Communization with a human face


Charnel-House introduction

The title of this post requires some explanation. In a recent post, I discussed an essay by Jacques Wajnsztejn of the journal Temps Critiques in which he took aim at interpretations of the November attacks in Paris by public intellectuals such as Olivier Roy and Alain Badiou. Wajnsztejn also occasionally writes for Yves Coleman’s publication Ni patrie ni frontières, hosted on the Mondialisme website.

As the editors of Internationalist Perspective explain below, in their introduction to their exchange with Wajnsztejn back in 2006, he belongs to communization current in France. Communization is not a term Wajnsztejn prefers, and he has in the decade since had his share of run-ins with the self-declared communisateurs, but for him it means basically the same thing it does for Roland Simon and the French group Theorie Communiste: an emphasis on the immediate transformation of conditions without any period of transition. Like Theorie Communiste, Temps Critiques believes that the revolutionary potential of the industrial working class has been exhausted.

One major contrast between Wajnsztejn and Simon, to take the two most prominent figures, is that the former works within a more humanist framework than the latter. Simon is decidedly an anti-humanist. You’ll see this in the article, with its emphasis on the “anthropological” dimension of capital’s periodization as opposed to its “structural” dimension, taken over from Camatte. Hence the “human face” referred to in the title: “Capitalized society tends to sup­press all the human fig­ures that were nec­es­sary for capitalism’s pro­gress towards matu­rity.” Wajnsztejn and Temps Critiques also disagree with Theorie Communiste et al. about the continued validity of the law of value; whereas the latter believe programmatism’s decline to be linked to a temporal mediation immanent to the valorization process itself, the former believe the old formula of value-accumulation to have been transcended altogether.

Patlotch and assorted others fault Wajnsztejn — along with the nihilist communists (the Duponts), communizers (Simon, Mattis, Lyon), and left communists in general (Dauvé, etc.) — for not being more adamantly anti-Zionist. But this says more about the particular obsession of Western leftists with the case of Israeli nationalism than the universal anti-nationalism maintained by left communists on principle.

I disagree with the communizers, humanist and anti-humanist alike, about the permanence of proletarian decline and its potential reconstitution as a revolutionary subject. Nevertheless, this is an interesting article. Enjoy.

Internationalist Perspective introduction

Temps Critiques
is a review that is part of the movement of the communisateurs. What they mean by communization is that the revolution can only succeed and be emancipating if it undertakes from the very beginning a communist transformation on all levels, from the production of food and the way we consume it, to transportation, housing, learning, traveling, reading, doing nothing, loving, not loving, debating and deciding our future, etc, without any period of transition. The comrades who publish this review say that it is not an in crowd publication devoted to pure theory, but rather a place for critical activity in France and elsewhere; an effort to conceive political action, taking into account the transformations of capitalism and its new contradictions.

They take note of the changes that have occurred in the way capitalist society functions, and think that capitalism has realized the unification of its forms of domination (the institutionalization of the world market, the dissolution of classes as subjects, the generalization of the political forms of authoritarian and managerial democracy).

They also recognize that the system encounters increasing difficulties to reproduce itself on the basis of what constitutes its fundamental value: (abstract) labor. While production continues, and valorization proceeds somehow (though more and more surplus value goes to the financial sector instead of to production), capitalism’s logic of power and domination, which is not just an economic logic, also leads to a crisis of the social relation.

From this, they draw a startling conclusion: the decline of the historical role of the working class. For them, the revolutionary proletariat is a thing of the past.

What they see is a resurgence of a critical movement outside the proletariat. This movement is not just intellectual, it expresses concretely the refusal of the tyranny of capital and of the myths of the society based on labor, the refusal to let individuals be reduced to a mere economic or social value.

For Temps Critiques, this movement expresses the “becoming-otherwise” of the relations between the individual and the human community.


After the revolution of capital

Jacques Wajnsztejn
Temps Critiques
April 25, 2015

The slightly provoca­tive title, indi­cates the his­tor­ical moment from which we begin: the defeat of the last global rev­o­lu­tionary assault of the 1960-1970s. This assault marked the extreme limit of a clas­sist and pro­le­tarian pol­i­tics, espe­cially in the example of the Italian “Hot Autumn” (1969).1 Nonetheless, this last assault already com­prised an under­standing of the need for a rev­o­lu­tion on a human basis,2 for a cri­tique of work and for the supersession of classes, as was notice­able in May 68 France and 1977 Italy.3

The defeat did not result in a counter-rev­o­lu­tion as there had been no gen­uine rev­o­lu­tion. Rather, a double move­ment ensued: the restruc­turing of cor­po­ra­tions and the “lib­er­a­tion” of social and inter-indi­vidual prac­tices as if, all of a sudden, all bar­riers to the devel­op­ment of the society of cap­ital were swept away. The strait­jacket of the old bour­geois society was thrown off, even though society had already lost its bour­geois char­acter after the two World Wars, Fordism, and the real dom­i­na­tion of cap­ital, con­ser­va­tive ideas remained obsta­cles for the rev­o­lu­tion.

What was pre­sented as a “recu­per­a­tion” by the 1968 move­ment actu­ally was cap­ital’s last leap for­ward through class struggle that still was expressed in the law of value, the cen­trality of labor and in strug­gles around them (cf. LIP and other strug­gles about workers’ self-manage­ment, skilled workers’ revolts, or the resis­tance of the last steel­workers and miners).4

The change occurred in the late 1980s when the dynamics of cap­ital ceased to rely on a dialectic of class rela­tions. If classes still exist, they only do under the form of soci­o­log­ical cat­e­gories or as frac­tions without any pos­si­bility of class recom­po­si­tion (the orig­inal hypothesis of the Italian workers’ autonomy is obso­lete).

The 1970s crisis reminds us all that con­flicts between cap­ital and labor were located within a cap­i­talist social rela­tion, defined by the mutual depen­dence between the two poles of the social rela­tion, what­ever the tem­po­rary bal­ance of power. The dynamic of cap­ital no longer results from this antag­o­nistic con­flict, but from the dom­i­nance taken by both dead labor (mainly machines) over living labor (the labor force) and from the inte­gra­tion of techno-science into the pro­duc­tion pro­cess. The pro­duc­tive worker tends to become less and less the pro­ducer of value but rather an obstacle or a limit to this pro­cess in what we call the “inessen­tial­ization of the labor force.” The increased pre­cari­za­tion of the labor force cannot be under­stood as a reform of the indus­trial labor army as theorized by Marx, i.e. as a phenomenon of pure pro­le­tari­za­tion because the labor force is “too numerous.” The transfer of labor force from center to periphery, in emerging coun­tries, does not belie this anal­ysis. First, if we take the example of China, for a few mil­lions of new jobs, how many tens of mil­lions of peas­ants cram into the periph­eries of the metropolis? Second, if we take Korea and India, there indus­tries are grad­u­ally replaced by high-tech com­pa­nies and very modern facilities where the same sub­sti­tu­tion pro­cess cap­ital/labor is taking place.

This ten­dency explains, at least in rich coun­tries, why the idea of a guar­an­teed income is slowly gaining momentum, for the ide­ology of work per­sists, not as value but as dis­ci­pline. Hence, it becomes impos­sible to claim any worker iden­tity, since this relies on the idea of an essen­tial par­tic­i­pa­tion of this class in the trans­for­ma­tion of the world. In the true sense, we see the col­lapse of a whole world with its values, those of the workers’ com­mu­nity. Traces of this com­mu­nity can be found in fac­tory strug­gles (2009), such as that of Continental, where the workers occu­pied the fac­tory, although with no inten­tion to run it in a dif­ferent way (the 1970s cycle of strug­gles was over). Struggles taking place at the end of the affir­ma­tion of a worker iden­tity have ceased to chal­lenge the con­di­tion of the worker within the fac­tory. This affects the repro­duc­tion of the wage rela­tion as a whole. Paradoxically, this gen­eral crisis of the wage rela­tion does not allow for a frontal assault by wage earners. In recent strug­gles, even though they some­times used vio­lent forms, employees did not oppose the wage system but sought only to trade their exclu­sion from the pro­duc­tion pro­cess through actions that broke with large unions’ strate­gies (boss seques­tra­tions, threats to pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties). Against the nihilism of cap­ital, which dismisses employees when profits rise, employees cur­rently answer with resis­tance — at best — and with some kind of right to with­drawal. Those prac­tices are cer­tainly not rad­ical in the sense of a direct and imme­diate sub­ver­sion of the rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion. That would require com­bining rad­i­calism as form (the use of ille­gality, including vio­lence) with rad­i­calism as con­tent (the cri­tique of work and wage); that is, giving pos­i­tive con­tent to revolt. Yet they are rad­ical in what they express neg­a­tively: they are the defen­sive backfire of the employees against their inessen­tial­ization in the cur­rent restruc­turing. The nihilism of neo-modern cap­i­talism is no longer opposed by the per­spec­tive of some sort of socialism (what pos­i­tive con­tent could they find there anyway?) but by the end of all affirma­tion of the worker iden­tity and its program.

We are in the grotesque sit­u­a­tion where rulers keep on wishing to extend the legal retire­ment age while CEOs keep on dis­missing their old workers! The con­tra­dic­tion in the inessen­tial­ization of labor in a society dom­i­nated by the social imag­i­nary of work is simply neglected, to avoid acknowl­edging the wage system crisis. The focus is then on the broad equi­libria to be reestab­lished or main­tained (bud­getary rigor, debt con­straints, active/inactive ratio, etc.).

But this col­lapse also affects what some call the “real economy,” which ben­e­fits not a “casino economy” but a total­ization of cap­ital, which allows power strate­gies that pro­mote cap­ital flows over the globe par­tic­u­larly where the sit­u­a­tion is favorable. This repli­cates Fernand Braudel, for whom cap­i­talism was not a system but a pro­cess of mas­tering the path and tem­po­rality of money.

Capital pushes back its own limits


  • the social­ization of prop­erty (cor­po­ra­tions), pro­duc­tion and knowl­edge (recent signif­i­cance of the General Intellect);
  • the social­ization of income (a large share of employees’ income is indi­rect) and prices (increas­ingly arti­fi­cial or admin­is­tered as we have shown in Crise financière et cap­ital fictif (L’Harmattan. 2009).
    These two first points are the result of an ongoing pro­cess, which started at the tran­si­tion from the formal to the real dom­i­na­tion of cap­ital — even though this periodization does not fully sat­isfy us.
  • the encom­passing of the con­tra­dic­tion between the devel­op­ment of pro­duc­tive forces and the nar­row­ness of pro­duc­tion rela­tions did not lead to a “deca­dence” of cap­i­talism through the lim­i­ta­tion of the growth of pro­duc­tive forces, but on the contrary, to a head­long rush in tech­no­log­ical inno­va­tion. Contrary to what the Marxist the­o­rists of “deca­dence” believed — obsessed by the con­tra­dic­tion between growth of the pro­duc­tive forces and the limits of pro­duc­tion rela­tions — cap­i­talism does not hinder the pro­duc­tive forces, but encour­ages them. Initially, in the name of Progress, nowa­days in the name of power, cap­i­talism rushes into the dynamics of end­less innova­tion. Capital has a thirst for wealth, hence its dif­fi­culty in holding the vessel on the ide­o­log­ical and repro­duc­tive course of “sus­tain­able devel­op­ment” (see the shale gas issue).

“Fictivization” makes obso­lete the tra­di­tional divi­sion between the dif­ferent forms of cap­ital (finan­cial, com­mer­cial, indus­trial) and makes obso­lete the idea of a progression of those forms towards com­ple­tion under the indus­trial form, typ­ical of both capitalism and… com­mu­nism. This devel­op­ment of fic­ti­tious cap­ital is no longer temporary, as Marx thought in his time, and is cer­tainly no “unnat­ural” drift of cap­ital, as is claimed by all the dis­ci­ples of a moral­ization of cap­i­talism, who indis­crim­i­nately denounce the casino economy, spec­u­la­tive finance, or traders’ risk appetite. It has become a struc­tural com­po­nent of cap­ital in what we might call its pro­gress towards totality. With the exten­sion of fic­ti­tious cap­ital, total cap­ital tends to pre­sup­pose itself, leaving out any val­orization through labor.5 It also tends to eman­ci­pate itself from the immod­erate growth of fixed cap­ital (accu­mu­la­tion). This growth devalues through the accel­er­ated obso­les­cence of machines, and is a factor that inhibits the move­ment of flu­idity required by its overall dynamics, which is now characterized by strate­gies for seizing wealth by a power through the cir­cu­la­tion of value.

This is a new dimen­sion of val­orization in a pro­cess of “glob­al­ization” that per­forms — besides the fusion of all the func­tions of money — a net­working of space and a terri­to­ri­al­ization in three levels:

  • The top level of the net­work (I) con­trols and directs the totality. It includes the dom­i­nant states (those taking part in major Summits) and a few emerging powers, such as China, cen­tral banks and finan­cial insti­tu­tions, multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and wider infor­ma­tional spheres (IT, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, media, cul­ture). At this level of power, value is only com­pre­hended as rep­re­sen­ta­tion.6 It is also the level of con­trol of wealth and har­nessing of finan­cial flows. Here, cap­ital dom­i­nates value, allowing it to develop fic­tivization and to repro­duce itself on this basis. It is repro­duc­tion that can be characterized as “con­tracted” in the sense that while the ends remain dynamic, they are con­ju­gated with a static vision of world resources.
  • The second level (II) is where mate­rial pro­duc­tion and the cap­ital/labor rela­tion still dom­i­nate, even though value tends to be more and more autonomous of what used to be called pro­duc­tive labor, sup­posed to pro­duce value. This sector still pro­duces wealth but also con­sti­tutes a hin­drance to global dynamics, like agri­cul­ture during the first indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion. Either because immobilized cap­ital has become a burden too heavy to carry regarding the expected earn­ings and the adap­ta­tion to the quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive vari­a­tions of demand; or because the mul­ti­tude of SMEs that com­pose it are losing their own dynamics, they are reduced to an out­sourcing role for huge networks knit by transna­tional cor­po­ra­tions, whose main goals are alto­gether dif­ferent. It is also in this sector that job fluc­tu­a­tions count within a com­pe­ti­tion made fierce by glob­al­ization but also by a new mode of organ­ization that increas­ingly exports prob­lems from center to periphery, according to a spider web scheme. The parent com­pany and some of its branches, which work in level I, externalize their prob­lems to the next web cir­cles in level II, and, in the extreme, to level III (black economy, off­shore fac­to­ries). Each circle tends to tighten up con­di­tions in the next circle in order to ensure a leeway for the less favorable sit­u­a­tions to come. The link between the different levels is quite clear in the “finan­cial” crisis, where on the one hand level I banks bailed out by dom­i­nant forces and on the other hand, unem­ploy­ment hit level II with new off­shorings or per­ma­nent clo­sures.
  • The bottom level (III) con­tains the pro­ducers from the periphery and dom­i­nated states, which suffer global prices for their expor­ta­tions, as well as ren­tier states, which take advan­tage of the increasing scarcity of nat­ural resources. Level III is the one that suf­fers a plun­dering of its nat­ural resources, which fuels the pos­si­bility for fic­tivization in level I not only thanks to low pro­duc­tion costs (“under­valued” according to Marxist meta­physi­cians) but also by feeding cap­ital flows in finan­cial mar­kets. The old distinction between the “right” cap­i­talist profit and the “wrong” precap­i­talist rent no longer holds, as for a long time old forms of rents — such as the oil rent — have been sources of huge cap­ital trans­fers, now relayed through mafias in dif­ferent republics of former USSR. They right­fully stand alongside other forms of rent in level I, and in partic­ular within the “global oligopoly” that con­trols cog­ni­tive cap­ital and major innovations. These last three points do not really con­sti­tute a second phase or a comple­tion of the real dom­i­na­tion of cap­ital, but rather a new step in the total­ization pro­cess of cap­ital, made pos­sible by the rup­ture that the rev­o­lu­tion of cap­ital has repre­sented.

Contradictions do not disappear but are transposed

In the “Fragment on Machines” Marx hypothesized a super­s­es­sion of the law of value thanks to the devel­op­ment of a General Intellect. This hypoth­esis has become reality… without any eman­ci­pating per­spec­tive for the workers. The old socialist pro­gram of a tran­si­tion phase to com­mu­nism was even­tu­ally made real by cap­ital. Capital now dom­i­nates value, which becomes evanes­cent7 once this cap­ital itself can deter­mine what is value and what is not. Value becomes rep­re­sen­ta­tion and is not mea­sur­able by some sub­stance (decreasing work time or poten­tially obso­lete machine) that con­stantly looses value while pro­duced wealth nev­er­the­less increases. We stumble here onto the foun­da­tion of polit­ical economy and its cri­tique: the con­fu­sion between wealth and value. According to the logic of the law of value, value has to decrease when wealth increases… but cur­rent “value creation” shows that value can increase without any wealth increase. The cap­i­tal­ization of society thrives on that basis. Tendentially, any activity becomes the object of val­orization. However, these trans­for­ma­tions cannot be inter­preted as some pre­con­ceived plan, organized by an almighty cap­i­talist class, and nei­ther as an uncon­scious pro­cess without sub­ject nor reflex­ivity, pure demon­stra­tion of a cap­ital that has become auto­matic. If we some­times have the feeling that dom­i­na­tion is exerted through objectivized pro­cesses that are unrecognized as such (it is obvious in the rela­tion to work), dom­i­na­tion pro­cesses keep on taking direct forms, as can be seen in the rem­nants of the nation-state refo­cusing on regalian func­tions. This is why the state seems to rigidify, to be nothing but a Ministry of the Interior in charge of secu­rity, to the point that many today forget the state’s rede­ploy­ment as a net­work.

The con­fu­sion comes from the “rev­o­lu­tion of cap­ital” that gives the illu­sion of a cap­ital losing interest in its overall repro­duc­tion by seem­ingly focusing on short term man­age­ment objec­tives in place of a long term strategy of repro­duc­tion. Capitalized society appar­ently has no great pro­ject, does not form a “system.” However, “sus­tain­able devel­op­ment” shows that that is not the case.

That is why we prefer to use the notions of “non-sys­temic dom­i­na­tion,” “cap­ital,” and “capitalized society” rather than “cap­i­talist system.”

The net­work-state in the rev­o­lu­tion of cap­ital serves as an infras­truc­ture for cap­ital and no longer as a super­struc­ture for the ben­efit of the ruling class. The state is no longer the state of the ruling class, in charge of obscuring and con­taining “the social ques­tion,” as the night-watchman state. Nor can it work any longer as its cap­i­talist wel­fare form, as a medi­a­tion of medi­a­tions by forging a class com­pro­mise, or as a super­me­di­a­tion in the nation-state/repub­lican ide­ology.

By synthesizing and rep­re­senting the recip­rocal depen­dency between the two classes of the cap­i­talist social rela­tion, it has realized Marx” pre­dic­tion about the polit­ical with­ering away of the state and the tran­si­tion to the simple “admin­is­tra­tion of things,” without the emancipatory aspects. Unlike the orig­inal nation-state, which used to take polit­ical deci­sions, the net­work-state reduces pol­i­tics to man­age­ment and con­tents itself with media impacts and effi­cient con­trol over social rela­tions by per­me­ating them down to the last detail. With the end of classes as antag­o­nistic sub­jects, the state does not have to rep­re­sent forces; it does not even have to rep­re­sent the gen­eral interest, as it materializes that interest directly in face of what now appear only as par­tic­ular inter­ests to which the state con­cedes particular rights. Hence the feeling that there is an explo­sion of rules and laws to con­trol, secure and manage, while large insti­tu­tions related to the nation-state are fading away8 or becoming inde­pen­dent, while the uni­ver­sality of Law and Rights is declining. Contrary to “rights from,” which sup­pos­edly founded civil society’s autonomy from the demo­cratic state, rights are nowa­days “rights to” that we can “shoot” at a state whose pre­rog­a­tives are total, as laws per­vade every nook and cranny of what used to be “pri­vate lives.” The PACS,9 for example — all the con­cocted mea­sures for the future homo­sexual mar­riage and the con­se­quent adop­tion would do as well as exam­ples — illus­trates this tem­po­rary crys­tallization of a sexual-finan­cial inter­me­diary between the old insti­tu­tion of democratized bour­geois marriage and the pure sexual com­bi­na­tion of clas­si­fied ads and of cybersex. Hence the potential­i­ties of capitalized society become the social needs of indi­vid­uals. We face a caricature of the old civil society now lim­ited to the col­li­sion of pri­vate inter­ests with one another. Corporatisms make their return — this is not only a jour­nal­istic-soci­o­log­ical catchphrase — even though they take new forms and go beyond the scope of work­places. Today, anyone can organize their own little demon­stra­tion, block an highway toll booth, assault their prefec­ture or their McDonald’s, go on hunger strike, and then be received by the author­i­ties. All of this is sat­u­rated by a dis­course on “social issues” by the media and the state together, the latter often speaking through mem­bers of what is still called “civil society.” The state advo­cates “cit­izen con­fer­ences” or for “con­sul­ta­tion and involve­ment of cit­i­zens” in order to give them back the floor. “Citizens’ move­ments” are estab­lished and will estab­lish them­selves as the new medi­a­tors solving “soci­etal prob­lems” while they actually are nothing more than inter­me­di­aries. The “cit­i­zenist” aims to become a pow­erful medi­ator and citizens’ move­ments seek to give a “new meaning to social issues.” Their moral aspect should allow them to over­come the scat­tering of par­tic­ular inter­ests and to prac­tice pol­i­tics differently. There is an inter­ac­tion between the state and cit­i­zenists with the goal of ensuring a repro­duc­tion and man­age­ment of social rela­tions made dif­fi­cult by the globalization of capital. Capitalized society needs to pro­duce its own chal­lengers in order to locate its missing anchors.

Crisis of traditional mediations10

First, a crisis of labor, which becomes “in excess,” even though it is not the end of labor but a broad­ening of employ­a­bility, unem­ploy­ment and pre­carity… The labor con­straint per­sists at least in its ability to remain the pre­req­ui­site to access rights and, of course, for an income. But labor has lost some of its intrinsic value in favor of an extrinsic value (as the source of sur­vival and socia­bility). Labor is no longer what workers do (con­crete labor), but has become abstract labor, the foun­da­tion of a social rela­tion of dom­i­na­tion that is more than exploita­tion (the “pro­duc­tive labor” issue is out­dated).

Second, a crisis of the wel­fare state and its “social democ­racy.” Paradoxically, the state refocuses on regalian func­tions without returning to its pre­vious form, the night-watchman state. Hence it is not “police every­where, jus­tice nowhere” as claimed by modern left­ists, but the state is nonethe­less every­where, mul­ti­faceted. Indeed, its social­ization func­tions have become per­va­sive, where once they worked through cen­tralized inter­ven­tion, nowadays they work through net­works of pro­tec­tion and con­trol, in liaison with mul­tiple co-working organ­izations and forces “in the field” (secu­rity staff in munic­ipal trans­port companies, neigh­bor­hood troubleshooters, sports organizer, etc.).

Finally, the last ele­ment, because they were pil­lars of the old state form, large insti­tu­tions are col­lapsing. Those insti­tu­tions follow a double move­ment. On the one hand, they tend to become autonomous of the cen­tral power in order to keep on existing while state authority seems to weaken. The best example of this can be found in Italy during the so-called “Years of Lead” and the con­se­quent “mani pulite.”11 On the other hand, the exec­utive power tends to absorb this inde­pen­dence, by directly inte­grating the insti­tu­tion into executive power (e.g. in France and Italy, the rela­tions between polit­ical power and Justice). Implementing inter­na­tional — and par­tic­u­larly European — rules of sub­sidiarity of powers com­pletes the job in the sense that national insti­tu­tions — already in crisis on their own terri­tory — have to take a back seat to inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions and transna­tional agreements (see e.g. the Bologna Directives for a new kind of school and teaching or Schengen agreement for police forces).

An anthropological revolution

The rev­o­lu­tion of cap­ital is not only a restruc­turing and globalizing of the rela­tion to an “external nature” (what do-gooders call the economy), but also a rev­o­lu­tion of an “inner nature.” Capitalized society tends to sup­press all the human fig­ures that were nec­es­sary for cap­i­talism’s pro­gress towards matu­rity: the risk-taking entrepreneur, the civil ser­vant in search of rational and imper­sonal organ­ization, the good worker, the stabilizing couple and family, pro­fes­sional training, and so on. They all give way to arti­fi­cial life pro­cesses (virtualization), which are but the twins of the afore­men­tioned fic­tivization pro­cess. Capitalized society has incor­po­rated the tech­ni­cian system, just as cap­ital had incor­po­rated techno-science, ren­dering point­less any attempt at reap­pro­pri­a­tion on these bases. Capitalized society is the ten­dency for cap­ital to become an envi­ron­ment, a cul­ture, a specific form of society, a sym­biosis between the state under its net­work form, the broader power net­works (large cor­po­ra­tions, ICT, and cul­ture) and sociality net­works. Individuals’ sub­jec­tivity now tends to become inwardly deter­mined. Needs are being pro­duced — this could not be antic­i­pated by the young Marx in his eman­ci­pating vision and his idea of poten­tially unlim­ited needs, which became the ide­ology of the “con­sumer society.” Capitalized society is unable to think its needs out­side of any techno-sci­en­tific activity, and seems to have no goal but its own accel­er­ated repro­duc­tion. On this basis, it only tries to solve self-cre­ated prob­lems, never ques­tioning the sense nor the end of its devel­op­ment. The emerging social imag­i­nary seems to lack con­sis­tence when it calls for a total mobilization of all human resources in the name of increas­ingly murky pur­poses. What workers used to per­ceive as a dis­ci­pline at work and for work, even through exploita­tion, appears more and more as harass­ment at work and pure dom­i­na­tion.

We are wit­nessing a col­lapse of the imag­i­nary, which is dis­guised, case by case, as a cli­mate, finan­cial, energy, eco­log­ical, or social crisis. That opens up the field for new social meaning and new col­lec­tive action. However, “remaking society” is a deceit. Individual/com­mu­nity ten­sion has to solve the aporia of an age-old oppo­si­tion between indi­vidual and society and the impasse of the oppo­si­tion between on the one hand the abstract uni­ver­sality of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, and on the other hand the cur­rent devel­op­ment of par­tic­u­larisms and cul­tural rel­a­tivism pre­sented as con­crete uni­ver­sals.


1 The Hot Autumn (autunno caldo in Italian) of 1969-1970 was a mas­sive series of strikes in the fac­to­ries and indus­trial cen­ters of Northern Italy.
2 As opposed to the theory of rev­o­lu­tion relying on the sole working class [trans­lator’s note].
3 See J. Guigou et J. Wajnsztejn, Mai 68 et le mai ram­pant italien. L’Harmattan. 2008.
4 LIP is a French watch and clock com­pany whose tur­moil became emblem­atic of the conflicts between workers and man­age­ment in France. The LIP fac­tory, based in Besançon in eastern France, was having finan­cial prob­lems in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and man­age­ment decided to try to close it. However, after strikes and a highly pub­li­cized factory occu­pa­tion in 1973, LIP became worker-man­aged. All the fired employees were rehired by March 1974, but the firm was liq­ui­dated again in the spring of 1976. This led to a new struggle, called “the social con­flict of the 1970s” by the daily news­paper Libération. Confédération Française Démocra­tique du Travail (CFDT) union leader Charles Piaget led the strike. The Unified Socialist Party (PSU), which included former Radical Pierre Mendès-France, was then in favor of auto­ges­tion (workers’ self-man­age­ment) [trans­lator’s note].
5 See La valeur sans le tra­vail. Vol. 2 of Temps cri­tiquesanthology. L’Harmattan, 1999.
6 See the new cor­po­rate and media catch­phrase “value cre­ation.”
7 See L’évanes­cence de la valeur, L’Harmattan, 2004.
8 The move­ment in defense of par­tic­u­lar­i­ties only espouse the move­ment of cap­ital by trans­posing it from the eco­nomic sphere to its own sector, the man­age­ment of sub­jec­tivity. Therein lies the source of a gen­eral trend towards con­trac­tu­al­i­za­tion of social rela­tions. If we con­sider the law on sexual harass­ment, we realize that we are not essen­tially dealing with spe­cial pro­tec­tive mea­sures for women, but with the enact­ment of a rule that must end “nat­u­rally” unequal human rela­tions to fit with the legal and eco­nomic law of pri­vate prop­erty, in this case applied to our own bodies. For fur­ther devel­op­ments on the issue, see J. Wajnsztejn: Capitalisme et nou­velles morales de l’intérêt et du goût, L’Harmattan, 2002. Or more recently, by the same author: Rapports à la nature, sexe, genre et cap­i­tal­isme, Acratie, 2013.
9 In France, a civil sol­i­darity pact (French: pacte civil de sol­i­darité), com­monly known as a PACS (pro­nounced: [paks]), is a con­trac­tual form of civil union between two adults for organizing their joint life. It brings rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties, but less so than mar­riage. The PACS was voted by the French Parliament in November 1999, largely to offer some legal status to same sex cou­ples [trans­lator’s note].
10 See J. Guigou: « L’insti­tu­tion résorbée », Temps cri­tiques n° 12, article n° 103.
11 The Years of Lead were a polit­ical phe­nomenon related to the Cold War that was charac­ter­ized by left- and right-wing ter­rorism and the strategy of ten­sion, begin­ning in Italy and later spreading to the rest of Europe.
……Mani pulite [clean hands] was a nation­wide Italian judi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion into polit­ical cor­rup­tion held in the 1990s. Mani pulite led to the demise of the so-called First Republic, resulting in the dis­ap­pear­ance of many par­ties. Some politi­cians and industry leaders com­mitted sui­cide after their crimes were exposed. In some accounts, as many as 5000 people have been cited as sus­pects. At one point more than half of the mem­bers of the Italian Parliament were under indict­ment. More than 400 city and town coun­cils were dis­solved because of cor­rup­tion charges. The esti­mated value of bribes paid annu­ally in the 1980s by Italian and for­eign com­pa­nies bid­ding for large gov­ern­ment con­tracts in Italy reached 4 bil­lion dol­lars [trans­lator’s note].


Translation : Corentin Debailleul Re-reading : Alastair Davidson


2 thoughts on “Communization with a human face

  1. While I guess I know what is being gestured toward, I don’t know if it is really defensible to say that TC believe that the revolutionary potential of the industrial working class has been exhausted. If they don’t give particular centrality to the ‘industrial working class’ over the class per se (if we assume ‘industrial working class’ is not the entirety of the proletariat), I think this is because the notion of ‘strategic’ or other priority historically involved is seen as both tied to the reproduction of (mostly hierarchical) divisions, and based precisely on a notion of transition and indeed of class empowerment which TC is obviously arguing is at best outdated – programmatism. One can argue against this idea, but it still isn’t the exhaustion of revolutionary potential, but a shift in the class struggle they see as shifting the content of ‘communism’. The ‘revolutionary potential’ of the industrial working class remains for TC in the possibility of a dynamic that would move struggle beyond class reproduction, for the proletariat as a whole. While this potential may not reside in some revolutionary proletarian essence, TC see potential for revolutionary struggle in the dynamics of capitalist reproduction, obviously.

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