Rough Theory

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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Many Fragments on the Centrality of Wage Labour

Too long – and too sketchy – therefore below the fold with everything but the first paragraph (with the warning for readers tempted to click through that the hidden content does not do justice to the apparent theme)…

Why does Marx maintain that wage labour is central to capitalism? Praxis points out in a recent post that there are at least a couple of potential ways that capitalism could be defined in dialogue with Marx’s work: as a runaway process of production become an end in itself; and as a process of production centred on wage labour. Marx seems to think these two definitions are mutually implicated – in historical factuality, if not in conceptual or practical necessity. How, though, does Marx understand this mutual implication? Read more of this post

Historical Materialism Conference

I suppose I should mention that I’ll be presenting to the Historical Materialism Conference at SOAS in London, 7-9 November. I’ll post more details on the paper closer to the event – suffice to say that the paper I proposed way back when is… somewhat more esoteric than what I would propose to present now… Still, looking forward to the event – interesting time to be attending this conference. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there…

Fragment on Crisis, Contradiction and Critique (Updated)

Once again, very very tangentially related to discussions of the current crisis. And deeply underdeveloped.

My contention is that Marx understands the “standpoint” of his critique to be potentials that could be released by a reconfiguration of the “materials” that we have made available to ourselves in constituting a particular aspect of our present form of collective life. It is not incidental to his critique that he understands it to be possible to grasp core aspects of the present form of collective life in terms of contradictory social forms, nor is it incidental that he understands the present form of collective life to be crisis-prone. Neither contradiction nor crisis per se, however, directly provides Marx with a standpoint of critique. Instead, contradiction and crisis tendencies are presented, in his analysis, as distinctive qualitative characteristics of the process by which capital is reproduced.

Marx makes the point that contradictions and crises are characteristic of the reproduction of capital, rather than phenomena that by themselves point beyond capital, in various places. I’ll archive two quotations on the subject here – from Marx’s discussion of the means of circulation in chapter 3. First on contradiction:

We saw in a former chapter that the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions. The further development of the commodity does not abolish these contradictions, but rather provides the form within which they have room to move. This is, in general, the way in which real contradictions are resolved. For instance, it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another and at the same time constantly flying away from it. The ellipse is a form of motion within which this contradiction is both realized and resolved. (198)

Then on crisis (and the relation between the possibility for crisis, and the contradictory character of the form, is particularly clear in this quotation):

Circulation bursts through all the temporal, spatial and personal barriers imposed by the direct exchange of products, and it does this by splitting up the direct identity present in this case between the exchange of one’s own product and the acquisition of someone else’s into the two antithetical segments of sale and purchase. To say that these mutually independent and antithetical processes form an internal unity is to say also that their internal unity moves forward through external antitheses. These two processes lack internal independence because they complement each other. Hence, if the assertion of their external independence proceeds to a certain critical point, their unity violently makes itself felt by producing – a crisis. There is an antithesis, immanent in the commodity, between use-value and value, between private labour which must simultaneously manifest itself as directly social labour, and a particular concrete kind of labour which simultaneously counts as merely abstract universal labour, between the conversion of things into persons and the conversion of persons into things; the antithetical phases of the metamorphosis of the commodity are the developed forms of motion of this immanent contradiction. These forms therefore imply the possibility of crises, though no more than the possibility. (209)

Crisis figures here as the violent assertion of the underlying unity of antithetical moments of a social relation. Crisis is implied by the qualitative characteristics of that relation itself. In and of itself, neither the contradictory character of the relation, nor the crisis tendencies through which that contradictory character sometimes manifests itself, point beyond this relation.

This point is separate from the question, now being discussed at a few other blogs, of whether a historical period characterised by crisis is ripe for the development of a movement oriented to emancipatory social change. My personal opinion is that this latter question cannot productively be discussed abstractly, because I don’t see how the answer is amenable to generic theoretical determinations: theoretical analysis can cast light on how a particular kind of crisis could represent, not a breakdown of a social system, but rather a distinctive mode of social reproduction for a peculiar form of collective life; this is a far less complex question than whether some particular historical juncture might provide a fertile ground for the right kind of political struggle.

Updated to add: Reid Kotlas from Planomenology has a nice post up, discussing the cross-blog conversation on crisis, contradiction, and possibilities for transformative political practice. Among other things, the post picks up on elements of the comment above, linking these reflections to some of the concepts I’ve outlined earlier. A quick excerpt:

What would Bartleby politics look like for us, here on the ground level of the economy? Nicole at Rough Theory weighs in on the debate concerning crisis and change, and her response is quite instructive for our problem. She reminds us that the crisis and contradictions generated by capitalism are, for Marx, not necessarily elements of its collapse or overcoming, but rather, only part of the reproduction of capital. The question of emancipatory change, which for her is bound to the standpoint of critique, the genesis of a position capable of really breaking with the logic of capital, cannot be posed abstractly; it is not a question of ‘is this the right time?’ or ‘what kind of conditions does it require?’. It is a practical question of bringing about such positions through the reconfiguration of the ‘materials’ of social being – the ‘social but non-intersubjective element’ that she has previously discussed, which I would not hesitate to identify with the Symbolic order itself, or rather, the way subjects are bound up in it through organizations of jouissance. By intervening directly in the organization of collective praxis, which is to say, arrangements of enunciation and production, we can engender such a critical standpoint.

Or maybe I can put this another way. It is not that we must figure out some more radical form of organization, so as to bring about a break with capitalism. The question is how to organize collectively in line with a break that is already structurally presupposed in capitalism (the proletariat position), but that is at the same time rejected from assumption or possession, that is dis-inherited or foreclosed. It is not a question of bringing about a critical standpoint, but of enacting the necessary exclusion of its possibility, through the circulation of praxicals (indices of collective praxes, constellations of discursive and productive arrangements) that do not point toward capital as a pure possession of productivity, as the fullness of the yield of production. This latter notion is probably quite enigmatic at the moment, but it is what I am attempting to develop in my thesis (which is complete and will be posted here soon), and in my preliminary formulations of a practical model of schizoanalysis, which is, for me, a collective reorganization of the social/non-intersubjective materials of symbolic structures and relations of production.

Keep an eye on Planomenology, then, to see how these points are elaborated and developed. (Apologies for lack of a more detailed comment on these points – buried away working at the moment, but will hopefully resurface again soon.)

Fragment on State “Intervention”

This post will pick up in a very indirect way on some of the issues running through the discussion below on what kind of “state intervention” or what kind of “regulation” will emerge in relation to the current economic crisis.

Two points. Very very tangential.

First: it is somewhat common for commentators to write as though Marx has a theory of the “economy” but, sadly, not a theory of forms of government or political institutions or power. I would suggest that this perceived lack might come from the sort of smuggled assumption to which Praxis draws attention in a recent post – the assumption that a theory of the forms of government or power must take the form of a theory of a national state.

Sometimes commentators set out to supplement Marx’s economic theory by offering their own theory of the state or other institutional governmental actors. Often, these analyses take up from the point Ryan/Aless has put forward below – they operate as demonstrations of how governmental institutions serve the “interests” of various class actors. This sort of analysis is taken to be consonant with Marx’s economic analysis – which is itself therefore positioned as a form of ideology critique – as an analysis geared toward revealing the existence of class domination, in the assumption that such domination is customarily concealed – by, e.g., the universalising pretensions of social contract discourses, rights talk, and other expressions that edit out power imbalances that run through the formally free transactions of economic exchange. The assumption here is that Marx’s critical theory is primarily oriented to whisking away the veil of universalism, to reveal the distorting particularity underneath. Historically, this understanding of Marx’s critique would often have been associated with the desire to assert – as, for example, Lukács does – a “true” universal that could counter the false universalism being criticised.

I don’t contest that it can be useful to debunk universalising pretensions or to reveal power relations that might be difficult to see. I do contest that one needs an apparatus anything like Capital to achieve this goal. It does not take this kind of massive, ornate theoretical system to demonstrate the existence of power relations, or to show that certain social groups benefit disproportionately, and others suffer heavily, from existing social conditions: empirical work – even journalistic work – is both more efficient and more effective for this purpose.

Marx is not, I think, unaware of this: he mobilises such a vast apparatus in Capital, not because he is pathologically verbose or hopelessly misguided in his choice of theoretical strategies, but because he has different theoretical goals. He is trying to analyse social forms – to show how these forms are generated in collective practice – and to ask what else we might be able to create, with the materials the constitution of these forms have accidentally made available to us. The unfolding of this critique might unveil a number of things along the way – concealed power relations, the determinate social bases of universalising discourses, unrecognised potentials for constituting new forms of collective life – but the goal of the analysis as a whole is to investigate, as thoroughly as possible, the various inherited conditions we have not chosen, because it is out of the building blocks provided by these unchosen conditions that we will build any subsequent history.

Second: a great deal of content is already smuggled into the discussion, once we start speaking in terms of state “intervention” or “regulation”. The dichotomy of “political institutions” and “the economy” is operative here without an analysis of whether there might be some underlying relation that captures the distinctive forms that are positioned in such an antithetical relation. This antithesis participates in a classical liberal distinction between forms of conscious collective governance – which figure as artificial and thus as overtly political, contingent and contestable – and forms of nonconscious collective governance – which figure as apolitical – as natural, organic and “environmental” (and which are historically associated with particular conceptions of nature – as both a self-regulating lawlike sphere, and as a blind organimistic process: more on this another time). Counter to the readings that see Marx as a theorist of the economy, who didn’t get around to providing a theory of political forms, I would suggest that Marx’s formal analysis does provide an analysis of the forms of political power bound up in the reproduction of the social relation that is capital – that this analysis does not focus on the issue of the “interests” served by political institutions – and that, moreover, the associated analysis of what are generally taken to be “economic” forms is intended precisely to show the non-economic character – the qualitative characteristics that cannot be explained with reference to any intrinsic requirement of material reproduction – of what present themselves intuitively as “economic” forms.

I cannot adequately outline what I take to be Marx’s analysis of forms of political power here – the analysis is simply too multifaceted and pervasive throughout his text to boil down into a post. I’ll offer some gestures, just to give a sense of what I have in mind.

Already in the opening chapter, in the “dialectical” derivation of the money form, the commodity figures as a social subject, oriented to relations of mutual recognition with other commodities: when we later learn that commodities can be more than “things outside us” – that there is also a very peculiar sort of commodity that happens to be a person – this revelation is meant to retroject back on this opening section, revealing the section to be a preliminary discussion of the practical basis for the social plausibility of social contract, rights, and mutual recognition discourses. The chapter on the Working Day analyses why “regulation” is necessitated by the form of production it superficially appears to oppose – and why this regulation takes a particular universalistic shape. The discussion of machinery and large-scale industry puts forward the nucleus of an analysis of tendencies to bureaucratisation, drives to what Foucault called “biopower”, pressures to technocracy. So much more…

This list is inadequate, and doesn’t do justice to the analysis. Suffice to say that I’m always struck when commentators take Marx not to have gotten around to discussing these issues, since I see the question of forms of (overt) political power and institutions to be shot through the entire text – alongside a parallel discussion of the social constitution of forms of power that derive from forms of unintentional collective coercion that we impose on one another – often while pursuing those “interests” that are taken by so many to be the major finding of Marxist critique. (For Marx, of course, it is… of interest… that social agents driven by the pursuit of their own interests, should unintentionally constitute such a complex system of mutual compulsions as a sort of side effect of practices oriented to other ends – so “interests” are not off the analytical table – it’s just that a much simpler theoretical apparatus could have been mobilised, if this were the end point of the analysis.)

Apologies that these points are both so sweeping, and so underdeveloped: placeholders for myself. At some point these claims will hopefully assume a more defensible form.

The Doing of Dialectics

Okay. I’m realising that I’m in a situation a bit like what happened a year ago, when I started thinking I really should write a quick post on Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism – and then realised I needed to outline a bit of background first – and then ended up with that background blowing out into dozens of posts on the first chapter of Capital and, ultimately, into a doctoral thesis… ;-P I keep stalling over “quick” posts about specific aspects of Marx’s work that would be potentially relevant to analyses of the current crisis, because I realise that, in order to write those posts and have any hope of making sense, I need to outline a fair bit of background. Attempts to sidestep this background by coming up with some other way through Marx’s presentational thicket just seem to be adding even more bits of background to my list of things I need to cover… Since this seems to be threatening a sort of infinite regress, I think I need just to start tossing out some of this background, without worrying, for the moment, how I might eventually pick up these various pieces and do something useful with them. Apologies for this, as this is a moment when it might be particularly… useful… to do something… useful… But for the time being I can’t see a good way around it…

So… first fragment… Capital spends an enormous amount of time unfolding what Marx generally calls “formal” analyses of various categories – analyses of forms. “Dialectical” or “categorial” readings of Marx tend to distil these formal analyses, sifting them out from other aspects of the text – sometimes because the formal analyses can be a bit difficult to follow, and so a pristine presentation of the forms and their relations can make it easier to work out what Marx is doing in these parts of his analysis – but sometimes, as well, because these sorts of readings simply regard the formal analysis as the core (or even the entirety) of the analysis put forward in Capital, and therefore interpret other aspects of Marx’s textual strategy as more or less unfortunate digressions from the main thrust of his text. At some point, I’ll try to outline how this plays out in the work of specific commentators. For the moment, I’ll just let this caricature stand as a placeholder without directly impugning the work of any specific commentator with this simplification – my goal here is simply to mark for myself that I need to write on this, while not getting too deep into the Marxological trenches at this precise point.

Okay. Continuing the caricature – another placeholder: Dialectical or categorial readings are often criticised for rendering Marx into an idealist – for hypostatising or reifying Marx’s categories – for granting undue ontological status to what should be seen as “mere” concepts, as the ideological abstractions of political economy – for losing the “materialist” orientation of Marx’s text. For present purposes, I won’t explain why dialectical or categorial readings might draw down on themselves this sort of critique. My personal position is that these sorts of critiques often rely on a somewhat ungenerous reading of dialectical or categorial approaches to Marx – and also that these critiques often miss the nature of Marx’s critique of idealism, which consists – I would argue – in showing how what are often taken to be merely “ideal” entities, are themselves enacted in specific ways in collective practice, and thus possess a constituted collective reality.

Dialectical or categorial readings of Marx are often better on this issue as a programmatic matter – they frequently (although not always) at least note that Marx’s formal analysis is trying to grasp, not “mere” concepts, but, e.g., real abstractions, forms of social being, or similar entities. These readings generally don’t, however, close this programmatic circle by outlining how Marx believes he has shown the practical collective generation of his formal categories – instead, the tendency is to focus on the meaning of the categories, and the relationships between them. This omission takes place, I would suggest, because, once you distil out the formal analysis from other aspects of Marx’s text, you have actually removed much of the means through which Marx effects this demonstration – thus picking out those elements of the text that outline the “ideals” for which Marx is trying to account, while leaving behind many of the moves through which he casts light on the genesis of these ideals in collective practice.

The tendency of dialectical or categorial readings to assert, but not fully cash out, the claim that Marx is doing something more than an idealist analysis is, I believe, one of the reasons that it is somewhat easy to mistake dialectical or categorial readings for being more “idealist” than they generally see themselves as being. (As always, there are exceptions: some dialectical readings of Marx understand Capital primarily as a sort of thought experiment in constructing an ideal type of pure capitalism: these would be frankly idealist readings of the text.)

One of the things I am aiming to do with my own reading – whether this is sufficiently evident in the blog posts to this stage or not – is to draw more attention to how Marx thinks he can demonstrate the practical genesis of the forms he analyses. The principal obstacle to my work is Marx’s own textual strategy, which can very easily be read as a logical – hence, purely ideal – derivation of subsequent categories from earlier ones. The text does present a categorial derivation – new categories are introduced by demonstrating impasses that cannot be resolved by earlier categories. The manner of presentation suggests very strongly that one could, in principle, be able to derive the categories through sheer force of thought alone – as in the opening transcendental “derivation” of the categories value and abstract labour (127-131), the derivation of the “peculiar commodity” of labour power from the demonstration that greater value can arise neither in circulation nor in production alone (268-271), and countless similar moves through the text. The manner of presentation also periodically suggests a strongly idealist vision of pre-existing concepts that can be held up against an empirical reality that can then be judged to be more or less adequate to those categories – as when Marx, for example, analyses the adequacy with which various forms of value express immanent potentials of this category (157-161), or says of world money that it is at this point that money’s “mode of existence becomes adequate to its concept” (241). And finally, the manner of presentation often treats the categories as though they are agents in their own right, shaping the contours of empirical reality – as when, for example, Marx talks about value requiring “an independent form by means of which its identity with itself may be asserted” (255).

There are other ways of understanding what Marx is doing in these sorts of passages – I’ve provided alternative readings of some of these passages in the past, and will hopefully tackle some of the others in the near future. My point is simply that dialectical or categorial readings often attract criticism for being too “idealist” precisely when they retain too much of Marx’s mode of presentation when trying to develop what Marx is doing in these sorts of passages: they attract this criticism because Marx is in fact using frankly “idealist” forms of presentation in such passages, and so it can be difficult to discuss these aspects of the text without making it seem as though concepts have become independent agents on the world-historical stage, while human actors are reduced to the status of mere “bearers” of these concepts – as, indeed, Marx often explicitly labels them to be (254). But if Marx does not understand his argument in idealist terms – if he is intending instead to critically situate idealism as a hypostatisation of “real abstractions” or “forms of social being” that are generated in collective practice – then the weight of his own analysis must somehow lie behind an argument about how such abstractions are generated – how they are products, and not independent drivers, of human action, how they are practised, and not simply thought.

We know that Marx is aiming for this sort of argument from Marx’s rare metatheoretical reflections in the margins of Capital – as in the following footnote, which I have analysed on the blog before, and which states explicitly that the goal is to develop the ideal from an analysis of “actual, given relations” – to show how determinate aspects of collective practices generate some particular ideal, which thus exists in a non-random relation to those practices:

It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly kernel of the misty creations of religion than to do the opposite, i.e. to develop from the actual, given relations of life the forms in which these have been apotheosized. The latter method is the only materialist, and therefore the only scientific one. The weaknesses of the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism which excludes the historical process, are immediately evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions expressed by its spokesmen whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality. (ftnt. 4, 493-94)

Some of the earliest posts on this blog mention how Marx draws the reader’s attention to this agenda in his very early discussion of Aristotle from the discussion of the value form in the third section of the opening chapter (151-152). Aristotle figures here as someone who almost does derive the concept of value as a concept – through something like brute force of logic, from thinking through what might cause the collective practice of exchange to involve the exchange of equivalents. While Aristotle’s towering logic enables him to deduce the possibility of something like value, Aristotle nevertheless dismisses the concept, and concludes that there is no underlying substance that is being equated in the process of exchange. Exchange is, instead, a mere “makeshift for practical purposes”. Marx here explicitly says that the “historical limitation inherent in the society in which he lived” prevented Aristotle from arriving at the category of value: the absence of wage labour – which we will soon learn Marx regards as the “historical pre-condition [that] comprises a world’s history” (274) – prevented Aristotle from “discovering” value. Marx’s mode of presentation doesn’t allow him to say more directly, at this point in the text, that this is because value is not there to be “discovered” – I have argued at length elsewhere that this is Marx’s position.

The categories Marx analyses in Capital are:

forms of thought which are socially valid, and therefore objective, for the relations of production belonging to this historically determined mode of social production, i.e. commodity production (169)

Marx is attempting to grasp that social validity – to grasp the generation, and therefore the conditions and limits, of these categories. In doing this, he adopts an idealist idiom – in no small part because he seems to think this idiom grasps qualitatively important characteristics of the forms of social validity he seeks to understand. If value stalks the stage of Capital as an “automatic subject” (255) – and yet Marx maintains that value is a “social substance” (128, italics mine) into which “[n]ot an atom of matter enters” (138) – there must be some way in which our collective practices constitute something that confronts us, its creators, as “a regulative law of nature” (168): something we create reacts back on us as a blind and alien process to which we become subjected. Marx argues that “These formulas [of political economy] bear the unmistakable stamp of belonging to a social formation in which the process of production has mastery over man” (174-175) – in which our own creation, the product of our collective action, has come to be experienced as an external force of domination. In such a context, idealism offers Marx the resources to express important qualitative characteristics of the phenomena he is trying to grasp – and yet he must also go beyond these expressions, to analyse the practical genesis of what presents itself to us as though it is an agent independent of our control. The “idealist” properties of the context cannot therefore be dismissed as mere errors – instead, these properties need to be situated and explained, through a demonstration of how we collectively effect phenomena that can to some extent be validly (if incompletely) described in “idealist” terms. My suggestion is that Marx tries to square this circle by thematising core aspects of capitalism as aggregate unintentional side effects of collective action that is oriented to other ends – that categories like “value”, “abstract labour” – “capital” itself – are real abstractions that we collectively make, without setting out to achieve such a result. Marx finds idealism – Hegel’s idealism specifically – useful in trying to grasp the qualitative characteristics of these real abstractions, and thus positions Hegelian idealism as a metaphysical hypostatisation of the “actual, given relations” of a distinctive form of social life.

More on all this later… For the moment, just notes for myself… Unproofed. Apologies…

Crisis Archive

Apologies again for the lack of posting recently – I’ll try to join the fray again very soon, and am particularly keen to pick up on elements of the discussion currently unfolding in relation to my last post: soon.

In the meantime, I just wanted to archive a few introductory reference links on the crisis. First, if folks haven’t noticed it, there is a useful collection of orientational links on the crisis being collected at a new blog titled The Money Meltdown, which is geared to non-specialist readers trying to make sense of the crisis. Lumpenprof has recently raised the question of how to discuss elements of the crisis with undergraduate students – I had suggested the Giant Pool of Money episode from This American Life was an accessible and interesting way “in” to the crisis for undergraduates – I haven’t had a chance to look at the transcript to the more recent follow-up episode, but would guess that wouldn’t be a bad bet either. Some useful historical notes on the crisis can be found in this piece by R.D. Congleton.

I’ll do something less… referential very soon. Unfortunately, since I can’t really pull myself out of thesis space right now, my comments will most likely be more abstract and non-specific to this particular situation than I would like to make them. If others have links they’d like to recommend on the crisis, please feel free to post them here – with a quick indication, if you could, of what the linked material discusses and why you would recommend it.

Many thanks…

Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists

The final paragraph from Luigi Zingales critique of the Paulson plan reads:

The decisions that will be made this weekend matter not just to the prospects of the U.S. economy in the year to come; they will shape the type of capitalism we will live in for the next fifty years. Do we want to live in a system where profits are private, but losses are socialized? Where taxpayer money is used to prop up failed firms? Or do we want to live in a system where people are held responsible for their decisions, where imprudent behavior is penalized and prudent behavior rewarded? For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system. The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists.

Following – more loosely than I would like – the reporting of the financial crisis, I have found myself recurrently distracted by the ways in which capitalism is described – as an ideal and as an object of critique – and the ways in which the current crisis is being framed against the models provided by previous crises. I won’t be able to get at the things that have been interesting me – mostly likely not until the PhD goes in, at which point I wouldn’t mind tackling this situation systematically for a postdoctoral project.

But just to comment inadequately and in passing, several of the things that have caught my attention are expressed in the conclusion to the Zingales piece. One is a sense that – in a rough and inexact way – I don’t want to overstate the similarities, but they are there, and I can’t help but be struck by them: this same sort of framing might well have been used early in the 20th century, to set up for a critique of capitalism. The question “Do we want to live in a system where profits are private, but losses are socialized?” – in the quotation above, this sets up for the desired conclusion: no, we want a system where everything is privatised. Turn back time, and it could well have been the opening volley in an argument that everything should be social.

Saving capitalism from the capitalists – the language of gambling, of speculation, of irresponsible and reckless individuals – it’s all over the coverage. There are historical resonances here too – framings that were once used to push through the reforms of the welfare state. I’m also interested, though, in this specific distinction between “capitalism” and “capitalists” – this is a distinction that was, I think, quite important in Marx’s work: individuals as bearers of economic roles – individuals as beneficiaries and as more or less wilful and abhorrent exploiters of social circumstances – but capitalism itself having an ontological status that is in some meaningful sense externalised in relation to those individuals whose actions nevertheless perform the reproduction of capital. For Marx – and I’ll try to write more on this in the future – this externalisation opens up some important options for critique and transformation, while at the same time, and within current circumstances, operating as a form of domination of the collective consequences of social action over the actors. The passage above treats the externalised entity capitalism as distinct from its imprudent bearers – and this entity also becomes an ideal that must be preserved, at the expense of those bearers if needed. The capitalists can go – capitalism, no. The bearers are more contingent that the process they bear – the process is taken to carry, not simply hard force, but a distinctively normative power.

All of this needs more analysis than I can provide at present… But one interesting dimension of the current crisis is the rendering manifest of these distinctions in much more popular discussion than we’ve seen for some time, I think… Articulations can have their own hard power – as well as normative force: large-scale public discussion of capitalism – what it is, what it should be – has now opened up on a massive scale. What is articulated now will likely define a space of possibilities for the sorts of actions that lie ready to hand in the decades to come… Opening some potentials… Placing others farther out of reach… This is a time when theorising structural possibilities becomes… unusually impactful… The previous major structural transformation opened an experiential and interpretive gap into which flooded the interpretive systems and policies that have led us here. The question when confronting present and future transformations is how to open the potential for something other – for something that holds onto emancipatory promises that can otherwise be easily drowned out in reactive responses, conditioned by an environment primed to be receptive to ideals of capitalism as an end in itself…

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