proletariat as category of capital

Patrick Patterson ppatt at
Sun Oct 8 20:52:43 MDT 1995

In regard to the comment by Rekesh: "I am skeptical of such arguments.  For
example, it leads Leiss into a strange and untenable form of a (literally)
natural rights argument:
You are right to be skeptical of Leiss's solution.
The problem with his analysis centers on a peculiar interpretion, criticism
of Marx's discussion of the concept of production in the introduction to
the Grundrisse. There Marx makes the point that production is the
determining moment in relation to consumption; consuption is a moment of
production. Production creates not only object to be consumed but the need
as well. This view in itself is based on the important role that labor play
in the relation between the human species and nature for Marx. What Leiss
does is uncouple the two so that the sphere consumption and all that
entails now becomes just as important as the sphere of production for
determining needs. He refers to a passage in the Grundrisse to show that
Marx himself was thinking along these lines where he notes that modern
industry destroys every connection between "the product and the direct
needs of the producer." Needs are no longer regulated by production and are
up for grabs as it were. Leiss substitutes a natural rights arguement in
place of Marx's historical one. This may be related to the same problem in
his teacher Marcuse who always had an ambigious affinity for naturalism.
It should be noted that the way out is by no mean easy. The relation
between "the product and the direct needs of the producer" has been broken
with the development of modern industry. One can certainly criticize the
senseless ness of much that is produced by this society. But that leads to
the dead end of some kind of naturalism But it is here that Postone's work
is so interesting. He shows how Marx never based his theory of revolution
on labor as it actually exists but instead on a total transformation of the
sphere of labor and free time. He sees new social movements which have
gained a certain degree of independence of existing forms of labor as
beginning the process of restablishing that relation between product and
the direct need of the producer. It is here that I would find a certian
amount of agreement with Louis N Proyect claim that labor is alienating.
Free time creates the space for alternates to emerge.

Patrick Patterson
ppatt at

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