[OPE-L:2572] Re: Critique

From: John Holloway (104164.2012@compuserve.com)
Date: Mon Mar 20 2000 - 23:12:33 EST

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 Dear Jerry, Paul, Nicky, Mike, Andrew and all,

1) Paul Z says in OPE-L 2560:

"A 12-page section on fetishism in one chapter does not a book of 724 pages
make. Production of surplus value would have a greater claim (328 pages),
followed by accumulation of capital (196 pages). Even wages gets more
attention (28 pages in a whole "Part")."

Chapter 19 (English) is entitled "The Transformation of the Value ... of
Labour-Power into Wages". How do you understand that if not as a critique
of fetishism? The first sentence of Capital says "the wealth of those
societies, in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents
itself as an 'immense accumulation of commodities.'" How do you understand
'presents itself' if not in terms of the critique of fetishism. the seecond
paragraph begins: "a commodity is, in the first place, an object outside
us". How do you understand that, if not in terms of fetishism? How do you
understand the question of form (value-form, money-form, capital-form etc)
if not in terms of the critique of fetishism? Why is it that Marx makes the
question of form the key distinction between his approach and that of
bourgeois theory? And so on and so on and so on through almost every
paragraph of the three volumes.

2) Paul Z. says in OPE-L 2565, in reply to Andrew K:

"No, *Capital* is about the exploitation and domination by one social class
over another in the specific form of the capitalist mode of production. It
is NOT principally about workers being "dominated by the product of her/his
own hand".

This brings us back to the old rigid we/ them class demarcation favoured by
Paul C. and Jerry. But surely the whole point of the labour theory of value
is to say that it is labour which produces capital, that workers are
therefore dominated by their own product, that capital therefore depends
absolutely on labour for its existence? Is this not the substance of the
theory of crisis? Is this not the basis of hope for a different society?
[Talking of hope, Nicky's mention of Bloch a month or so ago was a ray of
sunshine - or am I wrong?]

3) Jerry says in OPE-L 2567:

"Secondly, I would add -- and this is what I object to the most -- that the
focus on critique *alone* (as I hear John H saying) loses sight of the
fact that the *subject* of _Capital_ is capitalism."

Since you hear me saying it, Jerry, I'd better say it: I think the Marxist
method is exclusively critical.

And I do not think that the *subject* of Capital is capitalism. I think
that we (a vague collectivity in which I include both Marx and ourselves)
are the subject of Capital. (Bear with me, this is not intended as a
facetious word-play). When we read any book or study any object, we are the
subject. The object we study (capitalism, for example) presents itself to
us a 'thing outside us', exactly as Marx says of the commodity. We can
either accept that self-presentation of the object as a thing outside us
and study it objectively, or we can try to understand how that 'thing' is
the objectified extension of our own subjectivity. The former method
confirms and reproduces our own powerlessness. The latter method, the
critical or dialectical method or scientific method (Marx), tries to
understand the world in terms of our own subjectivity and the negation or
objectification of that subjectivity. This method, which I think Marx
insists upon repeatedly from the Introduction to the Critique of Hegel to
the 1844 Manuscripts to the famous passage in the Introduction to the
Grundrisse and throughout Capital itself, is central to understanding
Capital as class struggle (and not as a decade's sabbatical from class
struggle, as Paul seemed to suggest in his reply to Nicky). The method in
itself is the theoretical recuperation of the power of work, which is
surely central to the revolutionary process. Any account of 'capitalism'
which does not have that at its centre reproduces the fetishised appearance
of capital as a thing.

        Critique then is simply the understanding of an 'object' as the
product of our own doing, ie. the critique of the fetishised
self-presentation of the object as onject. This is sometimes referred to as
the 'verum factum' principle, that the truth of our knowledge of an object
lies in our understanding of its making, and can be traced back to Vico and
Hobbes but really blossoms with Hegel and Marx.

        So: Paul Z. says in OPE-L 2560:

"Critique is ONLY the movement of anti-fetishization or INCLUDES the
movement of anti-fetishization among other factors?"

        Simply that: critique is the movement of anti-fetishisation,
nothing else. We start from the fetishised appearances of 'things' and try
to understand both that they are products of our own doing and (the return
journey, as Marx calls it in the Grundrisse) why they exist as things which
negate our doing, i.e. as fetishised forms of social relations.

        And Jerry says in OPE-L 2556:

"How does "critique" in Marx's understanding transcend simple criticism
   or rejection of previous conceptions? How does this fit in with his
   revolutionary politics and "scientific" world-view? E.g. do other
   "sciences" self-consciously advance by means of critique?"

        See above, Marx's method is indistinguishably

4) Paul Z. asked:

"P.S. John, do you know anything of Juan Pablo Perez Sainz? He was working
on topics close to your own, but I have lost complete track of him.
Thanks for any info."

I think he was working in FLACSO, Costa Rica, about eight years ago, but
I've lost touch. He may still be there. Perhaps someone else knows?

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