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

From: rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU
Date: Fri May 09 2003 - 12:32:11 EDT

Paul C writes.

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
for the capitalist system.

As a side effect of their operation, the reproduction of capitalism
generates juridical subjects - not philosophical subjects. As
shows the category of juridical subject generated by the
of units of commodity production is then projected onto human
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.

Yet, Althusser is thus recognizing that human conceptions, in
particular juridical ones, of what they are doing play a crucial
causal role in social science. Let me paraphrase Eric Matthew's
short summary in 20th cent French Philosophy. Perhaps it will
help to stimulate further debate.

Because legal concepts exist only if a society has a legal system
in which these concepts can get meaning, his model of scientific
explanation seems incompatible with the any individualistic ideas
that individuals, acting on their own or on the basis of their self
conscious thought, could transform society or even influence its
structures. In Althusser's version of Marxism, the driving force of
social change seems to be something which is over and above
individual human beings and their conscious intentions and which
makes use of individuals in pursuit of ends which they may not ,
as individuals, consciously share. Of course this 'something over
and above' is not something non-human, but something which
can be accounted for in terms of the collective activity of human

Althusser is not saying that human beings do not make their own
history: it is just that htey do not make it *consciously* or in terms
of some common humanity which all human beings as such
share with all other human beings. Rather they make it in terms of
concepts and values which they share with other people in the
same situation as themselves. Althusser would thus underline
that we can understand what humans do only by seeing them in
their concrete social and historical siutation, not by appealing to
some universal rationality shared by all human beings at all times
and in all  places.

ps. Verso has announced a new collection of Althusser's writings.

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