This summer I have a book coming out from the Historical Materialism Book series. You can read more about it here (as well as freak out at its price, but it will be out in paperback from Haymarket in a year). The book is mostly made up of pieces that have appeared before in various journals, some now defunct, although there are a few new pieces, an essay on Sohn-Rethel that I never found a home for, as well as a piece on "Spontaneous ideology" and Deleuze and Guattari's idea of social subjection/machinic enslavement.
I am still a little stunned that the book is coming out. Not every gets to see their work develop over time. Thus I hope that it will not seem to obnoxious to insist that in some sense the book is a little like a collection towards fragments of books I never wrote, and one that I did. In terms of the first, there was maybe a point where I was interested in writing a book on "Primitive accumulation" as a concept and way of understanding capitalism, and there was also a point where I was interested in writing a book on Deleuze and Guattari's particular relationship with Marx. In some sense, these books are partly there, three chapters on the first, and five on the latter. Not everything made the cut, however, a few early essays were left out because they did not seem to merit reprinting. Since blogs are about things that do not merit printing I thought that I would include one of them here.
Partly what prompted this, and to include a little more self-promotion is the way that some of the things that I argued in this piece dovetail with claims that Franck Fischbach makes in La Production des Hommes: Marx Avec Spinoza (a book that I am translating). The common point of reference is the critique of Marx's productivism, a criticism that has been leveled from everyone from Arendt to Baudrillard. Fischbach's point of reference is Heidegger, however, who argues, in some really odd passages, that communism is the culmination of the west's understanding of being (or the being of beings) as that which can be produced, manipulated, and used up. As Fischbach argues, this is a failure to understand both the distinction between work and production, as well as the critique of the subject. (Fischbach repeatedly gets more out of Heidegger than I could ) To cite a passage from the translation in progress:
"The common fundamental point of these two philosophers is to be at one and the same time thinkers of production and radical critics of subjectivity, two elements are that are completely indissociable. While Heidegger considers the modern metaphysics of subjectivity as the completion and accomplishment of an approach which consist in, from Greek philosophy, of taking the productive comportment of humanity as the implicit guiding thread into the sense of being, the cases of Spinoza and Marx demonstrate on the contrary that a thought of production leads to the destitution of subjectivity from its foundational role. Neither Spinoza nor Marx start from the subject: the first begins from substance and understands it as the infinite activity of production, that is to say as the absolute unity of producing (natura naturans) and of product (natura naturata) as complete immanence of producing in the infinity of things produced: the second begins not from the production as the activity of one or several subjects, but from the ensemble of the relations of production, of a productive industry that is at the same time a process of individuation. In each case production is not thought from the subject: there is for Spinoza and for Marx a production that exceeds all subjectivity, a production which has always already precedes, englobe and exceeds every subjective formation, engendering subjectivity as a secondary and derived aspect. Whether thinking of production as the infinite productivity of substance, as, by its immanence to the infinity of things produced, it is demonstrated to be not at all a subject (the latter being conceived as that which precedes or supports the things that are produced, or as the term for which they are assembled) or, whether as by thinking of production being primarily an ensemble of relations of production that precede, condition, and determine the formation of individually productive positions, Spinoza and Marx both understand and illustrate that production is never assignable to any foundational subject, that production is the basis of everything without being the act of a founding subject."
Or as Fischbach writes, "Spinoza and Marx make it possible to understand that labor-form dissimulates, obscures, and betrays the true sense of production." This is something that I tried to develop earlier, in a paper that I wrote years ago that I have posted parts of here. I have edited it, and tried to focus on the central point, and that is how Deleuze and Guattari's expansive sense of production, a sense that is developed from a close reading of Marx's 1857 Introduction, addresses the criticisms of production as an instrumentalist and utilitarian idea.
“Everything is Production”: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s Marxism
It is probable that at a certain level nature and industry are two separate and distinct things: from one point of view, industry is the opposite of nature; from another, industry extracts its raw materials from nature; from yet another it returns its refuse to nature; and so on. Even within society, this characteristic man-nature, industry-nature, society-nature relationship is responsible for the distinction of relatively autonomous spheres that are called production, distribution, consumption…[T]he real truth of the matter…is that there is no such thing as relatively independent spheres or circuits: production is immediately consumption and a recording process [enregistrement], without any sort of mediation, and the recording process and consumption directly determine production, though they do so within the production process itself. Hence everything is production: production of productions, of actions and of passions; production of recording processes, of distributions and of co-ordinates that serve as points of reference; productions of consumptions, of sensual pleasures, of anxieties, and of pain. --Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
“Everything is production” what could this possibly mean? What is at stake in such an assertion? I would like to examine at least two lines of investigation that would constitute the beginning of a response. First, Deleuze and Guattari are citing and developing lines of inquiry from Marx’s 1857 “Introduction”. Where Marx proposes an expansive definition of the mode of production as the specific interrelation and articulation of a particular “mode” of producing, consuming, and distribution. Deleuze and Guattari’s citation resumes, not only the aborted methodological, and some would argue metaphysical elements of that text, but in its citation of the relation between man and nature takes up Marx’s early remarks towards a materialist metaphysics—a metaphysics of “species being” and “man” as part of the immanent process of nature’s self production. Secondly, the stakes and sense of this affirmation of “production” in its broadest sense can be framed against the backdrop of a general critique of “productivism” in Marxist thought. This “critique” is not a unified doctrine or school, but a series of heterogeneous criticisms each with own specific object and target. In different but not entirely unrelated ways these criticisms have criticized Marx’s assumption of the principle of production as it was developed by classical political economy. In assuming this principle, it is argued, Marx assumes the entire anthropology of the “self production of man by man,” which posits “production” and labor as historically transcendental. By uncritically assuming this principle, these critics argue, Marx is not only doomed to repeat the same moralisms and norms regarding production, but to miss “the political” altogether by attempting to replace its contingency and plurality with the “invisible hand” of need and necessity.
It is possible to suggest then that the stakes of Deleuze and Guattari’s repetition of Marx’s introduction is nothing less than the relation between life, understood as desire and the unceasing metabolic relation with nature, and politics. If these are the stakes then it seems immediately apparent that we are on very shaky ground in this repetition—to put it bluntly Deleuze and Guattari seem to repeat and affirm that which is most questionable and shaky in Marx, the entire quasi-vitalistic “metabolic relation with nature” in order to address the question of politics. An examination of the relationship between the original introduction and Deleuze and Guattari’s text will begin to suggest different stakes; these different stakes will not take us away from the intersection of politics and life, but will suggest a different articulation of their relation. The immediate critical target of Marx’s introduction is how bourgeois or classical political economy begins from a particular articulation of the relation between production, distribution, exchange, and consumption. Marx writes:
Thus [in political economy] production, distribution, exchange and consumption form a regular syllogism; production is the generality, distribution and exchange the particularity [Besonderheit], and consumption the singularity [Einzelnheit] in which the whole is joined together. This is admittedly a coherence, but a shallow one. Production is determined by general natural laws, distribution by social accident, and the latter may therefore promote production to a greater or lesser extent; exchange stands between the two as a formal social movement; and the concluding act, consumption, which is conceived not only as a terminal point [Endziel] but also as an end-in-itself [Endzweck], actually belongs outside of economics except in so far as it reacts in turn upon the point of departure and initiates the whole process anew.
Within this conception of political economy, production and consumption, the starting point and end point of political economy, are outside political economy, or, at least, outside the history of political economy. Consumption and production are governed by “natural laws”, by the anthropological constants of need and reproduction. They thus function as the “given”, as the assumed ground from which political economy proceeds. Only distribution and circulation are recognized as properly historical: there are only different types of property, different forms of law, which mediate without changing the natural relation of need. Classical political economy is determined, in the first and last instance, by an anthropology that is wise enough to remain out of sight, directing the action from off stage. As Louis Althusser has argued it is not a big step from this silent anthropological ground and to an anthropomorphic discourse on the social in which “society” or the “economy” is figured as a closed totality with needs and demands. Classical political economy begins from an implicit conception of subjectivity, a static anthropology of need and exchange, and from this presupposition it articulates an image of society as a unified subject. Marx’s opposition to this second point is well known, where classical political economy sees a unified society, a population, Marx finds the differences and antagonisms of class struggle. What is less apparent is that Marx also opposed the implicit ground of classical political economy, developing an anthropology that does not tie subjectivity to ahistorical coordinates of need and scarcity, but posits subjectivity as both produced and productive.
For Marx history is not simply the history of different regimes of distribution, and exchange, a history of property, it is a history of production. Or, put differently, rather than maintaining the simple and linear causality of natural needs and historical mediations, Marx develops a thought of the complex relations of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption in which all act upon and determine each other, and to a certain extent, produce each other. To translate this into another philosophical language, the interrelations of production, consumption, and distribution could be considered as the exposition of a thought of immanence, in that it is opposed to both the theoretical assertion of a transcendental scene of determination that remains prior to and exterior to that which it determines (as in most forms of economism) or the assumption of a concealed transcendental foundation (as in the anthropological ground of classical economics). A thought of immanence requires that all of the relations (production, distribution, and consumption) must be thought both as effect and cause of each other. The simultaneity of a relation of cause and effect can be demonstrated with respect to production and consumption. As Marx indicates, production and consumption seem to have an immediate identity, as well as an opposition, in the simple fact that all production involves consumption of raw materials and at the same time all consumption would seem to immediately produce something, if only the energy for production. Beyond this immediate identity Marx asserts that there is a more intimate relation of co-implication that encompasses and enfolds the supposed exterior and a-historical ground of need and subjectivity. As Marx writes:
Production not only supplies a material for the need, but it also supplies a need for the material. As soon as consumption emerges from its initial state of natural crudity and immediacy—and, if it remained at that stage, this would be because production itself had been arrested there—it becomes itself mediated as a drive by the object. The need which consumption feels for the object is created by the perception of it. The object of art-like every other product--creates a public which is sensitive to art and enjoys beauty. Production thus not only creates an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object…Consumption likewise produces the producers inclination by beckoning to him as an aim determining need (G 92/27).
Production produces consumption, producing not only its object but its particular mode and subject, and in turn consumption acts on production, in effect producing it. Similarly, Marx explains: “consumption ideally posits the object of production as an internal image, as a need, as a drive and a purpose. It creates the objects of production in a still subjective form” (G 92/27).
The mutual relations of causality between production, consumption, and distribution, are supported by another larger sense of production, which is no longer simply economic production, but their mutual relations of effectivity. According to Marx: “ Production predominates not only over itself, in the antithetical definition of production, but over the other moments as well….A definite [bestimmte] production thus determines a definite consumption, distribution and exchange as well as definite relations between these different moments. Admittedly, however, in its one sided form, production is itself determined by the other moments” (G 99/34). This relation between a determinant production, consumption, and distribution, is one definition given by Marx of a “mode of production.” It is a definition of a mode of production that is inseparable from a mode of subjection: as Marx demonstrates in Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations there is a immanent relation between material production and the production of subjectivity, a relation which is neither an identity or a simple reflection, but a continual co-implication in which each continually affects the other. For Marx it is the recognition of the implication of subjectivity in the mode of production, its historical status as something both produced and productive of the mode of production, which in part differentiates the critical materialist account of the economy from classical economics. “The production of capitalists and wage laborers is thus a chief product of capital’s realization process. Ordinary economics, which looks only at the things produced, forgets this completely.”(G 512) Production is always the production of subjects as much as it is the production of objects.
Deleuze and Guattari develop their concept of desiring production, with its corresponding breakdown of the rigid divisions between base and superstructure, mode of production and production of subjectivity, from this larger concept of “production.” They extend “immanence” to include not only production, consumption, and distribution as immanent to each other as constitutive elements of the mode of production, but insist on the immanence of man, nature, and history as part of a process of production. In fact Deleuze and Guattari argue that these two senses of immanence logically imply each other: to recognize the historical effects that production, consumption, and distribution have on each other is to destroy any recourse to natural needs or desires. It is perhaps this historicity that Marx had in mind when he wrote: “The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present”.
Deleuze and Guattari follow Marx’s early writings in using the term industry to describe the intersection of historical nature (nature transformed by human practice) and natural history (nature transforming human practice)
. …we make no distinction between man and nature: the human essence of nature and the natural essence of man become one within nature in the form of production or industry, just as they do within the species being of man[la vie générique de l’homme]. Industry is then no longer considered from the extrinsic point of view of utility, but rather from the point of view of its fundamental identity with nature as production of man and by man (AO 4/10).
Thus Deleuze and Guattari return to Marx’s early texts to find not just the humanism and the pathos of alienation, which Althusser so-rightly rejected, but an ontology which places man and nature within the same historical process of production.
Nature is man’s inorganic body-nature, that is, insofar as it is not itself the human body. Man lives on nature--means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not going to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means nothing else than nature is linked [zusammenhängt] to itself, for man is a part of nature (Translation slightly modified EP 112/369).
In this ontology “man,” or human beings, are fully natural and fully artificial. We are at the same time are the objects of a productive process that exceeds us, and subjects of an activity that is always begun anew. This position as both subject and object of a productive process can be grasped by the two terms that for Marx constitute the borders of the human—“inorganic nature” and “industry”. The term “inorganic nature” indicates an intimate exteriority, all that is outside plants, animals, air, etc. constitute human beings as living, sensing and perceiving creatures, while industry would be the name of the activity, the perpetual transformation which continually affects “inorganic nature” changing with it the borders of humanity. Whereas Feuerbach rethought subjectivity as sensibility, as exposure to the materiality of the world, taking as his example the cherry tree, Marx reminds us that the cherry tree is a recent import to Germany—a product of industry. As Marx asserted in the first of the “Theses on Feuerbach,” it is not enough to posit materialism as sensibility, as exposure to material objects, it must also be thought as practice, as transformation. What Marx called “species-activity” the generic capacity for activity constitutive of the human, must then be understood as a continual transformation of the human.
In order to understand what is at stake in this rethinking of “species-activity” it is important to consider the historical conjuncture of the writing of Anti-Oedipus. By history here I do not mean the commonly accepted categorization of Anti-Oedipus as a paradigmatic text of “pensée ’68,” a categorization that renders the text into something like a fossil from a bygone age. By historical I mean in which the texts assertion of the immanent interrelation between man, history, and nature can only be understood in relation to, or conversely can be used to make sense of, what is called late capitalism. Deleuze and Guattari’s insistence on the productivity of consumption, not to mention on the productive nature of desire in general, has a intimate relation to this particular stage of capitalism in which the need to produce new subjectivities and desires seems so much more central and important than it used to be. The importance of desire, of social relations, and affects to keeping the whole whirling economy in motion places us at the limits of Marx’s thought.
Marx grasped the absolute indifference of capitalism to biological needs, and even incorporated this into the very definition of the commodity that opens Capital. “The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind [irgendeiner Art]. The nature of these needs, whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference”. It makes no difference to the commodity in general, but the capitalist mode of production in its relentless pursuit of surplus values is compelled to commodify existing needs as well as continually create new needs new products. Marx grasped a utopian dimension to the capitalist mode of production’s transformation of the very terrain of need and desire: recognizing the vague glimmer of a “new humanity” being produced as a sort of by-product of this relentless demand for profit.
Thus the old view, in which the human being appears as the aim of production, regardless of his limited national, religious, political character, seems to me to be lofty when contrasted to the modern world, where production appears as the aim of mankind and wealth as the aim of production. In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of human needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces etc., created through universal exchange? The full development of human mastery over the forces of nature, those of so-called nature as well as humanities own nature? The absolute working out of his creative potentialities, with no presupposition other than the previous historical development…Where he does not reproduce himself in one specificity, but produces his totality? In bourgeois economics-and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds-this complete working-out of the human content appears as a complete emptying out, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the tearing down of all limited, one- sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end. (G 488/396)
Thus Marx grasped that capitalism as a mode of production constituted a revolution at the level of the production of subjectivity. No longer does the mode of production subordinate itself to the production of a specific type of subjectivity, such as the peasant, lord, or citizen. Production is deterritorialized: it is no longer subordinated to the reproduction of a way of life but to the ceaseless accumulation of surplus value...
It is at this point, the point where we recognize the artificiality of our existence, and a world without transcendence, in which there is neither a soul, nor a body, or a nature, to save us, it would appear that the only two options are irony or despair. Resisting these two options entails thinking difference within immanence. Moreover, and more dramatically, it means thinking what sort of difference immanence makes; that is, it entails reorienting the entire problem of resistance from its residual attachment to the metaphysical problem of freedom versus determinism to properly materialist problem of desire and power.
Deleuze and Guattari write: “There is only desire and the social, and nothing else” (AO 29/36). However, this statement while it posits the mutual implication of desire and the social, does not so much posit an unproblematic identity as it opens the space of their articulation. Deleuze and Guattari are not satisfied with simply asserting the presence of desire running through the networks and markets of global capital, if they did nothing would separate them from the guru’s and apologists of the so-called new economy. So in some sense everything is not production, or everything is not desiring production. There is the difference and thus the articulation of the relationship between desiring production and social production, between the immanent ontology of production and its organization by capital. Everything is not productivity, joy, and activity. There is lack, pain, and suffering, or what Deleuze and Guattari call “anti-production.” More importantly there is the articulation of desiring production onto social production, the wedding of desire onto the interests, values, and norms of a pre-given social order.
Deleuze and Guattari offer a simple formula as the condition of this articulation: “Production is not recorded in the same way that it is produced.” When Deleuze and Guattari explain this constitutive difference between the production of production and the production of recording they refer to Marx’s observation that as capitalism develops it increasingly appears as if capital itself, and not labor, is productive. As Marx observes, in the beginning capitalists are necessarily conscious of the opposition between capital and labor, and of he use of capital as a means of extorting surplus labor. But a perverted, bewitched world quickly comes into being, as capital increasingly plays the role of a recording surface that falls back on all of production. (Furnishing or realizing surplus value is what establishes recording rights.)…Capital thus becomes a very mystic being since all of labor’s social productive forces appear to be due to capital, rather than labor as such, and seem to issue from the womb of capital itself (AO 10/16). It is easy to find at least an anecdotal grounding of this statement—one only has to think of the various representations of capital from the daily stock reports, to Fortune, and CNBC, which present capital as a self-generating and flowing entity whose relation to the day to day work and existence is that of a benevolent god. The most immediate and palpable representation of capital, however, is money itself. Deleuze and Guattari follow Marx’s famous chapter on commodity fetishism in recognizing the way in which money “reterritorializes” all the power of labor—it appears to not only generate wealth, but to appropriate all the powers and talents of labor. Money becomes the universal object of desire. Money extends the illusion that we all participate in the system as equals, the dollars you and I earn are the same dollars that the wealthy invest to make billions—capital does not spread the wealth, only the ideal that we all could become wealthy. Thus, in capitalism “Desire of the most disadvantaged creature will invest with all its strength, irrespective of any economic understanding or lack of it, the capitalist social field as a whole” (229/272). Money alienates the productive power of desire, making it appear as an attribute of an object, and thus acts to subordinate desiring production to social production.
From this relation between desiring production and social production it is possible to draw out what I would argue is the central philosophical and political problem of Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze and Guattari famously write that: “the fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly…Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” (AO 29/37) The beginning of an answer to this question can be located in the difference between the immanent “taking-place” of the body and sociality and the organization and subordination of that “sociality” to socially instituted goals and norms. It is the difference between that element of production which exceeds both measure and the reproduction of the system and production that can only repeat and reproduce the system. Fighting for “servitude” entails the subordination of this “immanent taking-place” of desire to an apparently transcendent instance, what Deleuze and Guattari call the socius.
The forms of social production, like those of desiring production, involve an unengendered nonproductive attitude, an element of anti-production coupled with the process, a full body that functions as a socius. This socius may be the body of the earth, that of the tyrant, or capital. This is the body that Marx is referring to when he says that it is not the product of labor, but rather appears as its natural or divine presuppositions. In fact, it does not restrict itself merely to opposing productive forces in and of themselves. It falls back on [il se rabat sur] all production, constituting a surface over which the forces and agents of production are distributed, thereby appropriating for itself all surplus production and arrogating to itself both the whole and the parts of the process, which now seem to emanate from it as a quasi-cause. (AO 10/16)
The full body, the earth, the despot, or capital, appropriates all of the power and potentiality of desire and production unto itself, just as money appears to generate wealth. This is what Deleuze and Guattari mean by the difference between “desiring production” and “social production”, but I fear that their specific vocabulary risks effacing the very real, immediate, political, and even existential dimensions of this question. We could substitute other words here, I tend to think that the difference between what Marx called “living labor” and “abstract labor,” is closest to the distinction that Deleuze and Guattari draw between “desiring production” and “social production.” Or, rather, it is through the intersection of these two terms that we can grasp what is at stake in the difference.
Deleuze and Guattari remind us that Marx wrote that capitalism is founded on “the encounter of two “principal” elements: on one side, the deterritorialized worker who has become free and naked, having to sell his labor capacity; and on the other, decoded money that has become capital and is capable of buying it” (AO 225/266). Unlike other pre-capitalist modes of production capital does not have as its precondition a particular social, political, and subjective order, or particular codes, but only the relation between abstract quantities—labor time and money. To say that they are abstract does not mean that they are ideal, or immaterial, nor does it mean that they are indifferent to their content. Capitalism actively destroys anything that would subordinate production to any other authority, cultural or political, or would restrict desire to determinate representations. It is founded on the breakdown of the codes that anchored labor to any community, tradition, or belonging (as in the guilds), as well as a breakdown of anything that links money to a restricted economy of prestige. Rather than coding the various practices and desires constitutive of the social, capitalism functions by setting up quantitative relation between the two flows, labor and capital, establishing as axiomatic an equivalence between a particular amount of labor time and a particular amount of money. There is no “real basis” for this equivalence, no common ground to compare time and money. The equivalence is thus tilted towards money, towards capital, which sets the term of the exchange. Money, the wage relation, transforms the intensity of lived time, to a unit of labor time—transforming living labor to abstract labor. “Labor, thus measured by time, does not seem, indeed, to be the labor of different persons, but on the contrary the different working individuals seem to be mere organs of this labor.”
This transformation of living labor to abstract labor, of desiring production to social production, is never complete. Capital continually returns to the strategies and tactics used to reduce labor to abstract labor, to a pure commodity, through this return it is possible to grasp the conflict and difference of “living labor.” In Marx’s writing, “abstract labor” refers to the abstraction necessary to quantify the activity of diverse bodies. In order for commodities to be exchanged, labor must be organized so that it is indifferent to who performs it. Underlying the concept of abstract labor are practices such as surveillance and the division and simplification of tasks, all of which make this indifference a material reality. The concept of “abstract labor” is inseparable from a political and economic strategy—the reduction of all labor to simple abstract labor, and the destruction of skills. Abstract labor is a reduction of the worker, of subjectivity, to the minimum required for the reproduction of the capitalist system. This strategy, sometimes called “proletarianization,” which Marx at times identified as the dominant tendency if not the destiny of capitalism, runs up against certain limits, not the least of which is “living labor” as the internal limit of abstract labor. Living labor is the inverse of abstract labor, it can be described by the same attributes—indifference to the content of activity, flexibility, even poverty—but these qualities now appear as sources of its strength.
This living labor, existing as an abstraction from these moments of its actual reality [raw-material, instrument of labor etc.] (also, not value; this complete denudation, purely subjective existence of labor, stripped of all objectivity. Labor as absolute poverty; poverty not as shortage, but as total exclusion of objective wealth…Labor not as an object, but as activity; not as itself value, but as the living source of value…. Thus, it is not at all contradictory, or, rather, the in-every-way mutually contradictory statements that labor is absolute poverty as object, on one side, and is, on the other side, the general possibility [allgemeine Möglichkeit] of wealth as subject and as activity, are reciprocally determined and follow from the essence of labor, such as it is presupposed by capital as its contradiction and as its contradictory being [gegensätzliches Dasein], and such as it, in turn, presupposes capital (G 296/217).
Living labor, however, is not just the abstract and static inversion to abstract labor. As such it appears throughout Marx’s writings at every point that capital necessarily develops and relies on the subjective capacities of labor, its ability to not only produces wealth, but to communicate and constitute new social relations. From the assemblage of bodies under the same roof in the factory to the flexible and cooperative networks of labor required for contemporary capitalist valorization, capitalism necessary develops the power of living labor...
The capitalist mode of production emerges when a flow of “free” labor meets a flow of “free” wealth. This freedom on the side of labor is the simultaneity of poverty and indeterminacy. It would not be improper to think of this indeterminacy, this abstraction, as a kind of power, the power to bring the new into the world; after all it produces not only things, commodities, but also the capitalist mode of production itself. It would also be correct to identify this abstract subjective potential as something new, and thus as something which emerges with, and is the condition for, capitalist accumulation. It would be incorrect, however, to identify this with freedom in the conventional sense, since this abstract-subjective-potential cannot but sell itself as labor power. It must subject itself to whatever-capitalist enterprise, to the job and task available. Living labor is free to develop and consume “whatever” forces and possibilities, forces and possibilities unimaginable and impossible within the relatively narrow spheres of pre-capitalist reproduction. At the same time, it is also freely exposed to the demands of the labor market and the demand to valorize capital. The old guarantees that limited production, tying it to a determinate sphere of reproduction, political and social, have disappeared. In the absence of old guarantees and prior limitations, there is a new struggle, a new antagonism: it is a struggle that seeks to reduce “living labor”, the flexibility and productivity of a new subject, to “abstract labor”, to interchangeability, homogeneity, and an increasingly precarious position. This new struggle is a struggle to subordinate the new powers to invent ways of living and desiring to the old ends of property and capitalist valorization. “Production as the abstract subjective essence is discovered only in the forms of property that objectifies it all over again, that alienates it be reterritorializing it”(AO 259/308).
Capitalism, for Deleuze and Guattari, is unique among social machines in that it does not code the productive power of desire, of living labor, subordinating it to a determinate social order. In capitalism production is not tied to a particular form of life, but is free to develop multiple and different forms of life. It is “free” to do so, provide that these forms of life become productive for capital: that is, provided that its productions can be made to fit within the axiomatics of capital. Capitalism is defined by perpetual tension between the experimentation in new ways of living, sensing, and perceiving it engenders, on the one hand, and the demand to restrict experimentation to the valorization of capital, on the other. Deleuze and Guattari illustrate this “schizophrenic” tendency of capitalism, by juxtaposing the massive cultural, aesthetic, and scientific experiments produced by capital against the archaic and conservative nature of its political, social, and even libidinal organization—a point illustrated most dramatically by the oedipal complex. Deleuze and Guattari ultimately argue that capital itself is archaic—it is an ossified structure of command, which seeks to subordinate the potentiality of living labor to its ends.
Deleuze and Guattari thus follow Marx, and the entire tradition of immanent-materialist thought in changing the problem of what is so crudely called resistance. It is no longer predicated on the search from some outside point from which to criticize a given society—a nature opposed to culture, a communicative rationality opposed to instrumental rationality, etc. The possibility of resistance is not only immanent to the capitalist system, but its power as well. It is because we are entirely produced and productive of the valorization of wealth, because the machines and languages of capitalist sociality are second nature to us, that our power to act and change this system is greater. Moreover, resistance is necessary a resistance against anything would appear to be transcendent, prior to and above, the immanent organization of productive and desire, anything that would relate and subordinate it to a preconstituted order.
In the place of a conclusion I would like to offer something of a polemic. A polemic that insists on not only the relevance but the importance of a concept that has fallen out of contemporary political discourse, production Production, not as something which relates only to the “factory” or the “economy,” but as the continual interrelation, the effects that our practices, our speech, our language, and desires have on each other. Production is nothing other than the recognition that the world, with all of its joys and terrors, is continually being made and remade every day, by millions of different and discrete practices. (As such production is nothing other than an absolutely “atheistic” idea and the foundation for the any thought of revolution) Thinking politics from production, or desiring production, means in part starting from the recognition that those objects that we would like to change capitalism, the state, society exist only in and through “our” singular and collective practices. Living labor is the internal condition of abstract labor, desiring production is the internal limit and condition of social production.
A version of this paper, one with parts that are a little too early 2000s to be reprinted was published in Crossings . The book on Deleuze and Guattari and Marx remains unwritten, although I think that the five chapters that are published give a sense of what that book would have been. I do not think that such a book is as necessary as it once seemed. It used to be that mentioning Marx with respect to Deleuze and Guattari was something of a scandal, violating the imaginary lines between postmodernism and Marxism. Now, thanks to the work of people like Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, Ted Stolze, and Nick Thoburn that is less the case. It has become simpler to be a Marxist in Deleuze and Guattari.
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