Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Notes on Chris O'Kane's "Fetishism and Social Domination in Marx, Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre", Part 6


This section is fantastic because it gives due credit to a largely under-appreciated thinker who spans an even greater period than Marcuse and Adorno.  The explications of Lefebvre’s contributions seem well done and it is no small task to tease out this core of Lefebvre’s work given his prolific output.  The neglect of the production of space by capital is inexcusable in Marxian thought, but insofar as the consideration of the working class rarely left the workplace, it is not entirely shocking (note that Engels’ writing on this, collected in the little booklet On The Housing Question, is line for line his most interesting and contemporary writing and not surpassed until Debord and Lefebvre.)


Is O’Kane dedicated to opposing the complementing of Marx’s concepts with other concepts undertaken by Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre (as well as Debord)?

This notion of fetishism as a concrete abstraction likewise stems from Lefebvre’s interpretation of Marx’s relationship to Hegel. Following from this contrast between idealism and praxis, the ‘starting point’ for such a conception of abstraction is not the mind but practical activity.’512 Thus social praxis, which consists of ‘social reality, i.e. interacting human individuals and groups’, constitutes appearances which are something more and else than mere illusions.’513 These ‘appearances are the modes in which human activities manifest themselves within the whole they constitute at any
given moment.’514 They are therefore what Lefebvre terms ‘modalities of consciousness’, or ‘concrete abstractions’ because these forms are ‘abstract’ yet they are also ‘concrete’515 since they are constituted by social praxis. Consequently, these concrete abstractions are ‘the very basis of the objectivity of the economic, historical and social process which has led up to modern capitalism.’”

The contrast between idealism in Hegel and praxis in Marx is mistaken.  Hegel is also a philosopher of praxis, and it is not merely a praxis of Mind.  It might be more correct to say that for Hegel the material or external world is consciousness, is what is outside of self-consciousness, albeit not yet consciousness of other, since “other” implies a consciousness of self.  Hegel’s idealism is an idealism of praxis.  For example, his contention that the diversity of spirit is not a plurality , but a determinate diversity (PhG, para. 736) is because diversity is not number, but more akin to measure in the Greek sense, a passing from quantity to quality in an ethical sense (to act to little or too much is to not act virtuously, whereas to act in right measure is virtue.)  Diversity is thus a diversity of acts (hence determinate), not a plurality of things.

The distinction between Hegel and Marx on this is rather about the nature of praxis.  For Hegel it is praxis in Spiritual Being, for Marx it is praxis in Social Being, keeping in mind that for Hegel Spirit is Social and that in Marx Social is Spirit.  In a sense, the question is where one puts the Infinite: in human social being or in God.

This idea of typology has some oddly Weberian roots.  Might be worth looking back at Gyorgy Lukacs: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence, first couple of chapters.

The aspects of determinacy and form seem to start coming apart at the wheels here.  If alienation is infinitely complex, it is also in forms that are historically specific.  For example, see Roswitha Scholz’s value dissociation reading of gender or Chris Chen’s extension of it to race.

How do they types (everyday alienation, reification, political alienation, etc.) come to be?  What gives them their particular social form?

“On the quantitative side stands Lefebvre’s revised diagnosis of alienated sociality, which is exemplary of the typology proposed in volume two.579 In this society of forced bureaucratic consumption, alienation has become a ‘social practice’.580 Everyday life is now the site where this social practice tries to integrate people into the ‘[a]bstract, quantitative ‘pure formal space’ that defines the world of terror[istic]581 forms which is not the space of false consciousness but of true consciousness or of the conscience of reality, isolated from possibility.’582 Such terrorist forms are inclusive of commodified, pervasive and administered society. They also reflect Lefebvre’s adaptation of structuralist methodology and include exchange, maths, writing, linguistics, contracts and practical-sensorial objects. Yet these terrorist forms cannot reduce the ‘irreducible’ qualitative aspects of the lived.583 For while these forms aspire to a concrete existence they are ultimately reliant on human social actions that they cannot entirely determine. Since the interrelation between these forms is not total,584 these forms cannot determine content. Ultimately, these forms ‘simultaneously organize’ everyday life and ‘are projected upon it, but their concerted efforts cannot reduce it; residual and irreducible, it eludes all attempts at institutionalization, it evades the grip of forms.’”

This seems central to Lefebvre.  The irreducible qualitative aspects of the lived still seems fairly much a humanist sentiment.  The incompleteness of the interrelation of these forms is crucial to his view.  It also marks out a resistance to the idea of “One-Dimensional Man” pace Marcuse, but in fact within all of Frankfurt School theory.

There is a vitalist sense, IMO, to his use of “everyday life”, that Bergsonian and Nietzschean irreducibility.  Whether or not this is a problem is another question.

There is also a problem with the mere juxtaposition of form and content, quantity and quality.  It hypostatizes the opposition in a dualistic manner, as opposed to a more speculative framing.

It is a shame to focus only on the abstract, while excluding discussion of the representational and represented.  In Hegelian terms, representation is prior to the Concept, is that which lacks conceptuality and Thought proper (c.f. his discussion of Religion in paras. 770-776 of the PhG and also the Introduction to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy where he distinguishes philosophy from religion.)  To stop as representation and abstraction is to never get to the Concept.  It may be that this is where Lefebvre is supplementing Hegel with Nietzsche. 

I could have put this not anywhere in the Lefebvre section I suppose, but I think Lefebvre’s focus on space and spatiality is important in beginning to think through a more satisfactory way of addressing abstractions and their ability to solidify, to be sustained even outside of a specific practice.

One of my criticisms of the excellent work of Nicole Pepperell is that she has no real concept of abstraction.  Vidar Thorsteinsson’s excellent talk “The Social Efficacy of Abstraction” takes up, without taking a side in the answer per se, the problem of the idea that abstractions subsist beyond the practice that generates them.

I would suggest that Lefebvre’s discussion of space takes us in the direction of answering this dilemma because the abstractions of value, money, commodity, capital, state, leave artefacts which are not only structured, but structuring.  That is, these artefacts cannot be treated as neutral any more than labor in capitalist society can be treated as neutral.  Living labor leaves behind dead labor, but dead labor designed to perpetuate the form of social relations that produced it in the first place.  So too does capital’s production of space engender itself, reproduce its conditions of self-constitution.  The relation is materialized in the artefact and changing its directionality is more difficult than Pepperell proposes.  Little changes in practice come up against the channeling force, the canalization of variations by artefacts of prior practice, just as living labor is canalized by its artefacts, by dead labor.  Just as in genetics, the artefacts have a certain robustness that cannot simply be bypassed, but which must be overcome.

Lefebvre suggests a manner in which the production of space and the artefacts produced are incomplete.  This follows on from his earlier discussion of the refusal of systematicity, of the inability of capital to close the loop completely without a remainder and without gaps (the two are not necessarily the same.)

Reading Hegel’s mocking of picture-thinking and numericity in the Phenomenology of Spirit (paras. 773-6) as it applies to the Trinity of Father, Son, Holy Ghost makes me wonder if Lefebvre’s claim to surpass “the binary limits of Marx’s analysis” might miss the point.  First, that any splitting up into number is both arbitrary and contingent.  Capital is one and any splitting up that hypostatizes its moments is no better than Christian picture thinking that transforms God into pieces and images.  As Hegel quips that one might as well make the trinity a quaternary by adding in the fall of Adam or a 5-in-1 with the fall of Lucifer, so we might mock attempts to split capital up into a Trinity.

O’Kane is correct to point out, even in Lukacs, Adorno, and Lefebvre, the use of “vague and unsubstantiated terminology, such as praxis, social labour or socio-economic form which are treated as constitutive of theories of
social constitution.”

This is also interesting:
“even when Lefebvre’s revises his classical humanist analysis, he does not fundamentally re-evaluate these broad categories. Rather, he argues that a typology should be devised that might encompass them. Whilst these revisions do add complexity, the fact that they are not accompanied by a revised account of how they constitute or are constitutive of society as such undermines the explication of Lefebvre’s theory.”

“These accounts of concrete abstraction are potentially illuminating in some cases, such as when Lefebvre describes how cities or space participate in abstraction. In other cases, the treatment of these forms as analogous to fetishism is questionable, such as when he talks of the terrorist forms of mathematics. In either case, the genesis of such forms and the corresponding accounts of why these forms possess fetishistic properties are often hard to decipher. It is not enough to simply posit that they interact with the logic of the commodity world, when the function of such a logic is not accounted for. Yet, Lefebvre’s theory too often relies on positing such interrelations.”

In the first two sentences, I don’t see O’Kane’s reason for acceding that cities and space might be terroristic, but not mathematics.  If anything, mathematics is the highest form of fetishization.  This is a fairly consistent theme in the debate on biology and evolution by figures such as Richard Lewontin, Richard Levin, and Stephen Jay Gould.  It is also akin to Helmut Reichelt’s critique of economics, which replaces having an actual object with arcane mathematical formulations that appear self-justifying by dint of their arcane quality.  If post-modernism speaks in a language that is incomprehensible, denying the validity of the very object of its language, modern science and mathematics often seem no less involved in a mathematical language game, with as little substance.

“Whilst on one hand this opposition does have the virtue of positing some form of social life that has not been subsumed or determined by the commodity form, the manner in which it does so is reductive and questionable. This is
because it seems that Lefebvre treats any form of quantification or abstraction as dominating or dehumanising, and any type of qualitative behaviour as resistant and humane. Such an opposition leads Lefebvre to bundle together disparate phenomena due to this reductive assessment of whether they are quantitative or qualitative. This leads Lefebvre’s account of quantitative phenomena to include a disparate array of elements such as rationality, mathematics, and types of homogeneity, which are treated as equivalent to abstractions that compel human behaviour.”

This is an excellent point, and one which applies to many thinkers in the “humanist” reading of Marx.  Simply counterpoising quantitative and abstract as “bad” and qualitative and concrete as “good” hits an important issue.

“…Marx’s theory of fetishism provides an apt description of the current socio-economic crisis in which collectively constituted economic entities have acted like subjects beyond indivduals’ control compelling rafts of cuts, debt, rising unemployment and misery…”

Rather than an account that examined fetishism in the context of alienation or reification this comparative study focused on how fetishism was used as a theory to articulate the collective constitution of social phenomena that possess autonomous and inverted properties that structure, compel and maim individuals.  While the term ‘social domination’ was intended to convey that there is an integral link between how these thinkers conceive of the way a society is structured and of these fetishistic types of domination that are held to be characteristic of this society.”

“…theories of reifcation provide a theory of domination that is too pervasive and inadequately grounded. So I hold that
disentangling fetishism from reification provides sufficient theoretical grounding for a critical theory that is more nuanced and better articulated than theories of reification.”

“…this disentanglement can be seen in (2) the separation of the interpretation of what I termed ‘fetishism as reification’ – which attributes domination to the transformation of processes into things and the thingification of humans - from accounts of fetishism which emphasise the autonomous function of things and the manner in which they compel individuals’ actions…”

The inherent tension that exists in conceiving that social relations underlie forms of domination without furnishing an adequate account of how these social relations constitute these forms of domination. Furthermore, while I believe this use of fetishism has some traction, I also think it does little to distinguish itself from other accounts of social constructivism, undermining its critical potential.”

Excellent point.

The goal:
“…a contemporary critical theory that provides an account of the genesis, pervasiveness and the reproductive logic of fetish- characteristics of social domination.”

There is a limit to conceiving of capitalism solely in terms of a “class-based form of labour allocation”.  This limit is that it can’t grasp other moments necessary to the reproduction of capital, namely domestic or household labor which is a gender-based form of labour allocation, and unfree labour, which I would argue forms the ground of a racially-based labour allocation.  I admit, I’m not sure if labour allocation is the right way to think of this, but in the total cycle of capital, the complete circuit, the reproduction of labor power by household labor is missing and so is the permanent presence of unfree labor (slave labor, peonage, sharecropping, and also the denial of the possibility of being any kind of labor which typically results in genocide related to massive land and resource grabs), a labor allocation that increasingly became associated with and which defined specific groups as racial groups.

This is not to say that Capital does not gives us the basis of comprehending class, but that class is not the only form of labor allocation structured by capital.  Gender and race are also related to labor allocation, so that class, gender and race are moments of the same dynamic of capital.  Roswitha Scholz refers to the mutual determinacy of class and gender as value-dissociation, as opposed to mere value-form which relates strictly speaking only to the value-producing moment of capital associated with wage-labor.  I am suggesting that race forms the third moment, even though it finds itself in production in the same place as wage-labor.

There is an ontologization of labor here IMO.
“Marx: (a) uses his critical-genetic method to account for the social constitution of capital by deriving it from the dynamic and contradictory process in which social labour appears and hides itself in the socially specific forms of value, (b) conceives of Capital as constitutive of sensible-suprasensible alienated and inverted forms of abstract domination that are collectively constituted and reproduced by the socially specific type of social labour that appears in these forms of value.”

Still, this is pretty good:
“(1) Marx’s theory of fetishism provides an account of the social constitution of forms of value that integrates his form-analytic critique of political economy with the reified social relations and the personification of things. (2) What I termed ‘fetish-characteristic forms’ describes the autonomous and personified constituent properties of these forms of value that invert to dominate and compel individuals’ action. (3) Marx’s account of these fetishcharacteristic forms and their constituent domination proceeds from the commodity through money and capital - where these forms become more autonomous at the same time as their dominating properties become more concrete and socially embedded - and culminates in Marx’s account of the Trinity Formula which provides an account of the constitution, the constituents and of the reproduction of the enchanted, perverted topsy-turvy world of capital.”

There is a lot of redundancy in 202-3.  The same thing is said 3 times, specifically this idea:
Marx’s theory of ‘fetish characteristic forms’ explains how reified social relations constitute personified things that function autonomously to invert and compel individual behaviour.”

Instead his theory of fetishism proceeded to articulate the constitution and constituent fetish characteristic properties of more autonomous forms of value alongside a more complex and concrete account of their dominating properties.” [Italics mine – CDW]

I think this is a really, really important point because it implicitly states that the later categories in Capital remain forms of value.  I’m not sure if the right way to speak of it as an “account of their dominating properties”, so much as a more complex and concrete account of their determinations.  Properties are too empiricist and would be subject to Hegel’s critique of empiricism in chapter 2 of the Phenomenology of Spirit, “Perception”.  This may seem like nitpicking, but properties belong to a thing and a more complex accounting of the properties of a thing is an infinite task and also not the development of categories with their own specific effects appropriate to the level of analysis at which they are relevant.  Determinations on the other hand brings into play a constellation (to borrow from Benjamin and Adorno) of moments through which the concept passes, each dissolving as soon as it comes to be, in a process of preserving the concept.  (Here I have in mind Hegel’s discussion in para. 781 of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

The inconsistencies stem from the object of Capital, which as a study of capitalism as its ‘ideal average,’ renders its relationship with a theoretical account of society and empirical reality problematic. This means that despite the fact that Marx offers the most sophisticated account of fetishism in relation to the social constitution and the constituent properties of social domination, it is significant that not only Marx’s theory remained
unfinished but that it also leaves out of consideration a significant amount of social phenomena.”

Insofar as Marx’s critique is a critique of capital and not capitalism, this idea is a conceptual mistake of the worst sort, and one that goes a long way towards indicating the limits of this dissertation.  There is not study of the ideal average in Capital, but of the fundamental categories of capital through a critique of the categories of political economy.  It is both a logic and a phenomenology, a simultaneously theoretical and metatheoretical work, but it is not a criticism of empirical reality.  His use of England as the “ideal average” relates to how he uses England as an example to elucidate his points, which in a less developed context might be less clear and complete.  It is a critique of the fundamentally contradictory and irrational nature of capital and it points to the idea that any attempt to write a rational theory of capital as one might conceive of a theory of light as a particle and wave misconstrues the very nature of the object itself.  For a work so fixated on reification, this treatment of Marx’s project as dealing with an ‘ideal average’ is a tremendous act of reification.

This does not mean that Capital was complete.  In fact, it could not be complete insofar as certain elements even I Volume 1 must be subject to change insofar as they are phenomenal forms that express, that are more concrete determinations of, value in practice.  That is, even if the essential core of Capital remains the same (and this is why people fight over the first few chapters because how one reads the entire rest of the 3 volumes revolves around this reading), everything from chapter 7 forward is subject to revision and development based on the development of news forms of appearance, such as changes in the kinds of production (the transformation of production did not end with the movement from cottage to manufacture to industry, and in fact one would have to retitle “industry” as “mechanical industry” and then account for “chemical industry” and “microelectronics” and maybe more.  Further, we know the second and third volume were incomplete in a variety of ways and the 4th volume was never really begun, so that the state and the world market were never written and have largely been approach inadequately by Marxism since Marx (Werner Bonefeld’s recent book offers from very suggestive ideas on where book 4 would have gone and where we should go.)

I really think that the idea of Marx viewing Capital as such as a treatment of an ideal average doesn’t even do justice to his statement in Vol. 3 in context 9and leaving aside that this is from an unpublished, incomplete manuscript):
“In our description of how production relations are converted into entities and rendered independent in relation to the agents of production, we leave aside the manner in which the interrelations, due to the world-market, its conjunctures, movements of market-prices, periods of credit, industrial and commercial cycles, alternations of prosperity and crisis, appear to them as overwhelming natural laws that irresistibly enforce their will over them, and confront them as blind necessity. We leave this aside because the actual movement of competition belongs beyond our scope, and we need present only the inner organisation of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average, as it were.”

We can read this sentence as “In our description of how production relations are converted into entities and rendered independent in relation to the agents of production, we leave aside the manner in which the interrelations… appear to them as overwhelming natural laws that irresistibly enforce their will over them, and confront them as blind necessity.  We leave this aside because the actual movement of competition belongs beyond our scope, and we need only present the inner organization of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average, as it were.”

Marx is here certainly abstracting from something, but from what?  From the actual movement of competition, which would be a history of how production relations are reified and turned into independent entities that dominate us.  What matters here is that we need only present “the inner organization… its ideal average”, which at this level of determination has led is much, much further along than Volume 1 in our engagement with empirical phenomena, but not to its completion.  Given that Marx here says he has not yet entered into the world market, this statement would seem to be specific to this moment in the work, and not a general statement of method.

Furthermore, in their more excessive passages in which their theories of social domination are premised in order to articulate the dialectical characteristics of capitalist totality, each thinker might be said to have fallen prey to Marx’s criticism of using dialectics as an ‘abstract, ready-made system of logic’618 as their basis for ‘vague presentiments’619 about the composition and the characteristics of social domination.”

This is a good point and further it is the basis for people rejecting dialectic as such (and the point made by Gillian Rose in her last works that none of the post-Marx things had really grasped the speculative, which, whatever his pot-shots at the speculative in the Young Hegelians and Hegel, Marx completely absorbed into his own work.

The first is the result of his [Lukacs’] conception of fetishism resting on objectification rather than on an account of the autonomous personification of things… This is reflected in his second problem which consists in his deficient account of social constitution that never provides a sufficient articulation of how the class relation constitutes the pervasive properties of reified totality. Both of these factors lead to the third problem – it is unclear how and why reification is so pervasive and by what means it produces and reproduces itself.”

Very good.

Adorno’s theory of the fetishism-form of the exchange abstraction… was insufficiently theorised, lacking a developed account of: (a) how it was constituted and (b) how and why it was constituent of so many pervasive forms of social domination.  As I also showed, this account was contradicted and undermined by other aspects of Adorno’s theory which held that an objective theory of society was not possible or
speculated that the origin of these problems were tied to his mythical account of anthropology.”

Clear and concise.  Of course, I wonder then if monetary theory of value milieu is not guilty of the same thing.

While Marx provides the most sophisticated explication of the constitution and of the constituent properties of social domination, his theory is still problematic in that it is marked by instances of ambiguity, contradiction and incompleteness.”

It’s not that I don’t there might be problems with Marx’s formulations at times, but I think this entire way of thinking about it misses Marx’s development of the categories in a phenomenological fashion, in which each step along the way has to develop out of ambiguity, contradictoriness, and incompleteness of the previous categories.  In that sense, it is not merely a logic which is supposed to follow a clean path from one category to the next.  Each categorical move has to develop out and transcend the inadequacies of the prior moment, only to find that it will be subject to the same treatment in the next moment.

Furthermore, it does not account for important social phenomena such as the state or provide much of an account of how domination is socially and culturally embodied.”

This is partially true.  Marx already has the beginning of an account of the state (his formulation of the double freedom of the worker, for example, already hints at it), but it is not formulated independently because the predicate of something like the state or the world market would mean having completed all three volumes prior to it, a world of many capitals, a world of many M-C-M’ circuits.  Further, there is a kind of implicit treatment of gender and maybe even race in terms of forms of unwaged, non-commodity labor and unwaged, unfree labor, but it is not clear Marx would even have been aware of these elements or developed them.

On the other hand, Lukács’, Adorno’s and Lefebvre's attempts to fill these gaps via different accounts of social domination that rely on methods of analogical generalisation of fetishism to Hegelian-Marxian conceptions of society as dialectical totalities, do not provide coherent accounts of
how these social phenomena are derived or related to commodity fetishism. As a consequence it seems that despite many instances where these descriptions of fetishistic domination are compelling and seem to accurately describe the function of aspects of society taken individually, they are not based on a coherent theory that provides an explication for how these fetishistic forms are socially constituted, and as a result fail to articulate how they are constitutive of social domination.”

A problem we all confront, but neatly summarized.

However, in order to differentiate itself from the fatuous uses of fetishism or indeed other theories of social construction - which by treating everything as socially constructed they threaten to undermine the specific pernicious forms of social construction fetishism identifies [Italics mine – CDW] - such a theory of fetishism and of critical social theory needs to rely on a more coherent account of how these social phenomena are constituted and how they function in particular societies.”

This is a very good point.

“In the second place such a theory should try to accord with the historic particularity of the society it is theorising about.”

I have a bit of a problem with this.  How does a theory know that it is according with the historic particularity of the society it is theorizing about?  Further, is it theorizing about society in the sense intended by historicists?  I don’t even think that Gerstenberger’s point relates to Marx, as that would continue to entail the error put forth in seeing Marx as dealing with “ideal average”. 

“…it would instead be wise to endevour towards the type of historically rooted theory provided by Jairus Banaj,621 in which various types of social relations are integrated into the movement of the ‘laws of motion’ of the world capitalist system.”

Wow, that italicized part sounds awful.  Unless one is an academic historian trying to make a career out of writing better histories or a Marxist political economist trying to do a better economics.  I mean, to be less catty, it misses the point that in Capital the motion of capital is the constitution of its social relations.  There is no need for “integration” unless one fails to grasp the concept adequately.  This eviscerates Marx’s work as a critique of both bourgeois science and bourgeois ideology and reinstates the need for a Marxist science.

I would also argue that such a periodisation could point out that the tenor of criticism should no longer be aimed at pointing out that culture and society are commodified. This is no longer open to debate. Rather it is now a question of demonstrating the genesis and pernicious consequences of this process in contrast to those who advocate the social benefits of commodified culture.”

Periodisation is a philosophical mistake that Marx doesn’t make.  All of his categories, even the ones in Capital that seem the most sequential, are in fact logical distinctions that are not easily bound into temporal periods, including, absolute and relative value, kinds of production processes, etc.  Simon Clark is quite right to challenge such schemes in his essay in Open Marxism, Vol. 1.

Is the point to move from a critique of commodification to the critique of the consequences of commodification?  I don’t think so because the critique of the consequences of commodification without a critique of commodification as such, reifies the completeness of the process of commodification.  It should be evident that commodification is always reproduced and as such is open to contestation in its reproduction.  This is akin to Werner Bonefeld’s point that originary accumulation is not a periodization that came and went, but that the subject becomes the predicate, that the separation of the producers from the means of production is never completed but a constant process at the very heart of accumulation.

In the third place I think it is safe to say that whilst less expansive than theories of ‘fetishism as reification’, Lukács, Adorno and Lefebvre used the notion of fetishism in a too extensive manner aiming to account for too many social phenomena. This is particularly the case for the strand of fetishism this study bypassed [Italics mine – CDW] - mystification and ideology - which I hold grants too much emphasis to the demystifying properties of the dialectic, especially when such demystifying properties are based on a theoretical account of dialectics that, as I have shown, is in itself lacking. At the same time this type of fetishism also tends to rely on too reductive an account of other people’s consciousness, on assumptions of what everybody’s consciousness consists in and on reductive accounts of other disciplines under the rubric of generalisations such as ‘positivism’.”

This feels like an undeveloped parting shot since that strand of fetishism was “bypassed.”  I’m not saying that dialectic is demystifying, but I feel like this work and every other that makes a fetish of Marx’s statement below, misses the incredible importance of presentation.  It is a distinction between different notions of dialectic and the former is not a method at all.  It is only the mastery of the material that allows for a dialectic presentation, that is, a presentation that is adequate to the object itself.  The idea held in this book that Marx has “a method” is a continuing mis-reading of Marx as the purveyor if a geltungslogik of the neo-Kantian sort.  In fact, the book lacks any real consideration of what this mysterious “method” might be other than a mixture of critical-genetic account and penetration.

This fundamental philosophical error on pp. 46-7 dogs the entire piece.

[I]t is one thing for a critique to take a science to the point at which it admits of a dialectical presentation, and quite another to apply an abstract, ready-made system of logic to vague presentiments of just such a system.” (Marx)

In coming to the end, I find it hard to grasp why the monetary theory of value reading of Marx plus the Trinity Formula provides a more “general model of how fetishism is constitutive of a society that has become so pervasively commodified.”  It isn’t that the ride getting here hasn’t been interesting, but as a positive counter-formulation, the value of the monetary theory of value continues to escape me.  For example, I don’t see how it “offer(s) a more concrete explication of social domination than Moishe Postone’s account which relies on self-reflexivity and the seemingly all-encompassing negativity of abstract labour” or help us “account for the function of the state by way of Bonefeld’s626, Roberts’627, Piccioto’s628 and Gerstenberger’s629 work”.

Is it because supposedly
“…the monetary theory of value, [which] unifies production and circulation, as embedded in the Trinity Formula. Instead such a model could be said to be amenable to integrating these contemporary forms of production and consumption and by doing so also to integrate elements of Lukács’, Adorno’s and Lefebvre’s accounts.”??

If anything, it feels like the monetary theory of value hypostatizes exchange and eschews labor as domination on the one hand and the entire circuit of capital at the other, in favor of a reading of the Trinity Formula that returns to personified, direct relations of domination (“(3) These perverted forms of revenue account for the constitution and reproduction of the Trinity Formula, the personification of capitalists and of landowners and the misery of the proletariat”) while giving the proletariat a pass in terms of personification.

I also just can’t stand the idea of a model.  In the name of moving away from a pre-given logic replacing “science” on pages 46-7, we return to an instrumental logic here with a fierceness, generating models we can apply to various scenarios.

Thus Marx’s account of the Trinity Formula could be used to provide a concrete model of how labour is apportioned according to autonomous requirements of capitalist valorisation.”

The appeal of this also continues to escape me.  What is so important about “how labour is apportioned”?  This just seems like some fixation of professional economics in a Marxian guise.

1 comment:

  1. hi Chris, regarding Kurz's Substance of Value (forthcoming) can you drop me a line at: