Absolute Property - G. Kay and J. Mott

'La Lunette d'Approche' by Rene Magritte

An analysis of the nature and development of private property in relation to the state in class society, and the political prevention of the abundance that modern productive capacities make possible.

"If the productive capacities already deployed were oriented towards need, necessary labour would be reduced to a minimum, so that nothing would stand between men and what they need to live. Money and the law of labour would lose their force, and, as its foundations crumbled, the political state would wither away. The state of abundance is not a Utopian vision but the real possibility of conditions already in existence. [...]
"Neither its remoteness as a practical possibility, nor its completeness as a solution to politics, make its concept idealist. It is the possibility of political society whose development has provided its historical materials - the universal capacities and needs of labour, which at present exist negatively as weapons of mass destruction and relative surplus population (underdevelopment)." [...]
"The state of abundance is not deduced as a Utopian daydream from speculations on human nature: the possibility of a direct unity of needs and capacities arises exclusively from their formal separation in political society. Moreover it is not just a possibility given by the determination of labour-power as a commodity, but a necessity; it is the necessary, though not inevitable, resolution of subjective wealth and objective poverty."

'Absolute Property' is Chapter 1 of Political Order and the Law of Labour, G. Kay & J. Mott; Macmillan, London, 1982.

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Absolute Property



(Geoffrey Kay & James Mott)


In modern society, where the conditions of life are private property, needs are separated from capacities. A state of abundance would alter this. Needs and capacities would come together, and close off the space between them. In modern society, this space is filled by the dense structures of private property - political order and the law of labour: in a state of abundance they would have no place. If the productive capacities already deployed were oriented towards need, necessary labour would be reduced to a minimum, so that nothing would stand between men and what they need to live. Money and the law of labour would lose their force, and, as its foundations crumbled, the political state would wither away. The state of abundance is not a Utopian vision but the real possibility of conditions already in existence. As the twentieth-century version of the 'state of nature' originally invented by political philosophy as modern society was taking shape, abundance keeps the tradition of criticism alive.

The great tradition of political philosophy from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century realised that private property and contract lay at the heart of political society. It contrasted the world to a conjectured epoch from which it was believed to have originated. Viewing political society in the light of its past, as opposed to its future, philosophy resorted to atavism and gave prominence to a natural state or human condition. In this state of nature, the right to property was present, but unable to establish an order capable of ensuring its survival. Hence the need for its formalisation into a political state. But while private property could be extrapolated back into the state of nature, it is not possible to reverse the procedure, and project it forward to a state of abundance. Rousseau said men were forced to quit the natural state because their powers as persons become inadequate to sustain them: but he did not envisage the immense development of productive forces that began with the industrial revolution. The development of human capacities to become embodied in self-regulating machines, points to the possibility of furnishing the needs of subsistence with a minimum of living labour. This confirms the conclusion of natural law, that private property is at the heart of political society, only the emphasis is altered. Where political philosophy believed private property was fundamental, and accepted the state as its guarantee, the theory of abundance sees private property as a phase in the development of social production, which the state now protects simply to preserve its own existence. As the growth of productive powers threatens private property, the state is forced to an evermore frenzied organisation of its defence. The simple truth of political society is that it rests upon private property: this was firmly grasped by philosophers of the state of nature, but they did not see beyond it.

At the heart of its theory of private property, natural law placed labour - man's relation to nature, posed in terms of legal persons and things. This gave rise to the elementary form of private property,persona-res. But contrary to first impressions this elementary form of property is not a self-contained structure of a person and a thing. It is a social order within which each act of ownership is general in so far as it must ban trespass. But though private property always takes the form of a social relation among persons, it is not one in which things play a passive role. In political society things have a life of their own.

In the eighteenth century, man was not conceived apart from nature; on the contrary, he was its most vital part, since it was through man that nature became conscious of itself. A central category of philosophy at that time was reason, which as the unified order of persons and things was both natural and human. Each individual was capable of participating in reason and providing himself with adequate materials of knowledge. But at the same time as they celebrated this unified order, philosophers became aware that it was being torn apart by private property and the division of labour. The formation of the proletariat in the late eighteenth century as a class of men completely cut off from the conditions of life (i.e. nature) brought this philosophic project of unified order to an end. After 1848 the philosophy of universal harmony split into the apologetics for the existing order and revolutionary opposition to it.


PRIVATE PROPERTY
Where private property is the universal mode of appropriation, the legal form persona-res is the sinew that binds society together. The need for such a specially developed bond only arises when the elements linked by it are denied the possibility of establishing a direct unity in themselves. The very existence of a legal bond between persons and things presupposes their real separation. In fact, private property presupposes not just one but a whole series of separations of which this is the first: namely, the material conditions of life are legal things over which no person can exercise a direct claim. Nothing in capitalist society can be acquired through simple possession or natural right, since there are no direct relations bctween men and the world about them. Thus the first separation implied by private property as a condition of its existence, and a condition continually reproduced by its existence, is a categorical split between persons and things, which far from being overcome by their refinement into legal subjects and objects, is reinforced by it. This primary separation is complemented by a second - the division of' subject from subject and object from object-through which property is made to work as a system.

The distinctive feature of modern property that sets it apart from the earlier and less developed forms of classical antiquity and feudalism, is that these two separations, which result in a world of individual subjects on the one side and discrete objects on the other, have become absolute by combining to form a third: the separation of the right to property from all objects. In capitalist society the legal capacities that stamp an individual as an owner of property are not derived from direct possession. Where property is absolute in this sense (absolute property) a wedge is driven between the right of ownership and all objects, creating a gulf between subjects and objects and opening a space which is immediately filled by the state. The sequence is logical, not temporal: the separation of subjectivity from objects does not happen first in time creating a space that the state subsequently occupies, the events occur simultaneously. The space is filled at the very moment of its creation, since it is in the nature of this space that it can only exist as occupied space. The founding of absolute property and the establishment of the state are reciprocal moments of the same process.

It is convenient to follow the route taken by natural law since its simple experiments give quick access to private property. Consider the situation where individuals meet irregularly to trade their wares. Every act of exchange requires its parties to recognise each other as property owners, but where exchange is irregular the recognition is specific as regards time, place, parties and goods. A needs to recognise the property rights of B only on the occasion of their barter, and then only in respect to the particular object he seeks to acquire from him: B's recognition of A is similarly restricted. But in capitalist society where exchange is general and impersonal, the right to property cannot be established in such a piecemeal way. In fact it is established independently of all and any specifics of time, place, parties and goods. Where trade proceeds irregularly, individuals establish their property rights through acts of exchange: in capitalist society they are fully established as property owners before they enter the market, and the right to property is unlimited. In this sense the subjectivity of the individual as a person with the legal capacity to own property, is universal. Universal subjectivity: (i) it is not restricted to particular objects and occasions; (2) it applies to all individuals. As bearers of this universal subjectivity, members of society lose all marks of distinction and move on the same plane as equivalents.

Universal subjectivity came into being only when productive forces and the division of labour achieved a definite level of development, but even then it did not arise spontaneously. Thus private property has developed through a mass of laws which express its conditions and its operations; and the legal formula persona-res has always been embodied in a large number of detailed laws of contract, tort, theft, trespass and so on. It was through these laws that modern subjectivity arose and through their elaboration that it developed towards universality. But it would be wrong to read the state into this process as a constant or given factor, since this would deny its historical character. The legislation that founded modern property transformed men and their real conditions ofsubsistence into subjects and objects ofproperty. And at the same time transformed the law-making body into the political state. The first acts of modern property were effected through the offices of the feudal suzerain, which in the process assumed the depersonalised character of a monarchy. This was then set at a distance from the other feudal orders and opened the way for the new political division of the state from civil society. The modern law of property was not entirely new at its inception, but depended heavily upon Roman law which had already developed the concepts of legal personality and public sovereignty, though not to the full and absolute extent they were to achieve in capitalist society. The transformation of feudal orders through the medium of Roman law law took centuries; the outcome was never inevitable and like all actual history it pursued an uncertain and wavering course. Yet its process was determined at every moment by the connection of private property to the state without which not only the past but also the present would be a senseless chaos.

The logical structure of absolute property comprises three elements:
(I) subjects are pulled away from objects in so far as subjectivity is not defined in relation to any particular object;
(2) subjects approach objects through an already established universal right of ownership applicable to any object;
(3) all elements of the natural world are defined as objects in as much as all of them qualify for appropriation by subjects.

It is a structure that presupposes the existence of a state for it is only through the medium of a state that persons and things can be formally constituted as subjects and objects prior to their actual collisions. On the other side, it is equally certain that political authority in society only assumes the form of a state where real appropriation is effected through legal subjects and objects that are constituted prior to it.

The direct encounter of a subject with an object spells the destruction of the object, for it is the act of consumption. Thus the property relation only really flourishes in the moment between production and consumption when the object moves in the sphere of circulation and is exchanged as a commodity. The act of exchange which moves the commodity into the sphere of consumption is a bilateral relation between subjects in which they accord each other recognition. Two independent wills meet and recognise themselves in each other. So complete is reciprocity in this act, and the consequent identity of the parties involved, that classical German philosophy conceived the prime mover at work here as a common or universal will that transcended the individuals actually involved, who merely participated in it. The idealist character of this conception can easily be criticised, particularly the notion that universal will had origins outside the actual practice of exchange; but this does not diminish the achievement of German philosophy in recognising that exchange was more than a series of collisions and a determinate structure from the very outset. Where natural law took as its starting-point random exchanges that had to be harmonised and stabilised, German philosophy proposed that it came into the world fully formed. For this reason it could not grasp the real history of exchange: however, it brought to the fore the fact that exchange in modern society is not a self-sufficient system but one which presupposes a constitutive force.

Both natural law and German classical philosophy in their different ways grasped the fact that private property could only become the general form of appropriation (absolute property) on condition of the existence of the state. Both traditions understood that exchange takes place on terms that are established outside its immediate sphere. On the side of objectivity so much is explicit in the fact that modern exchange is transacted through a universal object (money), which though it originates in exchange as an object like all others, only begins to develop its universality when it stands apart and becomes a political object. The political nature of money is evident in its appearance -it always bears the head of the prince, or some other emblem of state. On the side of subjectivity the same applies: just as money is immediately exchangeable as a universal object whose credentials do not have to be checked, so every individual is accepted at face value as a persona bona fide. Money is accepted because it is a universal object on account of its being political: the individual is universally recognised because he is a political subject - a citizen.

In everyday affairs the matter is taken for granted: in more substantial transactions such as the sale and purchase of a house, searches are made into title; but these searches are restricted to the claim of the seller to be the owner, and do not extend to his legal capacity to own the house in the first place. A legal curiosity is that the searches have to establish that the house is indeed an object of property that can be alienated absolutely, since houses are a subcategory of what was previously known as real property, and in some cases medieval rights of usage still attach. But this anomaly of real property, where feudal fbrms linger on and leave their traces in modern society, is precisely the exception that proves the rule; that in political society all persons and things, by virtue of being in political society under the state, exist immediately as subjects and objects of property. While theorists of natural law understood this well, that absolute property could only exist within the framework of the political state, the relation has to be reversed to show that the structures of power take the form of the state because private property rules absolutely. The reason for this is the possibility of a state of abundance.

Since social relations in political society are conducted on grounds of reciprocity, they cannot have political content as they did in feudal society. Hence it follows that the locus of power and authority in political society must be thrust outside the sphere of social relations and stand apart from it as a sovereign, giving rise to the division of the state from civil society that took shape in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is the hallmark of the state that it stands apart from society and exercises power over it from a distance. And it is this very distance from society, which on the one hand makes it universal (i.e. the same for all members of society), and on the other allows it to impose universality back upon society. Liberal theory has conflated this universality with an all-encompassing dogmatic theory of democracy.


INTENSIFIED PROPERTY
The theory of a state of nature survived into the eighteenth century when it was still reasonable to imagine that private property was natural. A philosopher could peer through the legal categories of subject and object and still see men and nature through them, although Rousseau and Kant found this increasingly difficult. In the nineteenth century with the intensification of property this could no longer be done rationally, since anyone who looked closely at either of the elements of intensified property merely saw an inverted image of the other. Close examination of capital revealed labour-power, while detailed inspection of labour-power pointed to capital. Political economy which continued the tradition of natural law, thought that when it peered at labour and capital it could see nature, but this illusion was no longer reasonable. The contribution to political philosophy by the theory of a state of nature was the political division of the state from civil society. This arose from absolute property and at the same time established it as a series of separations: (i) subject from object; (2) subject from subject; (3) object from object; resumed in the separation of (4) subjectivity from all objects (universal subjectivity). These separations were limited by the unity from which they were derived: namely, a direct rclation between man and his surroundings in a state of nature. Eighteenth-century rationalism appreciated these separations as artificial, but by contrasting them to a conjectured unity, it became unable to apprehend the real nature of the tensions involved in them, and therefore their limits, and the limits of political society. The theory of abstraction which substitutes the state of abundance for that of nature elaborates these selfsame separations but in revolutionary terms that reveal these limits.

When private property is absolute, not only do all subjects of property become equivalent to each other and all objects likewise uniform, but subjects and objects are merged into each other in an entirely new way. The new equivalence of absolute property encompasses both subjects and objects in its formal order, and it is this which makes possible the intensification of property into capital and labour-power. Subjectivity and objectivity, in the legal form persona-res, remain the model of property intensified in this way.

The commodities consumed as the physical elements of capital (machines, raw materials), and the money advanced for their purchase, are commodities like all others: but when they serve as capital they undergo a change that sets them apart. A corresponding metamorphosis occurs in their legal form, and capital-asproperty is as distinct from simple property as commodity-capital is from the simple commodity. After the latter is purchased it is at the disposal of its owner to use as he pleases, but this can never be the case with capital. Capital is value-in-motion; commodities bought and sold, repurchased and resold, for profit (surplus value) and not personal consumption. Furthermore profit is independent of the will of the owner, in that it arises directly from the activity of buying in order to sell. The process of accumulation does not originate in the appetites of capitalists and can even move against them. If an individual capitalist exercises his formal option of consuming his capital rather than re-advancing it in search of profit, he ceases ipso facto to be a capitalist. But even a more limited exercise of his will against accumulation, such as the personal consumption of a part of profits, is subject to constraint. Property only functions as capital when it is continually re-advanced in search of profit, and the individual capitalist can only remain in business by accepting the external discipline of the market and investing enough to keep abreast of new techniques and efficient organisation. The same restrictions apply to the whole class of capitalists. The pace and pattern of accumulation is determined by capital-in-general, which is not a simple aggregation of individual capitals but their totality. This totality is not formed by a conscious coalition oI individual capitalists; on the contrary it operates through their mutual antipathy (competition). The subject of capital-in-general is the capitalist class, but since capital is exercised as private property this subject is decomposed and inadequate to its object. The resulting
mismatch of subject and object provides the opportunity for a revolution whereby the latter seizes the initiative. The hallmark of private property as capital is precisely this dispossession of the will.

The general circuit of capital, M-C-M' (where M represents money and C a commodity), buying in order to sell, is an inversion of the simple circulation of commodities, C-M-C'. The latter represents the exchange of use-values for consumption and keeps the personal subject to the foreground and things in their place as objects of disposition. The former, however, starting and ending with money, so that its only possible end is quantitative gain - an excess of M' over M or surplus value-brings the object to the fore where it is in a position to dispose of the subject. An individual may choose to become a capitalist, but having made this choice the logic of accumulation disposes of his will. At the same time even the possibility of this choice presupposes property in excess of personal requirements and, in this respect, already prefigures the nature of capital as property apart from any needs of the subject. In the circuit of capital, commodities as use-values become a means of circulating values; while money, the universal commodity that is indifferent to particular use-values and hence indifferent to needs, closes the circle with itself and takes itself as its own criterion. The separation of subject from object that lies at the heart of simple property is intensified as the object declares its independence.

For this reason the classic legal form of property, persona-res, is quite inadequate for capital. Just as capital is its own criterion, and accumulation an end in itself, so the legal form of capital discards all external subjects. The establishment of this legal form in the nineteenth century, the joint stock company with limited liability, is often interpreted as an ad hoc measure to protect the interests of individual investors, but this fails to grasp its real significance. While legislation was occasioned by specific circumstances, it is important to understand that the need for a special legal subjectivity for capital arises from the nature of capital as such, and that the circumstances that made such legislation imperative, and the form this legislation assumed when it was finally passed, have much deeper causes than frauds in the 1860s.

The feature of nineteenth-century legislation still crucial today, despite the elaborate growth of corporate law, is the limitation of the liability of any individual investor to the amount of his investment. This separates the personal property of the individual from his capital, and thus gives legal recognition to the real differences between them. But at the same time as investors are relieved of liability beyond their capital, they are also spared the liabilities of this capital, in that such claims as arise through its employment are directed against the company or corporation and not the shareholders. In other words, the institution of limited liability established the corporation as a new and independent legal subject every bit as real in law as the personal subjects of the classic legal form, though totally removed from these subjects. The corporation is the real or active owner of the capital it employs: where this capital is the object of property, the corporation is the subject. On the other hand, the corporation comprises nothing but capital - the investments ofshareholders: so that capital is present at both poles of property, as both subject and object. This is the characteristic legal form of capital corresponding adequately to its economic form. Just as money which is indifferent to commodities as use-values and hence indifferent to need, becomes both premise and result of the economic circuit of capital, so the subject and object of capital-as-property acquire a unity which is similarly indifferent to conditions outside itself.

The intensification of property into industrial capital requires the transformation of' the capacity to labour into a commodity and results in a legal form which is the antithesis to that of capital. Whereas with capital the object of property becomes subject; with labour the movement takes place in the opposite direction, as the subject comes to take itself as object. The worker sells his labour-power: this presupposes him to be a subject of property which he can legally alienate in the market; and his labour-power, an object of property. But labour-power is not an object in the conventional sense; certainly not one of the type envisaged in natural law. It is not a thing outside the person, but his own capacities or life-force. Since the potential locked up in this capacity, labour, can only be realised through the worker himself, it follows that the object of which the worker is subject is nothing but himself.

This is the antithesis of labour and capital: in one case the object of property becomes its own subject; in the other the subject becomes object. But these opposed forms of intensified property are made up of identical elements. Both capital and labour are made out of the subjects and objects of the elementary Iegal form of private property; and the fact that they have this in common is a feature of their antithesis. It is only in capitalist society that uniformity exists as the medium through which opposed classes can take each other as equivalents. In the buying and selling of labour-power (wage labour) the two intensified forms of property meet directly. But this meeting has the nature of a contradiction because it brings together common elements structured in entirely opposed ways. On both sides there are subjects and objects, but in reverse order. It is only because they are composed of identical elements that capital and labour-power are able to meet at all; the reverse ordering of these elements dictates that this meeting is a contradiction.

This contradiction can be perceived within the structure of the wage itself, whose form is equivalence but whose real content is exploitation. Formally workers and capital meet as equivalents: as the legal subjects of property they seek to exchange labour-power on the one side and money on the other. But the real contents of the exchange are not equivalent since the worker, in agreeing to sell his Iabour-power, agrees in effect to submit his will to its purchaser, and work under stipulated conditions. In classical antiquity the slave was an object of property; in feudal society, the subordination of the serf was explicit in his status: it is only in capitalist society that social reIations cease to express their real content and obliterate all traces of exploitation through their organisation as transactions among equivalents.

Since it is an attribute of the subject, labour-power, like the real property of feudalism, can never be finally alienated, and is therefore sold on a periodic basis. This leaves the worker in ultimate possession of it; hence ultimate possession of himself. The irony of capitalist society is that the worker is only in full possession of himself when he is unemployed. Men do not sell their labour-power naturally, and the political state is necessary before they do so as a routine that appears natural. The seller of labour-power must be a free individual endowed with the capacity to own property; and at the same time a person who has no actual property, since no one with any independent means of living would sell his labour-power on a regular and interminable basis. Thus the worker must be at once a person of property, but a person without property; a subject of property, but one with no object except his own person. In other words, the conditions necessary for labour-power to take its place regularly on the market as a commodity are precisely those that define universal subjectivity - the right to own property totally separated from all particular objects of property; hence totally separated from all real property - absolute poverty. The formal content of universal subjectivity is freedom; its real content is the poverty of the proletariat. Absolute property intensified in capitalist society is absolute poverty: the proletarian is the paradigmatic citizen of the political state.

The universal subject is separated from all items of property save one - himself. The only thing to which a citizen can lay direct claim is his own person, and from this property relation (the self owning the self) spring all the rights of modern democracy: the right to strike; free speech and association; due process of law; and the franchise. In the last analysis the structure of right is nothing but the possession of self; liberal democracy nothing but an elaboration of this elemental property form, where the self is thrown back into its self, into loneliness and isolation - melancholy (Rousseau); unhappy consciousness (Hegel); social misery (Marx).


ABSTRACTION AND THE CRITIQUE OF NATURE
In Britain towards the end of the sixteenth century a legal distinction was drawn between the person of the monarch (Elizabeth Tudor or James Stuart) and the monarch as such. Through a doctrine known as the 'king's two bodies' the king was perceived as a corporation sole, whereby in addition to a natural person he was recognised as one of a body of monarchs existing through time - the succession:

... the King has in him two Bodies, viz, a Body natural and a Body politic. His Body natural (if it be considered in itself) is a Body mortal, subject to all Infirmities that come by Nature or Accident, to the imbecility of Infancy or Old Age, and the like Defects that happen to the natural Bodies of other People. But his Body politic is a body that cannot be seen or handled, consisting of Policy and Government, and constituted for the Direction of the People, and the Management of the Public Weal, and this Body is utterly void of Infancy and Old Age, and other natural Defects and Imbecilities, which the Body natural is subject to, and for this Cause, what the King does in his Body politic, cannot be invalidated or frustrated by any disability of his Body natural.[1]

Historically an enormous gulf divides the 'Tudor Revolution in Government' from the consolidation and building of the liberal state in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless this doctrine, formulated at the time when the political state was emerging out of the feudal orders, foreshadows later developments and indicates some of their most essential qualities in a highly graphic way.

The legal division of the king's body is a concrete historical instance of separation associated with private property: the terms of its formulation, which counterpose politics to nature, are those of natural law. For all these reasons: that it is historically concrete; that it expresses the fundamental tenets of natural law in clear and simple terms; and that it directly concerns the formation of the state (sovreignty); this doctrine provides a convenient link between the analysis of property in terms of natural law and its refinement through the concept of abstraction.

Because power in the sixteenth century was conceived as the personal capacity of the monarch, the definition of a man as a social person, apart from, and independent of, his `natural' being, was restricted to the king. It is only with the development of liberal democracy that it has been broadened to the whole of society; though this has happened remarkably recently. Thus while it is possible to see the kernel of liberal democracy in the reconceptualisation of the monarch in the sixteenth century, and trace the logical movement from one to another smoothly, the actual movement of history was turbulent and uncertain. The redefinition of the feudal monarch precipitated a train of events outside the concern of the lawyers who formulated the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies'; nor did these events flow from it inevitably. Nevertheless the separation of the office of the monarch from the person of the king was a dccisive first step in the building of the state; and its theorisation was a set piece in the philosophy of natural law. From its very beginnings this philosophy was the self-consciousness of the state. In the period up to the French Revolution it provided the framework within which political knowledge was developed. In the succeeding half century political developments forced a theoretical reconstruction that was achieved by classical German philosophy. Then in the nineteenth century, with the consolidation of industrial capitalism and the emergence of the working class as an altogether new force in history, a further realignment of political thinking took place as Marx synthesised the two traditions and moved beyond them with the theory of abstraction.

Abstraction, it must be emphasised from the outset, is a real process and not a mental construction. It would appear that an antipathy exists between the real and the abstract, and that the proper relation of one to the other is that of opposites, i.e. abstract means unreal. But this is not the case. The separation of subject from object, which is one moment of the process of abstraction, is real enough, and defines the absolute poverty of the working class.

In the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies' a clear line is drawn between nature conceived as original, and politics that is derived. Within its framework politics presents itself as an obvious abstraction for two reasons: first, as something taken out of or separated from an original condition; second, as a negation of this original condition. After the separation has occurred all traces of nature disappear, i.e. `the Body [politic] is utterly void of Infancy and Old Age'. In modern society the status of being a property owner and a citizen, through which an individual exercises political and social capacities, pays as little heed to his natural characteristics as the 'Body politic' of the king does to his `Body natural'; and liberal democracy congratulates itself on this point, that it establishes rights independently of all `natural' differences of race, sex, age and so on. But if citizenship is an abstraction from all the particularities of nature in the sense that it disregards them totally, it must at the same time recognise that such particularities do in fact exist - how can something be positively disregarded without being equally positively recognised? Only that which exists in a definite and tangible way can be set aside. Thus, conceiving the constitution of citizenship as an abstraction in terms of natural law, along the lines of the doctrine of the `king's two bodies', entails accepting a real or natural individuality from which abstraction takes place. Even this is not enough since this real or natural individuality, whatever it may be, can only exist as a series of tangible specifics, for it is only as such that it can stand opposed to abstraction in its character of uniformity. But if such characteristics are supposed to be natural, then the theory of abstraction is faced with the problem of presupposing something which is unknowable - how men lived outside society, when even the possibility of their ever having done so is open to the most serious doubt. Thus the theory of abstraction in so far as it would appear to imply men fully formed by nature with alI the specifics of individuality, falls at the first hurdle since it would seem to require a knowledge that can never be obtained.

lt is significant that the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies' restricts the concept of nature tothe physical body, but this offers no way out. Even if the existence of an asocial human biology were conceded - a bigger concession than might appear at first sight - the theory of abstraction could make no substantial step forward by its own criteria. While the king's 'Body politic' and modern citizenship can both be considered as abstractions from a natural biology, so could all historical conditions - serfdom, slavery and so on - and the concept of abstraction, so long as it is tethered to natural law, is incapable of distinguishing among them. In other words, a concept of abstraction formulated against the notion of human essence can have no historical precision. It cannot, therefore, sustain the position central to the theory, that abstraction is unique to modern society since this is the only society in which the conditions of life are appropriated in the form of absolute property.

It was only with the intensification of property in the nineteenth ccntury that the old concept of nature could be jettisoned, and a proper theory of abstraction put in its place.

In the Tudor doctrine nature and politics are conceived in terms of simple difference, as two unconnected aspects of life which have nothing in common and stand outside each other: nature is original; politics derived and abstract. In a theory of abstraction taken directly from the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies' politics is dependent upon nature for the obvious reason that neither a king nor anyone else can have social capacities without a 'Body natural', even though this is totally disregarded in these capacities. What is less clear but no less certain, is that the 'Body natural' is just as dependent upon the 'Body politic'; though admittedly this dependence is of a different order. It is only when a king, or for that matter anyone else, acquires a social definition disregarding all particularities of person, that it becomes possible to conceive these particularities as something apart, and propose human nature as self-contained. The idea of a common human nature only entered thought when feudal orders decomposed and the category of station, which combined into a unity what later became separated as persons and offices, passed away with them. Only in modern society, where social capacities are established through a uniform subjectivity set at a distance from all particularities, does the question of an authentic human nature stand out.

By presenting the distinction between politics and nature as one of simple difference, the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies' is a very crude version of the theory of abstraction. A more adequate account must acknowledge:
( 1) Whether original or social, there can be no doubt that particularities exist, and that politics is an abstraction from them in the sense that they are not immediately present in the rights and capacities through which individuals act in society.
(2) On the other hand, these particularities can only exist as something distinct from politics when politics is so defined as to take no account of them. Thus politics, abstracted social capacities, are, so to speak, the blank screen on which particularities are projected. It is only on such a screen that they can appear as something distinct.
(3) Thus the appearance of particularities (nature) as an element of social life, depends as much upon the abstraction of politics as the possibility of politics depends upon the presence of living beings. Nature, for this reason, since it only enters social life when politics is abstracted, is therefore itself dependent upon abstraction and cannot be considered original. Understood as an element of social life that contributes to its shape and development, that complex of elements that fall under the rubric of human nature cannot be treated as an original datum given to society from outside; on the contrary, it must be recognised as a social product that only comes into being when the capacities to act in society are defined abstractly. In short, nature is as much an abstraction as politics.
(4) In which case, politics can no longer be taken as an abstraction from nature even though it disregards all particularities.
(5) Abstraction, as social process, however, must finally rest upon that which is not abstract.
(6) Thus it follows that there must be something other than politics and nature which is not an abstraction, but from which the two derive abstractly. The existence of such a third term relieves the theory of abstraction from the burden of an essential human nature but leaves the awkward question as to exactly what this third term is. It is particularly awkward since the third term has to be as original as the traditional concept of nature, and therefore as vulnerable.

Human nature is elusive and it is difficult to say exactly what it is. Even if it was possible to discover an occasion on which pristine human nature could be examined, the problem would still remain of demonstrating that the discoveries made about it were relevant to society. The third term must originate in society itself.

Abstraction, it must be stressed once again, is a real process. Therefore to talk of the non-abstract as real would not adequately distinguish it. The most appropriate term for non-abstraction is rationality. The theory of abstraction therefore has three terms: Abstract, rational and real. Both the abstract and the rational are real. The problem is that the rational has no direct or immediate empirical form in modern society.

'Every child', wrote Marx, 'knows that a country that ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but for a few weeks, would die."[2] Labour, conceived as the purposive transformation of natural materials to satisfy human needs, is easy to apprehend as the rational kernel of society. The difficulty is that labour taken this way is not the same as labour as it is actually performed in capitalist society (concrete labour), since this is exercised under conditions of abstraction. In capitalist society the expenditure of labour is determined within a process of production whose first purpose is profit: capacities are redefined towards this end and the satisfaction of needs made incidental. This is explicit in the formal conditions of employment:
(1) The worker has no rights in the product of his labour which is the property of his employer.
(2) He enters the process of production through a transaction that separates him not only from what he produces but also from the capacities he exercises in production: by selling his labour-power he transfers the will to dispose of his own activity to another.
(3) In this transaction (the wage relation) all particularity, need and capacity is disregarded as quality: thus diverse capacities are expressed in a common form as money, where they survive vestigially as differences of quantity. The power of abstraction, however, does not end here: as the process of production becomes more fully capitalist, so the actual expenditure of labour (concrete labour) becomes increasingly determined by profit. This is evident in the following:
(4) In work itself skills and the conditions of labour generally, ranging from technologies to the location of production, are not determined by the particular capacities of labour, but by capital. With capitalism fully developed, production determines the capacities of labour and not vice versa;
(5) Output does not register the needs of labour directly engaged in its production, or even the needs of workers taken as a whole: it is the property of capital, the object of its will, and can only be used to satisfy needs on condition of meeting the criterion of profit;
(6) For all these reasons labour as it actually exists, concrete labour, cannot be taken as it stands as the rational element in society from which abstraction takes place. Since all labour as it is performed in capitalist society is subject to abstraction both formally, and in detail, it follows that non-abstract, i.e. rational, labour, can have no immediate empirical existence. It is impossible to single out any branch of social labour, however useful its product; or any aspect of labour, however serious its purpose, and designate it rational labour. Nevertheless the rationality of labour impresses its conditions upon society.

Production, although it is for profit, can never totally disregard the needs of producers. Individual firms can produce frivolous novelties, but capital-in-general must ensure the reproduction of the labour force. This imperative impresses the rationality of labour upon production generally, but it can also be discerned in the individual act of labour in so far as this is always purposive, and the process of production presupposes its end. In the state of abundance a real unity would be forged between labour as an individual act and labour as a social act, and needs and capacities would be directly aligned. This direct unity or the potential rationality of labour, is shattered in capitalist society, as individual labour is dissociated from social production and needs separated from capacities. Although profit is ideally substituted for labour as the basis of production, this is mitigated as labour asserts its rationality through the abstracted forms of value. Capitalist society can never substitute abstract for rational labour (i.e. surplus value for needs) but must double labour into generalised effort on the one hand, which is indifferent to its material product, and particular labour on the other which produces determinate products out of determinate materials. Rationality under these conditions, the purposive application of capacities for the satisfaction of needs, is not expelled from capitalist society but submerged into the abstract forms of the commodity and its derivatives. The most significant of these derivatives is the separation of the capacity to labour from its needs, and its creation as a commodity. The counterpoint to rationality in capitalist society is therefore the buying and selling of labour-power Js a commodity. On the other side the limit upon this transaction is iIic rationality of labour and the possibility of abundance.

In formalising rationality, abstraction inevitably sets all particularities to one side. Thus, within the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies', the king's 'Body politic' disregards his 'Body natural'; and citizenship overrides all needs and capacities. The real ground of particularity is the labour process, for it is here, through the social development of productivity, that needs and capacities develop their possibilities and acquire definite shape.

It is through labour that man acts upon the world and by changing it simultaneously changes himself. Moreover, since production is in continuous flux, needs and capacities, i.e. particularities, are not constant: nor, because of the division of labour, are they uniformly distributed across society, making individuals facsimiles of each other. Particularity arising out of labour therefore, unlike human nature seen in essentialist terms, varies along two axes simultaneously: across society and through time.
Concrete labour is fully subsumed by abstraction (capital) both formally and really. Nevertheless the needs and capacities of labour are not constituted exclusively by capital: labour is not conjured up by capital but is an external condition to be taken and formalised. It is in this irreducible character of labour that the third term in the formula of abstraction can be found.

Natural law, as it is expressed in the doctrine of the 'king's two bodies', counterposes politics (explicit abstraction) to nature (particularity) as though the latter in its existing empirical form is not already determined by abstraction. It treats politics and nature in terms of simple difference, as though they were independent of each other and capable of standing alone. But since both are determined by abstraction this approach rests upon a false premise. Hence its conclusion that politics is the abstraction of society; a superstructure that rests upon a non-abstract base, actually existing nature or economics, as it came to be called, is also false. It is quite impossible to develop a satisfactory theory of abstraction with only two terms. A third term, labour, as a potential unity of needs and capacities, has to be added. This overcomes the theoretical inconsistencies of the dyadic approach, anchors the theory of abstraction in social terms which change with historical development, and dispenses with all natural essences.


SOCIAL FORM
History is built upon the foundation of labour which is the only means through which men appropriate nature. It is through labour that men take possession of the world and turn natural materials into products that satisfy needs. For this reason labour is the rational kernel of society. But private property interrupts things since it is built upon a separation of men from the world around them. It interposes itself first as a wedge that forces men apart from nature, and then as a pressure that welds them together. Separation and union occur simultaneously through the establishment of subjects and objects of property. Thus private property has two sides to it corresponding to fundamental aspects of abstraction: first, separation; second, uniformity. As subjects of property all men are equivalent and move on the same plane.
In capitalist society abstraction swamps rationality. The intercourse of men with nature is interrupted, and transformed into the exchange of commodities. Subjectivity and objectivity are social forms. The process of abstraction and the constitution of these social forms are one and the same: form is the crystallisation of abstraction.

Consider the familiar process of weighing, where a loaf of bread, for example, is placed on one scale and some pieces of iron on the other. When the scales balance the weight of the iron equals that of the bread, but putting the quantitative aspect to one side, consider the grounds upon which it is established. The weight of the bread is first of all a natural quality of the bread: an integral part of its makeup which cannot actually be removed without destroying the bread. However, it can be formally separated from the bread and given objective existence. By weighing, the weight of the bread is given a second form of existence as pieces of iron. In one sense these pieces are not the weight of the bread; they are not its actual weight, which remains integral to the bread. But in another sense they are its weight-its formal weight. Four fundamental aspects of abstraction and the establishment of form are involved here.

(1) The formalisation of the quality of a thing does not create that quality in the first place, but merely gives it a distinct and separate shape. Weighing a loaf does not create its weight, but gives this weight a second form of being which is distinct and has nothing bread-like about it.
(2) The formal existence of a thing is as real as its original or natural existence: the formal weight of a loaf is as real as its actual weight.
(3)The process of formalisation is one of abstraction in two respects: (a) the formalisation of the quality of a thing requires its separation from that thing: the formal weight of the bread is something apart from the bread itself; (b) in its formal existence a thing becomes no different from other formalised things. It is not only bread that can be weighed but many other items - sugar, tea, coal, etc. And when they are all weighed, they become the same as each other and move on the same plane as equivalents. In their formal existence as weight, bread, sugar, tea, coal, etc., are all qualitative equivalents of each other. Formalisation in this respect is abstraction as equivalence or uniformity-the disregard of particularity.
(4) Although formalisation does not create what is formalised, it gives it an altogether new potential. Through the process of formalisation a thing is reflected back into itself. When it is weighed, the weight of the bread, now formalised, stands outside the bread, which in turn confronts its own weight as something external to it, capable of determining its own (i.e. the bread's) existence. Once the weight of a loaf is formalised, it becomes possible to organise baking according to the criterion of weight.

Simple though this metaphor is, and misleading if taken too far, these generalisations are valid for private property and its intensification.

As rational activity labour is appropriation, the means through which men take possession of the world about them. In this respect it presupposes property: it is an act of property, but not private property, which is a formalisation of it. The establishment of private property is not the creation of property but a crystallisation of it out of 'production into a form where it exists distinct from labour. This tin-malisation is most fully developed as universal subjectivity, where the rights of property are totally divorced from rational activity, and all direct ties with labour are severed.'This corresponds to (1) above: the next feature of private property, its reality as a form, (2) above, is straightforward. Although private property as a form does not have the same tangible existence as weight (pieces of iron), its reality is just as certain. So also is its abstract nature, (3). First it is a separation (formalisation) from rational appropriation and second, it establishes the equivalence of everything it encloses. Applying both to subjects and objects so as to obliterate natural distinctions between them, this makes possible the intensification of property.

Capitalist production, private property reflected back into itself, confirms the final point, (4). The organisation of production for profit is the abstraction of production from rational need.

Traditional political philosophy recognised that the formal analysis of private property was the only valid starting-point for the theory of the state. Tendencies in modern theory have misinterpreted it as formalist in two senses. First, it has lent support to the popular impression that formal means fixed and rigid. Law and administration, through which the formal character of modern society is established, appear, at first sight, to support this impression. It is tempting to imagine the formal structure of society as the framework of a modern office block that determines the space within which activities take place, and even the activities themselves. But while this image catches the determinate power of formalisation and its systemic character, its fluidity is missed. A more appropriate image of the formality of modern society is mathematics, which combines coherence and movement. In mathematics axioms are elaborated without being fundamentally altered. The axiom of capitalist society is the single universal form of private property: but this comprises a series of formal elements in continuous flux and development. This gives a second false impression, that the capacity of a form to be elaborated is the capacity of the form to elaborate itself according to a logic all its own (teleology).

Labour, and labour alone, it must be stressed, is the mainspring of history. While the formal structure of society is fluid and carries the potential for change, labour carries not only potential but the capacity to realise it. In capitalist society immediate initiative has passed entirely out of the hands of the producers: nevertheless, final responsibility for social production and its development rests in the lap of social labour. The potential of labour to set itself in motion stems from its nature as purposive activity, a dialectic of needs and capacities, which establishes both the conditions of progress and the real possibilities for achieving it. The abstraction of labour frustrates this by interrupting the direct relation of needs and capacities, and replacing it with the formalised relation of private property intensified into wage labour. But it never finally stops the movement. Nor is abstraction a single act that achieves its end once and for all. Thus the process of abstraction has to be continually renewed in ever changing conditions, and it is this that gives rise to i he continuous elaboration of forms. The superficial complexity of modern society does not derive from law, administration or any other formal element; nor is it the spontaneous consequence of the division of labour and the development of social production. It arises as a response of formalisation to real development. Advances in social production tend towards a simplification of social processes as they bring closer the possibility of abundance where needs are directly related to capacities. But it is precisely this possibility that modern society must frustrate. The formal complexity of society is the sign of its potential simplification - an index of the forces pressing against it.


THE STATE
From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century political thought placed the analysis of private property and contract at the heart of the theory of the state. The most important contributors to the i radition of natural law were Hobbes and Locke in the seventeenth century and, in the eighteenth century, Rousseau whose Social Contract marked its culmination. The method of this tradition was to contrast political society where the state was developed, with the natural state where it was absent. Since the natural state was based upon conjecture, the results of this approach were limited. In particular its theory of the transition from the natural to the political state by means of a social contract harboured inconsistencies which it could never resolve. A social contract, like any other, can only be entered by persons possessing the appropriate capacities, that is by subjects of right. But as it came to be understood by political philosophers that these capacities were political, and that right could only be established through the state, the inconsistency of contract theory became glaring. In order to make the contract that formed the state, men had to be endowed with rights that derive from the state. By the time Rousseau attempted to perfect the logic of contract theory, there was no escape from the conclusion that the state was a necessary condition for its own creation.

At this point the theory of natural law uncovered the fundanzental fact of the political state, that it is self-constituting, but it was unable to build upon it. Political theory in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries formed part of the wider movement of modern thought that included the development of scientific theory. In particular, Newton's work on physics and mathematics exercised profound influence over it and inspired a mechanical logic of cause and effect. But while this method allowed political theory to break with feudal thought and develop as a science, it impeded natural law as it came close to disclosing the self-constituting nature of the state. Within the framework of Newtonian logic, where cause is not only logically prior to effect but also precedes it in time, it is impossible to conceive the state as a condition of its own existence.

Further progress in state theory required a thorough recasting of its method which was the particular achievement of German idealist philosophy at the turn of the nineteenth century, especially Hegel. Hegel's own contribution to the theory of the state as such was severely restricted by his idealism, which prevented his grasping the empirical development of political society. This led him to superimpose his thought upon it in a way that proved inert and unenlightening. But his development of dialectical logic was a seminal advance. Hegel replaced the mechanical ridigities of cause and effect with a fluid logic whose categories moved into each other in a way that made it possible to see that what is a premise at one moment is a consequence at the next. Within the terms of this logic the difficulty of seeing the state as a condition for its own existence was overcome, and it became possible to understand and explore its self-constituting nature for the first time. This was the contribution made to political theory by Marx who, modifying Hegel's method to the task in hand, produced a far-reaching critique of natural law. Since this was directed against political economy, its significance for state theory is not immediately obvious and an effort of interpretation is necessary to reveal it. But the theory of abstraction with which Marx criticised and reconstructed the labour theory of value applies with equal force to the theory of natural right and the social contract.

The signal achievement of natural law was to place private property and contract at the heart of the theory of the state. In the state of nature men were believed to have immediate contact with the world about them, and to be able to take possession of anything they laid hands upon. This state was conjectural, but as a point of contrast it focused the distinctive feature of political society where appropriation is no longer direct but is mediated through subjectivity and objectivity - private property. In both states appropriation implies force, first to take and then to hold. But whereas in the state of nature this force is exercised directly by an individual in his own interests, in political society it is exercised indirectly, by others on his behalf. According to Rousseau men quit the state of nature because their individual powers grew too weak to sustain them; and in return for their natural rights received political rights upheld by the power of the community as a whole. In terms of appropriation this meant that individuals no longer exercised force to retain possessions which they now held as private property through rights guaranteed them by the state.

The distinction between this insight into political society and the conventional liberal view could not be sharper. In the liberal view political society is sustained through a reciprocity of rights. The right of one individual is simply mirrored in that of another (a world of inter-subjectivity), and this creates a commonalty of mutual interests which provides the bedrock of society. The state then expresses this commonalty through its democratic constitution and safeguards it with its sovereignty. According to natural law, reworked through the theory of abstraction, the reciprocal of claim, its equivalent form, is force. A person's claim to a thing only becomes an element of right when the force which defends it is excrcised by another. In political society where particular possessions are held through a general property right, this force is universal. There is no immediate mutuality of interests, as liberal theory contends, but a universal equivalence of subjects mediated through their common relation to an absolute force. The exponent of this force is the state, which does not stand outside as a third party upholding the rules, but is the sovereign power that constitutes all participants as subjects.

According to liberal theory, private property is rooted in rational need and the state arrives post festum, logically if not historically, to protect its smooth operation as a system. According to the theory of abstraction, private property is abstracted from all rationality, and is rooted in force. The state is not a second-order safeguard of absolute property after it has derived itself rationally, but the universal force that is an indispensable part of it.

Although it is a general or universal force in society, the state remains a special force, since it is only one part of society. The consequences of this and the attempts to resolve them have made up the central matter of political theory. Rousseau, who refused to be contented with the constitutional banalities of liberalism, looked for a resolution in the concept of a general will which compelled all validly established states to exercise power rationally for the community as a whole. In the eighteenth century, before property had intensified into capitalist production and still appeared to have roots, however attenuated, in a system of needs, such a will was still plausible. But once industrial capitalism had seized hold of society, harsher realities came to the fore. Thus Lenin, working forward from Marx's analysis of capitalism, replaced Rousseau's general will with the concept of the class state - i.e. the state as a special force in society that is general only in the sense that it exercises power over the whole of society. Since this power (force) is the reciprocal of property claims, and since private property in its turn is the form through which labour is exploited by capital, the state of its very nature is a class or capitalist state. At this point the great tradition of political philosophy, which began with Machiavelli, reached its conclusion - and no significant advance has been made in state theory since. The purpose of this tradition was to disclose the anatomy of the state, and what provides the theme of continuity through its development is the attempt to produce a unitary theory of the state in terms of private property and contract.

In the late nineteenth century the state entered a new phase in its history as its administration was elaborated to a historically unprecedented degree. Starting in Britain in the 1870s a phase of liberal state-building was inaugurated in which the state no longer appeared a distant force but became closely locked into society. In the twentieth century, particularly in the period since the Second World War, this process has continued in a pathological way, so that the state now suffuses the life of each subject, who in addition to being a citizen is also an administre. At first sight traditional theory, which always took the form of a philosophical enquiry into the state, appears unable to cope with this development. Such a presumption is fundamental to the modernist project, which has treated this development on its own terms and merely reproduced its complexity without explaining it. Modernism can be rejected on aesthetic grounds; it can also be disputed philosophically, but its definitive rejection is the demonstration that the development of the state since 1870 can be fully explained in terms of the tradition and shown to be the natural history of abstraction.


ABUNDANCE
If the study of political society is not to be an odyssey through a hall of mirrors, an external point of reference for historical perspective is necessary. Until the French Revolution, political philosophers oriented their enquiries from a natural state, where men were believed to be in possession of rights by virtue of their humanity. The formal rights of political society could then be adjudicated in terms of these natural rights which provided criteria of reason for jiulging the validity of the political state as an exponent of the general will. In the nineteenth century, with the intensification of private property, enlightenment reason lost its charm as it became clear that there were no conditions in which the state could express the general will of society, since it was by nature a special force or class state. Under the regime of industrial capitalism, the shortcomings of natural law were exposed and its admittedly conjectural character made it inadequate for concrete historical criticism. Moreover, since the natural state was constructed out of the elements of private property, its use as a standpoint for criticism involved a fatal circularity of thought. Industrial capitalism could only be criticised in terms of private property, that is in its own terms, since it was nothing but private property, albeit intensified. Any critic who employed its categories could not see beyond the fnndamental forms of the new order, and the only alternative he could offer to the miseries of intensified property was regression to the fiction of simple commodity production, where the separation of needs from capacities, that establishes labour-power as a commodity, was simply wished away. Faced with the harsh realities of intensified property, unregenerated reason wilted into romantic Utopianism to restore the unity of labour as an original fact of nature traduced by political history.

The collapse of absolute reason deriving from a conjectured state of nature did not remove the necessity for historical criticism, but stipulated new terms for it. Criticism:
(1) had to provide the basis for a real history of capitalism;
(2) to avoid circularity of thought leading to nostalgia, it could no longer be derived from simple property; and
(3) it had to offer a real alternative to the present in terms of needs and capacities as they were actually developed.

In the Communist Manifesto (1848), Marx and Engels developed a critique of capitalist society that met these conditions, and from that time the state of abundance superseded that of nature as the standpoint of genuine political analysis.

Abundance, or communism, is not infantile affluence - the replication of products for the immediate gratification of desiring subjects - since it dissolves formal subjects and the contingency of desire. Nor is it an empirical rationalisation of resources away from destruction and waste. Its possibility is directly structured into productive capacities, which are therefore not means to be disposed of according to external ends. In other words, abundance cannot be achieved through a plan which seeks to reconcile means to ends, since such a plan would retain the formal separation of needs and capacities. The planned rationalisation of capitalist production through formal reason is no alternative. Nor is it practical: for so long as needs are formally separated from capacities, the law of value overwhelms all efforts at rationalisation, and, as recent events, East, West and South, make clear, subverts even the possibility of infantile affluence. Abundance lies beyond the `narrow horizon of right', where the forms of private property no longer exist and the human capacity to labour is not a commodity. The social labour necessary for the provision of subsistence retains an element of formality (planning) to allocate means to ends; but the terms on which the social product is made available are dissociated from this, and nothing stands between individuals and their conditions of life. At the same time this remnant of formality is compressed by the vast growth of productive capacities -the development of automatic production-which reduces necessary labour to a minimum. Non-necessary labour is no longer embodied in a surplus product, but becomes free activity. Free activity is need and capacity simultaneously-the immediate unity of labour.

Unlike the state of nature which is conjectured out of the elements of political society projected into an ahistorical vacuum, the state of abundance has a provenance. Neither its remoteness as a practical possibility, nor its completeness as a solution to politics, make its concept idealist. It is the possibility of political society whose development has provided its historical materials - the universal capacities and needs of labour, which at present exist negatively as weapons of mass destruction and relative surplus population (underdevelopment). The state of abundance is not deduced as a Utopian daydream from speculations on human nature: the possibility of a direct unity of needs and capacities arises exclusively from their formal separation in political society. Moreover it is not just a possibility given by the determination of labour-power as a commodity, but a necessity; it is the necessary, though not inevitable, resolution of subjective wealth and objective poverty. Hence abundance is not the basis of political society like the state of nature was once thought to be, but its own future possibility casting iis shadow backwards and, at the same time, drawing history forwards.


NOTES
[1] These were the terms in which a legal doctrine known as the 'king's two bodies' was formulated towards the end of the sixteenth century. See Edmund Plowden, (1816) Commentaries, or Reports, pp. 213-50. This passage is cited in E. Kantorowitcz, (1957) The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology.
[2] Marx to Kugelmann (11 July 1868).