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

From: wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK
Date: Fri May 09 2003 - 16:09:34 EDT

Quoting rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU:

> Paul C writes.
> 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.

I think this is a fair summary of the Althusserian position.

In general as soon as one resorts to categories like conciousness
or 'subject' one is signalling ignorance, an ideological closure.
If you 'explain' a phenomenon in terms of conciousness you at one
and the same time seem to give an answer whilst actually provide
an excuse for having no answer.

Althusserian theory does not see classes as concious subjects, but
as collections of agents sharing a common structural position and
among whom different ideologies contend. Political actions are by
parties, and in Bordiguist terms it is the existence of these
parties that constitute classes of agents as political classes -
remember the CM phrase about ' contituting the proletariat as
a political party and thus as a class '. Parties, because they
have a hierarchical structure and some form of discipline can
behave as collective agencies - analogous to subjects. But even
their action is controlled by a combination of ideological structures
and objective social circumstances.

Although developed quite independently of Althusser, I think Dawkin's
concept of the 'meme' as the self reproducing unit of ideology is
helpfull here in seeing how one might conceptualise ideological
struggles as a process without a subject.

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