October 04, 2009

What in the hell … :: … is(n’t) the capitalist subject? :: September :: 2009 A really interesting response from Nate to the excerpt on capitalist subjects I posted a day or so ago. It's a mindful corrective against accounts of capitalism that fail to acknowledge its dependence on and generation of some forms of cooperation. I read this in keeping with the idea that capitalism has also relied on forms of free labor as well. The article’s authors hold that “capitalism” includes or is in part “a way of inciting subjects to behave according to the company model and the general norm of competition.” Capitalism “everywhere establish[es] competitive situations between subjects, by inciting them to become the winners of a universal competition, by imposing controls and surveillance and, above all, by pushing subjects to self-control by making performance the ruler of each person’s life,” and thus this system has the impact of constructing a new subject, a “neo-subject,” as some psychoanalysts call it.” This is overstated and one-sided. This ’subjectivity’ is rooted almost entirely in the market for commodities other than labor power, with only passing reference to labor markets (competition for jobs) and some workplaces (competition among workers after their labor power has been purchased - ie, on the job between workers). What this leaves out is that capitalism has always included cooperation as well, in at least two senses - the cooperation under the direct management of capitalists (or their agents) on the job, as described by Marx in the chapters on cooperation and the workplace, and the cooperation, referenced in passing...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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