Re: [OPE-L] Bloody Capital and Dead Labour Cultural Studies or the Critique of Political Economy? By Mark Neocleous

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Apr 24 2006 - 22:41:51 EDT

>Wow, that was a long time ago.  Here's what I think I meant.
>If capital fed off of the "capitalized blood of children", then
>capital was vampiric.

Or more specifically: by so feeding, capital becomes undead.
This seems to be Neocleous' argument, truly illuminating, and
I don't think he was mentioned in that exchange on vampires,
which I only skimmed.
But people began to refer to capital as undead. No one had
done that before Neocleous to the best of my knowledge.

>But when the undead bite the living the
>living also become transformed into the undead.  The bitten
>labor then, if one pursues the vampire metaphor to its logical
>end,  would be neither living nor dead.  If you see the subsequent
>posts I wrote shortly afterwards in early May, 1996,  I raised
>the question of  *workers'  subjectivity*.

I think this is making too much of the metaphor which
is not meant to throw light on the nature of workers but
the nature of capital!

It seems a misplaced criticism of the metaphor.

>To truly have subjectivity requires that workers be conceived as
>subjects with wills that are not totally at the command of others,
>unlike what happens to the victims of vampires who do not have
>the capacity to challenge the commands of their vampire masters.

The metaphor is in fact a call to resistance to the appropriation of
sensuous capacity by the vampiric capitalist class. It seems
to serve well. If you don't take it too literally as you alone seem
to be doing.

>That's what I _think_ I meant, but I wrote that way back in 1996
>and, frankly, had forgotten about it.  The point is, though, that
>the notion of capital as vampiric is consistent with conceiving of
>labor as undead.  This highlights a problem with the metaphor:
>it is  *one-sided* since it can not conceive of workers employed by
>capital who truly have subjectivity.  This does not mean that the
>metaphor should be rejected, but it does suggest that it needs to
>be surpassed in the further unfolding of the theory.

But I am wondering when you began to describe not labor
but capital as undead.

It seems to have been the conclusion you, Chris A, Riccardo and Andrew B
reached last year.

But do note that Neocleous insists that he was the one to clarify
that Marx's vampire
metaphor conceptualizes capital as undead to the extent that it sucks
dry the sensuous
energy of living labor.

And he did publish that idea in 2003.

So I think we should be careful in thinking this was an OPE-L idea.
It seems to have been circulated in an academic conference, a major journal
and on the web before it was discussed on OPE-L

It is surprising that no reference was made to it in the course of a lengthy
discussion. No one did a google search on marx and vampires?

I came acros Neocleous in the course of a search on Carl Schmitt.

Did people really not know about his work on Marx and vampires?


If so, I wish someone would have cited it. After all, OPE-L should
be a place to share ideas and scholarship.

The Political Economy of the Dead Marx's Vampires

Author: Neocleous M.1

Source: History of Political Thought, Volume 24, Number 4, 2003, pp.

This article aims to show the importance of the vampire metaphor to
Marx's work. In so doing, it challenges previous attempts to explain
Marx's use of the metaphor with reference to literary style,
nineteenth-century gothic or Enlightenment rationalism. Instead, the
article accepts the widespread view linking the vampire to capital,
but argues that Marx's specific use of this link can be properly
understood only in the context of his critique of political economy
and, in particular, the political economy of the dead.

>In solidarity, Jerry
>PS: there seem to be some posts, including this one, which are
>missing from the May, 1996 archives.  Fortunately, there are copies
>of the posts elsewhere (I had to look up the post in a cd-rom Iwao
>sent me _many_ years ago!) so they can be recovered.
><> (
>Sat, 4 May 1996 04:56:48 -0700
>Massimo asked in [OPE-L:2072]:
>>  "A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States
>>  without any birth-certificate, was yesterday, in England,
>>  the capitalised blood of children." (V.I. p. 921)
>>  I guess also the quote could be dismissed on the ground that
>>  it represents a simple metaphor, in which case I would like
>>  ask: a metaphor for what? May I have your
>  > distinguished views on the matter
>It's a vampire metaphor, of course. Taking the metaphor literally, one could
>refer to labor as "undead labor" -- neither completely living or truly dead.

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