1. Against Domestication

Submitted by libcom on July 28, 2005

Against Domestication 1.

Against Domestication

The time we are now living through is without doubt the most critical period capitalist society has ever known. All the features which we associate with the classic crisis now exist as a permanent state of affairs, though production itself has not been affected, except to a limited extent in certain countries. Social relations and traditional consciousness are decomposing all around us, while at the same time each institution in society proceeds to ensure its survival by recuperating the movement which opposes it. (An obvious example here is the catholic church, which has lost count of all the "modernizations" it has embraced). One would think that the violence and torture which is now endemic everywhere would have people mobilized and up in arms against it, but instead it continues to flourish on a world scale. Indeed, the situation today makes the "barbarism" of the Nazis seem in comparison rather unprofessional, quite archaic in fact. All the conditions would seem to be ripe; there should be revolution. Why then is there such restraint ? What is to stop people from transforming all these crises and disasters, which are themselves the result of the latest mutation of capital, into a catastrophe for capital itself ?

The explanation for this is to be found in the domestication of humanity, which comes about when capital constitutes itself as a human community. The process starts out with the fragmentation and destruction of human beings, who are then restructured in the image of capital; people are turned into capitalist beings, and the final outcome is that capital is anthropomorphised. The domestication of humanity is closely bound up with another phenomenon which has intensified even further the passivity of human beings : capital has in effect "escaped". Economic processes are out of control and those who are in a position to influence them now realize that in the face of this they are powerless : they have been completely outmanoeuvered. At the global level, capital's escape is evident in the monetary crisis; [1] overpopulation, pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources. The domestication of humanity and the escape of capital are concepts which can explain the mentality and activity of those who claim to be revolutionaries and believe that they can intervene to hasten the onset of revolution : the fact is that they are playing roles which are a part of the old world. The revolution always eludes them and when there is any kind of upheaval they see it as something external to them, which they have to chase after in order to be acknowledged as "revolutionaries".

For a considerable time, human beings have, strictly speaking, been outstripped by the movement of capital which they are no longer able to control. This explains why some people think that the only solution is flight into the past, as with the fashionable preoccupation with mysticism, zen, yoga and tantraism in the U.S. Others would rather take refuge in the old myths which reject the total and all-pervading tyranny of science and technology. (Often this is all combined with the use of some drug which gives the illusion of the rapid arrival of a world different from the horror we are now living through. [2] ) On the other hand, there are people who say that only science and technology can be relied upon to provide the answers --which would explain why certain women in the feminist movement are able to envisage their emancipation through parthenogenesis or by the production of babies in incubators. [3] There are others who believe they can fight against violence by putting forward remedies against aggressiveness, and so on. These people all subscribe, in a general way, to the proposition that each problem presupposes its own particular scientific solution. They are therefore essentially passive, since they take the view that the human being is a simple object to be manipulated. They are also completely unequipped to create new interhuman relationships (which is something they have in common with the adversaries of science); they are unable to see that a scientific solution is a capitalist solution, because it eliminates humans and lays open the prospect of a totally controlled society. [4]

We now come to the category of people who feel that they have to "do something" : they are now having to realize that their understanding of the situation is totally inadequate, and their efforts to conceal this fact only makes their powerlessness more obvious. The "silent majority", who make up the rest, are permeated with the belief that it is pointless to do anything, because they simply have no perspective. Their silence is not consent pure and simple, but rather evidence of their incapacity to intervene in any way. The proof of this is that when they are mobilized, it is never for something but against it. Their particular passivity is therefore negative.

It is important to note that the two groups referred to above -- the activists and the silent majority -- cannot be catalogued simply as left and right : the old political dichotomy no longer operates here. The confusion which this raises is nevertheless important in relation to the attitude taken towards science, since in the past it was people on the left who were very committed to science, whereas now it is being condemned by the New Left (in the United States for example). The leftright dichotomy lives on, however, among the old regroupements, the parties of the left and right and all the rackets of the past, but these oppositions have all ceased to matter : in one way or another they each defend capital equally. The most active of all are the various communist parties because they defend capital by espousing exactly the same scientific forms and rational structures which capital uses to maintain itself.

All the movements of the left and right are functionally the same in as much as they all participate in a larger, more general movement towards the destruction of the human species. Whether people stay confined within certain obsolete strategies and forms, or whether they submit to the mechanisms of technology --either way the result is the same. Historically, the categories of left and right seem to emerge as a duality at the beginning elf the nineteenth century when the capitalist mode of production was beginning to exert its real domination over the process of production, and was becoming a true social force. Thus certain people like Carlyle found themselves in opposition to the apologists of capital, [5] but it was left to Marx to go further : he affirmed the necessity of developing productive forces (and therefore science and technology as well), and at the same time denounced their negative effects on people in the immediate situation. But he thought that all this would eventually lead to a contradiction such that the development of productive forces would no longer be possible without the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. Thereafter these forces would be directed by people themselves, and alienation would cease to exist. But this was to presuppose that capital would not be able to become truly autonomous, that it could not escape from the constraints of the social and economic base on which it is built : the law of value, the exchange of capital and labour power, the rigorous general equivalent (gold), and so on.

By simply having interiorized the social base on which it is built, capital has become autonomous, from which point it has then been able to make its escape. The headlong plunge of its development over a number of years has now let loose grave dangers for humanity and for the whole of nature. Not even the keen-witted experts and the droning old bores can remain aloof any longer from the dangers that now confront us. To a certain degree, they are even obliged to join in the company of those who talk in terms of an apocalyptic future. The apocalypse is fashionable because our world is nearing its end, a world in which human beings, in spite of all the evidence of their weakness and degradation, had always remained the norm, the reference point of the world. But having been presented with the fact that God is dead, we now hear the proclamation of the death of the human being. Both God and humans yield in turn to science, which is at once the goddess and servant of capital : science presents itself in today's world as the study of mechanisms of adaptation which will assimilate human beings and nature into the structure of capital's productive activity. All the signs indicate that it is those who are least destroyed as people, and particularly young people, who now find themselves unable to accept this onslaught of adaptation and domestication; hence they are impelled to refuse the system.

The process of domestication is sometimes brought about violently, as happens with primitive accumulation; more often it proceeds insidiously because revolutionaries continue to think according to assumptions which are implicit in capital and the development of productive forces, and all of them share in exalting the one divinity, science. Hence domestication and repressive consciousness have left our minds fossilized more or less to the point of senility; our actions have become rigidified and our thoughts stereotyped. We have been the soulless frozen masses fixated on the post, believing all the time that we were gazing ahead into the future. But at the time of May/June '68, a new life erupted and the movement of growth towards communism was taken up again. No new theory was produced, nor did any new modes of action appear. The important fact was that the struggle had a new aim. It had nothing to do with politics, ideology, science or even social science (the latter having been totally discredited). Rather, it was a specific and vital need asserted against this society and independently of it : to end the passivity imposed by capital, to rediscover communication between people and to unleash free creativity and unrestrained imagination in a movement of human becoming.


[1] What we call the monetary crisis involves more than just determining the price of gold or redefining its role; nor is it merely a question of establishing a new general equivalent (a new standard altogether), or setting fixed parities among national currencies, or integrating the economies of the money markets (capital as totality -- Marx). The monetary crisis is about the role of capital in its money form, or, more precisely, the superseding of the money form itself, just as there has been a supercession of the commodity form.

[2] Worse than the "heartless world" Marx speaks of in The Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right.

[3] The presupposition underlying such an absurd demand is the supposed biological inferiority of women, which is a scientific illusion. Science has discovered a defect in women and decrees that it is up to science to remedy it. If men are no longer needed (because of parthenogenesis) and if women aren't needed either (since embryos and even ovaries may be developed in phials), then we are left with the question of whether there is any need for the human species after all. Has it not become redundant ? These people seem to believe in solving everything by mutilation. Why not do away with pain by eliminating the organs of sensitivity ? Social and human problems cannot be solved by science and technology. Their only effect when used is to render humanity even more superfluous. Obviously, no one can make a judgement about the feminist movement as a whole just by reference to that aspect now being discussed. The feminist movement is of great importance in the struggle against capital, and it is a subject we hope to take up on in the future. In its critique of capitalist society and the traditional revolutionary movement, it has made a remarkable contribution..

[4] In the original French the author frequently uses the expressions "men", "man", or "mankind", as well as "humans", or "human beings". Where the false generic "man" etc. does occur it has been changed, even though this must involve a distortion of what was originally intended. [translator's note]

[5] The struggle of people against capital has only ever been seen through the narrow focus of class. The only way to be regarded as a real adversary of capital has been to actively identify oneself with the proletariat; all else is romantic, petit bourgeois etc . . . But the very act of reasoning in classist terms means that any particular class is confined within the limits of class analysis. This is particularly important when one considers that the working class has as its mission the elimination of all classes. It also avoids the question of how that class will bring about its own autodestruction, since this classist analysis prevents any lessons being drawn from the tragic intellectual fate of those people who set themselves in opposition to capital without even recognising or identifying their enemy (as with Bergson, for example). Today, when the whole classist approach has been deprived of any solid base, it may be worthwhile to reconsider movements of the right and their thinking. The right is a movement of opposition to capital that seeks to restore a moment which is firmly rooted in the past. Hence in order to eliminate class conflict, the excesses of capitalist individualism, speculation and so on, the Action Francaise and the Nouvelle Action Francaise (NAF) envisage a community which can only be guaranteed, according to them, by a system of monarchy. (See particularly the chapter on capitalism in Les Dossiers de l'Action Francaise).

It seems that every current or group which opposes capital is nonetheless obliged to focus always on the human as the basis of everything. It takes diverse forms, but it has a profoundly consistent basis and is surprisingly uniform wherever human populations are found. Thus by seeking to restore (and install) the volksgemeinschaft, even the Nazis represent an attempt to create such a community (cf. also their ideology of the Urmensh, the "original man"). We believe that the phenomenon of Nazism is widely misunderstood : it is seen by many people only as a demonic expression of totalitarianism. But the Nazis in Germany had reintroduced an old theme originally theorized by German sociologists like Tonnies and Max Weber. And so in response, we find the Frankfurt school, and most notably Adorno, dealing in empty and sterile concepts of "democracy", due to their incapacity to understand the phenomenon of Nazism. They have been unable to grasp Marx's great insight, which was that he posed the necessity of reforming the community, and that he recognised that this reformation must involve the whole of humanity. The problems are there for everybody; they are serious, and they urgently require solutions. People try to work them out from diverse political angles. However, it is not these problems which determine what is revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, but the solutions put forward -- i.e. are they effective or not ? And here the racketeer's mentality descends upon us once again : each gang of the left or the right carves out its own intellectual territory; anyone straying into one or the other of these territories is automatically branded as a member of the relevant controlling gang. Thus we have reification : the object is determinant, the subject passive.