Proposal of a Hegelian Marxism - Text

De Carlos Pérez Soto
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Proposal of a Hegelian Marxism

Thanks

This book was made possible mainly thanks to the student demonstrations of 2011, which shook the routine politicking throughout Chile, and opened a vital and innovative space for genuine political activity. In this context I was privileged to participate in dozens of panel discussions, lectures and discussions with students in occupied schools and colleges, as well as universities on strike in Santiago and in many cities of Chile. Discussing concerns about education almost always spread to the much broader neoliberal system and the shameful role of the Concertación coalition, which for twenty years promised the rainbow with the only result of destroying public education and health systems, denationalization of basic resources, privatization of water, electricity, communications, roads and even prisons. From that contingent critique, many students went on to questions on political theories and doctrinal elements that could support a political action of longer breath. Colleges and universities began to fill with anarchist groups, the parties youth organizations and multiple Marxist collectives saw a new increase its ranks, many students, perhaps most of them, approached groups that called themselves, in various ways, autonomous, mistrustful of politics and traditional theory. Like never before in this country, collective study groups and education or theoretical discussion initiatives abounded. It is in this environment, in order to these discussions, I have completely rewritten this book. So it is primarily devoted to student protesters and to their hopes.


Within this wide culture of student discussion, perhaps one of the larger and most consistent organizations of greater projection, is the People's University in Valparaiso. Thanks to an invitation from colleagues who form their organizational core, I could give six sessions in September and October 2012 on "The idea of class struggle in Marxism." In these sessions I was able to complete the development I had started in January 2012 of four days on the same subject, invited by the Students of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Chile. Many of the ideas in this book come from the processing that I was forced to by the critical questions of these students.


I also thank Arcis University, where I have had for many years the only regular course in a university curriculum which is held in Chile on Marx's as a whole, and students of the School of Sociology, who annually provide concerns that make this course go on living and accumulating new reflections. I thank, in particular, to Arcis University Publishing, which published the first edition of this book, for the facilities offered for changing publishing house in this second version. Correspondingly, I appreciate Silvia Aguilera and Slachevsky Paulo, Editorial LOM, friendly reception and patience with which they for years have accepted my vanities and emergencies.


I could not have written and completed this book, amid the tribulations of a dozen of college courses each semester to do, if not for my huge admiration for Dolores Aguirre (Perota Chingo), whom I love, against all prudence and care. Much of the emphasis and hopes it contains come directly from her smile.


Second Edition Preface

How can Marxists contribute to a rising social movement, to the struggles for education, for health, to regain our basic ressources? It is obvious that, as citizens, we can do joining in to its many manifestations, promoting organization and program. As workers, residents, and students, as people discriminated by ethnic and gender. The question, however, is how we can contribute as Marxists, collecting and projecting what is valuable within the huge and complex heritage we are carrying.


In principle, Marxist means debtors of the work of Karl Marx. The historical and theoretical reality, however, is much more complex than this simple association. On the one hand Marx's work contains an open political will, ready to recreate and adapt whatever is necessary to carry out their stated purpose, the construction of communism. On the other hand, over more than a century many political movements have called themselves Marxists in the diverse realities, and with all kinds of historical consequences. Nobody has any doubt left in that many of these results are far from what is possible to be attributed to the historical will Marx sought to embody.


Marxists are not only in the social movement because of their radical will and their conceptual developments. They are there also, inevitably, because of their history, full of light and shadow. This makes the question of their possible contribution more complex, less innocent than, say, the question of the contribution of the new movements, driven by new ways to address the old and new miseries in a world of oppression.


Given this complexity, I have many times proposed a simple, dramatic and clear cut: Fighting for the future is much more important than the past. Revolutionaries should not have a past, we are not here because we are expected, or because we are heirs to something. We are fighting because of injustice, exploitation, institutionalized violence. Only when we have succeeded we can count, among our glories and trophies, with the right to construct a past. The task of the revolutionary will is to overcome, to put an end to class struggle. In doing so the past can be a flag, but should not become a burden. Now it is thinking about the future how the will may find its ways.


Invariably, from a logic of nostalgia and loss, it has been objected to me that people can not live without history. That the past should help us to learn lessons and draw paths. I completely agree with the first statement, it is part of the identity of a people to have a story which has built fighting, and to advanced it as a flag. I however substantively disagree with the second: the economic and social conditions in which the prevailing exploitation system evolves in the twenty-first century are substantially different from those faced by Marxists of the twentieth century. You can not oppose a political concept designed for the Fordist exploitation to the forms of exploitation and domination of the post-Fordist society. The bourgeoisie has done its homework, the highly technological bureaucracy too. They have transformed their means of domination and the concrete forms of exploitation in a revolutionary way. Marxists have not sufficiently assimilated these changes. The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy, to their class objectives, driven by their own internal dynamics, have had a revolutionary attitude and flexibility that we, who puffed up to be while we do not actually emerge from bankruptcy of the Third International, have failed to achieve.


"Lessons from the past" are not very useful to a dramatically different reality. And their futility is evident because when we try to specify them, they fail to pass the generic and abstract level of moral. And is also evident in thecentennial, rooted and perverse, trait that Marxists have accustomed us to discuss more with the left than with the right. We used to put a lot more enthusiasm, and rancor, to argue precedings, past historical situations, of which we intend to draw analogies or worse, mere texts, magically assume as "classics", instead of looking at reality directly and think from it, how the ways of the future are to be built.


As Marxists, we can creatively and consciously contribute to the social movement if we leave the tiresome routine of "self-criticism", which just finds defects among us and is enraptured by the virtues of the enemy. If we leave the routine of reckoning, of nostalgia, of the moral on times past. If we cease to boast of past triumphs, always accompanied by corresponding losses and begin to think more about the present duties. If we stop reproducing and commenting texts written to other historical situations and begin to produce texts and the actions that are necessary for the present one.


But not only break with all the past ranging from Engels to the miseries of post Altusserism (even if we keep the flags built then, like what they are, like flags). Not only to break with the misery of those bureaucratic dictatorships that modernized countries under the name of "socialism", only to end up drowning in the most classically capitalist logic. But also to position ourselves in the midst of an extraordinarily large and diverse social movement that exceeds us very widely.


It is necessary to assume that we, as Marxists, are not the only progressive, we are not all of the Left, we are not the only revolutionaries. We've never been. Assume that the annoying and useless quarrel about who would be the best leftist or best revolutionary, has for over a hundred years only resulted in the ongoing tragedy of leftists and revolutionaries fighting each other grotesquely, to the delight of the enemy. Assume that Marxism, as one among many forms of revolutionary will, has something to contribute to a movement that can only belong to the whole people, without more credentials than the likelihood of its reasons and the effectiveness of its political initiatives.


What Marxists can specifically contribute, along with their practical political will and effort, is a doctrinal elaboration. A theory on important, or even crucial, aspects of reality. A building of reasons to organize and structure the discourse of specific policy initiatives proposing a strategic horizon. It can provide a rational basis for what the will already knows through its indignation, for what the will already has in its creative power.


What Marxism can contribute is directly derived from the writings of Karl Marx: his critique of capitalism, his idea of class struggle, his concept of history. This is not a general theory, covering all aspects of reality. Nor is it a doctrine that can only be applied as if its concrete truth was determined by the pen of Marx. These foundational ideas can be successfully tested in the empirical field until today, as shown by the global economic crisis, and in the order of the principles they are fully valid options for social analysis and policy perspectives of strategic type.


What you can develop as a Marxist contribution today is the full extent of those foundations and principles to current realities, always considering how much of their strength resides in the epistemological differences that distinguish Marx's critique so deeply from the drift of the Social Sciences into the morass of academic reproduction, to the profession of legitimation of power, to his progressive bureaucratization.


But also, and it is necessary to consider this as a central aspect, Marxism can contribute to social movement with the idea that a communist horizon is possible, ie, the driving idea that the content of the revolutionary will is but to put an end to class struggle, to build a world where exploitation and oppression are no longer needed. Derived from his conception of history, heavily relying on the reality of the material development achieved by human society, the communist horizon provides the large common spirit in which the multiple struggles, full of local and temporal differences, can come together in a large network of opponents who, ultimately, what they want is simply that human beings can finally enjoy fairly riches that have been socially created, wealth that has been created by all.


In the first edition of this book I was particularly interested in showing how a philosophical foundation different from what is common could facilitate and promote a more contemporary and argumentative version of Marxism, a more adequate critique of a highly technological society. Exactly the opposite to the tide of multiple Kantisms encouraging the progressive bureaucratization of Social Sciences, I suggested that a reading of Marx made ​​through intensive and instrumental use of Hegelian logic could show the epistemological advantages of Marxist analysis as compared to the predominant currents of social analysis, and provide a better foundation of its essentially critical, and above all, political character.


I was interested in an argumentative Marxism, that could distinguish with some clarity between premises, developments and theoretical implications, a Marxism alien to the simple moral interlocutor pitches, where you can clearly distinguish the proper analytical tool from propaganda, a difference that, driven by poverty of practice, has unfortunately been gradually losing tradition, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. So I organized the whole argument from its philosophical premises, getting from them the consequences that could officiate as premises of economic, sociological and historical aspects. First, a general theory of alienation, from there a general theory of value, then a general theory of exploitation. Starting from that order, then the claim was to submit capitalist exploitation as a special case, and to open the possibility of considering the bureaucratic domination as a new spin on the historical cycle of class societies.


It is an order of consistent assumptions and possible consequences. But also the product of a particular political and social moment. What mattered to me, on one hand, was full viability and legitimacy of Marxism in the field of academic discussion. Furthermore, the crucial issue that seemed, and still seems to me to be central, was to develop tools that allow understanding the high degree of legitimacy and hegemony achieved by bourgeois thought after the defeat of socialism, and particularly in our country. The absolutely contingent anomaly, which was source of most of my choices, was the huge political stability that Chile had reached after more than twenty years of managing a model that, paradoxically, everyone agreed to present as one of the most violently exploitative and oppressive in the whole world. I wanted to go beyond the simple explanation to the simpleton blaming all the ills of this political stability to "the dictatorship" , to an alleged historical fear of almost supernatural dimensions that Chileans had acquired after years of dictatorial terror.


On the one hand, the almost complete and general abdication of intellectuals who flirted with Marxism during the eighties and nineties, appearing now routinely uniformly coated by "post modern" rhetoric, on the other hand the populist simplicity of intellectuals who criticized this polical stability from short-term phenomena, consumerist obsessions, fears and inherited traumas, or sought to deny betting somewhat dramatically at the slightest hint of social protest, to be diluted and then re-excited with the following episode. Populism, more than some evangelical messianism about the poor or marginalized, lack of really deep and, therefore, truly radical theoretical development.


The international crisis, depletion of illusions sustained by massive indebtedness, paralysis of political poverty and electoral nonsense between two large blocks representing the same, corruption and arrogance of the corrupt who delivered the country to transnational capital, who ruled for banking and big business and still have face to say that they have nothing to criticize to themselves, have finally opened a new cycle of struggle of the Chilean people, and you need to respond to them proposing and also doing the particular task, local, but necessary, like many others, of buiding theory.


At this time, for these struggles, the parsimony of the philosophical foundation is not enough, but still necessary. You need to target more directly the contradictions that are at the center of our struggles. It is necessary to once again revolve around the real political movement, the will to change, as an essential premise and put the theory as one additional element to the service of that centrality.


My task, as an amateur of philosophy, is the order of the bases. With clarity and lots more elements than what I myself can deploy, those good Marxist economists we have in this country will do their job, as they have been doing in the shadows of academia co-opted by the Concertación Coalition for so many years. The young sociologists who want to escape the logic of bureaucracy and academic reproduction, will do theirs. Young workers and students in the field of health, education, the arts, have been producing valuable knowledge and analysis elements, in the heat of the social movement, giving a new life to intellectual work in Chile.


That is why, in this context, I found that this second edition has to reverse the order of the premises, and more fully develop the political aspects of the reformulation of Marxism I propose. I have returned to the original intuition, contained in the logic with which Marx developed his theoretical work : from the area of ​​"the economy" into the realm of "the social", from these social premises to the reconstruction of a historical logic, bearing this comprehensive historical reconstruction in mind, an explicit account of the philosophical premises that give cohesion and coherence to the whole. I do not think that this particular sequence contains any specially profound and inescapable aspects. It seems more a matter of form, which has to do with the order of presentation, not essential to the order of the research or theoretical deduction. That's why I relate this change to the order in which I presented the first edition, rather with the political circumstances surrounding this one, rather than some rediscovery of a necessary and only logical order. Of course, lovers of forms may be recording concerns about how necessary is one order or another. My impression is that it is a sterile, purely formal discussion. Well, maybe that will augur well for the future of our usual social scientists.


Every now and then, the Chilean people shows that it is perfectly able to rise well above the conservative and fascistic, centralist, careerist, dependent routine in which it has been kept submerged by a lackluster local power, always willing to use the club with his own countrymen routine and at the same time to graciously give away our riches and dignities to foreign operators. After stubborn previous efforts, students have started one such cycle of dignity and life. As in the years 82-86, and in the 68-73 cycle, just as before, in the early years of the twentieth century. The challenge today is to live in this new way, at the height of Recabarren and Allende, Victor Jara and Manuel Guerrero. The challenge is to go beyond the systematic cooptation of popular celebrity parties for electoral and complicity with the market. The challenge is to articulate multiple, diverse, wide Left, where the traditions of all those who believe that another world is possible may coexist. We as Marxists can contribute with what we do best and we own. Some, among many others. "In the street, hand in hand, we are much more than two".


Santiago de Chile, March 2013.


First Edition Preface

What Hegelian aspects may a 'Hegelian' Marxism have? The absolute historicism. What can be a Marxist in a Hegelian "Marxism"? The complete secularization of the conflict that has been human history until today: the idea of ​​class struggle.


Why resort to Hegel again? For his logic of absolute mobility. For a logic that suggests the universality as internally differentiated, and the difference as operation of negativity.


Why resort to Marx again? For the idea that the communist horizon, the end of the class struggle, is possible. For his radical critique of capitalist exploitation, which can be extended to a consistent critique of bureaucratic usufruct.


Against any naturalism, against the idea of ​​human finitude, so characteristic of the culture of defeat. Against the bureaucratic sterility of Social Sciences. Against the demobilizing academicism of "post modern" fragmentation.


Resorting today to the possible conjunction between Hegel and Marx is a slap to academic fashions and covert theory resignation.


But which Hegel? The logician, the philosopher of negativity, who considered that nothing big has been done in history without passion, who installed the tragedy in the very nature of the Being.


But which Marx? The one resulting from reading under a common logic both German Ideology and Capital. No twentieth-century Marxism: Marx. His idea of history, his materialization of dialectics.


This is to again seriously consider the role of violence in history. This is to break the triumphalist continuum of repressive tolerance, and at the same time, with destructive self criticism, which delights itself in the merits of the enemy.


This is to break with the ominous luminosity of administration and profit. There will be no peace while still looking like peace at the structural violence that the ruling classes impose us as the rule of law. No peace while still tolerating in its name that hundreds of millions of human beings are simply left over, and so many hundreds of millions have no other horizon than the mediocrity of an administered life.


Once and for all say enough and start moving.


We are entitled to take the risk.


Santiago de Chile, March 2010.


Introduction

1. Privileging material labor

The financial crisis, recurrent since the 80s, and globally triggered with full force since 2008, has shown, with its colossal proportions, and its also colossal and irrational disproportion between productive capital and financial capital, between the one that even at the cost of exploitation, increases the real wealth of humanity and the merely speculative one, that only produces fictitious wealth, however great its local and temporal appearance.


The so-called "futures markets", which subordinate the production logic to the logic of illusory capital, distorting and paralyzing it; increased indebtedness of individuals, which distorts and eventually paralyzes access to real property; catastrophic waiver of States to all social duties, unloading weight on citizens only to satisfy the greed of private banking, are perhaps the most visible signs of the deep irrationality of this drift of capital towards mere temporary havens that benefit obscenely minoritarian sectors of paper wealth.


The enormous material progress achieved through the work of all humanity is stuck near environmentally catastrophic consumption patterns, stuck in deeper than any previous historical period social inequalities. Just at the time when the historical developments in science and technology have allowed us to produce enough food for all mankind, hundreds of millions of people are suffering from hunger. Just as the availability of goods is revolutionaryly larger than ever before, billions of people struggle amid squalid living standards.


The full transnationalization of capital, the full articulation of the global market, anticipated by Marx 150 years ago, have ended with the illusion of a first, a second and a third world that have a defined geographic and cultural base ( north - south, or "West" and "periphery"). The displacement of productive capital to China, India, Mexico and Brazil has led to poverty for tens of millions of Europeans and Americans. Mass migrations in search of the mirage of the "first" world have completely changed the landscape of cultural supremacy of the white European culture in their own countries. The volatility of capital has created all sorts of enclaves of privilege and wealth, powerful and exclusive, in what appeared to be uniformly the "third" world. Africans burning cars in the suburbs of Paris, the millions of Turks in Germany, the social ascent of Indians and Pakistanis in England, fifty million Latinos in the USA, are only the other side of millionaires of world level in China, Russia, Mexico or Chile , small elites enjoying a fierce and ruthless abundance in countries like Pakistan, India, Brazil and Indonesia, separated only by a few miles, and tens of thousands of soldiers and police, the world's poorest poor. The minoritarian extreme abundance surrounded by the majority's absolutely extreme poverty in a world where there are enough materials goods for all, and there could be many more. Real, material wealth capable of providing a standard of humane life, besieged and paralyzed by the fictional wealth, merely of paper, whose sole function is to promote, legitimize, protect, gigantic inequalities in access to real goods.


It is from this colossal evidence where the central option of this text arises: the absolute privilege of material labor, which produces tangible, real goods, impacting directly on the standard of living, above the "immaterial" labor, in providing services or in the production of "symbolic goods".


An option that points directly to the main current enemies of all mankind, the two main forces responsible for stagnation: financial capital, bureaucratic power. On the one hand the predominance of fictitious capital on productive real capital. Furthermore, the growing trend, backed by state bureaucracies, to a capitalist tertiarization of the economy, maintaining the status quo of inequality, stopping by artificial means the "classical" capitalist crisis on a productive level, condemning the greatest part of humanity to unnecessary prolongation of alienating labor, dumbed life, and psychiatric management of distress.


Of course, at such subversion of the usual arguments, the first I have to do is explain it to the intellectuals, who profit so profitably in the production of "symbolic goods", to the point of turning it into a source of legitimation of their powers of bureaucratic administration. Looking radically ahead, but also for blaming it to those who are proud to have turned mediocrity into a mode and lifestyle, I can forward the general bases of revolutionary strategic perspective I will be defending in the following chapters:


It is about radically detertiarizing the economy, carrying all the force available to the production of material, tangible goods. But, given the high rates of productivity achieved by material labour through the development of technology, this will only be possible radically reducing the socially obligatory workday. During a more or less extended period of transition, this gradual reduction of working hours should be done keeping and even increasing wages to enable the maintenance and growth of living standards . Obviously, this maintenance of wages allocated to progressively fewer working hours is only possible at the expense of surplus value. Indeed, the historical significance of these processes is gradually emptying the content of the economical wage form and progressively removing the sense of private ownership of the means of production as a way of participation in the social product.


The revolution is not an act, it is a process. What I have drawn here is the strategic perspective of this process. And it is not, of course, that there are to be no services, or nobody producing "symbolic goods". What it is for, ist that nobody should be paid wages for it. That the economical form salary is progressively restricted only to the material work, producing tangible goods, and from there the historical conditions for its extinction. Making art, developing theoretical knowledge, recreating and developing culture, should be basic rights accessible to all human beings, not occupations or sources of wages.


Education for forming whole human beings should be distinguished from preparation and specific training for productive work . This technical education, being an asset that contributes to material production, may be paid for. There is no real reason for the first, however, to be a remunerated job.[1] Production of knowledge in general should be distinguished in the same logic from the production of immediate technical and operational knowledge. Nobody should get salary for the first, which is a right and a duty for everyone, but keeping for a long time, during the transition, a salary for the second . Medical knowledge should be radically socialized in a practice that put all its emphasis on preventive medicine and, in the same way, there is a need to de-medicalize and socialize palliative medicine . The strategy is to reduce the need for curative medicine, while also promoting progressive deprofessionalizing.


Education, art, science, medicine, are quintessential first areas of work that need to be freed from the logic of wage and converted into rights and social and free practice. Correspondingly the commodification of education, science, art, medicine, must be in the first line of any criticism of the established reality. My critical argument, however, does not aim primarily on these fields, whose integration into a strategic perspective seems obvious and perfectly possible in the terms just specify. Actually more useless, the more oppressive, the tertiarization of the economy lies more in the enormous growth of commercial employees, the military contingent, state officials, the huge bureaucracies that are cast in the large private companies in the shadow of the relative remoteness of their owners practice in the administration. It is against this world of stupid, alienating tertiarization, which produces nothing, which only serves the interests of the local organization of unproductive entrepreneurs, that my formulation is addressed first of all.


But we must also consider, in the same vein, the artificial extension of university academic communities and higher level student populations, especially in areas which are not present in any way of material production. Besides the proper and free right, I have spoken of before, to practice the arts, the development of knowledge and culture , nothing really justifies this proliferation from the point of view of actual production. It is actually due to the effects of the commercialization of education, which does not care to attract thousands and thousands of illustrated unemployed, or employees for small, purely administrative tasks, curiously and extremely overqualified. This is due to the increasing bureaucratization of academic tasks, which legitimizes their own enjoyment of the social product in the ideology of the claim of knowledge, and their "authorized" interventions on the logic of power. My argument is directed against tertiarization in general, but reaches its highest expression in the combination of tertiarization and bureaucratization. These bureaucrats themselves are who first shall rise up against it, citing their enjoyment as a right, and putting weight on it through their mechanisms of power as hegemonic social class. And that is why, for the political importance acquired by this miserable defense of class interests , that a good part of my argument in this book is intended to show in what sense and in which ways bureaucratic power is one of the main enemies.


As may be seen, the revolutionary strategy that I hold is essentially about the content, and from there is to be thought regarding the way. Interestingly, and against all logic, many Marxists have been devoted for too long and, to the contrary, again and again discuss the ways of the revolution, leaving a haze on the contents. The main drawback of this habit is not so much its consequences (especially in the barren and useless discussion of texts and precedents), but in its lack of discussion on changes in the reality that you want to change. The same capitalism as ever before is assumed and it is about perfecting the same political tools ever.


In terms of content, the point is to gradually release areas of human experience of the two ways in which social oppression is exercised, the capitalist market, bureaucratization. Without proposing a critical and practical work in the first of these fronts, the logic of expliotation will be generally reaching all areas of human activity (commodification of art, science, education, health, leisure, sport, culture). Without raising a critical and practical task in the second front, we will perpetuate market mechanisms as only alternative (with more or less "human face"), the mediocrity of managed labor, which is done only "because of something you have to do to earn a living."


To liberate art, science, education, health, social management from the logic of salary. To socialize and to restrict the logic of private profit in the world where wages are maintained. Anti capitalist and ant bureaucratic at a time, only that can really be a communist horizon.


This is the perspective that justifies the central option I have set out: the analytical and political privilege of the real material work over the production of "symbolic goods". A privilege that must be understood in a precise sense: the prospect of freeing symbolic production and services of both capitalist and bureaucratic logic.


This option is essential as projected on economic analysis in which all key assumptions and estimates about the future of the capitalist economy are done on the basis of real wealth, replacing, in historical terms, the weight of speculative capital, however great it may seem here and now, or in the short term.


It is essential also projected on class analysis, where I put direct producers (of material goods) in the center of the main contradiction and, from them, organize alliances and possible coalitions.


But it is essential also projected on the dynamics of the class struggle, that limits the role of intellectuals in the context of a broader post illustrated and anti advangardist perspective, which embodies the Hegelian inspiration of the whole argument.


It is under this option that, in the chapter on Political Economy, I will basically follow the movement of the exchange value (not money or value in use), i.e., the value that goods acquire when they become merchandise in the capitalist market. Only then, and for that notion, I propose the idea of pre-capitalist dimensions of value, and therefore the idea of precapitalist dimensions of exploitation. Both will be very important then, in consideration of the current complexity of the political struggle. In the order I have given to this text, however, I have postponed until later chapters discussing more philosophically about the idea of value in general, its connection with a theory of desire and the critique deriving from them to the notion of value in use.


Also, because of this, in the chapter on Political Sociology, by direct producers I refer to workers who produce real goods, able to impact directly on the standard of living, including in them the services that directly and immediately connect to this type of production. Distinguishing them, therefore, from employees producing services (education, administration, health, culture), and certain employees that provide intangible "goods" such as the military, priests, athletes, performing artists, communications workers, employees in the financial or trade sector.


The criterion is clear: those who produce real, material wealth, and those who produce only speculative wealth, no matter how "valuable" it seems to us.


I will refrain completely, of course, from any statement about who among these stakeholders should be called "workers" or "proletarians", which is a discussion that has become completely idiotic and, in conceptual terms, perhaps it always was. The combination of class analysis and stratification analysis I will propose operates on these distinctions.


It is appropriate, and from this introduction, to avert the most simple methodological problem, however, being almost universally ignored, for decades it has muddied the discussion about who belong to a social class and who does not. So much for the critics of class analysis and their advocates, and perhaps especially for its ex-defenders now turned to critics, such as whether teachers, office workers or unemployed people should be regarded as "workers" or bourgeois seemed be crucial, especially if the particle "or" was given dichotomous character, and was required to operate on the entire social universe considered. Methodological triviality of such a "problem" which looks spectacular, can be brought out extending it to ask if the children or the sick, or housewives, are workers or bourgeois.


The confusion has to do only with the lack of distinction between class analysis and analysis of social stratification (some of these subjects are identified by their class membership, others because they belong to a stratum) but, more trivially, by the implicit and wrong assumption, that any classification of social subjects must be comprehensive, ie cover every one of the individuals in the universe to which refers.


It is obvious that every human being can be located at any height or age stratum, classifications which by their nature are themselves exhaustive. But it is also obvious that you can not locate all human beings in the simple dichotomy "man-woman" or at least to do it requires the explicit formulation of criteria, which need not be the only possible, may or may not be exhaustive.


To wonder if young students are bourgeois or proletarian is something directly idiot. To "inscribe" them to one or another class immediately, according to some criteria such as membership of their parents, not only empirically problematic, as shown by many who will and, above all, most who do not go to student demonstrations, is not just gimmicky and useless, but also completely unnecessary. Definitions of social class, and many definitions of social strata, need not be exhaustive. And in the case of class analysis, is much more useful and clear just if they are not.


2. New forms of domination: paradoxes

The material foundational reality revealed by political economy is expressed directly in social relations. Throughout this text I am using exploitation to refer to an unequal exchange of value, and I will try to specify the historical conditions that distinguish this form of exchange in various human societies. If exploitation is the economic dimension of social relations that exist under conditions of class struggle, domination is its political correlate. I will use domination for an unequal exchange of power, and, accordingly, I will try to specify its unique diversity.


Even for two sides of the same coin, it need not be that strange under a common framework of relations of exploitation the forms of domination will change. The "economic" side of this change is the impact of the revolutionary transformation of the forms of work organization have had on the wage system, maintaining and strengthening the appropriation of surplus value as the essence of capitalist exploitation. The "political" side is given by the impact that these same changes have had on the composition and functions of the state apparatus. Alongside this, the full articulation of the global market, the transnationalization of capital, the enormous growth of the financial fiction, crucially changed the meaning of the forms of social representation, the relations between capital and the State, as well as between State and workers.


I here use forms of work organization to refer to the general forms of technical division of labor that have traditionally been distinguished as Taylorism, Fordism and post-Fordism. What interests me about them, as seen in the previous paragraph, is how they determine crucial social relations. Such an influence that allows to use them to distinguish in a more political way different modes of capitalist accumulation, or moments in capitalist development that give rise to certain constellations of dominance relations.


Obviously, once having established at the level of political economy the root of the historical moment in which a given state of the class struggle occurs, it is rather in the plane of Political Sociology, in the review of prevailing domination relations, where you can develop a proper political perspective of the fight.


An essential argument in this text is that bourgeois hegemony, even under the dominance of capitalist forms of exploitation, is being seriously disputed by the growing hegemony of bureaucratic domination. It is in this context, and in which the changes occur in the forms of work organization, we can speak of new forms of domination. And the analysis and the political calculus should be fully alert to these changes.


Since the 80s of last century, the emergence of post-Fordist work organization has produced dramatic changes in the forms of social domination. Most of the left has simply crafted an impressionistic descriptions of these changes, under the substantially wrong name of "neo-liberalism", without being able to distinguish the new elements in it, trying to frame every novelty in the familiar frameworks and journeyed to the Fordist social relations, ultimately conceptualizing, assimilating each new element to the old, to what is already known. This means that, for the Marxist mentality formatted in the Fordist, Soviet or American experience, certain glaring, empirically unavoidable realities, appear as paradoxes, as realities that bring aspects that this mentality has become accustomed to consider a priori contradictory.


Access by large sections of workers to major consumer goods, loss of substantivity of democracy, the ideological power that new media are able to display, the growing gap between workers integrated into the capitalist logic and hundreds of millions of marginalized people, diversification of pre-capitalist social demands towards value dimensions, such as ethnicity or gender, are the issues that have caused more puzzlement and confusion. For them it has not been able to move from populist proposals, completely inadequate in theory and in practice. And yet, this populist reflex has been the most frequent response.


Trying to understand the new post Fordist scenario requires taking charge of issues which to classical Marxism, in its various forms, may appear as strong paradoxes. Paradoxes that show the huge gap between the prevailing common sense in political theory, effective policy and present reality.


The first of these paradoxes can be characterized as repressive tolerance. A situation in which the effectiveness of the mechanisms of the new power is such that direct repression is marginalized to the dark, seemingly distant, underworld of crime, or what is presented as a crime, while the main vehicle for securing power is rather the same tolerance, the ability to re-signify any initiative, radical or not, to the logic of the powers, making gestures that were proposed as protesting and opponent into variants contained in official diversity, whose operating confirms the global nature of the system.


A tolerance that is possible on the basis of a huge production efficiency, which allows not only the production of diversity, but involves a significant increase in the living standards of large sections of the world population. A productivity which does not need to be homogenizing, which does not depend crucially on the generation of poverty, allowing large areas of relatively comfortable work which, although minor compared to the overall workforce, operate as powerful stabilizers of politics, and as support of democratic legitimacy. A situation that can be called exploitation without oppression. Forms of work organization that have substantially reduced the classic components of physical fatigue and psychological components associated with vertical, compulsive and direct domination.


By the way the inertia of traditional left at this point, as in all others, will be trying to assimilate these situations to those already known, or to reduce its impact, or to discover in them the traits that show how they are simple appearances concealing shapes perfectly established since the advent of capitalism. The idea that bureaucratic administration, pursued in the most naive way, driven by nostalgia for the classic models, may establish its dominance in this new exploitation and in this new tolerance is seen as defeatism.


But what I say is NOT that any radical initiative is doomed to failure, nor that the power is omnipotent. What I say is NOT that most workers live under these conditions, or that under these working conditions no new contradictions may arise, which make them, in the long run, unstable. In both cases what I do notice is a clear and strong trend of reality, which is crucial if we choose to interpret it as a new phenomenon, and, however, can be seen as incidental perfectly if we cling to the classical calculations.


In view of this new functionality of welfare and tolerance it is necessary to radically change the way we evaluate our own history. Go beyond illustrated prejudice which makes us see ourselves as representatives of the progress of reason, beyond the romantic bias that makes us see our failures as monstrous historical conspiracies, almost like errors of reality. You need to accept the possibility of an alienated revolutionary consciousness. A consciousness that believes to be doing something completely different than what the unrecognized power of historical determination allows him effectively to do. A revolutionary consciousness that doesn't entirely own the historic initiatives it undertakes, ie. a political practice in which the historic initiative is never transparent, and politics is always a risk. Always a risk worth taking, but for whose results no theoretical guarantee may be provided.


For the traditions of Marxism this implies assuming two additional notions, which again have the appearance of paradox. One is to characterize alienation as something transcending consciousness. Another is to consider the subject as something that is not an individual. To think about alienation as a factual situation, as a field of actions, one of whose central features is that it cannot be viewed by the consciousness of those who live it. And that it cannot be seen, at least in class societies, but from another state of alienation, so that there is never a privileged place of consciousness, or absolute lucidity. Thinking of individuals as a result of historical conditions that transcend them, and of subjectivities that constitute these historical conditions as subjects operating in fact, with an ever changing and incomplete awareness of their own realities.


This means in turn an idea that the basis of revolutionary practice is deeper than consciousness on which its lucidity and its discourse is built. Ie, an idea where the revolutionary will has its own roots prior to any revolutionary theory's lucidity, and that revolutionary theory constructs a reality to allow political practice, rather than merely stating a reality so that the findings may feed the will. Revolutionary theory so that the will can see, revolutionary will to that theory may be.


But this possibility of alienation of revolutionary practice itself is as much as, or even more real in the actual judgement we should do about the historical practice of the classes under the new forms of domination. You need to see them not as a conquering of consciences, but as a battle won from below, and beyond of what consciousness can see and know. And you must then find the contradictions that may make a revolutionary will possible, rather than a clear and distinct consciousness of happens. That is, we need to search the existential contradictions that are possible under a domination substantially more sophisticated than classic capitalist oppression. Only from there you can have access to a critical consciousness.


It is in this context that I propose the paradoxical concept of frustrating pleasantness. Contrary to classical moderation, it is necessary to make a sound judgment about the existential conditions of comfort that enable very high productivity and find there the roots of an easily verifiable, widespread dissatisfaction, felt by all sectors who live integrated into modern production, but which nobody knows how to conceptualize, let alone how to become a political force. This requires a deep and founded concept of what we mean by subjectivity, pleasure or, in short, a happy life, all issues that are no longer problems of the private sphere, and become central political variables, from the moment when it is precisely from them that the new powers assert their dominance.


Along with all this, a notion is required that should be able to account for the new complexities of power. Understand that the decentralization of power does not imply absolute disappearance of the center, but its parallel operation as a delocalized, distributed network. Ie its displacement toward a second order from which it constitutes itself as power over scattered powers, being able to leverage the technological possibilities while being exercised as a strongly consultive interactive domination, with a powerful impression of democratic management, where the subtle limits allowed by its diversity are hardly noticed by those co-opted into different strata of privilege.


3. A doctrinal foundation

In this section, I want to briefly condense the layout of the general argument of what could be a Hegelian formulation of Marxism. As a starting point we have to accept what will already have been widely noted in the previous sections: it is possible to formulate more than one Marxism</aindex, both in the sense of being compatible with the ideas of Marx, and in the more important sense of being consistent with his general policy options. It's good, then, to specify which basic conditions I am interested in keeping as "a possible <aindex>Marxism", accepting from the outset that there can not be a "correct Marxism" and that it is just the historical practice that will decide which of these formulations (or none of them) is capable of the closest account of social reality.


I think it is possible and necessary to formulate the idea of a revolutionary Marxism. Revolutionary in the specific sense that argues that only through violence the already established chain of violence from the ruling classes can be broken. But also, in the a little more knowledgeable sense, that the only way to end the domination of ruling classes is radically changing the rule of law and, ultimately, putting an end to class struggle will involve abolishing all forms of institutionalization of any rule of law.


Holding this means considering the structure of social relations is, in its prevailing form, essentially violent. Even in what is usually called "peace". It means to hold that the ruling classes call "peace" to the time when they win the war, and only speak of war when they feel threatened. You can also say this: we will not start a war, we are at war. Revolutionary violence is but a response to the ongoing violence. We are not "supporters of violence", but we believe that only through violence we can put an end to the essential violence, which has been defining human history so far. Or again, it means that the rule of law itself, far from preventing violence, does enshrine it, legitimize it, presenting it as the appearance of peace.


But this premise also implies putting class struggle in the center of Marxist thought. Put the reality of antagonistic social relations as a conflict that is not likely to be "pacified" inside the lifestyles that have been imposed by the ruling classes. It means building a theory that explains the features of this foundational conflict. And its relation to social conflict in general.


I am interested in formulating a Marxism that is oriented from its very foundations by a Communist horizon. This requires making up a non Illustrated, nor Romantic idea of the features that can be attributed to communism. But, conversely, it means clearly specify under what conditions, under what kinds of social realities, it would be possible to speak concretely of communism.


A communist horizon implies, and it is necessary to be explicit about it, a sense of history in general, a certain philosophy of history. It seems to me of core importance the idea of​ ​modes of production and the even broader idea of general forms of labour.


Of course, according to the arguments outlined in the previous chapters, I find it necessary to have a formulation of Marxism that is rooted in a solid number of options around subjectivity and human condition in general. In which the alleged anthropology is not limited to a set of implicit, the forerunners of the modern operation of thinking, with its basically Cartesian ideas about man. Not only an anthropology establishing full social condition of man, but its radical historicity, its character of being a product of history, resulting from himself, from his own absolute work.


As seen, this is a philosophical argument in general. Or, from the formulation of general philosophic premises, an argument that will find its counterpart in the historical and social realities that, in fact, produce and condition them. An argument, as the nostalgic may have noticed, completely different from the catastrophic sterility of Structuralist Marxist tradition, and from the political consequences of its ruin, usually called "post-structuralist".


I have no fear of theory, and eventual accusations of "intellectualism" and even less-nighters stigmatization of "metaphysical" or "humanist", which are frequently used as insults by rather humanist and darkly metaphysical intellectuals, do leave me absolutely indifferent.


What matters to me is to make a foundation. The relationship between foundation and real politics can only come from the political arena. Intellectuals have never directed anything. Or, worse, when they have done, it has been catastrophic. It is better and more honest maintaining intellectual work as a limited area, and with a specific character. Intellectuals should consider the real, formulate the theories they consider most appropriate and useful as possible, but only the popular movement will ultimately decide which of these rhetorical frameworks best conveys their hopes.


Unlike classical reading that starts from the critique of capitalist economy, and then extends that logic as a model for all other critique, I propose to base Marxism on a theory of alienation. There are two main methods of reading involved in this. One of them is to sustain an essential continuity and consistency in the whole work of Marx. Not to read his "youthful humanism" from the economy or reading the economy as simple "application" of the first. Thinking, however, the treatment that can be found in The German Ideology as distinct and complementary to that found in Capital. The other option is to consider the critique of capitalism as a case of a more general logic, critical to exploitation in general.


A possible order could be the following. From a theory of alienation, to found on it a general idea of ​​value. From this idea of ​​value in general, formulate a notion of exploitation, also in general. From it, develop, in parallel, a theory of social classes and of class struggle, and inserting in it the theory of capitalist exploitation, ie, that form of exploitation that operates through a special form of exchange value, which is associated with private property and wage labor contract. This set should allow its extension to a theory of human history and closely related to it, a theory of communism. And it should allow, on the other hand, a theory of bureaucratic power, and a conceptualization of the current policy in terms of a bureaucratic bourgeois class block.


A foundation, in a historicist conception, is something that is put, not something that is found or "discovered". The theory of alienation is founded on an absolute historicism, in which every object is objectified in the context of the human action of self producing all of its Being. The polical reason for holding such a strange, so counterintuitive basis, is to avoid any footprint of naturalism, any possibility of appeal to elements from human nature, or human condition, putting a limit on the prospect of an end to the class struggle. What is provided here, as the foundation, is a radical affirmation of human infinity. Thought in a purely argumentative way the matter is this: only under these premises is communism thinkable. Or, if you will excuse the repetition, the other way round, without these foundational statements, what may be projected as utopian horizon is a better humanity, but not an essentially free humanity.


But the truth of this foundation must be also examined within the framework of historicism which in turn holds it. For a historicist concept truth is something that should be done. It isn't something that is true by itself, or something whose essence is as empirical and from there, can be established. Truth is a purely political issue. The truth is something that is put to be made real by a rational will.


Of course, to the Enlightenment tradition, the idea of "rational will" seems to be a contradiction. Enlightenment radically separated intellect from will. It put the first as the only criterion of truth, and the latter as a case of arbitrariness, always suspicious of megalomania. Against these philosophies of externality, from Hegelian logic, the formulation of this idea is perfectly possible, which would otherwise be doomed to be considered a mere hybrid.


You can call "rational will" to that which searches in what has been put as real the elements that will make it possible to go beyond of it, and of itself. In a dynamic where the future on one hand is open to the real possibility, and the past, as put by history itself, operates as a field of determinations, to go beyond the established reality is to go beyond what human society itself has put as its field of determinations. Will tries to see this field of determinations in the real, in order to learn how to overcome it, but also bases its look on the conviction that there is nothing there in the determination, which has not been set and, therefore, can not be overcome.


This will is rational in the sense that it gives itself a theory to see the reality of the determinations. It isn't a will derived from a theory, in the manner of Illustrated avant-garde: "from a correct theory arises a correct political line". It is rather the opposite: the theory is needed to see, not to be. It does not originate in a purely intellective calculation, it originates in a series of experiences, full of existential content, which can, in turn, rationally see herself. A passionate reason, a passion that is internally rational.


To put the communist horizon as part of the foundation requires to say something minimal about this notion, as tinted by valuations and good and bad intentions. Again, and now completely despite its author, it is from the Hegelian logic that we can formulate an idea of communism that goes beyond the naive notions Marxists have claimed under this name.


The important thing is to state a post Illustrated and post Romantic idea of communism. An idea that is not a mystical communion of the Romantics, which subsumes individuals in totalitarian intoxication of the whole. An idea that is not at the same time, the notion of general happiness of Russeaunian origin. It has been argued consistently around how both lead to totalitarian political practices. The Marxist argument is not required to keep any of them.


On one hand, we want a society of free men, who do recognize one another. It is not to seek that individuals identify themselves with the universal, it is that they recognize themselves in it. That they recognize the universal as theirs. Not to thinking about universality as homogeneous and homogenizing. It is perfectly possible to think of a distinct universality, in which individuals, made ​​from it, are at the same time particular reals (not merely "examples" or cases of what is) and free (able to print their own forms on the origin that configured them).


On the other hand, what we want is not a society where everyone is happy, or where everyone knows everything. What we want is that the class struggle is over. That is, we want the difference between being happy or not is not institutionalized around the struggle for existence. In a communist society it should be possible to suffer. The point is that the possibility of suffering or is not should be confined to the realm of intersubjective relations, not pass by changing the structures of history. A world where alienation is not necessary.


I. Political Economy

1. Epistemological Differences

a. The Context

A professor of economics, a Marxist, once corrected me with some vehemence, "Marx didn't write a political economy, what he did was a critique of political economy." As his statement is true, and as an enormity is omitted (as well as in his vehemence), there is much important content to deploy.


On the one hand, it is strictly true that what Marx did was a critique of political economy. On the other hand, as certain as it is that way and, moreover, the foundation and purpose of his criticism is quite different from that in his own time, as did theorists like Say, Cournot or Stuart Mill, and very different from that of historians of economic theory, schooled and disciplined by Schumpeter, recognized or would recognize.[2]


The economy, among the social sciences, perhaps because of its claim to resemble the "hard" sciences, is the one that has least recognized the significance of its incorporation as a discipline, starting from the mid-nineteenth century. Among economists and even among historians, a similar atmosphere to that of the physicists or chemicists prevails, for which the road from Lavoisier to Prigogine is simple, more or less linear, and merely cumulative. Thus Quesnay's or Smith's reflections would be the origin of a tradition that with no major breaks or even less epistemological breaks, would have limited itself to extend its empirical spectrum, to develop its analytical tools and self-correct its limitations and temporary failures. So much so that the current prevailing schools of thought in economics are pleased to be called "neo classical" or "neo liberal". [3]


The great philosophical and methodological issue that remains concealed in this artificial claim of continuity is the deeper meaning of the transformation of modern knowledge about society in disciplines, for the sciences grouped as Social Sciences.


It is an impact which in sociology and psychology is not only distinguished clearly by their own theoreticians, but is being proclaimed with a certain pride, and given a foundational character. This is the difference between a possible sociology in Machiavelli, Hobbes or Hume, who are stigmatized as "philosophical" and the "truly scientific" one, which would be the one from Durkheim, Weber and Merton, or the perfectly analogous difference between a psychology of Descartes, Kant (his Anthropology) and Espinosa (his Ethics) and, again, those that do follow and would have the status of scientific researchers, like Pavlov, Watson, Hebb or Skinner.


In comparing the apparent continuity of academic economics with those celebrations of rupture and refounding, you can only conclude that the economy is the most naturalized of the fields of bourgeois social knowledge. Naturalized to the point that since the late seventeenth century, its development can only fit through empirical expansion and formal refinement of its propositions.


The epistemological center of the professionalization of knowledge that comes with the disciplines of Social Sciences [4] is the displacement of the commenter, moving in various fields, with quite informal observation tools, actively and explicitly basing himself on broad philosophical concepts, who feels involved and direct participant of the reality he comments (as Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, Burke or Hume), by the scientist who becomes a specialist who strives to clarify and formalize his methodological tools, which claims to have become independent of the "metaphysics" and claims to be located, as mere technician, at an ethically neutral position facing the social realities that he describes (as with Cournot, Durkheim, Wundt, Saussure, Walras, or Schumpeter).


In practice, these displacements do but make invisible the philosophical foundation of modern knowledge about society, naturalize them to convert it into fields of facts which are presumed to be knowable in a purely objective way, and to proclaim the new learning, which would "now" be genuinely scientific, as sources of practical intervention techniques that would be purely neutral in the conflicts on which they operate.


Perhaps just because of this operation of omission, of bracketing of the fundamentals, rising them to the rank of the obvious, results in drawing them of the field of the controversial, of the challengable, economists can afford to keep their assumptions at sight. After all, the patriarchal, eurocentric, individualistic, ubiquitous content in the foundations of psychology, sociology or linguistics should be conveniently obscured in the alleged ethical neutrality, because they have been directly challenged in social reality. The social scientist avoids to explicitly rule on these connotations, taking refuge in his mere technical "neutral" character, while at the same time he keeps holding them up, follows its consequences, sheltering them in the apparent obviousness of the assumptions.


In the field of economic reality, however, the hegemony of bourgeois thought remains unaltered in the practical field, and is displayed shamelessly as obvious in the field of the theory. Nobody can be explicitly Hobbesian, Malthusian or utilitarian, in psychology, sociology or anthropology, without paying a certain cost on his image of professional "neutrality". No economist, however, exactly the opposite, feels uncomfortable talking about "human nature" or attributing to such alleged nature selfish, aggressive, competitive, individualistic and patriarchal features. For economists, Kant never existed, nor Hegel, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Schiller, Freud ... to mention only some of the thinkers who have gone beyond such assumptions.


In the current economic discipline, the displacement of the philosophically informed observer and activist in the realities he describes, has not so much the nature of making something invisible or of an abrupt omission (as in Parsons, Luhmann, or Kelsen) but, rather, its reducing the initial two or three pages of all economic treatise, which list the "platitudes" which will then never be subjected to discussion: men have natural needs and behave in individualistic and utilitarian ways to satisfy ... etc.. The result of this lack of philosophical modesty is the same as the darkening practiced in other social sciences: essential and substantive parts of the theoretical assumptions simply leave the field of what may be subject to discussion.


Having considered these epistemological shifts, in which the classic philosophical foundation of modernity remains, from the work of Marx, one could say that the cycle of economists that begins with Say and Cournot, and continues with Jevons and Walras, also represents a "Critique of Political Economy", very different, indeed, to the one done by Marx.


Before Marx and Cournot, Political Economy was the name given to the tradition of economic thought that formed by British, French and some German scientists, starting with William Petty. The most important are Francois Quesnay and Jean Charles Leonard, Count of Sismondi, among the French, Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, among the English, to which Georg Friedrich List and Adolph Wagner can be added among the Germans.


From the viewpoint of the logic of social science disciplines, the work of Say, Cournot and Jevons, make a real transition from a Political Economy to Scientific Economics. A transition that makes of it perhaps the most "scientific" of all disciplines, except for other extremes such as radical behaviorism in psychology, Luhmann's formalism in sociology or structuralism in linguistics. No one seems to doubt that boast of sophisticated mathematical techniques and allegedly neutral technical language makes this science a "hard science", despite the cumbersome inefficiency of such techniques to predict the smallest price swings, or the most catastrophic global crises, and the strange emptiness of technical language that says what everyone knows in ways that almost no one understands.


What we find in this Scientific Economy is a Critique of Classical Political Economy which suspends and ignores what it just had as "Polical", thereby maintaining, and removing the critical discussion of the theoretical foundations and their explicit connections to the political world that seemed essential to each and every one of the classical economists. Discussing economy without discussing politics would have seemed crazy precisely to Adam Smith, who not in vain considered his reflection on the wealth of nations as a treatise on ethics. And do not incur the absurdity of calling "political" what the finance ministers call "economic policy" because they themselves time and again do emphasize that the content of that expression is a set of "technical and non-political" problems.


The Scientific Economy, falsely depoliticized under the ideological assumptions of the scientism of disciplines, fulfills its purpose, which is merely to maintain, authorize, protect the hegemony of bourgeois interests in this area of reflection. Regarding it, the Critique of Political Economy made by Marx precisely and explicitly keeps the deep spirit of classical political economy, but by radically challenging it in content. And from that challenge epistemological differences arise, which I will try to specify.


This whole spectrum of theories, then, makes a difference in three terms: Classical Political Economy (fully present in the foundations of the current discipline), Political Economy formulated by Marx, and the Economy which I will call "scientific" because, strictly speaking, it is, or "conventional" because it is commonly studied in faculties of economics.


In this triangulation, I only will address the problems of foundation of Classical Political Economy regarding the philosophical considerations devoted to the notion of value, desire and need, in Chapter IV. Because of this, in what follows, the term "political economy" refers to Marx, and whenever necessary to discuss the foregoing it will add the word "Classic".


In this section, what interests me most, for political reasons, is the comparison between the epistemological foundations of the economy given by Marx and conventional economics, which are commonly studied as if it were the only possible one.


b. The differences

There are fundamental epistemological differences, affecting the general philosophical approach that addresses economic issues, and other, more specific, derived from them, which result in methodological differences in how to formulate and address particular problems.


Among the former, the first major difference is the complete historicization of human action, directly opposed to the naturalization of the motives for the actions of economical agents. In Marx's reasoning, smooth and simply there is no "human nature" that could be considered under the classic metaphysical background, or in the forms of a "biological basis of behavior", as it is usual in psychiatry, or as they do in the same economy by appealing to the drift of natural selection, or ethology, to account for the basic behaviors of consumers. All empirical situations that scientific economists repeated again and again, of ritual and boneheaded way, on selfishness, hedonism, competitive and utilitarian spirit are, for Marx, consequences rather than causes of the situation we want to explain, and can be removed by changing the historical conditions that determine them.


A second set of differences that stem from Marxist economics is a global analysis focused on the idea of exchange value, a strongly historicist analysis of the capitalist system as a whole. What Marx is interested in, is to understand the phenomenon of capitalist exploitation, for which he makes a consideration based on the level of commodity production and historical subjects, the social classes, which would be confronted about it. The scientific economy, however, focused on the idea of price, whose aims and purpose are economic calculation, for which it focuses on the processes of circulation of goods, constantly distinguishing between two analytical levels, micro and macro economics, that are never articulated in a global analysis. For this analysis, traders are simply individuals, or collectives, that are never truly considered as historical subjects. The history has been reduced to its simplest form of temporality, of course, as an independent variable, and the contradictory effects between local action and global results, which Marx insisted in treating as "alienation", are simply not considered, or seen as external to the economic system variables.


This profound difference in general approach in turn contains a third difference now directly affecting the merits and projections that can be made from each. While scientific economy is governed by strict methodological individualism, for which the "social" action is but the result of collections of actions of many individuals, Marxist economics and social studies assume and studies whole social sectors, social classes, whom it considers subjects. And this means that while in the former the subject of freedom is the individual, strictly limited by the determinations of "human nature", in the latter the subjects of historically significant freedom are the social classes, limited only by the reification of social relations that they themselves have created, while individual freedom is more of a project, a great historical task that has begun under bourgeois hegemony but that can not be made real and effective, in a comprehensive way, under its domain.


The most important political consequence of this foundation is that Marx is not interested so much in criticising the enrichment, or abuse, carried out by private operators. His argument is directed globally against the appropriation of surplus value exerted by the bourgeoisie as a whole, as a class, on the whole proletariat as a class. Capitalist exploitation, in Marx's concept, is not really a interpersonal relationship but, in every sense of the term, a social relationship, a relationship between historically determined social subjects.


On the methodological level these differences have an effect on everything in the investigation of value and price. For Marx value is an empirical but global and historical variable. Its magnitude must be investigated considering very long series of products, or entire branches of production, and can only be obtained from a statistical weighting of the factors of production that operate on them. The price, however, is an empirical but temporary local variable, and its investigation requires more effort than simple statistics that can be done from their immediate values in the market at any one time. As I will postulate later, all of Marx's reasoning is done, and acquires its formal validity, around the idea of value, and the historical implications of its movement, due to which in fact it does not require, to consider their overall argumentative validity, a step by step conversion between values and prices that are expression of every day economy.


The status and methodological imperative in conventional economics are completely different. On the one hand, to the extent that it is oriented to pragmatic economic calculation, it requires immediate empirical observation of prices, and is subject to the imperative to formulate rules and laws surrounding them. Moreover, to the extent that it completely ignores any political consideration around exploitation, it has no need to reason about the reality and movement of value to achieve its goals. Because of this, the practice in conventional economics is, quite simply, to identify both variables (the price would be the same as the value), without taking over their epistemological difference.


Given this practice, which fully takes the central methodological issue from the field of production to the area of circulation of goods, a long tradition of Marxist economists, hurrying to upgrade their credentials to "scientific" economics, have attempted to find formulas for calculating prices (local and temporary) from the value (a historical and global variable). This problem of "conversion of value to price" has been even considered by some as the central problem of Marxist economics. My opinion, about which I will argue in more detail later, is that this is a fictitious or at least unnecessary problem. On one side it is fictional, because it arises from not recognizing (as the bourgeois economists do) that there is an epistemological difference between the two variables. On the other hand it is unnecessary, since the global and historical validity of the arguments of Marx does not depend on such a conversion formula to be found.


Also regarding methodology, a central consequence of these profound foundational differences is that Marxist economics can provide a strong explanatory theory with predictive power to historical level of the cyclical crises of capitalism.


It is noteworthy that scientific economy has had systematic difficulties in addressing the problem of general crisis. This is a topic postponed by the mainstream discipline until about twenty years ago. Remarkable and curious issue: although it is empirically verifiable that the cyclical crises of capitalism are a systemic feature that causes the greater effects at all levels, but the science dedicated to it historically postponed its study until they reached the frequency and severity of financial crises. Even until today, however, there is no theory to explain the crises under purely internal mechanisms. Always their source is seen as external and contingent on the system as a whole. Droughts, storms, contingent shortage of raw materials, investor panic. Again and again scientific economists focus their analysis on the periphery.


Exactly the opposite, the starting point of Marx is the idea that the global economic system is historically unstable. And its instability derives from deeper structural conditions: it results from originally unequal, individual operators competing in a market that is opaque to each of them, and in which each is interested, due to the competition, in keeping that opacity.


While scientific economic theories insist in putting the dogma of balance into their foundation, for whose failure they can only offer external explanations (the system itself is never to blame for its crisis), or merely descriptive ones (just do not explain anything) without any, neither local nor historical predictability, Marx's theory, where the imbalance is an initial datum, may offer an internal, structural explanatory mechanism, from which a clear projection on the overall fate of capitalism may follow.


I argue that the theory of the cyclical crises of Marx has not been refuted, until today, perhaps for the saddest of reasons. Simply no one has critically discussed it on its own terms. The theory of value has been criticized from a different epistemological base than that which served as its source. All kind of external and contingent responsibles for what is a blatant reality have been searched. It has come to turn to chaos theory, ultimately: reality chaotizes alone and by itself, and irrationally breaks out as the simply irrational. Never daring to take what for Marx was almost axiomatic: an economy of individual agents competing in an opaque and originally uneven market, can only lead to imbalance. Imbalance must be a structural feature of the system.


In the theoretical development of both perspectives, this leads to another notable difference. At no time Marx uses models of perfect, or even a general and abstract models of any competition. Political economy is a situated knowledge. It puts as its starting point a set of historically real empirical situations, and only from them it amounts to abstraction.


Primitive accumulation of capital, the uneven development of the techniques, of national economies, of companies in the same branch of production, the need for technological development as an internal element of competition, these are all for Marx starting elements. Even machismo, as real and prevalent cultural element is an internal variable to Marx, which enables him to explain the integration of women into the industrial labor force looking for the goal of increasing the profits on the absolute path.


It can be said that with Marx there always operate historic and cultural causes while scientific economy not only avoids causes and explanations, always tending to stay in the descriptive level, but when moving towards the explanatory level, the causes they invoke are always in the order of nature, or are merely contingent.


Exactly the opposite of the historicist method of Marx, scientific economics, like physics, makes abstract and general models in the beginning, and only from there on it will be adding variables, the "imperfections" that make that capitalists may never compete as the beautiful models of competition prescribed and made desirable. The use of chaos theory in the current scientific economics is somehow the end of such illustrated alienation to which reality must be written in mathematical characters. As the physical and contemporary meteorologists know very well, perhaps these mathematical formulas exist, but they largely exceed all what more refined mathematics, and more complex computer systems can achieve. And if this is found every day in complex systems such as weather, earthquakes, or heart attacks, it seems reasonable to suppose a fortiori to systems involving human freedom, as is, par excellence, the economic system. This, as Hegel already knew from purely philosophical premises, is obvious to Marx. The global and historical complexity of the economic system can only be addressed globally and historically . That is the central methodological difference between the two trials.


When we seek the historical background of these differences, what we find is a scientific economy that is just an illustrated rationalization of modernity or, at best, driven by the evidence of the crisis, a neo Illustrated chaos theory as an explanatory factor for dramas of human behavior. I argue that in Marxist economics instead you should see a post illustrated theory where knowledge matches a political will, a revolutionary will. It is not the same an economic policy conceived as a set of techniques, micro and macro economic ones, where the opinion of the "expert" will be imposed on the "lay", than conceive it as the task of moving social subjects towards an awareness of their own situation, their structural alienation, and to the profound transformation of their lives.


Often Marxist economists, led by the reduction of Marxism to mere science, have tried to assimilate themselves to the knowledge and competence standards dictated by conventional economics. My opinion is that these not only are attempts essentially doomed to fail, but have also neglected thus precisely the specific and most valuable analysis of Marx.


It is useful, given the long and deep prejudices prevailing, to warn, however, that I don't see that both approaches are completely antagonistic. Most likely the Marxists would do very well to study rigorously scientific economics. Mastering the Art of economic calculation, so far the myths of the discipline allow. My argument, however, is that mainstream economists would do very well wondering whether a different epistemological basis could enrich their own analyzes, beyond willing to share the will that encouraged the development of such an epistemology.


And by the way, the Marxist economists would do very well in these hard and gray times, so full of skepticism and claudication, taking and developing the specifically political substance contained in political economy.


But in emphasizing the complementary nature of the analyzes that are typical of scientific rationality and of those that are unique to the Marxist argument, as I have done here, however, I find a suspicious neutrality. In the comparisons I have drawn so far a "political" pole and a "scientific" in the sense of "technical" pole always appear. Attribute to each one its own, identify areas, declare the possible complementarity, certainly emphasize their mutual independence, these are exercises in liberal tolerance that can leave you well satisfied thinking that will surely be pleased to know that Marxism can not do without science and that the latter, in turn, can dispense of Marxism itself. Science would be, in this optimistic vision, a generally applicable tool capable of servicing many possible causes. Marxism, however, would be merely a particular value-based option. It's time to talk of the real differences.


The first question, of course, is the alleged difference between "political" and "technical". Beyond the potential effectiveness, or even the reality of effectiveness, claiming a knowledge to be merely technical is but an ideological operation. The issue is not, properly, "at whos service" a technique is, that is not the principal place of ideologism, but rather what you want to imply from that idea. The notion of "purely technical" rests, firstly, on the idea that it has been derived from a neutral knowledge (that you can "use" for this or that) and on the other hand, the idea that effectiveness derives from knowledge or, also, the precedence of knowledge about power (to have power, you would have to have, first, the right knowledge).


The discussions in the philosophy of contemporary science shows that there isn't sufficient epistemological foundation to defend the externality of knowledge in relation to the context of discovery and thus, any pretense of neutrality. Not only sociological relationships within the scientific community profoundly influence what is accepted as scientific knowledge, as demonstrated by Kuhn, Lakatos, Bourdieu , but has shown time and again the dependence of scientific knowledge from cultural variables and philosophical background, as a characteristic of its historic environment. Scientific knowledge lacks neutrality by its origin, long before its application. Needless to add that this conclusion is fully consistent with a Marxist perspective, which is posted on multiple paragraphs of Marx's work.


2. Theory of value

Marxist political economy is based on the idea of ​​exchange value and on the theory of labor-value, from which it emerges. This section I will detail what these notions are, and some consequences that seem relevant to me, in order to explain Marx's critique of capitalist exploitation. On the historical essence of value in general I will propose a radically anti naturalist and anti utilitarian conception in Section 1 of Chapter V. Here, I shall assume that foundation, to concentrate only on the economic critique as such and on its more political effects.


Until now, human societies have been exchanging objects with material qualities, functions and diverse utilities (a sheep for a sack of wheat, two cattle for a wife, a portion of land for an oath of allegiance) by making them equivalent through socially and historically established fictions of equivalence.[5]


In fact nothing that is exchanged, and so acquires the character of a commodity has an equivalent value to another which is not identical to itself. There is no system to establish such equivalences in a natural, objective manner, outside of human history. The value of any object is, by itself, simply incommensurable with the value of another.


Marx clarified and developed the theory that establishes how the equivalence fiction, which has historically governed the capitalist market, occurs and the characteristics it has. The idea, which comes from Adam Smith and reached Marx through David Ricardo, is that the exchange value, ie the value of an asset on the capitalist market, is determined by the socially necessary labor time to produce it. This statement is what is classically called the "labor theory of value".


The key to this mechanism is in an extraordinary abstraction, which is actually exercised, socially, without anyone having explicit awareness of its operation. The many and various real qualities of goods are abstracted and reduced to something that is in principle a simple amount: a period of time.


Of course a single commodity (a pencil, a sheep) can be produced in various ways, each of which involves different periods of time in their finishing. This is essentially because it can be produced through various technical means (tools, machines), by people with varying degrees of skill. These various periods of time should be considered to obtain a socially necessary time. But the use of these various techniques may have different social impact: with one of them, say, the fastest and most productive, 20% of the total are produced in a given time, while another, slower, produces 80%.


With this, the expression "socially necessary working time", then, refers rather to a weighting of the various rhythms and incidents, being indeed allowed and imposed by different techniques. As a consequence, the exchange value thus established will modified with the progress of technology, or changes in the social impact of the techniques used.


An extremely important result, as I have argued in the previous section, is that the exchange value is actually a historical variable, which can be set by a statistical weighting of these variations, over time and through a whole category of production of concrete objects, and that each particular product in that category, each individual specimen, can be above or below the weighted result.


This is why it is necessary to distinguish in principle the exchange value from the price of an individual commodity. As I mentioned earlier, while exchange value is an empirical variable, but a global and historical one, whose estimation requires an examination of all the ways to produce a commodity, spread over substantial periods of time, the price is a local variable, which can be determined for each individual commodity directly and empirically, with a simple survey on the market, at any given moment.


But at the foundation, there is much more than that. It is essential that, on one hand, there are many ways through which prices may change: changes in supply and demand (relative scarcity), the "appraisement" through ideological factors (a commodities ability to produce a better social status), manipulation of the expectations or needs of the consumer (propaganda), or even simple speculation on relative abundance or scarcity (as in so-called "futures markets"). But, on the other hand, there is only one way to increase the exchange value: increasing the amount of labor embodied in the goods, measured as the weighting that is the socially necessary labor time.


Two specifications are necessary to complete this idea. The first is to distinguish the embodied work from the working time. The substance of value is but embodied human labor. There can be many sources of variation in prices. But the only source of real value is human labor. The way that work is measured in the capitalist market, is working time. It is through this variable that the fiction of the exchange being equivalent is established.


The second is that the work incorporated into a commodity on the one hand comes directly from the manufacturing worker (actual work, or "live work"), and on the other from the labor embodied in the means of production (raw materials , tools) used in this task (accumulated work, or "dead work").


Thus, the theory of labor value has three components. One that it is based on: the only way to add real value to a commodity is human labor. Another is its particular mode of operation: the exchange value of a commodity corresponds to the socially necessary labor to produce it. Another is an epistemological consequence: the exchange value and its variations follows a concept different in principle than price and its mechanisms of variation.


Taking on this third component has been an ongoing headache for most Marxist economists for over a century. To the point of declaring that the main problem of Marxist economics is the correspondence value and price, ie that of finding rules for calculating unit prices of goods when exchange values ​​are known, or calculating exchange values from empirical price series.


As I have already stated, my opinion is that this is a false problem. A problem that stems from the anxiety of economists to understand the political economy as a scientific economics, without taking over their epistemological differences, or the radical difference contained in their different purposes.


But also, it is a completely unnecessary operation to maintain the logic and meaning of Marx's argument. Regarding to Marx's intention, which is to make a structural critique of capitalism, which show the necessity and objective possibility of its overcoming, a detour through the logic that governs the variation of prices is unnecessary. All of his reasoning may be kept in a perfectly consistent and complete way keeping it on the plane of the dynamics followed by the exchange value in the processes of production and re-production of capital.


For Marx a global and historical critique of capitalism is the relevant question. That is the critical perspective that allows the formulation of the perspective of revolution. Regarding this perspective, if mining transnationals artificially kept low copper prices, or artificially high oil prices is not relevant, as important as it may be to the immediate political fight in specific countries. It is not the same criticizing the disastrous consequences of financial speculation than structurally criticize capitalism. Marx does not stop at the "excesses" or "abuses", what he wants to show is that these excesses and abuses are the product of an objective dynamic that exceeds the individual wills of the capitalists. [6]


From the point of view of the foundations, the problem of the difference between exchange value and prices can be settled through a general hypothesis: price fluctuations, local and temporary, tend, historically and globally, to the exchange value.


Preciovalor.png Figure 1: Unit values and prices


Preciovalorglobal.png Figure 2: Global values and prices


In Figure 1, the unit exchange value of a product historically decreases as an effect of technical development, increased productivity. Prices, local and temporary, oscillate asymptotically, historically tending to the actual value.


In Figure 2, the overall amount of appropriated surplus value increases with the development of productive forces. But its increase is decreasing due to the decrease of the rate of profit. Any profit that is not supported by the production of real exchange value varies asymptotically, historically tending to the overall quantity of actually appropriate surplus value.


The main consequence of this hypothesis is that while one or another capitalist may either get rich individually and locally by ingeniously following the swings in prices, the bourgeoisie as a whole, as a class, however, can only increase its wealth by appropriating exchange value. For every capitalist who becomes temporarily rich in this way, as many go bankrupt, or lessen their wealth. Or again, the local and temporal wealth produced by fluctuations in prices vanishes on a global and historical scale, so that the only meaningful thing for the future of capitalism is what happens in the dynamics of exchange value.


In terms of Political Sociology, of classes and class struggle, this implication points to something that profoundly distinguishes Marx's critique from the one exercised by many, even most, of the critics of capitalism. The target of Marx's critique are not "the rich" in general, nor the operation of each, or groups or sectors of capitalists. The object of his critique is capitalism as a system, and the bourgeoisie as a class. Capitalist exploitation in Marx is not a more or less abusive, larger or smaller appropriation of surplus value by each employer, not an interpersonal relationship with social connotations, but the overall appropriation of surplus value by one class from another. For Marx's reasoning is not relevant whether this or that capitalist pays good wages, being more or less generous. The object of his criticism is the overall effect that the action of the bourgeoisie as a class has on the whole of human society.


But this hypothesis, which relates the price swings with the evolution of exchange value, allows us to better specify what can be considered material real wealth unlike the speculative fictitious[7] wealth. Real wealth is the one which is expressed in exchange value, i.e., which comes from the application of human labor to manufacturing of goods. This the only one which counts in deciphering the nature and viability of capitalism as a historical social formation.


One of the fundamental contributions of Marx was to establish that there is a particular commodity which is generally paid according to its exchange value: labour power. Capitalist exploitation occurs, as I will detail in the next section, because when the employee provides value (an amount of work which is incorporated into goods) in return he doesn't receives the price (in cash, wages) of the delivered value, but the prices which corresponds to the cost (exchange value) of the production and reproduction of his labour power. The secret of capitalist exploitation is this: producing and re-producing labour power costs less than the value it produces. The difference is what is called surplus value, and its appropriation is the source of capitalist wealth.


This fact may also be stated this way: under capitalism labor power is a commodity.[8] This is so important that Marx considered the existence of a (free) market for labor to be one of the defining characteristics of capitalism. The other one is private ownership of the means of production.


So far most of what I have argued about the exchange value, details more or clarifications least, could have been subscribed without major problems by a conventional Marxist.[9] But I have not written this book for conventional Marxists but for those who want to discuss new ideas to help better understand the present, and plan for the future, and not merely to conserve and devote a legacy. The theses that follow, seek to adhere to the logic of Marx, but may differ sensibly from what has become up to now the manner and creed of the Marxist tradition.


The crucial point is this: I maintain that there are goods, commonly traded in the capitalist market, whose prices almost never approach the logic of exchange value, which, in general, do not oscillate or tend around it. Ie goods which are not exchanged, not even globally and historically, according to the socially necessary time to produce them.


The most flagrant case is money, which in the logic of finance capital is, neither more nor less, the main merchandise. However, the current distortions and the gigantic proportions this particular form of trade has reached, does not make it the clearest, nor the most general example, neither.


Other examples seem to be clearer and more useful for the doctrinal point I want to propose, in order to extract their economic and political consequences: educational services; works of art; professional practice of sport, law, or medicine. Prices of educational services, for example, in the context of the commodification of education, do not derive at all neither from the social cost of teacher training, nor from the infrastructure used [10]; nobody might think that the progressive and dramatic increase in the price of a painting by Van Gogh obeys to the cost of labor, or of the materials with which it was produced; not the dramatic difference between the cost of post graduate studies and their performance in terms of knowing or, even, to increase employment opportunities.


What these activities have in common is that while on the one hand, the wages paid for them do obey the cost of production and reproduction of the labor force, prices paid for the goods produced do not obey in general, their production costs, in terms of means of production and labor employed. What happens in these cases is that prices are strongly influenced by ideological factors, not only locally and temporarily (as may occur with any good), but globally and historically, that is, outside the purely capitalist logic which governs manufacturing.


That there are these differences, and that these activities may be good business, provides a good reason to distinguish more accurately between surplus value and profit.[11] I will call surplus value only the global and historical usufruct the bourgeoisie as a class derive through the exploitation of labor processes in which exchange value is produced. But I will call profit, however, first to the local and temporal expressions of surplus value (which are manifested as prices, money) and, secondly, the local temporary usufruct being obtained in activities that do not produce real material wealth, but only differences between the invested money and their business results.


The strategic economic importance of this difference is a specification of the general thesis I have set out in respect of the historical relationship between value and price (see Table No. 1). The thesis now is that, in global and historical terms, the profit obtained by the commodification of services[12] varies around the global exchange value, and ends canceling itself, especially after its cyclic destruction during the crisis of speculative capital.


And this thesis also means, therefore, that the bourgeoisie as a class does not increase real wealth through the production of services, however spectacular their temporary profits may seem to us. Or even the other way around, the expected enrichment due to the development of productive forces may even decrease as a result of paralysis triggered by the excessive operation of financial capital over productive capital. Due to the latter effect, you can also consider the speculative wealth as another case of "impoverishing growth", as is also produced based on the plundering of natural resources.[13]


The sociological significance of this overall thesis is the ability to distinguish between workers who produce surplus value (which translates as money, gain), and producing only gain, without entailing a process of creating real value. As much as this may hurt the sensibilities of the union movement organized around this second type of processes [14], this difference is theoretically relevant material to establish, objectively, what is the core of the social sector can be a subject revolutionary cash (on which it should apply maximum political efforts), and which are in progress and diversity, his closest allies. It is important, of course, in the context of strategic communist politics that I raised in the introduction, and all projections to be made from it to the field of immediate political struggle.


The idea that all the profit which is not generated within processes producing real exchange value (and its appropriation as surplus value) is destroyed in financial crises, and vanishes in historical terms, is important, in a divergent manner, both for theoretical work and for immediate political action, because it contributes to assign a more realistic place to the spectacular processes of financial speculation and its catastrophic effects in terms of financial crisis and paralysis of productive capital.


In one direction, in terms of theoretical work, it helps us to remember that the main problems for the deep social critic who has revolutionary vocation are not those which set the tone of television news, or alarms and complicity of bankers and politicians, but those which are contained in the historical and structural features of capitalism. In the other direction, in terms of political struggles, it help us to establish a certain hierarchy of immediate enemies where, in the first place, you have to locate the financial capitalist, who commodified services, which only usufruct from unproductive income, and higher-level bureaucrats, both state and private, who profit from managing their operation. The task of theory is to provide a common argumentative framework for these two levels of analysis and intervention.


To further clarify the explanation of exploitation mechanisms, in the next section, I summarize the overall thesis I have stated. There are three areas that can generate capitalist profit without it arising in the production and ownership of real surplus value: financial speculation; "wealth" produced in the sphere of circulation (trade, income arising from leases); services (education, administration, health, art production or know). Or, conversely, there is only one area in which the surplus value it produces and appropriates is real and effective wealth: producing tangible material goods (manufacturing, mining and processing of raw materials), and the immediate services needed for its actual feasibility.


3. Theory of capitalist exploitation

a. The appropiation of surplus value

A given social relationship can be called exploitation, in general, when it has an unequal exchange of value involved. The concept makes sense when at least one of the two goods is human labor. Specifying this is important because although the enrichment of a social class is due to exploitation, both concepts may not match. There may be many factors that allow a local and temporal enrichment of individual economic operators, however only human labor only allows the actual enrichment of a social class, in global and historical terms. Thus, strictly speaking, only workers who produce real, material exchange value are exploited.


By extension, it can be said that those, whose labor is paid as a commodity (ie, according to the cost of its production and re-production), are also exploited, although the products arising from it are not paid in the same manner (as, for example, services, as I have proposed in the previous section).


Thus the capitalist profit (expressed as a local and temporal price) may be due to exploitation (the appropriation of real surplus value), or usufruct (local and temporal price differences) that can be obtained when purchasing the workforce at its objective exchange value and instead sell its products at prices determined by (subjective) ideological variables. Of course, thirdly, a profit (usufruct) obtained locally and temporarily, only as an effect of the movement of goods (such as trade or financial speculation) is also perfectly possible.


According to the thesis on the relationship between exchange value and prices that I have proposed in the previous chapter, usufruct, ie, the gain produced from services or circulation vanishes global and historically, is destroyed in the global crisis of capitalism. Because of this, I will restrict the analysis in this section only to exploitation in the strict sense, ie the appropriation of real surplus value.


Therefore, to the extent that only human labor produces real value, I will not consider it appropriate to speak of "exploitation of nature". There is no "natural" value. All value is created historically by human labor. Only in a very broad sense and, in fact, simply metaphorically, I will later talk of the "exploitation of nature" to distinguish the predatory capitalism, that impoverishes the natural and social means of which it has usufructed through the ground rent (mining, fishing, agriculture), from the classic bourgeois, which are able to maintain a relatively sustainable relationship with their environment.[15]


In capitalism, exploitation is an uneven trade of exchange value in which one of the exchanged terms is wage labor. The critical connotation of the word exploitation, in this context, long before this review becomes a moral judgment, derives from the fact that this exchange is passing out the fiction[16] of equivalence presiding commodity exchange in the capitalist market itself.


The objective judgment, then, "this is an exploited labor" is an internal view, with respect to the rules of the bourgeois exchange itself. According to the logic of wage labor contract, the employee will be paid "his work". What to ask then is what is the exchange value of the work performed. This corresponds to the exchange value of what his workforce has added to the means of production brought in by the capitalist. That value added by the labor force I'll call " surplus value". The capitalist, in turn, has provided the raw materials, tools, infrastructure, to carry out the task of valuation. These are the "means of production".


After a productive cycle, the capitalist will sell the product in the market, and prices he obtains will reflect the exchange values embodied in production as surplus value (the actual, or "live" labor), and as exchange value of the used means of production (work accumulated in them by those who produced them, or "dead" labor). When this sale is successful, it is said to have "realized​​" the goods.[17]


If we return to the employment contract, the capitalist should recover, from the price obtained, the exchange value invested in means of production. All the rest, which comes from the immediate valuation process, the worker should be paid, since that corresponds to the surplus value, ie, the value of what has been "his work". If in this alleged exchange of equivalents we assign the capitalist some compensation merely because of the fact, secondary in rigor, of having put these factors in contact with each other, where does the real capitalist profit come from, a profit, of course, that at their eyes would justify their effort?


Globally considering the historical situation, it is quite obvious that, for participating in this cycle, the bourgeoisie does receive something, and much more than compensation. And it is also obvious that they appreciate their participation in the process as a much more meaningful contribution than merely "putting these factors in touch." On the one hand the overall profit of the bourgeoisie is not at all explained by this set of equivalents. Furthermore, their rationalization of the entire process and of the rupture of equivalent exchange that it contains, differs significantly from what they do consider fair when only exchanging usual goods with each other.


A coal miner will be living all of his life in poverty and will die without having accumulated assets after decades of painstaking effort; the owner of the mine, which may have worked diligently in his administration or not, in those same decades becomes rich.


You would think, by the rhetoric of equivalence and eventual justice surrounding the contract, that the worker has been paid "for his work". In terms of human exchange this could mean "for his effort, for his dedication." But it should also mean in a slightly more objective way, "in proportion to what has been produced". The discourse that employers have become accustomed to do every Labor Day usually abound in this type of acknowledgment, carried to the point of worship.[18]


Everything seems to happen as if while exchanging one physical good for another, say, a sheep for money, the bourgeois said "for this, which is an object, I do not pay more than its cost of production (weighted by their relative abundance or scarcity)" and, on the other hand, when it comes to buying "work", the bourgeois said "for this that makes up a human being, I will pay what their efforts and skills deserve". There seems to be a double standard: physical goods are paid by exchange value, "work" is paid as some kind of value-based estimate. It is very important to note that this reasoning has really guided, more or less effectively, the way the bourgeois purchase the work of artists or craftsmen they esteem, of teachers or academics who seem wise, of doctors of whom they believe they can save them or keep them healthy, or faithful stewards accompanying them directly all of their life.


Despite the enthusiasm of bourgeois rhetoric, however, a great merit of Karl Marx, is to have revealed the fact that by buying "work" destined to manufacturing in their factories, capitalists aren't guided by these "humanist" valuations nor, even, by the fiction of retribution proclaimed in their contracts. They purchase "work" according to the same merciless logic with which they buy a sheep: according to how much it costs to produce it. They purchase manufacturing "work" as an additional commodity.


To clarify this idea Marx distinguished "work" from "labor force". If the worker is paid the value of "what he has worked", he should be payed all the surplus value that has been added to the means of production, and the bourgeois should only deduct a "compensation" for its task of coordination, equivalent or not substantially greater than a common salary either. Instead bourgeois pays only the "labor force", which is equivalent, in Marx's at the same time poetic and unusually precise words, to the "expenditure of muscles and nerves" he has made, valued, such as a sheep or either a sack of wheat, according to their cost of production. The difference occurs because the workforce is able to produce more value than it itself costs. This difference is what can properly be called surplus value. The bourgeois becomes rich because he appropriates and accumulates surplus value created by workers.


Under the assumption that only human labor can valorize the good, ie, that the only real wealth, in a global and historical sense, is that which comes from work that produces tangible goods, the cycle through which the capitalist enriches begins when investing money in buying means of production and labor power. Throughout the production cycle, the worker adds value to the means of production, transforming them into a product. The capitalist takes the product, selling it on the market. In the price obtained are incorporated: the exchange value of the means of production, and the surplus value added by the labor force. From that surplus value he recovers what has been invested in workforce (what has been paid in wages), and obtains a difference (surplus value), equal to its actual profit.


As throughout this process the means of production do not add value (only the current work can), Marx called the money invested in them Constant Capital (CC), and named its projection on the final value of merchandise as transferred value (tv). Instead, as the workforce does add value, he called the money invested in it Variable Capital (VC) , which projected on the final value of the goods equals the wage (w). All these concepts, and the process itself, can be seen summarized as in the following chart.


Valorplusvalor.png


Note that, as in capitalist exchange of any goods, a key factor in all this is the time: the goods are exchanged for the socially necessary time to produce them. The capitalist does not pay the worker all the time he has been working along and producing surplus value, but only that part he has occupied in producing a value equivalent to the cost of his own labor force. An obvious consequence of this is that in good accounts, the worker himself produces his own salary. All the bourgeois invested in salary he will recover when realizing the goods.


Because of this, for Marx it is important to distinguish, along this generic workday, which is the paid time (pt), the worker creates a value equivalent to its own wage, from the unpaid time (upt), during which all of the value he produces is appropriated as surplus value. Both are distinguished in the graph around the point A, in which the progressive valuation curve cuts the level of wages, and its projection on the time axis.


Having put things this way, Marx defines two relationships that are key to express and develop his critique, which clearly show the clarity and depth of his reasoning.


On the one hand, he defines an exploitation rate as the ratio of unpaid time and time paid off. It should be noted that, simply applying Tales Theorem on the graph, this is equivalent to the ratio between the surplus value and the wage.


Tasasexploganan.png


On the other hand he defines a profit rate, as the ratio between the surplus value and the sum of Constant Capital and Variable Capital. According to its habit of using Hegelian formulas, Marx calls this sum Organic Composition of Capital (CC + VC).


From an epistemological point of view both definitions are notable for their character, and the political implications involved.


On the one hand Marx works with rates, or proportions, not absolute values. Remember that also generally he works with weights and global values​​, not with specific empirical values​​, or with simple statistical series of local values. You could say that for the reasoning of Marx the absolute enrichment is not relevant (the profit'), which is what has historically filled with indignation the anarchist and socialist utopians (and himself), but the ratio of what the capitalist invests and what he earns, that is, not how much money he gains with a particular business (the profit mass), but how good that business was (the profit rate). We can see this difference by the apparent paradox which is summarized in the following table Nr. 1:


Table 1 - Comparing two profit rates
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Bourgeois CC (Means of Production) VC (Wage) CC+VC (1+2) Nr. of Units Unit Price Profit Mass (4*5) Surplus Value (6-3) Profit Rate (7/3)
1 100 100 200 100 5 500 300 300/200=1,5
2 50 50 100 100 3 300 200 200/100=2,0
Comparison Bourgeois 2 invests less Investments But sells at a better price Bourgeois 2 earns less But does a better business


What we see here, is that even though the second bourgeois earned less (profit mass), his business was better (profit rate). In examining the numbers in this table, which provides only an abstract and isolated example, you can see that the effect (in this case) is due to the fact, that the second bourgeois, although he invested only half than the first, achieved more than half the first price (he sold at 3, not 2.5). If each unit had been sold at 2.5 all factors are evenly halved, and the rate of profit would have been the same. His ability (in this case) is that has managed to sell relatively more expensive than the first.


This situation, and the way chosen by Marx to address it, have huge consequences, as I shall later explain, when examining not only the specific fact of appropriation of surplus value, which is what I have shown here, but its evolution through many cycles of production of goods, ie, considering the re-production of capital in its historical dimension.


In the same way, and counter to the immediate indignation from anarchist and utopian socialists (and himself), Marx does not reason on the basis of absolute wage, ie the material poverty of workers arising from capitalist abuse, but from the ratio of wages and profit.


In an extreme, again abstract, case, just to show this point, we can consider the following comparison, summarized in Table Nr. 2:


Table 2 - Comparing two exploitation rates
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Worker CC (Means of Production) VC (Wage) CC+VC (1+2) No. of Units Unit Price Profit Mass (4*5) Surplus Value (6-3) Exploitation Rate (7/2)
1 300 100 400 100 5 500 100 100/100=1,0
2 600 200 800 1000 1,2 1200 400 400/200=2,0
Comparison Worker 2 earns twice an amount Bougeois 2 produces 10 times more But his prices are reduced 10 times Bourgeois 2 earns 4 times more Worker 2 is exploited twice as much


Here you can see aspects that also have huge projections. On the one hand, the second bourgeois invests twice as much than the first, but with that he manages to produce ten times more. This increased productivity is probably due to having invested in tools and machines that have far superior development and technological power as compared to those used by the first bourgeois . This increase in productivity allows him increase his profit mass despite reduced unit prices: to sell cheaper, but sell more. But not only that. The increase in productivity has allowed him to increase the wages of his workers, an issue which, projected historically, has enormous political implications. However, in an apparent paradox, these workers who have increased their salaries are, according to the criterion of Marx, more exploited. The exploitation rate you get from them is, plain and simply, twice as high. A situation that is repeated again and again in the history of capitalist technological development: increased productivity will, in turn, enable higher wages and higher rates of exploitation.


It is part of Marx's huge insight to have followed this thread of the rate of exploitation, to examine its impact on the evolution of capitalism, instead of stopping in the other thread, much more visible and outrageous, which is the wage considered absolutely, the visible misery, as did all the other leftist anti-capitalist critics, and as most Marxist politicians normally do, until today.


Conceptually, as I have insisted, this point is extremely important. It shows that, however outrageous and urgent poverty is, Marx's allegation is not directed primarily against it, but against exploitation.


In the logic of Marx, actually the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, as utopian socialists and anarchists have rightly found out empirically. What is not true, however, is that workers, producers of surplus value, are necessarily getting poorer. Increased productivity not only allows the capitalist to historically increase real wages, but even generates a series of pressures, some internal to capitalist competition (structural), and others derived from the processes produced by such competition, on the future of capitalism (historical), that will make these increases necessary.


This progressive rise of the labor force's prices will, in the reasoning of Marx, result one of the key factors in the actual development of capitalism. In this logic, which is fully internal to his theory, resides the root of a phenomenon that is empirically verifiable today, conspicuously, and that most Marxists, reasoning in the very style of utopian socialists, are bent on denying, even tearing their clothes and making all kinds of scandals: that the real, actual wage, considered as purchasing power, has risen steadily in historical terms among workers effectively integrated to capitalist production. And that is, neither more nor less, the origin of the vast "middle class" that grew throughout the twentieth century. A stupid denomination, that stems from not understanding this aspect of the logic of Marx, and re-conceptualizing workers not in terms of social class (direct producers), but in terms of social stratification (according to their salary levels).


Of course, at this point, some will rush to show calculations indicating that the wage of workers has dropped globally in historical terms. The most common "trick", that goes generally unnoticed, in these calculations, is including in the salary averages the huge mass of potential labor force that is not actually integrated into capitalist production, even not as reserve army, that is, the hundreds of millions of human beings who not only don't have precarious jobs, but are simply absolutely jobless. Obviously, if we carry this enormous mass, which does not produce real surplus value for the simple fact of being unemployed, onto the wages actually paid, the average does not only have to be very low, but because of the tendency to structural unemployment could even go decreasing even more. In the logic of Marx, as will later be explained, there is a consistent way of accounting for this enormous reality of marginalization. A way that makes it unnecessary to criticize it by using these spurious averages.


Another notable difference between the reasoning of Marx and other leftist anti capitalist critics, which is closely related to the previous one, is the complexity with which considers the salary variable.


In principle, considered as a commodity, wages correspond to the cost of production of the workforce. This literally corresponds to what it costs to keep a worker producing, ie, the cost of food, clothing, housing, etc., all he needs to stay alive, and able to work and also what he requires to replenish the labor force he has spent in a productive cycle, and to be available for the next one. The critical literature traditionally called the cost determined by these factors a "subsistence wage."


In the evolution of capitalism, however, two crucial re-productions occur. One is the re-production of capital which, so far, I have described as one case and in isolation. For capitalism to persist in time, the situation of appropriation of surplus value must be repeated, and expanded, again and again. If up to now I have described the production cycle of capital, ie how, after an initial investment, the bourgeois comes to appropriate surplus value, then it will be later necessary to describe the reproductive cycle of capital, ie, how this is repeated and expanded again and again, until capitalism is converted into a social system.


But, secondly, in an exactly corresponding manner, for this re-production of capital to be possible, the workforce itself must be re-produced. This means, firstly and trivially, that workers should have children and train them as future workers, and also, more subtly, that new generations of workers must be prepared to assume the new techniques and ways of working that will occur because of capitalist competition.


The economic effect of this requirement is that the cost of the labor force has two components. One of them is related to its production, the other, much more complex, to its re-production. The first, the subsistence wage, historically tends to decrease, due to technological development and increased productivity, and the consequent historical downward trend in unit prices of manufactured products. Each time it costs less to keep each worker able to produce. The second, however, by virtue of the multiple factors that determine it, historically tends to rise. The progressive rise of the labor force's price in historical terms is due to this second factor and grows much faster than the first decreases. A notable aspect of Marx's multiple contributions is that, counter to all other leftist critics, he was able to predict this phenomenon, and to integrate it fully and consistently to his explanation of the mechanism of cyclical crises, and to his predictions on the need for expansion of the capitalist system.


The cost of reproduction of the labor force is a complex variable, strongly influenced by social and cultural aspects. On one side the capitalist must assume that, in the salary paid, the needs of the worker's family (reproduction literally) must be included, those of his wife if she doesn't work, those of their children. One of the reasons for the rise of the modern nuclear family (restricted to father, mother and children) is that no bourgeois considered it necessary, beyond this simple reproduction, to pay their workers enough to keep grandparents, uncles or servants, he instead did consider he requires and deserves.


A second aspect is that the bourgeoisie has to assume one way or another the cost of technical training needed for workers to be enabled to efficiently exercise their industrial work, either by direct technical training in the workplace, or indirectly through social spending on education, to which they must contribute with their taxes.[19]


If the first cost factor, immediate reproduction, is but an extension of the subsistence wage and, as such, tends to decrease historically, this second factor, however, due to the technical complexity of production only increases constantly. If the passage of craft guilds to Taylorism and Fordism can be seen as attempts to reduce this cost, replacing workers with complex skills by workers with low qualification, the historical trend has shown, however, that these only had partial and temporary effects. On one hand, if the cost of the qualification of the immediate workers fell drastically, the overall cost of the qualification for the job, which should considered industrial designers, coordinators and administrators, increased significantly. Finally, with post Fordist organization, the attempt to reduce the cost of this second type of workers by directly qualifying those of the first type, once again only increased the overall cost.


But beyond these two main factors, the reproduction of the labor force is substantially affected by social and political variables. First, the constant pressure of the trade union movement to improve wage levels. But also the horizon of material development that produces capitalist progress itself, which in turn acts on the expectations of the labor movement. Moreover, the growing self-validation, founded on mere ideological variables, of professionals offering services (doctors, academics, administrators, artists), which allows them to increase the prices of their bid beyond the cost of reproduction of their skills, and this acting in turn as a model for the expectations of the other workers.


A striking phenomenon, and only in some extreme sense, which derives from these variables, occurs in industrial economies during their times of relative stability, where workers simply do not accept jobs below a certain "socially acceptable minimum wage", preferring unemployment to less legitimate tasks that offer lower wages. This is in good accounts, opening the doors to migration flows of workers in whose countries the average salary is even lower, who came to deal with the most basic services, domestic jobs or less paid factory work. It is in this way that, until very recently, before the current crisis, Europe looked at the curious spectacle of millions of migrant workers in parallel to a similar amount of millions of unemployed European workers. Of course, after this initial trend, two powerful forces contributed to converting it into the huge demographic revolution that is one of the most visible features of post-Fordist labor. On the one hand the capitalist's greed continuing to hunt for cheaper labor work. On the other, the mirage pushing migrants to leave their countries under the promise that they will have an opportunity for social advancement. The historical tragedy of these population movements to the havens of capitalism is that social mobility also contributes to a global increase in labor force prices, so that eventually the capitalists turn their back to their own countries, close their factories and reopen them in countries where the cost of labor is still lower ... leaving behind a dramatic and gigantic trail of frustrated migration and social violence.


The important thing here is that capitalist progress itself, the gradual increase in living standards that it makes possible, do generate a historical trend of rising labor force costs. Marx prophetically considered this trend to be one of the social, specific factors that determine the future of capitalism, its structural tendency towards crisis.


b. The reproduction of capital

When we generally examine the economic cycle through which surplus value is extracted from the production of value by the work force, and put it within the general logic of capitalism, what we find is that the real sense that this movement has for the capitalist is NOT to satisfy some need, even produce some real good which would do so, but simply to have a new share of capital at the end of the cycle, ideally greater than the first, to invest it again. It is no accident that we could describe the whole cycle alluding to "some commodity" without specifying whether it was books, food, weapons or cocaine.[20]


In fact, considering the entire process, from the initial investment of constant and variable capital to the realization of the goods, from the capitalist's point of view, what has been produced in it is capital and the real merchandise, as well as the action of the labor force, appear as mere means to achieve it. That's why this whole process can be called a cycle of production of capital and not, for example, the work cycle, or the production of goods, even if it actually ist.


The real situation, however, is that the capitalist must do this again and again, and many capitalists will do it ​​simultaneously, and its action will spread over many cycles, will extend historically and socially. This extension, and these necessary repetitions, is that we must now designate, adding two components to that name that designates a particular instant. Now we have to address the process (not cycle) of re (again and again) production of capital.


The production cycle of capital has helped us to understand in a targeted and yet analytical manner, how the appropriation of surplus value, capitalist exploitation, occurs in its particular cell. The process of re-production of capital should serve to understand the dynamics of capitalism as a whole, to understand its "laws" and locate the appropriation of surplus value in a more concrete and specific historical context. From an epistemological point of view this is the transition from the abstract and particular to the level that is more typical of Marxist analysis, global and historical consideration.


Marx devoted forty years of research and systematization to that global and historical analysis of capitalism. His many attempts and their results can be seen in four major texts. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859); the first volume of the Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867); a huge number of preparatory manuscripts that were published only in 1939 under the title Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy (the famous "Grundrisse"), written between 1857 and 1859; the second and third volumes Capital, sorted and edited by Frederick Engels in 1884 and 1894. To this we add hundreds of pages of notes, whole notes and texts that have been published since his death, as the Theories of Surplus Value, edited by Karl Kautsky in 1905; the Chapter VI of the first volume of Capital, which remained unpublished for nearly a century, and several hundred pages, incredibly, have not been published until today.[21]


In all this vast material, which certainly requires several semesters of specific study, and that lends itself to several tens of explanatory texts, this book I'm interested in only the most essential of his line of argument. And I can only beg the reader to contrast (and control) the adequacy of the minimum corresponding abstract undertaking the necessary research, that will surely be full of significant details, variants and lively debate, which I here have no way of recording. My purpose is only to generally record the procedure required by the development of Marx's argument, list its main results and, above all, show its political consequences.


From an empirical point of view, the task of Marx requires examining what happens over many production cycles with a particular commodity (eg tomatoes or chairs) considering the competition that occurs between different producers, applying varying degrees of technological development. Then it requires extending the analysis to consider the effects of competition and technology in an entire branch of production (for example, food production, or furniture). Marx's conclusion, after these analyzes is that the internal logic of capitalism leads in each branch to cyclical crises of overproduction, with a number of effects that I will list later.


But that is not enough. The next step is to see how the logic of the crisis will then affect the entire production of manufactured goods. But in turn, to this, Marx saw the same phenomenon in parallel on three key areas, which then interacted with each other. The production of manufactured goods, the production of raw materials (or, more generally, the "ground rent": fishing, mining, agriculture), and the production of means of production. After showing that the cyclical trend of the crisis of overproduction is repeated in each of these areas, he could shown that, in turn, their composition and interaction leads, also in a cyclical and structural way, to a general crisis of capitalism as a whole.


This internal and structural propensity for crisis may be understood, although not in the terminology and in the way in which Marx himself formulated his theory, by starting from one of the most remarkable epistemological features it contains: Marx developed a situated, historical economic analysis, stating as its starting point a real situation (not an abstract competition model).


The actual historical situation is that the capitalist economy is founded on competing individual, originally unequal operators, that act in a structurally opaque market.


On the one hand, they were never equal, these agents never had the same skills or the same means available, or the same access to sources of initial capital. On the other hand they can never know, or estimate, the joint state of the economy, not only for its complexity, but because they compete with each other, and that forces them to hide their intentions and advantages until such time that they can carry them out effectively. The capitalist market not only is not transparent, not only never comes to be transparent, but is so constituted in such a way that it can not be transparent. The overall result of this opacity is that each individual capitalist, if he wants to survive as such, has no choice but to try to compete with advantage, and part of this attempt is just to hide his intentions until performing them.


Of course, one can obtain advantages in many ways. By force, through corruption (eg, insider information), through manifest abuse (for example, overexploiting workers). And each of these forms can be documented very extensively in real capitalism, and have been denounced and challenged not only by leftist critics, but also by more progressive liberals. Again, however, the great merit of Marx is to not have stood still at these figures of capitalist "abuse" to moralize from them, as did and still do almost all other opponents on the left (and he himself did), but to focus his analysis on what could be considered the "best" possible capitalism [22], which makes technical progress, which can pay, relatively speaking, better wages, and from there to show not only that under its operation the tendency to crisis remains (and in some sense is sharpened), but the alleged "abuses" are really necessary resources that, beyond their moral content, do belong to the overall logic of capital historically considered.


Marx's critique thus, is substantially more powerful than any other leftist critic. "Abuses" of capital do not arise (or do not have to originate) in any particular ill will or moral disposition (as profit greed, unbridled selfishness or avarice), but are, using that curious Weberian formula, perfectly understandable "rational actions" in the context of an objective logic.


But even more, what happens in his criticism, on the other hand, is that it can be shown that the other types of actions which, now in evaluative sense, can be called "rational" like appealing to technological development in order to increase productivity , also lead to crisis, with all the negative moral connotations that critics abound in pointing out. That is, even the "best" capitalism is structurally questionable or also general crises are not a defect of the movement of capital but precisely, given their concrete historical conditions, its main result. As Hegel said, "contradiction is the soul of becoming": perfectly rational individual actions are combined in such a way, that the overall result is irrational.


Let us then just that follow this way. From the actions of certain "good" capitalists, understand how the crisis occurs, how, from it, these same agents are forced to become "bad" capitalists, and how, when you consider the process as a whole, those moralizing adjectives, "good", "bad", "rational", "irrational", lose sense and, once dissipated, leave us with the picture of an inherently contradictory and catastrophic society.


Following this thread, the general point is that the "rational" action of each capitalist in a competitive, uneven and opaque market can only be trying to compete with advantage. He best accomplishes this if he can produce better and cheaper, thus leading to the bankruptcy of his competitors. The best strategy for this would be to try to maximize profits and then, from there, "give up" part of it by lowering prices.


In this logic, the effort to maximize the profit is not due to greed or the lust for lucre, nor the price reduction is, conversely, due to a fit of generosity, but both can be understood as means for a perfectly rational economic purpose. Or again, to elaborate further on this point, which I think is crucial, Marx's argument does not require attributing capitalists any particular moral condition except seeking their own and their kin's benefit. The argument can be kept perfectly in an objective (and objectifying) plane of the actions and economic purposes only. If we consider the value / time graph we have used to describe the appropriation of surplus value, we'll see that there are basically two ways you can increase the profits, or the appropriated surplus value. To show the first, I've gathered two situations on the same graph to compare them:


Valorplusvalía.png

The situation differs in that B's working time (tB) is greater than A's (tA). As the appreciation that the workforce exert on the means of production depends mainly on time, the immediate effect of this change is that the surplus value from B (SB) is higher than that from A (SA).


It is important to note (but is not registered in this chart) that one would have achieved the same effect (SB> SA) if by going from A to B the wages would have decreased. (This is what is indicated by the thick arrows).


These two mechanisms, increase of working hours or lowering wages in order to increase the profit, are what Marx called "mechanisms to increase the surplus value on the absolute path" and it is common for Marxists refer to them with the contraction "absolute surplus value".[23]


This option, then, gives the existence of working days of ten, twelve or fourteen hours full sense (whose existence can be extensively documented through the history of capitalism), or mechanisms to reduce wages (like paying women less, hiring child labor or suppressing labor rights). And these are the practices that rightly can be called "savage capitalism" or "bad capitalism". To the extent these are highly visible practices that are used very often and, of course, have a direct impact on the lives of workers, most of the left critique rightly has been traditionally focused on them.


But just as it is said, it is NOT from here that Marx organizes his critique. There is another, very different way of increasing the surplus value, that can be seen in the following chart where, again, I have gathered two situations to compare them.


ValorProductividad.png

Now what happens is that the pace of valuation is different in each case. In situation B, within the same working time, more value is added to the means of production than in A. This is possible because the productivity of labor has been increased. Marx calls these procedures "mechanisms to increase the surplus value on the relative path" and it is commonly referred to as "relative surplus value".


Using today's terms it could be said that there is a "hardware mode" to increase productivity, which is to have better tools and machines, and a "software mode", that, with the same machines, involves improving the order in which concrete, particular operations are performed in the course of productive work. In this second case, to the extent that the working day is maintained, optimizing the order of operations increases the working time during which the raw materials are being really and directly transformed. So we can speak of intensification of working time. [24]


Throughout the twentieth century the importance of this optimization in the order and how the production processes are organized, has been determining modes of capitalist accumulation, distinguishable by these techniques and by the innumerable effects on social relationships. These modes, whose origin and nature are rooted in the organization of industrial work, are Taylorism, Fordism and Post Fordism.[25] Again we find here one aspect prophetic in studies of Marx, who was able to anticipate each of these forms and their effects on capitalist development.


Concluding, the maximization of profit can be obtained by way of absolute surplus value or relative surplus value. Before considering the effects, and the role each of them plays in the course of the competition, let us directly compare them with each other.


A first and crucial way to compare is to examine the direct effect they have on exploitation. Of course the absolute surplus value, to the extent that it resorts to decreased wages, increases what we usually mean by exploitation. And, conversely, to the extent that increases in productivity allow, in principle, to raise wages, the relative surplus value would seem to decrease.


The result obtained in addressing the exploitation rate, however, is exactly the opposite. If we compare the paid time and the unpaid time, in the case of absolute surplus value (see graph), we obtain:


tpA = tpB but tnpA < tnpB, as the exploitation rate is Rexp = tnp / tp,


RexpA = tnpA / tpA < RexpB = tnpB / tpB is obtained


That is, although the salary decreases, the exploitation rate also decreases.


However, in the case of relative surplus value:


tpA > tpB and, as the total time is the same, tnpA < tnpB, thus, on calculating the exploitation rate, both factors operate in the same direction, obtaining:


tnpA / tpA < tnpB / tpB[26]


This is, although the salary increases, the exploitation rate also increases.


This difference between exploitation and exploitation rate that I mentioned, has enormous political consequences, which I will discuss in the following chapters. So far we have progressed as follows: while resorting to absolute surplus value by increasing what is commonly meant by exploitation is the most frequent target of criticism from the left, it is actually not the most essential and profound effect of capitalist oppression.


The increase in the rate of exploitation, which results from using relative surplus value, is not only a numerical calculation, or a mere relative indicator, it really is the factor that accounts for the increasing alienation of the proletariat as a social class. If we understand alienation literally like being stripped of what is proper (that what is proper becomes strange), the exploitation rate is a better indicator of this appropriation, of the the ratio between what the worker puts from himself, as effort in his work, and what he gets as salary, than the absolute level of wages, especially in the case where this absolute level rises in real terms.


If absolute surplus value relates to the alienation brought by physical poverty, relative surplus value is an indicator of the alienation that occurs in abundance. And, of course, this is not just a numerical calculation. When we bring these seemingly abstract factors down to the level of everyday life and express them in existential terms, the meaning of the phrase " the rate of exploitation increases" expresses what is a situation in which the worker is responsible for ever increasing product volumes, on which he must operate through increasingly complex interfaces, in which his eventual labor faults will become increasingly costly for the employer. The extreme technical division of labor that is necessary to maintain and control this situation (Taylorism, Fordism) directly impact on his body, his sensory capabilities, his capacities for disciplined attention and reaction. With all this even the form of fatigue changes. From rather muscular fatigue which requires an extensive workday it passes to a neuromuscular and psychological fatigue, rather affecting fine motor and mental activity. Correspondingly, new and more intense ways to restore his workforce are required, which will lead to a tendency of the whole system to colonize the "free" time, in order to ensure that restoration, to ensure that the worker is able to continue being exploited the next day.


All this dehumanization is contained in the seemingly harmless formula, "increasing rate of exploitation". And it is remarkable that the calculation of Marx is fully aware of these potential economic and existential components and constantly combines them. Here we see once again the deep sense of what "political economy" means, ie, an economic calculation in which human suffering is constantly at the center. And this should also be present whenever the simple estimates see in the increase of salaries allowed by relative surplus value the "good" aspect of capitalism.


Another way to compare both types of increase in surplus value is considering its social consequences. While the use of absolute surplus value implies a net worsening in the situation of the workers (lower wages, a longer work day), the use of the relative way makes it possible to improve wages directly and also by the lower unit cost manufactured products will have, it enables its indirect increase, ie, an increase in purchasing power.


But there are important elements that complicate this apparent dichotomy. The first is that the "wild" capitalism is not socially viable, in one particular society for a long time. It is politically unstable. From the moment industrialization became widespread, multiple forms of resistance appeared, of organization and political pressure from workers. When observing the century of labor struggles going from 1830 to 1930, and putting it in the perspective of the previous one thousand years, any observer will be amazed at the countless rights conquered, especially in the core capitalist countries. The right itself to organize, the extension of political rights and guarantees recognized by the state, the pressure on states to undertake policies of education, health, urban development and housing. And above all, two rights that directly undermine the absolute surplus value: the reduction of the working day up to a maximum of eight hours, and sustained pressure to set minimum wages, and to maintain and improve the average salary. Even bourgeois states, also driven by the needs that generated the general crisis, had to accommodate these demands and enlarge them to form what were called "welfare states". At least for a moment in history (1935-1985), and at least in one of the worlds (Europe, USA, Japan), the "wild" capitalism seemed not to be feasible.


We now know, however, that it may continue, and in fact remained perfectly viable and completely real. On the one hand, the prosperity of that first world was sustained by the systematic looting of much of the planet. And on the other, and according to the most dire predictions of Marx, there was absolutely nothing sacred or untouchable in this well-being, and since the early 80s not only a dismantlement began of all their conquests in the first world but , and this is what has the greatest historical projection, the capitalists, without any "love of their fatherland", proceeded to de-industrialize their own core countries, and carried the bulk of manufacturing to the "third" world, that had been stigmatized by the dominant ideology as "unable to develop".[27] And they have done this, neither more nor less, through the "cruel" and "evil" absolute surplus value. As a famously quoted Don Vito Corleone would have said: "really nothing personal, just a business problem ...".


If, on the other hand, we stop at the "beneficial" and praised procedures that use relative surplus value, we again find the contradiction. It happens that the extraordinary technological advance allows to greatly increase the volume of production while progressively employing less workers. This effect is often called "structural unemployment trend" or, directly, "structural unemployment." But it happens that the workers are at the same time, the main potential consumers. There cannot be more and more goods available while fewer workers. This would directly aggravate the tendency to general crisis of overproduction.


As is widely known, the "welfare states", and even those that were not so much, sought to resolve this contradiction by promoting intensive tertiarization of the economy, on a scale never before seen in human history. An industrial and developed country as the United States came to have, in their golden years, up to 70% of its labor force employed in the production of services, against 25% that produced all manufactured goods, and only 5% dedicated production of all the food that its population required. It is remarkable and extraordinary that only a hundred years ago the ratio of agriculture and services used to be the exact inverse. These policies, which were called "of full employment", did not involve, in historical terms, anything but the ideal that all human beings earn a salary, regardless of the futility and stupidity of job performed, provided that it is spent on purchasing the products the market does not stop providing.


But not only that. The policies of containment of the trend to crisis again and again turned to war, to programmed obsolescence of goods, frank waste (such as sending men to the moon, or building giant particle accelerators), ie, to direct and irrational destruction of the products of the productive efforts of the whole society, only to make room for the sale of new goods.


And, again, the contradiction. For all that to work, the big capitalist firms had to increase wages and, above all, pay a substantial part of their profits in taxes. And the results, now this way, the way of abundance and waste, also tended to what I have described only two paragraphs above: plundering of the Third World, deindustrialization of the First.


c. The capitalist crisis

The great ghost walking the capitalist world, rather as a recurrent horseman of the apocalypse, is the general crisis, the crisis of overproduction.


As said in advance, to understand how they occur, Marx endeavored to analyze the result of the "best" possible capitalism, one that draws on the relative mechanisms to increase its appropriation of surplus value.


We can also condense his argument in the charts have been used so far, but I now will also support the explanation with numerical examples that describe in several stages.


We can begin to clarify the general case if we notice that on the chart where I showed the relative surplus value by bringing together, for purely pedagogical reasons, the two situations A and B, is actually hiding something essential, that is now pertinent to add.


The difference can be seen by separating both situations into two parallel graphics:

AumentoCC.png


What actually happens is that to move from situation A to situation B, to increase productivity, it is necessary to increase investment in Constant Capital (CC), ie, buy more complex machines, develop or pay more advanced techniques. It is also necessary to remember that the economic sense of this step is to eventually "relinquish" a part of the unity profit (which is obtained for every unit of output) in order to be able to lower the prices.


But by limiting the unit profit, while increasing the investment in constant capital, the profit rate decreases. The surplus value (SV) obtained (by reducing prices) is more or less the same, but the invested capital (CC + CV) is greater: [28] DisminuyeTasaGanancia.png


Note that this reduction would be even greater if not only the Constant Capital (CC), but also wages (VC) were increased.


Let us examine this in more detail, through a numerical example that I will develop in stages. In this example I have also composed two elements that make all of the process a little more real. One is the actual fact that the capitalist always devotes part of the surplus value to his own consumption and enjoyment, thus withdrawing it from the process of re-production capital. Another is that when it is a re-production process that includes many individual production cycles, it is necessary for the capitalist to devote a portion of his profits to replacement of the progressive of wear suffered by his machines and tools, either maintaining them, repairing, or accumulating a capital fund for their replacement. With this, the fate of the surplus value obtained is determined: 1st,reproduce the invested capital, ie, re-invest in CC and VC, and replace the wear of their means of production; 2nd, removing a portion for their own consumption; 3rd, invest an additional amount in CC and VC to extend the cycle. And it is for these three objectives that all this can be called "process of expanded reproduction of capital": production - reproduction - expansion.


In Table 1 I have recorded, with relatively arbitrary numbers, the first step, only the production of new capital from an initial capital investment:


Table 1 - The Production of Capital
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CC (Means of production) VC (Wages) CC+VC
(1+2)
Nr. of units Unit price Profit mass
(4*5)
Surplus value
(6-3)
Profit rate
(7/3)
Exploitation rate
(7/2)
100 100 200 100 5 500 300 300/200=1,5 300/100=3,0
CC 100
CV 100
Replace 20
80 Consume CC' 100
VC' 100
Reinvestment as well as replacement and consumption are charged to surplus value.
44 units 220 80 200
Minimal Sales Recover
Replace
Consume Reinvest


It is remarkable, and it is no coincidence that in this table we can put a number of units of "some product" without specifying what it is (chairs, shoes, books, etc..). This is because, as I indicated above, that the capitalist sense of this whole operation is to produce (increase) the capital itself, no matter through what products (weapons, cocaine, snuff) this is achieved.


But for this operation to complete, it will be necessary to "realize" the goods, ie sell them. That is why I entered the unit price (the price of an individual product), and the profit obtained by selling the entire production. But of course, it is necessary to distinguish this profit mass (all the money obtained by selling the entire production) from the surplus value, which is only obtained by deducting from the profit mass the initial investment, which is the sum of constant capital plus variable capital. And, in turn, distinguish it from the profit rate, resulting from dividing the surplus value by the initial investment. I have also recorded, to then see its evolution, the exploitation rate, which can be obtained by dividing the surplus value (profit) by the variable capital (wages). I am finally interested, pulling away for the umpteenth time from pedagogical orthodoxy in these matters, to consider a "selling effort" which would amount to a minimum number of units that the capitalist must necessarily sell to recover at least the total investment (CC + VC + replacement cost). What I hope to show with this unorthodox variable is that as the process moves the minimum that is required to sell increases dramatically, to the point that the purchasing power present in the market will be saturated, that is, a crisis of overproduction will occur that will collapse all the growth obtained up to that point.


Into Table No. 2 I have entered a production cycle where the only thing that happened is that all factors have been doubled. [29]



Table 2 - Simple Extended Reproduction
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CC (Means of production) VC (Salaries) CC+VC
(1+2)
No. of units Unit price Profit mass
(4*5)
Surplus value
(6-3)
Profit rate
(7/3)
Exploitation rate
(7/2)
200 200 400 200 5 1000 600 600/400=1,5 600/200=3,0
CC 200
VC 200
Replace 40
160 Consume CC' 200
VC' 200
Reinvestment, as well as replacement and consumption are obtained from surplus value.
88 Units 440 160 400
Minimum sales Recover
Replace
Consume Reinvest


Note that this duplication is possible because in the first cycle, even discounting consumption and replacement cost of machines and tools, there has been a sufficient amount of surplus value to do so. The same technological level and the same wages have remained. And by investing in them twice as much, just twice as much has been produced. As these numbers show, this has been an excellent business, and each time the entire production has been sold.


Although this may be a rare case, it already contains an aspect that is interesting to note, and having a completely general nature: the expansion of the investment has fully emerged from the profits or, put in another way, it does not come from savings nor from any restrictions on the share that the capitalist destines to his own consumption.


The expansion of capitalist reproduction does not come from any ethics of effort, productivity and savings, as Max Weber argued in a famous thesis, which is not only empirically false but conceptually racist.[30] when things work well, capitalist growth just comes from profit, as I will point out a little later, but when things go wrong it comes simply from looting. The capitalist ethic is contained, like all ethics, in its facts, not in the ideals proclaimed by bourgeois culture.


Note, on the other hand, if the business is as good as I've recorded so far, capitalist consumption or enjoyment may also double, without affecting the logic of expansion. And of course, this duplication is also obtained from the profit, not from saving or sacrifice. Countless examples of rude and bombastic waste of wealthy New Englanders, Germans and Americans, from the moment of capitalist upswing in their countries (think of the huge mansions of the German Junkers, or of compulsive and exhibitionist consumers like Randolph Hearst or Nelson Rockefeller), again debunks the idea that their wealth can be explained by some kind of asceticism, or ethics of effort and sacrifice. Let's also aggravating say, that Max Weber was a direct witness, and occasionally himself a critic of such ostentatious gestures.


In Table No. 3, I have entered two things. One is that the business is so good that the capitalist can simply expand it five times. But at the time, and due to the emergence of competitors, he is able to leverage the volume of production, the volume and mass of profit made, to lower the unit cost and thus "compete with advantage", but this will not mean detour significantly from the path followed up to this point.


Cuadro 3 - Extended Reproduction and Competition
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CC (Means of production) VC (Salaries) CC+VC (1+2) No. of units Unit price Profit mass (4*5) Surplus value (6-3) Profit rate (7/3) Exploitation rate (7/2)
1000 1000 2000 1000 5 5000 3000 3000/2000=1,5 3000/1000=3,0
Price decreases 4 4000 2000 2000/2000=1,0 2000/1000=2,0
CC 1000
VC 1000
Replace 100
200 Consume CC' 800
VC' 800
Reinvestments, as well as replacement and consumption are obtained from surplus value.
550 Units 2200 200 1000
Minimum sales Recover
Replace
Consume Reinvest


With the same level of technology (CC), and wages (VC), but investing five times more than in the first cycle, he gets enough profit mass (see the third row) to lower the unit price (see the fourth row), and still obtain a profit mass that allows him to maintain or increase his own consumption, and reinvest in the expansion of capital.


But this price reduction (forced by competition) has a crucial effect: lowering the profit rate.[31] Note also, again, now increased by the decline in the unit price, the marked increase in "sales effort".


Table No. 4 contains a real leap in which all previous variations come into play. Business has been so good, and perhaps the competition has been, for that matter, so active, that our capitalist has decided to "get" a lot more capital to invest in large, looking to improve productivity with new machines and technologies. He invests ten times more than in the previous table (one hundred times more than in the first) to buy sophisticated machines that allow him to produce twice as much for each unit of capital invested.[32]


Table 4 - Extended Reproduction: the Great Leap
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CC (Means of production) VC (Salaries) CC+VC
(1+2)
Nr. of units Unit price Profit mass
(4*5)
Surplus value
(6-3)
Profit rate
(7/3)
Exploitation rate
(7/2)
10.000 1000 11.000 20.000 1 20.000 9.000 9.000/11.000=0,81 9000/1000=9,0
Primitive accumulation Individual salary rises CC 10.000
CV 1000
Replace 500
500 Consume 8.000
Previse
Reinvest
Great expansion of capital
“Primitive accumulation”
Increased exploitation rate
Increased sales effort required
Overproduction crisis
Tendency to an overproduction crisis 11.500
Minimum sales
11.500
Recover
Replace 500
500 Consume 8.000
Previse
Reinvest
The Great Leap: Large investment in constant capital
Pronounced decrease of profit rate - Pronounced increase of exploitation rate


But these machines also allow him to hire fewer workers for the same output, ie, this has the effect of contributing to the "structural unemployment" that I mentioned above. Yet, despite the adverse fate of the workers that are made unnecessary, this allows individual salary increases while maintaining the overall amount invested in variable capital.


Considering the size of the investment and the productivity growth, the volume of production increases dramatically. This allows, in principle, an also huge mass of profit. However, given such volumes, the most rational strategy is to radically lower the unit price and, with that, just blow away all competitors who do not have such technological advantage. The effect of this reduction in unit price is recorded in the first row of Table No. 4, to be compared with the proportions achieved in Table No. 3.


What the comparison shows first, is that the profit mass obtained still allows: 1st, to retrieve and reinvest the capital expended in this cycle; 2nd, to replenish the wear suffered by the means of production; 3rd, to consume a portion of the profit (a greater amount, although the proportion is lower); 4th, still get an amount of additional, new capital, to extend the cycle or to accumulate in preventing new contingencies.


But this good news, and the success of such a strategy, depend crucially on the goods actually being sold. By observing the minimum number of units that is required to be sold to get some net profit, it turns out that these also increased greatly (from 550 to 11500), ie, the "sales effort" increases significantly, thereby revealing its economic significance: it essentially is a measure of risk to the capitalist on the market. With huge investment in constant capital, the case is that the risk of not recovering the investment simply because it doesn't manage to sell a sufficient amount of the product increases.


A more canonical way to explain the same point is to observe the steady decline in the profit rate that has occurred in each step, and now is accentuated. Read in reverse, this trend shows that the economic effort that capitalism as a whole must do to achieve success with increased investment is also much higher. And it shows that the only way to recover this effort is to sell many more product units or also a growing share of what is produced.


But the comparison also shows that this economic effort is not only done by capitalism but, in fact, it is mainly suffered on an enlarged scale by all of the workers: the exploitation rate increases considerably. And with it, the physical and existential consequences of an absurd situation where the wage grows while the quality of life worsens: all the slow horror of alienation, standardization of life, subjective and bodily disciplining accompanying Taylorist and Fordist production techniques with an equally absurd global result: the capitalist can not even really take advantage of everyone's efforts ... because just around the corner awaits the crisis of overproduction.


In Table No. 5 I have recorded the limit where competition may simply not further lower the prices, because it could not recover the investment. At this limit, in a market where more than one capitalist has tried to make his big move and production exceeds the purchasing power of society, the products can not be realized ​​to the extent that is necessary to recover the invested capital and may not even be given away (since that only would have the effect of lowering prices even further): they must be destroyed. Burning of agricultural surpluses in societies suffering from the scourge of hunger, wars all suffer just to "make room" for the output of new products, turning into business the rebuilding of what was only destroyed for that business, the introduction of planned obsolescence for products intentionally to wear earlier than the most advanced techniques allow, all of them irrationalities that only have as a background the overproduction generated by competition.


And yet it is necessary to stop over at another possibility. Capitalists might try to absorb excess production by increasing the purchasing power of workers, ie, raising the standard of living of the society as a whole. A beautiful illusion which was called "Welfare State" for over fifty years. The reverse of such generosity (a "bounty" that, of course, just looking for profit) is to raise wages, to increase the purchasing power, and again, now by this factor, the profit rate falls, increasing the risk for each capitalist of failing to sell what they need to recoup their investments. The way out of this new nonsense, which now, in the early twenty-first century, we are witnessing every day, is that capitalists simply transfer their industries from those countries where the salary has reached "too" high levels, sinking the much vaunted "Welfare State" only by virtue of their immediate interests, despite the fifty or seventy years that it seemed to be the great model of a productive, entrepreneurial, and beneficent capitalism.


Table 5 - Expanded Reproduction: the limit
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
CC (Means of Production) VC (Salariies) CC+VC (1+2) Nr. of Units Unit Price Profit Mass (4*5) Surplus Value (6-3) Profit Rate (7/3) Exploitation Rate (7/2)
10.000 1000 11.000 20.000 0,6 12.000 1.000 1.000/11.000=0,09 1000/1000=1.0
Primitive Accumulation Individual Salary increases CC 10.000
VC 1000
Replace 500
500 Consume 0
Previse
Reinvest
Great Expansion of Capital
Extreme lowering of prices
Limit of requirement to sell
Does not obtain capital to expand
Minimal profit rate
Overproduction Crisis
Tendency to a Crisis of Overproduction 19.167
Minimum sales
11.500
Recover
Replace
500 Consume 0
Previse
Reinvest
The Great Leap: limit of the Large investment in Constant Capital
Minimal Profit Rate - Risk of Overproduction


All weft yarn Marx deciphered in the operation of "best" possible capitalism is now in sight. Competition forces try to lower unit prices. For this large constant capital investments are made, but one has to resort to increasing the volume of goods that must be ​​ sold. But the effect of both initiatives is a sustained downward trend in the profit rate. The obligation to achieve a profit mass that allows to recover the investment, replenish and expand, reinforces the need to increase the volume of goods to be realized​​. When two or more competitors again and again make these attempts, their situation will escalate until they just saturate the market, none of them achieves to sell what they require, and they default in bulk. This is what we have called "crisis of overproduction". And Marx was able to show its necessity and recurrence production by industry, by production sector (raw materials, manufactured products, production of means of production) and, finally, cyclical convergence of all of them in "general crisis of capitalism".


The general crisis of capitalism are the most irrationally destructive disasters in human history. Humans have suffered famine, pestilence and misery for thousands of years due to technological ineptitude, and fierce wars have been undertaken to overcome their helplessness before nature and ignorance. And there was some tragic necessity in this. Throughout modernity, however, this objective prostration has been by far exceeded, and spectacular volumes and efficiency in the production of goods and services have been achieved, making it entirely unnecessary to continue being tied to crisis and war. And it is exactly in the middle of the efficiency and the abundance that these huge volumes of goods must be being destroyed or wasted, only to maintain the logic of capitalist profit, and the poor freedom of being doomed to alienate the products of our work. That is the central charge, and the overall sense of Marx's argument. Having shown that crises do not arise neither from natural contingencies, nor from an immovable human nature, but from perfectly identifiable and avoidable historical conditions, Marx's work becomes a deep political accusation to the root and essence of the capitalist system.


As I have argued, the general crisis is a situation of such irrationality that products marketed in excess must be simply destroyed to recover some part of their price, and save some of the capital invested. As part of the competition and the vagaries of supply and demand, selling below cost of production or, worse, give them away, would only aggravate the crisis. Huge amounts of human effort is wasted and destroyed only by virtue of a historically avoidable logic.


Yet capitalism is to survive: it is necessary to overcome the crisis. And this is, historically, through major changes in the technological base of capital, ie just from massive investment in constant capital, which is conducted through the whole fabric of the branches of production to recompose at a new level.


This is what we have seen globally since the 1980s. Entire production systems ending in ruins, sold as scrap, as shown in the desolation of former Detroit auto workshops, or large factories abandoned in the the former German Democratic Republic. Systems that are re-articulated with other techniques, and lower wages in other parts of the world, as in China, in India, or in northern Mexico.


But this brings to mind a "little detail" of our example, in Table Nr. 4. Our capitalist has "got" a large amount of capital to expand his business. Given the logic of Marx's reasoning, what matters is not where this or that bourgeois "got" these funds from, but how the bourgeoisie as a class historically managed to get such funds.


The answer is no mystery to any historian: it got them from the colonial pillage of Latin America. Over-exploitation and slaughter of the Indians, to the extent of having to replace them by tens of millions of black slaves, that is the historical bloody origin of prosperity in Europe. And no one denies, however much sociological theory makes use of the unjustified Weberian idea that such prosperity is due to the efforts and thrifty character of the bourgeois (white, European and patriarchal) Protestants.


Nobody has exonerated European colonialism for these crimes and looting that even Marx called, gently, "primitive accumulation of capital".[33] No one has even attempted to try, unless on overtly racist and totalitarian premises. [34] Capitalism can be blatantly accused by the bloody nature of its origin.


To mitigate such a scandal, yet evading its ethically and empirically dubious logic, it could be argued that this initial foray is perhaps justified when we consider that its effect is present abundance. This cynicism is not as uncommon as one might think, and is often present in many conventional economists, advocates of the system.


Against this, however, in turn two key issues can be opposed. The first is that the logic that has led to such abundance is the same that prevents it from being drawn on equally by all human beings, in particular by its direct producers, the workers. The second, which is what I want to emphasize here, is that the famous "primitive accumulation" is far from a unique process and distant in time.


It happens that, as the general crisis of capitalism are cyclical, the need for extraordinary capital accumulation is also cyclical and each time it happens it is accomplished through the same "little sensitive" means with which the original looting occurred, even if it has been clothing in something more "elegant" ways.


The "original" accumulation of capital should be considered cyclical for theoretical reasons, and is widely documentable through every kind of empirical evidence. Again and again, though changing cultural and political forms, it occurs in two fundamental ways: the use of systematic looting of the periphery, the use of absolute surplus value in the center.


Political changes in the forms of plundering the Third World do not consist of anything but the transition from banditry and original colonial appropriation, to the complicity of their own local ruling classes, backed by armies containing their own peoples with blood and fire, rather than the invaders.


The use of absolute surplus value in the center is the periodic reverse of the hard-won gains of the workers whenever capital needs require it. A backward move, of course, that can also be obtained only by the exercise of brute force.


From a purely empirical point of view, therefore, it is easily seen that the capitalist system has not only an origin, but an entire criminal history. A story regarding which it is simply an increased cynicism to attributed its "success" to Lutheran values or rationalistic ideals. England built its prosperity on the basis of piracy, slave trade and drug trafficking. The fact, there has been massive slavery until well into the nineteenth century in the developed capitalist countries, there has been content to labor movement brutally throwing it into two world wars, Latin American has been filled with military dictatorships, decimating its leftist forces through torture, murder and forced disappearance, until only thirty years ago, the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan have been decimated just to keep oil prices, shows, among countless other examples, that the capitalist progress is not founded, nor has it been ever, in the delicacy and elegance of Steve Jobs or George Soros.


But beyond such blatant empirical findings, which some hypocrite may still qualify as "regrettable excesses", the bottom line is the relationship between such violence and the structural logic that leads to the general crisis. Part of the enormous strength of Marx's argument is to have shown, in his later writings, the association between the recurrent looting and the recurrent crisis, or also, the structural connection between the relative surplus value and the periodic need for absolute surplus value. With this, the difference we have had so far (only for pedagogical reasons) between "good" capitalists and "bad" or "wild" capitalists, is objectively diluted. That's why I kept it at all times in quotes.


There are no such "good" and "bad" capitalists. The constant oscillation between using relative surplus value and absolute surplus value is so essential to the logic of capitalism as competition itself, or as the opaque nature of the market and, as such, beyond just individual good or bad will of the individual capitalist.


4. The different critiques of capitalism

a. Epistemological advantages

All the reasoning of the previous sections, which is really only a skeletal pedagogical summary of the huge and complex work of Marx, serves to what is the purpose of this book, which is nothing else but expose the logic of his argument, rather than the myriad of details that certainly, in another context, are also very relevant.


What I have shown is that in this argument the crucial factors are competition, the opaque nature of the market, technological development (and its cost), an originally unequal position of the individual agents competing. I have shown that the composition of these factors leads to a global and historical trend of decrease of the rate of profit, and that attempts to reverse its effects lead to cyclical crises of overproduction. I have also shown, in this context, the internal, structural relationship between the use of relative surplus value and the use of absolute surplus value as forms of appropriation.


And this is the moment, then, to insist on the epistemological features that give it strength and consistency, and compare, starting from them, the criticism of Marx with other existing types of anti-capitalist critique.


The first notable feature of Marx's critique is that it only starts from internal factors, core of capitalist activity. With that, his reasoning achieves a demonstrative character, ie, does not depend on contingencies (there was drought, investor panic, or chaotic drift), nor only on immediate psychological or sociological factors (the greed of profit, "ethics of productivity", ambition, usury).


This is, of course, a certain historical situation, but its movement and effect does not depend on the good or bad intentions of its individual actors, even not on their degree of skill or business acumen. Given the unequal competition between individual actors, whose sole purpose is to reproduce and increase their capital, operating in an opaque market, the downward trend in the rate of profit, and the tendency to general crises of overproduction, are necessary, structural. The only way to avoid them is, therefore, to put an end to the mechanism from which they arise.


It is noteworthy in this regard that conventional economics, which in the first paragraph I have called "scientific economics", is even today lacking a crisis theory of this kind, and that its closest approach to the problem is through the curious idea that the economic system shares with complex systems the fact, that they "tend" to a chaotic drift alone, by themselves, and that, to precipitate such disasters, the flutter of a butterfly would be enough.


This is the place also to insist on another remarkable and distinctive epistemological trait. This is an argument that is rooted, and reaches its maximum consistency from a global and historical analysis, even over the counter trends that may have a temporary local level.


The most famous controversy about it is perhaps the one that produced Eduard Bernstein, a few years before the First World War, after noting, with some astonishment, that the global profit rate of capitalism was increasing(!) instead of dutifully obeying the dictates of The Master. Bernstein suggested that perhaps he had to review and eventually correct, Marx's analysis. Karl Kautsky, then the maximum guardian of orthodoxy, was strongly opposed to the idea that The Master could be wrong, and accused Bernstein of revisionism! An adjective Marxist tradition of the twentieth century continued using in an equally idiotic way for many decades. [35]


Interestingly, however, despite their arguments, Kautsky was right. And not only the matter is settled empirically with the cycle of crisis that opens in 1915 and ends in 1929, but may be decided in a deeper way.


In fact, whenever there are significant technological changes, and before a "price war" is triggered, the profit rate rises. And this does not only happen in every branch of production, and in every sector, but also occurs for the capitalist system as a whole, whenever it is reborn out of its general crisis.


What matters is not whether the profit rate in the electronics industry goes up or goes down, or if a general crisis will occur within three or five years, data that can be used to buy or sell shares, but not to think about the overall viability of capitalism. What is relevant is the diagnosis and historical judgment on the nature and eventual fate of the whole, considered as a system. And in this Marx's analysis are not only consistent and forceful, but have been being increasingly backed by capitalist development in an ever more notorious way.


An internal, demonstrative, consistent theory, widely supported by the facts; a theory of an entire social system, referred to in broad historical terms. All this is very rare in social sciences. [36]


b. Conservative critiques

But modern thought is, and has been historically, much wider than the poverty of Social Sciences. And it's good to give here a brief account of the various arguments that have been made against capitalism throughout its development.


First, there has been, for centuries and practically from the beginning, a persistent conservative critique. From the hateful sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), which should be considered as much more subtle and profound than the simple religious fanaticism they represent, and which are often surprisingly prescient, to the sophistication of the critiques of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), conservative thought has targeted, with good reason, against divisive individualism, antisocial market chaos, rudeness of bourgeois careerism, selfish pettiness that is presented as saving effort, the amorality of economic calculation, immorality of greed for profit.


Obviously, a Marxist should be in full agreement with these estimates as diagnostics and reviews, in spite of the fact, too obvious, he should disagree with their motivations, the place from which they are formulated, with the background reasons around which they are organized, and the solutions are proposed. Many essential disagreements, that's very clear. But the points of agreement should be seriously considered as a source of enrichment of leftist criticism.


From the Marxist point of view, the conservative critics only point to effects, not to the real causes, in both the diagnosis and the solutions they propose, through purely moral considerations, not touching the material root from which the real ethics arises, which is contained in real actions rather than statements. Or again, these are critics in the field of culture, pointing to effects that are believed to be also reversible through cultural means, without taking over again, the material contradictions that cause them.


Of course Marxists can not agree with the use of the principle of authority, or the appeal to tradition, to which conservatives recur as principles for possible solutions. That tradition and that authority is not, for Marxists, but the ritualization and nostalgic celebration of traditional oppression, and the powers attributed to them are but myths that falsely embellish what was only violence and obscurantism.


There are two issues that I care pointing out at this point of this controversy to avoid simplistic dichotomy. One is the ease with which many Marxists tend to adhere to the purely liberal counterpart to the conservative arguments. The other is the ease with which it is accepted that the values ​​of conservatism refer to the feudal era, which would make them even anachronistic to capitalism.


It is true that before the invocation of tradition, authority and religious sentiment, Marxists would have locate themselves in a more openly democratic, secular perspective (to the extent of atheism), that substantively valued change and novelty. It is not true, however, that such values are properly liberal, though they originated in them. And to make this visible, it is sufficient to try to combine this, which we in this case defend (the democratic principle, the novelty and change, a secular and atheistic society) with what conservatives criticize (individualism, careerism, commodification, greed for profit), to find out that both sets of values ​​are not at all contradictory. And above all, that the critical line of conservatism may be invoked even against the social reality that gives its origin and its arguments to liberalism.


There are also a crucial point in that both conservatives and Marxists could be in perfect agreement regarding the order of solutions: the need to establish a human society more in the sense of community than in the discretion of individual freedom. Our disagreement with conservatives in this area has more to do with the material conditions that would enable that goal, and the inner, more democratic organization of that situation, that with the very idea of ​​community, of which the Liberals visibly lack.


Conservative rhetoric has permanently referent of a feudal Europe, which would have been chivalrous and aristocratic, and a medieval Christianity, that would have held a strong sense of community.


Curiously, the liberal tradition has helped keeping these myths by attacking them almost as efficiently as the conservative tradition has done defending them. What both conceal thus in a symmetrically interested way, is not only the fact that this is purely myths, but the cultural complexity of capitalism.


There was never a sense of community in Europe, much less in the referred centuries (XI. to XV.) which are full of burning of heretics, feudal wars, and rising and rampant capitalist greed. There wasn't anything besides mere intellectual pretension serving pretty brutal Lords (as Bernard of Clairvaux himself). The claim that there was, and that it was necessary to maintain, what everyone could directly see there wasn't, or as it was tried, only disintegrated violently.


The capitalist blow from which Europe was born was catastrophic and devastating from its origin. Before its action (before the XII. century) there was no community but just misery and feudal oppression. Each new era since then or, to put it more realistically, each new recomposition of capital after a ferocious war or a plague or crisis was accompanied, almost to this day, by a pole of nostalgia in which artificially aristocratized bourgeois, now defeated by new bourgeois strata now in possession of a new technological base, invent a glorious and harmonious past, whose petty background is but trading it as cultural capital for the new bourgeois, eager for a new ennoblement that conceals their immediate past as blacksmiths, horse thieves, or gunsmiths.


That pole of romantic mystification, beautification and false nobility is as essential to their enlightened bourgeois culture as its rationalist and demystifying pole. That is why only criticizing it in a solely liberal way is not enough. For Marxists the criticism must go beyond both poles, picking up their opposing substance, and rejecting what they contain of symmetrical falseness, mere legitimizing appearance of claims and privileges that are, on both sides, only those of the bourgeoisie.


The interesting thing with this conservative critique is how it streamlines the side of the internal cultural contradiction of capitalism itself. It is to point out a very deep fold in this deeply conflicted and contradictory culture. Its limit, from the Marxist point of view, is being unable to see that the dark aspects it points out are not due to bad cultural practices, but to the internal logic of a system of which conservatism itself is part, despite their nostalgia and pretensions.


c. Liberal critiques[37]

There also are liberal critiques of capitalism. Obviously not as a system, but of rather profound aspects of its normal operation. These are critics derived from the fact that their classical theorists sincerely believed in a system in which there was a direct and close relationship between an economic model and a series of social and political ideals. The fundamental connection between the two areas they defended and preached allowed them to criticize the excesses that, from any of them, would substantive hurt the other, breaking his balance. So they not only criticized excessive state intervention, which could stifle freedom and economic efficiency but also, symmetrically, the monopoly that, from the economic sphere, could become an obstacle to genuine political freedom.


This double critical line is still in a state of suggestion in classical theorists such as Locke, Hume and Smith, whose writings can, however, still be used effectively to support it, but it emerges explicitly in Bentham, Stuart Mill, and, in the XX. century, with particular clarity in John Kenneth Galbraith, or Michael J. Sandel. [38]


Strong supporters of the autonomy of the citizen and the transparency of democracy, liberals have always been enemies of censorship and monopoly ownership of the media. Their systematic inefficiency at this point can not, of course, be invoked against the sincerity of their convictions. Under them, they could well be in favor of limiting the capitalist dues in this particular business, for political reasons, but they have always encountered in the solutions that could be given to implement this limit seem nearly as serious as the problem to them. The point at which this indecision transforms their sincerity in cynicism has always been, of course, very difficult to establish, although its practical results are usually easy to find.


For purely economic reasons, however, in the liberal tradition there is a whole line of argument against the commodification of services such as health, education, culture and sometimes even transportation or housing. The basic economic argument is that this commodification affects the quality of these services so that the social cost of that loss would far outweigh the private benefit from which it may be indirectly compensated.


In general these arguments seeks to distinguish the "market" from the superlative "commodification" and defend a certain area of ​​real social autonomy from both the state and the market. An area that is sometimes distinguished as "the public", which would have a specificity and own needs.


Also for economic reasons liberals often oppose unproductive profit, the excesses of usury and overexploitation. In all these cases the arguments try to show that these are practices that paralyze technological development (as promote "easy profit", distort competition and hinder the expansion of the overall capacity of consumption, which is what can give fluidity to capitalist production).


As in the case of the Conservatives, there is much empirical truth and principles in all this criticism. Its mere enumeration would seem incendiary in the atmosphere on neoliberal economic fundamentalism that still prevails in the world, despite the crisis. Against trusts, particularly of the media, against the commodification of services, usury and unproductive profit. Under present conditions it is a simply subversive program.


Again, obviously, Marxists would not necessarily agree neither with the basics being invoked for this criticism, nor with the solutions proposed.


In the order of basics, from the Marxist point of view, they all point to effects rather than actual causes. They point to features that are seen rather as defects or deviations and not in connection with the structural aspects that make them recurring. And, therefore, they are attributed to deformations of values ​​(selfishness, greed) rather than to an objective overall situation. Moreover, from the liberal point of view, the last line that would enable these deviations, which would be but a human nature itself selfish and hedonistic, carries a serious skepticism about the possibility of eradicating them in a real and profound way.


All solutions proposed by the various types of liberals are affected by this skepticism, and then kept in the field of reforms that can only rely on legal guarantees or moral preachings. Some favor a moderate intervention of a regulatory state, others advocate the strengthening of civil society. Some put emphasis on capacity building and political rights of citizens. Others in the organized defense of consumers.


Of course Marxists can and must agree with these criticisms, despite of their character and merely reformist scope. As I will suggest below, for a Marxism able to join a diverse left, between reform and revolution there is not a dilemma but a difference of historical reach. We must also consider that given the theoretical and practical drift of liberalism toward an aggressive predatory neoliberalism, today being consistently liberal, as I said, is to be radical and subversive on many essential points of the prevailing oppression.


As criticism, the strength and greatness of liberalism is rooted in the same economic objections, asking a certain coherence between the historical project of the bourgeoisie and its actual practice. Its limit, however, does not see that this consistency is impossible as such, that the excesses are not due to bad economic practices that could be improved and corrected transparenting the market, but, in fact, come from its structural logic.


d. Socialist critiques

Among some Utopian Socialists, and generally among Anarchists, the liberal critique was taken to its revolutionary extreme. While sharing the diagnosis, and even the basics (individualism, human nature), Anarchists have the credit for making a real political agenda of the liberal idea that the major culprit of the economic and social distortions are the State, as an articulating center, and the institutions, as a general phenomenon.


The Utopian Socialists were the first who attempted to formulate plausible models of society in which the autonomy of citizens and market transparency were indeed possible. They realistically and lucidly saw, in those terms, that freedom and transparency are only possible in small, self-sufficient social units, where direct representation and face to face economic management was practicable. Anarchists have followed this line of propositions until today.


With that, both transcended the mere preaching of values ​​(without abandoning it) and moved into the realm of actual policy proposals, assuming that their difficulty would transform them into revolutionary policies, ie proposals that without abandoning the essential aspects of bourgeois modernity (private property, political democracy) involved such a subversive transformation of the dominant powers, that could only be undertaken by a politically radical revolutionary will.


Enemies of large property, but not of property in general; of commodification, but not of the market; of the centralized state, but on behalf of an emancipatory bourgeois individualism; of ignorance and superstition, but on behalf of progressive Enlightenment. The revolutionary principle that encourages Anarchists and Utopian Socialists is directed against the oppressive form of modernity, not against its principles, which are seen as a liberating horizon. It is a revolution from the system, against their objectification. This is to fulfill the old promises, not to abolish or overcome them.


This emplacement to the bourgeoisie, on behalf of its own lost utopian horizon, had an enormous historical importance due to its consistency and radicalism: the Anarchists are the real educators of the labor movement. They are the first (when they still had the form of Utopian Socialists), and more clearly (when they reach their Anarcho-Syndicalist form) pointed out to the labor movement the possibility of a revolutionary will. Humanity had never known before, even in the violence of the French Revolution, a similar principle, extending so fast. We Marxists will never be able to integrate a truly diverse left without previously and unreservedly recognizing this huge contribution.


But it's just socialist criticism as such the first that exceeds the logic of the system itself, by pointing to private property as a core that makes its deformations possible. And what I here do understand by socialist criticism is something that I will distinguish explicitly from Marxist critique, even though over a century they are exchanged and permanently overlapped.


By socialist I am specially referring to the social democratic tradition, which called itself "Marxist", centered in the Second International, and I want to show that in several essential aspects it contains a different argument and a different extent to what Karl Marx developed.


In the socialist critique all the previous critiques are gathered, extended,and magnified to the proportions reaching the working class poverty in European industrialization. These are critiques of poverty, usury, ignorance, profit. But it is now organized around a new concept, which translates into a new consciousness: the idea of exploitation.


The consciousness present here is that direct producers have a priority right to the wealth they produce, and that the obstacles to the effective exercise of this right is private ownership of the means of production. This idea is expressed in one of the classic formulations in which the contradictions of capitalism are presented: "the contradiction between the social character of production and the private character of appropriation". And in another, translating the same content showing another aspect: "the social production is not guided by the needs and consumption, but by profit, by lucre". The socialist tradition was able to see from there the trend towards the commodification of all aspects of life, to the plundering of natural resources, the systematic looting of the periphery.


An important merit of its criticism is that it is systemic, ie it targets essential aspects of capitalist historical formation and is able to root the idea that what is at stake is a set of bad economic practices in another, deeper one, that the background is actually in bad social practices, whose eradication requires to radically change society as a whole.


When we go on to the solutions, the great proposition was the socialization of the means of production, and its social administration from the state apparatus. Historically the Socialist tradition is deeply linked to two trusts that might today seem largely questionable. A great confidence in the emancipatory possibilities of classical industrialization (coal, electricity, large machinery and steel), and as large as that a confidence in the possibilities of effectively managing and distributing the social product fairly from a centralized state apparatus.


Beyond anecdotal and tragicomic disputes between Marx's and Bakunin's egos, the real contrast between Anarchists and Socialists (who called themselves Marxists) lies in the diametral difference in how both address their points. Most Anarchists distrusted the leveling and alienating power of industrial production, and preached against it a return to nature. And even more they distrusted state centralism, to which they opposed federalism and disintegration of all major institutions.


Making an easy, and completely useless exercise of political history and fiction, we can imagine a humanist, not alienating industrialization, that does not destroy the environment, and a democratic state administration, which does not lead to totalitarianism. But this can only be a futile, unhistorical exercise, which is but a mere projection of values ​​and desires but, worse than that, in the last hundred years we have accumulated enough empirical, quite dramatic evidence, that the Socialists trusts were unfounded and lacked any historical viability.


However, this does not prove the Anarchists true in a decisive manner. I argue that the weakness of both sides is correlated: neither has moved towards a really profound critical line of modernity as a whole. They just have striven to meet the promises the modern horizon itself contains. They are both, in that sense, despite their eventual radicalism and professed revolutionary will, reformists. Their horizon is only to fulfill, in a revolutionary way, what the modern order promises and allows to fulfill.


But in making this estimate I'm getting involved in it an assumption that should not remain implicit in any way. The assumption that the logic of modernity does not limit itself to its narrow capitalist form, in the precise sense of the rule of law where the private ownership of the means of production prevails, and a general mechanism that makes wages depend on the existence of a labor market. What I have argued in my previous books, and am again systematically defending in this one, is that under the same rationale there still is room for another class society, where exploitation of the direct producers in other forms remains, a society in which the bureaucracy as a hegemonic ruling class usufructs with advantage from such exploitation, and from the dehumanizing alienation involved.


My argument is that there are abundant empirical elements supporting this idea, and only from the class analysis that Karl Marx devised these empirical elements can be theoretically accounted for in a consistent way. And of course, this point is crucial to establish the specificity of the Marxist critique and its eventual advantage over the other.


Having put things this way, of course the Anarchists and Socialists critiques are revolutionary, but what we know today, also in part because of them, that a revolution actually pointing toward communism, toward the end of the class struggle, may no longer just be anti capitalist. If it is not also radically anti bureaucratic, it has failed to pass, however radical its forms are, the limits of reformism.


e. Marx

Well, all these forms of anti-capitalist, conservative, liberal, anarchist and socialist critiques made ​​possible the work of Karl Marx but, conversely, each and every were and are perfectly possible without his contribution.


That Marx did not invent the critique of capitalism goes without saying, of course. What interests me here is something else. I am interested in specifying what Marx himself added to them and what can be therefore properly be considered as "Marxist" from those who want to not only be revolutionaries (there are many ways to be), not only Leftists (lots of lefts are possible), including not only "Marxists" in the purely empirical and historical sense of the term (many real Marxists never read, nor needed to read Karl Marx), but Marxists in the original and proper sense of accepting and following, along with many others, precisely his arguments, because they have been assigned a value, that is decisive in a way.


When we consider, then, the arguments that can be considered typical of Marx, what we find, first, is a profound difference of the critique he exercises is based on an objectifying analysis, moving below declared values or wills of the actors examined. An objectivity where these actors are considered as social classes (not as individuals, or as a mere collection of individuals) and examined in its logic, looking for the logic that articulates their actions (rather than a merely empirical count their effects). Objectivity in that logic is located in certain effective historical conditions, where it operates as a key for the understanding of the meaning of human history under these conditions, the sense of its contradictions and disasters. A sense of discernment that allows you to show the possibilities that this history contains.


Secondly, I argue, that the critique of Marx has come to understand the causes, rather than dwell on the enumeration of the severity of effects; it has found structural unifying principles for these causes, instead of attributing them to "bad practices" or deviations in the performance of the values, or conscious bad will of the protagonists.


These causes and these structural principles are those revealed by the critique of political economy: the historical downward trend in the rate of profit due to competition in an inherently opaque market, the general cyclical crises of overproduction which occur due to attempts to reverse them, the cyclic resource to plunder and absolute surplus value as ways out of the general crisis. All disasters listed by all the previous critics may find their explanation and meaning in these structural features.


Thirdly, I finally argue, that only Marx really aimed beyond the modern horizon with a decisive idea: that the end of the class struggle should coincide with overcoming the division of labor, ie, alienated work. Not only with the end of private property, not only with the end of salary, but with building material conditions that make both exploitation and such institutions unnecessary, that extend and protect them. And this state of affairs is what he called communism.


The critical analysis of capitalist economy, the class analysis and the conception of human history involved, and the formulation of the communist horizon, these are, in my opinion, the distinctive and specific features of what may be called Marxism because they are all present in the work of Karl Marx.


f. Anticapitalist critiques after Marx

No need to read Karl Marx to understand that the capitalist market is not very viable if potential consumers are poor, or if they are gradually launched into unemployment. Many people, even not too smart ones, even some economists, did see this, especially after the great crisis of 1929.


On the one hand the workers' misery, dragged from the early days of capitalism (neither more nor less than five hundred years) conspired against the necessary realization of the huge volumes of goods the industrial revolution threw up. Moreover, the new means of production required, relatively speaking, fewer workers or, to put it another way, produced a situation in which the population growth was much faster than the growth of labor force actually employed. To this fact, known as "tendency to structural unemployment", due to technological advancement, we must add the great population explosion that began being produced by scientific advances in medicine and public health.


Despite some lucid voices, no changes actually occurred from some conscious planning, and if this finally arrived it was only to continue the trends already underway.


The first momentous change now everyone forgets, is what the arrival of plenty meant: for the first time in human history the volume of production in all areas surpassed the basic needs of all humans. In any society prior to the twentieth century scarcity reigned: if all goods of society had been distributed equally, all human beings would have been leveled below their needs, all would have been reduced to poverty. Now, for the first time, if all assets were divided equally, all human beings could reach dignified levels of existence. The great argument of bourgeois ideology, social needs forced by scarcity, stopped having actual empirical support.


Until the early twentieth century, the bulk of capitalist production was destined to social sectors that already had purchasing power. To the ruling classes, the affluent middle class. let's say, incidentally, that's why commercial advertising was unnecessary. When the purchasing power tended to be coped in the core countries, entrepreneurs begun seeking to bring their products to the periphery of the world, again looking for already existing purchase capabilities of the local ruling classes. That is why throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries active "struggle for markets" grew between the capitalist powers, not so much to obtain raw materials (the colonial question had already been arranged), but to put their products .


The revolutionary growth in physical volume of production that resulted from technological progress and Taylorization of labor, however, created a situation of enormous social and political implications that conditions us to today. For the first time in human history the main target of manufacturing began to be the workers themselves. Beyond the brutal inequalities, this was the origin of something that is rigorous to call "consumer society": never before has such a large proportion of the world population consumed such a large volume of goods, and such a significant proportion of production total. The clarity of the logic of capitalism, which Marx so strongly established, was thus altered in a few ways and with consequences that are important to discuss.


The period from 1932-1974, in many ways the golden age of capitalism, showed conclusively that mass consumption can be a powerful regulatory tool of structural tendency to overproduction.


The American industrialization after 1929, the industrialization of fascist Germany and Japan since 1930, the reconstruction of Europe after 1945, the process of industrialization in some countries in Latin America, and even, in a very different political perspective, the huge economic development of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries, showed that a broadly affluent society is perfectly possible.


Having led to huge "middle classes" composed of professional employees and industrial workers, they were supported by massive state investments in infrastructure, education, health, housing and culture, generated large state apparatus capable of absorbing labor force and, in this way, increasing the general purchasing power. State apparatus which constituted a source of cheap credit and a major employers and consumers worldwide.


But these formulas, which became known as "welfare state", despite their successes, failed to prevent even for a moment or to reverse the structural trends of the system, and even, although they achieved to regulate or conceal them, generated new contradictions.


Historically the progressive raising of wages did not only accentuate the overall downward trend in the rate of profit. The same effect was produced by shifting the burden of job creation and purchasing power on the state: it only could keep raising taxes on companies ... at the expense of their profits.


On the other hand, a too significant proportion of the apparent economic success of the core countries is simply due to an extraordinary increase in the looting of raw materials from peripheral countries. The vaunted "success" of the welfare state was strongly supported by a long era, more than eighty years, of commodities virtually given away: saltpeter, oil, rubber, copper, iron, coal, aluminum ... All delivered at ridiculous prices by local ruling classes against the interests of their own people.


But the sheer volume of this plunder or, conversely, the extraordinary need that it meant for capitalist viability, created an extremely sensitive situation with regard to territorial control. On the one hand you had to deal with formally independent local ruling classes, whose political loyalty could be very variable, on the other hand the growth of the socialist camp meant a permanent danger of loss of strategic areas rich in natural resources. The conflict with the Arab countries, drawn from the late '50s, culminating in the nationalization and rising oil prices in 1974, is a true paradigm of the overall situation.


Capitalist logic always operates in specific historical circumstances. Political economy has the merit of studying the economic phenomenon always under these actual, located conditions. And, conversely, in the twentieth century everything contributed to empirically confirm this logic, and express itself through it.


On the one hand, the strategic and at the same time political and economic struggle for sources of raw materials, led to a massive arms race. Halfway through, however, nuclear standoff, the apparently military and political alleged purpose of that race became a simple matter of business.


The arms industry became the center of industrialization, around a global war that everyone knew could not be started without an ominous threat to all humanity. Rampantly producing arms for a war that will not happen, or for local and distant wars, that by themselves make no sense.[39] an excellent business!


Ever since the Napoleonic wars, the industrialization of war was an excellent capitalist business. Even the devastation and horror of the two World Wars are marked by this commercial character. The issue now, however, is that this industry becomes the mainstay of the economy.


The purely economic defects of the arms industry have been reported many times. This is a sector that, in relative terms, creates very few jobs, that requires huge investments, in which the military and industrial secrets hinder technological advancement, that produces only waste, that can leverage its military and economic capacity to demand excessive prices, which gets inordinate resources through corruption, canceling all the potential benefits of market competition.


All these "defects", however, are precisely a "virtue" from the point of view of capital: they allow a surplus rate of profit, no truly competitive activity can achieve. But, well, nobody has said that capitalists compete for the fun of competing, what they care about is profit and much better profit without competition!


Lured by easy money giant monopolies were formed around each major aspect of the industry (construction of aircraft, ships and submarines, spy satellites and radar networks), and around them vast networks of contractors and subcontractors for the parts and pieces, and smaller weapons systems, R & D, and the associated services. Since the 40's all great classical corporations such as General Motors, Ford, ATT, RCA, IBM, Fiat, got their main income from the manufacture of armaments.


The main distortion that the arms race produced on the global economy, however, was the accumulation of a huge fiscal deficit in the United States. The industry of waste and destruction grew to such an extent that even the most powerful states in the world could finance it.


The overall economic inefficiency driven by the privilege of the arms industry bankrupted the Soviet Union. In the United States, however, it was the subject of a new business, worse than that ... lending money to the state to fund its deficit. This created another catastrophic characteristic of advanced capitalism: the trend toward large-scale financial speculation.


The U.S. fiscal deficit, and the extraordinary liquidity created by the rise in oil prices after nationalization, generated a powerful stream of just mere currency speculation that led capitalist logic to an absurd end. If making profit without competition was already an excellent business, now this was a much better business to make it without producing absolutely nothing!


The specter of the disaster of unproductive profit announced even by liberals like John Kenneth Galbraith, and clearly foretold in the writings of Marx, began to be real. Operations such as to lend money usurious rates to dependent countries that can not afford them, with the full approval of the local ruling classes. Funds often installed only to finance transnational corporations in those countries. Unaffordable amounts of money, whose repayment was imposed on the people without mercy, completely destroying the little and poor welfare state that had been lifted.


But even among the pompous central "democracies" a brutal tripping between countries, compromising their own people, was gradually increasing. Opening unpayable credit lines to workers by offering them the excesses of consumption in exchange, offering credits with also unpayable guarantees the States, and then require those States to cut the social benefits conquered, to pay the interest of new and more expensive "bailout plans". This is the current drama of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, of the middle class in America, of workers in the former socialist countries. At the end of this end, a point was reached where General Motors began to earn more money by lending money to buy cars than by actually producing them.


As if this crazy indebting of those who can only respond with their wages was not enough, the large industrial corporations in the United States and Europe found that wages made ​​by their workers were too high and, following the oldest capitalist atavism, proceeded to dismantle the industrial base in those countries and take it to China, India, Brazil and Mexico, where they can again pay starvation wages. The contradiction could not be more blatant: indebt workers and in parallel destroy their sources of employment.


Arms race, financial speculation, deindustrialization, these are today the capitalist pests plaguing those places once pompously called "welfare states". Add to this another, perfectly capitalist scourge illegal drug trafficking ... and also the legal one.


All these evils reveal a common cause, now explicitly, although it is fully inscribed in the logic of capitalist reproduction criticized by Marx: an economic system ordered from private interests is absolutely incapable of exercising the smallest global and strategic calculation about its effects. Local economic calculation prevails without counterweight over global interests, and immediate interest over any strategic consideration. And even that is proclaimed as legitimate.


That is why tobacco or alcohol industries are accepted as legitimate businesses, although they visibly contribute to lower productivity of all other industries. That's why forests are preyed, completely avoidable polluting sources of energy are used, medications that cause almost as many alterations as they are fighting are produced. That's why education is commodified, regardless of its impairment, or health systems, without regard to the effect that lower levels of health may have on the workforce.


These immediate and verifiable evils, whose root can be found in the absolute inability for strategic calculation of a social class composed of individual agents in competition, I want to add another aspect, and other critique, now just at the strategic perspective which is missing.


One of the aspects of longest projection of the abundance revolution that occurred in the late nineteenth century, was around a great social achievement whose deep meaning has gone unnoticed by most Marxists, although it usually is a regular part of their celebrations: the reduction of the working day to eight hours.


If we consider the absolute mechanisms to increase the appropriation of surplus value (the "absolute surplus value"), we notice immediately that limiting working hours and even more reducing it, is a direct attack against capitalist profit.


Considered in historical terms, obtaining the working day of eight hours was only possible through the distribution of revolutionary improved productivity. Capitalist profit rose so much, that it was not only possible to increase overall wages, but also to reduce working time, both issues, which under normal conditions would have been radically resisted by employers. Of course, entrepreneurs of the time did not accept them graciously. The dead that are commemorated on May 1 are among the many from a sustained and massive struggle.


When I will later explain, what may plausibly be involved in a communist perspective, I shall have occasion to insist on the fact that there are few victories of the peoples movement with such a strategic projection. What interests me now to consider, however, just the opposite, is the fact that this momentous trend HASN'T continued throughout the twentieth century, and what happened instead.


What happened with the reduction of the working day to eight hours is that the benefit obtained by increasing labor productivity not only passed into the hands of the capitalists, but partly also to its immediate producers, the workers. In fact this could happen every time productivity increases, in two ways, which may well occur simultaneously: progressively reducing the general workday or integrating new workers into productive employment, ie, to the production of tangible physical goods or immediate services needed for production. This second measure could reverse the global trend to structural unemployment, reversing it towards a policy of full "productive" employment. Given this trend to full and productive employment, this could give way to the first measure, the overall reduction of the working day.


In a famous lecture in Spain in 1930,[40] John Maynard Keynes himself, less than a year after the great crisis of 1929, estimated that a hundred years later, around 2030 , workers may have "satisfactory" wages with a workday of only 15 hours a week!


In his calculation, Keynes assumed a relatively stable population, an annual growth of total investment of 2%, a total annual productivity growth of 1%. Needless to say, when only 17 years are left to the deadline, we are far from that goal. Moreover, since 1930, in developed countries, labor productivity has grown by more than 1.6% annually, and working time, however, due to the rules of job insecurity, rather tends to increase. [41]


What happened in fact is that policies of "full employment" solely privileged increasing purchasing power, or what is the same, domestic demand, not caring at all about what type of jobs were created.


Of course, with the growth due to the re-industrialization productive employment increased. But the major source of increased demand was obtained by simply creating unproductive jobs.


On one hand directly through the massive increase in government officials, and services in general. On the other hand, indirectly favoring the growth of unproductive occupation in general, by moving large sections of the population outside of the labor force. This happened with the unprecedented growth of the student masses, housewives, and a vast world of underemployment.


Particularly unproductive jobs increased to levels unimaginable to any other human culture, as clerks,[42] the military, government officials, teachers, academics and university researchers. The proportion of the workforce engaged in food production was drastically reduced. And also, as I pointed out, there was a vast potential displacement of unemployment to regions of the Third World.


This process has been usually described as "tertiarizing the economy". [43] In a description that has become common, food production (agriculture, fisheries) and raw materials (minerals, timber, energy) are often called the "primary sector" of the economy; "secondary sector" will then be manufacturing production, and "third sector" the name given to the production of services. For technical reasons, and according to the political objectives I pursue in this text, I will operate with a slightly different classification:


  • Food production (primary sector)


  • Production of material goods (secondary sector)


(Raw materials, manufacturing, energy)


  • Production of symbolic goods (tertiary sector)


To glimpse the revolutionary effect of what has been called "tertiarizing the economy", it is interesting to contrast the historical proportion of the composition of the workforce, in traditional societies, with today:


Sector Traditional Societies Contemporary Society
Primary 70% 5%
Secondary 20% 20%
Tertiary 10% 70%


Also, more precisely, one can observe the following comparisons, obtained from the statistics of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in www.laborsta.ilo.org: [44]


Inglaterra Estados Unidos
1981 2006 2000 2008
Sectores Millones  % Millones  % Millones  % Millones  %
Fuerza de Trabajo 26 100 29 100 141 100 145 100
1° Agricultura 0,54 0,21 0,37 0,13 3,7 2,6 2,2 1,5
2° Bienes Materiales
(Manufactura)
8,7
(5,4)
33,4
20,8
6,4
(3,8)
22,1
13,1
32,7
(20,7)
23,2
14,7
35,4
(15,9)
24,4
11,0
3° Servicios 14,2 54,6 18,95 65,3 104,6 74,2 58,4 40,6
Desempleados 2,56 9,8 3,28 11,3
No clasificados 0,014 ~ 0 49 33,8


I have put in parenthesis the sector that is directly engaged in manufacturing. This allows to explicitly see the destruction of industrial employment. Note that in the United States between 2000 and 2008 it changed from 20.7 million to 15.9 industrial workers: 23% less. Another aspect of the same problem can be seen in the dramatic increase of workers with "not classifiable" jobs, or "not clearly defined job", of 14,000 in 2000 to 49 million(!) in 2008, which was mainly due to the extensive and radical processes of job insecurity, and the myriad forms of underemployment.


What these figures show, from our point of view, is that the increase in labor productivity was wasted in unproductive jobs. Or again, in other words, they show that the progress of mankind has only been used in benefit of the ruling classes, rather than distributed progressively and proportionately between its direct producers.


The only logic of tertiarizing the economy is to keep the wage labor contract and capitalist profit as the only ways to access the benefits of the wealth produced by all. To keep the capitalist market as the only way of appropriating and sharing wealth.


The abundance, which should mean well-being and true freedom for all, becomes idiot work, administered leisure, a scheme of disciplined life, alienated around market exchange, predation of lives and resources in the name of economic development patterns that have become technically unnecessary, that not only maintain the disproportionate benefit of a few, but also of those who just do not produce absolutely no real wealth of any kind.


But the model of industrialization based on the arms race and mass consumption also produced other contradictions himself.


Looking to maximize their profit, huge urban concentrations (concentrate producers, bringing near the consumers) were created, they resorted to plundering of natural resources on an unprecedented scale, polluting energy sources were used keeping in view only their immediate cost, without any calculation of their impact on the environment in the mean and long term.


In pursuit of profit maximization, labor intensity was dramatically increased in the purely mechanical routines of Fordism (extreme alienation in the workplace "for life"), or the shocks of job insecurity that combines periods extreme exploitation of empty periods without occupation ... and without pay.


A first effect of this model that matters to explicit is the increasing difficulty to restore the work force required by labor intensity and insecurity. This generated the need to manage the free time, searching (vainly) to increase the "intensity of rest", to prevent social epidemics like alcoholism, absenteeism, drug abuse among workers, produce a subjective commitment to the means of production and the objectives of the companies (the "Toyota spirit").


But the entertainment industry, which converted these needs into another business, was so primitive and stressful as the evils sought to relief; the work of personnel offices in the attempt to create a favorable subjective climate became mere manipulation and a demand rather than subjective facilitation.


Urban concentration, the technological intensity of everyday life, overdemands created by labor intensity, generated new forms of rather neuromuscular and psychological fatigue, the old industrial production did not know.


The back side of rising wages and improved living standards was a dramatic worsening of the quality of life. This should be pointed out, however, in two ways. On the one hand, among those integrated to industrialization, the local standard of living (in the family, in the neighborhood) increased, while the overall quality of life (in particular lives, in society in general) worsened significantly: one could live increasingly better in a society, that is increasingly less worth living in.[45]


But on the other hand, part of the cost of this massive rise in living standards of integrated mass is the misery of the marginalized areas inside and outside of developed capitalism.[46] For the marginalized not only the standard of living has fallen, but above all and catastrophically, the quality of life. It is a dark, tragic reality, at least for a quarter of humanity. A massive one in countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, in the countries of central Africa. But also, increasingly, in all urban peripheries of the more pompously "developed" cities, like New York, London, Paris, Moscow and Rome.


To this we must add the drastic drop in income distribution, both domestically and globally, occurred in the last thirty years, where the crisis and financial speculation have led to a huge concentration of capital and lucre.


A second effect, in the order of the technical division of labor, appears to concentrate large amounts of tasks in a single assembly line (according to the Fordist technique), and even worse when removing those lines to rearranging them as networks of production of modules and parts (as in the post Fordian technique): the increase in the complexity of the production process becomes more susceptible to overall failure.


An example of the first type (single systems connected in series) is the catastrophic failure of nuclear power plants. An example of the second type (delocalized, networked systems) is the daily "the system crashed" in the window of a bank, or the spread of congestion when traffic lights fail two or three at a time.


The problem appears due to the sustained tendency to concentrate production operations in highly complex systems. In serial systems, by increasing its length, in network systems by increasing the number of modules and of connections between them. This makes systems that can usually overcome or correct a local failure (directly in a serial system, or doing the work with other modules on another path in networked systems), completely changed the possibilities of their overall behavior. Or, to put it directly, gradually increasing the likelihood of a catastrophic spread of a local failure, ie, that the failing of a step, or a module, precipitates the gradual downfall of those who are connected with it.[47]


"The system is down" is a response that we heard and hear with increasing frequency. The reason, of course, is the excessive concentration of production processes or information, has no other origin than the greed for profit ("save" time and effort). Later I will add as a factor also the extreme vanity of tech bureaucrats who mistake their mere pretense of knowing for actual knowledge.


Arms race inserted into a pattern of predatory and destructive industrialization, financial speculation at the expense of the welfare of all, tertiarization of the economy led by the idiot work on unnecessary working hours, discharge of absolute unemployment to huge areas of the Third World. Technological intensity of everyday life, productive complexity prone to catastrophic failure, local standard of living increases which are paid by an overall deterioration in the quality of life. These are global critiques of capitalism that can be added after Marx. Each and every one of them, however, fully inscribed in the logic of the reproduction of capital which he described.


There won't be a communist perspective while the popular movement doesn't achieve to reverse these trends. End the destructive production (destined to waste, founded in contaminating energy and resource depletion, irrationally concentrated); end to financial speculation; reverse tertiarization of the economy, of unproductive labor, of dumbing employment; remove the essential services from the market logic; sustainable industrial development to the poorest areas of the planet.


In this long march a good first step is to try to specify as clearly as possible who the enemy is, and whom we can count on. This is the aim of the second part of this book.


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. [48] 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.[49] 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. [50] 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".[51]


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.[52]


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.


2. Theory of social classes

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.[53] 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.[54] 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.[55]


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".[56]


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.[57]


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.[58] 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.[59]


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". [60]


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.[61] 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.[62]


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.[63]


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.[64]


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.[65]


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.[66]


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.[67] 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.[68]


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.


Section: Short note on the concept of ideology

My impression is that the innumerable and flourishing literature generated around the concept of ideology only has its origin and meaning in the Enlightened concept that associates it to the order of representations and thoughts, and that an important part of these efforts is directed to a vague criticism against this perspective, the Marxist tradition of the twentieth century never managed to get liberated from.


I argue that a Hegelian treatment of the idea of ​​class consciousness, like the one I've outlined in this chapter, and of the operations of thought, as I've started in my text On Hegel (Ithaca, Mexico, 2008), make that the concept loses much of its appeal, and that most of the discussions developed around it lose their meaning.


Of course, and immediately, from what I have argued follows that the ideological struggle is always a political struggle, and that its only possible effectiveness is in the field of political action. It also follows that ideology is an expression of the contradictions of real life, and that it is constituted as alienated consciousness.


As the concept so considered is generally a bit poor, and having exercised its moment of fame in the typical role of a wildcard in Social Sciences that seems to explain everything without explaining anything, I will stop by briefly at only two aspects. The relationship between ideology and institution (the famous "ideological apparatuses"), and the relationship between ideology and truth.


It is only under the avoidable and unnecessary assumption that ideology is primarily a set of representations that it makes sense to insist on the phenomenon of institutionalization. If that assumption is not made, it is obvious that it can only be expressed in this way (and then the emphasis is trivial), and reflection can move conveniently and simply to the fact that not only the church, parties, courts and schools (ok, ok ... well let's add the asylum and prison ...) are institutions, but also common sense, the forms of family, or the everyday contexts of ritualized actions. Assuming the contrary obvious assumption (that it is not representations but of sets of events), it is immediate that the general problem is the ritualization that prevents them as human products, and reflection can just move towards that reification of social relations in general, and toward its source.


It was only the enlightened concept that led to the nonsense of claiming that there are specifically ideological institutions (all are), as if they could be distinguished in this respect from others (which would only be productive?). And this nonsense itself led to the idiotic extreme of believing it was necessary to acknowledge relationships of "over-determination" between the ideological struggle and the struggle at a productive level. All this, of course, presided by the enlightened, avoidable and unnecessary habit of considering the social mode of production, the "legal-political structures" and ideology as part of an aggregate, a joint, which leads directly to the completely artificial matter of wondering about their relationship and the priority of their mutual determinations.[69] "Over determination" and "determination in the last instance" are but the attempt to somehow unite what was absolutely unnecessary to separate. These are attempts to put in motion what was absolutely unnecessary to fix as structure. Of conceiving as a whole what was absolutely unnecessary to compose as an aggregate of parts. All this is trivial and unnecessary from the point of view of achieving an effective use of the Hegelian logical categories.


Also the specters of the external relation and the articulation of parts, typical of structuralism, are haunting the relationship between ideology and truth. The term "false consciousness" was interpreted as "a consciousness that is false" in the epistemological sense from what obviously had to arise a clash between ideology and science, considered the latter to be true.


In Hegelian logic, the epistemological aspect of truth, which can certainly be opposed to the false at the purely formal surface, is only a consequence and an aspect of its material nature. Hegel held an ontological notion of truth, where falsehood is only a stage of development, or a partial and abstract aspect of truth, a concept where truth is the material reality, the real and effective.


When we consider this Hegelian notion from a Marxist point of view, ideology is truth. It is the truth of something. Of a situation in which antagonism and contradiction prevail. As I have argued before, this is not a truth against an error, but one truth against another. Ideology is the expression, as a concept, of a constitutively violent situation, of a situation in which the essential dialogue is not possible because the sides are consecutively constituted as true to themselves. There isn't ideology against truth. All social thought, and the acts themselves in which it is contained, are ideological.


But this whole affair, that might seem purely theoretical, and even trivial, is relevant, again, for its political projection. When removing the claim that there would be a truth against error, that there would be a non-ideological thinking opposed to an ideology, what is removed at the same time is the claim that science could be this area of thinking being already true or in any case, perfectible by itself, abstractly, over any social contradictions.


Considered on a larger scale, this claim is merely repeating, now in a bureaucratic key, the claim of universal truth that the Lords wielded with their universal faith against the "myths and fantasies" of polytheism, and later the same claims of bourgeois universal reason against "religious obscurantism". Bureaucratic power now, as any new ruling class, presents its own interests as universal interests, and supports them on science, that pits the "metaphysical speculation" and the "narrow interests" that it denounces in bourgeois tradition.


As I have argued, the Marxist critique that points toward communism, must fight to distinguish, in that abstract construction that is called science, strongly supported today by a whole institutional world, to know how much it has of operational, effective knowledge, and how much of legitimizing pretension of knowing.


For deep philosophical approach, from what science might have of genuine human, relatively disinterested creativity, what must be disassembled is the claim of pure objectivity, it must be radically historicize, it must be put in the sequence of the large (effectively large) narrations in which humanity has put ITS concepts (magic, myth, universal faith, substantive reason, science), and has produced in a literally genuine way what it has experienced as a world.


III. Political Theory

1. Political Theory and academic techniques

As in economics and sociology, it is necessary to distinguish between Marxist political theory and the refined bureaucratic pretension that is called "Political Science". While comparing these three areas of conventional science, however, it is good to notice its progressive ineffectiveness, actually proportional to the complexity of the problems it addresses. Certainly, in parallel, the progressive vanity and bombast with which they conceal its weakness may also be verified.


Conventional economics tends to be quite useful in the management of small businesses, and small and medium state administration. But it completely fails when it tries to address the complexity of the market. At the level of industrial or financial competition, cunning, insider information, manifest abuse of dominant positions, are the only appropriate formulas for success. Nobody is able to calculate future prices, nor to anticipate trends in production or consumption.


Producing in a colluded or monopolistic manner what people are forced to consume (as in the industries of clothing or food), creating demand through an ongoing effort of manipulation and deceit (as in the pharmaceutical industry), impose unfair conditions for small producers and contractors, these are the appropriate formulas for survival. For none of them an economist is needed. When they take care of what any smart person with power knows, their attestation as "economists" only legitimizes the power they are entrusted, never originates or enlarges it beyond what cunning and common abuse can.


Finally, faced with the complexity of the global market, its failure and impotence simply become absolute. No one can anticipate a financial crisis or productive recession. All descriptions, that never reach an explanatory range, are made on the fly, realizing fait accompli. It is striking, conversely, that this macroeconomic environment is just the most technified, the most "scientific", the one which uses the most bulky and sophisticated mathematical models. [70] According to its own claims (describe, anticipate, control), macroeconomics is but a permanent failure, spanning over more than a century and a half.


There may be some who may want to defend macroeconomic policy, arguing that, for example (the great example), Keynesian policies saved capitalism from bankruptcy. Two minimum issues thereon. Keynesian policies only last until the time when the cost of labor is so high that they visibly diminish profits. At this limit, between the will of the economists and the greed of capital, "science" just backs off, or takes "objectively" a neoclassical somersault. The other: Keynesian policies launched capitalism to the precipice of bureaucratic hegemony, so that, in historical terms, they are part of the the source of ultimate failure precisely of the kind of society they sought to save.


Sociology as a discipline has learned to largely ignore this helplessness and these failures to anticipate and control anything as required, simply renouncing to explain or control anything, cunning refuge in description, of course afterwards. Its effective tools only serve to account for what is, and even that only at the local level. Also in formulating global models of social action, as in economy, its degree of sophistication is proportional to its impotence. Of course, lacking the formal appearance of scientists and refined technocrats held by economists, this has resulted in a progressive weakening of their discourse to the ruling powers. That is why economists continue to manage, despite their sustained and spectacular failures, the ministries of finance, while sociologists only reach social ministries as politicians, not by virtue of their certifications.


In the field of formulation of global models of social action, which are forced to articulate at least for its media and academic prestige, a successful formula which is always possible and very often used, is recycling some classical thinkers (sixteenth to eighteenth centuries ) to say, with new subtle names and without any speculative support, what was already said two hundred or more years ago. Neo-contractarians, recyclers of Machiavelli, Kant and Hume, and even far less frequently, of Hegel, come and go again and again, as academic and publishing fashions, without adding to the classical horizon of bourgeois thought anything but baroque decay.


The idea of ​​Political Science, or the idea, more generally, that there can be a science of politics, in turn, fully participate in this mix of baroque academicism and empty technicality. Beyond the discipline itself, created quite artificially in American academia in the 40s, whose triviality I do not care to comment here, the idea of ​​a science of politics belongs to the very soul of the Enlightenment and, as such, to innermost jurisdiction of enlightened Marxism.


It is intended that from a more or less objective description of given social facts, prior, definite forms of action could be obtained, which could successfully guide the political initiative. The anxiety to obtain such formulas has traditionally stressed the vanguardist discussion and the baroque and the grandiloquence of these discussions has generated a catastrophic trend in the radical left: to discuss more, much more passionately, with the Left than with the Right.


Hampered by the hopelessness of a goal that exceeds their possibilities (getting their concrete action paths from scientific analysis of precedents and circumstances), and faced in idiotic ways by the discussions generated, the result is for all to yield, the justified fright of reasonable people and the new generations: fratricidal fragmentation, rhetorical maximalism, baroque doctrinairism. The dozens, or even hundreds, of microscopic radical lefts fighting each other, completely behind the popular movement are, of course, the appropriate place of horror for the social democratic left to draw, for these new generations, lessons of reformist and anti utopian moralism: only immediate action without doctrine or strategic direction, would be a viable policy. We are not condemned to this dichotomy between doctrinaire and theoretical vacuum, between ethical idealism and immediatist pragmatism.


Much of this sustained idiocy, which certainly has deeper roots than what I list here, could be avoided giving up the idea that there can be a science of politics, that is, a mode of analysis to obtain such theoretical, previous to any action, role models that should be taught "to the masses" and followed "consistently" for success. Or, to the idea that rationality of politics (I don't deny) can be covered through the narrow ways of science, or the broader of Enlightened rationalism.


Of course there is a rationality of politics in general, and even of political action in particular. But rationality is crossed by the dynamics between freedom and alienation, and the contrast between desire and reality, making it incommensurable with the rationality of things for which science was created.


Let us say, moreover, for the most sophisticated, that scientific reason has failed even with the rationality of things, and its technical success is due only to a radical simplification of the complexity of reality. Where complexity reigns, as in climatic events, in ecological balances, plate tectonics, or simply in any turbulent flow, their successes are reduced to modest trial and error techniques, or huge computational models that work well right up until the moment they are most needed.


Both historical perspective and in particular political calculation, the theoretical anticipation is but one element of the production of what it establishes. Stated in mathematical terms, this is because every advance constitutes an element that strongly interacts nonlinearly with its possible outcomes.


The Marx calculations on the general crisis of capitalism would have led directly to the collapse of the system if the regulatory capacities of bureaucratic power were not put into play. The rescue exercised by this power, in turn, can not prevent the end of capitalism consumed in other ways, far away to the hopes of the classic Enlightened Left.


Lenin's calculations about the possibility that a worker-peasant alliance could precipitate, from a national revolution, the general uprising of the European workers, would have led the world revolution if there hadn't been the passage from the capitalism of free competition to a Fordist, regulated capitalism, capable of raising wages in a real way. And his Bolshevik revolution would have led to communism if there hadn't been the needs of industrial development, which are assumed by the bureaucratic vanguard.


There are deadlines and deadlines. What seemed plausible for seventy years, the irreversible start to workers self government, today isn't. What seemed unshakable for four hundred years, the triumph of capitalism, today may be questioned. But none of these estimates is an effect of a scientific calculation and can not be indeed. Each is but a mixture of will and estimation of immediate possibilities.


Of course, although I have already done too many times in this text, it is always necessary to remind those who can not escape the dichotomy, that what I am arguing is not arbitrariness, lack of absolute meaning or rule of historical contingency. What I contend, far away from this, is that the sense of history and its possibilities can not be inferred from a scientific calculation. What I will argue is that, yes, it can be put, however, from a political estimate made ​​from a rational will.


Political action does not arise, and can not be guided from a priori theoretical criteria, formulated outside and prior to itself. It arises from a will which is basically animated by existential elements. A will that uses theory to structure itself, to be able to see, not to be able to be.


Political theory creates a rhetoric that conveys, organizes, what will has already set. For this, it uses analysis of the present, looking for key point for the real possibility and proposes acting on them. But only the popular movement, in its effective action, can make these possibilities real. There isn't any theory which can produce, or even strengthen, the action capacity that the popular movement may have or not, may be able to produce or not, from its immediate existential conditions.


But then, far away from the enlightened claim of calculation, anticipation and "scientific" steering, this allows to identify two proper and possible areas of political theory as conceived in Marxist terms. On one side the study and direct political work with these real and immediate existential conditions. On the other, examining the potential that present contradictions create on a strategic horizon formulated from a strategic will. And by the way, the formulation and political work of concrete proposals for action that follow from that examination.


Any reasonable citizen, taking charge of that strategic will, can do this job and make these propositions. And reasonable citizens as peers, empowered from that strategic will, are those who can discuss them, carry them out, spread them as revolutionary initiative. There aren't, nor should there be, experts in revolutions. Every militant under his will and objective situation must be considered as capable of analysis and political deliberation. In fact there are no "mistakes" in political analysis, there are conflicting wills, wills accusing each other of "error", because they arise from conflicting existential places. The political action of theory is then not to dispel "errors", but gather wills. Its role is not to distinguish and separate the "right" from "wrong", but add and push forward. And the effectiveness and correctness of analysis can only be measured in a useful manner with respect to this ability to gather.


For these complex tasks there isn't a more accurate and effective method than the simple and centennial "trial and error". Many technical study tools, created even within the social sciences, can support the analysis of the local and immediate, while invariably failing, however, for the global and historical. It is useful to know these techniques, but it is neither essential nor indispensable. The reasonableness contained in the passions is able to see more clearly and deeply than the rationality of proud intellect.


Marxist political theory is, in short, much more a will, considered in its acts of seeing, proposing and producing, than a theory that arrogates the power to anticipate and control. Marxist theory is, and should be, rather political action linked to the immediate field of the objectivity of facts, than descriptive contemplation that can be placed "at the service" of the action.


2. Revolutionary subject and popular movement

Considered in its practical aspect, the fundamental issue of Marxist political theory is to establish who we can count on in the strategic perspective of communism. Conventionally this task has been developed around the discussion of the revolutionary subject. My opinion is that this discussion is only the first part of a broader and more practical one: with whom and how it is possible to articulate the popular movement. The profound political significance of this extension is the awareness that revolutions are made by the people, as a whole, not just by those directly exploited, nor the poor and oppressed. Or again, what is the same, the awareness that any revolutionary task to be minimally viable requires a deep and sustained policy of alliances, including multi-class alliances, having always in view its strategic horizon.


If it is communism, ie a perspective where the meaning is liberation and the re-appropriation of work, the center of these alliances can only be workers. If the content of this liberation is to completely put the production of material wealth at the service of human achievements, the center can only be those that produce material wealth. If the key to social dominance is the control of the social division of labor, the center must then be the direct producers who are in a position of re-appropriating this control.


Conceptually the revolutionary subject first of all must be determined in this objective way. The first question is not who want to make the revolution but who can do it. Only from that determination the problem of the subjectivity required for these social actors to effectively undertake the historic task of which they are capable can be usefully addressed.


As should be obvious already, the problem is now very real and very sharp because it happens that workers, precisely those who could dominate the social division of labor, ARE NOT the poorest of society, and this, moralizing apart, obviously influences on their eventual revolutionary consciousness. Those who can make the revolution are not very much interested in doing it.


The response of Marxist tradition to this dilemma, that can be traced to Lenin, has been a gradual shift of the revolutionary subject from the exploited to the oppressed in general, that is, from workers to the poor as poor. The logic of this shift can be understood as a correlative shift from the objective conditions of the revolution to the subjective conditions.


To force, from revolutionary will, what the objectivity of reality doesn't show yet.


Of course the revolutionary will is essential. Without it the communist horizon, which requires a profound act of consciousness to be viable, is simply not possible. It is a mistake, however, to think that horizon from that will, or to consider it in itself as an essential piece of politics. By doing so, the mode (to exercise a will) is confused with content (to liberate the SDL) or also the means (politics) with its end (human liberation). In the end this leads to the sentimental idea that the political struggle is, by itself, the liberation, ie that regardless of the outcome, we already fulfill our task merely by fighting. A logic that is closely associated with periods of retreat and defeat: we have not won, but at least we fight.


To exit the logic of defeat, it is necessary to assume that we don't struggle just to fight: we fight to win. It is necessary to re-center the objectivity of our aims and pragmatic criteria that could help make them real. We don't fight for the inertia of being heirs or to testify. What we are interested in, in a concrete and objective way, is to put an end to the class struggle.


But in addition, the displacement of the determination of the revolutionary subject from the exploited to the oppressed, and from their objective premises towards their subjectivity, led revolutionaries to concentrate efforts on the capitalist periphery, on countries with a poor, or even nonexistent own capitalist development or, put more precisely, on countries whose only capitalist feature was suffering the consequences of looting. Under these conditions the revolutionary processes could only be promoted by enlightened vanguards, and today we know that the objective development of these vanguards was becoming bureaucratic control and usufruct and even, eventually, to simply reconvert to capitalism.


It is against this trend, against this tradition, I hold that we must rethink the revolutionary subject from its factual premises and, from them, take on the task, difficult as it may seem, of the conversion, through political work, of their potential into revolutionary will.


That is why I have argued that the center and essence of the revolutionary side must be the direct producers of material goods, the workers producing real wealth from natural resources, and through manufacturing. Joining them in the same role, the workers exercising immediate services that enable the production systems and circuits. These are the workers who do produce real added value, ie, what counts as value and not just price swings. These are the ones, considered global and historically, who form the exploited class in a direct sense. All the rest of society lives off the wealth they produce. They, in their capacity as producers, must liberate themselves and appropriate their production. I do insist on these statements because it has a central political consequence: all free human beings should belong to that type of direct producers.


Once this core is established, we can establish its objective allies in concentric circles. First, of course, not all workers who don't produce real surplus value (all non immediate services), but only receive a salary equal to the cost of production and reproduction of their labor force. That is, workers who are exploited in the sense that their services allow local and temporary profits, due to price fluctuations, but who don't accumulate real value in global and historical terms.


Distinguishing this group of workers exploited in improper sense is extremely important due to the enormous and notorious outsourcing in developed industrial economies, and even dependent countries. As I mentioned in Part (Part I, Chapter 4, Section f, Anticapitalist critiques after Marx), under bureaucratic hegemony the tertiarization of the economy is nothing but the creation and extension of useless, idiot, alienating, unproductive, work with the sole purpose of justifying wages to keep market stability. Even certain aspects of these trades that could be seen as positive, as the huge number of professionals in health, education, culture, just obey to the increased commercialization of these fields. Tertiarization is a force that prevents the sharing of productivity gains among all, a trend that is but the back of structural unemployment. Tertiarization and structural unemployment are but two correlative sides of the refusal by dominant classes progressively convert increasing wealth into real liberation. Of their selfish obstinacy in allowing workers access to wealth only through the alienated mechanism of wages.


As I will later explain, the center of the long march toward communism must precisely pass through untertiarizing the economy. The economy! ... of course, not the society. Put directly, a priority in the construction of communist horizon is radically out the services of any commercial logic. Bluntly elevate them to the status of human rights for which nobody has to pay or collect.


Only workers, because they work, may be the revolutionary subject. Among them, as I have indicated, the strategic direction of the liberation of the producers of material goods is different from the liberation of service producers. This difference should be expressed in our policy.


It is from this center that we must think the necessary political alliances within various time frames and extensions according to the different tasks.


Indeed, first of all, our immediate and natural ally are the oppressed in general. The poor and discriminated against for their urgent issues; the precarious and poor working people, for their potential, not existing, link with fairly decent job.


Of course there are policies more urgent than others. But the order of urgency does not have to match the order of its strategic importance, or class character. Considering both variables, and its content, not its precedence in time, there are liberal-populist policies, socialist policies and communist policies.


The former are focused on the oppressed, and most of its objectives could be achieved by simply integrating the marginalized, the absolute poor, into the capitalist labor market, at minimal levels of service and consumption.


The latter are focused on the working poor, their goal is to substantially improve their living conditions and dignity of their work. But these are goals that are still perfectly compatible with a capitalist system in which there is a strong interventionist state, to provide services that guarantee moderately fair labor relations and a production style that recognizes the versatility and participation of workers, who are still, however, employees.


Only be called Communist policy, however, to that which transcends these levels. At that point not only to the elimination of poverty but of exploitation, pointing not only to the relative dignity of work but its release.


These policies do not exclude each other, and don't have to be thought as a succession. It is obvious that though some can be seen as conditions for others, may be included in social tasks performed simultaneously. Furthermore, as I will explain later, whether they are reformist or revolutionary is not a matter of choice, not even of succession. But only a communist policy can be called a revolutionary policy.


These sectors (direct producers, exploited service producers, oppressed in general), which may themselves be the revolutionary side, may only undertake this strategic march setting up wide, and long term, alliances with such sectors that although class analysis would identify them in principle and formally as part of the enemy, are nevertheless in a situation of oppression within their own social class, what drives their interests in an objective way to the opposite side.


Small and medium bourgeois who promote manufacturing; small and medium bourgeois living on land rent (particularly farmers); small and medium state bureaucrats (including scientists and academics).


All these sectors, because of their objective status, may be part of a multi-class popular movement animated, in varying degrees and ways, by a strategic mind. The central political task of the diverse Left is to constitute it as such.


In the specific tasks, in the daily struggle of this great popular movement, Marxists are in fact, and should only be a part, only a contribution, along with many other politically more or less radical doctrinaire leftist sectors, who do not have to be Marxists. If we take over this position as members and activists from a broad left, composed of many lefts, then the distinctions and priorities I've set up here should be considered relevant for us, for us Marxists, and should not have to be imposed to the whole movement. Considering the vanities of classical Marxists, curiously proportional to their great historical failures, these are things that are obvious to everyone but, however, are necessary to explain.


To the actual policy it is relevant to assume that, strictly speaking, the "revolutionary subject" category is a theoretical category used by us, as Marxists, according to a doctrinaire horizon we believe necessary and just. We can recognize that subject as real, we can direct our priority action towards it, but in essence it is a potential subject of an essential sense that marks our practice as a revolutionary will. But in fact, empirically and directly, the popular movement is the only effective subject. Regarding its essence, as intellectuals we make a statement about what could be possibly its deepest core and strength. But the intellectuals, as I have argued before, only propose: the popular movement as a whole (not just the eventual revolutionary subject) is who really and effectively decides. Of course, we always want to go beyond what the empirical consciousness contains and allows but, while it is always risky to conclusively exceed the popular, sensible and realistic wisdom that holds it in the ways and methods that to intellectuals, always on the edge of advantgardist vanity, must necessarily seem too slow.


3. The idea of revolution

a. Revolution and revolt

Much of the vanguard's impatience comes from the idea of ​​revolution. The Marxist twentieth century imaginary was profoundly marked by the notion of revolution as an event, chaired by the heroic and spectacular images of the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the taking of the Winter Palace in 1917. The revolution is usually thought of as a act (to take over something, to conquer something), which occurs at a critical day after a relatively short war or uprising, which is usually to be remembered as the day of the revolution (July 14, October 25, January 1, 1959) associated to a hymn, to a place, to a few heroes, to a leader. It was and still is common to even refer to these events as "taking power".


To remove these icons, which have been but a posteriori reconstructions, which have only served to the anxiety of the vanguards and to bureaucratic legitimacy, I will do several distinctions in the semantic field of the concept of revolution, and then specify which of these alternatives should really be interesting from a Marxist point of view.


What word revolution contains at least, and in all cases, is that it is a relatively quick, general social process (affects an entire society) and a violent one (as opposed to the "peaceful" nature of what is called "evolution "). But each of these features can be widely relativized without loosing the concept. Consider that the agricultural revolution lasted about four thousand years, that we often speak of revolution even if it occurs in a small country (Cuba) without affecting the society in which it is embedded, or you could be talking about the violence of ideas or gestures, like with scientific revolutions or those of everyday life. What the concept retains, despite these relativizations, is the radical character of what happened. We only use this term when we think of a quick, comprehensive and violent change of the essence of a social process.


Marx argued that the bourgeoisie was an eminently revolutionary class. He condensed it in a famous statement "cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production (Marx's Word).


He was referring, of course, to the catastrophic, good and bad, consequences of the extreme rapidity of these changes on the social relations of production, resulting in larger cultural changes and acute political struggles. Thus I shall distinguish this mode as productive revolution, ie, one that from the productive forces alters the relations of production, of what can be called a political revolution, in which the process occurs in reverse. The best example of the first are the bourgeois revolutions, while a good example of the latter is how the Russian revolution became bureaucratic hegemony. Of course, this is an analytical, theoretical difference. Both modes are neither unique nor exclusive, and it is obvious that a permanent dynamic between them is given.


The issue is relevant, however, because between these modes, historically, there is a kind of priority. While the bourgeois revolution must be thought of as eminently productive, the proletarian revolution must be thought of as a political revolution. The bourgeoisie sought political power only to the extent that it needed for the deployment of its productive initiatives and business. You could say that it found political change and used it as a means. Communism, however, is only possible as a sustained primarily political effort, in which the political autonomy of citizen partners should be considered an end in itself, and from there be an impact on the construction of hegemony in the production plane.


But even thought of as a political revolution, it is necessary to distinguish in it the political change, however radical, from a structural change. A political change occurs in the state apparatus (one government for another, some laws for others). The structural change from a Marxist point of view can only be the replacement of one ruling class by another. In the narrowest sense, the first type can be called revolt: governments change but the dominant class remains. In a true sense only the second type should be called revolution.


When we think about the production side of the structural change, as I have argued before, the key is the change of the social class that dominates the social division of labor. In political terms this should directly result in the radical subversion of the rule of law.


The modern, bourgeois, bureaucratic hegemony is directly converted into government when it builds a rule of law that favors it systematically. Of course it is crucial to distinguish here the state from government and the law from the individual act. The rule of law is the fact that a joint of certain laws reigns. For this to happen the state institutions are necessary, as the government (executive, legislative, judicial), the administrative apparatus (comptroller, municipalities, superintendents) and, by extension, public services (education, health, culture, services organized by the State). In an even broader sense, the laws themselves can be considered as institutions of the rule of law.


What matters to class rule is that the rule of law as a whole, ie, its core and essence, favors the ruling class. As I have argued in previous chapters, there may be many laws that favor the proletariat, and yet the whole favors the bourgeois or bureaucratic power. Virtually all laws of the bourgeois State of law may be changed (more social or more democratic, more liberal or more authoritarian) under the sole condition that its essential core, private property and wage labor system, remains untouched. The bureaucracy has been adding to these conditions, gradually, the power of the certifications of their claims of knowledge (as with the autonomy of the central banks with respect to citizen control), which it interested and ideologically considers obvious. When the popular movement manages to bring social pressures to the extent of changing the laws that express this essential core, from the ruling class the use of physical violence invariably appears, the military coup, the explicit anti popular, and the bourgeoisie and bureaucrats simply forget all appearances and democratic squeamishness. We've seen it.


Those legal systems that are the focus of the rule of law (private property, wage labor, intellectual property, priority of technocratic knowledge) devote a social relation of exploitation that is antagonistic and violent, and ruling classes are willing to defend them at all costs through physical violence. This situation is what Marx called "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie". Whether it occurs in more or less democratic forms, the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is, in political terms, the rule of law itself. That rule of law is as such, in its essence, only institutionalized violence, and against it, in response, we are entitled to revolutionary violence.[71]


We can thus distinguish political violence in general from what is to be understood more narrowly as revolutionary violence. It is not the same, violence in the rule of law (social violence, repressive violence) than violence directed against the rule of law. Correlatively, is not the same violence against particular laws, or against the government, than violence which is directed against the core of the rule of law that favors the dominant classes.


The revolutionary political task in the foreground, is to overthrow the (legal and material) dictatorship of the dominant classes, ie, to build a rule of law that systematically favors the direct producers. This is what Marx called "dictatorship of the proletariat", whether it is through democratic formalities or not.


b. Revolution and reform

The communist revolution must be understood as a process, not an event. As a long march in that the progressive construction of hegemony in the production plane is essential, and its correlative support in building a legal and cultural apparatus that systematically favors social interests over private interests. The communist program is to create a world of abundance and empower citizens to make class struggle and its institutions progressively unnecessary, which should result in the extinction of the rule of law used as a means to promote it.


When we think of the revolution in this conceptual way, ie, by its content, not its forms, the historical model that should be kept in mind is rather the bourgeois revolution in England, than the spectacular French Revolution, or the tragedy of Bolshevik heroism and bureaucratic realism that was the Russian Revolution.


During four hundred years, in "peaceful" and "violent" ways, through legal and illegal means, through culture and war, the bourgeoisie was progressively imposing its productive hegemony until it became that institutionalized violence called peace, until it became government.


Conceived in this way, the idiotic dichotomy of reform and revolution, whose only historical effect has been to oppose the left against the left, is completely artificial and unnecessary. Every revolutionary initiative is at minimum reformist, it is given and can only come in and against the rule of law that it seeks to subvert. The relationship here is one of degree, of perspective, of real historical radicalism, rather than abstract alternatives.


To think the revolution as if it could actually be separated and distinguished from the reformist action is to think of an act (which may happen or not) and not as a process; as a purely political (overthrowing a government) and not strictly structural event (change the ruling class). To think of it as an exercise of physical violence (military dominance) over the structural and institutionalized violence (political dominance). To think of it, in summary, according to the subjective emergencies of an avantgarde, always crossed by ethical idealism. All these extremes have a poor prognosis. We've seen it.


But even a process of structural and political anti capitalist violence could still not be a communist revolution. Capitalism is indeed being overtaken by the revolutionary violence of a class that arises from its logical and builds, as any new ruling class, its hegemony and legitimacy systems through legal and illegal channels. Importantly, what is often called "corruption", tending a moralizing mantle on it, are but those illegal channels from the point of view of bourgeois law, by way of which bureaucratic power is gradually imposing its hegemony. And we are witnessing how the ruling powers periodically "clean up the situation" converting into legal practices those which in recent times were considered "corrupt" such as lobbying, or the discretion of the largest managers on capital that is not theirs, or the suspension of legal guarantees for citizens under progressively police governments.


Here we have an inevitable terminological ambiguity that, for political reasons, it is necessary to specify. In a conceptual sense, considered from their own interests, this bureaucratic violence is revolutionary. It undermines the rule of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois revolution also attacked the rule of the feudal lords. In a political sense, however, these radical actions, looking for a transfer of power from an exploiting class to another exploitative class, considered from the communist horizon, should be called reform.


There are then two types of anti-capitalist violence. From Marxism, we should call it reform if it moves still within the hegemony of the ruling class on the one hand, or if its horizon is but another change of the ruling class. We should just call revolutionary violence, however, one whose horizon is the end of all class rule. [72]


c. Political violence

In all the above reasoning I've used again and again the term "violence". Of course, for the prevailing politicking hypocrisy this is an unpopular expression. All sectors of small conventional politics, even when blessing weapons or legalizing repressive mechanisms, say to do so in the name of peace. They only speak of violence to stigmatize social action against the law ("crime") or against THEIR rule of law ("subversion"). They do not think of poverty as violence (there is a need to improve opportunities), nor misery in hospitals (the state is inefficient), or the destruction of public education (private do better), or the destruction of the environment (costs that we must "mitigate"), even the very decline of a liberal horizon of bourgeois law expressed in an increasingly repressive legal regime (we must stop terrorism).


Of course I'm not writing for mass media, monopolized in their property and in their simpleton common sense by the ruling classes. Nor for the powerless and ineffectual moralizing ethical idealism, whose cries are always so close to hypocrisy and cynicism. The issue is not the "agenda" of the media, or arising out of abstract ethical criteria. The issue is not peace. They say there is peace when they have consolidated their legal and cultural system of exploitation and domination. When they have managed to colonize the common sense with their selfish abstract ethics and their rampant conformism: "there is what it is, at least let's live in peace".


The reality is that what prevails is misery, mediocrity of life, dumbed work, environment stifling, food degraded by commercial interest, cities which combine concrete and noise, and isolate and oppress humans. The real, over any fantasies and cynicism, is violence.


Then it is not peace. Any revolutionary action, even if it only consists of individually and momentarily raising a banner, is inherently violent. The discussion up to us therefore is not whether the revolution may be peaceful or violent, armed or parliamentary. It is always violent, it will always have armed episodes. The real debate, the only useful and politically significant one, is what violence is involved. First, and foremost, with what content. Then, systematically and consistently, from them, in what forms. On the contents I've so far written many things, yet I have many others to say. Now I'll talk about forms.


If the revolution is conceived as a process, if revolutions are made by the people, if the formation of future bureaucratic rulers is to be avoided, then revolutionary violence must always be mass violence. And conversely, from the Left and as Leftists, we criticize and oppose vanguardist violence.


I use the expression vanguardist violence for the one that is intended to set an example, ie, is structured from radical acts undertaken by an enlightened minority to show that it is possible to challenge the power and with that enthuse the allegedly passive mass to follow suit. As is well demonstrable in the tragic fate of almost all guerrilla movements, and also in the lower tragicomedy of student barricades, the wisdom of the people, which probably senses in these enlightened persons its futures masters, and the workers, who have slightly but significantly more to lose but their chains, has consistently given back to these heroic acts, even under oppression or poverty that to a university intellectual would seem simply unbearable. And we've verified time and again how this lack of real popular echo is stigmatized by the vanguard, who prefers to disregard the common sense of the oppressed as alienation, cowardice or appeasement, instead of working politically from it. And we have seen how in this logic the action sought to be setting an example becomes purely testimonial, and ends up being a purely particular satisfaction to the ethical idealism ... and for the right-wing press.


However, the problem with this vanguardist violence is not its repeated lack of efficacy, but its logic itself. The problem is the idea that in the popular movement there would be some who know the task and the way and other who do not know and are constantly deceived by power. This logic, which is nothing but the pedagogical approach of the Enlightenment, is what leads to the formation of groups of consequent people who proclaim themselves as vanguard, whose main effective task is but endlessly disputing that quality among themselves, in a race of honors, exhibitions and exemplary acts and demands of "revolutionary consequence" that ends fighting more and more sharply against the Left than the Right.


This is a logic that is crossed by ethical idealism. Communism is thought of as an ideal (a utopia, an afterlife); the perspective is thought of as a line (which must be distinguished step by step from "deviationism"); allies and enemies are thought of as "good" and "bad", which leads to characterize them in a moral way (exemplary fighters against evil, cruel, willfully perverse oppressors); action is reasoned based on a dichotomous moral, in which the good is simply and abstractly different and foreign to evil; there is permanent suspicion, due to these purity requirements, of the allies themselves, which are always on the edge of inconsistency and claudication.


It is fully to be expected then, under these constraints, that the vanguardist violence has the logic of revenge ("when the tortilla turns"), that it does not hesitate to threaten individuals that have been attributed irreparable moral defects and a key importance as political examples. It is not uncommon that this logic will hold a gross double standard regarding Human Rights, claiming them when you are loosing, and denounced them as bourgeois ideology when you're ahead. It is not uncommon in these conditions that the purge of in-consequent allies becomes alike or more important than the fight against their objective enemies.


Incapable of any policy of alliances, always valuing more the military than the political element, these vanguards are almost always doomed to isolation, to a character of vociferous minority that only contributes to enmierdar the discussion among the Left and facilitate the enemy's propaganda. However this is not their compulsory destination. If it was, I would not need to stop to argue against. It may happen, and it has happened, that the temporary and local military weakness of the enemy, and the degrees of excessive oppression, meet in crucial historical moments that make the whole people finally willing to support the systematically failed forecasts of the avantgarde . In such cases, a "revolution" becomes viable, that occurs as an event (a day, a square, a hymn, a decision), in which it manages to win a government. If that taking of the government survives the resulting civil war[73] the outlook is dark. Revolutions taken from a vanguard, by predominantly military means, through political processes that appear to be decisive and final, have invariably led to the formation of these vanguards as bureaucratic power. We've seen it.


Of course, those vanguardists who are defeated in this drift by another fraction that was more cunning and had access to power, will interpreted his failure again in a moralizing way. They are corrupt, deviated, the power somehow mysteriously turned them into evil, or finally revealed how evil they had always been. From a Marxist point of view, of course, all these explanations, even if empirically documentable, are fallacies in its foundation. They just describe something, never finding its material explanatory root.


The material question is always, and forever, who directly and effectively controls the social division of labor. The conversion process of the Bolshevik revolt (which overthrows a government)[74] into a bureaucratic revolution (which manages to replace the bourgeoisie and the landlords as the ruling classes) is nothing but the process in which the Bolshevik vanguard policy becomes the productive, industrializing forefront. The process through which the government, conquered together with the people, but essentially without it becomes real hegemony, but hegemony precisely of those who directly gained power.


The doctrinal reason, in short, to oppose vanguardist violence, well below the trivialities of their idealism and their militaristic enthusiasm, is that when it fails is but useless sacrifice, which only favors the enemy and when it triumphs, it becomes the revolutionary path leading to one of the forms of bureaucratic class domination.


For this issue of foundation, and also by an ethical value that comes from a non-idealist, post illustrated ethics, revolutionary violence must always be thought of as mass violence.


Occupations, political strikes, marches, and even a general uprising, are forms of mass violence. Even be the barricade may be. If any big city gets on fire with barricades, that is mass violence, if a barricade is set up at the door of the university only to the delight of the right-wing press, that's vanguardist violence. The number of participants or, rather, the social call is not at all a minor detail, it is just the crux of the matter. It is actions that convoke and sum up. Even is not everybody is directly involved, it matters that a solidary reaction of available support that is verifiable occurs.


But also for its historical projection, mass violence is not betting on a great, decisive and definitive event (the "seizure of power") from which only reconcilable social contradictions would remain to be resolved, but rather a wide perspective, which may involve taking and loosing power often, by military or peaceful means, but whose progress is not measured by the maintenance of the government, but by building productive hegemony. The government, the social domain, is always a means, a tactical purpose, but it is not itself the strategic goal, not even a guarantee that the strategic objective will be met.


The Big Left, composed of many leftist currents, must first explicitly put in the social discussion the problem of violence and assert their right to oppose institutionalized violence through the violence of the masses. But it must, secondly, in the same discussion, critique vanguardist violence. First for its prognosis, but also from a situated ethic, for its connotations of revenge.


The Big Left must always oppose terrorism which, as we know, almost always comes from the same ruling powers who hypocritical say they fight it. But it must also resist the occasional terrorist-type policies that may arise from the Left itself.


The Big Left should oppose violence against personal targets, even assuming that all violent struggle will damage people. It must recognize the universal validity of the human rights of our enemies even if facing the blatant fact that they did not recognize ours.


The revolution must be thought of as an act of justice, not of revenge. What should always be the center of discussion and action is its content, however necessary it may be to discuss its forms.


4. The communist horizon

a. A post Illustrated idea of communism

To recover the revolutionary potential and verosimilitude of Marxism it is necessary to talk of communism in a direct and explicit way. A clear strategic perspective is required, fully accessible to common sense, firmly anchored in the most radical possibilities of reality. A perspective that may fill specific content to our policies, enabling us at all times to discuss more about contents than about forms.


For this it is necessary, of course, to go beyond the "agenda" of the media and beyond the linguistic therapy authoritatively imposed on us, for which "it is no longer used to talk about this", and "those words they aren't fashionable any more", and that requires us not to talk about the people (just "people"), or bourgeois ("entrepreneurs") or exploited ("aspirational sectors"). And it is necessary to go beyond the logic of defeat, forcing us to a purely socialist discourse that has succumbed to the tide identifying communism with Soviet totalitarianism, or even with surviving parties that only continue having this name because they have not dared to take the step of resolutely declaring themselves Social Democrats.


This is to speak of Communism in a non demagogic, non populist way. Not as pure rhetoric about something that is presumed in advance as merely an ideal, an unattainable utopia, that only justifies our intention to fight endlessly. This is speaking of Communism objectively, not purely value-based, as a real possibility already contained in the present, beyond the also very real difficulties its realization may present. To develop a non utopian horizon, which can be translated into a strategic agenda, which in turn can be converted into the road map of concrete policies.


To make this possible, it is however necessary, both at the philosophical, doctrinal level, as well as in our daily work and from common sense, to move away from the Enlightened conception of communism that has prevailed in the Marxist tradition. A concept that it is utopian, proceeding for good accounts from Rousseau's ideal of general happiness, which is nothing but the secularization of the Catholic ideal of "Heaven". To move away, in short, from the harmful and totalitarian idea of "building Heaven on Earth".


Contrary to what has been the trend of the classic Marxist discourse, strictly speaking what we want is not everyone to be happy, we all being equal and everyone to know everything. The Marxist argument does not require the notion of general, uniform and permanent happiness, nor a homogenizing egalitarianism, or permanent cognitive transparency and security of each subject on the subjectivity of those around him. Those fantasies that are not only impossible but aren't even desirable, are not what we seek.


What we want instead, in a much more earthy and material way, is that the class struggle is over. That there be no institutions left which reify human suffering and make it immovable. That human beings can suffer and stop suffering face to face, in a purely intersubjective way, with no institutions that set them in either state. That they can handle the mystery of the other's subjectivity, the uncertainty of freedom, the virtues and difficulties of difference in a world of abundance and free labor, where the back of each of these potential particular evils is also so fully as possible, its overcoming. It is not to eliminate the basic conflict of life, of liberty, this is to contain it in a social space that is fully treatable, in a purely intersubjective way.


The material condition of all this is that we live in a society of abundance, and it is extremely important to note, and to call everybody's attention to the fact that we already live in a society of abundance. The conditions of injustice and lack of freedom are today only and purely political.


Of course it is necessary to humanize alienated abundance patterns, chaired by wasteful, banal consumption and by the brutal distance between those who are able to participate in it and the great excluded humanity. This is to remove the institutions that force us to participate in the actual abundance only through the unfair ways of profit, enjoyment or salary, or just condemn us to be absolutely excluded. It is to put an end to a situation where the direct producers of wealth are exploited, and their administrators, as bourgeois or bureaucrats, are who derive most. It is, in short, to end the class struggle.


But this post enlightened political horizon must be explicitly translated into a global model of society. We must be able to clearly specify under what concrete social conditions we would say we are in a communist society.


I argue that we can call communist a society that has been overcome the social division of labor. A society where free work time is much higher, quantitatively and qualitatively, than the socially compulsory labor for the material, productive, basic tasks, allowing the viability of the whole. That said subjectively, a society in which our individual lives do not depend on the division of labor, just because there is a socially shared core of necessary labor that makes this possible. Or, said in a much more concrete way, a society in which the general socially necessary working time is of not more than five or ten hours a week, and all the rest of the time makes room for free work and human fulfillment .


b. A substantial long march

The only way in which the direct producers can grow their hegemony over material production which essentially belongs to them is appropriating what exploitation alienates. I argue that the strategic way to achieve this is not simply prohibiting the private ownership of means of production in a unique great act, claiming to be definitive. Addressing the issue in this way, which is precisely what classical Marxism imagined, is but operate on the legal expression of something deeper, about what I have already stressed several times: the control of the social division of labor. Other legal expressions, from another ruling class may well be interposed between direct producers and wealth. And that is exactly what has happened.


What I contend is that the problem should be addressed directly from that material link, progressively reducing the working day to make that those legal forms and the domination they express cease to make sense as a strategy for sharing the social product. The only feasible way to reappropriate the historically alienated product is distributing the gains in productivity of labor among the direct producers, or through the reduction of working hours and the corresponding expansion of a growing area of ​​free labor, free human production.


Interestingly, as I indicated in a previous chapter, this idea was proposed more than eighty years ago by the same perfectly bourgeois economist who inspired the main way in which we have sought to make it impossible: John Maynard Keynes (see Part I, Chapter 4 section f, Reviews anti capitalist after Marx)[75].. As I mentioned in that section, the exact opposite of his proposal, what is usually called "Keynesian economics" involved the creation of two mechanisms that prevent his own forecast: creating useless work, just to keep the labor market and consumption running; as well as the displacement of hard unemployment to the capitalist periphery, where the absolute marginalized were mercilessly gathered.


The artificial creation of unproductive labor, which is what is usually called a "tertiarizing of the economy", and in particular on purely ideological valuation of some of its forms (just the most unproductive) represents the ideal meeting of the capitalist and bureaucratic interest, and should be seen as the material base that cements their alliance as a block of ruling classes. And this is currently the main mechanism by which rising inequality in the share of social product is generated. On the reverse side of full employment of those integrated there is the absolute and rising unemployment among the marginalized. On the other hand the gap is growing between those who manage the ideological legitimation of their unproductive trades, the bureaucrats, and those who are just the producers of real wealth, the direct producers.


The road to communism must therefore pass through the simultaneously anti capitalist and anti-bureaucratic struggle for untertiarizing the economy, that is, for gradually getting the services out of the market. Both from the wage system and from paid consumption. A first direct struggle against the commodification of education, health, housing, connectivity, culture, scientific research. And contained in it, then a step further: a struggle to convert all these activities into smooth and simple human rights, for which no one has to pay, and which are pursued by people who do them ​​freely and voluntarily, without receiving a salary in return.


This is to combine both tasks: to reduce the workday distributing productive work among all human beings, keeping the wage system for such work, in order to free those services from the tyranny of wages, which more directly express the human condition. Let all who want to make art, or science, or exercise educational tasks, or provide health services, earn a living wage by producing physical, tangible, real goods, and at the same time have enough free time to perform the services that their vocation prompts them.


The sense of this perspective is not, as I have indicated, to prohibit or remove private property, or bureaucratic usufruct, at once but to progressively undermine their power, their material hegemony.


As should be very with the graphs on the absolute and relative surplus value that I have drawn in Part I of this book, each achieved real reduction in working time, while maintaining and even increasing wages is a direct reduction, a reappropriation, of the surplus value normally intended for capitalist profit and its dealings. It is therefore a path directly antagonistic to its advantages as a ruling class. It is to be expected that their answer will not be very peaceful.


But the possibility of a non-militarized breakthrough, of a series of agreements that will limit its power, is to maximize the technological possibilities for socially distributing the productivity gains. This is what allows, more than a single, dramatic defeat, a progressive loss of hegemony on the benefit of all mankind.


I certainly don't expect, nor is it wise to do so, that this fair way to a historic defeat will be the one accepted by the enemies, especially the larger ones. Violence is to be expected and it is wise to have it always present. But a road of compromises may be proposed, and this is a long march where we have everything to gain.


Radically untertiarizing the economy, shortening the work day by spreading work among all, maintaining and improving wages at the expense of surplus value, liberating the most important services from the logic of the consumer and work force markets. That is, in my opinion, specifically, the long march toward communism. This is the center of building a real, substantive, proletarian hegemony rooted in the world of actual material production.


But of course, although this is a very concrete way, it is not enough. There are urgent problems (such as predation of natural resources), and deep easements (such as the colonization of free time by the entertainment industry), which are concrete, immediate, obstacles to any path of liberation. We do not want time to be consumed by celebrities, we do not want wages just to keep a living for consumption patterns based on alienation and waste, we do not want a hegemony only to be swindled and administered by state bureaucrats.


That is why, in parallel, strictly correlated to the decrease in working hours, several major tasks, of broad historical projection are needed, whose general sense is to radically change the style of industrialization that today is functional to the dominant powers, and leads directly to the destruction of all of humanity, ruling classes included.


On the production level, first of all, a radical decentralization of food production is necessary. Removing their industrial production, promoting food self-sufficiency of local communities, radically reversing the process of genetic alteration, whose only meaning is the large-scale production and, of course, putting an end to the monopoly on seeds, and the practice of their infertilización for commercial purposes, which should be considered a crime against all humanity.


This is an excellent space to produce a match between citizen empowerment and the mechanisms of small private property and short range market exchange, freed from the pressures and obligations of purely abstract capitalist competition. It is a space that is not adversarial to struggle against those capitalists, who detach from the actual production to reproduce only their capital, while supporting and promoting the small private productive owners, a bourgeois bound to the land rent, not exceeding the limits of the local community in which they live.


On the same level of production, secondly, a radical decentralization of the production and management of energy is needed. Again, to technically empower local communities. To remove the base to the self-proclaimed legitimacy and power of the catastrophic oil and nuclear power industries.


And this should go hand in hand, at the social level, with a radical decentralization of cities, whose only current sense is to maximize the exploitation and prolong the idiot work, and whose main result is to expose all people to aggressive forms of pollution and burden. Of course, a condition for this is to fully release digital connectivity, which should be considered as one of the basic human rights.


Small, walkable communities, autonomous in food and energy, freely connected, all this is concretely part of the road to communism.


But it is still not enough. Of prime importance at a time, but also parallel and correlative, on the political level, is a radical decentralization of management and state power. Small municipalities, which do not require a leafy administration, and procedures that charge their own taxes, in which citizens are very close to the management of education, public health, local transport, culture and housing.


The functions of the central state must be limited only to redistribution of unequal local wealth, to large infrastructure projects, to the management of large natural resources. And, of course, the power of the central government must be limited on all matters involving the sovereignty of local communities.


It is necessary, finally, at the level of subjectivity, a radical decolonization of leisure, nowadays almost completely run according to the guidelines of the entertainment industry, and fully dedicated to the unworthy task of restoring the workforce, leaving us in physical and mental conditions only to return to be exploited, or to the task of resigning ourselves to absolute oppression, the task of surviving to the fact of not being not even exploited.


To form social and community ties, to restore public confidence in that they are fully capable of sharing and alleviating their subjective discomfort among peers, without experts nor drugs. To recognize the multiple forms of family, and the many forms of genre. To return to the inter subjective coexistence its genuinely human character. Rather than creating a "new (sic) man", chaired by Enlightened slogans and idealistic imperatives, the road to communism simply passes on this plane, by re-humanizing the human relationships. It is through this task that the wisdom of the people can become a deep ideological support of any radical political action.


c. Strategic horizon, real politics

As should be obvious already, the argumentative strategy I'm following is to the center, first and foremost, the question of content. What do we want, what are the roads leading to it. Well above the obvious difficulty of these propositions, long before the expected repressive and violent opposition they will face, the essential question is what do we want.


When considering the type of concrete proposals I've done, it should be pretty clear too that what I want is to get the Marxist thought away from the classic horizon of Stalinism and forced industrial revolution, from its totalitarian consequences and the already lengthy and useless, purely destructive self criticism, that retain it in the misery of its defeat.


A different policy, another concrete way that can be called Marxist by its grounding in political economy and the idea of class struggle proposed by Marx, and its immediate consequence: to claim our right to revolutionary violence. But that can be called Marxist mainly by the communist horizon it proposes, and the nature of the specific tasks that I have stated for its realization.


For the Marxists this is today, urgently, the first of all things. Having a version of Marxism and of its strategic project that will allow us to resume the actual link to the tasks of the popular movement, with the possibilities of development of the productive forces, with the common sense of the great left that has grown and prospered in spite of all, so far behind our laments and vanguardist complaints. Our approach to real politics can only emerge, productively, from there.


In that real, immediate political action, I think that regardless of the holders of that bell today, of those who hold that label, those who believe that communism is possible should be called communists. That is actually the meaning of the phrase "our party" used Marx in the Communist Manifesto, long before the need and the illusions of the Fordist political machine created by Lenin.


Despite this to some extend romantic terminological precision, however, I argue that discussions among Marxists about forms of organization are now completely useless and notoriously self-destructive. As I have argued many times, in other texts, what we need today is not a single party and a correct line. What we need is a great left organized as a network, to be recognized in a common spirit.


It is impossible to face the dominant military machine and its ability to exert power through the administration of local authorities, with a uniform and centralized style of organization whose sole support would be to achieve a military power that is unattainable for us and that, in good accounts, would then result in bureaucratic administration.


When this great left is thought of as networked opposition, a discussion on network forms of organization becomes meaningless. All forms of organization capable of political action are acceptable. The great left must consist of multiple parties, movements and groups, each configured independently around various specific doctrinal convictions and programs which may be even partially contradictory.


The only important thing is to encourage a broad culture of respect and tolerance, well distant from the classical purists obsessions of Leninists and Trotskyists. A culture that recognizes that the network may expand or contract regarding each specific task, which recognizes the right of each module to participate or not in any particular task, without implying stigmatization, isolation, or useless complaints about the purity or consequence.


By this same culture of respect and tolerance (with the left we always talks, it is right that we fight with), the very idea of ​​"political alliances" loses much of its meaning. Set up an opposition network is already, in itself, exercise a permanent policy of alliances. For Marxists, and in rather doctrinaire terms, the meaning that this old expression retains (originating from Lenin's Illustrated wiles) is to maintain an ongoing awareness about the multi-class character of the opposition to the dominant system, the permanent need to cross class analysis and stratification analysis when setting up concrete political tasks.


In short, to distinguish the great left as anti capitalist and anti-bureaucratic opposition, the only important thing is the content that defines their common spirit: what we want is the end of the class struggle, communism. This is why I stopped at the determination and specification of the strategic tasks that define it.


It never hurts, still in a section devoted to Marxist Political Theory, to say something about revolutionary subjectivity, considered as particular, personal subjectivity.


When the revolution is no longer sought, nor expected, as a single large watershed event, when we know that the great task is not for today or tomorrow, but but starting today and should continue tomorrow, it is not so difficult to get back the old idea first forged by utopian socialists and anarchists, that revolutionary militancy is most of all a way of life rather than the necessary doctrinal convictions or the desirable formal militancy. A way of life inspired by a deep faith in the possibilities of human history, and animated by a permanent outrage at the obstacles, created by human beings themselves, which today prevent their realization. Active hope, something to be fought and built, something that you can not just wait. Active outrage, which results in opposition and struggle. A deep sense of belonging that translates into militancy, into permanent search and construction of sense of community.


Neither academic sophistication, so sharp in its harmless criticism, nor alienated individualism, crossed by the liberal illusions, may be able to understand this hope, this indignation, this belonging. What I have seen, however, is that ordinary people themselves are perfectly capable of understanding them and, being actively and solidarily brought to reflect on the oppression that afflicts them, are perfectly capable of sharing them.


IV. Foundational issues

1. A Marxist philosophy

Always attacked by positivism, or the scientistic nonsense of structuralism, the main Marxist tradition held up a reluctant attitude towards philosophy, and a certain urgency to reduce it to the figure and the methods of science. The bureaucratic interest accentuated this trend.


There is nothing in Marx, however, to support this attitude or this reduction. Even in the time of full European euphoria for science he did not hesitate to appeal to the Science of Logic of Hegel to support his texts during the writing of Capital. Even his more technical works are full of historical allusions, reflections on fundamentals and conceptual clarifications, which are the materials and modes of the philosophical profession.


We usually call accepted mathematicians like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, historians as Niccolo Machiavelli and David Hume, and even simple chroniclers of time, such as Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Lipovetsky to be called philosophers. Even with ample merit, matadors of philosophy as the desolate Friedrich Nietzsche and the cheerful Epicurus been given that title. And if it was not for disciplinary dogmatism, with the same merit, Sigmund Freud or Jürgen Habermas could also receive it. It is not difficult, therefore, to attribute to Marx the recognition as a philosopher. Much more difficult, however, is to determine which philosophical principles should be related to his work.


In fact a large part of the problem has a fairly idiot origin: as the bulk of the Marxist tradition became accustomed to the procedure to follow his texts literally, and to use his pronouncements, even occasional ones, as arguments from authority, explicit statements from El Maestro, clearly bearing the label "philosophical" are expected, in order to consider them as such. And the problem is that Marx, who once wanted to write a book on dialectics, who permanently maintains that his ideas are based on philosophical principles, devoted most of his efforts to write on economy, relegating the explanation of those principles to unpublished notes, occasional fragments in private letters, or generic allusions in his major writings.


But this is an idiot problem, since no one expected such literalities, eg in Nietzsche or Machiavelli, to make assumptions about the basics of what they propose, and no one expected to be only explicit and published statements that constitute the philosophical content present in an author.


By virtue of this situation in his writings, I argue that there is insufficient textual endorsement in Marx as to attribute precisely and uniquely one philosophical line, and it is wrong of exegesis, and for the most basic academic skills, to try to force their accuracy from isolated sentences or paragraphs, especially if they are contained in unpublished notes.[76] The result of this is that, to relate a set of philosophical principles with Marx, we must do a wide, general hypothesis that is consistent with the general tenor of his writings. This is, moreover, what critics regularly do, and should do with many other thinkers from Parmenides to Wittgenstein, precisely because their words are neither sacred nor clear by themselves, nor are expected to be absolutely consistent, nor that each and every one of their statements are true.


But it is also true that, as in the case of Nietzsche, Heidegger and St. Thomas, the thought of Marx is completely committed to existence and action, so that the problem of philosophical consistency that he is being attributed turns out to be a directly political matter, rather than a formal or academic one. And yes, on this plane his pronouncements are plentiful, repeated and very clear.


It is for these political reasons that I argue that a comprehensive philosophical hypothesis can, and should be developed to explicit act as the foundation of his theory, or rather, of the Marxist theory that we need for our communist politics.


What I have argued for many years is that such a basis can be formulated through the joint operation of reading Marx in a Hegelian way, while reading Hegel in a Marxist way. It is easy to suspect that the former would have liked this task much more than the latter. But that is a purely subjective detail, I do not mind at all (begging to infinity, of course, the forgiveness of The Master for this oversight ... of both).


Getting from Hegel the powerful foundation of its ontological logic to radically criticize both the Enlightened side as well as the Romantic side of modernity. In order to recognize the historicity of science, and of nature itself. To provide a broad set of categories allowing to think of an inhomogeneous, divided, contradictory universality; allowing not think of contradiction as a quality but as essence, and not as an inner essence but as a dynamism. A set of categories to allow removal and overcome the Enlightened dichotomies between thought and reality, subject and society, nature and history. That allow a more complex logic of the internal difference than an external opposition or a synthesis that is merely a composition. A logic for substantively thinking the subject in a fully humanist and historicist way, far from the abstract dichotomy between a Cartesian subject and a divisive and contingent fragmentation. Allowing to think ethics in a situated, relational, historical way, and not as mere formulation of ideals. Conducive to thinking about the meaning of human history far above the simple dichotomy between determinism and contingency.


I argue that the difference between Marx and Hegel should not be sought in the epistemological field, in the formulation of a method, or a disquisition on knowledge. Actually this trend only comes from the unnecessary and counterproductive imperative to reduce Marxism to the logic of science, which is but retaining it within the logic of the Enlightenment.


The difference, which is pretty radical, can be found in two aspects of foundation, one ontological and the other directly political. The first is the atheism of Marx, which breaks the delicate equation that Hegel intends to do in his absolute identity between human history and God. Marx's theory completely lacks this need and trust and is, therefore, an absolute humanism. With Hegel he shares the immanentism and humanist historicism, but radicalizes it to the point of banishing God out of equilibria, and putting all the responsibility to constitute the human community in its own producers without any transcendental mediation.


The very specifical result of this ontological operation, which at first sight might seem very abstract, is the radical difference between Marx and Hegel concerning the estimation and significance of violence in history. And, in turn, as a direct consequence of this, their radical difference on the role that can be played by the rule of law.


This are now directly political differences leading Hegel to the belief that the constituent violence of human society may be mediated by a rule of law that is set as a common spirit on top of particular conflicts. And it is in the philosophical possibility of that common spirit that God's role is necessary, not of course as a providential God, but as an expression of the human possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.


The estimate of Marx, of course, is radically different. That declared possibility of reconciliation is only ideology, the rule of law is constructed by the ruling classes, and favors them systematically. The result is that, under their respective premises, it is perfectly understandable cautious liberalism, the quiet conservative confidence of Hegel, and, in turn, the appeal to the right to revolutionary violence in Marx. Even from a common ontological logic, from a common humanist and historicist immanentism, it is completely expected, in this other plane, that these antagonistic political drifts would have caused their mutual horror.


But only in that plane. I argue that the radical philosophical difference between Marx and Hegel is neither logical nor epistemological, but directly political. And it is from this area that it radiates to the ontological question of the meaning (or not) the presence of God in history may have.[77]


This profound difference in the estimation of the role of violence in history can be conceptualized according to the kind of difference that Herbert Marcuse successfully applied in his historicizing of the thesis of Sigmund Freud.[78] Just like Marcuse distinguishes between "primordial repression "and" surplus repression", it could be said that the difference between Hegel and Marx is that the first considers all social conflict as an expression of the essential conflict that animates the being in general, and is particularly acute when it constitutes free appealling entities such as human beings. For Marx, however, the estimate is that, well above that primordial conflict, class struggle is a fully surmountable surplus violence.


And it is that difference that Hegel believes that violence may be culturally mediated, because this basic conflict actually is, can be, but he can not see that the other, reified in powerful institutions, no longer supports that confidence and optimism.


In Hegel violence is an inter-subjective drama, crawling on the story because it is rooted in the nature of being. In Marx, on top of this real drama, there is the real tragedy of institutionalized violence, to which the only possible response is revolutionary violence.


It is also important to note that it is this difference that allows us to formulate a post-Enlightened idea of communism different from Rousseau ideal of general and homogeneous happiness. The communist revolution does not require (nor can it require) to eliminate the basic conflict, which is the very essence of free and appealling human beings. It seeks to remove the excess violence: putting an end to the class struggle.


Formulated in these terms, there may be a Marxist philosophy with Hegelian rooted origin, emphasizing the Marxist revolutionary radicalism and its aftermath. I have specified in the Introduction (see Introduction, 3 A doctrinal basis) the main options that have assumed in this proposition of fundamentals. I just want to stress here that it is proposing a philosophy that overcomes the Enlightened obsessions and the Hegel of the Soviet manual on dialectical materialism and, simultaneously, the scientistic obsessions of structuralist Marxism. A philosophy of substantivity, oriented to real politics, which could prevent the demobilizing disintegration of post modern sophistication. A philosophy that can be used as a basis for a critique of the claim of knowledge in bureaucratic power, and the pretense of neutrality of the state of bourgeois rule of law. A militant philosophy.


2. Theory of Alienation

The first and most important of the categories of a Marxist philosophy of Hegelian roots is the concept of alienation. In the Marxist tradition, is perhaps one of the worst discussed concepts.[79] In historiographical terms, this might be because it's been a recurring concept among those who could be called "humanist Marxists," yet they themselves never managed to build up a tradition of actually constituted and stable discussions.


Unlike the Soviet school, or schools like French Marxist structuralism, or English cultural historicism, the Marxist "humanism" appears throughout the twentieth century as an archipelago of resistants, almost always subject to adverse academic and political conditions.


This is clearly the case of Antonio Gramsci, or of the many tribulations of Georg Lukacs, Karel Kosik, Karl Korsch and Ernst Bloch. To a lesser extent it is the relative isolation of Jean Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno for many years, Herbert Marcuse, or the political difficulties of Roger Garaudy and Henri Lefebre, or Mihailo Markovic, Petrovic Gajo and Predrag Vraniki with their respective Communist Parties.


The unfortunate result of these circumstances, in philosophical terms, is that most of the discussions in which the concept appears are marked by the needs of a contingent critique of Marxist totalitarianism of the time, and fail to take off from the much needed and understandable attempt to formulate a humanist argument against it. The effect of isolation and adverse conditions within which this criticism was developed, in purely theoretical terms, is that there is not, to date, a common language around which to discuss. Terms proliferated, which have not been given consistent translations nor constant practices, which often converts discussions into confusing exchanges on nuances and unspecified connotations. Translations from one language to another generated more confusion. The stigmatization of the vaguely Hegelian foundation that was in them, and defensiveness that this generated did not help at all.


That is why, without any pretense of closing the subject, and without any claim to be original or novel, I'll start these considerations on this issue by explaining a number of methodological choices that may contribute to discuss in more reasonable terms.


The issue has traditionally been discussed in a constellation of ideas among which the following shoud be mentioned: objectification, estrangement, alienation, reification, fetishization[80]. Originally they stem from two German terms, frequent in Hegel: Entäußerung (literally "externalization") and Entfremdung (literally "estrangement"). The connotations of these terms vary by certain primary uses: legal (estrangement as selling assets), psychiatric (alienation as madness), theological (fetishize as worshiping a mere representation).


For these expressions, in the following discussion I will adopt the following criteria, even at the cost of adding one more to a real jungle of formulations.


First, I will use different words for different concepts. Although the five terms that I have listed partially overlap, although they actually accumulate into one (alienation), if I use five different terms I must specify at least the nuance that justifies each of them.


Second, I'll think in Spanish, using the corresponding Castilian etymologies as a (rhetorical) resource. I will not proceed, as usually done, from the terms in German, and then find (translate) the result to their Spanish equivalents. The being is able to talk and think well, full way and at ease in other languages ​​other than German or Greek.


Third, I will set the semantic field of each according to a logic of inclusion and progressive aggravation, to focus the entire series on the idea of alienation, regardless of the many ways each has been approached before by other authors . I'm more interested in that self-consistency than in mere philology.


Fourth, which of course should not be obvious, is to use different words for different concepts. In the case that I will develop there are closely related notions, where it is very easy to mix up the connotations of each term. The principle I will follow will be to associate different words for different connotations, but the notions are indeed difficult to separate.


The basis of all these concepts is the originally Hegelian idea, that human history is a living whole. The generality of the category "human history", seen from Marx, may be concretized by ontologizing the category "work". I call work, ontologically, the actual process of production of Being. At work, ultimately, what occurs is Being itself. It is the process in which the Being proves to be Being.


Since the whole Being is put as an act of Being that at once is subject, objectification is the act by which the subject becomes object: it gets to be outside itself and is, to himself, as an produced externality. There are no "objective objects" by themselves (given, external, present). Every object receives its objectivity from the objectification that establishes it or also any object is the object that it is only in virtue of the humanity it contains. And even beyond that, every object is desirable or valuable (has value, can be an object of desire) only by virtue of that humanity, which it contains or promises.


In the objectification not only the subject puts the objectivity as something exterior, it also also puts itself as objectivity. It is a constituent relationship where the objectivity of the subject and the subjective character of the object are given at a time, and correspondingly. This means that using the term in this manner, the word "subject" has two levels of significance. The whole is subject as it is to be from the activity of objectification and, on the other hand, one of the produced terms is subject as the negative power that animates the whole resides in it. Subject is at once, in a different way, the differentiated universal which is the whole being, and the particular real in that this universality effectively is being.


For the horizon of both post Enlightened and post Romantic thinking to be possible, it is necessary to emphasize two aspects that are not visible up to now. One is that the universal can only effectively be as multiplicity, another is the substantive reality of the particular.


A real and effective universal as it is the whole Being, can not be a mere collection of external parts. It is an absolute and negative activity that produces its parts, that produces them as modes and moments. But as pure activity it is only essence, it is in what it produces where it is effectively Being. However, there is no reason to limit this effectiveness to the lonely dichotomy between a hypostatized pair of an object and a subject. Their Being is itself multiple because its essence is itself free. The multiplicity of the particular is derived, to say it somehow, from the fact that the essence never rests in itself, or in this place or another. It is made again and again in infinite ways, and each of them is itself a becoming infinite.


But we must also think these particular modes as reals. The particular here is not a mere effect, merely an example or presentation of the universal: it essentially has a being in itself in that that reality that is produced. It is free. The reality of the particular is nothing but its freedom. It is but the fact that the making of the differentiation occurs negatively. The particulars are autonomous and free by the mode they are produced, not because they are originally external, such as the inert atoms of modernity.


If we extend this reality of its freedom to imagining a reconciled society, the result is this: reconciliation does not consist in diluting the particular into the universal, it does not and can not consist in its identification. What we want is that the particulars recognize each other in the universal, not to disappear in it. Reconciliation and mystical communion are clearly distinguishable issues, not only in practice but above all, from a logical point of view.


The main ontological and political consequence from the reality of the particular is the possibility of suffering. Immediate reconciliation, the one derived from simple pleasantness, is the one which is possible in the object. The truly complex one, that is pleasure, is the fulfillment of desire, is satisfaction reached in the other's desire. But we are free. Challenged by the desire of another one there is no need, or guarantee, that in fact that small fellowship occurs, that little death, the shipwrecked on the pleasure of being one. And even in that small fellowship freedom makes that there is no need nor any guarantee of its permanence. We can suffer because we are free. That is the evil.


But just like there is no warranty or need for pleasure, nor is there any need for pain to remain. That the suffering is possible is the exact counterpart of the fact that happiness is possible. Neither pleasure nor pain are homogeneous and necessary realities in a universal constituting free particulars. The modern dichotomy contained in the ideal of general happiness, either we are permanently happy or we are doomed to suffering, is displaced. General happiness of each and every one, permanent and guaranteed, is neither possible nor desirable.


This is the philosophical foundation that allows the neither Enlightened (nor Romantic) idea of ​​communism that I argued in the previous chapters. To be able to think of communism as a society of autonomous and free human beings, as a differentiated society which is not a mere totalitarian mystical communion, you need to think of a society where everyone can be effectively happy, and can both suffer and get out of suffering, in the purely inter-subjective plane. The possibility of suffering is a sign that this is a society of effectively free human beings.


The notion of estrangement logically reflects what I have established so far in a (rhetorically) subjective way. The object "becomes strange" when we are prevented from recognizing ourselves in it, returning to the oneself that we have put into it as another.


But the distance between the subject and the object can only come from another subject. As the essence of pleasure lies in the inter-play of inter-subjective desire, and requires it, so the only thing that can make a human suffer is another human being. As the difference between pleasantness and pleasure can be clearly formulated, correspondingly a difference between need and suffering may also be formulated.


The estrangement is thus an intersubjective matter. Its truth is not in the object[81]. And coming back from it is also an inter-subjective issue occuring face to face. This estrangement so said​​, with no institutions that enshrine and reify it, is installed in the order of being. There can not be a free society which does not experience it. It is not desirable to attempt an order that denies it. Even its extreme experience, reification is, to some degree, necessary.


One can speak of reification when the estrangement of the object has been taken to the extreme of experiencing it as a thing. The object becomes a thing when we experience it without considering the humanity it contains, which constitutes it.


Corporeality is this mediation that requires "becoming something" in order to be recreated. In essence, trees, wheat, sheep, are full of objectified humanity. We produce and consume them, however, by their sheer objectivity, as things. Strictly speaking, it is not because we have bodies that we need to consume certain objects as things, it's the opposite, the fact that there is a field of pure objectivity, a realm of independence from the objectified, is what we subjectively experience as body. The objectivity of the body is purely objectified. There are no natural needs. Every need is produced in human history. What we call "nature" is that objectification as determining factor. Necessity is the objective, and objectifying way of an essential self determination.


In a first approach reification is but that activity of pure objectivity that unfolds as need and returns as satisfaction through the object separated from its essential humanity, through the thing. There should be nothing particularly sinister in this, and, conversely, it must be acknowledged as the effective way in which we happen to be. Reification is the logical figure for the stability of the object.


In this notion, as in the following (alienation), it is not this first order of objectification established that should concern the critical thinking, but the second: the reification of reification, the immobility of stability.


When the word reification is commonly used, perhaps this second order is understood, and simply summarized in the first for stylistic reasons to avoid the cacophony of "the reification of reification". No one pretends that one should never experience an object as a thing, but the emphasis is rather that, in doing so, there is a risk of ignoring in that experience the production process that made it possible. Certainly in the reification operating on the particular, in immediate terms, this risk is not given, or not relevant. I know this book, that will be read as a thing, and this sandwich, I have prepared for my partner to eat it as a thing, are products, and is not crucial for me to be recognized explicitly in them. The reification of reification is very difficult, and not very relevant, as a intersubjective matter.


It is the permanent, ritualized social exercise, to experience objects as mere things, to ignore the humanity that constitutes them, which has all sorts of dire consequences. Such as reducing pleasure to enjoying, such as prey strategic resources without circumspection, such as attribute value to something as such, and not to the production process that made ​​it possible. And the only way out from this social problem can be a social one, through a political initiative. To socially recover the humanity of things.


If reification generally has to do with the object (in general), specifically, the reification of a subject may be called alienation,. Again, in principle, there are many situations where it would not necessarily be harmful treating a subject as a thing. Relying on someone to climb a wall, using a human being as a pure annex to a machine, obtaining pleasure from momentarily being thing in loving exchange. Some of these circumstances may even be desirable. The issue is whether you can return from that state. The crucial point is how much we have of freedom even at that end. Or, again, the problem is not the reification of a subject, but the reification of its reification. The fixing of its being thing, as a role, as otherness without alternative, as required patterns of action.


The extreme end of this extreme is the installation of the subject's "becoming thing" in the subject itself, in such a way that the subject itself reproduces in itself the alienation to which it was subjected. That is, in the logical sense, madness.


In the vast majority of cases, the folly is of purely social origin. The trauma, loneliness, discrimination or fear, are sufficient to explain it. In a reconciled society this kind of crazy people will not exist, nor modernist rationalizations of madness attributed to genes, hormones or neurotransmitters. The temporary insanity, however, which goes like an overflow, and from which one returns on an inter-subjective plane is a right and a rich possibility of freedom. The possibility which shows freedom in its negative mode. The stable, treatable, separable madness will not exist, nor is it desirable to exist.


But madness is more, ontologically and politically. It is necessary to conceptually keep the one which is essential, which has its origin in reification, which is simply the exercise of another from reason. Of course modernity can not conceive this case of a radical otherness, as it does not conceive, in general, the reality of the other. For modernity reason is unique, homogeneous, solid, or it simply is not. Madness as radical negativity, however, is the living experience of the essential internal differentiation of reason itself. It is an indication that reason itself, just as all Being, may be another from itself.


In a post-Enlightened and post-Romantic idea of communism, this radical insanity is necessary and desirable. It is the indication of a basic theoretical and practical safeguard against totalitarianism made ​​possible by declaring the homogeneity of reason and inevitably identifying one of its historical forms as unique and permanent, as true. The radical incommensurability of madness in a society of free direct producers, the ability to get in and out of it in a purely intersubjective way, is the best evidence, the deepest, of the reality of freedom.


The reification of a social relationship can be called reification too. In a context of in principle free subjective exchanges this usually amounts to the reification of reification. That stability that is the way of things, in social relations, is what can be called "institution". Institutions are always reified social relations.


A pesar de su etimología real (“rei”, en latín, significa “cosa”) voy a considerar, por mera conveniencia, que la palabra “reificación” deriva de “rey”[82]. Una relación social que hemos establecido para producir, para realizarnos, para poner un orden en algo, se vuelve sobre nosotros mismos, nos produce, nos ordena, nos exige una obediencia ineludible, llega a tener poder sobre nosotros. Algo sutil (una relación social) que opera como cosa, esto es, independientemente de la subjetividad que la produjo, nos determina, determina a sus propios productores.


In order to understand that this is possible it is necessary to accept a paradoxical consequence of the power of the negative: that rational particular actions (in an instrumental sense) can be conjugated in such a way that the overall result is irrational. To accept that it can be that "rationality plus rationality gives irrationality".


The anthropological hypothesis may be set up that this occurs when the liberty of individuals is deployed in a hostile environment, an environment in which the interest of some can be directly contradictory to the interests of all. A situation in which power is not only the exercise of simple, intersubjective discretion, but becomes a resource for survival. The reification would be a survival strategy in a society facing hostile conditions basically conditions of shortage requiring an unequal exchange.[83]


This kind of reification is a reification that dominates us, which has power over us. Or, more precisely, which constitutes some of us as having power over others. Here the figure of power becomes visible, explicit: thus it corresponds to the metaphor of a king. And it essentially operates on us on our subjectivity, as a power in the symbolic order. When it comes to human beings there is no more power than this one. The only real and effective power is the one that obtains obedience from ourselves. A good deal of sense to devote to a particular fragile, finite person, as king, is to make visible in it the symbolic order of the reified social relations it embodies. And this figure of the king, vested ("dressed" with power), apparently undaunted and permanent, is operating in any scale and in every form the institutions may have: the state, the church, the party, the family.


Strictly speaking, no reified object exists or, rather, there are only so metaphorically, when the object is the indication of a reified social relation. To the extent that the reification (the metaphor of the king) requires a visible place of power, it is unlikely to find that place in an object, and it is very appropriate to try to identify with it. When the visible place is not the patriarch, the judge, the governor, or leader, ie subjective figures (apparently) operating as subjects, the concept loses its original hue. In such cases it is preferable to speak of fetishization.


There is fetishization when the operation of the reification of reification of a social relationship is no longer visible, and what appears to us is simply an object that dominates us. It's the difference between a king, who appears to us as a subject, and a pharaoh, who is presented to us simply as a god, as something that is more than a subject. In any case, it's what happens when objects that embody social relations, such as money, or abstract entities, such as law, homeland or honor, appear dominating us in a compulsive, interior way. When they get our obedience by their mere invocation.


Reification commands us, fetishization fascinates us. The first determines us as subjects in a state of obedience, the second makes us objects. We are before a king, the fetish is the being in front of us. The fetishization reifies us. It is internalized reification.


For such a force to operate it is not enough to have a social order based on the rule of scarcity, you need one and another, one after another. The domination of some humans over other existed originally, and particularly exists as reification. And to that extent it can be torn down with the arms of a society, in the context of a social struggle. The fetishization is the universal that has been formed in the recurrence of one struggle after another, or is the universal operating as a concept and perfection of what is at stake in these struggles. This can as well be said as follows: while reification is a social problem, the fetishization is a historical one.


Fetishes like gods (which still have the form of subjects), destiny, or law, the most abstract of all, money, show the concept of effective negativity of the subject, the subject in its effectiveness. This concept is what is contained in the notion of alienation.


The first connotation that is unique to the idea of alienation, and that is already present from reification and fetishization, is that the process that produces it is hidden from the subjects who experience it, and are constituted ​​from it. This process, which is nothing but a series of acts of social production, of interchange, is experienced in a way that appears to its actors as alien and hostile. Producers appear as produced, those who are free are dominated by their own deeds, good will becomes bent upon them as enmity and malice, what they could know is hidden and appears to them a mystery. Alienation represents a radical reversal of all the contents of a human action. The particular acts become the opposite of what they intended to be. The universal, alien, appears as a threat.


In the tradition of Enlightened Marxism alienation was presented as a phenomenon of consciousness. There was talk of "false consciousness", under the assumption that there may be a clear difference between true and false and, correspondingly, it is possible to pass from a false consciousness to true consciousness. My argument here is very different. By the logic on which it is founded, and the consequences it allows.


Alienation, as I have developed so far is rather a set of acts than of representations or ideas. It is a social situation, rather than a "point of view". It is an unconscious phenomenon[84] (which may not be conscious) for those who experience it, rather than a defect of consciousness that could be resolved from another one. It is a way of life rather than a phenomenon in thought.


And this is most important of alienation as a concept, it is an objective situation, that is, we are involved in something beyond our control, our good or bad will, or our possible consciousness. To the extent of having in it an objective difference between speech and action, a difference that not only isn't known, but which can not be known from oneself.


It is useful in this regard from an only epistemological point of view, to distinguish between falsehood, error and alienation. In all three cases there is a difference between speech and action: something is said and actually something else happens. In lie there is consciousness, there is interest: I know I'm lying. It makes no sense to say that someone lies who doesn't knows he is lying. And I am interested in it: there is some existential commitment in the speech that I do, something in my life makes me interested in lying. In error there is neither consciousness, nor interest. I do not know, of course, I'm mistaken, and I'm not interested in being. The error is subjective, it depends on me and the object. Lying is inter subjective. I lie to others or, at most, I lie to myself in order to appear in a different way to others. But both are phenomena of consciousness. I am in error, I do not know, but I can get to know. I lie, I know, but I can be caught, and I may get to recognize it. To know, to recognize, are issues that are possible in both cases.


Other than this, the characteristic of alienation is that not only I do not know, I do not recognize the difference between what I say and what I do, but I can not face it: there is a strong existential commitment that prevents me from knowing or recognizing it. Alienation, as a discourse, is an unconscious phenomenon in the Freudian sense. Not only it is not known, but it can not be known only through consciousness. And as a situation, or act it is an objective situation, it does not depend essentially on me. I transcends me. It is not that anyone is in a state of alienation, as if he himself could not be. One is his alienation. And you can not help but be in it until changing what one is. To exit the error, or falsehood, you should get to know or acknowledge something, to exit alienation something must happen to us, there should be an experience, not strictly, or even primarily, a knowledge. An experience that gets us out of what we are and make us experience something that we were not, from which we come to know what we could not know. This generally painful and catastrophic process, is what may be called self-awareness. The discourse of alienation is fully consistent with the situation it expresses, although outside of that situation it displays a flagrant, and outrageous difference. It is fully consistent because it is not a discourse about something, it is in a deeper way, that same something. As said above: it is a situation of life, a realm of experience.


Therefore there isn't a not alienated point of view in a state of alienation. Both opposed actors are alienated in ascending order. They can not see themselves from themselves. Only from other alienation is it possible to see the alienation. This means that overcoming it can not be an epistemological process (bring up the truth), or a result of teaching ("creating consciousness"), but it can only be a specifically political process: get to live differently, to stop being what one is.


It is important to note that there is a deep connection with violence here. The alienation is the actual being of violence. In it violence has been reified, and you can only get out of that situation through violence. Worse, in alienation the constituent violence appears to itself as peace, as a pacified situation. Amidst the war that is indeed the class struggle, the ruling classes call "peace" the time when they are gaining, and designated as "war" those moments when they feel threatened. Putting this concept in the center of understanding of actual human history, is noting in it, in its alleged peace, the constituent reality of violence and the need for revolutionary action to end it.


Of course this does not mean you can not get out of alienation, or that leaving it means an everlasting regression of leaving one to fall into another. Only an intellectual, or an expert, could reach a similar conclusion.


First, because alienation is an existential situation, not simply an epistemological tie between two truths incapable of seeing themselves. At least for one of the terms, and often for both, this situation implies suffering and pushes to break the relationship that constitutes it, to change lives. The possible mobility of alienated consciousness comes from the blatant, existential, empirical contradiction between what consciousness harmonizes and what immediate experience suffers. Of course this contradiction does not imply by itself that the reified link is broken, or that those affected would want to break it. The power of alienation is precisely to have installed, as fascination and internalized compliance, the need for this suffering and for this contradiction.


But the contradiction remains. After a long and painful development humans have managed to think of their own autonomy, their essential freedom. That is, they have managed to conceive the possibility of the specifically political. The violence which is alienation can be overcome when the consciousness of the difference between its harmonizing discourse and the penalties of the existential situation that it enshrines can be converted into political consciousness. Only politicized alienation may be overcome.


But, secondly, nothing forces us to think that the alienation is part of the human condition, and that leaving it will not be but an endless series of new and diverse alienations. To the extent that the reification from which it emerges can be viewed as a social strategy of survival to scarcity, there is no reason not to think of a society that has achieved the political will to end it. Abundance is the necessary condition. But only the political exercise of freedom is a necessary and sufficient one.


It is perfectly conceivable a society in which not alienated abundance prevails, in which there is no reification of reification. A society without institutionalized institutions. Where there is exchange but no market, government but not state, families but no marriage, rites but no rituals, order but no laws. That one is the communist society.


Alienation is the prevailing condition of something essential, which belongs to the order of being: the estrangement. It is the surplus violence, historically unnecessary, which is based on a constituent violence: the power of the negative. It is the tragic degree of the drama representing freedom. We can live without that surplus violence, but not the negative in general.


The idea of ​​alienation puts the post Enlightened concept of subject in the effective space of its split, uncentered, antagonistic being. It brings us from the purely logical categorical distinctions, always formulable with some epistemological frivolity, to the passional and complex field of everyday life and its brutalities. Modern intellectuals often take refuge in Enlightened dichotomies and Romantic mythologies when facing the spectacle of barbarism, loneliness and struggle that is ostensibly the real world. The abstractions of modern reason become a resource of escape from the harsh realities and yet do appear more realistic and political than postmodern disenchantments that deconstruct them. Denying the possibility of thinking in terms of subject, substantivity, universality, they refuse even the responses that classical mythologies gave to these realities without putting in its place anything else than the indeterminate criticism or guilty optimism.


The difference between alienation and estrangement adds a note of complexity in the new dichotomy between Enlightened optimism and anti neo Enlightened disenchantment. We may be happy, but happiness does not need to be illusory, nor homogeneous, nor permanent. It can be intensely real, its reality is differentiated complexity, it has a strong and ongoing relationship with the pain that makes it human, living, joyful. The opposite of happiness is not the finding that it is the mere name of an illusion, a nugatory attempt, or a physical and historical impossibility. The opposite of happiness is alienation.


Theory of Alienation
Category Direct meaning First order
(The immediate relation)
Second order
(Objectification of the first order)
Character
Objectivation Becoming an object Reality of objects Reality of nature Inherent to the process of "becoming a Being"
Objectification Becoming a thing Primary subject-object interaction Result of objectificated social relationships Subject-object relation in its immediate concreteness
Defamiliarization Becoming extraneous Primary subject-subject interaction Primary objectification of the subject (alienation) Subject-subject relation in its immediate concreteness ("the interpersonal")
Alienation Objectification of a subject A surmountable subject-subject defamiliarization (free intersubjectivity) The defamiliarization of the subject in its social reality (intersubjetive oppression) Subject-subject relation in its social reality ("the intersubjective")
Reification Objectification of a social relationship on the intersubjective level Social relationship that grows independent from its producers (social oppression) Reification dominates its producers from "outside" (domination: the institutions) Social relationships of domination as social realities ("the social")
Fetishization Socially objectificated reification (beyond immediate intersubjectivity) Reified social relationship internalized by its producers (oppression in a historical sense) Deep internalization of reification: the "nature of things", "destiny", gods, commodity (ideology) Social relationships of domination in their historical reality ("the ideological")
Estrangement Historicially objectificated social relationship (beyond the explicit will of the social classes involved) Accumulation of the previous stages: oppression - domination - exploitation, as a whole Effective reality of class antagonism, considered in a global historical configuration The concrete, effective social antagonism in its historical reality ("lo historical")


3. Dimensiones precapitalistas del valor

a. Desire and value

The theory of alienation that I have proposed, firmly rooted in the notion of objectification, may be the basis for a radically non-naturalistic general theory of value, which makes the notion of value in use unnecessary or at least reduces it to its immediately meaning of "useful" in the short-range economic calculation. From the notion of value in general, it is possible to historicize the exchange value, to show it as a historically particular, and certain shape, which is characteristic of modernity, and extend the notion of "economic" exchange to dimensions of value that appeared before capitalism. The general issue is relevant because of the very modern and politically very significant presence of human exchanges that are not reducible to exchange value, in which pre-capitalist value dimensions are operating, that overlap with capitalist exploitative and domination relations itself.


To make up the idea of ​​value in general it is good to go back to the natural semantic field, the colloquial meaning of "value" and ask what is valuable for humans, what does satisfy their desires and may make them in good accounts, happy. The question of value goes back thus to the question of desire and need, and to the question for the possibility to be happy.


For the classic bourgeois thought human needs are basically natural, and only from there "subjective needs" (such as being accompanied or being recognized) and "cultural needs" (such as to listen to music or express oneself in art) begin to occur and complicate. The background of any need, in this mechanical conception of the world, is but a physical-chemical imbalance in the body which is perceived and represented mentally as need. So, the need is only the expression of a gap or a lack, and desire is only the stress that leads to fill this gap. When balance is restored, the need is calmed and desire ceases. The essentially corporal expenditure, will then produce a new balance, and the cycle repeats.


In this naturalistic notion desire is a passive tension, in the sense that it does not exist if there is no need; and objects that satisfy it are certain natural objects (water for the thirsty, food to the hungry). These objects not only can meet desire (get the object) but also fill it, ie, achieve what was sought with satisfaction: restoring the balance.


A notable consequence of this is that, for classical bourgeois optimism, desire could be satisfied, thereby obtaining pleasantness, and in the same act filling it up, thereby obtaining pleasure, so that someone that had at its disposal all the objects needed to achieve it, because of this coincidence of pleasantness and pleasure, could be directly happy.


It is good to remember that all the naive and dogmatic ideas of mainstream economics are based, to this day, in this conception of an economic subject as a carrier of natural needs and agent of their satisfaction, an issue which is for obvious, and is usually found in the first pages of any treaty of scientific economics.


That classic optimism, however, very soon fell into crisis, first among intellectuals and today, en masse, among the middle class. The feeling spread that appealing only to natural objects, and even the most sophisticated cultural objects, could not give that satisfaction. The exemplary formulation of discouragement can be found in Arthur Schopenhauer, and its worst political consequences in Friedrich Nietzsche.


Schopenhauer, along the lines of something that had already been formulated in the German Romanticism of the late eighteenth century, thought the desire as positive and constituent desire, ie, as a native strain that produces both the subject and the need, ie, does not stop, nor is exhausted by any satisfaction. The catastrophic result he got from that is the idea that the objects of desire are actually illusory, are free set by the desire only to maintain tension. Said straightforward, although it sounds cacophonous, desire just want to desire. Its satisfaction, obtaining the objects pursued, only leads to frustration and boredom. The desire can be satisfied, but it can not be filled. Get what desire wants is a contradiction, and that disgrace is the human condition.


I'll call empty desire to this notion, which has become very popular because Jacques Lacan has attributed it erroneously[85] to Freud, and also because it has found an excellent spot to thrive amid the cultural crisis and discouragement of the middle class.


No wonder that many theorists often called postmodern face us with the simple dichotomy of: either the desire has a natural foundation (which they discard), or generally is just empty desire. We are not bound to that dichotomy.


It should be noted, incidentally, that under the idea of ​​empty desire you can never effectively be happy: happiness would be just a neurotic illusion. And, if we are true and consistent, without being drawn into the stories of "inauthenticity" we should recognize that we are left to desire as little as possible, which is the formula of Schopenhauer, or just keep desiring only for desire, without intrinsic meaning or purpose.


This second path is the origin of the petty bourgeois mania, always clad in ethical idealism, of "fighting just to fight". "Find a utopia", "strive for the unattainable", "revolutionize the revolution" are some of the recurring formulas of this deep skepticism. The obvious effect of this on the subcultures of the great left is so broad that the matter is far from being simply a philosophical disquisition.


Hegel formulated the idea of 'constituent positive and desire' in a manner both non-naturalistic and not pessimistic. For Hegel human desire is a positive tension that seeks the desire of another human being. All desire, what desire wants is subjectivity, subjectivity of another one. People want to be present in the other's desire. The desire has a specified (adequate) and real (not illusory), but not natural object. What is desired is a free object, ie a subject. Hegel puts it this way, somewhere I do not remember, in an extraordinary book with a mysterious name: "an independent self-consciousness achieves its satisfaction only in another independent self-consciousness".


As Schopenhauer sensed, the objects and natural needs really are effects, not causes, or bases, of human desire. And as such, they are means that are not able to fill it. But it does not follow that there is no appropriate object: the subjectivity of a free human being is the appropriate object for the desire of another free human being.


It is true, as Schopenhauer sensed, that a fundamental uncertainty weighs on desire. But this uncertainty does not derive from pure illusion, or from its impossibility, but simply from freedom. The existential and political consequence of this contrast is that yes you can be happy, yes there is a substantive sense in fighting for freedom and human reunion.


But also, in a much more contingent way, the difference between pleasure and pleasantness that can be pinpointed since Hegel, has a direct political effect. While on the one hand, given the logic that connects them, there can be no pleasure without pleasantness, ie, you can not achieve true psychic satisfaction but on the foundation, on the element, which is the physical sensation of pleasing, the other way round, however, it is perfectly possible that there is pleasantness without pleasure, ie a physical satisfaction without the correlate of what only can be given by the intersubjective encounter. Put directly, there may be frustrating pleasantness.


And this is crucial in order to understand why, despite the levels or expectations of consumption which may have been reached by workers, the communist perspective is fully viable. The highly technological capitalist market can manipulate pleasantness, but only at the cost of obscuring and displacing pleasure. The commercial consumption and the bureaucratic manipulation, because they are deeply linked to the naturalistic idea of ​​needs, can only produce frustrating pleasantness. And their efforts to dilute the growing frustration by offering ever greater shares of pleasantness only lead to increase it.


Having put things this way, the alternative of simply come to terms with desire, considered as empty, preached by Lacan, by the so-called "philosophers of finitude", by the direct heirs of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, is revealed not only as a subtle theoretical error, but directly as a coarse political mistake. It merely interprets the prevailing frustration of pleasantness as emptiness of desire, thereby closing the theoretical and practical space where this frustration could be overcome, denies the real political power lying in the feeling of community, in the exercise of pleasure, in the intersubjective solidarity, declaring them, by a simple intellectualist discretion, neurotic illusions, or endeavors lacking meaning. It is not surprising, then, that its spread among students and in the massive common sense has the demobilizing effect that is so easy to find.


When we apply these differences between the various concepts of desire to our economic problem, the problem of value, what follows directly is that the substance of any value, of what is valuable, is but subjectivity. That subjectivity which humans put in their objectification, which is desired when it is estimated that their products are worth. All desired objects are desired by the subjectivity they contain, or promise. That is the material basis of the idea of value ​​in general.


What I have done in this formulation is a radical historicization of needs. There are no natural needs, all of them, even those we call "basic" (thirst, hunger, sleep, sex) are produced and can be met in the context of human history. And this is what makes nonsense of the notion of use value, whose connotation of "utility" is inseparable from the notion of a suitable natural object to satisfy a certain natural need. It is not that the value has a social "aspect", for example, the meanings that in human exchange are attributed to the object, but that would be mounted in turn on a natural background.[86] There is no such natural background. It is not only the communicative act contained in exchange. It is purely human, radically historical value.


What I have done is a radical historicization of the idea of ​​value, by which all human production has real value, by itself, far below of its usefulness, or its ability to be exchanged in terms of equivalence.


b. Value and market

Humans produce all objectivity. This is what I stated as a theory of objectification. By producing themselves, by objectifying themselves, they produce value. They produce their own subjectivity externalizing it as objects. The value in general, as externalized human subjectivity, is what is at stake in any exchange.


The value, however, as subjectivity in general, is simple and radically incommensurable. There is no way to reduce it to an amount of any kind. It is, to put it elegantly, the pure qualitative.


This means that any exchange of value should be considered in principle as not equivalent. The basic, primitive, spontaneous logic of any exchange is the devouring and the gift. One gives something without any expectation of receiving, or is looking for something with no provision to offer.


The really important thing, which is a matter of merely logical type, is its inverse formulation: all that is considered equivalent exchange is founded on a fiction, an agreed upon or imposed fiction of equivalence.


I argue that one can speak of "market in general" when exchanges are made on the basis of some equivalence fiction. The gift, where no equivalence is intended is, par excellence, a non mercantile exchange. One of the ways I have defined communism is like a gift economy: there will be exchange but no market.


Throughout human history many social constructs can be found that operate as fictions of equivalence, built on a fundamental equally historical fact, value as that substantive content of all objectification.


There is "capitalist market" particularly when the fiction of equivalence is via a factual, global, trending weighting of the socially necessary time to produce something that, by virtue of the weighting, can be called a 'merchandise. This value, which is exchanged in this way, is what has been called "exchange value".


It can be said that the great achievement of modernity in this is to bring commercial fictions of equivalence to their maximum possible abstraction, a measure exempt of any recognizable quality as well as directly desirable: time. It is this enormous abstraction that allows truly quantitative operations like never before. Operations where all sensible qualities of exchanged objects pass to the background.


Indeed, on one hand, in this abstraction the background of general dehumanization that characterizes capitalist modernity can be seen. But on the other, we can not fail to recognize and admire, this socially conquered limit, without any one in particular having planned it, where every time we change a commodity for money we exchange some quantity of time for another, amounts of time mediated, transformed again and again, while concealing in them the blood, sweat and tears that are essentially those objects they mediate.


The enormous efficiency, the huge proportion of the transformations produced from this form of exchange, have led us to call "market" to any exchange involving some kind of equivalence, to seek equivalence in the modern sense in all exchanges, to call merchandise in general to every object which we assume that can be exchanged.


As I have indicated, with this we do not but extend the logic of modernity to all of human history, and all aspects occurring in it. A typical operation of this culture: its systematic difficulty in seeing the other as other, its tendency to colonize all the reality in its path. Let's say it: not every procedure is a "method", not every object we deem beautiful has been considered by other cultures as "art", not every knowledge that we see in other cultures and that we consider correct is "science", not all stories about heroes indicate the presence of "individuals", the right to vote of the Greek aristocrats is not comparable to what we now call "democracy" and "citizenship." And also, not every market exchange can be considered as a capitalist commodity exchange, ie, as based on the exchange of exchange value.


The conceptual inertia is such, however, that an option is needed, just to make things easier, even at the cost of some loss of rigor. I will call "mercantile exchange" to an exchange that is based on exchange value. And "non-mercantile exchange" the one that is based on other fictions of equivalence. Despite the concession to colonizer, common use, we have gained something from this: not all exchanges of value in capitalist society are exchanges of exchange value . In capitalism there remain "economies", inherited from earlier social forms, that operate in alternative ways to the dominant one. "Markets" which are not considered by our colonial mentality as genuine markets, which are chaired by pre-capitalist dimensions of value, and their own fictions of equivalence.


c. Precapitalist markets

In the long era of scarcity, which spread across all traditional societies up to the formation of modern society, all aspects of human production were put in terms of survival and social reproduction, and also under the rule the unequal distribution. The survival of the ruling classes was based on the extreme over exploitation of entire peoples, to the point of extermination, and on absolute poverty among their own native populations.


In traditional societies the primary basis of this inequality was constituted by status systems. The human, physical and mental effort (work) that was considered fair to demand and reward (equivalently) depended directly of such systems, historically legitimated by religion, variably supported in law, and covered directly by the use of physical force. Slave or free, male or female, parent or unmarried male, citizen or stranger, landowner or craftsman, farmer or herdsman, were statuses denoting different duties and rights. As a whole the status system in each society was its market system, its fiction of equivalent exchange.


But the logic of agricultural production, which imperatively requires the stability of the workforce, forced these structures to a task more complex than pure differential appropriation of the product in favor of the ruling classes. The status system is on one side the framework for appropriation but also, on the other, it is a system of ideological and material compensations. Therefore, within its limits, it could be regarded as equivalent.


Its ideological claim is that it would be a system of sacrifices and compensations that would allow, at least in principle, the valuation of both parties, according to what is socially recognized to each of them. As a famous philosopher said (who also believed that women had fewer teeth than men ...), "Justice is giving each one his share". In these recognitions to bondage it corresponded assigning them a dignity, votive poverty was compensated by protection, submission and obedience would be compensated with salvation, current postponement with a promise of future consumption.


The supreme art of these equivalences was perhaps the one Confucius and Lao Tze preached. A sort of social pact that sought to retain and protect farmers during times of famine in exchange for their loyalty in good times. Universal religions were, however, those that reached the most significant degree of effectiveness in this policy, always threatened by the chronic inefficiency of agriculture.


In these pre-capitalist markets the value is not that extremely sophisticated and abstract equivalent which is the socially necessary labor time to produce a commodity, which is a quantitative, objectified and universal social measure. It is, however, crossed by ideological variables, culturally constructed as specific forms of legitimation for particular production contexts. The value recognized by itself, only for its qualities, to silver, gold, or quetzal feathers; the value that is granted certain production techniques such as metallurgy or manufacture of weapons; and, above all, the strictly differential value attributed to human labor according to the scale of status, are the clearest and most common examples.


From our immeasurably modern point of view, it is necessary to distinguish two levels in these exchanges from what (we) would call exploitation. The first is the internal level, which is referred to its own equivalence relations.


According to their criteria, there would be exploitation if the equivalences they fixed, or that were forced upon them, are not met. If the serfdom is oppressive, if poverty is acute, the submission is degrading, the protection is weak, the salvation is unattainable, then manifestly the exchange has been uneven, the valuation of some has led to the devaluation of others.


The wrath of the ancient Jewish prophets is the best example of how these internal injustices could be claimed, without proposing earthly and egalitarian utopias such as the modern. The drama of the war led by Spartacus, whose only horizon was that slaves could return to their countries of origin, is another example of the huge ideological gap between old times social protest and modern ones.


But, conversely, if the compensation had been reasonably reached, it should not surprise us that entire peoples for many hundreds of years, have considered a social cohabitation to be fair, which to us seems incredibly oppressive. On a planetary scale, the hundreds of years of amazing political stability that were achieved in times of bonanza of the Chinese farming culture are the best example, Confucian politics involved, however much they were interrupted every few centuries by feudal wars originated precisely in times of production weakness.


The second level is the judgment we establish, anachronistically, on these systems from our forms of equivalence and exploitation. Common life of a traditional Chinese peasant, or the caste system in India, now seem incredibly oppressive unless, of course, for the neo-Romantic who mystify them as a mode of reaction to the brutality of modern industrialization. It seems obvious, no doubt, from an unhistorical point of view, that in such a regime only injustice, oven exploitation and, as sole support, deception and ideological mystification ruled.


But that's only because modernity fought and managed to abolish all intrinsic status systems, and instead founded its need for freedom of the workforce in an egalitarian ideology where the labor force that is sold on the market is worth only in terms of what it is capable of producing, and even in a completely abstract way, worth is just the socially necessary working time to produce the means of their own production and reproduction. A time that, with the development of industrialization, becomes completely independent of the object to be produced, or the particular skills of those who do it.[87]


Thus the new equivalence relation is erasing, in integrating the labor market, both among employees and among capitalists, any traditional difference, and any qualitative difference between human beings, to put in its place a only quantitative and abstract variable, working time, and its even more abstract expression, a certain amount of money. The homogeneous anonymity of Fordist industrial worker, and the less noticeable but equally profound homogeneity of the capitalists themselves, is the best example of this.


d. Precapitalist value in capitalism

On the leveling and homogenizing horizon of capitalist ideology all status might well disappear. In a negative way this is the world portrayed in the classic Metropolis by Fritz Lang, in a positive way it is the illusion that tends to elect a black president of the United States, or to allow Chinese capitalists to impose themselves on Europeans.


For the logic of capital it is not relevant whether a worker or a business partner is male or female, Chilean or Mapuche, old man or child, European or African. The fact that this homogeneity is not effective until today, and that it will probably never be reached, is due to two very basic and pragmatic issues. On the one hand, in its actual historical deployment, capital could take advantage of inheritances from the traditional status regime to legitimate ways to reduce the cost of re-production of the labor force. This is what happened in particular with the traditional difference between the feminine and the masculine, which enabled, and allows up to today, paying lower wages to women and with the ethnic difference between white Europeans and all other peoples of the world, that explicitly legitimized the looting of the capitalist periphery.


But, on the other hand, the homogeneity was no longer necessary when the capital reached sufficient technological complexity to produce and manage diversity. Based on this capability it could give a positive connotation, for good business, to certain traditional differences and turn them into niches in its policy of market segmentation. Black women are now entitled to have special cosmetics for black women; children, young, old people, are recognized in their difference as potential customers. There are specific markets for Hindus, Turks, Pakistanis, in countries that presumed of its white superiority.[88] The pragmatism of this market pluralism manages to combine in an extraordinary way the egalitarian ideals and the recognition of differences. There is status, but not in a vertical relationship of subordination, but in a horizontal segmentation scheme. And, of course, the same relative deviation is still a relief for the superiority of the white: the black with the black, the yellow with the yellow, the white still being something relatively exclusive.


When paying at a lower price the workforce of an employed woman just because she is a woman, capitalism overlapped the two systems of exploitation or also commodified an area of pre-capitalist oppression. A similar effect occurs in the oppression on ethnic grounds. For the culture of white Europeans once being black, oriental or Latin, was a status, and that status interwoven with capitalist interests, lasts until today when bourgeois ideology formally denies it.


This overlap between the system of capitalist exploitation and the exchange based on status does not override the latter, however, although it homogenizes it. Put directly, the system of pre-capitalist exchange is never reduced, and can not be reduced to the equivalences of exchange value.


In order to describe this in a Marxist way, it is necessary to understand that the "female condition" is a realm of value production, ie, of acts and objects that are valuable in human exchange. Correlatively the "male condition" is it too, as was "being Greek" versus "being barbarian", or white versus being oriental or black. And these spaces of production of objective value had a function and a keen sense in the social division of labor at some point in history, and thus went on to become institutions from the earliest stages of the agricultural revolution. These institutions are the ones that survive today, because its shape, not its original productive content, is consistent with capitalist interest.


Recognizing the feminine and the masculine as spaces of production and real value, one can think about the system of sacrifices and rewards that, at least conventionally, could be constituting their equivalence relations. Internally, from its own cultural context, one could speak of fair exchange or unequal exchange. In the latter case one could objectively and differentially speak of exploitation. But now not as unequal exchange of exchange value, although it may be the case, but of unequal exchange of the value specifically contained in the area of ​​special production which is constituted as a genre.


Having put things this way, gender oppression (impairment of valuation) can be understood as a means and effect of its exploitation, ie, the appropriation of the value produced for the benefit of the specific valuation of masculinity.


If we comment on this difference in a fully historicist way, it is necessary to recognize that the family is not really a mechanism of reproduction that could be considered "natural". It is actually a mechanism of social order, and it was in some now remote historical period, but that easily lasted a hundred thousand years, a mechanism that made survival possible.


This huge expanse of time perhaps rooted in our constitution a deep willingness to exchange reproductive "goods" as if it were affective exchanges. Compared with that extension, its reification in the institutional form of marriage is really recent. This institution introduces a fiction of equivalence, which promised to maintain the functionality the family had in the task of survival of the social whole. Still, however, marriage in its various historical forms, was extensively characterized by patriarchal domination until less than two hundred years ago. What was considered equivalence did not considered at all the compensation to the female condition of what previously was thought to be obtained from it in terms of invocation of the general fertility of nature.


In what sense it could then be said that there was a figment of equivalence? And if there was, in what sense you could say that this fiction was not respected on its own terms? Both issues are crucial from a purely conceptual point of view.


Despite its harmlessly mathematical appearance, the expression fiction of equivalence, like any social function, contains a horizon of realization. Being a dynamic and ongoing exchange of subjectivity, as it is in the relations of gender or ethnicity, the "contracting parties"[89] do not claim to have made ​​the equivalence for the mere sake of establishing it. What they expect is that the relationship is perfected[90] progressively until reaching a certain fullness. Marital "happiness", in marriage, or the "superiority" in an ethnic relationship, are rather activities than isolated and individual events. Considering broadly this notion, we can make visible, in contrast, another aspect of the capitalist commodity fetishism: in the given and still appearance of the object it hides the dynamism of social relationship that it carries.


But this "perfection" contains a horizon. When the discourse of that horizon merely conceals the real fact of oppression, when it becomes consecration of the given oppressive situation, then it may be confronted with it. One can confront what this discourse announces and promises with the real oppression it expresses. The patriarch's "care" of the wife, or that of the "white father" on the black becomes the back of its own reality of dehumanizing appropriation and antagonism. In that case it is a discourse of exploitation, and correlatively the judgment "exploitation" can be done from the horizon itself that discourse promises.


Thus the fiction is, if you like, doubly ficticious. It is, firstly, because it makes equivalent what in itself is not. But still the two sides could assume it as such, and be valued at it. But it is also fictitious, secondly, because even what has been assumed to be equivalent is not, in its own terms.[91]


The criticism of these two fictions is conceptually different. In the first one a theoretical foundation issue is affirmed: the incommensurability of all exchange of value. In the second an empirical consideration on an issue of fact is made: mutual acceptance of an exchange as equivalent, and its eventual falsehood.


From all this we can understand the dichotomous reification of heterosexual difference as the construction of a realm of legitimacy to endorse and convey that effective physical operation, of value appropriation. The historically specific social constructs, which we call "man" and "woman" are historical effects, not natural causes, of this exploitative relationship. And that is why, when the critique and the liberating practice promote female emancipation, the dichotomy between man and woman bursts into a variety of genres that do not express the richness and versatility of the value created in this area, and the diversity of forms in which its exchange can reappropriate its genuinely human condition.


The commodification of gender oppression does not reduce to the exchange value system, nor diluted it as a pure aspect of capitalist exploitation but, conversely, worsens their state. Under the capitalist society, the patriarchate, now formally monogamous, and concentrated around the nuclear family, reaches its maximum historical degree of oppression.


This not only happens by overlapping in it two systems of exploitation, but because the claim that the differential status has disappeared merely to terminate all compensation to the feminine that traditional oppression could offer. The female, now artificially concentrated in women, loses its ritual significance and relative privileges that it entailed, and becomes a mere natural difference, without any own meaning than being an incomplete masculinity, an area of ​​deprivation, lack and imperfection.[92]


All other gender expression is relegated to the stigma of deviance and disease, children, old people, even the poor and immigrants, are thought of according to the arbitrary model of the feminine as space of incompleteness. The man, white, European, father, provider, also arrogates himself the right to be the citizen, the genuine owner of intellect and the spiritual capacities, the trusted custodian of parsimony of reason. No prior patriarchial society achieved these degrees of exclusivity and denial of difference from where it was, and is bound to get its constitution and most intimate subjective coherence.


A relevant question in this treatment of the oppression of the feminine as exploitation is that much more visible than in the exchange value, it is well known that the production of value arises from a constitutional difference. The production of the feminine only arises and reaches objectivity and sense regarding masculinity. And it is livable in both terms that are aspects of the subject. What happens to the exchange value is that the thing-oriented logic of modernity makes it difficult for us to understand that in the subject-object (producer-product) relation there actually is also an internal difference in the subject: objectivity is but objectification. In the production of exchange value there is not an individual against a thing, but a subject that is externally manifested as both producer and product.


This logic specification is required to conceptualize ethnic differences as an area of ​​real, specifically ethnic value production and its unequal exchange. It is necessary to understand ethnic oppression as the effect and means of a form of exploitation.


At some point in human history it represented an economic advantage that "the Greek" imposed itself to "barbarism". In economic systems heavily traversed by ideological variables with parameters of objectivity very distant to our modern, thing-oriented objectivity, reducing one ethnic group to the status of barbarism, and appropriating through multiple ritual gestures the value it contained as ethnicity, could represent the formula for survival of a people, even through trusts that we would describe as magical and fictional, but which operated in them as real economy. A good example of this is the both economical and ritual sense of the "Flower War" among the Aztecs (Tenochca).


The progressively disillusioned and disintegrated echo of this way of accumulating value, is still operating when white Europeans, who have overcome status differences only for themselves, legitimize their pillaging of the rest of the world.


It is in this context, which is no longer the original one of mythical beliefs, that a blackness, a being spic or oriental as an area of real and specific claim value arises. It is in this context also that the appropriation of that value (unrecognized cultural appropriation, colonization and acculturation, discrimination) constitutes itself as extraction of something substantive, that values ​​the dominant pole, as exploitation.


A first-order political consequence of this analysis of ethnic and gender oppression and exploitation is that, for the Communist opposition that operates in a post Enlightened way, it is not sufficient to oppose these forms of exploitation to simply overcoming the status system they residually contain. That is to say, it is not enough to demand equality of men and women, or blacks and whites.


It is noteworthy that this equality is already contained in the principles of bourgeois law, especially in the equalizing tendency of the abstract operation of capital, and its inverse, segmentation and manipulation of differences as commercial differences. To request that these egalitarian principles are expressed in effective laws where they do not yet exist, is necessary and perhaps urgent, but does not at all go beyond the horizon of bourgeois life.


The claim of ethnic and gender differences can not be to earn the right to be equally exploited or capitalist exploiters. The actual overcoming of pre-capitalist forms of exploitation requires the overcoming of capitalist exploitation that has commodified them. However, this overcoming is essentially independent of the overcoming of capitalism, although required.


The recognition of the feminine and the masculine as spheres of production of actual value, the primary claim of fairer equivalence rules, and the final claim that there be no such rules of equivalence at all (that is, no market of gender) requires its own specific policy, parallel to the anti capitalist and anti bureaucratic claims revolving around the exchange value. And the same must be said for ethnic claims.


This is one of the most powerful reasons for understanding the political opposition that is the large left as an opposition network. It is not desirable nor possible to organize all the struggles in one "party line", let alone in a tree structure that would organize them around a "main contradiction". Doing so can only lead to an eternal, sterile and demobilizing controversy surrounding urgencies and priorities that are essentially incommensurable.


It is just and necessary for each opposition network module to think the contradiction that affects it more directly as the "main" one. What you need to do is to encourage the widest political tolerance around a common spirit that brings together these various struggles. Given that tolerance, it is notorious how militants of each difference open to the sympathetic understanding of the other differences.


e. Causal reductionism and the unity of explanations

As should already be obvious, the problem of pre-capitalist dimensions of value, as we have seen, is directly related to the controversy of whether discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or culture can be reduced only to derivatives of uneven market exchange. Or, in more classical terms, the old, very old, problem of economic reductionism.


Whether there have been reductionist Marxists in this sense it is a merely empirical historical problem. The important thing is that the Marxist argument that is not required to such reductionism. The generalization of the idea of ​​value can help to avoid it.


Reductionism is almost always associated with causal reductionism. In the case of economism it would be the claim that the exploitation in terms of exchange value, through the extraction of surplus value in the context of wage labor is the cause of the problems of gender, or ethnic or cultural or ecological ones. This unique and general cause would be the big problem that the revolutionary initiative would need to address. The resolution of this problem would involve the resolution of all the others.


You can give, and there have given abundant and cogent, empirical and theoretical arguments against this causal reductionism. At least it is not empirically verifiable that gender differences, for example, always involve market exchange or even exchange relations that could be expressed in terms of goods, or money. The same is true of the ethnic or cultural discrimination. Conversely, one can show many examples of situations in which, even under favorable trade relations, situations of oppression or discrimination are operating on the favored. Rich Mapuche are discriminated against, as well as businesswomen.


The original argument against this economism goes back to Max Weber. The point, in Weber, is that perhaps the Marxists were right in that the social relationship that exists in wage labor is unequal, discriminatory, unfair, but even so, this does not exhaust all social problems. Weber affirms the host of social problems: many parallel problems, many parallel initiatives. The idea that one revolution would solve them all would not be feasible.


My interest just points to this political consequence: the problem of the unity of the revolution. Or the basic unit of all revolutionary initiatives around one big problem.


The specifications I have made on value allow to address this problem, returning to the idea that all forms of oppression (impairment of valuation) relate, directly or indirectly, to situations of exploitation (See Part II, Chapter 2, Paragraph b, Exploitation, domination, oppression).


As traditionally the idea of ​​exploitation has been reduced to the exchange of capitalist exchange value, it has also been argued that the exploitation is only one of many possible forms of oppression.


The extension of the notion of value, on the one hand, and the exclusion of the idea of ​​a (natural, or intrinsic to the human condition) tendency to oppression by another, allow to extend the idea of ​​exploitation to exchanges where the pre-capitalist value dimensions are traded. It allows the idea that the main forms of oppression, particularly those active ones, which are not derived from a simple omission, are actually the result of active forms of differential appropriation value. Gender oppression, ethnic, cultural would effectively be cases of exploitation, in which the appropriated goods are real value, human subjectivity, which is not measurable in terms of the time socially necessary for its production. Exploitation is thus the only and central problem that sets the class struggle. A problem that exists in various forms.


With this, the classic accusation of economism can be circumvented logically, without abandoning, however, the political thesis it was pursuing, that made its ​​sense.


In purely logical terms the classic accusation of "economism" was tantamount to a double causal reductionism. On the one hand it sought to understand many very diverse issues, such as gender, wage labor, or cultural differences, as having one single common cause. On the other hand this "economic" cause was understood in only one form: unequal exchange of capitalist exchange value.


It is important to keep in mind that, although these reductions always seemed implausible, they however had a political sense: there is only one big problem, exploitation; there is one single big solution, revolution. It is undeniable, conversely, that much of the opposition to economism derived not only from its own lack of plausibility, but was rather a result of that political consequence. It is noteworthy that the main consequence of postulating "social diversity" is that it leads to reformist policies. There are now many problems, there must be many solutions and many ways to get them. The loss of unity of the explanatory principle leads to a loss of political unity necessary for the revolutionary principle.


The distinctions and findings I have made, however, may keep the explanatory unity without resorting to causal reductionism and, with this, maintaining the unity and centrality of the revolutionary principle.


The issue is that it is not necessary to hold that market exchanges of exchange value are causes of discrimination, eg by gender. In such discrimination there is already, in itself, a situation of exploitation. The woman actually produces value, this value is appropriated by the patriarch as input for his own valuation in the social space of the genre. The objective interest of this valuation leads to the interest of preventing the autonomous valuation of women (oppression), and the situation, reified as cultural patterns, fetishized in the ideologies of the feminine and masculine, can only be maintained through the exercise of a difference in power (domination). The problem remains one: the dehumanization of some human beings by others, under its many forms (exchange values, ethnic or gender). The solution also remains one: to put an end to the class struggle, independently of which are the institutions that express it. And these are the institutions that in various ways protect the many aspects of dehumanization, which require the revolutionary principle.


4. A materialist conception of history

a. Historiography, history, philosophy of history

The idea of ​​ class struggle, and of the engine from which it arises, which is the contradiction between the development of productive forces and social relations of production, do contain a Marxist view of human history.


To specify it as a conception, it is first necessary to distinguish the tasks of history, historiography and philosophy of history as aspects and fields of knowledge. Fields and aspects that certainly should not be understood as disciplines, but as distinct aspects of a single great reflection. Much of the bad reputation of "knowing history" comes from confusing these epistemologically very different levels, or treat them as independent knowledge.


Historiography is the empirical task of collecting and recording data. Its primary mission is the account. In it, care must be taken regarding objectivity, to the extent that can be achieved in any scientific research and, for this, an instrumental use of science should be implemented. Its raw material are the facts, names, dates, contexts.


What should properly be called history, however, is rather a theoretical activity, the task of establishing legal systems, eras. Its basic mission is periodization. Its tools are categorizations, formulating ordering criteria, seeking causal relations, characterizing sets of facts based on assumptions and estimates on the logic of their becoming.


But these ordering criteria, and even before them, the criteria regarding what should be considered a significant event, an event worthy of being integrated into an account, can be highly diverse. Discussing the suitability and character of the criteria by which facts are gathered and then ordered is what the philosophy of history does. This can only be a speculative task, in the sense in which this term is used in philosophy. An activity that is guided by the search for meaning of historical development or also, more generally, as a statement about the eventual meaning of the facts, even if the final conclusion is that they are completely lacking it . The philosophy of history is the background of all these levels, it is where the deep concerns are summarized in the disturbing questions: "Where did we come from, what we are, where are we going?" that can be asked about all aspects of human activity and have been of particular concern for such a highly dynamic culture as modernity has been.


Of course, these levels of the task of investigating the history are perfectly complementary and mutually required. No history should be devoid of any of them, and it is always advisable, as far as possible, to try to explain the passage from one to another, the things we entered as "facts" by what criteria; what aspects we considered when formulating a category or a period; what estimation are we doing on what the general meaning of the changes are, that have registered.


Each of these epistemological levels of "making history" also presents its own difficulties, and it is necessary to make a minimum specification of them, and to develop criteria to address them. The first question is what kind of facts are those being collected by historiography. Inevitably the issue is linked to the purpose for which it is being written, a matter of philosophy of history.


The older histories, designed to glorify governments and to legitimize the powers gained, consisted of accounts of names and dates. They wrote about events (typically battles, coronations, conquests, discoveries), and characters (typically military, rulers, sages, "geniuses"). The newer histories, animated by a more scientific spirit, are written, however, rather around villages or communities, and processes or contexts. The oldest stories are written as inventories effects were merely descriptive. The more sophisticated, however, seek to establish causal chains, seek to understand the changes. Similarly, in the early events or characters as objects themselves as self-sufficient realities, while in the later ones, are considered rather as functions that operate in contexts that determine which were described as contributing as expressions of a context that transcends. Fewer names and dates, more categories and processes.


A second issue is the type and order of categories that would be acceptable in history, considered as the task of periodization. Carried by the naivete of Enlightened philosophy, traditional history sought to make up clearly definable (definitions without ambiguity), strictly successive periods (one ends and the other begins), which defined a single stream of events, or at least without major contradictions. In more modern ways of writing history now no one supposes that you can define a historical period (say, "medieval", "baroque", "bourgeois") without setting in it counterpoints, partially conflicting currents and parallel events. And no one expects the periods, which are recognized in good accounts as purely theoretical distinctions, are strictly continuous and successive. Overlapping periods, times of greater sharpness and other more mixed and complex transition, developing trends that contradict each other.


Of course, the great discussions that determine all the above, are occurring in the field of philosophy of history.[93] The central argument is quite deep, and affects the entire philosophical position that is assumed in all areas.


Although common and reasonable people often believe that human history has meaning ("things happen for a reason", "anyway there has been progress to some extent"), the more sophisticated philosophers have long been wary of this perspective, which they now consider naive. They not only are suspicious of the idea that humanity progresses linearly, and this is the best time of all times (which few now believe), but they even distrust that it makes some sense: human events could follow each others just randomly, without there being any kind of rationality in it.


In the "postmodern" environments of the historical discipline there is an active discussion today about this general nonsense. The terms of the discussion may seem curious to any neophyte. On the one hand the idea of ​​linear, necessary, ascendant progress; to that idea the notion of contingent chance, without internal rationality is opposed. Of course we are not doomed to this dichotomy which, however, seems to be assumed as unquestionable in academic fashions. And this is important for the purposes of this text because of the idea of ​​possible progress in history.


As this is not the place to "solve" such a discussion, I will do something more practical: I will make a reasonable assumption, in order to suspend it, and allow us to advance in our purpose. What I contend is that the ends of this dichotomy are neither necessary, nor completely opposites. It is not necessary to assume that history is full of meaning, that everything happens necessarily, that there are no alternatives, to suppose, however, that it is possible to discern a certain rationality, a logic that allows to describe the internal evolution of a process. Say, for example, you may find the logic that leads from slavery to feudalism, without assuming that this transition occurred universally nor necessarily, without alternatives.


But, much more practical than that, is the typical discussion of the philosophy of history that is assumed, albeit implicitly, about the sense of historical writing itself. When the ways in which history has been written in modernity are examined it is observed that it has been prevalent to conceive its purpose as moralizing: history is written to extol one side, a people, a number of heroes. With this purpose, history takes a pedagogical sense: it is written and taught to legitimize and form a sense of community around these justifications. And a writing around characters and events (as I noted above, typically generals, rulers, battles, conquests) is perfectly consistent with a moralizing history, which revolves around stories that show exemplary situations that should be admired, imitated, or which should be presumed to be a source of useful lessons for the life of the community.


All of us who have suffered the "patriotic" telling of history are familiar with moralizing history. Also the history of science (geniuses, discoveries, great theories, martyrs) has traditionally been reported that way. But what is even more relevant to us is that the history of Marxism itself, its political choices, its triumphs and misfortunes, and so exactly parallel, the history of the popular movement have been told that way. They curiously have been told in a not very Marxist way.


Far beyond these harmful and counterproductive enthusiasms, the Marxist conception of history that I am interested in describing, is not about praising past triumphs or exaggerating future possibilities, but simply about what is its proper object, the general forms and the meaning that can be attributed to human history.


b. A Marxist philosophy of History

Clearly in Marxism there is a secular, atheistic, materialistic, radically humanist philosophy of history. A conception that there are no providential forces acting on human society from outside its own self-production, neither origins to return to or deterministic goals that will necessarily be reached.


Marxism is an absolute historicism, which does not require the idea of ​​human nature, and which is contrary to the idea that the human condition is finite, and is subject to immutable traits that prevent its emancipation. For the Marxist foundation there are no natural no aggressiveness or selfishness or desire for power; nor radical loneliness, insurmountable anguish nor systematic fear of death. Each of these features may exist, may be empirically evidenced, but only as historical products, situated in concrete social conditions, not as irremediable marks of human condition facing some supposed destiny.


As I argued in the chapter on the concept of alienation, for this Marxist foundation even nature, and with it certain crucial features of human reality that are often thought of as natural, such as sex, gender or ethnicity, are nothing but historical products.


Put in philosophical terms, Marxism is a historicist essentialism. Importantly, this statement apparently clashes with widespread criticism circulating in the most sophisticated "against-all-essentialism" academic environments. In this respect let us at least say that, following the Hegelian standpoint, the essence here is not intended as being, but as activity. Whith which the idea is displaced that essentialism would somehow be a synonym of mechanism. But beyond that, the crucial flaw of this criticism is nothing but to confuse essentialism with naturalism. The alternative that I propose here to this identification is the formulation of an anti naturalist foundation that is, as an affirmation of constituent activity and tension, a historicist essentialism.


Contrary to what critical poorness, rushed by quite prosaic interests, often said, in Marxist philosophy of history there does not have to be neither determinism, nor teleology, nor messianism.


For a post Enlightened Marxism, communism is not a necessary but merely a possible destination, and the realization of this possibility is not a messianic task but the result (or not) of enthusiastic and rational political struggles, which do not require the blind force of a homogenizing side. Communism is not a mystical communion. What we want is not that individuals are diluted in the universal. What we want is an internally differentiated universal, able to generate free individuals. The effective and material autonomy of citizens should be an essential democratic goal in what we consider as communism.[94]


Unlike what the Soviet School postulated, supported by Engels and Plekhanov, the Marxism I propose is not a naturalism. One consequence of this is that the term "materialism" does not refer to the matter in a physical-chemical sense, but to the materiality of social relations.


It is very important, from a philosophical point of view, to note that the word "matter" is a noun and refers to things, whereas the term "materiality" is a verbal form that refers essentially to relationships. This is an "activity of being", or rather of the "constant becoming" of a material link.


The word materialism is used in Marxism to express an aspect of social relationships, not the fact that history had its origin and basis in natural needs, or the evolution of species, or in genes, vitamins, hormones, neurotransmitters ...


What is extracted from the original word "matter" is the connotation of an objectivity that exceeds individual wills, just as when we speak, metaphorically of course, of social barriers as "ropes" or "chains". What is at stake in this metaphor is the reality of alienation: we live and experience the social relationships that we have created as if they were alien and hostile, as foreign powers operating as if they were a necessary destination of natural origin.


"Historical Materialism" then, is an expression indicating that these reified social relations must be studied in their objectivity, should be understood primarily as forces that are in fact operating on our (individual) wills, in order to come to understand from that objectivity, without gods or good or ill will involved, how they arise from human practices, how they reproduce and, of course, how they could be overthrown.


My argument is that Marx did not use the term "our materialistic conception of history" to join the scientistic triumphalism of his time which, moreover, is later than his claim, but to oppose the romantic subjectivism of Max Stirner, and the implicit deism in the writings of Bruno Bauer [95], and even in the abstract humanism of Ludwig Feuerbach. As is well known, this is a statement that is part of his turn from philosophy and the critique of law to the field of economics, where he was beginning to see the social secret of that oppressive objectivity.


Still in terms of the philosophy of history, something should be added about the idea of progress and historical sense, of great concern to the most sophisticated. Neither in Hegel nor in Marx, the Enlightened idea of progress from bad to good, from chaos to order, from fall to redemption may be found, much less in a linear order of triumphant progress. But, contrary to simple dichotomies which are common, from the fact that there is no such progress neither fragmentation, nor contingent events, nor the rule of nonsense do not follow at all.


In a very simple way, both according to Hegel and to Marx, both "good" and "bad" progress at a time, and in a strictly ascending order. First by the permanently contradictory nature of reality, secondly because the "good" is never completely outside nor separable from the "bad".


In a history subject the possible realization of what is but possible, without pure contingency or strict necessity, there is no, nor can there be, linearity nor definite progress or irreparable setbacks. Precisely because of the essential rule of the possibility, human emancipation is possible, and in many ways always more possible ... and harder.


This openness makes that human history makes sense, but not in a deterministic or teleological way. It has a meaning which is given to the capacity for political action and to emancipatory will. To the horror of those waiting to read, in black and white, that there is a deterministic sense or nothing at all, that necessity or pure fragmentation prevails, it may be said with Hegelian irony that human history has a "certain sense".


c. The concept of mode of production

The common metaphor of "progress" and "regression" in history is directly related to the spatial metaphor representing history as a line. And this, in turn, with the main instrument of periodization, now in terms of history that the Marxist conception has had, which is the concept of mode of production. I will examine this concept first, and then come back to the geometrical metaphors that can be attributed to historical events.


As with several other concepts that for us today, seem very clear and typical of his work, Marx did not use the expression "mode of production" in a technical and stable way. It was the Marxist tradition which unified it and made a possible version of its meaning permanent.


Beyond this apparent conceptual unity, I argue that in Marx that category may be interpreted in three ways, on three levels, which are directly related to the difference between historiography, history and philosophy of history.


At the first, historiographical level, Marx uses this concept when describing states and consistent ways of how to produce in a particular society, particular in time and space. Referred to this use, which I will call "mode of production in an empirical sense" are his many allusions to situations such as "Hindu way of production", "Slavic mode of production", "American mode of production," and many others, colloquially describing particular social situations.


It is notorious that these multiple references, repeated throughout all of his work, have been systematically omitted by both the Soviet and the Structuralist tradition, to the benefit of increased, more comprehensive conceptualization. This is, however, a clear distinction, which is potentially very useful if maintained in its empirical character.


On another level, as a distinction that corresponds to the theoretical task that is more akin to history, I'll call mode of production in a conceptual sense the internal relationship between productive forces and social relations of production (means of work, form of labor, SDL, relations of ownership), ie a theoretical construct, of course based on an empirical basis, which seeks to make great periodizing and classificatory distinctions, according to a general purpose, which can only come from a philosophy of history.


In my opinion there are only five modes of production in human history that are worth applying this category in this way: the slave, Asian, feudal, capitalist and bureaucratic modes of production.


When to the specification of their ways to produce, distribute work and appropriate product, we add what those same ways are as cultural and political, religious and legal forms and, simultaneously, an estimate of what can be found throughout all this as representation and concept (ideology), it is possible to characterize consistent economic social formations with the same names, and from them to describe, never forgetting that these are only conceptual constructs, the effective becoming from one to another, the inner logic that moves and relates them.


It is appropriate, for these concepts to be maximally useful, and although it is neither absolute nor binding, to characterize the mode of production in an empirical sense rather by what is directly productive, that is, to emphasize its technological logic, in the way goods are produced. This is the perspective in which Marxists could best contribute to historiography. A contribution which, certainly, neither completes nor exhausts it. Considered as a science, historical studies may be greatly enhanced by the Marxist contribution, but it is not good nor necessary to believe that, at this level, there may be a "Marxist history" as if that contribution could complete all of the needs and aspirations of that discipline. [96]


It is appropriate, correspondingly, when in the characterization of the mode of production as a conceptual category emphasis is placed on social and political issues, especially as I have argued in previous chapters, in the way that it has control of the social division of labor, and how the relationships of appropriation of the product are established. In this case, we certainly are in the realm of what the theoretical and political interest of Marxism is.


As conceptualization of history, the most important issue here is to establish the keys of the drift leading, by their own internal dynamics, from one mode of production to another. The description of the mechanisms and material ties that determine that drift, and the political ways that it is done. According to the concepts that I have already used, the important thing is to describe how hegemony is built in a mode of production, and how that hegemony becomes government to the point of overthrowing the previous mode.


But when the problem of the overall transition in the evolution of the modes of production as a whole is addressed, what invariably appears is the ghost dictated by Enlightened superstition by which that evolution should be imagined as a simple succession, graphically organized as a line.


This is, again, a rather idiotic problem, which stems from the idea of general linear homogeneous progress. An image which in turn derives from the narcissistic habit of European people to identify their own history with the whole history.


Taken in its logical backdrop the problem is idiotic because actually the geometric metaphor we can associate to the historical development strictly depends on the degree of generality and abstraction with which we characterize its periods which, obviously, is an option completely surrendered to the observer.


There is not, and there cannot be, one unique criterion of historical periodization simultaneously covering all aspects, and reflecting what would be a proper structure, independently of what those who describe established. Whether human history may or may not be represented by a line (or a circle, or a spiral) is simply a false problem.


If we use immediate empirical criteria, such as the forms of footwear, the drift of linguistic uses, the forms of family, there is simply no way to organize all the empirical range as a line. If we instead use a very general criteria, such as the presence or absence of written communication, the famous line appears immediately, and one can even associate with it the so vilified connotation of progress. It should be obvious from this that even more than one geometric metaphor is possible, and you can compose these various representations at a certain scale, linking them together. These options are no longer clearly, of course, the matter and the characteristic occupation of a philosophy of history.


Looked at from a Marxist philosophy of history, I think the evolution of production methods in an empirical sense may be described as a tree, or rather, as a confluence of root system. Many particular modes of production (Sumerian, Chinese, Egyptian, Mexican, Quechua, etc.) converged on each other, became extinct, were absorbed or destroyed, mixed or were conquered, from the initial stages of the agricultural revolution, through five or six thousand years. The last of those great confluences was the destruction and assimilation of pre-Columbian modes of production by European conquest.


For Marxism, the only relevant to those multiple destructions and confluences completely outside of value-based estimates and just demands of local cultures, is that they lead to the global hegemony of capitalism, lead in fact to the articulation of the global market and with it to the establishment of a truly universal history. Many times, in many places in his work, Marx insisted in this momentous result. The many roots of the historic tree have led in fact, like it or not, to the objective superiority, to the factual domination of the culture and the productive ways above all others.


This momentous event, which for Marx is an objective and necessary condition for communism, allows to formulate the third notion of mode of production, I have not yet described here. It is now a directly philosophical issue that has to do with a sense that human history tends from its objective evolution toward its possibilities.


On a third level, now more speculative, I will use "general forms of work" for modes of production considered as forms of human self-production, in particular the ways in which, the whole scope of our objectivity that we call nature has been produced from human work.


The major milestones that mark these forms are (1) the time when the institutions that reify the social division of labor appeared, which is historically related to the agricultural revolution; (2) the industrial revolution; (3) the communist revolution. The first distinguishes a vast "before" (paleo), lasting at least fifty thousand years whose internal differences are matters of anthropology, of the traditional societies, which were many. The second distinguishes these traditional societies from modern society, which is a single one (universal history). The third distinguishes what Marx called "human prehistory", that time we have lived in our own history as if we lived in nature, from history as such where, once the reification of the social division of labor is overcome, free labor will prevail and class struggle will no longer be necessary.


I argue that, in composing this great perspective to the conceptual idea of mode of production, there should be no problem in accepting that this major distinction, precisely because of its extreme generality, can be represented as a line, and that all of its evolution can be seen as progress to date, and also as a possible progress.


The internal logic of its two main states, however, is not linear, nor should it be. I argue that the internal evolution of traditional societies may be represented more like a pendulum, an oscillation between the three general modes of production that can be distinguish in them: the slave, Asian and feudal modes of production.


At that time, which I have previously represented as a tree of roots, there was never a single, general, contemporary and homogeneous slave, Asian or feudal, state or period. Instead there is rather the independent occurrence, time and again, of slave moments, associated with the political figure of the polis; of Asian moments associated with the political figure of the empires; and feudal transitions that bind and carry one or the other into each other.


Looking at it this way, do not think it's hard to describe the mechanisms of how the systematic inefficiency of agricultural techniques, the pressure and catastrophic drift of the population, always between a population explosion and famine, the depletion of land and the cultural barriers, determine the pendular logic to which I have alluded as the shape of the passage from one mode of production to another.


But these pin downs on the historical details of traditional societies, which seem perfectly documentable in real history, I do not care of only for their historiographical performance, but because I can make by analogy, a now openly speculative hypothesis, on the evolution of modern society.


I argue that it is to be expected that the internal logic of modern society contains a similar pendulum between its two modes of production: the capitalist and the bureaucratic ones. And I have described in previous chapters how objective processes of bureaucratization of capital management have led from the former to the latter.


What I think is politically relevant to this hypothesis is the possibility of a development of bureaucratic totalitarianism that carry, in reaction, to bourgeois restoration, and then again from this to that, cyclically. This suggests to see the block of ruling classes no longer as a mere succession that forever puts an end to capitalism and imposes bureaucracy, but a permanent tightening of advances and retreats, in which hegemony and governance of both classes relatively alternate.


Toward the past, this hypothesis allows to review and rewrite the history of capitalist viability, showing that since its origin, its viability has only been possible thanks to its bureaucratic counterpart.


And for the future, what is more important, it allows us to understand the importance of viewing the communist horizon as anti-capitalist and anti-bureaucracy at a time. Communism is possible not only when the capitalist logic is extinguished, or when the bureaucratic logic is defeated, but rather when it manages to transcend the bond that unites them. And that link, as I have already repeated too many times in this text, is nothing else but control of the social division of labor.


d. General forms of labour and ideological forms

To account for the great history of the general forms of labour from the point of view of their deployment as ideology it is good to relate them to the categories of certainty, consciousness and self-consciousness that I described in a previous chapter (see Part II, Chapter 4, Class Consciousness) and, at the same time, with the difference between productive forces and social relations of production.


Bourgeois modernity can be defined as self-awareness of the productive forces, ie the time when mankind began to experience the means of work and skills as their own product. This resulted in the desecration and deritualization of production processes, leading in turn to that policy of constant technological innovation we call "industrial revolution".


Regarding this achievement, traditional societies may be seen as the time when there was only awareness of the productive forces, ie, in which the means of labor are experienced as given, and are attributed a divine origin. The consequence is that technological innovation is extremely slow, and generally focuses in smaller societies, less subject to conservative rituals. A dynamism which can be found particularly in times politically associated with the polis.


But traditional societies already are that consciousness. The very long period before, however, can be seen as the era of certainty of the productive forces. The means of labor are directly experienced as given extensions of the world's spirits own animation.


If we now look at the social relations, we can see that both traditional societies and modernity relate to them as consciousness, ie, attribute them a given exterior character, which determines all human action as a foundation. The fact that there is marriage, market, laws, state, is seen as a response to the objective requirements that exceed human freedom and, consistently, need to be respected, shapes whose change is not recommended, since such change would risk the logic of these foundations, and would only receive in return a curse, disease or social chaos.


The predominant form of this consciousness of social relations in traditional societies was religion. Considered as overall ideological systems, it can be said that the formation of agricultural societies of low social stratification is correlated to the passage of the systems of magic in which there are infinite gods, without bodies nor defined representation and acting as spirits (souls) in each natural force or dynamism, to the systems of myth where there are many gods, but not infinite, gods are represented as objects (animals, mixtures of animals and people, people) and where stable religious institutions arise.


The formation of highly stratified agrarian societies, however, is accompanied by the transition from myth to forms of universal faith (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), as well as forms of global ethics weakly bound to religion, such as the systems of Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu and to a lesser extent, preached by the old Stoics and Epicureans. With faith and universal ethics humans learned and experienced their essential equality, and could imagine an end of status systems, at least in principle, in imaginary spaces that operated as promises, and as elements of compensation within legal schemes where precapitalist dimensions of value prevailed .


From the point of view of their overall ideological content, it can be said that the great change in the consciousness of social relations that distinguishes traditional societies from modern society is the move from a unique and intangible God, or from ethics conceived as a transcendent principle, to natural reason as an explanatory principle, and science as a system of knowledge.


Modernity, as has been said so many times, "disenchanted the world" desacralized institutions, deritualized the productive sphere and everyday life. But only in exchange for creating new rituals, now as natural foundations for its needs and convenience. Marriage, market, state would now have a natural origin. And the development of science has been taking care of carrying that naturalization, at first a speculative principle (there would be a substantive reason and a human nature), to its specification and legitimacy as knowledge presumed as empirically demonstrable: there would be certain biological conditions governing certain aspects of individual and social behavior. Brain volumes (phrenology), vitamins, genes, hormones, neurotransmitters, have been invoked again and again to explain not only the general social institutions, such as the necessity of heterosexual marriage or of the capitalist market, but even very specific individual traits such as homosexuality, the female difference, leadership, depression, and a long and oppressive etcetera.


It could be said that the essence of bourgeois ideology is an speculative operation of naturalization of generic social relations, and that the essence of its drift toward bureaucratic ideology is this elevation of classic naturalism to the range and legitimacy of "demonstrated" scientific knowledge. A claim to know, of course, that is by no means harmless, that is not at all merely formal vanity.


The classic naturalistic speculation coexisted with the mystery of freedom, necessary for the construction of bourgeois hegemony (freedom to join the labor market), but problematic from a theoretical point of view for a mechanical worldview. Problematic to the extent that the most lucid of their philosophers, Kant, had to introduce it in his ethics simply as a postulate.


The bureaucratic ideology instead tends in more or less sophisticated ways to determinism and with this, the projection of their pretense of knowing on the legal system tends to totalitarianism. Increasingly the liberal and rights-oriented horizon of bourgeois law, consistent with a social understanding of the origins of crime, disintegrates into a concept that proceeds limiting the space of human freedom when "discovering" its biological determinants, and thus assimilates social faults to the medical system of disease. Pedophiles, serial murderers, crimes committed during psychotic episodes are their best examples. Consistently, the punishment regime passes from prison, where an offender, whose capacity to exercise discernment was recognized, could be reformed, to hospital confinement, where for his own sake, because of his biological lack of accountability, someone can be held indefinitely outside any social exchange.


Needless to say, of course, the most dangerous of these anti social ill are those whose delusions are focused on an alleged injustice constitutive of social order as a whole.


Facing bourgeois naturalism, and bureaucrat biologicism, considered as global ideological shapes, postmodernism can be seen as the time when the self-consciousness of social relations can be assumed and exercised. Of course, I am here using the expression "post modern" not to designate a literary fashion, or some form of European chauvinism, but in the objective and strict sense of a (possible) overcoming of modernity. Not the mere assertion of a neo-romanticism or neo-enlightenment, each of them against the abstract negation of its opposite, but just overcoming the dichotomy of all Enlightenment and all Romanticism. And for that, as I have argued, the use of Hegelian logic is necessary. What I am here calling a postmodern era, which is but a possible project, is what, in a material way, is also the communist horizon or, rather, the long march which is building the hegemony of the direct producers.


On a global ideological level, this march is a denaturing task. Urgently against biologicism whose serious legal consequences we suffer every day. Deeply against naturalism, that puts the keys of human society beyond the scope of freedom. There can not be any substantive progress toward communism without a radical affirmation and reappropriation of our freedom to create and recreate the social relations that have always been our product.


Naturalism, and the argument of biologist authority, both deeply rooted in common sense, are the main obstacle to libertarian political action. That's why struggles over discrimination of ethnicity and gender are exemplary for all the popular movement. Because they are just a place where the center of the struggle is the task of historicizing of what has been naturalized. And this is also why we must oppose the shipwreck of the theoretical development produced in those struggles on the disintegration of the subject into mere positions of contingent, temporary and local subjectivity, more appropriate for bourgeois individualism than for a vocation of future.


From a Marxist point of view, what must be done facing naturalism is historicizing, not just placing contingently. It is building social subjects, based on substantive solidarity, not only to deconstruct subjects to encourage casual associations. It is promoting a network of opponents linked by a common spirit, not being frozen in the eternal lament telling us that the "big stories" lead to totalitarianism. Today we finally and healthily have totalitarianism completely in front of us. Complaints about its "bad habits and inertia" among us only are part of the self-destructive mania that arises from the logic of defeat.


As I have stressed throughout this text: what we need is a radically historicist and humanist substantive idea of the subject. That alone is what can be called, properly and substantively, post modernity. Only this assumption allows the central claim that I argued with these considerations: communism is possible.


5. Note on the idea of “immaterial labour”

The idea that there would be some "immaterial labor" and that this kind of work could enhance the value of goods, is based on two theoretical options that lead to all sorts of errors and deceptions. The first is to confuse "value" and "price". The second is to consider as "intellectual work" something which is actually "bureaucratic work". At its foundation there is a further still more trivial and harmful option: calling "manual work" to the work that requires physical effort and consider "intellectual work" that one which apparently does not.


The result of these simplifications is that certain "intellectual workers" would contribute more than others to the valuation of the goods and, in general, that the "intellectual" aspects of all work (the so-called "general intellect"[97]) would be a crucial part of the process of valuation, an issue which, of course, would become increasingly important with technological progress.


There has been no shortage of those who have stated that today's capitalist exchange revolves almost exclusively around symbolic goods, and that production has "dematerialized". They do this claims while traveling in their perfectly material cars, they write it on their material computers, sell it in their material books, while seamlessly buying material things produced by little symbolic employees who live their over exploitation in regions (conceptually) very remote from these intellectuals, regions full of embarrassing and stubborn "manual labor" and materiality.


This discussion is usually mounted on the difference between manual and intellectual work. At some point Marx himself came to make this difference in the context of a summary explanation of the effects of the social division of labor[98]. Neither Marx's very preliminary text in a note he never published, nor the quite contrived distinction itself, provides much material for a thorough discussion. For one, there is no human work that lacks a concept (which does not include intellectual work); on the other hand, even the most intellectual work is associated with materialities, and even crafts, that make it tangible. Besides coming from Marx, this difference does not seem to have any merit.


Is this what the advocates of the idea of "immaterial" labor want to tell us? Of course not. They want to make an estimate in terms of exchange value, and in their reasoning there is no doubt that this is capitalist exchange value.


According to the concept, what they seem to be saying is that the production of symbolic goods requires more socially necessary labor time than that of physical goods. Why this should be so? One might suspect that making a house requires more time, current and accumulated, than to prove a theorem, or manage a faculty. Or, in the same house, that physically producing it takes longer than to design it. These comparisons, as shown, are arduous and substantiating them pursuing the logic that presides it can be quite subtle.


Even if doubtful, if we could compare the current work of the masons with the work of the architect, the key seems to lie rather in what accumulates in their respective workforces, not the actual work as such. What gets accumulated is what may be called qualification: apparently more social time is required to form a architect than to form a bricklayer. That excess time accumulated as labor skills could then valuate the goods: a house designed by an architect would be better than if it had been built only by builders.


Apparently, then, the work that contains competence, which is wearer of "knowledge" is called "immaterial". Although philosophically it may no be easy to understand exactly why it is called "immaterial", now it seems clear why it might be called "intellectual."


But then the problem recedes. Do the masons "know" how to build a house? Surely those who are engaged in the construction industry will tell you that it costs much more time to train a good bricklayer than a bad architect. Why there is the impression that being an architect is more valuable (requires more social time) than to form a construction worker? The answer is simple: because the architect does know how build a house. Doctors know more than nurses. Economists know more than accountants. Engineers know more than technicians. Otherwise ... everybody knows.


This is not a moral issue here. Everyone recognizes that the work of an accountant, a nurse or a construction worker, is as "valuable" as the one of an economist, a doctor or an architect. That is not the point. Here we are using the word "value" in the objective sense of "exchange value", not in the moral sense of intersubjective recognition of work or effort. The idea is that, objectively, it takes longer to train someone who knows than someone who doesn't know. And that is the time expressed in the valuation of the goods.


Unfortunately, however, the measurement of these times is not as easy as it seems. It may take many years to become a good nurse. After five or seven years we could get, however, a very bad doctor. The almost universal experience of technicians amending errors of engineers, nurses who save their patients from medical errors, the bartender who offers free service as psychologist, or the witty amateur who writes better books than social scientists, leads us to suspect the objectivity of these estimates around the socially necessary time for the formation of an "intellectual" worker.


When examining closely these times, what you find is that you can not make a general rule stating that those who "know" have occupied more time in their training than those who "do not know". And, even worse, that alleged difference in knowledge itself is widely suspicious.


I argue that a radical critique of scientific knowledge simply would defeat the vaunted differences between expert and lay.[99] It can be shown that the difference in the "knowledge" operates more as a rhetoric of legitimation than as a real advantage. To conceptualize this ideologism one may think in terms of "immediate operational knowledge", ie, the eminently practical knowledge for indeed solving a problem, of indeed operatively bringing forward a production function. These are actually the only ones which do valuate a commodity. And not as "knowledge" but precisely by social time that was needed to train them.


Operational knowledge is called that way because it is contained in acts rather than in ideas that can be specified and written down. And it is called immediate because it occurs as operating independently of those who hold it "know that they know", or identify themselves by the consciousness of knowing. Of course making them explicit helps to discuss and possibly improve them. But observing the modes of technological progress shows, conclusively, that the discussions which lead to real progress are eminently practical, they work through the systematic use of trial and error, rather than from theoretical developments.


Regarding the effective progress of the knowledge at work, the merely "intellectual" knowledge is rather a logic of legitimation, which establishes and defends the interests of a guild, than effective knowledge.


Of course even this merely theoretical or intellectual knowledge must be formed, and that training involves a cost. The point is whether, in essence, that cost does express exchange value (socially necessary time for production) or merely reflects the legitimacy attributed to it when being considered effective knowledge. My argument is that the social time required to form a good nurse is neither greater nor less than that required to form a good doctor, and that this means that the value of the operational knowledge obtainable in both cases is virtually the same. This means that the doctor or the engineer do not provide more value, as such, than the skilled worker, and the impression that this would happen is an ideologism concealing an operation of legitimization through knowledge, or the impression of knowledge.


The same may be expressed in another way: the "knowledge" provided by the alleged "intellectual work" actually helps increasing the price of the goods, not their value. The prices, as a temporary local variable, may fluctuate for many reasons. The main one, of course, are the fluctuations of supply and demand. But they can also fluctuate for purely speculative reasons. Such as those contained in the ideologisms of the luxury. My argument is that today's appeal to the "general intellect" contained in "intellectual work" as a way to increase the price of a good is a speculative mechanism based on a series of ideologisms on the alleged effectiveness of the "intellectual knowledges".


That the price may vary locally and temporarily, under these ideologisms or even by variations in supply and demand, is not contradictory to Marx's thesis that the only source of valuation of a commodity is human labor. Price and value are conceptually and epistemologically different categories. For Marx's thesis to be maintained, or to make them compatible, simply hold that the temporal and local price oscillations tend, historically and globally, to the value.


This means that even if a capitalist or another person may get rich by taking advantage of price changes, the bourgeoisie as a whole can only increase its wealth, historically and globally, by appropriating value created by the direct producers.


But this also means that the "wealth" apparently created by the "intellectual work" is it only in terms of prices, and the global movement is canceled by corresponding reductions in other moments and places of the global economic system. Whenever one of the successive econometric bubbles called "financial" is punctured, not only are the monetary assets contained in them depreciating but, in general, all the speculative "value" that separates them from the real value contained in the material goods that are subject to direct production, including the artificial inflation added to them by the famous "general intellect".


Beyond the variable destiny of each of these separate "knowledge workers", however, considered as a whole, it is not difficult to show that in them there is objective and real enrichment. If what they are contributing is merely price and what they are accumulating in return is value, the situation can only be given one name: exploitation. The exchange involved is uneven in the terms of capitalist exchange value. The situation is this: value is advantageously appropriated on the basis of a system of ideologisms focused on the claim to know.


This result may also be expressed as follows: despite being formally employed, the wages of "knowledge workers" are much higher than the actual cost of their labor. Or again, the term "knowledge worker" only beautifies, ideologically, the reality of the social status that really characterizes them: the status of bureaucrats.


The idea that "embedded knowledge" valuates the commodity, the idea that expertise, or responsibility, provide real value, the notion of "immaterial labor" or the hegemony of symbolic production, are but elements of legitimation system of bureaucratic usufruct of the value created, in fact, only by the direct producers.


The appeal to the discourse of knowledge as a legitimating mechanism, however, only accounts of how the enrichment goes on, not why. If, in good accounts, in the sphere of actual production what counts are the immediate operational knowledges, why only some of them get to have access to this mechanism?


Not all operating knowledge is of the same type and range. But not in terms of knowledge content, or regarding the production environment on which they operate, issues around which all are more or less equivalent. The crucial difference is rather in the manner and object of the power they imply.


There are types of operational knowledge that translate into power over objects, there are others involving powers over the exercise of operational knowledge as such. The difference between direct production and coordination of production, or between work and coordination of the division of labor. Bureaucratic power and enjoyment come from the commodification of the functions of coordination of the social division of labor, legitimated by the ideologies of knowledge and responsibility. As I have argued in another text[100], the only way to avoid the possibility of this objectification is overcoming the social division of labor, that is, building a world in which our lives do not depend on it, in which the time of free labor is qualitatively and quantitatively far superior to socially compulsory labor time. That world is communism.


Annexes

I. On the relationship between Hegel and Marx

1. An academical issue... or a mithological one

The problem of the relationship between Hegel and Marx is different from the problem of the relationship between Hegel and Marxist tradition. The first, by itself, is a relatively academic issue. The second is, however, overtly political. Marxist tradition, however, accustomed to the use and abuse of authority argument, presents them both in the same plane, and defends the political interests that are relevant in each of its moments, appealing in a supposedly "objective" way to what Marx would have said or not, and even to what would he would have thought or not.


Of course, on how the Marxists of various ages might have been learning what Marx thought there can only be a deep mystery. Common prudence demands rather sticking to what he said and, in fact, to what he wrote.


Regarding what he said, however, again all methodological precautions aren't enough. We have no recordings nor videos, in which we recorded His Word. Testimonials are all fragmentary, especially on this subject. And there is no reason why they would not, like all living testimony of events, be interested.


The matter should therefore be restricted to what Marx wrote. But if this was easy to do! It happens that most of the preserved writings of Marx were not published during his lifetime. And it is not clear whether Marx himself would have had with his own writings the generosity of Engels, or the editorial rigor of David Ryazanov. Even testimonies about this openly show that he used to feel dissatisfied with what he wrote and that, despite Engels' patience, he refused time and again to deliver his texts to press.


It happens also that precisely those texts in which Marx refers to Hegel, always with the character of sketches or quick references, are among the unpublished. That is, to be loud and clear: among those not authorized by the author for publication.


Still worse. It is known that Engels after Marx's death devoted much time and effort to publish texts that Marx had not published or to republish texts that, due to the precarious character of the early editions, had simply lost. The most notorious cases are volumes II and III of The Capital (1885 and 1894), The Poverty of Philosophy (published in 1847, reissued in 1884), the Critique of the Gotha Program (written in 1875, first published in 1891), The Class Struggle in France (published in 1850, reissued in 1895), The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (written in 1852, first published in 1885). However, precisely the most relevant texts on "Hegel" were not published by Engels.


Of course, these are the manuscripts of the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (whose introduction was published in 1844, and the remaining, little more than a collection of reading notes, only in 1927), the so called "Economic Philosophical Manuscripts from 1844" (a series of reading notes, published only in 1932), and the various texts that make up the German Ideology (written in 1845-46, and published only in 1932). His doctoral thesis, of Hegelian inspiration, Difference Between the Philosophy of Nature according to Democritus and Epicurus written in 1841, was first published in 1929. The text of the Holy Family, Critique of Critical Criticism, published in 1845 in a small edition, was reprinted only in 1917.


The case of the German Ideology is, for the sake, exemplary. We know that Engels had in view the bundle of papers, sewn spine by Marx himself, which were later published by David Ryazanov under that title. He refers to it several times in letters and prefaces. However, when Karl Kautsky writes from Germany to ask him about the new fashion of neo-Hegelianism (Bradley, Bossanquet, Gentile) and the alleged connection of Hegel to Marx, he decides not to publish this manuscript and, in its place, he writes, in 1886, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of classical German Philosophy, a text that refers to the same issue as the manuscript he avoids.


[NOTE ON THE PUBLISHING OF MARX'S MANUSCRIPTS. As is well known, Marx's manuscripts began to be published in full, systematic and careful manner, on initiative by the remarkable Bolshevik non Leninist comrade in his own words, David Zelman Berov Goldendach, who called himself David Ryazanov (1870-1938) . As director of the Marx Engels Institute in Moscow since 1921, Ryazanov promoted the publication of Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works of Marx and Engels), now called MEGA I. Between 1927 and 1935 twelve volumes could be published from a project that included 42. The last ones, though fully designed under his direction, were published by his successor, a bureaucrat, Victor Adoratskii. Among them, in 1932, in one volume, the Manuscripts and the German Ideology were published. Comrade Ryazanov was purged in 1931, during the Stalinist revolution, and finally executed in 1938 after a session of the Revolutionary Court which lasted only fifteen minutes.


Considering the dates, we have to highlight something otherwise clear: neither Lenin (who died in 1924), nor Rosa Luxemburg (murdered in 1919), nor Antonio Gramsci (in jail since 1927), three of the most important Marxists of the twentieth century, could ever read the manuscripts of Marx. Their views on the relationship between Hegel and Marx, therefore, can not come directly from The Master.


A subsequent attempt of Collected Works are the Marx Engels Werke (MEW), published in East Germany (GDR) between 1945 and 1968. To this edition, of 42 volumes in 44 books, was added, after being interrupted for many years, a volume 43 was added in 1989. It was not continued. Finally, a monumental critical edition of Collected Works, called MEGA II, was being planned since 1972 in the Soviet Union. It was to contain 164 volumes. Of these, until 1990, 36 had been published. The project was resumed from 1992 by the MEGA Project, led by the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, which retains to this day many of the original manuscripts, inherited from Engels through Eduard Bernstein. This project, which brings together institutes from Moscow, Berlin and Amsterdam in the Marx Engels Foundation, reduced the project to 114 volumes, of which to date 52 have been published.


As shown, if the method of exegesis of Marx's work continues to rest in notes, letters and texts not published by himself, there is still a very long way to go. A path that may contain some, unfortunately until now simply unimaginable surprises.]


The summary of this complex situation is that of the views of Marx on Hegel we only know of allusions and notes scattered in unpublished letters and manuscripts. Directly, surely claimed by the author, we know almost nothing.


Of course this situation, dreadful to start with for most Marxists, is only "complex" or even "dreadful" under certain assumptions, which such Marxists rarely ever stop to explain.


The first, and the coarsest, is that Marx's authority is sufficient to solve any possible dispute about the meaning or the projections of his work. The notorious rituals of established Marxism rarely go through the idea that Marx may have been wrong, in general, and even more, might have even been mistaken about his own work.


This may seem strange, even sacrilegious, is due to an actually very simple reason, way too simple indeed: an author, especially a great author, does not have to have a clear and distinct consciousness about the influences that operate on his work, and even less about the ways in which he may influence others. It is quite common for big thinkers, according to the interests and contexts to which they are immediately dedicated, to reconstruct the path followed by the development of their work in a different way than what a less committed external observer may find. It is not strange at all when great authors tell us "from the beginning I thought so", or "since long ago that idea has no influence on my thinking".


The issue, as considered from the point of view of a minimally serious history of ideas, is that the author himself is just one of the inputs that should be taken into account to reconstruct his intellectual evolution. It is the first and most important input, of course. But it is only one among many possible inputs.


Of course, this would not be difficult to accept in respect of any other author: but it is Marx. And on this ground, the ritualism of discussions greatly hinders any moderately rational examination.


The second assumption, now about the writing, is that it can give the same kind of authority to a witness to the opinions of an author which comes from a private letter, a reading note, an early writing, an allusion, than to those from texts published and revised by the author for publication. Again, of course, this method only is applied to Marx or Lenin, or Heidegger or Lacan, or Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. That is, with authors where the reverence to their words is more important than the arguments that may be established for, or against them. Nobody disputes in these terms about Weber or Parsons or Luhmann. Nobody argues in these terms about Kant, or Plato or Aquinas.


The third assumption is that Hegel was really a central problem for Marx himself, something he had to rule on urgently and clearly. No evidence shows that this was so. Marx studied Hegel's disciples. He particularly admired Feuerbach, and arguing against him played an important role in his philosophical training. All direct references to Hegel, however, seem to be relatively incidental. Notes, readings that apparently proved evocative to him, but without clearly telling us in what way, a pleasant encounter after many years with the Science of Logic, with us not knowing how far and in what detail he read it.


Of course the relationship between Hegel and Marx could be very important for us, and it may contain keys enabling us to deeply reformulate the political and critical theory. We don't know, however, except for a set of rather vague allusions in the strict sense, whether Marx would have agreed with our urgent so evidently determined by our own problems, which in so many ways are no longer those he faced.


Have I with these arguments discarded all hope of finding a relationship between Hegel and Marx? I sincerely hope that no reader has reached this conclusion just by reading what I have written here. If anyone did, it would make me feel really deeply intrigued.


What I have established is that the problem of the relationship between Hegel and Marx can not be resolved satisfactorily at a purely academic level, attending only to the necessary rigor that the history of ideas should have. At no time here I have argued that there is no such relationship, or that we can not "find it". Furthermore, I will argue is that we need, in a compelling way, to "find" a relationship, to formulate it clearly, and to use it to develop the Marxist theory, and to project it on possible Marxist policies.


But the expression "to find" in this context can only be quoted. This is a "find" that should not be for free, that should not force the texts, or ideas of Marx, beyond reason. But this is a "find" primarily motivated by politics.


The summary, in short, to put it directly, is this: the problem of the relationship between Hegel and Marx is a political problem, not an academic issue. And, as such, it has more to do with us than with the ideas of Hegel and Marx.


Just because we are talking about big thinkers, we can find in them more than one, much more than one relationship between their ideas that is at least generally consistent with what they themselves say. Compatible also asymmetrically: we care more about enriching the potentially revolutionary ideas of Marx than about understanding Hegel's quite real conservatism. To read Hegel in a Marxist way is perhaps more relevant to revolutionary politics than a Hegelian way to read Marx. In the following I will hold both operations. But it should not be a secret, it should not remain implicit, that the general purpose I pursue is to reformulate Marxism in a way that is meaningful to the policy of the XXI century.


2. Engels, creator of Marxism

Who did not doubt for a moment that any relationship between Marx and Hegel was a political rather than an academic issue was Frederick Engels. In a very real, true sense, Engels invented "Marxism". That is, he invented the idea that Marx's work was a general system, able to account for all of reality. To show this, as I noted, he reissued Marx's works that were no longer available, edited and published the manuscripts that seemed important to him, and even completed his works with those theoretical spaces that seemed underrepresented to him. This is the case of his texts Eugene Dühring's Revolution of Science (Anti - Dühring) in 1878, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, written in 1880 and published in 1884, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of classical German Philosophy, published in 1886, and many articles of doctrinal type published in Die Neue Zeit from 1883 until his death.


But also correlative to the establishment of a true canon of works of doctrinaire character, Engels created the difference between orthodoxy and deviance, and its corollary, the idea that there are left and right deviations. In the framework of the Second International, Eduard Bernstein represented the model of a "revisionist" (right deviant), and Rosa Luxemburg the "leftist" (left deviant). Lenin, years later, consecrate this scheme with two symmetrical works: The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918) against revisionism and its reformist consequences, and Leftism, the childhood disease of communism, against the "Bolshevik Left" (1920).


In this canonical construction plan, Engels thought that there was a definite, clearly determinable philosophical base, which supported the work of Marx. A "scientific philosophy" to which he referred to as the "dialectic". His developments on the subject can be found in the Anti - Dühring, where he specifies what he calls "laws of dialectics", in Ludwig Feuerbach, in which he makes explicit in what sense the "philosophy" of Marx would have surpassed that of this thinker, a disciple and critic of Hegel, and in the number of texts written between 1875 and 1885, which were subsequently published in 1925 in the Soviet Union as Dialectics of Nature.


In all these texts, however, he never uses the term "dialectical materialism", which is neither found anywhere in Marx. This figure was introduced by George Plekhanov, who in a similar systematic intention to Engels argued that in Marxism two main parts could be distinguished: dialectical materialism, which operates as a general philosophical basis, and historical materialism, which would be a sort of application of the former to the field of social relations and human history.


When examining the idea that Engels and Plekhanov have of "dialectics" with a philosophical approach, however, what may be found is, just as they themselves seek, but a "scientific philosophy". A conception that compared with the general trends found in the history of modern philosophy, is rather a reformulation of the ideas of Enlightenment, eased through critiques of the ideas of determinism, mechanical action, and externality.


Both cared about emphasizing the conflictual nature of reality, the concatenation of all phenomena, an idea of the conflict presenting it as opposition of contraries, as conflicting interrelationships, and the introduction of a principle that accounts, from the real itself, for the possibility of qualitative changes. Question, the latter, of course, essential to ingrain the idea of revolution in the nature of reality itself.


Major changes, of course. Significant changes, leading the philosophy of Enlightenment to a more complex state, able to present a nearer account for biological phenomena, or the complexities of social life. In many ways it is fair to recognize in this conception a powerful theoretical advance over its enlightened predecessor that, from here, is understandably called "mechanistic".


Of course, the major explicit objective of this theoretical operation is at all times to emphasize the scientific nature of dialectics. To affirm it as "the most general science". And to use this character as a basis for subsequent theories about society, thought and history.


The importance of this purpose, about what is important here is that, from Engels, the main problem involved in the notion of "dialectics" and the overall theme of the relationship between Hegel and Marx, is the relationship between dialectics and science. The whole discussion about the "dialectical logic" will be, from here, a discussion about the best way to understand science.


3. Minimal defense of Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical materialism is widely unpopular today. Given the grim nature of our times that reason alone should spur a minimal defense. "Post Marxist" fashions, almost always professed by former Marxists, please themselves in criticizising its precariousness, that does not stand the multiple and profound critiques that the modern philosophical tradition itself has leveled against its classical period. They criticize its somehow ritual modes of argument. They criticize its naive acceptance of scientific evidence, which has been criticized in many forms in contemporary philosophy of science. And now, when there is no longer any great power or social movement flying it as their worldview, they even criticize with suspicious enthusiasm many issues such as determinism, the claim that historical events can be predicted, messianism, totalitarianism, the subordination of the individual to the state, which just ... never were sustained by dialectical materialists.


A minimal defense, a duty against this somehow detestable line of criticism, may be done in two areas. One purely theoretical, and other political, practical.


On a purely theoretical level perhaps the only moderate, strict and philosophical analysis of dialectical materialism can be found in the remarkable work of the German Jesuit Gustav Andreas Wetter (1911-1991).[101] Even more meritorious when you consider that his studies were conducted during the Cold War, a time unsuited for dispassionate analysis.


Wetter basically argues that dialectical materialism can be compared to the philosophy of nature that can be found in ... Aquinas. In conceptual terms, this would mean a position from which the internal dynamism of the natural reality is recognized, before the mechanistic extremes from the end of the eighteenth century and fully defensible today, when natural science itself has overcome those extremes.


One way to visualize this possible validity, as a conception of nature, can be seen in the excellent introduction to the science of the twentieth century made by astronomer and exobiologist Carl Sagan (1934-1996), in his famous Cosmos series [102]. Engels' happiness is perfectly conceivable if he could have seen it. Its contents are fully compatible with those the battered Soviet ideology widely taught and disseminated.


Because the latter is a significant, practical and political fact: dialectical materialism is perhaps the broadest mass philosophy that has existed in human history. For the first time a radically secular, deeply naturalist and humanist philosophy educated, trained, an entire people, in a span which was also incredibly short. In the rest of Europe the philosophy of the Enlightenment, which was the ideological support to the process of industrial revolution, never really achieved its independence of its deep connection to Christianity. In the Soviet Union, a powerful totalitarian state apparatus made a daunting cultural revolution, which led to a nation of a hundred million peasants to their full integration into modernity in just forty years.


It is through dialectical materialism that the Soviet people experienced the huge existential and political developments involving the forced industrial revolution. It is through its mediation that a huge crusade collecting scientific talents was put into place, who with unlimited support by the state, came to shape the twentieth century's greatest national scientific community[103].


The usual critics, blinded by the Cold War, or by the aftermath of the post modern disillusionment, are unaware that under the influence of this philosophy, which can be considered quite poor even from the point of view of science, great scientists were formed and produced, who argued notable theories using it as a foundation.


Even the simplest enumeration may be overwhelming. The contributions to neurology of Alexander Luria and Anatoly Leontiev, the psychology and theories of education, critical of the Pavlovian canon, of L.S. Vygotsky and P.K. Anokhin, the critical contributions to quantum physics of A.D. Alexandrov and V.A. Fock, the cosmological theories of O. Schmidt, V.M. Ambartsumian and G.I. Naan, the theories on the origin of life of A. Oparin. To cite only those who explicitly refer to dialectical materialism as the philosophy their work is based on.


Still, however, there may be mentioned some who, such as those above, are among the most important scientists of the twentieth century. A.N. Kolmogorov, I.M.Gelfand and O.B. Lupanov in mathematics. I. Kapitza, Lev Landau and Y.B. Zeldovich, in physics. B.P. Belusov, N.N. Semenov and A.N. Frumkin, in chemistry. All of them formed in this spirit, and recognizers of its influence.


Of course, for the critics, the abuses and persecutions promoted by Trifim Lysenko, specially the case of Nikolai Vavilov, who died in prison for defending a "bourgeois pseudo-scientific" genetics, are sufficient to override, and even olympically ignore all that huge creativity, without which the science of the twentieth century would be very different. It should be sufficient to state as a fact, that after the fall of the USSR, the European, American and Japanese scientific communities are filled with Russian surnames, which are reputed today as top scientists. Or again, one more annoying thing, just see how after this political collapse the lists of Nobel Prizes were filled, for many years, by great Soviet eminences, being recognized in their old age, dramatically a posteriori.


Just as Wetter is the reference in the philosophical level, to dispassionately examine the relationship between dialectics and science in the USSR it is necessary to resort to the extraordinary studies by Loren R. Graham, a perfectly American academic, now Ph.D. in Columbia, Professor Emeritus of the Science, Technology and Society Program at MIT who, since 1970, also during the Cold War, was dedicated to the topic.[104]


4. „Hegelians“ and „Anti-Hegelians“: the 20es and 30s

However, despite all considerations that can be made for or against the site of "dialectics" in Marxism, one thing should be perfectly clear: very little of it has really to do with Hegel. In Marxism using Hegel is academically and politically more relevant than actual knowledge about his work.


It is not difficult to show that the considerations of classical Marxists, say, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Trotsky, Gramsci, Mao Tse Tung, to cover a wide spectrum, are only weakly supported by direct references to texts of Hegel and completely lack the dedication and difficulty that is famously required for a fairly serious consideration of all of his work.


The most blatant case is perhaps that of Lenin, who in his exile found time to read parts of the Science of Logic and, as a careful reader, took a series of notes on many paragraphs of this work.[105] In these notes, published as "Philosophical Notebooks" in Moscow in 1933, Lenin is revealed as an intelligent, thorough reader, especially with a clear idea of the political consequences that he wants to get from his readings. H can not be regarded, however, as a specialized reader, or as a close connoisseur of the philosophical context in which the texts of Hegel were originated. It is not even possible to share many of his estimates of what Hegel would have meant, that in light of the most basic "hegelology" are simply wrong.[106]


Again, then, I can insist on the central point. The use of Hegel is more political than academic. The philosophy "of Hegel" is a discursive element rather than a real argument.


But even if we assume that the issue should be discussed in these terms, what we find in the Marxist tradition is a long dispute between those who could be considered "Hegelian" and those who openly declare themselves as "anti Hegelian".


The controversy occurs mainly in two periods, first in the 20s and 30s in the Soviet Union, then in the 50s and 60s, in the context of what has been called "Western Marxism". It isn't banal to remember that all this happened ... in the last century.


Interestingly, both the "victorious" side as well as the political sign of that "victory" is, in each case, almost exactly the reverse. This also shows that it is not in the plane of dialectics where the essential conflict is played out, but rather this is used as a rhetorical element in a discussion that goes far beyond, and, of course, is more political than philosophical.


In the 20s and 30s, in the Soviet Union, amid the storms that would give rise to the Stalinist revolution, there was a controversy between "dialecticals" and "mechanisticists". The latter named that way by the former. For one thing, the most important of the "dialecticals" is Abram Moiseevich Ioffe, who used the name Deborin (1881-1963), a close disciple of George Plekhanov, who can be identified as the true inventor of Diamat, [116] in its official and final version. Furthermore, the most important "mechanisticists" were Liubov A. Akselrod (1868-1946), I.I. Stepanov (1870-1928) and A.K. Timiarazov (1880-1955), who reformulated the criticism from O.S. Minin and E.S. Enchmen against philosophy in general, who had already been labeled as "vulgar materialists" by Nikolai Bukharin, then considered the "the top theoretician of the Party".


The discussion begins with articles from Minin and Enchmen in 1920, in which they call for the exclusion of philosophy from Marxist thought, under the very typical charge of "metaphysics" against, moreover, all the founders of Social Sciences. Akselrod, in 1922, following the conviction of "Enchmenism" (which remained an ideological sin for a long time), calls for a complete reduction of philosophy to criteria of truth and scientific argumentation. Again a fairly common idea in contemporary European philosophy, without going further, in the Logical Empiricism of the Vienna Circle. In this context Akselrod and Timiarazov criticize the "Hegelian" influences on Marxist philosophy, where they see a germ of dogmatic metaphysics which may lead to political positions of totalitarian type. An indictment, as seen, very common among the opponents of the philosophy of Hegel.


These propositions, just like their analogues among contemporary European philosophers, have little to do with Hegel himself,[107] but has, however, a component that is politically relevant, and dangerous at the time: its reference to totalitarianism. Deborin intervened since 1924, both in favor of the "Hegelian" inheritance, as well as for its "revolutionary" implications, citing the texts from Engels' Dialectics of Nature, published just for the occasion in 1925, and affirming the tradition coming from Plekhanov. The controversy was resolved at a meeting of the philosophical section of the Academy of Sciences in April 1929 ... by show of hands! And the "Mechanisticists" were never seen again. Most of them just got lost in the many obscurities of the Gulag.


Deborin, however, was not immune himself. He was criticized in 1931 as "idealizing Menshevik" by none less than Iosif Vissarionovich Jugashvili [108], which, despite the grim consequences that could ensue only meant he stopped publishing over the next twenty years, holding a comfortable seat of honor at the Academy of Sciences and to be rehabilitated at the time of Nikita Khrushchev. He died in 1963 surrounded by honors and awards, after the release of the many writings of his days of silence.


The second chapter of this story was incubated still during the time of the first major controversy, but only achieved notoriety in the 60s. Since the 20s many Marxist philosophers had warned of the "mechanical" nature of Soviet dialectical materialism itself. Their influence, however, was largely muted by the political success of the Stalinist formulas.


One of the first ones among them is Antonio Gramsci, whose critique of the manual entitled The ABC of Communism, written by Nikolai Bukharin and Evgeni Preobrazhensky, which Lenin had described as "a beautiful book, on the highest level", was quietly silenced by Palmiro Togliatti, his successor in the leadership of the Italian Communist Party, while he was in exile in Moscow.


Another completely independent attempt is from Georg Lukacs who, in contact with Marx' 1844 Manuscripts, for his work at the Marx Engels Institute in Moscow, starting from History and Class Consciousness (1923), developed a vision of Marxism much closer to Hegel's philosophy than any of his contemporaries. Criticized by Deborin and B.M. Mitin as "subjective idealist, however, he began a long and dramatic series of advances and retreats, arrests of bravery and forced recantations, involving most of his work in Stalinist rhetoric, completely unsuitable for the matter, and that shed as its final result a number of doubts about the degree, and even the mode, he really would have been prepared to found the Marxist philosophy on Hegel's.


The breadth and depth of the work of Georg Lukacs make him undoubtedly into one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. His dramatic relationship with Stalinism says something very central with respect to any philosophical exercise in that terrible century. His situation is quite comparable to that of Heidegger regarding Nazism. However he has been criticized for it in an excessive and decontextualized manner. Today it is one of the commonplaces of academic philosophy, in particular the so called "postmodern" variants, to bitterly criticize Lukacs, almost just like "understanding" Heidegger in an equally excessive and decontextualized manner.


A minimal comparison, however, shows a Lukacs taking advantage of every opportunity in which the political conditions show some degree of opening to criticize totalitarian politics, as compared to the stubborn silence of Heidegger, even under the most favorable conditions, facing general knowledge of Nazi crimes. A philosopher who was Minister of Culture during the attempt to democratize the Hungarian socialism under Imre Nagy, and was punished for it, compared to a philosopher who continued to send his contributions to the National Socialist Party by regular mail until 1946, when the reality Holocaust was widely public, and even the Nazi Party did not even exist any more.


Regarding our subject, however, the situation of Lukacs, despite what you might believe, is rather ambiguous. In Young Hegel (1938), he presents an unlikely Hegel, almost becoming a forerunner of Marxism, and groundlessly takes over the legend that distinguishes between the "young", almost a Socialdemocrat, and an "old" conservative and reactionary. A legend which, to the current canons of studies on Hegel, is simply untenable. In The Assault on Reason (1954), a subtle and profound work, despite its rhetoric of that time, describes irrationalism in German philosophically thinking in an incisive way, but unfortunately partial from the point of view of the historical contexts that would allow to understand it.


In the overall assessment Lukacs's work seems closer to Schiller, even to Kantian aesthetics, reinterpreted in a historicist way, than to the work of Hegel. Certainly this can not be marked as a defect. Differences between the philosophy of one great thinker and another can not be perceived as "misinterpretations"; they are, by themselves, another philosophy. And that I think is a good approach to the dramatic and profound Lukacs: his views on Hegel teach us much more of his own thinking than of Hegelian philosophy.


A third side of these "Hegelian" readings of the 20s and 30s is represented by thinkers such as Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), Karl Korsch (1886-1961) and Herbert Marcuse (1898-1980), which are among the first, as Lukacs, to know the Marx Manuscripts, published in 1932, and to be influenced by them. The immense erudition of Bloch and the philosophical radicalism of Korsch operate again, however, on the clichés established about Hegel. They try to defend him from the charge of being the precursor of totalitarianism. They try to portray him as a humanist. They take on the myth that philosophy is but disguised theology. But they do not distance themselves from the idea that we should separate in him a "rational kernel" which resides mainly in the "dialectic", from a "mystical shell" which would relate to the alleged Hegelian commitment to the idea of a God superior to history, or a historical "spirit" that would leave no room for the autonomy of the citizen. Myths which, like many others on Hegelian philosophy, modern scholars consider also simply unsustainable.


Incidentally, both Lukacs and Korsch as well as Bloch, share the fate of doing philosophy in the crossfire. They are criticized bitterly, unceremoniously, by Soviet ideologues and are both ignored, or referred laterally and somewhat derogatorily by the mandarins of European philosophy. This treatment, close to caricature, will worsen in the 60s with the structuralist "philosophers".


5. „Hegelians“ and „Anti-Hegelians“: the polemics of the 60es

The powerful influence of Lukacs, Bloch, Korsch and to a lesser degree, Marcuse, is felt in the 40s and 50s at least in three schools. One is the Marxism influenced by existentialism in France, Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Roger Garaudy (1913) and Henri Lefebre (1901-1991). Another is the "School of Frankfurt", particularly Theodor Adorno (1903-1969). And in the Praxis Group, also called the "School of Belgrade", which brought together leading thinkers like Mihailo Markovic (1927), Predrag Vraniki (1922-2002), and Gajo Petrovic (1927-1993).[109] All of them could share the overall qualification as representatives of a "humanist Marxism". Several among them explicitly defended it.


Generally speaking, the task was to set up an alternative Marxism to what had become the official ideology of the Soviet state. It was to root Marxist thought in the humanism seen in the early writings of Marx and in the critique of the authoritarianism prevailing in the socialist countries.


Far from the Trotskyist politics that sought similar goals, these thinkers firmly believed in the political and social returns that philosophy could render.


Just this political urgency, however, means that, in general, their discussions about "dialectics" have more to do with distancing themselves from the official dialectical materialism than with a direct and profound appeal to the Hegelian Logic. You might say, now in a very different political world, and with over forty years of perspective, that they were trapped in the stigma associating the figure of Hegel with Soviet scholasticism, advocated so strongly by the supporters of official Marxism Leninism as noted, at once, by the academic philosophers of non-socialist countries. In this dilemma (Hegel defended and attacked at the same time for the same reason: as a precursor of totalitarianism), they resorted to other theoretical sources to "purify" the dialectics from its "mystical veil", from its conservative look.


There is the strategy shared by Sartre, Kosik, Lefebvre and Marcuse to use a leftist extension of Husserl's phenomenology, associating it with a more or less explicit criticism of its conservative extension in Heidegger. Adorno's strategy, close to Garaudy's, through his "negative dialectics", built on a mystified misreading of Hegel's Logic, which uses a historicization of Kant's ethics, without understanding the deep keys of the historicization proposed by Hegel. There is the strategy of the Praxis Group to dissolve the actual logical problem of dialectics in a philosophy of social action, in a radical sociology.


Generally when traversing this universe of texts, so ingrained by their authors in concrete, anti-bureaucratic politics, against the exercise of academic evasion by official philosophy on either side of the wall, one feels enormous sympathy for their leftist will, their deeply rebellious vocation. But very little may be found of Hegel himself, even when it is directly claimed.


Of course, that political urgency was much more important than a particular philosopher, even if somehow one of their banners. The matter beyond its immediacy, is whether this appeal to the concrete can solve what philosophy wants to solve. And the issue, now explicitly political, is whether the enemies against which they fought are the same, or are even comparable to those we face today.


What the continuers of that humanist Marxism do today, attacked by viruses of nostalgia, overwhelmed by the din of defeat, is but repeat it. They try to accommodate to the new realities of post-Fordism and globalization, to the Internet and new forms of mass manipulation. They insist on applying such long-standing rhetorics created for realities that no longer exist, for realities that exceed them. They reinterpret, translate the new appealing to the operation of thinking on the old. Not only philosophy, especially politics, require us to go beyond this horizon, however noble it was at its time.


The critique of these Marxists of "Hegelian" type was launched, however, as is well known, already in the 60s, from the ostentatious academic arrogance that was called "structuralism". Marxist structuralism advocated for at least fifteen years (1958-1973) by Louis Althusser (1918-1990), (who later led, Lacan mediating, what was called "post-structuralism") and widely disseminated, especially in Latin American universities through popular books by Marta Harnecker. At their time, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Etienne Balibar and many other celebrities, proudly declared themselves "structuralists", each of which, years later, would end up denying it, even retroactively: "we never were".


Althusser, who just as Foucault and many of the French fashionable intellectuals, in his youth was a fervent Catholic, is universally known for his "anti-humanism", "anti-historicism" and "anti economism". He tried, in his own way, to rescue the truly scientific character of Marxism unintentionally repeating, and probably without knowing, Akselrod's gesture in the 20s. His political purpose, interestingly, is directed against the same scholastic and ideological Marxism professed by bureaucratic socialisms, which is the adversary of his "humanist" opponents.


Unfortunately his criticism against these "humanists", suspect of petty bourgeois deviation, is vastly more radical and acid than the one he says to be running against bureaucracy, which apparently he assumes as obvious. His later drift to post structuralism only accentuates his anti humanist arguments, generalizing them now against any utopian horizon emerged from modernity. Perhaps to his fortune, his unfortunate health condition prevented him in his later years from attending the catastrophic disintegration of the philosophical and political tradition he helped to found. And from witnessing the way he is today an excuse for political evasion, or somersault, in the intellectual circles which admired him that much.


It is not difficult to show the surprising ignorance with which Althusser and his followers addressed the philosophy of Hegel. Common places. Elementary confusion of philosophical terms in common use. A reading long-held in "what is said" more than in the texts themselves of the philosopher, referring more to dictionary myths and legends than to the effective philosophical context. A reading that ascribes to the main terms of Hegelian philosophy an absolutely different semantic field than the one explicitly conferred by the author. In their early days they criticize him as a romantic obscurantist, in their "post" time they rather identify him with an Enlightened arch rationalist, ie the exact opposite. Finally, the list of purely academic "difficulties" involving their interpretation could be quite long. The important thing here is to enter this rough estimate: the allegations of Marxist structuralism has nothing to do directly with Hegel. His philosophy is more a place in them condensing everything they want to criticize of modernity than a strict reference.


The results of the controversies surrounding Hegel in the 60s are almost as deplorable as those of the 30's "Hegelian" are "defeated" as had previously been the "anti-Hegelians", but this time they do not go to the Gulag, but to the endless canyons of nostalgia and loss in general. The "anti-Hegelian" "succeed," but only at the price of devouring themselves in less than a decade. The remnants of one and another haunt us to this day, as a kind of theoretical ghosts, just as the ghosts of the darkest years of Stalinism tormented them.


The crisis of the "post" fashions that have come to make evident their essential anti politics and even in more than one case, downright anti leftist vocation, has meant the revival of several noble "old sixties" with their always prevailing humanism. Young people come to them with the same attitude of a funny hit song, "Dad, tell me again the story of students as nice bangs, sweet urban guerrilla in bell bottoms, and songs of the Rolling [Stones] and girls in mini skirt ... ". Our most committed scholars often confuse the simple stubbornness of nostalgia with militant commitment, they often given to this curious spectacle.[110]


6. The same "nice little story", in a purely theoretical coding

I have the painful feeling that I have devoted pages and pages here the barren counting craze, so typical of nostalgia. May God, who does not exist, help me get rid of it forever. At least I will have satisfied, to some extent, the anxiety of those who expect all theoretical consideration to be framed in some sort of chronology. As if the (hi)story was written in another (hi)story could still be useful, even in a radically different world.


I will try, therefore, in what follows, address the issue from a purely argumentative perspective. Following the concept, the subject itself, beyond those who represented it, and the reasons that took them to do so.


You could say that the key to all these discussions in the Marxist tradition always involves a central point: the relationship between "dialectics" and "science". For the so-called "Hegelians", dialectics is nothing but a form of science. Or "the most general", or the one obtained from pursuing a "critical thinking". For the "anti Hegelians", dialectics can only be considered truly scientific if it is clearly separated from metaphysics, following, in general, the figure of a "non-mechanistic" "non-positivist" science.


Note, of course, that after so many rivers of ink about it, basically it is the same attempt: how to make the job better than scientific. Let's specify.


The formula that best defines dialectics from the standpoint of dialectical materialism was already formulated by Friedrich Engels: Dialectics is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought"[111]


The dialectic itself, a science. The relationship would be of generality. There are special sciences and there is "a science of the general laws".


Of course this presupposes a vision in which there would exist different "levels of reality" that the texts of dialectical materialism listed again and again: an physical-chemical level, a biological organic level, a relatively simple social level, the level of human history as a general process. These "levels" of complexity justify specific sciences. But all of them would have laws that hold in every context in a common way.


Engels himself made the first enumeration of these laws: the law of unity and struggle of opposites, which determines the transition from accumulation of quantitative changes to qualitative transformation, the law of negation of negation. Subsequent treatise writers, without departing too much from this basic plan, would list some other or explicitly formulate some conditions considered fundamental at the doctrinal level as additional "laws": the primacy of matter over consciousness, and as a projection of this the primacy of social being over thought, the reflection theory as the basic mechanism of knowledge, and yet some others.


For the tradition of humanist Marxists, however, the best way to define dialectics is in contrast to "mechanism" that is commonly associated with defects such as determinism, positivism, one-sidedness in analysis, and reductionism. These defects, in turn, are often criticized for leading to disavow the role of subjectivity and drown the historic initiative, for translating into economism, for promoting fatalism and resignation to authoritarianism. Needless to add that all these features were attributed by humanist Marxists not only to usual positivism, or common determinism, but also to the philosophy of dialectical materialism spread by the Soviet school.


Put in these terms, the general issue is "don't be mechanistic (or positivist) but dialectical". That is, the relation is an alternative. Dialectics is then a critical alternative to less desirable forms of science. It would be a deeper form of science.


Two versions might be characteristic. For Gramsci, first, the way to find such an alternative is to emphasize historicism: locating and historicizing. For Adorno, on the other hand, this way would be epistemologically criticizing positivism. In both cases it would be appropriate to use the idea that "dialectics is equivalent to critical thinking" as a way to summarize. With this formula both the epistemological nature of the project as well as its political intent are linked. Of course, talk is of "critical thinking" in terms of theory, but rather, with perhaps more emphasis, of "practical critical policies". The confluence of these two aspects is what is called, very broadly, "philosophy of praxis".


Both the solutions presented by the "anti Hegelians" as well as their political intentions are strangely similar to those of the opponents fought in a "theoretical struggle" ... as sterile as enthusiastic. On the one hand, what they saw as "truly scientific" dialectics is hardly distinguishable from the repeated calls of "humanists" to locate each problem in its social and political context, and to place each social context in the historical situation which determines it. On the other, in both you will find virtually the same calls for a "critical political practice", almost in the same terms. Even, without apparent difficulty, they were also able to call their position "philosophy of praxis". Unless, of course, for the reluctance to use a term so loaded with bourgeois connotations like "philosophy".


Taken from a distance, the critiques to Althusserian "historicism" seem mounted on a (deterministic and teleological) idea of history none of the humanist philosophers would have accepted, and that is therefore attributed to them without any justification, in a dialogue of the deaf, which unfortunately has been quite common in the history of Marxism. The same applies to the allegations against the "economic reductionism" which, carefully considered, was not defended virtually any moderately relevant Marxist, even in the Soviet Union.[112]


When directly reading the writings of the major defendants, such as Kautsky, or Bukharin, or Deborin, and it should be noted that the charges often reached Engels, and even Marx (the "young"), what is found is an unexpected dose of restraint in judgments, of complexity in global approaches, of counterbalances between some statements that seem sharp and others that compensate them.


The procedure applied by structuralist Marxists when these difficulties are reported with respect to their Olympic "demonstrations" has invariably been visibly crafty: partial declarations are cited out of context, quotes of propaganda formulas are used as if they literally represented the theoretical constructs they translate, or oblique statements are used like "this idea tends to that consequence ...".


In summary, a history of boundless intellectual arrogance, worse for worse, sterility on sterility, did not lead but to its own self destruction.


7. "Hegelianisms" without Hegel

The conspicuous absence of Hegel's philosophy itself from these endless debates about Hegel represents their common seal, in my opinion. It is the central hub that links all positions, beyond the annoying differences so heatedly discussed.


The same can be said otherwise. The common assumption in all these discussions is a strangely uncritical view of the historical significance of science itself. In all these writers the word "science" is used simply as a synonym for "truth" or "the best truth." Everything is historical, even for the most historicists, except the idea that knowledge as such is deeply determined by its historical origin.


But, before giving way to the anxieties and surprises of those who claim to have established this exhaustively since over half a century, let us specify more carefully to what historicity each one is referring.


Very few, even in large sections of non-Marxist thought, do have any doubt about the historicity of scientific knowledge. The implicit difference in this simple statement is that one could distinguish between an epistemological aspect of truth, truth as known to the observer, and an ontological substratum of truth as such, that would be contained in the object itself.


The vast majority of those who speak of historicity of knowledge are actually referring to the "historicity" of ignorance. The truth itself, the truth of the object, the truth of what is held as "reality as such", has no history. What has history is our knowledge that, according to the classical formulas of dialectical materialism, is approaching truth progressively (every time we are closer), in a contradictory manner (with advances and retreats) and cumulatively (there already are, in the accumulated knowledge, matters that are true as such, that correspond to the object).


What is formulated in this way is rather a sociology of knowledge that a real question posed on the possibility of knowing. And virtually no one would doubt that advances in knowledge are in fact strongly influenced by the social environment in which science develops. Around these vicissitudes all kinds of stories have been told, all kinds of moralizing consequences, since the time of the Enlightenment. That is precisely much of the Enlightenment project.


Indeed, in this sociology it is assumed without further question that we have at least some knowledge on the real that can be considered correct in an objective sense. Especially in the field of natural sciences. The most popular argument about this is merely the old reference to technological efficiency: if the techniques we have derived from our knowledge are effective, then this knowledge can be considered true. An argument that, despite its apparent forcefulness, unfortunately does not withstand logical analysis.[113] An argument, however, which shows that it is just not about the historicity the real as such, but of our efforts to master it.


To put it in reverse, very few Marxist brought historicism to the degree of relativizing in it the reality as a whole. What the most "dialectical" readily accepted is that social realities, those that have to do with human history, are profoundly historical. Saving, however, a consistent prudence when deciding on the possible historicity of nature, of the reality that is implicitly expressed as "external" to human history, except, of course, the claim that that reality is subject to evolutionary laws. Most even inadvertently confuse the two concepts by simply calling "history" the fact that there are evolutionary processes. A confusion, of course, that removes any interest in the concept of history: while "evolution" is something that happens to objects according to given laws, acting on them from outside in an unavoidable way, the real "history" can only be that scope proper of subjects, ie, the space in which they display the power of their freedom, building or repealing the laws that govern them.[114]


The problem, in terms of the vexed politics of the time, was not risking "petty bourgeois idealism", an unwanted conception according to which individuals have the power to create the reality by themselves. "Obviously" an expression of the characteristic subjectivism of the decay of scientific culture. And obviously too an extreme philosophical simplification that does not stand the slightest confrontation with what the classical philosophers of modernity thought, in a much more sane way, about it.


However, when we turn our attention to those Marxists who took forward the issue of historicism, like Gramsci, Lukacs and Bloch, who never commited the triviality of confusing history with evolution, or with temporal succession, and deeply assumed the connection between the notion of history and the idea of human freedom, we find similar hesitations. We also find them in the allegations, which do not have the explicit form of historicism, of Adorno, Marcuse or Kosik. Again there is a tendency to accept, even radically, the historicity of human affairs, and to shun it in the case of "the exterior". In several of them, an issue particularly clear in Adorno, what is found is a "historicized" version of the Kantian idea of indeterminate in itself. The outer reality, that on which human history has been built, would in itself be unknowable, but in any case, real: something must be there. Human history can not be, by itself, everything.


The idea of limiting the historicity of reality to human affairs is, of course, quite plausible. Especially for a common sense educated in the modern operation of thinking. But it is an idea that, however plausible it appears, has its consequences. The most important is that maintaining a level of reality on which human initiatives are simply powerless.


What happens with this is that if the inescapable "outside" reality takes the form of Kant's unknowable, nothing prevents that we put cheating on it, again and again, the metaphysical foundations that we supposedly, on the other hand, decline. These are fundamentals operating as "cores of pre-determination" that, in practice, are as peremptory as would be defined and knowable determinations. The original and prototypical case is the unknowable God postulated in the Critique of Practical Reason by Kant. An entity without which, according to Kant, the possibility of morality can not be guaranteed. An entity that, despite being "unknowable", puts us as universal and necessary condition of any moral act ... just the Christian morality.


Similarly, you can always "postulate" this internal trend, or that other outer limit which, although indeterminate in its nature and possibility of control, unavoidably conditions us. This is the case of the famous "finitudes" of human condition, supported by philosophers like Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer or Heidegger: loneliness, death, isolation, lack ... market laws.


Worse is the case when that "outside" is thought as determined and knowable. In this alternative we are at the mercy of the "discoverers" of natural limits, specially "biological" ones, of the human condition. A whole army of ethologists and neurophysiologists willing to "scientifically show" that we are selfish because of natural selection, or are aggressive due to neuronal functioning. From there to show that the laws governing the capitalist market or the bureaucratic paternalism are rooted in our genes there is but a step. In to counter, at least philosophically, we can only wield our good will or our spirit of "impose ourselves to our own nature" through some ethical formula, the best style of "petty bourgeois idealism", now in its ethical form, we supposedly wanted to fight.


It is in this crucial issue where Marxists who can be called "Hegelian" lack any roots in the philosophy of Hegel. Which is to say, without further ado, that they completely lack what is essential in that philosophy. Or, to put it directly: only from the Hegelian philosophy is it possible to think a radically and absolute historicism. A form of historicism that puts absolutely all human affairs under the sovereignty of human beings themselves.


8. A "Hegelian" Marxism... from Hegel

For a Hegelian Marxism thought from Hegel's Logic, rather than from the political-philosophical emergencies of the moment, the historicity of science is rooted in the historicity of reality itself, of all of reality. Or, to put it both in the most direct and hard way: it is rooted in the fact that what we call "nature" is merely an externalization of human history, of our own history.


This makes that science not only is the epistemological expression of a truth, which in itself would be outside and prior to it, but the truth is also in an ontological sense: the truth of a particular, historically finite, experience of reality.


But it also makes that the word "science" can not be used any more abstractly as a synonym for truth, or as the best possible truth. Used in strictly historical terms, the word "science" does not refer but to the modern experience of the real. To modern knowledge, and to the operation of thought which chairs that knowledge about the real. [115]


Every human culture has had knowledges in a theoretical and especially in an operational sense, that can be considered "true" with respect to their own criteria of truth and practical effectiveness. Science, historically considered, is one such knowledge. The most complex, which, tautologically, seems more plausible to us, but not the last imaginable.


To the same extent that modernity, ie, capitalist industrial culture, with its post industrial and bureaucratic extensions, is surmountable, so also science, rooted in it, is surmountable.


It is from this premise, derived from the radical historicism contained in Hegelian philosophy, that the following can be held: dialectics is a way of historically overcoming scientific rationality. A form that contains it, as a premise, and yet transcends it from a horizon of greater complexity.


Let's do a very quick recap here. My argument is that the relationship between science and dialectic does not need to be thought of in terms of generality or alternative, but can be thought of, rather, as a historical connection.


A historic relation not only in an epistemological but, more radically, in an ontological sense. The laws of reality itself are what will change. We will not just meet the given in our finitude, to use it on a benevolent basis for the benefit of all. What we will do is revolutionizing the laws of reality itself. We will produce a radically different reality, different to the one that condemns us, like if it were a nature, as if it were a sign of our finiteness, to class struggle. There is absolutely nothing, neither in nature nor in our human condition, that essentially prevents us from radically transforming history. Everything we call nature, or finitude, we have put ourselves, historically, reifying the differences that we ourselves have created as alienation. We are free, we are infinite: that is the deepest message that Hegelian logic can bring to Marxism.


I will examine the key connotations of each of these three ways of understanding dialectics in a Marxist context: dialectics as most general science, dialectics as critical thinking, dialectics as overcoming science, comparing them systematically to each other. For this I will respectively consider as paradigmatic authors of these positions: Abram Deborin and the Soviet school, for dialectical materialism, Gramsci and Adorno, for historicist dialectics, and Pérez, for now, in the name of materialist dialectics.[116]


Dialectical materialism is a naturalistic scientific philosophy, rooting the social relations in the relationship between nature and culture. In this conception, dialectics is a science and as such a method. In this method a difference in principle between subject and object is assumed, and a relationship of critical realism is sustained, .i.e a flexible version of positivist objectivism, which recognizes the social determination of the progress of knowledge. The externality between subject and object is collected here in the "theory of reflection", which assumes that the knowable is objective for itself, and that it is the process of knowledge which is socially influenced. Of course, under these assumptions, it is considered that the Being is generally anterior and exterior to the act of knowing it.


This is a philosophy that understands consciousness as a set of representations and ideas, as something that occurs in individuals but is strongly determined from its social context. It is a conception in which subjects are basically individuals, but a collective (collection) may operate as a subject given a close relationship between the social interests of its members.


For this philosophy, ideology is "false consciousness" in the sense not only of profit-seeking knowledge, but of the presupposed difference between true and false. Going from ideology to science would tantamount going from a misconception of reality to another true one. "Making consciousness" would mean in this case to make truth triumph over falsehood.


The explanation of the origin of ideology, and its opposition to science, is formulated from a theory of interest, and from the primacy of formal logic and objective empirical knowledge in relation to it.


For dialectical materialism matter is dialectical, i.e., it meets, in a first place and in a foundational way, the general laws that have been established as the "dialectical method". Given this foundational reality, historical materialism is an application of this method, and an acknowledgment of those fundamental laws, at the scope of human society and history.


To historicist dialectics, dialectics can be understood as critical thinking. The relationship between subject and object is no longer of externality, but of co-creation. A relationship in which knowledge is an interaction in which there always remains an unknowable, external background, but where what matters is the human capacity to change reality, and produce its own humanity in that activity.


The social determination of knowledge is carried beyond the theory of reflection, and is considered constitutive. From that basis, then, the difference between "true" and "false" is radically historicized, while knowledge is always understood as an "outlook", proper and inseparable from social interests. This makes that the conception of the world both of the dominant and the dominated classes is recognized as an ideology, and "to make consciousness" means rather to recognize ones own situation, in social relationships, than a simple step from falsehood to an entirely distinct truth. The "truth" becomes thus more a political assessment that a finding on objective facts. Something must be done, rather than found.


The origin of ideology here is profoundly historical, and fighting it can not be done from the standpoint of abstract truth, but rather from the formulation of an ideology of the opposite class. Thus the essential thing is not so much the supposedly objective knowledge, but how the real, and knowledge itself, are involved in the class conflict.


For this conception, dialectical materialism is but a naturalism and the philosophy Marxism is based on would rather be historical materialism. Only in the context of the latter might it be possible to account for the eventual validity or usefulness of the first.


Historicist dialectics assume human groups, in particular social classes, as the real subjects. The individual is thus almost entirely a product of its insertion in the class. Two questions remain, however, untouched by this eventual absorption into the collective: a radical defense of the freedom of the individual agents, even over their social determinations, and a curiously implicit acceptance of natural determinations operating as limits on the physical reality of the individual, and establishing him, in an insurmountable core, as such.


From the point of view of a materialist dialectics, in the above two concepts the word "dialectics" does only refer to exetrnal forms of interrelation. A "close relationship", in the first case, a "co-creation", in the second, they both assume, however, the prior reality of related terms. The founding idea of this concept, instead, is the idea of internal relation, of a differentiated whole, without a prior and unknowable outside.


Thinking in terms of totality means, in this case, asserting an absolute historicism, in which there isn't anything external to human history, all beyond is a beyond itself, and any difference is thought as contradiction, as opposite internal difference.


Under these conditions, knowledge is nothing but a projection of the experience producing the object in an integral sense. This is not a finding nor a co-creation but, truly, the production of the Being as such, in the framework of human history.


The subject-object relationship here is an internally contradictory differentiated identity. But there are no "objective objects" that are by themselves. Everything experienced as an object is nothing but an "objectified object".


Dialectics, in this view, corresponds to the operation of Being as such, to the becoming Being of Being. Just as epistemological projection, it can also be regarded as the historically conditioned structure of the operation of thinking. Dialectics, as overcoming of the operation of the thinking that is science, can be understood as an ontological logic. The logic of the unfolding itself of human self-production.


While in dialectical materialism matter is dialectical, here dialectics should be called material. Material not in the sense of chemistry or physics, but in the historical sense we experience social relations as if they were natural.


This experience can be called consciousness. Thus consciousness is not a set of ideas or representations, but a field of actions, of real experiences. A way of life in which the object is experienced as given. Facing it, the experience of what appeared given, external, natural, and is actually our product, a product objectified from human action, may be called self-consciousness.


Ideology, with this is not the passage from truth to falsehood, but from consciousness to self-consciousness. "Making consciousness" means, in this context, to create self-consciousness, that is, engage in experiences that demonstrate the radical historicity of what we experience. In ideology, understood this way, there is nothing true or false in itself. Everything in ideology is true. What happens is that truth itself is split. Every truth, in this double truth, is but the own experience of those who struggle. The experience that what is at stake in this fight is their own life. Their way of being in the contradiction that constitutes the social.


Each of these ideas on the relationship between science and dialectics contains a reconstruction around the relationship that historically would have occurred in the passage from Hegel to Marx. Beyond the purely methodological difficulties I have earlier indicated, it is possible to collect and compare them, as significant elements in each position, that also speak, in their way, of the political background they propose.


For dialectical materialism a statement of Marx about it is collected: "to reverse dialectics". The idea is that Marx would have made an "inversion" of dialectics, such as that contained in the notion that "it is not consciousness that creates social being, but it is the social being that creates consciousness". The tradition of historicist dialectics has put the emphasis on the continuation of the same statement by Marx: "finding the rational kernel within the mystical wrapper".[117]


In both cases, however, the philological defect is that a comparison between Hegel and Marx considering both terms of the comparison the same way is not made. Instead, it is assumed that Hegel's relevant position is, without further questioning, the one that Marx attributes to him. Hegel would have been, according to Marx, an idealist who puts an abstract spirit as transcendent to history.[118] The truth is that there aren't many experts in the thought of Hegel who would agree with that estimate.


When the origin of these ideas is discussed, and the canonical statements that support them, what is found is that they not only are not directly referred to Hegel but even to what Ludwig Feuerbach thought of Hegel.


Perhaps this could be a useful hypothesis, I do enunciate it unpretentious, because I really do not think it plays nothing essential: in fact everything that Marx believed about Hegel comes from his ongoing dialogue with what he learned with Feuerbach in his youth. For scholars, let's say that there might be enough textual backing for this. Marx referred to Hegel by allusions to Feuerbach virtually throughout his writings. Engels invariably continued this practice.


I argue that if we reconstruct the relationship directly comparing the writings of each of these three thinkers directly, not through what each said the other was saying, we might get a very different view.


Actually what is the whole, the Absolute Concept in Hegel, is not a foreign "spirit" which hovers history behind human freedom, a cartoon that has been reported by many Marxists, even some with respectable academic ancestry. You might say that for Hegel the Spirit is but the absolute identity, tragically divided between human history and God. On the idea of a divided identity we would have to see the things that Hegel says in his Logic, particularly the Doctrine of Essence. To understand the philosophical meaning of the tragic nature of that division one would perhaps need resort to the Religion section of the Phenomenology of Spirit and consider it in the proper and internal logic of that work.


When the texts of Feuerbach are read, however,[119] one has the impression that he did two major theoretical operations, that completely change the meaning of what is claimed by Hegel. First, he converted the relationship of absolute and split identity into a relationship of determination between external terms. Second, he did the famous "inversion" that Marx simply collects: "It is not God who creates man, it is man who creates God".[120]


What I contend, from this, is that Marx's critique of Feuerbach turn contains two operations, that bring him closer to Hegel, philosophically. First, he reclaims human history:


"The basis of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world". (This is Marx's word: Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel's Philosophy Of Right, Introduction, 1843)


Second, he reclaims the identity relation, but this time not between human history and God, but between what he will later call Mode of Production and what he called Ideology. This second operation should be called "materialization of dialectics". That is, the idea that dialectics as such is the social relations of production, of which one can say that they are material in the sense that I specified above.


In this conception of a differentiated identity Marx has kept the idea of tragedy. But this time with two changes that are just the substance of his conception. This is a tragedy instituted among men themselves, not between humanity and God: "The criticism of religion has been completed". It is a eminently historical, i.e. fully surmountable tragedy: class struggle. A revolutionary initiative to overcome it is fully possible.


But postulating that the effective role of Marx in these transitions is to materialize dialectics returning to the dialectical logic of differentiated identity, like the one in Hegel's Science of Logic, is certainly a great hypothesis. This is to think of the social relations of production as an internally divided whole. So that every relationship in them is but inner relation. Or again, so that the negation is not thought of as interaction, but properly as contradiction, that is, as internal opposed difference.


In order to keep in mind at least one consequence of this view of the matter, we can see that, under this way of reading the old, very old, problem of the relationship between "Base" and "Superstructure" simply becomes meaningless. It would no longer be an external relationship, where you might wonder what term more or less affects the another, or wonder whether there is "over-determination" or a "gap" between the terms. The so-called "Base" (an unfortunate metaphor), can not but match the "Superstructure" as they are simply the same thing, considered differently. Their relationship is not one of terms of an external relationship, but of moments or aspects of a differentiated whole.


Both "economism", as well as the attempts to avoid it by stressing the "close relationship" or co-creation of the terms, are thus displaced by a type of analysis that circumvents the problem, and allows to emphasize its proper historical and political aspects rather than what the scholasticism of Weberian or structuralist Social Sciences has been interested in up to now.


9. Dialectics as political critique

The idea of materialist dialectics, based on a Marxist reading of Hegel and yet on a Hegelian reading of Marx, again assumes what has been common in the Marxist tradition: that in the relationship between Hegel and Marx the latter's use of Hegel is relevant not Hegel himself. However, based on this finding, which only exposes the primacy of political interest in a field that seems purely philosophical, what is claimed is that the philosophy of Hegel, especially his Logic, may be an appropriate source, by itself, for the aims of Marxist politics.


This means it is no longer necessary to state this possible relationship in the classic myths about the work of Hegel. And it is not necessary to root reflection in a ritual use of Marx's writings, published and unpublished. The logic that can be attributed to the thought of Marx and, especially, the communist goal, are here the frameworks governing the criteria for reading and the modes of appropriation of philosophical thinking.


Strictly speaking, we do not need Marx to agree with our reasoning. What we need is credibly pointing to the only relevant end: the end of the class struggle. Marx's thought is sufficiently deep, incisive and general, his political will is sufficiently clear as to be widely recognized as the matrix and, correspondingly, our policy to be recognized as "Marxist". However there is not, nor can there be absolutely nothing sacred about it. Whenever Marx's views regarding specific issues are different, or insufficient, for our needs or perspectives ... sorry for Marx. Communism should matter to us more than Marx. There can be no doubt that he would have agreed with this certainly healthy approach.


But also, this is because today argue that the relationship between science and dialectics is a historical relationship has a lot more contingent sense than these philosophical details: it implies a criticism of scientific discourse as a form of legitimization.


The directly political issue involved is that scientific knowledge has become a form of legitimization of bureaucratic power, considered as a class, within the block of dominant classes.[121]


To state very briefly an idea that requires further development, the point is this. It is necessary to distinguish, in class domination, the material mechanism that makes it possible from the system of justifications" that makes it a relatively stable social practice, in a real and effective way. In general, the actual material mechanism of domination is the possession of the techniques, the immediate operational knowledge, which allow a domination of the social division of labor. The social group that manages to dominate the division of labor becomes, by virtue of this domination, enabled to usufruct from the social product with advantage. Given this material power, it imperiously requires to be put into a system of legitimization which in practice is nothing but a system of social relations, of ideas expressed in institutions, that support its power and make it fluid.


For the bourgeoisie, that system of legitimization focuses on the legal concepts of private ownership of the means of production and the wage labor contract. In other words, the bourgeoisie isn't the ruling class because it owns the means of production, it's the opposite, it became owner of this means, which it already possessed, because it became the ruling class.


The resulting hypothesis is that today the bureaucracy, for its possession of the immediate operational knowledge on the technical division of labor, and the coordination of the global market, has come to effectively control the social division of labor. And it is capable of usufructing with advantage in that position from the social product. But in this case, the system of legitimizing of what it receives under the bogus figure of "salary" is the ideology of knowledge, i.e., the, purely ideological construction, that it would hold expertises and responsibilities that accrue from its scientific knowledge on reality.


The only real creators of all value and wealth are but the direct producers, workers producing goods liable to be consumed. They are only given back in wages, according to the replacement cost of their workforce. The surplus value from their work is appropriated today by two sectors in the block of dominant classes. The bourgeoisie, which supports its appropriation on the right it would derive from private property. And the bureaucracy, to which we pay much more than the social cost of reproduction of their labor force only under the ideology of knowledge and expertise.


Science is thus, to put it in a controversial way, more historical than ever. Just as Marx made a Hegelian critique of the philosophy of right, showing what was made to appear as a neutral realm, above the conflicts, in which citizens could negotiate on equal terms, as merely an ideological construct, traversed from its origin by class interest, so today it is necessary to perform a critique of the philosophy of science, showing how science also plays that role with respect to bureaucratic interests.


With this, as is evident, the idea of a possible overcoming of science acquires an immediate political interest. My thesis is that from Hegelian logic that critique may be done.


II. Methodological issues

(Against academization of criticism)


Only in the former Annex, insert itself at the end of this book, just because it is dedicated to a moment of nostalgia, I turned to some of the formalisms commonly required in academic production: quotes, famous names, counts. In all the previous sections, in which the content is developed, I have tried to avoid them. I have almost made any citations except, of course, an occasional reference to the Word, put here or there, more to keep out the unbelievers than to bring in something substantive. Nor have I resorted, because this book does not attempt to describe immediate realities, to any "hard data" from empirical research except to offer an occasional example. I do not claim that this second type of citations are unnecessary, what happens is that in this text, because it is dedicated to the formulation of a large theoretical hypothesis, this is not required.


The option of not resorting to ritual academic writing, however, for which I have taken as (only formal) model the works of the great classical authors, from Descartes to Hegel (XVII and XVIII centuries), is due more to a policy than to elegance or comfort issues. What is at issue is put at the center the discussion of ideas, not of precedents or authors. And also, it matters to direct the writing to the reasonableness of the ordinary people, not to academic scholarship. This is an option that has a direct and explicit anti bureaucratic content. The issue is to oppose in practice to the academization and bureaucratization of criticism.


The triple principle that I followed when writing this way, gradually developed, is as follows:


important are not the texts, but the authors;


important are not the authors, but the ideas;


important is the construction of arguments;


their consistency, credibility and above all, their relationship with social reality.


Of course, no text has probative value by itself, or under the author who proposes it. But also, no text has a single meaning that could be determined in a unique and objective manner, independently of the context in which it was formulated and the context in which it is read.


Texts are but premises on which textual hypotheses are made. The correspondence of these hypotheses with the literal text is NOT the crucial factor, nor the most relevant, of the value of these hypotheses. What is relevant is that they should serve to construct ideas about reality. The texts are just excuses.


On the other hand, no author can be considered only from his texts. It is common and natural that even the greatest writers contradict themselves, be it because they have changed their mind, or because they have not seen all the consequences of their ideas. Frequently they even use the most significant terms of their theories in opposite directions, because they use them in colloquial manner, because they have not granted them a technical value, or because they have changed their minds about their meaning.


In general, to construct reading hypotheses on all the work of an author, published texts are to be preferred before the unpublished, notes for publication before simple reading notes, manuscripts containing explicit theoretical development before letters or fragmentary and occasional notes. Obviously these precedence puts us in a certain problem concerning the work of Marx, in which the order of most of his writing seems to be exactly the opposite.[122] But the texts are just excuses.


And these textual variations and uncertainties are even more difficult for the reader where the author insists obsessively on showing his changes of opinion or as simple twists or consequences of his previous ideas (as in the case of Freud), and in cases where most of the textual material we have are notes or manuscripts that the author has not considered stable or definitive (as with Marx).


Discussing the possible contradictions of an author is trivial and useless. Every great author allows different readings that are compatible with aspects of his work, and which may be incompatible with others. No reading can support one hundred percent of a great work.


Discuss the meaning of an isolated term in the body of a work is just stupid. The terms used by an author, including his keywords, may well appear in his texts with different, complementary, or even contradictory meanings.


Always regarding an author what we do is a reading hypothesis in which we decide, according to our interests and those of our time, what their consistencies are, what is relevant, and what is the general sense of his writings. It is perfectly legitimate, valid and, moreover, the only useful thing, to use the authors as excuses.


Sometimes we prefer to rescue only one aspect, or one period, even against another. This is the option of those collecting the clinical method of Freud, but not the metaphysics on which he bases it. Or those who prefer the "young Marx", or the "second Wittgenstein". But we can also prefer building a global coherence of the work, even for their differences or flagrant contradictions. Both options, or other, may be perfectly useful to recognize, develop and produce ideas.


It is perfectly useless and stupid enough, however, to discuss the intrinsic correctness or the truth of such hypotheses. There is no, nor can there be a "correct Marx", nor a "correct Kant". The purely philological scholarship of complaints about it can only contribute to worship, or merely academic playback, but it does not add one iota to the discussion of content. The only useful aspect of reading hypothesis is their eventual likelihood regarding real problems. Setting its strict correspondence regarding the original authors and their texts is a purely scholastic occupation.


One consequence of these considerations is that it is absolutely useless to ask who said this or that, or worse, who said it first. Citing the source of an idea is a purely scholastic question, only relevant to academic bureaucracy. What is sought with this? To secure copyright, private ownership of knowledge? Is it intended to record the extremely trivial fact that the writer is not the author of all sources from which his ideas emerge, or of any ideas he records? Perhaps it is to defend and highlight the market value of "originality"? All this is nothing but bourgeois vanity ("to me it struck me first"), or bureaucratic hiding ("I'm not saying it, dude says it"). What is relevant is the idea itself, its consistency, its correspondence with reality.


Academic bureaucrats usually build their speeches almost completely through a stickiness "as guy said," "following so-and-so" and "according to" in a regime in which such references appear as evidentiary, and terms, citations and names, are more important than the arguments and contents. And these rituals have been elevated to a degree of legitimization, i.e., to methods that allow the certification of what they write well above the actual content that they manage to develop. The run for citations is simply a mechanism of formalist reproduction which has, however, a powerful effect on the status and power of a bureaucrat, as shown by the extraordinarily frequent cases, of groups of scholars who are themselves cited over and again, circularly, thus constructing a textual enclave whose only meaning is to expand their ability to raise funds.


For its possible content, the only useful way of quoting is to invoke sources of information to indicate where to look for similar ideas. It makes absolutely no sense to quote texts, just as texts. It is quite evident, however, that the usual bureaucratic procedure is reversed: texts are cited, invoked as sources of authority. Only magic or slavishly authoritarian mentality can believe that the authority of someone is demonstrative in argument sense.


To quote someone in gratitude ("I owe this idea to this guy") is, in the limit, a usually unnecessary, but tolerable gesture. Citing as an authority ("as Lenin said") is a magical or totalitarian gesture.


Among Latin American intellectuals in this area, a strange, something subservient modesty is prevalent, which of course, hardly any European intellectual has. It is said that citing the authors in which ideas originate is a gesture that shows that the writer has invented them not alone and by itself. It is extremely common, however, that contemporary European authors repeat "inventing", once and again, shamelessly, the most common classical ideas, which the slightest scholarship should know, presenting them on their own behalf and, worse, in a superficial and watered manner. This is what happens in a systematic way with discoverers of gunpowder such as Weber, Baudrillard and Antonio Negri.


So exactly the opposite, however, it is common in Latin America not only to stigmatize this vanity, celebrated and shamelessly supports in Europe, but also those creative thinkers that do not have care to conceal their originality in any citations ... of European authors. A notorious case is that of Don Humberto Maturana. "He believes that he invented everything", "he thinks, he is smarter than others", "an author who doesn't cite is not relevant to academic discussion". Of course, this contrast does nothing but add to academic bureaucracy the ignominy of servitude.


Is it necessary at every step to record the trivial fact that nobody comes up with ideas alone, without influences, contexts and precedents? Why these records, obvious by themselves, should be needed? To whom are they important?


To the extent that all these rituals are part of the fraudulent certifications of the claim to know, which is nothing but bureaucratic legitimacy and reproduction, the option that I do in this text to discuss ideas regardless of their textual source must be understood not only as a question of method, but as a policy option.


As is, conversely, the option of referring to all these arguments as "Hegelian Marxism". What this name should suggest is not their possible links with some textual tradition, even if this is obviously so, but the membership in a political project. The importance of the name in this case is rather to point a belonging, a will, not to the adequacy or academic correctness of what it proposes.


Of course, a storyline that calls itself "Hegelian Marxism" belongs to a tradition of ideas, authors and texts. My argument, however, is that to argue about how "Marxist" or how "Hegelian" this project is, is absolutely useless, except to specify the political will at stakes. It is not only a matter of displacing the substantive question on its plausibility and usefulness to formal complaints, which can only be of interest to bureaucrats.


On the general reasons that could justify these names I have already argued in Part IV, Chapter 1, "A possible Marxist philosophy". That should be enough, and it is only useful to the extent that a large field texts indicates where to look for ideas to develop. Beyond that, at least for Marxists, the theory and its development should be guided, first and foremost, by the imperatives of social reality.


This is a political text. It is not a step toward a certification, nor does it want to be another piece of rhetoric over the large amount of internal quarrels of the academic left. I think, reasonable people, who read it with the future in mind, can understand it. It is written for them.


March, 2013.

  1. Except, of course, the strange idea, mysteriously according to capitalist logic, that human nature would be such that nobody has "incentives" for any task if not for remuneration.
  2. See Joseph A. Schumpeter: Ten Great Economists, from Marx to Keynes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951; Eric Roll: A History of Economic Thought, Prentice-Hall, 1956.
  3. Let us consider the meaning and connotations of calling quantum physics "neo classical", or molecular chemistry "neo alchemy".
  4. See, in this regard, Carlos Pérez Soto. On a historical concept of science, Lom, Santiago, 2nd ed, 2008. In the case of psychology, see Carlos Pérez Soto: On the social condition of psychology, Lom, 2nd ed, 2008. In the content itself, and by its protagonists, one can compare the Rules of Sociological Method, by Emile Durkheim, or The Politician and the Scientist, by Max Weber, with the way they are written of Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, or the Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume.
  5. I use the term "fiction" to emphasize its completely created, artificial, historic character, to say that there is nothing in them that is natural or objective. Of course the social force that these constructions acquire, becomes very real, very distant from what we mean by "fiction". But I'm more interested in that historicist trait than in this empirical finding.
  6. Not so, however, their will as a class. On the difference between individual empirical consciousness and class consciousness, see Section 5 of Chapter II.
  7. "Fictitious", of course, for the global and historical reasoning of Political Economy. It is obvious, moreover, that it is a very "real" wealth for individuals in very specific contexts.
  8. In earlier societies wage labor existed. From the point of view of Marx, however, this did not meet two essential conditions for them to be considered capitalist societies: the existence of a labor market, and the existence of a social sector of free men that were in a position to sell theirs. Similarly, in earlier societies ownership existed, even of means of production, but not the private property, ie, the hegemony of the personal owner's free will on the possession of their means of production and of their products.
  9. With the notable, inevitable and eternal exception, of course, of those who imperatively require the relevant quotes and "proper" language: those from the Master, invoked in an almost probational way to establish more or less that the same ideas that I have presented here.
  10. Consider that in the commodification of education the real estate business is parallel and independent of the education business. In general, the overvaluation of the prices charged for educational services is used as a source of financing real estate. To the argument that I hold it is important that while the construction business does obey to common logic of capitalist valuation, educational business as such does not. Of course, something similar happens with the commodification of medicine, or the enormous infrastructure built for "Big Science".
  11. There certainly are other ways and other aspects where this distinction may also be made.
  12. Here I do include the financial capital under the general term "services". What I am interested in, is to emphasize the difference between real and fictitious wealth generally. Certainly, the movement of financial capital, its scale and mode can be distinguished from the capital employed in services such as education, health, art or administration.
  13. It is good to note here, even if I will later regret the length of this footnote, this thesis about the difference between real and fictitious wealth allows direct empirical bet on the fate of European and American capitalism. My argument is that the processes of de-industrialization of Europe and the U.S. in the short term lead to a historic change in the dominant geographic center of the world capitalist system. As happened in the sixteenth century with Italy, and then in the seventeenth with Spain and Portugal, then in the eighteenth with France and Holland, and finally in the nineteenth with England, the industrialization of China, India and Brazil, each with their satellites in immediate areas, will eventually exceed the hegemony of the United States and the European Community. Or to put it more directly, capitalist hegemony can NOT can be maintained only on the basis of production of science and technology, financial services, and its military defense will bear structurally agonizing result. Only a nuclear war, of mass destruction and extermination, could save U.S. hegemony. Most likely, however, is that with such a catastrophe, American and European capitalists would end up learning Chinese and marrying Hindu wives. Just like Italy, Spain and Portugal in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or as the Netherlands and France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, what awaits the U.S. and Europe over the next century or two is a long and "glorious" decline, accompanied by cultural erudition and outbursts, being abandoned by the vitality of the capital.
  14. Consider that, with the progress of the post Fordist work organization, there has been a significant decline in the traditional trade unions and yet, union enclaves that maintain more vigorous traditions are just in the tertiary sector, particularly among state workers.
  15. In any case, it should be noted that some of these specifications are from the Marxist effort to characterize exploitation as an objective relationship, without appealing to their moral connotations of abuse (although it contains), or merely ethical judgment (although required and deserving). Later, in Section 2 of Chapter II, I shall distinguish between oppression and exploitation to analyze, also objectively, the content of these ethical connotations.
  16. Again it should be remembered that the "fiction of equivalence" is not a fiction because it is not met regarding to the labor force, but because the criterion of equivalence involved does't have a natural origin, it has been historically constructed, it is ideological, it is surmountable. As I argued in the previous chapter, all value is immeasurable and, for this reason, any equivalence between values ​​is artificial, "fictitious".
  17. An expression, otherwise quite Hegelian. "To realize" is literally "make real". The merchandise is only "real" when the production process is completed in its sale and subsequent consumption.
  18. The markedly interested and ideological nature of business discourse, which varies with each new context, is not a mystery to anyone, and can be well documented. On the one hand they criticize and suppress for decades the May 1st protests, they now celebrate. Moreover, in speeches that explain the wage, they praise the efforts by the workers, and cry hardship preventing them to better pay. But in speeches explaining their riches, they use to talk about the "laziness" of workers, and praise their own creative efforts and risks taken.
  19. Note that this implies that the commodification of education, and charging these costs directly to users, due to the abandonment of state educational policies, merely rises the overall cost of the workforce: workers tend to demand higher wages in order to defray the educational expenses, in turn, employers are obliged to hire workers whose education is more expensive. Of course this means a terrible deal for capitalism as a whole. But this contradiction is not surprising in a culture of enemies, as drug trade, financial speculation, arms trafficking, are perfectly capitalist business globally contradicting the viability of capitalism itself.
  20. When, in the next chapter, I will be proposing a possible social stratification within the capitalist class, I will distinguish between a "bourgeois", for whom the satisfaction of needs makes sense, from the "capitalist" as such, whose sole purpose is to reproduce the capital in abstract form, regardless of the means used to it. This difference has important consequences in real, immediate politics, and should also be considered in tracing the long road that can lead to communism.
  21. The first truly comprehensive and philologically rigorous edition of the works of Marx and Engels, called Marx – Engels Gesamtausgabe 2 (MEGA 2), began being publishing only in 1990, by an association of colleges and universities grouped under the The International Marx Engels Foundation (IMEF). Its plan includes 114 volumes, divided into four sections. Of these, so far, only 59 have been published. The second section of this plan is devoted only to Capital, considering all its issues and preparatory manuscripts. Just this second section of the complete works includes 15 volumes, to be published in 23 books. See, in this regard, the edition's website at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, www.bbaw.de/bbaw/Forschung/Forschungsprojekte/mega/en/
  22. For impatient readers I say in advance, that my teaching strategy will be to initially distinguish between allegedly "good" capitalists (who improve techniques, pay better wages) and other allegedly "bad" ones (who "abuse") to follow the logic that governs the first and from there, to show that this difference is actually fictional, and that both capitalist modes of operation are structurally necessary for the historical development of the system.
  23. A contraction that facilitates the colloquial use of the term, but that is unfortunate in a sense, because it shifts the interest from the mechanisms to get something, which is relevant, to the mere outcome, "surplus value (obtained in an) absolute (way)".
  24. Colloquially, the term "productivity growth" is usually reserved to the physical improvements of the first type, and the expression "work intensification" for improvements in the order of processes. There isn't , however, a general terminology to this regard. It is obvious, moreover, that both methods are not exclusive. They generally occur simultaneously and complementarily.
  25. There is also no generally accepted terminology in this regard. There usually is, quite stupid, arguing, whether Taylorism, Fordism and Post Fordism are mere techniques applicable to the technical division of labor, or may be considered, much more generally, as modes of accumulation, that is, as moments or steps that can be characterized globally in capitalist development. I will altogether omit these discussions on definitions, and will simply operate as if the criteria I set out (see them as modes of accumulation) were, simply for the eminently practical purpose of this text, a useful definition.
  26. A note for those who have difficulty with mathematics: what has happened here is that if the numerator is less, while the denominator is greater, the value of the fraction, for both reasons, decreases, as going from 9/3, whose value is 3, to 4/6, whose value is only 0.66. Examine this more clearly in the numerical examples in the tables shown on the following pages.
  27. Arguably, according to Max Weber's racist theses: because it lacks Protestant Ethics...
  28. For those who have arithmetic difficulties: the fraction decreases because the numerator tends to be similar but the denominator significantly increases, such as going from ¾, which equals 0.75, to 4​​/7, which equals 0.57.
  29. The pedagogical strategy that I will use, in a situation that contains many variables is, if possible, to make only one change at a time, in order to capture the effect of each variation by parts. Obviously, in the real process, all this occurs simultaneously. That's why these tables should be considered as parts of one and only one example which has been separated just to make its aspects visible.
  30. See, Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905). In Max Weber; Peter R. Baehr; Gordon C. Wells (2002). The Protestant ethic and the "spirit" of capitalism and other writings. Penguin. From an empirical point of view it should be considered that a perfectly Catholic Italy had a noticeable capitalist development in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that perfectly Protestant German territories crept in feudal backwardness and inefficiency during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Similarly, the British Anglicans, almost identical to Catholics, became a capitalist power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while their closest English relatives, the Puritans of the type characterized by Weber, suffered more than two centuries of hardships (1600 -1840) in the U.S., before reaching similar degrees of industrialization.
  31. In this still unilateral situation, one can see that also the rate of exploitation is lowered. This is because the technological level has been maintained (constant capital cost), that is, the level of productivity. On the following table, the general situation becomes more realistic.
  32. Let us recall here that investment in constant capital is not only what is spent on machines and tools, but also what is spent on raw materials.
  33. See, in this regard, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (1979), by Eduardo Galeano, Published January 1st 1997 by Monthly Review Press. This is a dramatic account of the main sites and times of the looting, and of the complicity that made it possible.
  34. Even John Locke, reputed as the great apostle of bourgeois tolerance and precursor of human rights, at the time of drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (1669), then a British colony, considered that if a people that is in a "state of nature" refuses to sell its land to another that is already in a "state of civil contract", it can be treated as an enemy, you may make war on it and that, in such conditions, it even loses all its "natural rights" (the right to freedom, to keep their property, to protect their lives). Yes, you lose even rights that according to this author, have been put in nature by none other than the Creator Himself. Such ideas can also be found in his Second Treatise of Civil Government (1689). See, in this regard, and Ulrich Franz Hinkelammert Duchrow, Life or capital. Alternatives to the global dictatorship of property (2003). Editorial Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones (DEI), San José, Costa Rica
  35. I do Imagine, almost with pride, that today this would be applicable to my theory of bureaucratic power.
  36. The minimum revision of the pompous and bombastic path of Social Sciences, from the mid-nineteenth century to today shows exactly the opposite, that their bulky textual volume is composed almost only of purely descriptive theories, with little predictive power, with little historical projection and almost zero global reach. All this is so spectacularly obvious that it has come to be regarded by many as simply ... their method and purpose.
  37. Although in political theory it is obvious, due to the particular conditions of our country it is necessary to indicate that liberalism is in general a very different tradition to its extreme, neoliberalism. In many ways the market fundamentalism, represented by Friedrich von Hayek and Karl Popper, is a reaction that breaks and contrasts with the progressive utopian horizon defended by the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary era.
  38. To this regard, see John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (1967), Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1967. Additionally, Michael J . Sandel, What Money can't buy (2012), Farrar, Straus and Girux, New York, 2012.
  39. You could win a draw, as in Korea, or just loose, as in Vietnam, or better, win swanky and way overpriced, taking advantage of the overwhelming superiority of forces, without any actual counterbalanced, as in Afghanistan or Iraq.
  40. It is the text "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" (1930). It can be found in the anthology J. M. Keynes, Essays in Persuasion' (1963), Norton & Co., New York, 1963, p. 358-373. Also on the Internet: www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf
  41. Importantly, this relative increase in working hours in the core countries has influenced, during the decades from 1940-1980, in a progressive drift of underemployment and absolute unemployment to the countries of the third world. This trend has now been reversed with the deindustrialization of the United States and Europe and the powerful industrialization of a new type in China, India, Brazil and Mexico.
  42. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), in 2011, in Chile, the total labor force was 8,980,000 people, of which, 7.564 million were unemployed. 1,547,000 of these workers, 20.5%!, were working in the trade sector and only 842,000 (11.1%) in manufacturing. To this we must add 125,000 people working in financial services 497,000 in real estate and rental activities, 521,000 as home advisers, a total 1,143,000, another 15.1 %! See www.ine.cl.
  43. Note that in many Spanish-speaking countries the term "tertiarizing" is used for subcontracting labor (in English, out sourcing), which in Chile is designated as "externalizing". I will follow the terminology choices that I point out in the text because they seem more natural and less ambiguous.
  44. According to the ILO classification, have met figures as follows: 1st Agriculture, fishing, forestry (sector 1); 2nd mining, manufacturing, energy, construction (sectors 2, 3, 4 and 5); 3rd trade, transport, communications, financial, social and personal services (sectors 6, 7, 8).
  45. This is what is tragically shown in alcoholism, family breakdown, loneliness, life and cultural impoverishment, in sectors of workers in accommodated countries most proudly developed such as Sweden, Norway, or the middle class in England, France and the United States.
  46. At the time that goes from 1880 to 1980, the relationship center-periphery has been on a clear geographic base, and this is expressed in the formation of a "first world" (the developed capitalist countries), a "second world" (the area of ​​socialist countries), and a "third world" the dependent periphery. Since 1980 the relationship center-periphery remains, but has lost that geographical basis. There are mobile functional centers, and in countries that were once peripheral, and there is periphery (poverty, overexploitation) installed at the core of countries considered central. A geographical relationship has become rather a functional relationship: blatant inequality still holds.
  47. This is a phenomenon that has been repeatedly observed and described in the rapid spread of the financial crisis, which are supported in information systems that are in some sense "excessively connected".
  48. 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.
  49. 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.
  50. 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.
  51. 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.
  52. 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.
  53. 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.
  54. 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.
  55. I will argue later, however, against the charge of economism. See Part IV, Chapter 3, Section e.
  56. 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.
  57. 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.
  58. 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.
  59. Particularly the brief but expressive Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859.
  60. On the idea of history in Marx, the concept of Mode of Production, see Part 4, Chapter 3.
  61. The Word, I have cited, is “this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms…”. Marx dixit.
  62. 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.
  63. 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.
  64. 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.
  65. 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.
  66. 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.
  67. 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.
  68. 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).
  69. As should be obvious, all these false problems constituted the fashion of structuralist Marxism, which arose from them a whole rhetoric that, at least in an inertial manner, had some political effectiveness in Latin America, especially by Marta Harnecker . The resulting fashion, Marxist post structuralism, has been nothing else but a lengthy deconstruction, extended ad nauseam, of these issues, which already were avoidable nonsense from their origin, through a flowery and plenty rhetoric that has not had any social or political effect except, of course, that of its own reproduction. A o the deconstruction, moreover, that only knows the art of disarming, being led by its own lack of fundamentals to the idiotic idea that there is no foundation and no foundation can be formulated.
  70. It should be obvious here that I am confronting the failures of these sciences with THEIR own claims and rhetoric. In the previous chapters I have mentioned their contrast with the objectives and claims of Marxist theory, which are very different.
  71. See to this regard, Carlos Pérez Soto, Violencia del derecho y derecho a la violencia (The violence of law and the right to violence), Revista Derecho y Humanidades, N° 20, 2012, published by Centro de Estudiantes de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Chile.
  72. It should be obvious that these distinctions involve a number of consequences on the evaluation we can do of what were called socialist revolutions and their destiny. I leave these considerations, however, completely to those who want to insist on the politically vacuous exercise of nostalgia.
  73. From the Paris Commune, through the council governments in Hungary, Bavaria, to the eternal guerrillas in Colombia and Peru, there are many cases of premature term or permanent ineffectiveness of these assaults. From the Bolshevik Revolution and the Long March of the Chinese Communists, to the revolution in Cuba protected by a nuclear iron umbrella, the examples are quite a few wins. Marxism of the twentieth century, leading many with nostalgia until today, lived permanently fascinated by these heroic deeds, even though all of them led to dark results. Not any more. Enough is enough.
  74. Sorry for the precision but it is necessary, against nostalgic reconstruction: it overthrows those who had overthrown a government. The Russian people, organized in soviets the Bolsheviks didn't control, overthrew the Tsarist dictatorship in February 1917. The Bolsheviks reluctantly and only then realized the importance and potential of the Soviets, overthrew the revolutionary but "wrong" government in October. Lenin himself had the time and enough insight to consider, when it was already too late, that this lack of talent for partnership was a gross error.
  75. Let us repeat here this amazing quote: John Maynard Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" (1930). It can be found in the anthology J. M. Keynes, Essays in Persuasion (1963), Norton & Co., New York, 1963, p. 358-373. Also on the Internet: www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf
  76. Although it should already be obvious, it is good to explain that this condition affects some of the writings that are considered essential, as The German Ideology, the Manuscripts of 1844or the famous Grundrisse from 1857. Of course I'm in favor of using them, and of getting all possible performance out of them. What I am proposing here, giving that for obvious, is that the conclusions drawn from them, as otherwise are any which may be obtained from any other author in respect of such texts, can not be considered stable pronouncements that the author has decided to explicitly considered essential parts of his theory. On these clarifications, which are unnecessary for almost any other great philosopher, see Appendix II, Methodological issues, at the end of this book.
  77. It is necessary to emphasize: in history, not on history, as anti Hegelian wrongly believe, as well as those Hegelian that, from Engels on, should repeat the lesson.
  78. See, Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (1955), Seix Barral, Barcelona, ​​1969 Especially Chapter I, The hidden trend in psychoanalysis, p. 25-33
  79. On the relationship between Hegel and Marx in the Marxist tradition, see Appendix II. later in this book.
  80. The classic texts that revolve around these discussions are: Karl Marx The Capital, Volume I, The Commodity fetishism; Karl Marx: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, The Alienated Labour; Georg Lukacs History and Class Consciousness; Ernst Bloch, The Principle Hope; Karel Kosik, Dialectics of the Concrete. It is useful to add these to André Gorz: History and Alienation, as certain texts of Antonio Gramsci and Karl Korsch. The secondary literature is simply overwhelming.
  81. Just this is the essence of anti naturalistic argument.
  82. Por cierto, se trata de un truco, y un mal chiste oportuno. Nunca es riguroso razonar a partir de etimologías. Como chiste, lo que pretendo es simplemente reírme de un uso académico habitual, apelando a una etimología ficticia. Como truco, el objetivo real, lo que importa desde el punto de vista de los contenidos, es que he buscado una manera de formular matices claros y específicos para distinguir entre reificación y fetichización. Eso es lo que desarrollo luego, en el texto. Desde luego, esta identificación jocosa entre “rei” y “Rey”, que es fonéticamente posible en español, exigiría una nota explicativa un poco más amplia.
  83. The political significance of this hypothesis is that it allows to imagine the reverse: reification can be overcome in a society where abundance reigns and free exchange.
  84. In fact, considering the matter from a logical point of view, it is not that the sale were unconscious. It is just the inverse, everything that we call unconscious is indeed the reality of alienation. There is no reason for that in a reconciled society, autonomous and free human beings would not have access to the keys that determine their actions from beyond consciousness. The "can not" that appears in the formula "the unconscious is something that can not be aware" is strictly historical.
  85. It's actually quite doubtful that Freud, as an imbued philosopher of the educational ideals of Enlightenment, would have agreed with this attribution. From the quite subtle Freudian idea that desire has no determined objects, that is, that can fluidly move from one object to another, it does not follow at all that there is no real object, that the object is purely illusory, or that the desire can not be filled.
  86. View eg Bolívar Echeverría, El Discurso Crítico de Marx, Era, Mexico, 1986. In particular his defense of the idea of ​​use value in the chapter Comment on the "starting point" of The Capital. My opinion in general is that in the rescue he does, the use value reproduces in a sophisticated way the difference between culture and nature. A difference that results in culture being the relevant and "nature", which he himself puts in quotation marks, is but an undetermined of Kantian type.
  87. Recall that, after four hundred years in which capitalist production was technically and socially organized in guilds, full capitalism is only reached with the end of the trades, of the assessment of the skills of artisans, and their conversion into completely abstract Taylorist work. It is important to note, too, that the bureaucratic legitimization systems have returned to the assessment of the skills, but now in a purely ideological way, without a objectifiable correlate, as occurred with the artisans, corresponding to their claims.
  88. Of course, this commercial pluralism has its limits. A Pakistani may be one of the richest in a realm of vain white capitalists, but that will never give him the right to be the lover of whom could have been his queen. Faced with such an excess it is preferable to take drastic measures.
  89. The quotation marks around "contracting parties" are because in pre-modern contexts the word is obviously anachronistic. What in essence connotes, however, the formalization of an exchange is fully relevant.
  90. "Perfected", by the way, in the sense that it is done, is completed. Not in the sense that it is getting better.
  91. A remarkable analysis of the marriage contract as a fiction that does not respect its own parameters of equivalence can be found in Carol Pateman, The Sexual Contract(1988), in Castilian, Anthropos, Barcelona, ​​1995. There Pateman shows that bourgeois marriage legally has the form of a purchase agreement, but at the same time does not meet the requirements that the bourgeois law itself required for a contract to be valid.
  92. See to this matter, Thomas Laqueur, The construction of sex, in Feminismos collection, Editions Cátedra y la Universidad de Valencia, Madrid, 1994.
  93. The stubborn tendency that can be called "historical positivism" denies that discussions around the philosophy of history are really important, and proclaims the independence of the "history", which they tend to identify with historiography as "science", in contrast with speculation, which they see as eminently negatively, as "philosophy." The point is given for a long and tedious discussion. But at least one can say the following: the price of denying the role of the philosophy of history is usually to still practice it, covertly. Making it difficult to discuss their views openly.
  94. See, for criticism of these ideas on charges of determinism, teleology and messianism, Carlos Perez Soto, Desde Hegel, part II, Categories, Ithaca, Mexico, 2008. There can be found too, clearly specified, the Hegelian concept of real possibility, and the difference between natural law and historical law.
  95. This is precisely why he derisively called them "Saint Bruno" and "Saint Max", and refers to them as "The Holy Family".
  96. It is important to add that, in the same manner, Marxist criteria and views, especially when it has to do with economy, society and history, can contribute and be useful in many sciences. It is unnecessary and harmful, however, to believe, as it was thought at certain times of euphoria, that there may be "Marxist math" or "Marxist medicine" or "Marxist biology".
  97. Marx alludes very briefly to this idea in the so called "Fragment on Machines" in Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse) from 1857 to 1858, vol. 2, Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1972, pp. 216-23, translated by Peter Scaron. As is known, a fragment that Marx never published.
  98. Karl Marx: The German Ideology (1846), Pueblos Unidos - Grijalbo, Barcelona, 1970. p. 32-34.
  99. Elements to show this are those I have developed in Carlos Perez Soto: Sobre un concepto histórico de ciencia (On a historical concept of science), Arcis - Lom, 2nd edition, Santiago, 2008.
  100. Carlos Perez Soto. Para una crítica del poder burocrático (For a critique of bureaucratic power), Arcis - Lom, Santiago, 2001.
  101. Gustav A. Wetter: El Materialismo Dialéctico (Dialectical Materialism) (1952), Taurus, Madrid, 1963. See also, G. A. Wetter and W. Leonhard: La Ideología Soviética (Soviet Ideology) (1962), Herder, Barcelona, 1964.
  102. The Cosmos television series, a personal journey, extremely recommended for anyone who wants to be informed about the world he lives in, is available online at the official site www.carlsagan.com. There is also a book, published in Spanish by Labor. The TV series is far superior.
  103. Consider this incredible, usually unknown fact: by 1970 forty percent of all scientists and engineers dedicated to scientific research from around the world were Soviets.
  104. From Loren R. Graham you may find, among others, Science, Philosophy and Human Behavior in the Soviet Union (1987), Columbia University Press, Columbia, 1987. In Spanish you may find Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union (1973), Siglo XXI, Madrid, 1976.
  105. It is good to keep in mind that the Philosophical Notebooks of Lenin, which can be found in Spanish editions, contain notes from reading, not systematic studies. Notes, moreover, that concern as diverse works as The Holy Family from Marx and Engels, The Essence of Christianity from Ludwig Feuerbach, The philosophy of Heraclitus, the dark from Ferdinand Lassalle, and the Metaphysics of Aristotle. Lenin certainly never thought of publishing these notes, written at various times in his various exiles, and they are not the unit that appears due to the will of the editors.
  106. Perhaps the most widespread, but not the least, is the reinterpretation of the logical figure of contradiction, clearly stated in the second book of the Logic, The Doctrine of Essence, as opposition or conflicting interaction, issues that Hegel distinguishes completely and explicitly.
  107. They are generally rooted in the interested estimates by Rudolf Haym, in his biography of Hegel (1857) and the echo they generated, especially in the founders of the analytic tradition in England. On the myths about Hegel see Appendix at the end of this text, which includes the title of one of the most important texts about the issue, Jon Stewart, ed.: The Hegel myths and legends (1996), Northwestern University Press, Illinois, 1996.
  108. One of the first things the Georgian revolutionary Iosif Vissarionovich Jugashvili understood is that nobody could make history with such name: he changed his to Joseph Stalin. Considering the Russian word "stal", "steel", accompanied by the personal suffix "in," which can be read as "made of", you can guess the intent of that name. His intimates, however, often simply called him Koba.
  109. Actually this enumeration of humanist Marxists, like any other, will always be partial, unfortunately summary. The most notorious example of possible omission is, of course, the unavoidable Czech philosopher Karel Kosik (1926-2003), whose radical and anti authoritarian Marxism, built on a permanent critical dialogue with Husserl's phenomenology and Heidegger's philosophy, led him, like few others, far beyond the collapse of the socialist countries, at which many intellectuals of the East, who hitherto called themselves "Marxists", preferred to abjure, with varying degrees of cynicism and shame.
  110. The song is, of course, from Ismael Serrano, usually presented as a "new Serrat" and its most dramatic verse says: "Dad, tell me again that after so much barricade, after both fists raised and bloodshed at the end of the game you could do nothing, and under the pavers was no sand beach". Many intellectuals of my age, including myself, could sincerely get really excited with "this song so beautiful". The issue is whether you can make policy from that feeling.
  111. Friedrich Engels, The revolution of science by Eugene Dühring (1878) (Anti - Dühring), Progress Publishers, Moscow, p. 131. Internet: http://www.marxists.org/espanol/me/1870s/anti-duhring/index.htm
  112. One may raise, at this point as a mere intellectualist game, the following challenge: find texts from relevant Marxists explicitly defending economic reductionism, a teleological and deterministic character of history, or a fatalistic idea of political action.
  113. This is not the right place to start a detailed reflection on what in philosophy of science is considered established since long time ago, but let us say to the surprised, that the most basic standard logic shows that from false premises it is always possible to obtain true consequences. Or, in other words, that the truth of the consequent does not imply the truth of the antecedent. If it is true that there are electrons, when put into circulation through the filament of a light bulb this will emit heat and light, however, the fact that bulbs do in fact emit heat and light does not prove that electrons circulate through them.
  114. On the difference between history and evolution considered from a Hegelian standpoint, see Carlos Perez Soto, Desde Hegel, para una crítica radical de las Ciencias Sociales (From Hegel, for a radical critique of the Social Sciences), Ithaca, Mexico, 2008. In that same text a critique of the "Kantisms" associated with the identification of both notions is developed.
  115. A defense, starting from a critique of the tradition of contemporary philosophy of science, of this historic idea of science can be seen in Carlos Perez Soto, Sobre un concepto histórico de ciencia (On a historical concept of science), LOM, Santiago, 2nd edition, 2008.
  116. Let's say it, it may be necessary ... Pérez is me. Well, at least in general or ... almost always.
  117. For those who like citations, Marx's reference is: "With him [Hegel] it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell". It is at the end of the epilogue of the second edition of The Capital, dated January 1873. The context is that Marx there defends himself against interpretations that have been made about the method with which he has written the first volume of this book. There are at least four letters of Marx, even in 1858, where he repeats this idea, almost literally. In his early notes it is seen that this was his idea of dialectics already in 1844.
  118. Again, as the terrain is tricky because we are talking about the Master As Such, let's go for a citation."The Hegelian conception of history assumes an abstract or absolute spirit, which develops such that humanity is just a mass that, consciously or unconsciously, serves him as support. This can be found in The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism, which he wrote with Frederick Engels in 1845. Forty years later, in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Engels repeats it almost verbatim, adding other estimates that aggravate the central claim.
  119. Of course, the texts of Feuerbach, not what Marx or Engels say Feuerbach said. In Spanish two short pieces may be seen, in one volume, Provisional Theses for the Reform of Philosophy (1842) and Principles of Philosophy of the Future (1843), translated and edited by Edward Subirats in Labor, Barcelona, 1976. Also the main text, The essence of Christianity (1841), in Clarity, Buenos Aires, 1963. On the same subject, three unusually valuable studies can be found. Gabriel Amengual, Crítica de la religión y antropología en Ludwig Feuerbach (Criticism of religion and anthropology in Ludwig Feuerbach), Laia, Barcelona, 1980. Alfred Schmidt, Feuerbach o la sensualidad emancipada (Feuerbach or emancipated sensuality) (1973), Taurus, Madrid, 1975. Werner Post, La crítica de la religión en Karl Marx (Criticism of Religion in Karl Marx) (1969), Herder, Barcelona, 1972.
  120. Let's insert the well known citations, only for scholars. "The essence of theology is the transcendent essence of man put outside of man; the essence of Hegel's logic is transcendent thinking, the thinking put outside of man". And another, "Hegel's absolute spirit is none other than the abstract spirit, separated from itself, the so called finite spirit, just as the infinite being of theology is none other than the finite abstract spirit". Both in "Provisional Theses ...". The italics are the author's.
  121. On a critique of bureaucratic power see Carlos Perez Soto, Para una crítica del poder burocrático (For a critique of bureaucratic power), LOM, Santiago, 2nd edition, 2008. As can be seen, the titles of these books are quite explicit.
  122. Of course, these conditions are required for authors of which we only have texts. For those of us who can directly check the opinion of Marx or Hegel, however, things are much easier.