Rough Theory's Marx - a comment.

N. Pepperell is unfolding her dissertation chapters on Marx’s Capital on her blog. LI is finding them extremely helpful. We are, of course, all down and shit with N.P.’s framework of seeing Marx in terms of an “anthropology”: “many of these passages [in the first book of Capital] can be better understood as anthropological depictions of peculiar qualitative properties that are specific to capitalist societies – and often specific to quite limited dimensions of capitalist societies – but that present themselves to social actors in a decontextualised and apparently asocial form.” And we sign on the dotted line for this:

“I suggest that the form of the first chapter expresses what I take to be a substantive claim about the way in which capitalism itself possesses a theatrical character, due to its constitution of a set of social relations that are peculiarly disembedded from the human agents who enact them, rendering these agents into social actors in a particularly literal sense – into bearers of economic roles who, to the extent that they step forth onto what Marx often explicitly calls the economic stage, find themselves performing acts and voicing scripts that are in some meaningful sense not reducible to those agents’ personal subject positions, but are instead externalised and collectively-constituted parts that transcend the actors who happen to perform them in any particular production of capital.”

I love it that N.P. is picking up on the dramatological cues Marx is giving us here – which, I should say, continues a form of presentation that he first develops in his political writing, especially the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, which gives us, in one of Marx’s typical bolts of lightning, the idea that revolutions tend to a peculiar kind of ritualistic pattern, in which the actors put on the masks of the ancestors. It is a very Kenneth Burke-ian gesture, although I don’t want to imply that Pepperell’s overall approach is Burkian. All that is solid does not vanish into rhetoric. Still, it makes us think about the meaning of our last two posts, on Marx and vulgarity. As we noted, here, in a brief flicker, Marx describes the economy of satisfaction [Befriedigung] and dissatisfaction that defines the Modern in terms of the responses of the agents that inhabit it, with whatever degree of consciousness they bring with them to the Artificial Paradise. This is why vulgarity, seemingly a topic for the bitchery of flaneurs and aesthetes, not Marx, casts a light upon the erasure of the human limit – the overcoming of that Borniertheit of the classical polis.

Originally, I meant to dance this thread to the third chapter in the L’anti-oedipe, which is the one, you will recall, where Deleuze and Guattari make clear that they are engaging in creating a universal history – which is also a history of how universals were made. A history, then, of “chance” encounters – D. and G. adduce the encounter between private property and the market, but leave to the side – being French – the chance encounter that, as Lou Reed puts it, brought Columbus to New York – that is, the discovery of America. A discovery that created, in the docking of one boat, a population of the discovered. Event/epistemology/mass death. You gotta love it. Or commit suicide. Ladies and gents, I give you the modern.

But – well, I am pulled back to the time frame I set up for myself. I need to talk about Joseph de Maistre’s letter to Potocki, I need to talk about the irrevocable. I need, I need…

And yet, I can’t resist taking a sidelong look at D. and G.’s notion of encounter. What is this if not discovery? Discovery is one of those epistemological forms that slipped by Foucault – you could never tell, reading Les mots et les choses, that any new world had been discovered in the time frame he is using. Discovery isn’t included in the select vocabulary of the Classical episteme. This, I’ve always thought, is a big, puzzling hole in Foucault’s story, and where, if I were inclined to critique MF, I would start.


Anonymous said…
Hello. And Bye.