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Tag: value-form

The Value Form, Reification, and the Consciousness of the Collective Worker (Milchman, 2010)

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Alan Milchman (Mac Intosh) 1940-2021


Internationalist Perspective
Issue 57: Fall/Winter 2010 [PDF]


Marx’s critical theory exposed a mode of production, a civilization, based on value, which he described as a “deranged” or “perverted form” [verrückte Form], in which social relations between persons are inverted and appear as relations between things. It is the abstract labor of the working class that produces and reproduces this deranged form. As Max Horkheimer, in 1937, put it in “Traditional and Critical Theory”: “[H]uman beings reproduce [erneuern], through their own labor, a reality which increasingly enslaves them.”1 It was Georg Lukács, in his essay “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” in the collection History and Class Consciousness (1923), who had first elaborated a theory of reification through which the effects of the value form, that perverted form, and the commodity fetishism that was integral to it, seized hold of society. Lukács’ accomplishment, even before many of Marx’s own vast “economic” manuscripts had been published, was a theoretical breakthrough upon which Marxism as a negative critique of capitalism is still based.

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The Historicity of Abstractions (Gray, 2012)

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by Nick Gray (originally written for SIC Journal in 2012, but never published) PDF

The Historicity of Abstractions: Are the categories ‘use-value’, ‘concrete labour’ and ‘labour as such’ transhistorically operative? [1]

Only totalising theory can interrogate the status of abstractions sufficiently vigorously”[2]

– Richard Gunn

Introduction

At stake in this enquiry are: our conception of labour[3], of revolution, and social mediation in communism.

In this essay the Marxian categories of concrete labour, use-value, and indeed the category of “labour as such” are interrogated with respect to their historicity. I first briefly state what I take to be the traditional interpretation, and then consider the question from the angle of value-form theory, which establishes the historicity of abstract labour and the form-determination of the capitalist production process. Subsequently I consider the ramifications for the status of the categories of use-value and concrete labour of a critical analysis of the process of (real) hypostatisation within capitalist relations of commodity production and exchange. This is followed by an exegesis of Marx’s 1857 Introduction with regard to the historicity of the two types of abstraction in operation there: general and determinate abstractions. I then close by counterposing two radically opposed conceptions of the post-capitalist status of labour exemplified by Chris Arthur (circa 1978) and Moishe Postone, and argue that the dissolution of capitalist social relations implies that of the categories “concrete labour”, “use-value” and “labour as such”.

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The Test of Communism (Bernes, 2021)

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by Jasper Bernes (2021) PDF

Communism is an old idea in the world. Let’s call it ancient, for it may as well be our antiquity. We need not track down its origins in the alleyways of insurrection, only know that millions have struggled and died in its name. In this sense, it is not just an idea but a real force in history, product of and factor in a proletarian movement that has for at least two centuries now posed the overcoming of capitalism by classless, stateless, moneyless society. In fact, what’s remarkable about the history of the workers’ movement of the last two centuries is that this real ideal has until recently not only seemed inevitable but obvious. Even where they disagreed, violently, about how to achieve such a state of affairs, anarchists, communists, socialists, Marxists, syndicalists, and even some liberals, all stood joined by a common vision of a future classless society.

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A world without money: communism (Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs, 1975-76)

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Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme was originally published in three parts, as three separate pamphlets, in France, between 1975-6. It was produced by Dominique Blanc, shortly after the dissolution of the Organisation des Jeunes Travailleurs révolutionnaires. The name Quatre Millions de Jeune Travailleurs was apparently ‘adopted’ from a 1971 PSU youth publication (Parti Socialiste Unifié – a French Socialist Party), presumably to satisfy French publishing laws, and texts continued to be published under this name through the 1970’s including the widely distributed tract A Bas Le Proletariat/Vive Le Communisme.

PDF: English / French

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

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Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen & Dominique Routhier (2019)

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

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

Capitalism: Concept & Idea (audio)

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) presents:

Capitalism: Concept & Idea

150 Years of Marx’s Capital: The Philosophy and Politics of Capital today

As a counterpoint to the retreat of the concept of communism from history to ‘idea’, this conference will mark the 150th anniversary of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by asking the question of the meanings of ‘capital’ and ‘capitalism’ today as at once (explanatory structural-historical) concepts and (political) ideas.

In particular: What is the current standing of the different philosophical interpretations of Marx’s Capital? What light do they thrown on capitalism today? How have historical developments since Marx’s day changed the concept of capitalism? Has ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism rendered the concept of crisis redundant, for example? Is capitalism governable? Or is capital itself now the main form of governmentality? What is the precise character of Capital as a text – in terms of theory and in terms of literature? What does it mean to be ‘against capitalism’ today?

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Platform capitalism and value form

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By Matthew Cole

According to the speculations of techno-futurologists, left and right, the machines are here to liberate us. Most of the discourse is dominated by the neoliberal right such as Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England. Their arguments, avoiding questions of exploitation, are naturally popular with the establishment. McAfee’s best-selling book The Second Machine Age has been lauded by leaders at the World Economic Forum.

On the left, however, Paul Mason welcomes our new robotic overlords, in an intellectual synthesis that spans Marx’s 1858 ‘Fragment on Machines’ (treated by Mason as a prophecy), Bogdanov’s 1909 novel Red Star and Martin Ford’s 2015 Rise of the Robots, not to mention Andre Gorz. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams offer a more qualified welcome to the possibility of full automation and a workless future. But even the best of these analyses, and even the most alluring visions of networked insurrection and high-tech communist utopia, have to face up to how these technologies have been used, historically, to deepen exploitation rather than overcome it. It is far more likely, in short, that new technologies will intensify drudgery and further limit human freedom. And it on this basis that we have to evaluate the impacts of platform technologies on the capitalist mode of production.

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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

Endnotes 4, 3, 2, 1

ENDNOTES 4: UNITY IN SEPARATIONOCTOBER 2015

  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.

  2. A HISTORY OF SEPARATION

    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

    2. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    3. THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE MODERN WORLD

    4. THE FRACTURING OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    5. THE STRANGE VICTORY OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    6. THE DEFEAT OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    7. AFTERWORD

  3. GATHER US FROM AMONG THE NATIONS

    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.

  4. ITS OWN PECULIAR DECOR

    CHRIS WRIGHT

    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.

  5. AN IDENTICAL ABJECT-SUBJECT?

    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.

ENDNOTES 3: GENDER, RACE, CLASS AND OTHER MISFORTUNESSEPTEMBER 2013

  1. EDITORIAL

    Past, present and future of the Endnotes project.

  2. THE HOLDING PATTERN

    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.

  3. THE LOGIC OF GENDER

    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.

  4. A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS

    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.

  5. LOGISTICS, COUNTERLOGISTICS AND THE COMMUNIST PROSPECT

    JASPER BERNES

    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.

  6. THE LIMIT POINT OF CAPITALIST EQUALITY

    CHRIS CHEN

    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.

  7. SPONTANEITY, MEDIATION, RUPTURE

    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.

ENDNOTES 2: MISERY AND THE VALUE FORMAPRIL 2010

  1. CRISIS IN THE CLASS RELATION

    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.

  2. MISERY AND DEBT

    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.

  3. NOTES ON THE NEW HOUSING QUESTION

    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?

  4. COMMUNISATION AND VALUE-FORM THEORY

    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.

  5. THE MOVING CONTRADICTION

    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.

  6. THE HISTORY OF SUBSUMPTION

    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.

  7. SLEEP-WORKER’S ENQUIRY

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

ENDNOTES 1: PRELIMINARY MATERIALS FOR A BALANCE SHEET OF THE 20TH CENTURYOCTOBER 2008

  1. BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

    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.

  2. WHEN INSURRECTIONS DIE

    GILLES DAUVÉ

    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.

  3. NORMATIVE HISTORY AND THE COMMUNIST ESSENCE OF THE PROLETARIAT

    THÉORIE COMMUNISTE

    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.

  4. HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN?

    GILLES DAUVÉ

    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.

  5. LOVE OF LABOUR? LOVE OF LABOUR LOST…

    GILLES DAUVÉ & KARL NESIC

    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.

  6. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

    THÉORIE COMMUNISTE

    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.

  7. AFTERWORD

    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 Difficult Theory of a Mad World

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From its central question, what does critical theory have to do with the critique of political economy?, Werner Bonefeld’s new book, reviewed here by Chris Wright, develops a deep engagement with the Frankfurt School, Marx and a constellation of less translated critics of the value-form.

By Chris Wright, Mute Magazine

I find it hard to tell you

’Cause I find it hard to take

When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world

– Tears for Fears, ‘Mad World’

Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy is a difficult book to approach. Despite its small size, it is a theoretically dense and systematically developed work in which each chapter is premised on grasping the one preceding it. Each of its moments are an intertwining of precisely aimed critiques and novel critical expositions that challenge not just traditional Marxism, but much of the heterodox work alleging to renew Marxian thought in a post-Soviet, neoliberal world.1

The book opens with two questions that will be asked and answered repeatedly from different angles throughout: ‘What does Critical Theory have to do with the critique of political economy?’ and ‘What exactly do we mean by a “critique of political economy” that is different from a radical (“Marxist” or “Critical”) political economy?’

The students of Frankfurt School critical theory transformed the understanding of Capital against traditional Marxism with its technological determinism, historical teleology, and crude matterism that missed the centrality of the critique of social forms in Marx’s oeuvre. Social forms like value or abstract labour do not refer to objects, but the objectification of human relations in which essence and appearance do not coincide. Bonefeld analyses and criticises the main trends of that post-68 critical theory, especially the debates over the first few chapters of Capital. Not only does he revisit his earlier critiques of structuralist Marxism, but he comments critically on Hans-Georg Backhaus and Helmut Reichelt, who, among other key contemporaries, played a pivotal role in the turn towards the critique of the value-form.

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M-C-M’

Marxism and the Critique of Value aims to complete the critique of the value-form that was initiated by Marx. While Marx’s “esoteric” critique of value has been rediscovered from time to time by post-Marxists who know they’ve found something interesting but don’t quite know which end is the handle, Anglophone Marxism has tended to bury this esoteric critique beneath a more redistributionist understanding of Marx. The essays in this volume attempt to think the critique of value through to the end, and to draw out its implications for the current economic crisis; for violence, Islamism, gender relations, masculinity, and the concept of class; for revolutionary practice and agency; for the role of the state and the future of the commons; for the concepts that come down to us from Enlightenment thought: indeed, for the manifold phenomena that characterize contemporary society under a capitalism in crisis.

Edited by  Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Josh Robinson, and Nicholas Brown

Download the PDF

[via mcmprime.com]

Michael Heinrich Understands Marx

Michael Heinrich: Value, fetishism and impersonal domination

Public Discussion With Michael Heinrich

 

Michael Heinrich: The bourgeois state: class domination on the basis of freedom and equality

Traditional Marxism, the New Reading of Marx and the Critique of Capitalism