"Interests"- it's for your own good?

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sun Apr 16 21:36:46 MDT 1995

 > Date: Sat, 15 Apr 1995 21:38:00 -0400 (EDT)
 > From: Fuyet Herve <fuyeth at ere.umontreal.ca>
 > Subject: Re: "Interests"- it's for your own good?
 > To: Kenny Mostern <kennym at uclink2.berkeley.edu>
 > Cc: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu

 > This is my first message to your list or to any Internet list for that
 > matter.  I hope it will arrive at its destination.
 > Yes, I am very interested in discussions on the psychological dimension
 > of the notions of interest and of use value.  In particular, do you know
 > of any significant work dealing with a jungian point of view on this
 > topic or on marxism in general.
 > Also, do you know of any significant work dealing with the problems of
 > translation raised by such marxist concepts.
 > Herve.

My impression is that these themes, and you raise several in your short
interesting post, are only at the stage of exploration. I hope someone
can correct me.

I am interested because I think with the low probability of ever larger
numbers of industrialised proletarians massing as the grave-diggers
of capital, we have to look out
for wider democratic alliances with people increasingly disturbed by the
advance of commodity exchange economy uncontrolled by society.

About interest, I do believe there is an objective basis to identity
politics but it has to be analysed with great subtlety to clarify a
coherent marxist approach to participation within or alongside it.

I think Jon's recently posted paper on cultural capital, helps to develop
an analytical bridge between the commodity economic sphere of capitalism
and the non-commodity economic sphere which still exists in our minds and
our social relations.

Steve Keen has posted some interesting observations about the
neo-classical concept of utility and the Marxist concept of use-value. I
think possibly Steve is away from the list for the moment, which is a

I would say there is more of a psychological
dimension to Marxist use-value than is sometimes said. The third and
fourth sentences of Capital describe a commodity as something which
satisfies human wants, and gives examples from the stomach or the fancy
according to the English translation of 1887. However Hans Ehrbar
translates the second term "der phantasie" as "from the imagination",
which would seem arguably more correct and to have many more applications
when you think of how modern advertisers try to promote sales of commodities.

Some years ago the English Journal Free Associations carried an article
about the psychological significance of commodities, but I have not been
able to track it down.

Lastly your reference to Jungian ideas raises the whole question of the
spiritual significance of marxism. One of the attacks on marxism has been
that it is a substitute religion. My feeling is that it has an important
spiritual dimension, which we should be prepared to talk about - issues
of our place in the universe, our significance as individuals and as
groups, the role of courage and the place of despair. Marxist memorial
meetings always seem to me to be intensely moving. The end of onward
and upward marxism makes it perhaps easier and more possible  to
discuss this openly.

Perhaps Spinoza may help us, if anyone could explain the link between
Spinoza and Marx.

Chris Burford, London.

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