Keith Hart on Sat, 16 Jun 2012 14:25:42 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Nightmare or Opening? the Soros perspective

There is a lot to engage with in this exchange between Brian and Felix. In
a nutshell, Polanyi opposed class analysis as such. Class interests have a
serious impact only when they express the interests of society as a whole.
These classes can come from anywhere, but what matters is their contingent
ability to articulate such common interests.

The conclusion of The Great Transformation puts it as clearly as he can.
The pursuit of freedom requires acceptance of necessity. In the
Judaeo-Christian tradition, this meant accepting death as necessary. To
this he would now add Aristotle's principle. We must accept that our being
is predicated on the necessity of society. It is a horrible error of modern
politics and social science to harp on about social divisions to the
exclusion of any such holistic perpective on common interests. Durkheim
would say that the great unknown is not death, but how we belong together
in society. We worship society and call it God.

That's all very well, but I think Felix has a point and Marx's class
analysis needs to be refurbished for our purposes. He took it from
Ricardo's refinement of classical political economy: three classes
landlords, capitalists and workers, each with property in one of the three
things that matter: land (nature), capital (money or society, says Polanyi)
and labour (humanity). To which Marx adds machines as the hitherto
unrecognized element.

This is too big a topic, but what has happened to these classes since?
Control of the land has passed to the nation-state or governments.
Capitalists have assumed the form of corporations which collapse the
distinction between real and artificial persons in law and bidding for
self-government as the only citizens of a new world society. And the rest,
us the people? Marx and Engels looked to the new factory proletariat to
lead common human interests through participation in th emost advanced
sector of production. Felix already knows where to look for their
equivalent today, the free software movement and other manifestations of
democratic resistance to corporate control of the internet. Knowledge or
intellectual property has emerged as a fourth factor, linked to the
importance of machines for modern cicilization.

But there is another question concerning our moment in world history. What
has capitalism become? has it reverted in the western heartlands an
dperhaps elsewhere to a form of rent-seeking that speaks more of the Old
Regime than of an industrial capitalism that for a time appeared to have
replaced distribution (wealth derived from political privilege) with
production as the motor of economic history. We all know that the response
to oppression by rentiers is a liberal revolution. And some fractions of
capital always played a key part in them. So there are lots of questions
about the dominant system to be overthrown, by whom, where and through what
kind of revolution.


On Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 12:06 PM, <> wrote:

> Felix, I share your perplexities. Notably this one:
> --The question then becomes, who can articulate a theory of re-embedding
> and which is the social class than can mount the political pressure
> to implement the necessary policies. In Polanyi's days, this was, I
> assume, Keynes and the working class rising towards middle class
> status. The result was the post-war social-democratic (soziale
> Marktwirtschaft) consensus on both sides of the Atlantic.

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