The second anniversary session of the Institute for Critical Theories of Supermodernity was held on 1 and 2 July 2017 in Sofia. The session’s title was “Marx’s Capital: Contradictions of Inheritance”.
Marx? Marx Again?
The return of Marx’s critique of political economy in a non–Marxian time – the time of supermodern capitalism – is, if not a theoretical scandal, a theoretical challenge. But it is an evident one: from university lecture halls through squares chanting slogans to neighbourhood pubs. Humankind is once again interested in the historical fate of modern capitalism, of that – as Max Weber said a century ago – ‘most fateful force of our life’. Humankind is not only fascinated but also worried by the things that surround it – iPhones, drones and electronic wrists, with a satellite sky that hangs above them – things in which, if Marx was theoretically far–sighted, social relations are reified of which that same Marx hasn’t even dreamed about. It is a hard task to say, in the jungle – but what kind of jungle is that? – of this supermodern capitalism, if there are archaic animals lurking for us or technological simulacra. Or will we be unexpectedly overrun by an ecollapse? Or will the former classes come out to be races, and the man of labour will be among the race of the superfluous ones – not ‘deprived’ ones any longer – those useless to the race of the practically immortal (except, maybe, as a ‘pet’ along with the dog)? Our problem is that this is no Sci-Fi novel or a scenario for an ecological thriller. How is it possible that these be the problems that worry us three decades after the collapse of the Bolshevik experiment under the Berlin Wall?
And more: what would Capital give us for the solution of these problems? Is it not just an exhibit in the museum of history of modernity, surrounded by the other bogeys that wandered across Europe after 1848? If we mean the theory as we can find it in the book, then this may well be the case; but if this is a problematic that we have inherited, a problematic in which not only solutions but problems themselves can be criticized and raised anew, then Capital could be a revolutionary chance for a politics that is already the art of the impossible. Maybe the French would be tempted to say here „Marx est mort, vive Marx!”; since we are not so elegant, we will just invite you to think this problematic together with us.
Saturday, 1 July
Official opening of the session – ‘Marx’s critique of political economy as a revolution in science’
Marx’s Capital facing the challenges of the times – chair: Andrey Raychev
Petar–Emil Mitev (plenary presentation), ‘The end of history or of “prehistory” (The problem of the historical ceiling of capitalism 50, 100 and 150 years after Capital)’
The scientific goal is to trace and compare some basic theoretical events in debates concerning the key question of the evolution/involution of capitalism and its historical boundaries. Restriction: the theoretical tradition of the left. The dating of 50, 100, 150 years is somewhat conditional.
The concept. “Was Marx wirklich sagte?” Marx’s thesis has many aspects and has been funded by diverse arguments. In the popular Marxist vulgate, just as in anti-Marxism, the political aspect is one-sidedly emphasized. By that, however, the whole construction is changed, Marx’s thesis has anthropological economic, social, political and historical aspects united by philosophical methodology.
50 years after Capital. In the theoretical and political debates, what stands out are the works of R. Hilferding (1910), R. Luxemburg (1913), K. Kautsky (1914) and V. I. Lenin (1916). The key concepts to describe changes in the capitalist system and make prognoses for its perspectives are: financial capital; monopolistic capitalism; non-capitalist environment; imperialism; ultraimperialism.
100 years after Capital. The key facts/events are the works of E. Ilyenkov 1959), E. Mandel (1962, 1972), H. Marcuse (1964), L. Althusser 1965), N. Lapin (1976), G. Lukacs (1976), E. Wallerstein (1979). Debated key concepts: late capitalism, estrangement, one-dimensional man, totalitarianism, theoretical antihumanism, Marxist ontology, capitalist world-system.
150 years after Capital. Basic facts/events are the works of Hardt and Negri (2000/2004/2009); Buzgalin and Kolvanov (2005); Wallerstein (2013). Also, taken into account are some unpublished texts by B. Muntyan (1995-2006). Keywords: Empire, global capital, ‘realm of (economic) necessity’, creatosphere, disenstrangement, structural crisis.
Logic in the succession of debates. 50 years after Capital, economical and political contradiction at a new phase of development of capitalism are in the focus of attention. 100 years after Capital, the central place is given to the human dimension of contradictions. 150 years after Capital, what comes to the fore is the process itself of ‘sunset’ of capitalism and the birth of the ‘realm of liberty’. This is also the first time when time prognoses are made concerning the upper historical limit of capitalism.
The three conditional dates mark three different periods in the development of capitalism in the 20th and the 21st centuries: geopolitical imperialism, social reformism (after the failure of fascist revolutions) and global neoliberalism. Each period contains a specific ‘self-negation’ of the capitalist system.
The ‘way out’ opposes the formation of Homo creator to powerful influences that deform and deface Homo sapiens.
To think a non–Marxian time through Capital (Public defense of the project ‘Acceleration: the problem of time in supermodern capitalism’ by Tanya Orbova, ICTS fellow) – chair: Martina Mineva
Tanya Orbova (presentation of the project)
Public defense of the project of Tanya Orbova, ICTS fellow
Liliana Deyanova, official opponent (critical comment)
Todor Hristov, official opponent (critical comment)
Tanya Orbova (reply to criticisms)
Session 3: Capital – a remake through the theory of structures of mediation, 1 – chair: Georgi Medarov
Deyan Deyanov (plenary presentation), ‘The critique of political economy as a problematic (the heritage of Marx and thinking through it)’
The presentation puts in a general form the problem: how we can think through Marx’s Capital that has long ago ceased to be Marxian – after-modern capitalism. (I insist on raising this problem in retaining the emphasis on the incommensurability between the so-called Galilean science and the science discovered by Marx – with its ‘objects with a cogito’ – for whom this same Galilean science with its mathematization of nature was a methodological model). In fact this means: how can we inherit his opus magnum as a critical theory motivated by revolutionary practices (however scandalous this may sound to some)? But it also means: how (maybe also thanks to the time distance itself) can we single out and put to criticism the modernist self-evidences, and the ideological mantras deforming his ‘critique of political economy’? I.e.: how to inherit, within his historical guilts, this form of critical theory – by theoretical redemption (which too sounds scandalous to some, albeit not the same ones).
Then, following partly the order of Capital, partly Marx’s syllogistics that I have extracted – from Capital again – through content formalizaion (sometimes Marx, like each of us, thinks in more than one logic), I will propose how to re-order it and, remaining within its problematic, I will criticize some of the problem Marx has raised as well as many of the solutions that he has proposed. The essence of this remake of Capital will be a theory of value added which, as I have stated many times, Marxifies Schumpeter and Schumpeterifies Marx. What I mean is this. In Marx’s form of expression ‘production and reproduction of relations of production’ what stays in the methodological mist is precisely the production of relations of production. Very succinctly, what I intend to prove in staying within a labour theory of value, is that these relations are the product of the innovative labour of the entrepreneur. It is with this production of relations of production that the acceleration takes place both of the labour process and – through Galilean science – the processing of natural processes, and that acceleration is the essence of the production of value added. In my view, it is the Marx’s fallacies in his theory of value added (a theory that, for many of his pupils, is not just his ‘great discovery’ but the sacred theoretical cow of the problematic of the critique of political economy) that logically entail the rest of his fallacies. (In this presentation, I will again think all of these fallacies through the replacement of the famous Marxian c+v+m by my c+v+V+m-z).
This remake happens to be possible thanks to the chances provided to the critique of political economy by the theory of structures of mediation (and of their mutual mediation in historical necessity that has happened – not by necessity – in the meeting between modern capitalism and Galilean science into modern technology). It is this meeting that has installed in the living earth below us an ecological time-bomb with a delay of several centuries (this is the metaphor in which I think the form in which we must raise anew – as living in a time that is no longer Marxian – the problem of the historical limits of both modern capitalism and Galilean science). It is worth digressing here and stating that the theory of structures of mediation, if we think of it, is too largely inherited from Marx – I mean not only that Capital itself is a theory of the economic structure of mediation of modern capitalism but also, along with that, a methodological model for any future such theory of the kind. (And if they do not want to stay uncritical to everyday evidences and the ideologemes of those practically involved in politics, science etc., critical theoreticians of supermodern capitalism must propose theories on them as structures of mediation.)
A mandatory requirement to such a remake is to put under a methodological microscope the labour theory of value, the theory of ‘being able to work (Arbeitsvermögen)’ as a commodity (hence also the so-called modal problem of Marx’s theory of value added), the theory of transformation of value added and value into profit and price, the theories of commercial profit and interest rate as converted forms of value added – and hence the theories of commercial price and interest rate in premodern economies where they couldn’t have been converted forms of value added) etc. The background of this endeavour has no way of not being the critique of Marx’s modernist theory of labour as a labour of homo faber (through Raychev’s discovery of socialized natural processes) and the critique of the otherwise brilliant in its conception ‘critical history of technology’ (through Mamardashvili’s discovery of symbols as ‘technoses’, ‘opera operans’ through which, in the ‘consumptive production’ – as Marx would say in 1857 – the human being itself is produced.).
Session 4: Capital – a remake through the theory of structures of mediation, 2 – chair: Todor Hristov
Tanya Orbova, ‘Labour force: about the theories of estranged and innovative labour’
In this presentation I will try to consider the problematic of estranged and innovative labour in the context of the critique of political economy as bequeathed by Marx, and more especially with regard of the concepts, inherited from it, of ‘socially necessary working time’, ‘labour force’, ‘new methods’ etc. On the one hand, I will try to demonstrate how ‘labour force’, considered beyond the way in which Marx interprets it on the side of its material contents (muscles, nerve, brains etc) but on the side of its social form, raises the problem of the unpregiven ’being able to work’. I.e. in abstraction from Marx’s methodological that he incessantly uses (e.g. ‘at a given stage of economic development’, ‘at a given productive labour force’, ‘given amount’ of the value of labour force etc.), I will try to consider ‘labour force’ in its development, the complex relation between the work of homo faber and that of homo inventor, between abstract labour and living labour, to reach the question: what does ‘being able to work’ mean in supermodernity?
Session 5: Capital – a remake through the theory of structures of mediation, 3 – chair: Deyan Deyanov
Georgi Medarov, ‘Innovations and the theories of crisis in Marx’s critique of political economy’
In this presentation, I will consider some possibilities and restrictions in the dialogue between Marx’s theories of crises and the issue of innovations. I am interested in the constitutive moment in the forms of appearance of crisis for its resolving by innovations that lead to new de-phasings. Crises of overproduction can be resolves as crises of the shortage of consumption, i.e. by innovations in circulation where they appear (by the Fordist regulation of accumulation: ‘mass production + mass consumption’). The crises of the 1970s are interpreted also as crises of Fordist regulation, most generally that it leads to ‘stagflation’. For the monetarist counter-revolution, ‘stagflation’ is the effect of the public support to ‘unproductive consumption’. But consumption does not return to its levels of the 19th c. The financial innovations that resolved the 1907s crisis, or the so-called ‘privatized Keynesianism’, also add ‘mass indebtedness’ to the formula of ‘mass production + mass consumption’. The crisis embedded in accumulation has been temporarily pushed into the future by financialization and the strengthening of instability. Today it begins to appear also as a crisis of the past, i.e. of the heritages of industrial capitalism. This allows the critical theory of supermodernity to recognize the crisis as a crisis of productive overconsumption (as z>0).
By this narrative on the displacements of crisis, I will raise some questions for the theory of structures of mediation. How to think the subject of innovation on such a scale (e.g. Fordist regulation of accumulation)? The scrutiny of the historical conditions of Fordism reveals a degree of dispersion of factors that is too high to allow reducing deep transformations (like Fordism) to individuals (like Ford). Therefore, all methodological individualism must be abandoned. It is also necessary to problematize the modern idealization of the division between politics and economy; in the motivation of actors, the two are too intertwined. Authors like David Harvey speak of class struggle, Fordism here is a temporary class compromise and its dissolution after the 1970s is a ‘restoration of class power’. Italian Marxists of the 1970s (e.g. Negri), on the other hand, regard innovations as ensuing from the ‘organic composition of labour’ and the regulations of accumulation (Fordism/post-Fordism) as an effect of the reaction of the capitalist class against the forms of (self-)organization of labour. In both cases, the moments of class interference between seemingly contradictory interests are missed. In this presentation, I will try to propose some opportunities of avoiding the choice between class reductionism (in a part of Marxism) and methodological individualism (in Schumpeterian neoclassical economics) in the explanation of the crisis-innovation connection.
Andrey Raychev (critical comment to the presentation of Georgi Medarov)
Georgi Medarov (reply to criticisms)
Summary discussion of afternoon sessions: ‘Capital – a remake?’
Sunday, 2 July
Session 6. The organon of the critique of political economy – chair: Andrey Raychev
Martina Mineva (plenary presentation), ‘The problem of the logics of the dialectical in Capital’
The obligation to return to the different problematizations of the logic of the dialectical in Capital through an interest in the syllogistics left to us by Marx (under the form of a logic in which he thinks there), but also to the possibilities to think a logic of the dialectical through Capital, comes not just from the motive to make a recapitulation of the productivity of the different versions of their content formalization. It emerges primarily because of the chances they provide to the theories of structures of mediation to retain, as claimed repeatedly in the discussions of the problematics, thinking supermodern capitalism through historical limits. Therefore the main goal of the presentation is to reach a thematization of the problem of retroduction as the aspect of one of the key theoretical challenges to the organon of the theory of structures of mediation: retaining the practical logics in the mutual mediation of different structures of mediation and after the ‘fateful meeting of modern capitalism and Galilean science’. For the purpose, I will follow a research strategy that first departs from two content formalizations of Marx’s syllogistics that follow Capital – that of David Harvey, on the one hand, and that of Deyan Deyanov, on the other. The later formalization, declared as the syllogistics of the so-called quantitatively expanding structures of mediation, will give a change to then pass to the problematization of the syllogistics, mainly Marx-inspired. That Deyan Deyanov proposes as a syllogistics of structures of mediation that define measure. The results of the above, in the genre of recapitulation, will provide the meaning density necessary to raise the problem of the role of retroduction in the practical logics of the discoverer, of the technological inventor and of the economical inventor in the mutual mediation of the structures of mediation of science, technology and economy.
Deyan Deyanov (critical comment to the presentation of Martina Mineva)
Martina Mineva (reply to criticisms)
Session 7. The future of the problematic of structures of mediation, thought through Marx (a brainstorming on the two ‘problem custers’ with which ICTS is to deal in the following year – ‘Time, acceleration and synchronization of accelerations’ and ‘Theory of the practical logic of innovations’) – chair: Georgi Medarov
Participants: all members of the ICTS.