx's Capital should be read as an imaginative work of the socialist tradition, and must be re-situated historically and generically. It then outlines a framework for such a reading, arguing that Capital is, like Moby-Dick, a modern epic, less a linear, heroic narrative than a sprawling encyclopedia and anatomy of the world, consisting of five different books, each of which has generated a distinct form of Marxist thought.

Transition: End of the Debate

While the terms socialism and communism have often been used interchangeably, Marx offers multiple formulations that clarify their relation. His schematic account sets them as distinct but linked moments on a historical trajectory, with the lower stage of socialism retaining primary bourgeois suppositions but opening onto the higher stage of communism. This model of transition oriented revolutionary thought in the Marxist tradition for at least a century, from 1875 onward. In the present, however, the link between the two stages appears broken, not by ideological differences but for material reasons. These material reasons have to do with changes in class composition at a global level that are driven by capital's declining capacity to absorb labor into the productive process, which undermines the anticapitalist capacities of a working class once thought able to seize the means of production. Consequently the debate no longer concerns the nature of the transition but how to proceed in its absence. This abandonment of transition as a revolutionary axiom is presented both by socialists and communists. The social forms of socialism and communism no longer appear as continuous but as opposed.

The Plantation Road to Socialism

In twentieth-century historiography and social theory, the New World slave plantation has long been understood as the crucible of capitalist modernity. Today, the history of the plantation seems inseparable from the history of capitalism. This essay pushes against this assimilation of the plantation to the history of capitalism in order to consider how ex-slaves improvised with aspects of the institution of the plantation in order to effect a direct transition into a socialist world. Examining a cooperative farming scheme authored by Jamaican peasants in 1865 alongside the pre-emancipation socialist pamphleteering of the radical Jamaican mulatto Robert Wedderburn, it seeks to uncover how black subalterns improvised with the plantation as a means of developing the organizational and imaginative bases of a cooperatively-governed social order opposed to market imperatives, waged labor, and subsistence insecurity. This is a history of a socialism unnamed and out of place; its agents are conservative peasants in an increasingly peripheral zone of the world-system. This essay argues for the political imperative of recovering such unnamed and unlikely socialisms, particularly at a moment when socialism is reemerging as a named and namable politics in the United States.

'Race' as a Function of Capitalism and Imperialism: W.E.B. Du Bois's Appropriation of Marxian Ideas in The Black Flame

The extent to which the African American scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois was a Marxist is a highly controversial issue in Du Boisian scholarship. The following paper argues that he seriously grappled with Marxism and socialism throughout his life. This article's focus is on the much-neglected trilogy of historical novels, The Black Flame, written in the 1950s. Designed as a sequel to his renowned Marxist revisionist study Black Reconstruction (1935), Du Bois's ambitious narrative project covers the eight decades of American history between 1876 and the mid-1950s. Using "the method of historical fiction," Du Bois creates highly complex texts that combine various literary subgenres and styles with essayistic and scientific prose to offer a nonorthodox Marxian economic perspective on U.S. and international history. The three novels, The Ordeal of Mansart (1957), Mansart Builds a School (1959), and Worlds of Color (1961), tell the life story of the black educator Manuel Mansart and his extended family. In a wide-ranging educational process meant to be shared by the reader, the protagonist eventually overcomes his provincial view of the "Negro problem" and gains a clear understanding of the role of the colored peoples of the world in global capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Life After the Avant-Garde: Proletarian Realism, Proletarian Modernism

This essay analyzes the category of "life" as mobilized by proletarian writing, and through this analysis explores proletarian realism's relation to Marxism and the avant-garde. Surveying the commitment to everyday life, inherited from avant-gardism, in the work of Michael Gold, Jack Conroy and Langston Hughes, the essay investigates the relation of two central modes of its expression: testimony and allegory. From here the claim is that proletarian realism's everyday life was defined by two Marxist commitments: to relation and to purpose. In the case of the first, testimony and allegory are brought together to connect the immediate embodied particulars of working life to the wider processes that enforce them. In the second, they are brought together to mobilize this relation towards action. Here we see a bifurcation: on the one hand, we encounter writing that, anxious to mold its particulars into a meaningful whole, attempts to fix them into an overarching economy in danger of draining its evocations of everyday life of vitality; on the other, we see writing that makes purpose a subject for thought and literary form and carries everyday life's dynamism over into committed literary expression.

From Political Radicalism to Revolutionary Therapy: Wilhelm Reich and Freudo-Marxism in America

The synthesis of Marx and Freud pioneered by Wilhelm Reich laid the foundations for the politicization of sexuality and the redefinition of politics in terms of the personal, which became distinctive features of leftist activism in the 1960s. Reich's particular blend of Marxist social theory and Freudian psychoanalysis resulted, moreover, in the development of alternative forms of therapy, which helped ignite U.S. therapeutic culture. This article traces Reich's theoretical trajectory from radical political critique to the development of new therapeutic forms in order to shed light on the turn within the revolutionary movements of the Sixties: from direct political action to finding different ways of self-realization and fulfillment.

Marx vs. the Robots

Debates about automation and the future of work have proliferated in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. From smart software to nimble industrial robots, new labor-saving technologies seem to explain why the post-Recession period has witnessed the decoupling of economic growth and employment. This essay argues that Marx's contribution to the automation debate is his critique of the contradictions and hollow promises of capitalist technological progress. For Marx, although robots could potentially help transform labor time, they are ultimately frauds that express the emancipatory potential of science and technology in the inverted form of humanized machines and mechanized, superfluous humans.

The Ordeal of Labor and the Birth of Robot Fiction

This essay analyzes the depiction of artifi cial laborers in Karel Čapek's play R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). The play is informed by the wish to liberate humanity from work, as it degrades the individual. Nevertheless, since work needs to be done, artifi cial laborers are created. As they are not naturally born but artificially produced, humankind easily finds excuses to treat them as slaves. Moreover, the robots' entire raison d'être is utterly dependent on capitalistic enterprises. They become the materialization of the market's demands. This dependency becomes even more obvious when the robots kill almost all humans, only to realize that they won't be able to survive without the corporation they fought. The play is a first encounter with robots that dramatizes the capitalistic demands common in the early twentieth century. In doing so it is informed by ongoing industrialization and coupled with the horrors of WWI and a growing human sentiment against the devaluation of certain types of labor. This essay argues that the play offers a critique of the capitalist mode of mass production, which is infl uenced by the general perception, hopes, and fears generated by the quick progress of the U.S.-American Fordist economy.

Ruthless Critique or Selective Apologia? The Postcolonial Left in Theory and Practice

The Left, both in the United States and globally, is sharply divided on questions regarding the universality or particularity of liberatory politics, the validity of critiques of religion, and the role of international solidarity. Concerns about false universality and the cynical manipulation of solidarity have translated into a generalized suspicion of these once basic left concepts. Increasingly, one set of ostensibly left commitments -- anti-racism, anti-imperialism, and antimilitarism -- are deployed against the values of universalism, free speech, and solidarity. Is this simply a matter of strategic differences, or does it refl ect more fundamental theoretical and political disagreements that are reshaping the basic contours of left politics? This article explores this question through a Marxian analysis of left reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attack, the subsequent PEN award boycott, and the decolonial politics of Le Parti des indigènes de la République in the United States. It argues that this transformation in political culture mirrors a transformation within academia that was pioneered in the United States but is now transatlantic: the ascendance of a new constellation of critical intellectual traditions -- postcolonialism, poststructuralism, Critical Whiteness Studies, and queer theory -- that are highly critical of the Enlightenment, universalism, and secularism. It offers a political and theoretical critique of the assumptions undergirding contemporary postcolonial left argumentation, illustrating how they resonate with philosophical positions pioneered by the right.

"I Was Always Interested in Capitalism." Interview with Walter Benn Michaels

In this interview, Walter Benn Michaels talks about his trajectory from being a student involved in the anti-war movement in the late 1960s to becoming an English professor, whose critique of what he calls "left neoliberalism" and his demand for a politics focused on class have been controversially discussed. While Michaels initially became interested in literary criticism seemingly at the expense of political and economic questions, he argues that he "was always interested in capitalism" and its relationship to literary texts and other cultural artifacts. In the interview, he reflects on what made him pay more attention to class inequality and criticizes how many American liberals can only conceive of class in the same manner that they understand racial discrimination. He also discusses the impact of the financial crisis and the election of Barack Obama on the American Left, which he criticizes for its focus on horizontal forms of protest. According to Michaels, it is necessary to organize, especially in the workplace. The interview concludes with reflections on the role aesthetic form can have as an example of what it means to look at an autonomous structure -- such as the capitalist economy.

Other Issues

Amerikastudien / American Studies 2018: Digital Scholarship in American Studies, Vol. 63, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2018, Vol. 63, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017, Vol. 62, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017: Poetry and Law, Vol. 62, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017, Vol. 62, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016: Environmental Imaginaries on the Move: Nature and Mobility in American Literature and Culture, Vol. 61, No.4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016, Vol. 61, No.3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016: Turkish-American Literature, Vol. 61, No.2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016, Vol. 61, No.1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015: Risk, Security: Approaches to Uncertainty in American Literature, Vol. 60, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015, Double Issue, Vol. 60, No. 2/3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015: Network Theory and American Studies, Vol. 60, No.1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014: South Africa and the United States in Transnational American Studies, Vol. 59, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 3,
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013: Iconographies of the Calamitous in American Visual Culture, Vol. 58, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013, Vol. 58, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013: Pragmatism's Promise, Vol. 58, No. 2
Amerika Studien / American Studies 2013, Vol. 58, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012: Tocqueville's Legacy: Towards a Cultural History of Recognition in American Studies , Vol. 57, No.4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, 57.3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012 - Conceptions of Collectivity in Contemporary American Literature, Vol. 57, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, Vol. 57, Vol. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011: American Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Vol. 56, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: African American Literary Studies: New Texts, New Approaches, New Challenges , Vol. 55, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: Trauma's Continuum -- September 11th Reconsidered, Vol. 55, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010, Vol. 55, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: Poverty and the Culturalization of Class , Vol. 55, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009: American History/ies in Germany: Assessments, Transformations, Perspectives, Vol. 54, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009: Appropriating Vision(s): Visual Practices in American Women's Writing, Vol. 54, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008, Vol. 53, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008: Die Bush-Administration: Eine erste Bilanz, Vol. 53, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008, Vol. 53, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008: Inter-American Studies and Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 53, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007, Vol. 52, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007 - Teaching American Studies in the Twenty-First Century, Vol. 52, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007, Vol. 52, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007 - Transatlantic Perspectives on American Visual Culture, Vol. 52, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006, Vol. 51, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Asian American Studies in Europe, Vol. 51, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006, Vol. 51, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Multilingualism and American Studies , Vol. 51, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005, Vol. 50, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005 - Early American Visual Culture, Vol. 50, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005 - American Studies at 50, Vol. 50, Nos. 1/2