Re: postone

> From: Stephen D'Arcy <darcy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: postone
> Date: Sunday, November 09, 1997 6:34 PM
> > I understand Postone to be saying, then, that traditional Marxism
> > on property and the market, whereas now he is going to focus on the
> > of work. Not that he does enough or anything, but Marx does talk about
> > this in the _Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts_. But perhaps Postone
> > wants to distinguish "traditional Marxism" from Marx himself. So a
> > preliminary question: is it right to say that traditional Marxism
> > on what Postone says it focused on, and is the shift to a focus on "the
> > nature of production, work, and 'growth' in capitalist society" going
> > effectively rejuvenate Marxist critique?
> >
> > --John
> >
> >
> I would suggest that, insofar as "traditional Marxism" (which is, of
> course, what Foucault would call a "heterogeneous ensemble") took the
> labour theory of value as its starting point, it had to focus on the
> process of production. Hence Marx's first volume of capital is
> devoted to the topic of the "process of capitalist production". More
> narrowly, it devotes a key chapter (ch. 5, as I recall) to the
> labour-process in particular, as a form of human activity (considered
> in abstraction from "production relations" which distinguish, say,
> peasant agricultural labour from physically indistinguishable
> proletarian agricutlural labour).
> The whole point of CAPITAL v. 1 is to argue that all capitalist
> wealth, which "presents itself as an immense accumulation of
> commodities" (i.e., things), is really reducible to productively
> harnessed human labour, and that such labour has a "two-fold
> character" insofar as it produces both use-value (a relation between a
> product and a consumer) and commodity-value (very roughly, a relation
> between the labour of one producer and that of all others). Capital
> itself, accordingly, is construed as "objectified labour." CAPITAL,
> in other words, is devoted to the de-reification of the wealth
> embodied in commodities.
> Steve/

john, steve, and others,

i am glad that this list has decided to tackle this tremendously difficult
work, as it has an important relation to what foucault was trying to
accomplish--in my interpretation anyway. but more on that later. first,
we must keep ourselves from starting on the wrong foot:

john, in an answer to your query... yes, yes, yes! postone is making a
sharp division between the traditional interpretations of marx (what he
calls "traditional marxism") and the writings of marx himself (based mainly
off of his readings of the grundrisse and capital--apparently). and while
the focus of traditional marxism is changed significantly, it is not so
much that it has focused solely upon the market and property in the past,
but that was seen as a critique of political economy (where political
economy was interpreted as "capitatlism") instead of a critique of
political economy (where political economy was interpreted as the doctrines
of ricardian classical political economy). what this means is that
traditional marxism has looked upon marx as someone that "took up"
ricardo's analysis of capitalism, improved upon it, by illucidating its
historical significance, solving some technical problems (mainly with the
labor theory of value--which was ricardo's "invention"--not marx's, or even
smith's for that matter) and from this basis developed a critique of the
capitalist society... the one based upon class conflict (postone aptly
terms this a critique from the standpoint of labor)... that is the laborer
itself is seen as a universal subject and in some historical materialist
fashion (historical materialism was not marx's doctrine, was it?!?--i don't
think so...) would overcome its oppressors and create a universal
proletariat class... this is what his vision of the transition to
communism has been interpreted as... but postone (and i think he is right
in this) believes that this interpretation leads to a distopian (my
terminology not his) ideal, and that further marx never had any such idea.
he argues that marx maintained that it was the laborer (itself a capitalist
created subject) that must be over come... [and now i finally get to
steve's post]... relying upon marx's distinction between material wealth
(use value) and capitalist wealth (exchange value)... and it is only at
this point that marx "takes up" ricardo's labor theory of value, but with
the intention of a critique... this critique is not like tradition marxism
which is a critique of what is (capitalist exploitation) and what is also
(proletarian consciousness) and thus the over coming of one with the other,
it is based upon what capitalism is (a commodity/labor mediated
society--which only recognizes exchange values) and what is possible (a
society that is based upon use values)... and finally, in tying this back
to foucault's project (esp. in the order of things) it demonstrates that
foucault rejected marx because of his traditional marxist interpretation
(and rightly so)--but it is my contention to this list, and i have asked it
before: would foucault have reconsidered remaining a marxist if there were
a "post-modern" interpretation available to him at the time?!? it
certainly would require a rewriting of the second half of the order of
things... but if postone is correct in his interpretation, marx may well
have been a co-father of the post-modern/post-structuralist philosophy
along side nietzsche...


and, steve, as a post-script: if i had to choose a single chapter of
capital that postone has taken as his philosophical homeplate, it would be
chapter one of volume one... in which he developes the analysis of the
commodity... the only contemporary economist that i have come across that
has published a comparable interpretation (at least of this first chapter
of marx's capital) is philip mirowski... but he (like marx himself) is "not
a marxist"...
David J. Wiltsee
Dept. of Economics
University of Utah

Partial thread listing: