Jason Read has posted a draft of the talk he'll deliver at the Michigan State Graduate Student Conference (Feb 10-11), whose theme this year is "Occupy Philosophy." Among Read's topics are the location of Occupy between politics and economics, the transindividual status of individuals (referencing Balibar's development of Simondon), and the importance of the issue of debt, which operates both objectively, by enabling consumption even in the face of declining wages, and subjectively as constraint of life choices: "Debt is the future acting on the present. The idea of future debt, of the cost of student loans, acts on the present, determining choices and limiting possibilities."
[UPDATE 13 Jan 2012: Stuart Elden directs us to this interview with the translator, Susan Ruddick; see also this post on where to start in studying Macherey, and here for a sample chapter of Hegel or Spinoza.]
Beginnings without Ends. A review of Pierre Macherey, Hegel or Spinoza, translated by Susan M Ruddick. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
The recent translation into English of Pierre Macherey’s 1979 work, Hegel ou Spinoza, not only exposes a philosophical classic to a new group of readers, but also fills in a gap in understanding the history and legacy of those who gathered in the nineteen sixties to produce Lire le Capital alongside Louis Althusser -- Etienne Balibar, Pierre Macherey and Jacques Rancière, three scholars who are sometimes called “Althusserians.” The current translation thus belongs alongside that of Jacques Rancière’s La Leçon du Althusser, Althusser’s Lesson (Continuum, 2011). Whereas Rancière’s book could be read as a refutation of Althusser’s project, revealing the hierarchical conception of knowledge that subverted his commitment to radical politics, Macherey’s book introduces “subterranean” aspects, so that we now see that the project which gave us such concepts as “symptomatic reading” and “materialistic dialectic” was as much a transformation of philosophy as it was a reading of Marx. The translation of Hegel or Spinoza is thus not only the publication of an important text, but a restoration of a bit of intellectual history, and thereby the precondition for new futures.
Instead of an #OWS poster today, we have this teach-in by Jason Read. It's very well-done: it affirms the inspirational affect of the event, and it is concise in its analysis without over-simplification. Among the themes:
Socialization of risk, privatization of profit (“We won’t pay for your crisis”);
Our subjectification as self-entrepreneurs and the resultant debt;
Financialization of the economy (from the entrepreneurial M - C - M' to the speculative M – M’);
Commodification of social life (Facebook, Google; “we occupy Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied every corner of our lives”).
Please send links to more teach-ins. Feminist Philosophers has the one by Zizek.
This is the first of a few posts on debt and literature on debt.
The story of so-called primitive accumulation is well known to readers of Marx. This story was political economy’s way of understanding the origins of capitalism, explaining how the world was divided into workers and capitalists. The story is a kind of grasshopper-and-ant tale, of those who save and those who squander, although Marx gives it a different literary spin. As Marx writes:
This primitive accumulation plays approximately the same role in political economy as original sin does in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote about the past. Long, long ago there were two sorts of people; one the diligent, intelligent, and above all frugal elite; the other lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort finally had nothing to sell except their own skins.
Marx argues that this story is inadequate to account for the origin of capital. It is not enough to simply save money, because the accumulation of money does nothing to produce those with nothing to sell but their labor power. In order to get workers, a huge population must be separated from the means of production, cast off the land and out of the commons. The origin of capitalism is not a moral story of thrift, but a bloody story of expropriation; a story which eventually encompasses the whole history of slavery, colonialism, and even the reformation.
Marx ended Volume One of Capital with this critique, David Graeber opens his book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years with a critique of another contemporary fable. This fable concerns the origin of money.