At no point in its evolution did Marxism ever surrender a concern with alienation or cease struggling against it. Yet there was also a shift in the salience of alienation within Marxism due, in part, to the shift in its theoretic languages. As Marx encountered it, alienation was part of the lexicon of philosophy. Going from Hegel's conceptual system to that of political economy meant a transition from a language within which "alienation" could be spoken at the most general level to one in which it could not.
Yet while alienation is spoken of less frequently as Marxism develops its political economy, it was expressed in other ways. One is in terms of Marx's concept of generalized "surplus value" that is produced by the worker but appropriated by the capitalist. At another more general level, Marx's analysis of the "blind laws" of capitalism refers to a condition in which the economy itself has become the actor, the potent "subject," and has deprived persons of their autonomy. The very autonomy of the system's economic laws, then, generates an alienation of persons and is capitalism's basic pathology. From a standpoint congenial to a Critical Marxism, therefore, socialism means destroying the autonomy of the economy and bringing it under the control of society. Marx's formulation is not, therefore, simply a bland description of capitalism but the simultaneous critique of it as a monstrous system whose very systemness usurped humanity's prerogatives. Alienation and the critique of alienation thus continue from the young to the old Marx.
Nonetheless, within this continuity there is also discontinuity. While Marx remains committed to the critique of alienation, his understanding of it shifts as he moves from the language of German philosophical idealism to that of political economy, and from a focus on "man" as a species to the more concrete study of the specific social roles "workers" and "capitalists" play within historically limited capitalist societies. As Marx situates his studies within an historical analysis of capitalism, and views its social structures as a constraining social system, the focus on alienation narrows to the alienation of labor through the capitalist's appropriation of the worker's unpaid labor. Other forms of alienation are ignored as it comes to be supposed that the remedy of this labor-centered alienation will more or less automatically repair all the others. Revolution, then, no longer has the character of the "universal human emancipation" sought by the young Marx but becomes the historically specific and sociologically limited revolution against capitalism on behalf of socialism.
As Marxism developed, then, it manifested a growing movement toward a "sociologism" or "economism." Having begun with the diagnosis that humanity's central problem was alienation—i.e., dependence or the loss of potent subjecthood— Marx moved toward a focus in which alienation and exploitation are seen as grounded ultimately in scarcity. It is not, however, that scarcity ever replaces alienation but overlays, partly refocuses and redefines it. The ancient enemy, scarcity, assumes a more salient place as Marx shifts his theoretical languages, moving from philosophy to political economy. A commitment to political economy inevitably implies a commitment to its main problematic: scarcity. As Marx formulated it: "Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production."'
In short, scarcity is a universal problem with which all economies—including socialism—must contend. Indeed, he adds that "with his [man's] development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants," adding, however, that "at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase." Scarcity, then, is in part physical and in part socially induced, the latter continually increasing human wants. Note, however, that wants are in part induced socially, but never restrained socially. There is an undertow here of a conception of human insatiability, for men's wants, growing ever greater, would appear incapable of achieving any final satisfaction. Satisfaction recedes even as production increases.
In noting Marx's push into political economy's central problematic, I do not mean that Marx, like the classical political economists, centered his analysis on supply and demand or on the price consequences of scarcity. Marx, rather, centered his own political economy on production, productivity, and the forces and relations of production. Jean Baudrillard observes" that Marx's critique of capitalism is grounded in his judgement that capitalism, especially its relations of production, sabotages productivity, that is, the forces of production. Although capitalism was originally a revolutionary force whose vast development of productivity lay the groundwork for socialism and an ultimate escape from scarcity, at some point, capitalism also inhibits, restrains, "contradicts" this very productivity; the forces of production must, therefore, be liberated from capitalist property.
Paradoxically, Marx's paean to productivity is the "scientific" sublimation of the early nineteenth-century romantic adulation of Promethean "creativity." It was the romantics who had counterposed living creativity to "dead" mechanization; their exaltation of creativity is expressed in Marx's own emphasis on the "creative" power of labor and the working class. Rather than invidiously counterposing creativity to modern mechanization and science, however, Marx defines creativity as essentially a process of labor epitomized by the working class's exclusive capacity to generate economic value and "surplus value." Labor becomes the political economy of the life force. Creativity is thus no longer "romanticized" as the exclusive possession of"genius" (another romantic enthrallment) and is defined not only in terms of imagination but in terms of energy and methodical bodily work. Creativity is thus both democratized and Protestantized. Rescued from the romantics' effusions, it is brought to the interface with the gospel of work, on the one side, and on the other, with scientific and technological modernity. Marx is attempting both to demystify creativity and to make it the center of his world view.
While installing labor and productivity as the uniquely human form of creativity, in contrast to the romantics' accent on the symbolic aspects of creativity, Marx, correspondingly, diminishes the significance of symbolic activity in its everyday, prosaic forms as language' speech, symbolic interaction, and culture. Humanity is thus largely viewed as self-produced and defined by labor, rather than its symbolic talents and linguistic heritage. The human "essence is now work, not language, not the symbolic, not culture. In Marx, then, the economic and instrumental side of human and social activity comes to overshadow the symbolic and cultural, which is what the subsequent crystallization of Critical Marxism, in some part, attempts to repair.
Yet even after Marx entrenched his work in political economy, there are always two layers in his concern with labor and production. In one, there is an implication of the struggle against scarcity; at a deeper and now more obscure level, however, the labor emphasis still resonates the older struggle against alienation to restore man's Promethean subjecthood through labor. The first level, labor as antiscarcity, is preserved in Scientific Marxism; the second, labor as antialienation and as human "creativity," is situated in Critical Marxism.
As Marx's theoretical labors penetrate the technical complexities of classical political economy, the very structure of these new theoretical commitments embed his analysis in a more purely economistic conception of scarcity. At the same time, however, his older, alienation-grounded focus also led to a reciprocal change in the way he interprets political economy itself, moving it from a distribution, supply-and-demand, price-centered economics to a production-centered economic sociology. Here, the struggle against alienation's crippling of man's subjecthood is never extinguished, although it is now edged onto the periphery.
How production proceeds, with what instruments and forces, within what system of social and property relationships, with what intention, now becomes Marx's central concern. "Capitalism" is now defined as a system of commodity production where goods are predominantly produced, not with the aim of satisfying human needs, not, in short, because of their "use value," but because of their ''exchange value" on the market. This very distinction between use value and exchange value implies a critique of capitalism's subordination of the former to the latter; there is an intimation that, in this, there is something intrinsically perverse about capitalism.
Capitalism is judged here from the standpoint of an abiding conception of what is normal and proper to human beings, of a philosophical anthropology within which the critique of alienation condemns the violation of people's inherent nature as a potent subject. In that vein, it is noted that under capitalism even people's capacity to labor, their labor power, has become a commodity, so that the human life force itself becomes something sold in the market place. The very production system established to serve people's needs now alienates them, subjugates and makes them its instruments; people are now controlled by blind forces. It is characteristic of capital, said Marx, that man's own products and creativity subjugate him, become a power over and independent of him. It is essential to capitalism's nature, he said, that it is "an independent social power . . . the dominion of past accumulated labour over immediate living labour.... It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour."3 The present thus becomes subservient to the past, the living to the dead, the creative to the parasitic.
The problem, however, is this: There is nothing in the analysis of the blind laws of capitalism which grounds and justifies the evaluative standard in terms of which Marx tacitly views, judges, and rejects these laws. Why, after all, should one assume that people ought not be treated as cogs in the machinery of capitalism? What justifies the assumption that people should be treated with dignity and not transformed into insignificant ciphers? From the standpoint of a Scientific Marxism, however, it is not the task of political economy to do anything more than determine the laws of capitalism, to study how this economy operates, and what will happen as it evolves. From the standpoint of a scientific socialism and its political economy, the critical posture of the philosophical anthropology implicated in Critical Marxism entails a certain soft sentimentality, an arbitrary moralizing; it is an embarrassment that tends to be repressed. There is inherent in such a political economy a tendency to segregate itself from Critical Marxism and to become a "value-free" scientific socialism or an academic Scientific Marxism. It is essentially out of a similar difficulty that nineteenth-century sociological positivism—which for Comte and Saint-Simon entailed a religion of humanity and also sought a social reconstruction—itself evolved into modern "value-free" normal academic sociology. The problem was that if Marxism (or, for that matter, academic sociology) could not justify the values in which it was grounded neither could it free itself of dependence on such values. What actually happens is not the achievement of a value-free condition but the repression and masking of the values on which both disciplines actually rest. There then develops a compensatory ideology of value freeness, a merely dramaturgical affirmation of the principle of value freeness, that occludes the reality of value unfreeness in practice.
As Marx pushed deeper into political economy his focus on the analysis of production intensifies. One expression of this is the central importance he attributes to social "classes" as defined by their common relationship to the means of production. The capitalist class is characterized by its control and ownership of the means of production and its purchase of the proletariat's labor time while the proletariat, constrained by its propertylessness, must sell its labor power on the market for a wage. In time and in the course of struggle, a class may develop a common consciousness of its own condition—a class consciousness—thus becoming a class "for itself' instead of only a class "in itself."
Marx's very conception of class struggle reveals the characteristic ambivalences between his structural scientific socialism, on the one side, and his voluntaristic Critical Marxism, on the other. On the voluntaristic side, Marx argues that while capitalism's development will make ever greater encroachments on the working class, pushing the value of labor power down to a minimum, nonetheless, the workers have a duty to keep on struggling, even for improvements that can only be temporary. There is something very classically Greek in Marx's insistence that the workers owe it to themselves, to their human nature, not to stop struggling, for "if they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken down wretches past salvation." Their struggle must persist, says Marx, even though they are for the most part on a treadmill, i.e., are "only efforts at maintaining the given value of labour." Workers who stopped struggling would be cowards who had failed in their historical duty: "By cowardly giving way in their everyday conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement." In this voluntaristic mood, then, Marx held that workers had a duty to struggle against capital, which they owed to their own manhood and to history. But where is it written that men must fulfill their duty to anyone? In the last analysis, that judgement is grounded in Marx on the unsupported conception of human nature which underlies the entire theory of alienation, namely, that it is inherent in human nature for persons to be potent, active beings, subjects' rather than passive cogs.
In contrast to this voluntaristic view on class struggle, there is also a deterministic side in which Marx stresses that there are limits on the improvements that struggle can achieve under capitalism, so long as the wage system remains. For "the very development of modern industry must progressively turn the scale in favour of the capitalist against the working man . . . the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget they are fighting the effects, but not the causes of these effects they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction." In general, Marx held that in its "merely economic action capital is the stronger side" and hence workers must move beyond wage demands to "general political action," and they ought to understand that, "with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economic reconstruction of society."4
Given its basic structure, there was little workers could do to improve their condition in any fundamental way under capitalism and its wage system. Yet, they were to continue struggling, partly as a duty to themselves and history, partly to educate and to transform themselves (another duty?) in preparation for their overthrow of capitalism and its limits. But if the structure of capitalism offered little room for significant improvement, what would keep workers struggling against it? Little, it would seem, except a theoretical understanding whose vision transcended the boundaries of the present. But how can ordinary workers acquire such a transcending vision? Indeed, Marx recognizes there is a danger that workers might confine themselves simply to an effort to improve their economic condition and, indeed, he warns them that they ought "not be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up.''5
Why is it, however, that classes enter into struggle? They are essentially seeking to improve their share of the economic surplus. It is the routine production of the economic surplus and the struggle over its appropriation that is at the core of mature Marxism: "The specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of direct producers determines the relationship of rulers to ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and in turn reacts upon it as a determining element. . . . It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers . . . which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state."6
In Marx's view, the "surplus" is everything produced by labor over and above the cost of the labor power for which the worker was paid wages. It is this surplus that is central to the class struggle and the spoils of victory in it. Where the forces of production are well developed, the surplus can be greater than where they are immature. There are, however, two fundamentally different but conflated conceptions of how the surplus is constituted. In one, a view congenial to scientific socialism, the surplus exists as a product of the forces of production, prior to and distinct from its capture through class struggle. In this view, the surplus is only allocated by the class struggle, being a thing apart from it that will be the victor's prize. Here, the forces of production create the surplus; the class struggle only allocates it.
In a second conception, however, more congenial to Critical Marxism, it is not only the forces of production but the very class struggle itself that generates the surplus. The sheer size of the surplus is, in this view, not dependent only on the level of productivity but also on the power of the dominant class to exploit the working class, and on the latter's power to resist that effort. The size (hence, existence) of the surplus, then, will vary with the ruthlessness and power of the ruling class and with the courage or determination of the workers. The surplus, here, then, is not simply constituted structurally by the mode of production but is constituted voluntaristically by struggle.
Under some historical conditions it is perfectly plain, says Marx, which class is appropriating which class's work product. Under feudalism, for example, serfs worked a certain number of days for themselves while setting aside a definite number of days to work for their feudal lord. Under capitalism, however, there is no direct political-military domination, all goods and services appear to be exchanged freely and voluntarily and, therefore, presumably in accord with their true value. How, then, can there be the accumulation of a surplus in the form of profits, interest, rents?
Marx replies that there is one unusual commodity—and one alone—which produces more than its value, which produces a surplus value systematically appropriated by the capitalist; this, of course, is the proletariat's labor power. Since the worker's surplus value is not extracted from them under threat or violence, but is freely exchanged on the market, then the very existence of the surplus, and of its origin in the worker's activity, is concealed under capitalism. This concealment is a special factor in protecting the hegemony of the ruling class. It is clearly suggested that it is not simply the workers' exploitation but, additionally, their knowledge of that exploitation (or lack of it) which is a distinct factor in generating resistance to it. This voluntaristic side of the matter, while indicated clearly enough, is, however, never allowed to assume anything like the importance that Marx attributed to the sheer production of surplus value and its appropriation by the capitalist. Here, then, "critique" is subordinated to structural analysis.
Since the problem of the surplus is central to Marx's political economy, its production and distribution (as Marx viewed it) deserves to be described in greater detail. Marx himself 7 saw his main contributions to the study of capitalism as twofold: first, his distinction between labor as a use value, actually employed in the productive process, and labor power as exchange value, that is, as a commodity bought and sold on the labor market; second, his systematic, generalized analysis of the production of surplus value (grounded in the above distinction) which focuses on the fact that what capital buys from the worker, indeed paying its true value, is only the capacity to do work, (which Marx terms) labor power. The actual use of this potential labor is something else again, and the actual labor produces more value, surplus value, over and above the value which has been given in exchange for the workers' labor power. The class struggle is stimulated by the existence of this anterior surplus and by the effort to control and appropriate it. This conception of the production of the surplus has overtones of Scientific Marxism's economism.
According to Marx, then, while labor power in capitalist society is a commodity like others, it has an extraordinary character not shared by any other commodity: it is a creative, value-producing force, being alone capable of producing more value than it itself has. Because of the capitalist relations of production, all the value produced by the worker belongs to the capitalist, since the latter has bought the workers' labor power. The working class, then, is paid only for its labor power, not for its actual labor, thus receiving only part of what it produces. In this, Marx like the other political economists8 had assumed that labor alone was the source of value all the other forces and factors—for example, capital or land— simply allowing their owners a claim on the surplus produced, but not actually producing it.
Marx's argument is that the ''exchange value" of any commodity refers to "the proportional quantities in which it exchanges for all other quantities." Since the value of any commodity can be expressed in terms of many others, "it must be something distinct from and independent of these. . . . We must be able to reduce all of them to an expression common to all, and distinguishing them only by the proportions in which they contain that same and identical measure. . . . What is the common social substance of all these commodities? It is labour . . . not only labour, but social labour . . . the average amount of labor socially necessary, under any given division of labor to produce it. . . . A commodity has value, because it is a crystallization of social labour, which also includes the labor involved in the raw materials and machines and tools consumed during the course of its production."9
Upon what, however, does the value of labor power itself depend? This, says Marx, is determined like the value of any other commodity, i.e., by the labor socially necessary to reproduce it which is here the labor necessary to reproduce the working class itself. Marx adds, however, that "the value of labour is in every country determined by a traditional standard of life. It is not mere physical life, but it is the satisfaction of certain wants springing from the social conditions in which people are placed and reared up. . . . This historical social element ... may be expanded or contracted."10
It is clear that for Marx, however, this social element, this symbolic and cultural aspect, is an untheoretized residual factor. It is added unsystematically, for the sake of ''realism.'' His central emphasis, however, is on labor power's determination by "the quantity of labour necessary to maintain or reproduce it."11 Marx thus acknowledges that, quite apart from the economic cost of reproducing labor power, wages include a traditional sociohistorical element, a society's more or less shared notion of a "normal" wage and normal standard of living for workers, that varies from place to place and time to time. But on what does this varying historical element itself depend? Marx simply does not confront this, leaving it unasked and unanswered.
In point of fact, however, at least two considerations seem to influence this sociohistorical element: first, there is the development of the forces of production themselves, i.e., the more advanced they are, the higher the wage and standard of living defined as normal for a working class in a given society; second, there is the working class's own militancy and the effectiveness of its own struggles, i.e., the more militantly and effectively it struggles, the higher the wage and standard of living that comes to be defined as "normal" for the working class.
In the first instance, however, if the traditional or "normal' wage is dependent on the development of productivity, wages would rise and class struggle would diminish with industrialization; the more mature the capitalism, the less, not the more, class struggle. This, indeed, seems to be what happened historically. In the second case, where the wage that comes to be deemed normal depends on workers' own struggles, it is not that the class struggle derives from a contest over a surplus value already in being rather, it determines this surplus value itself. There is thus no "law of value" dependent simply on the structural characteristics and blind economic laws of capitalism; instead, the very value (and law of value) of labor depends in part on a political and voluntaristic element, class struggle. When Marx invokes a "traditional" element in the value of labor power, he is in effect hiding his economism under an untheoretized, ad hoc historicism.
If the value of a commodity, for Marx, depends on the amount of socially necessary labor incorporated in it, this "labor" is not simply equivalent to an amount of physical energy. Clearly energy can be expended, as in the explosion of a volcano, in which no work is accomplished and no value accrued. The question, then, is under what conditions does energy generate value? Marx maintained that human labor differs from the work of a bee in that it is guided by foresight or a plan. If energy is expended in order to achieve an imagined condition, it is not, however, only because this condition can be foreseen but also because it is desired or valued. As I will later note, Engels himself remarks that even animals act with foresight and anticipation. Labor is energy expended with the intention of achieving a desired future state. Labor, then, is energy expended with a view to achieving a desired future condition, an end, which is continuously monitored in terms of the approach to this end; it is a disciplined process of conformity to norms, to valued conditions. Labor, then, is not just energy expended but energy expenditures controlled by value commitments.
It is not simply, however, that there are two independent elements in the equation constituting work—i.e., energy and norms—because the latter themselves are among the things influencing the energies available. Given a commitment to a set of values, energies are generated to achieve them. What constitutes labor, then, cannot be defined independent of—but is itself partly dependent on—a symbolic system of culture with its values. As Paul Schrecker has observed, "all work implies the perfectability of the object worked on."12 Labor, then, is culture dependent and thus culture constituted. It is not labor but merely energy that exists apart from culture.
Labor and culture, then, are not independent domains. Without tile existence of human purposes defined in terms of some social standard there can only be prehuman "work" which, while producing energy interchanges between organisms and nature, cannot produce values. When Marx notes that only the "socially necessary" labor time produces value, this acknowledges that it is not the sheer number of hours worked that determines value, but the conformity of this labor to some value standard, if only to a standard of efficiency. To note that some labor process was not socially necessary implies that it could have been otherwise, that there was not only an alternative but one that was preferable and which is, indeed, socially used as a standard.
In defining value as labor crystallized in commodities, Marx is saying value does not depend upon what anyone thinks, knows, or believes and that it does not depend on the utility imputed by persons to a commodity. Value depends, then, in no way on the "subjective" standpoint of the participants involved, but only on the amount of labor "objectively" incorporated in a commodity. Value is thus, for Marx, in the commodity; it is a substance that inheres in it and whose effects are not mediated by human judgement, but, rather, shape judgements including those about the prices people are, in the long run, willing to pay. Insofar as Marx holds that this process takes place apart from people's desires, his theory of value forgoes all subject-object interaction; it is a political economy consonant with his structuralism and his philosophical materialism, laying the groundwork for the evolution of an economistic "scientific socialism" out of Marxism.
In defining labor power as a commodity like any other, Marx implies that it will be subject primarily to considerations of cost and to the logic of efficiency, even though it consists of a human being's lifetime. Marx does not think that moral considerations will limit the exploitation of labor any more than it limits the use of oil or wood. For Marx, as political economist, it is not a question of what people may want to do by reason of their moral code but, rather, of what the conditions in which they find themselves will allow or constrain them to do. "The will of the capitalist is certainly to take as much as possible," observes Marx. "What we have to do," however, "is not to talk about his will but to enquire into this power, the limits of this power, and the character of those limits."13 Marx as political economist is thus increasingly Marx the "Scientific Marxist," whose theme is the central theme of materialism: i.e., that it is not the consciousness of persons that determines their social being but their social being that determines their consciousness. Here, then, moralities, ideologies, symbol systems' culture, are the shaped rather than the shapers.
One of the most important if masked expressions of this may be found in Marx's theory (or "law") of value, which holds that the ratios in which commodities tend—in some unspecified long run—to be exchanged with one another depends on the differing amounts of labor each incorporates. In principle, if a barrel of crude oil has seven times the value of a bushel of wheat (as at the time I write), this implies that the labor incorporated in the former is considerably greater than that in the latter. If the difficulties here are obvious they are even more burdensome in any attempt to account for the ten-fold increase in the value of oil during the 1970's in terms of the labor theory of value.
Marx, of course, did not hold that value—which he did not equate with price—increased simply when the labor incorporated in commodities increased, for that would make commodities inefficiently produced more valuable than those produced efficiently. Marx, therefore, added that a commodity's value depends on the amount of incorporated labor that was "socially necessary." How, then, does one distinguish necessary from unnecessary labor? For the most part, Marx seems to have assumed that necessary labor was that performed diligently with modern means of production.
This implied that the work process, rather than being governed by guild-imposed traditions, could vary in labor intensity, methods or machinery, and that producers could and would choose among alternatives. The theory of value, then, premised that a mode of production was not externally imposed but could be scrutinized selected, and changed in accordance (at least in part) with the will of the capitalist producer. Underneath labor that was socially necessary there was tacit choice and commitment
Certainly this is implied by Marx's discussion of the manner in which the value of labor itself was determined by an historically evolved customary standard of living. For this means that workers will not exert themselves for less than the customary standard of living and may choose not to work at all—going on strike or on the dole—if wages do not sustain them in a standard of living they deem proper. Thus whether or not labor is "socially necessary" depends partly on whether working enables workers to fulfill their values.
For the most part, however, Marx emphasized that workers labored and capitalists managed as they did because they had to, being pressed in the first case by the invisible threat of starvation and, in the second, by the threat of competition. These extreme cases, however, could also lead to a disinvestment of work or capital. In addition, they divert attention from the larger range of situations in which persons normally seek to compromise various demands made on them, to make time (and other resources) available to meet other obligations (for example, to kin and friends), or to pursue "leisure" interests. Persons are often prepared to continue diseconomies if this allows them room to satisfy some of their other values. Economizing behavior commonly undermines the pursuit of other values, among them, as Marx noted, the most sacred; yet other values correspondingly limit the sphere of economizing behavior. The most strictly economizing behavior is possible and tolerable primarily where person and capital are separated, and when investments of the latter do not involve participation of the person. But if it is possible for a capitalist to invest his money without committing his person, it is not possible for the worker to do so with his time.
Marx's general premise was that economizing behavior is the product of "necessity," because the economizers would squeeze out those who did not. Even under capitalism, however, formal and informal group arrangements—trade unions or cartels—can protect those refusing to economize. Both workers and capitalists seek to split the link between their incomes and their productivity. Economizing is thus only a tendency under capitalism. But is it a tendency of capitalism alone? Apparently not, since all the "socialist" societies we have seen in this century have also been disposed to economize. Indeed, this might be better said as follows: as long as the economizing imperatives of the law of value persist, any society remains ''capitalist." This, whether or not it has a bourgeoisie which privately owns the means of production. Continued operation of the law of value in collectivist societies, then, means that capitalism survives beyond the bourgeoisie; it means that there can be capitalism without a bourgeoisie.
The historical role of the bourgeoisie, then, has been to serve as a starting mechanism for capitalism but, at some point, they cease being needed for capitalism's reproduction and maintenance Most generally, what is useful here is an analytical distinction between culture structure and social structure; more particularly, a distinction is required between the culture of capitalism and its class structure originally dominated by a bourgeoisie. The latent historical function of scientific Marxism has been the destruction only of the latter class structure and the simultaneous reproduction of capitalist culture.
This is clearly the case where self-described "socialisms" tighten labor discipline, intensify productivity, and inhibit waste, pressing toward cheaper costs of production and lowered unit costs. The culture of capitalism is not transcended but reproduced when socialist societies tighten work discipline and intensify productivity. Indeed, a similar (not identical) social structure is also reproduced by the same process, differentiating between workers who are controlled from above and a management which controls them and which, seeking increased returns on funds invested intensifies labor's dependence and management's domination—a far cry from any form of democratic self-management by workers
What Marxists have historically called "socialism" has in fact— although scarcely in their self-understanding—been the perpetuation (and even development) of a capitalist culture from which a proprietary class has been removed hut in which the capitalist culture continues to produce a hierarchical system of stratification. Differentiating workers and management through a wage system which pays "each according to his work," it produces systematic differences in their life styles which, having to be justified, are thereby generative of ideological distortions.
The continuing law of value in collectivist societies—their press toward economizing behavior—need not imply that there exist objective laws of socialist development which control its evolution. Yet neither can it be assumed that socialist development depends only on the will of socialists and is subject to no limits Still these limits are not only economic but also moral. When socialist societies pursue modernization through intensified labor discipline and increased capital investment in the means of production, this commitment to one line of development entails a corresponding disengagement from other, alternative commitments, such, for example, as reducing inequalities of income among social strata of geographic regions. But is such industrial modernization to be understood simply as the result of external necessity? What is defined as necessary depends partly on what is deemed desirable and is therefore wanted.
The imposition of labor discipline may occur partly because this allows larger savings—a "surplus," available for capitalizing mechanization—on the assumption that the workers will not consume it. But what makes this necessary? A controlling group imposing labor discipline will be resisted by those whose work is being economized, and, wanting to control the surplus, it will, for both reasons, exclude workers from decision-making through different authoritarian arrangements. In short, the controlling group is clearly more committed to hightening productivity than to income equality or workers' self-management. It has assigned higher priority to productivity in some part because its theory, scientific Marxism, assigns great importance to increasing productivity and, also partly, because it is committed to maintaining a system of national sovereignty. Its emphasis on productivity derives in part from its nationalist commitments. In the case of Chinese collectivism, however, Maoism entailed a slow-down of mechanization and modernization when this was seen as subjecting the Chinese nation to Russian hegemony.
My object here, however, is clearly not to formulate an account of these complex events but only to exemplify the ways that a decision to pursue socialist development through industrial modernization—or to defer this—depends in part on the system of values the actors are attempting to protect as well as on the theoretical systems influencing their definition of events. Necessity, then, is always a judgement grounded in, and varying with, a specific climate of values. Even scarcity itself—as I develop below—depends not only on what is produced but also on what is wanted and valued, while the effects of scarcity likewise vary with a group s profile of values.
Marx's socialism seeks to overcome scarcity by freeing the forces of production from the stunting influence of outmoded capitalist property institutions. Marx believes that, with the overthrow of these property relations, production will be liberated and can continue to be revolutionized. Scarcity, Marx believes, can be solved by producing more. There is thus the expectation of an indefinite and continuous increase in production. Yet this is unlikely with the vast increase in world population, on the one side, and the dwindling supplies of raw materials, oil supplies, and metals, on the other.
The premise of a continuous and indefinite expansion of production—which Marx's socialism shares with classical political economy and with capitalism—appears less possible with each passing year. Rather than the overcoming of scarcity, which Marx s socialism assumes to be the human prospect, the world struggle for scarce resources appears more likely to intensify and to become more brutal. If there was ever any chance of coping with world scarcity simply by expanding production, with each passing decade's plunderous exploitation of resources that chance and that strategy come to appear as a fast-fading eighteenth-century fantasy.
But was the expectation of dealing with scarcity simply by heightening production ever rational? Emile Durkheim's critique of the great utopian socialist, Henri Saint-Simon, had argued that no social system, including socialism, could be stable, nor could tile people in it ever be satisfied, unless it had viable moral norms limiting people's consumerism. Without these limits, he said, each improvement in their condition would simply lead people to extend their aspirations anew, and they could achieve no satisfaction as they pursued an ever-receding goal:
. . . it is a general law of all living things that needs and appetites are normal only on condition of being controlled . . . an appetite that nothing can appease can never be satisfied. Insatiable thirst can only be a source of suffering . . . insatiability is a sign of morbidity. . . . But how fix the quantity of well-being, comfort, luxury, that a human being ought not to pass? Nothing is found in the organic or psychological constitution of man which sets a limit to such needs . . . as there is nothing within an individual which constrains these appetites, they must surely be constrained by some force exterior to him, or else they would become insatiable—that is, morbid . . . economic appetites cannot be appeased unless they are limited . . . they must be subordinated to some end which surpasses them, and it is only on this condition that they are capable of being satisfied . . . there will always be some workers who will receive more and others less . . . at the end of a short time the latter find their share meager compared with what goes to the others, and as a result new demands arise . . . excited desires will tend naturally to keep outrunning their goals, for the very reason that there will be nothing before them which stops them.'4
Durkheim's premise, that men are insatiable and that unless otherwise limited will seek ever more consumer satisfactions, is, interestingly enough, also shared by Marx:
A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are small, it satisfies all social requirements for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace and the little house shrinks into a hut .. . if the neighbouring palace rises in equal or greater measure, the occupant of the little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfired, more cramped within his four walls.15
Durkheim himself could not have said it better.
Plainly, Marx and Durkheim share the same assumption concerning human insatiability. To assume, however, as Marx does that men are insatiable, on the one side, and that scarcity can be overcome by increased productivity, on the other, are incompatible premises. The problem is particularly acute for Marx because Marx's political economy rejects a systematic focus on the subjective side of "demand'' and of "value." For Marx, it is the sheer amount of labor in it that determines a commodity's value, not the subjective utility it has to those purchasing it; correspondingly, for Marx it is the sheer amount of production, the sheer supply side of the equation alone, that will, without reference to the demand side, solve the problem of scarcity.
Durkheim's solution to the problems of scarcity, however, is radically different because his central concern is not with these in isolation but with the human unhappiness or satisfaction to which they contribute. "What is needed if social order is to reign," says Durkheim, "is that the mass of men be content with their lot. But what is needed for them to be content, is not that they have more or less, but that they be convinced they have no right to more. And for this, it is absolutely essential that there be an authority whose superiority they acknowledge and which tells them what is right . . . a moral power is required whose superiority [man] recognizes. 16
This problem arises in modern society, said Durkheim, because all the moderating institutions of previous times, especially the church and guild, have declined, and there are no longer ''morel authorities" whose restrictions persons accept as legitimate. The entire development of modern industry, noted Durkheim, has aroused rather than moderated human wants, particularly since industry became an autonomous force in society, no longer subordinated to forces outside of itself.
The Communist Manifesto, indeed, says much the same, noting how capitalism destroyed all relationships between people except the cash nexus and has "drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor [and] ... stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored," while it multiplied new wants in people. "In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes."'7
When Marx speaks of capitalism as governed by its own blind laws, he converges with Durkheim who noted that the economy has become autonomous, unchecked by other forces in society. For Durkheim, however, the solution lay in eliminating the autonomy of the economy, by bringing it under the governance of society and by transforming the consciousness and aspirations of men by subjecting them to moral authorities whose restrictions they accepted as legitimate. For Durkheim neither capitalism nor socialism can establish a satisfying social order insofar as they merely expand productivity; for increased goods alone without a restriction on consumerism which was accepted as legitimate would, he argued, never make people content. Indeed, he indicated, to the extent that capitalism undermined all authorities that could exert a moderating influence, capitalism fosters an anomie, a human satiability incapable of satisfaction.
Durkheim seems to be correct. Economic productivity exists to satisfy human beings and is not an end in itself: The proper end of .social reconstruction—of socialist emancipation—would seem to he human contentment and satisfaction, not indefinite industrial progress, not the endless revolutionizing of productivity. Durkheim seems correct, also, in noting that unless there is some limit set on consumerism there will never be human contentment however much living standards increase. As his own fable of the little house and the palace suggests, Marx agreed. Yet he neglected the force of the most basic point Durkheim is making, namely, that productivity exists for man, not man for productivity. As Marx entrenched himself in classical political economy, he absorbed increasingly its problematic and its limits, even as he radicalized it. Economistic, Scientific Marxism means the ritualistic substitution of industrialization for human emancipation as a goal. That is, industrialization, which had first been a means to the end of human emancipation, has become an end in itself. Stalinism is precisely the not so accidental enactment of that potential of Scientific Marxism. Stalinism is a social system in which industrialization becomes the key criterion of socialism's achievement and its legitimacy, and whose aim is the power of the new state rather than the contentment and welfare of its citizenry
But if Durkheim's work is an effective critique of scientific socialism's economism and its downgrading of the moral, symbolic, cultural, and ideological side of socialism, nonetheless, Durkheim's theory should not be appropriated uncritically. For one thing, Durkheim's premise about human insatiability is an ungrounded and authoritarian metaphysic of human nature. Left to their own devices, it holds, men will be insatiable unless controlled and limited from the outside.
While it is surely true that what men believe will affect the satisfaction or disappointment they feel with their standard of living, it is also true that (other things, including their beliefs, held constant) persons are more likely to be happy with more rather than less, and certainly with an increasing rather than a declining standard of living, especially if others have more. Surely human contentment is not unaffected by plenty or poverty. If Marx neglected the subjective and symbolic elements on which human contentment was grounded, Durkheim neglected the material and economic side. In his polemical effort to prove that the economists and socialists had one-sidely overstressed economic poverty, Durkheim lapsed into a no less one-sided neglect of economic poverty, diagnosing the modern malaise simply as due to "poverty of morality."
Durkheim mystified the reasons why men submit to moral norms; he accepted the false consciousness which conceives of morality as a thing apart from human making and doing, so that his stress is on the effectiveness of only external constraints on persons' appetites. Granted that Durkheim saw such restraining moralities as societally produced and not as god given; granted that he saw religions themselves as the products of society, this is a reified Society from which persons are alienated and which towers above them much as the state or religion does.
For Durkheim the moralities needed to moderate human appetites are essentially cultural systems from which persons are alienated. Indeed, it is this very alienation that generates a sense of the unchallengeable external character of these religions or moralities. But why should persons submit to alienation from a culture which is of their own making? And why assume that persons will not submit to moralities which they recognize as of their own making'? Indeed, at a certain point in the secularization of the modern world, one reason why moralities lose their hold on people is precisely because they are not seen as theirs; and one way to restore the hold of morality is to bring it under people's effective control.
Durkheim's critique of Marxism, then, is a critique of only one side of Marx, of only one of the Two Marxisms, of Scientific Marxism; his is not a rejection of all socialism or even of "communism.''18 Indeed, Durkheim saw communism (as distinct from socialism) as submitting to the high morality of equality, thus escaping the insatiability of a scientific socialism whose ultimate goal becomes the concentration of state power through industrialization. Durkheim was a guild (or syndicalist) socialist who wanted to bring the means of production under the direct control of viable human communities, rather than have them monopolized by a single, all-embracing state remote from people's everyday lives, ignorant of their daily work, and, correspondingly, unable to influence everyday life except bureaucratically.
With his emphasis upon the importance of revitalizing modern morality, Durkheim was the "pacifist" counterpart of Georges Sorel who, at about the same time in France, also denounced scientific socialism for embodying a moral decay and who called the proletariat even to violence and myth to bring forth their moral revitalization In his rejection of the capitalist economy's autonomy, Durkheim is also the academic counterpart of the Lukacs who interpreted Marxism as a theory of the totality, not as a theory of the primacy of the economic, and who understood socialism as a transformation in which the economy would once again serve rather than dominate culture. Sorel and Lukacs, of course, are the exponents of the Critical Marxism repressed by the emergence of economistic Scientific Marxism, and I shall have occasion to examine their views in a later volume.
It may suffice for the moment, however, to suggest that one of the historical functions of Critical Marxism is to develop the morality of' socialism, or a moral socialism in which the pursuit of human emancipation is not derailed by the industrial build-up of the state's power; in which consumerism is not confused with either culture or contentment; in which there is an enrichment of social structures and of groups autonomous of the state, which can enable people to use rather than be used by the state and which, being close to everyday life, can enforce a living moral code with knowledge and compassion, without a ponderous and plundering bureaucracy. Such, at any rate, would be a Critical Marxism congenial to and convergent with Durkheim's socialism and sociology.
1. Karl Marx, Capital (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959), vol. III, pp. 799 - 800.
2. Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production, trans. Mark Poster (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1975).
3. Karl Marx, Wage-Labour and Capital (New York: International Publishers, 1933), pp. 29-30. Originally published in 1849 and rewritten by Engels so that it is now "approximately as Marx would have written in 1891" (ibid., p. 6).
4. The preceding quotations are all from Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit, ed. Eleanor Marx Aveling (New York: International Publishers, 1935), pp. 59ff.
6. Capital III, Foreign Languages ea., p. 772.
7. "The best points in my book are: (1) the double character of labour, according to whether it is expressed in use value or exchange value (all understanding of the facts depends upon this, it is immediately emphasized in the first chapter); (2) the treatment of surplus value independently of its particular forms as profit, interest, ground rent, etc." Letter of 24 August 1867 from Marx to Engels. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence 1846 -1895, trans. Dona Torr (New York: International Publishers, 1942), pp. 226-27.
8. ". . . classical political economy found that the value of a commodity was determined by the value of the labour incorporated in it and requisite for its production.... Marx was the first to investigate thoroughly into the value-forming quality of labour and to discover that not all labour which is apparently, or even really, necessary to the production of a commodity, imparts under all circumstances to this a magnitude of value corresponding to the quantity of labor used up." Marx, Wage-Labour and capital, p 7 of Engels's introduction.
9. Marx, Value, Price and Profit, pp. 29ff.
10. Ibid., p. 57. Italics added.
11. Ibid., p. 41.
12. Paul Schrecker Work and History (New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1911), p. 13.
13. Marx, Value, Price and Profit, p. 11.
14. Emile Durkheim, Socialism and Saint-Simon (Le Socialisme), ed. Alvin W. Gouldner (Yellow Springs, Oh.: Antioch Press, 1958), pp. 197ff
15. Marx, Wage-Labour and Capital, p. 33.
16. Ibid., p. 200.
17. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authorized English edition of 1888, supervised by Engels, published by (,harles H. Kerr, Chicago, p. 17.
18. For further discussion of Durkheim's ''guild socialism,'' see my introduction to his Socialism and Saint-Simon cited above.
From Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 7 - "Political Economy - Toward Sociologism and Economism" pp. 199-221.
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