MOISHE POSTONE

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Dec 30 01:47:55 MST 1994


"Labor is central to Marx's analysis not because he assumes material
production as such to be the most important aspect of social life or the
essence of human society, but because he considers the peculiarly abstract
and directionally dynamic character of capitalist society to be its central
hallmark, and maintains that those basic features could be grasped and
elucidated in terms of the historically specific nature of labor in that
society.  Through his analysis of that historically specific nature, Marx
seeks to clarify and to ground socially an abstract form of social
relations and of domination as characteristic of capitalism.  His critique
does so in a way that shows capitalism to be a totality that is
intrinsically contradictory, and thus immanently dynamic." (p.104-5)

Only about half way through it, I haven't been able to put down Moishe
Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination: a reinterpretation of Marx's
critical theory (Cambridge, 1993).

In my humble opinion this seems to be one of the most audacious
interpretations of Marx's basic concepts since the classical attempts of G
Lukacs, II Rubin and H Grossmann -- all of whom are critically
appropriated. (It is very useful to compare Postone on the historically
specific nature of labor with Grossmann's 1941 "Marx,  Classical Economics
and Dynamics" reprinted in Capital and Class in 1977).  Postone also
engages P Bourdieu, M Sahlins, A Gorz, J Habermas, the Frankfurt School,  D
Harvey,  J Elster, E Mandel, P Sweezy,  L Althusser, D Sayer, P Murray and
many others.

Does anyone want to talk about this book? It seems to touch upon most of
the discussions which have been carried out on this line (with the possible
exceptions of Chris S' Hayekian critique; also as Postone is working at the
abstract level of the most basic categories of the capitalist system, he
doesn't seem to write much about the imperialist world market, but such a
method of presentation has been used before!)

 Any thoughts on Time, Labor and Social Domination--the book begins after
all as a severe critique of what Postone calls traditional Marxism, most
notably represented by Maurice Dobb.  Postone has surely stimulated much
rethinking on my part.  Does anyone know of any  reviews?

I must say that Chris Arthur's review in the last issue of Capital and
Class does not in my opinion even hint at the richness of this work.



     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list