Can the Subaltern Speak Essay

9125 Words Jun 29th, 2011 37 Pages
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Can the Subaltern Speak?
An understanding of contemporary relations of power, and of the Western intellectual's role within them, requires an examination of the intersection of a theory of representation and the political economy of global capitalism. A theory of representation points, on the one hand, to the domain of ideology, meaning, and subjectivity, and, on the other hand, to the domain of politics, the state, and the law.

The original title of this paper was "Power, Desire, Interest."1 Indeed, whatever power these meditations command may have been earned by a politically interested refusal to push to the limit the founding presuppositions of my desires, as far as they are within my grasp. This
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4 Deleuze's reference to the workers' struggle is equally problematic; it is obviously a genuflection: "We are unable to touch [power] in any point of its application without finding ourselves confronted by this diffuse mass, so that we are necessarily led ... to the desire to blow it up completely. Every partial revolutionary attack or defense is linked in this way to the workers' struggle" (FD, 217). The apparent banality signals a disavowal. The statement ignores the international division of labor, a gesture that often marks poststructuralist political theory.5 The invocation of the workers' struggle is baleful in its very innocence; it is incapable of dealing with global capitalism: the sUbject-production of worker and unemployed within nation-state ideologies in its Center; the increasing subtraction of the working class in the Periphery from the realization of surplus value and thus from "humanistic" training in consumerism; and the large-scale presence of paracapitalist labor as well as the heterogeneous structural status of agriculture in the Periphery. Ignoring the international division of labor; rendering "Asia" (and on occasion "Africa") transparent

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