- 1 For a critique of bureaucratic power
- 1.1 Thanks
- 1.2 Preface to the Third Edition
- 1.3 Preface to the Second Edition
- 1.4 Preface to the First Edition
- 1.5 I. What could be an orthodox Marxism today?
- 1.5.1 1. Lukacs' gesture
- 1.5.2 2. Marx, the Marxists, us
- 1.5.3 3. A new type of Marxism
- 1.5.4 4. Being Communists again
- 1.6 II. For a critique of bureaucratic power
- 1.7 III. Foundational issues
- 1.7.1 1. The origin
- 1.7.2 2. A Theory of Alienation
- 1.7.3 3. Communism
- 1.7.4 4. An old new concept of subjectivity
- 1.7.5 5. A theory of exploitation
- 1.7.6 6. From exploitation to the revolutionary subject
- 1.8 IV. Tools
- 1.8.1 Note to the second edition
- 1.8.2 1. Repressive tolerance and communist policy
- 1.8.3 2. Paradoxes
- 1.8.4 3. Poor bourgeois, rich wage-earners
- 1.8.5 4. Note on the reconstitution of the radical left in Chile
For a critique of bureaucratic power
This book has been made possible by countless discussions over the past ten years. It would be almost impossible to list the many comrades who, stubbornly trying to keep the prospect of a radical critique of the prevailing reality, have helped me with their ideas and criticisms, with their enthusiasm and erudition, to develop the thesis that I am gathering here, after having published them in part, in different formats.
Among them I must first of all mention, the members of the Workshop on Critical Theories of the Social Research Center of the ARCIS University (Taller de Teorías Críticas del Centro de Investigaciones Sociales de la Universidad ARCIS) and the members of the various programs that produce gathered in that Center, which I, of course, do release of any responsibility regarding the approaches I development in this text.
Particularly important to me, over time, have been the discussions I have had with my good friend Juan Ormeño, with sociologist Sergio Villalobos Ruminott, with Oscar Cabezas, Felipe Victoriano, Mauro Salazar and Miguel Valderrama.
I appreciate the patience of the amazing students of my long series dedicated to the Phenomenology of Spirit of G.W.F. Hegel, by which I have been able to study and discuss the text with detail and erudition unthinkable for lonely depth studies. As will be seen throughout this book, this work has been fundamental to me.
I appreciate the valuable, always attendable criticism Pilar Baeza, Pablo Perez Wilson and Manuel Guerrero Antequera have done to the drafts of this text. The contribution of their knowledge and their sensibilities has been essential, both in those points which have been agreed, and in those where, existentially or theoretically, we have maintained our differences.
I must also thank my children, for the patience and affection with which they have tolerated this vain mania of believing I'm right, the unnecessary vehemence I do defend abstract questions, and the pride and precarious illusion of believing that saying these things may help in some way.
Preface to the Third Edition
The reason for this third edition is only to change the format of the text for online publication in digital form, under the Creative Commons license. To this end, I have completely preserved unchanged the text of the second edition as published on paper by Editorial LOM. I deeply appreciate the extraordinary willingness of Paulo Slachevsky and Silvia Aguilera, from LOM, who have agreed to amend the contracts of publication of the previous edition to allow for this option.
The form of the license under which this third edition is published, allows it to be distributed freely, without altering, the source being cited. The goal is to have it available to be downloaded completely free of charge from the site www.cperezs.org mode, or from any other mirror, both for direct reading as well as for independent printing.
In doing so, I am contributing to the great task of democratizing knowledge, the duty of circulating ideas without hindrance under the deep conviction that ideas and arguments belong to no one in particular, they constitute a common heritage to which many contributed, without their contributions being clearly distinguishable, so that no one may claim to exclusivity or any priority.
All knowledge is actually created collectively. The demand for the recognition of individual contributions only has support in vanity or commercial necessity. Who invented the Castilian? Who invented the mechanical worldview? Is there any individual author who can be designated as inventor of romanticism, or Renaissance, or the industrial revolution? Is there any individual author who can be identified as the creator of the popular movement, the idea of a classless society, or the agricultural revolution? Neither the bread nor the plow, or writing, or cities, or philosophy, or monotheism, were invented only at once, by someone in particular, or in only one way.
The essential knowledge for the human community is, and always has been, a collective creation. And if the arguments I made were to share some of the honor of being important to the human community, I gladly accept that my participation simply be diluted in the works and the creations of all.
Santiago, January 2014.
Preface to the Second Edition
I wrote this book to propose a way to understand Marxism that would go beyond the long discussions about the collapse of the regimes that were called, with some malice, "real socialism". This collapse was already obvious in 1998, when I started, due to the collapse of Soviet-style socialism. Today, in early 2008, this is even more than obvious, with the twist that has been established in China's "socialism". Joint state-private ventures in Cuba, post-Fordist labor in North Korea and Vietnam, the difficult drift between amputated radicalism and populism in Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, which eloquently show that what thirty years ago, on the left, was a heresy, what twenty years ago was an ominous horizon, what ten years ago was a real carnival of "self-criticism" bordering somersault and masochism, is now just a historical fact, a ghost from the past: the twentieth century socialism simply does not exist any more.
What mattered to me, in that context, was to rethink the credibility and viability of Marxism and the communist horizon it contains, irrespective of those purely empirical historical realities. To think the Marxist argument completely focusing on the new situation, on the possible futures it opened. I thought what was called self-criticism, that what was being discussed as "lessons of the past", became increasingly sterile, and gradually rather became an obstacle to reformulate radical policies instead of real learning. Evidence of extensive bleeding from historic left towards reformist compromise, piecemeal fundamentalism or populist evasion, resulting so far in a swarm of internecine discussions and exercises in nostalgia, seemed a resounding example of that self-destructive character.
What I set out for, and I'm keeping it as a goal in this second edition, was to argumentatively present Marxism, without too many purely moral challenges, with some degree of logical coherence that clearly contemplates premises, developments, consequences that likely follow from each other. To think a foundation, proposing categories, showing possible consequences, maintaining the historical Marxist argument, especially its clear revolutionary will, its vocation to pursue an end of the class struggle, but completely focusing on the current reality, that of post-Fordism, of highly technological domination, the reality of a highly communicative society, with huge barriers between integration and marginalization, with factual contradictions between the poorest in society and the workers themselves, which, as far as they are, are no longer the poorest of all.
Of course, "discarding" the past, even with this controversial mood, or guided by this eminently political purpose, is a never-ending task. Especially if you have to cope harassed by those who at this point are to be true professionals of nostalgia. Before them, and perhaps only to them, a series of trivia must be repeated again and again, which of course in the logic that holds them are not: that no one can live without a past, that historicizing the real is a way of exercising criticism, that it is always possible to learn "some things" from past experiences "albeit from a succession of defeats".
From my point of view these questions are obvious, and those who invoke them against the attempt I make here simply have not understood what it is. It is not that the past does not exist or is not relevant for today. It is that the new needs to be analyzed as something new, not simply being assimilated to another kind of the old. It is not to "forget" the claims of justice for the countless crimes, for the bloody history that has led to the current "normalcy". It is that the meaning of politics is the future, not the recovery of the past. It is not that "history is useless." It is that an argument which is is only based on the moral effect the "lessons of the past" would have does not help us to substantively understand the new dominations, in the present.
The effect, however, of this endless burden of guilt and recrimination, fair anger and useless nostalgia, is that this book can not get rid of them completely. The main change I've made to the text, for this second edition, however, is just trying to lighten the load. I've just pulled out most of the references to the past of Marxism, and I have tried to replace them with items that serve a little more for the future.
But on the other hand, for those of us who live from the arts, one of the most noticeable effects of the fall of socialism is the complete disappearance of Marxism from the academic field, or its conversion into a wide range of sparsely argumentative dilettantisms, which have lost all connection with the radical revolutionary will, and operate more like rationalizations of the general shift of the academic world to the various worlds of the right. This is the case of post-Structuralism, or post-Marxism, labels that just cover up those positions that should be considered more earnestly as ex-Marxist or, in most cases, as ex-leftist positions, than as innovators of critical thinking.
A second change I've made for this edition is to lighten the text of the polemic against such positions, whose relationship with the effective policy is increasingly and voluntarily weak. I need not argue in a Marxist way, at least not here, against whom no longer pursue the horizon of a radical transformation of society, because they are convinced of the prevailing fragmentation, the missing constituency, the performing identity, or simply the radical senselessness. I preferred to keep the argument about the purposeful aim, ie, a specific way of formulating a credible Marxism, than about the controversial goal of dismantling this or that position of the endless series of prevailing intellectual fashions.
However, I added text specifying particular points of argument. A summary of the paradoxical character that the categories I am posing here can assume for a Marxist mentality formed in the struggle against the Fordism of the twentieth century. A specification of the epistemological differences involving this Marxist formulation regarding Social Sciences considered as institutions knowledge. A specification of the consequences of distinguishing class analysis, of the type proposed by Marx, from the analysis of social stratification, characteristic of Social Sciences.
I have added these texts, which have emerged over the many seminars in which I have presented this formulation of Marxism, driven mainly by the extraordinary enthusiasm of young people who still believe that a radically different world is possible. It is precisely for those reasons, by the urgency with which the young people who attend these seminars interpellate my presentations, wondering about concrete political consequences, which actually only they may answer, that I finally added a text, brief and risky, on the characteristics of what I think should be the policy of the radical left today, ten years after the first edition, with ten years of accumulated disappointment and anger.
I greatly appreciate Silvia Aguilera, from Editorial LOM, having allowed the second attempt of a book that surely I will have to write several more times. I reiterate my thanks to the many people who helped me achieve the first version, and now add the countless students who have made possible this second one.
In a northern Chile saltpeter mine, just the day of the one hundred years anniversary of the brutal killing at the School Santa Maria in Iquique, I knew what I have often known, but what in dark and ominous times like these is so necessary to go back and remember: just a human gesture, just a minimal gesture is enough, for all the radical horizon of man to rise, for him to face the possible future, and undertake again, again and again, the long march to the end of human prehistory. I appreciate the gesture, which was lost in the wind, as much as if it were the greatest of all, and to it I dedicate the reformulation of this text.
Santiago de Chile, January 11, 2008.
Preface to the First Edition
"No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation."
Carlos Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859
The elderly usually act and speak on behalf of their disappointments, their failures, what they call experience, as if we should all fail in life and disabuse.
Vicente Huidobro, Vientos Contrarios, 1922
Perhaps any attempt to reestablish Marxism should begin with an account of what happened, of what is possible to be "rescued" from the huge wreck, what we should learn to avoid. It should, in short, "learn from experience". The option I prefer, however, starts from the cruel and radically profound realization from Vicente Huidobro, poet and magician, which I have gathered in the second heading: enough, enough of looking at history from the unworthy underground of defeat.
One could believe that telling the history of Marxism is needed because today's young people no longer know about it, because they act out their impulse for change blindly, without knowing what knowing about those one hundred fifty years of struggle could help them. My opinion, however, is that our problem is just the opposite: we do not get rid of the ballast of what never was. Classical Marxism works in us in the manner of Freudian symptom, ie, as a series of "memories" that we "do not remember" and which are expressed in our behaviors, manifesting their latent reality. Again and again the generation of defeat is transmitting its disappointment spiteful resignations to the youth, making them old before starting. Making them old without even know it, trapping them in the ideas and ways of doing politics that were invented for realities that no longer exist after having dramatically failed.
The history of classical Marxism works in us in this way, whose strength lies in the fact it never comes out, governing us from a certain "common sense of defeat", from a series of platitudes, that young people repeat, ever knowing less about its background, ever having less control on whether they want to experience them or not. These are the classic tics that used to express classical left neurosis, its division between dreams and the world, which now reappear as if still lived the same story. Young people at High School do discuss in the same way their grandparents used to, in the sixties, young people at the University discuss like their parents did, not so young people are still arguing just like thirty years ago, as if the world had not moved a millimeter, as if it had not crushed them again and again.
New words for old ideas, old ideas for new problems, the fossil left doesn't find its way out of the combinatorial ideas that allowed it to legitimize, in its heroic struggles, as well as in the infamous dictatorships where it ruled. And young people do not know the way out of all what they don't know, what has been learned by osmosis, of a mediocre political life, of sorrowful nostalgia, of complaints that never see the possible futures but through the ignoble memory of defeats.
Enough, it is now necessary to "forget" classical Marxism, and reinvent Marxism. Enough of defeat and disappointment, enough of empty repetition of what never happened.
To address this task, all of our energy must be put into the future, towards a possible life. It is necessary to leave the burdens of a sad past behind and again believe that revolution is possible under new perspectives, with a new will.
But how can we forget what is not remembered? It is not about simply forgetting, after which all stays the same, and returns again and again, of that forgetting that works inside us, beneath our skin, in our actions, in our acts or political omissions, without even knowing it is there, crouching, determining us. It is rather the conscious, victorious forgetting, moved by the will, in which the past doesn't cease to exist, but leaves us free.
It is, one might say, of what the word "overcome" means, in the language of dialectics, but I want to emphasize it here as "forgetting", in order to note the fact that this, what I propose to overcome, works in us as a hidden memory, as a hidden curse, binding us to the past. That "eternal, ancient youth that has left me intimidated like a bird without light" spoken of by a subjective tango, but magnified at a social scale, reappearing in every generation, as if young people could no longer be young, and they were intended to be old from the moment they wonder about politics.
Maybe telling the history of classical Marxism today could have an immediate political sense. Telling the story of what must be overcome. Making history to settle the score at once. Do it for the youth, although they do not have the debts we have, and so they do not inherit them because our systematic inability to exit from defeat.
But no. I will not dwell on that story but to reject it. I will not dwell on the past but to affirm the vocation of future. If this is the revolution, those fighting must learn not to look back. The future, just the way future is made from the present, is what matters. And I believe that today the problem of those who want to live to change the world, who struggle under the will that communism is possible is, is as always the same: it is the revolution.
Three are the immediate assumptions that an effort of this kind requires. A big left, a Marxism reinvented from Marx, a communist will of new type. A left that is not large by number, as it is too obvious, but that should be for its ability to contain all the left. The big left as great homeland, in which the borders that the enemy drew have been finally erased, and we can add, and push together. A Marxism that has assumed a dramatic change in the world, the alienation of classical revolutionary will, the subtle developments of the Social Science of the twentieth century, and is able to think this from the present, reinventing Marx, with his consent or without. A communist will of a new type, that has assumed the hard lesson of possible Marxist totalitarianism, that knows how to battle in the current field, below consciousness and within it, eroticizing life, asking for what the system cannot give, distrusting the comfort provided by the new forms of alienation.
It is possible to clearly distinguish between Marx, the classical Marxists, and us, who again believe that it is possible to be a Marxist, who believe that communism is possible. And, having made that distinction, it is possible, it is necessary, perhaps urgent, to get us off the bulk of the hundred years of classical Marxism, and reinvent. If anyone would like to turn the nostalgic look back over their steps, the idea would then be to explain what that package is, knowing it, putting it in the nude. Not to assess, not to rescue and not to save, not to redeem, not to exculpate, but simply to know what must be abandoned before starting the journey again.
It doesn't make sense to mourn about what the past could have been and wasn't. It doesn't make sense to moralize about what the past really was, although we didn't want it to. There have already been too many "assessments" that do nothing but extend the same logic of bankruptcy. This is not to "assess" once again. The exercise should be simpler and, if you will, more cruel: it would be to leave, with no more passion than a nostalgic mood for what has been loved so much and has been lost. To leave with humor, with gently gnawing humor, what has already been amply punished. Just a short comedy that allows us to cheerfully say goodbye to our gods.
And humor is anything but an educational detail in this. It is breaking with classical seriousness. Not to think more lightly and not to float better, but simply as a preservative, which never hurts, and it should disturb very little against the unrepentant retrovirus of totalitarianism. No more seriousness, no more defeat in thinking. Let us go happily to give our lives again, to risk, to forge the will to forge a theory, to forge the theory that the will requires. As always, it is life, our lives, what is at stake in all this. But that should not have as much detail dramatic importance. It is simply about living, not to be dying in everyday mediocrity. We have put together what all the fuss about it. Scandals have to be forwarded to power, not to our self-esteem damaged many times.
Well, prepare good old Lenin, old misunderstood Kautsky, old very old Bernstein, always dear old Rosa, because I'm going to prepare the funeral happily, because I'm going to laugh at your naivete, because I'll tell of egregious errors, and the great wars, because I'll get the wax corpses out of the trunk and go to finally leave them in their homeland, in the past. I'm go to the city, loved old ones, and leave you in your semi rural peasant worker alliances dreams. I'm go to the stars, byte by byte, by the underground of the new webs of imperialism, to come to light, to the air at last, in the global city, on the broadest alleys of the planet where a historical shock should happen at last, so that human prehistory can finish at last. I'm go forward, loved old ones, but not without having a look at you before, to see how you stay there, smiling perhaps, in your pasts, unable to tell us more than your defeats, unable to teach us anything about ours.
Telling the history of Marxism, in these terms, would be the initial story, of tenderness and awe, for those who must travel by their own means. A story, an old story, deep within us, we have not told enough to leave it. To love them better, if you will excuse the paradox, another more. To better abandon them, in a better way. That is what the stories are told for. The beauty of so much horror, the darkness of such tenderness, delusions of such seriousness, as punishment to the eternal totalitarian temptations of sorcerer's apprentices who, armed now with new and better forms of domination, might condemn us forever to the mediocre life of well-intentioned bureaucracy.
It is about going back to the old figure of Marx, re-thinking the keys left, for his symbolism, for his content, for his endless capacity to raise hopes, again Karl Marx. Beyond Stalinist totalitarianism, beyond forced industrial revolution, rather with the weapons of criticism that comes with the criticism of weapons, beyond the sterile moan, the appropriate changes of opinion, the messianic confidence, to rethink the old Marx, for the future to be possible.
Many ask us, with the skeptical and disenchanted tone imposed by historical impotence, a little bit mocking, with that sad mockery that is laughing at their own lost hopes: why Marx?, when perhaps what one should do is just live a private life or the small local effort, and forget about the big, the right, the good.
I think the reasons are big and simple, as always. This is about reason, freedom, justice, beauty, it is still about dealing with the old ghosts, who don't travel the world like ghosts, as the eternal superstitious would say, who seem to continue believing in the souls of their ancestors, but are sweeping the world with enthusiasm, for who knows how to listen. there is no more ghost in those ghosts than what we put from the negativity that constitutes us. No longer on the defensive. Enough of being overwhelmed by the simpleton standards and ideological divides between totalitarian and liberal, between old fashioned and modern, between utopian dreamers and effective realists. Exit weeping melancholy to the excitement, go beyond the sad ones who only find fault with their friends and never get tired of finding virtues in their enemies.
I have not written this for the past but for the future. I wrote it for a new morality, not for the former. I did not write this book for the mediocrity of existent politics, but for the greatness of the one which could exist. Not for the lack of political imagination of the ultra left, or for the dramatic lack of vision of the traditional left. I think there already is enough historical and existential experience, that ultra leftists, just like hysterics, specialize in destroying the things they love. There also is plenty of experience that classical left lost the horizon of its love and struggle just to survive. Not for these lefts, then, but for the big left, which could contain them all, that could be, if our will and our consciences succeed in matching our desires. If we socially articulate the profound desire to make more beautiful world, to be happy.
These are the terms. None of innocence, enough humor and critical distance. Nothing of hypocritical scandal or guilt creating drama, a quite amount of clearness, the style of the Marxologists, and their useless erudition. Nothing to renew, or to update, instead daring enough to stand naked, after all, something we have to show ... let's not underestimate ourselves that much. Rather for young people than for the older, more for the future than for the present. More to beauty and freedom, than for justice or to tell the truth. A speech to the will, for the new will, and its horizon without borders.
We do exist, we do think, we can summon the will, we can resume the long march to freedom and to life. Let us go back to learn what the unity and the difference between men is about, let the pain of every man die in the victory of all, let us conquer once again that kind of freedom that only the lonely do not have, let us make ourselves infinite, such that no one ends in itself, let us be communists again, let our hands again clearly discern the world and the possibility of joy.
Let us live, applaud! Perhaps a new era has begun.
Santiago de Chile, July 20, 2000
I. What could be an orthodox Marxism today?
1. Lukacs' gesture
In 1923, in "History and Class Consciousness", Georg Lukacs asks himself: "What is Orthodox Marxism?". The context of this question is curious. A powerful heterodoxy, the Leninist interpretation, had broken through by force of will and courage in the complicated eddies resulting from the First World War, the decline of a huge empire and, as Lenin would say, of the existence of a "weakest link" in the capitalist chain. Lukacs would then be expected to defended a "heterodox Marxism". His gesture, however, is clear: Leninism is the "true" "orthodoxy".
Marxism actually knew the discussion between "orthodoxy" and "heterodoxy" or "revisionism". Given the great political and economic stability of capitalism in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Eduard Bernstein had already raised the need to "review" the economic doctrines of Marx, and even eventually abandon the centrality of Marxist thought and integrate it into a broader set of theoretical currents that might better account of what was happening altogether. Against this, Karl Kautsky, originally following a line traced by Engels, was trying to show that Marx's theories were "substantially correct" and what had to be done was simply "apply them creatively." Both positions, of course, involved, or perhaps assumed, quite concrete and contingent political choices. In these options, the crucial point was whether capitalism could be overcome through a revolutionary process, or if all you could expect was a progressive extension of the democratic prospects of the system itself, if it was under consistent pressure by all progressive forces.
When considering the place of Lenin and the Russian revolution in this controversy it makes perfect sense to distinguish between "revisionism" (based on historical use, Bernstein's) and "heterodoxy" (Lenin's). Formally both positions are both. The name of revisionist for one of them and heterodoxy for the other could well be arbitrary, if not established by the historical use. The problem arises rather to the Leninist position, which first made a gesture which will later be characteristic: it was determined to show itself as Orthodox.
Of course the use stated in the course of this controversy with revisionism reserved the adjective orthodox, which in short, is nothing but an appeal to authority, to the Kautskyite position. With that then it had the curious situation of two orthodoxies in dispute. Here lies the reason of Lukacs' text trying to establish which among them which could be considered the "true" and given the uses of the time, the only real orthodoxy.
Remembering this scene, after seventy-five years of revolutions and catastrophes, could be a perfectly useless exercise if it were not for measuring our nearness and our distances to such an attempt.
Of course, the main distance is that I no longer think there can be an orthodoxy, let alone a "real" orthodoxy. Every great thinker supports multiple valid readings, which can even be contradictory, and in political terms the only possible advantage relative to each other is their ability to express and mediate concrete and effective realities.
There are nearnesses that are relevant in our context: one is the political claim to be claimed as a valid and viable orthodoxy, trying to retain the symbolic force of the figure of Marx to a particular position, another one is Lukacs' gesture regarding as truly orthodox the position that involved the search for revolutionary change.
It is not the only Marxism, or the correct Marxism, what matters; what matters is to defend a possible Marxism. A theoretical and political initiative which , clearly and consistently, says of itself it is Marxist, then specifying in what ways and with what rights it supports this claim.
Even the claim as such of wanting to be a Marxist is today a political fact. Of course it is not obvious today that it would be sustainable to insist on this referent, neither politically nor theoretically. Many critical thinkers prefer to consider Marxism only as a source among others, in the reform area as well as in the more radical field. Many would prefer to think that the global capitalist stability and the defeat of real socialism only do allow reformist policies. Others would prefer to think that the revolutionary horizons may no longer be global, and must be restricted to direct and local action. Facing them, there are still, of course, those who prefer not to move from the basic coordinates of Marxism-Leninism, trying to develop and apply it "creatively" to our time. And then we're back in a situation, at least theoretically, similar to that of Lukacs.
As the successive defeats of the German revolution are small-scale analogous to the huge defeat of socialism, and as long relative stability of post capitalism after the Second World War is similar to that faced by Bernstein, so the revisionisms , orthodoxies and the possible heterodoxies are repeated in different keys.
On the one hand the reformist revisionism, as the one started from Eurocommunism, and carried forward by socialist renewal. On the other, radical and revolucionarist revisionisms like those initiated by Foucault and continued by Deleuze and Negri. Finally the Marxist Leninist tradition, which fails to break away from the Soviet scholasticism within which it was formed.
Just as Lukacs in his time faced illustrated naturalism and anarcosindicalista spontaneity, I would like to also face today two symmetrical terms: the Soviet scholasticism of dialectical materialism and its, more or less Marxist Leninist, aftermaths on the one hand, and the long and something grotesque academic saga of structuralism and its many poststructuralist sequels on the other.
Of course the Soviet scholasticism is buried, and rightfully so, especially as an impossible legitimation of the infamous totalitarian dictatorships that called themselves socialist. And although the bankruptcy of the Third International is even more drastic and dramatic than the one of the Second, many of the arguments in this book are directed against this type of Marxism, which has been considered the only real and genuine Marxism. But my intention is not to speak in the name of the Marxism that was, but of a possible Marxism, one that could be. Today very few would be willing to defend this tradition, at least without significant shares of self-criticism and review. The problem I think is most important is not to settle scores with the past, now that we have a long history of dramatic masoquisms, but rather think about the possible future.
What is now generally understood by Marxism in the intellectual field, however, it is a closed space and locked by the structuralist and poststructuralist scholarship. In this field it is possible to distinguish four development lines that have almost entirely displaced the rich Marxist discussion, in which various intellectual traditions coexisted in the 50s and 60s.
One is the radical perspective that is based on the association of Marxism with Derrida - Deleuze combination, which involves an appraisement of Foucault, W. Benjamin, A. Heller, F. Jameson, A. Callinicos, represented by Deleuze, Guattari and Negri, with a general background of Derrida - Heidegger.
Another is the reformist perspective that is based on the association of Marxism with the combination Derrida - Rorty, which involves an appraisement of Lacan, the linguistic turn, methodological individualism, and especially represented by Ernesto Laclau.
Another is the more directly Marxist association with methodological individualism, rational action theory and critical realism, around which the theorists from Monthly Review, New Left Review, and the analytical Marxists, like G. Cohen, J. Elster, J. Roemmer and Frederik Olin Wright have been moving.
Another one are the endless Althusserian, post-Althusserian and post-Maoist sequels in France with their appraisement of Foucault, Lacan, also Heidegger and recently Rorty, as in the last Poulantzas, in Alain Badieu, or in the Lacanian left.
Four lines of theoretical development which, from their common dependence from structuralism and its criticism, have come to constitute a present of Marxism that has almost completely displaced, like a Kuhnian paradigm, the other forms of Marxist discussion circulated in the 50s and 60s, as the French humanist Marxism of Sartre, Lefebre, or the first Gorz, the English historicist Marxism, like Anderson or Thompson, the Yugoslav humanist Marxism of Markovic, Petrovic and Vraniki, or the Latin American theories of dependence.
A theoretical shift such that the academic world is now full of "platitudes", of custom established and petrified for theoretical terms, of discussions that should proceed and others that would not make sense. An established predominance in the problems and the language that makes that explanations have to be given at every step, every time you want to think something different, or worse, whenever the quick and stereotype synonyms "assumed" are not accepted, often with extremely weak theoretical support.
Well, I do not speak from this present dominant Marxist academic discussion. I want to radically leave this paradigm and propose a different theoretical basis which, by virtue of a political will that should be made explicit throughout the text, I would like to call "orthodox".
To understand, at least initially, the reason for this rejection of dominant academic Marxism, it may be useful to note that, from theoretical horizons which in principle could appear as far apart as Heidegger and Wittgenstein, or Derrida and Rorty, or Foucault and Althusser, there has been a movement converging around a radical critique of classical Marxism that led many theorists simply to an abandonment of Marxism, and most to abandonment of a global revolutionary perspective.
One can say in general that the structuralist and poststructuralist tradition made a radical critique, firstly, of economic reductionism. A criticism that went from criticizing the idea of economic determination of all our policies and ideology to the point of abandoning economic analysis of the present as something significant, or resignifying it in a completely speculative manner.
Secondly, it made a radical critique of the philosophical foundation of classical Marxism. A criticism that went from criticizing scientistic dialectical materialism to the abandonment of any totalizing, ontological, and even systematic idea.
Thirdly, it made a radical critique of any attempt to build a comprehensive theory of human history. A criticism that went from putting all the emphasis on the analysis of concrete action and the particular situation to reducing all politics to the local situation, and even individual action.
Fourthly, it practiced a radical opposition to putting, as a basis for action, an ontological theory of the subject, power, or conflict, reducing subject to singular subjectivity, power to a relation of local power, and conflict to local and partial opposition.
Overall, against "metaphysics" and "economism", against globalizing and systematic claims on suspicion of concealing totalitarian tendencies.
It is from all of this structuralist and poststructuralist intellectual field, and its academic fanfare, mysteriously led by Heidegger and individualism, I want to distinguish and separate my reflection, to reinvent an orthodox Marxism.
Orthodox Marxism means, in this context, first, to jump over one hundred years of scientistic and naturalist Marxism, and just throw it into the pit, where should be, to go directly to Marx and start again. Just leave the whole tradition of 1880 - 1980, from Engels to the first Althusser, and have the courage to think from today forward, from the possible communism, and not from defeat.
Orthodox Marxism also means, secondly, to recover the basic intuitions present in Marx and reasoning by analogy to understand the present. An analogue operation where the present term always prevails over the past, so as to try to understand what is new as something new, not simply as a repetition or prolongation. An exercise, in which the analogy is a heuristic tool, no way an evidence, and where whenever it proves to be in disagreement with Marx, worse for Marx, because what is important is our view of our problems, and Marx's text should be only an instrument, a temporary guide, however powerful it may be. This is the equation that I want to pick up with the paradoxical expression of "reinventing" Marxism. It is Marxism, on the one hand, because I think the works of Marx do contain powerful ideas that can guide the review of the present; it comes to "invent", on the other hand, because what matters is the present, not Marx.
I argue that it is possible to express these basic intuitions present in Marx's work through a minimum set of principles that may operate as the hard core heuristics of a research program. According to these minimum principles, I think today it is orthodox:
- to argue that politics is eminently collective action, with a global aspiration. It's not enough to affirm the centrality of politics, it is necessary to state that the founding actors of the political arena are always collectives that can be understood as subjects. It must be said that the aim of these subjects is constitutively universalist. And that means asserting that the category of subject, understood in a non Cartesian way, makes perfect sense;
- to argue that economic analysis is central to the understanding of social processes. An economic analysis that does not become causal reductionism, that examines changes in work processes, valuation and reproduction of capital. An analysis that seeks to expand the category of the economic up to the point of including in it the social;
- to raise the relevance of the concept of class and class struggle. A concept in which social classes are understood as subjects, where the social is understood as antagonism. A concept that seeks to understand the binding of modes of thinking with the process of social work;
- to raise a philosophical foundation, capable of expressing the idea of human production as a differentiated universality. A foundation capable of holding a logic that goes beyond the purely analytical trend of scientific rationality;
- to propose a radical democratization of language and knowledge, criticizing the idea of avantgarde, criticizing the professionalization of knowledge and political action, criticizing the difference between experts and laymen.
If these are the minimum principles that we hold as "orthodox" then we will be able to appeal to all the texts of Marx, without favoring, for example, the Capital or, conversely, the Manuscripts. the difference between a supposed "young" Marx and a supposed "old" Marx will be therefore irrelevant. The only important thing will be to try to pick up the main lines of his texts that can help us to build a coherent theory of our situation.
Within the Marxism I'm interested in developing, these guidelines are primarily the idea of human history, its critique of alienation, its critique of capitalist economy, its political radicalism.
Lukacs thought it was possible to find a "method" in the works of Marx, understanding method, incidentally, in the Hegelian sense. Bearing in mind the extensive rhetoric around the idea of method that has been produced throughout the twentieth century, I would rather suspicious. I keep just the heuristic use of analogy and the defense of the minimum set of principles that I have raised, to attribute to my attempt the adjective "orthodox". But in reality this is merely a polemic and rhetorical adjective. What really matters is not a really trivial and sterile discussion on orthodoxy and heterodoxy. I rather care of the political sense that today it may have put yourself in a position that would call itself like this.
As for the political sense I can be explicit. The idea to be called "orthodox" has two basic political objectives. One is to defend the enormous symbolic value that the Marxist horizon has meant throughout this century. Maintain, enhance the strength of its utopian will, this will to transform the world globally and revolutionaryly. Another is explicitly weighed against the many "heterodoxy" that have resulted from the structuralist tradition, and the circumstances and political effects that have accompanied them.
Apart from these two no less obstinacies, this adjective, like no other, is not really relevant. What matters is the content, the principles, I want to ask after him. And in another sense, now considering other possible political meanings, which want to set that content can be seen rather as a new kind of Marxism, that is appropriate to the new forms of domination and struggle.
In this operation, however, another theoretical and political, but above all historical distinction is implicit, including three terms which would be between Marx, Marxists and us.
2. Marx, the Marxists, us
a. Marx and the Marxists
It is possible to clearly distinguish between Marx and the Marxists. Obviously about the world they had to face, but also from that, on the content of their works, their concrete policy initiatives, the philosophical background in which they operated.
Marx lived in the time of full development of classical industrial capitalism, Marxists had to live in the era of imperialism, and the coexistence between two opposing social and political systems, moored by the nuclear stalemate.
Marx lived in the era of the rise of the working class and radicalism generated from sectors of artisans and petty bourgeois who were being wiped out by the big industrial capital, a radicalism that influenced the early development of the working consciousness. The Marxists had to live in the era of the rise of the middle class, that is, the steady increase, despite periods of disruption and crisis, of global consumption capacity in ever wider sectors of workers. A boom that, as early as 1890, allowed to speak of a "labor aristocracy" and that was reflected in the basically integrationist and reformist attitude of the mass workers' organizations. Kautskyism was no mere "diversion" nor a simple "corruption", something like a regrettable and condemnable error. It responded to a deep economic and social situation that has been accentuated throughout the century in the most advanced capitalist countries, and has been reproduced in every place where there were developments of national capitalism.
There is evidence, in his defense of the Paris Commune, in his bitter criticism of the Gotha Programme, that Marx never managed to understand the logic of the mass workers' parties that began to emerge, precisely in the years of his age. He, great and stubborn, remained rather clung to the radical logic, largely inherited from romantic heroism in a time marked by mediocrity, careerism, the desire for integration, which too deeply affected the programs and political strategies of the emerging workers' parties. The theory of imports of consciousness, or the need to establish a communist movement more radical than the overall strategy of the labor movement until then, already show the difference, and the inadequacy between the Marxism of Marx and the Marxism of Marxists.
Marx lived in the golden age of scientific enlightenment, technological optimism, naturalistic and realistic culture, and his relationship with all this ideological set are contradictory and complex. He admires Darwin and criticizes him. He admires the humanism of Feuerbach, and it seems superficial to him. He admires the great advances of science and he reasons in a substantially more complex and more partisan fashion than natural science and even than his contemporary social science. He profoundly despises what he sees as superficiality of Stuart Mill, is openly suspicious of Darwinism, or objectivist realism. Marxists, however, having perfectly at hand the expressionist, surrealist, cubist, Dada, etc. revolutions have a fundamentally more simple and submissive relationship, with respect of the ideological setting of the nineteenth century. Virtually all of Marxist tradition, whether Kautskyite, Leninist and, often, even Luxemburgist councilism, is based on scientific realism, however much more flexible. He shares a naturalism with few nuances, that puts human history as an extension of nature, that believes in the existence of laws covering the entire history in a necessary and teleological manner, issues that can hardly be found in the work of Marx himself . (Unless we believed the thesis, very common among classical Marxists, that Engels had special telepathic powers that allowed him, despite the doubts of Marx, to interpret, discover and write down his true thoughts).
Classical Marxism never managed to assimilate the great cultural revolutions of the twentieth century, and behaved everywhere, even beyond its many political differences, as a somehow ideological extension of the Enlightenment, perhaps more militant than the Enlightenment philosophers themselves would have liked, but basically with the same philosophical foundation. And here is an important argument that I want to argue: the thought of Marx is always beyond the theoretical horizon of Enlightenment. Critics who assimilate him into a politicized Enlightenment or, conversely, to a politicized Romanticism are wrong. These judgments are perhaps relevant to portray the Marxist tradition, from Engels on, but they are always inadequate to tackle the thought of Marx. For me, the thesis that matters to defend here is that Marx's work can lead an entire political philosophy which is beyond the simple, and thoroughly modern, dichotomy between Enlightenment and Romanticism. An operation, however, that can only be done with very few later Marxists.
Marx lived in the time of full European political, economic and cultural hegemony, when the revolution was a beautiful and distant dream. The Marxists had to experience the economic, political and cultural siege of the hegemony of the United States, extended over Europe, increasingly pervasive in the articulated forms of world market, where the revolution was too often a place of nightmares of improvisation, urgency and violence, in cultural, political and economic realities that were not covered at all in the calculations of Marx.
Marx himself experienced, during his long exile, the first and perhaps most important failure of the revolution he postulated, something he never took, and the Marxist tradition stubbornly continued with that omission: the "failure" of the English Revolution. And you need to put the word "failure" in quotes because in reality, the question was much more serious and profound: just anyone came up to make a communist revolution in the most advanced capitalist country in the world. This "failure", largely omitted, so often eluded through ad hoc hypothesis or theoretical variants forced by the immediate political situations, is the great anomaly which chairs the development of Marxist theory after Marx. And, in one way or another, all subsequent failures in Germany in the twenties, and the socialist camp as a whole finally in the eighties, may be seen from this large initial enigma. And even the whole series of "successes" of Marxism in peripheral realities, ranging from the precarious Russia, to countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, and even Ethiopia and Angola, merely show, through its reverse, the same great enigma.
It is true that most of the theoretical development of Marxism in the twentieth century has revolved around the triumphant revolutions, which, heroically and titanically, Marxists could achieve. But it's almost equally true, conversely, that all this theoretical development can be seen as a very long series of ad hoc hypothesis that prolong Marxism, through its apparent successes, ignoring its fundamental failure.
After such a dramatic statement, given that those who want to remain Marxists usually have nerves something altered currently, especially after the fall of the wall, here a small parenthesis is adequate, more subjective than theoretical, to calm premature anxieties, or unfounded joy. What I hold as a result of these conjectures and arguments, is that communism is possible, and that it makes perfect sense to be a Marxist today, and for quite some time. For those who want to watch this text from the point of view of revolutionary consistency, so typical an attitude of the Stalinist mentality, and still so widespread among the most furious anti-Stalinist, please know that I believe that communism is possible. I think, from the failure of classical Marxism the lack of viability of Marxism as a whole cannot be simply inferred. A Marxism of new type is possible, which is due to reinvent its original revolutionary impulse. To make it possible, it is necessary to get rid of classical Marxism, both of its long chain of pyrrhic and paradoxical victories, as well as of its profound and never assumed failures.
Marx didn't achieve sizing, throughout his life, the gradual emergence of modern liberal democracy, of "public opinion" and the masses of the twentieth century. When he approached these phenomena, he openly distrusted, with a visionary smell, its actual contents, and specifically suspected the possibility of corruption by the capitalist powers. Marxists, however, have lived through the twentieth century caught between the rise of real or fictitious democracies, with their enormous power of social integration, held in the progressive expansion of consumption capacity, and peripheral realities of oppression brutal, of criminal dictatorships, in which successful revolutions have been incubated, from the uncontrollable anger of the poor of the earth, or of workers subject to overexploitation.
Marx was never confronted with this problem. Marxists simply never knew what to do with democracy. Forced to live the revolution as a military dictatorship, because of capitalist encirclement, because of the internal needs of the process of forced industrial revolution, they never found the formulas to reconcile revolution and democracy, and permanently ranged from reformist participation in democratic booms, and military confrontation in situations of purse or oppression. I do not see in this oscillation an error, or a lack of theoretical insight. There simply a fact of reality. And it is important not to avoid it again through ad hoc hypothesis, or extraordinary theories about "democracy". The Marxist tradition, forced by the surrounding and internal reality, was deeply educated in political totalitarianism, and we need to look at this reality in the face and decide what we will do about it. At a minimum, and to retain some of the huge hypocrisy with which the common political thinking treats this point, it is necessary to say that I don't see in this any blatant reality a characteristic, or intrinsic, feature of Marxism. All of modernity is imbued with this deep totalitarian vocation. There is a deep link between totalitarianism and classical industrialization that is visible in all processes of industrialization, and that only political hypocrisy could associate as exclusive of Stalinism, overlooking the fascism of Japanese industrialization, German industrialization Nazism or even the totalitarian features present in English industrialization, whose "democracy" was censitary, and discriminatory to much more recent times than the opportunists would like to acknowledge.
b. The Marxists and us
It is perfectly possible to distinguish between the Marxists, to whom will add the adjective "classic", and "us", among whom I include those who still believe it is possible to be Marxists. Of course, again, this distinction is as deep as the gap jointly opened by the collapse of real socialism and the great changes in the world, precipitated by new forms of technology and the movement of capital. We now live in a different world than the one classical Marxists lived in: we need a new kind of Marxism.
Classical Marxism developed in a world of homogenizing industrialization, of Taylorization of physical work, of the great Fordist production line. We live in the world of high-tech industry, capable of producing in a diversified manner, which it has begun to Taylorise the subjectivity of the worker and has heavily broken up the chain of production, both nationally and internationally.
Marxism evolved in a world in which large industrial workshops gathered crowds of workers, and made possible large unions. A world in which the Enlightenment fully maintained its prestige as a progressive and enlightening ideology, allowing the existence of cultured workers, of libraries and labor press, of intellectuals arising from the same working world. We live in a world in which the disaggregation of production chains removes the specific physical basis from which the unions were possible, which leads to a progressive weakening of the union organizations. A world in which the Enlightenment has lost much of its appeal, and the system of social communication can almost completely cope the field of real working class culture. A world in which Taylorization of subjectivity promotes behavioral patterns of strong subjective integration between capital and labor, leading the classical reformism of the labor movement to an end of simple collaboration, to the integration of workers into the corporate spirit of large enterprises.
Classical Marxism evolved in a production system whose basic technological capability was producing huge quantities of identical products, which resulted in a general trend towards homogenisation, towards centralization of all powers in only one power, that plans and orders centrally, and it was also expressed in a joint behavioral pattern of normalcy, intolerant of difference, repressively promoting adaption to one kind of world, to one kind of life. We live in a world where high-tech production has the capacity to produce a diversified manner, and dominate in this diversification. A world in which power management does not require the full power to maintain its hegemonic position, and in fact distributes apportioned quotas, being able to dominate in a second order, maintaining a power differential on the distributed and atomized powers. A world in which classic "normalcy" has been broken down into a multitude of particular "normalcies", configured as series, or combinatorials of specific characteristics, and where dominant powers do have sufficient technological capacity to interact with these individuals, to dominate them in their diversity, and even provide them illusory diversity in an interactive and recognizing way. A world with many possible forms of life, many apparent worlds in the same world. A world that can suppress resistance, and maintain the prevailing state of things, through tolerance, promoting tolerance in the immediate order of life, although refusing to do so in the second order from which it dominates.
Although they never knew quite what to do with democracy, and oscillating between the democratist reformism of the advanced countries and the armed revolutionary spirit of the periphery, classical Marxists lived in a time when democracy seemed to be real or, at least, gradually expanding, objectively, in many parts of the world, although its expansion invariably found the limit of not being able to change the basic structures of domination without being confronted with fascism and reactionary violence.
It is important to note the notorious limits of that democratic expansion in all its dimensions. There has never been, in any modern country, that mythical democracy said to be the "government of the people, by the people and for the people". Only slowly the voting was extended from the census vote to universal suffrage. Freedom of expression has undergone constant and profound changes, by the monopoly of information systems, censorship and self obliged censorship, all of them omnipresent throughout the twentieth century worldwide. Civil rights have been respected only to the extent that the bourgeoisie has retained power, and has not seen it compromised. Economic and social rights existed only on paper, and each possible extension had the cost of confrontations and wars, or economic crisis.
It is important to note, however, that all such limits could be removed, that there was a horizon of real democratic expansion, that struggles for democracy, in their many forms, had a broad scope, and important humanizing results, although they all occurred within the liberal utopian horizon. No results that could not be reversed, of course. There wasn't any progress which could be said to be definitive for human history.
We, instead, experience the full decline of liberal democracy, of its humanistic horizon, and even of the social and subjective basis, which made its expansion thinkable and possible. The profound distortion of the mechanisms of representation, by the media, by the market, by raw and simple intervention of force. The progressive destruction of the psychic autonomy of citizens, acting as subjective basis of possible civil autonomy. Progressive desubstantiation of democratic mechanisms through its reduction to widely manipulated and manipulable election formalism, on the other hand. The emergence of powers that are simply out of jurisdiction, or monitoring by representative bodies, such as independent central banks, military intelligence services, or transnational coordination of economies from the companies or from higher level bureaucratic agencies.
This means that while for classical Marxists reaching or expanding democracy was a central political issue, for us, however, a central political problem is what to do with the repressive and strongly integrating use of a manipulated formal democracy, that acts more as a source of legitimacy of power than as a space in which politics is really possible.
Classical Marxists lived in a world where, despite much evidence to the contrary, technological optimism, confidence in the neutrality of science, and the benefits of realism were still possible. Forced by everyday environmental disasters, by mass manipulation, by the repressive use of therapeutic techniques, by the wide edgy reflection in art and philosophy, we live in a world where it is possible to openly distrust of science and technique, of their neutrality with respect to the world that produces, and that they contribute to reproduce.
Classical Marxists lived in a world where the geographical difference between imperialism and dependency, between first and third world, between the poor, the "middle class" and the rich, could be clearly specified. We live in a world where geographical differences have faded: there is first world worldwide, there is third world worldwide too. Where the differences in production system integration, and consumption capacity have been violently radicalized, giving rise to huge sectors of the world population strongly excluded from consumption, and even from the productive system in general, who are not a reserve army of nothing, who do not play virtually any role in the articulation of the world market, as compared to other sectors, of enormous, relative and absolute, quantitative importance, integrated into modern production, progressively increasing their capacity of consumption, their access to the most sophisticated technological goods, their commitment to the system of domination that enables their stressed lives, but with very large appearance of comfort.
Classical Marxists lived at the time of the Doctrine of National Security, that, in practice, preached open warfare against any progressive attempt, and that included resorting to fascism, to open military violence, to explicit involvement of the military in politics. A doctrine from the right and for the right, that could be fought from a wide political arena. We live in the era of the Doctrine of Low Intensity Conflicts, which produces a war that becomes permanent, but diffuses into thousands of small initiatives that do not explicitly show themselves as political. A doctrine that no longer requires military dictatorships, because simply emptying the democratic mechanisms is sufficient. A war that is presented as fighting crime, and that is of interest for integrated citizens, because of which it can be supported without noticing its political background, almost as a policy of public good, protection of the family, and peace.
Domination of diversity, unequal interdependence, broad integration through psychological identification of citizens with the interests of domination, repressive tolerance, formal and legitimizing democracy, ample opportunities for all reformism accepting the premise of the market as a regulator or, short, a new world, a new mode of domination, requiring a Marxism of a new type.
Today, when none of our classical certainties may be considered as obvious, it is necessary to ask why the revolution is necessary. We must ask ourselves again whether the revolution is possible. And these are two different issues. It may well be that the revolution is much needed but simply not possible. None of these problems can be evident today. Why would we want violence? Why not try to broaden the democratic horizon from within? Why want to go again to a war that we have lost so many times before? Nobody goes to war until he has powerful reasons for doing so. People do not go to war even in extreme misery and exploitation, until there is an alternative that allows them to think that the future may be better. Today, when the system of social communication is able to largely manage expectations, why would they believe us that our war really is the peace of the future, while, on the other hand, the real, or even fictional, but heartfelt prospect of consumption may be a better or, at least, less uncertain future?
In order to think directly from Marx, we need to ask ourselves once again why he thought the revolution was necessary, and why he thought it was possible, and compare his calculations with our situation.
I propose, as a thesis, Marx thought the revolution was necessary for the objective evidence of the effects of capitalism, namely, poverty, dehumanization, the rupture with the natural world, but always linked these effects to a deeper and central condition: alienation. His reasoning always runs first around alienation and, consequently, about poverty. This is seen, for example, in his hard repudiation of philanthropic policies, or policies aimed at mere economic or social demands.
Marx thinks the alienation as an objective problem, as a historical situation that transcends the will or the consciousness of the actors, that is, he thinks of it as something global, structural, intrinsic to the capitalist system, so that it only can really be resolved by abolishing the whole system. In the case of capitalism, alienation is expressed in the mechanism of extraction and private appropriation of surplus value, which, of course, can not be resolved case by case, or improved by higher levels of participation in the product for workers, because it is a historic construct that is densely protected by the legal, political and ideological system called "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie". The differences between legitimate and illegitimate, the healthy and the sick, what is allowed and the offense, honesty and shamelessness, are all historically designed around the essential fact of appropriation of surplus value. The conversion of all human labor to the universal and abstract equivalent of "money" is the effective and accepted form in which a system operates, whose depth, in social facts, in consciousness, in thought and action, is so great that it only can be called "dictatorship", regardless if it is a military dictatorship or practicing democratic formalities.
Marx thought that only a "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat" could end the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. And, on more than one occasion, he considered that this was substantially the only idea that really belonged to him in all of his work. The essential question, regardless of whether the dictatorship of the proletariat is of a military nature, or is achieved through democracy, is what content it might have. Beyond overthrowing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Marx thought that the revolution had to overcome the objective effects that it had generated, namely, poverty, backwardness, inequality. But beyond that, the essential question is always alienation. Overcoming alienation required, in his thinking, to overcome at least the mechanism from which it operated, ie, private appropriation of surplus value, because of which he proposed that production was to be in the hands of direct producers, or in general, that there should be democratic control over the mode of production.
But Marx also suggested what the radical content was, that should be expected of a communist revolution, and this is but overcoming the social division of labor. It's just this radicalism which allows to call the communist revolution a "revolution": human self-production without mediation of commodity or, in general, without the mediation of any fetish. The human recognition in a universal, differentiated and reconcilable objectification: free labor.
It is necessary, at this point, to say what may be understood by "revolution". Although, in general, the content of this word refers to a change in lifestyle, to a process of human self-production, to an expression of freedom, it can be used, however, for processes of different extension and different depth, so that only the maximum extension, and the maximum depth do really embrace that concept.
Regarding extension, perhaps you could speak of local, social and global "revolutions". There are cases where radical changes in communities or even for individuals, may be called revolution. This is, of course, the way reformers like it to be. You can talk, however, of social revolution when the entire society is involved. That is the case of revolutions in capitalism, as the French Revolution, or the Glorious English Revolution. But we have only the strong and proper sense of the term when we talk about a global revolution, something that happens to capitalism as a system, like the industrial revolution, or socialist revolution.
In depth, on the other hand, there are revolutions when there are changes in the forms of work, as in pre-modern technological revolutions, opening the division of labor, e.g., the agricultural revolution. Further, revolution happens when there is a change to the way of work, and that is the essence of modern industrial revolution, which can be seen as the self-awareness of the productive forces. But we have only the strong and proper sense of the term, when changes occur in the general way of life, that is, when the revolutionized are the relations of production, beyond changes in productive forces, that is, when political revolutions occur. Bourgeois revolutions already involve a degree of awareness of social relations, and with them politics, in the proper sense, do begin. But only the self-awareness of social relations, that is, only the social exercise in which men discover that they themselves the authors of historical changes, and stop attributing them to God, or to some natural root, may be called, appropriately, politics. The Russian Revolution, at least in its Bolshevik horizon, is the first real expression of this sovereignty of humanity, even above nature. Also bureaucratic revolutions may be such an expression.
Or, in short, why would a communist revolution be necessary? Because only overcoming the social division of labor may create the space in which human reconciliation is possible, in which free labor is possible, as well as democratic control of production by the direct producers, in which there are no more alienation.
Of course such a radical demand makes urgent the second question: Is a revolution like this, of this magnitude, of such depth possible? What was the calculation of Marx?
Marx believed that the communist revolution was possible, first, by virtue of the structural contradictions he saw in the capitalist system. The anarchy of the market, where each producer does not know what the other one will produce, and competition as an always frustrated way and try to reduce the anarchy; the downward trend in the profit rate, and technological competition and hype exploitation as always frustrated attempts to reverse it; the trend towards overproduction crisis as a result of the disparity between the growth in the supply of products and slow growth of the consumption capacity, produced by the tendency to keep wages at the lowest possible level. In "Capital" he showed the cycle of anarchic, lowering of the profit rate, crisis of overproduction, general bankruptcy, and new anarchic competition which, in his opinion, would increasingly worsen, and finally lead to the collapse of the system.
Marx believed that the communist revolution was possible, secondly, because of the formation of an universal class, whose liberation would involve the liberation of all humanity: the working class. On the one hand, production would have been objectively socialized, that is, it would have reached a very high degree of division of labor, and high interdependence of all jobs. On the other hand, class contradictions would have been simplified to the extent that all work has been reduced to commodity exchange, leaving only the owners of the means of production facing the wage-earners, "who have only their chains to lose", ie who would be united by the maximum possible alienation. Finally, these workers actually do exercise, and could dominate the social division of work, could take care of it, reappropriate it. All these conditions are what can be called "emergence of an universal class".
Marx believed, thirdly, that the communist revolution was possible because the consciousness has emerged, that can articulate this universal class as a will, that is, because a revolutionary theory has emerged, which is an expression of self-consciousness of social relations, which knows that men themselves are the ones to make history and can change it.
In short, the deepening structural crisis, the formation of a universal class that can take care of the social division of labor and that has nothing to lose, as objective conditions, and the articulation of that class as a revolutionary will, thanks to a theory that takes this objectivity to consciousness. Or again, a communist revolution resulting from an objective, structural, conscious process, driven by a will: a strictly political revolution.
d. Marx and us
The distance between the classical Marxists and us is, of course, already a distance from Marx. At this point, however, what I want to consider is, directly, how the basic calculations of Marx, and its political consequences, have been altered, and what is the continuity that would allow us to believe that it is still possible to think starting from his work.
Briefly, the main differences between the current situation with the logic set forth in the previous paragraph are three. The first is the broad ability to regulate the cyclical crises by a system in which competition has become increasingly fictitious, or has become a mere means of empowerment within the same companies and multinational conglomerates. A capacity of regulation that is enhanced by the massive inflation of the financial and speculative sector in the global economy, implying that there may be crisis with huge capital losses on paper without necessarily being expressed in large scale disorders of social life. And also a regulatory capacity whose objective basis is the almost complete interpenetration of transnational capital, which loses its classic national bases, and is being directed by worldwide negotiation agencies, which distribute market shares and territories, without major shocks or even less interimperialist crises, that old Leninist dream that no longer will happen any more.
The second major alteration is the objective increase, both in absolute terms and in a relative sense, of consumption levels and living standards in important sectors of the world population, particularly precisely among workers integrated into the more dynamics branches of highly technological production. Just the workers of the most dynamic sectors of production, ie, those who may eventually take over and dominate the social division of labor, no longer have "only their chains to lose", an issue that substantially alters the calculations that may be made about their political choices. It is true that never in history there were so many poor, as poor as now. But more significant than this, and that is constantly ignored by the Marxist calculation, is that never before in history, on the other hand, so many people had such high and sustained living standards,and broad prospects for growth, as now. And this is a powerful stabilizing force in politics, which defies all attempts of radical thought.
But, thirdly, the objective stabilization force represented by the increase in living standards, is enhanced by the extensive technological ability to directly intervene consciousness, and possible will, from the system of social communication. This capability extends the stabilizing force even to the sectors that consume less, but are constantly subject the weight of expectations, real or fictitious, achievable or demagogic, with enormous force to determine patterns of political integration and collaborationist behavior. Even in situations of extreme poverty, the current poor tend to behave politically as if they consumed, as if consumption were available to them within a reasonable time, with reasonable effort.
And that's more than enough. Nobody goes to war only by consideration of current misery and oppression. The calculation is always more subtle: somebody goes or does not go to war according to his expectations of a better life after going or not going. And the crucial question then is: why the poor have a reason to choose the risky road of revolution with its failure so widely publicized and riveting, if it is always possible to wait for a gift, for some improvement in the current situation? You may prove a thousand times that the excluded, marginalized, are less and less likely to have their expectations met, but the theoretical demonstration is not enough: once and again they will fall in the space of alienation that media and the objective consumption of the integrated can create in the very foundations of the psychic apparatus of the poorest.
Faced with a scenario like this, with the possibility that the alienation be lived in full abundance, against all illustrated forecasts, including the forecasts from Marx himself, with the possibility that the alienation of the integrated may be reflected even in the consciousness and political behavior of the excluded, you need to think radically, once again, the previous two crucial questions: why would a revolution be necessary today?, why can it be expected to be possible within some reasonable time?
Indeed today revolution is necessary, first, also because of the basic reasons Marx thought, ie because of the objective effects of extreme and inhuman poverty the system inherently produces by virtue of the dynamics of growth. But today this problem is twofold, and doubly serious, regarding the time of Marx. It is double, because in front of extreme poverty and radical marginalization there is mass consumption and easy integration, while every day there is a bigger barrier rising between them. It is not to be expected that the marginalized are progressively integrated into a system that requires fewer workers, even if it requires more and more consumers. In the growth calculation of capital regulated by bureaucratic power they can easily spare about two billion poor. And politics towards them will be becoming simply more criminal every day. The extreme poor are simply exterminated. The fratricidal war, compulsive policies of birth control, pests, will gradually, but always more quickly than philanthropists wanted, put an end to a third or more of the planet's population. And this policy of objective murderer can only be reversed by the radical humanist attempt of a revolution. The reformists who aspire to broaden the base of consumption, including the excluded, will be late, and are running late: a massive crime is already underway.
But, secondly, it is not clear that the reformists could arrive in time to save even themselves from the ecological catastrophe in which the compulsive and inorganic growth has plunged the planet. The arms race does not diminish, discrimination does not diminish, human rights are increasingly only part of the show.
However, a radical reformist perspective is perfectly possible and plausible. When facing the extermination of the poor, you can always hope to expand consumer goods, to bring abundance to disadvantaged sectors. And it even might be a good business to do so; after all, precisely what is always scarce in a system of such high productivity are consumers. Perhaps a Marshall Plan for the whole humanity. Perhaps a massive conversion of the arms industry to peace industry. Perhaps a campaign to show that it is in the very interest of capital, and of the administration, to save the ecosystem in which they themselves live. Maybe taking seriously the technological capacity to produce diversity and promote tolerance by creating diversified markets, filling the world of different colors and forms of life that coexist, that do not need to annihilate each other.
All this is possible. All of this remains completely within the possibilities of the high-tech production system, which is the current system of domination. And all this is desirable and minimal. A revolutionary perspective cannot be raised without sharing at least some minimum political and reformist hopes. The question, however, is that this is perfectly possible even within the system of domination, ie, in full exercise of human alienation, now taken to the extreme. This is the crucial difference between reformist and revolutionary politics: reformism merely ask what the system can deliver, but has not yet done. A revolutionary policy is to ask just what the system can not give. Reformist politics is the art of the possible. Revolutionary politics is the art of making the impossible possible. And faced with comfortable alienation, with the possibility of expanding the horizon of consumption, and even expanding the reasonableness of life in general, a radical demand, the one that power always fails to satisfy, is simply that we want to be free and happy.
But is it possible to say that those who live comfortably on consumption are not happy? I postulate that, at this point, it is necessary to get ones hands on an old omission of those sacrificed classical Marxist revolutionaries: precisely the issue of human happiness. "We want to be free and happy" is a statement that requires a judgement on the possible happiness in a social system, and its comparison with another. And this is something that Marxists have left for obvious until today, and certainly is not any more of the obviousness that everyone assumed. Now, when the chances of reformism are broader than ever, and seem to be such in a plausible way, the possibility to think of a revolutionary perspective requires greater effort, a greater risk, than the classic one. And it is at this point that Marx's concept of alienation is crucial.
We not only want to stop being poor, want to be happy. And the difference between one thing and the other is clearly demonstrable in the disenchantment with which the highest standards of living the system of domination can offer are experienced. Okay, if it's true they are so happy, why so many drugs, why so much suicide, why the constant feeling that life has lost sense, that the world is getting worse? The tragic curse of this alienating system is that those who don't consume suffer because they do not, and those who consume suffer anyway, even if they do. Why would they accept a shitty system like this, where even the privileged are constantly declaring that they are not happy, while it is precisely because of its patterns of production and consumption that one third of humanity is being exterminated? This is perhaps the radical base from which the revolution must be thought, and the concept of alienation is the central concept that can help us do.
Indeed the second question posed in the preceding paragraph is even more difficult to answer: Are there elements, now empirical ones, not only of principle, that allow us to think that the revolution is possible? One would be tempted to answer, still in the plane of furious will, as Abraham Lincoln did: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time". But, unfortunately, it is not enough. Radical and objective contradictions, a universal class capable of turning them into break points of the prevailing domination, a theory capable of giving shapes and words to the will of that radical change. This is what should be found. And I look forward at least the start of such arguments throughout this book. For now, one of the argument premises that I am interested in developing is that for these arguments to emerge clearly visible it is necessary to abandon classical Marxism. Leave it not only because of theoretical issues, but above all, as a liberating political gesture.
Indeed the second question posed in the preceding paragraph is even more difficult: are there elements, now empirical, not only of principle, that allow us to think that revolution is possible? One would be tempted to answer, still in the plane of a furious will, as Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time". But, unfortunately, this is not enough. Radical and objective contradictions, a universal class capable of making them into break points of the prevailing domination, a theory capable of giving shapes and words to the will of that radical change. This is what should be found. And I look to forward at least the beginning of such arguments throughout this book. For now, one of the argumental premises that interest me to develop is that, for these arguments to emerge clearly and be visible, it is necessary to abandon classical Marxism. To leave it, not only because of theoretical issues, but above all, as a liberating political gesture.
f. Is it possible to "rescue" something from the classics of Marxism?
To be more precise: what does giving up the heritage of classical Marxism and inventing a Marxism of new type, from Marx, mean? What is meant by "classical Marxism"? Why only to save Marx? Is there nothing in classical Marxism to take takes advantage from? Why "abandon" and not, for example, recreate? Couldn't we take advantage of contributions from Lukacs, Bloch, Gramsci? Why simply putting all Marxists of the past century in one bag? Isn't there nothing in the Marxism of the past 30 years, say, which isn't a simple ad hoc exercise, which may be considered creative? Why not consider that this proposal itself, the one of Pérez, is but another series of ad hoc hypothesis?
The questions are many, fortunately, which means we have touched an essential point. Responses, even precarious, are, nevertheless, relatively few, or summarized in a few basic points. Therefore all these questions should be put into one and the same series.
When speaking of "classical Marxism", it is necessary to make two distinctions that can help limit what is meant. One is that between what might be called "real Marxism" or, more straight, the real political practice, which actually happened, under the inspiration of the Marxists, and what can be called a, more or less academic, "theoretical Marxism", that is all what Marxists have written, regardless of whether its many good intentions actually occurred or not. The other is between the Marxism that lived Bolshevik utopian horizon as possible, alienated or not, and the many "Marxisms of new type" to which we have been forced by the reality of neo-Stalinism first, then by its bankruptcy.
What can be called "real Marxism" may be clearly stated as the world of three Internationals: the Second International, dominated by Kautskyism, the Third International, dominated by what Stalinism called Marxism-Leninism, and the many Fourth Internationals, dominated by Trotskyist fragmentation. Both the political practice of the reformist Marxists at the time of a mass labor movement, as well as the actual practice of "real socialism" and the practice of multiple, fragmentary, and eternally aborted or defeated attempts, to oppose to the logic of "real socialism". This universe, must be clearly, and if we think of a critical perspective, radically abandoned.
But of course there is much more in the twentieth century Marxism than "real Marxism." There is, of course, the "possible Marxism", there is a series of brilliant theoretical developments which, though never translated into a full and effective implementation, are always a huge possible quarry of materials, from which you always may try recreations which, under a political, rather than academic will, we call "Marxism of new type". We all would have liked real Marxism to be more like Gramsci, or Bloch, or Marcuse, or like Che Guevara's. It seems obvious, however, that not only it didn't occur, but suspiciously every time we cite these "salvageables", we talk just the names of those who were NOT in power, or who died prematurely, as we would like "save" of Lenin.
Regarding these "theoretical" or "possible" Marxisms, the gesture that I propose is more political than academic. It is to raise a will that is able to face these new times in new ways. To do so, can we use what Marxism had of promising stuff, of transcendent intuition of reality? Yes of course, we could not do otherwise. When we dare to incur in the vanity of saying that we have "invented" something, what we do, from an academic point of view, of course, is not to "invent". But this may indeed be true, it must be true, from a political point of view. The focus of our discussion should not be a "we are followers of" but resolutely a "we are going to change the world".
But if this is so, why "saving" Marx? Was he enlightened, would he have some special privilege, and why? The truth is that I'm not interested in "saving" Marx, if it was not in a gesture, again, a political one. So when I turn to the theory of alienation as a theoretical core from which to think the present reality, I do NOT quote Marx, I just expose this theory as I believe it serves us well, and the discussion of whether this corresponds "really" to the statements by Marx I "really" do not care about. If not, worse for Marx. I am turning to Marx within a political gesture, a symbolic place from which I can precisely skip hundred years of history, to start thinking again. I am turning to Marx as a symbolic place of the communist horizon. What I care about, politically, is the claim that communism is possible, and that is the central claim of what I call, pretentiously, a "Marxism of new type". Beyond this statement, everything that is necessary for it to hold, or to examine its feasibility, I am saying in the present tense, using sources of course, but again, not mentioning them because what I care about is to think, not be "faithful to" or "to develop" and entangle in the, finally scholastic, discussion about precise translations, recreation or developments.
Of course it is perfectly possible to discover, in an often very obvious way, the theoretical places from which I'm getting materials to that "invention". If someone wishes, I could list them explicitly. First Herbert Marcuse, and the hodgepodge that he makes between Hegel, Marx and Freud. From this Hegel, Marx and Freud, now separately, according to my own reading, and precisely in that order. Then, highly suggestive to me are, adversely, the reflections of postmodern culture, the aesthetic avant-garde of the twentieth century, called "post-Marxists". But I'm not ready, if it comes to talking of Marxism, to discuss the relevance, accuracy, or fidelity with which I have adjusted to those references. That's why I don't quote them, although their presence is evident. Therefore, if it is to discuss in an academic way, I prefer to study each of these sources by itself, in the task of specifying the best possible "quarry of materials" with the aim of using their texts as pretexts, with or without their consent.
g. On the value of the past
While accepting the need and political urgency of "forgetting" about classical Marxism, raised in this way, the problem of valuing the past remains to the task of "inventing" again, from Marx. In addition to the reflections I have done in the previous point, I would add the following, strictly political ones.
If it is about revolution, what is important is the future. The axis of thought and action must start from the present to the future. The revolutionary side should not have a past. The more entrenched their reflection and action is in the past, more unlikely their vocation of future.
The past is important for those who triumphed, or for those who have already been defeated. Those who succeed require, and can not help doing, the invention of a past. This will be part of their legitimacy, their strength. Those who have been defeated, or act under the weight of defeat, require a past to explain, to minimally tell their lives have not been in vain, that the trends show that someone may later come to redeem them. "Having history" is a luxury that the triumphant power may have, or the sadness of an inclement story told again and again, summarizing the defeat, repeating it, as punishment.
For those who struggle, those who are fighting, and think and act from that situation, the past is not relevant. Not that they have none. You could say, in an abstract way, as an academic exercise, they have. But beyond the trivial assertion that any present has its past, there is absolutely nothing obvious. It goes without saying of the past that it simply is. Just a millimeter beyond, any attributed content is but a reconstruction. The objectivity of history is strictly historical. So much that the past can have more density, more weight, or definitely less, depending on which place of its struggles a party is in. The place to try it all, the place of having gotten what one actually gets, instead of losing everything ... except the past.
Of course, those struggling will build a past, and accumulate facts as raw material for this reconstruction. But they will only have genuine right to do so after having succeeded. While fighting, the vocation for the future should occupy most of their horizon, without more legitimacy than their indignation, their will to build a better world by beating the repressive condition of the present. To dwell on the past, in the midst of the struggle, is a break that can only satisfy the intellectuals, not those suffering. Or is it an indication that it is no longer so much for the fight, but how to survive defeat.
Then, perhaps in the illusory beyond of triumph, even these ideas will be severely reconsidered. Those who win will not see history, which is now their history, as a pure product of the will, but rather emphasize the "objectivity" of the past, they will see these "voluntarism" as romantic excesses, they will work "on reality, as on a rock". They will find all sorts of "anticipation", "great glimpses", "deep insights". Every age creates its precursors. And if what has triumphed is truth and beauty, it perhaps may be good that they do. The problem is that truth and beauty will also be a reconstruction, and then, regardless of whether it is good or bad, it's just inevitable that they conquer history not only as triumphant present, or future splendor, but also as a promising past. "We have been expected", those who succeeded may say. Or, "We have finally arrived to the appointment, reserved for us by those whom we can now redeem".
But when these claims are made before the triumph, in the dark ages of the fight, they are suspicious. They are a bad sign. They are indications that someone is operating from a thick illustrated mentality, as if the historical reality be objective and determined, and our role was only to make it real. Or a sign of romantic messianism from that you might suspect a totalitarian future.
The political issue today, for those who live the struggles as unresolved ones, is how to get out of these, the infinite metaphors of shipwreck, into a space of struggle to invent freely, to invent itself, despite the materials coming from, as perhaps is inevitable, those many previous shipwrecks.
To "invent" is, politically, the word of those who fight, even if from an academic point of view this is not true. Therefore, in theory, what one has to do is not to cite, but to allude. And invent the cited in the allusion. It is not to "develop" or to "take advantage of" or "rescue elements of". It is simply to have the subjective vanity to believe you can make something up, so it can be exploited in the objective movement of those, who actually do invent something.
We have not been waited for, we are not redeeming anyone, we are not the good guys. We're just going to create a new world, and for that we will fight the established reality. There is an old saying, if you will excuse the paradox, which may sum up this attitude: We have had enough, and set in motion.
3. A new type of Marxism
In building a Marxism of new type, drastic and dramatic theoretical operation is necessary: getting out from under the weight of one hundred years of theoretical construction, political action, contradictory triumphs and spectacular failures, and inventing Marxism anew.
A Marxism of new type is necessary because the forms of domination have changed substantially. But many Marxisms are possible, even under the demands of internal consistency, of a certain adaptation to the actual reality, and minimal political viability. What I want do here then, is to specify for what needs, and under what principles I believe it is possible to formulate a Marxism which might aspire to these conditions. A possible Marxism, among others, which should be tested in actual practice.
a. What is Marxism?
Stating this vision requires, however, previously asking what Marxism is. And at least give a general answer, indicating what kind of theoretical attempt I want to do. What is Marxism conceptually, what has it actually been, what could it be. It is necessary to maintain this distinction. The possibility of an alienated revolutionary practice, ie, a practice whose results contradict its discourses and intentions, makes this difference to become necessary.
I maintain that the essential concept of what may be called "Marxism" can be made up in five points, I will enunciate and comment now and then contrast them both with its actual reality as well as with the possibilities they contain.
Conceptually, in the first place, it must be said that Marxism is a revolutionary theory. It should be apparent, however, that this is not an empirical statement. No theory can be revolutionary by definition. Whether it is not, whether it can be, is something that only the actual historical practice can decide.
Consider, then, this statement in the sense that it is a theory radically conditioned by the purpose of being revolutionary, that is, by the founding intuition and primary desire that a radical and comprehensive transformation of society is necessary and possible. A theory that is based on and takes shape from a will. A revolutionary will, rather, that has given itself a theory to configure the real and to proceed clearly.
Of Marxism it may be said, secondly, that it is a method of analysis. First, it is a method of economic analysis to criticize capitalist society. But its main interest is to be a method of analysis of political situations, being able to guide the concrete revolutionary practice. More generally, it is also a method historical analysis, able to provide an overall picture of the mechanisms that explain the major changes in human history.
It would be an excess, which of course has been made more than once, to say that Marxism is a method of analysis that is useful for mathematics or agriculture or therapy. No relevant or foundational ideas can be found in Marx about music, education or architecture. The attempt to obtain collections of allusions from Marx and Engels on these subjects, in order to know what would be the right way to develop them, is vain, scholastic and conceptually wrong, however much it has been among the typical procedures of Soviet scholasticism.
A method of economic, political and historical analysis, certainly very suggestive for sociology and philosophy, and whose criteria may be extended, as I will argue in the next point, through more or less metaphorical analogies to other fields. But no general method, nor a method for knowledge in general, not even for the social sciences in particular.
However, when we say that Marxism is a method of analysis, it is necessary to clarify the status of such a method, and its relationship with the contents. It is not in this case a method from which specific contents follow, or may be found. This claim, characteristic of scientific methodologism, is not true even for the sciences themselves. It's the other way round. It is a number of essential contents that are expressed in some methodological formulas. Marxism is a theory that is founded on a secular, materialist, humanist, atheist vision of human society and of reality in general. In this it is only heir to the traditions of modern thought. This is a set of beliefs that originate from the traditions of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and a philosophical base that enables it to go beyond these horizons towards overcoming the modern philosophical tradition. And all these are properly contents, which are at the basis of the method, instead of being results from the action of the method on a pre-established reality.
Of Marxism it may be said, thirdly, that it is a worldview. That is, a theory from which it is possible to offer a perspective on all areas of human experience. By the way, as I have stated in the previous section, it is not a general method. But, as far as the economy, politics and historical experience crucially cross all human experience, from there, and in relation to them, the Marxists can build specific views, in which the general theory offers some heuristics tracks and suggestions about the connections and relevancies each of these areas may have for politics, which is their main concern. Not all human experiences can be connected in the same way or to the same extent, with the reality of politics, but the so called "worldviews" aren't precisely constructions to dictate every single detail in an immediate manner. They are rather guidelines to understand the location of those who profess them regarding the world they live in.
To that extent, you can reduce or complicate the idea that it is a "vision" of the world. This is an expression that suggests the nearby notions of "point of view" or "perspective" and, as such, contains the pre notion of someone who sees something and something else, that is seen. However, this difference does not really express the goals of Marxism. It should be said that more than a "vision of", it is a way of "being in". Marxism is a way of being in the world, a factual position, or, to give full force to the formula, it is a way of being in the world. That is, rather a set of acts related to a theory and a will, than a set of ideas.
This makes it possible to "be" Marxist, in the same way it is possible to "be" Christian, or Buddhist. That is, being Marxist implies a strong existential commitment, a permanent attitude, where, as I indicated above, there is a revolutionary, founding will. It is not uncommon for many people who "are" Marxists, not knowing in detail, or really, the work of Marx. It makes perfect sense to distinguish between "Marxists" and "Marxologists". To be a good Marxist, you need to know Marxism, but those who "do not know" often, in their actual practices, do something that is deeper than this knowledge: they create real Marxism. By the way, as is obvious, you can know Marxism without being Marxist. There are Marxologists, and there are very good ones, and their knowledge may be very useful. But in principle, the function of knowledge is secondary to real actions, which are effectively deciding whether or not someone is a Marxist.
But this makes it necessary to say, in a fourth place, that not only the theories are be considered as Marxist, but, above all, the real and effective practices that have resulted from them. Precisely because Marxism is not just a theory, like the theories of gravitation, or of natural selection, but is linked to a will, a way of being in the world, it can not be tried regardless of its actual practice. Irrespective of whether Marxists themselves do like this practice or not.
You can not separate any judgment you want to do about Marxism from the noble and heroic deeds, like those of Che Guevara, or the overthrow of Somoza, or the Long March in China, nor from the infamous moments and sinister periods, like murder of Roque Dalton, or the Moscow trials, or the violence against culture in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. You can not argue that Marxism theory is very good, but the men who practice it have not kept pace. You need to explain in a Marxist way what happened, why we believe things could be different. And it is necessary, first of all, to recognize and publicly tell the truth about these processes and their root causes. There is no other way to be credible again to those who contemplate, with just horror, many of the things occurred.
The struggles of Salvador Allende and Stalin, the saga of the Cuban Revolution and forced industrialization in the USSR, the virtues and the horrors of the Chinese revolution, socialism imposed from above in Bulgaria and built from the people in Yugoslavia, are components and essential parts of Marxism. They are its reality, they are the real Marxism, beyond any roles and good intentions.
But this, in turn, requires in the fifth place, to say that Marxism is a tradition of controversies, most of which have never really been resolved. This is necessary because it is perfectly possible attempt to circumvent the results of the real Marxism arguing that that "was not really Marxism". To avoid this draw, a basic doctrinal nucleus should be established and it should be accepted that, concentrically around this centre, different versions of each of the relevant issues affecting Marxist theory and practice have built. To the extent that there are few issues on which all Marxists do really agree.
There are at least two ways of giving Marxism a philosophical foundation. Just as the formulation of Christianity has historically oscillated between the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Marxism was built, and will remain, on the, more or less explicit, aftermaths of the philosophy of Kant and Hegel. There are at least three main forms of Marxist political action: councilism, Leninism and Kautskyism. Around the idea of imperialism there are several schools, and also about the national problem, or forms of party organization.
In all of these controversies, there is nothing that can really be called a "right Marxism". The idea of a correct Marxism, so characteristic of a homogenizing culture, leading to the complementary notions of "revisionism" and "ultra-leftism" and has had the perverse effect that the struggle among Marxists are very often much more intense those of Marxists with their class enemies. To the extent of persecution and crime. This sad story of strife has perhaps had some reason that makes it understandable, but not excusable in any case. It must end.
There isn't a correct Marxism, neither theoretically nor practically. Strictly speaking, the judgment on the possible correction of a will, or a policy can only be established by practice, case by case. There are no general formulas, nor is there any Marxist construct that has withstood the impact of the actual conditions in which it developed. Nobody can today, in light of the general catastrophe, claim the title of a "correct Marxist". The past is, from this point of view, an ominous set of shame, oppression and crime. Those of us who believe that communism is possible can only affirm our will in fragile shreds of a sometimes glorious past and in the future, especially in the future, that is the vital matter to any will of change.
b. Marxism as an expression of a world
But, considering the five points listed in the above order, a theory (will), a method (content), a world view (way of being in the world), an effective practice, a tradition of unresolved controversies, and thinking of this succession in a Marxist way, I think you need think about them in reverse order. If this order I presented were true, then Marxism happens to exist because a Mr. Carlos Marx created a theory which then triggered a huge storm in the world. This is certainly not a Marxist way of looking at things.
From a conceptual point of view, Marxism is not just an invention of Marx, it is the expression of an era in human history. One can say that the great historical novelty that is brought by the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary class, to human existence, is the self-awareness of the productive forces, ie, the notion and the practical experience of a concept in which the means of labor and work itself are recognized as a human product. It can be said, at the same point, that pre-capitalist societies were aware of the means of labor, but not self-conscious, that is, they looked at them as given objects, which may be worshipped or decorated, but which cannot be perfected. Herewith creating an essentially conservative attitude towards technological change. The bourgeoisie understands the means of work as its own product, recognizes its own work in them, and with that the cycle of ongoing industrial revolution we call "modernity" begins.
But even in possession of this self-consciousness, it can be said that the bourgeoisie has only reached the consciousness of social relations. That is, it still sees the foundation of social relations as something given, divine in its early days, or natural, which is its better concept. The bases that determine the intersubjective, social and historical behavior would not be in the hands of men, but come from a certain given "human nature", beyond their conscious control. Nature may be transformed, but its laws not changed. Means of work are effective only if they conform to natural laws. Likewise, political, and social arrangements would be viable only if we know that "human nature" and learn to handle it. The market, of course, competition, private property in some cases, are parts, in bourgeois ideology, of no less than nature. They can be reformed, controlled, but it is unimaginable that a society has no market or no competition. The bourgeoisie has powerfully humanized the work process, has saved the social relations of the tyranny of the divine, but has given the latter its own tyranny, naturalizing it, under the concept of human nature.
Things put this way, one can say that Marxism is an expression of the time in human history when men reach the self-consciousness of social relations, that is, assume and live the notion that what happens in society and history is nothing but their own product, and that, in fact, ALL social relationships can consciously be changed at will. This self-consciousness is, of course, an indispensable condition so that the idea may be formed that communism is possible. Self-consciousness of social relations means not only that there are no gods steering society and history, but there also isn't what is called nature. We're free. All we are is due to ourselves. There is nothing in social relations that can not be changed.
Marxism is not, of course, the only expression of this new state of humanistic confidence. At most one could say that it is the first expression, but not the only one, nor even the most efficient. This is a self-awareness that is present in many ways, in all of contemporary politics, that is, in politics which opens with the great mass parties since the late nineteenth century. By the way, fascism or even Nazism, also participate in it. And, most importantly, the historical action of the bureaucracy as a class is related to it. This means, no less, that it could easily happen that the bureaucracy is the first ruling class in human history who knows clearly that the keys to its domain are in its own historical initiatives, without the ideological veil that involves attributing them to a foundational nature, or a providential divinity.
And also self-awareness of social relations does not mean at all, to master the reality from it. The idea that consciousness of something implies mastering it, is but an illustrated illusion. Self-conciousness implies here, rather, the knowledge of a will than its effectiveness. A knowledge that allows social stakeholders to put into play, for the first time in human history, an infinite will, that is, a will that is not limited internally but for itself, by the laws it may put itself in fact, knowing it or not. And this position of will in no way guarantees the result; it is, like everything else in human prehistory, simply a risk.
It can be said, in this regard, that the philosophical significance of the practical work of Lenin is precisely to put this will in history. The major attempt to twist the inertia of determination, treating it as a mere reified human will, to bring awareness to what conscience wants to make of its own history. And, conversely, the philosophical meaning of the practical work of Stalin, is to show the strength of that determination, strength such that may well turn the revolutionary will into an alienated will.
This possible alienation, given the opacity between will and determination, or between explicit human will, transparent to itself, and the will shown as determination, or reified humanity, is in some way aggravated when Marxism looks at itself in an illustrated way, since then, in a dramatic attempt to clear the crash operating as if it were not, it merely become a justifying and legitimating ideology of the dramas and the results of its action.
This is what brings us back to the five points, and their historical significance, which provide only in general what Marxism is as its concept, to the dramatic reality of real Marxism, of the historical realities that were actually built in its name.
c. Real Marxism as an expression of a world
In its actual practice, its actual results, the Marxism of the twentieth century has been nothing but an extension of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, that is, an appropriate ideological veil for a number of processes of forced industrial revolution. Its scientific pretensions, even enriched by the scientistic version of "dialectics" which it proclaimed as its official philosophy, its permanent state of political totalitarianism, beyond the "needs for the defense of the process", its strongly avant-gardist practice, its teleological idea of history, all point, as has already been said many times, to show that real Marxism as a variant of the general ideology of modernity.
Beyond this statement, a nuance may be added. Marxism was certainly not a bourgeois ideology, even not a totalitarian variant of bourgeois ideology. Its anti-bourgeois vocation and practice must be taken seriously, being looked at in a new light. I argue that the Marxism of the twentieth century has been one of the modes of expression of the emergence of bureaucratic rule, below surface and beyond the conscious intentions of its actors. To this extent, it has met its concept. An illustrated avant-garde has attempted to transform history, under the ideological veil that its real actors are the workers. It has tried to impose a will to determination. And its actual results are too much like those of all of modernity to be thinking today that in it there was some fundamentally different principle, that is not already taking place, in other ways, within bourgeois society itself.
But the ongoing struggle between will and historical determination that characterizes this new era, just as before the essential feature of the social was the liberation of the productive forces, may find again and again expressions, both among the revolutionary will, as within the bureaucratic spirit. And Marxism, the Bolshevik horizon, with their dreams of communism and human reconciliation, don't need to be tied to what they have actually been. Marxism may be more than it has been, it can recover his infinite impulse toward freedom and life. XXI century Marxism does not have to continue the miseries of the Marxism of the twentieth century. The revolutionary will can do something different. For that we need a Marxism that is effectively what in the twentieth century it has only been sporadically. A Marxism that collects what humanity dreams, and makes it political reality.
d. A possible Marxism
I argue that we need to invent a Marxism from which it may be possible to do a Marxist critique of socialism and its bankruptcy, as well as of the general lack of political viability of the Bolshevik horizon in the twentieth century.
A Marxism from which it may be possible to make a critique of the new modes of domination arising from the emergence of the technological capability to produce and to manipulate diversity. A Critique of deepening modes of control of subjectivity accompanying the highly technological production.
A Marxism from which it may be possible to make a critique of scientific rationality, which allows viewing it as an ideological and operating form of modernity, and allows to imagine overcoming it.
A Marxism being able to address the progressive loss of control of the division of labor by the bourgeoisie, and the emergence of a new type of class rule, conveyed by the complete articulation of world market and the ongoing technological revolution.
It is possible to reinvent a Marxism of this type on the basis of the dual operation of reading Marx in a Hegelian way and reading Hegel in a Marxist way.
The reinvention of Marxism I propose is Hegelian, first of all, because of its global nature. Because, although it has not, nor is it intendeded to have local theories of the type of "proletarian art" or a "proletarian math", it however wants tohave a valid word on every sphere of human experience. A dialectic for that "nothing human is alien".
It is Hegelian, secondly, because of the idea that a more complex logic is possible than the logic of scientific rationality, a logic that is both the way of thinking and the way of reality. A material, or ontological logic.
It is Marxist, and not only Hegelian, however, for its premise that human history is all being, all reality. An ontological premise that does not support any nature outside, which requires thinking any difference as internal difference. A premise that can be actually called an absolute humanism.
It is a Marxist, and not only Hegelian reinvention, because of the notion that the materiality of human history, and the origin of all reality, lies in the social relations of production. Forcing an ontological, generalized concept of production in which all production is production of the being itself.
It is a Hegelian reinvention because of its premise that reality should be thought of as negativity, and negativity should be thought of as a subject. But it is Marxist, and not only Hegelian, because of its notion of the subject itself divided, in which any notion of God has been completely immanentized. In which we are God.
The passage from dialectical materialism to a materialist dialectic; the passage from the critique of capitalism to the understanding of late capitalism as a time of emergence of bureaucratic power; the passage from teleological messianism founded on an Illustrated idea of history to the concept of a non-teleological revolutionary will, that assumes the complexity of its own possible alienation, are perhaps the most visible differences with classical Marxism.
But also the emphasis on the notion of subject, and its possible willingness and disposition, as opposed to criticism of the idea of the subject; confidence in the possibility of an ontology in which the substance is understood as ethical and historical substance, as compared to distrust of any ontology; its idea of a policy based on self-determination, on self-determined freedom, on the historicity of the laws, as compared with a policy based on memory, on events, or on contingent challenge; the notion that a revolution, as a global change in the way of producing life, is necessary and possible, as opposed to the idea of politics as construction of partial and contigent hegemonies, these are its most visible differences with respect to the various, Marxist or post-Marxist, reconstructions of Marxism most circulating in the current discussion.
A Marxism beyond the false dichotomy of Enlightenment and Romanticism.
It is already ten years ago when I proposed that the historical status of a Marxism of Hegelian type is to be a possible term within the oscillation, in fact, of all contemporary philosophy between Kantianism and Hegelianism, ie between the respective sequels of those two monsters guarding the entrances to the possible futures. By the way, this is not about "Kant himself" or "Hegel himself". These are the historical consequences of their philosophies, the readings that admit, which are made historically real, being important for policy. A Kantian formulation of Marxism is possible, and my view is that this is what has prevailed throughout the twentieth century. Hegelian, or "Hegelizing" readings have been possible, on a recurring basis,always in the minority.
Maybe against what Kant himself would have expected, the Kantian pole has been linked with a scientistic reading of Marx, whose main emphasis has been on the idea that Marxism is a knowledge that illuminates practice. The main alternative in this field is made as to whether this knowledge is scientific knowledge, as will be proposed by dialectical materialists, or a knowledge of ethical type, as proposed in the Austro Marxism, and by those who keep the spirit of utopian socialism. In the Hegelian pole, on the other hand, discussions have focused on the concept of subject, and the idea of alienation.
The historical oscillation between Kantian or Hegelian readings, however, should not be confused with the oscillation between Enlightenment and Romanticism, which characterizes Kant's extreme. As Hegel could show quite astutely, Romanticism is but the other side of the Enlightenment, under the same modern logic. Hegel's claim, however, is that you can go beyond that oscillation, towards an absolute humanism in which history is a subject. The ethical emphasis of Romanticism, and the epistemological emphasis of Enlightenment, are but two moments of a common logic. A moment that tends to turn the ethical into existential passion, another one that tends to turn knowledge into the director of all spheres of human coexistence. Both moments, expressed as specific policies, have led to totalitarianism. A Marxism which wants to formulate itself beyond totalitarian logic that has permeated modern politics, would have to go beyond this dichotomy, ie, beyond modern logic as a whole. That is the claim that can be developed from Hegel.
e. A Marxism in the minority in the intellectual field
Of course the idea of a Hegelian reinvention of Marxism is in overwhelmingly minority in the current cultural field. A doubly depressing situation when it is aggravated by the presence of academic mandarins who have pontificate, with an air of final judgment, some version of Hegel suited to their policies. It is expected then that the first contingent difficulty of such reinvention is the need for a constant defense against that Hegel from a manual on philosophy put forward to hide the lack of Hegel reading.
But the paradox of these pseudo Kantian positions on Hegel is, in the same way of the Kantianisms supporting them, that they oscillate between between ethical, epistemological or aesthetic Kantianisms, according to the random political position or academic tradition in which they emerged . For Kantianisms of epistemological type, with their illustrated trend, Hegel is a romantic obscurantist. For aesthetic type Kantianisms, of romantic trend, Hegel is an arch illustrated rationalist. English of Viennese type, and French of German type, respectively, abound in these clichés, rarely going beyond the level of manuals. For ethical Kantianism, in both its illustrated as well as romantic aspects, Hegel is the totalitarian spirit that has made succumb individuality, whether in the mystique of state power, or the oppression of the idea of totality, as appropriate. It is easy to suspect that if Hegel is so many contradictory things at once, it is more likely a finding of not knowing than of knowledge.
But the issue is not only Hegel. Marx runs a similar fate as if he is associated or not to Hegel. The enlightened see a Hegelian Marx as a paradigm of totalitarian theory. The new romantic look at an enlightened Marx, either as a reformist scandal, or as totalitarian rationalism. Non Hegelian neo-Marxisms are, perhaps, essentially post-Marxisms.
Beyond these academicism, the essence of a Hegelian Marxism must be the double operation of reading Hegel from Marx and Marx from Hegel. The essential difference between both lies in full humanization (what Feuerbach called "inversion"), and the materialization (Marx) of dialectics. The essential continuity lies in a logic (not a "system" or a "method" as the manuals say) in which the Being is understood as a subject.
There are two main political consequences that may follow from a Hegelian reinvention of Marxism. One against liberalism in all of its forms. Another against postmodern philosophies in any form. The first is the radical critique of the idea of human nature, either understood in an ethological way, or as incompleteness of language. The second is the radical critique of the reduction of politics to local politics, either as challenging resistance, or as partial construction of hegemonies.
Faced with these concepts, what a Hegelian Marxism seeks as the basis of politics is the idea of full, and risky, human responsibility on a collective political action, with global mood, which is exercised from a historical will. The possible link between desire, as a particular moment in individuals, and a will as universal moment, recognized in collectives, should be thought of as the driving engine of policy initiatives that arise from this new Marxism. Associated produced producers, autonomous in their membership of a will, moved from the desire that updates in each one of them, are the driving force, in the speculative level, of a possible revolution. The concrete social economic analysis should be given the task to identify the effective social actors in which this possibility is constituted. The central criterion is that in them both the possibility of this subjectivity and access to control of the most advanced and dynamic means of work is given. Only from this match may arise a revolution that is more than updating the incomplete industrialization and an alienation of the revolutionary will.
But it is essential too, in political terms, going beyond the traditional alienation of the popular movement that has consistently registered its claims on the horizon of possibilities of the system of domination. When classical domination could give homogeneity and increased consumption levels, the labor movement called for equality and consumption. Now that the system of domination can produce and handle differences, the opposition calls for recognition of the differences. Always, most of the opposition, has simply asked what the system could deliver, and has not yet. Revolutionary politics can not settle for being the art of the possible, it should be the art of the impossible, to ask just what the system can not give.
Today, with a system capable of dominating in diversity, in face of the reality of unequal interdependence, of interactive domination, of alienated differences, what should be asked for is, just the opposite, universality. We should fight for global human recognition by the establishment of a common humanity. Global rights of men can not be satisfied by the creation of sectoral markets, by differential spaces of consumption. It is not to annul differences in universality, as in mysticism, or hypostatize differences, as in the extreme that is liberal pluralism of indifference. It is producing an internally differentiated universal. Comprehensive claims, for all human beings, that recognize their differences. It therefore is about a revolution. It is going back to being communists. That is perhaps the most important political consequence of a Marxism reinvented from Hegel.
4. Being Communists again
Everything said so far can be summarized and made effective at a time, as follows: proposing the idea, which in many ways is nothing new, that the world situation can be understood as the emergence of a class society of new type, the bureaucratic society.
I argue that reformulating Marxism to be able to account for what has happened since the fall of real socialism requires a class analysis of the style that Marx proposed around capitalism. I argue that an analysis, which follows by analogy from Marx's method of historical analysis, will lead to the conclusion that the class power of the bourgeoisie is being progressively replaced by a ruling class of a new type, which opens a new era in human history, the age of bureaucratic power. I argue that the bureaucratic society is a class society distinct from capitalist society, that its mechanisms of legitimation, its ideological form, the way of producing life in general, are different. I argue that most of the political problems, both globally, and at a national level, may be interpreted in a coherent and encompassing theory, when viewed from the perspective of the transition from capitalist society to bureaucratic society.
My proposition is orthodox in the sense of returning to the kind of analysis made by Marx, to his concept of history, applying it to the contemporary situation, even to societies that called themselves socialist.
One element that seems key to this orthodox attempt is the idea that is not the property that defines a class as the ruling class, but exercising dominion over the social division of labor. The property is the domination's legitimizing mechanism but not the domination itself. Said directly: the bourgeoisie isn't the ruling class because of private ownership, but it may have its property as private because it is the ruling class.
The consequence that interests me most about this premise is that private property is not the perfect figure, nor the last, of class society. Social property may also be a legitimizing tool of domination.
On the other hand, by associating the constitution of a class rule to control of the division of labor, it becomes possible to understand bureaucratic domination as class domination. I think it is not difficult to show that the bourgeoisie has gradually been loosing control of the division of labor, both at company level and at the level of global economic management. My proposition is that this objective process should be seen as the material basis for the emergence of a class society of a new type.
I propose that it is necessary to materially characterize this domination, as Marx did in Capital regarding the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to understand the political and ideological forms that are functional to it, and through which it appears.
I think it is necessary to describe the process of general loss of hegemony by bourgeois power from the point of view of the emergence of a new power, to avoid the illusion that in fanfare and extremes of bourgeois practice we see in the neoliberal economy there is some kind of triumph, something like the end of history. Despite the harshness of neoliberal policies I think what takes place under its appearance is rather the obsolescence of the bourgeoisie than the realization of its utopian horizon.
But this means that the material analysis of bureaucratic power can only begin when we see in these layers of appearance and human misery the hidden level that allows to understand them or, also, when we postpone the the ethical judgement until we understand, at least in principle, what is happening.
Neither political behavior, nor facts that seem to be great events, or speeches by the actors themselves, allow us to understand. A time can not be judged by what actors say about themselves.
Neither the legal form nor the dramatic political upsets allow to understand. It is the material level, ie, the objective playing of power, its origin, its mechanism and its exercise, which allows this understanding. The level at which men dominate and are dominated. The mechanism that alienates. The objectivity of the actions undertaken without global dominance of its consequences. The materiality of social relations for which the whole and its appearances are meaningful.
However, understanding is not the same than to forgive. Only those absolutely deterministic would identify these two issues. Neither is understanding the same than to condemn. Only the naive ones, who believe in free will, only those who don't know the reality of alienation, its objectivity or rather dramatic materiality, put all knowledge of history under the pillory of moral judgment. There is useless moralism in both cases. The deterministic will justify everything, the idealistic will cry everywhere over convictions. For some the reality is inexorable, for others men have chosen their perversions. There is an undercover conformity on both sides. For some it is about knowing the objective laws and adapt in some way (for example, creating a more humane market). For others it is to preach the good and reform consciences. For the Communists the task can only be to revolutionize the world.
A Marxism of new type, which appeals to the theory of alienation, and to the eroticision of the world as a political program, must not be a novelty. Statements like these have been made before, in times when this just seemed implausible voluntarism, issued by alienated revolutionary enthusiasm. Today, perhaps, this would not have to be different. As I indicated, I do not offer these reasons as theoretical guarantees for the will, but as a discourse to give it a language, a way of seeing, a new jargon for new times.
Under these theoretical conditions, politics eventually become a risk, and the revolutionary attitude is to want to take that risk. Prudence is a bad adviser when it comes to change history. The virtue of these reasons, that only a new reason may understand, lies more in the world that can be, than the words that you say it. And that world, seemingly impossible, is the world of freedom and beauty. Knowledge for change. Not to submit. Knowing the law to change it: to change the laws of reality itself. Making the impossible possible: only this can be a revolutionary program.
I affirm that we can perfectly understand what is happening. I affirm that we do have the theory and the will to understand and to seek a change. A theory and will able to think of the assault on global power, capable of confronting the abstract state with something more than its own alienated diversity, of trying the conscious, rational, universal, rearticulation of human coexistence.
Absolute poverty of the poor, alienation and absurdity of the privileged, the resources of the power of the bureaucracy, its miseries and weaknesses, the general dumbing down of life, the hope for the possible liberation, can all be understood from Marxism. From its theory of alienation, from its idea of history, from its idea of the subject, from its will to change the world. I affirm that it is possible from there to build a self-awareness that may be a possible basis for global change.
A unitary theory from which to confront reality, a perspective animated by revolutionary will, a wide and open disposition to skip the heavy burden of the socialist alienation and to go back by more than a hundred years, to look into the future.
A communist perspective, in which the horizon is the end of the class struggle and human reconciliation, and not just a forced industrial revolution or the cunning of philanthropic management. The alienation of the revolutionary will only managed to advance within the logic of bureaucratic rule. Now, beyond that, we have to run the risk again and see how we can topple this new power so that humanity can be made real.
I think those who pursue communism should be called communists. "Our Party," the new communist party, is not that of those who associated their courage to the Stalinist or Leninist dictatorship, nor of those who are content that everyone eat and have education and shelter, but of those who believe that beyond the bureaucratic rule a classless society is possible.
This revolutionary perspective, devious, distant and full of questions, is what can encourage the willingness to take the risk of making history, of building freedom, of overcoming determination. This perspective is, of course, quite orthodox. And I think this can be formulated as: what this is about, is to be communists again.
II. For a critique of bureaucratic power
In this section I care about stating a set of theses on the great social changes in the second half of the twentieth century. Stating, enumerating, emphasizing, most often controversially, to file with it a defined position for discussion. I'm more interested in proposing than in proving or documenting. I expect the whole to give a coherent vision in broad strokes, that can be discussed, that can be supported by making up proper fundamentals, rather than the details, the empirical accuracies, the data points. A framework from which to proceed with specific investigations, rather than the result of research already done and finished. A framework to draft guidelines for political action rather than a treatise on Sociology. Ideas to advance, rather than stopping at mere ideas.
My methodological prior conviction is that an incomplete but suggestive set of ideas can contribute more effectively to discussion than a set of conclusions presented as proven. An imperfect theory that suggests is preferable to a theory that stops while searching perfection before opening itself to possible discussions. A risk, in short, that can only be justified if it is certain that it contains the suggestive ideas meant, or if it is true that from here the discussions we seek can follow.
The three main, difficult to separate, aspects I care to developed are: (a) criticism of the reality of societies that were called socialist; (b) an estimate of the direction of the overall development of late, technologically advanced capitalism; (c) the postulate, as an explanatory framework for such reviews, of the emergence of a class power of new type, bureaucratic rule.
In each of these series of theses I'm already working on the theoretical framework which I have called both an orthodox Marxism, as well as a Marxism of a new kind, depending on the controversy in which you may want to include this attempt. But only in Section III below, I will make an explicit statement of the principles that could be considered its foundations. When putting things in this order, what matters to me is to first present arguments that lend more direct and politically to the discussion, and only secondarily to, far more scholarly, discuss the foundations from which they follow.
Obviously, this option seeks to always put politics, which is the true goal of all this text, before academic discussion.
The two main theses that run through all these estimates are: (a) that socialist societies and capitalist societies of the twentieth century are, despite their visible political differences, regimes of structurally the same type, two political variants of the same industrial society; (b) that by virtue of their essential structural congruence both drift, on different political paths, towards one and the same society of new type, the bureaucratic society.
The most important result of these theses is that, to understand the development of contemporary society in its deepest dimensions, it is necessary to go beyond the consciousness of its own actors, from a perspective that not only account for its situation, but also for the relationship between this empirical consciousness and the deep situation from which it is constituted.
In the case of Marxism these theses are particularly sensitive because they imply something that the Marxist vanguards of the twentieth century could hardly accept: the possibility of an alienated revolutionary consciousness, ie, a historic initiative whose self-consciousness doesn't correspond to the actual historical significance of its action. And this is precisely what I postulate on Marxist revolutionary consciousness that led the processes of forced industrialization that that were called socialism.
But on the other hand, this thesis of the essential congruence between these systems, formally distinct from a political point of view, implies that the emergence of bureaucratic power is not only, nor even mainly, represented by the political evolution of the Soviet dictatorship. Unlike classic Trotskyist criticism, I want to argue that the Soviet bureaucracy before, and now the Russian, are neither the model, nor even the best example of bureaucratic power.
This means that I want to criticize bureaucratic power not only as a way to save Marxism from the many criticisms that have been made against real socialism, but above all, as a way to address the situation of the technologically advanced industrial world. What interests me is not primarily to defend that the Soviets were bureaucrats, sure they were, but that advanced capitalism, under its own internal logic, has become a bureaucratic society.
Regarding the Soviet experience I basically care, from a political point of view, to defend two ideas. One is that it was a class society in which an antagonistic conflict was established - and not simply a "non-adversarial" conflict, as was claimed by the official ideology - that could only be solved in a revolutionary way. The other is that the fall of those political systems can not be considered neither a revolution in the Marxist sense, not a triumph of capitalism, but as the change from a national bureaucratic low-tech logic to another transnational and high-tech one.
The general approach, by the way, as I've already stated, is that the concern for the possible future is more relevant than the endless, and by now somewhat masochistic, settling of scores with the guilty past.
Yet it is still absolutely necessary to say something about Stalinism, because, as Marxists, we have fallen into the liberal trap of accepting as demonstrated that any possible Marxism will lead to a totalitarian regime.
Although at this stage it is obvious, it is still necessary to reiterate that the essence of Stalinism can not be a man, or a doctrine, or a management system - the system of "command and control" - or a set of political or ideological errors. It can not be interpreted as Stalin's craziness or a deviation by the party hierarchy at that time. An explanation can no longer be sustained that moves within the framework of wills and consciences, in the context of personal responsibilities, albeit legitimate from a legal point of view, which are not rigorous to invoke as historical explanations. The analysis focused on these factors are all pre Marxist, although they may describe the situation faithfully. For Marxism, Stalinism must be explained materially, that is, from the social relations that made it possible and effective. A logic to which Stalinism was a mistake is certainly strange. That would mean that reality may be wrong, while the theory remains intact, despite being distorted in practice by the rudeness of unskilled political actors. Even if they wanted to present it as a mistake it would be interesting what explanations we would give about why the error was possible, more than the fact that it was.
I maintain that the essence of Stalinism is to be the conscience and the political practice of a forced industrialization process run by a bureaucratic revolutionary vanguard. Political totalitarianism, especially directed against the utopian voluntarism of the old Bolsheviks, was related to the attempt of obtaining the necessary social discipline for a forced industrialization. The corresponding ideological totalitarianism was related to the effort to modernize the consciousness of a people of peasants.
In most of the countries that turned to socialism, which came from backward and dependent societies, the logic of the industrial revolution was imposed with extraordinary violence. The equivalent of 300 years of misery under capitalism dropped its weight, by the imposition of revolutionary voluntarism, on a couple of generations. Actually, the violence involving a forced industrial revolution has a physical component of extermination, destruction of means of production, general misery, like those experienced during the forced collectivization of the countryside in the USSR between 1929 and 1932. However, a process this kind is only possible in the context of also an enormous political and ideological violence. In the history of capitalism, the violence than with some malignant elegance is called "primitive accumulation of capital", is never highlighted enough, which is nothing but the brutal extermination of the pre Hispanic population in America, the European working class misery of the 18th and 19th centuries, the political violence of the wars in which the global crisis of capital is expressed. The distance, in space or in time, the current abundance, which allows to look at the past with good will, or simple bad theoretical faith, do contribute efficiently to hide the deep dramas that ALL industrialization process involves in consciousness and everyday life of ordinary people. In building socialism that violence was called Stalinism.
This was how it was possible to carry huge human contingents from the semi-feudal backwardness to modernity. Political violence exerted, as shown in historical reconstruction, mostly against the ruling party itself, sought and managed to separate the Bolshevik avant-garde from council utopianism which preached the immediate construction of democracy and communist freedoms, to concentrate on immediate and eminently pragmatic tasks of developing the productive forces and defending against external threats. The massive purges in the USSR in the 30s and massive censorship in the 50s have in this content an extraordinary similarity with the long and tiring struggles a pragmatic bureaucracy of Deng Tsiao Ping style held in China against Maoist councilism, and are repeated with different variants, for the same reasons, in most of the countries that lived socialism.
The extreme violence of Stalinist industrialization process is simply analogous to the extreme violence of the processes of industrialization in general, in England, in France, in Japan, but compressing explicitly and rationally in fifty years what the bourgeoisie did at random in three hundred years . The revolutionary subject of this process was a bureaucratic vanguard, not the whole people, who suffered rather as an object, a pushed actor, victim and beneficiary at a time.
Considered historically, and more closely, the main of these processes, the USSR, we must recognize that the "forced" character of industrialization was due to a structural necessity. The Russian society of 1917 shows all the signs of what in Latin America we have learned to recognize as dependency. The Russian situation shows these signs not only in the structure of domestic production, technological backwardness, by the way in which it is inserted in the global market, the importance of foreign capital and small producers. Dependency is also expressed in the lack of a general ethics of productivity, lack of adequate cultural levels for the large modern production, in the grand scheme of small privileges that characterize daily life of a subsidiary society, in the of crowd local claims that hinder the rationality of the whole.
We must recognize that the policies of the NEP failed due to internal problems, not only by the diversion of will. Small producers opposed the rationality of the central plan. Agricultural producers opposed the privilege of industrialization, the primacy of the city over the countryside. It was extremely difficult to simultaneously regulate city growth, new consumption patterns, industrialization of the field. Local pressure groups reacted very differently to the initiatives of centralization.
We must also recognize that the totalization of political and cultural life began in 1918, not 1930; with Lenin, not Stalin. Totalization directly affected not right wing, already defeated in the civil war, and who, moreover, never had had a really extensive development in a society that began to have an active political life only about 12 years before the revolution. It affected, rather, the the left. It affected Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists, first, the left Bolsheviks then and finally, the bulk of the Bolshevik Party itself.
In the early years, Proletkult, today decried by some and by others, had a consistent and ambitious program to create a new culture, creating the "new man", a revolutionary break with the past. The "workers' opposition" within the Bolshevik Party defended a program of effective democratization of economic, political and cultural management. Against these trends, against their lack of realism, pragmatism of the great builders of the actual revolution was imposed: Lenin, Bukharin, Stalin. It is against that utopianism, and on the basis of actual failure of the policies of the NEP, the entire party leadership who really was in charge of the production began the shift towards a forced march, economically, and towards totalization in the political area. In this turn, industrialization made sense to seek the material basis without which any revolutionary dream was impossible.
Forced collectivization was seen as a way of ensuring the effectiveness that cultural base and local interests made difficult. Centralization was seen as a way to ensure the rational growth of the whole. Political totalization had the meaning of ensuring a "trusted" leadership for every aspect of the process. The totalitarian imposition of dialectical materialism through education, media, party life, had the significance of bringing the peasant consciousness to the logic of modernity. Dialectical materialism was the means by which scientific rationality was implanted in the course of a few generations in about a third of the world population: a cultural revolution unparalleled in human history.
Stalinism triumphed. It won the civil war, industrialized the country, won the Second World War, rebuilt and increased industrialization, transformed the USSR, in a few decades, into a world power. This was a dramatic, like everyone, but consistent development path. It operated on the ideological nationalism (which soon replaced the classic themes of the revolutionary culture of the Bolsheviks), it operated on dialectical materialism as scientistic and modernizing ideology, on democratic centralism as a mechanism of internal legitimation of power, on the identification State and Party and on the totalization of political, cultural, economic and civil life. It operated on forced and extreme economic centralization: AND TRIUMPHED. Any criticism of Stalinism should take care of this double truth: its success and rootedness in the structural needs of the construction of socialism.
Although it may seem politically preferable, it is not a good theoretical criterion to judge Stalinism from the frame of an ideal that it would not have met. This kind of criticism can and should be applied as an engine of political will towards the future, but does not contribute to understanding of the past. Instead of facilitating the study of reality, it fills of our frustrations, and forces us to look for personal responsibilities at whom to download our critical spirit, our desire to rectify, forgetting the structural processes that could enable our better understanding, to transform more efficiently. In Stalinism there is no betrayed essence, that's just socialism as it really existed, the only one that humanity has been able to build.
If we consider the general line of reasoning of Marx, capitalism, by truly universalizing production and leading to an extreme degree of contradiction between exploiters and exploited, potentially becomes the last class society in human history. Marx diagnosed that under capitalism the complete articulation of the global market will be achieved, total interdependence, in abundance, among the producers, with which the contradiction between those who exercise work and those who dominate and usufruct of it will become unbearable. It is from this entire articulation, and from this wealth that Marx considered possible the revolution that will bring communism.
Today these conditions that Marx's original analysis puts for communism are extremely relevant. The point is that those are just NOT the conditions that have formed the context of the construction of socialism. It is this difference which, against the idea of Marx himself that socialism is a simple prior stage of growth of the productive forces, you may start thinking about the true nature of the societies that have been built in his name. It is perfectly conceivable that the "prehistory" of humanity will know a couple of more laps before getting finished with the class contradictions. This is a fact to be verified in reality. The simple revolutionary will is not enough to guarantee it.
Therefore it is necessary to go back to get in touch with reality, to distinguish between socialism and socialization.
Socialism is a concept full of values: equality, justice, government of the people, workers' vanguard. Socialization is the objective process, independent of revolutionary will, by which the Industrial Society becomes the Bureaucratic Society, either via the internal development of advanced capitalism, or by the way of alienation of the Bolshevik will.
Real socialism was always a class society: the bureaucracy dominated and profited from the social division of labor. Social ownership, democratic centralism, dialectical materialism are legitimizing and homogenizing (and concealing) expressions (not causes) of that domination, at the legal, political and ideological levels.
Today there are no socialist societies, there never were. There is, however, socialization and bureaucratic power. This can only be called alienation: we thought we could inaugurate the times of construction of freedom; what we achieved, instead, it to effectively build a new form of domination. It has been efficiently and brutally achieved what bourgeois society achieved in an even more brutal but diffuse way.
Stalinism was a completely successful way of development in its own logic. This success is very visible up to the mid-60s but in the 60s and 70s in the capitalist countries a big jump forward occurs in the technical basis of capital, that the socialist countries are unable to reproduce. It is concerning that leap that socialism enters in crisis, which, incidentally, is exacerbated by the cumulative internal costs.
The crisis of real socialism obeys and follows the same features as the great capitalist crisis. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between "cyclical crises" and "historic crisis". The cyclical crises described by Marx are only fulfilled within an ideal industrial capitalism, which was approached by capitalist society in the nineteenth century. State protection before, and afterwards state regulation, could compensate them, and create a viable social management in general. Historical crises have to do with the processes of global turnover in the technical basis of capital, and its mechanism has to do with the relationship between the economic dynamics of capital and the political and ideological forms in which it is institutionalized. They do not occur in the "economic base", like the former, but in the whole social formation. They are, in the sense of the Preface of 1859, structural revolutions.
The fall of real socialism was a historic crisis, a revolution in the latter sense. And that is what shows how socialized societies and capitalist societies always obeyed a common global logic.
There is a deep philosophical reason to call these crises "historic" ones. It is the fact that in them the character of the bourgeoisie as a historical subject appears. That is, the ways and substantive reasons why they occur are not the expression of natural laws of any kind, are not a natural expression of the human condition. The laws governing these revolutions are historical laws in the sense that they express a mode of human subjectivity, which is an expression of a peculiar way of producing life. In reality and the form of its revolutions the bourgeoisie appears as a historical subject, regardless of the fact that alienation make it appear as an object of certain natural laws.
This is important because the mechanism of the contradiction between the development of productive forces and social relations of production, described by Marx in 1859, can be relativized historically. It is characteristic of the forms of human labor that exist in modern society. In traditional societies the "blind" and spontaneous development of the productive forces slowly and painfully "dragged" the shape of social relations. In the bureaucratic society we attended the first explicit attempts in human history to "drag" the development of productive forces from a conscious impulse in the forms of social relationship. In classical modern capitalist society, however, we attended the "blind" spontaneous contradiction between consciousness already won for the productive forces and the spontaneity of social relations, which are still seen as dominated by nature.
In the naturalistic "savagery" of bourgeois freedom, and in the totalitarian "terror" of bureaucratic regulation, two historical subjects do express their characteristics, which are but those of their respective modes of self production. The flashy and loud catastrophism of bourgeois economic development, and the stifling bureaucratic effectiveness of developmentalism are also two modes of this difference.
"Real socialism", a bureaucratic attempt linked to forms of industrialization overcome today, has fallen under the onslaught of bourgeois dynamism. The irony of these times, however, is that this revolutionary leap the old bourgeois style is internally marked by defeat by bureaucratic regulation of a new type. To put it simply and clearly: not only the Russians have been defeated by the Americans, the Americans also have been defeated by the Japanese.
We should add, however, that these national identifications are increasingly extemporaneous. The increasing globalization of regulation, and its long historical roots, force us to rather talk of a Soviet-style industrialization, which was defeated inside and outside of the Soviet Union, an issue that can be seen in the long crisis of British industry, or mass bankruptcy of traditional industries in the USA. Instead, it is increasingly clear that one can speak of a Japanese style of industrialization, which now prevails inside and outside Japan, as seen in the high-tech industries in USA, or in Germany or also in the forms of peripheral, dependent and parasitic industrialization, which has appeared among the new Third World economic "tigers".
When trying to make an assessment of the prospects of socialism, as they have actually were, or of the possible socialist policies that attempt to rescue them in one way or another, it is important to reconsider the meaning of their apparent triumphs. The twentieth century, beginning liberal and supposed to end liberal, is, in fact, the century of socialism. It is increasingly obvious that Stalinist statism and Keynesian statism have much more in common than their differences in political style might indicate. On either side, the common factor is to be found, in an orthodox Marxist way, among the ways in which they dominated the social division of labor. The common ground of both systems is but bureaucratic power, in its industrialization moment.
From a political point of view, the differences between Marxist socialism and social democratic socialism are not decisive either. Under the formula of social property, or under the various forms of social limitation of property, what is at stake is a common goal, to challenge the discretion of bourgeois property. The existence of a common ground of both policies is evident in the ease with which, in this scheme, a path of peaceful transition to socialism is conceivable, that starts from the social democratic premises, to have them progressively radicalized until achieving a hegemony of social interest over private interests. The differences between purely democratic initiatives and armed initiatives, dictated more by bourgeois resistance, or the relative backwardness of the social situation it was facing were, considering the distance, less important compared with that common vision. There is no genuine Leninist who would not accept doing on the social democratic path what he promised to do with weapons, if the conditions seemed favorable. The opportunistic combination between both ways formed a central part of Leninist policy throughout the century.
Faced with this profoundly common policy, the aesthetic-political avant-gardes always suspected of the contained principle of totalization. But they never achieved to truly articulate a policy, they were reduced again and again, as had hitherto been the romanticisms, from which they come, the heroic, testimonial, but unproductive sacrifice, or purely testimonial, merely aesthetic alienation, of fully reeducatable individual marginalization. This alienation, however, with its permanent suspicion of a radical beyond, that breaks the continuum of industrializing homogeneity, is the one that has best preserved communist spirit and will, which is now to be reinvented.
But today the productive basis of these alternatives has been radically altered by the technological ability to produce and master the differences. In a system that no longer needs to standardize in order to master, both the utopia of consummate homogeneity and the obstinacy of the simple difference lose meaning. On the one hand, a more human face to the rule is possible, under more sophisticated forms of alienation, from which the egalitarian ideals of socialisms appear as totalitarian. On the other hand, a vast administration of differences becomes possible, to which testimonial ruptures that are starred in the context of aesthetic-political experience, or even those from political violence or fragmenting aesthetics, are always on the edge of being but parts of the entertainment industry.
As the bourgeois power is not inconsistent with strong state economies, which, in fact, it always supported, so too, the bureaucratic power is not inconsistent with the existence and permanent reproduction of difference. That capitalism is pure private property, and that bureaucracy is pure official inertia, are two false and harmful ideologisms, preventing capture of the real complexities of real processes.
Bureaucratic power has not only promoted and led the revolution of new forms of production worldwide, but it feel fully comfortable in them, either by keeping the Socialists ideologisms, or bursting with new neoliberal ideologisms. It is not, once again, in the discourse of the actors of a historical process themselves where you can find deep coherence and truth. Both neoliberalism, which speaks of private initiative, development of the individual, reducing the power of the state, as well as the new liberalizing, Keynesian socialisms, do speak on behalf of a common power, whose differences have more to do with the local folklore in which the new forms of production unfold, than with the content of its historical action.
In the context of the bureaucratic power of new type, the old socialist perspectives are not only manageable but become fully functional. The discourse of equity, being met or not, the speach of sustainable development, regardless of being fulfilled, or that of the social responsibility of the company, the importance of educational training to join the world of work, being or not fulfilled, are all perfectly functional to the power of a more or less paternalistic administration that has the technological capacity to carry out an interactive domination, where there may be a situation of interdependence with the dominated, whenever a power differential is maintained over the powers that allows to manage them.
It is not enough to reform the socialist, democratic or military, Keynesian or Stalinist perspectives, to go beyond this new domination. Just like the incipient working class opposition, in the French Revolution, in the bourgeois democratic revolutions of 1848, did nothing but enable the emerging political rule of the bourgeoisie, today the integration of new workers to the socialist policies will only enable the emergence of bureaucratic power. Just like the revolutionary spirit of the artisans of 1848, who helped to promote the domination just of the power which completely swept them away, today the integration of the working classes of the old type into socialist policies will only promote the type of domination that precisely is sweeping them from the world.
3. Advanced capitalism
As necessary as a reevaluation of socialism is a review of the profound significance of the great changes over the last thirty years in the capitalist camp. It is necessara to get away from the ideologisms planted by the immediate political interests of both liberals and renewed socialists, on one hand, and the broad spectrum of thought of defeat on the other.
What is relevant here is to attempt a long range estimate of the background processes, rather than dwell on the political or economic phenomena in a recurrent attitude of singing victories or mourning defeats at the pace of everyday politics. Collecting the facts is important, but it is even more to see the meaning in them, in the light of a theory that gives them sense, instead of projecting carelessly, from short-term indications.
The general characteristics of these movements have been often indicated: transfer of heavy industry, and even electronics, to the periphery; displacement of scientific and technological capabilities to the center; large scale rationalization of energy use and emergence of powerful new means of data processing; revolution in assembly techniques from increased automation and robotics; quantitative and qualitative changes in the level of technical training and at the workplace, which implies a displacement of the classical type of worker from most dynamic sectors of the economy.
These profound changes make many of the criticisms directed against the industrialization that prevailed in the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century lost its relevance, especially when they were led, rightly, although with fairly poor political will, against socialist development processes. Overall, what happens to such criticism is, first, that it focuses on real socialism, particularly on Stalinist industrialization, for features that are common to all processes where industrialization was made on the same technological base, posing as criticisms of socialism what in fact are criticisms to a whole model of industrialization, beyond its political appearances. But, secondly, these criticisms refuse to see the deep continuity meant by the continuation of domination and exploitation, often presenting the overcoming of the hardest features of classical industrialization as assurances that the new society is about to achieve human freedom, without dwelling on the ways in which diversity, interactivity, the requalification of large parts of the workforce, the revolution in communications, may be means of new forms of totalization.
The industrialization that today may be called classical or of mean technological development is exemplarily expressed in the Fordist assembly lines, which produce large quantities of uniform products, with relatively low quality standards, and integration of unskilled mechanical human labor. This industrial system tends to homogenization, and at the political level requires homogenization to master. The idea of normality, the ideal of equal access to equal consumption or, on a philosophical level, what has been criticized as reductionism to sameness, are inherent to this system. A vertical, authoritarian, regulatory, centralized domination is, for this system, a necessity that comes from the production structure itself.
Control, disciplining, normality and repression are here corresponding figures, which do require and involve each other. This homogenizing and authoritarian egalitarianism, which was criticized by the artistic avant-garde of the twenties with respect to capitalism, has become the recurring caricature of life in socialist countries, against which both new liberals and the renewed left rebel.
The new technologies of the administration, however, make a new, now interactive, type of control perfectly possible, while maintaining, or even greatly increasing centralization through control of information. Interestingly, central planning is now more possible than ever before. It is not true that new techniques entail a "democratization" of management. Interactive control requires operational and intellectual capabilities of those controlled to run. It implies an interdependence, or a turn to horizontality in the chains of management and command that, much to confuse the technological optimists, merely introduces a new mode of domination, substantially more advanced than the classic one, that can credibly present its liberating appearance only because it is still assessed in the light of technologies that have already passed.
Neither the processes of requalification of working skills, nor the processes horizontal interactivity of control, do mean by themselves a substantial progress towards democratization of production management. Not only does the problem of democratic governance mean more a political than a technical option, but also in the technological nature itself of new media is the hallmark of their origin, they were created to convey a system of domination. Technically democratization is possible, but in reality what happens is exactly the opposite: never before the monopoly of information and global management capacity has meant a bigger centralization of economic management.
At the bottom, profound changes in the way the work itself have occurred, which have also been often characterized. Among the specific features of this highly technological work, the following may be listed:
- the segmentation and modularization of the Fordist assembly line, and its relocation at national or international level, in a style of unbundling and overall modularization of production processes;
- the massive use of information technologies in the implementation and control of production processes, the most important expression of which being the introduction of computational interfaces between the worker and the machine running the direct labor, interfaces that enable the implementation of huge amounts of work from simple physical actions and "soft" electronic commands;
- The enormous increase in the intensity of work in each module of production, coordinated in system of supply and demands competitive between modules, reducing the empty work time globally to zero, although locally this or that module may be momentarily at rest, or not being required;
- overall replacement of the production line by a parallel local and networked production system, in which the finished product can be obtained by many ways, or working circuits, ensuring their availability and quality, redundantly and through competition between modules;
- the transfer of quality control from the finished product to each of the modules that produce its parts, allowing a revolutionary way of increasing the quality and reliability of the final product;
- the modularization of the products themselves (the personal computer is the outstanding example), allowing an already flexible productive network to offer very different finished products, to also offer them as artifacts for composition, thus revolutionarily diversifying consumption possibilities, and the satisfaction of particular needs of each consumer. An issue that significantly strengthens an organization of production from demand, as opposed to the classic production, organized from the offer;
- the intensive use of new forms of energy and energy saving, as well as highly specialized materials, "built" on an ad hoc basis for most complex production processes. High-speed maglev trains, electronic chips, and high-temperature superconductors are the most notable examples;
- the general convergence of scientific research and technological development, and its spread to the productive modules of most technological importance, with the subsequent requalification of the workforce in strategic productive areas. In this regard, it should be noted that neither the dissemination of research and development, nor requalification, are general processes. They are not and need not be. In a locally disaggregated, parallel production network, much of the work is simply repetitive and extensive, and a new Taylorism is properly fit for it, with more attention to subjective variables than the original. All dreams of a general requalification, and "conscious" workers doing research and development with their work, are in practice only reduced to the segments of integrators of modular parts, who so assume a strategic character and are, accordingly, of course, especially controlled through particular material and ideological stimuli.
These changes have meant a revolutionary increase in the massiveness of everyday consumer goods, their quality standards, their availability for huge segments of the world population. They have involved a revolutionary change in the forms of circulation of goods, in the variety, illusory or not, of their form and content, in the attention, now diversified, given to the potential consumer, group by group, interest by interest, even to the individual level. They have primarily involved a revolutionary change in the consciousness of the workers integrated into the modern system of production regarding the possible worlds that may give a meaning to their lives and future.
Everyday political calculations are never based only on present poverty or malaise, its opinions are always guided, in a very important measure, by the possible futures and their relative risks. The highly technological production is characterized by its enormous capacity to produce and manipulate expectations. Like no other ideological system in the history of mankind, it is not only capable of producing strong impressions of current welfare, supported by important objective progress, but it is also able to provide and manage better futures, future of welfare and pleasure on hand, impressive promises of power and consumption of imminent implementation. Never mind that this speculation on future is fictional, or this welfare is incomplete, and dramatically sectored, the relevant aspect, in political terms, is the real, efficient, operative impact in everyday consciousness not only of those consuming, but even of those who do not consume.
There are three real paradigms of this new distributed work that may go unnoticed if one insists on maintaining the illusion of a capitalist enterprise, with an individual owner, as the central model of the current economic management. One is the system of social communication, another is the network of networks, the Internet, another is the work of the scientific community, taken globally as a whole. In all three cases, with different nuances, we have new models on which it is necessary to begin to imagine what could be a world in which bureaucratic power has imposed its hegemony over the private owner.
These are systems without unique owners. Systems which, although they may have local owners, and competition and property continue to fulfill management functions within them, do have an overall logic that completely transcends the determination from private property. When speaking of monopoly of news reporting in the system of social communication, for example, it is no longer sufficient to demonstrate the monopolistic structure of media ownership, though it may largely be real. It is also necessary to explain why, despite having several poles among owners, the general pattern remains the same, even in its diversification. To explain such an effect of coordination that is present even in the network, where the ownership structure is far from being monopolistic, it would be necessary to resort to the hypothesis of a general conspiracy against the oppressed, which is usually present in the simplest of left arguments, but unfortunately that is unlikely.
That there is no sole owners is also related to the fact that decision-making centers are multiple, and the property is less important to them than expert judgment or local interest. In such systems there isn't a locatable center, which does not mean, however, that there is no center at all. You need to think, rather, of a center function, which operates in a distributed manner, and that is a power of second order, which provides coordination for the local and parallel action of many cores operating in network. A common logic, which operates in a distributed manner, in which influence does not spread, as in conventional systems, but is regenerated at each location according to the interaction between the center function, which provides the common aspects, and the local circumstances conveying them.
This unequal interaction between a center that operates in a distributed fashion and the local conditions makes that these networks can produce diversity. That they collect and resignify diversity, linking it to the common spirit without homogenizing it, or generating local diversity, local normalities, which do not require a classic, unique normality to legitimize and operate. An operation of diversity, however, where it is hardly relevant to the common life, whether this diversity is real and substantive, or only an appearance, a matter of form, given the enormous technological capacity to produce and manage objects and experiences for its symbolic value, rather than their classically objective content.
These are systems in which the social function exceeds profit, or where profit develops as a derived, parasitic effect, a gear that would work perfectly without it, simply funded by direct consumers in direct exchanges on the same network. Its existence indeed implies enormous capital movements, while the relevant aspect, however, is that profit is neither the origin of these movements, nor their main social function. The case of Internet is, of course, at this level, the clearest. But what I postulate is that this is a profound logic that has to do with the emergence of a mode of domination where private owners become just one part of a larger domination, of a new type.
Of course neither the media, nor Internet nor the global scientific community obey, in any sense, the logic of national borders. It is very important that this even be perceived as legitimate and logical, except for the sectors in which the consciousness of classical autonomy remains more strongly, particularly in the national bourgeoisies on the defensive, which resist being crushed by transnational capital. The logic of these systems seems to be regulated from a market that is no longer a local market. Here there is, however, a possible new illusion: it is not the market in the classical sense which acts as a regulator. In each of these cases, and in current economic management in general, the figure of the market is highly tautological. The bureaucrats, from companies or not, form the market currents through the system of social communication, and then auto legitimize holding that their decisions are regulated by the market that they themselves preformatted.
Both the market, such as well as democracy, do result, in highly technological production systems, rather legitimation systems of management and regulation. They legitimize what has already been produced from a new power, from the global power that operates in a distributed manner in each of the local powers, from what I have called bureaucratic power.
No one doubts that this means that we are witnessing a new phase of development of modern society. Classical logic of capitalism itself has been transformed inwardly, it has been led, in the process of complete articulation of the global market, to change its essence. Considering these technological changes back to its roots, and reevaluate the conflict between the two major political blocs of the twentieth century, it is also substantially redefined. Today we can see that the coexistence, bound by nuclear parity, had also transformed the nature of socialism, at least for the old utopias of the old Bolsheviks. Both advanced capitalism as well as real socialism today are not what they appeared to be, for both classical Keynesian consciousness and for Marxist Leninist consciousness. Watching it from the logic of an emerging bureaucratic power enables to profoundly reassess the whole history of capitalism.
But even considering things according to the way of looking of classical Marxism, one can see in the history of capitalism a cyclical trend in which each new phase is accompanied by a major reorganization of its technological base, of international division of labor, of their productive infrastructure. Where in each new phase it also means a huge accumulation process, which implies an increase in global plunder. The violence of the accumulation and accommodation to the new order, which has meant increasingly dramatic consequences for the ancient and peripheral ways of life, is followed instead by powerful expansion processes, products of the new production logic, accompanied by relatively long periods of social and political stability.
We are witnessing such processes today. It can be said that between 1880 and 1929 we lived the forming phase of imperialism, whose logic includes and explains the two world wars. From 1930-1970 we are in the expansion phase and complete articulation of the structural logic that includes and explains the great political stability of capitalist Europe after the Second World War. The 80s and 90s have meant, however, a new phase of reorganization, for the first time truly global, in advanced capitalism. In parallel, a corresponding global political realignment has occurred. A deep crisis, not of a political model, as might be the Soviet socialism, but a whole way of industrialization, linked to the arms race, the ideological confrontation, the waste of natural resources, the production of infrastructure and heavy machinery.
The change in the productive orientation and the associated technological revolution, already announced with the production for mass consumption in the USA, in the 60s and 70s, and which could not be achieved in the Soviet orbit, eventually lead to sink both real socialism and the traditional American industry, for the benefit of Japan and the European Community or, rather, of the transnationalized economy without substantial geographic base. The political collapse of socialism, and the massive use of financial speculation in the American area, should be seen rather as a consequence of this background of productive rearrangement, and not as causes.
A global shift in which the classic figure of monopolar US imperialism has blurred into close coordination of economic policies by USA, Japan and the European Community, and where the new forms of industrialization, and its associated modes of social stratification have produced broad areas of consumption and development throughout the world and, conversely, important enclaves of marginalization in countries that had been considered harmoniously developed. First world enclaves scattered throughout the third world, third world areas in the first world. The difference between development and dependency is no longer clearly geographic. What has also changed the sharpness of the notion of dependency. One-way dependency has become the unequal interdependence which allows both the existence of local negotiators powers and maintaining a net flow of goods from exploited areas of the world into the exploiting cores. The myth of a multipolar world does nothing but cover up the common spirit of global regulatory power, which is imposed on all local power without needing to annihilate, even requiring it as a conveyor.
But this scenario also allows to counter two neoliberal myths, conflicting each other in a way, one of them being the radical reduction of the state role in the economy, and another telling of a general rebirth of democracy after the fall of almost all Soviet style dictatorships, with the notable exception of China, which promises to be too good a business partner as to pose serious objections on such trivial issues.
At the global level, we are witnessing a process of trans-nationalization and growing state control of the capitalist economy. On the one hand, the large transnational companies have reached a very high level of coordination among themselves and with states; they have developed their power over the power of the majority of nation states; they have extended the logic of the market all over the world in a more real and effective way than ever. On the other hand, despite the easy ideologisms of left or right neoliberals, the state has come to occupy a key role in the overall management. Now you can not say, as until 1929, that the great capitalist enterprise "use" the State on their behalf. At a time when states are the main buying powers, when, through the maintenance of huge bureaucracies, armies and subsidies, they form much of the purchasing power, when they handle credit and cash, you can not tell they are simply at someones service. Perhaps it would be more rigorous say that there has been a profound identification between companies and States in a system whose characteristics it is better to study as a qualitatively new phenomenon.
This means that it simply is not true that nation states have seen their economic importance reduced. What has happened is that private property has been displaced by global management as a central mechanism to coordinate the division of labor, both nationally and internationally. The state has sold its properties but increased more than ever its ability to intervene and regulate.
The massive state intervention in the regulation of the economy, made possible by new technical means of management and control, shows that statism itself is not only not a defect but, just the opposite, it is the only force that could rationalize production and exchange in the industrial era, producing large productive revolutions (as in the Stalin era, or in Japan), or produce big economic rearrangements (as in Chile, or Reagan's USA).
This massive intervention shows that the general bureaucratization of the economy, far from being a characteristic of the socialist countries, is a central and essential tendency of industrial society. As agricultural production could only survive under capitalism by partnering with capital and integrating their styles, today capitalist production is only viable in partnership and under the style of bureaucratic power.
At the same time, however, on the other hand, global economic governance, which operates in fact both from large organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank or the Group of Seven, as well as from the effective operation of large transnational conglomerates, has radically reduced the autonomy and, in many ways, the sovereignty of nation states, a process of progressive desubstantialization, which leads them to become little more than conveyors, managers and even guarantors of the interests and policies of globalization.
The big clue is that boasted about is the resurgence of nationalism. What is muted, although it is almost impossible to ignore its enormous impact, are the many multistate integration processes on economic, and even political and legal levels, of which notably the most advanced is the European Community.
It is stressed to the smallest detail how the countries defeated and being colonized are divide and have their weakening enhanced by wars, and it is silenced that the victorious countries are in active processes of integration and regulation that enhance their power. Even the smallest details of local differences are emphasized, taking the reality of a "country" as the unit of analysis, while the reality of the effective global is muted, or reserved for demagogic rhetoric, which for the first time becomes real and effective worldwide.
Of course the process going on does not imply the disappearance of nation states into larger entities, as happened with the German and Italian unifications, around 1870. This difference is extremely significant, and operates as a symbol of many others. Whereas for a technological foundation that needed to homogenize in order to master a state, a territory, a language, a culture were needed, for the current base of high technology, which is able to dominate in diversity and through it, the multitude of national states isn't a problem. There had never been so many countries in the world, and the world had never been so united as today. What is important for the global power is the construction of transnational entities operating as power over these various local powers. Multiple entities, with different degrees of intervention, animated by a common spirit, which is constituted as diversity.
Disappearance of the national states is not the same than desubstantiation. It is the substance of autonomy, sovereignty, free will, what is lost, not the formalities of such possible freedoms. Just like the absolute monarchies were desubstantialized by bourgeois power, to the extent that in many places it wasn't even necessary to eliminate them, so national states continue to exist in a sphere of competence that still gives meaning: local administrators of global regulation. As it was said of the kings: States governing but which, in essence, do not rule.
A similar process of essential loss of substantiality occurs to democracy. The rebirth of democracy, its generalization and general appreciation, do absolutely not imply that people have increased their real and effective participation in determining the processes that affect them. If the dictatorship was not only the extreme form but the recurring mode of politics in the era of low-tech industrialization, democracy as procedure is most suitable to convey and legitimize a domination that operates in and on the diverse.
A typically classic struggle, that opposed democracy to dictatorship, has been followed by confusion about what to do in a context where democracy is little more than a legitimizing resource for a dictatorship that is guessed deeper in all social spaces.
However, for this loss of substantiality of democracy to occur, there must have also been important changes in the consciousness of the workers, who in fact operate as its massive substrate.
The characteristics of this new way of modern production have produced qualitative changes in the consciousness of the workers, in the nature and boundaries of marginality, in the role of the arms production and financial speculation. The most politically significant feature about this is its need of plenty, very high consumption patterns, and its ability to totalize society, achieved on this basis.
The changes in the type of work being done in the most dynamic sectors of the economy involve protected, relatively comfortable working environments, able to offer very high living standards. The worker in the classical sense is shifted to the periphery. Those neglected by the system are not the directly exploited any more but, rather, those who have not been integrated, those who remain on the margins of employment and consumption.
But this marginality, as has been said above, is not geographically delimited any more. The violent rearrangement of the central economies has created an almost permanent marginalization in the developed center. The powerful expansion of production worldwide has created, on the other hand, areas of local abundance in the periphery, directly connected to the production and consumption styles of the center. Now we deal with imperialism not as an outside. The full opening of markets has led to an update of imperialism in each of the countries in a real way. Accordingly, there is a process of disappearance of truly national bourgeoisie, ie, a complete articulation of the transnational capitalist market. In the third world there also appear enclaves of inner development in all poor countries. The latter is dramatically important for politics in countries like Chile, where it is precisely this group integrated into modern production which, in fact, makes policies, managing to mobilize the rest of the population, living in postponement and misery, for their interests and aspirations.
Marginality can not be thought, however, by its status, as a possible revolutionary subject. Certainly it is a "revolutionist" subject, capable of triggering processes of radical political change. But we must remember that for Marx the essential characteristic of the revolutionary subject does not have a necessary connection with its poverty, but with its relationship with the productive forces, with the most dynamic sectors of production. And this progressive relegation, which confirms the impotence of the poorest sectors of the population to carry out global changes in society, must be considered a central political fact. Especially for classical Marxist consciousness.
As for the role that the surviving arms industry and financial speculation meet in this new phase, I think it preferable to consider them as typical of the accumulation stage. In fact the most developed capitalism, such as socialism, do not require production of arms or speculation but to restore profits temporarily affected by the crisis of rearticulation. It may be perfectly expected that in a context of general pacification of world politics, the production systems will be progressively redefined according to massive consumption, to lifting of living standards.
This opens the possibility of a new society, the most productive, the most powerful, the best managed in the history of humanity, which can be, and indeed is, a society of abundance. But the essential point is not this. The really essential fact, which must be thought of, is that this is a society that does not require poverty to be functional. Even the other way round, it compulsively requires to produce more and consume more. This is the fact to which I want to draw attention in the text. Its enormous power, its cultural superiority, can be demonstrated in its ability to totalize employment, consumption, communication, ability to manage time, to provide welfare and alienation, to manage lives and consciousness in and by abundance. The disruption caused by this power in the critical consciousness, as diagnosed by Marcuse, must be seriously thought of.
The last fifteen years of the twentieth century have been full of dramatic political events, which the social communication system has been commissioned to magnify in the public consciousness. Enormous hopes and deep feelings of defeat have contaminated very strongly our ability to examine the structural processes operating in the shadow of such exaltation. The new millennium, however, starts with a healthy sense of bitter disappointment. Many of the hopes for democracy have been reduced in the course of events to their real dimension. Defeats, unless we stubbornly cling to political masochism, can be already seen in different colors.
Among these processes, undoubtedly the most immediate impact has been caused in the left of our continent by the hope of Perestroika and the fall of socialism that followed and, more closely, the return to democracy after the military dictatorships 70s. Both processes can be seen, after a decade or more, in an essentially different way from the euphoria that occurred in the epidermis of the analysis.
Despite the messianism with which it was greeted, despite the hopes which were woven around it, it is now clear that perestroika was not a clash between the bureaucracy and the people but between two sections of the bureaucracy, one linked to the heavy industry, to ideologism, to the arms race, and another linked to advanced technology, scientific ideology and new management techniques. Not only Yeltsin, also the new "communist" do prove it.
Today it is too obvious that the fall of socialism was not a victory for democracy, but a triumph, within progressive bureaucracy, of the liberal sector over the nationalists, weakly linked to the socialist utopia. It is obvious even that when speaking of a "triumph of the liberal sector" we are not referring to the massive loss of these peoples by their own leaders and their own alienated hopes. We are talking about the massive assault by Western powers on their accumulated wealth, their skilled workforce, their natural resources. The emphasis on formal democratic opening merely do hide the magnitude of the defeat. They merely present for our false and good consciousness what is but the beginning of a massive colonial plunder.
Neither the fall of dictatorships in Latin America has been a triumph of democracy, nor of popular struggles, but the imposition of a framework that makes market economy fluid, and that may be closed again if not viable. Here again the emphasis on democratic formalities, stopping at the pride of earned precariousness, conceals the magnitude of what has been lost. Of course, all hope of an autonomous, self-sustaining development. Of course any hope of balanced development, with solidarity and justice. The economic success that is parasitically obtained from accepting a dependent place on the world market, merely sustains oblivion and indifference to the plight of the millions of those marginalized from illusory prosperity.
Generally speaking, democracy is in decline around the world. High abstention rates (USA, Poland, Colombia), the vitiation of mechanisms of representation, the existence of powers without any public control (such as armies, or central banks), the lack of effective diversity in political proposals, the highest ability to manipulate public opinion, especially of the marginalized sectors, just show it.
In all this there has been both Bolshevik as well as bourgeois alienation.
Some believed (and believe) that liberalism's freed them from state control and made creative individual initiative take off. The others believed (and still believe) that their industrialization, promoted and dominated by bureaucracy, involved the government by the people and for the people.
The new bureaucrats of the capitalist camp, with their arrogant and bold new right, do not believe in the goodness of competition or the actual value of the free enterprise; they perfectly distinguish illusion from reality and use the liberal illusion to promote regulation and bureaucratic harmony.
The new bureaucrats of the socialist camp do not believe in the goodness of social property, or the real value of government by the people and for the people; they knew how to distinguish illusion from reality and use the democratic illusion to promote the new distribution of power.
They, conceptually, do not suffer the alienation they are living. The real and current alienated are the old bourgeois and the old bureaucrats. It is they who continue opposing capitalism and socialism as if these abstract entities were still real.
The New Right and the Perestroika deeply broke, in the late 80s, the classical alignments of social confrontation.
The problem expressed in Perestroika was not between the bureaucracy and the people: it was between old style bureaucrats, linked to industrial development, and the new bureaucrats, trying to take on the essential leap occurred in the technical basis of modern capital during the 60s and 70s.
The problem of liberalism of the New Right is not between supporters and opponents of state intervention: it is between forms of regulation associated with an outdated phase and the forms of regulation seeking ways to express the new dynamic of capital arising from technological leap.
The old style bureaucrats and old style capitalists, as well as their associated bureaucracies, grew under the logic of confrontation and crisis, of poverty and ideological deployment. Theodore Roosevelt and Stalin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Gorbachev: harsh confrontation or dynamic confrontation, but the enemies were clear. The new bureaucrats and the new capitalists are operating on the basis of economic, political and ideological convergence on the basis of regulation, increased consumption levels and illusory deideologization. From confrontation to peace, from anarchy to harmony, from poverty to consumption, from ideologism to scientific examination, from hostility to progress: the bureaucratic society may well be very attractive to those who accept being colonized with advantages.
We are living in a new era, the world has changed sign, fundamental things have happened that shake human history. None of these changes, at the material level, is obvious, however. One of the demonic features of the new domination is its ability to camouflage. It is no longer just about a new class that revolutionizes the world spontaneously, almost without knowing, like the bourgeoisie in its heroic age. The issue is worse. It is an old, surreptitious rule, which has consistently been in the shadow of bourgeois irrationality, that shadow that is modern reason, and that after several centuries amending the excesses of a teen style culture living in an imperfect, opaque, irrational, market, has slowly become aware of its power and begins to exercise it consciously.
Unlike the naive Hegelian or Marxist optimism, the idea that I have is that selfconsciousness does not have to lead to freedom: it may indeed lead to absolute control, a domination that only the most blatant cynicism can call freedom.
The real character of the new era is not the rise of democracy, nor the revolutionary possibilities of the technique or wealth, or the revalued private initiative, or the rediscovered value of "difference". Its actual character is rather anesthetic totalitarianism, the consummate manipulation, pleasant alienation, universal cynicism, blinding light, the abundance that stifles consciousness, progressive dumbing, rampant demagoguery, selling of ideals to the highest bidder, or their disqualification under "realistic" excuses.
The new, Russian and Polish, "communist" with their nationalist myths and crypto liberal formulas are but the deeper truth of what was called socialism. The bureaucratic society that was before ideological, can now be "civilized", going back to "normalcy", join the progress. In the case of Russian dramatic choice between the looting led by Yeltsin and the "honor" claimed by the nationalist opposition, merely demonstrates how far socialism always was, and how far we have been, throughout the twentieth century, from the Bolshevik dream.
Russian defending private property, the United Nations supporting the invasion of Iraq, US protecting Chinese Communists, the Germans interested in Europe, Europe declared part of the Third World, democratic presidents paying the debts incurred by dictators, socialists preferring reconciliation to justice, Hindus sending food to Russians, Russians investing in the USA, USA allowing to be colonized by Japan: a realistic time, a miserable time.
4. Bureaucratic power
a. A new power, a new class society
We are already living in the era of full articulation of the global market. The highly technological social domination has spread to every corner of the planet. But it is not the capitalist mode of production which has come to make real this worldwide domination. The full articulation of domination has only been achieved at the time of bureaucratic rule, ie, at the time of transnationalized and regulated capital. Today.
Industrial society does exist since men discovered that they are the producers of the productive forces and, exercising this self-consciousness, carry forward the task of its conscious development. It is this conscious development which can be called industrial revolution and, as a concept, this is the development at the base of what we call revolution in general. There isn't an industrial revolution (nor two or three). The industrial society lives in permanent revolution.
The bourgeoisie is the first revolutionary class in human history. The revolution is part of its logic as a class. But to constantly revolutionize the way of producing life is not an exclusive, nor natural, nor magic privilege of private owners of the means of production. It is rather the set of capabilities that characterize a whole era of human history, the capitalist class starts with, only to progressively lose it.
The functions of private owners and of technological innovators effectively converged for the first two or three centuries of development of the bourgeoisie, an later they agreed with it as a result of reducing the innovation task to wage labor. But both the complexity of production management, as well as the complexity of technological development itself, make the bourgeoisie gradually lose the discretion, by legal virtue of property, on the key moments of the production chain.
The increasing socialization of social production, which had already been noted by Marx, and which is expressed as progressive interdependence of all producers, has a deeper dimension: it has altered the forms of control of the division of labor and, through this, the forms of access of various social sectors to the social product. This in turn implies a reordering of class relations in which there is no longer a single way of usufruct, the one expressed in wage labor and its contract, which dominates and destroys the others, and instead there appears another form, initially expressed in the powers of technological management and innovation, which starts to be competitive with the simple form of wage labor.
What I contend is that the result of this process is that socialization reaches the characteristics of a mode of production, incubated within the capitalist mode of production, and by virtue of its own logic of increasing complexity. I argue that we must see the dynamic between capitalism and socialization as the swing that constitutes that set of social relations of production we generically call industrial society. "Real socialism" may be considered, in the light of this historical perspective, rather as a political and ideological epiphenomenon of a dynamic that transcends it: the slow formation, within capitalism, of the social form that contradicts and overcomes it.
When we consider this major historical oscillation, from which the current confrontation of hegemonies within the block of ruling classes arises, we see that capitalism has based its dominance on the development of technology, it has expressed it in private property and individualistic ideology, it has operated on the basis of private initiative and competition, has lived amid the anarchy of production and cyclical crisis, has alternately staked liberalism and state protection by the changes that occurred in jumps in the technical basis of capital.
The bourgeoisie sought its legitimacy in the ideology of private property. The bureaucracy as the ruling class, does not require it: can usufruct of the social product, and prolong the alienation and the dumbing of human labor, on the basis of the, also ideological, figure of social property.
Socialized society bases its dominance in controlling the most advanced technical development, information and communications. It has expressed this control under the ideological figures of responsibility and social ownership of capital. It operates based on techified initiative and general regulation, it is able to control and manipulate the market and to regulate the crisis, it is continuously moving towards increased regulation and totalization of life. Capitalism, by its revolutionary class, could be called the Bourgeois Society. Socialized society, by its revolutionary class, may be called Bureaucratic Society.
The relationship between capitalism and socialization is an internal relationship in the sense that the dynamics of bourgeois society leads to bureaucratic society, with or without the intervention of the revolutionary will. Capitalist society, and those who called themselves socialists converge, both to the general socialization and bureaucratic rule.
Today we know that the capitalist market never was and, perhaps, I could never be a perfect market, regulated exclusively through free competition. On the one hand the basic productive infrastructure has always transcended the economic capacity and interest of the capitalists. Issues such as road networks, the first height navigation systems, large irrigation works, the modern giant energy sources, or mass education of the workforce and, in general, the promotion of each new series of means of production that are necessary to take on great leaps in technical basis of capital, have been delivered, and indeed necessarily, by the States.
On the other hand the market itself has required a permanent and growing state intervention. Issues such as the protection of social peace, so necessary in times of capital accumulation, when the labor market becomes a mere fiction within the real, visible, and PROTECTED dictatorship of capital, certainly go beyond the economic and police related capacity of the bourgeois as such. Tariff protections and generally the organized promotion of national capitalism. The regulation of competition, the protection of the property of techniques, the regulation of the contract and, in general, of the relations between capital and labor. Modern regulation, finally, of cyclical crisis through the manipulation of money, of interest and exchange rates, prices and jobs, of purchasing power and of growth rates. The history of capitalism, in short, is inseparable from the history of increasing state intervention in the economy. In this history, the stage where the state is a direct owner of the means of production is contingent and, in some respects, cyclical. The state may perfectly privatize its assets. It is not the ownership which gives it power, nor is the property the source of capitalist power.
The bureaucratic control of States, continuously growing since the nineteenth century, reached its doctrinal explicitation in Keynesian policies and its culmination in the era of transnationalized capital. If Fordism was its undercover precursor, Ohnism is the shape of its new efficiency.
The same dominant groups circulating fluidly and permanently among the directions of transnationals, states, armies and academic life at the highest levels. They are present in the fictional diversity of politics and communications. The convergence between the industrial, technological and financial great capital and the interests of States becomes complete: transnationals use States, States use transnationals. States and transnational capital are progressively just two sides of the same coin, an issue that is reinforced even more deeply and effectively by the gradual increase in the power of interstate coordination agencies, such as the IMF, the European Community, the World Bank or economic and political conferences of major developed countries.
The bureaucracy doesn't required, until today, political power to exercise its class rule. It can be implicitly exercised through various forms of pacts with the industrial and financial bourgeoisie. This was their particular way of exercising it until today, it may well remain so for a long while.
There is nothing in the logic of bureaucracy, nor in that of any ruling class, that pushes them to political power. The ruling classes came to political power pushed outwardly. Their power does not depend on it. It can be developed from there, ideally articulated, but it is not part of its own logic or, in particular, a class is ruling class not because of the political power it has, but on the contrary, a class can have this power if it is a ruling class.
The increasing irrationality of the former ruling classes requires the new ones to explicitly take over political power even though they already have the material power. The old dominant classes are not irrational themselves, they become progressively unreasonable to the extent that the new domination logic grows and prevails. Once having lost material power, political power becomes their last stronghold, trying from there to get a share of the social product turns progressively difficult: "Then an epoch of social revolution begins".
Generally speaking, this irrationality can be solved. Only its extreme form requires a violent revolution. Neither Germany nor England had violent revolutions. Neither the USA, nor Italy, or Sweden, or Holland, or Japan, nor Australia. The violent, armed, explicit, political revolution is the exception, not the rule. The ruling classes do know, in general, how to transfer their power in a reasonable way, ie with the brutal violence of reason, especially because they can not help it. From slave holders to feudal lords, from lords to bourgeois, from bourgeois to bureaucrats: the material process always has something inexorably.
Bureaucracy should not generally need to make explicit, armed, political revolutions. In the USA, for example, turning over the rule of the bourgeoisie to the rule of the bureaucracy is and will be as "rational" and "peaceful" as was turning from feudal control over to bourgeois rule in England.
In other cases, the bureaucracy prevails and will prevail through violent upheavals, which may not appear as revolutions. This is the case of the Latin American dictatorships of the 70s and their "democratic" extensions of the 80s. This is also true of the apparent "return to capitalism" in Eastern Europe. Replacement of classical forms of bureaucratic control by new forms appears as "capitalist counterrevolution", a mirage analogous to the "medieval" restoration of monarchy in the post-Napoleonic France.
We now know that when, from the 13th century onwards, there was discussion of religion in Europe, they were actually discussing new and very new problems with old words and symbols.
The bureaucratic rule will for a very long time appeal to the, now apparent, illusory, dichotomies between private initiative and state regulation, or to the dilemma between democracy and dictatorship, or to the tension between individual freedom and social interest, or between private property and public property, or to the difference between rescuing the particular or being subjected to homogenization. At a time when each of the first terms of these dichotomies is simply a dummy or has been drowned by the second in structurally new ways, these dichotomies lose their meaning as such.
Private initiative has feasibility and sense only under the rule of increasing regulation. Rigged democracies with towering abstention, with rotation of identical parties are, in practice, dictatorships. Personal and, on another level, local or national autonomy and freedom, lose all sense to manipulation of primary socialization or to the network of uneven economic interdependence. Social ownership is a sophistry concealing the property directly managed by the bureaucracy which, however, is not required to exercise its dominion but in extreme situations: everything could be "privatized" without shaking the bureaucratic power as a whole. The rescue of the local or the particular, of "difference", is ridiculous in a situation where there are sufficient technical resources to handle diversity and make it, in this way, illusory.
Bureaucratic rule is exercised in two basic levels: immediate production management and global economic management. For centuries the bourgeoisie achieved through the mastery of technique, which it constantly revolutionized, to determine and profit from the social division of labor. This mastery of technique was expressed in the legal, political and ideological figure of private property, and the corresponding form of wage labor.
The increasing complexity of production management, both technically and administratively, both in volume and intensity, has increasingly alienated the owners from direct and effective control of the means of production. Bureaucratic control appears here as an objective need from the development of the productive forces: the technician, the scientist, the administrator, the counselor, the expert, the manager. An entire social layer slowly turning from dominated to dominant. In an inorganic, uneven manner, without effective self-consciousness. A process that is not unlike the rise of the bourgeoisie within feudal logic in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
The two spaces of objective power of the bureaucracy are on the level of production management and global management. But the bureaucratic society is reproduced beyond its areas of origin or power. There is more bureaucracy than the technocrats of the companies or the state. The dynamics of capitalism, with its continuous and revolutionary increases in productivity, has gradually reduced the social work force directly engaged in the production of goods for consumption on one hand, and tried to regulate overproduction crisis by means of increasing consumption levels on the other. This has led to the need, which is increasingly structural, of building up a purchase capacity, which is "artificial" in the sense that it no longer derives only from interaction between the productive work, salary compensation and the consequent consumption, but follows directly and explicitly to the need to sell the produced goods. The arms industry, the giant social security systems, the huge investments in research and development, can be considered in this perspective.
But on the other hand, from a social point of view, this has led to a revolutionary increase in the proportion of workforce engaged in what may goodly be called "services", to which must be added another huge contingent being distracted from direct production of goods through various subsidy schemes of their economic place in society. Huge state bureaucracies, massive armies, giant masses of students, huge masses of retirees, subsidized unemployed, or even underemployed, through intricate systems of indirect subsidy, actually operating without conscious policies to support them.
Beyond power and dominion, society is bureaucratized under this third source of bureaucracy as a class. In feudal times every entrepreneur could be a "gentleman" to some extent, from the king to the page. In bourgeois society, everyone could be "bourgeois" to some extent, from Rockefeller to selling newspapers or cardboard gatherers (micro entrepreneur!). Similarly, in bureaucratic society, everybody can be a bureaucrat, from the President of the World Bank to the inspector of a night high school. Large and small, efficient and inefficient, powerful and insignificant, great or generally mediocre bureaucrats, with the power to alter the lives of many or few, replaceable by computers or not replaceable at all.
Three sources for bureaucracy: the technician, the global manager, the endemic bureaucrat. All aspects of modern society are filled with the hallmarks of bureaucratical management.
Pettiness, formalism, professional jealousy, defense of small guarantees, the stupidity of what works just because it has to work, chronic inefficiency at work and concealed lying in the production reports, negligence and misrepresentation, are flooding the academic, scientific, government, military, civilian life.
But rarely catastrophically. The nature of the system is such that things always should work in general: many could lose their jobs if this did not happen. The issue is not general and disastrous unemployment but rather slow, inorganic, irrational way, busting occasionally here and there: a nuclear plant that melts down, a last model war plane being demolished in his first bout, a space telescope that does not work. Large but brief scandals, so everything works, can be covered quickly.
And along with this, the little drama of everyday negligence and inefficiency: the computer that charges more money, the streets flooded with the rains, processes delayed, a traffic light does not work. And along with this, the general parasitism of false postgraduate studies that only serve to fill CVs, soldiers who never go to war (except against their own people), or just go and loose them, officials justifying the work of others justify them in turn, help programs of development assistance lost in thousands of private pockets.
Despite what it seems, I'm not trying to show bureaucratic society as particularly worse than other class societies. I could list the inhuman brutalities that the bourgeoisie has called free enterprise, or permanent humiliation of manorial systems, or the absolute despotism of the slave holder monarch. But that is not the point. The question is, rather, to indicate how bureaucratic society has miseries that are specific and naturally derived from the way it holds and reproduces its domination.
Whether a class society is better or worse than another is not a subjective matter, it can not be, since even the social forms we find most abhorrent have been able to create ideologies that make them understandable and acceptable to its members. It is only from the possibility of a different reality that the experienced reality becomes intolerable. To put it another way: only from "beyond".
The bourgeoisie created the specter of a dark, despotic and irrational medieval society. Regardless of the fact that the bourgeoisie has attributed much of their own monstrosities of the past (the typical example is the Inquisition), there are good reasons to be suspicious of that picture. (And without therefore saving or exculpating the feudal era). The feudal period is dark regarding bourgeois culture and not with respect to itself. It is irrational as compared to the new logic that modern production opens. It is despotic for the bourgeois, or the serf as seen by the bourgeois, but not so much for the serf who looks at himself.
The same problem occurs when comparing the merits of bourgeois society with those of bureaucratic society, except in one respect: the bureaucratic as well as the medieval society, is totalitarian in its claim to universal harmony. Bourgeois society, by contrast, shamelessly displays its contradictory and catastrophic character.
If we do this proviso, that is critical for subjective consideration, we can understand the criticism of bourgeois savagery by bureaucratic protectionism. This is practically very relevant, since there we have a real critique, from one social formation to another, that is, the critique of the bourgeois that can be done not from principles or from utopias, but from the particular situation that has been established, voluntarily or not.
This is relevant because we can then compare the reality of bureaucratic rule with the criticisms it has made, and with our utopias, that is, we can ask ourselves if what they say they are overcoming is what they really overcome and how, if what they say to accomplish is actually achieved, and how. And, also, on the other hand, whether our own utopias really break with the repressive continuum or are merely populist extensions of the criticism that bureaucratic rule makes the bourgeoisie, in the course of their class conflict.
Perhaps this point can be better understood if we consider the historical analogy that represents the position of the labor movement regarding the bourgeois utopia. In practice the workers' movement merely appropriating the bourgeois utopia, that is, it is not asking but what the bourgeoisie itself states it seeks, and what the irrationality, the spontaneity of its practice prevents it. By doing it this way, the labor movement merely join the logic of bourgeois rule: all claims could, in the limit, be met under the same repressive continuum, to the extent that it is rationalized, that it is required to comply with its own logic. The workers demand more consumption, for the bourgeoisie increased consumption levels only confirm its own logic. This not only explains the gradual assimilation of the labor movement to the established system, its gradual assimilation to reformist and parliamentarians policies, but also explains its natural alliance with the bureaucratic power. Just like the bourgeoisie once armed the peasants against the landowners, just as it organized them under its own utopias, actually chasing their own interests, the bureaucracy now, know it or not, is in favor of the interests of the labor movement, aligns it under its ideals of rationality, order and progress.
In what bureaucratic society criticizes of bourgeois society it is possible to discern the real utopia, ie the utopia that effectively moves it, rather than what is declared in its discourse. From there we can confront the operative utopia, that is, the actual discourse and life itself, the actual operation. And we can confront, also, on the other hand, our own real utopia, our way of proceeding, the order and direction of our concrete demands, in order to check whether we are actually in the direction of the end of the class struggle or are simply adding water to the mill of bureaucratic domination, which even without our help can win, let us have assured, its own war.
These confrontations may be a good starting point for a critique of the new power and, above all, for a critique of the unconsciousness with which our voluntarism confronts it.
The bureaucratic society is, however, the most powerful and subtle in history. Its comprehensive and abstract rationality is its power. It not only has armies of soldiers, also has armies of journalists, armies of psychologists, armies of publicists, giving it an iron support at the deepest level of everyday life. The totalitarianism of scientific reason, the overwhelming power of hedonism and bodily flattery, the monstrous absurdity of the domination and the dumbing down of all by all, do reach their peak in it.
The power of the bureaucratic society reaches its most proper and effective expression in its technological capacity to handle diversity, to generate illusory diversity, to maintain an interactive centralization of control, which considers local differences between the various sectors that it manages and dominates. Unlike classical domination in industrial society, the domination exerted through homogenization, through leveling of differences, through increasing standardization of products, behaviors, aspirations, bureaucratic society is able to dominate in, and through diversity. Through it, it disintegrates social actors into pure individuals, helplessly facing the power of global administration, or in standardized classes of subjects, functional to the patterns of domination.
Facing this power, the opposition's criticism repeats its classical alienation: it cannot leave the utopian horizon of the society it seeks to destroy. When capitalism could offer homogenizing, the popular movement called precisely for equality, even access to consumption, mass products, materials claims. Now, as the advanced industrial societies have acquired sufficient technological capacity to handle diversity, a supposedly radical critique asks precisely for recognition of the local, of difference. While criticism disintegrates in the local, power remains being one. One that can handle the breakup.
The sad spectacle of alienation of the various segments of the popular movement throughout the twentieth century should serve as a profound lesson. The sequence is repeated: popular front, revolutionary attempt, political consensus; liberal feminism, radical feminism, feminism of otherness; modernizing theology, theology of liberation, theology of reconciliation; critical theory, revolutionary theory, communicative rationality; liberal environmentalism, radical environmentalism, pragmatic environmentalism. Reconciliation, otherness, consensus, communicative rationality, pragmatism, these are today some of the names of manipulated disintegration, of the new scene of the alienation of critical thinking.
The power of the bureaucracy (like no other) does not proceed from politics but from the place it has as a class in the division of labor. Politics, in its modern sense, as an exercise of citizenship, or in any other, is a articulating space of a power that already exists, (or wants to be). From this articulation, which otherwise is not the only possible, the ruling classes consolidate and formally exert the power that they have built from the material basis of social relations. The space of modern politics is a result, not the origin, of modern social relations. Does the bureaucracy need this power to build its hegemony? No. Does it need it to consolidate, ie, to legitimize its rule and its formal exercise? Yes.
Ultimately, the old distinction that I'm using is the Gramscian difference between hegemony and government. Gramsci was the first to propose that a ruling class can be hegemonic without having taken over the government of society. In the construction of modern hegemonies in general the battle for political space has been the last to be made explicit and to be decided. Except, of course, in the revolutionary will, whose character and novelty consists precisely in proposing to reverse this process. But one thing is that the revolutionary will has wanted to consciously build the social, from political space, and another thing is that this indeed has been the case. I argue that this will has been permanently overwhelmed by the force of effectiveness, and from not seeing this ineffectiveness of political struggle much of its alienation derives.
Specifically I argue that bureaucratic power has built its hegemony behind bourgeois politics, undermining it slowly, and indeed has begun to completely empty it of content. There are multiple processes that support this hypothesis. The first is the general decline of the mechanisms of representation. The "disenchantment" of democracy, which is nothing but the experience of its ineffectiveness. The increased patronage, and self-perpetuation mechanisms of political elites. The increasing manipulation of the fiction of representation. The conflict of experts versus citizen in all relevant public decisions. But beyond that, the second is the process of decline of citizenship itself. Progressive limits to individual freedom. Disintegration and manipulation of the autonomy of consciousness. The decline of the experience of personal autonomy.
Like any modern domination, the bureaucratic dictatorship may be exercised in the form of a dictatorship or in the form of a democracy. Experience shows that this second option is more effective to consolidate the rule, to invest it with the legitimacy that makes it operational. The base of this efficiency in the classical ideal of modernity is that there is a social consensus to support it. In the case of bureaucracy that consensus is not necessarily real. Its legitimacy can be articulated from its technological capacity to produce social consensus fictitiously, through political demobilization in fact, through a strong fiction of social dialogue, which covers manipulation, the unequal interdependence among political actors. The current "consensus" on economic policy in Chile is a good example of something that may become general. The "consensus" that manages to build on the subject of terrorism, or regarding the chronic inefficiency of socialism, are other examples. "Consensus" that have a profound political impact, but are basically not built, nor supported in the space of politics.
b. Minimal questions and objections
One might ask, in this regard, can politicians oppose bureaucracy? I think this question is wrong in its foundation. Politicians are part of the bureaucracy. Politics has always been within the game of legitimization of power. When citizens are able to do politics themselves, organized or not, they appear just as subversive.
The question: "Can citizens oppose the bureaucracy?" must be answered in two very different planes. First an empirical question: Are there citizens? Second a question of will: even if they don't, they should exist. It is only from this second premise that the first may be real. In the bureaucratic society, the potential revolutionary subject must be built. It does not naturally exist, nor appear spontaneously. Actually, if we think this matter in depth, never a revolutionary subject may be naturally or less spontaneously occurring.
Is bureaucratic power established without any resistance? To respond seriously, I think it is necessary to ask generally how a global way of life is replacing another. When the analysis stops at the surface of politics it is reasoned as if the subjects of resistance would exist as constituted, autonomous and aware subjects. My opinion is that this only occurs in a very late, almost terminal stage in the consolidation of a new power.
Lifestyles are generally established unnoticed by the consciousness of individuals, even of their own actors. It is only in the cycle of its culmination, when the hegemony seeks to become government, that "politics" of its own appears. The bourgeoisie developed its hegemony for at least four hundred years before finding in modern democracy the political form of its own, and before discovering, in industrial workers, the subject of a possible resistance.
Before the advent of politics in the proper sense what is often called "resistance" it is but the dramatic story of fragmentation, loss of consciousness, madness and crime, social sectors overwhelmed by the new efficiency. Sometimes conscious, sometimes violent, always poorly organized, this "resistance" is nothing but the life of the death of what passed.
Usually found in the left critique, especially in the field of history, there is a curious medievalist nostalgia about this. Again and again, in exquisite detail, the history of the countless episodes of defeat has been narrated. The communities in the English countryside or the medieval towns, the sixteenth-century America, the permanent defeat of dependent communities. This past of solidarity and struggle is considered educational, and invariably awaits its resurrection, or its reproduction by analogy. Nostalgia assigns the character of "politics" to the chronicle of defeat. Against, once again, common sense, I think this is a bad nostalgia and a bad concept of politics. The only useful nostalgia is nostalgia for the future. The nostalgia that is dedicated to the past is beautiful, but its aestheticism does not reach beauty, which can only be given by the actual fighting, and its breath will only lead the will to the hidden message of resignation.
For a non-messianic perspective, which doesn't draw its strength from a heroic past that must return, another concept of resistance is needed. We must recognize that we genuinely can only speak of resistance when it arises from consciousness, that is, when to resist and to seek a new world do agree. Or again, when the political component of the resistance has imposed itself on the existential component.
Having put things this way, I think bureaucratic power has been imposed almost without resistance. The general tendency of capitalist economy to financial speculation, and to high-tech capital management shows little resistance from the bourgeoisie. As the feudal landowning aristocracy could extend its leadership overwhelmed by bourgeois hegemony through political pacts of mutual support, so today the bureaucratic-bourgeois pact prolongs the capitalist government, and illusion of government.
Of course we could retell the infinite fragmentary chronicles of resistance to the new global industrialization, with their patterns of integration and marginalization, and their invariable defeats. I suggest that rather than seeking in each of these fragmentary spaces the messianic community of our dreams, we should seriously explore the conditions under which the will can build a revolutionary subject.
On this issue at least I can say this: if anyone can make the revolution these are the workers. Specifically, materially, those who are in a position to dominate the social division of labor. It is necessary to distinguish between revolution and revolutionism. The town can only be taken from within. From marginalization you can start a revolution (increasingly less), but not do it.
A question, a little more distressing, is whether bureaucratic power has internal contradictions that may lead to its end. Here again the problem is the depth to which we address the question.
In a fundamental sense, like everything, of course it has contradictions, and through them will come to an end. Whether a social formation is overcome, however, doesn't necessarily mean it to become what we want it to be. The case of capitalism is the most obvious. I maintain that the overcoming of capitalism leads in fact to a new class society. This has not, nor had it, to be that way. The historical necessity is not deterministic. But it is a fact. The question then is not whether bureaucratic society will be overcome (it will be), but whether we will be able to make it the society we want.
In this regard it is worth remembering what kind of situations are understood as contradictions of capitalism. On the one hand, those of structural kind: the downward trend in the rate of profit, the tendency toward monopolistic concentration of capital, the tendency to cyclical crises of overproduction, all of them associated with each other. On the other hand those of political, and even ethical kind: the absolute and relative impoverishment, the contradiction between the interests of production and the needs of consumption, the fetishization of goods and capital.
Today it is obvious, and can be considered an empirical result, that none of these contradictions led, or will lead, from capitalism to communist society; although, of course, these are mechanisms that operate in the progressive construction of bureaucratic hegemony. It is equally obvious that it is only from these contradictions that revolutionary will could be brought into play.
There, about this, a classic distinction in the Leninist tradition, between objective and subjective conditions of revolutionary consciousness. I suggest that it is preferable to change the terms of this distinction, in order to emphasize the power of the effectiveness on consciousness. It is best to distinguish between structural conditions and the existential conditions of the will. Certainly all conditions are objective (also the subjective ones). What I want to emphasize is that it is the will that turns a consciousness into revolutionary consciousness.
What I call structural conditions of the will are the contradictions that a system has and under which it cannot reach its concept, being forced to substitute formations, and in a position to be overcome. In the case of capitalism, state intervention in the regulation of the conflict between capital and labor is clearly a substitutive formation where the alleged transparency and efficiency of market regulation is just not working. In this case the structural contradiction which operates is the tendency to imbalance resulting from a high degree of production planning, faced the ignorance and anarchy of the market.
A structural critique of bureaucratic power would require finding such contradictions, those that internally jeopardize its feasibility. I would suggest at least the following. The bureaucratic utopia requires thorough knowledge of social actions, its causes and possible consequences. Only then the ideal of the general regulation could reach its concept. This knowledge is, however, strongly affected by the effective contingency. This makes the bureaucracy's need to streamline by force its performance around alternative explanations and legitimization through which to reconcile the difference between knowledge and reality. But this frame of substitute knowledge, whose function is to give (ideological) coherence to the action, just turns against the aspiration to dominate reality from which it was created. Bureaucratic management is wrapped in this way in a spiral of illusions and self-deceptions that make it vulnerable and prone to crisis.
It is important, however, to clarify two issues. First, this trend of "cyclical crisis of over-information" is unable, by itself, just as the other classic crisis, to bring down the system. But they make it vulnerable, especially to those who can control democratically the destruction of surplus information and distinguish it from reality.
Secondly, when I speak of effective contingency, I do not mean some uncontrollable chance, or some mystical freedom. In particular because in bureaucratic society the illusion of freedom and autonomy is heavily manipulated, and produces, and will continue to produce, all kinds of reformist illusions. I simply mean that the bureaucratic society is installed on a chaotic real historical terrain, which it will need to "civilize" at the cost of great efforts to obtain the information clarity it requires, a field that also produces, by itself, effects of over-information and information alienation. It is useful to remember the distortion involved for the articulation of the capitalist market by its actual installation in a historic world full of differences and uneven spots. Or, to put it briefly, remember that the capitalist market has never been transparent, and the liberal free circulation has only existed as a model on paper.
But although the structural conditions are the foundation, only the existential conditions are which may move the will.
What I call existential conditions of the will are those arising from the concrete life situation that affects individuals, or small groups of social subjectivity. In capitalism, the essential condition is poverty, and the many consequences of postponement. And among the bourgeois, the lack of sense, and the lack of truly human recognition. I suggest that in the bureaucratic society, among the integrated, the main condition that may precipitate the revolutionary will is the general mediocrity of life. And among the marginalized, experience of permanent deception of the manipulated diversity.
As in bourgeois society there is a contradiction between enrichment and impoverishment, in a bureaucratic society, which works with high consumption patterns and radical marginalization, there is a contradiction between the utopian content that consumption promises and the overall experience of frustration, which is radical among the marginalized, cunning among the integrated, and manipulated in both cases.
Just as in bourgeois society philanthropy offered a space to clean sins to some degree through interested kindness, in bureaucratic society violence and waste, promoted and managed by the entertainment industry, are offering a space to vent general frustration. Just as philanthropy is an interested goodness, in the case of postmodern society it is a mediocre violence, that does not change the world, that does not destroy at a large scale, which allows a microscopic, instant, but efficient fiction of omnipotence and autonomy, an empty violence.
I hold that in this kind of problems we must seek a new theory of alienation, to expand and complete the classical theory of Marx, and to serve as a basis for a possible policy. I think that in this theory the role of the fetishization of subjectivity should be as central as so far has been the idea of commodity fetishism.
Will bureaucratic domination inexorably engender the new revolutionary subject? No. Nor capitalism did. One thing is to have the structural and existential conditions for the establishment of a revolutionary subject, another very different is that these conditions are to meet consciousness. A revolutionary subject is not given, it is done. It can only arise from an effort of will and consciousness. An effort on what?: of our own production, which appears to us as "the given" only because we do not dominate it.
It may be useful, in this sense, to specify what is meant by revolutionary. It is a known statement from Marx that "the bourgeoisie is a highly revolutionary class". The essence of the idea of revolution is not that there is a radical change (must have), or that there is political violence (there could not be any), but that what is affected by this radical change is the way to socially produce life. And this is, properly, which must be called "violence", irrespective of having "taken the Winter Palace" or not.
In addition to the distinction between revolutionary spirit and revolution it is necessary to distinguish between structural revolution (in the world of production) and political revolution. In Gramscian terms the difference is between what happens at the level of the construction of hegemony, and what happens at the level of government.
The social revolutionist escalation is capable of changing governments, but does not alter the hegemonic relations in their essentials, that is, it does not change the world of social production, however much it may serve to initiate this change. A clear example of this is the relationship between the Revolution 1910 - 1920 and the consolidation of dependent capitalism in Mexico.
A structural revolution (in itself) is one that basically affects the mode of production, setting off from there changes in the legal and political sphere. It is clearly the case of capitalism, or of the Gramscian step from hegemony to government. In my opinion this is also the case of the Stalinist revolution between 1928 and 1938.
A political revolution (in and of itself) should trigger both processes, political and structural, from the exercise of the conscious will. This was the (failed) dream of the Bolshevik Revolution between 1917 and 1927. And this is, I think, the concept of communist revolution that Marx thought of.
Whether or not the breakthrough of bureaucratic hegemony is violent? Is the era of modern revolutions finished?
The constitution of bureaucratic hegemony, as before the bourgeois hegemony is, and will remain, extremely violent, even in physical form. Another thing is that this violence is expressed or not as political violence. The radical changes in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are a sign of bourgeois development, those occurred in Japan since 1868 are an example of this in the case of bureaucracy.
In this sense, I think an important part of the Marxist tradition has lived, and still lives, around the mirage of the French and Russian revolutions. A "storming of the Bastille" or a "taking of the Winter Palace" is expected, almost messianically. The exact dates and precise locations are adored: July 26, the Plaza of the Revolution, etc.
Even feeling great respect and affection for these sacred mythologies, the truth is that reality is much more prosaic. And most moving, deep, dense, full of content. The only effectively successful Russian Revolution was Stalin's, not Lenin's. The truth of the French Revolution are not the Jacobins, nor terror, but the consolidation of capitalism. England did not need more than one head of a King, and Japan but a dynastic change, for their political processes to be adapted to the profound revolution made from the world of work. The United States did not need more than the progressive dumbing down of citizens to move from capitalist hegemony to bureaucratic rule.
Has the era of modern revolutions finished? No. What should end is the illusion that a coup against the government is already a revolution. What should happen is the revolutionary will taking over the structural revolution and turning it into a political revolution.
Another question is whether bureaucracy, in building its hegemony, appeals to the interest of all mankind in the form of an emancipatory ideal. I think it does. I think the environmental cynicism of large corporations is more representative of the new kind of bureaucratic ideology than the opportunistic nihilism of postmodern philosophers. The latter only serves to sweep the ideals of modernity, the former, however, serves to build. Maturana and Flores are more useful than Derrida and Boudrillard.
What you need to understand, however, is that this emancipatory ideal of new type, this project of "completing the project of Enlightenment", does not operate under the key classical reductionism and homogenization, but under the emblems of diversity and discursive pluralism. This is extremely important because if you want to criticize this rationalization of the new domination the important thing is not to seek again a reducing principle, or a leveling ethos but on the contrary, to find just the keys from which it is possible to hold such power in diversity.
This is a point where the Leftist postmodern critique is fundamentally wrong. They still are trying to criticize the postmodern power as if it were a modern, merely illustrated power. It is at this point that I think ideas like repressive tolerance, manipulation of diversity, unequal interdependence, informative alienation, may be more useful than the eternal deconstruction of a reason that does not want to appear as One (although it is), and that boasts of its diversity.
From where is diversity manipulated if not from the state? The problem here, related to the previous one, is the function of politics in the legitimation of bureaucracy. I have argued that class domination does not originate in politics and can develop without it. Does this mean that politics is destined to disappear? What I think is that this whole problem must be historicized. Do modern politics tend to disappear? Yes. Will politics disappear? No.
It is true, firstly, that the State has played an important role in the development of bureaucratic hegemony. And it has done so precisely to the extent that it has also been the center of bourgeois politics. But in a society capable of handling diversity that does not need to remain so. I think the Liberal style policy will continue existing for a while, but will gradually lose its content and power. Or, to put it more harshly, it will be increasingly becoming a part of the entertainment industry.
When we then ask ourselves from where manipulation occurs, we must seek the answer more in transnational corporations and supra national global regulatory agencies, than in formal politics. Politicians do rule less and less. The legitimacy of power happens less and less through them, except for a decorative function, as in the "great western democracies".
Thar these are the facts does not mean, of course, they are desirable. Far from a minimalist or instrumentalist conception of politics, what I propose it is just the opposite, to recover the virtues of liberal political utopia ... and go beyond them, in the direction of humanization and self-awareness.
However, on the other hand, the question itself must be analyzed. From where does manipulation occur? I think there is something basically wrong with this question. Perhaps, to understand why, another analogous question could be stated: From where does the bourgeoisie attend the market? This seems a strange question. But that's the analogous question. The problem is that we are accustomed to think that there are bureaucrats in only one place, in the State. Instead we do easily know that there are bourgeois in many places, say, in each industry or each bank. However this is a bad habit for two basic reasons. First, because it confuses the function with the place. Second because the most relevant of bureaucratic hegemony is not necessarily in the State, although that may be one historically real case.
Of course there are places where regulation is exercised, which, from a value-based point of view, I call manipulation. As I stated above, particularly in large transnational corporations. But the essential thing is not that. What is relevant is that the quintessential bureaucratic role is regulation.
Maybe one final aspect of this problem should be explained. Is it from the nation states that manipulation occurs? Each time less and less. I think the reality of nation states is in decline, as liberal democracy and individual autonomy. Nationalism, which seems to be booming, is nothing more than a nostalgia for the past, concealing actual globalization processes. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are divided ... to be colonized. The European Community and NAFTA are integrated ... to improve the internal colonization. Separating or joining, globalization is the actual content.
Is the State an epiphenomenon of the activity of bureaucrats? No. The state is one more task within this activity. But even if it was only an epiphenomenon, I do not see why this had to be regarded as an objection. What if it were actually that?, would reality be wrong? Would this be a case of political reductionism? Of modern politics yes, of bureaucratic "politics" no.
So does the theory of bureaucratic power derive from a linear image of modern development? No. The metaphor of linear development, from the center to the periphery, was already outdated in the course of discussions on theories of dependency. Modernity is, from the beginning, beyond the contingencies of its expansion, a global phenomenon. There aren't more developed and less developed countries. Some countries have developed their development in line with, and because there are countries that have developed their underdevelopment. The theory of bureaucratic power is a global theory constructed to account for a global historical moment. The difference between development and marginalization is no longer geographic, it crosses every country, every city, every activity worldwide.
Already Weber would have quoted as defining characteristic of modern capitalism the application of theoretical knowledge to production techniques, does this mean a denial of theories basing their validity in the newness of this fact? Although the possible "novelty" of this fact doesn't really interest me, I care indicate the following difference with Weber. While he says that the application of theoretical knowledge to the production techniques is characteristic of modernity, what I maintain is that the characteristic of postmodernism is rather the legitimation of production techniques through theoretical "knowledge".
At this point, the epistemological reflection on the relationship between knowledge and power, the political debate on bureaucratic power meet. From the first, and again against common sense, I think it's possible to get the general idea that knowledge is but the discourse of power. Let me be more explicit: it is not because we know something of the reality that we get to have power, it is because we have power that we say that we know something. The discourse called knowledge articulates power, it doesn't cause it, nor does it make it possible. From the second, political reflection, I think it is possible to argue that this general relationship is historically real and effective, explicit and observable only under bureaucratic rule.
Also, finally, general criticisms of the kind of class analysis that is the basis of such theorizing like this have been made. The class analysis which posits the bureaucratic power as a new power would be (a) a simple analogy; (b) abstract; (c) inoperative; (d) reductionist.
Importantly, despite the mental habits caught from the prevailing intellectual fashions, that these four criticisms are independent of each other, they do not have to imply each other and don't have any evidentiary force, however impressive they may seem.
Of course a hypothesis which is built by (simple or complex) analogy doesn't tell us nothing about its truth, convenience, or possible appropriateness. Even when an analogy is built on a wrong referent, the result is not necessarily wrong, because the points that are made analogous, which were inadequate to the former situation, do not need to be so for the second.
Similarly, hardly the word "abstract" can itself be a criticism, unless expressly used as an adjective (in which case it neither is). The General Theory of Relativity, or the neoclassical economic theories are highly abstract, and no one would point out that that is their failing. Of course the degree of abstraction tells us nothing about their operability, as shown by the precise experiments that are deducted from relativity, or the well defined economic policies that follow from the neoclassical theories. There is no logical connection between abstraction and operability. Unless one understands by abstraction simply to refuse to develop the potential consequences of an abstract theory.
Not even a theory to be "inoperative" can be a really serious objection to its truth, appropriateness or convenience. Unless, of course, you define the nature of truth through the operation, an epistemology that has been suspected for quite some time. Perhaps the objection is simpler, perhaps only we are asked, in general, that the consequences of the theory that may be put into practice and change the reality in some way. But if it is that, just nobody can say that the theory of classes is "inoperative", even in its reductionist version. That from it there have been obtained "operations" that we do not like, or that we consider failures, does not mean they have not been operational.
And reductionism, finally, doesn't need not be, by itself, a defect, unless you specify which harmful effects are those that do drawback. The truth is that it would be very difficult to find, and even develop, a non-reductionist scientific theory, unless, indeed, one understands by such the simple chaotic enumeration of factors, without hierarchy, which would, of course, be very little operational.
The theory of bureaucratic power that I propose it is built by analogy, but not from class reductionism, and even though it must be confronted with the practice, it would not necessarily be "operational", and even if it was abstract (I say yes it is) or reductive (I say it is not), that does not tell us whether it is more or less useful, or true, or convenient.
All these questions do lead to the theoretical problem of which formulation of Marxism we are using as a basis to make the diagnostic thesis listed here credible. Or, to further emphasize this point, what plausible formulation of Marxism makes the policy implied in these responses credible.
To this issue of foundation I dedicate the next chapter, then going back to the possible controversies that this position entails.
III. Foundational issues
1. The origin
I argue that a Marxism is possible, that ontologizes human production, that is, an absolute humanism for which all reality, all being, is but human history. Neither nature, nor God, operating here as foundations. Not that human history emerges and develops in nature. Conversely, what we call nature is nothing but objectified human action or, as Marx says in one of his first texts, "Nature is the inorganic body of man".
You can not think without origin. The deconstruction of all backgrounds leaves the will in a vacuum, in the vacuum of itself (which is the only vacuum that may be), and disables it to build a different world. To deconstruct the world, or to suspend it, is not enough. What we ultimately want is not to be wise and lucid, but to be happy.
Not that there's an origin beyond the will, on the other hand. What we do is to put the home as a first step, to stand there, on the ground that we ourselves have built, and build from there the new possible worlds. For the communist will that I propose, that origin is human history. Not a history that becomes a subject, rather a subject, whose effectiveness coincides with history. Hegel's recommendation is this: to considered the being as a subject, to consider the subject as negativity.
Perhaps putting an origin already contains, as some believe, who have become very popular, the principle of totalitarianism. And empirical evidence may support this suspicion. Apparently from all the principles proposed so far there have been possible totalitarianisms. But this empirical argument, like all empirical arguments, is precarious, as much as it helps itself from posterior rationalizations.
What has happened hardly proves that something will happen, and hardly can also lead the reason from proposing an origin in theory to demonstrate its empirical consequences. Fear of totalitarianism should not inhibit the willingness to again propose, and open up to the consequences. A confidence in the possibility of a better world, on the other hand, should never forget the antitotalitarian arguments.
But prudence is a bad start for the revolutionary will and the prudence that comes from fear is the worst of all principles. Perhaps communist confidence consists in that while we are putting human history itself as the origin, and not any external principle, without any statement about the nature or structure of its possible freedom, we are putting as a starting point liberty, real possibility. But the truth is that this reasoning should not be considered evidence. Theoretical there cannot be offered any guarantee against totalitarianism, and in view of this impossibility it is preferable to take the risk than proposing to abstain, as if abstaining was possible.
The risk opens the future, prudence, however much it is called deconstructive, only serves to maintain the present. The risk that I propose is this: there is only human history, this being is but subject, this subjectivity is constitutively negative.
What is to be set as the origin is the possibility of a non-repressive culture. However, from a strictly political point of view, the problem is whether the will requires that idea or not. What I want is not to prove that there may be a non-repressive culture, I want to propose is there to be a non-repressive culture. With this, the attitude of basing, ground-laying, changes from an epistemological level (to known or not known, guaranteed or not guaranteed) to a practical level, to affirm a self-fulfilling prophecy, in order to have it fulfilled, and all warranty offered is to fight for it to be met.
There is no theoretical guarantee for the will. You cannot find the theoretical root from which the will may be possible. The will must be setting itself. Theoretical discussions do not found the will. It is the will that founds the theoretical discussions. So what you should ask is not whether that idea is true or false, what one should ask is why it is necessary. What happens is that there is a need for a foundation, not a foundation. To make a loophole in that idea, you could say that the need for foundation comes from what I say is the foundation, it comes from an aesthetic substance. But no. What I know is that there is a need of basis, and I have articulated a theory that is ad-hoc for the will. The will does not need a theory to be, it needs a theory to see. The difference is that in the enlightened mentality if one has a good theory, one gets down to comply with it, but in the mentality that is beyond the Enlightenment, if you have a good will, then you look for a theory that allows you to see the reality. Now of course this is tautological, because that will chooses the theory that allows it to see the reality we want to produce. In this sense, the theory is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it is what Hegel calls a put theory. In the illustrated mentality reality is there, it is objective, and a theory of it is collected. Instead, in the mentality that is beyond Enlightenment, we ourselves are the reality and we put reality and theory.
2. A Theory of Alienation
The order of the Third Part of this book is as follows. I propose a theory of alienation, based on a Hegelian reading of Marxism. From this theory, I try to establish in what ways, empirically and theoretically, you may believe that communism is possible, and what notion of subjectivity is necessary for that belief to be consistent. To set the communist horizon, I do an extension of the Marxist theory of exploitation, which is based on the proposed concept of alienation and idea of subjectivity. From these assumptions I make, finally, considerations on the possible revolutionary subject that can enforce this horizon, and the main concrete policy consequences that follow from these propositions.
a. Basic conceptual distinctions
Certainly the concept of alienation is an issue long discussed in the Marxist tradition. But it is precisely this tradition from which, I believe, we must free ourselves. So I'll make a series of distinctions, for which I do not intend any originality, as they can be found in one way or another in many Marxist authors, but I want to put them in an order and with defined connotations, that help us think about today's problems.
I think it is useful and necessary to distinguish between objectification (objetivación), alienation0 (alienación), estrangement (extrañamiento), alienation1 (enajenación), recognition (reconocimiento) and reconciliation (reconciliación). But that it is prior to methodologically establish four principles for the benefit of our intellectual health. The first is that I am going to make this distinction in Castilian, not German. That is, I will not ask for the terms in Germans that Hegel or Marx would have used, in order to then find possible and problematic equivalents in Castilian, but I will think directly in Castilian each of the concepts that interest me. The second is that I will describe these concepts in natural language, that is, using the words we use every day. The hypothesis is that we always think in natural language, no matter how sophisticated our ideas are, and that the subsequent translation into technical language is rather a union trick than a than real necessity. The third is that I will use the trick of the etymologies, which is a typical rhetorical resource of the intellectual task, from the Castilian, again, not from German, and just to give you better understand of the meaning of a notion, even not pretending they are real or rigorous etymologies. I care more specify a set of notions than being recognized as a scholar. The fourth, of course, it should not be taken for obvious, is to use different words for different notions. In the case that I will develop, these are closely related notions, where it is very easy to mix the connotations of each term. The principle that I will follow will be to associate different words to different connotations, although the notions are in fact difficult to separate from each other.
The basis of all these concepts is the originally Hegelian idea, that human history is a living whole. The generality of the category "human history", seen from Marx, may be concretized by ontologizing the category "work". I call work, ontologically, the actual process of production of Being. At work, ultimately, what is produced is the Being itself.
In logical terms, the first step of this production process of being the objectification. In objectification, the whole that is human history becomes both subject and object. It unfolds in terms, and its being is but the life of these terms. Viewed from Marxism this notion suggests that in the act of producing a subject puts its subjectivity into an object and, at the same time, by doing so, it is itself objectified. This may seem strange, it is an unconventional logic, but what happens is that production is the real and central term, from which the other two terms result.
One could say that the objectification is a social process, but in fact it is the opposite: I call "social" the plurality of dimensions of objectification. It is not that the social objectifies itself, the objectification itself is the social.
This extremely abstract and general way of introducing the topic is necessary to preserve a founding intuition of Marxism, the idea that every object is worth the subjectivity, in the form of work, it contains. But also, conversely, the idea that someone only is subject within the social process of work.
Even beyond. Every object is the object that it is only by virtue of being objectified. There is simply no objects outside and independently of the social act of production. But also, conversely, there is simply no subject outside and independently of this act of producing. Or again, there is no subject in itself. The subject is also something produced.
On the other hand, when it is said that human history should be considered as subject, what happens is that the term "subject" is being used in a twofold manner: for both the totality and for one of the terms that are self produced. This is important in the two planes. You need to keep the notion, first, that the whole of history is a subjectivity that makes itself, and not a set of objects, endowed with some previous and necessary nature, which constrains the possibilities of their construction. It is necessary for the revolutionary will, that human history as a whole does not have any necessary limit, besides the ones it poses to itself.
But on the other hand, it is necessary to support the notion of a divided, essentially tragic history, that puts its own essential opacity as objectivity. In this tragic vision, it is subject, now as the end of a divided totality, the negativity that pushes it beyond itself, and what this same subjectivity puts as the externality where it wants to become real is object. The object, its object, being recognized or not, by the logic of contradictory movement that makes possible both negativity and positivity that it gradually puts and overcomes, over and over again.
This is but the idea of freedom, understood not as a simple rule of contingency and chance, but as self-determination. But there isn't pure self-determination except in gender. Individuals are real and potentially autonomous effects, which can only determine themselves through another, either as intersubjectivity (whether they know it or not), or as transindividuality, and this is the essential point, beyond their consciences, without them being able to know.
The simple movement between objectification and reconciliation, which passes through the self-recognition in the produced object, should be the way of being and human happiness. But there are two key issues that substantially change this idyllic picture. One is that there are others, so that the object produced is, more often than any misanthrope would like, another human being, and the relationship of possible recognition and reconciliation is substantially more complex. The other issue is that human happiness is fulfilled only in this kind of produced object is another human. This is politically and existentially essential. Hegel puts it this way: "a self-consciousness finds its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness". On the road from objectification to reconciliation there is the presence of the other, not just of the other in general, but precisely that of another human being, without which we can not fulfill ourselves as subjects.
The first possible consequence of the mediation the other does regarding the object produced can be called estrangement. In estrangement, we do not recognize ourselves in the object that we have produced, and that produces us, we find our own object strange. Beyond or below, of his consciousness, like it or not, know it or not, the other can introduce a feud between the subject and the immediate object produced, in which it is objectificated, thus causing a difficulty in his own subjectivation. We believe, we have done something, have built something, have acted in a certain way, and we find that what has been done, what has been acted, what has been built, turns out to be something that does not seem coming out of our own action, and are led, subjectively and objectively , to dissatisfaction. To resolve a situation of estrangement, active participation and consent of the other, which is mediating the work, the act, or by the other himself, who has become strange, are required. To be friends again, to recognize that the poems you wrote were not so bad, finally understanding a little more of your own father, realizing that the bourgeois also love their children, are examples where what has become strange must actively participate in the reunion, and may, in principle, not be doing it never at all.
In the constellation of objects and subjects resulting from the global social process of objectification, the seamless connection of all with all is a merely theoretical, abstract possibility. Always individuals may be estranged from their objects, and it is preferable to maintain that there is an essential opacity of the social that will in fact make this happen again and again. An "opacity" which is just another name for the reality of the freedom of individuals in the universal of human history, which contains and constitutes them.
It is important, in existential and political terms, that estrangement is essential, inherent to objectification: there is never a perfect transparency between the creator and his work, because this transparency can only be achieved through another that recognizes it, and that other, which is essentially free, can always persist in denial. But the possible stubbornness in this case should not be seen as a deliberation, as an act of consciousness, although it may also be that way, but essentially as an objective fact that may transcend the will and the consciousness of that other. We can be objectively involved in the estrangement, like it or not, knowingly or not. This is politically important because it means that the universality of mankind is ALWAYS a split universality or, in colloquial terms, you may always be unhappy.
But the estrangement can be resolved, we may return, or become friends, if we carry to the consciousness that impediment, which, from obstinacy, made us become strangers. Communism will not be a society in which everyone will be happy, but a society where the suffering CAN be resolved. That estrangement is essential to the act of objectification, ie that the act of objectification that produces us is always be mediated by another, which is free, means that even under communism anyone may very well be unhappy, that suffering will appear and reappear again and again. But it will be a society where it increasingly can be solved.
There is alienation, however, when the estranged object is a subject. Strictly speaking, a subject is alienated, an object is reified. An object can not be alienated. One subject, however, can be reified. Alienation means something more "serious" than the estrangement to the extent that the subject is more directly involved. Perhaps it is good to keep in this term psychological connotation that relates it to insanity. Ie, understand alienation as "delirium" in the original sense of "getting out of the groove", of what is allowed, or of possible reconciliation, under the mediating action of another.
I would like to reserve the concept of alienation to an effect that occurs in the inter subjectivity, though not displayed, temporarily, in consciousness or as awareness. I care because I want to set this as a situation that, in principle, may be solved inter subjectively, on the level of consciousness, making conscious what was not, for example. I do not think there is anything intrinsic in what we call "madness". Or again, I think we call madness just another of the many aspects of our historical impotence, which, this time, we have naturalized as the fate of a particular individual.
Reification ( in the degrees of cosificación and reificación) are two terms that only add degrees of severity to estrangement. They are nothing else, they just make other emphases, that are useful for certain specific situations. Reification in the former sense is becoming a thing, whether a particular subject (which is used for something), or an object (when it is used disowning what it has of subjective, of human labor). Reification in the latter sense is the state in which the objectification is worship of the object that has become a mere thing. The most obvious case is that of consumerism. It is important to note that reification in the sense of becoming a thing is the most common state of relationship we have with virtually all things or, oddly redundant, it is the fact that we deal with things as mere things. It is not frequent, let's admit it, that we treat things, commonly, daily, guided by the humanity they contain, and that they could potentially make real. We consume things Completely ignoring that what is consumed is human labor, reified humanity. The cannibal act of abstract consumption destroys humanity in things, it dehumanizes. The objects of crafts or art, our most immediate objects in our home, at our work, usually retain their virtue of being objectified humanity and we consider them with dearness, and treat them with some respect, by what they represent... until we started using them in place of the subjectivity they contain. This is the case of photos of "loved ones", which we never visit ... but at least we have their pictures.
Of course, reification (in the degrees of cosificación and reificación) can be relieved in inter subjective ways, through awareness, through potentially humanizing reunion, but in general, can not be resolved but with a change in the whole life. We are not in reification: we live like that, we are that. Only living differently we can become something else. Or to put it elegantly, reification sets the limit at which the simple estrangement, restorable in principle, is made objective, that is, these are aspects of alienation.
In the first book of "Capital", Marx introduced the idea of "fetishism" of merchandise and it is good, in the terms in which I am addressing the problem, to ask what relationship there could be, again in Castilian, between "reification" and "fetishization". Following the principle of exegesis that I have established, one can notice that the difference refers to the one that would exist between the forms of dominating of a king (reification), and of a fetish (fetishization). A king is a secular, civil, modern entity, covered with a certain rational legitimacy, or bordering between the rational and the purely fictitious. A fetish expresses the rule of "irrational reason", something that radiates, without knowing from where, a hypnotic and unexplained power. Fetishism, then, refers to a state in which the simple rule that reification stated, explicitly, and in a clear way, has disappeared behind the veil of the merely hypnotic, of what has erased its origin, and appears to us as reality in itself, captivating and enslaving us simultaneously. The term "fetishism" introduces the religious metaphor, one of Marx's favorite metaphors, to explain given the power that the given comes to have on us, "as in religion, so in society ...". And with this we have already put ourselves into the field of what, properly, must be called alienation.
Alienation is the objective state in which our products, events, works, have simply become our enemies. We are, as produced, another, that we not only don't recognize, but which for us is alien. Oblivious in the emphatic sense of an enemy, of something that denies us. The most important aspect of alienation, as a concept, is that it is an objective situation, ie, something that we are involved in beyond our, good or bad will, or our possible consciousness. So much in it an objective difference between speech and action, a difference that not only do not know, but can not be known from itself.
It is useful in this regard to distinguish between lies, error and alienation. In all three cases we have a difference between speech and action: something is said and actually something different happens. In lie there is consciousness, there is interest: I know I'm lying. It makes no sense to say that someone who doesn't know he lies is lying. And I want to insist: there is an existential commitment in the speech that I do, something in my life makes me be interest in lying. In error there is no consciousness, no interest. I do not know, of course, that I am mistaken, and I am not interested in being. The error is subjective, it depends on me and the object. Lying is inter subjective. I lie to others or, at most, I lie to myself to appear in a different way to others. But both are phenomena of consciousness. I am in error, I do not know, but I can get to know it. I lie, I know, but I can be catched, and I may recognize it. To know, to recognize, are issues that are possible in both cases.
In this regard, the characteristic of alienation is that not only I do not know, I do not recognize the difference between what I say and what I do, but I can not recognize it: there is a strong existential commitment that keeps me not knowing or recognizing it. Alienation, as discourse, is an unconscious phenomenon in the Freudian sense. Not only it is not known, but may not be known only through consciousness. And as a situation, or as act, it is an objective situation, it does essentially not depend on me. It transcends me. It is not that someone is alienated, as if he himself could be not. One is ones alienation. And you can not help but be in it while you don't change what you are. To exit the error, or stop lying, you should get to know or recognize something, to overcome the alienation, something should happen, there should be an experience, not exactly, or even primarily, a knowledge. An experience that takes us out from what we are and makes us experience something we were not, from which we come to know what we could not know. This generally painful and catastrophic process is what can be called self-consciousness. The discourse of alienation is fully consistent with the position it expresses, even if from outside of the situation looks a blatant and outrageous difference is visible. It is fully consistent because it is not a discourse on something, but it is in a deeper way, that same thing. It is a situation of life, a realm of experience.
Obviously the inverse concept of alienation, which returns us to the beginning, to the objectification, is recognition. However, it is necessary to distinguish recognition of the other as other, ie, recognition of diversity, close to tolerance, from recognition of the other as a self, that is, from solidarity as mutual production, from recognizing the universality of mankind in its differences. But in both cases, recognition is more a state of knowledge, or of awareness, that of life. It is to know (again) what was not known. A state of consciousness that enables us to regain lost or not yet filed friendship. But it is not the consciousness that moves the world. Knowing that another one is a human being does not necessarily make us experience him as such. The objective basis from which friendship is possible may be counting or not on consciousness. There can be consciousness and no friendship. There may be friendship even if we do not actually "know" it. Hence the relevant term for thinking about human happiness (and communism) is not recognition, as it might appear to an enlightened mind, but reconciliation, which marks better the existential content of the situation we want describe.
Between recognition and reconciliation there perfectly may be a world of objective distances. We could all, in principle, be friends with everyone. But human history is far more complex than our good intentions. You can not simply preach recognition, it is necessary to remove the objective obstacles that prevent it. To recognize, albeit in solidarity, and to continue living in the same way, is simply philanthropic hypocrisy. It helps others, but mainly helps our own conscience, it reassures us ... and the world remains the same, even though we have changed the course of some of its particles.
Thus, when speaking of reconciliation, it is necessary to consider an objective process, a change in the global way of life of the genre, creating the space in which recognition is possible. A space in which self recognition of the universal is through the autonomy of the particular. The communist totality is not to identify all particulars in the universal (an issue that precisely may be called totalitarianism), but the recognition of the particular in universality that produces it, that makes sense of it, in the universality of the act of social production in which subjects are objectified and objects subjectified. And if so, then we are not talking about a reconciliation operating from consciousness, in the plane of consciousness, but about a radical change in the mode of being of the world, in its way of producing life: reconciliation is only possible through a revolution.
That revolution is what we call communist revolution. One that is able to put an end to human alienation. Communism can only be such after having created the space where fetishism and reification have been overcome, ie, our worship of what objects have of simple objects and, more generally, objectification, ie a space where we got to relate to things by virtue of the humanity they contain, and can recognize each other, in them, through them, in the act of mutually producing us. Communism is the space in which it is possible to be happy, because the human race as a whole is reconciled.
But something I've noticed is key, is politically essential. Communism does not overcome, and may not overcome, the possibility of estrangement. This is essential especially if we consider the origin that makes this possible: the possibility of estrangement derives from human freedom, that is, that an individual may always persist in not recognizing others. Or, put in another way, it comes from the essential autonomy of particulars regarding the universal that produces them, even in a fully reconciled society. I have said it this way, and it is important to emphasize: communism is not the society in which everyone will be happy, it is the society in which happiness will be fully possible. As suffering will also be possible, as well as, fully, the possibility of overcoming it in each return, in every obstinacy. Possible! That is the logical category you need to understand, in order to understand in what may human freedom consist.
Perhaps, finally, it is necessary to add that I believe that in communism alienation will also not disappear, in the inter subjective sense that I have defined it. That is, to put it colloquially, in communism there will still be crazy people. Two key questions will be different, however; one is our substantially reconciled relationship with the mad, and with madness in general, another, the possibility for everyone to be crazy, and stop to be, in frames very different of the current compulsions. A new understanding of madness, ie what only historical impotence can declare as incomprehensible.
b. To know of one's own alienation? Some minimal objections
A very important area of comments and objections has been raised around this idea of alienation. It seems to me that the main point, from which several others derive, is the following: if alienation is not a state of consciousness but a way of being, if we are our alienation, how can we come to know that we are alienated? Shouldn't we agree with it even in our knowledge and behaviors? Taking advantage of the way this was raised, it is possible to make the following distinction: it is not the same to "know" the alienation than to "perceive" it. We all do feel the alienation that constitutes us, though not knowing it. There is "empirical" evidence, to say it somehow, that something is wrong with the world as a whole even for those who are privileged by the system of consumption. As empirical examples can be invoked: stress, permanent frustration, even under the best economic conditions, overall degradation of living standards, even when the levels of individual life grow better. The "rampant mediocrity of life" may be mentioned as evidence.
This line of argument, of course, merely multiplies the questions. How do you go from "perceiving" alienation to "know it"? How can you tell that someone knows about his alienation whereas others do not know? Are some more alienated than others, is there a non alienated vanguard or, at least, a lucid vanguard within alienation? How the will for changes will be generated from alienation? From where one may speak of happiness without this being nothing more than a metaphysical, or totalitarian claim? Is it enough with the realization that there is a certain "uneasiness in culture" to hope that it can become at some time a revolutionary will?
To address these problems, at least to a first approximation, it is perhaps useful to recall the classic distinction between "objective contradictions" and "subjective contradictions". I'm starting from there, in order to then distance myself from it and to see what characterizes the present, the era of highly technological domination. The idea is simple principle, and perfectly classic: the progressive worsening of the structural contradictions of the bureaucratic system is the ground in which processes of subjectivation aimed towards overcoming the system as a whole may appear.
Two types of contradictions seem central. The first is that between the overall degradation of living standards and the dramatic worsening of the levels of private life among the excluded, on the one hand, and the significant improvement of the living standards of integrated, on the other. Each time we are more in a world in which life is more difficult and uncomfortable for everyone. Each time the frustrations on both sides of the gap in consumption are higher. The second is the one in the concrete form of highly technological work. The need for fewer workers and, at the same time, more and more consumers, forces the established system to multiply the stupefying, redundant, unproductive jobs, an issue that is projected eventually in the attitude of workers towards their work. The emergence of a new type of fatigue, given the very high labor intensity, resulting in ever larger errors, or errors of increasing proportions, which lock the entire chain of production, producing true cyclical crises of incompetence and failure. Making it necessary in turn to a new type of work of subjective integration of workers to their work environment, which translates into new and risky quotas of alienation. The boundary between being within the "spirit of enterprise" and disloyalty, betrayal, considered as subjective anomalies, bound to therapy, is ever less pronounced. And this will eventually result in a new kind of rebellion.
But even granting the reality of these contradictions: might it not be that the objective conditions worsen indefinitely, globally and locally, or until catastrophe, but never having a conversion of these conditions into subjectivations of revolutionary type? And on the other hand, is it true that we can get us into the problem of nothing less than human happiness, to be able to make a critique of the prevailing system of domination? What assures us that this criticism is not merely a metaphysical variant among others?
I think the logic behind these questions is that there should be some sort of theoretical or practical guarantee, that revolution, or at least the progressive rupture of the repressive continuum, is possible. To both questions, in this plane, my answer is that it is simply not possible to find practical guarantee, and least in theory. You can not "prove" that the revolution is possible (in the colloquial sense of the word), not on paper, nor from an enlightened vision of real social processes. This implies an obvious and radical difference from classical Marxism, that I do not think that in the possibility of communism there is any necessity, in the philosophical sense of the word. Or, also, that I believe that humanity could derive from class society to class society, from stupidity and cruelty to increased stupidity and cruelty forever, without ever getting to that alleged "elsewhere", just as Catholic, that we are offered by the utopian socialisms of all kinds. In the possibility of communism there is no more need than the human will may put into it, to bring its own self beyond itself. I do not think that, in another well known language, "the wheels of history will crush anyone who opposes them". Rather, I think, they have been consistently dedicated to crush us.
However, the mere claim that there is no theoretical warranty for the possibility of communism - a claim that in reality is not "simple" in any sense - really eludes the question, does not respond to it satisfactorily. Because it could be that what these questions ask is not a "guarantee", in the philosophical sense of a "guarantees", but at least, to put it provisionally, a minimum of "credibility" to the idea that there can be a break point the repressive continuum of alienation, or the even more problematic idea, that you can reasonably distinguish between the alienating pleasure and human happiness.
If it is understood, as already mentioned above, that there is not theoretical guarantee, I think both questions can be answered in both a credible and reasonable manner. On the first issue, I think there would not necessarily be any metaphysical privilege of the reality of alienation over the possibility of overcoming it. This somewhat masochistic pessimism seems to be the perfect, decadent reverse of the triumphant optimism, which always tends to totalitarianism, of the opposite statement. As there is no guarantee for human happiness, I do not see why there should be something of the same type for permanent unhappiness.
Perhaps some philosopher would invoke at this point the "discovery" of human finitude. But I do not see why the idea of happiness has to be associated with any infinity, or with a state of perfect transparency, of full knowledge, or of telepathy making mediations unnecessary. Both "finitude", which is lamented as inevitable, as well as "infinity", which is criticized as impossible, are, in these cases, only conceptual categories of modern philosophical universe, incapable of subtlety that suggests any ambiguity, or mixture, and prefers resignation to the impossible before the risk of putting the will to make the impossible possible. It is true that the world could get worse every day, as it indeed seems to happen. But it is no less true for the theory, that it could also get dramatically better. What happens, exactly, is that the problem is not theoretical, or that it can not be solved in theory. It is "just" a political problem.
But more directly, breaking the continuum of alienation and repression, even in its forms of comfortable alienation and repressive tolerance, can perfectly break when the delicate balance between what society promises, what it effectively gives, and what could give collapses into the meeting of the despair of those who actually never consumed with the despair of those who fail to obtain from consumption what they humanly expected. The very fact that the media promises the appearance of happiness in the form of consumption, or of direct, outright alienation, contains a contradiction, since it establishes a horizon for which any global, established, everyday reality appears as frustrating. It is the fact that so much is promised, that such an outrageous display is made, that the possibility of any impossibility is affirmed, which puts them in danger. The danger of crime, of the general, fragmentary, extended and microscopic war of the excluded against the integrated, is a mere symptom of what might happen if the integrated themselves eventually get tired of living not only in war, but also of living live poorly. The will may put the political potential into this contradiction. A theory that may help the will to see this possible political potential is needed. And that's what I call "Marxism of a new type", and it is here that the problem of happiness is, like never before in history, effectively of central importance.
a. Thinking Communism
To think about the possible breakup of the repressive continuum is but think of the credibility and viability of communism. It is necessary to think again about communism. Socialism, and its transition formula, has proved to be one of the forms of the new class rule. Avantgardist radicalism, beyond its progressive fragmentation, merely moves within the coordinates which this new class rule makes possible, and handles better. A revolutionary horizon requires, instead, to rethink the concept as well as the real possibility of communism. Both its foundation, and the indications in reality that make it imaginable for the will. But both these foundations, as well as this possible viability in turn require to think from a new logic that goes beyond the simple dichotomies presiding both illustrated as well as romantic thought, and beyond, both Neoromanticism as well as the new, radically disenchanted forms of Enlightenment.
The first condition to be thinking of Communism today is to go beyond the notions of consummate homogeneity or consummate individuality, among other things, and not the least, because the system itself has gone beyond both, ridiculing them, or emptying them of content. Traditionally the opposition has been moving on the horizon of what power can give, but has not yet given. Facing a homogenizing power, able to significantly raise the standards of living of large sectors of the world population, what was called for was equality, greater access to consumption, housing, food, education for all ... homogeneity. When this power revealed its totalitarian aspects, its overwhelming monotony, its scientific disciplining techniques, what was asked for was the recognition of differences, the right to real individuality ... antihomogeneity.
It is still possible today to emphasize the huge sections of the world population without access to improved living standards, and which seem increasingly out of it. And it is certainly still possible to claim against totalization and disciplining. It is true that the backside of the abundance of some sectors is the dire poverty of others. It is true that the reverse of the apparent diversity is its administration and emptying. However, we must look beyond. We have to see the new powers that move along the possible, or apparent solutions to these problems. And we must propose a perspective that goes beyond the local and the vindictive. A revolutionary perspective.
Mankind now has more technical and productive resources than at any other historical time. Labour productivity is growing steadily. Actual production, the sum of goods, increases, however much it is being destroyed in waste and conspicuous consumption. Manipulated diversity now includes, more than ever, a space for democratic mechanisms, however much they have been sectored and emptied of content. This is, I believe, the broad material base that makes a reformist policy possible and consistent. We can save the environment, we can bring wealth to the whole planet, we can make life in cities more human. The bottom line, however, is whether humanity is really at stake in all these operations, or if it is not, however, that we do anything but convey and functionalize a new domination, new forms of alienation.
A communist horizon would resignify direction and content of any reform policy, where these policies are obviously necessary. It would be to give a truly human content to change, whether radical or not. The question, therefore, when it comes to putting the problem of communism into discussion again, is how would a truly human society be.
I argue that a major key to this is the idea of an internally differentiated universality. It is thinking beyond the consummate homogeneity, which represents the general happiness without differences, and beyond the consummate individuality, representing individuals as subjects of possible happiness. It is necessary to distinguish, in logical terms, the sheer diversity, being subject of administration, the pure difference, where the relation is outside the terms of the internal difference, in which a totality is made real in the action of the particulars it produces, and to which it gives sense. It is necessary to distinguish "totalization", in which particulars are homogenized by the universal, from "totality", where universality is the operation of an internal difference. I propose thinking communism as a state of differentiated universality, in which the particular is produced, and yet retains its difference as irreducible negativity.
If the sequence from "objectification" to "alienation" is observed, it will be seen that there is a "worsening" of the problem, culminating in alienation. Objectification, basically, essentially, is nothing less than the active form of Being, in a certainly unconventional ontology. The estrangement is an essential dimension to objectification, without which the internal difference would not be a real difference, but could be reabsorbed by the homogenizing universal. Alienation and reification are inter-subjective dimensions, derived from historical situations, which don't need to be essential. Alienation is the form of the history of class society, the active form of human prehistory.
Having put things in these terms, I argue that communism is a state of human history in which alienation and reification have been overcome. But I maintain that it is also a state that preserves the essential dimension of estrangement, of real difference, of conflict. Communism is not a state of homogeneous and general happiness, but one in which happiness is possible. It is not a society in which there are no problems, but one in which problems can be solved. It is not a society in which individuals become one with the universal, but a society in which the particular can be recognized in the universal that produces it and gives it meaning.
Two questions, then, are necessary. The first is to establish under what technical conditions, under what forms of work, a situation like this is possible. The other is what content may be given to the possible recognition between produced particulars. I think Herbert Marcuse was one of the few Marxist thinkers who dared to raise both issues, and developed, in essence, his proposals.
Marcuse seriously considered, for the first time, that one subversive consequence of highly technological work was the gradual reduction of the working time socially necessary to maintain the reproduction of the system. A problem that was not seen in the sixties, and that barely thirty years later is already visible: the potential increase of free time due to the revolutionary gains in productivity. We also know today how the system has tried to avoid the explosive consequences of this situation. One way is simply squeezing out of production huge and growing sectors of the population, keeping what could be called a "full Keynesian employment", ie a policy of full employment, full-time among those integrated into modern production, combined with chronic and absolute unemployment of the huge segments of the marginalized. The other is the strategic growth of entertainment industry that administers that spare time, comfortably controlling it among the integrated, and hardly among the marginalized.
Increased productivity is, however, an ongoing issue, and bottom, in a highly technological industrial system. So that the pressure on the working time continues and increases. In a communist society, with a high technological development, the daily labor socially necessary to reproduce the system is reduced dramatically, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. On the one hand, the socially necessary labor time will be substantially less than the time of free labor. On the another, the type of socially necessary labor will be substantially more human than today. The quantitative reduction will enable the space of recognition and auto production, the space of authentically human exchange takes up most of our lives. The qualitative reduction will make the space of socially necessary work is also a space for recognition of the particulars with the gender that makes them possible. This reasoning may be concluded as follows: for the first time in human history, communism is technically possible, our responsibility, therefore, it is for the first time also entirely political.
The last problem is perhaps the first, and largest. It is the problem of what content to give the movement of human recognition and even if one can speak of such a content, that is, whether there really is a content to make real. I follow Marcuse again in the idea that a general, receptive, peaceful eroticism, can be thought of as substance of the specifically human negativity.
It is necessary to hold that a substance like this is possible and achievable. And there are two words in this statement that should be emphasized: "necessary" and "substance". "It is necessary" means that it is not for the knowledge that such a substance would exist, but for the will, which, in its realization, confirms itself. The impulse of a peaceful widespread eroticism is not a finding of will, but its very essence. It is, with the sexual connotations that the term implies, the being and at the same time the engine, of a will that, in logical, purely abstract terms, can be called negativity. The question here is of logical type: the will is not characterized by its intrinsic negativity, or by the fact that this negativity is of the erotic type, but that it, essentially, is that. The will, negativity, widespread eroticism, are the same thing. And the merit of this nuance we call eroticism is referred to in the core of the willingness to intuited, experienced, everyday experiences. Unless, of course, we have not been fully anesthetized by the mediocre life. And it is to that active agreement between negativity, will and eroticism, which can be called, again in an unconventional logic, "substance": a substance that is subject, as Hegel thought.
The pressure on the socially necessary labor time, and the close connection between managed pleasure, however frustrating it may be, and eroticism that is the will, are the material forces that make of communism a plausible idea. The madness of the communist will is neither more nor less than what the power decreed for those who suspect the keys to its overcoming. An anti-capitalist and anti-bureaucratic revolution is possible. We do not dream but those things for which, in one way or another, the necessary premises for their realization already exist. All reformist claims, any radical initiative, may sign in on the horizon of the communist revolution. And I think that those who believe that communism is possible should rescue this ancient and noble name, from bureaucratic stigma, or from the smiling domination that ridicules it.
b. Communism is necessary
Having put things in the above terms, we can now say why a revolution is necessary, and not just a reformist perspective. And why the revolution is possible in the sense of indicating what aspects of reality point to its possibility.
Classically the necessity of revolution used to be enunciated by what was called "fundamental contradictions" of the system. Today that exercise is also possible. First, as I indicated above, the revolution is necessary, because of the unconventional, permanent and underground war between those integrated into and those excluded from the system of modern production, an essential contradiction, to which reformists always arrive late with their philanthropy, while still, relentlessly, the extermination of the world's poorest poor continues. That is, to put it in the terms that I have defined in the preceding paragraph, the alienation in poverty is aggravated as never before in human history.
Second, there is a deep contradiction between the increase in the quality of life at an individual level and the general degradation of the environment, ie of the conditions in which those lives unfold. It is increasingly comfortable living in a world that is no longer worth living in. It is increasingly easy to own a car in a world where it is increasingly frustrating to travel by car. Every time our household ventilation systems are better, and they each time process more smog.
This has, in turn, its foundation in the deeper contradiction between growing consumer accessibility and the frustration of consumption, even when it is enjoyed. Ie, it is founded on the fact that the pleasure produced by consumption is frustrating, it translates into mediocrity of life, into fragmentation, into stress. And this is a crucial point where we are very far from Marx's calculations: today alienation, and the pain of alienation, are perfectly possible, in the midst of plenty.
Fourth, there is a large-scale contradiction between the progressive reduction of socially necessary labor, by high technology, which produces a high productivity system, which generates enormous quantities of products, and requires instead, fewer workers, which would, at least in principle, be those who, through their wages, could buy all those goods. This forces the system to maintain a purchasing power at the expense of creating unproductive or luxury work, useless jobs, whose sole economic function is to allow for the purchasing power that makes it possible to realize the invested capital. Stupefying, self legitimizing, inertial jobs, where they must be constantly lifting the mood to not bring out the general mediocrity, the tautology of senselessness, without more rationality than the irrationality of the world.
Do not forget, however, at this point, that the capacity to generate unproductive employment has limits or, in practice, is much slower than what reformists would have wanted, so that an immediate effect of this contradiction is that there is a daily increase, at least in absolute terms, numerically, of those excluded from modern production, especially in the regions of classic industrialization, which has led to the emergence of huge pockets of third world in what used to be the first world, as in the steel cities of England, or the car builder locations in Germany.
Fifth, there is a contradiction between the radical increase in the intensity of work and possible losses from faults in the disaggregated, internationally coordinated production chain. This raises two serious issues. One is that the production system becomes so complex that it turns unmanageable, and the simplest errors result in catastrophic failure, with enormous losses of capital. The case of nuclear power plants is exemplary. For traffic, or phone systems, or drinking water supply in big cities, this is commonplace. The giant financial capital losses generated by voluntary or just unexpected errors, that spread through a highly interconnected system, are becoming more common day by day. The collapses of computer systems that handle information in airports, banks, news systems, are everyday events.
But on the other hand, the high intensity of work and, in general, of daily life, creates a new kind of tiredness, not just physical, very different from the classic fatigue. A neuro-muscular fatigue, expressed in endemic psychosomatic diseases, which directly affect those means of production that do require a subjective involvement of workers in the production task. In this regard, it is perhaps worth recalling at this point the very classic idea of classical Marxism, that there would be a major contradiction among the many contradictions of the system. That was, of course, the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Today, I think, the main contradiction would be among the big bureaucrats, managers of the world, and the direct producers. But that old idea actually had two components. On one side it is aiming to objective fact of class contradiction, but on the other hand, it pointed to a subjective matter: the bourgeoisie as a representative of a way of life. You could criticize someone for "being bourgeois", and that connoted individualism, selfishness, lack of real affection for others. If I were asked, in the same plane, which is now the principal subjective contradiction in the system of bureaucratic domination, I would say it is the mediocrity of life. They may have their cars, they may have their computers and stereos, they may feel good and live comfortably, but they still live like dogs, and they know, deep down they know it. Some live like a fifi, a lapdog , servile, available for the affections and random kicking of power. Others just like stray dogs, collecting cardboard, or eternally asking for work, however much right wing mayors have convinced them to vote for them.
The weariness of a new type, not only among those working in front of interfaces of enormous production intensity, but even among those who do not work and live permanently tired of day by day seeing the others consume, makes the entertainment industry acquire a strategic character. Only a huge circus, led directly and efficiently from house to house, a huge fair of illusory variety and oblivion, may keep us tied to the awkwardness of life of mediocrity, and does it, and does it very effectively.
Importantly, all of these, which I called "basic contradictions" of the system, are directly related to the subjectivity or, more accurately, are trying to link "objective" structural data with the subjective effects that would follow from them. This procedure is essential, both theoretically and politically. From a theoretical point of view the point is that never, any contradiction that can be called "objective", can become a social force for change if not for the effects produced on subjectivity. If it is revolution, not simply the alienated blindness of historic automatism, the effect of the dominance of subjectivity is essential. And, therefore, this is also an essential point from a political point of view. In a highly technological society, it is to find the contradictions that may move the will, especially in the social sectors where "objective" poverty is not necessarily compelling.
c. Communism is possible
When I say that revolution is possible, I do not want to refer to the specific political circumstances that bring it closer to or far away from our everyday horizon. Neither Marx made such contingent accounts. He could not do it, no need to. What we need is to show that the conditions which make communism possible are already given in the world, and that there is, in reality, a horizon for politics, however much the task appears as distant and enormously difficult. We are not going into revolution because we believe that we will win, we do simply because we believe it is necessary, and we believe it is preferable to take the risk than staying tied to this illusory freedom that is repressive tolerance. The opportunists, the politicians and the scoundrels, go only into fights they can win. The knights, however, the revolutionaries, and the naive, we fight the fights we must fight.
The revolution is possible because there already is sufficient technological capacity to distribute the socially necessary labor, substantially reducing the socially compulsory workday to keep modern productivity, and substantially increasing the free time of the citizens. And there is sufficient technological capacity to turn substantially more human that socially compulsory labor, which will occupy a lesser part in our lives. And there are the technicians, highly skilled workers, who can do this.
The revolution is possible because the complete articulation of the global market is already possible, through massive and revolutionary extension of the most advanced standards of living until covering all sectors of the human population. There is adequate technology to radically democratize communications and education, access to culture and health, access to housing, and to build cities on a human scale, in which one can live really face to face, without being therefore disconnected from the global system of highly technological production.
The revolution is possible because there is technological capacity to oppose to mere, and manipulated diversity, a differentiated universality of gender, of autonomous individuals, which acquire sense in their membership. These first three points may be summarized as follows: the revolution is today, from a technical point of view, entirely possible.
This implies a clearly defined vision of what communism can be. It is a society in which the labor time socially necessary to maintain the system of highly technological production worldwide has been distributed, on a basis of wide democratization of knowledge, making the socially required working time substantially less than the space of free time. That is, that will have overcome the compulsions that were created by the social division of labor in human prehistory. A society where compulsory labor will be substantially more human than it is today, and where free time will be occupied by free labor, not by the entertainment industry. A society where beauty, and not truth, is the center of its ideological form. A society in which the overall erotization of social relationships allow human recognition without any more mediation than free work, and the re-erotizized sex is an option, rather than a fact of domination, naturalized by power. A society in which alienation will have disappeared, and where estrangement and alienation are fully restorable, even if they appear again and again. A society in which the direct producers democratically controlled social production. A society of free human beings.
However, this possibility may only turn real if there is a will that promotes it. To believe that such a will is possible, it is necessary to believe that fatigue, boredom, the stifling gray of mediocre life, permanent war with the excluded, the general degradation of the global standards of living, put a limit to what the entertainment industry can manage. That the alienation of frustrating pleasure has a limit. And that is the foundation from which the revolutionary will may be formed. There are objective conditions, there may exist the concrete political life to make it real.
To make this revolutionary will possible, it is necessary, first, to go beyond defeat and the endless sequels of academic, everyday, political disappointment, which defeat has left us. To take a leap ahead to the future, leaving behind those experiences that are nothing but our failures, to invent, to start again.
It is necessary to battle in the field of subjectivity, which is the field in which the domination is currently consumed, below the level of consciousness. And that battle can be done through a radical erotization of politics and everyday life. An erotization to fill with life the manipulative objetifying sexualization, an eroticism that puts beauty in the center of our struggles. A battle in which, beyond the manipulable diversity, the great humanity may be recognized, which is the universal that brings us together. Eroticism and universality, two substantive issues that the system can not provide.
4. An old new concept of subjectivity
a. Pleasure and enjoyment
But if it is about a battle in the field of subjectivity, this same term can not be left without specification. It is necessary today, like never before, to establish under what specific subjective conditions we may speak of happiness, and how one can distinguish the happiness to which we aspire from the one which we are presented daily as achievements and possibilities within the system of domination. In reverse and accordingly, we can not say in full force what we mean by alienation but by reference to a positive concept of happiness for contrast.
To consider the possibility of distinguishing happiness as a state, or a mode of being distinct from alienation, it is necessary to use, in terms of the theory, a strongly non-Cartesian idea of the subject, where pleasure and satisfaction may be clearly distinguishable. If this smacks of Freud and Hegel, if it smells like Marcuse, it is not, of course, purely coincidental. These affiliations, however, don't matter to me at all, except as a "pool of ideas", beyond which I will interpret the concepts just as I think they are better suited for the will to have eyes and words.
It is perfectly possible, from a theoretical point of view, to distinguish between pleasure and satisfaction, and to show, now with practical evidence, that satisfaction is frustrating. It is possible to relate both pleasure and satisfaction with desire, but it may also be shown that only pleasure realizes humanity in the way that can be called "happiness" and that, instead, satisfaction has a, both internal and external, limit.
The philosophical question of substance here is the consideration that eroticism is constitutively human. And, in order to specify, it is necessary to distinguish between formation and production or constitution. When we say that something has been formed, we suppose there to be a material that was given form. When we say that something has been constituted, there is not supposed to be a material, but something appeared. Eroticism is constitutively human in the sense that it is not that human beings have eroticism, but humans are eroticism. A way of saying that is that sex is not natural. If sex was natural, then human beings would have sex. But if sex is not natural, then human beings are sex. But it is necessary, at the same time, to reconcile that statement with another, which is that sex is a specialization of eroticism.
Making this specification is important because, strictly speaking, there is no pleasure without enjoyment, no eroticism without sex. Otherwise we would be talking about those Platonic aberrations which are usually called "spiritual pleasures" or, even worse, a horizon of "evangelical poverty", so typical of good hearted utopian socialists. There is no pleasure without enjoyment. That is, there is no pleasure without mediation. And the body, which is the place of sex, if only the headquarters of eroticism, is the main, most direct mediation.
The difference, in reverse, is that there perfectly can be enjoyment without pleasure, ie a mediation in the body, with the object, that promises but does not fulfill. To have pleasure, the involved in the exchange should be specifically human erotic substance, there must be human recognition, ie recognition of my desire in the other's desire. Without this recognition of the presence of my desire on the other, the enjoyment is frustration, and is clearly distinct from pleasure.
It is necessary, however, to establish what is desired in the desire that we hope to convert, or express as a will. This is an idea that has been expressed many times: if pleasure is thought under the logic of desire, that is, if it finds satisfaction in the desire of the other, to be in that desire, rather than destroying it, would be its satisfaction. The pleasure is interested in preserving the object of desire. The desire does not nullify the other in the unity of pleasure annihilating it, but precisely keeping it as an itself in the unit. It is not the same to annihilate the otherness of the other than annihilate the other as such. But to make this difference, you must grant the other is not only constituted as otherness, as an external finitude, ultimately a tragically inaccessible one, as in certain "post" discourses. You must grant that there is a self in the other allowing its preservation in the unit, that is, the other is a being of our same class, that the desire which constitutes him is the same that constitutes me, or that the desire is a common space, or derives from a common space. Or, the difference between the self and the other is an internal difference in unity, the unity of the genre, which is human history itself.
We can talk about happiness, then, in the following terms: when what happens is a properly human exchange, in which the desire to be the desire of the other takes place, in which the body acts as a mediation recognized as human, in which a space of universality is constituted that refers to the universality of the genre. No one can be happy alone. For the fiction itself that we call individual is but a result. But nobody can be happy "in couples" if his experience does not refer to the universal recognition that constitutes them as human couples. Nobody can be happy but in the constituent mediation that is pleasure, and there can not be pleasure but in the potentially constituent mediation that is enjoyment.
But there may be, however, enjoyment without pleasure and, to that extent, a pleasure whose result is not happiness, nor does refer to it. In the enjoyment without pleasure what happens is that the body has been reified, the own body and the body of another, which can appear even as a mere body, as a thing, or just as a thing, as a substitute object. To the extent that the substance of pleasure is the universality of the genre, this enjoyment can only lead to frustration. It can not find itself in the aspiration to be everything that is constitutive of universality. The desire has been curtailed until reducing it to pure mediation, where it stops, frustration leads to the compulsion to repeat the experience it promises, and fails to produce what it promises. The repetition of the painful experience of frustration of the desire of totality, is the symptom of a social state in which human beings can not find themselves as such, having mutually alienated the humanity that wanted to make real. It is not impossible to be happy. The conditions of the possibility or impossibility of happiness are purely historical.
But can you tell someone who lives his enjoyment that he is not happy? The beginning of this question is wrong. It is a question that assumes that the place where happiness can be made real is the individual. It then asks for the private, individual experience, and uses it as a parameter. But individuals are neither real nor relevant, in the experience that may be called happiness. What is real is always the particular that is produced in the relationship, not the alleged prior existence of an individual who has already entered that relationship as a whole, as if his existence were autonomous, previous and by itself. Human individuals never do exist in this way. They are always a full particularization of experiences that constitute them. Of happiness, especially, it can not be said to be a state, or a quality that an individual may have or not. It is, par excellence, a relationship, and a constituting relationship.
And yet, can you tell a couple living their enjoyment that it is not happy? Again the question is conceptually flawed. A couple is only in relation to other humans. Its experience is but a broader particularization of the same humanity that constitutes each of those that form it. The happiness of a couple certainly alludes to the universality that produces it in a closest manner. But only in a reconciled society it is possible to be truly happy.
But it is that nobody is really happy in a class society? It is not necessary to consider things in this extreme way. For what I want to establish, it is sufficient to state that any particular happiness is incomplete without the universal from which it is coming, and under which it makes sense. The fullness of each human can only be fulfilled in human experience as a whole. And everyone can approach it, but there is only fulfillment in a social context in which men are free, where they freely produce their lives.
The political point, of course, is how desire and pleasure may be linked to revolutionary will. Or, more technically, the point is how the unity of pleasure alludes or not to the reality of politics, that is, to human historicity. Or, put another way, the point is the possible relationship between desire and will: the possibility that the will may be the social and historical reality of desire.
In this regard it is necessary to distinguish: individuals are desire, but they belong to a will. Individuals are constituted of their desire (in their desire) to the extent that desire is the particular, and effective, moment of the will that constitutes them. Revolutionary policy is made when this desire is expressed as will, ie, as a concrete moral law, which expresses a concept in social actions. Desire is the material link between the universality of humanity and individuals. In individuals it will be constituted as desire. Recognizing the will in desire, recognizing the desire as a moment of a will: that would be the erotization of the world.
What kind of unity is the one that could be produced by pleasure recognized as a particular moment of a will? Or even, before that, can pleasure be recognized as a particular moment of a will? The discussion between Freud and Reich, read in a Hegelian way, may clarify this issue. Freud's position contains two characteristic determinations: the pleasure is a natural incentive for the biological function of reproduction, and, a couple freely exercising eroticism would tend to focus on itself, and weaken its social ties that bind it to society. Despite the subtlety of Freud's construction, at the decisive moment, Freud assimilates desire to the immediacy of craving. In Reich, however, the pleasure is legitimate in itself, and truly human, and libidinal energy expended in the free exercise of sex abounds: enough to infect objects, environment, and to strengthen social bonds. It is not surprising that Reich believed in sexual politics, having thought (in 1922-1932) social ties as rooted in sexuality.
From Freudian scarcity and libidinal naturalization only a repressive policy can arise, that legitimizes culture as repression necessary for social stability, which would be endangered by erotic liberation. From Reichian abundance and libidinal humanization a non repressive policy may arise, in which sexual liberation may be the material link of recognition.
The difference between Reich and Marcuse is relevant, however, at this point. Reichian sexuality is always on the verge of naturalization, especially if it is seen as generalized genitality. The concern to establish, almost quantitative, objective criteria for satisfying orgasm naturally led Reichian naturalism to an abstract substantialization of libido, in the figure of the orgone. This, and Marcuse's critique of the repressive nature of the liberalization of the genitality, show the need to radicalize the humanization of libido, and to link it more actively to the will, as its content. That is, it is necessary to differentiate between sexual liberation and erotization of the world.
A policy of eroticising the world, is to conceive eroticism as ethical substance, ie as material content of the will, and the will as a space in which individuality is produced as desire.
The desire is doomed to be repeated while the unity it produces is indeed an empty unity. That is, a unity that does not recognize the space from which it comes and in which it unfolds as a particular moment. In this repetition otherness appears as a necessity that is not recognized, not satisfied. The necessity appears as alienated substance, which unfolds as pure incomprehensible otherness, without showing the sameness that makes the unity possible.
Freedom is the necessity recognized as one's own. It is what emerges from the recognition that we are ourselves producers of the laws, or the recognition of the materiality of the ethical substance which, in current key, could be mutual recognition between will and desire. One might think of the unity of these moments of individuation and belonging in the nomination of a new virtue, a morality, where the ethical tie of the recognized individualities es the materiality of generalized eroticism.
If so, then virtue would not necessarily be the babbler scope of the presumption of the modern individual, or self-sacrifice, real or fictional, of individuality to the ideal, but the mandate of an erotic morality rooted in both the individual desire as well as in the space of the will in which a people expresses itself.
In this context it is necessary for me to specify how I am using the notion of eroticism, especially when connected with the ideas of individual and libidinal energy or Id. The word "energy", of course, is a metaphor. It is not that there's an energy, there is something like an energy. It is a metaphor that sometimes is misleading. The only relevant thing from a philosophical point of view, is that Id is, or again, it has being. The ontological nature of that being is already a more complicated thing. There is something there that constitutes, that's the basic idea. On the other hand, think that Id is not in individuals, individuals are in Id. And that has to do with a matter which is also quite rare, from a very strange logic, which is the notion of transindividuality.
The difference is that when we say: "the unconscious", what this means is that there is a space in which there is Ego. But there aren't individuals who have this unconscious, the other unconscious and still another unconscious. The relationship between the "inter" space and "individual" space is reversed. Classically there are individuals who are related, however, in these other terms, there is a space in which individuals are constituted. This should be understood as a real transindividual field. Thanks to the unconscious there can be individuals.
There is something that, when shaped, is called "Ego". But that does not depend on that shape. Something that is, in logical terms, previous to that shape. In logical terms, not in terms of time. There is a philosophical word for this: Id is a substance. The problem is how to distinguish between a notion of substance, as the Cartesian res cogitans, and a notion of non-Cartesian substance. This is because the Id which interest here is not very Cartesian, it is what from domination, or from historical impotence, we do regard as irrational. You could formulate the notion of substance in a non Cartesian way and you could think of Id that way.
You might think, according to the traditional pre Freudian interpretations of Freud, that I am speaking here of biology. I have not stopped talking yet, at no time, of human history, of radical humanism, for which nature is but an extension of the properly human. Marcuse raised the need to resist the totalization exerted by the one-dimensional society by rooting subversion in the "biology", in the instinctual structure. But the "biological" in Marcuse, is a deeply historicized term. Marcuse is thinking more about the biology in the sense of German Romanticism in the sense of neurophysiology.
In terms of a Hegelian logic, what is hidden in what we call biological is not itself a being, but an activity, or as one might say in Hegelian language, a negative power, which is continuously another of itself. In ontological terms is (literally) a being, which coincides with the will of man, a more fundamental, previous will, than the will that defines consciousness. I will speak in philosophical terms: a substance that is pure negativity, a substance that is more aesthetic than ethical, because it has to do with generalized eroticism, as configurator of ethics, a substance which, of course, is more ethical than epistemological . And this negative, aesthetic substance, is one that can operate as an internal limit of enjoyment.
From a theoretical point of view, what is to show is that there may be a non-repressive sublimation. A sublimation consisting of eroticizing, rather than displacing the libidinal energy that the erotic object itself contains. Libidinal energy actually expressed in an exercise of satisfaction that is flowing and diverse. So the issue is whether sublimation is a mechanism of displacement that objectifies satisfaction on an object, or a mechanism for environmental erotization. There could be a pleasant exercise of sublimation.
This possibility should be combined with the idea that there is a distinction between enjoyment and pleasure, between the mental representation of biological or physiological balance (enjoyment) and between the properly human and conceptual exercise of eroticism. That there is no pleasure without enjoyment, but that there can perfectly be enjoyment without pleasure, this is what happens in the situation of repressive de-sublimation of consumer culture.
Put in those terms, the question: May there be cultural well-being? suggests whether you can have a pleasant experience within culture, not just a enjoyable experience. What there is to argue is that, to the extent that the drives are historical and not natural realities, you can build an eroticism that is compatible with culture.
To make this possible, the postulate of a negative aesthetic substance is necessary, that can be converted into a will free of beauty, which can act as the center of a criticism of the established world. And that of course requires a very particular metaphysics, of which at least you can say that it is radically out of fashion. A metaphysics that puts beauty and life at the center of the real, and the ability to fight for them. Or, more honestly, a self conferred metaphysics, not discovered, but placed by the will.
c. From frustrating enjoyment to politics
All of the above discussion is politically relevant because, from it, this essential idea is possible: enjoyment has an internal limit. When clearly distinguishing between pleasure and enjoyment, it turns out possible to criticize the forms of alienated satisfaction. If it is true that there is an internal limit for enjoyment, it may also be true that you can get satisfaction until getting your fill of it. And fact that the satisfaction the system of highly technological domination provides has a limit is, from a theoretical point of view, certainly a surprise to the consciousness of the current left bewildered by the apparent success of modern mass consumerism.
If we consider the picture of the left critique today, the idea that enjoyment has an internal limit is essential to break the impasse that has been led by their enlightened prejudices. The traditional left is notoriously surprised by the way domination is currently imposed. In particular, by the huge anomaly of the fact that there is more and more information available and there isn't a corresponding increase in the consciousness, the readiness for struggle. That has to embarrass any enlightened mentality. In Marx's time you could say; "When people know the reality, then there will be consciousness, and objective conditions will meet the subjective conditions". Today everyone knows the reality, there is no one who does not know that there are seven hundred thousand people dying in Zaire, there is nobody who does not know that 30% of Chileans are harmed directly and profoundly by an economic model that ever more increases their misery and marginalization. Information works, consciousness works, and people consistently vote for the right, their acts are made up by the system of domination.
Given this, classic Communists have no alternative but to resort to the old theories of modernity; "what happens is that people are selfish" or worse, "people are manipulated ideologically". They are puzzled because the system of domination has passed on consciousness, and they lack theoretical tools to address the situation.
From the point of view of illustrated mentality, enjoyment could forever manage humanity, because people are always going to have, if you will, a libidinal complicity with the system of domination while consuming, or even while the system of social communication can maintain the expectation of consumption. Because domination below consciousness is powerful enough to achieve that not only those consuming, but even those who do not consume, behave as if they consumed.
Then, the theoretical and political problem is whether this enjoyment that keeps the libidinal bond with the system of domination has a limit or not. But, on the other hand, these criticisms, operating in the field of subjectivity, must be connected with the very objective and visible contradictions that can be seen in the overall management of the system. Just as there is an internal limit to the enjoyment that comes from a negative aesthetic substance that constitutes the human, there is also an external limit, which has to do with the general degradation of the quality of life, as I noted above, when specifying the objective needs that lead us to fight for a communist horizon. In general, the contradiction contained in the fact that while the quality of particular life grows, the global quality of life is deteriorating.
It is the combination of this internal limit, we may theoretically glimpse at from a theory of subjectivity, and these outer limits, we can empirically establish, from where it becomes thinkable converting socially and historically pent-up frustration into political will. What matters here is not that this individual or that, say, subjectively and privately, that they are happy, that consumption completely fills their expectations and their lives. What matters politically is the force that may arise from the accumulation of repeated and enforced frustration under the prevailing conditions. What matters is not that a couple of Swedes say they are happy (now that they moved to the Caribbean), but the social fact that there are high rates of suicide, substance abuse, religious fundamentalism in Sweden.
The limit at which social frustrations begin to become political will is very variable, and can be expressed in many ways, unconventional for classical Marxist consciousness. The task of the radical opposition is to be able to recognize those cracks in the apparently prevailing enjoyment, it is to link them with the pains of the social sectors who suffer from more direct and "objective" oppression, it is converting into social and political movement what may appear only as a diffuse dissatisfaction and underground unrest.
there is, indeed, no theoretical guarantee that this can be done. The guarantees of the possible success of any political struggle are no more than those built in the struggle itself. That is, properly, the founding condition of politics. But the will may construct a theory that helps to see the places where it can be made possible, in a viable and credible way. In Marxist theory these theoretical elements are always associated with the attempt to find social and historical contradictions in which a system of production of life shows its precarious characteristics, and its structural likeliness to be overcome. For a Marxism of new type I propose, it is central that these contradictions do reside in the structure of the production system. And it is also essential that they may be expressed in terms of theories of alienation and subjectivity that I'm using as a foundation. This problem, which is strictly "economic", is, in Marxist theory, the central problem of exploitation.
5. A theory of exploitation
a. The idea of value and exploitation
But the whole conceptual framework here, where I have linked alienation, eroticism and communism, does only have one specifically Marxist sense if they can be linked to the idea of exploitation, ie, to a direct and explicit criticism of the prevailing social relations.
With this the same concepts move from its purely philosophical or subjective nuances to their specific sociological and economic aspects, from which the discourse of politics can be more directly articulated.
Of course, the founding economic problem is value, and what I am proposing is to first relate this concept with the theory of alienation, and then take it to its technically economic consequences.
I argue that we can say that there is valuation in general, when there is production of humanity, objectification. The object is valuated in being subjectivized, being giving humanity. The subject valuates itself by constituting itself as such in becoming objectified and recognized in its product.
In principle, when we exchange products, we exchange them by what they have of humanity in them. When we want a product, what we want is the humanity in it. Humanity is always desired. "A self consciousness finds its satisfaction only in another self consciousness," says Hegel.
Of course, there are no pure instances of self-consciousness. You may find self-awareness in body mediation and therefore, the profound difference between pleasure and enjoyment is nothing but going from a bodily relationship where humanity is made real, to one in which the only thing that finds satisfaction is the body, as a reified body. And this is also why enjoyment can be frustrating: you can consume objects, including human beings as objects, failing to recognize or grasp in them their humanity and the life they contain. That is, without achieving satisfaction of what is really desired.
But this also means that EVERY human need is historic, and occurs in the life of the genre. No need is natural. No need has foundational or limiting character. Needs, as subjects, and to the same extent, are produced.
Well, I call value in general to the value that the object has for whom has produced it and exchanges it for the humanity contained in it. With this, what I'm doing is expanding the notion of value to include in it the "valuable" in general, as a qualitative measure of the exchanges in which humanity is constituted.
By separating the notion of value from all natural reified objectivity, I'm not thinking about the usefulness, or the technical performance of "use" anymore, but, in general, about value as that something which circulates from hand to hand when humans produce and mutually produce each other. "Value" is another word, now of economic connotation, for the idea of humanity itself.
For the same reason, when I argue that the value in use is a qualitative measure of the exchanges constituent of humanity, the notion of "exchange" does not necessarily imply the other, much more limited, notion of "equivalent exchange". Actually, in the exchange of use values, the measures of the exchanged are simply immeasurable and, to the extent that what is at stake is a constitutional action, rather than the transfer of already given realities, the valuation that both parties make of what they give and what they receive, is rather due to the gratuity with which both accept to constitute and to be constituted from another.
In fact, more than "exchange", and more than "transfer", the simple relation of values in use is rather a mutual production of gifts, of freely given and received gifts. Or, to put it more crudely, the possibility of an exchange of values in use is logically prior, and independent of the establishment of a market. This may be a horror for economists, but it is politically crucial for a communist will. A human relationship is perfectly conceivable, not only an inter subjective, but an actually social one, not being mediated by the market. A society without market is perfectly conceivable and possible: communism.
A founding intuition of Marxism is that in capitalist society the exchange of actual human value has been usurped and distorted by market relations, by their abstract and dehumanized expression in relationships of exchange mediated by money. The properly human qualities of value have been abstracted and expressed in a merely quantitatively universal equivalent, money, that would measure them regardless of the subjective human effort put into their production. The practice and theory of classical bourgeois economics has assumed work as the source of value, but it has reified this work in turn, measuring it only as abstract accumulated labor, a formula culminating in reducing this human effort to its sheer dimension of time. Either way, what economy considers values are but abstract amounts of time, regardless of the subjective content these times bear in them.
I fully follow these classical economists and Marx, when calling "exchange value" to the value that the goods acquire in the market, ie in the exchange actually occurring in class societies, and in capitalism in particular . The founding philosophical and political analysis of Marxism, under the specific criticisms that Marx makes of the operation of the capitalist economy, is related to the process of conversion of values in use into exchange values. This is the basic problem. Regardless of whether the specific analysis of capitalism is nowadays fulfilled or not, regardless of whether the laws of capitalism may be formulated the way Marx did it or not, the underlying problem is whether a society is conceivable in which the value is considered only in its original meaning of exchange of humanity.
And to examine this we can go, without reservation, to Marx's original analysis of capitalist society. There the essential steps that I care to highlight are as follows. The first, which connects to the above analysis, is that all value comes from human labor. Nothing has value in itself and objectively (neither gold, nor water, nor air); nothing adds value except human intervention (neither technology nor knowledge, nor comparative advantage, nor usury on capital). The origin of any exchange value, any process of valuation, lies in human labor.
The second point is that, socially and historically, that is not locally or temporarily, the products are exchanged on the market for their exchange values, not their prices. The law of supply and demand operates locally and temporarily, on prices, not on the value. Prices tend, socially and historically, to the exchange value. This is very important because of the methodological principle and the content it expresses. Methodologically it means that Marx is not interested in calculating point to point the variables that operate in the bourgeois market, but rather in their historical and global trends, that is, precisely those aspects that are suitable for diagnosis and political calculation. In terms of content this means that Marx is not interested in a theory of prices as such, or in the immediate calculation of the surplus value extracted per worker, or profits, but rather in the general movement that occurs, throughout the capitalist system, under these facts.
The third point is that for Marx the exchange value is determined by the time socially necessary to produce a commodity. And, again, in this case the "socially necessary time" is not an amount that Marx would propose to calculate precisely and locally, but a category which indicates that in the process of valuation of goods there are factors involved such as the technological level, the availability of raw materials, the cost of labor, the costs of maintenance and reproduction of the production process. The integration of these factors to the analysis of valuation processes is allowing Marx to find and describe the dynamic aspects of capitalist production as a whole: the structural need for technological competition, the structural need to exert pressure on the cost of the work force, the structural downward trend in the rate of profit and the monopolistic concentration of capital and, above all, the structural trend to recurrence of general crisis of overproduction.
"Structural", in each of these cases, means that these trends are made real globally and beyond the immediate consciousness of the actors, in a typically alienated effect. That is, crisis, fierce competition, the tendency to depress wages are not "flaws" of capitalism, or signs of malfunction, but on the contrary, the unwanted and, while the general rules of the game stay the same, necessary effect of "good" and "competent" activity of each capitalist in particular. It is not because the capitalists operate "badly" that economic crisis come to be, just the opposite, crises are the result of the "best" possible capitalist behavior, that is, the one in which the primary objective is to maximize profit.
However, profit maximization is not part of any essential "nature" of the bourgeois as historical actors. It is a historically produced and conditioned feature. This is extremely important because, strictly speaking, it can not be said that capitalism is "intrinsically evil" in the sense of wanting to plunge most of the population into poverty, or regularly pick on humanity, every time there general crisis. The bourgeoisie as a class, beyond particular abuse, as many times as real, does not have exploitation nor poverty as a priority goal, but instead the production and reproduction of profit. Only if profit required of these ingredients it will take them on without hesitation. But a capitalist operation in abundance and with substantially "humanized" exploitation levels is perfectly imaginable. This is especially imaginable and politically crucial in a highly technological society. In the end, if the mass of surplus value obtained by valuation processes in contexts of very advanced technology are large enough, even the absolute attempt to maximize private profit is essential and a wide possibility of socially "distributing" significant shares of surplus value becomes imaginable, in a society which, as a whole, appears as "benefactor". This consideration is essential for a Marxist critique of bureaucratic power.
But to return to the essentials of Marx's analysis, a fourth point, and in some sense the most important, is the idea that what is paid to the worker under capitalism is not "work" but the "workforce", and that therefore the value that society pays for the workforce is determined by what it costs to produce it or, put another way, the fact that the workforce has become a commodity.
If the pay for the workforce is what it socially and historically costs to produce it, the secret of capitalist exploitation is but the following: the labor force is a commodity that produces more value than what it costs in the market. The difference between the two values is the surplus value. Capitalist exploitation can be described accurately as extraction of surplus value, legitimized by the figures of private property and the contract.
Two issues are important on this historically specific mechanism of exploitation of man by man. One is the social and historical determination of the cost of the workforce. Another is the fact that this operation is performed, under capitalism, freely. I will consider these two issues at the same time in the analysis that follows, to show the connections I want to do between critique of capitalism and critique of the bureaucratic society, and why I think today it is necessary to develop both of them evenly.
b. Anticapitalist critique
Basically, the Marxist critique of capitalism can be found in the theory of exploitation through the mechanism of extraction of surplus value. From a review of this mechanism arises, however, the fact that the capitalist does not know if he will recover its investment, if it will be realized at the market. Instead, the worker, at least in principle, and as established by a contract, has secured his salary for payment, as part of the initial investment. The capitalist runs an objective and, so to say, structural risk. The worker, however, is safe (as far as the capitalist progresses) at least of his salary. Couldn't one then argue that profit is only the socially acceptable award to the capitalist for that risk? What might be the Marxist arguments regarding this rationalization whereby the risk should be rewarded? Or again, why do Marxists criticize the extraction of surplus value? What do they criticize here?
It is important to note, first, that the mere extraction of surplus value does NOT necessarily lead to absolute poverty. First because in a high-productivity system effectively and safely such wages can be paid, whose absolute level is more than acceptable. Second because not only the overall increase in living standards, which results in pressures of the labor movement on capital, but also the internal dynamics of production itself, require sufficiently skilled, healthy and minimally motivated workers, which excludes, at least for the most modern and complex sectors of production, levels of absolute material poverty. But, thirdly, because these workers are an important part of the recipients of production, they are the potential consumers, without which capitalist investment would fail to be realized.
One could argue, however, that the trend towards profit maximization, and capitalist competition itself forces trying to cut costs by keeping wages as low as possible. It should be noted, however, that these conditions do NOT frontally contradict those stated earlier, so that the "lowest possible" level of wages should be understood rather as the level that socially and historically is the lowest possible. Which brings us back to the perfectly possible situation of wages well above the historic lows of poverty. Question, moreover, that is perfectly evident in many sectors of modern production.
If so, then it is not true that best capitalism necessarily produces absolute poverty. One could argue that it nevertheless produces relative poverty, that is, the growth of profits is always higher than the growth of wages, although the historical downward trend in the rate of profits has been postulated. Relative poverty, however, as evidenced by certain groups of workers, could be comfortable enough to socially and historically justify the difference. If no viable alternatives have been shown, we could tolerate the wealth of the few in exchange for the comfort and welfare of the majority.
Of course one can argue that in fact, empirically, there are capitalists who lead the trend of profit maximization to the limit of "abuse", ie exercising the extraction of surplus value absolutely, by restricting wages or extending the day of labor, simply protected by their strength and the lack of strength of workers. This being a very general situation, and an element of great existential weight, it is not, however, as presented, a very solid argument. It happens that whenever the "excesses" of the system are criticized, there can be always the answer that there would not necessarily be excesses. That is, the system itself has not been criticized, structurally. From a methodological point of view, we can say that, however serious the circumstances, there is nothing in them so far, that allows to consider them as essential to the system. The criticism, up to this point, is surmountable and contingent.
The sheer existence of poverty, alone, in short, is not an indictment of the structure of the capitalist system. Not only there are, in a verifiable way, important social sectors with more than acceptable levels of life, but it has not yet been proven that poverty is a necessary consequence of its operation. One could always argue that it is but a surmountable backwardness.
The problem of poverty takes on a different dimension, however, when it is related to what, with a somewhat cynical elegance, is called "primitive accumulation of capital". A historical charge that can be directed against the capitalist system is that, socially, the initial capitals, from which the cycle of expanded reproduction started, were obtained via the colonial looting, theft, war of conquest, armed barbarism. This is not only true, and widely documentable from a historical point of view, but it also is in principle and in an essential way. It is not at all conceivable that a class of technological innovators has made humanity, and their own pockets, progress, armed merely with their wits and the power of their words. The implementation of such wits in effective large-scale production apparatus necessarily required enormous amounts of capital that historically were not available, nor available to any previous society. The states used to their advantage, and through colonial plunder, or direct plunder and piracy, contributed the capital which launched all of the pompous pride of modernity.
If this original sin occurred at the beginning of the capitalist social formation, one could argue that today it is justified by its effects. If the product of the original violence is that we today have, within the same system, ample opportunities to overcome poverty and to advance mankind as a whole, perhaps, despite the regrettable and extraordinary circumstances, that violence perhaps made sense. Perhaps, given the possibilities for the future, it doesn't make much sense to accuse the current capitalists for the sins and crimes of their grandparents. It should be accepted, at least, that such accusation, as an argument, is not too strong.
Very different is the case, however, if in fact what happens is that the "original" accumulation is not just a historical event in the system startup, but repeated again and again, whenever the capitalist crisis is exiting on the irrational destruction of capital required by the contradiction between competition, production and private property. This each time leads to a new period of "original" accumulation, that is, of finding sources of capital with which to promote the next production cycle and its new technologies. This new phase of accumulation turns back to plunder, to the social decline of wages, to increases in working hours, covered by force, especially where the use of force is still easily feasible, ie, on the outskirts of the system.
"Normal" capitalist competition, which is moved by increases in surplus value relatively achieved, that is, through increases in the intensity of labor, in technological development, leads to the crisis of overproduction due to the contradiction between the private nature of economic initiatives, and the social, public, haphazard, non transparent character of the market. From this crisis you may get out not only through a technological leap forward, but also resorting to looting, and to the mechanisms of absolute surplus value extraction. Absolute and relative surplus value alternate historically. From these considerations it follows that the capitalist "abuse" is an essential part of the system, not only empirically, but by virtue of its structural characteristics. If so, absolute poverty or, at least, the cyclical deterioration of living standards in the center, and its repeated and systematic degradation in the periphery, are essential features. And when criticizing them, we have arrived at a point which can only be reversed through a structural change.
But perhaps even that structural change would be, at least partly, realizable within the system. A deeper reformism may be possible than the one stemming from philanthropy. That would be the case if it were, if not to avoid, at least to regulate and substantially moderate the cyclical crises of overproduction. Obviously this is not possible without substantially intervening, directly or indirectly, on the market, either to ensure the purchasing capacity, to control financial speculation, or to moderate the intensity of looting during periods of accumulation through contributions in infrastructure spending by the state.
To the extent that these interventions put an essential limit to the capitalist free will, one can speak of structural reforms. But, to the extent that they do not touch the central institution of private property, you can not properly speak of revolution.
But if we go beyond, in a radical reformist perspective, it may be that these controls on the market arise from a progressive loss of effective power by the capitalist class, and its transfer to a class of managers of common property, either by the progressive dissolution of the classic private property in unmarked equity companies, or in the form of management of social funds (such as pension funds), or the emergence of transnational regulatory powers over the private capital.
Independently of the possibility of postulating that we here are facing the emergence of a new type of class rule, which kind of critique could we then make to this situation, be it characterized as capitalism or as bureaucratic power?
To formulate a response in this case it is necessary to radically consider the core of the Marxist critique of the extraction of surplus value. And I think this can only be done regaining its essential connection with the critique of alienation and, from there, with the notion of class structure.
The underlying problem is what is appropriated when surplus value is appropriated. In economic language it should be said to be a part of the value created by the labor force. But if asking in turn, now philosophically, what is that value, we find that it is but objectified humanity. That is, in the terms of the capitalist contract it is established that the worker will objectify his talents, efforts and nerves, that he will put what is truly human to him into a product, and be paid for it with part of the value he created, reified in the form of an universal equivalent: his salary in cash. He puts humanity, he objectifies as a subject and subjectivizes the object he produces, and he is rewarded, however, with his objectification reified as merchandise, he "gets paid" by reifying his proper humanity, his workforce, as a commodity.
For Marxist ethics, this exchange is absolutely uneven and, in any case, dehumanizing. The capitalist, considered as a class, appropriates humanity and puts it into circulation as a thing. Regardless of the exchange value of the salary, ie, whether the work is good or poorly paid, the whole process dehumanizes social and inter-personal relations. Even if they will pay us very well, and our abstractly material needs are met, the individual and social world that results from this is reprehensible, and its intrinsic inhumanity will be eventually expressed one way or another as loss of sense, artificial competition , selfishness and interest. This can also be said colloquially this way: it is not enough to live better, what we want is to be happy.
Certainly this critique requires several previous philosophical convictions that underlie it. As mentioned above, one is the idea that all value originates from human labor. Another is that there are no abstractly objective values, valid for themselves, regardless of what men are and the ways in which they produce themselves. And, further, the idea that there is no more objectivity than what is objectified in the work. That is, that there is nothing in the world which exists independently of human history and humanity's activity of producing itself.
Abstractly objective is what is objective and a thing for itself. Concretely objective is what is objective because it has been objectified in the work, and has become a thing by the way that work is socially organized.
If so, then all products of work are objectified humanity and the sense of criticizing the fact that someone becomes rich by the work of others, regardless of taking risks or not, is to oppose both the products and the labor force itself being converted into commodities, into things. Accordingly, when the capitalist buys labor force, he buys is humanity. Such as in slavery you could buy a whole man, body and soul, now they continue buying men, with the subtle aggravating condition that what is bought from them is only and exactly what makes men, their labor force, their humanity. The eventful freedom that would have been granted to bodies and movements, is denied by the slavery which gives those bodies content and meaning.
However and beyond, the requirements of the slavery of work, the order that is necessary for wage labor to be possible, also ends enslaving the bodies in an extra legal, deep slavery, which is what may be called discipline. Taylorism, Fordism, Taylorization of subjectivity in the sectors of high-tech production, enclosing the formal freedom given to the bodies in the general slavery horizon of a mediocre life, with welfare or without.
But this estimate, a "mediocre life," is rooted in a second philosophical assumption, now about happiness itself. For the critique of capitalist dehumanization of work to hold, it is necessary to affirm that happiness is more than just pleasure and satisfaction of abstract bodily needs. The necessary complement to a theory of alienation is a definite theory of possible reconciliation. And, as I mentioned in the previous chapter, a notion is consistent with the humanist, secular and atheistic materialism of Marxism where reconciliation is the exchange of humanity as recognized humanity and the fulfillment of desire is being mutually in the desire of the other under the mediation of labor.
No product of human labor should circulate merely as a thing, as a commodity. Let alone the workforce. Every human work should be exchanged for the human value recognized in it, not by the abstract equivalent that expresses it as a thing. We should live to fulfill ourselves at work, and not be slaves of the drudgery to which we are required merely to survive. If work is experienced as free labor, we should also free ourselves from Taylorism or neo-Taylorist disciplining that ties our existence to a mediocre life.
Does this mean a society in which there is no market, no money? Yes, that's what it means at least. Of course a society that dares to commit such a depravity should be called communist.
Three are, in summary, the argumental lines of the Marxist critique of capitalism. The first is that the use of absolute forms of extraction of surplus value each time it is necessary to finance the technological leaps that allow getting out of cyclical crisis is a structural feature of the system. This produces significant setbacks in overall life levels, and recurrently produces an absolute poverty which, under the current patterns of product distribution, has led a third of humanity to misery and profound marginalization.
The second is that it is a structural feature of the system to have cyclical crises of overproduction, in which the irrationality of the contradiction between the individual initiatives of economic agents and the social character of production is expressed as destruction of product and means of production, useless waste of human labor, amid extreme poverty for huge segments of the world population.
The third is that even in the unlikely event that poverty may be overcome, or if bureaucratic regulation puts sufficient limits to capitalist initiative to moderate the crisis, the process of labor itself, under the capitalist contract, is essentially dehumanized by commodity reification, alienating the subjective essence of humanity, and forcing the objectifying discipline of the bodies.
No salary can compensate for what we turn over to capital: our humanity, our lives. We give humanity and in return we received, in the best case, abstract being, and, at worst, absolute misery. We give our freedom and in exchange we receive the discipline required by the immediate forms of work organization. We give our social effort and receive in return a divided society, at war, a predatory society. Overall we are denied our enthusiasm and creativity in repetitive and monotonous machines or in absurd and self sustained processes. But when they come to recognize that there is something valuable in that creativity and enthusiasm, it is but to condemn us to paternalism and a mediocre life, without horizons, full of more or less pleasant easements. And this criticism goes beyond whether the exploitation is managed by private capital or by bureaucratic interest, presented, like any ruling class does, as interest in the progress of all mankind.
The communist critique of exploitation must reach not only reified life under the rule of capital, but even the poor comfort that bureaucratic regulation could offer us. If the subversive aspiration is nothing less than communism, it is not only to live better but to be happy.
c. The idea of exploitation
The line of argument in the previous section relates to another point which is in the order of the basics: the idea of exploitation.
We are not happy because there are powers that dominate us, impede our freedom, make, ourselves being involved in it, a world that we find strange and enemy. A founding intuition of Marxism is that such domination stems from the exploitation of man by man.
To specify this concept, you need, first, to distinguish between "domination" and "exploitation". I use "domination" as a broad term that generally involves a differential of power and an exercise of advantages for subjecting others. A submission which involves obtaining a profit, even if only the mere benefit of the satisfaction of subjecting. I use "exploitation" as a more restrictive term: it involves removing and appropriating value from the other. In this distinction, domination is an eminently political term, what is at stake in it is power. Exploitation, however, is an eminently economic term, what is at stake is profit and value.
In general, the idea of a social theory that has chosen to think the conflict as constitutive and foundational, is that social relationships are formed around conflicts involving domination and exploitation. As a minimum, social groups, their conscience, their possible unity of interests, would be formed around these conflicts. On that basis it should specified under what conditions we may speak of "social classes" and "class struggle". Of course, following the concept of domination, a theory of power should be specified, and following the concept of exploitation, a theory of forms of extraction and appropriation of value, and of the conditions that make it possible.
At least, from a Marxist point of view, it is necessary to accept two options. One: no man has a primal and autonomous desire for power, for domination itself, as the mere desire of desire, or a "will to power". There is no other similar primeval, and natural desire, characterizing or limiting human will. The other option is that the situations of domination must always be connected to relations of exploitation, on which they are based and which give them meaning. Power is sought to ensure the permanence of exploitation, ie to ensure the profit resulting from extracting value from anothers. There may be exploitation without domination (unequal transfers of value that do not involve a particular unequal power relationship, as in the case of transfers of value inside the process of reproduction of capital between sectors of capitalists), but there can be no domination without exploitation.
What is at stake in this second option is one of the most frequent criticisms against classical Marxism, one that holds that the relations of exploitation can not account for all of the conflicting relationships found in society. According to this critique, originally from Weber (for example, "Economy and Society"), conflicts such as those that occur in gender relations, or social or ethnic discrimination, would escape the logic of mere extraction of value, and there would be at stake, however, other dimensions of the social, not reducible to economic variables. Relationships of cultural, sex, ethnic, and status differences and so on.
Against this what I care to support is the centrality and necessity for a communist horizon of holding to the idea of exploitation. I argue, first, that from an empirical point of view, although not all relationships of domination may be immediately correlated with an exploitative relationship to explain it, it would be necessary to accept that at least originally it was related to a form of exploitation, but then, in the course of increasing complexity of the division of labor, it has become autonomous, and has lost the foundational relationship that gave it origin and meaning. It is possible that today the relations of gender domination is not always related to defined forms of mercantile exploitation, but come from contexts where that was necessary. This is an empirical question, which should be subject to anthropological research in every form of domination that we are interested in unveiling in a Marxist way.
But the problem is deeper, and not really an empirical one; it has to do with the notion of value and extracting value. I argue that the criticism launched by Weber holds only if one accepts that the only form of value is exchange value. If we understand exploitation as appropriation of exchange value, then of course we can not account for all the complexity of the social or, in other words, it is true that not all social relations are relations of mercantile type, even when under the dominance of market relations.
I argue that it is necessary, in order to avoid economic reductionism, and instead keep the idea of exploitation, to extend this idea from simple appropriation of value in the form of exchange value to all situations of appropriation of value in general, that is, to all forms of human relationship there is loss and unequal appropriation of humanity. The idea of exploitation is thus linked more strongly to the idea of objectification and alienation than its more particular expressions in commercial relationships.
If the path of restricting the idea of exploitation to the appropriation of exchange values is followed, it becomes inevitable to distinguish between domination and exploitation, and to accept that there can be dominance without exploitation (for example, in the submission of the wife to follow her husband in the patriarchal marriage), and also the idea becomes inevitable that there are, even advantageous, transfers of value, without any domination involved (such as those occurring between the productive sectors in the process of reproduction of capital).
In the end, from this reasoning could even follow the idea that there only is exploitation in societies where there is a market, or where the market is the primary mediator of social relations, by which, for example, feudal societies could be presented to as societies of "cooperation" around common interests and reciprocal services (mutual defense, servitude in exchange for protection). Not only the idea that Marxism can become an encompassing theory that accounts for the outline of the whole of human history would have to be abandoned, but also, in this course, you could try a vision of bureaucratic society as a society having recovered solidarities and reciprocal services, the feudal style, but without religious obscurantism. The first effect implies, in my opinion, a substantive theoretical sacrifice: I think that Marxism can not abandon the claim to account for the whole of human history. The second effect, which is central, seems simply unacceptable: the idea of limiting exploitation to its purely economic dimension opens a wide door to ideological rationalization of bureaucratic power. And I think these claims are already visible in much of the current ideology of the emerging system of dominance.
But also, I argue that the centrality of the idea of exploitation is necessary to maintain two notions without which one can hardly speak of Marxism: the idea that social relationships are formed around basic antagonisms, not only conflicts, and the idea that these antagonisms can be solved only through a revolutionary process.
An essential connotation of the idea of exploitation is that the relationships constituted around it are antagonistic, not only conflict driven. To speak of exploitation, it is necessary to argue that the interests vested around the appropriation of value are constitutive of their actors and, to that extent, the relation of exploitation is vitally essential to them, it deeply commits their existence, to the extent of alienation and therefore ideological rationalization. As we have stated above, the situations of alienation are tragic in the sense that they evolve beyond the consciousness of the actors, and can not be solved, then, by a mere effort of consciousness and dialogue. In the same extent that the exploitation constitutes its actors, the way out from exploitation requires a process to revolutionize this situation, to end the reified mode that dominates life. Alienation, exploitation, antagonistic strife and revolution are correlative concepts, which constitute a unity without which a communist horizon is not imaginable in a political and concrete way, but becomes a mere ideal, a mere declaration of good intentions.
That is why I maintain that the proposal of a revolutionary Marxism requires maintaining the connection between the need for global revolutionary transformation of society, in practical terms, and a comprehensive explanatory principle to substantiate the theory. This explanatory principle is the idea of exploitation. It is because society has been constituted around exploitative relationships that a revolution is necessary.
However, for this it is necessary to expand the idea of exploitation to all transfers of value generally involving an unequal distribution and reifying of value. To understand exploitation both as the extraction of value and its differential appropriation (devaluation), as well as the actions that prevent the appreciation of the other in function of keeping that differential appropriation. To understand exploitation, in short, as all transfers of humanity that have the effect of dehumanization of one or both of the parties involved.
From this general concept, the differential extraction and appropriation of exchange value in societies governed by market relations turns out to be a specific mode, extremely important of course, but which does not exhaust the possible forms of dehumanization, that is the background problem against which the Marxist critique was created and developed.
This is so important that I care to concretize at least one example. What I mean when I say that the prevailing relation of gender is an exploitative relationship, is that what women produce in the roles she is forcibly allocated under its domination, that is, backup, security, stability , affection, is appropriate for the man who uses these values as input for what he produces (there is differential and disadvantageous transfer of value, devaluation) and, conversely, that the maintenance of this situation generates and requires a state of things that impedes the free production of other values by women (again disadvantageous prevention of valuation). On both sides a situation of inequality and reification is configured. But, even more, a relationship in which the valuation of one generates and requires the devaluation (and hindrance of valuation) on the other, that is, an antagonistic situation.
It is around this asymmetry, and at its service, that the corresponding relations of domination are configured, the imposition of a functional distribution of power. Through physical force, through the contract, through the symbolic coercion which involves a whole culture ordered around its rationalization. Around, in turn, the political and legal framework is built that gives the force a shape, now socially "accepted", both to determine the "order", as well as to contemplate its transgression, and the nature and punishment of its possible transgressions.
The important point of this example is that I am talking about exploitation although uneven transfer of value is not expressed exchange value, or cash equivalents. That is, although these are not strictly mercantile relationships. The political meaning of this extension is the assumption that mercantile forms of exploitation might be exceeded, or substantially overshadowed by forms of servitude involving non-market exchanges,however maintaining the situations of reification and alienation characteristic of class societies. That's just what I think will happen, and already happens under bureaucratic domination.
In the case of gender relations, it is perfectly possible describing them, under capitalism, as fully mercantile relations. To the extent that this is the basic trend that defines capitalism, is not surprising that even gender relations have come to be expressed as contractual relations, and to be expressly legislated by analogy to contracts of buying and selling. However, it is quite obvious that the objectification of women is much older than capitalist society. A much older relation of exploitation, in whose origins other variables are involved, has come under capitalism to take the prevailing form of exploitation. This is theoretically very relevant.
Not all contemporary situations of exploitation are rooted in capitalism. Historically there are relationships of exploitation that accumulate from one society to another, taking up the forms that prevail there. Of course, capitalism is not the origin but only a form of human alienation in general. There have been others before, and there may be others later. It is essential, however, to maintain that in each social formation there is a way, a central and decisive type of exploitation relationship, towards which inherited and new exploitation relationships tend. Two issues, of theory and practice, are at stake in this necessity: one is that relations of exploitation should be considered as global social relations, other, closely related, is that only to the extent that it is postulated that there is a central form of exploitation it can be postulated that the revolution is also a global social process.
The first issue is that when I speak of differential and reifying value transfers I'm not referring to what an individual or particular agent does to another, but to a social relationship, a global situation, which has a constituent character. Not that there are some individuals who, by virtue of their historical characteristics, do exploit others. It's upside down. It is the existence of a global situation that makes it possible and reproduces, over and over again, the individuals who perform it. The process as a whole makes the individuals, and especially exceeds their consciousness when constituting them, or rather, it constructs them including the consciousness that is functional and legitimizing for them.
My argument is not that the constitution of the particular social agents is absolutely out of their control and is imposed as an inexorable mechanism, the style of the old deterministic myths invented by modernity. What I contend is that this constitution exceeds the particular consciousness, of the particular agent. It doesn't exceed the historical process in general, nor the constituted consciousness may be considered immutable. What simply happens, much nearer than those deterministic thesis, is that it is necessary to concede, that those particular actors do what they do (explode, accept being exploited) under very good (particular) reasons, and that, from the point of view of their particular lives, there is no manifest and unbearable irrationality, but rather a vast array of resignations and rationalizations that make (particular) life perfectly livable, despite the incredible degrees of material and spiritual misery that are reached so often in class societies.
This reflection is necessary to maintain the social character of the revolution, even though passing through the "revolution" of individual lives. Otherwise we run the real risk of putting at the beginning of all historical explanations, and of political practices, the theory of a vast, open and conscious conspiracy of some men, against the majority which they explode. This is not only unlikely, and hardly verifiable in an empirical way, but also a sure start of the methods and practices of totalitarianism.
Similarly, the second point is that the revolution is a global social process. It is not an individual who appropriates the value produced by another, it is a social class as a whole that appropriates the value produced by another class. In that process it can occur even that a particular is not adversely affected by the particular relationship of exploitation in which he is involved. Neither the extraction of surplus value, in the case of capitalism, nor the appropriation of value in general can be measured case by case. And even if the calculation could be made, it would not be significant from a political point of view. What we demand of the ruling class is not that it owes us this money, or these or other values in particular, we do claim, globally, that they have made our lives a misery, and we no longer want to live that way. That is, what we want is not to increase our salaries, or to improve our living conditions. What we want is that the whole life changes radically. We want to be happy. So a revolution is necessary.
On the one hand, the social relations constituent of society are antagonistic, the valuation of some requires devaluation and the impairment of the valuation of others. Moreover, this process has affected our lives as a whole, and we argue that any reform process will suffice for the vital goal that we propose. But also, I argue that all forms of exploitation in class society tend to some central form. To the extent that the forms of exploitation tend to coalesce around one of them, all forms of subversion do so too. The global political unity of the revolution, beyond the multiplicity of planes and forms of struggle, derives from the global political unity of the forms of exploitation.
It is in this context that it finally makes sense to distinguish between "exploitation" and "oppression". I think it is necessary to maintain the idea of exploitation for situations involving both extraction of value as well as an impairment of valuation. For oppression, however, this second element is present, without the first being necessarily involved. There are specific situations that require this distinction. Although we have already established that relations of exploitation are relations between social classes, not primarily between individuals, it is still possible to wonder about the relationships established between such social groups, that are not necessarily classes.
Specifically, by way of example, are the children of the workers exploited, or the unemployed, or disabled, or the marginalized sectors of economic life? Strictly speaking, it seems obvious that one can not speak in these cases of extraction of value, certainly in the sense of exchange value, and even extraction of value in general. As obvious as this, however, is the basic intuition that these sectors are affected by the global situation of prevailing exploitation. The key difference is that, in fact, from the point of view of the exploiters, there isn't any need to produce these situations of poverty, and they even would be benefited in many ways if these did not exist, that is, if each of these sectors, for example, could be integrated into the labor market and into consumption.
When we say that these are situations of oppression, what is said is not that in them there is extraction of value, or indirect need, by the exploiting class. The claim is that these are situations that arise, desired or not, functional or not, from the global system of exploitation. There is no oppression without some form of exploitation that, directly or indirectly, generates it.
The idea of oppression involves two essential, interrelated planes. On the one hand it refers to a situation of poverty, humiliation or vital impairment that is produced over and against the will of those who suffer it. On the other hand, this implies, in a profound way, an impediment to valuation itself.
Exploitation is accompanied, in general, by an overall situation of oppression, and common procedure of classical Marxism is criticizing it from claims against these visible consequences of dehumanization. For criticism of bureaucratic power, however, it is essential to note that, while there is no oppression not resulting from exploitation, there can be, however, exploitation without oppression. An issue that may certainly surprise any classical Marxist.
The point is that within highly technological production the extraction of value does not necessarily require an absolute impediment to the valuation of others. Even more, it requires, to a significant degree, that valuation to perform. Bureaucratic exploitation is more universal, more "human" than capitalist exploitation because in its course, rather than a radical difference of valuation and depreciation, divided into dichotomous poles, there is a relative difference in differential valuation. Both terms are valuated, but the result is a net transfer of value to one of the poles. There is effectively a mutual service, but only at the price of one of its terms holding the advantage on the other, and gradually increasing it. The fact that this advantage is kept also makes of this one a system of exploitation. The fact that it increases progressively makes that such exploitation conditions globally grow more serious, although at the particular level the effects of individual valuation are always perceived as compensatory.
The key to exploitation, then, is not, strictly speaking, the difference between rich and poor, but the dehumanizing result of this difference, be it absolute, as in classical capitalism and in societies of low tech, or relative, as it can be under bureaucratic power. Arguing against poverty is urgent and necessary, but that's only part of a reformist strategy and horizon. It is the argument against alienation which gives the criticism its communist horizon and its revolutionary content.
Having made this distinction, perhaps one last clarification is necessary regarding one of the examples I have given. Couldn't it then be said that gender domination is more a situation of oppression (impairment of valuation, without economic connotations involved) than of exploitation (extraction and impediment at once)? I don't think so. The point is to recognize that women do produce values, and much of them, although they are not expressible in terms of exchange value. The annoying and very bourgeois discussion about the possible salary of housewives is full of this questions and possible answers. Women, reified as such, not only do produce value (although you cannot express it as exchange value), but also this value is clearly the input for the practice of production of value by men (reified as such). Here there is not only impediment to valuation, but clearly, in my opinion, transfer of value. Not only is there oppression, but at a deeper level, exploitation. And, while there is, this is not a situation that can be resolved within the framework of a dialogue, or a recognition of the right both sexes to alienate equally. What is in gender demands, as in any revolutionary struggle, is not only to live better, to share more "fairly" the miseries of alienation. What it is about, again, is to be happy.
6. From exploitation to the revolutionary subject
Exploitation is a social relationship, which is not primarily inter subjective, and involves extraction of value and devaluation of the other. It is an antagonistic relationship to the extent that the net transfer value of an economical agent causes and requires the devaluation of the other. The valuation of one is the cause of the devaluation of the other. It is a generic mechanism (which affects gender) constituting the actors. These actors are not particular entities but social classes. Exploitation is a global social relationship. Even in the case where the form of exploitation requires a relative valuation of workers, as in highly technological production, the fact that it is a global relationship is what makes it maintain its antagonistic status. A relative and particular valuation is not enough. The only way to go beyond exploitation is to to overcome the conditions of overall worsening of the conditions under which mankind reproduces itself. And this can only happen in a framework where genuine freedom has been obtained, consisting in that there no longer are unequal transfers of value, in that objectification of human labor has ceased to exist.
All this means, in short, we are considering exploitation as a historical relationship, as something that happens to history itself, to the self production of humanity as a whole. And that is why the end of exploitation is only the beginning of human reconciliation in general, always mediated by the essential opacity that sets freedom, ie, always mediated by possible estrangement. As mentioned above, the end of exploitation coincides with the construction of a world where it is possible to be happy, and where unhappiness, which can appear again and again, may be solved. A world in which the differentiated happiness of mankind in general lives in the coming and going of possible happiness and unhappiness of the individuals who have come to identify themselves with it.
When considering the exploitation in a sociological way, that is, when it comes to appropriation value by a class at the expense of another, it is important to establish the general mechanism that allows that appropriation and the structure of social domination it conveys. For the mechanism of appropriation it is necessary to explain the problem on at least two levels, the root mechanism through which it is exercised in any class society, and the specific mechanism through which it operates in each historical period. In any case, the problem of the mechanism of differential appropriation of the social product must always be distinguished from the ideological, legal and political mechanisms through which the appropriation is legitimized to the social whole and to itself. Appropriation and legitimacy of appropriation are clearly separate issues and this difference should be kept and explained.
For Marx, in The German Ideology, the differential appropriation of the social product has its origin in the social division of labor. This can be specified claiming that the basic mechanism that allows one class to appropriate the product of another is control over the division of labor, and it is possible to further specify this, indicating what aspects in particular are those which are controlled and how it is operated from them.
I argue that, in turn, the key to control of the social division of labor is in the possession and mastery of techniques to coordinate and regulate it. No of techniques in general, but of those, the most advanced or the most universal, from which the whole can be regulated, enabling the flow and viability of social work.
By the way what is meant by "technique" is something that must be historicized. The enormous power and influence of modern techniques, which are characterized by the ideology of the empirical and the objective, strongly darkens in common awareness the fact that traditional societies, under other ideological complexes, also operated in a technological way. The invocation, revelation and mystical communion, in the ideological systems of magic, myth or faith, should be epistemologically considered as techniques in the true sense of the concept. If so, the idea that the power over the social division of labor derives from control of socially accepted techniques can be extended to the whole of human history, beyond this fact being explicit and visible in modern society.
It is the control of the social division of labor, and the differential appropriation of the social product it allows, which constitutes and conceptually defines the social classes. While, from an empirical point of view, the different social groups can be classified and stratified according to multiple criteria, such as by how they obtain their income, their socio-economic level, educational differences, and so on, what distinguishes social groups, in general, from social classes, in particular, is the place they occupy in this constituent relationship. This implies that the problem of social stratification is qualitatively different, however much it is related with the problem of classes. To determine groups on stratification scales built with any criteria can be helpful, depending on each criterion, for many different technical purposes. But determining, however, what classes are at stake in a given society, that is, what modes of appropriation, and what relationships existing among them, is essentially a political problem, not derived from the scales of stratification that may be built.
The conceptual issue is this: from a Marxist point of view, it is the social class structure that determines the various ways in which social stratifications and differences are distributed. And, to determine them, it is necessary to directly examine the ways of appropriation, rather than empirical factors that may characterize the strata or differences. Or, to insist further on this point, what Marx did was not to ask for income levels, education, marginalization, or property of the bourgeoisie, to correlate these with those of the proletariat. Conversely, he postulated, from an examination of the mechanisms of production and reproduction of capital, that all these differences could be explained starting from a common cause: the appropriation of surplus value that is enabled by turning the workforce into a commodity.
One issue is the general mechanism, the control of the division of labor through control of techniques that enable its coordination and regulation; another, more specific question is the particular mechanism through which it operates in every class society, a mechanism that constitutes class society in each specific society.
These particular mechanisms may be characterized by observing that they lead to a differential possession of the production factors that are key to the overall logic of social reproduction. Specifically, the differential possession of the labor force, of the means of production, or directly of the means of regulation and management of production. In the first case we are in the feudal social formation, in the second, in the capitalist social formation, and in the third case we are under bureaucratic rule.
In the first case, the central claim is that the relations of exploitation that characterize and constitute a feudal society, are distinguished by the exploiting class being the direct possessor of the workforce, a position from which it is able to determine the general forms of the division of labor, and to profit with advantage from their products. The factual possession of the most dynamic means of production by the bourgeoisie created a social space from which it was possible to break the feudal logic, and that possession derived, in turn, from the creation technologically more effective ways of coordinating and reproducing social work. The factual possession of techniques to directly coordinate and regulate the division of labor, bypassing the ownership of the means of production as a requirement, this is what gives the bureaucracy the possibility of hegemonizing society and, from there, progressively building a general logic of social reproduction, or of the relationships of exploitation, which is different, and more universal, than that of capitalist society.
In this reasoning it is essential to make a distinction that is perfectly clear on the legal field, between "possession" and "property". What is at issue is factual possession or the direct fact that a social group has a differential advantage that allows it to hegemonize society. The question of ownership, in logical, and even empirical terms, is strictly subsequent and derivative. Property is a legal concept, it is in the field of legitimation. It is the result, not the origin of the power of the bourgeoisie. Never a legal relationship can be the source of real power, however much this power effectively requires it as an effective form of conveyance. And, conversely, removing a legal relationship can never by itself remove the social reality from which it appeared, and for which it was created. Indeed it may be difficult to exercise power if the legitimacy that conveys it is removed, but legitimacy and power are two materially different issues.
As I argued in the previous chapter: it is not that the bourgeoisie is the ruling class because it owns the means of production, it's the opposite, it became owner of the means of production because it was the ruling class. The bourgeoisie created the legal, political and cultural figure of private property because it was practical and consistent with a power which it already exercised. The base of that real power was nothing but the domination of the social division of labor. The result, one possible outcome, is that this domination is exercised through private ownership of the means of production. Such reasoning is essential for a possible critique of bureaucratic power, because then the question must be directed at a social system, in order to see whether in it the class divide that objectifies humanity has been overcome, is not whether it has abolished private property but about the ways in which control over the division of labor is exercised.
And to go still further, the question that sets the communist horizon as such is whether it has been achieved that the division of labor ceases to be the constituent and articulating linchpin of the social. This means, no less, that a society can only be called a communist society if it has overcome the social division of labor. Overcoming the division of labor is the clear and distinct concept raised by Marx in "The German Ideology". This is the concept contained in the idea that communism is a society where the time of free work is substantially larger and more decisive than the time of socially necessary, or compulsory labor. "Overcoming" does not mean to suppress. Perhaps there will always be a place of social work where division of labor prevails; the issue is rather whether our lives are determined from there or not. The question is what kind of control we have, as direct producers, over that space of social reproduction, and which place it occupies in our lives.
It is this overcoming of the social division of labor, or the control of the bounded space, the scope of the division of labor by the direct producers, which can be called an end of the class struggle. As may be seen, this is not the end of human unhappiness, or the achievement of absolute transparency of social relations. It is the end of such social conditions in which not only the particular unhappiness, but the whole of the social, is experienced as alien, as hostile, as natural or divine, as an area over which we have no effective control. It is the end of alienation. It is the construction of such social conditions that enable the effective exercise of freedom.
That the class struggle is "the engine of history" means, in these terms, that Marxists believe that society is constituted from a social relationship of antagonism, not just of conflict. To the extent that the social relations of exploitation are constitutive, and operate as the core of all other social relations, and to the extent that this constituent operation is presided by existentially alienated lifestyles, that is, lifestyles that transcend the immediate will of its actors, then the central social conflict is antagonistic. And, to the extent that it is a global antagonism, towards which all conflicts tend, and that acts as a configurator of any social relationship, then its solution can only be radical, and global. It is this historic, radical and global process we call revolution.
But it can happen, also revolutionarily, from one class society to another class society. The word revolution generally refers to a historical process that manages to radically change the antagonisms that make up a society. The transition from feudal society to capitalist society is clearly a revolutionary process, and Marx said of the bourgeoisie that it might be the most highly revolutionary class in history. It is not, then, simply about revolution. This is a communist revolution. And only a historical process that achieves an end to class struggle may be called this way.
The end of class struggle is the end of a world of globally antagonistic human relationships, formed from enmity and struggle. This is not about a substantial improvement in living conditions. This is not about a local experience of realization that may be given by the relative valuation of work. This is about a different world. This is about a different history. Or, as Marx says, it's about going beyond human prehistory, where we relate to each other as if we were in nature, towards the beginning of true human history, where everything that affects social relationships is recognized and controlled as a free product of humanity itself.
b. Capitalist society and bureaucratic power
Class differences need not be expressed as differences between owners and non-owners in general and even less as differences between those with private ownership of the means of production and those without. Therefore, the legal term "property" appers relatively late in human history, what certainly cannot be said of class differences, or relationships of exploitation. But then, the legal term "private property" associated with its inseparable correlative of "wage labor" is a particular, and in many ways unique form of capitalist society.
Even under capitalist hegemony, exploitative relations are not confined to private property, although this is the main and framing form of the whole. Of state owned enterprises, in the framework of the capitalist economy, it can not be said that they are "private", but one cannot say that there isn't in them an extraction of surplus mediated by wage labor. It can even be shown that this surplus value globally favors interest of the capitalist class, and joins the general flow of value from workers to the bourgeoisie, although not by the direct path of private enterprise.
Precisely for this reason it can not be said that the elimination of private ownership eliminates class differences or even eliminates antagonistic social relations. The old fiction that in societies that were called socialist had turned from a framework of antagonistic social relations to another where only non-antagonistic contradictions subsisted, was nothing more than an ideological illusion. In real socialism there were not only social differences, but concretely differences between social classes which, like all class differences, were antagonistic ones. And therefore, these differences could not be resolved in an evolutionary and consensual manner. Not only was it about a transition from socialism to communism. The transition to communism would have also required in those societies a revolutionary transformation.
But to sustain this requires specifying what class contradictions it is about and to establish whether it is appropriate to really consider them as "classes", and not merely as social groups (such as workers, peasants, intellectuals, professionals, etc.) and to speak of contradictions between groups.
To be able to postulate the existence of a bureaucratic society, and of an associated class difference, it is necessary to establish what the constituting mechanism of such new relations of exploitation is, and why this mechanism can not be contained within the class explanation that has been given of capitalist society. If the key of class rule is the domination of the social division of labor, then it occurs that in the societies that were called socialist or even in those that are currently called "advanced capitalism", control of the division of labor is not in the hands of the class of owners of means of production any more, or in the order of legitimization, it is no longer the social relationship "private property" which configures the hegemonic social articulations. This means that private owners have lost possession of the essential techniques that allow the coordination and regulation of the division of labor, even if they formally retain the ownership of such techniques. There are social sectors that actually possess goods that enable them to exercise these functions in a hegemonic manner, although the good that allows them to do so is formally not the ownership of the means of production.
I follow Erik Olin Wright (see "Classes" Ed. Siglo XXI, Madrid, 1994, Ch. 3) in the idea that one can speak of "goods of organization" and "goods of qualification" to designate what is possessed by these sectors, and allows its hegemony under particular social forms. The founding idea here is that the "organization" is a good that can be owned in the sense of possessing the techniques that make it possible to determine and control the ways in which production is organized, and the universe of ideological legitimation that make them socially viable. The idea is therefore that possession, in turn, makes a differential appropriation of the product possible, and generates a set of consistent social actions to protect the exclusivity of the differential appropriation for a particular group. I argue that the historical moment in which this set of actions is organized, under the basic interest of maintaining that form of appropriation, it is possible to talk about this social sector, bureaucracy, as a social class, a class that has undertaken the long journey to hegemony and to government within the class relations that made it necessary for reasons that originally were purely functional.
Olin Wright's text, originally written in 1984, during the Perestroika, includes the notion of goods of organization to criticize what he calls "bureaucratic state socialism". The difference between bureaucrats and workers, that the possession of these goods assume, is to some extent addressed by Olin Wright as an antagonistic difference, much like self criticism from the left of the effective social configurations that were resulting in real socialism, and which had become increasingly visible since the sixties.
In the same logic, however, Olin Wright distinguished from the previous ones what he calls "goods of qualification", ie, the power that derives from the exercise of expertise and knowledge in a producing field. The differential possession of these goods would also allow a differential appropriation of the social product, ie relations of exploitation. But this difference, in turn, allows Olin Wright to distinguish between two social forms: "statism", in which one can speak of a dominant class and antagonistic relations of class, and "socialism", in which, even though the differential appropriation of the social product under the differential possession of knowledge and expertise persists, there would instead not be antagonistic contradictions, to the extent that a conscious intelligentsia could go gradually democratizing and socializing that knowledge, to advance, in an evolutionary manner, to a communist horizon where forms of exploitation would no longer exist.
For Olin Wright this progression would correspond to successive enlargements of human freedom obtained in successive revolutionary transformations. The revolutionary rupture of the feudal logic by the bourgeoisie would have allowed the release of the labor force, which was the possession that articulated its domination. The revolutionary strength of bureaucracy, conveyed or not by the struggles of the labor movement, would have allowed the socialization of the means of production, whose private property was the key to capitalist exploitation. Repowering the revolutionary force of the labor movement should allow, within the statist societies, a substantial democratization of organizational control, thereby breaking the key that links the bureaucratic power, in a conflict that would certainly show the violence that characterizes the existence of antagonistic contradictions. Finally, the revolutionary force of the ?intelligentsia? would promote, within the socialist societies, but this time in an evolutionary way, a substantive equality, whose material base would be the progressive democratization and equalization in the field of knowledge and skills.
A basic key to his reasoning lies in the difference he makes between exploitation made possible by the differential possession of goods of organization, which would lead to such antagonistic contradictions, and that would be produced by the differences of knowledge and expertise, around which, more than exploitative relationships being created (which leads him to say that the intelligentsia, unlike the bureaucracy, is not exactly a social class), "fuzzy relations of dependence" would be produced, possible to be gradually overcome in principle.
Fifteen years later, I think there is no historical or theoretical basis for such optimism. On the one hand, the epistemological criticism to the logic and exercise of scientific knowledge allows to identify the deep presence of ideology in all that is preached as "knowledge" or "expertise", as if referring to objective knowledge, to proven expertise, beyond the social relations in which they occur. On the other hand, the empirical behavior of intellectual sectors associated with bureaucratic control can actually not give rise to the slightest hope, unless we postulate a sort of essential goodness of knowing men, that would take them away from the passions of power and glory, a story which, otherwise, intellectuals have always told, again and again, about themselves, without being able to provide any empirical support for their claims.
Against the optimism of Olin Wright, what I maintain is that control of the goods of organization and of the goods of qualification, or expertise, are but two aspects of the same situation. And the relationship that links them is that the material, effective, power of the bureaucracy lies in the possession of techniques that allow the organization (coordination and control) of the division of labor, while the so called goods of "qualification" are but the legitimizing ideological veil of that possession. The qualifications, expertise, knowledge, operate under bureaucratic rule just like the legal concept of private property in capitalist domination. Bureaucracy and technocracy are but two aspects of the same class, as differences between the industrial bourgeoisie and the financial bourgeoisie can be.
The radicalism of Olin Wright suffices to criticize certain historical forms of bureaucratic rule but, as he believes that there is indeed objective "skills" or "expertise", ie, to the extent that he does not take into account the social condition the knowledge itself, he does not precisely meet the essential point: the bureaucratic rule is not primarily related to the reality of the societies that called themselves socialist, but are an overall moment of capitalist society that is beyond the specific political differences between classical capitalism, state capitalism, or socialism.
c. Anti-capitalist and anti-bureaucratic criticism
In the same text ("Classes", 1984), Olin Wright hints at the suggestive idea of Alvin Gouldner that the actual beneficiaries of the revolutionary processes occurring in human history have not been exploited classes but always a "third class" that arises in the context of their confrontation. The historical observation is somehow immediate. Regarding the confrontation between slaves and slave holders, it cannot be said in any case that slaves left victorious, although under the feudal rule their lives, now in the form of servants, had improved in many aspects. Likewise, from the confrontation between masters and servants it seems evident that the main beneficiary is the bourgeoisie, but it can also be said that, in many ways, the "freedom" of the workers is an improvement on the subjection of the servants.
This merely empirical suggestion is interesting when reviewing the historical result of the confrontations between workers and bourgeois. I argue that, as in the previous cases, the principal beneficiary of these struggles is but the bureaucracy. And just as the servants identified their interests at some point with those of the emerging bourgeoisie, and thus did nothing but conveying their own transformation into a mass of wage-earners, the same way may be seen how the direct producers often associate their interests with those of the emerging bureaucracy, whose interests they only confirm with their own struggles.0
Marx (in "The German Ideology") argued that each new dominant social class presents its own interests, for itself and for society, as more universal than those of the class that it aspires to replace. You could perhaps supplement this statement with the correlative realization that some of that, in principle ideological, universality should be effectively made real, in order to be historically plausible. From slavery to the "protection" provided by the vassalage and from feudal subjection to the "freedom" provided by bourgeois society, the exploited classes have increasingly seen in the utopian horizon of the emerging ruling classes the shape of their own hopes. One should never forget, after all that, whether actually true or not, that the promises that moved the entire people to support the bourgeois revolutions were, neither more nor less, those of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Both findings are true in the case of the emergence of bureaucratic power. On the one hand the claim that society finally will be managed not by the passions of interest and money, consumption and desire, but for dignity and the height of knowledge and experience. On the other hand, the actual reality that, against the "savage capitalism", direct producers could benefit from neutral and protective policies of a social class which doesn't have radically own interests to defend. These would simply be "functionaries". Their "wealth", knowledge and expert judgment, would not be heritable, or themselves constitute impenetrable castes or guilds. After all, the hope of increasing levels of illustration and access to knowledge in general can be sustained in the existence of new means of communication and writing which, as before the book and the press, would allow a general progress of humanity.
Also, and in the same way as anti-capitalist critique could show the vast difference between the ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality, and effective reality of exploitation and misery, now the anti-bureaucratic critique must show the difference in principle between the discourses of knowledge, and corporate protection, and the reality of new miseries arising from a new form of exploitation.
But, to the extent that criticism is no longer directed against classic misery which, while still fully real, is not the core of the new exploitation, it is necessary to unveil this new misery in the field of production of humanity itself. That's why I have put among these foundations the proposal of a concept of subjectivity and human fulfillment. It is at that point, on the general problem of alienation, where anti-bureaucratic critique meets the anti-capitalist critique of Marx. That is why this criticism, bringing together both, may be called a Marxism of a new type.
d. The revolutionary subject
A communist perspective within a new type of Marxism requires it to be possible to indicate, at least in theory, which revolutionary subject would be able in principle to take it forward. In the same way as the contradiction that characterizes capitalist exploitation is the one that exists between the owners of capital and the working wage earners, the characteristic contradiction of bureaucratic domination is between the managers of production and their ability of usufructing from the overall product with advantage, and the direct producers, whose living standards do increase, in the best of cases, at the expense of the global loss of quality of life.
The question of who, in this set of direct producers, are capable of becoming revolutionary subjects should be answered from the idea that I formulated on the essence of social domination: only those can be a real revolutionary subject, who in a position to possibly dominate the division of labor. Specifically, revolutions can only be made by workers. In particular, they should be promoted by those groups of workers who possess, or are likely to dominate, the most complex and technologically advanced forms of production. Or to say the same thing in a hard way: is not the poor, as such poor, who can make a revolution. They can start it, but not take it forward. We must insist on the fundamental principle: revolutions can only be made by workers.
A brutal and central fact in the actual practice of Marxism is that the subject that traditionally was in that position, the class of industrial workers, never fulfilled what for Marx seemed to be its historic mission. The Marxist tradition systematically supplemented this basic lack resorting to revolutionist social subjects, from which to infuse the revolutionary spirit that the Workers' Parties, always so willing to enter the normality of politics, lacked. The peasants, the poor in general, the marginalized, the intellectuals, whatever may be said of them, the students (it is interesting to recall the role of students in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or of a generation of intellectuals who joined the Latin American guerrillas) were declared, at different times, the reservoir of revolutionary potential that seemed to be missing.
Marxist politics has moved for a hundred years under the myopia of avant-gardism and revolutionism. Avant-gardism because of the illustrated hope that some social sector must have the knowledge that immediate political experience does not seem to contribute. Revolutionism because of the romantic hope that some dramatic and crucial experience may generate the illustration that knowledge doesn't seem to contain. Avant-gardism and educational revolutionism, in which the difference between revolution experts and lay people to be lead, between party members, supporters and victims of oppression turns inevitable; where the apparently ethical difference between the good and the beneficiaries of their action, or between the conscious and the innocent, who must be drawn from their condition, becomes inevitable. Extremes of a purely modern political imaginary, which without ever going beyond the logic of the society they fight, become, however, the ideal conveyors of what later, in their own hands, is to become bureaucratic power.
The key decision leading to these policies is simply to try to put the poor in place that conceptually corresponds to workers. However, beneath good conscience and holy intentions, the iron logic of reality tends to prevail. Not only do the poor fail to make the revolutions they would want to, even worse, the Stalinist experience shows that, when they become the central actor, they eventually become objects of revolution rather than subjects. A large social space opens for the revolutionary bureaucracy to direct, handle and totalize the revolution, to end up putting it at its service.
The ease of transition from a totalitarian bureaucracy, which has operated for the people, rather than from the people, to a servile bureaucracy, which ends up surrendering to global regulation, and parasitically usufructing from transnational capital, is more than demonstrated . The poor from the philanthropic discourse of the left who have never abandoned the horizon of utopian socialism, are the ideal alibi for future bureaucrats which, in their name and for their sake, end up dominating them in a totalitarian manner.
The only way that the revolution may be democratic is that workers directly and effectively dominate the process of social production. A general democratization of the most advanced techniques, a democratic exercise of the power to coordinate the work that is entrenched in the technical mastery of the production processes. Any other situation will only lead to the philanthropic dictatorship of experts, with the ever present possibility of the power differentially enjoying from their beneficent function.
This is the reason of Marx's workerism, of his classic mistrust towards the lumpen proletariat and the peasantry. And this is precisely the reason not to be workerists today. The issue is not sentimental or subjective. It is a material, factual question. The big question is who is able to materially revolutionize life.
The technological revolution has displaced the classic factory worker, but it has not changed the essential situation. There still is, essentially, a logic of the new technological base of capital. That logic and the sectors of workers who are able to master it must be found. Otherwise the objective logic will prevail anyway, in the form of a totalitarian vanguard of experts who, based on their mastery of the division of labor, will become, in fact, once again, under different political and cultural forms, the ruling class.
But if this is so, the reflection should go to the state of the real lives of these social sectors. To the ways in which alienation and dehumanization of work is articulated in them, to the ways in which exploitation makes them, under whatever the appearances may be, into objects and appendices of a production which is,essentially, theirs.
The myopia of class analysis of traditional Marxism, hampered by workerism, or affection for the poor in general, failed to bring forward a different concept for these workers than the stupefying and confusing concept of "middle class". The failure of class analysis, unable to grasp new forms of work in their real form, by not recognizing them as the workers Marx spoke of, proclaimed the extinction of the working class or, in an even more awkward version, proclaimed that the petty bourgeoisie could not be trusted.
The middle classes are a thorn in the side for those who believe that the revolution can only emerge from popular purity, as a social democratic and secular equivalent of evangelical purity, or those who believe that industrial society can only be understood in the forms of steel, coal, and factory. The traditional awkwardness of the Left towards professionals, employees of a new type, or towards any form of social movement that does not fall under the common denominator of workers, such as women, youth, blacks, indigenous peoples, environmentalists and homosexuals, is a repeated and dramatic example of what I am saying.
For those of us who, according to Marx, believe that revolutions are made by the workers, the brutal reality is this: the industrial workers never lived up to their historic mission, and were also overwhelmed by the technological revolution. If we are to look for revolutionary subjects, they should be found in the new worlds of work and contradiction shown by today's society.
Does this mean that the middle classes are the revolutionary "subject"? Obviously, in the Marxist tradition and folklore, this can only be an ironic question. For me it is not.
Nothing further, however, from the usual imaginary of the left, than the idea that "petty bourgeois", "labor aristocracy", "careerists and consumerists" may be a revolutionary subject. It is also important to note, moreover, that the quotes on the word subject are not only a pejorative emphasis on "middle class", but additionally suggests that these can not become a subject.
Certainly looking in that direction we have a bleak picture, from a classical point of view. The alienation in abundance seems to have reached its most perfect figure in the workers of the sectors of high technology. Almost existentially horrified by the lifestyles of the middle class, Marxists, full of nostalgia and impotence, turn their eyes towards the popular sectors purity, that middle strata don't show.
But the issue is one of principles, and it goes beyond our terrified moods. If what we want is more than benefactor philanthropy, if what we want is more than reassuring our Catholic conscience, it is all about freedom, beauty, truth, and not just welfare. There is no freedom, beauty or truth without welfare, but only the utopian perspective of freedom, beauty and truth, can prevent us from going back to being an initially philanthropic and eventually totalitarian vanguard.
Note to the second edition
I have replaced the chapter "Controversial" of the first edition, by this one: Tools. The idea here is to explain some of the categories that have been involved in previous chapters. As the title suggests, it is that these categories can be used directly in the current discussions in the Social Sciences, introducing into them a possible Marxist point of view.
The first text summarizes the apparent paradoxes that may arise for a Marxist mentality, formed in the classical style, from some of the ideas I have made up, considering a XXIth century Marxism.
The second one, which I keep of the first edition, develops the idea of repressive tolerance, and puts it into the context of the current post-Fordist revolution.
The third text addresses the issue of epistemological differences between Marxism and the disciplines of Social Sciences, and emphasizes, in relation to them, the difference between class analysis and analysis of social stratification. A much discussed topic among ex-Marxists, who usually call themselves post-Marxists.
These are texts for discussion, not texts in which other texts are discussed, that have been raised in turn for discussion.
I have closed this second edition with a contingent text, perhaps most ephemeral of all, but which is perhaps, in many ways, the most necessary for this moment of national politics.
1. Repressive tolerance and communist policy
Somehow this book is chaired by paradoxical notions, or whose paradoxical appearance merely highlights the confusion of critical theory facing the substantial complexity of current forms of domination: frustrating pleasantness, exploitation without oppression, alienation in abundance. Among these paradoxical notions, the one that may have more immediate political relevance is repressive tolerance.
Although the expression comes from Marcuse, the real situation I have tried to address by collecting and resignifying this concept is very immediate and contingent: the return to "democracy" after the military dictatorships in Latin America, and the general, peaceful, disruption of the radical left who grew and gathered popular support under the dictatorial oppression.
The objective of this text is to help clarifying the process desubstantialization of democracy and its social bases, connecting it with the new forms of domination characteristic of a highly technological society.
a. The idea of repressive tolerance
Tolerance is just the opposite of totalitarian dogmatism in a society in which manifest repression enables the utopian horizon of difference. In an oppressive, but therefore also bidimensional society. In a society where utopia is effectively an elsewhere.
Tolerance is no longer the opposite of oppression in a society capable of handling diversity. If society not only does not be afraid of difference any more, but may even usufruct of its handling, then tolerance may be a vehicle of domination. The utopia isn't a horizon any more, and the permanent illusion of its fulfillment condemns the alternative actions to become confirmations of the system.
Classical tolerance demanded diversity in a homogenizing world. Facing medieval homogeneity, the legitimacy of interiority of consciousness, personal autonomy, the legitimacy of the confrontation of ideas and rational dialogue in search of truth, beauty, and justice were claimed. Classic tolerance was the gentlemanly emblem of a possible freedom. Of a natural harmony between equal, free and fraternal individuals, capable of building a better world.
When tolerance was opposed to dogmatism, its utopia was not a mere set of formulas, procedures, but an aspiration to realize certain content. Evil, ignorance, shame, lack of courage or nobility could not be tolerated. Disorder, arbitrariness, or tyranny were not tolerable.
The classic idea of tolerance was based on a specific way of conceiving subjectivity. A way that clearly recognized the difference between public and private space, both two-dimensional. Privacy was, on the one hand, the space of the family, but also, on the other, the interiority of consciousness. The public was, on the one hand, the space of interpersonal (inter-family) relationships and, on the other hand, the space of the public thing, both in politics and in the market.
The ideal of tolerance, correspondingly, meant a double issue: the possibility of a free reconciliation of autonomous wills in interpersonal space, and the possibility of a harmonious reconciliation of interests in the social space.
The truth, however, is that modern totalitarianism has very deep roots: there has never effectively been a free reconciliation of wills. The interpersonal reality has always been closer to Victorian oppression than to petty bourgeois irreverence. There never was, moreover, a harmonious reconciliation of social interests: the brutal reality was always oppression and bourgeois dictatorship.
It is, however, in that context that liberal tolerance could become an utopia, a dream to be made real.
Looked at in perspective, one can criticize its extreme naivete, its abstraction, its anchorage in the idea of human nature. An abstract idea of personal autonomy made it unable to conceive harmony as anything that was not an arithmetic average, a geometric composition of forces, or an exercise in indifference. "Normalcy", consensus by way of agreement, and apathy, were its only effective proposals. A resigned idea that linked the characteristics of the human condition to the dictates of a certain nature, inhibited its historic initiative and locked it in the margins of the social techniques that could arise from what were believed to be absolute laws.
The classic tolerance was never real, neither for the historical conditions in which it actually unfolded, nor for the impediments imposed to it by its own philosophical assumptions. However, as an ideal, as a horizon that can be filled with content, it made it possible to distinguish real oppression from possible freedom. It distinguished oppression as such from theoretical and practical space that eluded it. In theory the ideals of the Enlightenment, in practice the rebellious stubbornness of the inner consciousness struggling to live in a more human world.
The classic bourgeois society has always been a dictatorship, it always was an oppressive society, however, it never was a totalitarian society. There has always existed in it the inner space of rebellion, or of transcendent utopia. Its dictatorship failed to occupy all of the interstices of the system. Poetry, social struggle, marginal rebellion, acid sincerity of its chroniclers, always retained the possibility of a radically different world.
By the way, this forced it to explicit and permanent repression: periodic massacres of poor, witches, marginals; permanent reduction of aesthetic utopia to the character of delirium; stealing the crazies of all their civil rights; ridicule and trivialization of romantic rebellion. Quite a sad story of indignity and death that, in the glow of utopia, however, only serves to emphasize its stubbornness in the middle of the drama. The tragedy of classic rebellion and repression, with its bleak deaths and sparks full of future beauty, takes notice of a brutal world, which has its reverse side, constantly sought and interrupted.
The devastating criticism that the various styles of modern skepticism exerted against the ideals of the Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the invasion and destruction of the scope of privacy, on the other, are the pillars on which the current concept of tolerance is built, which cancels and destroys the classical concept not only as a possible reality, but actually even as a progressive ideal.
The political superiority of bureaucratic rule over any other earlier class domain consists in the way it is able to articulate totalitarianism and tolerance. It consists in having emptied classical tolerance of its content and having converted its forms into the vehicle of its domination. It is this form which may be called repressive tolerance. And it is about its classic concept, recognizing its profound alteration, how it may be defined.
Perhaps the trap, the ideological effect, acting as a bridge between the illusions of classical rebellion and the alienation of the current rebellion, is the continuation of the struggle for tolerance initiated against religious homogenization, now against the homogenizing power capitalist industrialization. In all romanticism, in its avant-garde analogs, the great theme of the claim of authenticity, originality, autonomy, shows up as response to the mass leveling to which the state of techniques forces the industrial system.
But there is nothing inherently massifying in modern industry. When we remain at that concept we are caught up at a pretty primitive idea of techniques. Considered under the possibilities of diversity of current techniques, the usual anti-technology criticisms risk of seeming naive, or simply being overcome on a mirage effect. The anti-technological criticism came even to identify the prevailing forms of industrialization with the structure of reason. The resulting homogenization would be an effect of the massifying power of thought itself.
Caught in this illusion, the critics are ideal victims of alienation by the new technologies, which seem to offer the possibility of effective diversity that legacy technologies didn't. The fallacy does consist only in the belief that domination may only be exerted through massification, increasing abstraction, and equalization. Any indication of difference seems a sign of openness to our current naive democrats. Just as the classic labor movement confused the rise in living standards with the project of liberation, current critics of the old technology confuse the illusory diversity with the realization of the world of possibilities.
The concept of repressive tolerance is precisely to break this new reformist mirage. You can dominate the diversity, it may be managed in a repressive way. You can beat the utopia of freedom in the mirage of its realization. That this is possible can be shown by making visible the roots of the new rule in the very structure of subjectivity. The sad, perfectly harmless role played by the most radical avant-garde in the entertainment industry may also be shown.
Repressive tolerance involves a system of social relations in which power is exercised in a distributed and differential way, through an unequal interdependence; a system that involves the exercise of a power over the power that articulates local authorities in a global structure of domination. This power over the power is founded on a sufficient technological capacity to produce and master diversity, to enable and direct the flow of information, and to make possible, in short, an administered participation, a consulted and interactive domination, which produces a democratic appearance.
The internal characteristics of the process of more highly technological work, and the characteristics of the most advanced communication system converge, objectively, beyond the will of the actors, in the production of a situation clearly distinguishable from classical domination, whose main feature is the destruction of the psychic bases that enable the autonomy of the citizen.
Repressive democracy is based on a degree of control over subjectivity, unprecedented in modern society. In this repressive democracy consensus acts as a vehicle of subjective control to the extent that it reduces the differences to a common denominator, then naturalized, and meets, in common sense, the role that social authority met from outside.
The sociological notion of social control involves at least two stages: the explicit control, exterior, namely, that of discipline, and the introjection of this control, that is, the internal space that reproduces it. Control reaches its full success when "awareness" of control ceases to exist, and it is manifested as "spontaneity". There may be "awareness" of the constructed nature of this "spontaneity" if there can be a space in some way outside the law, in the social totality, from which the meekness of spontaneity is seen as repressive. The space of crime, or criticism, or the space of subversion, in which both come together, were, in classical society, the places from which this complaint could be made.
The possibility of these "externalities" to the law was given, in classical society, based on a double autonomy: interiority of consciousness, in a complex mental space, which operated as a continuous source of rebellion and ambiguity against power, and the space of the crime, in which consciousness, driven by need or criticism, made use of its free will against the law.
The idea that social control is exterior, however, must be distinguished from the idea that control is deliberate or even conscious. The point is relevant because of the notion of "manipulation". To have, in fact, social control, there does not need not be consciousness nor less intention of control. Structured social practices have control effects like it or not, and the analysis must address these objective effects, rather than the intention or the explicit discourse of the actors. On the other hand, when speaking of "externality", it is necessary to explain "external" to what. There is no externality to social practices, globally considered. The externality of control has to do with two very defined interiorities, which are those of privacy, that is, the space of the family, and the interiority of consciousness.
It is necessary here to note two methodological a priori of this analysis, which are already visible. The emphasis on describing social practices as a (internally differentiated) totality; and the emphasis on the practices as such (including within them the discourse of the actors), more than on the explicit discourse of the actors.
Having put things this way, social control is always internalized from externality. A crucial difference, however, is whether this internalisation can be achieved by operating on the outside, that is, on behaviors, or operating directly on the inside, that is, on the mental activity that underlies the behavior. Or, in other words, my guess is that it has gone from forms of control reaching subjectivity from the techniques of disciplining of bodies, to forms of directly disciplining subjectivity, from which even the bodily experience is objectified.
In this regard, it should be noted that, from Christianity onward, religion was already operating directly on subjectivity. And that self-care techniques are precursors of Catholic manipulation techniques. But its mastery always rested on a significant share of corporal punishment, of which fasting was the most daily form, and self-flagellation the most extreme. When classical modernism began gradually omitting the transcendent, and then the subjective dimension of punishment techniques, it concentrated, to everybody's amazement, on its mere physical dimension.
Here again, a historical difference should be noted. Most human cultures have had extraordinarily cruel forms of corporal punishment. Only in modern times, however, as the transcendent dimension weakens, this cruelty is consumed. It is now about punishment without redemption, hell here and now, in life. Dismembering a subversive, muzzling a heretic to not blaspheme while being burned. As stated in the manual for inquisitors by Eymeric Nicolau (1376), "perfected" in sixteenth-century Spain, "heretics are not burned to save their souls, but to terrorize the people".
Regarding this explicit cruelty, the corporal discipline exerted from the Panopticon, or at Taylorist work, is an advance of humanization and, simultaneously, of repression. Two adjectives that we, for quite some time, have learned to see as perfectly compatible. It is against this new style, which preserves the background horror of the classic mode in a colder and more rational operation, that our little utopians of the immediate rise the liberation of the body as something liberating from disciplining. But the cunning of reason is greater than the sexualistic goodness of the well-intentioned. Today, the direct disciplining of subjectivity allows the construction of a corporeality addicted to pleasure, and affirmed in it. This is what Marcuse called "repressive desublimación" and it marks the substantial cultural superiority of the new rule as compared to classic domination.
The correlative to social control, sociology and particularly in psychology, is the concept of deviation. There are two key issues in this regard. The first, distinguishing the classical from the new deviation. The second, distinguishing the sources of classical deviation from the possible sources of the current.
Classical deviation was referred to a general and homogenizing rule. It could be statistically determined with respect to a Gaussian continuum of differences. To this deviation, which may be called "strong" for its exceptional and extreme nature, corresponded the "correction", and its more ambiguous forms, the "discipline". For this there were "correctional houses", as well as high schools and factories with discipline.
The deviation of a new type, in contrast, is based on different sets of rules that operate locally. It is a distributed, general deviation, without frequent real extremes. Given this generalized, "weak" deviation, what corresponds to it is the administration of differences and a general therapy on local oscillations around local norms. My hypothesis is that it is no longer to correct, but to manage. And that is not a question of discipline but of therapy. Psychology is, quite properly, the heir of the psychiatric and prison function described by Foucault.
The difference in the situation of exemplifying extremes is interesting to this issue. In the classic situation, the prisoner or the madman are rare, real, visible extremes, confined to exceptional places. In the current situation with regard to therapy, they are ghosts who are not characterized by their rarity or their intensity, which are extremely common, and whose mythical images serve to bring those people to order who are constantly on the brink of madness or the offense in respect of some local rule, and those who are allowed moments of madness or fault, as long as they can be administered as exceptions to the rules. Massively, anyone who shows some unrest can be treated with techniques that do not have the extreme, unusual and intense character of classical techniques, and have, instead, the character of the inertial pleasure flooding life under appreciable levels of consumption. Therefore, the criminal and the insane are now not the direct figures of disciplining, but the mythical, macabre beyond of potential perdition, within the therapeutic operations acting on normal people. Therefore, madness is not so much the monstrous reverse of reason, but has rather become a fascinating horizon for mediocre life.
At this point it is necessary to insert a note on Foucault. I argue that the successive treatment Foucault gave to the problem of madness, first, and to the forms of punishment later, led to consider both, simply, as two contemporary forms or aspects, somehow of the same class, of classical disciplining, obscuring their historical relationship. But, if we look at the bottom of each of these issues, we see that what is at stake in each case are two different issues: one is the advancement of rationalization, which becomes exemplary in the forms of punishment, and another is the treatment of deviation through naturalizing categories. In contrast to the order of the works of Foucault, and rather than two aspects of the same thing, I do suggest here a logical order must be seen, which has historical consequences. For the pure rationalizing tendency of classical modernism, crime is quite conceivably an exercise of free will against the law, and the panoptic prison is the means of control, by isolation and monitoring, of that freedom. The lack of freedom is a punishment proportional to the adverse exercise of freedom. This is because classical rationalism may recognize the law as a historical institution, and crime as an act of political subversion, that should be punished.
What is incubated in psychiatry, however, is something that, socially, will only be effective later, which is but the gradual naturalization of deviations. First of those that appear, in themselves, as natural (as insanity derived from alcoholism), and later of those which originally were crimes in which the exercise of deliberation was recognized. To take a simple example: the transition from the tort figure of theft to the clinic figure of kleptomania. Or, to take another, now more dramatic, example: the transition from the gulag understood as a set of prisons, to its conception as a set of reformatories, and to its conversion into a set of mental asylums. In a process in which the naturalization of deviation is also its politicization.
This logical and historical order is important when conjugated with the passage from strong deviation to widespread, weak deviation, because then you can see not only the gradual shift from prison to the psychiatric hospital (although accumulating), but also the shift from these two institutions to psychological therapy, both in the private sphere and at work (although, again, here rather an accumulation is taking place). This shift is also a shift toward a depoliticizing naturalization of the reference patterns of common sense itself, which acts as the basis of "political" consensus, rooting more directly the domination of each one of the "citizens", now disabled from exercising as such.
Of course, this reflection implies that the space of critique has been also essentially changed. The critique is possible if the difference with respect to the operation of the law is possible, if there is any room for one's own sovereignty. In classical modern society that place was the privacy of consciousness, a highly controversial place, where the meeting between the instinctual background and the law gave rise to that structured and unstable system of mediation, called spontaneity. The autonomy of classical consciousness, rather than just another space, is a place heavily intervened by social law, to the point that everything being structure in it comes from the constituent function of the law. Or even, to the point that any possible externality to the law it contains always refers to that constituent feature.
However, it is precisely in classical individuality where social law shows up deeper than ever as a divided law, ie, as a conflict, as a relation of never completed domination, whose effectiveness is subject to the ambiguity of the possible. The internal difference here is not the one there would be between the law and the lack of law, or between the structure and the void of the unknown, but the difference laid by desire between the law of the given and the possible law of the possible. As it is known, bourgeois culture put this difference in time and understood it under the categories of progress and teleology. But there is nothing necessary in these categories. The difference between determination and possibility doesn't essentially require neither need, nor progress, nor teleology. It is necessary, however, to conceive that difference as a tension, and that tension is what I call desire.
Both the effectiveness of the rule, as well as the effectiveness of criticism, do depend on the connection between this area of conflict in the individuality and the outer operation of law, which sets the public space. The laws of classical capitalist market, including the reality of its anarchy, do work because each capitalist was, and could be, a good capitalist, and each worker was, and should be, a good worker. And the family was the basic space of joint, then reinforced by school and institutions in which the suitable psychic apparatus for these exercises was generated.
Correlatively, crime could be distinguished from madness, which was to be attributed to nature, by the exercise of deliberation and, to that extent, be treated as an offense against public order. Every crime, even pushed by necessity, had a political content, and any subversion could, and was due to, be treated as a crime.
In all of this situation we must retain one aspect, of crucial importance: the disciplining of bodies or from corporeality, leaving substantial room for ambiguity in the subjective interior. This is that space that has now been intervened massively. Both the massive invasion of the privacy of the family by the system of social communication, as well as the growing subjectivity of the labor process, point to the configuration of a new situation, in which the conflicting autonomy of consciousness substantially weakens, or of any internal space where individual sovereignty could reside.
It is important to note in this regard that the weak and massive nature of what is now the end of alteration, as compared to the extreme and unusual character that the end of classical perversion had, makes you lose interest political in reflections on finitude and limits, on transgression and evil. Unless, of course, the touristic interest it might mean for comfortably university intellectuals. The spectacular nature of the transgression, which could be seen as subversive against an order founded in the disciplining of bodies, is now diluted in perfect monotony of therapeutic regularity, under which the bloody heroes of transgression are just hysterical misfits to whom gymnastics, proper diet, soft pornography or productive work, can comfort more effectively than the experience of the limit. In the realm of consummate and manipulated finitude, the notion of limit is relative, it loses its essential drama, and only leaves room for what adventure tourism, risky sports, or banal waste, may now afford.
Rather than seeking the sources of a possible critical space in this situation, that is, rather than finding a "useful" way out or inviting to action, according to the characteristic hurry of those who are more interested in making anything, instead of understanding, I prefer to continue the description of this bleak picture, of this oppressive situation, now looking for the most powerful objective factors that move it. Someone like me, who believes that communism is possible, can not be, certainly, but an unbridled optimist. But I'm not methodologically an optimist. The methodological pessimism is a good purgative for historical optimism. Let us detoxifying to some extent from messianism and contingent hurry, to see farther. Reason is always more powerful than the passions that constitute it and are its essence.
The imperative that the theory must lead to action, which is heir to the Enlightenment, and whose emblem is the adversative interpretation of the thesis 11 on Feuerbach ("not to engage in interpreting but in transforming"), has created a huge strain on the left analysis that has led to judge the ideas according to how they relate to immediate practice. Often what is meant by "political content" of an analysis is but its focus on contingency.
Of course, with respect to contingency, any analysis that is done is marked by the immediate, and perhaps that's not bad. The problem is that we rarely get to frame the analysis in a global perspective. And even, it has become fashionable to explicitly not do so.
Contrary to what might be thought, I believe it is this attachment to the immediate what expresses greater pessimism. The theoretical reduction to the small and transient has its existential basis not in distrust regarding global analysis frames (as they say), but in the lack of confidence that there may be global changes. Optimism in the small, anxiously and dramatically looking for something, is the reverse of global pessimism.
I think that triumphalist temptation, of such long presence in Marxist tradition, and for which today there is so little basis, has been deeply damaging. From all that believing that the enemy would be crushed by the wheels of history, or that the next capitalist crisis would indeed be the last, or that we were living just at the weakest link, we simply ended up not looking at reality. I say it's this going back to look at reality face to face, after triumphant decades, and after a traumatic global defeat, what makes these analyzes appear as pessimistic.
There is a sense in which I think they are. Facing the existential pessimism of those left overwhelmed by the defeat, I propose a methodological pessimism, which is never to put as a forced condition of our analysis the necessity of our final victory. To believe that communism is not a necessary end of history, that's what my methodological pessimism is about. But to believe that communism is possible, that is my unbridled optimism. Immediate pessimism, stubborn optimism about the end, methodological pessimism, skepticism, regarding the exercise of the theory.
I do not need to advertise or promote commotions in the short or medium term to maintain the stubbornness of my optimism. I do not need the classic thrill of being in motion to believe that movement is possible. At this time, hard and mediocre, finding the keys to a possible future is the most relevant. The calm and indignant task of theory is subversive. A task that will always be somewhat cold and disenchanted.
But lucidity does not need more emotions than those reason can give it.
c. High tech work
Prison and psychiatric hospitals aren't the institutions that discipline contemporary society. Perhaps they have never been. It is necessary to distinguish their symbolic, paradigmatic nature from their real importance. If there is any field that has made massive and effective disciplining that is but the workplace. The direct, daily, massive exercise of work is the space in which the forms of domination are made real, find their origin and meaning, show more clearly their forms and possibilities. If the family is the "factory" of appropriate mental apparatus, if the public space is the place where the law and its imaginary constructions are made explicit, it is, however, in the field of direct work where real life finds its most solid and also quietest reality. To understand the new forms of domination at its base and directly, there is no more effective way than comparing the radical changes in the sphere of work that have occurred since Taylorism became the culmination of the panoptic discipline, until it dissolves in X-ray eyes the new subjective panopticon is capable of controlling even the psychic basis of body movements.
In this field it is necessary to consider two issues of prime importance: one is the establishment of a massive, dominant, and very dynamic area, of highly technological work; another, correlative, is the strategic nature that must be gradually assumed by the entertainment industry.
On the first point much has been written. The second problem, however, rarely attended, is related to the set of strategies, conscious or not, with which the current production system has approached the antisocial potential arising of unemployment of workers displaced from production, or the forced marginalization of those sectors not integrated into modern production.
The new disciplining arising from this highly technological work don't have nothing to do any more with the body but with the consumption of nervous work. The intensity of work, and of everyday life in general, requires efforts of the nervous system in completely new amounts and frequencies with respect to any previous technological culture. The rapidly spreading requirements of fine reflexes or complex visual and motor coordination, different from writing, required by keyboards and the "mouse", or such everyday tasks like driving a car (simultaneous attention to indicators of temperature, fuel, speed, the system of mirrors, traffic signals, to other cars and pedestrians, the signals system of the car itself to others, without taking into account such parallel activities as smoking, talking, change the radio tuning, or even combing or eating a sandwich), or coordination as simple as standing in balance, without disturbing the neighbors, in a packed bus. Or the complex combinations of simultaneous visual information from displays with multiple windows. In each of these cases, and in countless other everyday situations, we are witnessing the creation of a new job status, and new adaptation needs of the body and the mind.
To this we must add the extraordinary increase in the physical and / or economic consequences that small gestures connected to an effort amplifier chain (such as a click of a mouse which runs an excavator) may have, which requires an extraordinary and continuing monitoring of what is being done, an issue that is related to the widespread introduction of digital interfaces in the management of all types of machines, from which the keyboard and mouse are the most common, not to mention remote controls or console analog multiband adjustments, of which the equalizer of current radio is the most common.
As the passage from purely mechanical to electromechanical machines meant the need for a new corporal discipline regarding the ancient exercises and skills, so the step from electromechanical machines to electronic ones or to electronic interfaces that allow their more effective management requires a new kind of discipline. But the kind of skills involved has changed. If before this was about a rationalization and a refinement of body movements, that might be called an essentially motive "gross corporeality", it is now about "fine corporeality", that is, neuromotor coordination. But while the corporal mobility may be trained, in the sense of a training through exercises and habituation, it is not possible to do the same, with the same perspectives of success, with neuromotor coordination. In this area it is sufficient, in a sense, to use skills and abilities that humans possess and exercise regularly, when running, dancing, articulating words from their vocal cords, or trying to pick up some small object among many others of different sizes. In many areas, we already do exercise on a daily basis, the subtle and complex neuromotor coordination required by highly technological work. No need, except in kindergarten, to be trained in them.
However, the crucial question for the present situation is how frequent, how long, how many times, with what rhythm and continuity, we can exercise those spontaneous skills, and what kind of internal and external conditions are needed for this. This is the objective problem in the disciplining of new type. This is not any more mainly to coordinate, regulate and monitor the bodily motion, which is the problem of Taylorist and Fordist panopticon, but how to the produce external and internal mental conditions that give subjective sustain to the high neuromuscular intensity of the new kind of work. Here, disciplining the body is not enough. A Taylorization of subjectivity itself is needed, not so much regarding the operations and specific skills to perform, but rather in the context of the conditions under which these skills can be maintained with the required regularity and duration.
And that means that while classical Taylorization must pay attention to the segmentation of movements, ie must streamline analytically, the new Taylorization must worry about the global environment, in an operation of surveillance and comprehensive and encompassing rationalization, in which the whole is more relevant than the sequence of the parties.
d. The disciplining of subjectivity
Discipline is always the disciplining of subjectivity. Gestures and movements are not compulsively organized but to reach with these schemes the subject that animates them, and practically impose them. It is the disciplining that creates the subject, as a result, or subjectivation. What it does is to give form, not substance. It produces in it the form, not its reality as such.
When using the expression "disciplining of subjectivity" then what is referred to is the mode, not the content, of the process. What is said is that there has been a transition from the disciplining of subjectivity through the body, to a disciplining that operates on subjectivity itself, establishing from there a specific body discipline system.
The first thing to note is that this new domination of subjectivity is required by objective needs. The subjective commitment of the worker with the means of production given in high intensity labor is a strategic necessity. Without that commitment, neither the intensity nor the productivity associated with those means would be made real.
Repeated failure, timely work stoppage associated with alcoholism, with somatization of frustrations accumulated by routine, can be identified among the main causes of the crisis in the Fordist production line. In a networked production system, organized according to the "just in time" criterion and the requirement of "total quality" from demand, failure or shutdown may take on huge proportions. Of course the network organization mitigates local failure by its ability to get around it through parallel production routes, saving overall performance. But at the same time it increases the possibility that a local failure may spread in a catastrophic and unforeseeable manner to all points that depend on it somehow. The consequences of the introduction of a line of defective chip, or the propagation of local crises of stock exchanges, are two examples of how catastrophic the spread of networked failure can be. In a linear chain, a local failure forced to paralyze the entire chain. The cost was huge but predictable. In a networked production system there is the utopia that it can circumvent the local, but in practice, in densely connected networks, the spread not only paralyzes the whole catastrophically, but also in an unpredictable way.
But also, in an immediately related field, another objective reason for deep concern about the "human factor" is the failure of the rationalist utopia of full automation of work. It happens that the devices that should automate the fine parts of mechanical work, or tasks requiring a moderately complex degree of discernment, proved extremely costly and, in direct relation to their complexity and importance, extremely prone to fault, dullness and stoppage. While instead there is a class of devices capable of large degrees of precision and deep discrimination abilities, being also relatively inexpensive ... humans. This leads, for reasons of cost and efficiency, to a flexible robotization model, where the most sensitive and complex parts of the chain should be reserved to human beings, with the effect that, once again, performing high productivity depends crucially on the subjective commitment of these key components of production.
Perhaps it could be said, in general, the ordering and the cooptation of subjectivity depending on the needs of highly technological production are sought through the creation of a protected global work environment. Although a certain wage level is necessary, and possible, material incentives are not the ones with the most important function. An environment, in the sense that all aspects of daily life at the workplace are served; a global one, in the sense of being compiled into an unique concept, capable of transcending that environment and becoming a "way of life"; a protected one, in the sense that this way of life not only protects the worker from irrational fatigue or lack of motivation, but also from potential threats that transcend the immediate work environment, and reach deeper and wider dimensions of their life in general.
The creation of corporate spirits playing with a family imaginary, with inclusive, "participatory", "creative" styles, open to some degree of informality and spontaneity, with provision to personal recognition and "humanization" of interpersonal relationships, may generate such links and subjective commitments that have become necessary. A whole treatment model for "human resources" which transcends in a revolutionary way the impersonal, directive and authoritarian styles of Taylorism and Fordism. A new, extremely flexible and sophisticated employment relationship, which can almost be said to have "humanized" labor, of which it has even said that it is able to produce such a relation of recognition between the workers and their products, that would exceed classic alienation, much criticized by Marx.
From the huge variety of proposals in vogue, ranging from marketing techniques, through organizational development, labor psychology, the new sociology of work, to the techniques of "personal growth", I want to emphasize only two aspects which, from a conceptual point of view, are essential. One is the vast mythology on "dialogue", on the construction of spaces for dialogue. Another is the ubiquitous emphasis on affection, the subjectivation of labor relations which, in principle, are purely formal.
Virtually all the literature about it speaks of horizontality in relationships, of participation, implication, interactivity. Labor relations would have become a space of exchange, of "listening", of consensual action. Great effort has been devoted to specifying in detail and in precise ways, what is and how to proceed in a productive dialogue.
In a positive sense it realizes a technological situation whose complexity requires the feedingback opinion of its participants, to ensure coordination without friction of the global network. The dialogue becomes objectively the most subtle and enriching part of quality control, and its effects are both local and global.
But on the other hand, the possibility of dialogue is clearly and explicitly in the service of implication, searching the subjective commitment of the worker with the means of labor and environment they shape. This makes that an essential condition of possible dialogue is to be confined to the mission that encourages the production environment, and acting on that basis as inescapable consensus. The mission, by the way, is essentially fixed externally, and it is illicit to formulate conflicts on it, or in it. The result is that the dialogue is required a priori and externally to be of consensus. It may contain differences and oppositions, but no contradictions or questioning about its base. It is a dialogue that may have problems, but not conflict. Or again, a situation which excludes in advance the existence of radically different interests or possible confrontations.
If we compare this with the actual dialogue, if we have not already been submerged by the "dialogue" tide, we find that what we have here is a form of dialogue that never allows to debate on its contents. A merely procedural habit whose content are determined from areas that are presumed to be experts.
Considering the difference between the equally external but directive imposition by classical styles and the space that through dialogue that seeks an involvement, we see that in the new style the possibility of dialogue in its forms and details merely conveys accepting the contents in their essential aspects. In the space of dialogue, certain powers show up that more impositive would not allow, but never powers that would really affect the powers. The power has not been diluted in the horizontal, the power has been increased to the subtle condition of power over the powers. And discipline consists, in this case, not in linearly doing what has been established in a delimited way, but in move within such rules of the game that allow many possibilities, except the rules themselves being objectionable.
Of course the acceptance of at least formal dialogue is part of its legitimation. The most substantial legitimacy, however, comes from the fact that we believe there is an expert judgment, certainly higher than the level in which we do dialogue, which has properly established those powers and those rules. This means that legitimacy through knowledge is essential to maintaining the framework in which we dialogue. The expertise then clearly appears as an ideological function. The knowledge must be accepted as such because the overall framework must be accepted. The bureaucratic administrator and the legitimating technocrat are only two sides of the same power.
But the effect of involvement, the feeling of being "taken into account", and the repeated and extensive wording on the benefits of dialogue are not enough to keep it active and productive. The practical and effective remedy is immersion in an environment marked by affectivity.
Common interests, "real" people, even the explicit appeal to the order of feelings and, of course, the game of loyalties, are recurring topics of the new organizational psychology and sociology. These are relations in which in the classic styles were merely formal and managerial and which now are personalized and subjectivized. Of course this rule of affection is not, at least in principle, that of arbitrariness. It is also scheduled by what the expert judgment supposes are normal emotional needs and the appropriate ways of their satisfaction. All the banality of the sentimental psychologism of common sense is raised here to the level of an expert judgement, and converted into common ideology of work everyday, certainly coming very close to the heart of those involved, who do find recognized and authorized in a ritual language what they had always felt.
It is notable in this regard, how the limit of "irreducible respect for the uniqueness of each human person", universally proclaimed by the managers of this system, runs visibly into each of the commonplaces of common concept of psychological and existential normality. Neither the taste for solitude, nor homosexuality, nor expansive, uninhibited personalities nor, in general, any feature of personality, marked and practiced in an emphatic and intense way, are acceptable. The need for rational dialogue and emotional consensus makes it a problem. And it is particularly notable that, given a change in this basic emotional consensus, the "uniqueness of each person" is compelled by the soft compulsion of expert judgment to submit to the interests and uses that are presumed as common.
The general resource of intervention in the disorder that disrupts the affective consensus is an action of, either group or individual therapeutic type. But, to the extent that subjectivation is consistently global, the therapeutic resource may be applied even when the, in principle purely rational, consensus of dialogue is broken, so that the imposition of the content and basic rules of all of the system is at the same time imposed and masked in a naturalizing psychologization serving as the framework for all interpersonal relationships across the workplace.
The involvement and subjective commitment, the appropriate mental health provision that prevents labor stoppage not only is formed and promoted by this psychologizing, but is also disciplined and guarded by this same way.
These subjective variables that, in principle and to a purely rational look, are not relevant, nor were significant in classical organizations, become ubiquitous in today's ones. An extreme case is the requirement of loyalty not only to the contract or formal commitments, but to the corporate spirit, to the immediate coordination bodies, to the peer group and its informal rules of coexistence. A requirement of loyalty that is easily extended to the non work space, as the ideal corporate spirit is that ALL of the worker's life should be included, and even his attitudes, dispositions and assumptions about his interior, or the intimate content of the actions . An amplitude for which, incidentally, it is very difficult to maintain formal guarantees, and very easy to be subjected to simple arbitrariness which, given the overall psychologizing, and despite all the recommendations from the manuals, appears with systematical frequency.
But this is related to the other extreme, which is the progressive replacement of a regime of contractual rights by a de facto system of informal guarantees and privileges. Not only does this tend to reduce the fixed part in the general composition of wages and increase the various items of variable salary, not only are the material incentives complemented in an increasingly frequent and intense way by psychological incentives, but formality and legal sense of instances of complaint, of punishment or reward, tend to be diluted, giving way to a system of personal dependencies, marked by demands of loyalty, and the pervasiveness of psychologizing.
But a global environment, aiming at integrating the subjectivity of the worker into a corporate spirit that may convey his disciplining in a subjectively acceptable manner, can not, in fact, neglect his life outside of work. The ideal operating of a sheltering spirit requires not to have empty spaces that lend themselves to doubt, or to vital alternative. If the pure intention of the new styles of organizing the world of work was followed, the old myth that made us distinguish between public and private spheres would simply disappear. In this, as in so much else, the era tends to increasingly show its totalitarian nature in a naked way. In the ideal system, the "big family" which is a high-tech company would always be related to the other "families" as a whole, making permanent use of its identificatory symbols, putting as mediation their corporate belongings. The substantial individuality should disappear to make way for a functional individuality, whose autonomy would be strictly that which its "systemic belonging" allows.
At least two obstacles, however, preclude the ideal operation of this oppressive systemism. One has to do with centuries of individualistic pride of bourgeois culture, that only very large and sustained fears can really clear. Another is the nature of the production process itself.
Bourgeois culture is not easily replaceable by widespread corporatism, however much the "masses" or the precariousness of life that pushes looking for protections may have lead it to raise such a goal. Again and again, when corporate power imposes its progress on the autonomy of individuality, it will encounter the same traditions and interests that it comes from, that will show roads that pass rather by manipulating just isolated individuals.
On the other hand, in a disaggregated and delocalized production, with very high mobility, a high degree of "flexibility" at work, or, more generally and directly, of precarious employment conditions imposes itself as an objective need. In practice, the really hard, nuclear kind of corporate spirit, of a great company, could be reduced to a relatively small fraction of their employees, leaving the rest adrift as contractor or temporary workers.
If to this we add the essential fact that the new forms of production do consider as a permanent fact a large proportion of the population relegated to marginalization, poverty and discrimination, then it could happen that the outlook for the disciplining of subjectivity we have charted in the previous sections is valid for a quantitatively small fraction of the actual population.
It is for all these reasons that I am postulating that, to better understand the new forms of domination, it is required to consider the disciplining of subjectivity global way, or better, I postulate that is at the global level where it is effectively articulated and consummated. No corporate spirit would be credible if it were not for a periphery, presented as hostile, which makes it appear necessary in the consciousness of those involved. Or again, no corporate spirit would be effective if it is not really all-encompassing, if it does not actually cover the whole life. And what I think is that this coverage is obtained through the system of social communication as a whole.
Just as we can talk about subjectivation of labor relations in the workplace, I think it is necessary to talk now of the highly subjective tone of social communication. This is also an area in which the difference between the public and the private tends to fade, also a space in which individuals are challenged from a semblance of common spirit, but now directly as individuals, without going through the mediation of a defined symbolic identification but rather, through a permanent circulation of small identificatory symbolic universes that coexist, exposing themselves without major disputes, submerged in their contradictions and exotic diversity.
The media provides, at the imaginary level marginality can not perceive in a real way, the symbolic integration the production system does not actually offer. Its first objective function, regardless of the ideas or purposes actors declare or create, is to produce a space that avoids open confrontation, declared war, among the marginalized and those integrated into modern production. Neither the police, nor populist policies or assistive religions are able to produce as effective a pacification. Even the turbulence of hooligans, sporadic outbursts of mass anger, the visible aspects of the general pillage required for survival are, for social communication, elements of a vast unconventional educational task, a comprehensive plan, not planned in an explicit manner, in which the universe of social contradictions is contained.
As part of this same function, and precisely because of it, the effect of media on the integrated is to confirm the protected environments in which they can live their access to consumption, and their high intensity work. The surrounding world, full of threats, family and social disintegration, crime and terrorism, which is reflected from the media, confirms the necessity and goodness of the quiet, reasonable, framed life without major violence, which integrated seem to live. In that reactive sensation of relief, of security, however much it appears to be threatened, or precisely because of it, lies the closure of the global action of corporate spirit. "People", as the new demagogues say, have concerns, insecurities, desires to live in peace; companies, the new offices, the new forms of management, can provide some of that peace. "We are here to serve. We are a big family."
The marketing and public relations industries may operate spreading the spirit of a corporation to its contractors, to its customers, to society as a whole. Thus although we do not belong to the core of permanent workers, who directly receive the benefits of high productivity, we can participate partially, receiving something of the aura, knowing that we are sheltered in some way. "The company that cares about your children". "The company that wants to improve the quality of your life". "The company made in heaven has lived a lifetime with you". The atmosphere outside the direct scope of work is filled with protective messages, with instances showing all sorts of concerns in all aspects of our lives. It is filled with messages of peace, harmony, good life, pleasure and possible beauty, which do not forget, however, the "inevitable" problems of life, and invite for cooperation, to build a common world.
Direct show business, on the other hand, catalyzes and gives shape to concerns, provides compensatory outbursts, suggests the permanent possibility of a better world, warns and adverts of the complexities and contradictions, generally inviting to overcome them. Catharsis, compensation, utopia, feelings, adventures, are the great contents, in overtones increasingly becoming ostensibly pedagogical, in which the hand of experts in mass psychology, or rather a shabby common sense elevated to the category of expert judgment, show their benefactress presence for both the goodness and the profit.
Through social communication, the characteristic styles of inter-subjective organization of highly technological are disseminated throughout society, far beyond the fields of high productivity work. All sectors of society are addressed effectively, or to the effectiveness of the virtual, as if they lived in the context of high technology, an issue that is reinforced not only by explicit policies and the program to do it, but also objectively, through the technological intensity of common life, awash with remote control, cable TV, cell phones and fiber optics.
Do not forget that when we talk of a tiredness of new type we are also talking about the stress resulting from the high technological intensity of everyday life, in the common area of personal interactions, in which every aspect of urban life is crossed by the technological leap and every personal gesture connected with it is involved in the demand for new and more intense neuromotor coordination and mental conditionings.
That is why, given the reality of a tiredness of new type, which fills life inside and outside the work itself, it is necessary to speak, in ascending order, of breaks new type, without which modern life would be simply intolerable. And also to speak, if possible, of a new intensity of the forms of recreation, in which to the merely muscular it is necessary to add the neuromuscular dimensions and even those purely symbolic.
The new massive forms of entertainment industry, through television, film, video, commercial music, and the coming reign of DVD, can not be considered any more only in the simple key understanding it as alienation, understanding in turn alienation as a lie. They are expressions as appropriate and necessary to the intensity of new lifestyles, as before religious festivals or those associated with the agricultural cycle.
Perhaps it is true that the idea of "going on holiday" with its associated syndromes of beach, countryside or artificial adventure, is typical only of the decay of cultures. Notions such as "spa", "cottage", "beach", are only recorded in history in very refined states of culture and, in any case, in times of abundance, like the Egypt of the XV dynasty, Crete in 1800 BC, the first century in Rome. These cultural states were really brief exceptions within a context of technological, political and productive poverty. An era of sustained and massive wealth, however, must be regarded as a new fact of human history, and with it, altering the multi secular modes of fatigue and rest and thus, within them, the equally multi secular modes of domination.
"Vacations" exercised as a conquered right and cultural habit, are an exemplary case of time administered by the new rule. Compared with the absolute standards of physical exhaustion, there is little doubt that what the common man calls "holidays" are much more tiring than usual working times. This only shows the powerful symbolic importance, and the predominantly psychological character of rest involved.
The massive, formal and informal tourism, extends the time of dominance even to the habits that are considered most remote from the direct work space. We are never really out of the procedures that regulate us in the sphere of work. We never really go home, or really go out on vacation. In all areas where we are not producing we are reproducing the system. Our customs, our consumption, our common sense and its platitudes, hardly allow room for private interiority. There's nothing like a good holiday for pacifying the mind and starting over with new energy ... to be exploited again.
Should we abstain from "going on vacation" or from going to the movies, or listening to commercial music, or not wear comfortable clothing, and include us in the diverse range of new solidarities? Would we achieve in those ways to escape from the new forms of discipline?
No. Of course I'm not preaching that one should not "go on vacation". What I contend is that you need to be aware that on those trips we are not going anywhere, we never left the disciplined place we are always in. My argument is that because of the social function of the entertainment industry the difference between "inside" and "outside" the space of direct exploitation is diluted, and the universe of social experiences is totaled beyond what any liberal illusion could imagine, or want, a lot more like the pattern of medieval society than to bourgeois virtues.
f. The objective basis of consensus
I maintain that the above arguments lead to this conclusion: the mode of political domination based on consensus is today much more effective than those based on direct force.
This thesis is, however, quite obvious. If examining the content and the circumstances that what we call "consensus" has always had, we will find that no social rule can operate only on the basis of physical force, and that always the best made dominations are those that can translate force in basic social agreements. The reverse of this, however, is that these "agreements" were typically reached through a basic exercise of force and maintained through continuous surveillance, the ideological instances acting as seal and complement more than as a real origin.
The novelty, then, is not that consensus is more effective than force. It has always been. The novelty is that we may be, for the first time in human history, in the presence of a system of domination whose force is predominantly ideological, and whose origin and maintenance predominantly operate on an ideological level, hiding to an unprecedented degree its content of physical force and actual exploitation.
And this doesn't occur by a force that would be specific to the world of ideas and representations, which is the immediate content of the ideological, but by the transformations in the world of work, on which all individual and social experience of ideology is based.
Therefore it may be said that, like never before in human history, the objective bases of social consensus are in the world of work itself and not in the aggregate physical force dedicated to maintaining the social inequalities it contains. In abundance, even if still partial, in highly technological work, in the extension of that world to the entire universe of experience through the media, and in the effects that these areas have in all social sectors, including the marginalized and excluded.
In the limited area of politics this gives rise to a new form of patronage, strongly marked by subjectivism and customizing the styles of the new organizational psychology, in which the symbolic components and managed feelings of security and neglect, of subjective integration or rejection, of participation in a corporate spirit, become central, over traditional material advantages or party affiliations that were typical of classic clientelism.
Work, business, politics, everyday life, privacy, holidays, they have been all radically altered by the new forms of subjective discipline. The diversified, flexible, technological luminosity of the current system of "understanding", "support" and "relief" fulfills the same functions as the monopolistic, rigid and terrorist darkness of medieval Catholicism.
It is in this context, then, that the paradoxical category of repressive tolerance becomes necessary. Now, when there are objective conditions of life that make tolerance convey more effectively what was the task of force in classic styles. Now, when it is necessary to fear the totalitarian luminosity even more than the obscurantism overtaken by technology.
It is in this context, then, that new ways of developing a critique and political action become necessary. Modes that can not be oblivious any more to the importance of the struggle for the subjective level in the field of consciousness but, above all, beyond and beneath it. Modes of criticism that can no longer have the illusion of not being grounded in a will.
If the Enlightenment served against the ancient darkness, today a new kind of thoughtful, independent, critical gloom is necessary to deal with the luminous face of totalitarianism. A critical hosting and reversing content high technological development, hosting and making real the possibilities for diversification and human encounter. A gloom collecting the ambiguity of the human, claiming their differentiated universality, capable of a great rejection not only of the visible negative consequences of the system, but also of those which are exhibited as its virtues. A real humanism to oppose the misery of grossly sentimental light shed for humanism to coincide with business success.
If tolerance has become repressive, perhaps one could also make the outrage become rational.
It could be said that this book is built around a series of paradoxes. Paradoxes that show the enormous distance between the common sense prevailing in political theory, and in the more usual effective policy. Paradoxes that want to express a disenchanted form of lucidity that escapes the badly voluntarist messianism of the classical left, and the rude arrogance of those who today feel triumphant.
The recurrent form of these paradoxes is to gather ideas that common categorizations rigorously kept in separate fields, to the point of producing a sense of confusion, lack of theoretical or political clarity. And this confusion is part of the political effect being sought: to stir the conscience numbed by defeat, by the ease of cooptation, and by the quickness of judgments with which the apparent victors get rid of the uncomfortable past.
I think the substance of this need to conceptualize in the form of paradoxes lies in the essential complexity of the new forms of domination. A complexity that transcends the political imaginary structured between the extremes of Enlightenment and Romanticism, configured by the homogenising industrialization, by the dichotomy between the progressive rise of democratic forms and the armed attempts to force the march of history. A complexity in which that both the hopes of the revolutionary faction, and the achievements so vaunted by the victors, were defeated internally and externally by reality, configuring a new situation that surpasses the calculations of the old left and the ancient right.
A new right, without clear consciousness of itself, has emerged, breaking the alignments that were thought so firm. A diverse right, with a progressive mind, willing to regulate the excesses of capital, as well as to repress, through policing or medically, the possible radical opposition. A right that has no drawbacks in configuring itself from the remains of an ancient renewed left, or from the corruption of the party apparatus of the center and the classic right. A right which, for their representatives in the political class sometimes seems a new left, sometimes it seems a new right, and sometimes it seems a simple construction of communication devices, but not showing major differences of principle in its interior, and able to peacefully alternate in political power, using the illusion of real diversity and the legitimizing power of democratic mechanisms emptied of real content.
A new right that is not facing any actual left. Before which classic leftists oscillate between bending to what they believe is their "left wing", or radical, inorganically opposing, breaking from the outset the possibility of a political space in which fight is possible, widely justifying the communications offensives that put them near to common criminals, or psychological imbalance. A new right that baffles the traditional political calculation both by their agreements and with their internal differences, to which both the classical left and the classical right have no other conceptualization than trying to assimilate them to the traditional capital-work axis, or the traditional solidarity-market axis, losing the ability to capture what the new aspects of their operation as something genuinely new.
It is in this situation that paradoxes do emerge, and the one that may be characterized as repressive tolerance is the first of them. A situation in which the effectiveness of the mechanisms of the new power is such that direct repression is marginalized to the dark, seemingly distant, underworld of delinquency, or of what is presented as crime, while the main vehicle restraint to power is more tolerance itself, the ability to give new meaning to any initiative, radical or not, towards the logic of the established powers, turning the gestures that were proposed as protests and opposition into variants contained in the official diversity, which operate by confirming the global nature of the system.
But in the background, this tolerance is possible on the basis of a huge production efficiency, which allows not only the production of diversity, but implies a significant increase in the standards of living of large sectors of the world population. A productivity that doesn't need not homogenize, not critically dependent on the generation of poverty, allowing large areas of relatively comfortable work, even if they are a minority in an absolute sense, relative to the whole workforce, operate as powerful stabilizers of politics, and as the basis of democratic legitimacy. It is this situation that I have called exploitation without oppression. These are forms of work organization that have substantially reduced the classic components of physical fatigue and the psychological components associated with the vertical, compulsive and direct domination.
Certainly the inertia of the traditional left at this point, as in all others, will try to assimilate these situations to those already known, or to reduce their impact or discover in them the traits that show them as simple appearance concealing forms perfectly established since the advent of capitalism. As in the case of repressive tolerance, what I say is NOT that any radical initiative is doomed to shipwreck, and that the power is omnipotent in it; in this case what I am saying is NOT that most workers live these conditions, or that under these working conditions there are no contradictions, further ones, that make them eventually unstable. In both cases what I do notice is a clear and steady trend of reality, which is crucial if we choose to interpret it as a new phenomenon, and which, however, can be seen as perfectly incidental if we cling to the classical calculation.
The Leftist rhetoric at these points, however, is interesting. The general accusation is that I preach a paralyzing pessimism, that I approach new situations in a defeatist way, granting invincible power to the new forms of domination and zero powers to a possible opposition. I believe that this impression is logical. And it is because the ways in which the traditional left conceived politics, the possible subjects, the possible forms of action, are simply insufficient for the new state of the world. Of course, if it is about trying to fight the new powers with the old notions of struggle, they must be overwhelmed, they must have the feeling that the power is invincible and opposition is useless or impossible. It is precisely against the forms of struggle that those leftists do know and have mastered that new forms of repression have arisen, and while there isn't a complete reformulation of the notions that dominate the fight, it is, in a sense, logical that disappointment takes over and the impression that I am preaching the inevitability of defeat.
But I think that these new notions exist and are perfectly formulable. And what I'm preaching is that the new powers can be defeated. Or, for the sake of redundancy, what I'm preaching is, neither more nor less, that communism is possible. And then, strangely, the accusations that I'm a hopeless pessimist become the opposite, magically transforming the impression that I'm delusional, that I am driven by the desire for utopias that are no longer thinkable ...and now they are the pessimists!
I think, both impressions are derived from the same source: the uncertainty facing a new kind of power that has offset the classic forms of politics, making them provinces functional to a new type of rationality.
It is facing this new functionality I think it is necessary to radically change the way we evaluate our own history. Going beyond the illustrated prejudice that makes us see ourselves as representatives of the progress of reason, beyond the romantic prejudice that makes us see our failures as monstrous historical conspiracies, almost as errors of reality. You need to accept the possibility of an alienated revolutionary consciousness. A consciousness that thinks it is doing something completely different from what the power of unrecognized historical determination effectively allows. A revolutionary consciousness which not fully owns the historic initiatives undertaken, ie, a political practice in which the historical initiative is never transparent, and politics are always a risk. Always a risk worth taking, but for whose results any theoretical guarantee may be offered.
For the traditions of classical Marxism this means picking up two additional notions, which again have the appearance of a paradox. One is to characterize alienation as something transcending consciousness. Another is to consider the subject as something that is not an individual. To think alienation as a factual situation, as a field of actions, one of its central features being that it cannot be seen by the consciousness of those who do live it. And that cannot be seen, at least in class societies, but from another situation of alienation, so there is never a privileged place of consciousness, or absolute lucidity. To think individuals as a result of historical conditions that transcend them, and the subjectivities that constitute those historical conditions as agents operating in fact, with an ever changing and incomplete awareness of their own realities.
This means, in turn, an idea in which the foundation of revolutionary practice is deeper than the consciousness on which it is building its lucidity and its speech. That is, an idea in which the revolutionary will has its own roots previous to the lucidity of the revolutionary theory, and that the revolutionary theory builds a reality to allow the political practice, rather than merely stating a reality so that the findings will feed the will. A revolutionary theory so that the will can see, a revolutionary will so that revolutionary theory may be.
But this possibility of alienation of revolutionary practice itself is all the more real in the judgment we should do about the historical practice of the class subjected to the new forms of domination. You need to see in them not a conquest of conscience but a battle won from below, and beyond what consciousness can see and know. And we must then seek the contradictions that make possible a revolutionary will, rather than a clear and distinct consciousness of what happens. That is, it is necessary to seek the existential contradictions that are made possible within a substantially more sophisticated domination than classic capitalist oppression.
It is in this context that I propose the paradoxical concept of frustrating pleasantness. It is necessary, contrary to classical restraint, to make a sound judgment on the existential conditions of the comfort that enables high productivity and find there the roots of easily verifiable, widespread dissatisfaction, everybody sees in the life of those integrated into modern production, but nobody knows how to conceptualize or, even less, how to turn into a political force. This requires a deeply-founded concept of what we understand by subjectivity, pleasure or, in short, a happy life, all issues that are no longer problems of the private sphere, and become central political variables, from the moment it is precisely from them that the new powers assert their dominance.
Along with all this, a notion is necessary, that is able to account for the new complexities of power. Understanding that the runout of power does not mean the complete disappearance of the center, but its parallel, delocalized, distributed operation as a network. That is, its displacement to a second order from which is constituted as power over the spread powers, and can take advantage of the technological possibilities to be exercised interactively, in strongly advisory terms, with a powerful impression of democratic management, in which the subtle limits its diversity allows are hardly even noticed by the co-opted in their different strata of privilege.
But all this is expressed, finally, in what may be the intention and the basic paradox of this attempt: the notion of reinvent the Marxism of Marx. Breaking with the past while lifting the Bolshevik imaginary that changing the laws of reality itself is possible. Forget one hundred years of real Marxism to make Marxism possible. Picking whatever is useful in paper Marxism to radically peeling it off its context of elaboration to radically orient it toward the future. Going beyond the sad past to the future vocation that characterizes the revolutionary will in a highly political gesture, beyond the mourning and the eternal masochist reassessments, which are only able to point out the failures that occurred in historical situations that do not exist any more.
Making the impossible possible, changing the laws governing reality, fighting for truth and beauty, building a world where we can be happy. That is the political perspective that this book is inscribed in.
3. Poor bourgeois, rich wage-earners
I would like this text was a good sign of gratitude for the many things I've learned reading Don Vicente Huidobro, the poet and magician.
Can there be poor bourgeois and rich employees? May there be exploited bourgeois and wage-earners exploiting them? May there be left wing bourgeois and right wing salaried? May we have workers who are neither bourgeois nor proletarian? These questions represent only a problem to those skilled in social analysis. Anyone who is not will immediately notice that the empirical answer to each of them is yes. And he will not be particularly alarmed, nor initiate a debate with scandalous character unless he has a good political reasons for doing so or, at least, to simulate it. It is not strange that among those ex-Marxistas who are called "post-Marxists" this debate has flourished. Many of them often meet both conditions.
a. An epistemological issue
The first question that a reasonable person might notice in each of these questions is that they do mix two axes of distinction. Bourgeois - salaried, poor - rich, exploiter - exploited, "right wing" - "left wing", or even three: bourgeois - proletarian - worker. Only someone who is not an expert could believe that the first terms, or the second ones, of each of these pairs do imply each other, theoretically or empirically. In fact these apparent paradoxes do appear because it is easy to show that empirically they do not always correspond.
It should also be noted that some of these pairs represent empirical distinctions and other distinctions which, while having an empirical correlation, are more of a theoretical nature. This is true of the difference between "bourgeois - proletarian" and "rich - poor". In the first pair we have a class difference, while in the second a difference of social stratification. When we combine these two distinctions, we are combining two practically and epistemologically different types of analysis.
The analysis of social stratification are, and must be characteristic of empirical sociology. They try to establish social groups according to indicators permitting classification, measurement and quantification of what they study. Typically, differences of educational, income, or age, or even finer categories like gender, ethnicity, or religion. Like any empirical analysis, they act on bounded, local social groups considered at any given time. As in any scientific research, they aim to provide elements to develop techniques, some fairly objective basis on which to make decisions, to develop policies, to intervene processes according to their current and actual characteristics.
Class analysis, however, is, and should be, a very different task. It attempts to determine the alignment of social groups around a particular axis: how they participate in the social product. Words are misleading and in some cases this is aggravated by cacophony. Let's be clear, the axis is the "mode" not the "amount" of their participation.
Having a share of the social product is a social relationship. Specifying how they manage to do is to set out the key features of that relationship. Features that require the formulation of criteria of theoretical type, whose relationship with the empirical realities is itself more complex than a quantifiable indicator. This complexity stems in large part from the epistemological difference between the two types of analysis. Class analysis specifies (local not only), historical (not only bounded to a particular time and space), dynamic (not just groups, rather subjects) groupings of global character. This last characteristic (not just groups, rather subjects) is the most important.
Class analysis does not seek only to specify groups in the sense of collectives, or collections of individuals but social subjects. For pure stratification it is not relevant that each of the specified groups do have or not this or that disposition for action, this or that history, or some particular "ethos". The groups are as they are, whether they want it to be or are willing to fight to remain being.
In class analysis, however, there is a deep assumptions about human history, transcending the purely scientific analysis. What is assumed is that human beings are involved in a radical conflict over the appropriation of the social product, and that this conflict constitutes them as antagonistic subjects, ready to fight about this antagonism. Class analysis seeks to determine the subjects constituted in a given state of the class struggle.
It would be just absurd and counterproductive asking empirical sociology to commit to a hypothesis like this. Absurd because it is a hypothesis that involves a huge value-laden, an implicit requirement of commitment and involvement, which a scientist, as a scientist, would not necessarily assume. A hypothesis that has its origin rather in a set of existential situations than in detailed empirical studies, and is rather animated by a revolutionary will than by a simple love of truth.
And counterproductive, because the possible services of sociology to the specific policies may be many and very valuable even without that commitment. In scientific research, different passions than those that make a good revolutionary are necessary, and that is fine, and one thing would not necessarily be contradictory to each other. Mixing them up or confusing them does an evil both to sociology as well as to the revolution. To a Marxist it serves much knowing empirical sociology, those sociologists that do produce it don't need not be Marxist.
b. Poor bourgeois and rich wage-earners
The difference, and the obvious complementarity between the two types of analysis can be seen in those who are its characteristic goals, when you think about politics. Class analysis serves as a foundation to policy, stratification analysis serves to make an effective policy. One thing is to establish the basic difference between friends and enemies, the other is to set the range of allies that can be counted on, even among the "enemies", and the enemies to be considered, even among our "friends".
For Marxist politics, capitalist society is antagonistically divided into bourgeoisie and proletariat. The criteria for this alignment of classes is private ownership of the means of production. The bourgeoisie as a class appropriates surplus value created by the proletariat as a class and legitimizes the appropriation in the legal concept of private property. The immediate instrument of this appropriation is the wage labor contract, and the social condition for its viability is the existence of a labor market.
For the Marxist argument it is sufficient to establish that, historically, the whole bourgeoisie (the bourgeoisie as a class) extracts surplus value from the whole of the proletariat. As in this appropriation the proletariat is paid only the commercial cost of their workforce, and the bourgeoisie on the other hand can have all the rest of the product as profit, there is a net transfer of value from one class that is exploited to another, which is objectively exploitative. These premises are sufficient to sustain that if the production of goods is eminently social and appropriation of its usufruct, however, is uneven and private, a revolution is needed to end the rule of law which allows and supports this situation.
This is an argument in which we are considering historical and global subjects, not local and temporary collectives. What matters to us is not that a bourgeois may be generous and pay good wages, or another may go bankrupt due to bad business or incompetence of his workers. We are not considering the relationship between a bourgeois and his workers in particular, but the relationship between an entire social class and another, which is exploited. This is a founding reasoning, which has obvious empirical correlates, but that does not depend, in essence, of them. And may be this can make clear that we do not care, for this foundation, about the actual level of wages. Even if the bourgeois pay very good wages, an issue that is not impossible, we would claim to put an end to a society organized in a capitalist way. This is because we are claiming against exploitation and not directly against poverty. Because we believe that exploitation is unjust, that it is not justified, neither socially nor historically, and gives rise to all sorts of unacceptable existential situations, of which poverty is only one, albeit the most urgent.
If the distinction between a class difference such as "proletarian - bourgeois" and a difference of stratification such as "rich - poor" is clear, then we can address the empirical fact that there are indeed poor bourgeois and rich proletarians. On the one hand, the extremely high productivity of companies with an intensive use of technology does indeed allow there to be proletarians who enjoy very high salaries, of which, in a simple scale stratification, it may be said they are "rich wages". Furthermore, the breakdown of the Fordist assembly lines of production into countless workshops organized as a network enables the figure of a small, and even micro entrepreneur, who owns one or two machines, and is subject to fluctuations of demand as a last, precarious link, so that his income may be characterized as "poor profits".
These situations need not alter the essential calculation of the Marxists: the bourgeois are the enemy. But it's pretty obvious, except perhaps to an expert in social analysis, that they should alter the effective Marxist policy, on an empirical and everyday level. It should not be too difficult to understand that private owners being enemies in general, there is a level of stratification of income under which it is possible to consider them as allies. The apparent mystery of this situation is only the improper reduction of "enemies in general" to this other: "enemies for this exclusive reason". Someone being private owner of means of production is just one of the reasons why he could be a friend or enemy in the social struggle, even if this may be the most important reason. Other existential conditions, both among the exploited as among the exploiters, may bring them nearer to or farther away, especially, as we shall see, if other class correlations are simultaneously present. Don Vicente Garcia-Huidobro Fernandez, poet and magician, owner of the Viña Santa Rita estate, had no problem to run for the Presidency of the Republic supported by the Communist Party of Chile, there are many good reason to expect symmetrically opposite situations.
The poor bourgeois may be allies of the Marxist revolution because they are objectively affected by big business, and because the revolution could open for them a horizon of a better life, even if they have to give up private ownership of the means they have. Whether the revolution is capable or not of actually providing those better living conditions is an empirical matter. In theoretical terms, neither the existence of poor bourgeois, nor their possible support to the revolutionary cause, should be a matter of surprise.
c. Exploited bourgeois and employed exploiters
The empirically verifiable existence of rich salaried opens another interesting flank in this discussion. In the logic of classical Marxism nothing prevents a bourgeois from being exploited by another, or rather, that a sector of capital, such as the financial capital, obtains profits at the expense of another, such as the industrial capital. Or again, in the case of post-Fordist networks, that marketing capitalists make profits from microentrepreneurs, which are actually producing. In these cases what happens is simply a distribution of the surplus value among different capitalist sectors. A surplus value, however, which is ultimately produced by employees. In all these cases the assumption that the bourgeois do exploit proletarians is met. The class dichotomy remains, with further complexity brought about by possible contradictions between bourgeois sectors.
Of course the Marxist hypothesis is that the enrichment of the bourgeoisie is due to these relations of exploitation. This is a fundamental idea: only human labor produces value. If all value is produced by human labor, enrichment, which is the empirical correlation of valuation in general, should occur through work. The basic criticism of Marx is that the general enrichment of human society, produced by a form of labor, industrial labor, which has become eminently social, is interrupted and distorted by the private enjoyment of that wealth due to capitalist exploitation . Under capitalism the bourgeoisie is enriched at the expense of employees.
This idea doesn't contradict the previous finding that the existence of poor bourgeois is possible. For the Marxist argument, as has been said, what matters is the enrichment of the bourgeoisie as a class, not that of some individual bourgeois. It is possible, for example, that a bourgeois becomes rich just because of fluctuations in supply and demand, which Marx does not deny. If he systematically buys cheap when there is plenty and sells dear in times of shortage, in his particular enrichment the fact would not have played any significant role that the traded products have been produced by the proletariat. The question is, and this is what Marx showed conclusively, that all the bourgeois could not do the same operation at the same time. For every bourgeois who managed to get rich this way, so many will have lost their wealth. This is because the price of the products, which is a temporary local variable, and which is effectively subject to the fluctuations of supply and demand, tends, historically and globally, to the actual value, which is determined rather by the human labor incorporated into the goods. In this way, the local, temporary enrichment obtained through the price fluctuations are compensated around the actual enrichment, which only increases globally, to the extent that human labor is socially exercised.
According to class analysis, then, enrichment under capitalism can only stem, essentially, from exploitation, from extraction of surplus value based on the private ownership of the means of production. Employees, who can only sell their labor, could not get rich, but can get quite high wages. If adequate surveys of social stratification are made, however, you may find that there are rich employees, and that they progressively get richer. I think it is possible to perform a Marxist class analysis of this situation.
The point is to ask what makes that a social group can be called "class" and under what conditions it may be in the position of a "ruling class". As already said, the general criterion for the class difference is the way in which it participates in the social product. But what makes it possible for different classes to participate differentially?, in particular, what makes it possible for a group to benefit from enjoying the product? I think a possible Marxist approach is this: a class manages to be the ruling class when it dominates the social division of labor and, to achieve this mastery, dominates the most advanced and key techniques in social production.
This criterion involves distinguishing between the material cause of class rule and the means by which that domination is legitimized. The bourgeoisie, from its factual possession of the most advanced techniques and the most efficient means of production, gained control of the division of labor in modernity. It is from that domination that it built its social hegemony and established the right of private property as a legitimizing support. The bourgeoisie isn't the ruling class because of its private ownership of the means of production, it's the opposite, it became private owner because it was the ruling class.
This is precisely the idea of Marx that the modern rule of law has a class character. The claim is certainly not that all laws benefit the bourgeoisie. Only an expert could reach a conclusion like that. The idea is that the rule of law as a whole, globally and historically, is built around the right of private ownership, and the legitimacy of the wage labor contract. That is why, for Marx, capitalism can overcome only through abolishing the foundation of modern rule of law, and this, obviously, is in principle, legally considered, a revolutionary idea.
Many individual laws that directly benefit workers, or human society in general, can coexist with the bourgeois rule of law, without contradicting frontally and directly, although its ethical content transcends it lengthily. Reasonable people should expect that those laws are maintained and enhanced through a revolution that eradicates a foundation of the rule of law and imposes another, where they have a more real and more directly practicable place. Despite the apparent spectacular expression, this is but what Marx meant by his favorite idea: "the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is overthrown by a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat". It is obvious that the empirical mode of this "overthrow" is a rather delicate problem. But, at least theoretically, in this idea there isn't any special mystery.
But then, if private property is not the cause but an effect of class rule, nothing prevents, in real modern society, there to be more than one way to exploit the social product with advantage, and more than one way to legitimize this usufruct. What I contend is that currently, due to the increasing complexity of production processes, and the global market, control over the social division of labor has escaped from the hands of the bourgeoisie as a class. Another social sector, which in fact owns the most advanced production techniques, particularly in the coordination of production, has slowly raised its hegemony within the system of bourgeois exploitation without frontally contradicting the rule of law that legitimizes it.
There is no essential reason why the bourgeois are called "bourgeois". The name comes from a historical, important, but accidental circumstance. Historically it has been demonstrated that nothing in bourgeois condition requires bourgeois to be living in villages. Likewise there is no essential reason to call the new exploiters "bureaucrats". The name is appropriate, accidentally, because they work in offices, but could not. Perhaps it is more appropriate to call them "technocrats", or even for their forms of legitimacy simply "scientists". I will consider all these terms as aspects of only one, and I will call "bureaucracy", for somewhat unfortunate historical reasons, the new faction of the ruling class.
The figure of the bureaucrat is not included in the core system of the bourgeois rule of law. Bureaucrats are legally and effectively, employees. But how they do participate in the product, how they get their "salary", is essentially different from the way the proletariat does, or the class of direct producers. In Marxist logic, the proletarian gets his usufruct from selling his labor, however, the key point is not that, but rather, what the value is, which in fact corresponds to that workforce in market terms. How is this value that makes exploitation possible is determined.
One of the key contributions of Marx to the critique of political economy, that had already been developed by the Ricardian economists, such as Thomas Hodgskin, John Bray and Edward Thompson, is the idea that labor is a commodity, and that its exchange value on the capitalist market is established in fact in the same way as the exchange value of all goods: the value of work that it has incorporated. Another way of saying this is that the exchange value of the labor force, which is the salary, is determined by the social cost of producing and reproducing it.
It is important to note that the factors that determine the salary, in a global and historical way, are two, not just one. It is not just the cost of producing workforce, say, of feeding, clothing, give education and housing to a worker, but also the costs involved in reproducing him, literally and socially. Either way the capitalist, with the wages he pays, does pay the cost of subsistence of the worker's family. And not only that. He pays the social cost of educating him so that he may be up to the new means of production. He pays the social cost of making his life possible, in more or less miserable cities, but which nevertheless require streets, transportation systems, parks, playgrounds. Sometimes he is paying for all this directly and in general, through what he pays in taxes.
Even, if the analysis goes into more detail, the capitalist must accept a certain socially acceptable minimum wage, where workers would simply refuse to work for less. And this is visible with increasing living standards in a whole society. German workers simply do not accept certain types of jobs and wage levels, which explains that while Germany has hundreds of thousands of unemployed and hundreds of thousands of Turkish immigrants willing to take the jobs that the Germans would not accept.
The cost of production of the labor force is, for Marx, a completely set historical variable, which follows closely not only economic but also heavily cultural factors. Thus Marx foresaw, like no other economist of his time, a growing gap would occur between the subsistence wage, which only pays for the survival of the worker, and real wages, which pays the worker's reproduction as a social actor, with all the complexities involved. To the extent that the cost for, say, food and clothing, gets low, the subsistence wage historically tends to fall. But that does not mean that the bourgeois can, or indeed, do pay less to their workers. Unlike the opinion of the Social Democrats and utopian socialists, Marx's calculation is that there would be a historical upward trend in real wages. Needless to say that much of the Marxists have always reasoned on this point like perfect Social Democrats or, worse, like utopian socialists.
It is culturally determined rise of real wages which forced the nineteenth century capitalist to hire women and children, and pay them less than men, because they were culturally not supposed to maintain their homes. And it is this same pressure that forces the capitalist of the twentieth century to take their industries to peripheral countries, where the prevailing political and cultural conditions allow them to pay lower wages also to men (and keeping them supported by systems of infamous dictatorships that have been overcome in the core countries).
The conclusion is that, based on conditions of high productivity, nothing prevents the capitalists from paying higher wages, but they always, in principle and in fact, do pay them according to the changing social cost of workforce reproduction. Well, this is precisely what allows us to recognize the bureaucratic "salary": these are wages that do by far exceed the social cost of production and reproduction of the labor force they contribute to social production. Only this excess is what allows the enrichment of an "employed" bureaucrat: he does usufruct from the extraction of surplus value without being owner of means of production.
In the bourgeois legal system, there isn't a place for this usufruct. In a system that only distinguishes between "profit" and "salary", the idea of a "bureaucratic profit" is strange. I think it is preferable, in political terms, referring to it as "bureaucratic wage." First because, legally speaking, it is really wage, and second, because it warns us that among workers there could be a group whose class interests aren't, not only empirically, but in principle, those of the proletariat.
The way the bureaucratic salary is achieved is straightforward and simple. There are places in the production process, and in the coordination of the global market, where you can usufruct of the fact that the owner is not in a practical position to intervene or to decide. This applies to the high technical complexity of production, where the technocrat has the elements to make decisions and the bourgeois doesn't, or to the tasks of market coordination lying in the hands of the states, where the bureaucrat gets quite expensive a pay for his influence. The key, however, are the way this intervention is legitimated, the ways in which the bureaucratic hegemony on capital is imposed, even though the rule of law in principle favors the private owner.
Just as the bourgeoisie legitimizes its usufruct in the ideological figure of private property, the bureaucracy legitimizes its in the ideological figure of knowledge. Private property is an ideological figure because it is a historical construct that has its real sense of something that is not in fact in itself, and that is masked by its appearance: the factual possession of the means permitting exploitation. Knowledge, in the bureaucratic system, is an ideological figure because it is a historical construct whose origin and real meaning is the same: to legitimize a form of exploitation.
Just as in the bourgeois legal system, ownership does not imply the actual possession of good (an owner may not be able to take possession of an asset, and not have the effective power to use it to his discretion and, conversely, someone could in fact usufruct of some good without being its owner) and also in bureaucratic rule, "knowledge" would not necessarily correspond to something in the real world. The effective control of a bureaucrat on a production process requires a knowledge, but the discourse on knowledge by bureaucrats not necessarily correspond to that actual domain. For bureaucratic power, increasingly, the mere discourse of knowledge, the institutionally protected mere appearance of knowledge, is often sufficient for the usufruct. Just like a bourgeois may claim profits by the mere legal fact of being the owner, regardless of whether or not he has had any contact with the possession and effective exercise of the assets that belong to him by law. It is easy to see that the property law is unfair in this case. Today, it is ever getting easier to realize that bureaucratic wage is unfair: there is nothing really productive or effective in "coordinating" a productive function, a common salary should be sufficient to pay for that activity. Each of us can widely attest, in all kinds of jobs, that this is not what happens.
Bureaucratic wages do express what is an exploitative relationship by some "employees" on the bourgeois themselves, the owners of capital. An example that is very much ours, which expresses with monstrous sincerity our Chilean "national spirit": the case of the Pension Fund Administrators, AFP. The owners of capital are the workers. They have "hired" some men to "manage" the capital they accumulate, with a typical record of a "Protestant ethic", as contributions intended to put together a pension fund to allow for a peaceful old age. Even the most conservative estimates do indicate, however, that these "employees" will earn much more with their task of administration, than the "popular capitalists" who hired them. AFP profits are thus the exploitation of "bourgeois" by "employees".
d. Leftist bourgeois and Rightist employees
Any salary and any profit is always derived from the wealth created by the direct producers. The bureaucratic wage corresponds to a distribution of wealth created by workers, among two dominant classes that legitimize their usufruct in different ways. The class interests of the direct producers are not only antagonistic to the bourgeoisie but also to part of the employees themselves. The objectives of a possible communist revolution are double. It is the, theoretical, global, historical class analysis, loaded with value drive, that provides a revolutionary will, which can reach these conclusions. The specific policy is always more complicated than its foundations.
This is about the overthrow not only of the rule of law that promotes and supports the bourgeoisie, but also, within its framework, about the progressive construction of a bureaucratic legality. Slowly the bourgeois discretion on property has been limited, trimmed, by bureaucratic interest in the name, as always, of the interests of all citizens. Marx in the German Ideology, did already see this obvious fact, and he showed its dark back room: every new dominant social class shows its interests as if they were those of all mankind.
The question is not whether the progressive limitation of the discretion on property in fact, empirically, favors all mankind or not. Ideally this could be true and, in turn, cover up a new form of class rule. Only a very simplistic notion of progress, the one that is typical of Enlightened thought, could believe that history simply progresses from bad to good, from the purely chaotic to the ordered, or from the inhuman to the purely more human. It might perfectly happen that the progress of the "good" goes together and is inseparable from what we call "bad". This is the non Enlightened criterion of "progress" present in Marx. The historic changes experienced in modernity are not only a major step forward in the humanization of human society, but also, and inseparably, they have accentuated the dimensions of alienation. This is not an eschatological thesis, or a spectacular bold statement on the relationship between good and evil. It is rather an assumption made regarding matters of fact, which is true in these historic times and could not be true in others.
It may be good to offer an example of this, to evaluate what of "good" and what of "bad" bureaucratic rule may have for a communist horizon, because what I consider below are precisely situations that arise these types of moral and theoretical ambiguities and conflicts.
As mentioned above, it was convenient for the capitalists exploit the prevailing macho condition of European culture of the nineteenth century and to hire women in their industries, which they paid lower wages than those paid to men. With this, the cost of reproduction of the workforce declined and the surplus value, correspondingly, rose. Consider, however, that this capitalist abuse was possible from a situation of which the capitalists themselves were not responsible. Nothing in bourgeois condition, except their interest in profit, requires them to consent or promote a macho culture. Here, simply, a cultural trait from before capitalism was functional to the interests of the bourgeoisie.
The reverse of this situation, however, is that women acquired a new capacity for social negotiation and precisely in the terms in which the society of the time valued the bargaining power: in money. Women could, with their salary, establish a new relationship with men, with their children, with the whole society. As much as their salaries were really low, they went from feudal oppression that condemned them to house and kitchen, to capitalist exploitation, which allowed them a power that they did not previously have.
Is capitalist exploitation preferable to feudal oppression? Marx, and any reasonable person would say yes. It is of key importance to note the relativity of this response, a detail perhaps too subtle for any ultra leftists or expert in feminism. This is not to assert that capitalist exploitation is "good", by itself, as such, as if there were no other context to judge supreme good and truth. It is noteworthy that in a given situation, in a historical perspective, when you are to choose among the worst or a bad situation, it may be that evil is better than the worst. The bourgeoisie, willingly or not, in fact promoted women's liberation, as well as generally promoted the liberation of the workforce, to usufruct of it through the wage labor contract. Marx used to say "a big step forward in human history".
Much beyond the eschatologies as well as abstract and formal calculations, this situation is important because it tells us something about the interests and possible commitments of workers. It suggest that reasonable people do not do their specific political calculations based on abstract philosophical considerations of right and justice, as intellectuals and students usually do, but on the basis of empirical judgments related to their own living conditions. For a possible current Marxist policy it is remarkably relevant to capture the historical depth of these calculations, however much empirical their references are.
When an ordinary person explicitly or implicitly decides to maintain a politically conservative, or progressive, or leftist behavior, in general it is doing, even not knowing it, a delicate and fine calculation not only about its particular situation and present, but on the life expectancy which resulting from considering how its parents and grandparents lived and how its children and grandchildren could live. In this calculation estimates are involved of how its neighbors and acquaintances have managed to get by, or for what reasons the lives of those he sees as failures has been degraded. It is not relevant whether these estimates and calculations are correct or not. Frequently they are influenced by the common ideologisms regarding wealth an poverty: the rich strove, among the poor carelessness and laziness abound. What is relevant is that, whether true or not, these considerations do determine their actual political behavior.
Among those who have a higher culture and education access, such as modern workers, or employees in the service area, or of the privileged sectors of the population, these calculations are usually traversed by strictly cultural and theoretical considerations, beyond their purely material interests. This is the case I cited, of Don Vicente Huidobro. Only the ultra-leftists, who do agree in this with the naivete of utopian socialism, may imagine that the "class consciousness" always and one on one matches the empirical consciousness of every citizen. I don't think I need not discuss such simplification.
What matters to me is that the empirical consciousness of employees is historically linked to the objective real wage increase, and it's perfectly reasonable from this that industrial workers have traditionally maintained a reformist political behavior. The historical estimate is that it is possible to expect an increase in living standards from capitalist progress, at least among those who are effectively integrated into production and technological progress. Whether this is real or not in terms of the whole of humanity is not really relevant. You cannot plausibly ask a worker to have a revolutionary consciousness only from what happens to an undefined "others", which are not significant for him in terms of his life perspective.
Classical Marxists always put the emphasis of their arguments and propaganda in the multiple and objective disasters brought about by capitalist development. To understand current politics, however, it is good to look on the back side of such disasters, and realize that reasonable people, much sooner and with much greater ability than Marxists, had already noticed that reality does not occur in white and black.
Can there be Leftist bourgeois? It may, in fact there are. It is very important to ask why. Can there be Rightist salaried? The answer is too obvious, even for Marxists. The key question is why, from a Marxist point of view.
There are two basic reasons for the existence of right wing employees, both important from a theoretical point of view. One is the difference between employees who live only from selling their work force and those who profit from bureaucratic control, whose salary, as is said, is determined in a very different way to the former. The other reason is that, among those effectively integrated into modern production, real wages have grown historically, giving them a historical perspective that links them to some "promise" of progress under capitalism.
In the first case, the case of bureaucratic wage, it is important to note that the political behavior that can be followed could well be progressive and even anticapitalist. If it is more or less conservative it will depend more of a matter of social stratification. In essence, the interests of the bureaucracy contradict those of the bourgeoisie, although this contradiction is not even a frontal one. What is relevant here, however, is that these interests are historically contradictory also to those of the direct producers.
In the second case it is important that the political behavior of workers integrated into modern production is not only empirically, but even in principle, very different to that of the broad masses of marginalized. This is neither beautiful nor desirable, it is simply true, and every Marxist calculation must start from this finding. It could be that the workers, who are the ones who can make the revolution, are not interested in doing it, and that those marginalized from production, who are precisely those who cannot make it, are instead those who do invoke it most.
This estimate may be very hard, but it derives from a basic question in Marxism: the revolution is to take over the social division of labor (which is what determines the social domain), and this can only be done workers as workers, basically not the poor, because of their condition of being poor. This is the great and crucial difference between the idea of proletarian revolution in Marxism, and the many revolutionarisms which have been thought under utopian socialism or anarchism.
The task of Marxists, especially in the twenty-first century, is not the classic question of persuading the poor to assail power, but to find ties that link the needs of extreme poverty with the problems associated with exploitation in contexts where the standard of living is not bad at all.
Therefore, because an effective revolution that goes beyond a mere "takeover of power" can only be made by workers, Marxists are more interested in the problem of exploitation than in the direct problem of poverty. In the nineteenth century the two issues were linked, and in fact coincided, while in the twenty-first century our problem is precisely that they no longer match. And that the interests of workers could be very different from the interests of the poor in general.
It is facing this dilemma where, curiously, the question of whether there can be leftist bourgeois becomes relevant. Not because we would have to wait for the leftist bourgeoisie to eventually make or lead a revolution, an idea that would be a little strange for the usual Marxist logic, and even for common sense.
For the prospect of a communist revolution in the XXI century it is relevant to ask why Don Vicente Huidobro would ever have wanted to be a communist. Asking against what he was protesting in essence, what was the possible rational kernel behind his spoiled boy rebellions, as a sophisticated dilettante. These questions lead us to the issue of establishing the contradictions that affect workers who have certain levels of consumption. Vital contradictions, those affecting their existential perspective, those that could make them doubt the calculation that made them so confident about a possible progress under capitalism.
Having stated this matter theoretically, the problem is to describe the possible relationship between alienation and consumption, and not only the immediate relationship between alienation and poverty. The key concept of alienation is required, a materialistic theory of subjectivity, a deeper one, beyond the enlightened naivety and optimism.
I think this means rethinking Marxism itself from what was its origin: the protest against the advance of dehumanization in the midst of a process of growing humanization. The rebellion against the repressive aspects of what is objectively also humanization and progress. I think, like Marx, that this rebellion can only be a radical rebellion, a revolution to end the knot that enables this perverse connection, to end the class struggle, the need for class struggle. A society in which there is no more class struggle can be called a communist society, and those who believe that building such a world is possible should also call themselves communists.
4. Note on the reconstitution of the radical left in Chile
I will probably need to write this book several times. This second edition, seven years after the first, occurs facing different political urgencies, different indignities, new disappointments. In seven years more, we will, once again, be facing a very different time. The general idea of all this text, so far, has been to contribute to the background discussion. The likelihood of the Marxist argument. Its formulation in contemporary terms. Long term theoretical questions, in short, if you will.
But the ominous light of smiling totalitarianism prevailing in this country, the visible disappointment, cracks in the promised rainbow, dishonesty accumulating, fill the heart, bitterly vitalize anger, and it is not possible to postpone the urgent, the contingent, the immediate, which in a few years will be just a memory, for better or for worse, and that we live, however, as if the whole history was about them.
For my clear philosophical vocation, I have always resisted this type of analysis, in which the classical left, however, consumes most of its efforts. I am aware that, if this book meets the rare fortune to get to have a third edition, I am likely to withdraw this chapter, with something the flush with which we hide photographs of our childhood. But I also know that life, real life, should always be more important than theory.
I am then presenting these theses, assuming the risk of their transience, and waiting, with the stubbornness of the delusional hope of those who truly believe that things can change, that they are only fleetingly necessary and that the dawn of the homeland will invalidate them as soon as they come to fruition. The issue, put directly, today, in early 2008, may be condensed into the following theses.
First, there will be no real left in this country while the Concertación coalition rules. Already twice has the Left contributed its objective 5% to get Lagos and Bachelet. What has been achieved is that organized social movement, which exists, in the CUT, the ANEF, the Teachers Union, miner and logger unions, has remained frozen between bluster and perks, with miserable conquests, many expensive events for leaders and absolute unwillingness to produce greater mobilization. Some have obtained funds for memorials and commemorations, party offices, real ones or money, funds for those few NGOs that have not passed directly to the state apparatus, possible default covenants. Others, especially the movements of the poor and the young, have only received manipulation, deception and disappointment with both hands.
This should not be repeated. Today the main enemy of the Left in Chile is the enormous power of cooptation by the state apparatus. A minimum requirement for the re-articulation is once and for all to stay without Fondart, without those funds for "social development", the perks in the municipalities that are shared with the right, the "donations" from the Presidency of the Republic, the projects to revive NGOs, minor employments in the Regional Secretariats and Municipalities, blaring events for social leaders to "study" or "reflect", the wimp five deputies that they could simply give us, in order the electoral law to remain without any fundamental change.
Second, only developing a brief, clear and strong petition catalogue the countless sectoral claims can be ordered which, however just they may be, today hinder the real unity of the multiple actors of social pressure. No need to look far, the list is more or less obvious:
- renationalization of copper,
- put an end to the Constitution of 80,
- nationalization of sovereign foreign debt and putting an end to state backing of private foreign debt,
- renationalization of strategic services of electricity, gas, water and communications,
- drastic reduction in borrowing costs and strong royalties on any exports of capitals and profits.
Of course this results in a huge number of economic, political and social demands. And each sector will make theirs. But I have emphasized these:
- because they are the condition for all others,
- because they point directly to the essence of the economic model,
- because it is about them that strategic policy can be made, beyond the immediate emergencies, certainly atrocious each of them.
The Left, at least the Left, must make a radical strategic policy, must order its differences over a global horizon, should be pointing beyond immediate politics.
Third, somewhat more theoretical: we must go beyond the false dichotomy between the global and the local, between unity and diversity, between the forms of struggle or those of organization.
There not only are in fact but there must be many Lefts. The big Left can only be a giant network of many organizations, having various forms and scope, with varied interests, and even partially contradictory among each other. What we need is not a single party but a network. We do not need a correct line but a common spirit. A common spirit ordered around these global demands I have outlined. A wide will to connect the sectoral demands to these global goals which, as you may have noticed, are quite definite and concrete. A wide willingness to accept as part of the many Lefts, of the big Left, all sorts of forms of organization and expression that want to recognize themselves in these goals.
Fourth, the re-articulation of the great Left is only possible if the sterile and fratricidal dispute between "revolutionaries" and "reformists" is abandoned. The deepest and most harmful dichotomy that we have inherited from the mechanistic rationality of the enemy.
Reform and revolution should not be intended as alternatives but as inclusive. Every revolutionary must be at least reformist. The real issue is what else, what kind of horizon radical we seek from the reform initiatives we undertake. All fights have to be given. The local, the everyday, the small is no less significant for those who suffer the big and global. The issue is rather the spirit, the horizon from which we enter each of these local fights. Moving away from the local issues is moving away from revolution as much as staying at it. Any local struggle that wants to join the horizon of the great Left and its spirit should be respected and eventually supported. The path of our revolution passes through the strategic goals that I have mentioned, and that is, and should be, a path that contains all kinds of sizes, shapes, rhythms and colors.
When we speak of "revolution", however, we must be clear that we are finally talking about the abolition of the ruling classes. We are talking, in short, of the end of the class struggle.
Fifth: Today the great struggle of the great Left is not only against the bourgeoisie, it is also against bureaucratic power. It is the historical struggle of direct producers, which produce all the real wealth, against the distribution of surplus value among capitalists and functionaries. Bureaucrats, as a social class, organized around the state apparatus, but also fully embedded in the techno structures of big capital and global powers, bureaucrats, protected by their alleged, ideologically based, expertise, are today as enemies of the common citizen, who receives a salary only according to the replacement cost of its workforce, as the big bourgeoisie.
The contingent fact is this: most of the money that the state allocates for "social spending" is spent in the pure process of distributing that "social spending". Most of the state's resources, supposedly of all Chileans, are engaged in paying the state officials themselves or going to the pockets of private enterprise. The state operates a vast network of social co-option, which gives precarious employment, through receipts of payment or funds to be applied to, keeping with that an enormous system of neo-clientelism that favors some key sectors by assistance, thus muffling their disruptive potential and favoring in a progressively millionaire way the level of social workers administering the containment.
It is not about analyzing, in these thousands and thousands of cases, the morality involved. Not so much to denounce corruption in moral terms. The issue is directly political. It is a corruption of specifically political content and purpose. The issue is the effect, on the one hand, on the whole of society and secondly on the prospects for social change. On the one hand the State conceals structural unemployment, due to the enormous productivity of highly technological resources, through a progressive dumbing of employment (employment that exists only to create a purchasing capacity that only seeks to maintain the market system), on the other hand, a system of clientel dependencies regarding employment is established, which force the "benefited" to stay politically set.
Direct hit are the huge masses of absolute poor, which state resources simply do not reach, or come only through political conditions. The "benefited", together with big business, are the enormous masses of officials from all state structures, from the universities and consultants, from NGOs and the teams formed to compete for ever more projects and projects, who renounce to radical politics to devote themselves to management, to represent the State before the people segmented into enclaves of specific needs, to pursue what is scarce precisely because they themselves do consume it, to engage in containing just that that their function of containing does not disappear.
Or, if you want more quantitative data: in this country, which is one of the world champions in the attempt to reduce state spending, and after thirty years of successful reductions, 35% of GDP is spent by the State. A third of all that is produced. The state remains the largest employer, the main banker, the main buying power. The state remains as powerful a guardian to pay for inefficiencies, adventures and blunders of big capital, and to pay itself, massively, politically and economically, for that function.
Drastically redirect government spending to direct users, dramatically reducing the clientelistic employment of its management, and re-training them to live productive employment. It is not about whether to have a rather large state. The concrete discussion is the content: what ought to be big, what to be small. Fewer officials, more productive employment. Central management of natural resources and strategic services. Absolutely decentralized management of direct services, which citizens can handle themselves without experts to administer them. What is at stake here is not only the underlying problem of a fairer redistribution of the wealth produced by all. At stake is also the viability of the left, which has become, in many of its expressions, part of the management and control machinery that perpetuates the dominant regime.
I have to add, finally, that a good part of this thesis, I have worked for quite some time, and that simply sum up what many other scholars have thought and worked for a long time, proved urgent to me amid the following scene, which took place in the framework of the official commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Santa María School Massacre: French Quilapayún singing to us and making us sing "The people united will never be defeated" from the rostrum in the which the Interior Minister, Belisario Velasco, had lied shamelessly as he was booed relentlessly. Most of those who booed him sang enthusiastically and with profound hope this song. When finished, Minister Velasco warmly congratulated Quilapayún.
Santiago de Chile, January 11th, 2008.