[OPE-L:3246] Re: Re: process & subjects

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 17:33:14 EDT

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At 09:12 17/05/00 MDT, ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu wrote:
>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?

some of them are
        law of value
        tendancy of increasing rate of exploitation
        tendancy of the rate of exploitation to fall
        tendancy of the mode of production to expand at
         expense of other modes of production
        tendancy to constantly revolutionise technology
        law of the falling rate of profit

>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

What is a robot in the original Czech - nothing other than a worker.
The phrase entered the english language from the play RUR in the
1930's where it refered to Rossers Universal Robots - the
universal worker. What else is abstract labour.

>I.e. they can recognize their own condition and engage in struggle.
>Indeed, if this were not the case then class struggles would be

Yes individuals may be subjects in a restricted sense, that does
not apply to collectivities.

>> 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.

What is true of an individual need not apply to a collectivity. Individuals
have feet classes do not.

But I would take a more radically sckeptical position with respect to the
subject than that. I would say that individuals are only subjects in
a restricted sense. They are constituted as subjects by juridical
ideology, which also constitutes Ford and GM as subjects. It is
the relationship of commodity exchange that creates juridical subjects
in this sense. Any agent capable of buying and selling a commodity
is a subject in terms of the laws of capitalist society.

The category of subject has another objective existence as a
grammatical category - in the sense of subject of a sentence.
But it is, to borrow the terminology of linguistic philosophy,
a category error to use such a grammatical component as
a philosophical category.

The philosophically mis-applied category of subject has no
scientific standing and no explanatory utility in explaining
the non-linguistic or non-juridical performance of individual human agents.
It is not category used by researchers into the operations of
the brain and consciousness.

rigorous materialism shares with the Bhuddists the concept
that the subject is ultimately an illusion - interpellated
as Althusser puts it by linguistic and juridical practices.

>> 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.

you were suggesting that a revolution requires a conscious
subject. Well the neolithic revolution was the greatest
one in human history. What was the intentional subject
of that revolution?
Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)

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