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

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri May 09 2003 - 07:11:13 EDT

Paul C wrote on Thursday, May 08:

> 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.

We have to distinguish among the sciences.  Consider the science
of geology.  Putting aside the presence of the observer (the geologists),
that science seeks to explain an objective process without a subject.
This is fundamentally different from any science, including political
economy,  that purports to explain *human* behavior.  Unlike the
object of study in geology, human beings are not rocks!  We have
the capacity, through the development of understanding and
consciousness, to _change_ our reality.  Rocks (despite Erich
Weinert's wonderful poem "Song of the paving stones") can not
collectively organize for their mutual benefit in order to change
the world of rocks.   Thus, subjects are _necessarily embedded_ in
the study of the 'dynamical laws' of capitalism.

> 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.

Those "laws of motion"  often make assumptions about the behavior
of classes as subjects.  For example, what assumptions about the
state of class struggle did Marx make in explaining the law of the
tendency for the general rate of profit to decline and its counteracting
tendencies?  As we examine such processes at a more concrete level
of investigation, we must explore the means through which social
subjects affect the "laws."

> As a side effect of their operation, the reproduction of capitalism
> generates juridical subjects - not philosophical subjects.

I am not referring here to juridical subjects but to the real social
subjects which exist in the material world and who are able through
their actions to change aspects of social life and, to some extent, their
material well-being.  They are not merely philosophical subjects but
_real_ subjects under capitalism.

> 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.

I would say, on the contrary, that social subjects (such as classes)
are indeed "constitutive atoms of reality"  since they shape their own
circumstances (within limits) and are shaped by circumstances and
other subjects (such as the actions of 'alien' classes).  Moreover --
from a historical standpoint -- capitalism revolutions) could not have
arisen as the dominant mode of production without subjects.
Weren't bourgeois revolutions necessary for that transformation?
Those revolutions would be unthinkable without subjects.  To take
the subjects out of the study of capitalism transforms capitalism into a
ahistorical, mechanical process.

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

Do classes and class segments have *consciousness*?  Isn't that
a significant reality for the comprehension of  the state of class

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat May 10 2003 - 00:00:00 EDT