File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 20


Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 18:58:12 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Re: capitalist social structures are false, Ruth


Hi Howard,

>It is possible to say the wage form is false.  But while the separations I
>just referred to can be described pretty much the way an oak tree can be
>described, the wage form is false because of the meanings embedded in it.

Seems to me you've conceded the point here. Of course the wage form
secretes meanings, but it's not a proposition, it's a set of internally
related social practices, i.e. a social structure.

>capitalist relations are through and through, to their deepest
>recesses, hypocritical, and that is true -- they cannot be made not
>hypocritical.  But now I know I am talking in the way I would talk about my
>uncle Ben.

But your uncle Ben isn't a proposition either. He's a fraud, and to that
extent a false being, untrue to his essential or higher self (as he
himself attests in his cringing body language).

Mervyn



 Howard Engelskirchen <howarde-AT-twcny.rr.com> writes
>Phil,
>
>How am I supposed to read the statement that capitalist social structures
>are false?   It reads to me like saying 'the oak tree in my front yard is
>false.'  It doesn't make any sense.  Unless there isn't an oak tree in my
>front yard -- but that is definitely not the case with capitalist social
>structures.  Or it can mean something like saying "my uncle Ben is false,"
>ie he's a hypocritical old son of a gun.  But then you're not really engaged
>in a discussion about realist ontologies.  That's Ruth's point.  Or you
>could say "my uncle Jim is false," and it would be false because you don't
>have an uncle Jim,  etc.
>
>Let me put it in directly materialist terms.  Charles Bettelheim describes
>the central characteristic of the capitalist mode of production as a "double
>separation" -- the separation of the direct producers from the means of
>production and the separation of productive enterprises from one another.
>You can't meaningfully say these capitalist social structures are false.
>They describe, in a straightforward way, twin material social relations of
>producers to nature and to each other.  That is, I can make an ontologically
>realist statement -- identifying the separation of workers from the means of
>production describes a real state of affairs; it describes how the world is.
>The same with the separation of productive enterprises from one another.
>These statements describe fundamentally important causal structures, and we
>need representations that with approximate accuracy describe such
>structures.  By saying something true about what capitalist social relations
>are and how they behave, we can guide our practice to overcome them.
>Moreover we know that without overcoming these twin separations we can't get
>beyond capitalist social relations.
>
>It is possible to say the wage form is false.  But while the separations I
>just referred to can be described pretty much the way an oak tree can be
>described, the wage form is false because of the meanings embedded in it.
>The wage form presents itself as a form of equivalence, as a fair day's work
>for a fair day's wage, but it isn't that at all.  In fact, the exchange of
>labor power for a wage initiates the act of the appropriation of surplus
>labor without the exchange of any equivalent.  So insofar as it presents
>itself as an equivalent exchange -- which because it actually is a commodity
>exchange it actually is -- then it is hypocritical and false.  Better to say
>this:  it actually is an equivalent exchange and it actually isn't.  Both
>descriptions work because the exchange of labor power for a wage is really
>two different material social relations at once, and both are true.  On the
>one hand it is an exchange of commodities, on the other hand it is an
>integral part of the social relation of capital.  It exists at an
>intersection of contradiction; in the wage relation the commodity relation
>and the capital relation contradict each other so each makes the other
>false.  Hence capitalist relations are through and through, to their deepest
>recesses, hypocritical, and that is true -- they cannot be made not
>hypocritical.  But now I know I am talking in the way I would talk about my
>uncle Ben.
>
>You can say that measured against some projection of what human nature must
>become teleologically, capitalist social relations are false, but then we
>risk straying from the path of materialism.  Or, better, we could say it
>this way:  we know actually existing capitalism is destructive to most
>living and especially human things, so in that sense capitalist social
>relations are false, and some such statement can be understood without
>teleology in a fully materialist fashion.  But however we present the
>matter, to transform capitalism you have to know what its social relations
>actually are and know pretty accurately how they behave.  You need
>approximately true representations of what they actually are to guide
>practice.
>
>(Also, it's false to say there are no other historical materialists on the
>list.  You can say there are no good ones, but that is another issue.  Suppo
>se you say, no, I mean there are no other ones in the sense that there can
>only be good historical materialists; bad ones are not historical
>materialists at all.  But now you are locked again into a funny ontology.)
>
>Howard
>
>



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