Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dialectics (part two)

Once again working off of an idea from Badiou (Theorie du Sujet). Badiou writes that there are two contradictions in Marx’s understanding of capitalism: between the forces and relations of production and then class struggle, or the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. “Two contradictions, two definitions, one object—capitalism--, one doctrine Marxism” (pg. 44) The first contradiction is objective, defining the place of the proletariat, caught between the productive powers of industry and the rule of private property. While the second is subjective, defining the intensity of struggle and commitment. As Badiou argues both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat draw their members from the same “inconsistent multiplicity”: the masses. What Badiou stresses is the double inscription: that every historical moment, every struggle, must be related both to the objective struggle of places and subjective struggle of forces. And in turn every force is placed, while every place is displaced by force.

This is the strength of dialectical thinking, specifically in a Marxist context it allows one to think that every economic transformation is political, and every political transformation is economic.

It is also from this perspective that one can grasp one of the dominant trends and even strengths of anti-dialectical thought: the refusal of mediation (displacement) in the name of immanence. Take for example Deleuze and Guattari’s claim in Anti-Oedipus: “Desire is part of the infrastructure.” It indicates that transformations of the economy are directly transformations of desire and subjectivity, without passing through the mediations of superstructure (specifically the family). It is a matter of what Paolo Virno calls “immediate coincidence between production and ethics, structure and superstructure, between the revolution of labor process and the revolution of sentiments, between technology and emotional tonality, between material development and culture.”

Michel Foucault is also a thinker of immanence or immediate coincidence. This can be seen through his lectures in the late seventies (Securite, Territoire, Population and Naissance de la Biopolitique). Foucault argues that “neoliberalism” should be viewed not as an ideology (politics) or as economic policy (economy) but as a conduct of conduct, a mode of governmentality.

It is at this point that I see both the merits and the tension between these two perspectives.


Nate said...

Where's that Virno quote from? My sense with Virno is that at least some of the time he means that the coincidence occurs/exists in the present, whereas for Badiou the coincidence would be true for the entirety of capitalism. Right?

unemployed negativity said...

Nate, It is from "The Ambivalence of Disenchantment" in Radical Thought in Italy (pg. 14). I think you are right that Virno is making a historical argument, whereas if Badiou periodizes at all he does so with respect to the possible mode of miltancy.