Re: Foucualt and capital

Marsden's book was my first explicit encounter with 'critical realism', so
perhaps I'm not the person to evaluate the ontological/epistemological
foundations of his approach, but as I've just finished reading the book,
here's my impression (please excuse teutonic English wherever you find it):

1. Marsden mentions the 'Althusser link', but his argument does not depend
on it at all. On the contrary, he spends much energy on showing that
Althussers theses of the the 'big break' within Marx's project around the
Feuerbach theses and the German Ideology is wrong and establishing a
continuity of Marx's research instead. For Marsden, it is this continuity
that allows to connect Marx with Foucault.

2. Marsden shares Foucault's criticism of traditional Marxism and a similar
evaluation of Marx's work as being a research project to be continued,
expanded and critically revised. For both traditional marxism isn't more
than an endless commentary of sacralised texts, while the task would be the
constitution of a 'scientific' discourse (understood as a historical
research project that would include a critical revision of those points
where Marx errored). Both see one of the reasons for the dogmatic
development in the polemic characteristics of certain writings of Marx
himself. I've just flipped through Vol. 2 of the Dits et Ecrits yesterday,
which is full of remarks on Marx, and the similarities struck me. Marsden
establishes his point by comparing Marx/marxism with Darwin/genetics and
Newton/quantum theory. I don't know if he was aware of (more than a handful)
similar MF remarks, as he doesn't quote Foucault and so avoids exposing
himself as a foucauldist in need of His Masters Voice. Which goes like this,
if you want:

"If it's true that each science has its founder, then the historical
development of this science cannot consist of mere commentary on the works
of this founder. If it's true that physics were founded by Galilei, then you
can know exactly in the name of scientific physics up to which point Galilei
reached and therefore where he didn't reach...and where he was wrong. The
same is true for Newton, Cuvier and Darwin. If marxists, certain marxists,
consider marxism to be a science, then they should know - in the name and on
the basis of this science itself - where Marx was wrong." (DE II, No 119 - I
only have the German translation, so page numbers won't help you at
"There is a science which could be called 'communistology' and which would
be a historical science comprising very precise institutional analyses. But
for now we're still far from this 'communistology', from which marxism as
science, as dogma, has departed." (DE II No 155)
(Somewhere else in DE II 'communistology' is MFs label for the dogma, but
this reads like "Too smart to be a communist? Be a communistologist!
Communistologists of the world, unite!" Hey-ho.)
If you want, Marsden takes Marx and Foucault as 'communistologists', the
relationship of their efforts as analogous to that of the general theory of
relativity and quantum theory within physics.

3. To concretize the "why/how/what" nexus Philip quotes: Marsdens
core thesis is that Marx failed to explain the process of real subsumption
(= the process of labour - or rather the working body - becoming a form of
capital aka abstract labour), and that Foucault filled in the gap with the
disciplinary model. In short, Foucault explains the process in which bodies
are organized to a productive force, which is crucial for Marx's model
because it is the source of capitalism's dynamics (the possibility to
increase the rate of relative surplus). Marsden then translates the
disciplinary techniques into those organizational techniques everyone knows
without having read Foucault: engineering, cost accounting, human resource
management. I found this helpful, insofar as much governmentality studies
literature leaves me with the impression that many of these people analysing
accounting, management etc. à la mode foucauldienne seem to have no idea
that Marx's model ever existed or that their research could have anything to
do with such an 'obsolete' thing, while I always thought it could/should,
and quite around the nexus Marsden establishes. (Perhaps some of these
people know perfectly well about a possible connection and work hard to
avoid it because of the subversive odour Marx's name still has. And perhaps
some people on this list who engage in consulting managers on how to align
workers' 'culture' with the demands of productivity increase are among them.
Hello, Lionel.)

4. What I missed in Marsden's book was a) a discussion of the broadening of
the disciplinary to the governmentality model (does anybody know texts
discussing this with regard to Marx?) and b) a discussion of the production
and function of delinquency where imho Foucault revised Marx's hypothesis on
the 'Lumpenproletariat' (I don't know how this translates - rabble?
scoundrels? the German has a double meaning fitting perfectly well in this
context) and helped explaining another quite persistent
feature of capitalism, that is the non-arrival of a revolution. Marx didn't
expect anything from the scoundrels but a weakening of the only
possible subject of revolution, the productive (disciplined) body, and
warned the latter not to cooperate with them. Foucault shows how
the division of the 'plebs' into a 'productive' and a 'dangerous' class is
produced and how it serves to moralise the 'productive' class and integrate
it into capitalist governmentality. This cannot be taken as a proof for
Marx's 'insight' into the problematic character of the Lumpenproletariat
itself, for it shows that Marx himself (and most of his
followers) walked into the trap of bourgeois morality/governmentality
that the separation (and fetishization) of 'productive' and 'dangerous'
classes is. By blaming the marginalized, 'unproductive' plebs for corrupting
his dear disciplined revolutionary subject, Marx encouraged the working
class - to accept the moral/governmental framework of capitalism instead of
maintaining plebejian revolutionary stubbornness.
(I guess this is why irony is over.)

Probably today the maintenance of a carefully calculated number of
unemployed people, treated in a certain moralizing and marginalizing way,
has a similar function for an intensification of the remaining work force's
integration/subsumption via new techniques such as lifestyle consumption and
obsessive self management. I mean - reducing/reallocating working hours
shouldn't be such a big problem if people/governments really wanted to
reduce unemployment as badly as they keep telling everyone for decades. They
did it before, and if Rifkin can be believed (with reference to the
1930/USA), to the employers' satisfaction. And what do they do now? And what
for? And what if Lionel reads this and then goes to teach managers how to
stage 'unemployed abuse sessions' with their employees?


Partial thread listing: