Archives for category: Communism

Very little, probably. Still, this comment – – got me thinking. Said thoughts here. Read the rest of this entry »

The other night I found myself reading some stuff by people who came out the Situationist milieu in France after the SI’s break up. I’ve changed my mind a lot and repeatedly on this stuff, as I have with the Italian operaismo stuff. I’m pasting below some quotes and leaving it at that. Because I’m lazy I’m also pasting here some Badiou related quotes from some other stuff I was reading. On the SI/post-SI stuff, there’s a lot more I want to re-visit with regard to all this, from the SI and after, stuff on workers councils and general strikes and occupations. Eventually. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve written before about my impatience with the category ‘fetishism’ in Marx, I’m like quadruply impatient with it in many marxist writings. Fetishizing fetishism, that’s what much of marxistspeak is on this category, the sort of thing best left to the dustbin. I say this because I just started this article at Khukuri. I generally like what’s up there but so far this article… not so much.

To be just slightly less unfair, I quit reading before the section on alienation because I have other stuff I have to get to. I’ll come back later before making a final determination as to what the judgment of history ought to be on the piece (since I am, of course, the arbiter). Thus far in the article it strikes me as part of a whole approach to Marx that ought to be abandoned and which we should look back upon as one of the embarassing habits of our otherwise respected forbears (like poodle skirts, say, and treating illnesses with mercury. I don’t know that Badiou has ever written this sort of thing tied to Marx, I’d be keen to hear his remarks on these categories; Ranciere is quite scathing on this sort of thing, rightly so.) One of the basic intellectual intuitions behind all of this is to find a master category that decodes all of v1 of Capital. The amount of ink spilled on those first three chapters… it’s tied I’m sure to the fact that an embarassing number of cadre of many so-called communist groups and all too-many self-described Marxists never read much further beyond those three chapters, and the overemphasis of those early sections helps continue this condition. There’s also an aesthetic component tied to it, part of the affect of philosophy: “look! fetishism! ooooooohhh! deep! let us ponder and meditate upon its profundity!”

Another way to characterize this basic mistake is that it treats the beginning as laying out the important parts of the book. I don’t think that’s what it does at all. I think the beginning is sort of like the opening to films like The Usual Suspects: it’s an entry point and one which is deliberately crafted to mislead the audience. That means its meaning and its textual function differ. Its real meaning only becomes apparent at the end of the book and should be read via the ending. This fetishizing fetishism approach doesn’t do that, it basically hypostatizes (not 100% sure I’m using that word correctly but I wanted to try it out! woot! vocab points!) the experience of those sections on the reader’s first time through the book.

Below are my minimal notes on what I’ve read of the piece so far. I’ll update this with the rest of my notes as I finish reading. Read the rest of this entry »

Or maybe *we* didn’t have any in the first place.

I had a conversation with the everlovin’ Mlove of the forceful Gathering Forces, about political vocabulary. Read the rest of this entry »

I listened again tonight to two long time favorite songs of mine, both by the band Propagandhi. The lyrics to the song “Rock for Sustainable Capitalism” make mention of “music’s power to describe, compel, renew,” which is a concise and fine phrase. I’ve never had much interest in poetry and so have read very little of it, except for song lyrics, which I’ve read loads and loads of. Music is the single most important hobby in my life and has been for probably two decades now. I don’t have the time for hobbies of any sort that I used to have, sadly; I hope this changes as my daughter gets older and I get my work situation under control. I’d also like to be able to talk more (well, better) about music in an analytical way, both in the way that music critics do and in the way that philosophers do. I’ve done a bit of both on this blog occasionally, in my drafty way, like I said I’d like more and better. Read the rest of this entry »

In a comment at Khukuri John copied in some excerpts from Alain Badiou’s recent remarks on Tunisia. I’m pasting in some of this below along with a few thoughts so I remember to get back to it. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently re-read the bit of Capital chapter 1 of v1 on commodity fetishism. I’ve long been annoyed by a common habit of treating this short bit as a sort of key that unlocks the whole book. As such, I’ve sort of avoided this bit much of the time for a long while.

In this selection Marx refers repeatedly to commodities has having a “mystical character,” “enigmatical character,” and famously as “abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” Marx also writes that “wood (…) is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.” These quotes have never sat well with me. Marx has always struck me as having no patience for subtle metaphysical theological enigmatic transcendent niceties. He has always struck me as mocking those. As such, I’m skeptical about the idea that for Marx commodities really do have these qualities. Read the rest of this entry »

More notes related to this thing. Marx says that what capitalists do is spend money to buy materials of various sorts and to hire people to work with those materials. The workers make goods and/or perform services that the capitalist owns. In general, capitalists sell those goods/services for more than what they spent in materials and wages. The difference between the sale price of the product and capitalist’s cost is called surplus value. The operating principle of the capitalist system is for capitalists to spend money in order to make more money, on and on in a spiral. And they way they make money is by making us work. Their wealth comes from our labor, so in an important way we pay our own wages – minus deductions for the capitalist. Read the rest of this entry »

That Desrorieres book on statistics got me thinking about something related to things that have been on the back burner in my mind lately about Marx. There’s a really interesting discussion of prescriptive and descriptive aspects of statistics, which is relevant to parsing out those elements in Marx, and then there’s the matter of paying attention to the sources Marx used in writing his chapter on the working day. I don’t have the book in front of me and can’t find the bit I’m thinking of online, but someplace in the short book collecting Marx and Engels’ correspondence on the writing of Capital Marx refers to the chapter on the working day as a compliment or sequel to Engels’ early book on the conditions of the working class in england, and suggests that Engels might revise and update it drawing on new data. He councils Engels about which information is scientifically sound, recommending the state inspection and (if I remember right, not sure I do) statistical agencies. That information and the history through which it came to be compiled and available to Marx is an important part of how Marx wrote at least those passages of v1 of Capital. I think Marx’s treatment of this material could be a bit more self-reflexive, by which I mean that is analysis could explain a bit more of its own conditions of existence: why did the information he drew on come to exist and be accessible to him? what does that say about capitalism, if anything, or about British capitalism and the British state at the time the material was collected and when Marx made use of it?

“Nothing is more characteristic of the spirit of capital than the history of the English Factory Acts from 1833 to 1864,” Marx claims, in Capital volume 1, in a section of the chapter on the working day. Read the rest of this entry »