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Month: January, 2019

Crisis and Immiseration: Critical Theory Today

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by A. Benanav and J. Clegg (2018)

The late 1960s saw an efflorescence of dissident Marxisms across Europe: operaismo in Italy, situationnisme in France, and what would become the Neue Marx-Lektüre in Germany. Marxian orthodoxy had entered into crisis after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A ‘new left’ was now groping for new ideas, and a wave of worker–student revolts, erupting worldwide in 1968, seemed to require a critical theory of post-war capitalism adequate to the practical critique taking shape in the factories and on the streets. Just as a previous high-point of theoretical production in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917 had seen a revival of the critical spirit of Marx’s writings, so too the new generation of dissident Marxists carried out their own ‘return to Marx’ aided by the discovery and distribution of many of his unpublished manuscripts.

Members of the Frankfurt School acted as an intellectual bridge between these two high points of Marxian theorizing. In Germany, the work of Theodor Adorno – along with the writings of some of the more unorthodox associates of the Frankfurt School, such as Alfred Sohn-Rethel – had a major influence on emergent re-readings of Marx’s mature writings. This Neue Marx-Lektüre interpreted Marx’s theory of value through his discussion of fetishism, not as a theory of the determination of prices, but rather as a theory of the determination of social labor as price. Here the dissidents drew on Sohn-Rethel’s notion of ‘real abstraction’, in which the material life process is dominated by the abstract and impersonal social forms of value. On this view, Marx’s late critique of political economy was not an attempt to improve upon the classical political economists, as Marxian orthodoxy had it. Instead, his critique showed how their inverted perspective corresponded to the real inversions of the ‘perverted, topsy-turvy world’ of capitalist society. . .  [READ PDF]

source: SAGE Handbook for Frankfurt School Critical Theory, ed. Best, Bonefeld, O’Kane 2018

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The Illusion of State Socialism and the Contradiction between Wage Labor and Capital

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by Wolfgang Müller and Christel Neusüss (1970)

The following article provides a synopsis of different versions of the revisionist theory of the state, and of its immanent tendencies. Further, it outlines a critique of the establishment of income distribution as an autonomous sphere, independent of production, and of the way state socialism is presented as carrying out its specific functions, as Marx indicated by means of the Factory Legislation. Only on the basis of these preliminary considerations it is possible to relate the concrete manifestations of the state’s social and political-economic functions to the process of capital realization and its contradictory development. Although this deals with revisionist theories of the state, it is not an actual analysis of contemporary state socialism. Thus, the historical and material conditions within which the illusion of state socialism has come about are only touched upon. The history of theory is generally kept separate from the history of capital. Yet, it is necessary to critically evaluate the revisionist theorists’ reification of the state —or rather, of income distribution—as a preliminary analytical step. . . [READ PDF]

On the “State derivation debate” see:

The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism

 

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Women and Revolution  (1981) deals with contemporary feminist political theory and practice. It is a debate concerning the importance of patriarchy and sexism in industrialized societies – are sexual differences and kin relations as critical to social outcome as economic relations? What is the dynamic between class and sex? Is one or the other dominant? How do they interact? What are the implications for social change? The principle essay to which the others respond – either criticizing it, extending, or attempting to improve it – is The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism by Heidi Hartmann. Hartmann argues that class and patriarchy are equally important and that neither a narrow feminism nor an economistic Marxism will suffice to help us understand or change modern society – instead we need a theory that can integrate the two analyses. The twelve contributors to this discussion are: Iris Young, Christine Riddiough, Gloria Joseph, Sandra Harding, Azizah ai-Hibri, Carol Ehrlich, Lise Vogel, Emily Hicks, Carol Brown, K.aties Stewart, Ann Ferguson & Nancy Folbre, Zillah Eisenstein.

In Praise of Idleness (1932)

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by Bertrand Russell (Harpers 1932)

Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Every one knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. This traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

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Moscow, January 1st, 2019

Welcome to the Future.

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An evening, sometime in the near future…

Simon Critchley

KADASHEVSKAYA HOTEL

26 Kadashevskaya nab. 115035 Moscow

January 1st, 2019

I guess we could all have seen it coming a few years back. Things really started to get worse around the end of 2013 and then dragged on into the long, cold winter months. That whole business with that guy, what was his name? Mountain in Wales. Snowden. That’s it. He went underground for a while and then emerged as the CEO of Bozhe Moi! (My God!): the amazing Russian search engine that overtook Google early in 2017. Totally wiped them out. I find it reassuringly old world and Le Carré-like to have the FSB watching all of us rather than the NSA.

Shortly after the President’s death, events moved fast. Well, suspicions were raised when they declared it accidental. Everyone knew it was suicide. He lost face (and…

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