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Book part
Publication date: 30 November 2020

Charles Thorpe and Brynna Jacobson

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…

Abstract

Abstract

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.”

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The Capitalist Commodification of Animals
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83982-681-8

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Book part
Publication date: 5 July 2005

David Kristjanson-Gural

This paper seeks to reconcile two very different views existing in the literature concerning how exchange and demand affect the magnitude of commodity values…

Abstract

This paper seeks to reconcile two very different views existing in the literature concerning how exchange and demand affect the magnitude of commodity values. Traditionally, value is considered to be created in production and subsequently realized in exchange. An alternative monetary approach posits that exchange itself contributes to the determination of commodity values. Proponents of each view claim that significant parts of Marx’s theory of value are compromised if their interpretation of the role of exchange is not adopted. Drawing on the work of Rosdolsky and Roberts, I argue that it is necessary to distinguish between the effects of exchange and demand. Exchange acts to reduce concrete, private labor to abstract social labor, while demand affects the magnitude of labor considered “socially necessary” in the sense of being expended in accordance with existing social need. I identify a new category of exchange value – the market-price of production – and use it to explain how changes in demand act to redistribute value across industries by affecting the magnitude of abstract labor considered to be socially necessary. In this way the major claim of the two approaches to exchange are reconciled. The magnitude of value is fully determined in production. At the same time monetary exchange effects, or brings about, a social division of labor by reducing concrete, private labor to abstract social labor and by distributing value according to social need as expressed by effective demand.

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The Capitalist State and Its Economy: Democracy in Socialism
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-76231-176-7

Book part
Publication date: 30 September 2021

Fabien Trémeau

To understand the logic that pushes capitalism to imperialism requires us to question one of the fundamental categories of capital: abstract labor. Often ignored by the…

Abstract

Abstract

To understand the logic that pushes capitalism to imperialism requires us to question one of the fundamental categories of capital: abstract labor. Often ignored by the Marxist tradition, abstract labor is, however, by Marx’s own admission, one of its greatest discoveries. However, the different interpretations that have marked out the twentieth century have, most of the time, failed to grasp the profound originality of this concept. However, a correct understanding of abstract labor makes it possible to understand the dynamics and contradictions of capital and what distinguishes it from other forms of social organization. By showing that abstract labor is much more than a neutral economic category and that it is the general social mediator, we question the category of labor within capitalist society. It then becomes possible to identify the dynamics and contradictions of capital and why imperialism is necessary to it.

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Imperialism and Transitions to Socialism
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-705-0

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 5 July 2005

Bruce Roberts

Building on an analysis of values and prices in the context of explicitly heterogeneous concrete labors, this paper formally examines Marx’s repeated imagery of capitalist…

Abstract

Building on an analysis of values and prices in the context of explicitly heterogeneous concrete labors, this paper formally examines Marx’s repeated imagery of capitalist competition as a process of “sharing” among “hostile brothers,” each a “shareholder” in a “social enterprise” in which particular commodities and capitals appear as “aliquot parts of the whole.” Approaching each commodity as it appears in competition – as the product of an aliquot part of the aggregate inputs to production – allows several conclusions. First, value-price transformation is equivalent to a transformation of actual production conditions (on the basis of which the social labor contained in the commodity is its value) into socially average or aliquot part production conditions (on the basis of which the social labor contained in the commodity is its production price). Second, price formation (“gravitational” adjustment to levels expressing equivalence) is the same thing as the formation of abstract labor as the homogeneous unit of measure for the labor content of commodities. Each is an aspect of a single process that simultaneously commensurates use-values as market equivalents and commensurates concrete labors as abstract labor, so that equivalents in exchange do indeed “contain” equal amounts of abstract labor. Third, concerning commodity fetishism and the “illusions” of competition, the social content of particular magnitudes becomes visible when each is represented as a “bearer” of crucial characteristics of the aggregate that have been projected onto its parts, so that what initially appears as separate, particular and individual is simultaneously connected, general, and social.

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The Capitalist State and Its Economy: Democracy in Socialism
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-76231-176-7

Book part
Publication date: 8 December 2021

Alexander M. Stoner

This chapter explores the domestication of Marx's critique of political economy within Marxist-oriented environmental sociology, and treadmill of production (ToP) theory…

Abstract

Abstract

This chapter explores the domestication of Marx's critique of political economy within Marxist-oriented environmental sociology, and treadmill of production (ToP) theory, in particular. The aim is to explicate the theoretical resources for a rigorous critique of capital-induced planetary degradation. Shortcomings of ToP theory pertaining to the conceptualization of capital and value are identified. The reasons for these shortcomings, including how they might be addressed, are elaborated by reconsidering key aspects of Marx's critical theory of modern capitalist society. The chapter contributes to current discussions in both critical theory and environmental sociology by demonstrating the continued relevance of Marx's critical theory for understanding the political-economic, social, and ideational dimensions of planetary degradation. In contrast to ToP theory, which critically examines the production of wealth by counterposing finitude and limits against the expansionary tendencies of economic growth, the critical theory approach advanced in this chapter conceptualizes the acceleration of environmental degradation following World War II in terms of a ToP of value, whereby the necessity of the value form is continuously established in the present. The chapter discusses how Marxian critical theory facilitates a critical examination of the widespread growth of environmentalism as concomitant with the spread of neoliberal capitalism.

Book part
Publication date: 8 November 2010

Jørgen Sandemose

This chapter gives an interpretation of basic elements of Marx's scientific method, focusing on his exposition in the first edition of the first chapter of Capital I. It…

Abstract

This chapter gives an interpretation of basic elements of Marx's scientific method, focusing on his exposition in the first edition of the first chapter of Capital I. It can be shown that Marx's critique of political economy rests on fundamentals that are traceable in many a philosophical endeavor. This goes especially for categories and concepts relating to the theory of science and epistemology formulated in earlier German philosophy dating back to Kant. I try to demonstrate that such fundamental categories, expressed through our basic thought determinations – universality, particularity, and individuality – are developed through the judgmental and syllogistic forms of logic common to Marx and his immediate predecessors inside philosophy – thinkers as relevant in the modern world as they were in the adolescence of capitalism. Furthermore, I want to show how the concept of time is crucial in uniting the thought-determinations in question. The investigation tries to make it clear that the scrutiny of social forms of thought pursued by Marx amounts to a valid, immanent criticism of all the fundamentals of traditional bourgeois theory of science and economics. To this effect, the chapter evaluates some characteristics of the philosophies of Kant and Hegel. Also, to clarify the profundity of Marx's thinking and the thoroughness of his analysis, I go back to some of the philosophical ideas which were starting points for men like Kant and Hegel, especially in the form that we meet them in the classical political philosophy of Hobbes.

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The National Question and the Question of Crisis
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-493-2

Book part
Publication date: 6 November 2015

Moishe Postone

To demonstrate that, at its core, Marx’s critical theory is not a critique of a mode of class exploitation that distorts modernity, undertaken from a standpoint that…

Abstract

Purpose

To demonstrate that, at its core, Marx’s critical theory is not a critique of a mode of class exploitation that distorts modernity, undertaken from a standpoint that affirms labor, but rather one that uncovers and analyzes a unique form of social mediation and domination that structures modernity itself as a historically specific form of social life.

Methodology/approach

Critical reconstruction, interpretation, and application of Marx’s critique of political economy as developed in the Grundrisse and Capital, to the massive global transformations of the past four decades.

Findings

Marx’s critical analysis is well-suited to function as the foundation for a theory that systematically illuminates modern society in the 21st century. It is more conducive to grasping the contemporary world than traditional Marxism or most versions of post-Marxism.

Originality/value

The historical transformations of the past century suggest the central significance of a critique of capitalism for an adequate critical theory today. Such a critique must be capable of grasping the core of a social formation that is generative of a peculiar dynamic of identity and non-identity, of pointing beyond itself while reasserting itself. It indicates that the realization of the possibility of the abolition of proletarian labor is a necessary response to a deep structural crisis of capitalism.

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Globalization, Critique and Social Theory: Diagnoses and Challenges
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78560-247-4

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Book part
Publication date: 17 June 2009

G. Carchedi

While many inconsistencies can be found in Marx's theory if one chooses a view of reality in which time is absent, these inconsistencies disappear if the view is taken…

Abstract

While many inconsistencies can be found in Marx's theory if one chooses a view of reality in which time is absent, these inconsistencies disappear if the view is taken that time is an essential component of that theory. The debate is thus between the simultaneist and the temporalist camp. This article sides with the temporalist approach but at the same time it argues that both sides have focused mainly on quantitative and formal logic aspects. This is the limit of the debate. The debate should move on from being only a critique and counter-critique of each other applying only formal logic to the issue of consistency to showing how and whether the different postulates (a time-less versus a time-full reality) and the interpretations deriving from them are an instance of a wider theory of radical social change. From this angle, simultaneism implies equilibrium and thus a view of the economy tending toward its equilibrated reproduction. Capitalism is thus theorized as an inherently rational system and any attempt to supersede it is irrational. This is simultaneism's social content. Temporalism, if immersed in a dialectical context, reaches the opposite conclusions: the economy is in a constant state of nonequilibrium and tends cyclically toward its own supersession. Capitalism is inherently irrational and any attempt to supersede it is rational. Simultaneist authors should now show how their approach to the issue of consistency fits into a broader theory furthering the liberation of Labor.

To choose a dialectical view of temporalism is thus to take sides for Labor.

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Why Capitalism Survives Crises: The Shock Absorbers
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-587-7

Abstract

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A World Beyond Work?
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-143-8

Article
Publication date: 1 May 1988

Ernest Raiklin and Charles C. Gillette

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…

Abstract

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.

Details

International Journal of Social Economics, vol. 15 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0306-8293

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