The purpose of this second part of this special issue is to contribute to a better understanding of the nature of Soviet society. It is not possible to analyse such a…
The purpose of this second part of this special issue is to contribute to a better understanding of the nature of Soviet society. It is not possible to analyse such a society in all its complexities within the space of one study. There are, however, some economic relations which determine society's major features. We believe that commodity‐production relations in the Soviet Union are of this type.
Over the last decades, the social sciences have become increasingly concerned with the role of the state and the politics of institutional restructuring. Within mainstream…
Over the last decades, the social sciences have become increasingly concerned with the role of the state and the politics of institutional restructuring. Within mainstream political science this has led to the development of a “state-centered” research program that emphasizes the autonomy of institutions. Marxist theory, however, has continued to adhere to a “society-centered” perspective, seeking to combine an ability to account for institutional change with the analysis of more structural social and economic forces. After some introductory comments that frame the problematic within which the paper is situated (Section 1), I discuss in Section 2 three of the most important recent Marxist attempts to construe the relation between socio-economic imperatives and political institutions. My argument is that Marxists’ attempts to relativize the autonomy of state institutions are too often still based on the postulation of an unexplained structural moment. This leaves them vulnerable to institutionalist claims concerning the autonomous nature of institutions. Section 3 proposes a different way of thinking the role of institutions in capitalist society. This approach breaks with a causalist, structuralist mode of explanation and relies on a more hermeneutic understanding of the role of institutions. I will shift the problematic to the relation between institutions and agency, arguing for a more pragmatist understanding of the role of institutions and an agency-based understanding of the formation of socio-economic imperatives. Section 4 concludes with some thoughts on the prospects held out, as well as the challenges faced, by the approach proposed in this paper.
In recent years, the concept of “reification” has virtually disappeared from debates in social theory, including critical social theory. The concept was at the center of…
In recent years, the concept of “reification” has virtually disappeared from debates in social theory, including critical social theory. The concept was at the center of the revitalization of Marxist theory in the early twentieth century generally known as Western Marxism. Georg Lukács in particular introduced the concept to express how the process described in Marx's critique of alienation and commodification could be grasped more effectively by combining it with Max Weber's theory of rationalization (see Agger, 1979; Stedman Jones et al., 1977).1 In Lukács's use, the concept of reification captured the process by which advanced capitalist production, as opposed to earlier stages of capitalist development, assimilated processes of social, cultural, and political production and reproduction to the dynamic imperatives and logic of capitalist accumulation. It is not just interpersonal relations and forms of organization constituting the capitalist production process that are being refashioned along the lines of one specific definition of economic necessity. In addition, and more consequentially, the capitalist mode of production also assimilates to its specific requirements the ways in which human beings think the world. As a result, the continuous expansion and perfection of capitalist production and its control over the work environment impoverishes concrete social, political, and cultural forms of coexistence and cooperation, and it brings about an impoverishment of our ability to conceive of reality from a variety of social, political, and philosophical viewpoints.
Despite profound differences, both the German Historical School and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School have in common a theoretical and cultural heritage in…
Despite profound differences, both the German Historical School and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School have in common a theoretical and cultural heritage in Central European traditions of social thought and philosophy. Although both schools often are perceived as quintessentially German traditions of economic and social research, their methodological presuppositions and critical intent diverge strongly. Since the objective of the Frankfurt School was to carry the theoretical critique initiated by Marx into the twentieth century, and since its members did so on a highly abstract level of theoretical criticism, the suggestion may be surprising that in terms of their respective research agendas, there was a common denominator between the German Historical School and the Frankfurt School critical theory. To be sure, as will become apparent, the common ground was rather tenuous and indirect. We must ask, then: in what respects did their theoretical and analytical foundations and orientations overlap? How did the German Historical School, as a nineteenth-century tradition of economic thinking, influence the development of the Frankfurt School?
Drawing upon Alfred Sohn-Rethel's work, we argue that, just as capitalism produces abstract labor, it coproduces both abstract mind and abstract life. Abstract mind is the split between mind and nature and between subject/observer and observed object that characterizes scientific epistemology. Abstract mind reflects an abstracted objectified world of nature as a means to be exploited. Biological life is rendered as abstract life by capitalist exploitation and by the reification and technologization of organisms by contemporary technoscience. What Alberto Toscano has called “the culture of abstraction” imposes market rationality onto nature and the living world, disrupting biotic communities and transforming organisms into what Finn Bowring calls “functional bio-machines.”
This is the first English version of Karl Kautsky’s essay “Theories of Crises,” originally published in 1902 in Die neue Zeit, the theoretical organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Kautsky’s essay was a review of Michael von Tugan-Baranowsky, Studien zur Theorie und Geschichte der Handelskrisen in England (Studies on the Theory and History of Commercial Crises in England), published in 1901. Kautsky’s review of Tugan-Baranovsky’s book is divided into five sections: (1) “Introductory Remarks”; (2) “The Decreasing Tendency of the Rate of Profit”; (3) The Explanation of Crises by Underconsumption; (4) Tugan-Baranovsky’s Theory of Crises; and (5) The Changes in the Character of Crises. We have translated in full the Sections 3 to 5.
This chapter is about the modern, Western education system as an economic system of production on behalf of the capitalist mode of production (CMP) and globalization towards a single, global social space around market capitalism, liberal democracy and individualism.
The schooling process is above all an economic process, within which educational labour is performed, and through which the education system operates in an integrated fashion with the (external) economic system.
It is mainly through children’s compulsory educational labour that modern schooling plays a part in the production of labour power, supplies productive (paid) employment within the CMP, meets ‘corporate economic imperatives’, supports ‘the expansion of global corporate power’ and facilitates globalization.
What children receive in exchange for their appropriated and consumed labour power within the education system are not payments of the kind enjoyed by adults in the external economy, but instead merely a promise – the promise enshrined in the Western education industry paradigm.
In modern societies, young people, like chattel slaves, are compulsorily prevented from freely exchanging their labour power on the labour market while being compulsorily required to perform educational labour through a process in which their labour power is consumed and reproduced, and only at the end of which as adults they can freely (like freed slaves) enter the labour market to exchange their labour power.
This compulsory dispossession, exploitation and consumption of labour power reflects and reinforces the power distribution between children and adults in modern societies, doing so in a way resembling that between chattel slaves and their owners.
Evidence from a study in Middlesborough is presented in favour of the proposition that an adequate analysis of domestic labour in modern society depends on taking into…
Evidence from a study in Middlesborough is presented in favour of the proposition that an adequate analysis of domestic labour in modern society depends on taking into account its content and distribution. In particular, the characteristics of the gender division of domestic labour suggest the need for an integrated theoretical approach which draws on the insights of both Marxists, concerning the development of the capitalist mode of production and feminists concerning the operation and impact of patriarchy.
This paper examines how medical practice, like all other productive activities, has been subject to the transformative elements of the forces and the relations of…
This paper examines how medical practice, like all other productive activities, has been subject to the transformative elements of the forces and the relations of production involving class struggle and intra-class conflict. It will explore changes in the relations of production of medical practice which have been catalyzed by powerful productive forces. The current period of medical production involves the transformation of simple commodity production into a transitional stage of capitalist production with the seemingly unbounded growth of the medical productive forces. This development was precipitated by the intervention of capital as a whole, to restrict the drain on their variable capital through the placement of units of financial capital into the management of medical production, using the leverage of access to patients. In response, physicians have consolidated and centralized their practices to create enterprises with market power to limit the extraction of surplus by financial capital, and by their own employment of productive labor to extract surplus from hired physician labor and other clinical workers. Rationalization of the production of medical service commodities, and the sharing of surplus generated from exploitation of an expanded labor force by managed care financial capital and their capitalist partners owning medical enterprises, constitutes the contemporary relations of production. The contradictions of this mode of medical production and the potential for its reproduction will be analyzed.
It is widely accepted among critical human–animal scholars that an absolute ontological distinction between humans and animals, the human–animal dualism, is an ideological construction. However, even some of the most radical animalists make use of a softer version of it when they explain animal exploitation and domination in capitalism. By criticizing the reintroduction of the human–animal dualism through the back door, I reopen the terrain for a historical–materialist explanation of bourgeois animal exploitation and domination that does not conceptualize them as a matter of species in the first place. Rather, with reference and in analogy to ecosocialist arguments on the greenhouse effect, it is demonstrated that a specific faction of capital – animal capital – which uses animals and animal products as means of production, is the root cause, key agent, and main profiteer of animal exploitation and domination in the current mode of production. Thus, the reworked concept of animal capital presented here differs from the original, postoperaist notion introduced by Nicole Shukin since it is based on a classic sociorelational and value theoretical understanding of capitalism. According to this approach, animals are integrated socioeconomically into the capitalist class society via a relation of superexploitation to capital, which can be called the capital–animal relation.