hall of fame

RAUNHAAR at aol.com RAUNHAAR at aol.com
Tue May 13 15:02:04 MDT 2003


In einer eMail vom 12.05.2003 21:41:56 (MEZ) - Mitteleurop. Sommerze schreibt
MARIPOWER716 at aol.com:



>What characterizes the commodity form of social relations, as analyzed
by Marx, is that it is constituted by labour, it exists in objectified
form and it has a dualistic character. including many of Marx's
earlier conceptions regarding history, society and labour, as expressed
in the idea of a dialectical logic.

>In order to elucidate this description, Marx's conception of the
historical specificity of labour in capitalism must be clarified.

>Marx maintains that labour in capitalism has a "double character:" it is
both "concrete labour" and "abstract labour". "Concrete labour" refers to the
fact that some form of what we consider labouring activity mediates the
interactions of humans with nature in all societies. "Abstract labour," I
argue, signifies that, in capitalism, labour also has a unique social
function: it mediates a new form of social interdependence.

>Let me elaborate: In a society in which the commodity is the basic
structuring category of the whole, labour and its products are not
socially distributed by traditional ties, norms, or overt relations of
power and domination -- that is, by manifest social relations -- as is
the case in other societies. Instead, labour itself replaces those
relations by serving as a kind of quasi-objective means by which the
products of others are acquired. A new form of interdependence comes
into being where no-one consumes what they produce, but where,
nevertheless, one's own labour or labour-products function as the
necessary means of obtaining the products of others. In serving as such
a means, labour and its products in effect pre-empt that function on the part
of manifest social relations. Instead of being defined, distributed and
accorded significance by manifest social relations, as is the case in other
societies, labour in capitalism is defined, distributed and accorded
significance by structures (commodity, capital) that are constituted by
labour itself. That is, labour in capitalism constitutes a form of social
relations which has an impersonal, apparently non-social, quasi-objective
character and which embeds, transforms and, to some degree, undermines and
supersedes traditional social ties and relations of power. <

Comment

Makes sense to me. Actually, the entire statement makes sense to me, although
several conclusions (the content of democracy and defining social life as
view from the impact of abstract character of labor and how commodity
production recast social life structures), that we have in common were
arrived at by a different avenue. I have no desire to be a pinprick. Marxism
is not and cannot be this wonderful theoretical system that explains
everything. Something cannot explain everything.

There is no such thing as a Marxist approach to baseball, love, sex, music or
art, as such. In the same vain the so-call Marxist aesthetics means little
and next to nothing to me, in respects to the laboring process allegedly
expressing social-life forms. I simply do not proceed from an assumption that
a Marxist approach to rhythm or "everything in existence" is a serious.
Marxism cannot instruct one on how to make a hard boiled egg or paint a
picture.

Re-Comment:
I agree with you. There is no "Marxist" approach to "sex". However, there is
a Marxian one to gender, which,
by the way, has an impact on the attitude towards sexual intercourse, let
alone on the making
of "love". There is no "Marxist" approach to "love", however there is a
Marxian one to the historically constitution of what "love" means. The same
applies to music and/or art. Gregorian chorales, Romantic
painting or classicism are the results (forms of appearance) of the social
mediation valid at then. They
all belong to pre-history (Marx) like our post-modern times.

The discussion over whether or not a qualitatively new ingredient has been
injected into the industrial process that compels its reconfiguration led to
this series of discussion, which was further advanced under the title of
giving robots their hall of fame. How can one take such a conception of what
is taking place serious? Your article is very serious and I agree that social
life is not the history of the socialized life of tools, instruments and
machines. This conclusion was arrived at not from a careful reading of Marx,
but a standpoint that says Marx theoretical propositions are merely guilds to
frame the unfolding social revolution. Social revolution is defined as social
upheaval that results in way or another in social life being reconfigured
around new material power of production.

Re-Comment:
Marx used the phrase "forces of production". One of the most important
forces, beside the "immense
forces of nature" (Cap. vol. 1 p. 509) are the thought patterns, the
perception of people as generated by capitalism. Maybe we can agree on the
following: From a standpoint of a social analysis of production, approaches
that grasp capitalist industrial production solely in technical terms are
similar to those that
understand labour in capitalism only in terms of the interactions of people
with nature. In both cases,
the concrete dimension is not understood as the materialized form of the
social mediation; instead
the fetishized form of appearance of the social mediation is taken at face
value. This is the case of
those criticisms of capitalist production that focus exclusively on private
property and the market, as well
as of theories that treat industrial development as a process of
"modernisation" without acknowledging the
social category of capital.

To state, "labour in capitalism constitutes a form of social relations which
has an impersonal, apparently non-social, quasi-objective character and which
embeds, transforms and, to some degree, undermines and supersedes traditional
social ties and relations of power" is indisputable in my estimate and also a
measure.

Re-Comment:
First of all we are here to dispute "something". If value is the fundamental
category of capitalist social
relations of production, and if labour's use value dimension encompasses the
forces of production, then
capital can be understood as an alienated structure of labour-mediated
relations of production which promotes the development of socially general
forces of production while incorporating them as its attributes. The
dialectic of the forces and relations of production is, then, a dialectic of
two dimensions of capital rather
than of capital and forces extrinsic to it.
------------------------------
The measure is with social relations that are "less impersonal" as they
existed in the society from which capitalism emerged. In other words we are
talking about a boundary or juncture being crossed in which social ties and
social relations - in the most broad meaning, have been recast - sublated.

I most certainly cannot quantify the distance that constitutes postindustrial
society, but "post" in front of industrial defines itself as a juncture has
been crossed. In real life people striving to understand the logic involved
in social change on various levels and impact the national body politic,
proceed from forms of social intercourse as opposed to the technological
changes in society, although no one proceeds from the idea that life is
divided into categories. In a real way the mass struggle cannot be fought out
in that constituting the economy. My approach is based on certain factors in
our social life and a projection that ask, "How will large groups of people
be compelled to behave and what is their trajectory?" The shape of this
behavior is not the trajectory.

Re-Comment:
According to Marxian categorial approach, consciousness is not merely a
reflex of objective conditions; rather, the categories, which express the
basic social mediations characteristic of capitalism, delineate forms of
consciousness as intrinsic moments of forms of social being. Hence, class
determinations, for Marx, entail socially and historically determinate forms
of subjectivity - for example, views of society, of self, systems of
"values", understanding of action, conceptions of the sources of social ills
etc. The classes involved are not entities but structurings of social
practice and consciousness which, in relation to the production of surplus
value (the valorisation of value), are organised antagonistically. They are
constituted by the dialectical structures of capitalist society and impel its
development, the unfolding of its basic contradiction. In short: If we are
not able to overcome the fetishistic consciousness and awareness, people are
compelled to fulfil their doom.
 -----------------------
People are compelled to try and secure continuous means of subsistence. The
shape of this fight - striving, and on what basis the political revolution
breaks out (the ultimate democratic striving) appear to be taking place as
driven by the war crisis provoked by American imperialism and financial
crisis which seems to be intersecting with a falling capacity to consume.

Re-Comment: A "political" revolution as the "ultimate democratic strive" does
not point beyond capitalism. Apart from the question whether such "political"
revolution can take place anyway, it would not call into question the deep
structure of social relations, the alienated "third" (Marx). We would end up
in another fetish-mediated system, whether "religion/cult", "blood-ties",
"totemtism",  "despotism", "capitalism" etc. From my point of view the
possible historical negation of capitalism implied by Marx's critique cannot
be understood in terms of the proletariat's reappropriation of what it has
constituted and, hence, in the abolition of private property alone. Rather,
the logical thrust of Marx's presentation clearly implies that this
historical negation should be conceived as people's reappropriation of
socially general capacities that are not ultimately grounded in the working
class and had been constituted historically in alienated form as capital.
Such reappropriation would be possible if the structural basis of this
process of alienation - value, hence, proletarian labour and its derivatives:
politics, "Western democracy", the legal form, state, nation, the conception
of self in terms of "subjective interest" etc. - were abolished.
-----------------
The need to rethink traditional Marxism also arises from an understanding
that the last century was an era of transition from agriculture to industry
proper. From time to time a discussion emerges to redefine what is meant by
the bourgeois revolution or the transition from feudalism to industry or as
is the case amongst certain sections of Marxism "carrying out the bourgeois
revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat."  "Carrying out the
bourgeois revolution," defines itself as industrialization or bourgeois
property relations and the value producing system under the control of "the
proletariat," which of necessity was the centralized state. Bourgeois
property relations without the bourgeoisie doe not transform social relations
of production view from the organization that is the material power of
production.

Re-comment: very true
--------
The proposition that industrialism is capitalism - as you state, as it
evolved and then at a certain stage of development the industrial system
begins to operate on its own basis - a law system unique to it, sets the
basis for 'this stage' of "democratic assertion," in the political sense of
the word and in its meanings as "social life." Bourgeois property defines
itself and has a shelf life. Bourgeois property relations are the immediate
enemy - the mode of existence of state/bureaucratic evil, to the majority of
the people of earth.

Re-comment: Maybe we have a different idea of what "democracy" actually
means. Let me clarify:
Marx analyses the dynamic of capital as a non-linear process that
simultaneously is one of reproduction and transformation. In reproducing
itself, capital constantly  transforms much of social life. Marx, in locating
the dynamic process in the sphere of production, argues that it is rooted in
neither the sphere of circulation nor that of the state. His analysis
suggests that the classical bipartite division of modern society into state
and civil society is incomplete: it cannot grasp the dynamic of the social
formation. Marx does not simply identify "civil society" with "capitalism",
nor does he posit the primacy of either sphere of the classical bipartite
scheme. Instead, he argues that as capitalism develops fully, the spheres of
the state and civil society are first constituted as separate but
increasingly become embedded in a superordinate dynamic structure, which he
tries to grasp with his analysis of production. According to this approach,
the ongoing changes of the social formation - including the changing
relationship of state to civil society (nowadays: Western free-market
democracy), as well as the character and development of the institutions in
each sphere (for example, the rise of large-scale hierarchical bureaucracies
in both "public" and "private" sectors) can be understood only in terms of
the intrinsic dynamic of capitalist society rooted in the "third",
superordinate sphere, the sphere of production. "Democracy" is an offspring
of modern society, the management body of the implied presuppositions. One
can not go beyond capitalism without abolishing (aufheben) the state, the
nation, and self-domination imposed by democracy. Anti-politics and real
(concrete) participation of the individual is on the agenda.
-------

Given the current technological capacity of existing American society there
is no need for the centralized state as mediator of socially necessary means
of production and distribution. Bureaucracy as centralized state contains its
own mode of existence - not simply as armed bodies of men, but as
distribution channels and the administrative apparatus for accumulation. It
will require an entire era to simply redefine what constitutes "socially
necessary." "Socially necessary" is consolidated as a product of capitalism,
the value producing system and bourgeois property relations. And also
historically evolved social life in all its recasting and distortions.

Re-comment:
This is really a crucial point. I fully agree with you. The Marxian category
of "necessary labour time" represents the transformation of concrete time
into abstract time in capitalism, and, as such, expresses a temporally
normative compulsion.  This objective, impersonal compulsion exerted on
individuals is not static but its itself continually reconstituted
historically. The producers not only are compelled to produce in accordance
with an abstract temporal norm, but must do so in a historically adequate
fashion: they are compelled to "keep up with the times". People in capitalist
society are confronted with a historically determinate form of abstract
social necessity whose determinations change historically - that is, they are
confronted with a socially constituted form of historical necessity.
According to Marx's analysis, the two aspects of historical necessity - the
changing compulsion confronting individuals, and the intrinsic logic
impelling the totality - are related expressions of the same form of social
life. The category has another dimension as well. Given that value is the
form of social wealth in capitalism, socially necessary labour time should be
understood as socially necessary in an additional sense: it implicitly refers
to labour time that is necessary for capital and, hence, for society so long
as it is capitalist, that is, so long as it is structured by value as the
form of wealth and (relative) surplus value as the goal of production. This
labour time, accordingly, is the expression of a superordinate form of
necessity for capitalist society as a whole, as well as for individuals, and
should not be confused with the form of necessity Marx refers to in his
distinction between "necessary" and "surplus" labour time. The category of
value, in its opposition to that of material wealth, then, signifies that
labour time is the stuff of which wealth and social relations are made in
capitalism. It refers to a form of social life in which humans are dominated
by their own labour and are compelled to maintain this domination. The
imperatives grounded in this social form impel rapid increases in
technological advanced production and a necessary pattern of ongoing growth
(which is currently collapsing); yet they also perpetuate the necessity of
direct human (value-creating) labour in the process of production, regardless
of the degree of technological development and the accumulation of material
wealth. It is as the ultimate ground of these historically specific
imperatives that labour, in its dual character as productive activity and as
historically specific social "substance", constitutes the identity of
capitalism, according to Marx.
-------------------
The proletariat revolutions and attempts at proletarian revolts and
revolutions of the past century were in the main brought to a head by war
crisis in the context of a transition from agriculture to industry.  This is
most certainly is true of the Soviet revolution, the Chinese
Revolution/Revolution in China, Vietnamese Revolution, Korea, the emergence
of the Peoples Democracy and the Socialist Block. These bourgeois revolutions
under the leadership of the "proletariat" defined themselves.

Re-comment: It was catch-up modernisation, the organised transformation into
capitalism by a despotic state-apparatus. However, I think on another level
we have to be lenient towards them. At those time the capitalist development
was in progress. The question is: Could people know?
--------------
The proletarian revolution is not a revolution of the proletariat as such but
a social revolution that results in political reorganization of society.
Social revolution is not possible until a transition in the material power of
production is underway. The political revolutions of the past century - no
matter what goals they proclaimed or how they defined themselves, could not
but be expressed in the context of the transition from agricultural society
to industrial society.

Re-comment: Hmm..., I am not happy with "agricultural" society because in
those days the society was not mediated by agricultural production.
Agriculture was simply an activity to acquire the means of subsistence.
Social mediation took place in a different way and the goal of surplus
production was ideal code or manifestation (relics, icons (eccl.), cathedrals
etc.) In Central Europe and the British islands, however, the period of
transition started earlier. The spread of the "black/red death" (pestilence)
shattered the old and static order and resulted, at the beginning of Modern
times, in witch-hunt and Anti-Semitism. In the period following the older
mediation, once providing the "meaning of life", broke down and was gradually
replaced by (and reduced to) the empty form of capitalist mediation. It was
then when the legitimisation ideology of Racism (supported by Bourgeois
philosophers like Kant, Locke, Carlisle and the like) gained ground to
justify the "consumption" of so-called savages or semi-humans (German:
underhumans) in the process of wealth creation. The origin of concepts like
"the inferior woman", "unproductive and idle coloured savages", and  the
"unnatural and insidious Jew" can be found at the heart of capitalist social
relations.
---------------------
to be continued



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