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Tag: wage labor

Srnicek’s horrifying glimpse into the Left Accelerationist future

If I am reading his essay Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis correctly, it seems that Nick Srnicek thinks increased application of technology and art can help the Left to visualize global productive activity as a Nasa-Control-e1376606139231totality and thus render the Left’s politics more coherent and viable.

If I understand his argument correctly, (and I want to emphasize this caveat, because he has told me he doesn’t recognize his argument in my first comments on twitter), he appears to believe that it may have been once possible for the Left “to make our own world intelligible to ourselves through a situational understanding of our own position”, but this is no longer the case:

“Jameson argues that at one time the nature of capitalism was such that one could potentially establish a correspondence between our local phenomenological experiences and the economic structure that determined it.”

However, with a globalized economy:

“We can no longer simply extrapolate from our local experience and develop a map of the global economic system. There is a deficiency of cognitive mapping, that is to say, there is an essential gap between our local phenomenology and the structural conditions which determine it.”

Why would this be a problem for the Left? Again, following this guy Jameson, Srnicek argues it becomes increasingly difficult to develop a socialist politics without the ability to conceptualize the social totality.

“With globalised capitalism having become unbound from any phenomenological coordinates, this possibility for a socialist politics has become increasingly difficult.”

Srnicek thinks it helps explain why, although neoliberalism is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions, the Left has not been able to exploit this collapse to realize an alternative vision of society. There is an “abyssal void at the heart of alternative political thinking”, expressed in the “woefully inadequate” Occupy movement and a regressive longing to return to fascism’s Golden Age of the 1960s.

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Anselm Jappe and the end of the wertkritik school?

JappeI might turn out to be wrong, but based on my reading of Anselm Jappe’s “Towards a History of the Critique of Value”, I think wertkritik has encountered its limits. In the essay, Jappe shows that all you can get from wertkritik is an ever longer laundry list of dumb shit that will go when labor goes. This effort played a crucial role historically by challenging Marxism in all of its varieties, but it cannot do what we need right now — indicate a path forward.

Jappe states wertkritik has refused to come up with practical actions based on its methodology, but this is a specious argument: What he should have said is what the critics say themselves: wertkritik cannot provide a practical guide to action.

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What does it take to beat capitalism when the deck is stacked against us

cardsOn Monday, I showed both the workers and the capitalists view economic choices through the lens of capitalist relations of production. The fact that both classes view the crisis of capitalism through the same filter means the both accept the same false choices in the crisis. It is not true in the least that the working class is brainwashed by the capitalists to act against their own interests. Rather, because both classes see the crisis from their respective positions within capitalist relations of production, they arrive at the same general conclusions.

Those conclusions are consistent with capitalist relations and, therefore, imply a definite outcome: labor exists only to fatten profits.

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“How Capitalism Works” (through the eyes of the working class)

trickledownYesterday, I showed why the inflation\deflation debate is concerned with the consumption of labor power and the debt of capitalist firms. Deflation carries a risk firms will not increase their employment and may go bankrupt because falling prices put pressure on profits.

My post led to the following response on reddit’s Socialism page:

“Too tired to read article but debt becomes worse with deflation because in real terms it is worth more (the corollary is that you can inflate debt away, since the debt which is constant becomes less in real terms after inflation. [Krugman] wrote a good op ed about that on April 4th, called oligarchs and money if memory serves). Aside from that this article seems a little wacky”

So does Krugman’s recent post to his New York Times blog contradict my argument? Well, let’s see:

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The False Choices of Bourgeois Economic Policy

It isn’t until I read this whole state debate thingy that I even realized the critical role inflation plays in the process. If Yaffe and Bullock are correct, profit is not possible unless there is inflation. Which is why there is such fear of deflation. I phillipskurvekind of knew this in theory already, but it only now makes sense to me that the inflation/deflation debate is not a side-show, but goes to the heart of capitalist relations of production. Without inflation, commodities cannot sell above their prices of production and without selling above their prices of production surplus value cannot be realized.

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There is no “American economy” anymore: The Left must act globally

The Economic Populist blog has a post written by Robert Oak that is very good, “Corporations Hoard Cash While Americans Go Without A Job”. The main aim of the post is to show how American corporation are using various means to fatten their bottom lines. The subtext of the post, however, is that, contrary to the assumption of most Leftists, there is no longer such a thing as an “American economy”.

child-labor-2Much of the time Leftists spend in discussions and activism focuses on how Washington policy can influence the “American economy”. However, if Oak is to be believed, much of what might be called an “American economy” is simply a local pool of labor in a much larger labor market. That pool of labor is being “arbitraged” against other pools of labor in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to the disadvantage of all workers globally.

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Platypus Question No. 10: The utopian character of “the politics of work”

In their final question, Platypus asks what effect the decline of the workers’ movement over past century has had on attempts to come to grips with the politics of work, overwork and unemployment.

“10. A century ago, these questions were consciously taken up by a politically constituted workers movement in which socialists and Marxists participated. Today, discussions of this topic risk becoming utopian in the a-political sense. How, if at all, has the decline of workers movements and the death of the Left circumscribed our ability to engage the politics of work in the present?”

The problem with this question is that it assumes what has to be demonstrated: that a politically constituted workers movement taking up discussions of the politics of work was not itself utopian.

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Platypus Question No. 9: The paradox of Left politics

In question 9, the Platypus group asks about the role of political organization in relation to labor issues.

“9. What role, if any, do you assign to political organization, such as an actual or potential political party, in working to progressively transform contemporary relations of work and unemployment? What should be the relationship between any such organization and the working class?”.

I think it is important to state, following the premises of historical materialism, as outlined by Marx and Engels, that there is no social organization that can give the working class control over work and unemployment. As many writers note, labor itself is premised on the fragmentation of the conditions of labor. This fragmentation cannot be overcome through any political organization nor by the establishment of a working class political party. One of the most important defects of the Left’s approach to labor and to overwork and unemployment is the idea these can be addressed by political measures and political organization.

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Platypus Question No. 8: Self-organization or the fight against austerity?

For their eighth question, Platypus is looking for promising examples of the Left’s attempt to address the politics of work:

“8. Where do you find the most promising attempts by the Left to address the issue of work and unemployment, today? What makes this contemporary work relevant and propitious?”

The difficulty answering this question stems, at least in part, from the fact it is not altogether clear what standard we should use to judge any attempt as “promising”? We are after all talking about labor, the activity on which the entire edifice of modern society is erected. And just to be clear: labor is also the heart and soul of the conflict between the two great classes. It is one thing for an attempt to be “promising” in terms of addressing the current crisis, with its stagnant jobs growth and wages, but quite another when we are making an attempt to address the emancipation of the social producers from their exploiters. So what standard should we be employing here?

Now let me just throw another wrinkle into that question: suppose we cannot separate the problem of stagnant job growth and wages in the present crisis from the problem of social emancipation? What then constitutes “promising attempts by the Left to address the issue of work and unemployment, today?”

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Platypus Question No. 7: “The politics of work and the broader project of social emancipation”

In question 7, the Platypus group asks about the relation between “the politics of work” and other political struggles:

“7. Given the breadth of issues and struggles pursued by the Left historically and today–race and racism, gender equality, environmental concerns, globalization, militarism, etc–what is the relationship between the politics of work and the broader project of social emancipation? Exactly how central or peripheral is the politics of work to social emancipation as such?”

The question, as formulated by Platypus, makes it appear as if the “politics of work” is, somehow, narrowly focused. Side by side with the “narrow” “politics of work” are the “broader” issues of race, gender, the environment, globalization and militarism. But what is racism but an artifact of the competition between white workers and black workers over which will sell their labor power to capital? Is there another facet of “racism” of which I am not aware? What is the “broader” issue of “gender equality” except that each woman worker will sell her labor power on equal terms with men?

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