communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Tag: gender

The Perils of “Privilege”


 Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

Phoebe Maltz Bovy / St. Martin’s Press



In a freezing-cold flat in Berlin, I’m standing under the shower with the water turned up as high and hot as it will go. I’m trying to boil away the shame of having said something stupid on the internet. The shower is the one place it’s still impossible to check Twitter. This is a mercy. For as long as the hot water lasts I won’t be able to read the new accusations of bigotry, racism and unchecked privilege. I didn’t mean it. I don’t understand what I did wrong but I’m trying to understand.

*   *   *

THE ABOVE RECOLLECTIONS, from a 2015 article in the New Statesman by the writer Laurie Penny, are where I wish to begin because they make up the most wrenching, but accurate, description that I’ve come across of what it can feel like to be called out online. The phenomenon she describes—the privilege call-out—is a new, if increasingly familiar, experience. Penny’s reaction—“I’ve spent very dark days, following social media pile-ons, convinced that I was a horrible person who didn’t deserve to draw breath”—may have been extreme, but such interactions aren’t the high point of anyone’s week. While I’ve never experienced quite that spiral, I know what it’s like to see a new blog comment or Twitter notification, and then another … followed, predictably, by the heart-racing realization that the Internet (and it always feels, in the moment, like the entire Internet) has found me out.

The outright hateful comments are, as Penny notes, easier to handle, in a way. As unpleasant as it was the week when neo-Nazi Twitter made me its Jewess-du-jour, and as frightened as I was during the weeks when pro-gun Twitter made it known what it thought about my anti-gun stance, there’s something more viscerally draining about an “unchecked privilege” accusation. What’s so useful about Penny’s description is that she hones in on two of the key reasons why that’s the case. One is, as she spells out, that the accusation manages to tap into the accused’s worst fears about her value as a person. The other, which she does not, is the lack of specificity. Unlike earlier generations of bigotry accusation, the privilege call-out is intentionally vague, while also, at times, hyperspecific. Either your privilege is showing, and you’re not entirely sure which form of privilege (let alone how to appropriately respond), or you’ve suddenly learned that you’re wrong because surely you’ve never worked in food service, something about which your interlocutor, a stranger on the Internet, is remarkably certain.

A privilege accusation prompts the accused to contemplate his or her unearned advantages, and—all too often—to publicly self-flagellate for the same. The less saintly among us, though, will soon remember (and, all too often, reply) that we haven’t had it quite as easy as our accusers imply. And sometimes the specific privilege accusation will have been inaccurate. Regardless of how, exactly, all of this plays out, one thing’s for sure: The conversation will have switched from one about some broader issue to the ultimately trivial question of our privilege.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is this thing, “privilege,” and why is getting accused of possessing it so fraught?

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Class / segmentation / racialization (TC)

All identities gives themselves an imaginary genealogy which is both efficacious and real by way of its reconstruction.


Originally published by Théorie Communiste, a French communization group, here.

Translated from the French by LNFC (updates by Charnel)

There has al­ways been seg­ment­a­tion with­in labor power. We must take it, then, as an ob­ject­ive de­term­in­a­tion of labor power un­der cap­it­al that nat­ur­ally leads to a di­vi­sion of labor. Here we have noth­ing more than a di­vide between a ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al and a simple quant­it­at­ive grad­a­tion of the value of labor power. (Both simple and com­plex work un­der­go a kind of os­mos­is with­in the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, from the gen­er­al­ized con­straint of sur­plus labor to spe­cial­ized labor un­der co­oper­at­ive man­age­ment, etc.). However, this seg­ment­a­tion would not be so if it were not but a qual­it­at­ive di­vide with­in an oth­er­wise ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al. Two pro­cesses in­ter­vene as they weave to­geth­er: On the one hand the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion is glob­al, cap­able of ap­pro­pri­at­ing and des­troy­ing all oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion while con­serving for it­self the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of those it has re­defined. On the oth­er hand the value of labor power rep­res­ents a mor­al, cul­tur­al, and his­tor­ic­al com­pon­ent. Since cap­it­al­ist ex­ploit­a­tion is uni­ver­sal — i.e., be­cause cap­it­al can take over oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion or make them co­ex­ist along­side it, ex­ploit labor power to­geth­er with those oth­er modes or de­tach them from their former ex­ist­en­tial con­di­tions — cap­it­al­ism is thus an his­tor­ic­al con­struc­tion that brings about the co­ex­ist­ence of all the dif­fer­ent strata of his­tory in a single mo­ment. Seg­ment­a­tion is not merely “ma­nip­u­la­tion.” It ex­ists as the vol­un­tary activ­ity of the cap­it­al­ist class and its pro­fes­sion­al ideo­logues, which forms and an­im­ates an ob­ject­ive pro­cess, a struc­tur­al de­term­in­a­tion of the mode of pro­duc­tion.

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On the “woman question” (Dauvé)

Ghada Amer, Diagonals in Red, 2000

by Gilles Dauvé

If, as Marx wrote in 1844, taking a cue from Fourier, the relationship between the sexes enables us to judge humankind’s “whole level of development”, with this relationship we can also judge the level of development of the revolutionary movement. According to this criterion, past insurrections have done rather poorly, as they have usually let masculine domination prevail.

When faced with this undisputable fact, most radical thought rarely rises up to the challenge. (1)

In the past, anarchism did not treat this issue as a specific one: emancipating the human species would emancipate women as well as men. Lately, since the 1970s and the growth of a feminist movement,  many anarchist groups have come to regard women as an important (and long overlooked) oppressed category which must be added to the list of major potentially revolutionary categories.

As for the Marxists, they often start with the perfectly valid assumption that the “woman question” part can only be solved via the “proletarian” whole, and with the equally valid necessity of differentiating between bourgeois women and proletarian women, but they end up dissolving the woman question in the class question. The trouble is, without this part, the whole does not exist. (2)

Unlike most anarchists and Marxists, we think women’s emancipation is not a mere consequence of general human emancipation: it is one of its indispensable key components.

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Love, Sex, etc.


via Blind Field Journal

  ❤ of a Heartless World

less_than_three_2By Maya Andrea Gonzalez and Cassandra Troyan.  Of the political-economy of romance under capitalism, Eva Illouz describes the “paradox of the romantic bond” — that “although it can be motivated by self-interest, it is fully convincing only if at a certain point the individual proves his or her disinterestedness.”… READ MORE

On the Future Genealogy of the Date

Bdating-pngy Sophie Lewis. What would the most thrilling and intimate moments in our collective social reproduction feel like in the cities of our dreams? It is far harder to answer this than to identify the lack in what we’ve currently got. …READ MORE

Sex as Cultural Form: The Antinomies of Sexual Discourse

gvkulpr18kbabbxqfj0kby Chris Chitty. To the extent that our lives are bombarded, minute by minute, with advertising come-ons, the latest lyrical euphemism for a sexual act and gossip of the affair of some acquaintance or media superstar, and to the extent that the critique of sexuality has become thoroughly and institutionally routinized, one is tempted to state an obvious fact: sex has become excruciatingly banal. . READ MORE

Friends of the Classless Society vs. Friends of the Genderless Society


“Away from the Sink” appeared in Kosmoprolet #4, an attempt by The Friends of the Classless Society to bring together some thoughts on the relationship between gender differences and the domination of capital. This text has recently been extensively criticized by The Friends of Genderless society in their essay, “Right in the Sink: Capitalism and the Gender Binary.” Both texts are presented below in German.

In Kosmoprolet #4 erschien »Abseits des Spülbeckens«, ein Versuch der Freundinnen und Freunde der klassenlosen Gesellschaft einige Gedanken über das Verhältnis von Geschlechterdifferenzen und der Herrschaft des Kapitals zusammenzutragen. Diesen Versuch haben die Freunde der geschlechtslosen Gesellschaft nun ausführlich kritisiert in ihrem Text »Mitten im Spülbecken: Kapitalismus und Zweigeschlechtlichkeit

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Endnotes 4, 3, 2, 1


  1. A chronicle of #BlackLivesMatter, situating this movement in the history of race politics and struggles in the US. Traces the shifting meaning of black identity in a context of growing surplus populations managed by incarceration and police violence.


    The rise and fall of the workers’ movement, 1883-1982. European socialists and communists had expected the accumulation of capital both to expand the size of the industrial workforce and, at the same time, to unify the workers as a social subject: the collective worker, the class in-and-for itself. Instead capitalist accumulation gave birth to the separated society. The forces of atomisation overpowered those of collectivisation. Late capitalist civilisation is now destabilising, but without, as yet, calling forth the new social forces that might be able, finally, to dissolve it.

    1. PREFACE








    An analysis of the biggest protest wave taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the 1992-95 war. When workers from privatised factories — whose demands had been ignored by authorities for years — were attacked by police in Tuzla in February 2014, thousands took to the streets, storming several Canton government buildings and setting them on fire. During the following months, citizens held large assemblies, where they rejected the ethnic divisions that had plagued the country for more than two decades. Analyzing the relation of the protesters to the state, as well as the specific role of nationalism in the region, we look at how this movement tried to answer the problem of composition.



    The United States is anomalous among the most developed capitalist countries for its lack of social democratic structures and independent working class politics. This article argues that the peculiar spacial deployment of capital’s powers in the U.S. following the ‘sprawl’ model and the redistribution of wealth downwards through highly racialized and gendered private home ownership have played an important role in the rise of reactionary populism. In pointing out both the particular and the more general moments of this development, this piece also hopes to point out some of its limits and the potential for its subversion.


    A clarification of the concept of surplus population. Explores the problem of applying this category to a single, coherent social subject and of valorising the surplus as the new global revolutionary agent. Attempts to sketch a relation between surplus population and social stigmatisation or abjection.



    Past, present and future of the Endnotes project.


    Since 2007, states have been forced to undertake extraordinary actions. Bailouts have shifted private debts onto public balance sheets. And the world’s central banks are spending billions of dollars, every month, to convince capital to invest in a trickle. So far these state interventions have managed to stall the unfolding crisis. Yet its petrification has been the petrification of class struggle. Like the crisis itself, the struggles of 2011–2013 entered a holding pattern, unable to venture beyond the weak unity—defined by anti-austerity, anti-police, and anti-corruption sentiments—that was established in the movement of the squares.


    Marxist-feminists have employed a number of binary oppositions: productive/reproductive, paid/unpaid and public/private. We interrogate these categories and propose new ones. Starting from the specificities of the production and reproduction of labour-power, we define gender as the anchoring of individuals into two separate spheres of social reproduction. We trace the development of these spheres through the history of the capitalist mode of production, and survey the dynamics of gender in the recent crisis, which we characterize as a rise of the abject.


    A reading of the 2011 England riots and British student movement against a backdrop of decades-long social processes of abjection, class decomposition and the tendential disintegration of the wage relation.



    An inquiry into the consequences of “the logistics revolution” for contemporary struggles. In light of the disaggregation and diffusion of productive capacity across the globe, direct seizure of the means of production no longer describes an implementable project for the majority of proletarians. New horizons and prospects materialise.



    Without taking identity, cultural difference, or normative “privilege” as fundamental categories of anti-racist analysis, this article sketches a racial genealogy of superfluous populations as a constitutive feature of the emergence and spatial expansion of capitalism. The possibility of abolishing “race” as superfluity is therefore bound to contemporary anti-capitalist struggles, and vice-versa.


    How can we recover the key concepts of revolutionary theory today, that is, after the end of the workers’ movement? We offer the following reflections on three concepts — spontaneity, mediation, rupture — as an attempt to re-fashion the core of revolutionary theory, for our times. By taking cognisance of the gap that separates us from the past, we hope to extract from past theories something of use to us in the present.



    Taking the capitalist class relation as a self-reproducing whole, the horizon of its overcoming appears as an invariant aspect of this whole, albeit one with a historically variant quality. Surplus population and capital’s basic problem of labour characterise core dynamics underlying the shift in this horizon beyond the old programme of workers’ power.


    A re-reading and historical interpretation of Marx’s “general law of accumulation”— the tendency for the expanded reproduction of capital to throw off more labour than it absorbs—in light of the growth of surplus populations and surplus capital in the world today.


    Preliminary materials for a theory of home-ownership, credit, and housework in the post-war US economy. How is the fundamental separation between production and reproduction transformed when the home becomes the commodity through which all others are sold?


    The theory of communisation and Marxian value-form theory emerge from the same historical moment, mutually complement each other, and point towards the same radical conception of revolution as the immediate transformation of social relations, one in which we cease to constitute value and it ceases to constitute us.


    A reconstruction of the systematic dialectic of capital as a dialectic of class struggle. The forms of value which are constituted by and regulate social practice are totalising and self-reproducing through the subsumption of labour under capital. The totality so constituted is inwardly contradictory, and ultimately self-undermining: capitalist accumulation is a moving contradiction, i.e. a historical contradiction, between capital and proletariat.


    The philosophical/logical concept of subsumption is employed in various periodisations of capitalist society, such as those of Théorie Communiste, Jacques Camatte, and Antonio Negri. A critical examination of this concept and its historical uses.


    Worker’s enquiry in the cynical mode: the unrevolutionary working life of the web developer.



    An Introduction to the debate between Théorie Communiste (TC) and Troploin (Dauvé & Nesic) concerning how to theorise the history and actuality of class struggle and revolution in the capitalist epoch.



    Dauvé shows how the wave of proletarian revolts in the first half of the twentieth century failed: either because they were crushed by the vicissitudes of war and ideology, or because their “victories” took the form of counter-revolutions themselves, setting up social systems which, in their reliance on monetary exchange and wage-labour, failed to transcend capitalism.



    In their critique of When Insurrections Die, TC attack Dauvé’s “normative” perspective, in which actual revolutions are counter-posed to what they could and should have been, that is, to a never-completely-spelled-out formula of a genuine communist revolution. In contrast, TC claim to give a robust account of the whole cycle of revolution, counter-revolution and restructuring, in which revolutions can be shown to have contained their own counter-revolutions as the intrinsic limit of the cycles they emerge from and bring to term.



    Dauvé criticises TC for proposing a self-referential historical model that unjustifiably privileges the current cycle of struggles, while denying proletarian actors of the past all capacity for action not completely determined by the historically-prevailing relation between capital and wage-labour.



    Dauvé and Nesic’s historical account challenges the thesis that the self-identification of the proletarian as producer has been the decisive cause of its defeats. When, they ask, did the workers actually try to shoulder economic growth? When did they ever compete with bourgeois owners or modern directors for the management of the companies? Workers’ movements don’t boil down to an affirmation of labour. And if the “being” of the proletariat theorised by Marx is not just a metaphysics, its content is independent of the forms taken by capitalist domination.



    TC undertake a painstaking, point-by-point refutation of “Love of Labor? Love of Labour Lost…”, first by developing in detail the concept of programmatism, which allows for an historicisation of the terms of class struggle, revolution and communism, then by delineating the originality of a new cycle of struggle, beyond programmatism.


    On the difference between TC’s and Dauvé’s theory of communisation: ever-present and invariant possibility, or specific form which the communist revolution must take in the current cycle of struggle. Following TC’s account of the development of the class relation, without embracing their categories of formal and real subsumption, it is argued that the communist movement must be understood neither as a movement of communists nor of the class, but of the totality itself.

The Year We Obsessed Over Identity

by Wesley Morris


2015’s headlines and cultural events have confronted us with the malleability of racial, gender, sexual and reputational lines. Who do we think we are?

A few weeks ago, I sat in a movie theater and grinned. Anne Hathaway was in ‘‘The Intern,’’ perched on a hotel bed in a hotel robe, eating from a can of overpriced nuts, having tea and freaking out. What would happen if she divorced her sweet, selfless stay-at-home dad of a husband? Would she ever meet anybody else? And if she didn’t, she would have no one to be buried next to — she’d be single for all eternity. And weren’t the problems in her marriage a direct result of her being a successful businesswoman — she was there but never quite present? ‘‘The Intern’’ is a Nancy Meyers movie, and these sorts of cute career-woman meltdowns are the Eddie Van Halen guitar solos of her romantic comedies.

But what’s funny about that scene — what had me grinning — is the response of the person across the bed from Hathaway. After listening to her tearful rant, this person has had enough: Don’t you dare blame yourself or your career! Actually, the interruption begins, ‘‘I hate to be the feminist, of the two of us. … ’’ Hate to be because the person on the other side of the bed isn’t Judy Greer or Brie Larson. It’s not Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon. It’s someone not far from the last person who comes to mind when you think ‘‘soul-baring bestie.’’ It’s Robert freaking De Niro, portrayer of psychos, savages and grouches no more.

On that bed with Hathaway, as her 70-year-old intern, he’s not Travis Bickle or the human wall of intolerance from those Focker movies. He’s Lena Dunham. The attentiveness and stern feminism coming out of his mouth are where the comedy is. And while it’s perfectly obvious what Meyers is doing to De Niro — girlfriending him — that doesn’t make the overhaul any less effective. The whole movie is about the subtle and obvious ways in which men have been overly sensitized and women made self-estranged through breadwinning. It’s both a plaint against the present and a pining for the past, but also an acceptance that we are where we are.

And where are we? On one hand: in another of Nancy Meyers’s bourgeois pornographies. On the other: in the midst of a great cultural identity migration. Gender roles are merging. Races are being shed. In the last six years or so, but especially in 2015, we’ve been made to see how trans and bi and poly-ambi-omni- we are. If Meyers is clued into this confusion, then you know it really has gone far, wide and middlebrow. We can see it in the instantly beloved hit ‘‘Transparent,’’ about a family whose patriarch becomes a trans woman whose kids call her Moppa, or in the time we’ve spent this year in televised proximity to Caitlyn Jenner, or in the browning of America’s white founding fathers in the Broadway musical ‘‘Hamilton,’’ or in the proliferating clones that Tatiana Maslany plays on ‘‘Orphan Black,’’ which mock the idea of a true or even original self, or in Amy Schumer’s comedic feminism, which reconsiders gender confusion: Do uncouthness, detachment and promiscuity make her a slut, or a man?

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Federici vs. Marx (Gilles Dauvé)

“rough magic I here abjure”

Shakespeare,The Tempest, 1610

Caliban & the Witch is of undeniable interest for our understanding of social movements at the critical juncture between medieval and modern times, of the advent of capitalism, its sexual dimension, the treatment of women and the conversion of female and male bodies into a work-machine, among other things. But the book also sets forth a vision of past and present which is as questionable as the political perspective that this vision entails. (1)

How capitalism came about according to Silvia Federici

Federeci claims to be writing “against Marxist orthodoxy” (p.6), and Caliban & the Witch is commonly read as a complement (or for some readers, as an alternative) to Marx’s Capital, especially Part VIII. Federici writes:

“ (..) my description of primitive accumulation includes a set of historical phenomena that are absent in Marx, and yet have been extremely important for capitalist accumulation. They include : 1) the development of a new sexual division of labour subjugating women’s labour and women’s reproductive function to the reproduction of the work-force; 2) the construction of a new patriarchal order, based upon the exclusion of women from waged-work and their subordination to men; 3) the mechanization of the proletarian body and its transformation, in the case of women, into a machine for the production of new workers.” (p. 11)

So we expect to read what was missing in the accepted master narrative, especially as history suffers from a long tradition of writing women off. The question is, where does a counter-hegemonic history lead us? In Federici’s case, the author is not merely filling in gaps: her analysis of primitive accumulation amounts to nothing less than a conception of capitalism not just different from Marx’s but indeed opposed to it.

In order to understand the birth of capitalism, she emphasises the specific oppression that social groups, women in particular, were subjected to. That is what she is targeting, and her approach prioritises certain factors and downplays others.

The question is, what tipped the historical scales ?

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Kosmoprolet 4


Erhältlich ab September 2015 | 208 Seiten | 5 € / 6 CHF

Herausgegeben von den »Freundinnen und Freunden der klassenlosen Gesellschaft» (Berlin), »eiszeit« (Schweiz) und »la banda vaga« (Freiburg)

■ Editorial
■ Abseits des Spülbeckens. Fragmentarisches über Geschlechter und Kapital
■ Reflexionen über das Surplus-Proletariat. Phänomene, Theorie, Folgen
■ Elend und Schulden. Zur Logik und Geschichte von Überschussbevölkerungen und überschüssigem Kapital
■ Moloch und Heilsbringer. Zur Geschichte und Kritik des Sozialstaats
■ Israel, Palästina und der Universalismus
■ Leiharbeit. Ende der Identifikation mit der Ausbeutung oder doch nur Waffe des Kapitals?
■ Zwischen Eigentor und Aufstand. Ultras in den gegenwärtigen Revolten

Einzelexemplare gibt es bei Syndikat-A in Deutschland, sowie in verschiedenen Buch- und Infoläden zahlreicher Städte in Deutschland und der Schweiz. WiederverkäuferInnen bestellen über das Kontaktformular. Sie bekommen (inkl. Versandkosten): 3 Ex. für 12 €; 5 Ex. für 18 €; 10 Ex. für 35 €. Die Auslieferung erfolgt nur gegen Vorkasse auf das Konto: Weltcommune, Konto Nr.: 494584109, Postbank Berlin (BLZ 10010010). Als Verwendungszweck den Namen des Bestellers angeben.


Das Jahr 2011, in dem die Leute an vielen Orten in Scharen auf die Straße und manchmal auf die Barrikaden gingen, wurde oft mit 1968 verglichen. Kommentatoren, denen Revolutionsromantik fern liegt, stellten verblüfft fest, dass weltweit sogar erheblich mehr Menschen in Bewegung geraten waren als im legendären Jahr der Revolte. Seitdem hat sich die Lage bekanntlich je nach Land eingetrübt oder pechschwarz verfinstert. Wo 2011 Plätze besetzt wurden, wie in Europa, herrscht wieder der bekannte Alltagstrott, ohne dass sich an den Gründen zum Aufbegehren etwas geändert hätte. Wo Diktaturen gestürzt oder wenigstens ins Wanken gebracht wurden, wie in der arabischen Welt, herrscht heute fast ausnahmslos das Militär oder ein Bürgerkrieg unter reger Beteiligung von Djihadisten. Aus dem großen Aufbruch ist nichts geworden, zumindest nichts Gutes. Fast scheint die Regel zu gelten, dass die Misere umso größer ist, je weiter die Rebellierenden gegangen sind. Stillhalten wird zwar nicht belohnt, aber wenigstens auch nicht bestraft.

Trotzdem plagt die Sachwalter der Ordnung weiter das Gespenst der Revolte. »Die Situation erinnert mich an 1968«, unkte ein hohes Tier des europäischen Staatenkonglomerats, als die Griechen neulich dem Spardiktat mehrheitlich ein Oxi entgegenhielten. »Es gibt in Europa eine weitverbreitete Unzufriedenheit mit den bestehenden Verhältnissen, die schnell in eine revolutionäre Stimmung umschlagen kann. Es wird die Illusion erweckt, es gebe eine Alternative zu unserem Wirtschaftssystem, ohne Sparpolitik und Einschränkungen. Das ist die größte Gefahr, die von Griechenland ausgeht.«1

Der Befund stimmt nur zur Hälfte und darin liegt das Problem. An der weitverbreiteten Unzufriedenheit besteht kein Zweifel, zumindest für Griechenland kommt das Wort sogar einer gewaltigen Beschönigung gleich, schließlich hat dort in den letzten Jahren angesichts massenhaften Elends schiere Verzweiflung um sich gegriffen. Dass bereits die bescheidene Hoffnung, wenigstens nicht noch weiter zu verarmen, in der politischen Klasse die Alarmglocken schrillen lässt, sagt einiges. Eine Alternative zum existierenden Wirtschaftssystem aber hat anders als 1968 niemand aufgeworfen, die Protestierenden von 2011 so wenig wie die Athener Linksregierung von 2015. Beide eint vielmehr der Glaube, die drastischen Einschnitte ließen sich prinzipiell innerhalb der jetzigen Ordnung vermeiden, und ein Absehen von weiteren Kürzungen bei Renten, Löhnen, Staatsjobs wäre für diese Ordnung – Stichwort Massenkaufkraft – sogar von Vorteil. Insofern ist Syriza tatsächlich die Fortsetzung der Proteste mit anderen Mitteln; eine Fortsetzung ihrer Illusionen, mit Mitteln, die all das abschneiden, was an ihnen trotz dieser Illusionen vorwärtsweisend war: Selbstorganisation, Missachtung der Gesetze, direkte Aneignung, Konfrontation mit der Staatsmacht.

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On the possibility that the revolution that will end capitalism might fail to usher in communism


Marcel Stoetzler, Bangor University, UK

The optimism of the left repeats the insidious bourgeois superstition that one should not talk of the devil but look on the bright side.

(Adorno, 1978: 114)1


In this paper I will try to get to grips with my partial reservations about John Holloway’s conception of revolution in Change the World without Taking Power and Crack Capitalism, which concern two problems. First, the interstitial revolution will not necessarily end capitalism, as capitalism will not simply die from the fact that communism peacefully, cunningly, like a cancer, grows and grows and grows in capitalism’s interstices: I suggest that capitalism will die because of the decay of capitalism, not the growth of communism, and that these two processes are neither the same nor related in any linear manner. Second, there are anti-capitalist screams and cracks that are not at all, and cannot even potentially become, communist: there are reactionary, anti-emancipatory forms of anti-capitalism, and as these were decisive factors in the catastrophic history of the twentieth century, their theoretical reflection needs to be more than a critical afterthought; it needs to be central. One way of putting this would be that, like many other variants of autonomist and left-wing Marxism, Holloway’s theory suffers from a lack of a theory of fascism. In spite of these reservations, though, his conception is of great importance, and my way of trying to deal with my own reservations will probably make clear enough why I think it is.2


Capital is the name we give to the totalizing structure of contemporary human society. On the one hand, this structure is out there, facing us, opposed, sitting there, ob-jective, bad, dangerous, but, on the other hand, it is also nothing more than our subjectivity, our acting or agency, the agency of all humans who are part of the capitalist civilization-world, the specific societal relation constituted by and emerging out of the interactions of all human agents at any one time, the world that humanity creates every single moment following the example set by God according to the theology of Eriugena as referenced by Holloway (2010: 169).3

Crisis is likewise objective, an objective aspect of the real–abstract dynamic of that structure called capital, and, likewise, it is also true that we are the crisis, just as we are capital. Our subjectivity and agency are constitutive of the objective existence of capital as much as of the crisis and of the negation of capital.4

Negation is an unruly category, and its unruliness is the focus of this paper. In particular, the issue here is that revolution-as-the-negation-of-capital is not in itself, not necessarily, the same as communism-as-the-negation-of-capital (that is, revolution as communism): the revolutionary bringing down of capital opens up but the possibility of communism, and this possibility’s chance of success depends in important ways on how the bringing-down occurs. How is decisive.


Revolution-as-the-negation-of-capital is mostly done by us-as-capital: that is, by capital in a process of self-negation of capital, a self-negation in which capital, which is in this sense the subject or agent of its own negation, makes use of us-as-the-constitutive-basis-of-capital.5 Communism-as-the-negation-of-capital, by contrast, is exclusively done by us-as-not-capital, which is, to use Adorno’s phrase, our non-identity, our identity against all identifications, in particular against all identifications imposed by the totalizing societal structure called capital (Adorno, 1975: 164) – a force otherwise known as communism-as-the-real-or-actual-movement, the ‘wirkliche Bewegung’ (Marx, 1969: 35): the movement of subjects that refuse being identified, classified, subjected.6

These two negations and these two ‘we’s – or, perhaps better, these two dimensions of ‘we’: the-(self-)negation-of-capital-as-revolution and the-negation-of-capital-as-communism; and we-as-capital and we-as-not-capital – are different though related. (We are all capital/labour as well as not capital/labour, although some are perhaps more the one, some more the other.) This conceptual distinction (although to be understood as merely a dialectical distinction, a contradiction within a unity) allows us to make a further distinction, namely that we-as-those-who-drive-capital-into-crisis (and, at some point, will bring it down, that is, we as the in this respect ultimately revolutionary agents; we-the-wreckers) are not thereby necessarily communists (in the sense of we as determinately not capital); we simply play our part as labour, which is the complementary opposite as much as the constitutive basis of capital, and we do our best to play a tough game with-and-against capital because we need to survive. No less, no more: by way of constituting capital, we also constitute its intrinsic, in-built, inevitable self-negation, but not, in and of itself, communism. Not communism, but only the possibility of communism follows from the inherent contradictions of the capital relation. Although capital’s self-negating dynamic produces the elements and conditions of communism, communism is more than just the self-negation of capital. Communism emerges from capitalism only as a potentiality; it is born out of freedom, if it is born at all, not out of necessity. Freedom is what communism essentially is. In other words, the abolition of capitalism will create a chance which humanity has the freedom to spoil or to use. Only because we can spoil it we can also make communism: if it were a guaranteed outcome, it would be freedom arrived at by ways of unfreedom; guaranteed, necessary freedom, though, is implausible.7


The conceptual construction proposed here makes possible two things (and was formulated precisely in order to deal with two problems perceived while reading Holloway’s two recent books). First, the distinction allows us to appreciate as revolutionary the kind of social practices that Holloway chose to refer to as ‘screams’, or practices that produce or reinforce ‘cracks’ in the social totality of capitalist society: they are revolutionary in the sense of helping to create or anticipate communism, although they are not revolutionary in the sense of being likely to help bring down capitalism. To use examples given by Holloway, such practices include dying one’s hair green, guerrilla gardening, being a girl reading a book in a park; more generally, all things queer and beautiful. Second, the proposed distinction makes it possible to articulate the critique and rejection of reactionary opposition to (aspects of) capitalism on two levels, namely responding, first, to the question, ‘Is this particular practice bad for capitalism?’, and responding, second, to the question, ‘Is this particular practice good for communism?’ On a pragmatic note, it could be added that a particular practice could be examined with respect to the question whether, if it is bad for capitalism (which is good), it is at least not bad for communism, too.8

This allows us to argue that:

• we should be most enthusiastic about actions and practices that are bad for capitalism, but good for communism;

• we should be reasonably enthusiastic about actions and practices that are neutral in terms of destroying capitalism but good for communism, or neutral in terms of communism but destructive of capitalism;

• we should somewhat more discretely and guiltily enjoy those that are as good for capitalism as for communism (I think here of nice food, well-designed clothes, and so on – things that will proliferate endlessly in communism, but require some rehearsing in advance);

• we should very much oppose, though, actions and practices that are bad for communism regardless of whether they are bad for capitalism, too: in other words, it is imperative explicitly to resist the temptation to join or support people who fight against capitalism in ways that are bad for communism.

It follows from this consideration that the question ‘What is good for communism?’ is much more important than the question ‘What is bad for capitalism?’ If a good-enough approximate definition can be agreed upon, such as communism is ‘the state of things where one can be different without fear’ (Adorno, 1978: 103),9 presupposing societal arrangements in which nobody’s access to the means of subsistence is conditional on what, if anything, that person chooses to contribute to society, then a set of criteria for what actions and practices will further such a state of things can be inferred. (The definition of communism – actually socialism, which in Marx are synonymous – that is quoted from Marx, for example, in an article by Paresh Chattopadhyay is the ‘society of free and associated producers’, which is an important formal characterization but too formal as a definition [Chattopadhyay, 2006: 46]. Chattopadhyay goes half-way towards making in this context the distinction I am proposing; he writes: ‘Marx shows how capital creates the subjective and objective conditions of its own negation and, simultaneously, the elements of the new society destined to supersede it – socialism’ [2006: 46]. Chattopadhyay formulates very carefully: capital does not automatically produce its own negation but merely the conditions for it, and ‘simultaneously’ not ‘the new society’ but the elements of the new society. This formulation does imply that still somebody has to do the negating, and somebody has to come up with some good idea of how to put these ‘elements’ together, or else they will go to waste or serve some other purpose. The concept of ‘negation’, however, might imply either simply disintegration or implosion, or else the ‘determined negation’ of capitalism by socialism/communism. The openness and indeed realism of his statement are in turn negated by Chattopadhyay’s adding that destiny has already decided that socialism/communism will follow capitalism. How does he know?)


The answer to the question ‘What is bad for capitalism?’ is – somewhat counterintuitively – even less straightforward than the answer to the question ‘What is good for communism?’, as even the capitalists don’t seem to agree easily on what they think is good for them, and those who define themselves negatively as ‘anti-capitalists’ seem to mirror their counterparts in this respect. Trade unionism, for example, is only very indirectly bad for capitalism, namely by way of being good for capitalism, by way of being good for workers as workers: insofar as we are workers, and that’s what we mostly are, we need to get as good a deal as we can get, like the air to breath. In fact only things that are good for capitalism are bad for capitalism, as only the capitalist dynamic digs capitalism’s grave. In terms of the question of consciousness – and the determined negation of capitalism by communism can only be a conscious one – there lies the rub: to the same extent that we succeed in getting better deals, being good workers and trade unionists, contributing thus (as labour/capital) to capitalism’s eating away at itself, we think less about communism and fail to get ready for task two (the big one). Conversely, an empty stomach is of course even less likely to become a communist – it’s a double bind.

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Organizing and Identity: Intersections, Eviscerations and Individuality


This essay will annoy, piss-off, and bring denunciations from some of my friends and colleagues. That’s fine. One of the things that politically engaged people who are striving for substantial structural social change fail to do is to identify those things which make success difficult. And that starts by looking at ourselves.

I am a white, male, heterosexual, meat-eating, butter-slathering, well-off, whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking, elderly professional. Many people looking at that description would assume that I am either a racist insurance salesman thrill-riding with police as an auxiliary cop in Oklahoma, or a corporate shill tea-bagging at a Koch brother’s fundraiser and wreaking environmental carnage. More gentle and refined folks might give me the benefit of the doubt. They might picture me as someone wearing a tweed sport jacket, with the obligatory leather elbow patches, smoking a pipe, adjusting my suspenders and musing over some arcane text while ignoring the ravages of racism, sexism, imperialism and capitalism that grant me the privilege of a comfortable but relatively useless life. In fact, many people who know me marvel that I am not precisely that. After all it is my assigned role in life and only a psychopath would not protect the advantages and privileges bestowed on him.

The point is that my identity and my individual choices are irrelevant to advancing the cause of substantial structural social change, which incidentally I happen to support by any means necessary. Excessive attention to differences, individualism and lifestyle choices dilute any comprehensive approach to changing economic, political and social reality in the United States and the world. As Jock Young pointed out, in late modernity we all struggle with ontological insecurity. That’s not an accident. That very social structure many of us wish to change makes ontological insecurity inevitable. In fact, ontological insecurity is a valuable weapon in their fight to maintain power and control. If they can divide society by race, gender, food choice, sexual preference or any other “difference” they can slow down and impede organizational efforts to get rid of them.


Intersections and race

Racism isn’t a disease. It isn’t a psychological disorder. It isn’t a cultural identity. Racism, simply put is a form of oppression. Racism is one of many forms of oppression which interact to create pervasive systems of discrimination and, more importantly, powerful systems of social control. Racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, immigration status and other categories of social exclusion are not simply personal problems, although they have deeply personal ramifications. Racism is one of many very powerful weapons used in society to achieve three goals:

First, it is used to justify economic and political policies which protect and reinforce power. Demonizing, dehumanizing, objectifying and socially excluding people is an ideological weapon used by those in power to divide us, dominate us, and make structural conditions that would otherwise be recognized by any thinking person as cruel, barbaric and insane, seem normal and reasonable. Simply put, it is a weapon that rationalizes the horrific and the unacceptable.

Second, racism is used to create economic conditions where some people, particularly women and socially constructed racial groups, are easier to exploit. Social exclusion creates a situation where wages and salaries can be depressed and entire social groups can be forced to accept menial, servile and dehumanizing work.

Third, racism, sexism, homophobia and the rest are effective tools of division. Those most disadvantaged and oppressed in society can be manipulated into patterns of distrust, hatred and discrimination. They also can, and often do, give a sense of power to whites, men, heterosexuals, and “citizens” which prevents those most disadvantaged and exploited in society from working together to confront the real sources of their problems.

In the United States our socially constructed definitions of race and ethnicity are constantly changing and adapting to the needs of power. Racism in all its forms has been a remarkably adaptable device used throughout our history to justify the mistreatment and dehumanization of millions of people. Of course the obvious examples are slavery and genocide. The enslavement of African-Americans was absolutely vital to the growth of the American economy. It buttressed agricultural production in the South and industrial production in the North where the products of slavery were manufactured into commercial goods. It provided enormous revenues from foreign trade and tariffs and excised taxes to fund the state. “Manifest destiny” and the occupation of the North American continent was achieved by genocide and war directed at Native American peoples. The geographical expansion and subsequent resource extraction which fueled the American economy was dependent on barbarism and slaughter. We also sometimes forget the other omnipresent forms of racism and discrimination.

If you remember there was a time in this country when whites hated white people. The white puritans of the Plymouth Colony threw out other white puritans! A system of exploited labor requires that someone, even if they look just like us and think just like us, must be dehumanized and vilified to justify their lack of privilege. The Irish were brought to the new world in indentured servitude to work the fields and build the cities. They were vilified as Papist drunks and housed in the most horrifying ghettos. Italian immigrants necessary to the shrimp and fishing industries were denounced as criminals. East European Jewish immigrants were blamed for prostitution even though the sex trade was well established as long ago as the Plymouth colony. The Chinese were brought here to build the railroads and then denounced as drug fiends. Mexicans, both in the 1930s and today are imported by labor leasing companies and consigned to the most demeaning labor, particularly in agriculture, and then blamed for the horrors of marijuana.

From the first Puritan settlers who eviscerated the Pequot tribe and the import of African slaves to today’s disingenuous and phony “war on terrorism,” racism and social exclusion has been a powerful weapon to justify violent and repressive policies at home and abroad, to create a compliant and divided populace, and to offer privilege and advantage to some at the expense of others. The point of all of this has been to reinforce and protect the economic, political and social power of the ruling elite.

The question is, of course, what do we do about all of this? Liberal reformists tell us that the answer is to extend some privileges to others while making certain their own privileges are not in any way inconvenienced. “Equality” sounds good. But if society is to pursue equality someone has to give something up to get there. It is populism at its worst. “Equality” is, in fact, a highly desirable goal. Fighting for equality can bring people together. It can expose the structural inequities of the system. It is positive; it is progressive and offers the opportunity to bring people together. But, it’s not enough.

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The State





Mate­ri­als for a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary The­ory of the State | Asad Haider and Salar Mohandesi

“I believe that the sta­tus of the state in cur­rent think­ing on the Left isvery prob­lem­atic,” Stu­art Hall wrote in 1984, in the midst of Mar­garet Thatcher’s war on the “enemy within.” He reflected on the legacy of the post­war period, which saw the exten­sion of pub­lic ser­vices within the con­text of a vast expan­sion of the state’s inter­ven­tion in social life.


Seven The­ses on Work­ers’ Con­trol (1958) | Raniero Panzieri

In the work­ers’ move­ment there has been for a long time, and in suc­ces­sive peri­ods, a dis­cus­sion of the ques­tion of the modes and tem­po­ral­i­ties of the tran­si­tion to social­ism. One ten­dency, which occurred in var­i­ous forms, believed it was pos­si­ble to schema­tize the tem­po­ral­ity of this process, as if social­ist con­struc­tion had to be pre­ceded, always and in every case, by the “phase” of con­struc­tion of bour­geois democracy.

The­ses on the Trans­for­ma­tion of Democ­racy and the Extra­parlia­men­tary Oppo­si­tion (1968) | Johannes Agnoli

These the­ses serve as a sup­ple­ment to my book Trans­for­ma­tion of Democ­racy and a cor­rec­tion to some mis­quo­ta­tions made at the remark­able del­e­gates con­fer­ence of the SDS. I am gen­er­ally of the opin­ion that rather than inter­pret texts, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies should change rela­tions. As mea­sured by the state’s actual power rela­tions and by the actual rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion in soci­ety, the famil­iar expres­sion for the mod­ern bour­geois state – “par­lia­men­tary democ­racy” – rep­re­sents a paradox.

Cri­sis and Strat­egy: On Daniel Bensaïd’s “The Notion of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Cri­sis in Lenin” | Patrick King

The Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Daniel Bensaïd’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Une lente impa­tience, is a wel­come event in the Anglo­phone Marx­ist world. Not only does it con­tain a rich his­tory of some of the most deci­sive moments for the French Left from the ’60s to the present, it also deep­ens our under­stand­ing of the het­ero­dox sources that coex­isted within Bensaïd’s unique form of Marxism.

The Notion of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Cri­sis in Lenin (1968) | Daniel Bensaïd

In sev­eral places through­out his work, Lenin tries to define the notion of a “revolution­ary cri­sis,” espe­cially in Left-Wing Com­mu­nism: An Infan­tile Dis­or­der and The Col­lapse of the Sec­ond Inter­na­tional. How­ever, he out­lines a notion more than he estab­lishes a con­cept, as the descrip­tive cri­te­ria that he enu­mer­ates remain sub­jec­tive assessments.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl: From Crit­i­cal to Rev­o­lu­tion­ary The­ory | Michael Shane Boyle and Daniel Spaulding

Hans-Jürgen Krahl died in a car crash in 1970, at the age of twenty-seven. By that time he had weath­ered the rise and decline of the Social­ist Ger­man Stu­dent Union (Sozial­is­tis­cher Deutscher Stu­den­ten­bund, or SDS), among whose ranks he was, arguably, both the most sophis­ti­cated the­o­rist and, after Rudi Dutschke, the most incen­di­ary ora­tor. The SDS had been founded shortly after World War II as the youth wing of the Social Demo­c­ra­tic Party (SDP) of Ger­many. As the lat­ter moved towards the cen­ter, how­ever, the SDS rad­i­cal­ized, even­tu­ally lead­ing to expul­sion from its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion in 1961. It would soon become the most impor­tant stu­dent group in Ger­many, even as its offi­cial pol­icy shifted fur­ther towards rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marxism.

The Phi­los­o­phy of His­tory and the Author­i­tar­ian State (1971) | Hans-Jürgen Krahl

His­tor­i­cal materialism’s crit­i­cal eco­nomic prog­noses on the nat­ural course of the cap­i­tal­ist world order have been con­firmed. The con­di­tions for the eco­nomic break­down and cri­sis of cap­i­tal have been ful­filled; the his­tor­i­cal ten­dency of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion has long since reached the degree of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion that Marx and Engels des­ig­nated as its nat­u­rally pro­duced his­tor­i­cal ter­mi­nus. The exis­tence of the author­i­tar­ian state is just as much an expres­sion of the “final cri­sis” as it is of the tem­po­rary, polit­i­cally medi­ated suc­cess of the attempt to man­age it in the inter­ests of monop­oly capital.

The New Deal and the New Order of Cap­i­tal­ist Insti­tu­tions (1972) | Luciano Fer­rari Bravo

To speak of the New Deal as a huge qual­i­ta­tive leap in the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ist insti­tu­tions – a leap that, pre­cisely because it func­tions at a cru­cial point in the plot of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety at a global level, has itself a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal impor­tance – seems to be a state­ment by now gen­er­ally taken to be wholly cor­rect. The mat­ter was already set­tled in the mind of its great­est pro­tag­o­nist and in the ide­ol­ogy cre­ated around him that enthu­si­as­ti­cally founded the “myth” of the New Deal’s “rev­o­lu­tion”; and, if every myth must have a real jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, this one lay in the effec­tive dis­man­tling of the sys­tem in the rapid course of a decade. No less sig­nif­i­cant, at this level, is the bit­ter oppo­si­tion from var­i­ous posi­tions that the New Deal came to pro­voke; these were atti­tudes that then, and not acci­den­tally, flowed back against it in a wide under­ly­ing consensus.

Notes on the Polit­i­cal Over the Longue Durée | Mat­teo Mandarini

Writ­ten towards the end of what we might call the “sec­ond period” of Tronti’s reflec­tions, that of the so-called “auton­omy of the Polit­i­cal,” sand­wiched between the more famous phase of Operaismo and the – almost com­pletely unknown to the Anglo­phone world – “third period” polit­i­cal the­o­log­i­cal phase, that of the twi­light of the polit­i­cal, the short text trans­lated here will come to many Anglo­phone read­ers of Tronti as a surprise.

The Polit­i­cal (1979) | Mario Tronti

The polit­i­cal has a his­tory. It is the mod­ern his­tory of rela­tions of power. To recon­struct, reread, to accu­mu­late mate­ri­als, to lay out the prob­lems by fol­low­ing the unhur­ried course of time, to set out from the clas­sics is not an escape into the past, it is an exper­i­ment, a test, the attempt to ver­ify a hypoth­e­sis. Let us leave for­mu­lae to the arith­metic of pol­i­tics. Let us leave the auton­omy of pol­i­tics to the news­pa­pers. The dif­fi­cul­ties encoun­tered by the Marx­ist the­ory and prac­tice of the work­ers’ move­ment in tak­ing upon itself the fact of power all stem from this absence of knowl­edge, from this lack of reflec­tion on the his­tor­i­cal hori­zon of bour­geois politics.


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Berlin,  Internationale Frauentag

What then is gender? For us, it is the anchoring of a certain group of individuals in a specific sphere of social activities. The result of this anchoring process is at the same time the continuous reproduction of two separate genders.

These genders concretise themselves as an ensemble of ideal characteristics, defining either the “masculine” or the “feminine”. However, these characteristics themselves, as a list of behavioural and psychological qualities, are subject to transformation over the course of the history of capitalism; they pertain to specific periods; they correspond to certain parts of the world; and even within what we might call the “West” they are not necessarily ascribed in the same way to all people. As a binary however, they exist in relation to one another, regardless of time and space, even if their mode of appearance is itself always in flux.

Sex is the flip side of gender. Following Judith Butler, we criticise the gender/sex binary as found in feminist literature before the 1990s. Butler demonstrates, correctly, that both sex and gender are socially constituted and furthermore, that it is the “socializing” or pairing of “gender” with culture, that has relegated sex to the “natural” pole of the binary nature/culture. We argue similarly that they are binary social categories which simultaneously de-naturalise gender while naturalising sex. For us, sex is the naturalisation of gender’s dual projection upon bodies, aggregating biological differences into discrete naturalised semblances.

While Butler came to this conclusion through a critique of the existentialist ontology of the body,22 we came to it through an analogy with another social form. Value, like gender, necessitates its other, “natural” pole (i.e. its concrete manifestation). Indeed, the dual relation between sex and gender as two sides of the same coin is analogous to the dual aspects of the commodity and the fetishism therein. As we explained above, every commodity, including labour-power, is both a use-value and an exchange-value. The relation between commodities is a social relation between things and a material relation between people.

Following this analogy, sex is the material body, which, as use-value to (exchange) value, attaches itself to gender. The gender fetish is a social relation which acts upon these bodies so that it appears as a natural characteristic of the bodies themselves. While gender is the abstraction of sexual difference from all of its concrete characteristics, that abstraction transforms and determines the body to which it is attached — just as the real abstraction of value transforms the material body of the commodity. Gender and sex combined give those inscribed within them a natural semblance (“with a phantomlike objectivity”), as if the social content of gender was “written upon the skin” of the concrete individuals.

The transhistoricisation of sex is homologous to a foreshortened critique of capital, which contends that use-value is transhistorical rather than historically specific to capitalism. Here, use-value is thought to be that which positively remains after revolution, which is seen as freeing use-value from the integument of exchange-value. In terms of our analogy with sex and gender, we would go one step further and say that both gender and sex are historically determined. Both are entirely social and can only be abolished together — just as exchange-value and use-value will both have to be abolished in the process of communisation. In this light, our feminist value-theoretical analysis mirrors Butler’s critique in so far as we both view the sex/gender binary as being socially-determined and produced through social conditions specific to modernity.

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Gender Trouble