Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sicklied O'er With The Pale Cast Of Thought

"'In truth, however, value is here [in capital] the active factor in a process, in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and commodities, it at the same time changes in magnitude, differentiates itself by throwing off surplus-vaule from itself; the original value, in other words, expands spontaneously. For the movement, in the course of which it adds surplus-value, is its own movement, its expansion, therefore, is automatic expansion. Because it is value, it has acquired the occult quality of being able to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs...

In simple circulation, C-M-C, the value of commodities attained at the most a form independent of their use-values, i.e., the form of money; but the same value now in the circulation M-C-M, or the circulation of capital, suddenly presents itself as an independent substance, endowed with a motion of its own, in which money and commodities are mere forms which it assumes and casts off in turn. Nay, more: instead of simply representing the relations of commodities, it enters now, so to say, into private relations with itself. It differentiates itself as original value from itself as surplus value; as the father differentiates himself from himself qua the son, yet both are one and of one age: for only by the surplus-value of 10 pounds does the 100 pounds originally advanced become capital, and so on as this takes place, so soon as the son, and by the son, the father is begotton, so soon does their difference vanish, and they again become one, 110 pounds.' [Marx, Capital, V. 1, 171-173]
...Is capital, then, the true Subject/Substance? Yes and no: for Marx, this self-engendering circular movement is - to put it in Freudian terms - precisely the capitalist 'unconscious fantasy' which parasitizes upon the proletariat as the 'pure substanceless subjectivity'; for this reason, capital's speculative self-generating dance has a limit, and it brings about the conditions of its own collapse. This insight allows us to solve the key interpretative problem of the quote above: how are we to read its first three words, 'In truth, however'? First, of course, they imply that this truth has to be asserted against some false appearance or experience: the everyday experience that the ultimate goal of capital's circulation is still the satisfaction of human needs, that capital is just a means to bring this satisfaction about in a more efficient way. This 'truth', however, is not the reality of capitalism: in reality, capital does not engender itself, but exploits the worker's surplus-value. There is thus a necessary third level to be added to the simple opposition of subjective experience (of capital as a simple means of efficiently satisfying people's needs) and objective social reality (of exploitation): the 'objective deception', the disavowed 'unconscious' fantasy (of the mysterious self-generating circular movement of capital), which is the truth (although not the reality) of the capitalist process. Again - to quote Lacan - truth has the structure of a fiction: the only way to formulate the truth of capital is to present this fiction of its 'immaculate' self-generating movement. And this insight also enables us to locate the weakness of the 'deconstructionist' appropriation of Marx's analysis of capitalism: although it emphasizes the endless process of deferral which characterizes this movement, as well as its fundamental inconclusiveness, its self-blockade, the 'deconstructionist' retelling still describes the 'fantasy' of capital - it describes what individuals believe, although they don't know it." -- Slavoj Zizek (2006). The Parallax View, MIT Press: 59-60.

No comments: