autonomist marxism

Richard Wolff rwolff at
Tue Dec 27 07:03:58 MST 1994

	In reply to boddhisatva, your message refers to an argument about
separating domination and oppression, but that was not the separation
which engaged our discussion...that was rather the separation of
EXPLOITATION from domination/oppression. And the point was to return the
left to a focus on the specificity of that particular social process in
which some human beings perform surplus labor while others oppropriate
and distribute as they see fit the fruits of that surplus labor.
	Now the point in referring to such a return to a focus on
exploitation is NOT to reopen the absurd debates over what is the most
fundamental, important, basic, etc. problem or contradiction of society.
Instead of ultimately fruitless debates over what the "essence" of social
structure and social change might be (oppression OR exploitation OR
meritocratic ideology, etc.), the alternative I find persuasive is an
anti-essentialism in principle - or what Althusser coined as
"overdetermination" and others have developed further in various ways -
in which exploitation becomes one of the objects of the left's critical
attention which aims to grasp (and overturn) the interdependence
(formulated systematically in terms of overdetermination) of exploitation
and those oppressions that likewise find a place on the left's agenda of
social change.
	I find much to agree with you in your critique of meritocracy, an
issue much too little emphasized, but that is a different point from the
set of issues hanging on the question of returning exploitation to its
place within the left's political and theoretical agendas.

Rick Wolff


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