Todd continues the conversation. (Said conversation consists of this then this then this and now this.)

(I wrote) “There are at least two definitions of class usable here. One is simply a differential or hierarchical position in the application of violence. The other is a differential or hiearchical position in the distribution of surplus labor.”

(Todd responds) I don’t know if it actually matters for your argument, but I don’t like the first formulation. The first one is too broad to include any class content. Under it any hierarchical power would be class, and that can’t be right.

Fair point on hierarchical power and class. The typical use of class seems to be more specific, one form of hierarchical power. I should have said “hierarchical power” instead of class. I think that substitution could be made in my reply without significant changes in content. One of the main issues at stake in the discsussion I think is one of the relationships between different modes of hierarchical power and the specific mode which is class.

The conceptual analysis vs strategy distinction makes sense to me. There’s an ambiguity, though, in the type of analysis. You write “what concepts do we need to account for gender, race, class” and their interactions. I think there’s at least three approaches to this, with three different times. One is historical origins (where did they come from), which is in many cases used to make predictions for the future. The second is atemporal (what are they as such). The third is present directed, with an eye toward the future as the result of activity (what’s going on in the present). Marxism of the sort we both reject falls under the first. The second and the third are linked – we need concepts to think about the present etc. I think we agree on much here. Here’s how I’d put some of this. It’s not clear how to connect the relative logical differentiability of these (race, gender, class, we could add sexual orientation, disability, etc, any mode of hierarchical power which appears in systematic fashion) is with their frequent unity in the world. In one sense, there are intersecting lines or axes or logics or processes. In another sense, there’s one world and at least in certain sites there’s one system at work (a complex dynamic one, you might say) which may have different forces etc in it but is still in a sense one (such that we can say there are tendencies and likely outcomes). I take the latter to be something we agree on, as in your analogy of the body.

My claim about class primacy is connected with this, as I see class (or, economic expressions of and positions in hierachy) as that which provides much of that current unity, and that which many other elements work toward securcing (or, the securing of which is that toward which many other elements are mobilized — sorry for the torturous phrasing, I’m thinking as I go). So, if one considers the body, when I get very cold my body will restrict blood flow to my outer limbs to preserve heat in my core. I see class or the economy as being in that core. Economic actions and sites are the most effective for addressing both (the most) hierarchies, and for attacking the way that many (logically differentiable but often materially unified) hierarchies are articulated together and reinforce each other. Hence the stategic emphasis on the economy.

This goes without saying, but just to be clear, this is not intended as a dis on activism around other aspects of hierarchies, beyond economic components (domestic violence and gaybashing, for instance). Those things are wicked important for their own sake and can have an impact on class struggle by breaking down divisions.

On the other hand, if one wanted to fight every instance which composes patriarchy and/orheterosexism one would also have to address current economic practices and fight them. I can think of two general orientations toward this. One is to seek to eliminate those economic practices (abolish class). The other is to seek to disentangle a given category from economic subordination – creating a less sexist, heterosexist, racist capitalism. I actually think the latter is worthwhile, contra those for whom reforms are worthless, but this does indicate an important difference at least conceptually. The struggle(s) against race, gender, sexual orientation (etc) as modes of or positions in hierarchical power is does not necessarily struggle for the abolition of race, gender, sexual orientation (etc). Rather the struggle is to transform those from being divisions (social relations or categories of hierarchy) into being simple nonhierarchized difference(s). Class struggle, however, is struggle for the abolition of class as a mode of or position in hierarchical power with no corresponding conversion of division into nonhierarchical difference. This is the (only) worthwhile content in Marx’s assertion of the working class as having radical chains.

I suppose one could argue that class struggle is a struggle to separate the labor process from the valorization process, such that different types of labor become nonhierarchized differences. I’m open to that, but I think the labor process(es) will be transformed tremendously by the separation. I also think it’s important to recognize that there is a social position which will be eliminated without preserving a social remainder, that of the exploiting class. That will not become a nonhierarchized difference because its existence is impossible without hierarchy.