I mean really…! This post is an overlong and rather snarky response to an article by Resnick and Wolff. Not the fun kind of Snark either, but the grouchy kind. Mea culpa.

In their article “Althusser’s Liberation of Marxian Theory,” Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff make a number of assertions about Althusser and about other Marxists who criticize Althusser. Despite being friendly to Althusser, or rather, because they are friendly to Althusser, Resnick and Wolff fail to make the case for why Althusser is important. Resnick and Wolff make a number of important errors in this essay, errors which undermine their argument about the importance of Althusser’s thought. In this essay I will demonstrate the mistakes in Resnick and Wolff’s essay, in order to prevent these mistakes from hampering a measured treatments of what is needed in Marxist theory and some of Althusser’s contributions. The issues I will deal with in relation to Resnick and Wolff are their inadequate treatment of determinism, their assertions about Althusser’s uniquely foundational role for nondeterminist Marxism, their inadequate treatment of the concept of class as primary, their problematic separation of class and power, and problems with the epistemological claims which Resnick and Wolff make.

Determinism
Resnick and Wolff laud Althusser for “sweep[ing] away the staunch determinisms that hitherto haunted Marxism.” Resnick and Wolff further laud Althusser, and presumably themselves as Althusserians, for avoiding the mistake of “many Marxists.” (59.) Commitment to this mistake, according to Resnick and Wolff, is what lies behind hostility to Althusser among other Marxists. The mistake is a two-fold one.

The double mistake which Resnick and Wolff have in mind is determinism and the centrality of class. Resnick and Wolff criticze the “many Marxists” who claim to reject determinism but fail to actually do so. These conspicuously unnamed many “typically return in their works to the identical forms of determinist thinking that elsewhere they seemed to reject.” (59.)

The motivation which Resnick and Wolff impute to these Marxists is also two-fold. These Marxists have a desire for “the security offered by some determinate essence,” as well as a desire for class to be more important than any other category of theoretical analysis and political organization. Resnick and Wolff provide no actual argument against these unnamed opponents. These opponents are taken, in ad hominem fashion, to have unworthy motivations, as for example in the characterization of the loss of the theoretical positions of class centrality and determinism as “the worst fears” of “traditional Marxists.” (60.) Certainly any Marxist who advocated for determinism or class centrality based on the position ‘I fear the loss or untruth of these positions’ would certainly be a laughable figure. No one actually argues this, however. Resnick and Wolff’s “other Marxists” form a collective straw person. Resnick and Wolff set up this straw person in order to knock it down. Given that it is such a pitiful figure and one designed to be knocked down at the lightest touch, it is no wonder that Resnick and Wolff manage to dispatch it without even needing to resort to actual argument. The function of this figure is rhetorical figure, serving to move forward positions Resnick and Wolff hold without actually the authors having to actually argue the merits of these positions.

Resnick and Wolff’s fictional “many Marxists” repudiate “the logical implications of the Althusserian critique of determinism” because they “fear breaking with” determinism in the way which Althusser’s thought demands. This means that Althusser’s work is “too radical even for those committed to radicalism.” (60.) Just as the mistake which Althusser overcomes is a two-fold mistake, Althusser’s radicality is similarly two-fold in that, for Resnick and Wolff, Althusser overcomes both determinism and the notion of class as central.

For Resnick and Wolff, the end of determinism in Marxism is one and the same thing as the end of the centrality of class. They assert that if one agrees with the “rejection of determinism” then “class struggle between capitalists and workers over the means of production or the labor process or the appropriation of surplus value seems to lose its historical and theoretical place.” This mean that “all theories and political movements become merely different from one another.” (60.)

Resnick and Wolff hold that those Marxists who reject Althusser do so in response to these consequences of Althusser’s thought. Resnick and Wolff fail, however, to show why these positions might make sense to some people. That is, they do not address a single argument made for either determinism or the centrality of class. This is part of what allows Resnick and Wolff to avoid offering any arguments beyond rhetorical ones for their own theoretical and political positions.

I have repeatedly referred to a two-fold character, in regard to what Resnick and Wolff take to be the common Marxist mistake and what Resnick and Wolff take to be Althusser’s radicality. Resnick and Wolff do not explicitly state this two-fold character. This is bound up with an error on their part. Resnick and Wolff simply equate determinism and the centrality of class. The two are actually different positions which are logically differentiable.

It is not clear what Resnick and Wolff mean by determinism, because they do not define the term. Resnick and Wolff’s perspective is actually compatible with at least one species of determinism, as I will show momentarily. This means that there claims as to the inherently anti-determinist nature of Althusser’s thought are overstated.

Determinism comes in a number of forms. There are at least two varieties within Marxism. I will call these two types causal determinism and economic determinism. To be clear, in what follows I am not attempting to defend either causal or economic determinism. Rather I wish simply to show an inadequacy in Resnick and Wolff’s treatment of determinism.

Causal determinism is essentially an overemphasis of the principle of sufficient reason. Causal determinism holds that there is a cause for everything, such that effects are pre-determined. There are elements of causal determinism present in Marx’s talk of “iron laws of history.” [Find reference.] Causal determinists hold that what happens is necessary, that things had to be this way.

Economic determinism, on the other hand, is the belief that changes in the economy – in the economic base – determine changes in culture, law, etc – the superstructure. Economic determinism can take at least two variants. In one, which I will call strong economic determinism, there is no autonomy to the superstructure. All causal power lies in the base. This means that any change in the superstructure must derive from a change in the base. The other version, which I will call weak economic determinism, is compatible with the idea that there is some autonomy to the superstructure. Weak economic determinism holds that changes in the economic base will result in changes in the superstructure.

Causal determinism and economic determinism are not the same. There can of course be forms of economic determinism which are also forms of causal determinism. There can, however, be forms of economic determinism which are not causally determinist. This would mean that the economic base creates changes in the superstructure but that changes in the economic base are not necessary. There can also be forms of causal determinism which are not economically determinist.

The category of overdetermination which Resnick and Wolff make much out of is actually entirely compatible with a species of non-economic causal determinism. One could hold as Resnick and Wolff do that “[e]very entity in society exists as the site of the effects from all others” and still hold to a species of causal determinism wherein the future is effectively already written. In that case, one would believe that “every entity in society” is always “determined by the effects of all the other entities at once,” and simply add the belief that the outcomes of this determining are already given or predetermined in advance. (63.)

This determinist use of overdetermination – causally determinist but not economically determinist – would even be compatible with the epistemological uncertainty that Resnick and Wolff hold. Resnick and Wolff rightly assert that “an account of how all other social entities interact to overdetermine” any given entity is something which “exceeds human capacity” because it would take an infinite quantity of time to produce such an account. (64.) The impossibility of such an account means that “all explanations are inherently and unavoidably incomplete.” (65.) None of this would preclude the causally determinist use of overdetermination being hypothetically posed here. Epistemological uncertainty as to future outcomes does not mean that those outcomes are not necessary. It simply means that humans can not know those outcomes in advance. This is quite similar to the view of religious people who believe there is a deity which knows the future. These believers assert that the outcomes are given in advance and the deity knows them. That humans do not know them does not mean they are not given in advance. The Althusserian causal determinist could make the same claim, asserting that human lack of knowledge of determined outcomes does not mean those outcomes are not determined.

In failing to define what they mean by determinism, Resnick and Wolff fail to distinguish causal and economic determinism. They claim that Althusser’s work, via the category of overdetermination, is incompatible with determinism. As I have shown, however, this category is compatible with at least one type of determinism. Resnick and Wolff demonstrate more or less convincingly that the concept of overdetermination is different from economic determinism. On the other hand, Resnick and Wolff fail to show why or how economic determinism is false and overdetermination true, or why the former doctrine is to be rejected and the latter embraced. Thus, Resnick and Wolff’s assertions about determinism and overdetermination amount to simply assertions which are not supported by logical argument. Resnick and Wolff present some aspects of the doctrines of Althusser and Althusserianism, but do not present arguments for adopting them. This does a disservice to Althusser.

“Determinist Marxists”
In addition to their inadequate treatment of determinism, Resnick and Wolff are wrong in their insistence that those who believe there is a privileged place for class in theory and history are determinists. Resnick and Wolff assert without any argument that class is not primary, and further assert without argument that those who believe it is primary are determinists. The latter assertion is the more easily dispatched of the two.

It is logically possible to be a determinist and not hold to the centrality of class, such that all theories and political movements are believed to be merely different from one another. It is also logically possible to not be a determinist but still hold to the primacy of class, such that all theories and political movements are believed to not be merely different from each other. Antonio Gramsci, for example, believed that class was primary, and was not a determinist.

Gramsci is quite acid in his rejection of “[t]he claim that every fluctuation of politics and ideology can be presented and expounded as an immediate expression of the structure,” structure here meaning economic base. It is this quality that Chantal Mouffe praises in Gramsci in her essay “Hegemony and Ideology in Gramsci. Gramsci also contrasts this idea to Marx’s idea. For Gramsci, Marx’s “authentic testimony” and “historical methodology” is incompatible with this type of economic determinism. (Gramsci Reader, 190.)

Gramsci demonstrates that determinism can be rejected without logically entailing that “all theories and political movements become merely different from one another.” Gramsci was not a “determinist Marxist” despite Resnick and Wolff’s insistence that it is only the “determinist Marxist” who holds to the primacy of class. (60. By not naming a single critic of Althusser and tarring them all with the term “determinist” Resnick and Wolff avoid having to engage in substantive debate, and in doing so misrepresent critics of Althusser. These critics’ criticisms may well be without merit, but Resnick and Wolff are no use in determining if that is the case. Resnick and Wolff’s prefer instead to use the term “determinist Marxist” essentially as an epithet. It is not argument but a term used which evokes a negative emotional response against those to whom it is applied. E.P. Thompson, the Marxist historian and critic of Althusser, was certainly no determinist. Neither was Martin Glaberman, the American Marxist and former comrade of C.L.R. James, who criticized Althusser in an essay in a pamphlet entitled “Mao As Dialectician.” [find reference and cite.]) If Resnick and Wolff did not simply equate belief in determinism with belief in the primacy of class, they might have been able to offer arguments against why class should not be considered primary. They do not, however. They merely assert that class should not be considered primary without argument. Resnick and Wolff offer no arguments against the view that class is the most important contradiction in society.

Gramsci was not a determinist, at least not an economic determinst. For Gramsci Marx was similarly not a determinist. Thus Resnick and Wolff’s frequent claims about Althusser having played a unique and essentially world-historical role as ushering in the possibility of a nondeterminist Marxism are overstated claims. Althusser certainly offers resources for a nondeterminist Marxism. Althusser is not, however, the sole source for such resources within the Marxist tradition.

Resnick and Wolff’s inaccurate treatment of Althusser as being the unique founder of the possibility of nondeterminist Marxism precludes comparison between Althusser and other nondeterminist Marxists. As a result, once Resnick and Wolff’s insufficient treatment of Althusser is clear, one finds that Resnick and Wolff offer very little to recommend Althusser over any of a number of Marxists. Since I am not able to make this comparison myself, I am not making or implying any negative comparison of Althusser to other Marxists. I merely wish to note the missed opportunity in Resnick and Wolff’s treatment of Althusser. Had they not flattened and falsified the history of Marxism by treating Althusser as the first nondeterminist Marxist then the reader would have been offered ways to assess Althusser in relation to – and to put his work in dialog with – other nondeterminist figures in the Marxist tradition.

[Find my copy of Holloway, write a paragraph on the understanding of class and other social entities as processes. That’s really important stuff and R and W’s attention to this in Althusser is good. Compare this with Holloway on Bloch and Adorno, as other process oriented Marxists. Comparison of Althusser with these others would be an interesting project.]

Essentialism
After “determinist,” the other accusation which Resnick and Wolff level at their unknown opponents is that of essentialism. In this section I will argue that Resnick and Wolff do not themselves escape from a type of essentialism. This claim is not intended as a claim about essentialism, as I do not have an argument to make about essentialism either way. Rather, my point is to show that Resnick and Wolff are themselves guilty of what they charge others which, such that their position is not quite as superior to the “many Marxists” as they would like it to be.

According to Resnick and Wolff the “many Marxists” are afraid to break “with the security offered by some determinate essence.” (60.) “Many current Marxist and radical theorists” wrongly make power out to be “the essential determinant of economic and social change.” (61.) All of these essences are signs of a mistake, for Resnick and Wolff. They remark that traditional Marxism is both determinist and essentialist. “Traditional Marxism also operates within a clearly essentialist epistemology,” which is part of what Althusser aims to eliminate. If determinist and essentialist aren’t strong enough terms, Resnick and Wolff claim that these elements make it so that Marxism “defines epistemological issues exactly as does the traditional bourgeois philosophy it opposes.” (62.) It should be noted that similarity to anything bourgeois is always an insult when one is around Marxism. Unfortunately Resnick and Wolff offer no argument for this charge. Instead they implicitly appeal to the reader to agree with the idea because it was Althusser’s, thus making their use of the term ‘bourgeois’ simply rhetorical, another epithet, rather than explanatory.

Resnick and Wolff decry the importation of ideas “into Marxism without criticism and transformation from the bourgeois philosophical tradition” only a paragraph later to note that Althusser took his concept of overdetermination from Freud. Of course, Althusser presumably criticized and transformed this idea, but again the reader is offered no argument. The Freudian concept is simply to be accepted as useful for “attacking essentialisms in epistemology and social theory as incompatible with Marxism. (62.)

It is ironic that Resnick and Wolff appeal to Althusser for resources for anti-essentialism. Althusser himself held to an essentialist concept of ideology. Humanity, for Althusser, “has always lived under the sway of ideological relations.”
This is not simply a historical claim about all of previous human history. Rather, humanity is “an ideological animal,” such that “ideology has a trans-historical character.” Ideology “has always existed and always will exist. Its ‘content’ may change, but its function never will.” (POE 282.) In other words, ideology is “an essential element of every social formation, including a socialist and even a communist society.” (FM 252.)

Resnick and Wolff might not accept these aspects of Althusser, however. They might consider these to be moment of Althusser’s work that must be criticized and transformed. This would not allow Resnick and Wolff to escape charges of a type of essentialism themselves.

Resnick and Wolff hold that “[e]very entity in society exists as the site of the effects from all others” and that “every entity in society” is always “determined by the effects of all the other entities at once.” (63.) This is a claim at the heart of the idea of overdetermination which Resnick and Wolff take from Althusser. This is a claim about causality in society as such, and thus can be understood as a claim about what social causality and the relation of social elements is essentially. That is, this claim is itself essentialist. The same is true of the claim that “all social sites (…) must experience uneven development” as a result of overdetermination. (64.)

Resnick and Wolff further claim that “[i]n all human societies some individuals perform labor transforming certain natural object into use-values to be consumed.” This is undoubtedly true, but the claim is an essentialist claim. Resnick and Wolff’s assertion of this claim demonstrates that their anti-essentialism is not an opposition to all essentialism but rather to some essentialisms. More problematic, however, is their claim that “individuals always perform more labor than the necessary quantity; they do surplus labor.” In this case Resnick and Wolff render surplus value production a trans-historical feature of all societies. This may be so, but it is not clear how this claim could be verified or what it matters. Fortunately Resnick and Wolff note that this surplus labor or the surplus product within which surplus labor is physically instantiated “may be appropriated by the same individuals who perform that surplus labor,” but Resnick and Wolff are close to rendering the capital relation, a form of the production and appropriation of surplus labor, as itself a trans-historical and natural phenomenon. (69.)

Epistemology
In attempt to distinguish themselves from their “many Marxist” opponents, Resnick and Wolff spend a substantial amount of time on claims about epistemology.
Under scrutiny these claim break down. In a sense this is fortunate for Resnick and Wolff, for if they were true these epistemological claims would erode Resnick and Wolff’s opposition to determinist and essentialist Marxisms.

The authors assert that “[e]ach theory (…) erects criteria by which practitioners of the theory can decide which subsequent statements will be accepted into the growing knowledge generated by the theory and which will be rejected as incompatible. The criteria erected by each theory comprise its standard and definition of truth.” This means that truths “vary with the theories in and by which they are produced,” which entails that “[t]here is no inter-theoretic standard of truth.” (65.) In what follows, I call Resnick and Wolff’s view of truth “intra-theoretic” as opposed to the view they reject, that which they call “inter-theoretic” truth.

If this were so it would undercut the criticisms Resnick and Wolff make of other Marxists. The other Marxists could simply assert that according to their standard and definition truth, derived from the criteria internal to their theoretical apparatus, that determinism and essentialism are true. These other Marxists could further hold that within their theoretical apparatus the theory of overdetermination is false. Resnick and Wolff’s claims that determinism and essentialism are false and that overdetermination is true would then be subject to charges of overextension beyond the bounds of their theoretical position. In this way, Resnick and Wolff’s claim about the nature of truth would cause a short-circuit within their criticisms of other Marxists and their plans for the use of Althusser to rethink the Marxist tradition, if these claims made sense.

Resnick and Wolff’s claim about the intra-theoretic nature of truth does not cause this short-circuit, because the claim breaks down under scrutiny. Furthermore, Resnick and Wolff do not actually take their epistemological claim seriously, for they make several claims that defy this claim. The intra-theoretic nature of truth is a performative contradiction, in that it can not be asserted with contradicting itself logically.

Resnick and Wolff claim that there is no inter-theoretic standard of truth, which is to say, that the standard or standards of truth are intra-theoretic. What is the truth status of this claim? If it is true within Resnick and Wolff’s theoretical position, then those within other theoretical positions can deny this claim without contradiction. Thus, one could say that there are inter-theoretic truths according to the theoretical position one occupies. Resnick and Wolff would not be able to assert that this is not so, because to do so would demonstrate that the claim “there are no inter-theoretic truths” would itself prove to be an inter-theoretic truth.

The very ability to identify more than one theoretical position implies a commitment to inter-theoretic truths. Imagine an academic conference where one person on a panel, for example Resnick or Wolff, says “there are two theoretical positions here” to someone who occupies another theoretical position, for example, one of Resnick and Wolff’s determinist-essentialist Marxist opponents. The expectation at the conference will be that the second person will agree to this position. If the second person were to reply “no, there are no theoretical positions here at all” or to say “blue fish rotate in screams” the first person and the audience would be justified in being frustrated that the second person did not respond in good faith or otherwise engage with the claim. The very ability to say to another “we are having this conversation” implies at a minimum a shared standard of truth such that each person will able to agree upon the truth of this statement. If one really did not believe in inter-theoretic truth it would make no sense to even identify others as holding other theoretical positions, for there would be no ability to communicate to these others that they are in other positions or to determine if they were indeed in other positions.

Resnick and Wolff contradict their idea that there is no inter-theoretic truth simply by asserting the idea, as it is a self-contradictory idea. They further contradict the idea repeatedly. First they hold that overdetermination explains differences between different theories. (65.) If this is so, then overdetermination expresses truths which are true of multiple theoretical positions. Second, they claim that any form of thought about any reality requires “taking into account the influence of one’s theory in overdetermining that reality.” (66.) This claim works exactly the same way that the claim does that there are no inter-theoretic truths. If all accounts are overdetermined by one’s own theory then this is also true of the account in which all accounts are theoretically overdetermined. This position amounts to a tautology, and one which must be true in all theoretic positions if it is to be true at all, thus contradicting itself.

Resnick and Wolff write that “political struggles (…) necessarily participate in overdetermining the existence of the theories” and theories in turn “play their role in overdetermining [society’s] political dynamics. Thus it is possible (…) to interrogate every theory in terms of its social conditions and its social consequences.” (67.) The appeal to social conditions and social consequences is precisely not an intra-theoretic truth. Imagine a faculty meeting in an economic department. Either Resnick or Wolff makes some remark about the pernicious nature of capitalism. A bourgeois political economist colleague of Resnick or Wolff responds by saying that this claim is false, that capitalism is not pernicious. If all truth has an intra-theoretic nature there could be no appeal to social conditions, political consequences, or material reality, and there would be no status to the claim which can be established such that one speaker would be wrong and the other right. It is only because all truth is not intra-theoretic that Resnick or Wolff could appeal to social conditions in order to rightly assert the truth that capitalism is pernicious.

Resnick and Wolff’s epistemological assertions are made against the determinist and essentialist other Marxists who, as discussed earlier, Resnick and Wolff accuse of dealing improperly and in a bourgeois fashion with epistemological issues. Resnick and Wolff’s epistemological assertions, however, do not actually engage with any epistemological arguments made by or implicit within the positions of other Marxists. The function of the epistemological assertions in Resnick and Wolff’s essay is to differentiate Althusser’s Marxism, and their own Althusserian Marxism, from these other unnamed and inadequate Marxists. Resnick and Wolff’s assertions, however, do not bear scrutiny. They are either tautological or contradictory, and thus these assertions do not secure the importance of Althusserian Marxism in the way in which Resnick and Wolff wish them to. Furthermore, if Resnick and Wolff’s assertions were true, they would actually undermine much of the criticism that Resnick and Wolff make of other Marxists. As it stands, these epistemological assertions merely fail to move Resnick and Wolff’s position forward, rather than actively hindering it.

Primacy of Class
Just as they fail to distinguish between varieties of determinism, Resnick and Wolff fail to distinguish between different ways in which class can be considered most important, to have a special historical and theoretical place. There are at least two ways to consider class as primary. One such way is to consider class as the key to certain forms of necessity, that is, to consider class from a determinist perspective. In keeping with the treatment of determinism above, there are at least two variants possible here: economic determinism as a form of causal determinism and economic determinism which is not causal determinism.

If one is a causal economic determinist then one believes that the economic base determines everything and is itself predetermined. A causal economic determinist belief in the primacy of class would hold that the category of class in the material world is part of the mechanism by which predetermined historical changes occur. In that case, at the theoretical level, the category of class would function within theoretical analysis in the way which tea leaves or tarot cards function within superstitious practices, that is, class would function as an attempt to predict the future by gaining knowledge of predetermined historical outcomes.

If one is not a causal determinist but still an economic determinist, then one believes that the economic base determines changes in the superstructure, but does not believe that changes in the economic base are themselves predetermined. A noncausal economic determinist belief in the primacy of class would hold that the category of class in the material world is part of the mechanism by which changes in the superstructure occur. In that case, at the theoretical level, the category of class would function as a way to interpret superstructural phenomena such as law, philosophy, literature, etc.

Both of the above are variants of the first way to understand the primacy of class, from a determinist perspective. Resnick and Wolff are right to reject this perspective, though they themselves provide little argument as to why they do so. They reject determinism in the sense that Gramsci rejects it. This rejection, however, does not mean rejecting the entire notion of the primacy of class. Rather, it is merely a rejection of one way of considering class as primary.

The second way to consider class as primary is simply to hold that the abolition of class is the most important political project in the present. This was Gramsci’s view. Gramsci rejected determinism but did not hold that “class struggle between capitalists and workers over the means of production or the labor process or the appropriation of surplus value” lost its privileged “historical and theoretical place.” (60.)

Class and Power
It is my own view that class processes are the primary form which processes of power take in capitalist society, such that class struggle is not merely one form of struggle among others. [QUOTE AND CITE MARX ON ‘RADICAL CHAINS’. MARX IS WRONG, SAY WHY.] If class is abolished it is entirely possible that racism, sexism, homophobia, and other contradictions or reactionary ideas and practices will still exist. These will not, however, have any economic expression.

If class is abolished via the abolition of capitalism, abolition of the appropriation of surplus labor, much of the teeth of other contradictions will be abolished. Gaybashing, racist violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and other atrocities may all still exist in post-capitalist society. There will not, however, be economic power present which serves to reinforce them. Companies will no longer be able to decide whether or not gay partners shall be covered on the company insurance plan, because healthcare will be provided to all. Racists will not be able to appeal to the lie of immigrants lowering wages, because wages will not exist. Abusive partners will not be able to use their partners’ economic dependence on them to trap the partner in the violent relationship. Employers and privileged employees will not be able to use their power in the workplace to provide them with the power to inflict sexual harassment with impunity upon those below them in the workplace hierarchy, because the institution of the waged workplace will not exist.

Any preferential/discriminatory practices in hiring, firing, wage levels, housing, access to healthcare, or other forms of inequality in the distribution of means of subsistence will not exist after capitalism is abolished. This is the meaning of the slogan Marx liked, describing communism as “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” [Cite.] There may well still be contradictions, reactionary ideas and practices remaining after the abolition of capitalism. These will need to be dealt with. With the end of capitalism, there will be more resources available for education to erode some of the bases for reactionary ideas. In addition, because we will no longer be having so much of our time stolen by the capitalist class’s forcing of surplus labor upon us, we will all have more time available to support those victimized by reactionaries and more time to deal in the requisite fashion with reactionaries.

Resnick and Wolff address none of these matters. Thus, while they assert that class is not primary, they provide no arguments against my position expressed here. They do claim, strangely, and again without argument, that class is not a matter of power. “[P]ower processes refer to ways in which individuals order one another’s behavior in society. Class processes refer instead to whether and how individuals participate in the production, appropriation and distribution of surplus labor.” (71.) This apparent distinction is no distinction at all. Class processes are precisely “ways in which individuals order one another’s behavior.” In other words, class processes are processes of power.

This mean that the view that class is primary is thus a view that class processes are the primary form which power processes take in capitalist society. It is not the only form, but it is the primary form. This is essentially what is expressed in my arguments about what will to other processes of power happen when capitalism is abolished. Ending capitalism will mean ending those power processes which are class processes, and in doing so will dramatically limit other power processes by denying them any economic expression.

That class processes are power processes is so obvious that I can not grasp how anyone could hold otherwise. Employers dictate to employees when work starts, what will be produced and how it will be produced, at what rate production will occur, and what wages and benefits will be. When employees band together collectively they attempt to dictate to employers how some of these matters of wages, conditions, and benefits will be changed. If the power struggle between employers and employees reaches a certain pitch, other entities can step in to attempt to re-order behaviors.

State entities like the National Labor Relations Board, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Department of Labor can and occasionally do intervene to shape the behavior of employers, usually only upon pressure from employees upon these state entities. Entities like the police, private security firms, union busting law firms, and public relations firms can intervene in numerous ways to shape the behavior of workers who conduct work stoppages, protests, and other actions against employers.

The workplace is not the only form of class process. Class processes touch on every facet of the life and movement of proletarians under capitalism. Similar dynamics and entities to those discussed above related to workplaces also exist in relation to housing, access to healthcare, and consumer goods.

In chapters 26-28 of volume one of Capital, “So-Called Primitive Accumulation,” Marx details the processes of the birth of capitalism. These were precisely power processes, occurring via legal and extra-legal means, by which some individuals sought to order the behavior of others – protocapitalists seeking to order the behavior of protoproletarians – in ways which eventually created the ways in which the production, appropriate, and distribution of surplus labor occurs under capitalism. Thus, all class processes are power processes, though not all power processes are class processes.

Liberating Althusser
The purpose of this has not been to attack Althusser or Althusserians. Rather, the purpose has been to show that Resnick and Wolff do not advance the Althusserian banner in their essay. The claims they make as reasons why Althusser is important are based on logical fallacies, misrepresentations of the Marxist tradition, and rhetorical gestures. These are not conducive to the project of rethinking Marxism or offering resources for a non- or anti-determinist Marxism. These political and theoretical issues are too important to be conducted via the means in this article. [QUOTE MARX, ‘I AM NOT A MARXIST’].

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