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Showing posts from March 7, 2010

Our foundation is an earthquake: Marx doubts...

“The first work, that I undertook to resolve the doubt that assailed me…[zur Lösung der Zweifel, die mich bestürmten] Marx is the Leo among philosophers. It is rare that he will express himself in terms of a personal “doubt.” The method of Descartes may have been all very well for his era, slowly freeing itself from the chains of scholasticism – but Marx did not see his own period as one in which the confession of doubts was at all helpful. Like the inventor of a machine who proposes to solve a material problem, Marx wanted, in his published work, to include those things of material relevance for describing and promoting the overthrow of capitalism. James Watt does not tell us of his doubts and woes, but tells us of the trials he makes of his machine, its failures and successes. But in the introduction to the Critique of the Political Economy, Marx does feel the need to introduce himself a bit. Thus, the lion, for a moment, a mere flash, reverts to the pussy cat. What is this doubt abo

Money just seems to make the world go around

There is a drop of blood on the ground And it seems to me that it's not my kind but I can't be sure if its yours or mine Substitution. Replacement. Fungibility. I have so far been hammering home a point about one of the great, novel features of capitalism, but it is a point that is, inherently, difficult to express. When money is paid for an object, in one sense it operates as a substitute for the object – and in one sense it doesn’t. For the object does not operate as a substitute for money. If I pay 2 dollars for a bag of sugar, as we all know, this does not mean that I can then go into a store and trade my bag of sugar for 2 dollars worth of oranges. In this way, money is a commodity unlike any other in the body of commerce. “It is a matter of complete indifference to money into what kind of commodities it is transformed. It is the universal equivalence form of all commodities, which already show in their prices, that ideally they represent a specific amount of money, awaiti

There is no such thing as good work

I absolutely love the following excerpt, which better captures what it is like to hang around with Chicago economists than just about any quote I have ever seen: “We should have a recession,” [John] Cochrane said in November, speaking to students and investors in a conference room that looks out on Lake Michigan. “People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do.” - Freakonomics blog In a famous passage in The German Ideology (which I take to be ironic), Marx writes that, as a result of the revolutionary takeover of society by communism, the person will be able to “do this today, to do that tomorrow, in the morning hunt, in the afternoon fish, in the evening herd the cattle, after dinner criticize, as I have a mind to, without becoming a hunter, fisher, herder or critic.” Of course, Marx, more percipiently, warns against dreaming of communism in terms of the beatific everyday life – communism is not a state of affairs but a movement within society. Why th

Capital from the point of view of Revolution

Take! Take! Take! Take! Take! Take! Take! Take! In number 206 of Dawn, Nietzsche addresses the worker problem under the heading of three “phooeys”: The impossible estate [Stand] – Poor, joyous [froehlich] and independent! – all of that together is possible; poor, joyous and slave! – that is also possible – and I don’t know what I could tell the laborers of factory slavery better than: given, that you do not feel that it is generally a scandal to be exploited to such a degree, as it were, as a screw of a machine and something like a stopgap of human ingenuity! Phooey! [Pfui] to believe, that through higher pay the essence of your misery, I mean, your impersonal enslavement, will be lifted! Phooey! To let yourself be persuaded that the scandal of slavery can be made a virtue through an increase in this impersonality within the mechanical enterprise of a new society! Phooey!to have a price for which one becomes no longer a person, but a screw! Are you co-conspirators [Mitverschworenen] in

the sensual reality of time/the social reality of time

History is made of time – evidently. But time, we should remember, is a socially processed parameter in our lives. It is to this parameter that Marx will turn in Capital, putting to use insights from the theoretical phase of his work in the 1840s. This is from the German ideology – I would love to be able to spin on at length about the tree that ends this passage, since wood – and the organic growth time embodied in wood – is a sort of background noise in much of Marx’s writing. Trees have a special place in Marx – after all, it was the forest laws that he criticized in Köln which, on his own account, started his intellectual journey from philosophy and law to the political economy. “He [Feuerbach] doesn’t see, how the sensual world around him is not immediately given by eternity, an always self-same thing, but instead is the product of industry and social circumstances, in the sense of actually being a historical product, the result of the activity of a whole series of generations of

What did the bourgeoisie ever do for us?

XERXES: Medicine. COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh... COMMANDO #2: Education. COMMANDOS: Ohh... REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough. COMMANDO #1: And the wine. COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah... FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh. COMMANDO: Public baths. LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg. FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this. COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh. REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? Marx never wrote a romance about the future. Not for him the Icarias, the Fourierist tract, the utopias of the Saint-Simonians. Not for him Robert Owen’s communes. All those infinitely detailed plans. The scheduling. The inversion of society. At Menilmonta