[Marxism] Fwd: Surplus Population, Social Reproduction, and the Problem of Class Formation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 3 06:01:43 MST 2015

Albert O. Hirschman once observed that when Marx and Engels in the late 
1840s – most influentially in the Manifesto – thought that capitalism 
was reaching its final limit, they failed to recognize the capacity of 
imperialism to displace capitalism’s contradictions and postpone its 
crisis.17 More problematically, Marx’s prioritization of the thesis that 
revolution would come about through the globalization and exhaustion of 
capitalist development, lead him to briefly lend colonialism support as 
a driver of the process that would make the proletariat a global 
reality, and thus communism a global possibility.18 This implication is 
premised on an abstract formal dialectical reversal, which completely 
effaces how the effects of the global division of labor are divisive and 
disciplining, and hence the necessary difficult task of developing 
cross-border solidarity. Similarly, according to Hirschman, V. I. Lenin 
and Rosa Luxemburg only really recognized this power of imperialism when 
they could say it had run its course, i.e. when the recognition did not 
contradict the idea that revolution is objectively imminent. Hirschman’s 
provocation raises the following question: does the orientation of the 
revolutionary desire of Marxists – insofar as it is sustained by the 
theory of capital’s real teleology running its course – orient them away 
from the problem that there might still be venues for capitalist 
expansion as well as other modifying circumstances to the general law?19 
And furthermore, does capital not have the capacity to re-subsume areas 
and populations it has previously spat out as if they were new to it – 
once they have been sufficiently devalued?  The problem with the thesis 
of exhaustion is that in order to give hope it needs to suggest a 
uniform deepening of the proletarian antagonism with capital. This 
allows theory to avoid the question of strategy and organization, and 
allows it to “solve” the problem of the proletarian condition through a 
simple dialectical schematic à la “the expropriators are expropriated.” 
While we might agree that that is indeed the formal concept of communist 
revolution, it says nothing whatsoever about the real movement that 
abolishes the present state of things.


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