[OPE-L:1408] Re: character-masks

Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Sun, 3 Oct 1999 22:41:30 +0100

----- Original Message -----
From: Gerald Levy <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Saturday, October 02, 1999 10:53 PM
Subject: [OPE-L:1405] character-masks

> What is the level of abstraction where the assumption of character-masks
> for individual capitalists is, or can be, dropped?

I don't know how to answer this question in general - except to point out
that the systematic development of concepts is intended to be superior to
the usual process of making and then dropping assumptions. Still, if the
latter is done thoughtfully and in good faith, the two processes probably

So let me instead answer in terms of the current problem of (un)productive
labour. That distinction is established at a very high level of abstraction,
and *therefore* cannot be dropped at all. The distinction, properly made,
continues to apply down to the capturing of the empricial as the concrete.

At this high level of abstraction capitalists appear only as
character-masks, bearing the imperatives of capital. More concretely, the
character mask becomes more differentiated and so more complex - into
financial capitalist, landed capitalist, entrepreneur. In as much as these
are still captialists, the are bearers of the imperatives of capital.

The level at which capitalists start caring about the use-value of their
product (the context in which I used the notion of character-mask) is very
concrete indeed - as indicated by my claim that that they care about the
use-value of their commodity (and in what way) is sytemically contingent.
That is almost equivalent to the other term I used: 'indifference': capital
is indifferent to the use-value of the products, and so the concrete
capitalist qua character mask is indifferent to the use-value of her
product. Of course, qua Henry Ford, he may care about producing a reasonably
priced individualised transportation for the masses too (I don't know), My
hunch is that no capitalist actually concerns themselves, in their business
decisions, with contributing to the use-value composition of output
technically indispensable to the reproduction of the capitalist economy.
> Also: is there a level of abstraction where wage-workers wear character-
> masks? If so, at what level of abstraction do workers not wear
> character-masks?

Since wage workers are many other things besides, qua wage-workers, they are
character masks.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Mon Jan 03 2000 - 12:18:30 EST