Use Value (and not really Aesthetics)

Kevin T. Mahoney ktmahone at mailbox.syr.edu
Fri Mar 31 14:48:29 MST 1995


in Louis's most recent post he argues that the struggle form communism is
a struggle for the abolition of the class, the family and the state but
that "But this struggle only has historical potential to the extent that
the tendancies of the capitalist system lead towards it. The abolition of
private property within the integument of private property with the
centralisation of capital is a well developed theme of marxist theory.
The abolition of family as a political program, is grounded in the
tendancy of capital to errode the domestic economy."  while i would want
to be able to talk concretely about the "tendencies" of the capitalist
system in particular toward centralisation, i think this is the very
point at which marxist theory comes under the most pointed attack by
postmodern/poststructuralist/ and much feminist theory for its alliance
with modernism/positivism, and is (i believe) a reflection of a
particular americanized understandig of the dialectic.

one of the things that marx is very clear on in that the struggle against
private property, production for profit, in short, class society is one
that leads to "communism or barbarism."  many leftist use this phrase as
a kind of beefed-up scare tactic which should amplify the already
existing anxieties of the "working-class" under attack (i will leave
aside for the moment that many times this working class is meant to
"cover" all social groups that are under attack at this particular moment
which has limitations to say the least).  however, i believe that this
statement in not one of ontological necessity, that is between Good and
Evil, but represents a constant and ever-present struggle we face on a
daily basis--which is in short the theory of the dialectic.  what i mean
is that the tendencies of capitalism is to work toward barbarism and
communism AT THE SAME TIME.  so that, their is the tendency for the
family to be abolished at the same time there is a strong retrenchment of
family values--even though the traditional form of the family is
objectivley in crisis.  the question them becomes a historical crisis of
sorts that is not already written.  the problem with saying that
capitalism works (by itself) to destroy the family, forgets, and is
naive, of the way in which history works dialectically in the present.

if marxist dialectic is any kind of advancement over the hegaelian
dialectic, or the aristotelian dialectic, it is in so far as it provides
the tools for apprehending the present in all of its CONTRADICTIONS which
puts direct pressure upon almost everything we do, since everything we do
will in some way take up residence (so to speak) on one side of the
contradiction if we are not to rigorously to hold onto the contradiction
as a coherent (social) whole.  [yes i am making an argument for
coherency, totality despite its unfashionability].  in short, capitalism
does little BY ITSELF, rather it is constantly affirmed or contested on
an everyday basis.  thus, the "contract for america" for instance stands
in direct contradiction to the pressures of the forces of production to
disrupt the "traditional" nuclear family, yet what it does do is
reconceive the nuclear family, update it, as a means of further
mystifying the underlying cause of the crisis.  Yet, it would be wrong to
suggest that the "contract for america" is nothing but the last gasp of
the family because it is working materially for the reconsolidation of
the family in order to reestablish the efficient reproduction of labor power.

kevin mahoney
syracuse university



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