dynamics and subjectivity

rakesh bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Tue Feb 6 01:44:47 MST 1996

I copied all the passages below  before I was on line and discovered the
many contributions on working class subjectivity, including Curtis' post in
which he noted the absence of subjects from this theoretical discussion of

First there are a couple of passages about the dynamics of capitalism and
then a couple of passages which draw out some implications for subjectivity
in such a dynamic system.  

First, Richard Goodwin on the dynamical nature of Schumpeter's theory
(which echoes many of the questions Chris B has been raising for over a

"The distinguished French mathematician Rene Thom has proposed a strikingly
new and influential conept in a book entitled *Structural Stability and
Morpogenesis*.  If one reflects on that title, I think one can reasonably
conclude that it encapsulates what Schumpeter's elaboration of Marx was all
about.  Regarded as a Thomist, we can see that Schumpeter was asserting
that Capitalism is endemically unstable structurally and discontinuously
generating new forms.  There, however, all similarity between the two men

"Like Marx [Schumpeter] was a student of the morphogenetic nature of
capitalism.  The economy is not a given structure like von Neumann's model,
or a collection of identical hydrogen atoms, it is an organism perpetually
altering its own structure, generating new forms.  Unlike most organisms it
does not exhibit durable structural stability: it is perhaps best thought
of as a kind of hyper-Darwinism, perpetual evoluion.  We are so familiar
with it, we normally do not realize how remarkable it is.  It is not like
morphogenesis in animals and plants, where the species is programmed to
generate a particular structure, and exhibits structural stability by
creating the same form for thousands of years.  Rather it is analogous to
the much disputed problem of the generation of new species.

"The economy is unsteadily generating new productive structures.  In this
sense Schumpeter was profoundly right to reject the elegant new
mathematical models: they are the analysis of the behavior of a given
structure.  He saw that not only was the economy creatively destroying
parts of its given structure, but also that one could not analyze a given
structure, ignoring that this cannibalism was going on." (unpublished paper
available from the library at the University of California, Riverside) 

Now Henryk Grossmann on Marx's theory of dynamics (internal quotes from Marx):

"At a higher level of capitalist development, and with the universal
application of machinery, this machinery, the use of which has the task of
enlarging relative surplus value, and hence the mass of surplus value,
begins to operate in the opposite direction, i.e. towards a fall in the
rate of valorization.  This is because the mass of surplus value which can
be obtained is dependent on two factors: the rate of surplus value, and the
'number of workers simultaneously employed.' In his hunt for an increase in
relative surplus value the capitalist is driven to the constant development
of the productivity of labor through an increased use of machinery in
relation to living labor; and he can only 'attain this result by
diminishing the number of workers employed by a given amount of capital.' 
A portion of the capital which was previously variable, and produced
surplus value, is progressively transformed into constant capital, which
produces no surplus value.  The result is shown in the creation of a
superfluous working population, and the tendency towards a reduction in the
mass of surplus value attainable in relation to the size of the capital
employed. 'hence there is an immanent contradiction in the application of
machinery to the production of surplus value, since, of the two factos of
the surplus value created by a given amount of capital, one, the rate of
surplus value cannot be increased except by diminishing the other, the
number of workers.'  Finally, Marx stresses the dynamic impulses which flow
from the use of machinery.  Whereas manufacture traditionally 'sought to
retain the form of the division of labor which it found', and was
consequently unable to seize hold of society to its fully extent, and
change it in depth, large-scale industry based on machinery is forced, by
the fall in the rate of profit, continually to revolutionize the technology
of the labor process, and therefore the structure of society."

And here are a couple of passages which speak also to Goodwin's 'Thomist'
interpretation of Schumpeter. 

First, John Holloway links Schumpeter's dynamics to contemporary debates
about new techno-economic paradigms (Carolota Perez) 
structuralist-functionalism and even Antonio Negri; in particular he is
pointing to the problem of how do we see and act beyond  crises as nothing
but a period in which new forms or species of capital develop:

"The destruction of one pattern of accumulation is the creation of the
basis for another: the crisis is a creative destruction, to borrow a phrase
from Schumpeter.  Schumpeter is relevant beacause, in Negri's view
(although Negri is far from being an orthodox Marxist economist he accepts
many of its assumptions of Marxist economics),, it was Schumpeter who
realised that for the bourgeoisie what Marx had already seen many years
before, that crisis is an integral part of capitalist development.  There
appears to be an assumption, both in Negri's argument and in the views of
many other writers on crisis theory, that crisis is a process of 'creative
destruction', that the two aspects of the crisis can simply be elided.  But
this is precisely to extend the functionalism of bourgeois economics: if
crisis is inevitably also a restruturing of capital, then the reproduction
of capital is indeed a closed circle from which there is no escape." (p.
164 of Open Marxism, vol II, ed. Werner Bonefeld. London: Pluto Press).  

In the second passage, Moishe Postone draws out another implication:

"Because so many aspects of social life are transformed more and more
rapidly as capitalism develops, the unchanging, underlying structures of
that society--for example, the fact that labor is an indirect means of life
for  individuals--can be taken to be eternal socially 'natural' aspects of
the human condition.  As a result the possibility of a future
qualititatively different from modern society can be veiled." (300 in Time,
Labor and Social Domination).  

So as we strive to understand how the capitalist system, though a product
of (alienated) human  practice,  nonetheless 'enforces', especially during
crises,  continuous revolutions in the technology of the labor process and
the organization of society, how are we to become aware of those more
underlying structures [and what are they?] and make them the object of our
transformative action?  



     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list