Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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Angelus Novus
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Aug 21 2012 01:45
Railyon wrote:

I think a very few Volkswirtschaftslehre courses still go under that name, but it's become really uncommon.

Usually,

VWL = "macroeconomics."

BWL = "microeconomics."

If I thought PD and their droogies actually had brains, I'd assume that calling Heinrich a professor of "political economy" was intended as a polemical zinger (you know, because Capital is intended as a critique thereof), but in all honesty and seriousness, I don't even know if that was intentional on their part. I'm just not sure if they're that bright.

I just think these goofs are the "theory" equivalent of real estate speculators, trying to stake a claim to something hitherto unknown in the fashion-prone realms of Anglo-American academia. I think their hostility toward Heinrich results from some weird small-proprietor mentality: he's a representative of German value-theory, but he's not their representative of German value-theory.

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ocelot
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Aug 21 2012 10:07
Angelus Novus wrote:
Railyon wrote:

I think a very few Volkswirtschaftslehre courses still go under that name, but it's become really uncommon.

Usually,

VWL = "macroeconomics."

BWL = "microeconomics."

The term Marx uses prior to his 1845 visit to Manchester (to read English Co-operative movement and other early communist/socialist texts) is Nationalökonomie - see for e.g. "Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie. Einleitung" & "Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte" (not to mention Engels' "Umrisse zur Kritik der Nationalökonomie"). The next work, "Misère de la Philosophie" was actually published in French, so the language doesn't help us, but certainly everything in German thereafter seems to use politischen Ökonomie instead.

Nationalökonomie seems definitively out of fashion, but I'm not sure Sozialökonomie has precisely the same meaning? I still use Nationalökonomie sometimes, as it has the advantage of making explicit that the frame of reference of political economy is the nation state (including by implication all the problems of constructing a truly international value theory, where the categorisation of SNLT, as the average rate of productivity "in a given society", is not clearly defined)

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Railyon
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Aug 21 2012 10:14

To me the terms Nationalökonomie, Politische Ökonomie and Volkswirtschaftslehre describe the same thing, though the latter term wants to eliminate the explicit political content and concern itself only with "pure economics". Of course they can never escape politics, even though they wish it were so...

Sozialökonomie is still being used as far as I remember. 'Political economy' seems more common in the states I guess.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 22 2012 21:58

Prigent's complaints are getting more bizarre with each post.

Apparently, their big issue with Heinrich is that he didn't engage in any leftist trainspotting by examining the finer points of contention between two Franconian sects that nobody outside of Germany has even heard of. Why he should've devoted the space in an introductory work on Capital to giving an account of two marginal groups he isn't even a member of is never explained.

Oh well, I guess PD's free publicity for the book is a good thing.

Hektor Rotweiler
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Aug 22 2012 23:04

Truly bizarre.

He's like the Glenn Beck of the ultra-left.

I do like his bold choice of strategy in the following: where the fact that Marx mentioned something once is sufficient grounds to prove that Marx had a theory of the collapse of capitalism

Quote:
he says Marx never spoke of the collapse of capitalism in Capital, but further into his An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital [Monthly Review Press, 2012, a book published in Germany in 2004, translated into English by Alex Locascio] Heinrich admits that Marx spoke of the collapse of capitalism very briefly in the Grundrisse but Heinrich does not like that idea at all

This could take Marxology in an exciting and open direction. For instance my new interpretation--based on Marx's letter to Engels in 1865--is that Marx finished Capital in September of that year. To truly understand Capital, you must stop exactly at that point.

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jura
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Aug 23 2012 07:03

Maybe we should go back from distinguishing labor-power and labor to saying stuff like "workers sell their labor". It's in the Grundrisse, after all!

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Aug 23 2012 08:42
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In this 2012 edition of his book Heinrich could have been a bit more accurate, with the help of his translator who claims to have a lot of negative potential. They could have mentioned the split in the Krisis group, and the emergence of Exit!, of which Robert Kurz was a member up to recently, before his untimely death..

Even worse, I believe the book totally fails to mention the split within the Class War Federation of the mid-90s over whether the national conferences should end with the singing of the Internationale or Yellow Submarine*. What kind of introduction to Capital can ignore such a vital debate and still ask to be taken seriously?

roll eyes

* true story

Angelus Novus
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Aug 23 2012 09:01

You class struggle dinosaurs just don't understand that Marx was a liberal democrat:

"The liberal opposition shows us the level of a political assembly, just as the opposition in general shows the level of development that a society has reached[...]The liberal opposition shows us what the liberal position has become, to what extent freedom is embodied in man.

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Aug 23 2012 09:10

Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Hektor Rotweiler
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Aug 23 2012 17:02

Since Priget has shown any earlier statement Marx makes invalidates his subsequent theories I'm taking it back to the first paragraph in MECW. Boom, it's all there--

Quote:
Nature herself has determined the sphere of activity in which the animal should
move, and it peacefully moves within that sphere, without attempting to go beyond it, without even an inkling of any other. To man, too, the Deity gave a general aim, that of ennobling mankind and himself, but he left it to man to seek the means by which this aim can be achieved; he left it to him to choose the position in society most suited to him, from which he can best uplift himself and society.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 24 2012 00:38
jura wrote:
Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Or his use of the n-word against Lassalle, or all the really vile anti-Semitic stuff peppered throughout his work at all points of his life.

I mean, it's almost comically dishonest to cherry pick the stuff that supports the conception of "Marx the Genius" (however one comes down on the "collapse" question), while ignoring all the evidence in support of the argument for "Marx the Asshole."

S. Artesian
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Aug 24 2012 00:58
Angelus Novus wrote:
jura wrote:
Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Or his use of the n-word against Lassalle, or all the really vile anti-Semitic stuff peppered throughout his work at all points of his life.

I mean, it's almost comically dishonest to cherry pick the stuff that supports the conception of "Marx the Genius" (however one comes down on the "collapse" question), while ignoring all the evidence in support of the argument for "Marx the Asshole."

Particularly when the issue is capitalism.

S. Artesian
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Aug 25 2012 04:32

Finished the book, here's the link to a review I wrote of it. Sorry to say I was disappointed, sorely, in the book, although I'm sure some will be even more disappointed in may take on it.

http://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.com/2012/08/introducing-for-very-first-time-here-or.html

Angelus Novus
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Aug 26 2012 08:34

Thanks for writing a serious review, S. Artesian. I've got to mull it over a bit. For one thing, I'm not sure if you're right about how you order speed-up to the category of relative surplus-value. Ben Fine and Aflred Saad-Filho in their introduction say basically the same thing as Heinrich, that speed up or the elimination of break times belong to the category of absolute surplus-value. But I've got to dig around in Marx a bit.

Obviously that's not the only point you made but for some reason it's the one that got stuck in my brain.

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Railyon
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Aug 26 2012 09:43

On the speed-up, if we take it solely as an increase in the intensity of work, it's absolute surplus value because in a given workday more abstract human labor gets objectified (vergegenständlicht) that way - that's how Krüger argues in his Allgemeine Theorie even though he does not use the term absolute surplus value actually.

The problem is that increasing productivity of labor counteracts this as it reduces the amount of abstract human labor per commodity.

According to Krüger, they spring forth from the same origin but with different results as to the production of value.

S. Artesian
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Aug 26 2012 14:12

The issue is, IMO,-- what does speed up actually do, and how does it do it? Speed up increases the quantities, and rates, of "C" consumed in production. The value of the wage is reproduced in less time. The use-values are increased, but the V + S total does not. Eight hours is eight hours.

Speed up doesn't just occur with capitalism; it is not historically simply a case of the "drummer" on a slave ship increasing the rate of drumming to achieve a "ramming speed." Speed-up is both product and producer of changes in "technique"-- in rationalization of the "technical process."

Regarding "break times" etc.-- what's the difference between that and Taylorization, or any time-motion studies? Same same, IMO.

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Railyon
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Aug 26 2012 14:23
S. Artesian wrote:
Speed up increases the quantities, and rates, of "C" consumed in production. The value of the wage is reproduced in less time. The use-values are increased, but the V + S total does not. Eight hours is eight hours.

If I understand your point correctly it's not absolute surplus value because the time frame, eight hours, remains the same?

I think it could be argued that if we assumed an average workday of eight hours and a given average rate of surplus, an increase in the intensity of labor for a single capital increases the abstract human labor objectified which would be for this single capital as if it were prolonging the working day. Which of course is also increasing relative surplus value.

Maybe I should go read up on this again though...

S. Artesian
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Aug 26 2012 15:05

Yes, Marx, to my recollection, consistently states that absolute surplus value is increased exclusively by lengthening of the working day.

"Intensity of labor" has to have some parameters for measurement. I don't know how we do that except by measuring the time or production, and the relative time for the reproduction of the value of the labor-power. "Time is everything, man is nothing; at best time's carcass" Marx wrote [Poverty of Philosophy, I think]. And along those lines is his statement, which really defines the principle of capitalist production-- abstract labor-- that it's not the case that one man's hour is worth the same as another man's, but that during an hour, one man is worth the same as another.

Anyway, let's say a coal miner in 1870 works 9 hours a day using picks, walking 200 feet below the surface, and 200 feet back up, with no breaks, and loading the wagon to move the coal to the surface himself. The miner produces 200 kilos of coal per nine hours.

In 1990 a miner [these numbers are all hypothetical] works 8 hours, with two 30 minute breaks, riding an elevator to and from the drill site, using machine driven drills, with the ore automatically carried to the surface by a system of conveyors, The miner produces 5 metric tonnes of coal in the 8 hours.

Which is the greater "intensity of labor"?

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Felix Frost
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Aug 26 2012 18:50

S. Artesian might be right that Marx only counts lengthening of the working day as absolute surplus value, but he is wrong about identifying intensity of labour with productivity. Marx analysed these as separate categories: See Chapter 17 Section 2, in Vol I for a discussion of the differences.

Marx wrote:
We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus value, unless the products of the industries affected are articles habitually consumed by the labourers. In the present case this condition no longer applies. For when the variation is either in the duration or in the intensity of labour, there is always a corresponding change in the magnitude of the value created, independently of the nature of the article in which that value is embodied.

It therefore does make sense to say that an increase in the intensity of labour has the same effect as lengthening of the working day.

I had a quick read through S. Artesian's review, and I thought that most of his particular criticisms of Heinrich was off the mark. Just to take one example:

S.Artesian wrote:
Heinrich continues:

Finally, for the developed capitalist countries, the majority of which are poor in natural resources, a decisive point is the secure provision of raw materials and fuels. However, the point is not the conquest of corresponding territories so much as the "organization" of trade and its conditions: calculable extraction and secure transportation, the mode of price formation, and the currency in which the trade is conducted.

Really? Developed countries are "poor" in natural resources? Exactly how does "poor" become an attribute of quantities of natural resources, of use values? "Poor," "wealthy" are measures of social reproduction, and for Marx, they are determined by the aggrandizement of labor power.

Well, no, Marx did consider material wealth to consist of use values. To quote from Critique of the Gotha Programme:

Marx wrote:
Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power

Another example is S.Artesian criticising Heinrich for suggesting that the value of labour can be lowered. Now, I suppose that none of this invalidates his main objection to Heinrich, which seemed to be about what intrinsic limits there are to capitalism, but I found this part to be rather vague, so I'm not quite sure what to think of it.

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Aug 26 2012 20:05

On wealth and use values, this quote from Capital confirms Felix Frost's contention above:

Quote:
The use values of commodities furnish the material for a special study, that of the commercial knowledge of commodities. Use values become a reality only by use or consumption: they also constitute the substance of all wealth, whatever may be the social form of that wealth.

andy g
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Aug 26 2012 21:35

not sure if this is strictly consistent with all that Marx wrote but I have always take the distinction between relative and absolute surplus value as being about if an increase in the rate of exploitation is achieved through a transformation of the technical organisation of production or by wielding the supervisory whip for longer or more effectively. the former is a differentia specifica of the capitalist mode of production, the latter is common to all class societies. hence Marx sees the shift from the formal to real subordination of labour to capital as the shift towards the increasing importance of relative surplus value.

on this basis "speed up", in the absence of changes in productive technique is an increase in absolute rather than relative surplus value.

just a thought...

andy g
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Aug 26 2012 21:42

haven't finished the book yet so can't give a definitive opinion. my only real contact with the "value-form" school has been through Rubin and (indirectly) the value debates in Capital & Class. have now downloaded various bits and bobs translated into English and should really read those too before gobbing off. apparent strengths so far - strong emphasis on historicity of value as a social relation. not sure the "official marxism" versus value form theorists as true interpreters of Charlie dichotomy really plays that well. I have always had reservations about commodity fetishism so the importance this seems to assume makes me slightly uncomfortable.

more later....

S. Artesian
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Aug 26 2012 22:00

Yes, but the measure of poverty is NOT the quantity of "natural resources" that are bestowed upon a particular "nation." We are precisely talking about the social form of that wealth; not "wealth" in its natural state.

Marx produces, at least for me, in his Economic Manuscripts, a kind of "eureka!" moment, when he concludes, states: "Wealth is the disposition over time." That's the issue.

Engels says somewhere that Ireland was "destined" [or words to that meaning] to be subordinate to England since England was so endowed with supplies of coal. That's not a "Marxist" argument; that's a teleological one. Wales had abundant supplies of coal, and look how much Wales has benefited from that.

The US, the UK, Russia, etc. are not "poor" in natural resources. Angola is not "rich" in natural resources.

The history of the superior development of US capitalism is not a history of superior abundance of its natural resources to those of Brazil, to China, to Russia

Yes, it is Marx's contention, that only by reducing the labor-time necessary for the production of necessities, can relative surplus value be increased. That is in fact Marx's argument, and Heinrich follows it.

And that is what occurred in the US for example during the "long deflation," as I describe, but capital produces its commodities as values, as equivalent, exchangeable, so that it is not strictly, exclusively improvement in the time of reproduction of the means of subsistence that drives relative surplus value; it is the time spent in reproducing the equivalent to the value of the means of subsistence, which is supposed to be equivalent to the value of the labor-power that is critical. Yeah, I disagree with Marx's emphasis on exclusivity regarding relative surplus value.

But Marx himself writes in volume 1:

Quote:
on the other hand, given the length of the working-day, that rise can be effected only by a change in the relative magnitudes of the components of the working-day, viz., necessary labour and surplus-labour; a change which, if the wages are not to fall below the value of labour-power, presupposes a change either in the productiveness or in the intensity of the labour.

So I think I'm on not so shaky ground here, on both the issue of intensity of labor, and on the issue of productivity of labor power, in reducing the time of reproduction of the wage, being equivalent to augmenting increasing the relative surplus value

Regarding the criticism of Heinrich's notion of the value of the labor power being lowered-- I think it's quite possible to lower the value, the time of reproduction of value equivalent to that of labor power; I think Heinrich proposes a scenario that is self-contradictory... in that he talks about fully compensating the value of the labor power by, at the same time, reducing the living standard of the working class. You cannot fully compensate labor power, which means to provide for its full reproduction, and at the same time lower its standard of living, which means by definition not providing for its full reproduction, but providing only for a reduced reproduction. I think Heinrich sets up an oxymoron here. Maybe he means to say, to fully compensate labor power with a reduced wage, then the value of the means of subsistence has to decline. Reducing the quantity and quality of the means of subsistence is not full reproduction. Reducing the value of the means of reproduction can be full reproduction, again using the "long deflation" in the US, where nominal wages fell, but declines in the costs of reproduction of clothing, food, shelter declined even more rapidly.

And indeed, the core issue for me is Heinrich's claim that there is no intrinsic limitation to valorization, when in fact, all of Marx's work is exactly the exploration of those intrinsic limitations.

So all those criticisms made about my review? I think they are excellent, excellent points for exploration and development. I might even find myself being wrong.

S. Artesian
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Aug 26 2012 22:21
andy g wrote:
not sure if this is strictly consistent with all that Marx wrote but I have always take the distinction between relative and absolute surplus value as being about if an increase in the rate of exploitation is achieved through a transformation of the technical organisation of production or by wielding the supervisory whip for longer or more effectively. the former is a differentia specifica of the capitalist mode of production, the latter is common to all class societies. hence Marx sees the shift from the formal to real subordination of labour to capital as the shift towards the increasing importance of relative surplus value.

on this basis "speed up", in the absence of changes in productive technique is an increase in absolute rather than relative surplus value.

just a thought...

Yes, I think that's how many people regard the distinction, but the point I'm trying to make is, that's now how capital as capital organizes itself. Look at an example.

I run a railroad classification yard. I receive trains made up of thousands of cars. These cars come into the yard and get switched, sorted, "classified" based on their next or final destination. After being resorted, the cars are reassembled, and a new train is dispatched to the next sorting point, etc.etc.etc.

Now because trains were not always preceded to their intermediate sorting points, or destination, by a transmission of the classification of the cars being carried, there used to be a lot of "down time" in switching, sorting, and reclassifying the arriving trains. Maybe in 8 hours, a crew would actually spend 4 hours sorting cars, sorting a total 300 cars. Now without adding any new technology, simply using the existing telegraph wires, or telephone lines, I tell every yard dispatching a train to transmit the car numbers and destinations of those cars to the next yard-- and we do this system wide.

Now the downtime is eliminated. Guess what? The same crew can now more than double its output to say 800 cars in eight hours. I sure have intensified their labor process, have I not? But I have certainly not lengthened the working day. As every railroad manager will tell you, I've done nothing except what I always do-- pay people to work. I have to pay them 8 hours, I'm no longer paying for time spent not working. The crew is now reproducing the value equivalent to the necessary labor time in less time. That's relative surplus value being amplified.

Intensifying labor is not simply a matter of increasing the "speed of the line" something that has been done, and can be done, by the capitalists, and was and is, a big focus for point of production struggles.

But to increase the speed of the line requires a whole host of supplementary measures-- like increasing the mass of raw materials available, reducing the transit time between phases, sections of the productive process.... all of which amount to, really, increasing the "C" portion in the production of capital.

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Aug 27 2012 10:39

In determining the difference between changes due to relative and absolute surplus value, the TCC is your friend, imo. Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC. The ratio between the material amounts of raw material and other constant capital inputs, to the energy and intensity of labour does not change. More commodities and more value may be squeezed out in a compressed time (and if the daily wage remains the same, then there are effects on the value composition), but the TCC is unaffected. Hence this is the strategy of absolute surplus value, not relative.

The second example Artesian gives, is the use of technology (information & communications and re-organisation of the labour process) to increase the number of cars handled by a given amount of labour. It changes the TCC, therefore it is relative surplus value strategy of increased accumulation. I'm pretty sure Marx discusses (vol II maybe?) the role of production processes that have a certain amount of "waiting time" incorporated into them (e.g. growing food, etc), but that technological advances (even if only better management of information flow and labour organisation) that decrease this "dead time", are a decrease in the SNLT per commodity (units processed/serviced).

So I agree with Andy G basically. But by dispensing with the confusionist category of OCC and analysing the process from the perspective of the TCC as distinct from the VCC, as discussed on the OCC thread previously. The increase of the TCC is the increase of the force of production, something that did occur sporadically in pre-capitalist societies, but is centrally driven by the dynamic of capital to a hitherto unimaginable rate. And is, to take the argument (tenditiously) further, actually at the heart of the innate contradiction of capital, which is why all those who saw the primary task of the "transitional stage" to increase the rate of the development of the forces of production, could only ever build societies in transition towards capitalism, rather than away from it.

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Khawaga
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Aug 27 2012 11:55
ocelot wrote:
I'm pretty sure Marx discusses (vol II maybe?) the role of production processes that have a certain amount of "waiting time" incorporated into them (e.g. growing food, etc), but that technological advances (even if only better management of information flow and labour organisation) that decrease this "dead time", are a decrease in the SNLT per commodity (units processed/serviced).

Yes, it's in Vol 2. It's discussed as the difference between labour time and production time.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 27 2012 12:18
andy g wrote:
I have always had reservations about commodity fetishism

Can you expand upon this? Do you mean you have reservations about the relative importance assigned to fetishism by the value-form tradition, or do you mean you have problems with the notion in general?

I ask because I know some comrades (really only one or two) from a kind of Deleuzian background who think fetishism presupposes a sort of dichotomy between a "false", mediated society, and some ideal notion of an "authentic", non-fetishistic, unmediated society. I don't agree with that, although I think that is kind of an unstated assumption of a lot of crude Frankfurt School-inspired readings.

andy g
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Aug 27 2012 14:12

Angelus:

can confirm I am most definitely not of a Deleuzian background!

I guess my problem is with the notion in general. I get and accept the notion that the constitutive relations and processes of capitalism are "opaque" and not immediately apparent - the "essence vs appearance" thang. not that controversial really, as Marx observed if essence and appearance coincided science would be superfluous.

it's the idea that these relations necessarily misrepresent themselves in the consciousness of the agents instantiating them. if illusions are automatically induced in the consciousness of worker and capitalist alike how do we explain the emergence of oppositional ideologies? on a more abstract level is it legitimate to believe any reality permits of only one interpretation (the fallacy of immediate knowledge thingy)? at another level it doesn't fit with the concept of hegemony as an organised and active process that I find useful. The political consequences seem to me a denial of the effective agency of the working class and an orientation on "peripheral groups" supposedly outside of capitalist society and its entrapments.

best I can do at short notice ! what "spin" on the theory do you see the value-form theorists adding?

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Aug 27 2012 14:48
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a sort of dichotomy between a "false", mediated society, and some ideal notion of an "authentic", non-fetishistic, unmediated society.

Surely a non-fetishistic society is the very meaning of communism? A society not mediated by abstract social forms but mediated by ever-changing, consciously created forms of social organisation that directly (i.e. not mediated by a hierarchy) realise changing human needs and desires? In that limited sense, yes, capitalist society is inauthentic and communist society would be authentic. I don't think this is in any way idealist when you consider it concretely.

I have never read Deleuze, but this seems to me a fundamental aspect of the general thrust of Situationist theory and value form theory.

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Aug 27 2012 15:03
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it's the idea that these relations necessarily misrepresent themselves in the consciousness of the agents instantiating them. if illusions are automatically induced in the consciousness of worker and capitalist alike how do we explain the emergence of oppositional ideologies?

I don't think that any one here argues that social relations necessarily (i.e. always, totally and in all people's heads, at all time) do misrepresent themselves. Otherwise, how could we be bringing the totality of these social relations into question here? The point is that capitalist social relations are only ever provisional and often, everyday in people's lives, the fetishistic conditioning is under threat of exploding. The emergence of oppositional ideologies is easily explained by the fact that capitalism encourages a fragmentary perspective on itself (because it is by nature a fragmentary experience), so it can play off fetishisms (aspects of itself) against each other. Labour is played off against capital by social-democrats, Christianity and labour against capital by christian social democrates, art against commerce by artists etc. The point is that they are all ideologies, that is to say, they don't question capitalist social relations from the perspective of the totality, of history, of society, of the human subject etc.. They don't contain a self-critique. This is how you can have the emergence of opposing ideologies. Indeed, Debord argued that capitalism thrives off the emergence of opposing ideologies because it gives the illusion of choice and change. How could capitalism have gone on existing without the fetishisation of Labour by various parts of the workers' movement, for example? The point is that capitalism is often able to recuperate our grievances against it into support for it. Even fascism, as Postone argues, could be seen as a form of fetishstic anti-capitalism. In many ways I think the theory of fetishism reveals that we are actually struggling against capitalism everyday in every way all the time. We're just doing it wrong. Hence the need for critique.