working-class subjectivity

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at umich.edu
Sun Feb 4 18:58:40 MST 1996


Hugh's raised some enormous questions.  As a way of answering them, I 
want to return with: is it a good and/or productive question to oppose 
the sense of evolution within capital (what Jameson, following Horkeimer, 
calls "the natural history of capital") to the question of subjectivity?  
Although this opposition at first seems dynamic and heuristic - iron laws 
versus spontaneity, time vs. space - it seems more likely that both fold 
into the famous formula of THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY, where history makes and 
is made, and humans make and are made by their history.
	Yet I'm doing Hugh a disservice by pulling his shading of 
emphasis into a dialogic.  But discussions along these lines all too 
easily fall into this sort of opposition (an old anarchist vs Marxist 
canard, for example), and it's best to air it to compress it back into 
theory and praxis.
	I resist, however, the linear development of CAPITAL from the 
notebooks.  My last reading of GRUNDRISSE suggested new directions in 
terms of the state and some working class constitution that CAP 1 didn't 
answer for me.  CAP 2 and 3 don't look to go much further - in other 
worsds, the clarity and focus of CAPITAL shouldn't be seen as 
simultaneous signs of synthesis.


Bryan Alexander					Department of English
email: bnalexan at umich.edu			University of Michigan
phone: (313) 764-0418				Ann Arbor, MI  USA    48103
fax: (313) 763-3128				http://www.umich.edu/~bnalexan

On Sun, 4 Feb 1996, Hugh Rodwell wrote:

> Jerry wrote:
> 
> >At issue, in part, is the question of the relationship between the logic
> >of capital and the class struggle. _Capital_, of course, stresses the
> >former (although, some like Harry Cleever in _Reading Capital
> >Politically_, following Negri, have challenged traditional
> >interpretations of _Capital_).
> 
> > Both Negri and Lebowitz were heavily influenced by a reading of the
> >_Grundrisse_.
> >
> >>From Negri's perspective, the role of working-class subjectivity was at
> >the heart of Marx's project in _Capital_ and the _Grundrisse_ (although,
> >Negri identifies more with the latter than the former). Both Negri and
> >Lebowitz point to Marx's 6-book-plan for _Capital_ regarding the question
> >of the working-class as subject.
> >
> >Lebowitz claims that Marx intended but never got around to writing the
> >proposed book on _Wage-Labour_ which was to follow the publication of
> >_Capital_. Lebowitz's book is, essentially, both an attempt to write that
> >missing book and an attack against what Mike calls "one-sided Marxism."
> >Unlike Negri, Lebowitz claims that the books that became _Capital_ are
> >themselves one-sided because they only deal with the logic of capital
> >and do not consider the logic of working-class self-activity.
> >
> >Anybody want to discuss these issues further?
> 
> I'd say it wasn't just a question of wanting to. Until we get a clearer
> understanding of the economic and social imperatives at work in the
> development of capital, in the sense of the logic of capital, we won't be
> able to appreciate the constraints they place on working class
> consciousness and organization.
> 
> But to take Negri and Lebowitz as a starting point rather than Capital
> itself is lopsided. In particular Lebowitz's position as Jerry states it is
> a fetishization of Capital as opposed to the comprehensive dynamic of the
> whole activity of Marx and Engels to analyse and to organize to overthrow
> and replace the capitalist system in as concrete a fashion as possible,
> using both theoretical and practical methods. Don't forget that all of
> their theoretical work took place in a party context, and a revolutionary
> proletarian one at that by 1847 at the latest. Negri's position as Jerry
> states it is unexceptionable in so far as working class subjectivity is at
> the heart of any revolutionary marxist project, but it disregards the
> importance of Capital for establishing limits to voluntaristic attempts to
> disregard the objective processes at work within the capitalist mode of
> production.
> 
> I think it's dangerous to try and drive a wedge between the Grundrisse and
> Capital. The one builds on the other, and they also supplement each other -
> consider the importance of just two sections of the Grundrisse for Capital,
> namely the section on pre-capitalist economic formations with the whole
> emphasis on various ways of economic belonging (to the land, to means of
> production etc) that had to be stripped away before a 'free' working class
> was formed appropriate to the needs of capital, and the section on the
> operations of the labour process with respect to the maintenance, transfer
> and creation of value in a commodity. No way there's any conflict here
> between the two works.
> 
> There's a difference of emphasis between Grundrisse and Capital of course.
> In the former Marx is doing his thing with no holds barred and no thought
> of publication, wrestling with the basic ideas to make sure the
> underpinnings are as firm as can be philosophically. In the latter, on this
> ascertained foundation, he presents his results. And as thorough as Capital
> is, it still deals with a lot of the foundational ideas very briefly - as
> results, the reaching of which can be followed in detail in the Grundrisse.
> 
> I'd like to follow this up in a discussion in which we get down to the
> significance for working class action of for instance Lenin's development
> of Capital and his conclusion that 'imperialism is capitalism pregnant with
> socialism'.
> 
> Revolution as a midwife of history. Too 'deterministic' for some of you?
> Why? What limits do non-'determinists' see to working-class (or
> non-working-class for that matter) action?
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> Hugh
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
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> 


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