[OPE-L:2613] Re: Critique

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 27 2000 - 21:31:16 EST

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Re John H's [OPE-L:2611]:
> Yes. The problem is to understand labour as the subject-object of history,
> as Lukács puts it. Capital, as you say, treats labour as object. Hence our
> perspective can only be a critique of capital's perspective, a critique of
> the objectification of labour, in other words a critique of the treatment
> of labour as victim. It is through that critique that we assert the
> subjectivity of labour. Are we in agreement? I wonder.

You ask: are we in agreement? My answer is (perhaps predictably): yes and

So I will try to identify below what I see as the fundamental areas of
agreement and disagreement.

I think we agree, most fundamentally, on "the whole". I.e. a general
perspective on how it (capitalism and the working class) all fits
together. Consequently, on most practical, political questions we would
find ourselves in agreement (I think).

Where we differ, most fundamentally, is on our interpretation of

1. As you have made abundantly clear, you view the subject of
   _Capital_ as critique of political economy. While I agree that
   critique of political economy was an essential part of Marx's purpose
   and method of investigation and presentation, I think that the subject
   of Marx's work (of which _Capital_ was, in my view, only one part of
   a larger project) was "modern society" (capitalism).

2) You believe that our standpoint must be to critique the perspective by
   capital of workers as objects (victims) and to assert the subjectivity
   of labor. I agree that we must advance this critique and understanding,
   but don't believe that was Marx's purpose in writing _Capital_. Rather,
   I would say that the one-sided treatment of wage-labor in _Capital_
   requires that at a later stage of the analysis (or "layer" of
   abstraction) the subject of wage-labor be developed and deepened.
   In other words, you see the subjectivity of the working class within
   _Capital_ via the critique of political economy. I think that this
   subjectivity was intentionally not developed in _Capital_ because it
   was to form the subject of another one of Marx's books (Book 3) and
   would be developed still further when addressing other subjects (in
   Books 4-6).

   My perspective, thus, on the _place_ for this subject in Marx's theory
   is very similar to that held by Mike L.

   Perhaps this also explains, therefore, how we can share many other
   perspectives despite this difference in interpretation. An analogy
   might be to consider the relationship of Toni Negri's theory and
   interpretation to that of Harry Cleever. Both Toni and Harry, as we
   both know, agree much more on basic theoretical and political issues
   than on their understandings of _Capital_. This is most strikingly
   obvious when one compares Negri's interpretation of how the subject of
   wage-labor was treated in the _Grundrisse_ vs. _Capital_ in _Marx
   Beyond Marx_. As you know, Toni advances an interpretation (similar to
   that of Mike L in this regard) that when Marx wrote _Capital_ he was
   still following the "6 book plan" and that this subject was to be
   developed in the planned book on "Wage-Labour" (Book 3). Harry, on the
   other hand, in _Reading Capital Politically_ argues that this subject
   was the theme of _Capital_ and can be observed throughout the 3

   Your interpretation of _Capital_ (and that of fellow listmember,
   Massimo) is close to Harry's (I think). Mine is closer to Toni than to
   Harry and closer still to Mike L than Toni.

Does this make it easier for you to see where there are agreements and
disagreements between us on these issues?

> The study of the logic of capital (the object of 'Marxist economics'?)
> gives an understanding of capitalist development only to the extent that
> labour is really objectified, to the extent that fetishism is total. The
> problem, of course, is that to the extent that labour is really
> objectified, the self-emancipation of the working class is inconceivable.

I agree with the last sentence, of course (except I would substitute
"totally objectified" for "objectified" since the working class *is*
objectified but this is a very incomplete process and the *dual* -- in the
dialectic of object/subject -- of this is the treatment of the working
class as subject).

Perhaps this suggests another agreement, i.e. the need to critique Marx
himself and _Capital_. For example, we have to critically examine
_Capital_ and ask not only what *is* there from a critical perspective but
also ask what *is not* there and why. (some might call this "speculation"
but I see it as a component part of critique).

And, of course, we would agree that theory (and praxis) must be
developed *beyond* Marx. And it is my strong conviction that Marx, btw,
would demand no less of us.
In solidarity, Jerry

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