writings of chris wright
This is kind of my take on the total capital-consumption cycle as I see it relating to race, class and gender. I’m not enamored of images and picture thinking in general, but sometimes they are productive. This was inspired by reading Roswitha Scholz on value-dissociation.
Communism is nothing if it is not the entering of all of humanity into the realm of freedom, of freely disposed time to do or not do as one pleases. This does not eliminate the realm of necessity, but reduces it to a subordinate, non-determinate position in the relation of between it and freedom. This is impossible if the majority of time of a human life are spent doing work for an alien power, as a slave, a serf, a worker, a taxed peasant, regardless of whether that alien power is a lord or a master or the abstraction of capital. Only when necessary labor by human beings is reduced to a minimum of human time and the work freely chosen engages the mental, physical, and emotional faculties of a person can we reasonably imagine actual freedom for all of humanity, as opposed to the abstract freedom of exchange and democracy. It is also the unity in difference of the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom, rather than merely the victory of one aspect over the other (the fantasy of Utopian Socialism) or the enforced domination of one over the other (society of direct domination) or the collapsing of one into the other (capitalism) . . .[continue]
What kind of labor contributes to valorization? Is it the kind of labor that produces a commodity as a material thing, as is seemingly implied in the first chapters of Capital? This is, after all, what many critics of Marx argue, that he has a self-contradictory notion of value and labor in this section. However, before Marx completed Volume 1, we know that in his notebooks published as Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx has a famous and under-appreciated discussion of what makes labor valorizing in his discussion of the labor of a clown. Marx’s humor and fine sense of irony, much like Hegel’s, is rarely appreciated, so the joke is generally missed (as are all the jokes in Capital, especially in footnotes, as Nichole Pepperell has brilliantly written on in her dissertation and her excellent Uncomfortable Science blog.) Marx distinguishes between two ways in which the clown might labor. In the first, the clown sells his labor to a family and then goes about his clowning for them. This is explicitly not capitalist labor or value-producing, this is just a service. However, if the clown is employed by a capital(ist), is payed a wage because he/she sells his/her labor as a commodity, and has his/her clown services (the product of his/her labor) sold as a commodity to customers, we have entered the realm of the value-form, of value-producing labor, The product of labor need not be a material thing, but can be a service, a material relation if you will, because what determines the validity of the labor is its usefulness for the capital as a commodity it can sell and its usefulness for the consumer, in this case, enjoyment or entertainment…[continue]
Capital is, as its subtitle says, a critique of political economy and this has several implications. Firstly, Marx is not trying to explain capital or capitalist society as a rational, coherent, consistent system. Secondly, he is not abstracting from capital’s actual functioning in order to produce a model. Finally, he is not trying to provide a more accurate theory that fixes the limitations of classical political economy associated with Smith, Ricardo, Petty, Quesnay, etc. As a critique of political economy, Marx produced a book that treats even classical political economy as a necessarily failed attempt to provide a rational, consistent, coherent account of a system and a society that in his view is fundamentally irrational, inconsistent and incoherent. Marxists, generally a confused lot more interested in the workers’ movement than in the critique of political economy, take Marx’s work to be a proof of the necessary collapse of capital and a critique of capital by labor. In that story, capital and the capitalist class are evil and labor and the working class are good. Capital ends up being a book about the good guys and the bad guys in the class struggle. However, this point of view has a lot of problems, not the least of which is that Marx’s own notion of life beyond capital, beyond class society, is a life not determined by labor, but determined by freely disposable time. Marx’s critique of political economy is therefore a critique of all of its elements, of capital and labor, of money and the means of production… [continue]