Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of
The World as Market: The Materialist Inversion of Spiritualist Models of the World
This chapter addresses Marx’s immanent critique of spiritualist accounts of the world, which destroys the normative basis of world literature. It argues that Marx’s emphasis on the centrality of the world market gives the mistaken impression that the world is a spatial formation when his critique of capitalism is based on an understanding of the world as a temporal process. It then argues that Marx’s denial of any normative force to literature can be circumvented by the insights of critical theories of space. Similarly, Marx’s reductive view of global capitalism can be supplemented by world-systems theory. The chapter formulates a materialist account of world literature from these resources.