Proposal of a Hegelian Marxism - II. Political Sociology - Text
- 1 II. Political Sociology
- 1.1 1. Epistemological differences
- 1.2 2. Theory of social classes
- 1.3 3. Classes and strata
- 1.4 4. Class conciousness
II. Political Sociology
1. Epistemological differences
a. Scientific Sociology, Political Sociology
As in the case of Economy, but without using the same formula ("Political Economy"), it can be said that in the classical period of modern thought (XVII and XVIII centuries) there was a "political sociology". Virtually all modern philosophers from Machiavelli and Bacon to Kant and Hegel, developed definite ideas, based on a broad metaphysical and a practical mind, covering and exceeding the field of what is now called "Sociology" and is considered an exclusive domain of a discipline and a guild.
There wasn't indeed division between disciplines, nor union disputes. Nor a methodological a priori, or quantitative hobbies. And surely much of its depth and assertiveness comes from these "gaps".
These are social and political theories, and also legal concepts that never pretended to be neutral from an ethical point of view, and from which each of them imagined technical formulas, specific procedures and perfectly defined lines of action for what should be the political and social management of the world in which they lived.
Somehow Kant's critique and encyclopedic look is the culmination of that cycle. You could say that all political and social thought of the next two centuries, that is, until today, is part of the various possibilities of foundation of the social plotted exemplarily by Hobbes and Hume, on the one hand, and by Kant, on the other.
There is a set of matrices, fundamental ideas, throughout the works of all these authors, receiving nuances and emphasis that shape their theoretical diversity.
The notion of subjective, social and political autonomy of individuals; the notion of a substantive and knowable rationality to govern both the natural and the human order; the idea of a substantive horizon of worldly realization of personal and social potential; the extraordinary trust in the emancipatory power of a secular and rationalist education.
To this we must add essential controversies, counterpoints between potential and contradictory fundamentals. The counterpoint between the emphasis on ethics (freedom) or on human nature in determining the social. The controversy over the relative importance of individual autonomy and sense of community. The differences between the substantive or merely instrumental character of reason. Differences around aggressive or gregarious character of human nature.
The classical tradition of this "political sociology" finds its improvement and, in many ways, its end, with Hegel, having in view the maximum development of all the variants proposed.
In Hegel the theme of freedom completely displaces the theme of human nature, but not as a mere postulate necessary for practical reasons, but as a history of the formation of the possibility of free citizens. A history in which everything is a product of the evolution of social relations: the legal and political forms, the modes of social life and its problems, the existence itself of autonomous citizen and cultural forms that allow them to live their freedom as a community.
This is a secular humanism mediated by a secularist interpretation of the role of religion, a historicism that puts all the problems and the possibilities of human beings in their own hands, a notion of individual freedom where all the potential of human beings can only be performed within a community. Hegel develops a complex notion of reason, where the formation of humanity has been occurring through struggle and contradiction.
Those are the elements that, as content, well below the wording of any text, go to Marx from his Hegelian training.  But it is also necessary to add the Hegelian critique of ethical idealism, which leads directly to the primacy of effective policy, beyond the mere formulation of value perspectives, whose action is limited to education. You have to add the deep historization of nature (which, however, is not present in Engels), which leads to its being always mediated through work, up to the grade of conceiving anything that can be called "natural" (needs, "personality", pulses) as a human product. You have to add the consideration of individuality as a historical product, which leads to develop all political and social analysis based in terms of historically constituted social subjects.
None of these elements is present, however, in the founding and development of what I will call "Scientific Sociology", ie, in the tradition that has been constituting Sociology in a discipline within the social sciences, the tradition formed by Comte, Durkheim, Weber, Parsons, Merton, Luhmann, Giddens, Habermas.
Already in Comte, the complex negative, tragic historicity, formulated by Hegel, is reduced to the purely linear, progressive and even deterministic temporality, his successors in turn be responsible for destroying, leaving in its place mere administrative ghosts called "functions" and "structures."
In Durkheim, perhaps reluctantly, the neo-Kantian habit (which in many ways is actually pre-Kantian) starts, of considering subjects merely as individuals, and considering the analysis of social phenomena as compositions of collective action (of collections of individuals who would share some aspect of their common action). A habit that English Liberals have called, strictly speaking, "methodological individualism". It is this methodological individualism which leads Weber to consider the notion of "class" as "type" or "collection", and leads his notions of stratum and estate, profoundly different, as I will examine, to the Marxist notion.
With Comte and Durkheim the curious notion also begins that we can formulate a previous and abstract method, independent of both subject and object, whose application would enable knowledge discovery. This notion of "sociological method", associated with the idea there is a specific object of sociology (distinguishable from psychology, anthropology, etc..), led directly to the absurd, so alien to classical thought, of regarding sociology as a discipline in principle distinct from others, each of which would cover only one aspect of the social whole, and in a specific way. An absurdity which is only confirmed again and again in the repeated failure of the "inter" or "trans" disciplinary attempts, and even multiple "extra" disciplinary initiatives, which never in turn manage to resist being transformed into new disciplines .
It is this methodological abstraction which leads to the extraordinary claim, unique in the long history of man's concern for the social, that ethically neutral social theories could be achieved, ie that it would be possible to clearly distinguish between the "scientific", technical content of a theory, and its political use.  But, in turn, a pretense of neutrality that can only be tried by slashing theory to pure description, denying, or pretending to renounce to any explanatory attempt, or to the task of global understanding.
Elimination of substantive historicity, methodological individualism, priority of method over the object, claim of ethical neutrality, attempt to distinguish between the technical (science itself) and the political: Scientific Sociology, in its real disciplinary tradition, is profoundly different from classical Political Sociology and, still more radically, from the one which can be found in Marx. It is epistemologically different.
A rare moment of explicitness for this difference is the idea that there would be "sociologies of balance" and "sociologies of conflict," that is, those who assumes the social balance and are dedicated to the study of the empirical and notorious event, that what prevails is imbalance, and those that constitute the conflictivity from its conflictivity. Many of the most important disciplinary sociologists declare themselves supporters of the first, and argue that in the second the desired ethical neutrality, science would own, is passed out. Of course the Marxists, for an issue that is essential to their doctrinal core, can be located among the second type.
Beyond the deep epistemological differences and as an effect of them, is important to note that in reality, in a practical and effective manner, the purport of disciplinary sociology is nothing but its own reproduction as academic and academized knowledge. In fact the constitution of the disciplines of the social sciences is but a process of institutionalization of knowledge on modernity, a process in which knowledge that was project begins to operate directly as knowledge-power and source of legitimacy. The drift of this institutionalization, however, that at some times and aspects was functional to bourgeois power, has been increasingly framed in another logic, the bureaucratization of knowledge, rather functional to bureaucratic power and, as I will examine later, functional mainly to itself: the bureaucratization of knowledge does not require, nor have now the meaning of "serving" somebody. It is, by itself, one of the many modes of appropriation of the social product.
Nothing further then, for epistemological, and now also for political reasons, than Scientific Sociology (disciplinary) from the one which could follow from Marxism. The very practical, very immediate consequence from all this, is the need to remove the Marxist discussion from the logic of academic reproduction, and return it to what was his own classical field, completely outside the disciplinary logic, the discussion of politics and the popular movement, starting from and going to the effective political and social reality. Neither Negri, nor Badiou, or Ranciere, or Agamben, nothing in the leafy comedy of errors that is the post (and former) Althusserian tradition, are very useful to that end. Just as Marx abhorred the "critical critique" of German "ideologues", today, to break with as grandiloquent as harmless critics on salary, we should write a "French Ideology". My opinion, however, is that it would be a waste of time to explain to those who believe that this is "urgent" and necessary, that this would be but a waste of time.
b. Class analysis and analysis of stratification
The epistemological and political rejection and estrangement of disciplinary sociology need not mean, however, a complete abandonment of the tools developed. As in the case of Scientific Economics its local administration tools can be useful in the short term, in the practical management of economic units, so the descriptive Scientific Sociology craze may well be useful as a support for immediate political analysis. The concrete space which clearly shows the need for a deep epistemological difference and, at the same time, the practical need for a complementary tool, is the difference between class analysis, which is typical of Marxism and the analysis of social stratification which is common, for many diverse purposes, in Sociology.
There is much evidence that Marx, unlike Engels, did not think of his work as a systematic, exhaustive or, much less, finished doctrine. This attitude has an essential virtue: it makes that his work allows many developments and different interpretations. But it also has an unfortunate effect: Marx does not always use the terms, even some of the most relevant, in the same sense. Except in the case of Political Economy, that was much more accurate, such essential concepts as "productive forces", "mode of production", "social formation", "ideology" are used in his texts in various ways, in sometimes conflicting, sometimes colloquial and comprehensive manner, sometimes narrowly and technically. A striking case of this difficulty is the notion of "social class".
Given the diversity of meanings that the notion of class has in Marx's texts themselves, I hold, a reading option consistent with his political perspective is to restrict the concept, use it as a bounded technical means, in a close relationship with the central notion of class struggle.
For political reasons, I argue that in Marxism social classes are not simple groups, layers or strata. They are not collections of individuals with some common empirical feature. The classes are global and historical subjects, formed around the effective operation of exploitation. It is convenient, as a counterpart and complement, to specify the epistemological differences between this notion and the idea of sociological stratum or group.
A social stratum is a group of individuals classified according to some empirical indicator. The differences between men and women, rich and poor, architect and farmer, Chilean and Peruvian, old people and children are, from this purely descriptive point of view, differences in stratification.
For standard sociology, strata consist of individuals (methodological individualism), are local and temporary empirical collections defined descriptively with a pragmatic purpose: to segment potential customers, to quantify needs, tendencies and interests, make a living doing statistics although no one uses them, etc.. A stratum, as a whole, is not considered a subject, not even if it is characterized by common interests, for the simple fact that, in general, it is not considered that a group may be a subject. Of course does not have to be a stable group, or be a group by itself. The strata are but distinctions made by an observer, with varying anchor in global and actual empirical characteristics. Nor do they have to contain internal tensions or oppositions, even if they are defined around a conflict. What the description does, is simply to establish the group as a group, without any particular explanatory mood.
Among the many possible empirical stratification criteria, there are some that are especially useful for the Marxist political analysis. In particular for defining income groups (rich and poor), item status (powerful and dominated), inclusion (integrated and marginalized), and those that relate to the social division of labor (by craft or forms of work).
None of these studies, however, each very useful and necessary, should be confused with the class analysis. As I argued above, social classes are subjects (not mere collections); are formed from a particular process, exploitation (not from associated empirical indicators); are real, actual subjects (not just descriptive empirical associations); are formed from a contradictory, antagonistic relationship, ie are dynamic, fighting subjects, and constituted from that fight.
Indeed, as real subjects, classes are an effect of the relationship that constitutes them. Without exploitation, there are no classes, and also, someone belongs to a social class (or is in a class position) only if directly and effectively participating in an exploitative relationship. This means that "being bourgeois" or "being a slave" are not specific qualities to an individual himself, but social functions that may or may not apply to him. In the end, even if it is absurd to see it this way, a bourgeois is not bourgeois while sleeping. He is it only while he exploits someone. And it is important to explain what the absurdity of this extreme example is: nobody is himself bourgeois, he is bourgeois only in the context of a social class, the bourgeoisie.
Although this might relive the horror and terror of most French intellectuals, and the irony of almost all English intellectuals, frankly: in Marxist logic the bourgeoisie as a class, as a social function, is more real, political and epistemologically, that each of the individual bourgeois. The bourgeoisie is a real subject (or the proletariat, or lords, or serfs), the individual bourgeois, as someone being a bourgeois, is an effect.
If we distinguish between class analysis and stratification analysis, a large number of specific problems of political analysis can be made transparent, and a huge bunch of idiots discussions, which have caused rivers of ink, becomes unnecessary. Is the "middle class" a class? No, it is a stratum definable by indicators of income, education, culture, etc.. Can there be "poor bourgeois"? Of course, in fact most bourgeois are so. All the mystery is dispelled when we note that the term "poor bourgeois" contains two classification criteria: the difference bourgeoisie-proletariat is a class difference, that between rich and poor is related to stratification. The fact, increasingly common in the post-Fordist economy, that there are "private owners of means of production" (bourgeois) who have no more than two or three machines (two or three employees), which are routinely fleeced by more powerful commercial bourgeois (they are poor), is an empirical, massive and forceful evidence of that double possibility.
Precisely the problem of what to do, what attitude to assume, given the multitude of "poor bourgeois" or, as will be discussed below, with the corresponding "rich employees", the problem of how to characterize the "middle class" in a Marxist way, is what makes this distinction politically necessary.
It is not the same question who is the enemy?, than to ask on whom can we count? The difference occurs precisely because not all our enemies nor all our potential allies are equal. Class analysis provides a general and strategic, theoretical and global approach to the first question. Stratification analysis allows pondering this generality in the practical, tactical and immediate shot. By composing both analyzes, doctrinal clarity around the strategic objectives can be maintained, as well as concrete ways through which to achieve them specified. This combination is the theoretical basis of any alliance policy thought from Marxism.
The concrete and real fact is that today, numerically, the most bourgeois (owners of capital) are directly or poor or belong to the "middle class." It should be noted, only for example, that all Chilean workers have been forcibly converted into owners of capital through the private pension fund system. And it is also a given fact that not a few employees, for reasons which will be discussed below, can be considered not only rich but must be considered within the block of the ruling classes. The political viability of the revolutionary horizon depends on knowing and taking into account these differences.
It is worthwhile to emphasize the epistemological difference. There may perfectly be stratification analysis without class analysis, that is the disciplinary sociology. There can be, however, for political reasons, class analysis without stratification analysis. This is because class analysis is not only theoretical and doctrinaire, but must serve a particular revolutionary politics. So this is a Political Sociology. And so, even if you use some of their tools, it is not feasible to develop it at the institutional level of sociology as a discipline.
a. Exploitation, domination, opression
Social classes are formed from a relationship of exploitation. Exploitation exists when there is an unequal exchange of value. The exchange of value defines what is the quintessential economic aspect of social relations.
Although the idea of value in general may be defined, from which you can define pre-capitalist value dimensions, and set up a general theory of social classes (see Part IV, chapter 3, pre-capitalist value dimensions), in this section I will focus on the exchange of exchange value, which is the value for which the goods are traded in the capitalist market, and modern (capitalist, bureaucratic) class differences. This historically specific way I will be referring to as mercantile exploitation.
To have specifically exploitation, however, it is not sufficient for the exchange to be unequal. There must be a causal link between the valuation of one of the terms and the devaluation of the other. It is this connection that generates the interest of the exploiter in maintaining the relationship: his valuation depends on the devaluation of the other. You can define a gift as an unequal exchange of value but obviously it's not exploitation. There is no figment of equivalence involved (see Part I, Chapters 1 and 2), nor a pretense of equality. Or, the exchange is not equivalent, non-commercial, and does not consider a reciprocal action. This is important because in a society where there is no exploitation there will even be no market, non equivalent exchange will prevail, and its regime can thus be characterized as a gift economy.
Furthermore, the relation of exploitation requires an absolute or relative net extraction of value. This is what allows to strictly distinguish those who are exploited because they produce tangible, material, real value, from those who are called exploited by association, because they are paid according to the exchange value of their labor force, although they don't produce tangible and real value, or any value they produce is only measurable in prices, without any real, historical and global correspondence to production costs. The first case is that of employees who work in manufacturing, land rent, or associated immediate services (exploited in a strict sense); the second case is that of employees working in services non-immediate to material production (exploited by association). The political significance of this difference, as I will show below, is doctrinal and strategic, as much as tactically and immediately it may seem forced and ungrateful. It aims to specify, in a strategic sense, what is the conceptual core of the revolutionary subject: the direct producers, those producing real wealth.
Having verified the existence of a net extraction of exchange value, the name absolute exploitation may be applied to those cases, in which the valuation of one of the terms leads directly to the devaluation of the other. The name relative exploitation applies, then, to a relationship in which both poles are valued, but unevenly. In this case the exploited gets a salary that allows its gradual valuation because he has managed to increase the cost of reproducing his labor force far beyond the subsistence wage. The productivity of his work, however, allows the exploiter to appropriate a share of even greater value.
The difference between absolute and relative exploitation is politically important because it is associated with the relationship between exploitation and poverty and, more generally, that between exploitation and oppression. It seems natural to associate exploitation (a class difference) with poverty (a difference in stratification). Nothing prevents, however, the existence of non-poor exploited. This is essential in a society like today, when the exploited (those who work, those who produce wealth) are NOT the poorest in society. Where the poorest are the massive, permanent or chronically, unemployed.
It is not the same to extract value from someone than to impede his valuation. The first is exploitation, the latter should be called oppression. Note that while there may be exploitation with oppression (absolute exploitation), there may also perfectly be exploitation without oppression (relative exploitation). Indeed, the effect of both scenarios on the possible class consciousness of those affected is dramatically different. At least from an empirical point of view, it is expected that a situation of valorizing (relative) exploitation is associated with a relatively conservative consciousness. The two doctrinally important issues here are that, first, both are equally exploited subjects and, second, the class consciousness is much more than mere empirical consciousness (see the Part II, Chapter 4, The class consciousness).
As for Marxism, exploitation defines the field of "the economics", the oppression defines the field of "the social". It should be obvious that in actual practice both aspects, which are only theoretical distinctions, overlap. Oppression is impeding, directly (through exploitation) or indirectly (without), the valuation of someone. To the extent that this implies disavowing its own value as a human being, we can say that oppression is dehumanization or, more generally, it is a relationship in which there is an unequal exchange of recognition.
Of course, there may be oppressed they are not exploited, at least in the sense of capitalist or bureaucratic appropriation of exchange value. This possibility is related to a curious (and incredibly stupid) problem regarding someone's membership in a social class. If class status is defined by participation in an exploitative relationship, to what social class do belong the children, the unemployed, pensioners or old? The methodological triviality (and idiocy) of these questions lies simply in not realizing that not all classifications are, or must be, exhaustive, ie cover all members of the population to which they apply. If we classify humans by their age all will fall into some of the defined strata. If we seek to establish the differences between the amounts of those suffering from measles or tuberculosis, the classification will obviously not be exhaustive, and will not lose value because of this.
While oppression generates an exhaustive classification (we are all recognized or denied, directly or indirectly), the relation of exploitation does NOT classify, nor should it classify all human beings. The children are neither exploited nor exploiters. Either unemployed or pensioners. Apart from the methodological commonplace, the confusion comes from confusing the objective fact of exploitation (unequal appropriation of value) with its consequences (valuation, depreciation, impairment of valuation).
Again what is at stake here is not the merely scholastic matter of classification criteria, but the directly political problem of determining who, conceptually and in fact, may be the revolutionary subject. Revolution, as I will specify in Part Three, can only be done by the workers, just because they do work. The revolutionary subject, in doctrinal and strategic sense, is not the oppressed in general, while oppressed, nor the poor in particular, as poor. The confusion here comes from not distinguishing the act and effective power to carry out a revolution from the motivation to do so. This confusion has led the classical Marxists, for over a century, to displace the objectivity of the revolutionary subject to the subjectivity of the oppressed that can support it. A shift that only leads to convert the revolution into revolt, and revolutionary change into radical reformism (see, in this regard, the ideas of revolution and revolt in Part III, Chapter 3, The idea of revolution).
Against this historical tendency among Marxists is that the approach used here is NOT to define the revolutionary subject by its subjectivity, but for its objective site in the social division of labor and the class struggle. From there, of course, but now objectifying, clearly and distinctly, I will address the problem of class consciousness, and subjective dispositions that can be associated to it.
But if the whole thing is being too light, let's complicate it some more. While there perfectly can be exploitation without oppression (relative exploitation), I argue, however, that the Marxist hypothesis is that there can be no oppression without exploitation, ie, that all forms of oppression come directly or indirectly from exploitative relationships or, again, that the only way to ignore the value of another human being is to produce or maintain a beneficial relationship in the appropriation of value. This issue is closely related to Nietzsche's thesis of "will to power", ad nauseam groped by the academic scene, and widespread, in a simple and implicit way, in the common sense of ordinary people. And it is connected, in turn, with the difference between exploitation and domination.
Domination is a social relationship in which there is an unequal exchange of power. The power exchange, par excellence, defines the political aspect of the social.
The Nietzschean idea of "will to power" confuses (or requires to confuse) the purpose of this alleged will (get to power) with the means (to ignore the value or prevent the valuation of someone). Ie, it confuses domination with oppression. Indeed, what Nietzsche argues is that there would be a will, own and constituent of human beings, to exercise oppression simply by the power of exercising it. An action for which the power is rather a means to a goal. This is even clearer if to this aspect of human condition we add the idea that desire lacks a proper object, and its exercise is just exercising it. That is, the superman (Nietzsche never was) desires just to keep desiring, he oppresses only to oppress, and only seeks power to, once obtained, despise it, leave it, and return to the fight. A logic that tends to excite abstract poets, consoling them in their impotence, excite abstract intellectuals, justifying their skepticism, excite those who are winning, only because they are winning, and the Nazis ... only because they are Nazis.
Well, as any philosophical thesis, like any foundation, the existence of a "will to power" in humans can be neither be proven nor disproven simply by empirical means. It is a beginning, just crucially touching any foundation. Against this, one can only wield another principle, another foundation. And for each one of these principles we can only present reasons, not demonstrative ones, making them preferable or desirable, or present them as necessary or inevitable. The issue is particularly serious in its consequences: if it is true that in humans there is a tendency to oppression by oppression, then communism is simply impossible. If we consistently want to affirm that goal (communism), we must consistently deny the principle that denies it (the "will to power").
The Marxist thesis, then, as a statement of principle, a foundation, is that in the human condition there isn't, in itself, any tendency to oppression and, therefore, any tendency to seek and maintain power only by power. Both dominance and oppression derive, directly or indirectly, from the aim of maintaining or defending exploitative relationships. The only deep sense that oppressing or exercising power would have, would be achieving an advantageous exchange of value. In this precise sense, for Marxists, the essential problem of human history is economic.
To argue that the essential meaning of exercising power is to defend and maintain certain relations of appropriation is necessary to distinguish the effective power from the means, particularly from the institutions through which it is exercised. You only can have effective power if the dominated are taken to a factual situation in which they "consent" (abide, obey, resign, allow), against their explicit intention, an unequal power relationship. Ultimately power is always exerted on human beings. The power over things is only a means. And ultimately, power is exerted on subjectivity or, to put it in an elegant way, it operates at the symbolic level.
To make this possible you need to create (defend, maintain) a way of life in which human beings are somehow forced to this "consent". The key to this way of life is in fact controlling the means of life itself, that is, to be able to usufruct with advantage of the social product and put that advantage to its own reproduction. Put in technical terms, the key and essence of all power resides in the de facto control of the social division of labor. This control, which is in good accounts the only socially real power, is what can be called hegemony. Institutional symbolic means that enable its maintenance and defense are what can be called government. And its exercise is what can be called, now in a bounded way, "politics". In turn, the means of these means, say, the superiority of weapons, ideological manipulation, propaganda, however visible and ostentatious they are, are only the most superficial part of this whole exercise. They are effects rather than causes. The real deep key to domination, to exercise of power, is but the configuration of a way of life. Weapons or propaganda only maintain or defend something, they never produce it. Here, again, for Marxists, the essence of power lies in its economic background.
b. The class struggle
The anthropological thesis that presides over all the above distinctions is that human history has been structured and moved around a permanent struggle for social product, the actual, tangible, material product. That it has been structured and moved around the relations of exploitation. Or, as a notable German philosopher said, the thesis is that "class struggle is the motor of history".
If we consider the difference between class analysis and stratification analysis I've made before, we can conclude immediately that the relationship I call "class struggle" can only be dichotomous. There may be many strata, groups or social classes. There are just, however, exploited and exploiters. These are, of course, two differences that overlap: the same human beings are being considered for two different classification criteria. But if we remember that the classification between exploited and exploiters doesn't need to be exhaustive, we must conclude that this overlap is not extensive, it does not cover all human beings considered. All belong to some stratum or group, there are some (even many) who are neither exploited nor exploiters. I insist on this because it has a consequence on the thesis of "social diversity", which has been frequently invoked against Marxism. The famous opposition between "class reductionism" and "social diversity" only occurs if we accept the confusion originated in Max Weber, among stratum and class. Of course there is "social diversity", the issue is in what aspects of the social. Even though such diversity obviously exists, it is not contradictory at all with the idea of a dichotomous conflict between social classes.
If we now consider what I have argued about dominance and power, we can conclude that, for Marxists, class struggle is a structuring relationship, ie it is the origin of institutions. State, market, marriage, churches, law, first originated in the needs posed by maintaining a privileged position in the relations of exploitation. The thesis is not that the only way these social forms do make sense, or even their actual meaning is to maintain the exploitation. Indeed, to what is relevant to Marxists, it is enough to say that the source of institutions is located there. Put in philosophical terms, the only reason to reify certain social relations as institutions to be soon dominated from that objectification, is that in this process the privileged positions in the exploitation are favored, specially by ordering the exploited according to relations of domination that are functional to them.
To emphasize this point regarding the source of institutions, let's see an example. My claim is not that faith or family originate from exploitation. About their origin and meaning as such, as human experiences, I don't need make a ruling here. That is not the point. What I contend is that it only made sense turning the experience of faith into a church, or consecrating the need of the family as marriage, if at some historical moment that was functional to exploitation.
This is important not only to understand the origin and meaning of the institutions but mainly because it leads to the idea that in communism, in a society where there is no exploitation, they will no longer be necessary. There may be family, but not marriage, exchange but no market, even eventually faith, but no church. And this is only the most general formulation of Marx's pronouncement about that in a communist society, there will be government but the state will be extinguished.
The radical nature of the idea of class struggle comes from the fact that it is just that, a struggle. To the extent that exploitation is a relationship that promotes directly conflicting interests (appreciation / depreciation), the class struggle must be thought of as an antagonistic relationship.
One could argue about that in the case of the (valorizing) relative exploitation this antagonism is not direct or nonexistent. However the only thing that would show is that some of the exploited have no direct objective reasons for antagonism. But then we should remember that Marx's class analysis has a global and historical character. What is relevant to the Marxist thesis is not that some or many of the exploited are in objective or subjective conditions to consider them as part of a radical contradiction. What is relevant is that the bourgeoisie as a class is objectively in antagonistic opposition to the direct producers, also considered globally as a class. What the Marxist critique of the capitalist economy can show conclusively (see Part I, Chapter 3) is that the much-vaunted virtues of relative mechanisms of increasing the surplus value are only spaces and moments in an overall logic that historically required absolute mechanisms to such an extent that the same space and time can only consist of temporary boom times, which from the beginning have their days numbered. The current crisis of the so-called "welfare states", and his contemporary and brutal back in the looting and misery of the Third World that made them possible, are the greatest example of this.
In these conditions it is impossible to ignore the fact that the radical nature of this struggle involves a huge amount of violence. When Marx said that the class struggle is the motor of history, he made a profound and moving statement on the role of violence in history.
The seriousness of this statement may be recognized considering that this violence is an objective fact, which in logical terms is prior to consciousness of its participants, which is below their individual subjective wills. We live in societies animated by blocks of objective enemies, independently of the good or bad intentions of its individual members.
This seriousness can be made even more visible considering the radical historicism of Marx, which comes from Hegel. In his conception, no pre-constituted subjects are, by themselves, originally individual, and possess given qualities. Or, to put it in philosophical terms, Cartesian subjects, animated by a human nature. For Marx, as for Hegel before, all that shapes and animates the subject has been produced historically from social relationships, which are the only element that can arise, survive and make sense. What happens instead is that in Marx and, now in a very different way to what can be found in Hegel, the class struggle is the essential relationship from which the opposing social classes emerge. In philosophical terms this means that the class struggle is a constituent relationship which produces the terms that relate through it. Or also told in a conversational way, what happens is NOT that there is a class, the bourgeoisie, which exploits another, which would already be in a position to be exploited, the proletariat. What happens is the material, real fact of exploitation, and it is only from that fact that successively, in an essentially relational way, bourgeoisie and proletariat happen to exist. And as point to point, moment by moment, one requires the other, so too will the end of the bourgeoisie be also the end of the proletariat. In this unconventional logic that comes from Hegel, the relationship is more real than its terms and exists before them. The relationship does not connect to the terms, it produces them.
Another step in the severity of the historical reality of violence is that the class struggle, just because it is dichotomous, antagonistic, structuring and constituent, is also totalizing, ie, it determines all aspects of social reality or, more precisely, it is the relationship that makes the social into a divided, internally contradictory, totality.
Not all members of a society, as individuals, can be placed among the exploited or the exploiters, but everyone and everything in their lives are determined by the central conflict. Not all institutions find their direct and current sense in exploitation, and even less in the particular way this is done through the exchange value, but all have their origin and historical sense in it. Not all aspects of the actual, individual and subjective empirical consciousness, determined by class position, but all the possibilities of objective consciousness, itself, class consciousness itself, is determined by this central struggle. The struggle, the violence, historically goes through all dimensions of the social, far surpassing the subjective dispositions, or the good or bad individual wills. To the extent that this is an objective violence that constitutes the disputants, each sees the situation in a consecutively alienated way. Each one sees peace in his own goals and interests as opposed to violence. No cheating, no error or malice, the truth unfolds contradictorily. There is no truth against error. The alienation is quite simply that there are two truths conflicting in an antagonistic manner. Colloquially we can say that we are indeed in a war. The revolutionary side will not start a war. We already are at war. What happens is that the ruling classes do call peace times and spaces when they are winning this war, and call war anything that threatens them.
The class struggle, as a totalizing situation, as objective violence, can only lead to one solution: to revolutionary violence against the institutionalized violence that is present to us as peace. I will devote all of Part Three of this book (see Part III, Political Theory) to explain what violence this is and what revolution we're talking about, with the maximum possible accuracy. For now I just want to summarize the various features that I have spelled out, in one idea: the class struggle is a tragic relationship. It is in the classic Greek sense that it is a conflict that exceeds the individual wills and possibilities. Standing in front of that ominous faceless god that is their fate, individuals are simply helpless. But the gods do not exist, but the peoples are not individuals, but fate is but the objectification of obstacles and helplessness that we ourselves have created. The crucial difference between this tragedy and the aristocratic individualism shown in Greek tragedy, is that this one is socially and historically evitable. The communist revolution is a long war that can end all wars. The class struggle is surmountable. Communism is possible.
c. The ruling class
To hold that the ruling classes are produced from exploitative relationships is just the beginning. You need to be more specific about the social mechanism of this operation and, in particular, what causes one of them to become the ruling class.
At least since the beginning of the bourgeoisie as a class (Europe, XII-XIII centuries) this mechanism is quite clear, and was first described in the form of technological determinism, by Jean Charles Léonard, Count of Sismondi (1773 - 1842), in 1803. Marx scored from his work, but now without that technological determinism, one of his central ideas, which conclusively specifies the metaphor of "the motor of history".
The great historical novelty of the bourgeoisie as a class is its attitude to permanently transform the techniques and ways of producing material goods. Marx referred to this trait countless times, reporting it in various ways, always in a conversational mode, ie, without a uniform terminology. The Marxist tradition has condensed those many ways in a set of terms that have specific meanings, compiling them from some of his pronouncements.
Following this terminology, but rather following a reading hypothesis about its meaning, I will use Productive Forces for two aspects involved in the transforming tendency of the bourgeoisie: on the one hand the Means of Production (prime materials, tools, techniques), on the other side Human Labour (skills, abilities, technical knowledge, attitude toward nature). The action of the bourgeoisie, necessary consequence of competition, the lack of market transparency, the original inequality in the possession of capital goods, is described by Marx as a permanent revolution in the development of Productive Forces.
Unlike Sismondi, for whom the effect of these changes on social relations is due to the presence of new machines and tools as such (technological determinism), Marx already considered the Productive Forces as social relations, that is, he was interested in the immediate, internal, fact that a mill rather than a machine, is a place that links a miller with producers of wheat, bread producers, traders, technicians which maintain and improve it, etc. That is, I argue that for Marx the Productive Forces are not something facing the social relations, but are in themselves. They are an aspect of the whole, not a part. I will follow this logic of an entirely internal relationship throughout this description.
On the other hand, every social relationship to Marx is a "social relation of production". Not only production is social, but also, said broadly, every social relations produces something. Not only is the manufacture of bricks is core of many social relationships, also architect, poet or peasant, are names that designate social relations, not qualities or purely internal and individual capacities. In being Chilean, father, priest or fisherman, the same applies.
Despite this generality, Marx reserved the term Social Relations of Production for two forms that seemed able to determine all the others: the Social Division of Labor and the Relations of Product Appropriation. Both aspects of the global human action, Productive Forces (PF) and Social Relations of Production (SRP), would, according to Marx, characterize a Mode of Production (MP). Human history would be but the history of the Modes of Production. This is the central idea of what he called "materialist conception of history" that, from Engels, is often called "historical materialism". 
When these notions are put into their historical context, what happens is that the bourgeoisie develops the Productive Forces, thereby creating a new way of life, a culture, a new common sense. In essence with this it achieves to master the Social Division of Labor, and through this to gain an advantageous part of the social product. Its material power, rooted in the same forms of work, increased by their enjoyment, for the riches they get, collides, of course, the powers that had been established until then.
To maintain their power, to make their enjoyment possible, the bourgeoisie, unlike all previous ruling classes, who appealed to religion, turned to Law. It resorted to the use of force and commitment to reinterpret the established law (revived the Roman law), or simply to create a new one. With this the Relations of Appropriation acquired a double aspect. On one side they are the relationships in which in fact, inside or outside the law, value produced by workers is appropriated, on the other hand they regulate and legitimize such appropriation before, but even after it happens indeed . After a long process (over five hundred years), culminating in the codification of bourgeois law in the nineteenth century, the bourgeoisie manages to subject virtually all social actions to a Rule of Law that favors it systematically.
But the bourgeois, who armed with a certain technological base of capital (eg: wind, wood, mill, clockwork) managed to triumph over the feudal estates, in turn suffer the same process. Another generation of bourgeois, with a superior technical basis (for example, coal, steel, steam, train) will in turn achieve to in fact determine the Social Division of Labor and from there, modify the Relations of Appropriation established until then to their advantage. This makes the history of capitalism is marked by successive Accumulation Modes, each supported in a different technological base of capital, first going through a revolutionary phase, against the established powers, then a conservative, where they tend to paralyze the development of Productive Forces in order to defend the Relations of Appropriation in their favor.
“At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.”.
This is the word of Marx: Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859, paragraph 3, verse 4.
When it comes to grasp the meaning of this statement of Marx (of the Word), above its terminological variability, one can hypothesize that the key point of this historical mechanism lies in control of the Social Division of Labor. The Word to this respect can be explicitly found in the first part of the German Ideology (1846, "Feuerbach").
Following a distinction proposed by Antonio Gramsci, I argue that the development of Productive Forces, which is the material support of the creation of a new way of life, is what may be called construction of hegemony. The correlative construction of a cultural, political and legal apparatus for its maintenance and defense is what can be called government.
The result of the construction of hegemony, this materially considered, is but the control of the Social Division of Labor. This is the essence and source of all social power to Marxism. The social sector that actually controls the Social Division of Labor achieves appropriating, thanks to that, a greater share of the social product. Because of this control it is the dominating class, the hegemonical one (actual power). And will become the ruling class (legitimate power) in so far as it builds a rule of law that enshrines, legitimizes and favors it, from which it can defend itself from the uprising of new hegemonies.
This general reasoning allows to clearly distinguish the material link that comes from class power (control of SDL) from its mechanisms of legitimation (law). And I'll have to say even more, later, to distinguish the specific, historically determined ways how such control and legitimacy have been achieved.
It is important to note, regarding what is usually said in the Marxist tradition, that my proposal here represents a shift, which can be summarized as follows: the bourgeoisie isn't the ruling class because of its private ownership of the means of production, the facts are reversed, it became private owner because it was already the dominant class. And this is an issue that can be empirically shown through the analysis of its history.
However, more relevant to this empirical finding, is the matter of principle here, which is key in a materialist conception of history. Private property is a legal, ideological construct, while control of the SDL is a material, effective bond. It is from these material links that representations and ideological institutions are constructed, and not vice versa. As the Word says, "is not consciousness but social being what determines ..." or something like that, well, I don't remember very well how it continues, but I'm sure that was the idea ...
As always, this conceptual discussion, that might seem banal (what comes first, what comes after), has political implications, and is really only important because of them. The issue, directly said, is that the simple abolition of private ownership of the means of production does not guarantee at all that there will be no ruling class. This abolition is a means to something, it is not really the goal. The goal is to achieve that direct producers themselves control the division of labor. If that doesn't happen, those who will do it will again constitute a dominant class, whether or not private owners, they will usufruct from the product with advantage, and build ideological and legal forms that legitimize and protect their domination.
The Socialist regimes produced in the Marxist common sense the impression that capitalism was the last class society in history or at least the last one where class contradictions would be antagonistic. I argue that this impression directly rests on two misconceptions. The first is to think of the property as a source of domination, and not as a result. The second is to confuse class and group or social stratum. Relations between the strata may be more or less conflictual (as between doctors and nurses, or parents and children), and even antagonistic (as between rich and poor); relations between conflicting social classes, however, are always antagonistic.
Of course, each new ruling class has their own interests presented as if they were those of all mankind (this is Word of Marx) and they choose as their antagonistic the class they have already defeated (something overcome in the past), while seeking to present their current relationships, which they recognize as conflicting, as "non antagonistic." Liberal thought presented the landlord as a great enemy, whom it considered "unproductive" and the capitalist and working classes as non antagonistic, whom it valued as "productive". By repeating this same operation, the Soviet bureaucracy considered capitalists in turn as unproductive, and their own relationship with the direct producers as non antagonistic. The ideological operation is the same: convert the class antagonism in a surmountable conflict within the established rule of law, by effect of education and progressive consensus and, of course ... peacefully.
When the key role of the control of the SDL is put at the center, this whole operation becomes visible, and that allows the revolutionary perspective to be thought differently. Today, one hundred years after Lenin, but still perfectly contemporary to the deep wisdom of Marx, we know that it's not enough when the communist horizon is formulated in an anti capitalist way, it is also necessary to think of it as a great anti-bureaucratic historic task. The class analysis required for this perspective requires consideration of the bureaucracy as a social class, not simply as a layer or group, and as part of the bourgeois-bureaucratic block of ruling classes, whose interests are antagonistic to those of the direct producers.
3. Classes and strata
a. Bourgeoises and capitalists
Once having established the material link from which the advantageous appropriation of the social product is constituted, there are two main aspects to characterize concrete and particularly the various ruling classes, placing them historically.
The first is the specific mechanism that allows control of the DST or also specifying which production factor is that actually owns and dominates; the second is the legitimization mechanism that allows to make feasible, to maintain and defend their domination. The ruling class must be defined both of these, economic and political ways, both factors are not separable. But this definition, although general, that only specifies who the enemy is, must be completed, as I have argued above, by stratification analysis to tell us, among them, whom we can count on.
If we follow this order and considering its historical trajectory, the bourgeoisie as a class is characterized by de facto possession of the most advanced means of production. From there it develops toward the control of trade, then the mining and agricultural rent and, from manufacturing and land rent, it organizes a widening labor force market that allows them to produce and to appropriate surplus through wage labor.
But simultaneously and inseparably, it will be building the rule of law that will serve as a source and space of legitimacy. It does raise the factual possession of the means of production to the guarantee of their private property, and ultimately reduces the ways of access to social product only to capitalist profit and wages.
Only when all these features are present one can speak of the bourgeoisie as a class, and of capitalism as a mode of production (in general). It is easy to see that in earlier societies was wage labor, but no real labor market for which those who sell their labor force should be legally free. There was also private property, but not under the guarantees of inviolability and discretion of modern law. There was, finally, traders and lenders, but not social agents whose primary interest is to use the money as capital. Of course the purists will find exceptions or counterexamples here and there in each of these cases. What you will not find are societies dominated by the combination of all these elements.
The historical perspective also allows to state the basis for stratification within the bourgeois class. In its own original meaning, the bourgeois was first a craftsman. He was a guild master craftsman who developed a certain craft and perfected the means of work that were needed. Carpenter, blacksmith, glazier, builder of cathedrals, tailor, goldsmith. In a state of the art where all production processes are organized around guilds, the master craftsman became bourgeois when he began to rely increasingly on hiring wage labor, that is, when the source of his wealth and progress stopped being the exclusive secrets of their guilds and began to be rather the appropriation of surplus value. Many master craftsmen became exploited, those who surmounted that condition became exploiters.
For over five hundred years, however (XII-XVIII centuries), the majority of the burghers remained closely linked to the production environment from which they emerged. Production organized in guilds generated strong local cultures, long traditions and deep feelings of attachment. Cities where spinning mills predominated, or manufacturing of fabric, or glass, weapons, tools or perfumes. And these traditions also linked their bourgeois to resort to a specific place, to concrete people, to particular trades. The bourgeois do have a fatherland. Or at least, they had.
The uprooting of capital holders from the particular production processes begins with the figure of the merchant capitalist who does not live from production but from the movement of goods. Needless to say it is closely related to the productive bourgeois figure. What interests me here is not timely historical accuracy (who first, who after), but to point out a conceptual issue: it is an economic operator who increases his capital regardless of the goods he buys and sells. Although functional and to some extent necessary for the production environment, by himself he does not produce or contribute to anything real, no real wealth. Although he requires the exchange of real exchange value contained in traded goods, his "wealth" comes rather from the price fluctuations of this contained value. In good accounts, if he manage to accumulate real wealth (value, not just money), it can only come from a distribution of the surplus value produced by labor and appropriated by the bourgeois.
I am interested in retaining two features, while insisting that the direction of my argument is not historical detail. This is an unproductive economic agent: he does not produce or promote the production of value, although he conveys it. He is an agent whose main wealth comes rather from price than from value. And as such, this wealth is rather temporary and local, that is to say, is not the order of the real and historical enrichment (accumulation of value) of the capitalist class.
These details are important because they help to narrow the field of what should be considered a capitalist in the proper sense. This is a social agent with capital ownership whose primary interest is to reproduce and extend the capital through the production of value, appropriating it in the form of surplus value, not particularly interested in the actual content of that production, without being culturally bound to the goods he produces. Productive as the bourgeois, but uprooted as the merchant, the essence of the social function we call capitalist is mere abstract reproduction of capital. Capitalists have no fatherland. And although they might have in fact, to the extent that it does not fulfill any specific role in the reproduction of capital, their loyalty will be, to say the least, quite variable. Examples abound, and can be listed ad nauseam.
Because of the huge concrete derived effects, it is necessary to distinguish, both among bourgeois and among capitalists, those that promote the production of manufacturing from those who, through production, convert natural assets into riches. This second type of activity is what is known as obtaining land rent: the operation of labor in agriculture, mining, fishing, forestry.
Of course, there are no natural resources. It is human labor that converts into wealth what in nature is only a possibility. But there are several conditions that turn this action into something crucial. The first is that all further elaboration completely depends from land rent, the entire production of what in a more specific sense can be called manufacture. Food, energy, raw materials. The second is that the sources of this possible wealth are not evenly distributed, which is an essential factor in the original inequality of capitalists to which I alluded in Part (Part I, Chapter 3). And a third, perhaps most important, is that the resources from which it is produced are limited, and only in some cases renewable or recyclable.
The bourgeois living on land rent, like a fisherman owning his boat or someone who has introduced wage labor to the field, or owns a sawmill in a wooded area, built his life around the eventual permanence of these resources. He will not exterminate fishes, nor lead to the desertification of earth nor cut down all the trees. Without fish, fertile soil or trees, he would cease to exist.
The capitalist who invests to obtain land rent, however, whose real support is capital, not the exploited resources, knows no limits. If the resources were depleted, he will invest in something else, and if his workers do not know anything else just abandon them. The depredation of natural resources is a proprietary, internal feature of capitalist management as such.
It is not difficult to see that the differences between bourgeois and capitalists I have described are often correlated with the size of their business. Strictly speaking, this connection is not necessary. A bourgeois could grow a lot only in the field of production with which he is original and culturally associated. The link is not mostly caused by the size of the operating capital but by its chances of survival in a continuously growing market. The expansion of his investment to adjacent fields, and his progressive uprooting are conditions that favor his growth. The bourgeois does not become a capitalist by good or bad will, but by an objective necessity.
In analogy it is necessary to conceptually distinguish between merchant capitalists. A local merchant is not the same than someone who does not care what he buys or sells. But we must also note that there are traders who buy and sell products (basic or manufactured), others live to buy, sell or lease real estate (land, buildings), and others who buy and sell only cash or abstract values associated to money (such as shares, or promises in so-called "derivatives" or "futures markets").
The merchant, although unproductive, plays a role in the overall process, in circulation. Of course a function that has nothing of necessary: albeit uncomfortable, barter could prevail. The real estate rentier who lives on his leases, unproductive too, is somehow interested in the maintenance and operation of real property. The financial capitalist, however, and the abstract rentier associated to its operations are not only unproductive, but load on society absolutely unnecessary swings in prices, produced only through speculation, with no production by any means, or using any productive efforts as mere pretexts, even if they do not exist, or if they are extremely unlikely to come into existence, as in the market of "derivatives of derivatives", practically without limit.
It is said that the financial capital is necessary to streamline and make possible the productive capital. However there is nothing in it that can not be fulfilled, and that has not been done successfully and fulfilled by large state banks, as has historically occurred in all capitalist countries. Financial capital is needed (for capitalism) but not the financial capitalist. Pure and simple looting, precarious wages, state patronage has been, and are much more efficient than private banks as forms of capitalist accumulation. Privatization of money, speculation with the value of money, and the plundering of natural resources, are stones in the shoe of capitalist development that threaten strategically against its historical viability and are coming, however, very closely from its own essence.
All these agents come from an economic logic where what is relevant is the reproduction and expansion of capital as such, regardless of which productive management it is serves to achieve this, or its consequences (arms trafficking, alcohol or cocaine), regardless of whether there is a real production to back it up (dealing in money, stocks, indulgences, or financial derivatives). Marx, prophetically, considered, and said many times, this was the universal vocation of capital, its vocation to a completely alien abstraction, inimical to the reproduction life.
b. Bureaucrats and office workers
The very becoming of the capitalist class, the transition from bourgeois to capitalist, from productive capital to unproductive capital, progressively moves the capitalist away from concrete production management. Historically this is a process of enormous significance. Ultimately, as I have argued, only those who are in direct contact with the production of real goods can build and maintain hegemony. Deadlines can be very broad, but the law is inexorable: only direct control of the social division of labor allows to exert deep and true power. Through a long process, as old as the capitalist class, the relationship between the holder of effective, immediate knowledge, the knowledge required to actually manage production, and the owner of the means of production was changing. With the transition from the figure of the bourgeois to the figure of the capitalist, the management of the technical division of labor (DTT), inside production units, is left to specialized salaried workers whose role has been becoming increasingly necessary with technical progress and complexity of the production processes. This social sector of technicians, engineers, and then later scientists, colloquially often called technocracy, is the first component of what would later be bureaucratic power.
Another component is the modern state bureaucracy. The development of the bourgeoisie as a class is in turn the development of innumerable conflicting individual interests. First against the feudal lords, so then against other bourgeois, the fighting ground of this deployment, as in any previous society, was the legal field. The old promise that natural rights should prevail and be respected by the State, as formulated by the Greeks, was performed effectively for the first time throughout the history of the bourgeoisie, which rose the economic individual to a new status as a holder of such rights and contrasted the strength of its productive efficiency and legitimacy to the armed force of the Lords. When the scale of its economic interests surpassed the limit of what can be achieved through particular legal disputes, the bourgeoisie was already in a position to gradually win the states themselves, and had enough power to make laws to suit their interests.
The broad domain of writing and techniques of monitoring and recording, and an unprecedented budget surplus during the formation of the European nation states, allowed to accumulate the proportionally larger state apparatuses in history. Consider that European wrote, between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, more books than all other human cultures together, and this huge volume doubled in less than a hundred years with the advent of the printing press.
The European states, incredibly small geographically and relatively poor in natural resources, had highly centralized and hierarchical bureaucracies that enabled a radical disciplining of social efforts, well above what could be expected from their objective strength and resources. The crusades against heretics, the incredible degrees of exploitation of their own people, forced military recruitment for foreign business ventures, supported strongly in Catholic totalitarianism and the hegemony of the private interest, show an extraordinary capacity for internal oppression that is the real social basis of its external successes. A significant technological superiority, especially in the military field, only comes to crown what without state totalitarianism would not have been possible.
These states, tiny and oppressive, formed by huge bureaucracies in relative terms, are originally in the service of private interests. The bourgeoisie, through long political struggles, most of them quite violent, manages to put the states to their service. The princes and kings, themselves ennobled bourgeois, share their gold looted by pirates, are overwhelmed by the plundering of their internal looting initiatives, cannot avoid private prosperity of the few to grow everywhere, whose power very soon exceeds theirs.
Without this use of states and bureaucracies in its favor, modern capitalism simply could not have achieved alone, the capital accumulation, and the tight social discipline needed to build shipyard (state owned) for its caravels, canals and roads (state owned) for its goods, arms factories (state owned) for the beginning of its conquering of the world.
However, this situation of states to the service of the bourgeoisie begins to be slowly reversed from the second half of the nineteenth century. The increasingly complete global market articulation, the complexity of national markets, the increasing pressures of the labor movement, the tendency to monopoly concentration arising after each general crisis, produces a myriad of social action, and action needs that completely exceed what the capitalists and their own officials could cover. State management becomes necessary to the extent that the economic viability of individual capitalists starts to depend on it, then to the extent that the overall viability of capitalism becomes dependent on its regulatory functions. This need, which is hegemonic since the establishment of the Keynesian State, can be summarized in terms that should already be familiar: the state bureaucracy controls and hegemonizes the many complexities of the social division of labor (SDL).
As I distinguished productive and unproductive capitalists, technocrats of various fields are to be distinguished too. From the mid-nineteenth century, as a way to address the need of additional capital accumulations, larger capitalists agree to share the ownership of their factories through equity partnerships. With this, and soon, the complexity of capital management as such was greatly increased. To avoid increasing taxes, to control relative equity majorities, to trade the papers of that fictitious wealth, companies that control companies, managing companies controlling shareholders, handlers to rise up or tear down other handlers, were formed. This is the third component of bureaucratic power: officials directly operating the complexity of capital management.
Of course, very soon these officers were able to obtain much higher advantages from these managed capital than its real owners. At one extreme, in Chile, all workers were forced to convert their pension funds in individual capital accounts within a regime, in which the managers of these funds (AFPs) get huge profits, and instead its owners, private owners of this capital (the workers) get only meager pensions. The world upside down: officials exploiting capitalists.
The extreme example of Chilean AFP shows what is but the essence of this story: the progressive construction of hegemony by the bureaucratic sectors that allows them, through control of the TDL, of the SDL, and through management of capital itself, to usufruct with advantage from the social product. And it is this result that allows to hold, in strict Marxist terms, that the bureaucracy has grown into a social class, being part of a bourgeois-bureaucratic block of ruling classes that enjoys the real value of effective wealth created by the direct producers.
Just like certain historical conditions are required for an economic actor to be called capitalist, so there are certain social and historical conditions that make that not any official is a bureaucrat in the specific sense of belonging to the bureaucratic class.
States and officials have been around since five thousand years, the bureaucrats just are becoming a class in the Marxist sense, however, in modern society, in close connection with capitalist development. Bureaucrats as a class don't administer anything arbitrary, they don't exist in a vacuum. They administer the productive capital, coordinate the capitalist social division of labor, manage the capital management as such.
It is useful to this regard, pinning down the aspects contained in their respective semantic fields, to distinguish between profit and enjoyment. The gain is the expression in money of the surplus value directly extracted as exchange value. The usufruct or enjoyment is the expression in money of what those get who manage to appropriate in turn part of the real surplus value, without removing it directly, private or not being owner of the capital that produced it. From this general difference, we can distinguish between capitalist usufruct and bureaucratic usufruct. In the first case a capitalist gets a local and temporary profit, without production of real surplus value (as in non immediate services), or taking advantage of the ideological variables that operate on the price (as in the case of sumptuary consumption). In the second a bureaucrat, as I'll explain soon, gets a salary beyond the cost of his labor. Due to the fact that the only ones who generate real wealth are the direct producers, both forms of usufruct can only be obtained through sharing of real surplus value initially appropriated by productive capitalists.
Despite their differences, the sense it makes to gather both situations under one concept (usufruct) is to note that what is at stake is not the production, exchange and consumption of real wealth, but only the expression of wealth as local, temporary money, that simply is destroyed and vanishes during the general crises. I argue that this emphasis on real wealth, and the permanent effort to distinguish it from that kind of wealth which is only an accumulation of paper, today have a crucial political importance.
To the extent that the prevailing bourgeois legality has been constructed according to the interests of capital, there is no specific legal form to establish and legitimize bureaucratic enjoyment in a general and explicitly way. In legal terms, bureaucrats are wage-earners. But precisely to this regard, Political Economy helps us to distinguish them from employees in general.
The great economic and social rule that allows for surplus value is the fact that the historical and global level of wages corresponds to the cost of production and reproduction of the labor force. This rule has a simple reverse, which is easy to verify empirically: there are employees who earn much more than what are socially the costs of their labor force. This is only possible as usufruct, and also only possible by physically occupying key positions in the reproduction of capital.
These employees are the ones who form the bureaucratic class, and of course they are well above the capacity and powers of officials or clerks in general.
With this criterion, then, I have distinguished two classes of employees. Those who obtain proper wage, and those who get what, for lack of a better name, may be called a bureaucratic salary that is but a form of usufruct. In a Marxist sense, both sectors belong to different and antagonistic social classes.
The bureaucratic hegemony, which occurs under material, objective relations, would not be viable, could not be maintained and become government, if it were not accompanied by the construction of powerful mechanisms of legitimation. And these mechanisms are also an essential part of its definition.
Just like we deliver the value produced to the bourgeois because they are the private owners of the capital which promoted it, we pay the bureaucrats because they pretend to know. The bourgeoisie built his legitimacy around the law, bureaucracy around knowledge. The bourgeoisie has built a rule of law that justifies it. Correspondingly, the bureaucratic power has built a knowledge system that fulfills these functions.
The bourgeois legitimacy formally originates from the law. Formally, because the source of real power is the material power involving the de facto possession and management of capital. Because of this difference, over the centuries the bourgeoisie built their hegemony it was very interested in expanding and strengthening the rights. This progressive legal horizon, however, is no longer necessary, and declines visibly at the time when it has already transformed its hegemony in government. The twentieth century has seen a gradual decay of the liberal legal horizon, and the States with a capitalist rule of law have come increasingly close, internally and by themselves, to what the liberal tradition itself called totalitarianism. Today totalitarianism, which was always presented as contrary to the rule of law, is legal. The mechanisms that protect the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie are becoming ever more explicit, and losing their ideological veil.
This drama tells us something profound about the legitimacy as a social mechanism. It shows, first, that legitimacy is not power itself, that power lies elsewhere. And it also shows that the struggle for legitimacy is acute while struggling for hegemony and decays, however, quickly, when the hegemony has become government, that is, in plain, direct power, without counterweight.
For all this, the critique of bourgeois law nowadays has two levels. For one can criticize its primary ideological character, i.e. the fact that its core and essence is but be the scope of legitimacy of a dominant social class. But, on the other hand, you can criticize the fact that it has fallen behind its own progressive horizon, many of whose creations favor workers up to today.
All these circumstances are important when we consider the mechanisms of bureaucratic legitimation. Bureaucracy raised its legitimacy around what might be called a "system of knowledge". At the time of construction of its hegemony, that system contemplated the immediate technical and scientific knowledge, which allowed productive management, state management, or management of capital itself and made it grow. Indeed, what allowed its hegemony was the direct process control, which can be called " immediate operational knowledge". That is the knowledge of the technician in a factory, the corrupt government official, the shyster in court, the wily broker at the stock exchange and also the nurse, the accountant, the watchmaker, the small farmer.
However, legitimacy is a world of appearances that although it originally and in compelling way depends on a correlate and material and effective substrate, with the growth of power enshrined, can go on gradually becoming independent of it. The bureaucratic system of knowledge originated within itself, under its own internal logic of institutionalization, a whole field which may be called "pretense of knowledge" that keeps the rhetoric and the social effects of effective knowledge, but keeps losing its connection to the real operative knowledge which, however, is imposed. The key moment in this process is the emergence of the disciplines of Natural Science first, and then Social Sciences. Ie, institutionalization and bureaucratization of knowledge itself. A process that gives rise to a fourth type of bureaucrat, the academic who can get a much higher salary than the actual cost of his labor force invoking his claim to know, ideologically presenting it as real knowledge.
If Marx had lived a hundred years (instead of merging with the infinite), surely it would have completed the Critique of Political Economy, which is the foundation, with a critique of the scope of their legitimation, that is, with what was his initial project: a critique of the philosophy of right. And probably he would have also completed the critique if the ideological character of bourgeois law with a claim of what this same right had progressive features: individual freedom, human rights, the prospect of economic and social rights.
Likewise, today, a critique of the philosophy of science is needed, showing, on the one hand, its ideological substance, its class character, and being able to claim, on the other hand, what it has meant for the development of effective knowledge, of immediate operative knowledge.
When we observe the current relations between bureaucrats and clerks, it is evident that due to the consolidation of its hegemony, those who hold such pretense of knowledge are precisely those who usufruct with advantage, while those who actually possess operational knowledge are generally common wage earners. To this end they have risen complementary ideologisms, that develop and turn into concrete practice the ideological nature of knowledge.
One is the system of responsibility, where those are payed more who are presumed to be responsible for coordinating, directing or design management, although curiously after failures, blunders and errors, finally their subordinates are facing the worst cost, making, of course, an ideological fallacy out of the premium price of "responsibility".
Another one is the certification system, which has grown explosively since the late twentieth century, when the incompetent certify other incompetent under purely formal merits, just because they have achieved positions of power required to do so, with complete independence from (and indifference to) whether or not they are able to exert some productive task or successfully manage something real. The thunderous triviality of PhDs, the scandalous tautology of evaluations among "peers", the race of widespread corruption and self-deception that is often called "meritocracy", are the equivalent, in bureaucratic excesses, of the financial, speculative and unproductive capitalists in the bourgeois environment.
Secretaries that safeguard the incapable manager, accountants saving the corrupt business administrators neck, students generating the knowledge of the vain and powerful scientist, nurses saving patients from the arrogance of physicians, are the real productive underworld holding up bureaucratic appropriation, equivalently to how a small productive entrepreneur, and of course, his workers, contribute to the production of the only real wealth, the only wealth that can sustain the paper wealth generated by speculators.
c. Real enemies, potential allies
As I have argued, the core and the art of building an alliance policy effectively pointing towards a strategic horizon is to combine class analysis with stratification analysis. Wondering first who the enemies are, in a general and strategic way, to distinguish priorities and relevancies among them, and then wonder, in an eminently pragmatic way, whom to count on. Among ourselves which is the core and which are our natural allies. And even on the opposite side, which are the potentially allied sectors, and which are the real enemies.
Directly and pragmatically, after having made the above distinctions, the first place in the hierarchy of enemies should be occupied by financial capital and, immediately associated, the big bureaucrats, who enables their operation from the national state apparatus, and the instances of transnational regulation.
The great, unproductive and destructive financial speculation is now an enemy of all mankind, even of productive capital. In view of the disasters it causes daily there is only one radical solution: to end it. Prohibit the creation and transaction of derivative financial instruments; radically lower the cost of credit and charge very high taxes for the profit to be obtained from it; bring to the foreground the role of state banks and force them to full public transparency of their transactions.
Of course the alliance that would be interested in this radical measures by far exceeds the field of Marxists, even of the left. It is a priority and urgent task, and Marxists should contribute to any initiative, independent of its origin, pointing in that direction.
Second, for Marxists, the enemy is the great rentier productive capital, ie that derives its profits from the plundering of natural resources. The Marxist initiative, and the left in general, should set clear, radical and priority policies of nationalization of basic resources for their care (renewable and non-renewable resources and energy), and and to put them to the service of the needs of the peoples.
Third, the enemy is the transnationally organized great manufacturing capital'. Fourth, the enemy is the great state bureaucrat, which consumes the resources belonging to all in his own reproduction.
These are the undoubted enemies, those with whom, considered as priority sectors in their class (capitalist / bureaucratic), no truce or a transactions are justified. Against their institutionalized violence the revolutionary violence should be directed. Those who should always be considered as enemies, in every task, every initiative, and around whom every rebellious speech must be organized, as well as any activity of political education.
But the tasks are many and the ride is quite long. Class analysis indicates that below the big capital and big bureaucrat, yet on the sidewalk in front, there are many stakeholders whose interests may largely coincide with those of the popular movement.
The long march towards communism should be, from the beginning, and always, a multi-class movement and, a fortiori, diverse in its strata. The popular movement is always much larger and broader than what we can define, for theoretical reasons, as revolutionary subject.
Among those who, only conceptually and strategically, class analysis shows us as "enemies", the popular movement must reach out first to the small and medium manufacturing entrepreneur, and the small and medium entrepreneur living on land rent. Defending them and pursuing their autonomy from the large networks of transnational capital, enable them to pay humanely acceptable wages, and require them to implement a substantial humanization of work context.
Given the current organization of industrial capital in transnational production networks of parts and pieces, and exploitation exerted by the core capitalist over the small capitalists who perform the externalized, contracted and outsourced work, we are now faced with a huge sector of relatively poor capitalists, whose relationship of looting forces them to over-exploit their workers. Making them self sustained, strengthening their bargaining power and, ultimately, cut their dependence on transnational capital, are tasks of the popular movement.
A special place should be reserved, in this plan, to the small and medium agricultural capitalists, with which the popular movement must work a priority and urgent food autonomy of peoples, a radical break with the large multinational food trade, with the large food industries nationwide, with those monopolizing seeds, or genetically sterilize them in a criminal way.
Small state bureaucrats and academics, that is, those who are not simply exploited and manage to usufruct of their pretense of knowledge beyond the cost of their force of labor, play an essential role in the reproduction of bureaucratic power, ie, literally, in the formation of new bureaucrats. Their position, however, subordinate, constantly exposed to the humiliation of a race of 'merit' where arbitrary, subjective ratings prevail (always presented, of course, as objective certifications), where a constant struggle reigns, of small factions, microscopic corporate defenses, shameful trivial complaints for quotas of tiny power without real significance, just for this daily weight of these contradictions should be an area of ongoing work for the popular movement. To mark to them and among them the noticeable differences between pretense of knowledge and effective knowledge, show them the oppressive character of their humiliations, show the falsity of their pretentious vanity, is to put a wedge in a place from where bureaucratic power derives its legitimization system that , as I have argued, is a large part of the potential of its rule.
Small and middle size bourgeois, manufacturers and land rentiers, small and medium bureaucrats who are more than just office workers, do formally belong, and according to an only doctrine criterion, to the block of ruling classes, but at the same time, by the oppressive conditions on which they are subjected, are potential allies of the popular movement in modes and times that must be specified by a clear strategic perspective. I will devote the Third Part of this book (Political Theory), to make this perspective of advancing to communism as detailed and specific as possible, starting with the enumeration, correlative to this, of the sectors that are part of what may be called, in a Marxist sense, the popular movement.
First, however, the very next section, I will examine the issue of class consciousness, with which the treatment of the notion of class struggle, which I have set as a center of Marxist Political Sociology, will be completed.
4. Class conciousness
a. Philosophical premises
Modernity, bourgeois and bureaucratic, cut across by the dichotomy of thought and thing, imagined consciousness as a set of ideas, of representations, of thoughts. It imagined the subject of consciousness as a soul (or mind) installed in the body as if it were a computing power. A "ghost in the machine" capable of capturing sensations and elaborate them as complex representations and then notions and reasoning. The mechanical model of the world in which this was conceived led to think in the long run, through various stages of explication of the concept, that this subject, which is an individual mind, could only process sensations by their form, ie, that it only made on them syntactic operations (sorting, comparing, separating, together) so that the ghost wasn't but, in turn, a machine. With that it relegated the whole order of substantive meanings to the limbo of speculation and purely philosophical delusions.
This long and even resisted and discussed trend spans through all classical thought, from William of Occam to Kant, and was criticized deeply and effectively by the German idealists, especially by Hegel. Despite this criticism which, of course, will later be stigmatized almost universally as the last and most refined of speculative delusions, this classic conception of the subject, which may be called Cartesian, emerges with full force, stripped in increasingly radical way of his "mystical veil" in the disciplines of Social Sciences. Their dispossession will culminate later in the phantasmagoria of structuralism (for which "the subject is but a signifier for another signifier"), and then the absurd extreme of post structuralist senseless and trifle dissolution into mere situation, contingency.
In this centennial drift, the essence of the bourgeois mechanistic spirit culminates, undresses and disintegrates. And with it the horizon of human emancipation containing that reflection which is now stigmatized as lack of clarity in the language, or mere inventions of messianic delusion.
Importantly, to form a broader historical perspective, this degradation is strictly parallel to that of the substantivity of bourgeois law, which sees its radically democratic and garantistas content decline; the disintegration of bourgeois productive horizon, which becomes a mere abstract reproduction of capital; and the decadence of market and democracy, which lose their content of real competition and participation, and become mere forms of social management.
It is in this ideological context of general degradation that becomes necessary to rescue those progressive content of bourgeois tradition, and think of their actual overcoming, not their pure mechanical override, depending on the communist horizon. Without the substantiation of the subject, of reason, consciousness, freedom, justice and truth, a communist horizon is simply unthinkable. The disintegration of the bourgeois emancipation horizon in its pure abstract negation disaggregate and also prevents its substantive overcoming. That's why the wealth of literary and speculative fashion that is often called "modern post", despite their roaring lack of social significance, despite their mundane routines of academic reproduction and academization of criticism are, and must be, a compulsory object of revolutionary critique in theory. Especially considering that its effective social operation, when it occurs, occurs precisely in the institutions that certify bureaucratic reproduction.
But our task is not only to criticize the disintegration and restore potentially emancipatory ideas, but to go beyond them. What we want is not to make the bourgeois emancipation a reality, that practice has proven to be contradictory and unworkable. What we want is the formulation of an indeed post bourgeois and post bureaucratic substantive horizon.
We need the substantivity of the subject, but are not required to think it the Cartesian way. We need the substantivity of reason, but are not required to think of it as a homogenizing power, as an abstract universality, much less, reducing it to a purely syntactic ability of composition and calculation. We can think of the truth, but not as a category of formal logic, but as an actually divided and antagonistic reality. We can think of justice, but not as a pure ideal, separated from its contexts and its history.
Just the central advantage of thinking Marxism from a Hegelian perspective, on which I will elaborate more in Part Four (Part Four, Foundational Issues, Chapter 1, A Marxist philosophy), is to be able to work overcoming Illustrated Marxism, as a direct heir of the conceptions of modernity, yet also of its simple contrary, those academic fashions that are often called "post-Marxism" and that most of the time are but simply "ex Marxism".
b. Consciousness as mind, consciousness as actions
This (angry) philosophical interlude is just necessary to deal with the problem of consciousness and the even more exotic notion of class consciousness.
As I have already indicated, to the Enlightenment tradition, widely shared by classical Marxism, consciousness is nothing but a set of ideas and representations, and the subject, which is par excellence an individual, is nothing but the ability to capture, compose and calculate those sensations, beliefs and ideas. Consciousness is basically what an individual thinks and "being conscious" of something (else) is to know it, to think it.
Classical thinking supposed consciousness to allow a successful connection with the objectivity of the world. In the end knowing or "being aware" was a logically prior, necessary condition for the effectiveness of actions. Under this assumption it was thought that the power comes from knowing, an issue that is literally expressed in the slogan "there is no (successful) revolutionary practice without (previous) revolutionary theory".
For Hegel, however, consciousness is rather a field of actions a situation containing actions and dispositions to action. In an unconventional logic, where relationships produce their terms, these are actions that have the effect of being represented or intended. This reverses the relationship between thought and action. Thinking is strictly needed for action, but not its origin. Knowledge is the discourse that conveys action, which may precipitate its complexity, but not the element that causes or initiates it.
This requires, at the level of theory, to distinguish between the "knowledge" that the actions themselves contain as an effective fact, from its explanation as what we normally and properly call (thought) knowledge. The first, which is a fact, an act which is implicit, can be called certainty. The second, "known", thought, derived, is what can be called consciousness.
Regarding this difference, it is important to retain the primacy of action, which is the material effective link, in relation to thinking, which is a moment, a consequence. The consciousness, thus understood, is basically and primarily something people do, even, as in the alienated consciousness, over and even against what they explicitly think or believe. Consciousness is not primarily the "subjective element", as if the subject (soul, mind) were a different entity in the world (of acts, of things). It is a field of objective actions, of which subjectivity is a consequence.
But this classic dichotomy (thought / thing) is only the first of a vast system. As for consciousness, the second is the one that has been stated between will and thought. Will, a disturbing element and always mysterious ghost that calculates, was intended as originally natural momentum, trend, instinct, as opposed to the rational , calculating, formal element represented by thought. In the extreme of ethical idealism, the basic postulate, condition for a possible social harmony, was the complete submission of these pulses to rational calculation or, worse, an extreme "cleansing" of will itself to exercise it as "pure rational will ". The Kantian extreme end of this extreme is the assumption that the "pure will" could be considered in perspective as a "good will".
Far from such naivety, in Hegel, these impulses and acts are two aspects of the same reality. There are no acts animated from a will, that would come from reason or nature. Human acts do contain in themselves, and by themselves, the tension that animates them. Every human act is in itself a tension towards action. This tension is the will, logically prior to being made real, intended or even known explicitly. That contained will is by itself an essential element of what Hegel called consciousness.
A third dichotomy, whose most harmful consequence is enlightened vanguardism, is the one that would exist between consciousness and social thought. According to this, to the extent that consciousness is considered an individual capacity, there is, strictly speaking, no "social" thinking: societies do not think, it is individuals who do. Consistent with this, the term "social thinking" actually would designate a collection of individuals who would have come to have certain ideas in common, individuals each of whom may have them or not. The result then is that the consciousness of their interests, which is thinking and knowing, which is reason moving a good will against everyday inertial impulses, should be taken from those who have it to those who lack it, because they are prevented by an adverse force, ignorance, submission, to have it.
Far from this Enlightened pedagogy, however, in Hegel social groups and strata are subjects as such, and their action, as a result, shapes the individuals and their eventual autonomy. These subjects exercise (act) their consciousness in fact, not as a result of the witticism of their particular components, but as an expression of the will and that constitutes and encourages them. Whether individuals come to know that consciousness actually more or less explicitly is a formative task, a result of factual experiences, rather than the result of preaching of ideas that, without being rooted in that experience, would simply be useless or, in subjective sense, would only succeed in being seen as extravagant, risky and alien, by the individuals who receive them. An issue that is perfectly evident in the reaction of ordinary workers to the preaching of the enlightened radical revolutionaries. Of course, the extreme vanity of these preachers, which is nothing but the reverse of their political impotence, has got them used to interpret the rejection as alienation, ignorance, appeasement, or cowardice ... thus, interestingly, they have been getting used to turn their back just to the subject that was supposed to be the revolutionary subject.
When specifying these dichotomies and their possible overcoming, the notion of class consciousness, and the much-touted notion of "praxis", are made transparent. And it becomes possible to set aside the permanent halo of paternalism, vanguardism and enlightened elitism that has accompanied them throughout most of Marxist tradition.
Class consciousness is "class consciousness" in a real sense, not consciousness of a few "advanced" individuals who spread it onto the class. Class consciousness is an experience, a set of conditions, actions and objective dispositions to action, not a representative thinking that accounts for acts as a capacity and power external to them. Class consciousness is not a critical thinking that educates and promotes a will, it itself is that will, knowing it or not. It is itself the tension towards the realization of the concept that a class contains. It is itself the tension from which that concept is constituted.
"Praxis" is not a timely or appropriate combination of theory and practice. It is the area from which, in ascending order, both theory and practice arise. And this is so even if that theory is "wrong". It is not necessary, nor desirable, to oppose "praxis", as an action properly guided by theory, to "alienation", in which the theory would be wrong. It is necessary and rigorous, however, to talk about the possibility of an "alienated praxis". Any social action is praxis, it may not be otherwise. Reserving the word praxis for those actions that we like or with which we agree is but avantgardism. In a class society any social action is correspondingly alienated, even those containing the will and the possibility of overcoming this alienation. Thinking of revolutionary practice as conscious and correct and the enemy's as alienated and wrong is only enlightened elitism. Nobody is on the point of view of truth, as if truth were one and homogeneous. The truth itself is divided and opposed to itself. And the revolutionary side is just one of those terms. We call "truth" to ours for rhetorical and political reasons, and because it is ours. Pretending that against it there is only malice and error is to put oneself at a point of view, at an abstract and a-historical place, that simply does not exist.
c. Certainty, conciousness, selfconciousness
To describe the post enlightened concept of class consciousness, it is necessary to establish (collect) new distinctions. Continuing in a free fashion, and with a Marxist objective, I shall distinguish on the one hand Certainty (Ct), Consciousness (Cc) and Self-awareness (Acc) and on the Cc in itself, Cc for itself, and Cc in and for itself. These are two series that overlap transversely, allowing wide combinations, full of useful specifications for analyzing concrete ideological processes. I'll then stop by briefly to examine the twists and most relevant combinations from the political point of view.
The in itself is substantive, real content that resides in a potential way in a field of acts in the subject that is constituted from it. It is both content and potential, but also that content as an implicit undeveloped. More than base, sustenance or origin, the in-itself is a relational moment of an effective happening that is only and essentially process. It is an aspect or state whose essence is but going beyond itself, because it is formed as tension.
The for itself is the moment of expression, development or externalization of the in-itself. It is the moment when the in-itself emerges as a subject and seeks first to put itself as objectivity (as a for another), and then as owner, director and effective holder, of the objectivity it is putting. For this second moment, when it is by itself, the objectivity being put is really a for itself.
The in and for itself is the moment of the consummation of this manor, reconciliation, recognition and empowerment of the subject in the objectivity it puts and now exerts as his own.
From these differences arises in an immediate way the idea of alienation (alien and enemy) as the act in which objectivity is set as a for another does not return to the for itself and prevents its consummation as in itself and for itself. And this is a philosophical way (and nothing more than that) to describe the content of dehumanization that resides in the act of exploitation.
When we connect these categories, which have a general logical and ontological value, with the problem of knowledge, we can distinguish the Ct from the Cc as such, and those from the Acc.
Certainty is Consciousness in itself. The one that in fact exists, as will and implicit knowledge, contained in acts. A knowledge that doesn't explicitly know that it is a knowledge. A knowledge that exists as an operating. And as such, also a possible content, a not deployed one.
Consciousness in a bounded and proper sense, is Consciousness for itself. That one, which is to know something (else) first as pure exteriority, then as our knowledge. That is, first as a knowledge for others (I know, facing something and someone, that I know something), and then as knowledge properly for itself (I know that the one who knows that is myself). At the first moment I just know something, I am the object of some knowledge. In the second, I know that I am who knows: I'm starting to see me as a subject of knowledge.
This step into the Cc is essential for the recovery and recognition of objectivity as our product, that is, for the experience of embodiment and power, in and for itself, which may be called Acc.
Correspondingly, it follows that disruption of development of the Cc for itself prevents Acc, turns the subject into object, first of knowledge, then of an objectivity that exceeds it, and in this way converts the object into a fetish, that is, into an enemy alien phantasmagoria, into a realm of abstract objectivity, that seems to exist by itself, completely outside of the individual will, and that dominates and oppresses. And this is also a philosophical way (and only that) to describe the dehumanizing effect involved by exploitation.
In a more specific way, the key passage from Cc for itself to its in and for itself, from Cc to Acc, lies in the difference between the moment when it is acting only as for itself, ie knows something that is for it, knows an objective knowledge (that is for someone else), and the moment when it is acting for itself, ie, goes on to know actively, seeks the knowledge that expresses and represents it.
Class consciousness, considered as Acc, begins at the moment the Cc for itself becomes an Cc by itself, ie, when the Cc as passive objectivity becomes an active subjectivity that seeks its realization, that seeks reconciliation and recognition with what is its product, the product that it seeks to recognize and know to be its own.
Put more directly, the class Cc is Acc when it starts the journey of its liberation.
d. Empirical conciousness and class conciousness
Just because I have distinguished Cc as a field acts from Cc as a collection of representations and ideas, it is necessary to distinguish empirical consciousness ("what people think"), from class consciousness (what a social subject does). And also, because I have distinguished between social class and stratum, it is necessary to distinguish between class consciousness and group consciousness. Both differences are necessary to bring the latter philosophical distinctions to the practical space of non enlightened, non vanguardist revolutionary pedagogy.
Empirical Cc is the immediate collection of individual consciences, that each individual has, and knows he has, as a system of ideas and thoughts, expressing his current existential conditions as representations, the way he manages to live and survive to his place the class struggle. The empirical consciousness is par excellence an alienated consciousness, ie an artificial harmonization, in thought, of the real contradictions of actual life.
Alienation, however, does not lie in those thoughts, which only express it (see Part Charter, Chapter 2, The concept of alienation), but in the situation itself. Class consciousness as current and explicit consciousness knows the alienation, but does not overcome it. You can only overcome alienation by living, socially, a situation in which it no longer exists, ie, by overcoming the class struggle.
Therefore the class Cc is not the "truth", considered in an abstract, formal, a-historical way. It is the truth of a certain class position, the truth that this position contains as potential and possibility, whether their individual members do know it or not. However, just because it's tension and real possibility, the class Cc is always present in the empirical Cc, virtually, but also in a very real and present way, infiltrating each of the gestures of dissatisfaction, anger and resistance, which are each time marking the daily experience of social contradictions. Revolutionary pedagogy does not create the class Cc, nor imposes it on the empirical Cc. Rather it develops one from the other.
This can be understood if we consider the empirical Cc as a certainty, that is, as a series of acts that do not know what they contain (eg, anxiety, or blind anger, for which an object is not subjectively distinguished), or as Cc merely in itself, ie a series of knowledge elements that do not recognize their true origin (for example, we know that we are exploited, but we attribute it to destiny).
The conscience of a social group (Cc in the class) becomes Cc of a class, or class Cc, when the potential of the CC itself is first articulated as Cc for itselfself (explicit knowledge of contradictions), and then as Cc by itself (it knows itself to be subject of that knowledge). To the extent that these consciousnesses are actually sets of dispositions and acts, this transition can only be obtained in a real way within political action. Revolutionary pedagogy is not that a few, those who know, show and teach something to others, those who don't know. It consists in creating a backbone of political action from the empirical indignations of everybody. It is in the political action where everyone learns something. They learn, first of all, that they are social subjects. Secondly they learn about the origin of the contradictions that affect them. They learn, finally, their capacity for action, and the essential historicity of the established order. Only in the course of political action (in general) the Cc becomes Cc for itself and by itself. Only in revolutionary political action the Cc becomes Acc.
Of course in this evolution explicitation of class Cc as critical thinking and theory is necessary and helps to strengthen it. But political Cc does not arise from critical thinking but from political action. As something existing out there, before or in parallel, critical thinking is not, by itself, political Cc.
The theoretical and theoreticist mania of vanguards, who "know" everything but fail to have the least social impact, and its absurd extreme, which is the academization of critical thinking at the universities show clearly that criticism can exist alone, without effect, innocuous and even sterilizing, without any involvement in the real social movement. That "political" critique can not be considered a real political Cc. Its effect, as elitism of the avantgarde, or as mere academic reproduction, is but bureaucratization of what could be a revolutionary thought.
Only in political action there is political Cc and may be revolutionary pedagogy. A Cc that lives and becomes real in acts, a pedagogy without teachers, where all discuss as peers the lessons from their action. It is necessary to stress this again and again because the bureaucratic power, like any ruling class, has its left, radical and progressive pole too, and it is from this space that it will impose as an axiom the enlightened primacy of theory, and the supposedly crucial role of intellectuals. When the revolutionary initiative advances and succeeds, only bureaucratic power will arise from those axioms, coated as revolutionary partisanship. When the revolutionary initiative is pushed back and temporarily defeated, from these axioms only arises edgy grandeur and academic reproduction coated in radicalism. We've seen it.
Revolutions are made by people, not intellectuals (nor soldiers). Intellectuals can not originate nor direct anything that can be called a communist revolution. When they do, just because they legitimize their power in a knowledge that would be different and higher than common knowledge, they become bureaucrats. We've seen it.
The revolutionary intellectuals accompany record, make explicit, in the manner of logographers, the consciousness that rages as real force in political action, and behave as citizens, as strict pairs of knowledge and common action. In revolutionary action, which should be thought of as a long march, the people educate themselves. They make explicit their indignation, make visible their alienation, struggle to overcome it. Any other course has bad results and a poor prognosis. We've seen it.
It is necessary, for many of my friends, to add something. Intellectuals, especially those of them living from that activity, are always interested in the specification of the meaning and power of individual Cc. What I can say is that Cc as such is always transindividual, it exceeds individual Cc and produces it. Individual Cc is a result, an effect, a social function.
But even as effect, individual Cc, which is nothing but an empirical Cc (local, temporary, in fact), can be certainty (a simple operation), consciousness (a knowledge and knowing), or self-consciousness (an exercise of freedom). The Cc of an individual is Acc when he knows and exercises his membership. When he can put his freedom in the (divided, antagonistic) universal that produces it. When he exercises his autonomy as a private person against these antagonisms and commits himself existentially to its overcoming.
It is almost unnecessary to add that this idea of individual freedom would probably seem quite limited for most intellectuals, even for Left. The hard finding to which I invite, however, is that (liberal) bourgeois freedom, and (administered) bureaucratic monotony are and should be radically different, in essence, to the freedom we propose.
- And these are, of course, contents that are not unique. It can be shown that they are also present in Friedrich Engels and Mikhail Bakunin, who are formally more "Hegelian" than Marx, and also, in various ways, in Moses Hess, Ludwig Feuerbach, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Ferdinand Lasalle or, in general, all those of his contemporaries who thought politics from beyond the liberal inertia.
- For criticism of the idea that this "logic of discovery" could be formulated, see Carlos Pérez Soto, On a historical concept of science, 2nd edition, Lom, Santiago, 2008. In more detail, and with various foundations, the same criticism can be found in the works of Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos. Against the background of this descriptive obsession, see Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as forms of witchcraft (1972), Taurus, Madrid, 1973.
- As is known, this is a delusion enshrined in a moralistic tome of Max Weber, The scientist and the politician (1919), Alianza, Madrid, 1988, which is usually considered as catechism in the academies.
- Actually this is only a "difficulty" if we expect his texts to have a sacred coherence and accuracy, an issue that has unfortunately been common among followers of "his word". My opinion is that such consistency is not only a myth, but it is neither possible nor desirable. On how to politically deal with this evident lack of perfect consistency in Marx, see Appendix II, Methodological issues at the end of this book.
- I allow myself a brief poetic circumlocution for elder people. The bourgeoisie never sleeps: while American capitalists are sleeping, Chinese capitalists are working. Or also, considered these subjects as social class, the muscle never sleeps, ambition never rests.
- Obviously in these distinctions the idea of "immaterial labor" and the eventual production of value brought by the so-called "general intellect" is at stake. To address this problem, in the logic I'm developing, it is necessary to first specify the notion of bureaucratic power and legitimacy. After this, at the end of that Part, I will make a review of these notions. See Part IV, after the Chapter 4, the Note on the idea of immaterial labor.
- In Part IV, Chapter 3, Pre-capitalist value dimensions, I argue that there are forms of direct oppression that are not reducible to exchange value, but that involve relations of exploitation on other real, pre-capitalist, value dimensions.
- I will argue later, however, against the charge of economism. See Part IV, Chapter 3, Section e.
- Strictly, with greater precision and rigor, this thesis should be understood as "has been to the present the engine of history" (it need not be) or, also, "is the engine of the human pre-history": we have not yet reached a society of really free citizens, the only one that can properly be called history.
- It is important to note, to prevent to some extent the mystifying obsession of our academics, it is not violence itself, naked, violence by violence. This is a particular violence that revolves around a relatively prosaic objective: an advantageous appropriation of the social product.
- It is not the same, whole as a complete collection, than totality. The notion of totality designates a field of action that is linked internally from a constituent relationship that produces it. And, of course, determination is not the same as determinism, the two concepts are NOT mutually implicated. For both problems, see the section Categories in Carlos Pérez Soto, From Hegel, Ithaca, Mexico, 2008.
- Particularly the brief but expressive Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859.
- On the idea of history in Marx, the concept of Mode of Production, see Part 4, Chapter 3.
- The Word, I have cited, is “this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms…”. Marx dixit.
- It is important to advance right now that, in ascending order, both employed artisans and peasants do have a fatherland. Industrial workers, by virtue of its alienation in abstract labor, don't.
- I insist, against the purists, in that I care for this difference between the figures of the merchant (merchant of products), the real estate rentier (who lives on physical properties), the abstract rentier (who lives on stock transactions or bank interest) and the financial capitalist (that reproduces capital through movements in derivatives of money), is its progressive disconnection from the world of real, material production. This is in line with the general argument in this book against unproductive capital. Of course I do not care if these categories exist or have already been defined in conventional economy. I'm defining them here. In terms of argument, that should be enough.
- In a process of healthy sincerity, which unfortunately, with the rise of social movement, has gone out of fashion, in the conservative heyday of the 80s and 90s, it was common for scholars who professed these creeds to explicitly accept that their conclusions came from their belief that the communist horizon was impossible. I mean, they did not claim that impossibility from wise and profound theoretical discussions, but simply recognized that their theoretical discussions stemmed from their lack of confidence and historical impotence. Times change, the popular movement, fueled by capitalist crisis, emerges, and this healing sincerity has begun to transform into opportunistic cynicism: now, after thirty years of abjuring any emancipatory perspective, they really were, and are, critical intellectuals. But they are still the same and have not changed a bit of the same foundations that previously allowed them to declare communism impossible, and now magically put them next to the hopes of the whole people.
- I will not dwell here on the critique of the Cartesian concept of subject, or the very categories of Enlightenment thought, which are amply matter for another book. I will just describe the differences from a post Enlightenment concept, and argue about its meaning and usefulness. Regarding these foundation criticisms, see Carlos Pérez Soto, From Hegel, Ithaca, Mexico, 2008.
- These Hegelian differences have nothing to do with the famous "dialectic triad" ( thesis-antithesis-synthesis), which was never proposed and was even specifically criticized by Hegel. For those who are familiar with his writings, it should not be surprising that the second moment of this series (the for itself) is a double moment, which links to the other two. We must also realize that the in and of itself is not the union the preceding two moments (not their synthesis), but their overcoming. In the figure of overcoming both moments they are absorbed, but now, radically, not as such, but as something new.
- It will, of course, be noted that what we define as "empirical consciousness" generally corresponds to the enlightened concept of consciousness. It is important, however, not be swayed by the resemblance. The foundation from which I'm thinking this empirical consciousness remains the one I have outlined here. The point is that this empirical consciousness is only the appearing before itself of an alienated consciousness (in a post enlightened sense). It is not, by itself, something else than this showing.
- It is important to note that, with a more radical political emphasis, and with a fuller philosophical language, what I'm holding here agrees in many points with the pedagogy of the oppressed preached by Paulo Freire (1921-1997) . In the field of art, these ideas of consciousness that promotes itself and performs in events is present also in the tradition and practice of the Theatre of the Oppressed, proposed by Augusto Boal (1931-2009).