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