Marxist Accelerationism, (Nick) Land, Capital and Labor

by Jehu

Say what you want about Nick Land, but he has Marxists figured out.

Dark-Enlightenment-Nick-Land2334683534Marxists have attached themselves to every new trend emerging out of social movements in the past 80 years only to suffocate and destroy them. When black workers were burning cities in the 1960s, Marxists suddenly discovered racism.; when this morphed into a broader critique of privilege, Marxists declared “classism” was the central privilege; when anarchism and libertarianism experienced a mild resurgence, Marxists said they had the ability to change the world without taking power; and when the Soviet Union collapsed and China followed Deng to get rich, Marxists swore they did not know this Jesus.

Now, as Nick Land explains, Marxist have attached themselves to the hyper-radical critique of Landian Accelerationism. However, as Land warns, as in the previous vampire-like efforts, Marxism raises the banner of Accelerationism only to back into a more recognizable Marxian framework.

Marxism, which, as Kurz points out, has exhausted its own critique of capitalist society, has now been reduced to living off whatever shit it finds among the detritus that once was the workers movement.

Last year, after much dithering, Marxism decided to marry Land’s nubile young offspring, Accelerationism, and introduce it to the Left’s version of respectable society. Like most things Marxist, this awkward pairing came in the form of a Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics.

At the last minute, however, Land, the father of the very attractive blushing bride, raises an objection regarding the intentions of the groom:

“While both of our families trace their lineage back to 1848, I believe your intentions are dishonest.” Exclaims the suspicious patriarch. “Prove you are worthy of my precious offspring: solve the riddle of the transformation of values into prices!”

And, with this demand, the family of the groom fell upon each other with knives — the Klimanites against the Monthly Review, the TSSI school against the SSI school; and the whole of them against Kurz and Postone.

Says Land:

“The decisive question internal to the (serious) Marxist tradition concerns the Transformation Problem, since it is only if this is considered soluble that anything like a continuity of classical Marxism (or credible ‘Law of Value’) can be envisaged at all.”

Which is to say, despite the argument of the Marxist accelerationists that, “All of us want to work less”, Marxist accelerationists, like their more staid predecessors, have yet to show any connection between capital and labor.

Land will have none of this. He demands Marxists Accelerationists produce their bona fides:

“Without a resolution of the Transformation Problem — and even a well-positioned sticking plaster would do provisionally — there can be no consistent concept of exploitation, or even a theoretically significant sense of labor time.”

Marxists have yet to agree on answer to Bohm-Bawerk’s dispatch of Marx, Ricardo and Smith. Moreover, most, if not all, simply wish that critique to go away — to bury it under incomprehensible formulas and philosophical mutterings.

Bohm-Bawerk’s critique is simple enough to understand — at least it was before Andrew Kliman opened his mouth. In volume 1 of Capital, Marx says the price of a commodity is more or less equal to the socially necessary labor time required to produce it, but, in volume 3 of Capital, Marx says the price of a capitalistically produced commodity is equal to this plus an average profit. Since any commodity has only one price, how do we reconcile these two different measures of that price?

Bohm-Bawerk was beside himself with this patent self-contradictory behavior on Marx’s part. How dare an economist contradict himself?

“I cannot help myself; I see here no explanation and reconciliation of a contradiction, but the bare contradiction itself. Marx’s third volume contradicts the first. The theory of the average rate of profit and of the prices of production cannot be reconciled with the theory of value.”

Interestingly enough, Engels offered no comment on Bohm-Bawerk’s observation and none was needed, because Bohm-Bawerk was clearly correct in his “discovery” of a contradiction in Marx’s theory.

The problem was not a contradiction in Marx’s theory, but that Marx’s theory reflected the contradiction at the heart of capitalistic prices. As Marx argued in his Grundrisse, sometimes the contradiction in economics text books express a real life contradiction. Despite their obvious genius, Ricardo and Smith could not expunge this contradiction from their theories because the fucking contradiction wasn’t in their theories.

Without grasping this contradiction at the heart of capitalistic prices, Accelerationism has no purchase at all as a strategy. The whole point of the exercise is to accelerate the inherent contradictions that lay at the heart of the capitalist mode of production. If there is no contradiction at the heart of the capitalist mode of production, Accelerationism simply becomes a death impulse.