Friday, December 12, 2014

Addendum to Notes on Chris O'Kane's Thesis, pp. 31-32 RE: Gillian Rose

I went back, as I am wont to do when I see critiques of Rose and several things became clear.  I will just post my detailed notes here, but I think I can summarize the following points:

1) Rose is not lumping Adorno, Benjamin and Lukacs together.  In fact, she has a precise sense of what distinguishes their appropriation of commodity fetishism and the notion of reification.

2) She is actually familiar with and makes an important nod towards Backhaus' reading of Capital and value-form that I had previously missed and her own argument is heavily indebted to a value-form reading.

3) Rose was being very precise in her criticism of the conflation of commodity fetishism and reification in later Marxists' attempts to generalize Marx's idea, but she goes further and argues that they frequently did not see that Marx's critique of the value-form, the dialectic of abstract and concrete labor, and therefore the analysis of surplus-value grounds the critique of commodity fetishism, leading to an inability to adequately conceptualize class and power.

4) Rose's painstaking development of the relation between Nietzsche and Adorno goes a long way towards explaining her later comments on the ways in which Adorno's fixation on "identity" is non-Hegelian, an interesting argument since it is clearly so central to Adorno's work.

This does not mean that aspects of O'Kanes critique are not on (I happen to think he has surpssed Rose in his clear distinction and development of commodity fetishism versus the fetish characteristic-form), but I believe some of the representations of Rose's analysis are simply not supported either in the text or with a reading that wants to criticize the strongest presentation of her argument.

Rose seems to hold a notion of value very close to Backhaus’ monetary theory of value:
“”For example, the mode of production of commodities gives rise to systematically mistaken beliefs about them, such as that (exchange) value is a property of the commodity.  This belief is inseparable from the formation of the commodity qua commodity, that is, from the production of value in exchange.”

This is quite clearly the idea of value presented in the monetary theory.  She notes both that the idea that value is a property of the commodity (as in embodied theories of labor), is mistaken, and that value is produced in exchange.

Also, following on Pepperell’s reading of Marx as an ironist, Rose reads Adorno as also an ironist.  This is probably the best way to read both of them.  One wonders if the difference between Marx and Adorno contra Hegel is their irony, but then one would seriously misunderstand Hegel, a master of irony.

Nietzsche actually uses the word verdinglichung (reification).  Marx rarely uses it.

Rose makes much of this in the Reification chapter because the concept is thrown around indiscriminately around marx, with no differentiation between it, alienation, and fetishism and the fetish-characteristic form.  This is not an unrealistic complaint about poor scholarship and elision of conceptual differences.

FN 20 and 21 from p. 30-31 are important as she makes an argument about the terms Marx does employ and that they are distinguished from verdinglichung (versachlichen and vergegenstandlichen), which is materialisation or sich verdingen, which she claims has no philosophical or etymological relation to ‘reification”.

Her point that the uses of reification in Lukac and Marcuse, for example, do not even pertain to a particular society or set of social relations.

She also correctly points out that in generalising Marx’s critique of fetishism, they do so “”without making it their task to rehearse Marx’s theory of value...”

FN 24 indicates her awareness of Backhaus’s reading, which is cited in such a way that it is clearly considered important in doing what the others do not do.

“In fact, Lukacs, Benjamin and Adorno each construed Marx’s theory of value differently and… they disclose profound differences of principle.”

Three distinct senses of the fetish character of the commodity used by Marx:
“Sometimes he stresses that a relation between men and appears as a relation between thing, sometimes that ‘value’ appears to be a property of the commodity and thus a thing, sometimes that the commodity takes on a will and life of its own and becomes personified.”

Check note on phantasmagoric.

“Lukacs started his discussion of reification from the way men’s productive activity becomes alien and objective to them under capitalism which is why he earned the reputation of having anticipated the discovery of marx’s theory of alienation when the 1844 Manuscripts were later found.  Benjamin was the most interested in the phantasmagoric and personified form of commodities and the life they lead as such.  Adorno was the most interested in the way a relation between men appears in the form of a natural property of a thing.”

This hardly seems like a claiming that Lukacs, Adorno, and Benjamin all hold to the same notion of reification.  Further, Rose associates the differences to their different notions of Marx concept of value.

Here the similarity of Benjamin, Lukacs and Adorno is that reification is elevated over commodity fetishism and that there is not grounded in Marx’s notion of abstract and concrete labor and therefore a theory of surplus value.
“The theoretical foundations for a theory of class conflict or for a Marxian theory of power and the state were thereby attenuated or abandoned.”

This may be wrong, but it is not a failure to distinguish between the three thinkers, but to both distinguish and draw on what they had in common.

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