[OPE-L:3243] Re: process & subjects

From: Jerry Levy (jerry_levy@usa.net)
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 11:12:50 EDT

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Paul C wrote in [OPE-L:3227]:

>>Is it possible to conceive of capitalism as a subjectless process?
> I disagree, as soon as one specify laws of motion of a system one
> escapes from the idealist subjectivist problematic.

What are the laws of motion specified for the capitalist system?

You seem to think that if we identify subjects which have some role in
determining their own actions then we descend into a "idealist subjectivist
problematic". Yet, workers (and humans in general) are neither ants nor
robots. I.e. they can recognize their own condition and engage in struggle.
Indeed, if this were not the case then class struggles would be

> There are subjects in capitalist society but they are not classes,
> they are abstract juridical subjects - firms and individuals.
> E B Pashukanis is good on this.

Classes are composed of individuals. This is not a subjectivist illusion -- it
is a statement of fact.

> Yes, but the blind mechanistic process is not purely economic
> it is political as well. It involves the struggles of political parties
> and armies.

So, these political struggles can be conceived of as a blind mechanistic
process? If that were the case, then political struggles could not be
conceived of in any meaningful strategic sense in which the actors can respond
in alternative ways and anticipate possible moves by the other side. Indeed,
if the political struggle is blind and mechanistic then it is so simple that
it can not even be modeled in a very simple game-theoretic context. Indeed, if
it is a blind mechanistic process, then the results should be predictable and
not subject to change. I don't even know if it would be accurate to conceive
of some *natural* struggles (e.g. hunting strategies by different species) in
these terms.

It seems to me that what any theory has to take into account is the specific
nature of the subject that one is investigating. Political struggles and
economic struggles are *class struggles* which are conducted by the
individuals and sub-groups of classes. Thus, any social theory for struggle
must be modeled and understood in an *essentially* different way than
non-human natural struggles.
> Since these are organised collectivities that, to
> a certain extent are subject to a unified command and control
> structure, the notion of subjects retains some limited purchase
> as a means of thinking through what happens.

The organized collectivities are composed of subjects who can shape, change,
and de-compose the collectivities. E.g. (since you mention armies), are
mutinies not possible? This is a matter of some political importance, btw.

> But in general
> we must drop ideas of subjects when dealing with collectiivities
> as large as whole societies.

"Society" is an undifferentiated abstraction. The collectivities (e.g.
classes) can only be seen at a lower level of aggregation than "society".

>>Since there is no
>>reason to believe in such a subjectless process of self-
>>destruction, one must conclude that capitalism will last
> What was the 'subject' in the paleolithic/neolithic
> transition?
> I have never heard of any plausible subject for that
> most momentous of all human revolutions, despite
> this the paleolithic ended.

You lost me.

Obviously, there are some events in human history in which humans have no
control. E.g. if a huge meteor hit our planet and destroyed all human (and
most if not all other) life. In that case, then our decisions and actions
would make no difference. Under most other circumstances, we have some ability
through our struggles to affect what happens.

In solidarity, Jerry

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