Re: [OPE-L] Lawrence Krader on objective and subjective value

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Sun Nov 11 2007 - 17:00:09 EST

Dear Paul,
Plural subjects clearly behave differently from individual subjects.
But I don't see that Jerry should necessarily be seen to be adopting
a Cartesian conception of the human subject: in the Cartesian
conception, a subject is unitary, self-contained and transparent to
itself. None of these assumptions can be sustained in the light of
empirical studies of how individual minds work. Central nervous
systems have been shown to work somewhat more like plural subjects
than would be possible on the Cartesian theory.
However, plural subjects do work differently from individual agents,
as you say. Nevertheless, I think Jerry is right to point out that
intentional agency is a property of collectives such as classes in
certain conditions. The problem is to understand the scope and limits
of such agency and the conditions in which it is possible rather than
to dismiss the idea altogether because it smacks of Cartesian

>I would not pose things this way at all, since, these way of posing
>things seems to me to start out with a notion that is intially
>problematic and unscientific in its original domain :
>  the cartesian notion of the subject, and applies it to a quite different
>domain. The original domain is as an explanatory theory of
>human behaviour, where the 'subject' is an amalgum of the religious
>notion of the 'soul' and the effects of property and juridical
>relations. As such it is entirely ideological, and no longer a
>hypothesis used by cognitive neuroscience.
>It is then projected onto a quite different domain, politics, and
>social classes are thought of using terms and language that was
>originally used to think of and explain human behaviour.
>But at the most basic level there is a dichotomy here, higher animals,
>humans included, have central nervous systems that control their actions.
>Social classes clear do not.
>The concept of juridical subject can of course be applied to
>abstract legal personalities, such as corporate bodies, states or
>firms. But in these cases it appears applicable because all of these
>bodies have some centralised decision making structure. But
>even in these cases it is no more than a convenient fiction of juridical
>ideology, it is not a materialist theory of the mechanisms regulating
>the behaviour of these corporate bodies.
>But a class is not even a juridical subject, since it lacks the
>centralised decision making procedures. Political parties on the other
>hand have some of these attributes, and might appear to have the
>requisites of being 'subjects'. They can indeed be recognised as such
>in law. But for social science, to treat this subjectivity seriously
>is very misleading since it obscures the actual mechanisms by which
>conflicting ideologies and conflicting class interests reproduce themselves
>within political parties.
>Quoting GERALD LEVY <gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM>:
>>  >Why should we concieve of classes as subjects, why should we concienve of
>>  >them as agents rather than classes?
>>  Hi Paul C:
>>  Agency is a constitutive element of class.  If one does not grasp the
>>  duality of
>>  class as object and subject, one can neither adequately theorize class
>>  behavior
>>  nor understand it in more concrete terms.   If one conceives of class
>>  entirely as
>>  subject then there is no necessary connection between the material world and
>>  class behaviior.  If one conceives of class entirely as object,  then one is
>>  led to
>>  one-sidedly  and mechancally view class action as simply a knee-jerk
>>  response to
>>  the actions of the 'other' class.  If one does not grasp the duality of
>>  class one can
>>  make no sense of the strategic behavior of classes in particular periods of
>>  time
>>  and space - whether one wishes to refer to "regimes of accumulation",
>>  "social
>>  structures of accumulation", "stages theory" or "conjunctural analysis".
>>  Without
>>  grasping this duality, one can not grasp either the nature of day-to-day
>  > class
>>  struggles under capitalism or the possibility of a revolutionary
>>  transformation.
>>  There are other concepts which, of course, are required as well, including:
>>  1.  a fuller understanding at a more concrete level of abstraction of the
>>  duality requires
>>  that the character mask assumption be dropped.
>>  2.  one must also conceive of class not as simple unity alone but also as
>>  difference and
>>  unity-in-difference.
>>  3. one must grasp the ways in which national (and gender and race) divisions
>>  affect
>>  class behavior.
>>  In solidarity, Jerry
>Paul Cockshott
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Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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