Value, psychological and marxist

Chris Burford cburford at
Fri Jul 7 07:20:36 MDT 1995

Hello Seamus,

I was very glad you picked up my thread on the underlying
connection between the marxist concept of exchange value and
psychological concepts of valuing other people. It seems to me
you extended this to other aspects of social analysis.

I have to say I found it extremely hard to understand your post
because I am just not familiar with the language or the concepts.
I have read it three times.

But I think I agree (!)

I have virtually zero knowledge of sociology and linguistics.
The window of opening I have on your post is a small one but
perhaps the vital one - for me anyway. A group analyst who trained
for a time in Frankfurt and then applied psychoanalytical methods
to group dynamics. SH Foulkes. He posited that every group creates
a *matrix* of psychological interaction between its members
which evolves with time. Furthermore at the beginning of the
analytical group each member brings with him/her into the meeting
a set of social assumptions which, to the extent they are shared,
form a "foundation matrix" for the group.

In such discourse I think you are describing The social matrix, that
is the matrix of the society as a whole, and arguing that language is
a sub-set of that. If so I buy that argument.

I am not qualified to develop your subthread effectively because
of ignorance, but I sense it opens up and connects with a very large
area of progressive academic thinking. You refer to Jameson for example.

Could you help by posting a brief summary of Volosinov, in view of what
you say about him/her?

Chris Burford.


From: Seamus Malone <redye at>
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 1995 23:51:43 -0400 (edt)
Subject: Re: Value, psychological and marxist

I won't excerpt the previous post because I think I'd end up excerpting
the whole thing which was already long.

I think anyway, that Marx had suggested a theory of inter-subjectivity
which was really very far reaching, and while Nietzsche called himself
the first psychologist (that was his style as well I suppose) and was an
enormous influence on Freud (who if I remember the story correctly told
Anna that he had talked to a Marxist one night and at the end of the night
he found he agreed with him ----- it was time for him to go), Marx suggested
openings into psychology that were at least as important as Nietzsche.

There seem to me to be two paths to this understanding- one is through
Freud to Lacan to Althusser and maybe to Jameson. The much easier one as
I see it is to go straight to Volosinov (and/or Bakhtin). This
circumvents what I think is still a problem in Jameson which is the
analogy between social systems and language, wheras Volosinov would take
us much more directly into a general Semitiotic system which is
co-extensive with the political (see my post about a week ago about
breaking down base/superstructure- I think I suggested some of this there)
When one does that one better understands the way (and this is the place
where I would insert Benjamin's Passagen-Werk) in which the relations of
the material world including our bodies, commodities, antiques,
architecture, and what is sensously experience in general constitute
the plane of intersubjective relations- which is to say that they mean or
have a certain intentionality- under capital they "mean" or are produced
as meaning domination. As I said, it is important for me at least to
emphasize the way in which the discursive is understood as materialized
in the relation rather than de-materializing or reifying these relations
through the metaphor of "discursivity" in other words language is a
subset of semiotics wheras the general tendency is to understand
semiotics through the obscuring, reifying and contradictory metaphor of
"language" (which is made roughly equivalent then to base/superstructure)

Seamus Malone redye at

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