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Category: communism

Class in the 21st century: Asset inflation and the new logic of inequality

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What becomes of class when residential property prices in major cities around the world accrue more income in a year than the average wage worker? This paper investigates the dynamic of combined wage disinflation and asset price inflation as a key to understanding the growth of inequality in recent decades. Taking the city of Sydney, Australia, as exemplary of a dynamic that has unfolded across the Anglo-American economies, it explains how residential property was constructed as a financial asset and how government policies helped to generate the phenomenal house price inflation and unequal capital gains of recent years. Proceeding in close conversation with Thomas Piketty’s work on inequality and recent sociological contributions to the question of class, we argue that employment and wage-based taxonomies of class are no longer adequate for understanding a process of stratification in which capital gains, capital income and intergenerational transfers are preeminent. We conclude the paper by outlining a new asset-based class taxonomy which we intend to specify further in subsequent work.

 

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Proletariat into a Class: The Process of Class Formation from Karl Kautsky’s The Class Struggle to Recent Controversies (1977)

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by ADAM PRZEWORSKI 

Politics & Society 7, no. 4 (1977): pp. 343-401

Workers and the petite bourgeois are the only producers of all that is consumed. The surplus produced by workers is directly and indirectly (through the state) transferred as revenue to all other categories. In this sense even the poorest of the lumpenproletariat lives off the workers: given capitalist relations of production there are objective bases to the antagonism of workers to the “welfare class”… Yet at the same time all categories other than the capitalists and the petite bourgeoisie are separated from the ownership of the means of production and forced to sell their labor power for a wage, unless they can subsist on so-called welfare. Moreover, in Marx’s analysis the labor of commercial employees, while not creating surplus value, enables the merchant capitalist to appropriate surplus value without paying the employees the full equivalent of their labor. In this sense, both the reproductive and the service categories, while living off the surplus produced by workers, are separated from the means of production, forced to sell their labor power, and in a particular sense exploited by the capitalist… Concrete analysis is incompatible with the view of classes as economically determined, spontaneously emerging subjects that simply march on to transform history. Classes are formed as effects of struggles; as classes struggle, they transform the conditions under which classes are formed.

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Critical Theory as Radical Crisis Theory: Kurz, Krisis, and Exit! on Value Theory, the Crisis, and the Breakdown of Capitalism

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Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen & Dominique Routhier (2019)

The essay introduces the work of Robert Kurz and the somewhat marginalized species of value critique that he is associated with: Wertkritik. On the basis of a critical historiographical account of the New Marx Reading,it argues that the theoretical and political differences between Wertkritik and other value-critical currents cannot be glossed over or dismissed as mere territorial strife but must instead be understood as an expression of a more fundamental disagreement about the nature of capitalism and the role of critique,the distinctive feature of course being the insistence on a proper theory of crisis. The essay presents Kurzs particular version of Wertkritik but argues against his abandonment of the notion of class struggle and proposes to supplement Kurzs analysis with Théorie Communistes more historically grounded analysis of the present period of capital.

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RETHINKING MARXISM, 2019 Vol. 31, No. 2, 173–193

Expropriate Everything

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by J.Blumenfeld, Brooklyn Rail, Summer 2019

It’s an unusually warm Saturday in Berlin—if it even makes sense to refer to the weather as “unusual” anymore. I wake up early, read a bit, write some emails, change some diapers, and then head out to meet some friends at the café before the big demo. The Mietwahnsinn or “rent insanity” protest is an annual gathering of tens of thousands of people at Alexanderplatz who come together to loudly and colorfully decry the seemingly unstoppable rise of rents in the German capital. Like most big protests here, it feels like a party. Strolling down Karl-Marx-Allee, a massive boulevard built in Stalinist style for East Berlin, 40,000 human beings throb to the bass—young, old, parents, roommates, co-workers, students, tenants, and activists all drifting together in common disarray, like a roving concert, shouting about rent-sharks, high costs of living, and, most of all, expropriation. The word is on everyone’s lips, not least the city senate, the big property owners and real estate companies, the struggling tenants and just about anyone else who’s read the paper, watched the news, or walked the streets where posters, banners and graffiti calling for the expropriation of Deutsche Wohnen & Co are ubiquitous. In most cities, such radical slogans would be ignored or dismissed as the infantile fantasies of an ultra-left fringe. But not here. The demand to expropriate the largest profit-oriented property owners in Berlin—in other words, to socialize over 200,000 private apartments—is a serious proposal, one that may, in fact, take place. How did this happen?

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Theological-Political Fragment (Walter Benjamin, 1921)

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Only the Messiah himself consummates all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes, creates its relation to the Messianic. For this reason nothing historical can relate itself on its own account to anything Messianic. Therefore the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic: it cannot be set as a goal. From the standpoint of history it is not the goal but the end. Therefore the order of the profane cannot be built up on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and therefore theocracy has no political, but only a religious meaning. To have repudiated with utmost vehemence the political significance of theocracy is the cardinal merit of Blochs Spirit of Utopia.

The order of the profane should he erected on the idea of happiness. The relation of this order to the Messianic is one of the essential teachings of the philosophy of history. It is the precondition of a mystical conception of history, containing a problem that can be represented figuratively. If one arrow points to the goal toward which the profane dynamic acts, and another marks the direction of Messianic intensity, then certainly the quest to free humanity for happiness runs counter to the Messianic direction; but just as a force can, through acting, increase another that is acting in the opposite direction, so the order of the profane assists, through being profane, the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. The profane, therefore, although not itself a category of this Kingdom, is a decisive category of its quietest approach. For in happiness all that is earthly seeks its downfall, and only in good fortune is its downfall destined to find it. Whereas, admittedly, the immediate Messianic intensity of the heart, of the inner man in isolation, passes through misfortune, as suffering. To the spiritual restitutio in integrum, which introduces immortality, corresponds a worldly restitution that leads to the eternity of downfall, and the rhythm of this eternally transient worldly existence, transient in its totality. in its spatial but also in its temporal totality, the rhythm of Messianic nature, is happiness. For nature is Messianic by reason of its eternal and total passing away.

To strive after such passing, even for those stages of man that are nature, is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism.


Walter Benjamin (1892-1940): Theological-Political Fragment, date uncertain (probably either 1920-1921 or 1937-1938), unpublished in Benjamin’s lifetime. Translated by Edmund Jephcott in Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938 (2006), pp. 305-306.

Understanding Walter Benjamin’s Theological-Political Fragment by Eric Jacobson  Jewish Studies Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3 (2001), pp. 205-247


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Winter is Coming: China 2018-2019 (Wildcat)

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Updated translation of “China: Der Winter kommt” from issue #103 (February 2019) of the German magazine Wildcat. We publish this as the first in a series of blog posts attempting to grapple with events and trends in China over the past year, on which we’ve remained silent partly because we were busy finishing up the second issue of our journal, and partly because we weren’t sure how to address some of these thorny issues. We find this article an excellent overview of the past year’s events, and thus a good starting point for our own engagement. It is the second part of a series, the first focusing on the Jasic struggle (which we will address in some of our upcoming posts). We look forward to the third part, which will explore economic trends in more depth.

via Chuangcn.org


“The economic winter is coming!” What was only occasionally heard from bankers in the summer of 2018 is now widespread table talk and the signs are everywhere and numerous: Employees were sent on unpaid holidays over the Spring Festival [i.e. Chinese New Year in January-February 2019], car sales collapsed last year for the first time in 28 years and have been declining for almost a year now, retail is weakening, venture capital is withdrawing, exports are sinking, trade war… The Chinese growth model of recent decades is coming to an end. “2019 won’t be a good year to buy an apartment or a car,” my colleagues say, “because we can’t predict how prices will change—and how long we’ll still have our jobs.”

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Editor’s Introduction to Pashukanis

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A Contrary Little Quail

Editor’s Introduction to Evgeny B. Pashukanus’ The General Theory of Law and Marxism (1924)

by Christopher J. Arthur (1978)

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Evgeny Bronislavovich Pashukanis published his important contribution towards the materialist critique of legal forms in 1924. It remains to this day the most significant Marxist work on the subject. Indeed, such has been the paucity of original work this area that in Britain the standard reference work is even older: Karl Renner’s book on The Social Functions of Law – a product of the Marxism of the Second International. Needless to say, Pashukanis subjects Renner’s theories to severe criticism.

The present revival of interest in the theories of Pashukanis forms part of the current renaissance of Marxist debate. More particularly, it is part of a process of recovery of the heritage of Bolshevik thought repressed by the Stalinist bureaucracy and its international supporters; for example – in the field of…

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Nanni Balestrini (1935-2019)

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Nanni Balestrini was born in Milan in 1935. Known both as an experimental writer of prose and verse and as a cultural and political activist, he played a leading role in avant-garde writing and publishing in the sixties. His involvement with the extra-parliamentary left in the seventies resulted in terrorism charges (of which he was subsequently acquitted) and a long period of self-imposed exile from Italy.

For a brief explosive period in the mid-1970s, the young and the unemployed of Italy’s cities joined the workers in an unexpectedly militant movement known simply as Autonomy (Autonomia). Its “politics of refusal” united its opponents behind draconian measures more severe than any seen since the war.

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Legal Form: The Marxist Analysis of Law

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Legal Form – This collection of documents contains texts that (a) are widely recognized as “canonical” within the Marxist tradition, (b) grapple with legal questions from a standpoint informed by Marxist methods, (c) scrutinize a specifically Marxist approach to law in the context of a particular debate, and/or (d) examine the historical conditions under which a given account of Marxism and law was initially discussed. Some are exceedingly well known; others remain unread, or are largely forgotten. Save for the most relevant or “authoritative” figures, we have generally endeavored to include no more than one text for each author.

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We Need a New State Debate (Part Two) — Chris O’Kane

The second part of Chris O’Kane’s critical reevaluation of Marxist state theories and debates.

via We Need a New State Debate (Part Two) — Chris O’Kane — Legal Form

The State Derivation Debate [1]

The so-called second generation of Frankfurt critical theorists, Jürgen Habermas and Claus Offe, had formulated social-democratic theories of the state. They had argued that capitalism’s crisis tendencies had been overcome and that the working class had been integrated into contemporary society. All struggles were thus political struggles over the state’s management of economic relations, and social democracy represented the road to human fulfilment.

Johannes Agnoli had critiqued Habermas and Offe’s theories. For Agnoli the state was the political form of capitalist reproduction, not something to be understood as separate from economic relations. Keynesianism, moreover, had not overcome class struggle, but rather “statified” it by incorporating the working class into a vast bureaucracy. All struggles should thus be outside of and against the state in order to abolish it outright, and with it the whole of capitalist society.

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Basic Banalities (Vaneigem, 1962)

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Basic Banalities

Raoul Vaneigem

Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962)

Translated by Ken Knabb

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BUREAUCRATIC CAPITALISM has found its legitimation in Marx. I am not referring here to orthodox Marxism’s dubious merit of having reinforced the neocapitalist structures whose present reorganization is an implicit homage to Soviet totalitarianism; I am stressing the extent to which crude versions of Marx’s most profound analyses of alienation have become generally recognized in the most commonplace realities — realities which, stripped of their magical veil and materialized in each gesture, have become the sole substance of the daily lives of an increasing number of people. In a word, bureaucratic capitalism contains the tangible reality of alienation; it has brought it home to everybody far more successfully than Marx could ever have hoped to do, it has banalized it as the reduction of material poverty has been accompanied by a spreading mediocrity of existence. As poverty has been reduced in terms of survival, it has become more profound in terms of our way of life — this is at least one widespread feeling that exonerates Marx from all the interpretations a degenerate Bolshevism has made of him. The “theory” of peaceful coexistence has accelerated this awareness and revealed, to those who were still confused, that exploiters can get along quite well with each other despite their spectacular divergences.

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A Party of Autonomy?

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by Steve Wright (2005)

In loving memory of Ivan Conabere (1963-2002)—‘Uno di noi’

Autonomia operaia is a party, from the phenomenal, organisational and structural point of view—Judge Pietro Calogero (La Repubblica 1979: 120).

If only!—Mario Dalmaviva, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Emilio Vesce, Lauso Zagato (1979: 23).

This chapter seeks to explore, in a critical manner, the debate over the party-form played out within and around the groups of Autonomia Operaia during the late seventies, when that area of revolutionary politics was briefly the dominant force within the Italian far left. Having assumed a leading role during the initial stages of 1977’s ‘strange movement of strange students’ (Lerner, Manconi & Sinibaldi 1978), Italian autonomists finally found a mass audience for their debate around the meaning and purpose of political organisation. This was to be a many-sided discussion while it lasted, conducted not only between the various ‘micro-fractions’ (Scalzone 1978) that together claimed the label of Autonomia organizzata, but also with a range of critics ‘outside and on its borders’ (Martignoni & Morandini 1977).

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Kojève

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Alexander Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1930s)

In other words, the bourgeois Worker presupposes–and conditions–an Entsagung, an Abnegation of human existence. Man transcends himself, surpasses himself, projects himself far away from himself by projecting himself onto the idea of private property, of Capital, which–while being the Property-owner’s own product–becomes independent of him and enslaves him just as the Master enslaved the Slave; with this difference, however, that the enslavement is now conscious and freely accepted by the Worker. (We see, by the way, that for Hegel, as for Marx, the central phenomenon of the bourgeois World is not the enslavement of the working man, of the poor bourgeois, by the rich bourgeois, but the enslavement of both by Capital.) However that may be, bourgeois existence presupposes, engenders, and nourishes Abnegation. Now it is precisely this Abnegation that reflects itself in the dualistic Christian ideology, while providing it with a new, specific, nonpagan content. It is the same Christian dualism that is found again in bourgeois existence: the opposition between the “legal Person,” the private Property-owner; and the man of flesh and blood; the existence of an ideal, transcendent World, represented in reality by Money, Capital, to which Man is supposed to devote his Actions, to sacrifice his sensual, biological Desires.


 

See also: The Black Circle: The Life of Alexander Kojève by Jeff Love (2018)

Critical Theory and the Critique of Anti-Imperialism

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by Marcel Stoetzler (2018)

[in Best, Beverley; Werner Bonefeld; Chris O’Kane (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, vol. 3, 1467-1486.]

The rejection of ‘anti-imperialism’ marks one of the most visible and significant differences between ‘Frankfurt School’ Critical Theory and most other tendencies of the Marxist left. The dispute on the meaning and relevance of ‘imperialism’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ is implicated in related discussions on the critique of nation and state, colonialism and post-coloniality, racism and race, and antisemitism. ‘Frankfurt School’ Critical Theory deliberately aims to formulate a critique of the capitalist mode of production that includes the phenomena typically addressed as ‘imperialism’ without recourse to the concept of ‘anti-imperialism’. It takes the perspective that ‘imperialism’ is an intrinsic aspect of the capitalist mode of production rather than an object in its own right that is to be distinguished from the latter and to be fought ‘as such’: the concept of ‘anti-imperialism’ presupposes the reification and fetishization of ‘imperialism’.

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Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

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by Max Horkheimer (1936)

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history.  [READ PDF]

Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image

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Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image – Aspects of Marx’s Capital Today

Edited by Peter Osborne, Éric Alliez and Eric-John Russell

Contributors: Éric Alliez, Étienne Balibar, Tithi Bhattacharya, Boris Buden, Sara. R. Farris, John Kraniauskas, Elena Louisa Lange, Maurizio Lazzarato, Antonio Negri, Peter Osborne, Eric-John Russell, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Keston Sutherland

Drawn from a conference held to mark the 150th anniversary of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, these essays from a range of internationally established contributors offer readers a snapshot of debates about the book’s current relevance across a variety of fields and contexts. The volume approaches Marx’s Capital as an exemplary text in the continuation of the tradition of post-Kantian European Philosophy through transdisciplinary practices of critique and concept construction. The essays are grouped into four sections: Value-Form, Ontology & Politics; Capitalism, Feminism and Social Reproduction; Freedom, Democracy and War; The Poetics of Capital/Capital. Each section is accompanied by an image from the 2008 film by Alexander Kluge, News From Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Capital.

This book is available as a free ebook at the link below. The book will also be available as a paperback from Amazon in February 2019.

DOWNLOAD BOOK HERE

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Erik Olin Wright (1947-2019)

Link to: Archive of Erik Olin Wright’s work (mediafire, zip file, 244MB)

“One of Poulantzas’s most important contributions is his insistence that class relations cannot be understood solely in terms of economic relations; political and ideological relations must be brought into the understanding of objective class position itself. The weakness of his analysis, as discussed earlier, is that he has developed this principle in such a way that ideological and political criteria have effectively become coequal with economic relations themselves. For political and ideological relations to be integrated into a theory of the structural determination of class, it is necessary that this be done in a way that maintains the primacy of economic relations. We need, in other words, a criterion for the use of political and ideological relations which is itself determined by economic relations.

Our analysis of contradictory class locations provides us with such a criterion: the extent to which political and ideological relations enter into the determination of class position is itself determined by the degree to which those positions occupy a contradictory location at the level of social relations of production. The more contradictory is a position within social relations of production, the more political and ideological relations can influence its objective position within class relations. The more a position coincides with the basic antagonistic class relations at the level of social relations of production, the less weight political and ideological forces can have in determining its class position. In a sense it is the indeterminacy of class determination at the economic level which allows political and ideological relations to become effective determinants of class position.

Political and ideological relations can either tend to heighten or to counteract the contradictory quality of locations that are not completely determined at the economic level. For example, the ideological division between mental and manual labour, on which Poulantzas places such stress, would tend to deepen the contradictory class location of certain semi-autonomous employees. Many technicians with only minimal control over their immediate labour process would be located close to the boundary of the working class in terms of the three dimensions of class relations at the economic level, but would be pushed further from the working class by the status division between mental and manual labour. A strong union movement among white-collar employees, on the other hand, could constitute a political factor which pushed them closer to the working class. In this way, political and ideological class struggle become determinants of the objective class positions of contradictory locations at the economic level.”

Webpage of Erik Olin Wright 

 

 

The Dialectic of Sex (Shulamith Firestone, 1970)

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Shulamith Firestone  – The Dialectic of Sex (1970)

In the following chapters we shall assume this definition of historical materialism, examining the cultural institutions that maintain and reinforce the biological family (especially its present manifestation, the nuclear family) and its result, the psychology of power, and aggressive chauvinism now developed enough to destroy us. We shall integrate this with a feminist analysis of Freudianism: for Freud’s cultural bias, like that of Marx and Engels, does not invalidate his perception entirely. In fact, Freud had insights of even greater value than those of the socialist theorists for the building of a new dialectical materialism based on sex. We shall attempt, then, to correlate the best of Engels and Marx (the historical materialist approach) with the best of Freud (the understanding of inner man and women and what shapes them) to arrive at a solution both political and personal yet grounded in real conditions. We shall see that Freud observed the dynamics of psychology correctly in its immediate social context, but because the fundamental structure of that social context was basic to all humanity – to different degrees – it appeared to be nothing less than an absolute existential condition which it would be insane to question – forcing Freud and many of his followers to postulate a priori constructs like the Death Wish to explain the origins of these universal psychological drives. This in turn made the sicknesses of humanity irreducible and incurable – which is why his pro posed solution (psychoanalytic therapy), a contradiction in terms, was so weak compared to the rest of his work, and such a resounding failure in practice – causing those of social/political sensibility to reject not only his therapeutic solution, but his most profound discoveries as well. . . [PDF]

See also: Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Sex: Critical Essays on Shulamith Firestone

 

Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Goldner, 1995)

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Kevin Sloan, Our Modern Animal, 2013

Preface to the Swedish edition of Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Riff-Raff)

Loren Goldner, 2002

The core of the following text was actually written in 1988, before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and was then slightly modified for its first publication in English (1991) to briefly take note of the 1989–91 »events». Over the past decade, it has been translated into seven other languages. The fact that it was written prior to the collapse (a collapse whose imminence I, like so many others, did not foresee), and continues to arouse international interest a decade later, is one indication that, whatever its flaws, it succeeded in resonating with some deep preoccupations of the contemporary world.

Indeed, since 1988, interest in the work of Amadeo Bordiga has only increased1, and seems on its way to eclipsing (hopefully with happier results) the earlier 1960s/1970s fascination with Antonio Gramsci, who was, not incidentally, Moscow’s point man for the eradication of Bordiga’s influence from the Italian Communist Party in the mid-1920’s.Of course, the great majority of »Gramscians» of the 1960’s and 1970’s were hardly aware of Gramsci’s real political role, but then they were hardly interested in the real politics of their own era either. The postwar Gramscians, particularly in the English-speaking world (we are thinking of figures such as Carl Boggs, admirer of 1970’s »Euro-communism») rode on the wave of »culturalism» which included the Frankfurt School and French post-structuralism, which appeared to them (as to the broader social stratum from which they came, the radicalized middle classes) as the worthy successor to »vulgar Marxism». (Had they been more than dismissively aware of Bordiga, they would undoubtedly classed him with such »vulgar Marxism».) The Gramscians, like other currents of the culturalist camp, greatly preferred discussions of cultural hegemony to the »vulgar Marxist» issues such as the critique of political economy, not to mention the »art of insurrection», and the decline of their influence parallels rather concisely the decline of the illusions of culturalism. Capitalism benefited greatly from the »cultural radicalism» of the 1960’s, which turned out to be a large part of the managerial wisdom of the 1990’s3.

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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