@1 week ago with 3 notes
Althusser and Poulantzas.
"At some stage early in every Marxist textbook of political economy it is stressed that “capital” is not a thing, but a social relation, and an antagonistic social relation at that. But frequently, after this proclamation is made, the accumulation of capital is substantively treated as the accumulation of things, of machinery, buildings, raw materials, and so forth that are usually grouped under the rubric “constant capital”. This is fundamentally incorrect from a Marxist point of view: capital accumulation must be understood as the reproduction of capitalist social relations on an ever-expanding scale through the conversion of surplus value into new constant and variable capital."
Erik Olin Wright, Class, Crisis and the State, Verso, London, 1979, p. 113
@1 month ago with 90 notes
QUOTE - ALTHUSSER
@2 months ago with 4 notes
…in a very exact sense, the bourgeoisie lives in the ideology of freedom the relation between it and its conditions of existence; that is, its real relation (the law of a liberal capitalist economy) but invested in an imaginary relation (all men are free, including the free labourers). Its…
"Every philosophy reproduces within itself, in one way or another, the conflict in which it finds itself compromised and caught up in the outside world."
@2 months ago with 57 notes
Louis Althusser, Philosophy and Marxism: Interviews with Fernanda Navarro, 1984-87
"Foucault implicitly and explicitly draws on Marx’s arguments in Capital to help explain the logic for historical change. Foucault always introduces Marx as supporting evidence and never as a figure to be disproved. As Foucault makes clear (221), capitalism could not exist without the form of control that Foucault calls ‘discipline’ and discipline could not succeed without the rise of capitalism. In many ways, one of Discipline and Punish’s main projects in its treatment of class-struggle, power and knowledge is to provide a way for new students of Marx to escape the PCF’s increasingly unfruitful use of the terms ‘ideology’ and ‘false consciousness’ as explanations for why the working class submits to middle-class authority. … At its heart, Discipline and Punish is a stunning dismantling of the cherished bourgeois ideal of the individual and the political, economic and cultural valences of that concept. … Foucault uses Discipline and Punish to argue that the cultivation of the individual in these terms camouflages the middle class’s desire to become the dominant group within a capitalist economy. The scene of the contract obscures actual power inequalities, Enlightenment reason is linked to coercive force and the humanist mythos of the authentic personality of the individual has been historically constructed as a device to control threatening collectives, namely those of the working and lower classes."
Anne Schwan, Stephen Shapiro, How to Read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Pluto Press, 2011
@2 months ago with 29 notes
#foucault #marxism #bourgeois liberalism #enlightenment
"The profound error made by those who have announced the ‘death of liberalism’ is to confuse ideological representation accompanying the implementation of neoliberal policies with the practical normativity that specifically characterises neoliberalism. As a result, the relative discredit surrounding the ideology of laissez-faire today in no way prevents neoliberalism from prevailing more than ever as a normative system possessed of a certain efficiency - that is, the capacity to direct from within the actual practice of governments, enterprises and, in addition to them, millions of people who are not necessarily conscious of the fact. For this is the crux of the matter: how is it that, despite the utterly catastrophic consequences in which neoliberal policies have resulted, they are increasingly operative, to the extent of pushing states and societies into ever graver political crises and social regression? How is it that such policies have been developed and radicalised for more than thirty years without encountering sufficient resistance to check them?
The answer is not, and cannot be, confined to the ‘negative’ aspects of neoliberal policies - that is, the programmed destruction of regulations and institutions. Neoliberalism is not merely destructive of rules, institutions and rights. It is also productive of certain kinds of social relations, certain ways of living, certain subjectivities. In other words, at stake in neoliberalism is nothing more, nor less, than the form of our existence - the way in which we are led to conduct ourselves, to relate to others and to ourselves. Neoliberalism defines a certain existential norm in western societies and, far beyond them, in all those societies that follow them on the path of ‘modernity’. This norm enjoins everyone to live in a world of generalised competition; it calls upon wage-earning classes and populations to engage in economic struggle against one another; it aligns social relations with the model of the market; it promotes the justification of ever greater inequalities; it even transforms the individual, no called on to conceive and conduct him- or herself as an enterprise. For more than a third of a century, this existential norm has presided over public policy, governed global economic relations, transformed society, and reshaped subjectivity…
The thesis defended in this book is precisely that neoliberalism, far from being an ideology or an economic policy, is firstly and fundamentally a rationality, and as such tends to structure and organise not only the action of rulers, but also the conduct of the ruled. The principal characteristic of neoliberal rationality is the generalisation of competition as a behavioural norm of the enterprise as a model of subjectivation. … Neoliberalism is a rationality of contemporary capitalism, freed of its archive references and fully acknowledged as a historical construct and general norm of existence … Neoliberalism can be defined as the set of discourses, practices and apparatuses that determine a new mode of government of human beings in accordance with the universal principle of competition."
Pierre Dardot & Christian Laval, The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society, Verso, London & New York, 2013, pp. 2-4
@3 months ago with 8 notes
""In Althusser’s notion of interpellation, it is the police who initiate the call or address by which a subject becomes socially constituted. There is the policeman, the one who not only represents the law but whose address "Hey, you!" has the effect of bringing the law to the one who is hailed. This "one" who appears not to be in a condition of trespass prior to the call (for whom the call establishes a given practice as a trespass) is not fully a social subject, is not fully subjectivated, for he or she is not yet reprimanded. The reprimand does not merely repress or control the subject, but forms a crucial part of the juridical and social formation of the subject. The call is formative, if not performative, precisely because it initiates the individual into the subjected status of the subject.
@2 days ago with 1 note
Althusser conjectures this “hailing” or “interpellation” as a unilateral act, as the power and force of the law to compel fear at the same time that it offers recognition at an expense. In the reprimand the subject not only receives recognition, but attains as well a certain order of social existence, in being transferred from an outer region of indifferent, questionable, or impossible being to the discursive or social domain of the subject. But does this subjectivation take place as a direct effect of the reprimanding utterance or must the utterance wield the power to compel the fear of punishment and, from the compulsion, to produce a compliance and obedience to the law? Are there other ways of being addressed and constituted by the law, ways of being occupied and occupying the law, that disarticulate the power of punishment from the power of recognition?
Althusser underscores the Lacanian contribution to a structural analysis of this kind, and argues that a relation of misrecognition persists between the law and the subject it compels. Although he refers to the possibility of “bad subjects,” he does not consider the range of disobedience that such a interpellating law might produce. The law might not only be refused, but it might also be ruptured, forced into a rearticulation that calls into question the monotheistic force of its own unilateral operation. Where the uniformity of the subject is expected, where the behavioral conformity of the subject is commanded, there might be produced the refusal of the law in the form of parodic inhabiting of conformity that subtly calls into question the legitimacy of the command, a repetition of the law into hyperbole, a rearticulation of the law against the authority of the one who delivers it. Here the performative, the call by the law which seeks to produce a lawful subject, produces a set of consequences that exceed and confound what appears to be the disciplining intention motivating the law. Interpellation thus loses its status as a simple performative, an act of discourse with the power to create that to which it refers, and creates more than it ever meant to, signifying excess of any intended referent.” (Butler, Bodies that Matter; 121-2)"
"I found very illuminating the distinction, established by Husserl, between ‘sedimentation’ and ‘reactivation’. Sedimented ideas are those crystallised forms that have broken their link with the original intuition from which they proceeded, while reactivation is the revelation of that forgotten link, so that the forms can be seen in status nascens. … I could not, of course, simply adopt the Husserlian distinction without introducing into it a basic change. For Husserl, the reactivation process leads to a transcendental subject that is the absolute source of all meaning; for me, it leads to an instance of radical contingency in which many other decisions could have been taken. If so, reconstructing the contingent character of the decision becomes primordial, ad this can only be done by revealing the fields of inchoate thoughts - that is, of alternative decisions that could have been taken and that the contingent road chosen had obliterated. This is the analytic method that I have systematically followed since those early days: whenever I have found in the Marxist (and more generally, socialist) texts some theses that clashed with my experience and intuition, I tried to reconstruct the historical contexts and intellectual operations through which such theses were formulated. In all cases I found that those theses were the result of a choice, and that the discarded alternatives continued operating in the background and re-emerged with the inevitability of the return of the repressed. In this way, I think we managed to establish an area of interdiscursivity within Marxist and socialist texts that makes possible a better appreciation of their inner plurality."
Ernesto Laclau, The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, Verso, London & New York, 2014, pp. 3-4
@1 week ago with 3 notes
"[O]ne of the chief errors of thought is to continue to think in one set of forms, categories, ideas, etc., when the object, the content, has moved on, has created or laid premises for an extension, a development of thought."
CLR James, Notes on Dialectics.
@1 week ago with 4 notes
"What Althusser’s own insistence on history as an absent cause makes clear, but what is missing from the formula as it is canonically worded, is that he does not at all draw the fashionable conclusion that because history is a text, the “referent” does not exist. We would therefore propose the following revised formulation: that history is not a text, not a narrative, master or otherwise, but that, as an absent cause, it is inaccessible to us except in textual form, and that our approach to it and to the Real itself necessarily passes through its prior textualization, its narrativization in the political unconscious."
@2 months ago with 36 notes
Contradiction and Overdetermination
@2 months ago with 1 note
"But here we should pay careful attention: if it is obvious that the theory of the weakest link guided Lenin in his theory of the revolutionary party (it was to be faultlessly united in consciousness and organisation to avoid adverse exposure and to destroy the enemy), it was also the inspiration for his reflections on the revolution itself. How was this revolution possible in Russia, why was it victorious there? It was possible in Russia for a reason that went beyond Russia: because with the unleashing of imperialist war humanity entered into an objectively revolutionary situation. Imperialism tore off the ‘peaceful’ mask of the old capitalism. The concentration of industrial monopolies, their subordination to financial monopolies, had increased the exploitation of the workers and of the colonies. Competition between the monopolies made war inevitable. But this same war, which dragged vast masses, even colonial peoples from whom troops were drawn, into limitless suffering, drove its cannon-fodder not only into massacres, but also into history. Everywhere the experience, the horrors of war, were a revelation and confirmation of a whole century’s protest against capitalist exploitation; a focusing-point, too, for hand in hand with this shattering exposure went the effective means of action. But though this effect was felt throughout the greater part of the popular masses of Europe (revolution in Germany and Hungary, mutinies and mass strikes in France and Italy, the Turin soviets), only in Russia, precisely the ‘most backward’ country in Europe, did it produce a triumphant revolution. Why this paradoxical exception? For this basic reason: in the ‘system of imperialist states’ Russia represented the weakest point. The Great War had, of course, precipitated and aggravated this weakness, but it had not by itself created it. Already, even in defeat, the 1905 Revolution had demonstrated and measured the weakness of Tsarist Russia. This weakness was the product of this special feature: the accumulation and exacerbation of all the historical contradictions then possible in a single State. Contradictions of a regime of feudal exploitation at the dawn of the twentieth century, attempting ever more ferociously amidst mounting threats to rule, with the aid of a deceitful priesthood, over an enormous mass of ‘ignorant’ peasants (circumstances which dictated a singular association of the peasants’ revolt with the workers’ revolution). Contradictions of large-scale capitalist and imperialist exploitation in the major cities and their suburbs, in the mining regions, oil-fields, etc. Contradictions of colonial exploitation and wars imposed on whole peoples. A gigantic contradiction between the stage of development of capitalist methods of production (particularly in respect to proletarian concentration: the largest factory in the world at the time was the Putilov works at Petrograd, with 40,000 workers and auxiliaries) and the medieval state of the countryside. The exacerbation of class struggles throughout the country, not only between exploiter and exploited, but even within the ruling classes themselves (the great feudal proprietors supporting autocratic, militaristic police Tsarism; the lesser nobility involved in constant conspiracy; the big bourgeoisie and the liberal bourgeoisie opposed to the Tsar; the petty bourgeoisie oscillating between conformism and anarchistic ‘leftism’). The detailed course of events added other ‘exceptional’ circumstances, incomprehensible outside the ‘tangle’ of Russia’s internal and external contradictions. For example, the ‘advanced’ character of the Russian revolutionary elite, exiled by Tsarist repression; in exile it became ‘cultivated’, it absorbed the whole heritage of the political experience of the Western European working classes (above all, Marxism); this was particularly true of the formation of the Bolshevik Party, far ahead of any Western ‘socialist’ party in consciousness and organisation; the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Revolution in 1905, which, in common with most serious crises, set class relations sharply into relief, crystallised them and made possible the ‘discovery’ of a new form of mass political organisation: the soviets. Last, but not the least remarkable, the unexpected ‘respite’ the exhausted imperialist nations allowed the Bolsheviks for them to make their ‘opening’ in history, the involuntary but effective support of the Anglo-French bourgeoisie, who, at the decisive moment, wishing to be rid of the Tsar, did everything to help the Revolution. In short, as precisely these details show, the privileged situation of Russia with respect to the possible revolution was a matter of an accumulation and exacerbation of historical contradictions that would have been incomprehensible in any country which was not, as Russia was, simultaneously at least a century behind the imperialist world, and at the peak of its development."
"Once [contradiction] has ceased to be univocal and hence determined once and for all, standing to attention in its role and essence, it reveals itself as determined by the structured complexity that assigns it to its role, as – if you will forgive me the astonishing expression – complexly-structurally-unevenly determined. I must admit, I preferred a shorter term: overdetermined."
@2 months ago with 1 note
"The charge most often levelled at my 1969-70 essay on the ISA is ‘functionalism’. Readers thought they saw in my theoretical sketch an attempt to subscribe, on behalf of Marxism, to an interpretation that defined organs by their functions alone, their immediate functions, thus immobilising society within ideological institutions charged with functions of subjection: ultimately, a non-dialectical interpretation the deep logic of which excluded all possibility of class struggle.
I do not think readers have paid enough attention to the notes at the end of my essay, which emphasises the ‘abstract’ nature of my analysis and explicitly locate the class struggle at the heart of my concerns.
For we can say that the specificity of the theory of ideology deducible from Marx consists in affirming the primacy of the class struggle over the functions and functioning of the state apparatus and Ideological State Apparatuses. This primacy is obviously incompatible with functionalism of any kind.
For it is clear that we cannot regard the system by which the dominant class provides society with ideological ‘leadership’, that is to say, the consensus effects of the dominant ideology (‘which is the ideology of the dominant class’ - Marx), as pure and simple fact, a system of defined organs that automatically duplicate the same class’s violent domination or are put in place by the clear political consciousness of this class to ends defined by their functions. For the dominant ideology is never a fait accompli of the class struggle that is itself exempt from the class struggle.
For the dominant ideology, which exists in the complex system of Ideological State Apparatuses, is for its part the result of a very long, very harsh class struggle through which the bourgeois (to take that example) can achieve its goals only on the twofold condition that it struggle simultaneously against the old dominant ideology, which lives on in the old apparatuses, and the ideology of the new exploited class, which seeks its own forms of organisation and struggle. This ideology, by means of which the bourgeoisie succeeds in establishing its hegemony over the old landed aristocracy and also the working class, is constituted not just by an external struggle against these two classes, but also and at the same time by an internal struggle to overcome the contradictions of bourgeois class fractions and realise the unity of the bourgeoisie as the dominant class.
We have to conceive of the reproduction of the dominant ideology in this sense. Viewed formally, the dominant class as to reproduce its material, political and ideological conditions of existence (to exist is to be reproduced). But the reproduction of the dominant ideology is not simple repetition, simple reproduction. It is not even an automatic, which is to say mechanical, reproduction on an extended scale of given institutions, defined once and for all by their function. Rather, it is the combat for the unification and renewal of prior ideological elements, which are disparate and contradictory, within a unity conquered in and through the class struggle in opposition to prior forms and new antagonistic tendencies. This combat for the reproduction of the dominant ideology is a combat that is never over; it has to be taken up again and again, and always under the law of the class struggle."
Louis Althusser, ‘Note on the ISAs’, in On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses, Verso, London & New York, 2014, pp. 218-219
@3 months ago with 10 notes