CPB::IV. Herramientas::Text en
- 1 IV. Tools
- 1.1 Note to the second edition
- 1.2 1. Repressive tolerance and communist policy
- 1.3 2. Paradoxes
- 1.4 3. Poor bourgeois, rich wage-earners
- 1.5 4. Note on the reconstitution of the radical left in Chile
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.