Friday, March 6, 2015

Objective Forces of Capitalist Accumulation and the Subjective Experience of the Process, Part 2

Part one of this investigation centered mainly on the violent expropriation by Parliamentary decree of the small independent farmer or handicraft worker's means of production from his labor-power. In this second part, certain key Marxist categories will be brought to bear upon the analysis of the process hitherto outlined.

The first theoretical structure in need of an introduction to the causal laws assumed to govern capitalist political economy's commodity relation is that of dialectical reflexivity, and the extension of this formulation to the commodification of labor-power. Without comprehending the reflexive force of the material world, the 'objective' and 'subjective' will be abstracted from their concrete unification. Marx rejected the Empiricist notion of the immediate experience as the standard for understanding material causality. Indeed, Empiricism carried inside of it the dogmatic acceptance of immediate, observable appearance that endangered the bourgeois revolutions which swept across France, Germany, and England from projecting an imagined social formation into the future, and interpolating this conditioned desire into mechanical materialism's simple cause-effect relation. Marxist Perry Anderson argued that such a philosophy could only succeed in achieving its bourgeois revolution in England, where empiricism dominated thought. The difference in England was that its mid-seventeenth century revolution had already risen the burghers of the middle class to a position of economic and political power. The objective bonds of feudalism, having been loosened, acted on the subjective class consciousness of the bourgeoisie, who unleashed the forces of production for the capitalist mode of production's prevailing value-relation, in which the laws of commodity production increasingly appeared as 'objective' laws of 'nature' as capitalist production grew in its scope and specialization. Marx's explanation of reflexivity imagined 'the educator who needs education.' In a word, the objective/subjective dichotomy resolves itself into a process of social being altering social consciousness, followed by the reciprocal force of this new consciousness on the material basis of existing social relations.

We might say that 'historical materialism' takes this exact view: the comprehension of social laws lies in seeing their antagonisms, those fissures in which tensions develop and contradictions emerge, first in the dimension of class and economic relations, and later through a social totality.

Totality then is the second concept necessary to understand capitalism's process of objective and subjective determinations. The totality of capitalist production is the sum of all economic relations of production grounding it in its base on the one hand, and the reflexive 'superstructure' encoding all cultural, legal, religious, and philosophical structures in the ideological formations of its definite social processes of (re)production. Marx utilizes the totality of capitalist production in Capital's methodology for understanding and critiquing capitalism and its law of value. In the part on circulation, Marx asks the reader to comprehend the wages apportioned to the working class, and the surplus value of the capitalist owner of the means of production, as the sum of all wages going to the working class as a whole, and the surplus value of social capital extracted from the capitalists as a whole. This procedure holds the tensions of the class contradictions within the system conditioning their relation to one another. It would be impossible to grasp the method of surplus value production in the context of a relationship between an 'individual capitalist' and 'individual laborer.' Such 'Individuals' are the abstract categories of material beings endemic to Marx's critique in The German Ideology.

If totality is the second category, then the third which should naturally follow is that of unity and opposition. A totality exists as a unity of aspects, constituent elements forming a whole organism, maintaining the position of monism key to the ontology of Marx's critical theory. In the Theory of Surplus Value, Marx shows that the unity of the forces facing each other in antagonistic tension within bourgeois society, only appear united in cyclical and historical crises of the bourgeois order. Otherwise, production and consumption, laborer and capitalist, value and use-value, viz. all the contradictions inherent in the general money form and in the commodity, appear to be acting independently of each other. It is when these two parts break out into full antagonism, during the crisis of the order, of both the bourgeois mode of production and of the proletariat's struggle for survival, that these appear to mirror each other necessarily. Suddenly, overproduction/underconsumption reveals the market's failure to maintain the equilibrium insisted on by the apologists of the free market, Ricardo, Mill, and Say. And in this third category the essential motion of capital in particular and matter in general is revealed as one which cannot be possible but without undertaking a process of separating the totality's parts and reuniting them organically and critically, identifying in these contradictions the possibility of transcending them.

This transcendence, or sublation, will be the fourth and final category on which the objective and subjective process of accumulation should revolve. Sublation is more than the simple act of overcoming contradiction, of its final negation. Through negation, sublation both destroys and preserves part of itself in its next permutation, setting the ground for a new antagonism, which, in a post-capitalist universe, Marx claims follows an entirely new dialectic than that in which the 'laws' of the capitalist mode of production are identified. This break represents the break with the past's subjective stage of 'primitive accumulation', during which the laws of capital are constructed by force, in the minds of that newly liberated class of bourgeoisie, and after which present themselves to all, including their own bourgeois architects, as objective, necessary laws acquiring an existence and motion independent of the subjective processes of the ruling class who called it into being.

This unity and tension between the object and subject should invite us to think about whether 'primitive accumulation' is really the simple pre-capitalist origins upon which the bourgeois mode of production is fulfilled, or if this process reappears at each stage of capitalism, and finally in its final stage as that of permanent crisis.

Therefore, the next article will deal with the theory of crisis found in some of Marx's lesser known writings.

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