Tag Archives: Marx

From a Notebook on Psychology (Part 2)

From a Notebook on Psychology (Part 2)

[1]

Marx writes of communism as the ‘solution to the riddle of history’ and as ‘knowing itself to be so’. But what does this signify for the development of the human personality in communism and for the character of interpersonal relationships? There is an incredibly rich literature for studying this and related questions. For example, see…

https://www.marxists.org/subject/psychology/marxists.htm

https://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/

Human conscious awareness is fundamentally a social creation. It is not simply a biological creation although, of course, it implicates biological processes within itself. It was, at root, the need to co-operate and communicate in the labour process which gave birth to language and necessitated the rise of consciousness itself. Language and thought are inseparable aspects of the same psychological process.

The relationship between instinct and learning found in the animal primate is transformed with the rise of consciousness. Originating conscious awareness transforms animal instinct into the human unconscious. In the course of this transformation, emerging consciousness establishes itself in dynamic dialectical relation to its psychic opposite (the unconscious) to which it has given rise in the course of the transforming of instinct by the rise of consciousness itself. Each – the conscious and the unconscious – therefore arise and evolve as mediating the life of each other and, in so doing, constituting the psychic totality of the human mind or “Consciousness” as a whole. The specific relation between instinct and learning found in ancestral primates is superseded (sublated) with the rise of consciousness which gives rise to the higher relationships and content of the human psyche as a whole.

The dialectical relationship between the conscious and unconscious sides of the psyche raises the following question : can this dialectic be resolved at a higher level in which both the conscious and unconscious sides are superseded into a higher form of the human psyche? So that the conscious (as we know it) and the unconscious cease to be? Is this dialectic between the two sides becoming resolved into a higher psychic synthesis as communist life continues to evolve? The resulting psyche is neither “conscious” or “unconscious” as we know it? Hence the human psyche ceases to be characterised by this dialectic of its conscious and unconscious sides? It becomes a “return” (a negated negation) to the pre-human form of awareness but in a higher humanised form? But not, of course, a return to the purely non-conscious awareness of the pre-human primate ancestry. The conscious and the unconscious would become only superseded moments in the overall life-process of this psyche.

The conscious and the unconscious are psychic opposites. Each is what it is only by virtue of its relation to the other. The rise of conscious awareness simultaneously engenders the human unconscious and, in the course of its origination, establishes the dialectical relationship between the conscious and the unconscious.

Perhaps the psycho-historical role of the origination and evolution of the “conscious psyche” is to prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of this higher order of the human mind in consonance with higher, different forms of behaviour and human personality as communist humanity evolves? So that this social history is itself the unfolding of the conditions that are necessary for this ‘revolution’ in the mind? In this way, by evolving along this path, this higher psyche would be the negation of that of previous eras? This movement, of course, being expressed as a tendency in the human psyche in the course of the enduring evolution of communist society.

This return (negation of negation) could not be a simple repetition i.e. humanity cannot possibly return to the mere natural mode of life of ancestral primates. This return is also, at the same time, a real advance beyond both the natural mode of life of the animal and beyond the socio-historical periods of development of pre-class and class societies and the forms of conscious awareness corresponding thereto. In the reconciliation and synthesis of the naturalness of the ‘animal awareness’ and the conscious human social awareness is formed the higher relations of the human personality of classless society.

Human consciousness evolves and takes different forms in different epochs so that different stages in its development correspond to different stages in the history of society from its origins in the natural mode of life of animal primates through to the dissolution of class societies and the consequential emergence and onward development of classless society. But within this whole development, the dialectical relationship between the relative and the absolute is expressed in the alteration of the forms of conceptual content revolving around and integral to the enduring relationship between the conscious and the unconscious. This latter relation between the conscious and the unconscious becomes subject to a relativisation as communist life evolves with the emergence of a new fundamental absolute i.e. with the transcendence of this historically absolute relationship between these two intermediating sides within the human psyche. What are the underlying social processes driving the resolution of this dialectic within the psyche? To create a higher form of the psyche? This needs to be researched. It can only lie in the altering nature of human relations when communist life has irreversibly established itself and is evolving upon its own self-created foundations; when humanity globally as a species is so far beyond the legacies of class society that even the memory of these legacies no longer ties humanity to this distant past. Its growing realisation must lie beyond the ‘realm of natural necessity’ and within the evolving ‘true realm of freedom’

The evolution of human freedom in communism does not become subjectively acknowledged as ‘freedom’ as such. Just as communist humanity does not register psychologically its own communist nature. This is, of course, a paradox of human history. For only the truly ‘unfree’ can envisage but not directly experience such a state whereas the truly free have no need to envisage it in the direct immediacy of experience of such a state of human freedom. Truly free human beings will not be and can never be conceptually aware of their own state of freedom as a social condition. A truly free human society will be free of all concepts of freedom. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and has no awareness of being free. This human freedom will progressively deepen and widen, of course, but this will not be experienced negatively as the negation of an ‘unfreedom’ but positively as the augmentation and intensification of the quality of the freedom of the ‘true realm’. Only the ‘unfree’ speak of freedom. A society with concepts of freedom remains divided against itself; a society divided into classes; a society based on enslavement in one form or another.

In the transition to classless society, the forms of human consciousness, human relations and behaviour corresponding to this period of transition will continue to reflect a disappearing connection to and with bourgeois society showing that society – in this revolutionary transition phase – will not have completely disentangled itself from the psychosocial legacies of bourgeois society. As long as the historical umbilical cord connecting society to such legacies of bourgeois society – and the human memory of them – has not been completely severed, then human society has not re-founded and re-developed itself as an association of free human beings. At such a stage, the legacies of the relations of bourgeois society would continue to exert their influence, binding humanity (at least psychologically) to the forms of social antagonism of the past. Accordingly, under these conditions, the thinking, feeling, behaviour and interpersonal relationships of people would continue to be conditioned by the legacies of the exploitative relations and legacies of the class society which is in the course of being transcended during this period of transition.

[2]

If humanity creates a state of affairs where, initially, basic needs are identified and realised, if people have access to work, good quality housing adequately serviced, education, medical facilities, recreation, mobility and new cultural experience, all of these and more and this access is universal for every man, woman and child worldwide and always improving and becoming better in quality, then this must create the basis for a society which is more worthy of our humanity than the present bourgeois state of affairs. A state of affairs where millions are subject to chronic unemployment and will never work again, homelessness, a street existence and destitution, lack of healthcare, social support and educational development or none at all, no facilities for human recreation, fulfillment and personal development, the weight of systematised threat and humiliation (implicit violence), coercion, oppression and exploitation. All these and more creating the epidemic of stress, fear, anxiety, depression, suicide and many different psychological problems arising from this chaotic, unplanned, pandaemonium state of affairs. The establishment of a socialist society will go a long way towards providing the unfolding conditions for the elimination of all these psychological problems because they are all rooted in the continuing rule of capital. It must serve to alter, for the good, the whole character of interpersonal relationships and forms of human behaviour which can serve to wreck and destroy people’s lives. The gnawing dissatisfaction of people with their conflicted, stress-filled and unfulfilling lives under the rule of capital…

Dissatisfaction with oneself is either dissatisfaction with oneself within the framework of a definite condition which determines the whole personality e.g. dissatisfaction with oneself as a worker, or it is moral dissatisfaction. In the first case, therefore, it is simultaneously and mainly dissatisfaction with the existing relations; in the second case – an ideological expression of these relations themselves, which does not all go beyond them, but belongs wholly to them.

[Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p. 378]

The individual ‘self’ as the ‘ensemble’ of the prevailing social relations [Marx, Theses on Feuerbach]. Even the forms of psychological self-evaluation, evaluation-of-others and personality characteristics – within which such evaluation is psychologically grounded – as intrinsic to this ‘ensemble’ and developed within these relations and ‘belonging wholly to them’.

The existence of the nuclear family articulates a division between the private and the public space in the development of children. The nuclear family as socially porous and yet existing as a Janus unit of relationships with different faces for the inside and outside. This is a barrier which individuals traverse back and forth throughout life as children, adolescents and adults. This contemporary division is itself the creation of bourgeois relations.

The life and development of the child within and outside the family make up the two sides of the conflict between its private conditions of life and its wider social conditions of life outside the family. In bourgeois society, the psychological development of the child is primarily centred in the family i.e. within the social arena where its physical and other needs are met. It is the psychosocial medium in which children form their earliest and most significant psychological attachments and dependencies. The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies form the psychological content of the inner relationships of the nuclear family within which children’s needs are realised or not as the case may be.

The relationship between the bourgeois system of social relations and the nuclear family are ambivalent. These relations tend to necessitate, maintain and encourage the continuation of the inner relationships of the nuclear family. However, at the same time, these same conditions and relations – in the course of their development – undermine the family and even are now creating the basis for the disintegration and supersedence of the nuclear family. The relationship between the nuclear family and bourgeois social relations is contradictory, here encouraging its reproduction and now there its break down and break up.

The conflict between the ‘public’ life of the individual outside the family and the ‘private’ life within the exclusive coterie of the nuclear family is one which can only subsist under general conditions of social alienation. This separation between the ‘private’ world of the individual and the individual’s ‘public’ world and role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. The very notion of ‘private’ is a creation of the historical process itself.

Marx notes that there is a dichotomy in the life of each individual. He writes that…

Individuals have always proceeded from themselves but of course from themselves within their given historical conditions and relations, not from the “pure” individual in the sense of the ideologists. But in the course of historical development, and previously through the fact that within the division of labour social relations inevitably take on an independent existence, there appears a cleavage in the life of each individual, insofar as it is personal and insofar as it is determined by some branch of labour and the conditions pertaining to it.

[Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p.78]

This social ‘cleavage’ in the life of each individual is reflected in the distinctions between the public and private psychology of the individual. This psychological contrast corresponds to the ‘cleavage’ in the social being of each individual. It is a ‘cleavage’ which is expressed in the form of the psychological contrast between the public persona of the individual on the one hand (embracing occupational/professional relationships, etc) and the inner egoism of the private world of thought and feeling of the same individual on the other hand. This antagonism between the private and public sides of the human personality is a feature of human relationships in bourgeois society. The continuation of the existence of bourgeois relations serves to cultivate and perpetuate this antagonism. In so doing, it serves to fragment the personality of the individual – opposing this side or that aspect to another, etc – in his or her psychosocial relationships.

The progressive dissolution of the family in communism means and ensures that the rearing and development of children takes place on an entirely different (indeed opposite) social foundation. Children are reared within the social conditions, and through the social relationships, of the commune. This seres to resolve the conflict between the private and public sides of the life of the individual. Children become ‘the children’ of the whole commune – are reared by the whole community – as the psychosocial relationships which characterise the internal structure of the nuclear family start to disappear. Biological parents cease to have the same degree of social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the monogamous nuclear family. Each child has biological parentage, naturally, but every adult becomes the social ‘parent’ (guardian) of each and every child. Hence, the traditional family-based notions of ‘parent’, ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ ‘daughter’, etc – which express the social relationships of the nuclear family – will vanish and be replaced by relations which express a degree of freedom impossible in bourgeois society. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role upon these adults. The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of family, mother, father, brother, etc. The narrow, exclusive mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded. It will signify the emergence and development of the highest possible degree of individual human freedom where children and adolescents are nurtured by the whole community. These relations will become intrinsic to the life of the commune as the individual grows to maturity.

In capitalist society…

the ability of children to develop depends on the development of their parents and that all this crippling under existing social relations has arisen historically, and in the same way can be abolished again in the course of historical development. Even naturally evolved differences within the species, such as racial differences, etc,…can and must be abolished in the course of historical development.

[Marx. The German Ideology. ibid., p. 425]

‘The ability of children to develop depends on the development of parents’. The psychology of the child is a sensitive indicator of the general character of the social relations of the epoch. The dissolution of the nuclear family is the social transformation of the development of children in the commune. Their physical and social needs are unconditionally guaranteed and attainable outside the traditional constraining bounds of the nuclear family.

The maturation of children in the commune outside the nuclear family facilitates a higher degree of personal independence than can ever exist in bourgeois society. The psychology that is associated with the possible or actual non-attainment of needs – food, shelter, clothing, etc – disappears which, further, serves to dissolve the traditional ties of the nuclear family. The psychosocial relationships of the nuclear family – which grow out of the necessity to satisfy human needs under the conditions of exploitation of bourgeois society – become historically unnecessary and gradually disappear in the transition to and onward evolution of classless society. The individual that replaces the individual of the nuclear family is the ‘social individual’ who is a fully integrated and active part of the life process of the commune itself. It is only within the commune that each individual has….

the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; hence personal freedom becomes possible only within the community. In previous substitutes for the community, in the state, etc, personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed under the conditions of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class. The illusory community in which individuals have up till now combined always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and since it was the combination of one class over against another, it was at the same time for the oppressed class not only a completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well. In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association.

[Marx. The German Ideology, ibid., p.78]

[3]

Private property and the psychology corresponding to its existence.

The very notion of property itself must disappear with the negation of private ownership and the emergence and onward development of social relations based upon common ownership. The deep and profound significance of such a development for the human personality is obvious.

From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another.

[Marx. Capital, Vol 3. Lawrence and Wishart, 1974, p.776]

Those personality characteristics which are intrinsically associated with the rule of private property – e.g. greed, acquisitiveness, possessiveness, etc – must and will disappear. Human relationships become free of their psychological effects.

Shaun May

December 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Marx, Marxist Theory of Human Personality, Psychology

From a Notebook on Psychology (Part 1)

From a Notebook on Psychology (Part 1)

[1]

It is very clear that social relationships and the psychology of people are related. The areas of Social Psychology and Critical Psychology have plenty to say about this relationship. For example, if whole populations are subjected to oppression and terror in one form or another, this profoundly affects the psychology of the present adult and younger generation growing up under such conditions. We only have to look at what is happening to children in Syria at the moment as the civil war continues. If coercion and compulsion on threat of sanction are the order of the day, then this must have psychological effects such as anxiety, fear, depression, etc. If a person’s employment enables him or her to feed family and keep home, body and soul together, then the lurking threat of redundancy or dismissal must engender fear in the life of that person because the realisation of such a threat must mean the destruction of the structure of that person’s life or, at least, its complete alteration and disruption. It introduces conditions which carry the possibility of personal catastophe and the overturn of a previously stable and relatively secure personal existence. This is the same with domesticated animals such as pets, for example. A pet which is constantly abused and subject to cruelty will develop different behavioural patterns to the same pet which is fed, watered, medicated when sick and generally shown human care and affection. A child growing up in an abusive household will undergo a markedly different psychological development to one reared in a caring and nurturing environment involving a focus on the child’s individual human interests. The examples are too numerous to mention.

The “psychological” is a legitimate historical category but only in its relationship to the category of the “social”. It is not legitimate in isolation from this latter category.For example, the “psychopathic” personality is not the creation of the biological malfunctioning of the brain in the way a diabetic is the creation of a dysfunctional pancreas or a blind person of a defunct retina. The “psychopath” or child killer is an individualised creation of the society into which he is born and has developed. He has been created on the ground and within the social conditions of his own personal experience in this society.

The character of the prevailing and dominant social relations constitutes the foundation upon which the human psychologies of a given culture develops. However, the human mind has and must have – in its discreteness – its own laws of development which do not simply ‘reflect’ social development and also are not absolutely identical with this development Within their unity – the interrelation between society and mind (their interdependence) – subsists the discreteness of each.

In the sense that thought itself cannot take place without the organ of the brain, matter itself must be a material pre-condition for thought. And production itself furnishes the nutrients to feed the body and its various organs. Of course, the human brain itself is also, partly, a product of socio-historical development i.e. the brain itself has developed materially (plasticity) in the course of, and as a product of, the historical development of human society. However, in that it is the conceptual content of thought that ‘constitutes’ the ‘substance’ of the mind, it is the character of social relations that forms the basis and conditions for its origination and development:

socio-historical shifts not only introduce new content into the mental world of human beings; they also create new forms of activity and new structures of cognitive functioning. They advance human consciousness to new levels.

[Luria, A.R. Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations.(Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1976) p.163]

[2]

The awareness of the animal primates ancestors of humanity was a non-conscious awareness in contrast to the awareness of humanity which is a conscious awareness. This conscious awareness incorporates (supersedes) within itself the awareness of the animal ancestor as a unity of instinctual and learning capacities. This unity is raised (ascends to a higher stage) to the level of consciousness in humanity, with the emergence of beings possessing a conscious awareness.

If I state that I am conscious of this object in front of me, this conscious awareness of this object also involves the psychic mediation (psychological, neuropsychological, etc) of processes of which I am not conscious, of which I am unconscious. Therefore, conscious awareness simultaneously involves the mediation of these processes which are my unconscious. If I look at the object in front of me, its shape, colour, its texture, temperature, when I handle it, etc, I am drawing on mental powers which are a unity of the conscious and the unconscious. I am using my mind (which involves the physiology of the brain) and therefore this active process must necessarily involve indispensably contributing unconscious aspects.

The unconscious is expressed within and mediated by the conscious (otherwise it would not be the unconscious as such) but does not, in itself, originate entirely within the field of consciousness. In the dialectical moments of mediation of each by the other (intermediation) is expressed their mutual identity and distinction. The origination of human conscious awareness itself simultaneously gives rise to the human unconscious itself. It creates it and in the course of this creation establishes a relation with it so that they intermediate each other. But this human unconscious is created out of the instinctual material furnished by humanity’s primate ancestors and, therefore, cannot be simply the child of human conscious awareness. It contains elements of the pre-human sublated within itself but elevated into the human mind as a totality.

The human mind, accordingly, must have arisen and evolved, as a whole and as a unity of the unconscious and the conscious. This is what “consciousness” is in the complete sense and meaning of the word. It is a fully integrated form of awareness in the life of the human being. But, paradoxically, “consciousness”, as this integrated totality, is ontologically more complex than that of the “conscious” alone as the phenomenological expression of “consciousness” in the totality of its life-process. [“Consciousness” with an upper case ‘C’ and the “conscious” with a lower case ‘c’. We may also use the term “Mind” interchangeably for “Consciousness”]

The different aspects of Mind must be considered in their relation to each other i.e. they must be considered dialectically. In this way, the nature and function of each aspect is understood as being a part of, and intrinsic to, the life of the whole. Each aspect, function and facility affects and mediates the activities of all the others, constituting a unified whole which is higher than a mere aggregation of parts.

The origination of humanity is the process of an aware yet non-conscious primate becoming conscious of itself and of Nature. This process – which we may refer to as sapienisation – is a transition between the mode of life of the non-consciously aware animal primate and that of the earliest modes of human existence as a consciously aware existence. This transition brings with it – in sublated form – this form of awareness of the animal primate ancestry. It transcends this “animal awareness” only by preserving and re-positing aspects of it in a higher conscious form. For example, the hunger, thirst, energy, sex drive, etc, of the animal are transformed in this transition process of becoming human. They become human drives but they maintain a relationship with their animal ancestry in the course of their supersedence (sublation) i.e. insofar as aspects of these human drives which resemble those in our animal ancestors are carried over and preserved in the negation. An operative example of this is the ‘fight or flight mechanism’ inherited from our animal ancestors which, taken in its isolated abstraction, is many millions of years old, passed from generation to generation, from species to species and so preserved as advantageous for succeeding species in the course of evolution. Today passed down and operative in the various forms of human fear and anxiety.

Consciousness itself, as distinguished from the simple awareness of animals, is a social product of the human brain embracing and incorporating within itself an awareness of the ‘self’ involving the capacity to reflect. Reflection – i.e. thought consciously monitoring the progress of its own conceptual content – is an exclusive property of the human mind which is not found in animals or in higher primates. Animals are aware but non-conscious natural beings and do not possess this capacity to reflect. When an animal encounters its image in a mirror by chance it merely sees the image of its own physicality, itself as an object which it does recognise as ‘itself’. When a human being looks into a mirror it observes not only a physicality but also the ‘me’ or ‘I’. For the animal there is no ‘I’ to which this physicality is intrinsic. ‘I-ness’ is a function of the reflective capacities of human beings. This, of course, is not to assert that all animals do not possess sensitivity or awareness of their surroundings and that they orientate their behaviour according to their changing relationship to their surrounding conditions of life.

[3]

The mind is a complex synthesis of the social and the biological. Human thinking is a social product of the brain. If the neurology of the brain becomes diseased, degenerated or disordered, this can affect the capacity to think (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disorder). But the actual animating conceptual content of human thought is social in its origin. The brain does not produce political conceptions, for example, by a process of neurochemical secretion in an analogous way to the stomach producing acid or the liver producing bile. In a analogous way, to adopt a mechanistic example, the mirror does not produce the image by generating it out of its own materiality. Without the mirror there is no image, of course, but the the actual image in the mirror is dependent on the existence of the object reflected external to it. If the mirror is concave or convex, the image in the mirror will be a distorted reflection of the object.

Again, there is no emotion or feeling without its registration by the brain and body. ‘I’ ‘feel’ my anger or joy only insofar as I am a living material being with brain, nervous sytem, blood, organs, etc. But anger, pain (unlust), joy, etc, are not simply neurological products. They involve the mediation of thought, either conscious or sub-conscious. If I am elated because x and not y has happened, this involves and implicates the rumination of thinking, anticipation, even worry within my thinking. Examples are too numerous to give.

But does this link human emotion to the history of social relations? An obvious example of this is the feelings of jealousy and resentment in the interrelations between the sexes. This man ‘steals’ the wife of another man who is so enraged with jealousy, etc, and plans to kill them both? But in a different society where these monogamous relationships are transcended and the human mind has become accommodated to unconditional polygamy and the open character of sexual relations, what becomes of such emotions as jealousy? Are such emotions the passing attributes of a historically-conditioned human psyche? Are they subject to alteration and negation as these social relations change? So the woman takes different men (or women) to her bed and there is no jealousy, resentment or hostility mediating the changing relations?

It appears, therefore, that certain human emotions only arise with the emergence of definite social relationships and institutions. Thus, the emotion of envy/jealousy only comes into being with and accompanies the psychological interdependencies and acquisitiveness (‘possession’) of interpersonal relationships which are a social product of the rise of private property and the changing forms of the family corresponding to the evolution of private property.
Human behaviour – mediated by mental life – can only be comprehensively and scientifically understood on a socio-historical basis, within a socio-historical perspective. Implicitly, the conception that there is some nebulous, eternal psychological ‘human nature’ destined to characterise human beings in, at and for all places and all times must be considered untenable.

Moreover, we need to consider whether or not, at a physiological level in the brain, emotional states are correlated with definite neurological states. That rage and joy are associated with different neurological states of the brain. [I dare say that this has already been observed or even studied by the neuroscientists]. The subject individually registers anger or joy, for example, as a state of feeling. I “feel” angry, I “feel” happy, etc. The most fundamental question that radical psychology must address concerns the nature and quality of the emotional life of the human individual i.e. humans as ‘feeling’ beings. Feeling as the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves. If I am suffering a terminal, malignant sadness, what does this say about the character of the social relations through and within which I am living my life? And this psychological state comes into relation with, and becomes manifest in, my behaviour, in my interpersonal relationships, in my perception and evaluation of self and others. Engels writes that..

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived

[Engels. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p. 605.]

The implication here is one of altering forms of human behaviour as ‘historical conditions under which people live’ change and become transformed. And hence the alteration of their psychology in the course of human beings altering their lives and creating new modes of living, higher ‘historical conditions’ more worthy of their humanity? So that the different forms of human behaviour and psychologies can only be understood relative to established and evolving socio-historical conditions and therefore not conceived as fixed and unalterable. The forms of human behaviour and psychology in any society therefore reflecting the prevailing socio-historical conditions and their dominance in the life of the individual.

[4]

Vygotsky proposes that in the psychological development of children…

Any function in the child’s cultural development appears on the stage twice, on two planes, first on the social plane and then on the psychological; first between people as an interpsychological category, and then inside the child, as an intrapsychological. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory and to the formation of concepts. The actual relations between human individuals underlie all the higher functions.

[Vygotsky, L.S. Development of Higher Mental Functions. Psychological Research in the U.S.S.R. (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966) pp. 44-45]

The psychological development of the individual involves the psychological assimilation of the actual social relationships and modes of behaviour ‘between human individuals’. These ‘actual relations….underlie all the higher functions’.

However, the mind is not simply a passive reflection of social relations but is a most active element in the development of these relations. Vygotsky’s proposal implies that the ‘inner dialogues’ of thinking are intrapsychological transpositions and transformations of the dialogues and social interactions between individuals. These interactions are psychologically internalised in the form of ‘inner dialogues’ thereby reflecting the social structure and content of the actual relations between human individuals.

Shaun May

December 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Crtical Psychology, Luria, Marx, Marxist Philosophy of Mind, Origins and Evolution of Consciousness, Radical Psychology, Vygotsky

Fragments From a Notebook on Marx’s Political Economy

Fragments From a Notebook on Marx’s Political Economy

Volume 1 of Marx’s Capital

Marx. Capital, Volume 1. Penguin Edition, 1976. (Translated by Ben Fowkes)

[Readers must study the full quote relating to each comment. [………………] indicates missing middle part of quotation]

1. “Objects of utility become commodities only because they are the products of the private labour of individuals who work independently of each other. […………………………………] ; so that their character as values has already to be taken into consideration during production”

(pp.165-166, Chapter 1, section 4, The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret)

Exchange is absolutely fundamental to the continued existence of commodity production. We must move as quickly as possible to the elimination of exchange and its replacement with a universal system of accounted distribution founded upon the socialist principles of need, quality, human welfare, ecological considerations and sustainability, etc. A socialist accountancy of labour time directed towards the realisation of these needs. The uncoupling of production and distribution from exchange will serve to undermine commodity production itself. From free-market zones to market-free zones.

The abolition, or rather phasing out, of exchange which involves “opposing the products of different forms of labour with each other on the basis of equality” necessarily means the phasing out of the market system. Under capitalist commodity production, the products of private labour only become commodities at that point when they enter circulation and receive the stamp of social general labour in their exchange relations with other commodities. This is the point at which “the equalisation of the most different kinds of labour can be the result only of an abstraction from their inequalities, or reducing them to their common denomination, viz., the expenditure of human labour-power or human labour in the abstract….only exchange brings about this reduction”. [Marx, Value : Studies by Karl Marx, New Park Publications, 1976, pp.5-6]. This human labour as specific quantum of labour in the abstract must manifest its quantity in the “objective form” of a given equivalent of use-values. For example, 5 cars for 50 sheets of machine-compressible steel sheets, mediated by money, etc. Hence a social relation appearing as a relationship between things. etc.

2. “The question why money does not itself directly represent labour-time, so that a piece of paper may represent, for instance, x hours labour, comes down simply to the question why, on the basis of commodity production, the products of labour must take the form of commodities. [……………………………………] But Owen never made the mistake of presupposing the production of commodities, while, at the same time, by juggling with money, trying to circumvent the necessary conditions of that form of production”

(pp. 188-189, Chapter 3, Money, or the Circulation of Commodities, footnote 1)

The establishment of generalised production based on directly socialised labour in order to move away as rapidly as possible from commodity production. To undermine commodity production and exchange. And the social acknowledgement and ‘normalisation’ of this system of production through the issuing of “certificates of labour”. Computer technology (e.g. electronic card systems and transfers, etc) will now make this process easier to establish and develop.
Capitalist commodity production is based on private labour becoming abstract, general, social labour through exchange of the products of private labour. Labour receives the stamp of social labour only through exchange and thereby is indirectly socialised labour. But this exchange is an essential, inalienable mediation in capitalist commodity production as a whole. This indirectly socialised character of labour under capital necessitates the dichotomy between money and commodities. Private labour can only be stamped and recognised as social labour through the mediation of exchange at which point the products of private labour assert their character as commodities and the realisation of their values in the form of money as universal equivalent (the market system).
Socialism is based on directly socialised labour which is the antithesis of its indirect form under capitalist commodity production. Implicit here is the negation of the commodity as historic form and therefore of money itself. A system of developed and directly socialised labour has no need for money in order to mediate its reproduction because the commodity-form has been extinguished. This was the case in the communes of prehistory before the rise of exchange and can be so again (return to the old but at a higher stage of development). Stripping the product of labour of its commodity-form, on the one hand, and the initiation and development of directly socialised productive labour in the period of transition, on the other hand, are inseparable moments of the same historical process.

Hence [1] the need to rapidly establish – conditions permitting – a system of production and distribution arising out of directly socialised labour and [2] the creation of a universal system of accountancy of labour-time through the issuing of certificates using electronic and computer technologies, etc.

Marx writes of the point of metamorphosis of the commodity into money (C – M) as the “salto mortale of the commodity“. A point of high vulnerability (a “weak link in the chain” or “Achilles Heel”) for capital in the process of its circulation. The point at which the product of private labour receives the stamp of acceptability of general social labour. At this point, capital is not only susceptible to the fluctuations and vicissitudes of the market but also to actions such as mass consumer boycotts. Severing the nexus here serves to disrupt capital in circulation.

It severs the link between the production of use-values and the realisation of value in circulation i.e. it dis-assembles the necessary relation between the production of use values and the market realisation of value and therefore facilitates the disruption of the capital relation itself.

Sever the nexus which serves to integrate and maintain the two sides (production and circulation) of the process of reproduction of capital as a whole, and the process as a totality starts to break up and disintegrate. Deprive capital of the essential transformation step of commodities into the money-form and the cyclical process of the reproduction of capital starts to break down and perish.

To do this, we must develop social practices and corresponding forms of organisation which dis-establish (strip) the product of labour of its commodity-capital form and disrupts the process of the circulation and accumulation of capital. This would serve to undermine dependency on the global market and facilitate its dissolution.

The transition to a system of immediately (directly) socialised labour is the fundamental, mediating ground for eliminating the process of capitalist commodity production. “On the basis of commodity production, labour becomes social labour only as a result of the universal alienation of individual kinds of labour” (Marx). The establishment of production based on directly socialised labour means the end of capitalist commodity production and therefore its mediation by the money form because “it would be impossible for a specific commodity…..to confront other commodities as the incarnation of universal labour and exchange-value would not be turned into price; but neither would use-value be turned into exchange value and the product into a commodity, and thus the very basis of bourgeois production would be abolished” [Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress, 1977, pp.84-86]. Private labour only becomes social labour indirectly (taking the money form) through commodity exchange. Directly socialised labour circumvents (“short-circuits”) this mediation and by doing so represents the negation of capitalist commodity production. The creation of social relations founded on directly socialised labour must therefore eliminate those relations founded on the “universal alienation of individual kinds of labour”.

The associated producers themselves are in control of the products of their own labour and not any class, bureaucracy or external (alien) body or organisation. They make the “democratic decisions from below” as to the distribution of the surplus according to the need to accumulate (technical development and innovation), transfer to a collective fund for public provision, workers education/training, private consumption, etc. Once the surplus is taken out of the hands of the producers themselves and appropriated by an alien body/organisation then all the old “muck of ages” has an even greater potential to re-establish itself (the Soviet Union, etc). Those who appropriate and control the distribution of the surplus invariably generate and/or consolidate power structures for self-serving interest and privilege which stand in hostile opposition to those whose labour has produced the surplus unless, of course, appropriation and control over production and distribution is by the associated producers themselves.

A direct accountancy and calculation of labour-time remains in the intial post-capitalist stages. But it takes place as an accountancy of directly socialised labour in order to plan and extend production, distribution and the development of human culture in general. This accountancy and allocation of labour-time ceases to present itself disguised in fetishistic commodity and money forms. Labour-time is calculated as a means to producing a definite quantity of use-values and for catering for the social needs of people generally. Human beings organise themselves in their activities and alter these activities according to their developing needs without the presence of alien bodies and structures confronting them and directing their activities over and against their human interests. These measures, of course, characterise the early phases of the transition. Beyond these phases is the actual transcendence of account keeping itself on the basis of the expenditure of labour time. Then free time (not labour time) becomes the real measure of wealth.

3. “If we proceed further, and compare the process of creating value with the labour process, we find that the latter consists in the useful labour which produces use-values. […………………………………….] Whether it was already contained in the means of production, or has just been added by the action of labour-power, that labour counts only according to its duration. It amounts to so many hours, or days, etc”

(pp 302-303, The Labour Process and the Valorisation Process)

The division of the commodity into use value and value is the mirror replication of the antithetical character of the labour which produces it, i.e. labour which is simultaneously “useful labour” and “value creating”.

The different forms of “useful labour” constitute the panorama which is the division of labour. The exchange of labour activities will serve, in the initial phases of the directly socialised labour process, to facilitate the breakdown of this division of labour and to enrich the skills and life of the human individual. The development of these labour-exchange activities which become mutual, reciprocal accommodations of socially useful, directly socialised productive labour. The evolution of these exchanges creates the medium for the interrelationships and enrichment of human culture in its diverse forms and aspects – technical, scientific, artistic, aesthetic, etc. This will serve to initiate the transcendence of the division of labour within the places of production and within society as a whole.

The division of labour created by the origination and evolution of capitalism engenders the “crippled” human generations of the capital order. From this basis we proceed to transcend the division of labour and hence the highly problematic nature of this movement. It is these “crippled” generations which must commence the historic process of “undoing” all this “crippling” of the individual and in the process create new generations free of all of it. Humanity can only start to transform itself by starting to transform its conditions of life and it can only commence this momentous and enduring process from where it really stands at the prevailing stage of development. Humanity can only use itself as the material which it itself finds available and at hand. From the human being of the 21st century global capital order to that of the “true realm of freedom”.

4. “the extraordinary increase in the productivity of large-scale industry, accompanied as it is by both a more intensive and more extensive exploitation of labour-power in all other spheres of production, permits a larger and larger part of the working class to be employed unproductively”

(p.574, Machinery and Large-Scale Industry, section 6)

How much more true is this today at the opening of the 21st century with capitalist exploitation on a globally integrated scale, with computerisation, robotics, automation, etc. And specifically with the global polarisation between “productive labour” in Asia and Latin America, etc, and the “unproductive labour” of Europe and North America, etc. The creation of most of the surplus value in the former and its conveyance in stupendous quantities to the latter indicative of the inhuman and destructive superexploitation in the former. Marx refers to the personifications of this “unproductive labour” as the “servant class”. Today we could locate millions in the so-called “service sector”. Marx adds “What an elevating consequence of the capitalist exploitation of machinery!” (p.575) with this reproduction of “the ancient domestic slaves, on a constantly extending scale” (p.574)

5. “……..every advance in the use of machinery entails an increase in the constant component of capital [………] and a decrease in the variable component [……….] We also know that in no other system of production is improvement so continuous and the composition of capital employed so subject to variation as in the factory system. This constant variation is however equally constantly interrupted by periods of rest, during which there is a merely quantitative extension of factories on the existing technical basis. During such periods the number of workers employed increases”

(p.578, Machinery and Large-Scale Industry, section 7)

A relative decrease in variable capital (to constant capital) is accompanied by an absolute increase in variable capital with the extension of capitalist production. More workers are employed globally but less relative to the value of machinery as productive technique advances. The growth in the mass of surplus value takes place side by side with the growth in mass structural unemployment. Marx noted this trend in the middle of the nineteenth century and it now replicates itself on a world scale with capitalist globalisation. This must have the most profound implications for the whole global capitalist system as its structural crisis unfolds in the coming century. One of the most tangible symptoms of this crisis is the irredeemably persistent and growing mass global unemployment.

This contradictory movement is an underlying motor in the unfolding of this crisis and drives capital-in-crisis increasingly and ever towards a more “destructive reproduction” with all the inhuman and barbarous consequences for humanity and Nature. If the organic composition has a historic tendency to increase, then ultimately it is only the unplanned extension of production which can serve as a medium for the realisation of value and the source of revenue for consumption. Capital now enters its global phase of development (degeneration) which is simultaneously one of crisis and increasingly difficult-to-realise destructive self-reproduction.

Mass unemployment in the epoch of capital’s global crisis must include all sections of the wage-labouring workforce whether they are highly skilled and “professionalised” or “unskilled”. Capitalist globalisation inevitably signifies mass unemployment in the presence of a phenomenal increase in the productivity of labour, starvation and malnutrition in the presence of the overproduction of food, mass homelessness in cities full of empty habitable buildings, the deprivation and destruction of public healthcare and education facilities where humanity now has the knowledge and potential to eliminate both, mass overwork at one end of a polarity and mass, destitute idleness at the other with all the social consequences and ramifications necessarily implied by that contradiction.

Global capital-in-crisis is driving the human species and the natural conditions necessary for a higher form of human life towards a black hole of history. An abyss into which it will draw and destroy the whole of human culture unless humanity prosecutes an ultimately successful global struggle against the capitalist system itself and for the elimination of capital from the social metabolism as a whole.

6. “……large-scale industry, through its very catastrophes, makes the recognition of the variation of labour and hence of the fitness of the worker for a maximum number of different kinds of labour into a question of life and death. [………………………] ; the partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of one specialised social function, must be replaced by the totally developed individual, for whom the different social functions are different modes of activity he takes up in turn.”

(p.618, Machinery and Large-Scale Industry, section 9)

The development of capitalist industry itself – “through its very catastrophes” – creates the technical and social conditions which point towards the transcendence of the division of labour. This development turns the “specialised” worker into one who must adapt and alter his mode of labour to satisfy the requirements of capital. This, taken in its its fullest significance and potential in socialist society, points towards the activation of the tendency towards the transcendence of the social division of labour in which the “partially developed individual” will becoem replaced by the “totally developed individual”.

Part 3 of Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value

Marx. Theories of Surplus Value, Part 3. Lawrence and Wishart Edition, 1972. (Translated by Jack Cohen and S.W. Ryazanskaya)

[Readers must study the full quote relating to each comment. [………………] indicates middle part of quotation]

1. “If the labouring producer pays himself his own wages and if his product does not at first assume the “shape” of other people’s revenue from which savings are made and then paid back by these people to the labourer, it is necessary that the labourer be in posession of his conditions of production [………..] In order that his wages and consequently the labour fund can confront him as alien capital, these conditions of production must have been lost to him and have assumed the shape of alien property. [……………] Once this separation exists, this process (the process of the real generation of capital – SM) does indeed take place and it continues and extends, since the surplus labour of the worker always confronts him as the revenue of others, through the saving of which alone wealth can be accumulated and the scale of production extended”

(pp. 421-22, Chapter 24 on Richard Jones)

“accumulated stock becomes capital only because of this personification”

(p.427, ibid)

When accumulated wealth ceases to confront the producers as the alien property of others (capitalist class, state property, etc) and is appropriated, developed and controlled by the producers themselves, then the presentation of wealth in personified forms will cease. Capital itself must be eliminated but also property as “state property” and positively replaced by the self-managing and self-directing activity of the associated producers.

2. “The main difference between productive and unproductive labour noted by Adam Smith is that the former is exchanged directly for capital and the latter for revenue….”

(p.426, ibid)

Marx later writes in relation to the work of Richard Jones that….

“Jones quite correctly reduces Smith’s productive and non-productive labour to its essence – capitalist and non-capitalist labour – by correctly applying the distinction made by Smith between labourers paid by capital and those paid out of revenue”

(p.432, ibid)

Capital-in-crisis constantly invades and drives to appropriate the different spheres of public provision for the purpose of its self-valorisation i.e. to take over public provision and social services provided by the state in order to invest for profit. The PFI (Private Finance Initiative) in Britain is an example of this predation by capital. The labour performed by workers in these areas is non-productive in the above sense. Capital now drives towards transforming this labour into productive labour i.e. labour which is exchanged directly for capital in order to return the value advanced with an increment. All public provision – once appropriated by capital – is now provision on condition of profit. No profit means no provision. This capital offensive against public provision spells catastrophe for millions. Capital must transform non-productive into productive labour in its predatory drive to counter the effects of its own global structural crisis on itself as a social relation of production and distribution. To strive to continue with the accumulation of capital. Nothing must stand in its way in this, its untransgressable logic. This crisis is the historic driving force behind capital’s need to appropriate and run public services on the strict basis of profit. It is the fundamental ground mediating the “privatisation” of public provision since Thatcher came to power in 1979 and continued by New Labour.

Shaun May

November 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Capital, Directly Socialised Labour, Marx, Political Economy

Marx’s Realms : Capital, Natural Necessity and True Realm of Freedom

Marx’s Realms : Capital, Natural Necessity and True Realm of Freedom

1. Hegel, Marx and ‘Freedom and Necessity’
2. Feudal and Ancient Relations
3. Realm of Global Capital
4. A Note on Human Individuality in the Epoch of Capital
5. Realm of Natural Necessity and True Realm of Freedom

1. Hegel, Marx and ‘Freedom and Necessity’

Written in 1865 – more than 20 years after the Paris Manuscripts and embracing and sublating within itself the content of those manuscripts and all the subsequent theoretical development – volume three of Capital represents the highest point of development of Marx’s critique of political economy. Without a detailed study of this text, no truly fruitful discussion of the onset in the 1970s and unfolding of the structural crisis of capital can be evolved. When we ponder the devotion and effort which Marx must have put in to his work – and the discipline to which he must have subjected himself – we cannot do other than marvel at this and his achievements and must truly acknowledge and assimilate our indebtedness to him as a revolutionary thinker.

A re-read of any of Marx’s writings always invites one on to a new journey of discovery. Just when we thought we knew the ins and outs of a work, we find that there is always more to unearth and dig out. A new reading brings out new aspects, reveals new channels and fissures which we overlooked before, and this augments and enriches our overall conception. Just when we start to think the mine has been exhausted, new seams are discovered.

We know essentially what we are fighting against but what are we fighting for? What are we fighting to establish? This article focusses on Marx’s concepts of the ‘realm of natural necessity’ and the ‘true realm of freedom’ found in volume three of Capital.

What follows is a lengthy quote from volume three with which we will work and to which we will refer back and return as and when required.

Surplus labour in some form must always remain, as labour beyond the extent of given needs. It is just that in the capitalist, as in the slave system ,etc., it has an antagonistic form and its obverse side is pure idleness on the part of one section of society. A certain quantum of surplus labour is required as insurance against accidents and for the progressive extension of the reproduction process that is needed to keep pace with the development of needs and the progress of population. It is one of the civilizing aspects of capital that it extorts this surplus labour in a manner and in conditions that are more advantageous to social relations and to the creation of elements for a new and higher formation than was the case under the earlier forms of slavery, serfdom, etc. Thus on the one hand it leads towards a stage at which compulsion and the monopolization of social development (with its material and intellectual advantages) by one section of society at the expense of another disappears; on the other hand it creates the material means and the nucleus for relations that permit this surplus labour to be combined, in a higher form of society, with a greater reduction of the overall time devoted to material labour. For, according to the development of labour productivity, surplus labour can be great when the total working day is short and relatively small when the total working day is long. If the necessary labour-time is 3 hours and surplus labour also 3 hours, the total working day is 6 hours and the rate of surplus labour 100 per cent. If the necessary labour is 9 hours and the surplus labour 3 hours, the total working day is 12 hours and the rate of surplus labour only 33 1/3 per cent. It then depends on the productivity of labour how much use-value is produced in a given time, and also therefore in a given surplus labour-time. The real wealth of society and the possibility of a constant expansion of its reproduction process does not depend on the length of surplus labour but rather on its productivity and on the more or less plentiful conditions of production in which it is performed.
The realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends; it lies by its very nature beyond the sphere of material production proper. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature to satisfy his needs, to maintain and reproduce his life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. This realm of natural necessity expands with his development, because his needs do too; but the productive forces to satisfy these expand at the same time. Freedom, in this sphere, can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature. But this always remains a realm of necessity. The true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself, begins beyond it, though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis. The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite. [1]

Realm of necessity? realm of freedom? In the very nature of things, any realm of necessity must be intermediated by a given degree of freedom and any realm of freedom intermediated by relations of necessity of a given nature and order. It is the actual historically-established, real, specific, character of social relations within and through which humanity lives which determine and denote the stage of living development at which the relationship between necessity and freedom has arrived .

Hegel teaches us that…

‘A freedom involving no necessity, and mere necessity without freedom, are abstract and in this way untrue formulae of thought. Freedom is no blank indeterminateness : essentially concrete, and unvaryingly self-determinate, it is so far at the same time necessary. Necessity, again, in the ordinary acceptation of the term in popular philosophy, means determination from without only – as in finite mechanics, where a body moves only when it is struck by another body, and moves in the direction communicated to it by the impact. This however is a merely external necessity, not the real inward necessity which is identical with freedom’ [2]

It is this ‘real inward necessity which is identical with freedom’ which Marx is articulating when he writes of the ‘true realm of freedom’. As Hegel demonstrated, necessity and freedom, in their dialectics, are mutually engendering, relating, negating and reaffirming sides of each other. They are ‘not independently real’ and ‘to abstract and isolate either conception is to make it false’ [3]

Causality itself expresses the inherently contradictory character of Nature in which ‘the act of distinguishing and intermediating becomes a primariness of actual things independent one against the other’ within which ‘their independence only lies in their identity’. This continuous ‘circulation’ (movement, negativity, ‘negative self-relation’) and ‘independence’ of things which is immediately and simultaneously their relation (identity, ‘infinite self-relation’) and ‘intermediation’ is the ‘truth of necessity’ which is ‘freedom’. The whole movement is one which is ‘self-repulsive into distinct independent elements yet in that repulsion is self-identical, and in the movement of reciprocity still at home and conversant only with itself’ [4] [§§157-158]

This conception of a necessity which is inseparable from freedom contrasts with ‘necessity immediate or abstract’ in which it is walled off from ‘abstract freedom’ in a state of ‘rigid externality’. For Hegel, neither necessity nor freedom can have subsistence independently of each other, have ‘no independent reality’. To think so is the work of the ‘understanding’ (Verstand), ‘formal’, ‘unspeculative’, ‘metaphysics’. It is not to grasp the world as being in an unending state of development, as living, unfolding paradox in its infinite variety of forms, as paradox simultaneously resolving and re-positing itself.

In Hegel, the separation of necessity and freedom – their ‘externality’ to each other – is transcended by demonstrating that…

‘the members, linked to one another, are not really foreign to each other, but only elements of one whole, each of them, in its connection with the other, being, as it were, at home, and combining with itself. In this way necessity is transfigured into freedom – not the freedom that consists in abstract negation, but freedom concrete and positive. From which we may learn what a mistake it is to regard freedom and necessity as mutually exclusive. Necessity indeed, qua necessity, is far from being freedom : yet freedom presupposes necessity, and contains it as an unsubstantial element in itself’ [4] [Zusatz]

In Marx’s ‘true realm of freedom’, the activity of the human individual is that of a social individual (as opposed to the private individual of class society) which is lived necessarily as a ‘free mediation’ in the life of the species as whole. The social form of necessity in this realm ceases to bear the same compulsive ‘external’ character as it does in the ‘realm of natural necessity’. The necessity of the ‘true realm of freedom’ is the ‘truth’ of the previous form of ‘external’ necessity prevailing in that antecedent realm of ‘natural necessity’. It is a necessity which is no longer compulsive but of a totally different, higher order altogether. It is the character of this higher order of necessity to ‘suspend its presupposition’, to transcend its previous form and, in so doing, creates itself as the very ground, the presupposition of itself. And in this lies the human freedom of this realm. The ‘free mediation’ of each becomes the necessary condition for the ‘free mediation’ of all and vice versa.

This ‘true realm of freedom’ creates a fundamentally different kind of individual as compared to the type we find in bourgeois society. In his foreword to Marx’s Grundrisse, Martin Nicolaus writes..

‘Finally, instead of ‘species-being’, the Grundrisse speaks of two very broadly and generally defined types of human individuality. The first is the ‘private individual’ , meaning the individual as private proprietor, both as owner of the means of production and as ‘owner’ of the commodity, labour power; the individual within the exchange relation. The abolition of the relations of private property is the abolition of the conditions which produce and reproduce this kind of individual. The place of this type is taken by the social individual, the individual of classless society, a personality type which is not less, but rather more, developed as an individual because of its direct social nature. As opposed to the empty, impoverished, restricted individuality of capitalist society, the new human being displays an all-sided, full, rich development of needs and capacities, and is universal in character and development.’ [5]

This all-round development and cultivation of the individual to which Nicolaus refers becomes an inner social necessity as the transition is made from the post-capitalist ‘realm of natural necessity’ towards the ‘true realm of freedom’. This ‘cultivation’ does not, of course, take the form of an oppressively coercive social imposition on the individual where the individual is ‘compelled’ to become ‘cultivated’ (Hegel’s ‘external necessity’). Rather, it springs directly from the actual nature of human relationships in the commune where all forms of oppressive coercion have been transcended and the life of the individual is not subject to the social compulsion which characterises human relations in bourgeois society. The individual becomes ‘developed’ as a ‘social individual’ in order to live a fully developed and integrated human life with his/her fellow men and women. This development of the social individual does not take place under the weight of any ‘external’ coercion or expediency. It does not take place out of an ‘external necessity’ which is internalised as a ‘compulsion’ but rather out of social relations which constitute a ‘free necessity’. This is a necessity which operates as transcended ‘natural necessity’, as a historically-created necessity which has transcended this ‘natural necessity’. The individual, under such conditions, remains the spontaneous yet ‘active’ (creating) creation of the ‘ensemble of social relations’. Born into this ‘true realm’, he becomes developed as a directly-socialised, intrinsic, ‘cultivated’ part of the life of society (Hegel’s ‘real inward necessity which is identical with freedom’).

2. Feudal and Ancient Relations

In feudal society –where the dominant mode of labour was bond labour – the serf was compelled to perform labour duties on the lord’s land. The mode of appropriation of this form of labour took a very direct, transparent form in that there was a fragmentation of labour time between the serf’s plot of land and that of the feudal lord. Essentially, labour on the lord’s land was appropriated directly as surplus labour in the form of material produce for direct consumption by the lord’s retinue. Later, the increasing encroachment of commodity production and exchange (and hence money economy) increasingly forces this appropriation in money payments so that as this stage opens up and unfolds (in England, roughly the 14th and first half of the 15th century) feudal economy is already irredeemably sinking into the quicksand of history. One of the major demands of the revolt of the English peasantry in 1381 was the abolition of serfdom. An irreversible process had commenced within which the peasantry were not only starting to work as agricultural day wage-labourers on the lands of a rising class of agricultural landowners and tenants who were were producing for exchange. But sections of the peasantry had themselves started to develop into a self-employed, commodity-selling, petty bourgeoisie (independently of the guild system in the towns) which was already hostile to feudalism. The continuation of feudal obligations merely interfered with the development of this unstoppable historical process and hence the clamour during the 1381 revolt for the abolition of feudal obligations. It was this growing petty bourgeoisie that led this revolt in the towns and countryside, especially in the more developed south-eastern region of the country.

The spatio-temporal division of labour time characterises bond labour as ‘thine’ and the time in which the serf reproduces his needs on his plot by domestic subsistence labour as ‘mine’. This in itself implies social relations of alienation as does, of course, the actual ownership of the producers in Antiquity. The political hierarchy of crown, church and nobility which evolves on the basis of these feudal relations (the triadic parasitic expression of these relations) confronts the class of serfs as divinely ordained and instituted in hostile opposition to them. Here Catholicism plays its historical ideological role. Religion as the direct ideological expression of the existence of social relationships mediated by alienation.

In the slave societies of Antiquity, the producers are themselves owned as chattels, being the property of the slave owners, differentiated from the oxen and the donkey by virtue of being ‘speaking tools’. The whole physical and social mode of being of the producer is subject to the will of the slaveowner who can sell or exchange the producer as a form of movable property. The slave (as “self”) is the property of the slaveowner (as “other”). The one is at the unconditional service and disposal of the other and belongs wholly to this other. The purpose of the existence of the slave is to be the object of use for the slaveowner. The slave is appropriated by the owner as an object for a prescribed purpose. The slave-master relation (a relationship of alienation) is maintained by the institutions of state of ancient societies in order to defend the parasitic mode of life of the slaveowning and landowning classes and thus of the existence of the state itself.

In the final centuries of the Roman empire, the bonded colonus replaced the slave as the major producer. Contrary to the assertions of some scholars (see, for example, De Ste Croix’s The Class Struggle in the Ancient World where he writes of the labour of the colonus at the beginning of the fourth century as a form of serfdom) the colonate was not a form of feudalism and the colonus was not a serf in the feudal meaning of the conception. Most of the land in feudal society was owned by the crown and by a process of investiture and subinfeudation the land was tenanted out to the king’s retinue and they, in turn, to their vassals, etc, until parcelled out to villeins and serfs. The pyramid-like social structure was propped up ideologically by the church. The crown-owned land was not alienable by its holders; it could not be sold unlike in the Roman colonate where the coloni were permanently attached to the land and so went with it when it was actually sold. The Roman Patroni could buy and sell land independently of the imperial edict and bureaucracy and in the later empire (4th and 5th century) landed estates grew to colossal proportions through conglomeration. The wealth of the patronus stood in stark contrast to the grinding poverty and desparation of his colonus.
In the later empire, land was owned by wealthy patroni and could be bought and sold along with its sharecropping producers who could also sell the products of their labour. The coloni were taxed in kind or coin.

The colonus was not a serf as a such. He was essentially a sharecropping tenant who actually paid rent either in kind or in coin from the sale of his produce and was not solely exploited by the patronus but was also taxed and intimidated by the ‘tax-farming’ bureaucracy of the Roman state of late antiquity. Unlike in feudal society, labour services to the patronus were peripheral and subsidiary. What remained after paying the patronus and the state (in kind or coin), he used to feed himself and his family. The superexploitation of the landowners and Roman bureaucracy meant that many starved or fled, often to the barbarian encampments. This superexploitation of late empire was a fundamental relation operative in its final collapse and disintegration.

The serf, on the contrary, had no powers of alienating his produce like the colonus. Rather he laboured on the demesne of the lord for part of the time and for subsistence on his ‘own’ plot for the other part. Money never passed through his hands except when feudalism started to decline and serfs were freeing themselves to become day labourers for commodity producers or self-employed hawkers, tinkers and traders in one form or another.

3. Realm of Global Capital

The development of capital itself creates the historic grounds for a higher form of human individuality….

‘Capital’s ceaseless striving towards the general form of wealth drives labour beyond the limits of its natural paltriness [Naturbedurftigkeit], and thus creates the material elements for the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption, and whose labour also therefore appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of activity itself, in which natural necessity in its direct form has disappeared; because a historically created need has taken the place of the natural one. This is why capital is productive; i.e. an essential relation for the development of the social productive forces. It ceases to exist as such only where the development of these productive forces themselves encounters its barrier in capital itself.’ [6]

The ‘true realm of freedom’ emerges out of the ‘realm of necessity’ which stands as the historic presupposition and ground of this realm of freedom. This transitory period of ‘necessity’ therefore mediates the movement from the relations of bourgeois society to those of this ‘true realm’.

The fundamental distinction between this period of ‘necessity’ and that of the previous capitalist epoch lies in the associated producers holding and working the means of production in common to produce a directly social product and their labour therefore takes the form of directly socialised labour in contrast to the form it takes in capitalist commodity production. But as the ‘true realm of freedom’ unfolds, ‘labour […] appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of activity itself, in which natural necessity in its direct form has disappeared; because a historically created need has taken the place of the natural one’. Where labour no longer appears as labour but rather as the “full development of activity itself”, then the transition period of ‘natural necessity’ has been superseded into and replaced by the ‘true realm of freedom’

Under the rule of capital, private labour receives the stamp of social labour indirectly by its products taking the form of commodities and their values being realised on the market.

‘Objects of utility become commodities only because they are the products of the labour of private individuals who work independently of each other. The sum total of the labour of all these private individuals forms the aggregate labour of society. Since the producers do not come into social contact until they exchange the products of their labour, the specific social characteristics of their private labours appear only within this exchange. In other words, the labour of the private individual manifests itself as an element of the total labour of society only through the relations which the act of exchange establishes between the products, and, through their mediation, between the producers. To the producers, therefore, the social relations between their private labours appear as what they are, i.e. they do not appear as direct social relations between persons in their work, but rather as material [dinglich] relations between persons and social relations between things. It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire a socially uniform objectivity as values, which is distinct from their sensuously varied objectivity as articles of utility. This division of the product of labour into a useful thing and a thing possessing value appears in practice only when exchange has already acquired a sufficient extension and importance to allow useful things to be produced for the purpose of being exchanged, so that their character as values has already to be taken into consideration during production’ [7]

Exchange itself becomes a fundamentally inalienable relation in, and condition for, the reproduction and accumulation of capital. Exchange is a historical presupposition for the origination of capital in its first historically posited forms (commodity and money forms). It therefore precedes capital in all its forms and later develops with commodity production and capitalist commodity production.

During the transition period, there will be a growing need to develop measures to transcend exchange relations and replace them completely with a universal system of accounted production and distribution in which the identification and refinement of needs, quality, human welfare and ecological sustainability are the primary considerations. A ‘socialist accountancy’ (of labour required for production and distribution) prevails in the ‘realm of necessity’ which, in the long term, becomes transcended within the unfolding ‘realm of freedom’ in which disposable time – not value as a manifestation of labour time – becomes the measure of wealth.

Thus, in the first phase of communism (realm of natural necessity)…..

‘even after the capitalist mode of production is abolished, though social production remains, the determination of value still prevails in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among various production groups becomes more essential than ever, as well as the keeping of accounts on this’ [8]

This ‘determination of value still prevails’ within the ‘realm of natural necessity’ but becomes transcended as the ‘true realm of freedom’ emerges and unfolds out of this antecedent ‘realm of necessity’. Of course, it does not ‘prevail’ in the sense of the determination of value of products in exchange i.e. as commodities. But rather in the sense, as Marx writes, of the regulation and distribution of labour time in order to serve and meet social needs. The regulation of labour time becomes a transitory but necessary form of social accountancy. Here, therefore, labour time remains the measure of wealth and is only replaced by disposable time as the measure of wealth as the ‘true realm of freedom’ emerges and unfolds.

In the deep time of communism the distinction itself between necessary and surplus labour will actually disappear to be replaced by forms of human labour in which ‘labour […] appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of activity itself’ so that ‘activity’ will constitute a ‘vital need’ for human beings in that this ‘activity’ will be the direct, unalienated, social expression of the human freedom which prevails. This ‘true realm of freedom’ contains its own mediating necessity which is identical with human freedom i.e necessity and freedom become internal to each other and not a relation in which necessity is “external” and therefore manifest as compulsion in social relations.

In the first phase of communism, therefore, labour time remains the measure of wealth. It is the animating criterion against which the wealth of society continues to be measured. In this sense, it is a legacy of capitalist commodity production but this ‘determination of value’ in the ‘realm of necessity’ does not mediate relations in this realm in the same way as it does in the realm of capital in which value is the principal relation of exchange. In this first phase of communist development, ‘the relations of men in their social production do not manifest themselves as “values” of “things” ‘. However, at the same time, ‘the determination of value still prevails in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among various production groups becomes more essential than ever’ and thus, accordingly, the need for an accountancy of labour time. This, of course, is the complete opposite (since it is consciously planned) to the regulation of labour time which takes place anarchically under the market system of the capitalism with all its inhuman consequences….

‘As values, commodities are social magnitudes, that is to say, something absolutely different from their “properties” as “things”. As values, they constitute only relations of men in their productive activity. Value indeed “implies exchanges”, but exchanges are exchanges of things between men, exchanges which in no way affect the things as such. A thing retains the same “properties” whether it be owned by A or by B. In actual fact, the concept “value” presupposes “exchanges” of the products. Where labour is communal, the relations of men in their social production do not manifest themselves as “values” of “things”. Exchange of products as commodities is a method of exchanging labour, [it demonstrates] the dependence of the labour of each upon the labour of the others [and corresponds to] a certain mode of social labour or social production’ [9]

The process of the objectification of human labour – i.e. the specifically human form of movement, form of energy which is human labour – takes place historically under different social relations of production. The process evolves as the application of this human energy in order to transform Nature into socially useful products. Humanity objectifies this ‘essential power’ in the labour process in order to wrest its needs from Nature by transforming it in the course of its relationship with it. Labour – in the broadest sense of the word – is this transhistorically-enduring, intrinsically human, indispensable ‘mediation’ in the relation between Man and Nature. We must note at this point that labour (in the broadest sense of the term as human productive activity) was the creative ontological basis for the evolutionary transformation of ancestral animal primates (through different stages in the lineage over millions of years) into the human being.

Marx revealed that it is only under certain historically-derived social relations of production that this process of objectification takes alienated forms. This is the positive, forward-looking, moment in his analysis; namely that the process of objectification is not inherently a process of alienation but rather takes a specific alien form under capitalism as a function of the character and reproduction of capital. In the epoch of the rule of capital…

The effects of things as materialised aspects of the labour process are attributed to them in capital, in their personification, their independence in respect of labour. They would cease to have these effects if they were to cease to confront labour in this alienated form.[10]

In contradistinction, Hegel ahistorically and absolutely identifies [this is a formal moment in Hegel’s conception] the process of objectification of human labour energy with its alienation and, as a consequence, for Hegel, the realm of the ‘Absolute Idea’ and religion is the only sphere in which the problem of the transcendence of human alienation can be addressed and resolved. For Hegel, because objectification is ultimately thinking’s creation identical with alienation itself, it can only be overcome in thought which ‘returns out of this alienation into itself’ as the notion, absolute idea, etc.

Hegel’s position here is essentially the same as that of classical bourgeois political economy, which Marx noted in the Grundrisse…

The bourgeois economists are so much cooped up within the notions belonging to a specific historic stage of social development that the necessity of the objectification of the powers of social labour appears to them as inseparable from their alienation vis-a-vis living labour. But with the suspension of the immediate character of living labour, as merely individual, or as general merely internally or merely externally*, with the positing of the activity of individuals as immediately general or social activity, the objective moments of production are stripped of this form of alienation; they are thereby posited as property, as the organic social body within which the individuals reproduce themselves as individuals, but as social individuals. The conditions which allow them to exist in this way in the reproduction of their life, in their productive life’s process, have been posited only by the historic economic process itself, both the objective and the subjective conditions, which are only the two distinct forms of the same conditions.
The worker’s propertylessness, and the ownership of living labour by objectified labour, or the appropriation of alien labour by capital – both merely expressions of the same relation from opposite poles – are fundamental conditions of the bourgeois mode of production, in no way accidents irrelevant to it. [11]

*[note by SM : ‘merely internally or merely externally’ – merely potentially or merely actually. As in private labour being potentially general, abstract labour, i.e., becoming actually stamped with this character in the process of exchange and only through exchange on the market; at that moment within which the products of labour become articulated as commodities]

Hegel’s conception of human alienation flows from his idealist position which necessarily locates the supersedence of alienation in the realm of a theism rather than understanding that theistic praxis is itself a socio-historical product of the evolution of alienated humanity. Implicitly, Hegel’s conception is that alienation can only be overcome in thought itself or rather by thought somehow establishing some form of determinate relationship with social being, the disposition of the ‘Absolute Idea’, etc. Herein is posited the theistic character of Hegel’s outlook which was critiqued by Marx in The Holy Family and The German Ideology i.e in his critique of the Left Hegelians.

Marx locates the overcoming of alienation in the elaboration of a revolutionary praxis wherein the prevailing forms of alienation are grasped as integral products of the character of social relations in bourgeois society. Marx understands the determinate tendency towards the transcendence of alienation as only becoming fully and comprehensively realised in communism. The theistic roots of Hegel’s system are clearly exposed in his analysis of alienation which ultimately finds itself in the circularity of a theological cul-de-sac.

Thus, for Hegel, alienation can only be transcended in thought as the demiurgos of social relations. For Marx, it is these relations which must be transformed (revolutionised) in real practice in order to create the social conditions for the transcendence of alienation which is, by its very nature, an enduring, unfolding, historical process. Herein lies the major difference between the perspective of Hegel and that of Marx on the question of alienation. The final refuge, arising out of Hegel’s conception, is that the Christian religion is the only arena within which alienation can be transcended as a manifestation of his specific theological form of idealism.

The objectification of human labour is an absolute material relation running through the history of all previous societies. Where capitalism is the dominant mode of production, this objectification takes the form of the continual and necessary reproduction of capital which stands opposing the producers as a hostile social relation. Labour power itself becomes a commodity which the producer is forced to sell to the owners of capital in order to survive. The producers become alienated from their own activity and the results of this activity. In the capital-wage labour relation, the exercise of this ‘essential power’ (labour power) is alienated and belongs to the capitalist as part of his capital (variable capital).

In this relation of alienation, the estrangement of the wage worker from others and from self (from ‘his own essential species-being’, Marx, Paris Manuscripts of 1844) comes to its fullest, most complete realisation with the global dominance of capital. With the historical genesis, establishment and domination of the global capital relation, the producer class (the proletariat) becomes comprehensively ‘opposed by a hostile power of its own making, so that it defeats its own purpose’ in the act of continuously reproducing this relation. (Meszaros, I., Marx’s Theory of Alienation, p. 313).

The labour process ceases to take alien form once it divests itself of its historic operation within the conditions of capitalist production. Wage labour engenders its opposite in the form of capital which then necessarily enslaves the former as a pre-condition and presupposition for its own existence. Wage labour becomes the necessary presupposition for the existence of capital and thus, in so doing, mediates the perpetuation of its own historical existence as long as the capital relation continues as the dominant relationship of production and distribution.

Labour is that form of human energy which creates value but, in the epoch of capitalist commodity production, it only does so under those historical conditions created and reproduced by capital in order to serve the constant augmentation of its value (valorisation) and accumulation. Under different conditions this form of human energy can serve different ends where the labour process ceases to serve the needs of capital.

Under the conditions of the domination of capital, the human source of this labour-energy is compelled to alienate it. The potentiated form of this energy – labour power – is a commodity. It becomes a component (variable capital) in the composition of the total value of capital with all its dehumanising consequences for the labourer. The labourer is simply wage-labour personified for the capitalist who is capital personified for the labourer. The labourer is a personified source of surplus value and the capitalist is the personification of the capital relation. The wage-worker – alienated from self, from others, from his activity and its product – experiences the exercising of this ‘essential power’, and himself, merely as an object of use (objet d’emploi) for self and others. Labour is not lived as an intrinsic, meaningful part of life but merely as a painful and alienating means towards it. For the worker, “life” commences after labour, as Marx writes in Wage Labour and Capital (1847), “at table, in the tavern, in bed”. Who would dispute the enduring truth of this latter conception, today, in 2014?

During the epoch of capital, the ‘general social form of labour appears as the property of a thing’ so that ‘social relations between men…assume for them the fantastic form of a relation between things’ resulting in ‘the action of objects which rule the producers instead of being ruled by them’ (Marx, Vol. 1, Capital). In Marx’s conception, the capitalist mode of production presents itself, appears as, a ‘natural’ rather than a ‘socio-historical’ formation. The relations reproduced by capital serve as the source of notions of some nebulous eternal ‘human nature’ which must always embody the chief characteristics of bourgeois man, thereby serving to ideologically justify the existing capitalist order itself.

The world market is viewed as a ‘thing of nature’ rather than understood as a social relation created by humanity at a particular stage (epoch) in the history of human society. Likewise, capital is not a ‘thing of nature’ but a determinate social relation of production arising and developing at and during a specific historical period in the evolution of humanity’s productive forces. In the circulation of commodities, the labour time incorporated into products in the course of their production appears as a material property of the commodity, i.e. value appears as a ‘thing’ rather than as a social relation between producers. Money itself (as universal expression of value) is ‘an objectified relation between persons; …it is objectified exchange value, and exchange value is nothing more than a mutual relation between people’s productive activities.’ Money ‘can have a social property only because individuals have alienated their own social relationship from themselves so that it takes the form of a thing’ (Marx, Grundrisse, p160., see also p.161 ff., chapter on money).

Marx, in volume one of Capital, analogises the fetishism of commodities with the ‘mist-enveloped regions of the religious world’ revealing that in the world of religion ‘the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life’ which enter ‘into relation with both one another and the human race’. (Capital, Vol. 1, p 77). In this ‘religious reflex of the real world’ (p 84) ‘man is governed by the products of his own brain’ (p 582) just as in the fetishism of commodities he is governed by the productions of his own hand.

Capital confronts humanity as an alien power yet produced by humanity. The capitalist mode of production presents itself as a ‘natural’ rather than a ‘socio-historical’ formation. It is true that commodities are ‘things’ in so far as their material use-values are inseparable from their existence as commodities. However, in the age of capital a thing cannot be made available as use-value (as socially useful) without simultaneously being a commodity and as realised value as such. It is not its concrete ‘thinghood’ as a specific material use-value which is fundamental for capital. What, a priori, animates and determines the movement of capital globally is rather the character of commodities as embodiments of “socially necessary general labour, utterly indifferent to any particular content” (Marx, Results of the Immediate Process of Production, appendix to Volume 1 of Capital, Penguin Edition).

4. A Note on Human Individuality in the Epoch of Capital

The social relations of the capitalist epoch are mediated by a social division of labour which corresponds to the prevailing stage of development of its technical productive forces. The ‘enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour’ [Marx.Critique of the Gotha Programme. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.320] creates psychosocial conditions under capitalism within which humans are prevented (circumscription) from developing an all-round, multifaceted, multi-skilled personality which enables the individual to participate in all spheres of human activity and life. Marx observes that…

If circumstances in which the individual lives allow him only the one-sided development of one quality at the expense of all the rest, if they give him the material and time to develop only that one quality, then this individual achieves only a one-sided crippled development. No moral preaching avails here. And the manner in which this one pre-eminently favoured quality develops depends again, on the one hand, on the material available for its development and, on the other hand, on the degree and manner in which the other qualities are suppressed.
Precisely because thought, for example, is the thought of a particular definite individual, it remains his definite thought, determined by his individuality and the conditions in which he lives…..In the case of an individual, for example, whose life embraces a wide circle of varied activities and practical relations to the world, and who, therefore, lives a many-sided life, thought has the same character of universality as every other manifestation in his life…..From the outset it is always a factor in the total life of the individual, one which disappears and is reproduced as required. (Marx emphasis) [Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. p.263]

The development of a many-sided human personality – which is not ‘one-sided’ and ‘crippled’ – is dependent on the actual existence of social conditions and relations which provide the social and material ground for such a development. An all-rounded, many-sided, multifaceted development of the capacities of human individuals is therefore only possible in a society which furnishes such conditions. Capitalism is not such a society. Quite the contary. It ‘cripples’ the human being and personality. Accordingly, the determinations of the human personality and interpersonal relationships in the age of capital derive from the general character of its exploitative social relations.

The development of the individual human being is located in the conditions prevailing in the given society. Whether an individual develops one-sidedly (‘crippled’) or in a many-sided and richly multifaceted way therefore..

depends not on consciousness, but on being; not on thought, but on life; it depends on the individual’s empirical development and manifestations of life, which in turn depends on the conditions obtaining in the world. [Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p.262).

Likewise, whether an individual is “satisfied” or “dissatisfied” with his life – or “life” generally – “depends on the conditions obtaining in the world”. Ultimately it is rooted in the character of these conditions so that…

Dissatisfaction with oneself is either dissatisfaction with oneself within the framework of a definite condition which determines the whole personality e.g. dissatisfaction with oneself as a worker, or it is moral dissatisfaction. In the first case, therefore, it is simultaneously and mainly dissatisfaction with the existing relations; in the second case – an ideological expression of these relations themselves, which does not all go beyond them, but belongs wholly to them. [Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p.378]

This “dissatisfaction” to which Marx refers finds its reflection within the realm of the “satisfaction” human needs when it takes on a reified form. A need or desire can be said to be reified if…..

it assumes an abstract, isolated character, if it confronts me as an alien power, if, therefore, the satisfaction of the individual appears as the one-sided satisfaction of a single person
(Marx, The German Ideology, Vol. 5, Collected Works, p 262).]

And, very interestingly, Marx writes further that…

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction. Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature

(Marx, Wage Labour and Capital. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.83

The transformation of social relations by humanity simultaneously brings about the transformation of the transformer, of the human agent of and for this transformation. (“praxis”- Marx, Theses on Feuerbach). The transcendence of the capital relation is the complete transformation of humanity in Nature and therefore the total transformation of the relationships between human individuals i.e of human individuality as the “ensemble of social relations” (Marx, Thesis VI, Theses on Feuerbach).

We read in the Paris Manuscripts of 1844 that Communism is..

“……the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.” [section 3, Private Property and Communism, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844]

The development of production and distribution founded on capital creates the conditions and possibilities for the transcendence of the division of labour under communal production. Not forgetting, of course, that this same “development” of global capital (its increasingly more destructive reproduction as a social relation in structural crisis) is now actually starting to erode and destroy the required natural and cultural conditions for the future socialist society. This is what gives rise to the urgency of revolutionary change in the present epoch. All the time the capital system continues, and its crisis unfolds and deepens in the 21st century, it actually undermines the necessary conditions required to build the future human society. It makes its realisation more difficult and problematic.

Notwithstanding this…

large-scale industry, through its very catastrophes, makes the recognition of variation of labour and hence of the fitness of the worker for a maximum number of different kinds of labour into a question of life and death. This possibility of varying labour must become a general law of social production, and the existing relations must be adapted to permit its realisation in practice. That monstrosity, the disposable working population held in reserve, in misery, for the changing requirements of capitalist exploitation, must be replaced by the individual man who is absolutely available for the different kinds of labour required of him; the partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of one specialised, social function, must be replaced by the totally developed individual, for whom the different social functions are different modes of activity he takes up in turn.[Marx, Capital Vol 1, p.618 (Penguin Edn)]

However, nonetheless, large-scale industry ‘in its capitalist form reproduces the old division of labour with its ossified particularities’ (ibid, p. 617)

The requirements of capital itself increasingly turn the specialised worker into one who must be prepared and able to readily adapt and change his mode of labour in order to meet the demands of capital which, nonetheless, continuously re-posits ‘the old division of labour with its ossified particularities’. Beyond the age of capital lies the development of a rich and multifaceted human individuality in which the division of labour is becoming transcended with the emergence of a ‘totally developed individual’ (social individual) replacing the ‘partially developed individual’ (private individual, owner of capital or labour-power) of bourgeois society.

5. Realm of Natural Necessity and True Realm of Freedom

With the movement of global society beyond the realm of capital…

‘Within the cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production the producers do not exchange their products; similarly, the labour spent on the products no longer appears as the value of these products, possessed by them as a material characteristic, for now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual pieces of labour are no longer merely indirectly, but directly, a component part of the total labour.’ [12]

In this ‘cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production’ (in this ‘realm of natural necessity’)….

The communal character of production would make the product into a communal, general product from the outset. The exchange which originally takes place in production – which would not be an exchange of exchange values but of activities, determined by communal needs and communal purposes – would from the outset include the participation of the individual in the communal world of products**. On the basis of exchange values, labour is posited as general only through exchange. But on this foundation it would be posited as such before exchange; i.e. the exchange of products would in no way be the medium by which the participation of the individual in general production is mediated. Mediation must, of course, take place. In the first case, which proceeds from the independent production of individuals – no matter how much these independent productions determine and modify each other post festum through their interrelations – mediation takes place through the exchange of commodities, through exchange value and through money; all these are expressions of one and the same relation. In the second case, the presupposition is itself mediated; i.e. a communal production, communality, is presupposed as the basis of production. The labour of the individual is posited from the outset as social labour. Thus, whatever the particular material form of the product he creates or helps to create, what he has bought with his labour is not a specific and particular product, but rather a specific share of the communal production. He therefore has no particular product to exchange. His product is not an exchange value. The product does not first have to be transposed into a particular form in order to attain a general character for the individual. Instead of a division of labour, such as is necessarily created with the exchange of exchange values, there would take place an organisation of labour whose consequence would be the participation of the individual in communal production. In the first case the social character of production is posited only post festum with the elevation of products to exchange values and the exchange of these exchange values. In the second case the social character of production is presupposed, and participation in the world of products, in consumption, is not mediated by the exchange of mutually independent labours or products of labour. It is mediated, rather, by the social conditions of production within which the individual is active. Those who want to make the labour of the individual directly into money (i.e. his product as well), into realised exchange value, want therefore to determine that labour directly as general labour, i.e. to negate precisely the conditions under which it must be made into money and exchange values, and under which it depends on private exchange. This demand can be satisfied only under conditions where it can no longer be raised. Labour on the basis of exchange values presupposes, precisely, that neither the labour of the individual nor his product are directly general; that the product attains this form only by passing through an objective mediation, by means of a form of money distinct from itself.
On the basis of communal production, the determination of time remains, of course, essential. The less time the society requires to produce wheat, cattle, etc., the more time it wins for other production, material or mental. Just as in the case of an individual, the multiplicity of its development, its enjoyment and its activity depends on economisation of time. Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself. Society likewise has to distribute its time in a purposeful way, in order to achieve a production adequate to its overall needs; just as the individual has to distribute his time correctly in order to achieve knowledge in proper proportions or in order to satisfy the various demands on his activity. Thus, economy of time, along with the planned distribution of labour time among the various branches of production, remains the first economic law on the basis of communal production. It becomes law, there, to an even higher degree.’ [13]

**[Thus, even with ‘communal labour in its spontaneously evolved forms…..[ ]……the social character of labour is evidently not effected by the labour of the individual assuming the abstract form of universal labour or his product assuming the form of a universal equivalent. The communal system on which this mode of production is based prevents the labour of an individual from becoming private labour and his product the private product of a separate individual; it causes individual labour to appear rather as the direct function of a member of the social organisation. Labour which manifests itself in exchange-value appears to be the labour of an isolated individual. It becomes social labour by assuming the form of its direct opposite, of abstract universal labour.’
(Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. pp. 33-34 (Progress, 1977)]

Here Marx’s description remains within the sphere of ‘natural necessity’ – a post-capital age which has not, as yet, passed over into the ‘true realm of freedom’. Its ‘necessity’ continues to be ‘external’, an epoch where ‘labour determined by necessity and external expediency’ still dominates. As this period matures, a new dynamic sets in which points the way towards the ‘true realm’.

‘Once the mass of workers have appropriated their own surplus labour – and disposable time thereby ceases to have an antithetical existence – then, on one side, necessary labour time will be measured by the needs of the social individual, and, on the other, the development of the power of social production will grow so rapidly that, even though production is now calculated for the wealth of all, disposable time will grow for all. For real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labour time, but rather disposable time.’
[14]

And then, as a matter of course….

‘The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labour time so as to posit surplus labour, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labour of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific, etc, development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them.’ [15]

Marx’s understanding of the relationship between necessity and freedom informs us in his understanding of the ‘true realm of freedom’.

Within this realm – beyond that realm of “natural necessity” within which labour remains under the compulsion of “external expediency” – the whole social character of human activity changes. It truly represents a social qualitative break in the history of human activity. From being a compulsive and repulsive activity, labour (“activity”) – imposed as an external, alien necessity in previous societies – becomes posited and developed simultaneously as both means and end in itself. “Activity” becomes necessarily intrinsic, “internal”, to the development of human freedom itself so that….

The realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends [see Note 1]

In other words, human activity ceases to take place under a compulsive, repulsive coercion as we see under capital and, to a lesser extent, in the first phases of post-capitalist society. Labour itself is not inherently repulsive activity (and therefore always imposed or imposable as coercive) but only so when performed within the context of specific social relations and under the historical conditions corresponding thereto. To ideologically assert this character of labour as an “eternal” is itself an ideological manifestation of its repulsive and coercive character in the epoch of capital.

Within the “realm of natural necessity”, labour (“activity”) remains subject to this “necessity and external expediency”. Work retains its character as “a means of keeping alive”. [Critique of the Gotha Programme, subsection I.3] Work as intrinsic to human “activity” only becomes “a vital need” [ibid] in the “true realm of freedom” so here it ceases to bear this compulsory character driven by an external and alien necessity in the course of the realisation of “mundane considerations”.

But within the realm of natural necessity itself, labour is posited simultaneously as labour-for-self and labour-for-others (and vice versa) and as directly social labour unmediated by the commodity-form. This communal relation therefore is a self-objectification (self-realisation) which is simultaneously the realisation of the needs of others (objectification-for-others). The activity of the individual is simultaneously posited as communal activity as this communal activity is that of the freely associated social individuals. The establishment of such relations must itself create the conditions necessary for, and mediating, the psychological transformation of humanity. The social presuppositionals for the psychological transformation of Man.

When Marx writes that within the realm of freedom the “development of human activity becomes an end in itself”, he is not formalistically excluding that such activity simultaneously and directly serves the social and material needs of humanity and therefore serves as a means for human development. He is merely asserting a “genuine resolution” of the conflict between means and ends (as of that between freedom and necessity) and that “human activity as an end in itself” is the living truth and manifestation of this “genuine resolution”. That human beings will find satisfaction in activity which contains an humanly-internalised necessity (not as an alien-imposed “external necessity” or “expediency”); a necessity which is identical to the free active mediation of the individuals in the commune. Activity as both creative self-realisation and creatively realising the needs of each and all so that self-fulfillment is simultaneously the fulfillment of others. Labour, of course, continues to obtain…

its measure from the outside, through the aim to be attained and the obstacles to be overcome in attaining it. But…[….]…this overcoming of obstacles is in itself a liberating activity – and that, further, the external aims become stripped of the semblance of merely external natural urgencies, and become posited as aims which the individual himself posits – hence as self-realisation, objectification of the subject, hence real freedom, whose action is, precisely, labour.
[Grundrisse, Penguin, 1993. p.611]

Labour retains a coercive character in the post-capitalist transitional phase but not in the same degree or in the same coercive character as its does under capital. Under capital as “external forced labour” and in the transitional phase in a form in which labour “has not yet created the subjective and objective conditions for itself in which labour becomes attractive work, the individual’s self-realisation”. Marx asserts that the preconditions and historic presupposition for this free activity is the “social character” of production and at that stage when and where the labour process “is of a scientific character and at the same time general character, not merely human exertion as a specifically harnessed natural force, but exertion as subject, which appears in the production process not in a merely natural, spontaneous form, but as an activity regulating all the forces of nature” (p.612, ibid).

Coercion in the labour process in the intial stages is the historic motor which drives the transition beyond the realm of capital and projects humanity towards the true realm of freedom. In the process of doing this, it simultaneously supersedes this period of transition as a realm of natural necessity. Marx refers to this transitional period when he writes…

In a more advanced phase of communist society, when the enslaving subjugation of individuals to the division of labour, and thereby the antithesis between intellectual and physical labour, have disappeared; when labour is no longer just a means of keeping alive but has itself become a vital need; when the all-round development of individuals has also increased their productive powers and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can society wholly cross the narrow horizon of bourgeois right and inscribe on its banner : From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs! [Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme in The First International and After. Political Writings. Volume 3. Penguin, 1974. p 347]

Work becomes a “vital need” and intrinsic to the self-development, self-fulfilment and self-realisation of the social individual in the life of the commune. “Work” (activity) as human creativity is enjoyment of activity as the intrinsically human and the exercise and development of this essential human power stripped and divested of its alienated historical form found in the epoch of capital. The actual distinction between “work” and “not work” becomes superseded as does that between necessary and surplus labour despite the need for a surplus within the “true realm”. [Gotha Programme, Ibid]

Labour also finds a subjective (psychological) form of compulsion where the activity of the producers remains determined by external expediency. Activity as such still retains its coercive character. Therefore, in the intial post-capitalist phases – which remain a realm of natural necessity but to a lesser degree vis-a-vis the epoch of capital – the labour process continues to exhibit compulsory traits in common with labour in previous but surpassed epochs. And this despite the general character of labour being directly socialised labour.

Whilst labour remains under a compulsion, everybody who is capable must work in order to contribute to the communal fund and, in the course of this collective labour, prepare the way for the higher stages of communist society established and developed in the ‘true realm of freedom’

If everybody has to work, if the contradiction between those who have to work too much and those who are idlers disappears – and this would in any case be the result of capital ceasing to exist, of the product ceasing to provide a title to alien surplus labour – and if, in addition, the development of the productive forces brought about by capitalism is taken into account, society will produce the necessary abundance in six hours, [producing] more than it does now in twelve, and, moreover, all will have six hours of “disposable time”, that is, real wealth; time which will not be absorbed in direct productive labour, but will be available for enjoyment, for leisure, thus giving scope for free activity and development. Time is scope for the development of man’s faculties, etc.[16]

Labour itself only takes a coercive, compulsive, repulsive form when it is subject to an external, alien necessity i.e. when it remains imprisoned within its wage-form either as money in the epoch of capital or later – as transient form – as time-chit within the immediately post-capitalist “realm of natural necessity” (zwang). Within this latter realm, of course, it does not bear the same degree of compulsion as in the former capital realm since within the movement of the realm beyond the capital epoch, it is already beginning to divest itself of this compulsory alienated character as it becomes posited and developed as directly socialised labour. The positing of labour as a directly socialised process – the negation of the historical form of the labour process under capital – is a signpost of history pointing towards the new epoch of human freedom beyond compulsion. Within the realm of natural necessity, the growth in the productivity of labour will always mean an increased availability of free time. But within this realm…

Labour-time, even if exchange-value is eliminated, always remains the creative substance of wealth and the measure of the cost of its production. But free time, disposable time, is wealth itself, partly for the enjoyment of the product, partly for free activity which – unlike labour – is not dominated by the pressure of an extraneous purpose which must be fulfilled, and fulfilment of which is regarded as a natural necessity or a social duty, according to one’s inclination.
It is self-evident that if labour-time is reduced to a normal length and, furthermore, labour is no longer performed for someone else, but for myself, and, at the same time, the social contradictions between master and men, etc., being abolished, it acquires a quite different, a free character, it becomes real social labour, and finally the basis of disposable time – the labour of a man who has also disposable time, must be of a much higher quality than that of the beast of burden [17]

Then, according to Marx…

Free time – which is both idle time and time for higher activity – has naturally transformed its possessor into a different subject, and he then enters into the direct production process as this different subject. This process is then both discipline, as regards the human being in the process of becoming; and, at the same time, practice [Ausubung], experimental science, materially creative and objectifying science, as regards the human being who has become, in whose head exists the accumulated knowledge of society. For both, in so far as labour requires practical use of the hands and free bodily movement, as in agriculture, at the same time exercise [18]

The “necessity and external expediency” to which Marx refers in Volume 3 of Capital only ends when humanity has entered what he refers to as the “true realm of freedom” where communist humanity is developing as a whole unified species, beyond class relations, on the basis of the continuously self-re-created (self-reproduced) foundations of this higher realm of freedom. Herein the condition for the development of each becomes the condition for the development of all and vice versa. Work becomes a “vital” inner need (zwanglos) of the social individual in the course of a full participation in the life of the commune. In the course of doing so, fully developing his or her capacities and the capacities of others. Within this higher realm of freedom, the creation, development and refinement of historically-posited human needs have superseded (aufhebung) natural needs. This is the freedom which “lies beyond the sphere of actual material production” i.e. beyond this sphere designated as a separate and distinct sphere of human activity bound by the operative principle of “external” and expedient compulsory need. “Production” itself ceases to divided off from communal life – ceases to operate as a sub-division of that life – and is no longer internalised by humanity as a distinction of activity from other forms of activity as it is under capital and in the realm of natural necessity. Activity becomes simultaneously productive, scientific, artistic, aesthetic, etc. This is the enrichment and cultivation of the social individual – work as a “vital need” and “end in itself” – and yet, at the same time, serves to address, meet and develop the historically-created needs of all.

“It will be seen how in place of the wealth and poverty of political economy comes the rich human being and the rich human need. The rich human being is simultaneously the human being in need of a totality of human manifestations of life – the man in whom his own realization exists as an inner necessity, as need” [Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Third Manuscript, Private Property and Communism, section 4]

The ‘internal’ fully humanised necessity (which is identical to freedom) found in the higher realm of freedom is the direct opposite of the ‘external’ necessity operative in previous epochs, including in those of the intial stages of global post-capitalist society. The transcendence of this previously operative alien necessity – imposed and coercive in nature – posits the higher internal form which is identical to a forever expanding and developing human freedom. This form of necessity within this higher realm of human freedom is not registered in the human subject as “compulsion” as such because it ceases to be imposed ‘from without’ as external and alien. Accordingly, on a psychological level, the subject does not (and does not have to) internalise it as “a necessity which must be so and so”, etc. The subject does not internalise it as an alien demand because it becomes a fully humanised expression of his increasingly deepening, de-alienating life process as a social individual. In the epoch of capital, the producers internalise, as compulsion, the alien demands of capital. In this higher movement of the human freedom of the commune, this internalisation of alien demands becomes transcended.

Labour itself (‘dominated by the pressure of extraneous purpose which must be fulfilled’) becomes ‘free activity’ expressed in an intensely rich aggregation of human activity in the ‘true realm of freedom’. Labour becomes divested of its coercive, expedient character as ‘necessity’ is eclipsed by ‘freedom’. Labour ceases to be “labour” as such and increasingly the free, multifaceted, enriching activity of human beings living in a classless communion.

But this higher movement is also the transformation of humanity’s productive activity itself. The transformation of the subject is simultaneously the transformation of humanity’s relationship with Nature.

Man himself is the basis of his material production, as of any other production that he carries on. All circumstances, therefore, which affect man, the subject of production, more or less modify all his functions and activities, and therefore too his functions and activities as the creator of material wealth, of commodities. In this respect it can in fact be shown that all human relations and functions, however and in whatever form they may appear, influence material production and have a more or less decisive influence on it [19]

In as much as we do not feel the need to metabolise our food, humanity in this realm of freedom will not feel compelled to engage in “activity” as such in its many and varied, richly multifaceted forms. It will be as natural as a healthy body digesting its food. Such activities (objectification) – divested of their alien forms – become a “vital need”. A historically-created human need unmotivated by any external or alien necessity.

The freedom of this realm forever deepens in degree. An absolute human freedom is not a point at which to arrive in some distant future. It is always a point towards which humanity is forever tending. Humanity is always becoming ‘more free’ as a species within this realm. In this regard, this interminable process – to use a mathematical analogy – can be said to be ‘asymptotic’. And this asymptoticality is found expressed in Marcuse’s “instinctual root of freedom” in which the social relations and institutions created by man must be made specifically by man in order to accommodate themselves to this “instinctual root”, to facilitate and encourage its growth, its continuous expression and eternal onward evolution. To allow for the free and unconditional development of the higher form of human sensibility which arises out of revolution and the creation of the new life in the commune…

The Subject of a socialist society must the Subject of a new sensibility. There is such a thing as an instinctual root of freedom in the individual itself, and if this instinctual root cannot grow, the new society will not be free, no matter what institutions it will provide. [……..] The socialist society as a qualitatively different society would be the achievement of men and women who have liberated themselves from the material and intellectual culture of class society, and who are free to develop a language, art and science responding to and projecting a free society.
Let us not forget that domination and exploitation perpetuate themselves not only in the institutions of class society, but also in the instincts and drives and aspirations shaped by class society, also in that which the people, that is to say the managed and administered people, love, hate, strive for, find beautiful, pleasurable and so on. Class society is not only in the material production, it is not only in the cultural production and reproduction, it is also in the mind and body of the subjects and objects of the system.

[Herbert Marcuse. The Realm of Freedom and the Realm of Necessity – A Reconsideration]

The commune will educate the individual in all areas of human culture – in technique, science, literature, art, etc – and provide access to all its different spheres. This, in itself, will create the cultural preconditions for the flourishing of the human personality and intellect in the commune where the identification, refinement and realisation of the needs of each and every individual will be the governing principle of social relationships.

It is only within the commune that each individual has….

the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; hence personal freedom becomes possible only within the community. In previous substitutes for the community, in the state, etc, personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed under the conditions of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class. The illusory community in which individuals have up till now combined always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and since it was the combination of one class over against another, it was at the same time for the oppressed class not only a completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well. In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association.

[The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p.78]

The identification, meeting, cultivation, refinement of the comprehensive needs of human beings become socially and unconditionally guaranteed. This unconditional guarantee of the meeting of human needs arises out of the nature of human relationships within commune itself. The state forms and systems of exploitative social control of class societies become unnecessary and disappear and therefore, consequentially, do those forms of human behaviour and forms of thinking and ideology which are the outcome of, and correspond to, the exploitative relations of class society. The social exploitation of man by man disappears. Accordingly, those characteristics of interpersonal relationships – inclusive of the psychological – which grow out of the various forms of exploitation in class society must also perish. And the disappearance of old and emergence of new characteristics of the evolving human personality will – as in previous epochs – be related to and specific to the altering stages of the commune and the conditions therein. Marx reminds us that…

In order to examine the connection between spiritual production and material production it is above all necessary to grasp the latter itself not as a general category but in definite historical form. Thus for example different kinds of spiritual production correspond to the capitalist mode of production and to the mode of production of the Middle Ages. If material production itself is not conceived in its specific historical form, it is impossible to understand what is specific in the spiritual production corresponding to it and the reciprocal influence of one on the other [20]

The exploitative forms of social control and coercion which are a necessary feature of class society find their consummate expression in the form of the state embodying a definite class nature.
The state – in whatever form – always represents the interests of a ruling caste or class. It is the product of the developing antagonisms of class society. With the dissolution of class society in communism, the state begins to wither away. The state is a product of socio-historical development which becomes necessary as the ‘primitive communism’ of tribal societies is abolished with the differentiation of society into opposed classes. It becomes socially unnecessary as the transition to global classless society takes place since there are no class interests to defend in this society. The character of social relations no longer gives rise to or necessitates the existence of the state.

Lenin, for example, uses the existence or non-existence of the state as a criterion for the existence or non-existence of a free human society; a society of free human beings. Thus, he says, somewhat formally, that…

so long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.

[Lenin. State and Revolution. (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969) p.87]

We say ‘formally’ because ‘freedom’ is not, as such, an absolute state to be reached once and for all but rather more a state of being for humanity to continuously expand and deepen to wider and more profound states of existence once the fundamental pre-conditions for such a development have been established in a classless, stateless, global human life.

The very notion of freedom can no longer have social grounds for existence in such a society. When the state perishes, notions of freedom vanish with it. The hankering after ‘freedom’ being the product of enslavement. Accordingly, a truly free human being can have no concept of freedom since such notions are the products of the human relations of class societies. Thus, neither does a truly free human being have any awareness of being ‘free’. Humanity in the commune will see itself as “free” no more than it will see itself as “communist”.

In the transition to a global, stateless, classless society, the forms of human consciousness corresponding to this period of transition will continue to reflect a disappearing connection to and with class society showing that society – in this transitional phase – has not completely disentangled itself from the various legacies of class societies. As long as the historical umbilical cord connecting society to the social legacies of class societies – and the human memory of them – has not been completely severed, then human society will not have re-founded and re-developed itself as an association of free human beings. At such a stage, the legacies of the relations of class society would continue to exert their influence, binding humanity (psychologically at least) to the forms of social antagonism of the past. Accordingly, under these conditions, the thinking, feeling, behaviour and interpersonal relationships of people would continue to be conditioned by the legacies of the exploitative relations of the class societies of the past until the new society firmly and irreversibly establishes itself and starts to evolve on the basis of its own self-created foundations.

The tendency towards the transcendence of alienation only becomes fully and comprehensively realised and operative in the commune when the objectification which is the labour process itself ceases to take alienated form and expression. That is, when the “process of objectification appearing as a process of alienation from the standpoint of labour and as appropriation of alien labour from the standpoint of capital” (Marx, Grundrisse) comes to an end. Necessarily, the true unfolding of this tendency must lie beyond the realm of capital. The elimination of capital from the whole social metabolism is only the historical introduction to the real, determinate positing of this tendency towards the transcendence of alienation.

In a certain sense, the whole of previous human history has been a process of the perfection of human alienation. From the very dawn of human existence, the alienated character of religious thinking represents “from the outset consciousness of the transcendental arising from actually existing forces” (Marx). The global transition to communist life represents a reversal of that tendency wherein an antithetical process of ‘de-alienation’ commences and tends, similarly and asymptotically, towards the highest possible, absolute degree of unalienated human perfection. As Marx notes..

although at first the development of the capacities of the human species takes place at the cost of the majority of human individuals and even classes, in the end it breaks through this contradiction and coincides with the development of the individual; the higher development of individuality is thus only achieved by a historical process during which individuals are sacrificed, for the interests of the species in the human kingdom, as in the animal and plant kingdoms, always assert themselves at the cost of the interests of individuals, because these interests of the species coincide only with the interests of certain individuals, and it is this coincidence which constitutes the strength of these privileged individuals [21]

The onward evolution of human life in the commune necessarily implies a complete transformation in interpersonal relations and, accordingly, in the very nature and psychological structure and forms within the human personality itself. This development within the human personality will represent a qualitative break with the antecedent forms of the human personality types of bourgeois society.

Notes

[1] Capital, Volume 3, The Trinity Formula. pp 958-59. Penguin Classics Edn, (translated by David Fernbach) 1991.

(A comparison of this passage in the Penguin edfition with the Lawrence & Wishart version may be appropriate since it reveals differences and nuances in translation, etc. For example….

It is one of the civilizing aspects of capital that it extorts this surplus labour in a manner and in conditions that are more advantageous to social relations and to the creation of elements for a new and higher formation than was the case under the earlier forms of slavery, serfdom, etc.

is translated in the L&W edition as…..

It is one of the civilising aspects of capital that it enforces this surplus-labour in a manner and under conditions which are more advantageous to the development of the productive forces, social relations, and the creation of the elements for a new and higher form than under the preceding forms of slavery, serfdom, etc. (p 819, Lawrence & Wishart Edn, Fifth Printing, 1974)

As we can see, ‘the development of the productive forces’ is missing in the Penguin edition or has been inserted in the L&W edition.

Generally speaking, if we compare the volumes of the two editions, we find all manner of omissions, errors, insertions, inconsistencies, divergences and disagreements, etc, on translations, meaning, etc, and even the simple insertion or omission of words which changes, or at least significantly modifies, the whole meaning of the original. In one section, in Volume 2, the word ‘buyer’ is given where only ‘vendor’ or ‘seller’ gives sense and meaning to the sentence. The editions are replete with such examples. A reading of Capital must therefore also mean watching out for the mistakes in translation, typography, etc, in one or other or both editions. You have to ‘dodge’ the editors and translators before you get to Marx. And, of course, in the Penguin edition, you have to ‘dodge’ Ernest Mandel who ‘introduces’ it all. The art of moving through the various ‘editions’, ‘introductions’ ‘typographies’ and ‘translations’ necessarily involves a cultivation of the art of artful dodging.

[2] Hegel. Logic. Part 1 of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Zusatz, pp 55-56. Clarendon, Oxford, 1975

[3] Ibid, Zusatz, p 79.

[4] Ibid, §§ 157-158 and Zusatz, pp 219-220

[5] Nicolaus, Martin. Foreword. p. 51. Grundrisse. Penguin, 1993

[6] Marx, Grundrisse. Penguin, 1993 p. 325

[7] Marx. Vol 1 Capital. Penguin, 1982. pp. 165-66

[8] Marx. Vol 3 Capital. Penguin, 1991. p 991

[9] Marx. Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 3. Lawrence & Wishart, 1972. (p 129, Disintegration of the Ricardian School)

[10] Marx. Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 3. Lawrence & Wishart, 1972. (p 296, Opposition to the Economists)

[11] Marx, Grundrisse. Penguin, 1993. p.832

[12] Marx. Critique of the Gotha Programme in The First International and After. Political Writings. Volume 3. Penguin, 1974. p.345

[13] Marx. Grundrisse. Penguin, 1993. pp. 171-173

[14] Ibid., p.708

[15] Ibid., pp.705-06

[16] Marx. Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 3. Lawrence & Wishart, 1972. p.256, Opposition to the Economists

[17] Ibid., p.257, Opposition to the Economists

[18] Marx, Grundrisse. Penguin, 1993. p.712

[19] Marx. Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 1. Lawrence & Wishart, 1969. p 288, Theories of Productive and Unproductive Labour.

[20] Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 1. Lawrence & Wishart, 1969. p. 285, Theories of Productive and Unproductive Labour, subsection on Storch.

[21] Theories of Surplus Value, Vol 2. Lawrence & Wishart, 1969. p.118, History of the Ricardian Law of Rent.

Shaun May

November 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Capital, Marx, realm of freedom, realm of necessity

Marginalia on Marx, Dialectics and Socialism [Part 1]

Marginalia on Marx, Dialectics and Socialism [Part 1]
Criterion of Truth

Lenin refers to practice (Marx : “activity”) as the ultimate criterion of truth. He writes that this criterion is sufficiently definite to give us a relatively truthful conception of Nature but sufficiently indefinite to prevent us falling into dogmatism. The conditions of what is or is not possible for human beings to know are not fixed but historically mobile and a function of the theoretical-technical stage at which scientific research has arrived. For example, we could not have elucidated the structure of DNA in the nineteenth century because our techniques and theory in the Natural Sciences had not sufficently advanced to the required stage. Engels writes of human knowledge being limited in its actuality but unlimited in its potential and disposition. Here Engels is referring, implicitly, to the fact that the conditions for the possibility of knowledge are historically posited and negatable in their specificity to higher stages of human scientific praxis.

The Conception and the “Thing-in-itself”

Lenin and Trotsky criticised Kant’s idealism. That the synthesis of the “Categories” creates the world we perceive is what Lenin critiqued Mach for in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. He wrote that Mach converged to Berkeley’s subjective idealism in such a conception. Mach was asserting that the electron was only “our idea of the electron”. Lenin (in Volume 38) wrote that the logical categories are the “shadows of the real world” but are not this world per se. But our scientifically verifiable (in practice) conceptions of the electron, for example, correspond to its real character but are not and never can be fully exhaustive of the reality of this aspect of Nature. For example, we can predict its approximate behaviour under specified conditions on the basis of our scientific conception of it. But the correspondence of its behaviour to our prediction is only approximate.

Category of Appearance

Marx wrote that if “appearance” always corresponded to the “essence of things” there would be no need for science. Appearance is a contradictory presentiment because it can serve simultaneously as both “veil” of essence and “gateway” to essence. The function of science is to go through the gateway beyond the veil and descend down into a never ending abyss of human knowledge. The asymptotic character of human knowledge is determined by the ontological nature of its objects of investigation in Nature itself. Nature is a bottomless pit as far as knowledge is concerned. Our conceptions of Nature can only appropriate it relatively with a historically alterable degree of concreteness. This must mean that these scientific conceptions are subject to their own abstract-concrete dialectic in the actual development of their conceptual content.

Hegel’s “Transition” from “Being” to “Nothing”

Hegel begins with the “logical” category of Being. This is why the beginning of the ‘Logic’ is highly problematic. He begins with Being indeterminate which is Being without any determinate content and hence pure being as the most abstract of categories which is equal to “isness”. By starting with the Being of the “Idea”, Being and Nothing are posited as absolutely identical. This means that Being is posited without any determinate content (and therefore necessary mediation) in order to take us from Being to Nothing. To make the transition from Being to Nothing. How can we move from one category to another without mediation of content? Mediation implies distinction between the posited category and the derived category in terms of animating content. But since both are absolutely identical – with no differentiating content to mediate in the first part of the ‘Logic’ – this implies that Hegel actually imports ‘Nothing’ rather than deriving it. The “mediation” between Being and Nothing is strictly formal and hence is no real mediation at all. The dialectical logic of Hegel commences with a formal logic. Studying the relevant sections of the first part of the ‘Logic’, we see that the so-called transition from Being to Nothing is simply a formalised identification which immediately posits “Becoming” (Werden) without any mediation. In a certain sense, Hegel simply starts with the whole complex because he cannot derive pure Nothing from pure Being. There is no mediating content which enables him to do so. This, of course, is because he is working within the realm of the abstract “Idea”. In other words, Hegel is with God ab initio. The god of Parmenides (Eleaticism) (Being) + the god of Buddha (Nothing) = the god of Heraclitus (Becoming). And the consummation of this indeterminate formal beginning is the realised “Absolute Idea” which is the revelation and immanence of God.

Hegel’s Doctrine of Essence

The summa summarum of the Doctrine of Essence is the concept of dialectical relation. All things are only self-related insofar as they are in relation-to-other and vice versa. Self-relatedness is simultaneously relation-to-other and vice versa but in this identity each relatedness is distinct from the other. Spinoza was influential here. For example, capital and wage labour, particle physics “symmetry”, etc. The class struggle. Opposites, each of which can only be what they are as a result of their mutual relation and negative relation to each other. In this negative relation, they posit and reaffirm each other. Reciprocality in relation is the central conception in the Doctrine of Essence. Hence relation can only be dialectical. Never formal. Interpenetration and mutually conditioning and determining opposites. i.e., the unity of conflicting opposites.

Actual and Possible

The mediated totality is the unity of the possible and the actual in which each is continuously becoming transformed into the other. Actuality (its conditions) is the ground of possibility and possibility consumes these conditions in its becoming actual and therefore positing a higher actuality. A higher actuality becomes posited out of the consumption of the conditions of actuality. This is the transformation of the possibility into actuality on the consumption of the conditioning grounds of its own existence as the possible. Thus Hegel : “when all the necessary conditions are actually present, the thing enters into existence”. i.e. the possible becomes actual.

Mediation, Contradiction and Return

The posited passes beyond itself into its other (absolute negativity) and in this other abides in itself and this other is contained within itself i.e. abides within the originally posited (intermediation). But this relation is contradiction per se in which one is simultaneously other and not other and other is simultaneously the posited one and not the posited one. In their contradictory relation each is simultaneously posited and the negative of the posited other (+/- = -/+). But as determinate point of departure, the aboriginally posited returns into itself out of negation (negated negation) as return to the old yet irreversible advance beyond the old at the same time. Accordingly, the contradiction is resolved at a higher stage of existence whilst aspects of what is resolved are preserved (sublated) into this higher form of determinate being. Determinate things always return into themselves as long as the conditions are operative for this return. Their internal contradictions operate and unfold within the constraining conditions of the actual existence of the thing. This is why “things” appear not to fundamentally alter because they are always in process of returning into themselves. When these conditions alter beyond certain limits, dissolution sets in and the thing starts to perish. To enter its period of decay and transformation.
“The power of the negative” is the contradictory source of the posited always returning to itself and reasserting itself. However, this same power mediates as “portent” (Hegel : “The portentous power of the negative”) i.e. as announcing beforehand the imminent dissolution of the seemingly eternal positive. The negative never sleeps and must, sooner or later, ominously presage (foreshadows) the downfall of its ground and therefore of itself as “negative” of this determinate ground. (Latin : portendere = to stretch beyond oneself, itself, etc). Beyond a certain point or limit, the negative creates the conditions within the formation for its dissolution and transformation. [Hegel’s category of Measure : quantity and quality, transformation.] Why does the bubble burst? Why does the bridge suddenly collapse? Why does the elastic band snap when stretched beyond a certain point or tension? Transgression of the conditions for its existence as bubble, bridge or band. Beyond the “nodal point”.

Hegel’s ‘Logic’ and Development as Concentration of History (Enrichment)

In Hegel’s ‘Logic’, each succeeding category is more concrete than the preceding one because it contains the wealth of all the antecedent development sublated within itself. There is always abolition but the resulting positive content is always richer because it contains this entire history dialectically superseded within itself. The river at its mouth is always richer than the river at its source. Development ‘concentrates’ its own history so all development is a process of self-enrichment.

The Significance of the “Concept” in Hegel for Dialectics in General

The Concept (Begriff) in Hegel as Being which, in process of passing beyond itself into its opposite, is only passing into itself. In the positing of this its opposite, the aboriginally posited does not become anything distinctly different in isolation from it but rather remains, in this opposition, completely identical with itself. This is a return of this Being to itself. The one, in engendering and determining its other, is simultaneously self-determining. And the other likewise in its reciprocal relation to the one. They mutually interpenetrate. But since the one has given rise to its other out of itself, it is in identity with this other and returns into itself out of the otherness of this negation with the negation of this otherness. It reaffirms itself as the aboriginally posited. This posited ab initio abides within itself whilst simultaneously going beyond itself. It returns to itself as rejuvenated old which is therefore yet an advance beyond this old. Accordingly, the “concept” is the forever recurring and forever animating structure (relationship) of all forms of development in Nature, society or thought, etc. For Marx, it is not a pantheistically posited ghost or “spirit” (Geist) but rather absolutely identical to the real, given, specific forms of development. This is Marx’s dialectical monism. In Hegel, this takes the idealist form of the concept unfolding itself in the multiplicity of its otherness in order to concentrate itself by returning into itself as unity out of this multiplicity and knowing itself to be so in Self-Consciousness. But in Hegel – because the “Concept” is identical to Nature in its difference from it – a theological teleology animates his whole doctrine.

Shaun May

September 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Marx and Engels in the 1840s

Marx and Engels in the 1840s

The 1840s was a revolutionary decade for both Marx and Engels in terms of the elaboration of their whole conception. An incredibly rich and contradictory period for them which gave impulse and vitality to their developing outlook. It was a period of conflict and turmoil for both Marx and Engels in terms of their theoretical and political development. We can see this from a survey of the transition from the Doctoral Dissertation on Democritus and Epicurus to the Manifesto. Their conception did not emerge ready-made and fully-formed from their heads in 1841. Marx and Engels had to constantly grapple with all manner of conflicts within their conception in this decade before arriving at the more ‘mature’ conception found in the Manifesto. Their struggles in this decade moved them on to their conception articulated in the Manifesto.

For the rest of his life, Marx was constantly reviewing and re-assessing his own work. Leaving this behind. Taking that onboard. Overthrowing here. Returning to this there, etc. Marx’s conceptions were also subject to the dialectic. He moved on. For example, Marx was still referring to the “value of labour” in 1846-47 (Poverty of Philosophy) but post-Manifesto it had gone, to be replaced by the scientifically correct “value of labour-power”. Marx had moved on, arriving at the conception that “living labour” itself is the creator of value but “living labour” itself (like land) has no value. Labour-power has both value and price. But living labour and land both have price but no value. The price of land is equivalent to the capitalised rent.

In my opinion, the pivotal work in Marx’s approach in Capital is to be found in the Grundrisse. The notebooks for Capital. Everything he had done previous to this was once again re-assessed and put through a critical fire in order to re-forge it in the pages of Capital. Even the 1859 Contribution was subjected to the same revolutionary criticism. Marx wrote that revolutions constantly subject themselves to a critique as they unfold (and this becomes an intrinsic part of their dynamic). Marx did the same with all his work. The Grundrisse was that critique, a critique of political economy which included all his own previous work.

Of course, there are limits in drawing contrasts between the earlier Marx of the 1844 Paris Manuscripts and the later Marx of Capital. However, it would be absurd to deny the tremendous and determinate developments and leaps which took place between the two and to imply that, in terms of overall conception, there was not a far richer and more concrete and more comprehensive conception in the later period. The development of the totality of Marx’s thinking was an entirely sublative process.

Engels wrote that The German Ideology was written for “purposes of self-clarification” submitted for publication but was in fact left unpublished to “the gnawing criticism of the mice” [1859 Preface] and not published in full until 1932. The work was an indispensable part of both Marx’s and particularly Engels’ development (mostly written in Engels’ handwriting) in the 1840s. It would be misguided, in my opinion, to approach any of their work divorced from the historical conditions under which they were thinking and writing.

This does not mean that they do not ‘carry forward and over’ today but we must also read them within context in order not to fall into the trap which the dogmatist and doctrinaire sets for us. I think we need to study the Doctoral Dissertation within this context of the historical development of Marx’s conception which was not immune to the alterations and shifts which the dialectic inevitably asserts. We do not, of course, subscribe to a “disorienting historical relativism”. However, we do not lift Marx out of determining historical conditions and simply quote him without any necessary, specific qualification which may or may not be required depending on the stage at which he had reached in his unfolding and progressively ‘concentrating’ conception.

Soon after Marx’s Doctoral Dissertation, Feuerbach published his Essence of Christianity (1841) and Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843). On reading Feuerbach, Engels wrote later that..

we were all momentarily Feuerbachians. How enthusiastically Marx greeted the new interpretation, and how greatly – despite all critical reservations – he was influenced by it, we can read in The Holy Family (Ludwig Feuerbach, Dietz, 1946, p. 14).

We can also see the influence of Feuerbach in the Paris Manuscripts of 1844 [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] which is not to assert that a critique of both Hegel and Feuerbach had not already begun. [for example, in the critiques of Hegel’s doctrine of the state and of the Rechtsphilosophie., 1843-44]. However, personally, I think to quote Marx’s doctoral dissertation now is more than idiosyncratic unless, of course, it is part of a study of the early development of Marx’s thinking.

In relation to the development of Marx’s approach to his work, I think that the Theses on Feuerbach were highly important. They are an incredibly rich, concrete and ‘concentrated’ result of Marx’s studies in the 1840s. If we evaluate the “methods” of various “Marxists” in the light of these theses, we start to gain real insight into the character, and especially the deficiencies and shortfalls, of these “Marxist methods”.

Shaun May

mnwps@hotmail.com

September 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Organic Composition of Capital : An Example of How Bourgeois Economics Tries to Bury the Secret of Capitalist Exploitation.

The Organic Composition of Capital : An Example of How Bourgeois Economics Tries to Bury the Secret of Capitalist Exploitation.

Marx writes that capital’s ‘value composition, in as much as it is determined by and reflects, its technical composition, is called the organic composition of capital’ (pp 145-46, Capital, Vol 3, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1974). Marx makes a distinction between the value composition and the technical composition of capital. The technical composition is the “real basis of its “organic composition”. In other words the actual physical relationship between machinery, materials, etc, employed and the number of productive labourers is the “real basis” of its “organic composition”. This technical composition – as the “real basis” of the organic composition – is reflected in the value composition of productive capital. Not commodity capital, of course, which – as a value composition – does not have an “organic composition” as such.

However, the technical composition can rise, fall or remain the same with constant or varying value composition and vice versa. The relationship between the two compositions may remain constant or rise or fall according to the productivity of labour i.e whether the latter rises or falls accordingly.

The value composition of commodity capital is, of course, different and includes the component of surplus value. But the value composition of commodity capital is not included in Marx’s category ‘organic composition’ because it is not a ‘technical composition’. Productive capital (C+V) does not contain the value component of surplus value but rather surplus value is the manifestation of surplus labour created in the course of the valourisation process in the production of commodities. Accordingly, the value composition here (productive capital) is contrasted with that of commodity capital in which productive capital exists only in potentio.

Only productive capital has a “technical” and therefore “organic” composition in contrast to commodity capital (C+V+S) which also, nevertheless, like productive capital (C+V), does have a value composition. The category of ‘organic composition’ is a category of productive capital and not of any other form of capital (commodity or money capital). For Marx the organic composition of capital is NOT the ratio between the value accumulated as dead labour (C) and the value created by productive workers (V+S)

Marx writes that the organic composition of capital is equivalent to the relationship between dead accumulated labour and necessary labour time which is a totally different conception as reflected in the ratio C/V. Nowhere in Marx is there any explicit conceptual development or suggestion that the organic composition of capital is anything other than the relationship between constant and variable capital.

The constancy or variation in the relationship between constant and variable capital does not actually change the determinate character of this relation. It merely alters the form of the relation. Whether or not relative surplus value is being produced which is an academic question anyway. If no valorisation is taking place, then the means of production are not functioning as capital per se. The organic composition of capital has a “real basis” in its technical composition and this is always reflected, either directly or inversely, in the alterations in the value composition and vice versa. The rise in the quantity of relative surplus value produced is a consequence of the increase in the organic composition of capital and therefore a relative fall in its variable compared to its constant component.

The organic composition of capital is its value composition rooted in and mirroring alterations in its technical composition. If we admitted the formula C/(S+V) for the organic composition, the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall would itself actually be undermined by the very basis of its concept. The root conception (organic composition) would negate the derived one (law of tendency of the rate of profit to fall)

This value composition of productive capital – which mirrors directly or inversely the technical composition – is called by Marx the ‘organic composition of capital’. The value composition of productive capital always, therefore, in one way or another, directly or inversely, reflects its technical composition. And this applies regardless of the constancy or variation in variable capital. The “value of the real wage” may rise or fall or remain constant but this does not alter the character of the value composition as being equivalent to the organic composition of capital under historically determined technical conditions of production. Theoretically, if no relative surplus value were produced, this would not alter the determinate character of the relation involved in the organic composition. This organic composition is only determined by “unpaid labour” insofar as unpaid labour is the substance of surplus value which is then accumulated after realisation. This may or may not alter the organic composition of capital. C/(S+V) is the ratio of constant capital to the total value created by productive labour i.e. (V+S) in the valorisation process during production. But this is definitely NOT what Marx means by the organic composition of capital.

The bourgeois vulgarisers of Marx, and those who have never studied Marx, or those who only have a superficial acquaintance with his work, sometimes refer to this latter ratio [C/(V+S)] as the “capital-output ratio”. The term is frequently found in the pages of the economics texts and journals of the bourgeois vulgarians and ideologues of capital such as Kaldor and the “Post-Keynesian” Pasinetti, for example. Sometimes we find it used by so-called “Marxists” who have themselves vulgarised Marx. They give Marx a bad name when they accredit such conceptions to him.

Most of them are located in superannuated posts at some of the “best” universities and in the financial institutions of the enemy class. Kaldor was based at Cambridge and was an advisor for the Wilson government in the 1960s in Britain.

The burying of the distinction between variable capital and surplus value in the term “output” serves to conceal the secret of capitalist exploitation and the origins of profit itself as the realisation of uncompensated labour. What Marx refers to as “the theft of alien labour time” is buried under the “capital-output ratio” of the bourgeois vulgarian. Marx must be studied with the necessary degree of attention and thought which he deserves rather than being casual with his conceptions. In other words, we must and should leave dilettantism in such matters to those who feel comfortable with it, whoever they may be.

Shaun May

August 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On the Human Psyche as a Synthesis of the Social and the Biological

On the Human Psyche as a Synthesis of the Social and the Biological

Consciousness is not simply a passive reflection of social relations but is a most active element in the development of these relations. Vygotsky remarks that…

Any function in the child’s cultural development appears on the stage twice, on two planes, first on the social plane and then on the psychological; first between people as an interpsychological category, and then inside the child, as an intrapsychological. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory and to the formation of concepts. The actual relations between human individuals underlie all the higher functions. [1]

He proposes that the ‘inner dialogues’ of consciousness are intrapsychological transpositions of the dialogues and social interactions between individuals. These interactions become psychologically internalised in the form of ‘inner dialogues’ thereby reflecting the social structure and content of the actual relations between human individuals. Implicit in this conception is that social relationships and psychological processes mediate each other i.e. the whole process can be described by the term psychosocial. The inner dialogues of consciousness are an intrinsic part of this whole process and do not exist in separation from it but only in relation with and to it.

In the psychological internalisation of social relations, not only does consciousness arise in the individual but it also develops the ability to consciously monitor itself. In this self-relation of consciousness, that which is being monitored constitutes an organic dialectical unity with that which is monitoring: both constitute different sides of the same process of conscious thought.

This ‘monitor’ is an elevated function of conscious awareness. In this self-monitoring capacity of consciousness, humans possess the ability to reflect upon the process and progress of their own inner thought content. The individual becomes aware of his or her own thinking and feeling, involving the ability of humans to reflect upon the conceptual content and development of their own thoughts and feelings. This self-monitoring activity of consciousness constitutes what might be referred to as the internal eye of consciousness itself whose operation mediates the internal dialogues of consciousness.  This internal eye is the means by and through which consciousness monitors itself; consciousness elevating itself into its reflective mode whilst remaining itself in this monitoring ‘otherness’.  Hegel had this process of reflection in mind when he postulated that….

Mind, in spite of its simplicity, is distinguished within itself; for the ‘I’ sets itself over against itself, makes itself its own object and returns from difference…….. into unity with itself [2]

On a psychological plane, the origination and historical development of humanity is the enduring, unfolding process of an aware yet non-conscious natural being (the pre-human, animal primate ancestor) becoming a conscious social being, conscious of Nature and of itself (self-consciousness) as being in and a part of Nature.

Thought consciously monitoring the unfolding of its own conceptual content is an exclusive property of the human mind not found in animals or in higher primates. Animals are aware, are sentient, but ‘non-conscious’ natural beings and do not possess this capacity to reflect. For example, when an animal encounters its image in a mirror it merely sees, if at all, the image of its physicality, itself as an object.  When a human being looks into a mirror it observes not only a physicality but also the ‘me’ or ‘I’.  For the animal there is no ‘I’ to which this physicality is intrinsic.  ‘I-ness’ (ego) is a function of the reflective capacities of conscious beings.  Consciousness itself, as distinguished from the simple, non-conscious awareness of animals, is a specifically human form of awareness embracing and incorporating within itself an awareness of the ‘self’ involving the capacity to reflect.

The mind functions as a singularity. Each aspect does not operate in isolation from the others but only in unity with and relation to the others. Each side or aspect is only distinct and has its own particular functioning in its connection and relationship to the movement of the mind as a whole. Thus Hegel remarks that….

our own sense of the mind’s living unity naturally protests against any attempt to break it up into different faculties, forces or, what comes to the same thing, activities conceived as independent of each other [3]

We can recognise this when we consider the relationship between thinking and feeling. They constitute different sides of one single psychological relation. Thinking is both a conceptual source of feeling and a medium for its articulation and expression. Specific forms of thinking are related to specific emotions. The conceptual content, meaning and mode of thinking conditions the emotional life of the individual.  The origination and socio-historical development of consciousness brings with it all those emotions which are specifically human.

Therefore, thought and emotion, in their dialectical relation, mutually condition and determine each other and, in so doing, are simultaneously self-determining. They are, in their relation with each other, both simultaneously determining each other and self-determining. Thought becomes expressed in emotion whilst thought, in its movement, simultaneously expresses the emotions which it has itself engendered. The movement of this contradiction is continuously passing into new forms in the unfolding of the psychological processes in each individual.

The resolution of one form of contradiction between thought and emotion is, at the same time, the positing of a new contradiction between them which then develops towards its resolution. The relationships of human society are the ultimate source of these contradictions in the psyche which only possesses a certain degree of autonomy in so far as it is engendered and exists in relation to these established social relations. This does not deny, of course, that psychological processes are simultaneously a product of the human brain itself. But they are its social product.

In the process of thinking itself, an identity exists between thought as a socio-historical phenomenon and thought as a neurophysiological phenomenon. Thought as a socio-historical phenomenon (conceptual content) is, however, simultaneously distinct from the neurophysiology of the brain. It is a socio-historical product of the neurophysiology of the brain and therefore must become constituted in an identity relation with it.  This paradox of the human mind makes it a product of both the socio-historical and the neurological and therefore a synthesis of both. It constitutes a qualitatively distinct, human form or mode of existence. It incorporates within its development both the social and the biological whilst sublating and synthesising them into the psychological.

The conceptual content of human thought is socio-historical in origin. But thought is also a product of the neurological movement of matter in the brain. The neurophysiology of thinking links its animating conceptual content to the general physiology of the human body as a whole. This becomes manifest in the effects of emotional states on human physiology.

Neurologically, the brain is linked to the rest of the body through the nervous system, the cardio-vascular system and the endocrine system which is regulated and controlled by hormonal systems. The linkage between neurological processes and the general physiology of the body as a whole forms the material basis through which psychological states can alter the physiological state of the body. For example, studies in the area of psychoneuroimmunology has demonstrated the effects of mental states on the human immune system. In this relatively recent medical area of psychoneuroimmunology, the source of such modulations in physiology (for example, reduced blood counts of leucocytes) can be traced to the formation of mental states animated by specific forms of the conceptual content of thought and thus, implicitly involving the character of social relations conditioning the life of the individual. Scientists working in this area have shown, for example, a connection between anxiety levels and lowered resistance to infection as a result of the anxiety-mediated depletion of white blood cells.

The prevailing character of established social relations conditions the mental states and emotional life of human beings and, in so doing, contributes to the physiological modulations and state of the human body itself. Human thought – whilst being a social product of the brain – is simultaneously a neurological process which can, as a consequence of this relation between the social and the neurological, mediate and modulate the physiological state of the human body. Without an acknowledgement of this fundamental proposition, the scientific investigation of the impact of social relations on human physiology would possess no rational foundation and could not be conducted. Likewise, the study of the effects of psychotropic drugs on human perception, which is conceptually mediated, demonstrates – or must imply at least – that there is a connecting physiological mediation between neurological states of the brain and states of consciousness.

Specific forms of thinking are intrinsically related to certain emotional states which engender corresponding neurological states in the brain. These neurological states along with endocrinological responses to these states can then activate physiological changes in the body as a whole.  All these interrelated processes are monitored and regulated by the brain via the nervous system.  Out of the different forms of thought derive the specifically different human emotions.

The implication here is that a continuously changing conceptual content of the thinking processes in the individual is continuously altering – no matter how subtlely, discretely or indiscernably – the physiological state of the nervous system as expressed and registered subjectively in the alteration of feeling states or emotions. The individual subjectively registers these states as ‘feeling’. The socio-historical basis of the existence of conceptually-mediated feeling is revealed in the connection between the character of the dominant social relations, on the one hand, and the character of the individual’s relationships with others, on the other, during any given phase in the evolutionary history of society. The mind reflects the character of the prevailing social relations and human feeling expresses their general character in the life of the mind as registered subjectively in the life of the individual.

How does thinking influence mood and how is this, in its turn, capable of modulating the physiological state itself, of the CNS and human body? Must there not be some form of neurological mediation between thinking and altered states of mood and physiology? Thinking itself must have neurological correlates for this to happen. If my mood alters as a result of thinking about, .e.g., an emotionally “painful” experience, and this starts to make me feel anxious or depressed then there has to be a real neurological mediation in operation. Do not states of mood or “feeling” have to be neurologically correlated in order to be subjectively registered? In this way, does not the actual conceptual content of thinking processes actually influence, mediatively, “matter”, i.e. living matter. We cannot think without the active neurology of the brain and yet thinking itself – being linked to or associated/correlated with this neurology – must be capable of influencing this neurology. In other words, there is a dialectical relationship between neurology and psychology in operation which does not, at the same time, deny the essentially social character of the conceptual content of consciousness. This, to me, seems like an adequate synthesis of the social and the neurological as expressed in the psychological.

We can also recognise this relationship between the social and the emotional in the arts. For example, consider the capacity of music to evoke certain emotions and thoughts. The tentative question I would like to pose : does music evoke specific emotions because the experience of listening to a piece of music reproduces neurological states in the brain that are usually associated with the emotion or ‘mood’ which the piece of music is conveying?  For example, a melancholic symphony can engender neurological states which are associated with the emotion of sadness or despair. Human emotions and ‘mood’ become associated with corresponding neurological states. And these moods and emotions can be conceptually-mediated.

Psychologically, thinking and emotion intermediate each other’s movement and this dialectical process, in itself, can serve to alter and modulate mental states which actually affect the physiology of the human body. This is most apparent in the human response to threat or danger. The biochemical systems that are active in fear are necessary for human survival. They are evolutionary legacies of our animal ancestors stretching back millions of years. However, the overactivity of these mechanisms can exert detrimental physiological effects which serve to encourage the onset of, and aggravate existing, medical conditions and diseases. Hence existent social relations which are a real source of stress, anxiety and fear detrimentally affect the physiological functions of the human body.

Attempts to alter individual perceptions of these social relations does not, in itself, change their real existential character as stress-producing and illness-producing social relations. It merely acknowledges their real existence independently of the individual who is him/herself a product of these same social relations. This is why to alter the fundamental character of humanity it is the character of these social relations which must be revolutionised.

Herein lies the basic flaw and limitation  –  the Achilles Heel  –  of all forms of psychotherapy which may present in secular form but are essentially theological in their methods of approach. The different schools and branches of psychotherapy arise from the same epistemological stock and are fed and watered by the same concealed theological roots. Psychotherapy locates the individual in the ‘ideological form’ (Marx) and espouses and practices an alteration of thinking about self and others in order to transcend the psychological effects of social relations. This approach is, implicitly, a negative recognition of the real character of social relations rather than an effective attempt to transcend them in practice.

The collectively-practiced, psychotherapeutic precept acknowledges and asserts that it is possible for the suffering alienated human individual to transcend or, at least, resolve to the point of personal acceptance or ‘comfort’, the psychological effects of the prevailing socio-historical conditions of existence by means of shifts in consciousness or mental adjustment. It fails, in its self-preoccupation, to see the proverbial ‘wood for the trees’ in that any such shift or adjustment to a supposedly more ‘comforting’ or ‘enlightened’ state is, in this apparent negation, merely a reaffirmation of those historical conditions which form the individual and through which he or she actively lives life replete with problems and contradictions in the age of the reign of global capital. All psychotherapy therefore, whatever its character, is both an expression and implicit acknowlegement that alienation and estrangement continues to prevail in social relations and that a psychotherapeutic sticking plaster is utterly and completely inadequate for patching up the wounds which these relations daily inflict on the lives of human individuals. The psychotherapist is, usually unconsciously, the latter-day priest of the secularised mind.

Those biological mechanisms (mediated by the animal’s acquired learning and awareness of its surroundings) which enabled the animal ancestors of humans to respond to the immediate danger of threat became incorporated into the human organism in the course of its origination. In the life of ancestral primates, they were necessary in order to prime them to respond accordingly in threatening situations. The activation of such responses in situations of real imminent danger is therefore a necessary survival mechanism in the primate and hominoid ancestors of humanity. Implicitly, as long as the violent and aggressive character of human relations continues to exist, the operation of this incorporated survival mechanism will also continue to be expressed in the violence and aggression of these social relationships.

In the actual operation of this mechanism, where an immediate response is necessitated to imminent danger or threat, the processing of incoming stimuli by means of reflection would tend to hinder the survival of the individual in the face of such threat because it would require time to think and hence disadvantage the individual in responding to threat.Those biological mechanisms in ancestral primates which are mobilised in threatening situations are those which have become sublatively incorporated into the human mind as it originated and are active in anxiety and fear in humans.

However, we must also consider the proposition that with the historical emergence of humanity as a distinct species, the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response found in ancestral primates also became integrated with – and subject to activation by – the mere movement of the conceptual content of the human mind itself, even in the absence of any real, immediate threat. This relation, for example, is operative in the different forms of anxiety. This specifically human form of the activation of this response (anxiety) is distinguished from the fear of the animal as a response to direct threat from predators, etc. Anxiety itself is a social property of the human psyche; a function of social relations at a particular stage in their historical development. Even in its ‘autonomy’, mind is, therefore, essentially a social creation and is the finest, most perfect, mirror of history, arising and evolving as a product and function of it.

The fear in the animal in Nature is always a response to real or possible threat based on the immediacy of its conditions of its life, arising out of its direct awareness of the immediacy of its environmental situation. But the experience and psychological internalisation of violent, oppressive and exploitative social relations both helps to form and condition the conceptual content of the mind at any given point in the historical development of society.

The general character of social relations constitutes the basis upon and within which the human personality is formed and develops. Where such relations are mediated by malevolent forms of social control, violence and aggression, oppression and exploitation, the psychological corollary of these relations is inevitably a human personality characterised by fear and anxiety. These attributes accordingly come to arise in and mediate interpersonal relationships under such conditions. This is the characterisation of human individuality as the ensemble of social relations (Marx) in that..

human beings become individuals only through the process of history [4]

Each human being individually expresses the essential and universal characteristics of the historically dominant social relations of the period.  Each individual typifies the prevailing social relations and, in this sense, is a representation of the universal character of those relations. However, each unique individual expresses, in a particular way, the general character of humanity at a definite stage in its socio-historical development. These ‘particular ways’ – which give the individual uniqueness – are an outcome of the conditions and relationships of the individual’s personal history. These ‘conditions and relationships’ are an intrinsic part of the ‘life’ of society as a whole. Accordingly, individual human behaviour expresses the nature of social relations.

The individual is always, to a certain degree, self-directing, but only within the parameters and direction of the wider current of development of a given society. Thus, whilst the individual is self-directing, he or she remains a social creation in their self-direction and is accordingly both ‘directed’ and conditioned as such in their ‘self-directedness’. Freely-willed human behaviour is always determined, always conditioned. Individual behaviour always takes place within the historical context, conditions and parameters of society as a whole.

Notes

[1] Vygotsky, L.S. Development of Higher Mental Functions.  Psychological Research in the U.S.S.R. (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966) pp.44-45.

[2] Hegel.  Philosophy of Mind. (Clarendon, Oxford, 1971) Zusatze, p.11.

[3] Hegel.  Ibid. p.4.

[4] Marx. Grundrisse : Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993)p.496. Notebook V.

Shaun May

revised June 2014

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Fetishisation” of Terminology in Marx

“Fetishisation” of Terminology in Marx.

Somebody has emailed regarding the use of the term “surplus value”. According to the correspondent, the term has become fetishised and it would be better if we used the term “socially produced surplus” instead of “surplus value”. He writes….

“It seems to me the key lies in resisting the tendency to allow the terminology itself to become fetishised. The only way to do that, as far as I’ve been able to make out, is to understand the essence (“Wesen”) of the explanatory framework of historical materialist analysis well enough that one can use the terminology more flexibly, and suitably to context. For instance – to stick with your example – when one is explaining the class-based nature of exploitation, and thus the expropriation of surplus value by members of one class from members of another, one might perfectly well substitute the phrase “socially produced [or ‘generated’] surpluses” instead of “surplus value”.

Hence, the legitimacy of such a substitution would depend on context. Implicitly, he is warning against the quest for exact semantic equivalents irrespective of context. Such a quest, he seems to suggest, would be precisely the fetishisation of terminology against which his remarks are intended to warn. In other words, if we look for a substitute for the term “surplus value” which is “an exact semantic equivalent”, this is a continuation or re-articulation of the “fetishisation of terminology” which we are seeking to avoid.

Moreover, immediately we recognise that a “socially produced surplus” does not necessarily take a value form. It is a transhistorical category which is not specific to capitalism. The category of surplus value – in its fully developed, “classical” form – is historically specific to capitalism. In other words, in my opinion, it would be a less adequate substitution because it would be less concrete as a category. The Incas “socially produced” a “surplus” but that surplus was not part of a social reproduction and augmentation of value. But our correspondent has already qualified this by asserting that we need to take into account the “context”. In other words, we take a transhistorical category and deploy it according to context.

But “context” gives the term its historically-determined conceptual content. It is possible to take and relocate such a term out of its historically-determined context but then the term ceases to describe and articulate the objective character of the historically-posited and historically-specific form or relation. Likewise, if we describe the surplus value form as a “socially generated surplus”, we are not actually describing what gives the “socially generated surplus” its specific social character, its value-form under capital. We are stripping away (paring down) the concreteness of the category, arriving at a conceptually more impoverished category, in order to “apply” it in different “contexts”. Which is precisely the very “pre-Platonic” “abstraction” of a “universal” from the specificity of “phenomena” – divorcing it from its concrete universality – and then proceeding with its “concrete application” according to “context”. i.e., not grasping the universal in its actual concreteness, in its real, specific determinacy. Fragmenting the “concrete universal” into a “universal” which is abstracted and then applied “concretely” according to “context”. We are effectively disembowelling the conception of the “socially produced surplus” under capital of its historically specific and crucially animating content i.e. not articulating it as essential value-form of the surplus. It is not really a question of “fetishisation” here but really of one of calling “things by their real names” in order to articulate an historically relative and approximate conception of what these “things” “are”. In fact, fetishisation has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the matter.

He continues….

“In my experience, using such alternate formulations can help the hearer “triangulate” on the essential meaning to be grasped beneath any supposed “proper name” at the level of logos – the concept, the “Begriff”, the eidos (the latter in what many would consider a pre-Platonic sense, mainly due to having little grasp of Plato) – rather than becoming mystified at the level of the word.
I think this is a very difficult level of mastery to achieve – mainly because the capitalist system of production: (1) is itself so complex; and, (2) is virtually “upside down” in its appearance, as compared to its reality, its essence, its “nature”, its physis.”

This, in my opinion, is a rather high-priestly approach to the whole question. If you can understand it, brother, why must the rest of us be introduced to the method of “triangulation” in order to grasp it. I thought that was something to do with the geographical surveying of the contours of barren landscapes. So if we are addressing a group of striking factory workers, they will be delivered into the Eleusinian mysteries of surplus value by a process of “triangulation” but there will be no need to subject a seminar of “Marxist academics” to such an initiation because they have gone beyond this transitory “primary school” stage. It might be easier to simply pick up volume one of Capital and spend a few days of intense study on the first chapter. It would certainly strip the “capitalist system of production” of some of its “mystery” and “complexity” and start to place it “on its feet”.

The present historical “context” is the global rule of global capital i.e. the rule of capitalised surplus value and not simply capitalised “socially produced surplus”. This is why the use of the latter would be the use of a less concrete category. Categories used are, as is method, “socio-historically determined” by the existent “context” in which case the substitution of the less concrete (“socially produced surplus”) for the more concrete category (“surplus value”) is rendered redundant by the prevailing historical conditions and “context”. The term ‘surplus value’ is, accordingly, the most adequate for encapsulating the conceptual content of the category because it is the most concrete under the prevailing historical conditions. For Marx, the concept of value – introduced in the first chapter of Capital – was fundamental to his overall conception. All class societies are necessarily based on the production of a surplus by “society” and this surplus is the basis upon which the owning ruling class or controlling caste can parasitically feed. But the equally parasitic existence of the capitalist class is based on the production of surplus value.

Shaun May

mnwps@hotmail.com

May 2014

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

From A Notebook on Dialectics (Part Two)

From A Notebook on Dialectics (Part Two)

Every Marxist today would benefit politically as a result of a close but critical study of Hegel’s Logic. The question of such a study is not a philosophical consideration but primarily a political one. This was foremost in Lenin’s mind when he took up a study of Hegel in Switzerland during the first imperialist world war and before he returned to Russia from exile. In a certain sense, Lenin was trying to follow the same path which Marx cut when he studied and critiqued Hegel as a theoretical source of his own method. Marx superseded Hegel and Hegelianism as a whole but that does not mean that we cannot still learn from a critical, strictly non-apotheosised, reading of Hegel. To find for ourselves the “rational kernel in the mystical shell”. Such a study of Hegel serves to deepen our understanding of Marx and of the crisis of the capital system which confronts us today.

Marx was a lifelong student of Hegel (for example, see his letter to Engels, dated January 16, 1858. http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1858/letters/58_01_16.htm). Hegel, of course, has to be read critically from the vantage point of what Marx and others subsequently have already achieved. And Marx has to be read likewise. But they also must be read historically which is not separate from such a critique. It is approximately 200 years since the publication of the Science of Logic. We critically study this work within the unfolding conditions which are mediating the crisis of the capital system today. Any critique is not “free-floating”, anonymous, independent of the social conditions within which it takes place. It would, in my opinion, be erroneous [1] to approach any thinker ideologically, that is, divorced from the historical conditions within which they worked and produced, and [2] to critique the work of such a thinker independently of the conditions mediating the crisis of capital today i.e. once again to approach their work ideologically. If we truly wish to grasp the content and significance of their work, I think it is important to embrace both considerations here. We must seek to avoid the ideological apotheosis.

A grasp of the origination and development of Hegel’s thinking, for example, cannot simply be attained by mere reference to his philosophical predecessors or contemporaries. We must not and cannot neglect the historical experience of Hegel himself, student, 19 years of age when the French Revolution broke out in 1789 and all the unfolding events in the course of and subsequent to this revolution. The French Revolution had a very deep and profound philosophical and political influence on Hegel.

Marx critiqued Hegel and Feuerbach as a means towards developing his materialist conception. Marx also noted the contradictory character of Hegel’s whole system. He revealed that it contained structured within itself the conflict between his radical dialectical method and the conservative edifice of the philosophical system which Hegel erected. That he used a dialectical method to erect such a finished philosophical system is itself the positing of a contradiction. Regardless of this, Hegel writes – in the Preface to the first edition of the Encyclopaedia (p.iv) – that he is endeavouring to set forth ‘a new treatment of philosophy on a method which will, as I hope, yet be recognised as the only genuine method identical with the content‘. This, of course, is central for Hegel as idealist in elaborating his categories but if we invert it and ‘place it on its feet’ it has a resonating significance for Marx’s materialism. And even for the evolution of scientific thought in general.

If Nature is immanently dialectical – independently of the thinking subject – then the heuristic integration of dialectics into scientific method will undoubtedly serve to give us a deeper and more profound understanding of Nature. Even in the natural sciences, therefore, dialectics (compared to the empiricism and positivism that currently pervades it) would be more fruitful as a heuristic guide in research. The ’empirical’ is, of course, indispensable in observation in politics as in the natural sciences. But Positivism is a different question. In my opinion, summa summarum, Positivism is the Pentobarbital of the the critical faculties of any revolutionary.

We only have to consider the questions and problems of today’s Physics to see the potential of dialectical approaches, e.g., in Quantum Mechanics, Particle Physics, Cosmology, etc, not to mention other areas of science such as Evolutionary Biology, Psychology, etc.

Nature does not require the presence of human beings to be dialectical. Nature preceded humanity and the latter as such only arises out of Nature on the ground and presuppositions of the dialectics of its pre-human evolution. Nature does not require our permission to be dialectical.

If we sit down and write a piece of work on contemporary events and questions, then what sort of method animates our approach to events? We could deploy “common sense”, “positivism” or “pragmatism” in method but where does that lead us in a world which is a paradox of paradoxes, a complex of complexes and not simply a mechanical assemblage of the “ready made” ?

I am currently studying Trotsky’s notebooks, 1933-35 on ‘Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism’ (Columbia University Press, 1985). The text contains references to Trotsky’s dispute with Max Eastman on the question of dialectics. Eastman’s position leads to the question of the “practical use” of the dialectic implying that it contradicted “common sense”, “science”, “everyday experience”, etc. Eastman sought to subsume the dialectic into the traditions of American pragmatism, Dewey, James, etc. Later he became a right-wing reactionary. Pragmatism is the ideal doctrine for the ‘Men who built America’. The reactionary doctrine ideally suited to the class interests of the American bourgeoisie and to its global realpolitik today. In his philosophical exchange with Max Eastman (influenced by the Pragmatism of Dewey and James), Trotsky asserted that those who reject dialectics have never maintained a consistently revolutionary outlook.

Is there then a dialectic for “theory” and a different one for “praxis” determined by positivistic and pragmatic paradigms? The realpolitik of the global representatives of capital is based on such paradigms. And this can be clearly seen with current events in the Ukraine. But this realpolitik is very clearly rooted in and articulates the interests of global capital; this is the “bottom line” so to speak.

If the world is living contradiction, then clearly we cannot understand this world without a conception of contradiction – no matter how “concrete” we think we are in our “common sense”,”pragmatism”, “empiricism”, etc – and this must orientate us in our “practical” work. This, of course, is not to deny the determinate character of the world. But to approach the world as if it is all “determinacy” without “indeterminacy” is the line which divides dialectics from the formalisms of positivism, empiricism and pragmatism. Positivism accuses Marx of “metaphysics” and “speculative abstraction”

But what is the relationship between the concrete and abstract in Marx? And not only in Marx. Write down any sentence on a page and within that sentence are to be found the dialectics of the abstract and the concrete. Every conception is a relationship between different degrees of abstraction and concreteness. Whether that conception is commodity and capital, I and thou, Positivism and Postpositivism, etc.

If we approach the abstract as if it is a question of the universal simply being “abstracted” from the “phenomenon” and “applied concretely” according to situation and context, then I think that is alien to Marx’s method. I think it is the wrong way to proceed. For Marx, the universal is concrete. If we adopt this former approach then I am certain we will struggle with the question of contradiction in method. Because the universal is simply “abstracted” and stripped of all determination without having any objectively real concrete character independently of thought. Without us looking at the given universal’s actual historical origination and development.

The universal itself – although sundry ‘postmoderns’ would dispute this – has a concrete, objective character. When Marx begins Capital with ‘the commodity’ he is starting with a concrete universal. He is not developing his conception “abstractly” in isolation from “concreteness”.

In my opinion, for communists to adequately address any question of any contemporary problem facing the proletariat, it is undoubtedly necessary to use a dialectical method of approach to such questions. How do we articulate the conception of contradiction and change so that it can be brought forward in method to address such questions? In order to do this we must first start (Anschauung) with real unfolding events and not with some imposed template of method. But as Communists, as a method of approach to the questions of the day, our approach must be revolutionary critical and, accordingly, inseparable from praxis which is revolutionary.

How do we actually address and develop these questions in the unfolding of a revolutionary critique i.e. in revolutionary practice? How do we meet the proletariat where it is today (i.e. constitute ourselves as an intrinsic part of the class movement), with all the historically-imposed limits of its organisation and consciousness and how do we struggle to move that forward as the structural crisis of capital deepens?

The essence or the focus of the dialectical approach is the disclosure of the inner contradictions within a “complex” (its internally and dynamically active paradoxes) which enable us to not only grasp the origins of the “complex” but also its ‘impulse’, ‘vitality’, ‘life’; to grasp its inherent tendencies of development. Contradiction (Paradox) is the most fundamental, animating category of dialectics and in the dialectical method of approach. If we do not grasp the internal contradictory relations of a “complex” – and especially the implicit tendencies of development which result from a grasp of them – then how can we orientate ourselves in revolutionary practice? Our conception, surely, is to inform what we actually do. It is not an academic or fatalistic conception. It is not a question of waiting for the apple to drop from the tree in order to pick it up but rather a question of actually shaking the tree in order to do so. If the conception does not focus on the paradoxical life and tendencies of the object then how can it comprehensively and concretely inform our revolutionary activity?

Thinking which appropriates the world by means of dialectically-related and articulated categories is itself a product of human history. And, accordingly, “dialectical method” actually arises and develops historically under and when certain historical conditions are posited which render it possible and necessary. Implicitly, the only scientifically valid and viable (and non-ideological) way to grasp this origination and evolution – as with all forms of thinking – of dialectical forms of thinking is by a study of their origins and development within the unfolding of the historical process itself. We find sundry ‘postmodernists’ approaching the question rationalistically which, perhaps incidentally, is a dominant tradition in French philosophy from Descartes, etc, onwards.

A comprehensive understanding of dialectical thinking is not rooted ideologically and rationalistically in thought itself but in the evolution of Nature and History as a process of development. More specifically, in humanity’s activity in the transformation of Nature to meet its requirements, as expressed in the development and application of the different forms of human knowledge. Dialectical forms of thinking cannot grasp themselves independently of this process but can only be characterised and evolve in relation to it. It is ideological to think otherwise. This is what it means, in my opinion, to grasp “dialectics through dialectics” which is the understanding of dialectical thought on the grounds of, and arising out of, man’s activity and his reflection of this activity in the course of the unfolding of the historical process itself. In this sense, it is an “identity” (or rather “unity”) but not a tautology. It only becomes tautological if we seek to explain dialectical thinking exclusively within the conceptualisations of its own thought-realm. Such an explanation becomes, in my opinion, sooner or later, an ideological ‘adventure in the dialectic’.

The stage at which the historical process has arrived in the course of its development also conditions and limits our knowledge. Engels writes that our knowledge is ‘limited in its actuality but unlimited in its disposition and potential’. Engels asserted that dialectical thinking is merely the expression of the forms of motion of the natural and social world reflected and articulated in the human mind. A truth simply put but, nevertheless, very concretely so. Without all the unnecessary sophistry of rationalisms and metaphysics.

When Marx wrote about the events of his time – for example, the revolutions of 1848 or the Paris Commune of 1871 – was he simply giving an “objective” “journalistic” or “empirical” account of these events? How did he approach an analysis of these events? These questions are not rhetorical. I truly think that these are legitimate questions to raise because in a study of these writings we will find an understanding of Marx’s method of approach and that will help us in our approach to current events, in the Ukraine and Bosnia, for example. 2014 is not 1848, of course, but it would undoubtedly be helpful to study Marx’s approach in his day. The method of approach will be actually found in the way Marx develops the content in these works as a class-conscious political articulation of the unfolding events of the times. Marx himself intended to write a “few pages” on the “rational kernel” in Hegel as opposed to its “mystical form” (Ideenmystik). But for Marx, his critique of events was always a revolutionary critique and not the critical critique which he critiqued in the 1840s.

Nonetheless, despite all this, if we cannot make ourselves understood to millions then revolutionaries collectively will be treated like an arcane and esoteric priesthood. We need to be as clear and lucid as possible within the limitations which are actually imposed by the terminology. For example, what other expression can we use for “surplus value”? The meaning of the term ‘surplus value’ is the basis of, but is not just another word for, ‘profit’. And, again, surplus labour is not necessarily surplus value whereas the contrary always applies. In order to grasp the distinction within the identity (and thus get to the value roots of ‘exploitation’) we have to study Marx, of course. There is no alternative. We have to be very careful not to vulgarise Marx in the very act of seeking to simplify. If we are not careful, we would end up with a sort of Mickey Mouse “theory”. Marxists can come across as an intellectual elite who do not appear to have cultivated the ability to articulate their conceptions in forms which the “man in the street” can readily understand. I think we have to be honest about that. But the “man in the street” can understand it all if he studies it. We are all “people of the street”. But this does not mean that ease of understanding, lucidity and clarity are not important for all of us.

If we acknowledge the real existence of contradiction in its different forms – which is found in Hegel and in Marx – then we will be able to find it in any of their analyses of the events of their time. All forms of existence are subject to its dynamic. For example, The Eighteenth Brumaire, Class Struggles in France or The Civil War in France. Moreover, any dialectical approach to current events would incorporate it as part of its method.

Marx uses it in the elaboration of his conception in Capital where it animates his method and the form of presentation in Capital. If we accept that method is valid without the conception of contradiction, then are we not forced, by implication, to deny the universality of contradiction and simply acknowledge it as an ‘impractical foible of the imagination of the madman or an overactive mind’? This is the approach of many natural scientists. When they encounter contradictions in the outcomes of their researches, usually they do not consider that such outcomes may actually reflect the contradictory nature of the object itself. Usually they put it down to a defect in method or even in the physical apparatus which they are using. Which isn’t to assert that such defects may not be possible. But the method of approach is overwhelmingly formalistic.

Formal logic itself is a subsumed moment in dialectical logic which means that the latter does not deny the determinate or the determinacy of the existent (determinate being, Dasein). But to focus on it at the expense of dialectics (without acknowledging the indeterminate within and as the determinate and vice versa) is what Hegel would have referred to as being in the grip of Verstand whose principle is that of ‘undifferentiated identity’. The determinate is the determinate because it is always returning to itself out of its own ‘negativity’, out of negation of negation in order to reaffirm itself in its repositing but at a higher stage of its determinate existence. This is why ‘things’ which we observe in daily life appear not to change, retain their stability. Everyday I observe the bronze statue on my desk and everyday it seems to be unaltered, it presents itself to be so. But alteration is inherent within it as it retains its stability and retains this in its alteration. If I view it formalistically then I am focussing on this stability without seeing the possibility for its opposite as a result of the unperceived accumulation of changes. I wake up one morning and I notice that an arm has fallen off the statue. The dialectic laughs at me : you didn’t see that coming, did you? You looked at her last night before you went to bed and the right arm was still attached. And now it is on the floor in front of you.

A Formal logical approach therefore stands as a less precise, less concrete and more abstract approach to Nature but that, in itself, does not invalidate it as a limiting case in our approach. For pragmatic technological purposes, at the present stage, we can use formal logic to design the present generation of computers but will that apply to the nth generation, etc? Formal logic (rooted in the Aristotelian logic) – as a method to organise our work as communists – remains a limiting case of a higher form of logic which has incorporated it.

But in the comprehensiveness of our understanding, the dynamics of social change and revolution actually demand dialectics. To exclusively employ Formal logic would cripple us. However, there is no denial of its scientific legitimacy and validity under certain conditions and parameters, but only under specific conditions which involve the formalised approximation of the objects of investigation. In my opinion, if we win through to socialism, and with later developments, dialectics will eventually be incorporated into scientific method.

Even now, Nature is calling out – in various areas of the natural sciences – for a dialectical conception and appreciation of her relations and properties, etc. I dare say that readers will know some of these areas better than I do. There are still Physicists who argue about whether light is a wave or particulate. And sometimes they answer that it can be wave or particulate but only as a function of the experimental conditions which we impose. Most scientists think paradox is a fault in reasoning, a foible in scientific method which is used in trying to understand Nature (devoid of contradiction of course) and that the contradictions being encountered in advanced Maths and Physics, for example, do not actually indicate that contradiction is indwelling and gives the physical world its movement and energy. But even the simplest and the most advanced mathematical equations and formulae are only formalised expressions of dialectical relations in Nature.

I am not conversant in the mathematics and logic of computer science and technology which is used in the design and development of computing technology. But here is a prediction from an computing amateur like me : it will not be long before computer scientists attempting to design the future generations of computers will come up against theoretical barriers and technical limits which compel them to go beyond a formal logical approach. They will be compelled to enter the sphere of dialectics in order to design more advanced computers. The more the technology evolves, the more it will demand dialectical theoretical solutions to the problems which are will undoubtedly emerge. If we acknowledge that the world of Nature and Man and their interrelation is dialectical, then we have no other route to follow, eventually and ultimately, but a heuristic one which incorporates dialectical thinking into the work of the natural sciences and it would be a more fruitful approach. The denial of the dialectic has its historically-posited scientific and technical limits beyond which the dialectic becomes necessary.

There are those (Positivism, Empiricism, etc) who state that thought can only be “scientific” if it is “predictive”. Predictive? Well, I think it depends what we mean by ‘predictive’. Physics is predictive in the sense that we can predict the approximate degree of force with which a projectile hits a surface if we know its mass and acceleration. In Chemistry, we can predict the properties of the next undiscovered or unsynthesised member in a homologous series of organic compounds. In the work done on the Periodic Table, we accurately predicted the properties of elements before they were actually discovered. We predicted their existence as well as their properties. In Biology, in Homeostasis we can predict how a living system will behave if subjected to certain constraints and in Chemistry we can use the Le Chatelier Principle to predict the tendency of development of a system in equilibrium if we disturb that equilibrium with given constraints like temperature, quantity of reactants, pressure, etc.

I do not think materialist dialectics is like this (scientistic) – which we find in the natural sciences – because in the method of approach of materialist dialectics there are sublated elements of both fatalism and scepticism preserved (not absolutely annihilated). In what sense? In so far as fatalism reflects a certain recognition of the general trend of development which a formation must necessarily follow once its general principles of development have been discovered. And in scepticism is reflected the conception that how this trend of development will turn out in all its concrete, specific particularity and detail expression cannot be fully known. So this type of thinking is, in a certain sense, both predictive and not predictive at the same time. We can provide a general prognosis of development but it would be impossible provide what will happen in all the specific detail. Whereas if we study a chemical reaction in equilibrium using Le Chatelier’s Principle, we can pinpoint to a high degree of accuracy what the system will do (how it will behave) if we alter one or more of its parameters.

We cannot fully know how the unfolding crisis of the capital order will turn out in all its detail and particularity but we know that this crisis will unfold globally, based on our studies in Marx, Meszaros, etc. It will broaden, deepen, worsen, become more intense, become increasingly more global and this must have profound implications for the life of humanity and all the living creatures of Nature’s creation on the planet. This is not “predictive” as it is in the Natural Sciences but nevertheless it is predictive in the broad dialectical conception of the term. This, of course, serves to orientate us in our theoretical and practical work i.e. in the intrinsic unity between them, ‘revolutionary practice’ [Marx, Theses on Feuerbach].

Shaun May

mnwps@hotmail.com

May 2014

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized