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Tronti in Chicago…

Capital’s power appears to be stable and solid. … the balance of forces appears to be weighted against the workers… and yet precisely at the points where capital’s power appears most dominant, we see how deeply it is penetrated by this menace, this threat of the working class.

Can I say Tronti cannot just be dismissed. His argument is very complex and rich; his argument in “Struggle Against Labor” is so absolutely precise and full it demands a reading.  And, I think, Postone’s critique of Hardt points to a potential for synthesis of a reconstructed Marx’s value theory with autonomism or workerism. I want to explore that potential briefly by looking at Tronti’s argument in his piece, which, according to the poster at Libcom.org, is “One of the existing English language excerpts from Tronti’s influential book Operai e capitale”

Tronti begins by asserting

“No worker today is disposed to recognize the existence of labor outside capital.”

By labor, Tronti means the worker’s own activity. Thus no worker considers her own productive activity as anything but activity of capital. Tronti argues this is the logical precondition of the capitalist mode of production; it is a point of no return for human activity. This lack of recognition of its own activity as its own is, in Tronti’s argument, an expression of working class passivity, which, Tronti argues, is a spontaneous act of refusal by the working class from the logic of capitalist relations of production:

this passivity is recognized as an elementary, spontaneous form of refusal by the working class. For mass passivity always follows after the political defeat of the class, caused by its official organizations; alternatively, it follows a leap forward in capitalist development, in the appropriation by capital of socially productive forces. We all know that these two objective preconditions of working-class passivity have been combined in the past few decades.

In its spontaneous passive attitude toward its own activity, there is no pride in labor among the working class and no illusions regarding the dignity of labor and the laborer. Paradoxically, this passivity forms the core proposition of antagonism to the capitalist mode of production itself: To understand capital, the working class need only grasp the intolerable character of its own activity; to overthrow capital, it only need overthrow its own activity. Tronti argues in its struggles the working class does not merely confronts capital, it confronts its own labor as capital, as the enemy.

This very view is echoed in Postone’s argument in Time, Labor and Social Domination, that Marx did not critique capital from the standpoint of labor, but capitalist labor itself. Tronti’s assertion that the working class is hostile toward its own activity, lends credence to Postone’s definition of Marx’s theory. This parallel becomes even more clear when the argument of the two are laid side by side with regards to traditional views of Marxists. Says Tronti:

“The “pride of the producer” they leave entirely to the boss. Indeed, only the boss now remains to declaim eulogies in praise of labor. True, in the organized working-class movement this traditional chord is, unfortunately, still to be heard – but not in the working class itself; here there is no longer any room for ideology.”

Says Postone:

“The […] transhistorical understanding of labor, presupposes that a structural tension exists between the aspects of social life that characterize capitalism […] and the social sphere constituted by labor. Labor, therefore, forms the basis of the critique of capitalism, the standpoint from which that critique is undertaken.”

In contrast to the traditional presentation of the relation between labor and capital, in both Tronti’s and Postone’s argument there is no pride in labor in the daily life of the working class; nor a critique of capital from the standpoint of labor in Marx’s theory. In Postone’s interpretation of Marx and in Tronti’s interpretation of the worker’s empirical life labor is capitalist labor and nothing else. The object of the worker’s practical activity and Marx’s theory is to critique, not capital on behalf of labor, but this capitalist labor. How these two interesting insights into Marx’s theory and the practical activity of the working class have remained apart is a big question.

I would contend they have been held apart by a critique of Marxism itself that has not yet been completely realized.

The difference between a critique of capital from the standpoint of labor and a critique of capitalist labor itself is essentially political; which is to say, a critique of capital from the standpoint of labor is merely a political critique, while a critique of capitalist labor is inherently anti-political.

Tronti, even in this fine piece, still succumbs to the political view:

“[The working class] has to recognize itself as political power, deny itself as a productive force.”

This statement is really quite ambiguous. What does Tronti mean by the working class denying itself as a productive force? Moreover, what does it mean for the working class to recognize itself as a political power? Tronti makes the argument in this piece that “No worker today is disposed to recognize the existence of labor outside capital.” If this is true, he is essentially arguing the working class does not recognize its own activity as its own. Tronti seems to be making the argument, as I argued against Ollman, the working class is incapable of recognizing itself — even in the form of recognizing is activity as its own. Tronti uses the phrase “disposed to recognize” in this context, which might imply this is a choice by the worker not an inherent incapacity. In his argument the working class might choose to recognize itself as a political power, while not recognizing itself as a productive force.

The problem even here, however, is that if the working class can recognize itself as a political power why can it not simply take control of its own productive activity — that is, the total social capital of society? In this case, denying itself as a productive force would be nothing more than denying capital the employment of the total social capital of society as a mere means for producing surplus value. If this is an accurate restatement of Tronti’s argument, we are led back to the “traditional” Marxist interpretation of the task of the proletariat: to seize the state power and employ this power to free itself from capitalist relations of production. This is precisely the “critique of capital from the standpoint of labor” both Tronti and Postone criticize.

What makes me think this restatement of Tronti is flawed is that later in his argument Tronti asserts:

“The working class must cease to express the requirements of capital, even in the form of its own demands: It must force the bosses to put forward demands, so that the workers can actively, that is on an organized basis, reply ‘No!'”

“Demands” here can only be interpreted as “all demands”, both economic and political, which is to say the only demand is for the abolition of capital and the state. Once stripped of its ambiguity, Tronti’s argument is not for the working class to seize state power, but abolish it, i.e., the working class must recognize itself as the new society already present within the old one. The strategy of refusal is nothing else if not the refusal to recognize not only capital, but its political expression as well – the state. This idea is already expressed in both the Tea Party, with its refusal to recognize the alleged need for deficits during capitalist crises, and in the Occupy with its refusal to recognize the alleged need for austerity during capitalist crises. Taken together the refusal to recognize the requirements of fascist state policy is expressed as poles of political opinion within the class.

Tronti demands this division within the class be overcome in such a way that offers both capital and the state only a resounding “No”: “No” to deficit spending and “No” to austerity. Tronti’s strategy of refusal must result in the working class saying “NO!” to every alternative offered by the capitalist state and capital. It follows from this that all debates within the class over alternatives like austerity versus deficits are resolved in the answer “Neither! We will not accept your austerity and we will not accept your deficits. We will only accept the abolition of capitalist labor.”

And this is where Postone’s critique of the autonomist argument made by Hardt scores a direct hit on the target: It is not until value is reconstituted solely as a function of capitalist relations of production and no longer materially necessary that the possibility emerges for the abolition of capitalist labor itself. This is the great contribution of Postone: he offers a theoretical argument that makes Tronti’s strategy of refusal realizable.

In turn, Tronti gives Postone the revolutionary subject he lacks in his own argument: the worker, but not as a “worker”; rather this worker is already disposed to identify her labor with capital. To throw off capital, she need only throw off her own labor and appear in history as herself, a social individual. This throwing off of her own labor is not possible until her labor appears on the historical stage as an anachronism; until, as Postone argues,

“The system of wages, considered from the standpoint of material wealth […] only appears to be remuneration for labor time expenditure.”

This is possible only when labor itself is no longer necessary, and not a moment before. But Postone’s argument is that labor continues to appear to be necessary long after it is no longer.

If you read Tronti’s “Struggle Against Labor” side by side with Postone’s critique of Hardt in the South Atlantic Quarterly journal, you can see in their synthesis the potential for a sword that cuts the Gordian Knot of working class direct action. It is the demand that extracts the working class from the false choices offered by fascist state policy: between inflation and unemployment; endless deficits and cruel austerity.

It is the demand for nothing less than abolition of labor, a reduction of hours of work until the needs of the working class are satisfied, and this demand must become the working class’s single demand no matter the consequences for capital and its state. In Tronti’s words,

“If the alienation of the worker has any meaning, it is a highly revolutionary one. The organization of alienation:  This is the only possible direction in which the party can lead the spontaneity of the class. The goal remains that of refusal, at a higher level: It becomes active and collective, a political refusal on a mass scale, organized and planned.”

The destructive potential of “No!” was on full display in the first two years of the Obama administration when the GOP, to rally its troops in face of repudiation by the voters in the 2008 election, played the “Party of No” in the 2010 elections. The tactic threatened to swamp the GOPoseurs themselves as new elements turned on the Washington GOP to the point of threatening Washington itself with default on its debt. The disruptive power of “No!” predicted by Tronti appeared ominously enough for capital in the very elements it raised to tighten its grip on the fascist state. It appeared just as ominously within the Occupy as a movement, which offered no demands on the existing state and which could, therefore, not be placated by satisfaction of their demands. As Tronti wrote:

This today is the only possible means of overcoming working-class passivity-overcoming the spontaneous form which this passivity presently takes – while furthering its political content of negation and revolt. The first organized “No!” of the workers to the first “demands” of the capitalist class will reverberate as a declaration of total class war, a historic call to the decisive phase of the struggle, the modern version of the classic revolutionary slogan; Proletarians of All Lands, Unite!

  1. skepoet
    May 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    “[The working class] has to recognize itself as political power, deny itself as a productive force.”?

    Wait, how does one do that? Doesn’t one entail the other?

    • May 17, 2012 at 7:21 am

      Can you expand on this? I think you are making a very good point.

      • skepoet
        May 17, 2012 at 9:15 am

        Well, the political power the working class has is only in their ability to control production; otherwise they are subjected to the whims of those who already have power both in cultural hegemony (privilege in liberal speak) and capital acculumation, so their political power is their denial or redirection of productive aims, or it’s nothing. There is no dichotomy as Tronti is positing but his impulse may be in the right direction besides that.

  2. May 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    We should not confuse labor with human activity. John Holloway, following operaismo, does this in conflating labor and doing. Labor is the activity which mediates Man’s relation with Nature, but there are activities that mediate the relation between human beings. In fact, labor as domination is the outcome of labor as mediating the relation of Man and Man, the conflation of the realm of necessity with the realm of freedom.

    I would say that I reject the idea that “there is no pride in labor among the working class”, but I don’t need to reject it because it is an exaggeration of sufficient scope that anyone defending it is thrust into the unenviable position of arguing that anyone who does take pride in labor must not be a real worker, but only a petty bourgeois. Maybe it would be easier if this were true, but alas many wage laborers I have worked with take pride in their work and even identify with it.

    This does not mean that the wage-laborer does not experience labor contradictorily. Sometimes it is experienced as “stupid managers who just won’t let me do the job the right way”, a.k.a. the Dilbert Syndrome. Sometimes the job is just experienced as something you don’t want to do that day or that gets in the way of doing something else. However, there is also the experience of feeling disoriented and unable to organize one’s life in those periods without work.

    Further, unlike Tronti, Postone does not merely critique capitalist labor. He is aware, like Marx himself (expressed in Capital, Vol. 3, The Trinity chapter) that the realm of necessity is the realm of labor, that is, where labor ends, there freedom begins. The realm of freedom is the realm of activity and non-activity beyond labor. Postone’s argument has much more in common with Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under socialism” than with Tronti on this level.

    Part of what makes Tronti archaic is that this was written in a period where work was 1) increasingly rote and one-dimensional, but 2) still plentiful. Labor as social form is more important to capital than ever, but the amount of labor required to keep the wheel turning is less and less, and a larger and larger part of the world finds itself not merely as surplus labor, but as redundant, superfluous and unlikely to ever be potential labor.

    If anything, it is absurd in 2012 to maintain that “in the working class itself… there is no longer room for ideology.” In 2012, there is nothing in the working class but ideology. If Tronti is correct that “During the strike, the “producer” is immediately identified with the class enemy”, then the present period with its utter lack of strikes (the decline since 1990 is simply epic) would seem to indicate a complete lack of clarity.

    Where Postone points to an objective constraint and the theoretical consciousness of it, Tronti wants to posit a class consciousness. Was such a thing not recently excoriated on this site? Is this not why Tronti has a Party Politics view of the class struggle? “The party must be the organization of what already exists within the class, but which the class alone cannot succeed in organizing.”

    Also, I believe it is a mistake to like Tronti’s position to Postone’s because Tronti argues that we must switch the critique from the top down to the bottom up: we should start with the worker, not capital.

    The bringing together of Critical Theory and Operaismo has in fact already been done, starting in the 1980’s and continuing into the early 2000’s via the journal Common Sense and the people around it who published a three part book series called Open Marxism. Werner Bonefeld, John Holloway, Richard Gunn, Simon Clark, Johannes Agnoli, and others have taken this up as central to their work. One might even broadly say that the journal Capital & Class, which gave birth to Common Sense around the Edinburgh Conference of Socialist Economists. C&C had an article on it in Vol. 34, No. 1, February 2010 (Issue 100).

    The Open Marxism milieu has been generally hostile to Postone’s reading of labor and I believe they are correct to see themselves as more in line with operaismo and autonomism in this opposition.

    I was curious what you meant with your references to the Tea Party, but now it is clear: “This idea is already expressed in both the Tea Party, with its refusal to recognize the alleged need for deficits during capitalist crises, and in the Occupy with its refusal to recognize the alleged need for austerity during capitalist crises. Taken together the refusal to recognize the requirements of fascist state policy is expressed as poles of political opinion within the class.”

    This strikes me as naive. The Tea Party milieu very much recognizes the state, insofar as the state protects private interests. They reject the public in its entirety and view the attack on deficits as a way to expel the public, the social, from the state. That has nothing at all to do with refusing to recognize the need for deficits during capitalist crisis. For them there is no capitalist crisis, except in the sense that each person is not being thrown back on their own individual, or at best familial, existence in a free for all.

    The result of this logic, by the way, is exactly that of John Holloway: The revolution is a big No!, even if it is a barbaric no. The Krisis Group’s Norbert Trenkle addresses this in “The Metaphysical Subtleties of Class Struggle” in the following way:
    “Finally, this also means, that the destructive revelations of modern subjectivity in the context of capitalist crisis are deemphasized and euphemised quite thoughtlessly. When the struggle as such is defined as the urge for liberation, then it is in principle also valid for social Darwinist rivalry struggles, for regressive and fundamentalist movements, or for outbreaks of sheer autotelic violence. Even though Hardt/Negri and Holloway don’t call these forms of expression of the “struggle” emancipative, they do appear, in the light of these theories, as a quasi-barbarically twisted expression of that alleged anti-capitalist nature: “Often the No is violent or barbaric (vandalism, hooliganism, terrorism): the depravations of capitalism are so intense that they provoke a scream-against, a No which is almost completely devoid of emancipatory potential, a No so bare that it merely reproduces that which is screamed against. … And yet that is the starting-point. … The starting-point is the scream: the dangerous, often barbaric No” (Holloway 2002, p. 205 f.). One can sense at this point in the text that Holloway himself is uneasy with this consequence. But it is built into the logic of his argumentation (as well as in that of Hardt and Negri) because simple abstract negation of the construct of “objective class consciousness” without breaking up the metaphysical frame of reference inevitably lead to the mystification of capitalist immediacy and thus contribute, although unintentionally, to its legitimation.”

    • May 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you for your rather exhaustive history of workerism. I cannot say I am very interested in it, since the point of my post was not the parallels between workerism and Postone, but between Tronti’s argument and Postone’s. But I realize you labored mightily to bring these sources together for me and I appreciate the effort.

      1. I do not confuse or conflate labor with human activity. That may be John Holloway’s problem but it is not mine. If you are going to comment on what John Holloway wrote, you might send it to him.

      2. I do not say “there is no pride in labor among the working class” — this is Tronti’s argument. My only objective was to show how his argument lent credence to Postone’s interpretation of Marx’s value theory and supplied Postone with a revolutionary subject.

      3. Do not include your anecdotal evidence within your argument against Tronti. Some of my friends are “white”, but this does not deny the fact that “white folks” are racist. Their racism is already given in the fact that they see me as “black”.

      4. I see no evidence that Tronti does not recognize the realm of necessity in his argument. In any case, this recognition had nothing to do with my argument on the parallels between his argument and Postone’s. In fact, Postone’s argument lifts the veil of mystification from the concept of necessity, since his argument implies necessity is itself a historically constituted category and is not identical with material necessity.

      5. Tronti may be absurd to argue “in the working class itself… there is no longer room for ideology”, but the point of my argument is not whether he is absurd in this assertion. Instead I argued that he closely parallels Postone’s argument that the point of Marx’s theory is not a critique of capital from the standpoint of labor, but a critique of capitalist labor itself.

      6. Your argument over the lack of strike activity is misplaced, since Tronti actually employs low points in such activity as examples of what he calls the passivity of the working class. It is precisely this passivity that Tronti argued needed to be organized.

      7. The fact that Tronti posits a class consciousness that does not exist is exactly a point I made in my post. I am not sure what your point is in reiterating it.

      8. The reason I liken Postone’s argument to Tronti’s is that both focus not on capital or the worker, but on the character of capitalist labor. I hope this clears that up for you.

      9. The fact that the parallels in Tronti’s workerism and Postone’s interpretation of Marx are not commonly recognized by either is not, in my opinion, an argument for the lack of parallels — even if the whole of the workerist school and the whole of critical theory swears on a stack of bibles no such parallels exist. It simply cause me to wonder what is at the root of this denial. I offered as an explanation that this is because the critique of Marxism itself is incomplete.

      10. I am not sure what you mean when you say the Tea Party “view the attack on deficits as a way to expel the public, the social, from the state.” Can you explain how “the public, the social” is presently included in the state? Also please explain to me how your argument does not lead you to vote the Demagogic Party ticket in the fall?

      And again, if you have problems with John Holloway’s argument, I suggest you write him a nasty letter.

  3. skepoet
    May 18, 2012 at 3:20 am

    Reblogged this on The Loyal Opposition to Modernity: and commented:
    Jehu has caused me to engage with Tronti, which has raised some interesting issues.

  4. Chris Wright
    May 18, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Allow me to reframe this a bit.

    Firstly, I’m sorry for the way in which this was presented. Your post and the blog in general struck me as having a series of strong affinities with discussions and ideas that have a history, and a history that is actually quite theoretically interesting, but I addressed those affinities rather than you. Therefore I was having a conversation in my head on your blog as if I was talking to you, which understandably is not that interesting.

    Having said that, what you find interesting as a potential parallel between Tronti and Postone is also taken up in a way you might also find productive in the work of the Open Marxism milieu which I mentioned. Instead, as you noted, I was having this argument with Holloway (whom I know and have had discussions with over the years and so I don’t need to send him hate mail), when what I would like to say is that there is material out there that you might find enhances your engagement with the intersection of Tronti and Postone.

    On point 2, you may want to find supply Postone with an already existing revolutionary subject within capitalist society, but I don’t think he wants one. He is quite explicit in TLSD that a unitary social Subject is an indication of capital’s domination.

    There is also an answer to “how these have remained apart”: they haven’t, at least not in a broad sense. There is critical theory with roots similar to Postone’s, which sees in Marx’s “laws” the forms or mode of existence of the class struggle, class struggle as constitutive, aka the Open Marxism milieu, and they have already taken up consciously the critique of capitalist labor as a form of domination and the importance of Mario Tronti and autonomia and operaismo as whole. Postone, who rejects this treatment of the social forms as constituted by class struggle and the idea of the working class or labor as Subject, would have no reason to bring these together.

    I generally agree with you that Tronti’s piece is not necessarily opposed to Postone’s work, but it requires rethinking certain concepts, such as mediation, class, class struggle, etc. At one point, the Open Marxism milieu did this rigorously, but never took up Postone’s critique not merely of capitalist labor, but of labor as social mediation and the abolition of labor tout court.

    On point 3, Tronti’s claim is actually empirical, and thus subject to refutation by particulars. The relation between racism and individuals is structural and thus conceptual, and not simply subject to refutation by particulars.

    On point 4, what I have in mind by necessity is Marx’s discussion in the Trinity chapter of Capital, Vol. 3. Labor is always the realm of necessity, in the sense of material necessity. In capitalist society, labor, and hence necessity, is conflated with freedom, and not just by the capitalists, but by traditional Marxism and Fascism alike, which have been all too happy to claim “Arbeit macht frei”.) Re-reading the essay again, I agree with you that Tronti does go as far as Postone on this point.

    On point 5, my issue is that you want to argue that Tronti provides Postone with a revolutionary subject, but if you reject Tronti’s claims about the self-consciousness of the working class vis-à-vis labor, his largely subjective claim linking the critique of labor to a revolutionary subject falls apart, hence his politicism.

    On point 6, Tronti’s argument is self-contradictory. Clearly there is room for ideology if there has been nothing but a long run secular decline in strike activity for a very long time, which Tronti can only explain as a failure to organize that radical passivity by the party. He holds the objective and subjective moments apart, and this is not an accident or oversight but is internal to his way of posing the question. His argument is a sophisticated version of the claim that all that holds the working class back from doing away with capital is their lack of organization and inertia, and if only the right organization came along with the right program, well, then capitalism would be in trouble because that current passivity is nothing but a roiling undercurrent of resistance waiting to be unleashed.

    If we want to claim that this passivity is inherently radical, is a form of resistance as such, and we want to hold to the idea that the self-organization of the class is not a problem of a party and the political organization of the class, then that passivity ought to be presenting a problem for capital a such, but it doesn’t seem to at all. The result is that the theorist ends up glorifying every No and being unable to distinguish between shit and Shinola.

    As such, I don’t think we can simply take his claims about the radical underbelly of proletarian passivity at face value and simply strip it of its “political” detritus.

    On point 8, well yes, I got that, but I was trying to make the point that Tronti has an internal problem with how he poses the question that Postone does not, leaving us with nothing from Tronti so much as a point of affirmation of Postone with little of his own to contribute, except that you seem to think he gives Postone a revolutionary subject. This is the bone of contention because Tronti’s revolutionary subject is really the Party because left to itself, the class evidently will not get past a passive refusal (or what Lenin called a trade union consciousness). His essay “Class and Party” really does have to read alongside this piece.

    On point 9, even though I believe that there is a clearly defined intellectual milieu in which the commonalities between critical theory and workerism are recognized, their confusion over what is important and what is not certainly does indicate that “the critique of Marxism is incomplete”.

    On point 10, what I am suggesting is that capitalist society has been forced by the exploited and oppressed to increasingly assimilate citizenship to the human condition. Prior to capitalism and the Enlightenment, citizenship was a privilege conferred on those recognized by the lawfully constituted authority. Christianity made a virtue of this condition by claiming that this citizenship was inessential to the community of the saved, and thus freedom from sin was more important than the freedom of the city.

    I believe Gaspar Tamas expresses this best in his essay “On Post-Fascism”:

    “Once citizenship was equated with human dignity, its extension to all classes, professions, both sexes, all races, creeds, and locations was only a matter of time. Universal franchise, the national service, and state education for all had to follow. Moreover, once all human beings were supposed to be able to accede to the high rank of a citizen, national solidarity within the newly egalitarian political community demanded the relief of the estate of Man, a dignified material existence for all, and the eradication of the remnants of personal servitude. The state, putatively representing everybody, was prevailed upon to grant not only a modicum of wealth for most people, but also a minimum of leisure, once the exclusive temporal fief of gentlemen only, in order to enable us all to play and enjoy the benefits of culture.

    For the liberal, social-democratic, and other assorted progressive heirs of the Enlightenment, then, progress meant universal citizenship–that is, a virtual equality of political condition, a virtually equal say for all in the common affairs of any given community–together with a social condition and a model of rationality that could make it possible. For some, socialism seemed to be the straightforward continuation and enlargement of the Enlightenment project; for some, like Karl Marx, the completion of the project required a revolution (doing away with the appropriation of surplus value and an end to the social division of labor). But for all of them it appeared fairly obvious that the merger of the human and the political condition was, simply, moral necessity.”

    The Tea Party seeks to reverse this tendency, just as does the Jobbik Party in Hungary, the National Front in France, the FPO in Austria, and so on. However, I would suggest that in their own manner, so do the parties of the center, such as the Democrats, but only partially because they worry that completely doing so will lead to, well, Greece.

    This assimilation of citizenship to the human condition is what I have in mind by “public”, and it has little to do with voting (about which I care very little if people do or don’t.) This assimilation has been the product of struggles, often particular in some sense, but in another having a universalistic character: the workers’ movement has in mind the universal abolition of exploitation; the women’s movement at one point had in mind not the establishment of “women’s identity”, but of human equality between the sexes as the Civil Rights Movement did not have in mind affirmation of “Black” identity, but the end of racism and the implementation of genuine human equality. The list is long, but what is unique is that today there is, generally speaking, no universalistic political movement.

    Why and why it should matter and whether or not it is something we would want back is a larger discussion. I think it is gone for good. I think that we are put in a position today that the only way to extend the Public to its logical conclusion is the abolition of capital, but I also think that the defense and extension of the Public against both Liberalism and Tea Party type communalism (the two halves of the post-fascist political landscape) pushes logically towards the abolition of capital.

    • May 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      If I could step back a minute in this discussion, perhaps I could clarify things a bit. My argument on the parallels between Tronti’s argument and Postone’s argument are not meant to be “theoretical” in the sense folks sometimes employ that term. Which is to say the point of my exercise is not Tronti’s argument as such, nor Postone’s argument as such, nor even the parallels between the two arguments as such.

      What really interests me is finding an aid or tool to actually understand the historical significance of movements like the Tea Party and Occupy; the split in the working class politically between “right” and “left”; and, the split between variants of communism between Marxist, anarchist and libertarian strains within bourgeois politics. It seems self-evident that, since the working class composes the overwhelming majority of society, all political divisions of this type express nothing more than splits within the working class itself.

      It seems to me in all of these apparent political and ideological divisions within the working class, there is something being expressed which reflects this class itself, unconscious of itself and unconscious of its historical mission, that must, despite all such divisions, lead to the demise of capitalism even if this demise nowhere becomes the goal of any of them.

      The problem with this inquiry is that very often theory is concerned not with understanding what the working class is actually doing, but with lecturing them as if they are children on what they must do. No one takes the time to strip away the superficial appearances of working class action to grasp, employing Marx’s theory, what the class is actually doing. I don’t even think this concept even figures among theoreticians as a need. In the writings of most Marxist I read the working class doesn’t even appear except as some cardboard two-dimensional backdrop to historical events.

      Marxists need to go back and develop an understanding of how a class that is not even aware of itself as a class, is not aware of its own activity as a class, and which can act only as individuals, manages to pull off such an astonishing feat as to overthrow labor, property and the state, without this overthrow ever becoming the conscious aim of the individuals concerned.

      • May 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

        Well said and I can’t but agree on each point.

        For me, this has taken the form of an interest in how actual changes to the labor process and spatial domination (lived space outside the workplace) are related to what you describe above, including possibilities for liberatory action.

  1. May 17, 2012 at 12:13 am
  2. June 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm

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