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Tag: crisis

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of dissident Marxists carried out their own ‘return to Marx’ aided by the discovery and distribution of many of his unpublished manuscripts.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 Glass Floor (Theorie Communiste, 2008)

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Theorie Communiste’s analysis of the December 2008 Greek riots.

This text is the introduction for the book, Les Emeutes en Grèce, published by Senonevero in April 2009.

The book also contains the following articles:

The Glass Floor
The riots¹ (or the riot, spread out and fragmented in time and space) which broke out in Greece following the murder of the young Alexander on the evening of 6th December 2008, are productive of theory. They are practically – that is to say consciously – the self-understanding of this cycle of struggles in its current phase – they are a theoretical and chronological landmark. With all its limits, this movement is the first proletarian reaction (albeit non-global) to the crisis of restructured capital. In terms of its production of theory, this movement can be considered, more or less arbitrarily, according to six essential characteristics:

  • The praxis and discourse of these riots make of the current crisis of capitalist reproduction a crisis of the future of this mode of production.
  • The characterisation, in a topology of the reproduction of capitalist social relations, of the moment of oppression and coercion in the self-presupposition of capital.
  • The question of whether the rioters had a “peripheral” character in relation to a “core” of the working class, that is to say the question of the unity of the class and of its recomposition.
  • The overcoming of what was the contradictory dynamic of the anti-CPE movement in France, and this bears some relation to the second point.
  • The overcoming in the struggle of the objectivity of the course of capital and the activities of the classes involved as choices, decisions, tactics, and strategies.
  • The questioning of the theory of value and of the crisis of the capitalist mode of production in the light of an attack of capital outside of production and the spreading of practices of sabotage.

(some points have been gathered under one chapter)

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The Roundabout Riots

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A Happy Future is a Thing of the Past

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The Greek Crisis and Other Disasters by Pavlos Roufos  (2018)

Reaktion Books / UChicago Press / Amazon

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Years of Stone, pp. 96-102

The Beach Beneath

The movement that began in Syntagma Square in late May 2011 and very soon spread out to squares all over Greece (thus gaining the nickname ‘squares movement’), represented one of the most condensed moments of the struggle against the crisis, its consequences and management. Many have argued that it did not have a specific aim or demand; according to one’s politics, this observation had either a negative or a positive undertone. However, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the masses that took to the streets, occupied public spaces and fought for almost two months to defend them, were directly concerned with putting an end to the austerity policies that were underway. And these policies, as we have seen, were nothing but a systematic attempt to render people’s ability to survive in a way that was meaningful to them increasingly difficult.

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Jobs, Bullshit, and the Bureaucratization of the World

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by Jason E. Smith

You probably first heard of him when reading, on Bloomberg.com or in the pages of The New Yorker, about his role as one of the “founders” of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of you might have stumbled across him even earlier, when The New York Times published a short article on the openly anarchist anthropology professor whose politics, he lamented, thwarted his plans for tenure at Yale. Others, probably a bit younger, and having drifted into post-2008 “radical” politics, first found him on Twitter, where he assiduously maintains contact with almost 70,000 followers. Slightly older radicals will recognize him as an eager participant in and chronicler of the turn-of-the-century anti-globalization movement. SlateThe GuardianThe Financial Times and other organs of the prevailing powers open their column space to his reflections on technology, money, and Corbynism, or his calls for Western succor to the “revolutionary Kurds” of Rojava (who have, for years now, enjoyed the lethal air support of US war planes). The son of NYC leftists—his father fought in the storied Abraham Lincoln Brigades—and one of the venerable Marshall Sahlins’s last students, David Graeber is today best known for his monumental 2011 book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, which appeared just a couple of months before the establishment of the Zuccotti Park camp. That book, in the works for years, seemed, due as much to its timing as to its content, the theoretical and historical work most attuned to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its demands. Now, seven years after that publication—and the rise and folding up of that movement—Graeber has followed his earlier examination of the “barter myth” and the priority of debt over exchange relations throughout human history with a new book, this time on a contemporary matter: the “current work regime.” Or as he puts it in his insistently populist idiom, the “proliferation of bullshit jobs.”

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Get rid of work (Dauvé)

What follows is a long essay by the French communization theorist, Gilles Dauvé translated by Ediciones Inéditos. It is a long read, a read which varies in content and tone but a text which masterfully summarizes the communist critique of work. The original can be found here at Troploin. He also dutifully notes that without the abolition of work there can be no communist revolution or communism. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed translating it. ¡A la chingada con el trabajo!

Here you will find a lightly modified chapter 3 from the bookFrom Crisis to Communizationpublished in 2017 by Editions Entremonde.

False construction sites

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In 1997, in the French department of Sarthe, some 20 workers were constructing a section of highway under the direction of an engineer employed by a large company, BTP. After two months the engineer was arrested: no one had ordered the work that was partially done, which with an initial financing, the false construction site manager had successfully hoodwinked both banks and public organizations. Between 1983 and 1996, Philippe Berre had been convicted 14 times for ordering false construction sites. In 2009, “The Beginning,” a film inspired by this whole adventure was released, displaying a population struck by unemployment which briefly found work and hope. Phillippe Berre was not motivated by personal gain, but rather by the need to do, to be of use, to reanimate a group of workers. In 2010, once again, he took on this role while helping those affected by Cyclone Xynthia.

We all know “rogue bosses.” Philippe Berre is a fictitious boss, an anti-hero for our times; at once a “manipulator of symbols,” an agile manager of human resources, at a crossroads between the automobile and the BTP (presented as the two principal employers within modern countries), wandering as a nomad on the highways, as mobile as the activities which he preyed upon, living on the ephemeral dreams that his dynamism created around him, an illustration of a fluidity without markers or attachments, where money flows but is not wasted, where success has no future, where one builds worthless things, where all appears as communication and virtuality. But is not a sense of reality which Philippe Berre is lacking, rather he lacks respect.

When a crook brings work, revenue, and thus some “meaning” to a community in perdition, even if it is a provisional and false meaning, this raises the question – what does production and work mean? The unemployed at Sarthe trusted Philippe Berre because he brought them some socializing, a role, a status, a sense of being recognized. What is useful? Useless? Fictitious? Real? What is profitable or not? Was this piece of highway more or less absurd than any “real” highway? What work is worthy of being qualified as “a waste”? Beyond the hard reality of work (it creates objects, creates profit and is generally onerous), what is the truth?

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Capitalism and ecology: from the decline of capital to the decline of the world – Paul Mattick

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‘Kapitalismus und Okologie’ (1976) by Paul Mattick, translated by Paul Mattick Jr. This article looks at ecological crisis, the Club of Rome’s ‘The Limits to Growth’, and the work of East German philosopher Wolfgang Harich.

The historical character of nature follows from the Second Law of thermodynamics, discovered more than a hundred years ago by Carnot and Clausius, spelling an increase in entropy ending in heat death. Our earthly life depends on the continuous supply of energy from solar radiation, which decreases with increasing entropy, however slowly. The period of time involved is indefinite from the human point of view, too gigantic to be taken into practical consideration. Nevertheless, the entropy law has a continuous, direct influence on the earth and therefore on the fate of humankind. Apart from the sun, the mineral wealth of the earth provides for the satisfaction of human energy needs. Its exploitation, however, hastens the transformation of “free” into “bound” energy, that is, energy no longer available for human use and degrading towards heat death. In other words, the available energy sources can only be utilized once. With their exhaustion human life would come to an end, and indeed very long before the cooling of the sun, as all the natural riches of the earth contain no more energy than two days’ sunlight.

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Are We Heading for Another Economic Crash?

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This article was first published by State of Nature, as part of the monthly “One Question” series, which solicits responses to a single query from a variety of thinkers. This month’s question — “Are we heading for another economic crash?” — received responses from Wolfgang Streeck, Cédric Durand, Susan Newman, David M. Kotz, Mingqi Li, Mary Mellor, Andrew Ross, Tim Di Muzio, Dario Azzellini, Ying Chen, Richard Murphy, Michael Roberts, Lena Rethel, and Heikki Patomäki. 

Wolfgang Streeck

Professor emeritus of sociology. From 1995 to 2014 he was Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. His latest book is How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System (Verso, 2016).

I’m not a prophet. But there is no capitalism without the occasional crash, so if you will we are always heading for one. Inflation in the 1970s was ended by a return to “sound money” in 1980, which begot deindustrialization and high unemployment, which together with tax cuts for the rich begot high public debt. When public debt became too high, fiscal consolidation in the 1990s had to be compensated, for macro-economic as well as political reasons, by capital market deregulation and private household debt, which begot the crash of 2008.

Now, almost a decade later, public debt is higher than ever, so is private debt; the global money volume has been steadily increasing for decades now; and the central banks are producing money as though there was no tomorrow, by buying up all sorts of debt with cash made ‘out of thin air’, which is called Quantitative Easing. While everybody knows that this cannot go on forever, nobody knows how to end it — same with public and private debt, same with the money supply. Something is going to happen, presumably soon, and it is not going to be pleasant.

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Winter in Catalonia

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Don Quijote en la playa de Barcino, Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

by / 

Narrative Confusions

In Catalonia morbid symptoms abound.1 The population lives through bitter division. The Catalan leadership is in prison. The left is divided. On December 21st, all political parties in the self-declared Catalan republic will participate in elections forced on them by the Spanish government. In the confusion of the interregnum of the Spanish state, all actors struggle to find a narrative form that might elevate their mission of establishing a new regnum.2

It is no wonder the world struggles to discern the narrative form of the Catalan independence struggle. Official European opinion, never a good reader, discerns a morality tale of the dangers of populism and nationalism, in which a reluctant Spanish hero is forced to put into place a rogue separatist government. Meanwhile, unofficial opinion is rallying to the Catalan cause, interpreting it in the register of a great epic of national liberation and the struggle against Francoism. Horrified and enthusiastic spectators alike cannot but observe the Catalan secession drama through the lenses of its key antagonists: the gobierno of Mariano Rajoy in Madrid and the independentistas lead by Carles Puigdemont’s now deposed govern. But the very nature of an interregnum is that governments cannot truly rule, and that people do not wish to be ruled. In the interregnum genres fail, and when the epic fails, the result is invariably tragicomic. The greatest reflection on that is Cervantes’ Don Quixote.3

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Communism for Kids

Communism For Kids

By Bini Adamczak

Translated by Jacob Blumenfeld and Sophie Lewis

Overview

Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true? This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism. Offering relief for many who have been numbed by Marxist exegesis and given headaches by the earnest pompousness of socialist politics, it presents political theory in the simple terms of a children’s story, accompanied by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening.

It all unfolds like a story, with jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers–not to mention a Ouija board, a talking chair, and a big pot called “the state.” Before they know it, readers are learning about the economic history of feudalism, class struggles in capitalism, different ideas of communism, and more. Finally, competition between two factories leads to a crisis that the workers attempt to solve in six different ways (most of them borrowed from historic models of communist or socialist change). Each attempt fails, since true communism is not so easy after all. But it’s also not that hard. At last, the people take everything into their own hands and decide for themselves how to continue. Happy ending? Only the future will tell. With an epilogue that goes deeper into the theoretical issues behind the story, this book is perfect for all ages and all who desire a better world.

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Hegel(‘s) Today

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CRISIS AND CRITIQUE: Volume 4, issue 1, 01-03-2017

Edited by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda

Download the full issue

Introduction: Hegel(‘s) Today, by A.Hamza & F.Ruda

Hegel Political Theologian? by Stefania Achella

Hegel’s Master and Slave by Alain Badiou

The Future of Hegelian Metaphysics by John W. Burbidge

Hegel’s Big Event by Andrew Cole

Being and MacGuffin by Mladen Dolar

Hegel Amerindian: For a non-Identitarian Concept of Identification in Psychoanalysis by Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker

On Threat by Andrew Haas

Hegel and Picture-Thinking, or, an Episode in the History of Allegory by Fredric Jameson

Holding Lenin Together: Hegelianism and Dialectical Materialism—A Historical Excursus by Adrian Johnston

Normative Rationality: Hegelian Drive by Jean-François Kervégan

Substance Subjectivized by Zdravko Kobe

Hegel and the Present by Pierre Macherey

Learning to Love the End of History: Freedom Through Logic by Todd McGowan

The Germ of Death: Purposive Causality in Hegel by Gregor Moder

Ethical Form in the External State: Bourgeois, Citizens and Capital by Terry Pinkard

Hegel on Social Pathology: The Actuality of Unreason by Robert B. Pippin

The Absolute Plasticity of Hegel’s Absolutes by Borna Radnik

Hegel and the Possibility of a New Idealism by Jure Simoniti

Freedom and Universality: Hegel’s Republican Conception of Modernity by Michael J. Thompson

Freedom is Slavery by Oxana Timofeeva

The politics of Alienation and Separation: From Hegel to Marx… and Back by Slavoj Žižek

Hegel and Freud: Between Aufhebung and Verneinung by Alenka Zupančič

Interview with Fredric Jameson: Hegel, Ideology, Contradiction by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda

Notes on Contributors 

 

David Harvey and Robert Brenner

Robert Brenner and David Harvey held this conversation December 1, 2016, at the CUNY Graduate Center. The event was hosted by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics.

Here is the full conference, divided into 3 parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Infinite Crisis

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by Jacob Blumenfeld, Brooklyn Rail

Did the world already end? Did we miss the moment of our own expiration? That seems to be the question we are collectively asking ourselves at this moment through the medium of popular culture. No longer satisfied by seeing our planet repeatedly threatened by aliens, disease, robots, nukes, or nature, we find joy in watching humanity manage the fallout of disaster instead of preventing its occurrence. No longer convinced by the theme of the unification of mankind against a universal menace, we take pleasure in watching people divide and fight each other to the death along lines of race, status, and country. To believe in the once utopian ideal of the working classes of all nations joining together to make a more perfect world signifies now more than ever that one is certifiably insane.

Is there any hope left for a future without perpetual war, economic crises, environmental catastrophes, rampant misogyny, racist violence, gross inequalities, horrendous prisons, endless work? Nothing points that way. Utopia was always a stillborn idea, pronounced dead on arrival to this world we must leave. For some, the world only gets better by including more people in the wealth of society. For others, the world only improves by investing capital in productive lines of industry. Most people, however, don’t care one way or another. The point is to survive, to manage my own exploitation as best as possible until society lets me cash out with enough money to feed myself, pay my debts, and watch my kids and grandkids fall with delight towards a much worse existence.

This is the dawning of the age of post-post-apocalypse: life not after the catastrophe has struck, but after it has settled in as a permanent condition. Whether you’re a Maze Runner or a Divergent, the collapse cannot be reversed, only partially escaped. The hot Fury Road leads to an endless desert, and revolution only brings more Hunger Games. The force has not awakened, justice has not dawned, humanity has not evolved. But a world without heroes does not mean a world without villains. Billionaire vigilantes, suicidal death squads, nihilist mercenaries, and neoliberal politicians have all taken on the role of saviors from the threat of the even-worse option. The message is clear: we are the villains we’ve been waiting for. The true enemies of the present, however, are not people but abstract structures of domination. And how do you fight an abstraction?

In our mass-mediated imaginations, the structure of civilization has already collapsed due to one of the many choose-your-own-adventure disasters occurring in slow motion all around us. Whether Syria or climate change, the prison system or Brexit, the refugee crisis or Trump—it all ends in the same way: the inability of anyone to change anything at all. Progress, if it occurs, comes by accident, luck, or automation; humans only get in the way. Collective political change appears only as a cover for individual tyranny. People are constantly changing their lives to accommodate the impossibility of changing anything at all. Cybernetic dreams of greener pastures and cosmopolitan citizenship may circulate among the diverse ruling classes of the world, but for the rest of us, there’s no way to escape the utter subjection to national borders, international law, and the global market. No cosmoproletarian heroes are here to save us. Refugees come and go in every generation, but the magnitude of the desperation at the moment is overwhelming. A world civil war beckons while history marches forward inexorably to its completion in the supersession of man. No time to be alive like the present.

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Trumped

 

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Insurgent Notes #14: Nov 2016, Special Post-Election Issue:

Editorial: We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t

Anyone But by David Ranney

Dispatch From West Virginia by Michael Hough

Some Facts and Figures, and a Bit of Commentary to Go With It by RS

The Heavy Lifting of Class Struggle by S S and Michael Stauch


Internationalist Perspective:

 This is What Democracy Looks Like


It’s Not About NAFTA by Aaron Benanav


Not Us, Me by Jodi Dean


Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t. by Kirk Noden


“Global Trumpism” And The Revolt Against The Creditor Class by Mark Blyth


The Dangers of Anti-Trumpism by Cinzia Arruzza


Listening to Trump by Christian Parenti


Not a Revolution – Yet  by Mike Davis


What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class by Joan C. Williams


A Trump Boom?  by Michael Roberts


Fairfax County, USA by Matt Karp


A Time for Treason by The New Inquiry


How Trump Took Middle America by Gary Young


How America Got It So Wrong by Matt Taibbi


The Myth of the Rust Belt Revolt By Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr

Crisis and Critique

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CRISIS AND CRITIQUE: Critique Of Political Economy

Volume 3, issue 3, 16-11-2016 Edited by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza

It is 2016, and we are still living under capitalism. Yet, how does  contemporary capitalism function? How is it possible for a system, which declared its final victory in the beginning of the last decade of the previous century, to already face some of its most serious and profound crisis since the first decade, of the present century? The on-going crisis has reopened some of the (half) forgotten and prematurely answered & questions about the modes in which capitalism operates: the relation between the State and capital, the limits of capital, the forms of changes within capitalism, forms of domination and exploitation, social classes, et cetera . . .

Table of Contents

Introduction by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza PDF

A Marxian Critique of Neoclassical Economics’ Reliance on Shadows of Capital’s Constitutive Social Forms by Dennis Badeen & Patrick Murray PDF

Marx after Hegel: Capital as totality and the centrality of production by Riccardo Bellofiore PDF

Capital: A Critical Theory? by Jacques Bidet PDF

The Beast and the Universal: Hegel’s Critique of Political Economy by Ivan Boldyrev PDF

The “Capital ” after the MEGA: Discontinuities, Interruptions and New Beginnings by Michael Heinrich PDF

How to Read Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Campbell Jones PDF

Capital as Spirit  by Kojin Karatani PDF

Creativity vs. Unskilled Labour: Kant on Class Struggle by Ognian Kassabov PDF

How Not to Evaluate the Relevance of Marx’s Capital by Andrew Kliman PDF

The Critique of Political Economy and the ‘New Dialectic’: Marx, Hegel and the Problem of Christopher J. Arthur’s ‘Homology Thesis’ by Elena Louisa Lange PDF

The Economic Catastrophe as a Passionate Event by Frédéric Lordon PDF

Marx’s Destruction of the Inner World: from the Colonial Internalisation of the Psyche to the Critique of the Psychological Roots of Political Economy by David Pavón Cuéllar PDF

Radicalizing the Root: The Return of Philosophical Anthropology to the Critique of Political Economy by Jason Read PDF

Mapping the Abstract Essence of Concrete Existence: An Analysis of the Privative Form of Value, an Overdetermined Category by Frank Smecker PDF

Journeying on the Roads Not Taken: The Possessive Individual, the Commons and Marx by Massimiliano Tomba PDF

Economic crises, historical regression and social conflicts: an essay by Raquel Varela and Valério Arcary PDF

Capitalist Bulimia: Lacan on Marx and crisis by Fabio Vighi PDF

The ‘Ideal Total Capitalist’: On the State-Form in the Critique of Political Economy by Gavin Walker PDF

Phenomenology of Value: Badiou and Marx by Yuan Yao PDF

Can One Exit from The Capitalist Discourse Without Becoming a Saint? by Slavoj Žižek PDF

Interview with Moishe Postone: That Capital has limits does not mean that it will collapse by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda PDF

Notes on Contributors PDF

Download the full edition PDF

Needless Necessity: Sameness and Dynamic in Capitalist Society

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Marcel Stoetzler, Bangor University, UK (via Fast Capitalism)

In capitalist modernity, all that is fluid is frozen fast, and vice versa. Everything is at the same time solid and not. We need to do something. One must always produce.[1] But then, one must always produce the same. Production is always reproduction, no more, no less, albeit on an extended scale. Capitalist society is a treadmill:[2] “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that,” as the Red Queen asserted.[3] Society (re-)produces itself, using humans as its principal agents, as ever new and ever the same. Humans (re-)produce society as ever the same by making a fresh start every morning when the alarm bell tolls: a new morning promises gold – the matter of eternity – every single day anew. My consciousness is split on this matter: it tells me, on the one hand, that I have places to go (hooray!), I have some inner growing to do, but at the same time, I am proudly identical to myself (disregarding some metabolism-related corporeal change that one tries to keep separate from one’s sense of selfhood). I who took out the student loan yesterday will have to pay up tomorrow, although the intervening time – not least ‘the student experience’, as they say – will have made me a whole new person (with places to go, hooray!). Growing up, experience – going-beyond-and-through: ex-per-ire – or not, contracts are to be fulfilled. This is a rule society will enforce.

This article explores the dialectic of a twofold compulsion characteristic of modern bourgeois society: on the one hand the dynamism grounded in the compulsion to expand production, to never stand still, relax and enjoy, always to increase the labors of self-preservation, on the other hand the static, sameness and identity that are produced by the ‘real-abstracting’ processes equally central to the capitalist mode of production, the locking down of humans in their identities, including those of sex and race. The article examines these matters through the prism of Adorno’s late essay on the concepts of ‘static and dynamic’ that is taken as a vantage point for a reading of ‘The concept of enlightenment’ in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. The last part of the essay argues that capitalist society’s needless necessities impose themselves on society through abstracting practices in everyday life but also produce an equally contradictory set of social movements that have now opened up a fragile prospect for the revolutionary overcoming of capitalist society. The key point of the argument is that Horkheimer and Adorno’s unique emphasis on the critique of ‘the economic’ beyond that of ‘the economy’ is crucial to this radical perspective.

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The Free Machine

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by Rob Lucas / New Left Review / July-August 2016

Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism is an ambitious book, spanning economic history and theory, the trajectory of socialism, diagnosis of the crisis-prone present and a strategic vision for the future. [1]It is also an unusual one, treating topics typically ceded to left antiquarians with a free spirit that aims to build a grandiose historical-theoretical construction out of insights from Mises and Marx, Luxemburg and Hayek, Preobrazhensky and Gorz. And a best-seller—a notable feat for a work that covers such ground; due in part, perhaps, to Mason’s high visibility as economics editor at the BBCand Channel 4. Born in Lancashire in 1960, the son of a lorry driver and a primary school headmistress, Mason claims to have become ‘a Marxist at 16, a Trotskyist at 19’. He studied music and politics at Sheffield, starting an academic career in music in the early 1980s before switching to journalism. By the time of the late-90s dot.com bubble he was deputy editor of Computer Weekly, then joined BBC Newsnight as business editor, his first broadcast discussing the economic fallout of the 11 September attacks. In 2013 he moved to Channel 4. In these posts he has become a household name in Britain, known for his ruffled pieces-to-camera from the frontline of global uprisings. But he has straddled the range of media from TV and radio to newspaper columns, blogs, with a prominent Twitter and Facebook presence, and a novel set in China’s Wild West. This year he went freelance to engage with the ‘space opening up where the left of social democracy meets the radical left, green and autonomist politics’, unbeholden to the constraints of mainstream media, and has been a prominent commentator on the UK’s successive crises. Mason’s political positions have been oddly ambidextrous: supportive of Corbyn, Occupy and student protests—yet also seeming to call for an upgrade of UK nuclear weapons against the threat of Russian submarines and for the bombing of Assad. If there is a systematic explanation for such eclecticism, he has not yet offered it.

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Simon Clarke’s Guide to Capital: All Three Volumes

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Simon Clarke’s homepage / publications. Guide to Capital as doc / pdf


Capital, volume 1, Chapter 1.

Background:

The first chapter of Capital is both the most important, in that it introduces the basic concepts of Marx’s theory of value, and the most difficult.

Marx first began to work out his theory of value in the Grundrisse (1857), but the discussion there is very convoluted and incomplete. The first version of Chapter One of Capital is to be found in the Critique of Political Economy (1859), whose first chapter is in many ways the best introduction to Chapter One of Capital. The discussion of the Critique differs in a number of ways from that of Capital:

  1. In the Critique Marx does not make the fundamental distinction between value and exchange-value that is made in Capital
  2. in the Critique the argument has a much more ‘Hegelian’ flavour: the argument is entirely formulated in terms of the development of the contradiction between (exchange)-value and use-value
  • the logical and historical development of the argument are both present, but are separated: a logical analysis is followed by a historical one, whereas in Capital the two are more closely integrated
  • Marx devotes much more attention to money in the Critique (and in the Grundrisse) than he does in Capital, (the discussion of money in Capital refers the reader back to the Critique)
  1. The explanation of the theory of value in the Critique is rather different from that in Capital. In the Critique the discussion of commodity fetishism is more closely integrated into the discussion of the theory of value and it is clear that for Marx it is the ‘qualitative’ rather than the ‘quantitative’ dimension that is important: i.e. the theory of value is a theory of the way in which, through money and exchange, private labours are brought into social relation with one another. In Capital the exposition emphasises the quantitative dimension first: the theory of value as a theory of the ratio in which commodities exchange, before discussing the qualitative dimension.

The version of the first chapter of Capital in the English translations is a revised version that first appeared in the third German edition. In the first two editions the first chapter was shorter (roughly the first two sections of the later version and shorter versions of the third and fourth sections), and there was also an Appendix on ‘The form of value’ that was integrated into the third section in the rewrite. The change was made in an attempt to make the first chapter more comprehensible but it does introduce some differences in emphasis. (A translation of the first version of Ch. 1 and the Appendix is published, in a very tortuous translation, in Value Studies by Marx (A. Dragstedt, ed.). A much better translation of the Appendix has been published in Capital and Class, 4, 1978.)

Chapter One of Capital offers us a sociological theory of the market. Marx does not see the market simply as an institution in which individuals meet to exchange commodities, to be understood in isolation from the production of commodities, for exchange itself has implications for production. It is through the price mechanism that apparently independent producers are persuaded to produce in accordance with social needs: if too much of a commodity is produced, the price falls and less will be produced: producers will direct their labour into the production of other goods. If a producer is inefficient he or she will not get full recognition in the market for the work he or she has done, and so will be compelled to increase efficiency. Thus the market is the place in which the labour of individual producers is brought into relation with that of other producers, and so of society as a whole. The market is a particular way of allocating social labour, appropriate to a particular kind of society in which individuals work independently of one another to produce goods for the use of others. Thus the relation between individual producers in a commodity producing society is not directly recognised as a social relation – the producers do not get together to plan production as interdependent members of society. Instead the social relation between these producers takes the form of a relation between things, between the goods they exchange for one another. The exchange ratio, or exchange value, of commodities, is not, therefore, merely a relation between inanimate objects, but it expresses the relation between the labours of the individuals who have produced those commodities. This idea is the basis of Marx’s theory of value.

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From Welcome to Farewell: Germany, the refugee crisis and the global surplus proletariat

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by Felix Baum

In the summer of 2015, almost overnight, Angela Merkel transmuted in international public perception from a brutal whip of austerity policies, relentlessly squeezing already impoverished populations in the crisis-ridden South of the European Union, to the last defender of the humanist values Europe likes to take pride in. Having been regularly portrayed with a Hitler moustache in countries like Greece, she now reemerged as St. Angela, protector of the refugees. While Eastern European countries were busily erecting fences to stem the tide of unwanted intruders, and while the French state declared it sufficient to take in a mere 24,000 Syrians over the next two years, the head of the German government refused to give in to calls within her own party to limit the number of refugees, which was approaching one million (and eventually surpassed that figure by the end of the year). And just as the German hawkishness in dealing with the economic crisis of the Euro zone—seemingly irrational as it only deepened the recession—made observers resort to trivial psychology (was it maybe an exaggerated fear of inflation, deeply engraved in the German mentality, that drove those policies?), the willingness with which the German state, spurred on by its leader’s now famous We can manage!, opened its doors while almost everyone else did the exact opposite, left smart journalists wondering if Merkel’s biography (East German = victim of a Communist dictatorship = empathy for the persecuted) might provide a clue.

More critical observers, of course, suggested other readings. Some Marxists detected an “imperialist offensive” behind the German state’s seeming humanitarianism, welcoming Syrians to gain more influence on the war ravaging their home country while at the same time pushing for “a European solution” to the refugee crisis which, given Germany’s hegemony on the continent, could only turn out to be a solution in Germany’s very own best interest.1 Others focused more on the domestic situation, arguing that refugees are indeed most welcome in Germany, namely as fresh meat on the labor market at a time when many manufacturers are complaining about growing shortages of workers. In some cases, this line of interpretation feeds into a kind of left-wing nationalism that openly advocates “protecting” German workers from undue competition by foreigners. One prominent example is Sahra Wagenknecht, a high-ranking (and formerly Stalinist) politician of the parliamentary Left Party, who attacked Merkel’s policy as a “total failure of the state” and came out in favor of limiting the influx of refugees as the “population’s willingness to take them in has limits.” This earned her not only praise from the new right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but also a brown chocolate cake thrown in her face by leftist activists at a recent party conference.

Flashmob gegen Männergewalt, Köln 2016

Regardless of their political implications, both readings contain a grain of truth but ultimately seem questionable. It is true that the right to asylum, far from being an immaculate expression of humanism, has always just as much served as an instrument of power politics. (According to a recent study, of the 233,000 refugees the U.S. accepted between 1956 and 1968, a mere 1,000 did not come from “communist” countries, to name but one example.)2 And it is equally true that for capitalists, however much they claim that the ultimate goal of all their altruistic strivings is to provide jobs, full employment is simply a nightmare, as it strengthens workers’ bargaining position. Indeed, over the last nine months, representatives of German business have successfully pushed for lowering the barriers for asylum-seekers to enter the labor market. Still, both readings tend to underestimate to what extent politics, rather than following a consistent strategy, amounts to a hectic and highly contradictory muddling-through against the backdrop of growing global chaos. And what is more: if refugees are so beneficial for German capital and the imperial ambitions of its state, how is it that more recently the state-proclaimed “welcome culture” of summer 2015 has given way to very determined efforts to reinforce Fortress Europe?

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Vogelfrei: Migration, deportations, capital and its state

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by Antithesi

This text aims at contributing to the analysis and critique of the politics of the EU and the Greek state on the control and biopolitical management of migration from a proletarian standpoint. The great increase of the migration movement towards the European Union during the last two years, which was mainly caused by the intensification of the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been confronted on the one hand with an intensification of border policing up to the point of its militarization and on the other hand with the formation of a new political and legal framework through the agreement between EU and Turkey on the 18th of March of 2016 which negates basic principles of the international asylum law. Our interest in the issue of migration as a form of the international mobility of labour, as a form of permanent primitive accumulation and as a form of autonomous proletarian activity is not academic. On the contrary, we seek to equip ourselves with theoretical instruments which may be proven useful for the development of common struggles of local and immigrant proletarians, as an integral part of the class antagonistic movement against capital and its state.

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