Re: [OPE-L] Bloody Capital and Dead Labour Cultural Studies

From: Christopher Arthur (arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM)
Date: Tue May 02 2006 - 17:33:27 EDT

For goodness sake Jerry, [ (-: ] capital surely above all things acts 
on an irresistible compulsion "Accumulate Accumulate"
For me capital is an active agent because of its form. For someone who 
identified it with its substance then it would be active as undead 
labour feeding off living labour. Your stuff about transmission is 
'reading too much in' perhaps.
On 2 May 2006, at 13:11, Jerry Levy wrote:

> >  But Neocleous is right that the real heart of the matter is not
>  > explicated in the usual discussions of bloodsucking and alien
>  > others. Marx says: ‘Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like,
>  > lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more
>  > labour it sucks.’ As Neocleous stresses, this choice of metaphor
>  > is philosophically and politically important because through it
>  > Marx aims to make a substantive point about the social world.
>  > What Marx really gives us is ‘the political economy of the undead.’
>  > While it may be true that the substance of commodities, and of
>  > money, is dead labour, capital itself is an active social agent.
>  > Accumulated labour can exercise power over living labour because
>  > it refuses to stay dead, but like the vampire returns to drain the 
> living
>  > energy of the workers. The domination of capital over labour is
>  > nothing less than the rule of undead labour.
> Chris,
> I think this only captures one part of the meaning of the metaphor.
> It is not simply a matter of undead capital dominating living labor. 
> As you emphasize "capital itself is an active social agent."
> What of labor?
> I've made this point before but I'll make it again.  It's really quite
> simple and based on vampiric lore.
> When vampires bite people (virgins) in order to draw blood and
> thereby remain undead, *they transform the living themselves
> into the undead*.  From that moment hence, the bitten [now also
> undead] must slavishly follow the commands of their vampire
> masters. 
> So,  if we are to follow the metaphor to its logical conclusion,
> capital is undead and requires for its survival the transformation
>  of living agents in the production process into the undead.  But,
>  while both capital and labour are undead, the one issues
>  commands which the other *must* follow.
> This is a one-sided theorization of both capital and labor.  To
> begin with,  capital -- while an active social agent -- does not
> really have subjectivity in this scheme _because_ vampires
>  act on a irresistible compulsion: i.e. it is part of their inner
>  nature as vampires that they _must_ feed on blood. (I think
> that, while one-sided, this seems to fit well into the "character
> mask" assumption of Volume 1 of _Capital_.)
> But, should labor be conceived of as being undead?  From
>  Marx's philosophical and political perspective the answer should
> be NO!  Indeed, if labour was conceived only as undead then
> class struggle (let alone revolutionary action) could NOT
> be conceived of.  Class struggle REQUIRES  (at least)
> two active social agents.
> What then is the meaning of the vampire metaphor?  Perhaps
> one meaning concerns the one-sided and incomplete theorization
> in _Capital_ and why within a systematic dialectical reconstruction
> of the subject matter the theorization of Wage-Labour as an
>  active social agent is required.  I.e. it tells us, in part, why the
> theory needs to incorporate the subjects associated with the
>  (never written) book on Wage-Labour.
> Someone might say that this is reading too much into the metaphor.
> Well, was Marx aware of  the meaning of vampiric lore or not?  Was
> he a reader of Gothic novels or not?  If he knew _anything at all_
> about vampires he _must_ have known that those who are bitten by
> vampires become undead and can no longer resist the commands
> of their master.  (Interestingly, in a capitalist class society in 
> which
> a number of other classes exist, if we were to leave the metaphor 'as
>  is' it would mean that the two 'undead' classes -- capitalists and
> wage-workers -- would _not_ have subjectivity, but landowners,
>  peasants, and slaves _might_).
> In solidarity, Jerry

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