SUBJECTIVITY, HEGEL'S ABSOLUTE, SELF-EXPANDING CAPITAL

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Sun Jul 23 10:35:34 MDT 1995


>I am interested in any comments about this attempt to link the
>attributes of the Hegelian subject not to a revolutionary
>proletariat but to capital as a set of self-reifying social
>institutions

First, what is this attempt attempting to do?  What is the moral
of the story, if Hegel's Absolute is Capital and not the
revolutionary proletariat?  Raya Dunayevskaya gets all worked up
about how to read the terminal paragraphs of THE SCIENCE OF LOGIC,
but I have never understood why it matters.  But here are some
stray thoughts on these debates:

(1) There seems to be a temptation out there to conlude that if
one maintains the ability to scientifically and objectively
describe a phenomenon, then one has surrendered to it.  I do not
follow Carlos Castoriadis' writings, and he seems to be a waste of
time politically today, but I recall a really dumb interview or
speech he gave in which he criticizes the later Marx for giving
into the logic of the system.

(2) Harry Cleaver in READING CAPITAL POLITICALLY seems to have a
similar obsession, which is why he opposes the scientific or
philosophical reading of CAPITAL to the political, as if one
precludes the other, so that CAPITAL is read as the class
struggle, not just what capital does.

(3) Even I have gotten mixed up in this business in my opposition
to Althusser et al by accusing them of ceding all to the logic of
the system and not recognizing anything else.  But of course I am
not opposed to a scientific investigation of the logic of the
system.  And since I have no stake in Hegel's Absolute I don't
care whether it turns out to be Capital or the New Society.

(4) Obviously, Raya Dunayevskaya and her cult followers in NEWS &
LETTERS, in their abstract advocacy of socialism from below, are
well-attuned to this issue, this they say (but do not practice):
keep your eye on the self-activity of the masses which constantly
seeks to undermine the logic of the system.  Hence it is obvious
they would have a quarrel with Adorno, since he is so hopelessly
overwhelmed by the system he grouchily withdraws from the concrete
world into the zen buddhism of negative dialectic.  However, the
specific logic of the critique of Adorno in the latest NEWS &
LETTERS eludes me.  What precisely does the logic of identity and
absolute negativity have to do with Adorno's ignoring the voices
from below?

(5) It so happens the question of self-expanding capital played a
major role in the debate over state capitalism that occured in the
internal bulletins of the Workers Party (USA) during World War II.
You may wonder, how can you have capitalism without capitalists:
the Achilles heel of state cap theory.  Well, C.L.R. James (along
with Dunayevskaya and the others in the Johnson-Forest Tendency),
proceeded to argue just that case on behalf of their state cap
theory.  I believe, BTW, that Max Shachtman's theory was called
"bureaucratic collectivism" and I don't think it was a state cap
theory.  There are several state cap theories, including that of
Tony Cliff of the British SWP.  But I would suggest one check out
also Walter Daum's book THE LIFE AND DEATH OF STALINISM for an
evaluation of and putative improvement over existing theories.


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