Deconstructing Jacques Bidet’s argument against Postone

by Jehu

I went through the same simple exercise with Jacques Bidet’s text, his critique (for lack of a better term) of Postone’s argument.

Again, I begin with a direct quote from Bidet:

In the capitalist class relation, the market form comes to be instrumentalized and oriented toward destructive effects. The market as such is a rational mode of social coordination; but , when it comes under the command of capitalist logic, it becomes an irrational one. In my opinion, Marx’s discussion is not entirely satisfying because from this instrumentalization it does not follow that the market or value must be abolished, but rather that this rational instrument (and its counterpart, the organization, as well ) must collectively be reclaimed – which is a matter for democratic class struggle.

In contrast to Postone, who argues wages themselves are the problem, Bidet see nothing wrong with wages.

In the capitalist class relation, [the buying and selling of labor power] comes to be instrumentalized and oriented toward destructive effects. The [buying and selling of labor power] as such is a rational mode of social coordination; but, when it comes under the command of capitalist logic, it becomes an irrational one. In my opinion, Marx’s discussion is not entirely satisfying because from this instrumentalization it does not follow that the [buying and selling of labor power or wages] must be abolished, but rather that this rational instrument (and its counterpart, the organization, as well ) must collectively be reclaimed – which is a matter for democratic class struggle.

In Bidet’s opinion, it is the buying and selling of labor power for the purpose of capitalist self-expansion — not the buying and selling of labor power itself — that is the problem. We must ‘democratically reclaim’ wage labor.

The problem with this argument is that the buying and selling of labor power is specific to the capitalist mode of production and no other mode of production. Postone’s argument is precisely that wages and labor power are in no sense transhistorical categories.