Monday, October 29, 2007

Life within/through/beyond capitalism

From: Marx implied that we are powerless until we seize the means of production. Only then can we exercise power over our own lives... To me, however, it's not about seizing power, but about mobilising the power we already have (desire), which capital can never contain. Marx's analysis stems from a mathematical understanding of production and alienation: We produce commodities through work, the surplus value of which is then appropriated by capitalists. What we receive as a wage is mere compensation. But what happens when production does not happen in the workplace, but is just as essential to the reproduction of capitalism as the production of commodities? Other forms of production (such as the labour of housewives, and even the labour of research students) becomes devalued. It is this short-sightedness in Marx which led one of my friends to write on his blog of Marx's thought the following: "Ironically, without money, social labor is valueless." This type of thinking is precisely the problem. It is for this reason that, in struggle, the working-class has historically been given primacy over other actors, like peasants, students, feminists, etc. I've called this in the past "working-class fundamentalism". In my understanding, even the unemployed are productive! All of us unwittingly produce and reproduce capitalism. Capitalism's existence is not solely facilitated by extraction of surplus in the factories. Parasitic capitalist relations have been extended into everyday life. This is where the autonomist Marxist analysis of the "Social Factory" becomes pertinent. Everyone is productive, and everyone produces in the social factory. Capital needs people generally, and not just workers, for its continuing hegemony. It needs people's consent and participation (both in and outside the workplace) in order to continue to exist. People reproduce the system by buying into its propaganda, into its narrative, and living their lives how capital wants them to: to spend, spend, spend, and to work, work, work, and not ever to ask questions. I should point out here that I have considerable problems with Marxist glorifications of "work", as understood in the traditional sense. In the context of biopower, I believe that what we must emphasise instead is LIFE; Living in ways which refuse complicity in the reproduction of the capitalist system. Oftentimes, this will not be done through "work", but through the "refusal of work"! There is a considerable body of Autonomist literature around this, albeit which I have yet to explore in detail. Marx was vitally important in emphasising praxis and cooperation. But he limited capacity for revolutionary action to the workplace. Under conditions of generalised/globalised capitalism which operates through biopower, we need to take Marx beyond himself (possibly in ways in which are no longer recognisably Marxist, but which we should not lament), towards a new understanding of capitalism, hinging not only on the production of commodities, but also on the production of subjectivity. It's not just about seizing the means of production, but also reclaiming our own means of being, thinking, seeing, living, and imagining; In short, producing counter-subjectivities and counter-cultures which sabotage capitalist hegemony from within... Here, a crucial point must be made: by "within", I do not just mean "within the state" or "within the workplace", but WITHIN CAPITALISM; that is, everywhere. For this project, everyone is needed: workers, peasants, students, etc. No one class has hegemony in struggle. As Hardt and Negri write: "class is produced by class struggle". If a group of people decide to rebel, then they are to be supported, not to be downplayed if they don't happen to frame their struggle according to Marxist workerist analyses. Posted by JAGUARITO (Marco Hewitt)

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