Friday, June 1, 2012

A Post In Which I Actually Discuss CLR James!

If you're so interested, here's a link to an article I just published in Social Text on CLR James. A  brief word on the article. I initially wrote it with the aim of critiquing the ontological status that Italian Marxism accords to Marx's analytics of formal and real subsumption. Simply put, I think it is a methodologically suspect move. The determination of a tendency--e.g., capitalism's tendency toward the real subsumption of labor processes--is useful only to the extent that it provides a hermeneutic that potentiates practio-theoretical interventions. But the moment that the tendency is hypostatized into a claim about actuality, a sleight of hand is taking place. In the case of Italomarxism, this involves rethinking the entirety of global resistance to capitalism from the perspective of the really subsumed sociality of post-Fordism. This synecdoche has practical political consequences: the vast majority of the world's non-post-Fordist laborers do not seem to contribute to the material and ontological frame that will have enabled a post-capitalism world. So, a kind of first-worldist vanguardism. What such hypostatized tendentialism centered on post-Fordism will miss, precisely because it needs all sociality to have been subsumed into capital, is how the non-subsumed socialities of most-of-the-world can be potentiated as points to interrupt capitalism. (What would happen if Negri read the world from the perspective of the late late Marx, the Marx who wrote about the Russian commune? Check out Shanin's Late Marx and the Russian Road for this.) None of this made it into the article. But I wrote it to explore how non-subsumed socialities, at the moment that they are threatened with real subsumption into (in this case, Fordist) capitalism, can be set to work to potentiate new futures.

But it reads differently to me now, as it did as I prepared final edits. The article is about James' writings on a group of sharecroppers in Missouri who were evicted from their lands in the 30s and 40s. What did the sharecroppers do? Well...

...they occupied. A roadside. The whole apparatus of the state was called in against them. Occupy is familiar with the claims the state made to justify its intervention: their encampment posed a public health risk. They refused to move, but were eventually carted away. Bloomberg style.

My point here, I guess--and it's also another point of the article, which explores transnational networks of activist epistemologies--is that Occupy might find its roots in movements such as these. We don't need the fictive refusal of St Bartleby, the image of the chap who refuses to labor from the inside of finance capital. Let's look away from Wall Street and think the refusal of those who won't let go of the a-capitalist socialities that they shared, who auto-immobilize these socialities in the name of resisting their reconstitution for capitalism. Indeed, we who Occupy might de-center our resistance to capitalism and begin to think anti-capitalist futures from "peripheral" socialities that are formally and unevenly articulated to capitalist markets. What if we were to place Occupations in a line with Marx's Russian commune, James' sharecroppers cooperatives, Mariategui's allyus, and so on? What links these social modalities is that, in one way or another, they are defective for capitalism--they require reconstitution to work for it. I want to suggest that Occupy shows us how truly possible it is to produce, in our present, modalities of being-with that are similarly defective for capitalism. Anti-capitalist futures are literally all around us--or, rather, between us, inhering in the open potentiality that characterizes being-with. Wherever one is: on a roadside in Missouri, in front of City Hall in Philly, or perhaps even on Wall Street or the Google Campus.