Postone

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Mon Apr 10 05:26:39 MDT 1995


In Ron's critique of Postone, he raises at least five different points
which I list  below.

  It must be immediately pointed out that Ron has seriously misrepresented
Postone's treatment of Hegel; there is no attempt whatsoever to recover
Marx's Hegelian idealist dimension (in the way for example that Raya
Dunayevskaya attempts in Philosophy and Revolution). In  demonstrating how
capitalist social forms  take on the attributes of the Hegelian Geist,
Postone is able both

(1) to show that what is rational in Hegel can be historically specified:
"Marx implicitly argues that Hegel did grasp the abstract, contradictory
social forms of capitalism, but *not in their historical specificity*" (81)

(2)to clarify that Marx analyzed "capitalism in terms of a dialectic of
development that is indeed independent of individual will and, therefore,
presents itself as a logic. He investigates the unfolding of that
dialectical logic as a real expression of alienated social relations which
are constituted by practice and, yet, exist quasi-independently. He does
not treat that logic as an illusion or simply as a consequence of
insufficient knowledge on the part of people.  As he points out, knowledge
alone does not change the character of such relations.  We shall see that
such a logic of development, within the framework of his analysis, is
ultimately a function of the social forms of capitalism and is not
characteristic of human history as such." (76-77)

This is very rich passage, which suggests some topics which Postone treats
with care in different chapters, in particular

(a)a historical specification of the Hegelian Geist the attributes of which
capitalist and capitalist social relations only-- not the revolutionary
class-- take on (note here Postone's emphasis on forms of social relations)


(b)a demonstration  that Marx's conception of capital, with its Hegelian
form,  is not reducible to a proof of exploitation (Postone's actual
explanation of capital's "dialectic of labor and time" is of course not
Hegelian but provided in an almost anthropological, and decidedly
'materialist',  study of the peculiar social synthetic nature of labor
itself in capitalist society, and

(c) an analysis of the self-generation of alienated social relations by the
practice of proletarian labor.



Here are Ron's five criticisms, with mentions of where Postone deals with them.

1. Postone adds nothing new.  Marx already explained the dynamic by which
the value-creating substance, labor, is  expelled from the production
process.


2. Postone is only relevant insofar as he understands Marx's
idealist/hegelian dimension.

3. At odds with Marx, Postone devalues the role of the proletariat in
revolutionary change.

4. Postone only emphasizes the domination of  the worker, ignoring the 40
civil war in production as the efficient cause of capital's  search for
relative surplus value; this logical category is itself only possible
because of the transformation of reality by historical workers' struggles.

5. Postone critiques the ideal of freely associated labor, worked out in
the Paris Commune, as a vestigal traditional Marxist belief in the
possibility of conscious control of transparent social relations.

Rakesh






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