Re: (OPE-L) subjects and objects in capitalism

From: Paul Cockshot (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu May 08 2003 - 11:35:09 EDT

On Thu, 2003-05-08 at 15:27, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> I then asked:
> > For the purpose of the following question, let's call it exchange-value rather
> > than value-form: What is the difference conceptually between 'mode of
> > representation'  and 'form of appearance'?
> Paul replied:
> > The absence of a subject in the former.
> That is a virtue?
> The (Althusserian?) inference is then that the absence of a subject is somehow
> a benefit in the analysis of capitalism. Yet, doesn't that subject (capitalism)
> require the systematic exposition of all of the necessary objects and subjects
> related to its comprehension?

The problem with posing it this way is that you are still using
the problematic of speculative philosophy. Subject and object here
are philosophical categories.

It is a general property of the epistemological break founding a
science that it installs a mode of explanation that sees things
in terms of processes without a subject. The sciences in general
deal with material systems evolving through time under a set of
dynamical laws. These systems require no subject for their
conceptualisation, leaving aside your pun on the word subject
to mean subject matter.

>  I don't understand how a 'subjectless'  social
> system can operate.

It depends on your level of conceptualisation. Social systems
are configurations of matter operating under their own specific
dynamical laws, Marx was attempting to uncover these 'laws of motion'
for the capitalist system.

As a side effect of their operation, the reproduction of capitalism
generates juridical subjects - not philosophical subjects. As Pashukanis
shows the category of juridical subject generated by the reproduction
of units of commodity production is then projected onto human agents
as if it were an innate attribute of these agents. Note that a firm,
or other corporate body can be a juridical subject which as such
is quite distinct from the philosophical subject.

The point is that subjects are an interior effect of the laws of
commodity production, explicable in terms of these laws and not
constitutive atoms of reality.

Althusser makes similar arguments with respect to psychological
subjects, arguing that they are an ideological interpellation
of juridical ideology - which is itself a condition of reproduction
of the social structure.

> Without a subject, we can't comprehend class and without
> class we can't comprehend class struggle and without class struggle how can
> we grasp  capitalism  (or, for that matter, how can we then comprehend a
> revolutionary process that can lead to the ending of capitalism and its replacement
> by a  "new historic form")?

I dont see that talking about subjects helps us with materialist
concpetion of social class. Classes are not juridical subjects nor
psychological agents.

> In solidarity, Jerry

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