Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 327–343 | Cite as

Trotsky over Mauss: Anthropological Theory and the October 1917 Commemoration

  • Don KalbEmail author

Birth of Karl Marx, 200 years. The first publication of Das Kapital, 150 years. The Russian and German Revolutions, 100 years. Paris and Prague 1968, 50 years. In a sense, 2017 and 2018 seem over-determined. No escape, not even for those who are not interested in the timeline of the Left and/or live through other temporal narratives, like Vladimir Putin, who kept open talk of the revolutionary centennial in Russia to almost zero.

Putin serves as a pointer for the larger contemporary context: The Western and Southern Left has willfully chosen amnesia of the Russian revolution too, and that since long. The same reformist Left is also at the end of its shelf life, paralyzed before the choices it is forced to make between participatory capitalism on terms dictated by globalized capital and participatory democracy cum popular sovereignty. Ten years after the financial crash of 2008–2014 and the deepest recession since the 1930s, a vindictive nationalist Right is becoming ever more dominant...



This essay was presented in early form in lectures at respectively CUNY Graduate Center, New York, November 2017, and Central European University, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Budapest, January 2018. I thank David Harvey in New York and Daniel Monterescu and Dorit Geva in Budapest for the invitations. I also thank the public for their active prompting. Several friends have been part of conversations that form a background to this paper, including Chris Hann, Sharryn Kasmir, and Gavin Smith (I am omitting a larger list of interlocutors to whom I am sincerely grateful). I thank Oana Mateescu for research assistance and for seminal conversations on Marcel Mauss, on whom we do not always agree.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.University of UtrechtUtrechtNetherlands

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