Re: 1984 Preface-- Preface to 2nd edition of Beyond CAPITAL

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Tue Jun 17 2003 - 09:48:23 EDT

Cologne 17-Jun-2003 Fiftieth anniversary of the uprising in East Germany

Here is rather an alternative "beyond CAPITAL" -- the 1984 Preface to my
Ph.D. dissertation.

Available for the first time in digital form.
Despite the time that has elapsed, surprisingly not so very much out of

Michael Eldred
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

"michael a. lebowitz" schrieb Sun, 8 Jun 2003 14:01:04 -0700:

> Here, as warned, is the new preface.
> in solidarity,
>   michael
>> WORKING CLASS (Second Edition)
>> Preface to the Second Edition (forthcoming in June 2003 from
>> Palgrave Macmillan)
>> A reviewer of the first edition of this book wrote that it might be
>> the worst possible time to publish a book about Marx. And it was.
>> Capitalism was triumphant (with little apparent opposition) and its
>> putative alternative, ‘Actually Existing Socialism’ (AES) appeared
>> to have ended in a miserable fit of the blues.
>> For those on the Right, that combination was sufficient to prove the
>> error of Marxism. Many wondered--- how could you still talk about
>> Marx? Are you still teaching Marxist economics? (Of course, in one
>> of those ironies that Marx would have appreciated, it was possible
>> to find conservatives of various hues quoting scriptures and
>> declaring that capitalism’s successes and the failures of AES
>> confirmed that Marx was right.) Some on the Left concluded, simply,
>> that capitalist relations of production do not yet fetter the
>> development of productive forces. What can you do against History?
>> And so it was that, rather than socialism, for some the only
>> feasible alternative to barbarism became barbarism with a human
>> face.
>> Others on the Left responded to the absence of the ‘revolt of the
>> working class’ that Marx projected by concluding that Marx had it
>> all wrong--- that his privileging of workers as the subjects of
>> social change constituted the sins of class reductionism and
>> essentialism. For these ‘post-Marxists’, the multiplicity of modern
>> democratic struggles counts as a critique of Marx’s theory; in place
>> of an analysis centred upon capitalist relations of production, they
>> offer the heterogeneity of political and social relations, the
>> equality and autonomy of all struggles, and the market-place of
>> competing discourses.
>> Beyond Capital should be understood as a challenge to this retreat
>> from Marx. It argues that the only way that they can separate
>> struggles such as those over health and living conditions, air and
>> water quality, women’s rights, government social programmes, the
>> costs and conditions of higher education, and democratic struggles
>> in general from workers is by beginning with the theoretical
>> reduction of workers to one-sided opposites of capital. Only by
>> limiting the needs of workers to wages, hours and conditions of work
>> can the ‘post-Marxists’ theoretically posit new social movements as
>> the basis for a critique of class analysis; rather than considering
>> the worker as a socially developed human being within modern
>> capitalist society, they utilise the narrow stereotype of the
>> Abstract Proletarian.
>> Yet, the ‘post-Marxists’ did not invent that stereotype. Beyond
>> Capitalargues that the concept of the Abstract Proletarian is the
>> product of a one-sided Marxism that has distorted Marx’s own
>> conception of workers as subjects. It situates the roots of this
>> one-sided Marxism in the failure to recognise that Marx’s Capital
>> was never intended as the complete analysis of capitalism but,
>> rather, as an explanation and demystification for workers of the
>> nature of capital.
>> For one-sided Marxists, Capital explains why capitalism will come to
>> an end. Inexorable forces make history. It is a world of things and
>> inhuman forces, of one-sided subjects (if, indeed, there are any
>> subjects)--- rather than living, struggling beings attempting to
>> shape their lives. And, in this world, the Abstract Proletariat
>> finally rises to its appointed task and unlocks the productive
>> forces that have outgrown their capitalist shell. If the facts do
>> not appear to support Capital, so much the worse for the facts. As
>> Marx commented about disciples (see Chapter 2), the disintegration
>> of a theory begins when the point of departure is ‘no longer
>> reality, but the new theoretical form in which the master had
>> sublimated it.’
>> But this is not the only aspect of the disintegration of Marxist
>> theory. Both in theory and practice, Marxism has attempted to free
>> itself from the constraints imposed by the one-sidedness inherent in
>> the exegesis of the sacred text -- and it has done so through
>> eclecticism. In practice, it has attempted to extend beyond narrow
>> economistic appeals to its Abstract Proletariat; and, in theory, it
>> engages in methodological eclecticism to modify the doctrine
>> underlying practice. Both in theory and practice, ‘modernisation’
>> becomes the rallying-cry and the latest fad. Nothing, of course, is
>> easier than eclecticism.
>> Yet, the freedom attained through such sophistication is neither
>> absolute nor without a price. For, the text remains, unsullied by
>> its eclectic accretions; and the one-sided reading it permits
>> provides a standing rebuke and never lacks for potential bearers of
>> its position. Thus, not freedom but a vulnerability to
>> fundamentalist criticism; and, not new directions but swings, more
>> or less violent, between the poles of the real subject and the
>> reified text. There is, in short, fertile ground for an endless
>> dispute between fundamentalism and faddism.
>> Nor is it self-evident what precisely is saved by eclecticism---
>> whether Marxism as a theory ‘sufficient unto itself’ survives the
>> addition of alien elements, whether the new combinations may still
>> be called Marxism. It has been the basic insight of fundamentalists
>> that eclectic and syncretic combinations threaten the very core of
>> Marxism as an integral conception. In short, neither the purveyors
>> of the Abstract Proletariat of Capital nor the eclectic dissidents
>> traverse the gap between the pure theory of Capital and the reality
>> of capitalism. Both are forms of one-sided Marxism, different
>> aspects of the disintegration of Marxist theory. They are the
>> result, on the one hand, of the failure of Marx to complete his
>> epistemological project in Capital and, on the other hand, of the
>> displacement of the understanding of Marx’s method by the exegesis
>> of sacred texts.
>> Beyond Capital should be understood as a call for the continuation
>> of Marx’s project. By stressing the centrality of Marx’s method and
>> using it to explore the subject matter of Marx’s unfinished work---
>> in particular, his projected book on Wage-Labour, it focuses on the
>> missing side in Capital--- the side of workers. Beyond
>> Capitalrestores human beings (and class struggle) to the hub of
>> Marxian analysis by tracing out the implications of that missing
>> book. It challenges not only the economic determinism and
>> reductionism of one-sided Marxism but also the accommodations of the
>> ‘post-Marxists’. Marx’s conception of the political economy of the
>> working class comes to the fore; next to its focus upon the
>> collective producer (which contains implicit within it the vision of
>> an alternative society), the ‘post-Marxist’ view of human beings as
>> consumers (with, of course, heterogeneous needs) stands revealed as
>> so many empty abstractions.
>> This is not at all an argument, however, that class struggle is
>> absent from Capital or that references to class struggle by workers
>> are missing. But, Capital is essentially about capital--- its goals
>> and its struggles to achieve those goals. Its theme is not workers
>> (except insofar as capital does something to workers), not workers’
>> goals (except to mention that they differ from those of capital) and
>> not workers’ class struggle (except insofar as workers react against
>> capital’s offensives). Even where Marx made sporadic comments in
>> Capital about workers as subjects, those comments hang in mid-air
>> without anything comparable to the systematic logical development he
>> provides for the side of capital. The result, I argue, is that some
>> quite significant aspects of capitalism are missing and not
>> developed in Capital and, indeed, that there are problematic aspects
>> of the latter. Those who think that ‘it’s all in Capital’ should
>> explain the continuing reproduction of a one-sided Marxism.
>> In the Preface to the first edition, I noted that this book took a
>> long time to come together and that it was still in the process of
>> development. This edition, written 11 years later, demonstrates this
>> point well. In fact, in preparing this edition, I came to look upon
>> the first edition as a first draft. Every chapter from the original
>> edition was changed. Some alterations were relatively minor and
>> merely updated and strengthened points made earlier (drawing now,
>> e.g., upon the publication of Marx’s 1861-63 Economic Manuscripts).
>> However, this edition also reflects the further development of my
>> thinking on the questions raised.
>> One of the most significant changes involves the division of the
>> original concluding chapter (‘Beyond Political Economy’) into two
>> separate chapters (‘From Political Economy to Class Struggle’ and
>> ‘From Capital to the Collective Worker’). This allowed me to expand
>> in particular upon the concepts of the Workers’ State and of the
>> collective worker, respectively--- areas I have been exploring in
>> the context of recent papers and a book in progress on the theory of
>> socialist economies. While this elaboration had been intended from
>> the outset of plans for a new edition, two other new chapters
>> emerged in the course of the revision. The new Chapter 6 (‘Wages’)
>> explicitly considers the effect upon the theory of wages of relaxing
>> Marx’s assumption in Capital that workers receive a ‘definite
>> quantity of the means of subsistence’; in the course of this
>> investigation, the degree of separation among workers (a variable
>> noted in the first edition) takes on significantly more importance.
>> Finally, there is a completely new opening chapter (‘Why Marx? A
>> Story of Capital’). In the course of writing a chapter on Marx
>> recently for a collection on the views of economists on capitalism,
>> it occurred to me that Beyond Capital was missing an introduction to
>> Marx’s analysis of capital. It wasn’t there originally because I had
>> conceived of the book as a supplement to Capital; however, given the
>> way this new chapter opens up questions to which I subsequently
>> return, it is hard for me to believe now that the chapter wasn’t
>> always there.
>> I am extremely grateful to the many people who have encouraged me in
>> this work since its original publication. Among those I want
>> especially to thank are Gibin Hong, translator of the Korean
>> language edition, Jesus Garcia Brigos and Ernesto Molina (who told
>> me Che would have liked the book). At this point, though, I am
>> especially appreciative for the critical feedback on new material
>> for this edition that I’ve received from various readers. Some of
>> this feedback has saved me from serious errors; so, thank you to
>> Greg Albo, Jim Devine, Alfredo Saad-Filho, Sam Gindin, Marta
>> Harnecker, Leo Panitch, Sid Shniad and Tony Smith.
>> At the time of the writing of this Preface, chronologically the
>> final part of this edition, capitalism’s triumph is not as
>> unproblematic as it may have seemed at the time of the first
>> edition. Strong protest movements have emerged in opposition to the
>> forms of capitalist globalisation, and the development of new
>> international links in the struggle against global capital proceeds.
>> Further, capital appears to be undergoing one of its characteristic
>> crises, and the contest as to which particular capitals and
>> locations is to bear the burden of excess global capacity as well as
>> the depth of the crisis are yet to determined.
>> If there is one important message from this book, however, it is
>> that economic crises do not bring about an end to capitalism. Once
>> we consider the worker as subject, then the conditions within which
>> workers themselves are produced (and produce themselves) emerge as
>> an obvious part of the explanation for the continued existence of
>> capitalism. Beyond Capital stresses the manner in which the worker’s
>> dependence upon capital, within existing relations, is reproduced
>> under normal circumstances; and, thus, it points to the critical
>> importance not only of that demystification of capital upon which
>> Marx himself laboured but also of the process of struggle by which
>> workers produce themselves as subjects capable of altering their
>> world.
>> This essential point about the centrality of revolutionary practice
>> for going beyond capital affords me the opportunity to close with
>> the quotation from George Sand with which Marx concluded his Poverty
>> of Philosophy (Marx, 1847a: 212). (In the context of capital’s
>> demonstrated tendency to destroy both human beings and Nature, the
>> statement has taken on added meaning.) Until ‘there are no more
>> classes and class antagonisms …, the last word of social science
>> will always be… Combat or death, bloody struggle or extinction. Thus
>> the question is inexorably put.’
>> September 2002
> ---------------------Michael A. LebowitzProfessor EmeritusEconomics
> DepartmentSimon Fraser UniversityBurnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6Office:
> Phone (604) 291-4669         Fax   (604) 291-5944Home:   Phone (604)
> 689-9510 [NOTE CHANGE]

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