Marxist morphologies

A materialist critique of brute materialities, flat infrastructures, fuzzy property, and complexified cities

in Volume 2018 (2018): Issue 82 (Dec 2018): Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent. Guest editors: Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur
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This article critiques assumptions made by urban anthropologists and other scholars of cities, focusing on currently fashionable theories of infrastructure, materiality, and complexity. It problematizes how scholarship informed by actor-network theory, assemblage theory and other varieties of (post)postmodernism uses morphological optics and metaphors to represent social life, the material world, and existence itself as necessarily “flat,” “complex” or “fuzzy.” As a corrective, it proposes reorienting our social morphologies with reference to a Marxist notion of infrastructure, founded on a dynamic understanding of the relationship between determining economic base and determined superstructure. It constructs its theoretical edifice with reference to the remaking of post-1945 Warsaw as a socialist city through property expropriation and monumental architectural and planning works, and post-1989 attempts to unmake its socialist character through property reprivatization and unplanning.