. The number of such barriers is the number of moments (or sites) of the class relation.(7) The development of these conflicts are "dialectical" only in so far as capital is able to internalize its opposition, to achieve the conversion of antagonism into contradiction.
1 This analysis of capitalism as a social system based on the endless imposition of work through the commodity form was first worked out in the summer of 1975 and subsequently published in my READING CAPITAL POLITICALLY, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979. As Marx pointed out in Section 2, of chapter 10 of Volume I of Capital, capitalism did not invent surplus labor; what it did invent was the endlessness of its imposition together with the commodification of all of life.
2 The centrality of the struggle against work in the genesis of the current crisis was perceived by the Italian New Left in the late 1960s and in France and the U.S. in the 1970s. This analysis was spelled out in the journals such as: Lavoro Zero (Venice), Camarades (Paris) and Zerowork (New York). As Roediger and Foner have recently shown with regard to the waged working class in the United States, the struggle for less work has been central to the ability of American workers to unite across gender, race, skill and ethnicity throughout the history of the American labor movement. As they also amply demonstrate, the struggle against work has been intimately connected to virtually every other issue raised in American labor struggles, including wages, job control, unemployment, education, participation in politics, religious freedom, the protection of children, health, alienation, women's rights, and so on. See David Roediger and Philip Foner, OUR OWN TIME: A History of American Labor and the Working Day, New York: Verso, 1989. The more recent book by Juliet Schor, THE OVERWORKED AMERICAN, New York: Basic Books, 1991, shows that this antagonism remains at the center of the class struggle today.
3 The women's movement in the early 1970s was responsible for the development of a Marxist analysis of unwaged labor. See especially Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, THE POWER OF WOMEN AND THE SUBVERSION OF THE COMMUNITY, 1972 and the subsequent Marxist debate on "domestic labor". Unfortunately in their otherwise valuable book, Roediger and Foner mostly neglect the struggles of unwaged labor (other than the "unemployed"). Schor does better including unwaged housework in her study. Unfortunately, her focus is more on recent capitalist success at imposing more housework than on the prior and continuing struggle against it.
4 Marxist recognition of this diversity has been demanded not only by the women's movement, but also by the Black, Brown and other "new social movements". The appeal of post-modernist, post-marxist analyses can be found, in part, in the refusal by many Marxists of just this recognition.
5 Whereas Laibman speaks in terms of the "logic" of capitalism, Hans Ehrbar in his paper for this session prefers to speak in terms of the "laws" of capitalism. Both terms refer to regularities that characterize capitalism over and beyond the actions of individuals (including individual capitalists) — beyond "individual agency" in Ehrbar's paper. My argument is simply that such regularities are the outcome of confrontation between the collective (not just individual) efforts on the part of some — acting as what Marx called functionaries of capital — and the (multiple) collective efforts on the part of others (the working class). It is true enough, as Ehrbar states that individual capitalists in their competitive struggles "do not determine these laws" (see Thesis 9 above) but neither are they metaphysical; they are regularities of the class struggle over the content and form of social life.
6 As these comments should make apparent "the" dialectic is not being treated here as a transcendent historical or cosmological principle but rather as the logic of the class struggle that constitutes capitalism.
7 I would agree that Laibman's attempt to locate, without creating a hierarchy, a variety of such "sites", and their interrelationships is, as he suggests, a healthy antidote to "sectarianism and isolation" among Marxists at work on the theory of crisis. (p. 20) This is what Peter Bell argued for in his contribution "Marxist Theory, Class Struggle and the Crisis of Capitalism," in Jesse Schwartz (ed) THE SUBTLE ANATOMY OF CAPITALISM, Santa Monica: Goodyear, 1977, pp. 170-194 and to which he and I sought to contribute in Harry Cleaver and Peter Bell, "Marx's Crisis Theory as a Theory of Class Stuggle" in RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Vol. 5, 1982, pp. 189-261 and Harry Cleaver, "Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary?" in Suzanne Helburn and David Bramhall (eds) MARX, SCHUMPTER AND KEYNES: A Centenary Celebration of Dissent, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1986, pp. 126-129. The differences between Laibman's approach and ours is less in the overall intent than in the execution.
8 We thus need to reinterpret such statements as Erhbar's when he says Marx emphasizes "those crises in which there are intrinsic tendencies in capitalism which can no longer work". The "intrinsic tendencies" which "no longer work" concern the "mechanism" (to use his term) of capitalist command. They no longer work because the working class has achieved the power to rupture them. The problem, it seems to me, is first to recognize the existence of such power and then to understand how it has been achieved. 9 Thus to see class struggle as the "mode of existence of capitalism", does not imply, as David Laibman suggests in his paper , either the "eschewing" of the analysis of accumulation or a static as opposed to a dynamic approach. On the contrary, it means that the analysis of accumulation must grasp it as the accumulation of the classes with all their conflicts in all their dynamism. It means to recognize that "inherent instability" is not exterior to the class struggle but a part of it. And finally it means that the "increasing severity" of capitalist crisis is rooted in the increasing autonomy of the antagonism to capital. (compare with his pp. 2-3)
10 The quote is from Laibman, p. 10, but it is a position widely shared by Marxist theoreticians.
11 This argument was laid out in greater length in Harry Cleaver, "Competition or Cooperation?" COMMON SENSE (Edinburgh), No. 9, April 1990, pp. 20-23.
12 This kind of reinterpretation has been underway for a long time and can be found in the writings of what I call "autonomist Marxists". See for example: Mario Tronti, OPERAI E CAPITALE, Torino: Einaudi, 1964 (parts published in RADICAL AMERICA and TELOS), Harry Cleaver, READING CAPITAL POLITICALLY, op.cit., Antonio Negri, MARX OLTRA MARX, Milano: Feltrinelli, 1979 (available in English as MARX BEYOND MARX, Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1991), and the periodicals ZEROWORK (1970s), MIDNIGHT NOTES (Boston, current), NEWS & LETTERS (Chicago, current), FUTUR ANTERIUR (Paris, current), AUTONOMIA (Padova, current) and COMMON SENSE (Edinburgh, current).
13 Strictly speaking neither Marx nor Keynes were underconsumptionists because they both recognized that consumption was only one component of aggregate demand and knew better than to discuss its limits in isolation from other components. However, both understood the centrality of the wage/consumption and analysed forces which tend to constrain consumption and thus limit the size of the market.
14 For a reinterpretation of underconsumptionist arguments, such as those of Paul Sweezy, in class terms see Harry Cleaver, "Karl Marx: Economist or Revolutionary?" in Suzanne Helburn and David Bramhall (eds) op.cit.
15 Early on C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee attacked both Eugene Varga and Paul Sweezy's Marxist circulationist theories of underconsumptionism with the production centered tendency of the rate of profit to fall. See their book STATE CAPITALISM AND WORLD REVOLUTION, Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1986 (originally published in 1950), pp. 13-17. Later, when Sweezy published MONOPOLY CAPITAL, New York: Monthly Review, 1966, which he had written with Paul Baran, his neo-Keynesian underconsumptionism was again attacked, this time by Paul Mattick, e.g., "Marxism and Monopoly Capital", PROGRESSIVE LABOR 7 and 8, 1966, David Yaffe and others, again weilding the club of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.
16 Although it is theoretically possible for a change in technology to raise productivity without increasing either the hours or intensity of labor (indeed at the micro level, labor displacing technological change may reduce the amount of work), Marx showed how capital generally tries to obtain higher productivity and more work. Moreover, the increase in relative surplus value consequent upon increased productivity makes possible more investment and thus more work (including more employment) in the future.
17 Ehrbar is right (p. 3) to say Marx "latched on" to the contradiction "that production whose only purpose is valorization, develops productivity . . . [such that] production becomes more and more heavily laden with use value, and the factor labor becomes more and more irrelevent." But what this means socially is that in the attempt to impose work (value) endlessly (surplus value) it becomes harder and harder to impose work at all. Yes, the "development of the productive forces . . . makes capitalism obsolete", but the fundamental "productive force" is living labor power, i.e., the creative power of the working class. This is the kind of defetishization that we have to do: figure out how to see the social relationships represented by Marxist concepts and thus the social dynamics analyzed by Marxist theory. It should also be noted that "wagelessness", as indicated in Thesis 4, does not automatically mean no, or even less, work. On the contrary, where capital has the power to limit workers access to the earth and tools (to sustain or intensify primitive accumulation) the dearth of jobs can mean more work — the work of survival. See Midnight Notes, THE NEW ENCLOSURES, Fall 1990. However, it is also true that where the unwaged are able to expand their ability to live on their own, self-valorization can expand at the expense of valorization. Thus while the displacement of waged labor by automation may lead to crisis and opportunities, it by no means guarantees a "Path to Paradise", as Andre Gorz would have us believe.
18 Those fascinated with the latest, most sophisticated forms of capitalist management sometimes forget that IMF imposed starvation in Africa, massive bombing in the Persian Gulf, ethnic cleansing in ex-Yugoslavia, the bombing of abortion centers and the accentuated exploitation of children in factories and brothels are also integral moments of the attempts by capital to reestablish its command in this period. For a class critique of regulation theory see: Giuseppe Cocco et Carlo Vercelone, "Les paradigmes sociaux du post-fordisme",FUTUR ANTERIEUR, No. 4, hiver 90, pp. 71-94 and Werner Bonefeld and John Holloway (eds) POST-FORDISM AND SOCIAL FORM: A Marxist Debate on the Post-Fordist State, London: Macmillan and CSE, 1991.
19 If the dialectic is the logic of class stuggle within capital, there is no A PRIORI reason to expect that understanding the "logic" of those antagonistic but constitutive forces of self-valorization which drive beyond capital are "dialectical" in the Marxian sense. On this subject see my "Marxian Categories, the Crisis of Capital and the Constitution of Social Subjectivity Today" in this volume.