Towards the Value-Form, Critical Theory, Political Marxism Trifecta.

So I’m ready to write my conclusion. Where I think I’m heading towards proposing some sort of fusion between Value-Form Theory, Critical Theory and Political Marxism. Am I bonkers? Or so bonkers I’m staring totality right in the motherfucking face!

But how will this work? Well I could just say they will all be dialectically related and go and eat my dinner. But before I grab some dinner some thoughts on how they complement each other:

(1) Value-Form theory provides a model of how capital functions as a specifically form of social production at its ideal average. However, this theory is incomplete and does not account for empirical reality.

(2) Elements of Critical Theory could be amended for more complex theoretical account of how Capital functions in capitalist society. However, Critical Theory would have to be amended since: (a) let’s be honest a lot of it is shit. (b) it weren’t so bothered with an accounts of how the social and cultural forms they analyzed were constituted or constitutive of Capital.

(3) Political Marxism could be used to integrate these theoretical ideas with empirical reality, specifically in terms of how these ideal essences appear in the current conjuncture of capitalism. (I realize political marxists would not be keen on this approach but i think it has more potential than people like knafo who have tried it the other way around)  The Frankfurt School already tried this to some degree, unfortunately–except for Neumann– their empirical theorists were shit. (I’m looking at you Pollack).

Now of course there is already a close relation between some value-form theory and some critical theory. However, I’m not aware of anything– with the possible exception of Endnotes 2–that tries to integrate these three strands. So as far as grandiose speculative gestures go I think its worth thinking about.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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6 Responses to Towards the Value-Form, Critical Theory, Political Marxism Trifecta.

  1. I’d argue that your characterizations for Value-Form Theory and Political Marxism are on-target, but what distinguishes Critical Theory from both is that it works best as a way of theorizing capitalist subjectivity, the constitution of the subject by the abstract forms that value theory deals with and the empirical structures that political Marxism deals with.

    Or at least, the *best*, most usable stuff from Critical Theory deals with subjectivity. And I agree that they had shit empirical workers. That’s why, ironically, the best empirical worker Critical Theory ever had was somebody outside of them: Michel Foucault. He did all the empirical and historical heavy-lifting on subject-constitution that those dudes should’ve taken up (Check out his introduction to Canguilhem’s _The Normal and the Pathological_, as well as the interviews in _Remarks on Marx_, for his explicitly stated affinity with the Frankfurters).

    • HR says:

      I completely agree. That’s one of the areas I meant to gesture towards in my admittedly too compact post.

      I reckon Adorno’s stuff on Kant, Hegel and the famous bits in the positivist dispute provide good grounds for thinking about the formation of subjectivity and its relation to social objectivity.

      Ditto on Foucault too. I’ve only read the obvious stuff –madness and civilization, governmentality–and seen the quotes on the frankfurt shcool out of context but looking forward to checking those and some of the recently published lectures when im done.

  2. Kambing says:

    Huh, I tried to do something similar with my thesis, in terms of trying to reconcile ostensibly contradictory theoretical approaches to value, fetishism, and labour. However, I’m in anthropology, so for me the theoretical argument was mediated through an ethnographic study of Indonesian grindcore (true story!). I suspect that having that kind of descriptive data to ‘hang’ the theoretical connections on might make it a bit easier, as some of the disjunctions and contradictions can be elided or externalised by association with different aspects of the data. Actually, there’s kind of an expectation in anthropology that your use of theory will have a certain strategic ‘messiness’ or even incoherence–it demonstrates that it is grounded in real social experience or some shit like that. But I gather that if you are making an overt philosophical argument for such a fusion you’ll be challenged to more directly overcome these differences and produce some kind of coherent synthesis. Or, at least present a sufficiently convincing appearance of such.

    Wasn’t the ‘Open Marxism’ school supposed to be about fostering these kind of connections? Though I suppose that was more about opening up a space for debate and discourse rather than actually generating a coherent fusion.

    PS: I just stumbled upon your site while searching for info on Michael Heinrich. But I figure any blog with both ‘bikini kill’ and ‘Bonefeld’ in the category list must be worth some of my time 🙂

    • HR says:

      That sounds very interesting Did you publish it anywhere?

      Luckily, this trifecta thing I’m working on is more an outgrowth of the the speculative point at the end of the conclusion of my thesis. Otherwise as you point out I would have plenty of work to do. However, I suppose since advocates of the sort of buffett style theory you see do string together various incompatible theorists in their Freudo Rawlsian Heideggerian account of retrospective othering or something perhaps I do have some leeway. I could also claim that muddying up these ideas with empirical reality was bound to create some contradictions or antagonisms. But to be honest I suppose my approach would be fundamentally a form analytic approach through which i would interrogate and use aspects of the other approaches.

      As you also rightly point out I definitely agree that ‘Open Marxism’ were working on the same sort of thing. But as you also point out these seemed more interested in pointing out the connections and emphasizing the critical and class based elements of these theories. I’m all for that but I also think the theories need to be more rigorous.

      Thanks for the props. I dunno why Heinrich’s blog is down. Is there anything you looking about him in particular?

      • Kambing says:

        I haven’t had my thesis published yet, except for a couple articles that don’t really go into the value theory aspect in any real depth (they’re more focused on the ethnographic side of things). I’m hoping to get a book version published eventually, but it’s still early days.

        Anyway, I was just chasing down some info on Heinrich in order to compare his introduction to Capital with David Harvey’s, trying to identify the fundamental differences. I did manage to find a few things along those lines, plus some of his papers and talks.

        Yeah, I’d say that using empirical data does allow one to treat different approaches as relating to different phenomena or even different ‘levels’ of analysis, though it is still possible to connect them in various ways (eg. certain forms of critical theory relating to aesthetic representations and/or the subjective experience of alienation vs. value-form theory describing the underlying social logic of commodity fetishism). But that is still a bit different to trying to express them as an integrated whole.

        What do you mean specifically by ‘Political Marxism’ in your work?

      • HR says:

        I don’t haven’t really got into political marxism in my work. But the stuff i’m looking at or planning to look at includes Gerstenberger, Teshke, and Wood. But realistically I won’t be able to properly look into after i’ve finished writing up this thesis, with the possible exception of using it to point any sort of relevant critical theory should account for historical specificity.

        As for valid points about fusing value theory, critical theory and political marxism into an integrated whole, i’d say im more interested in integrating certain aspects of the later two to flesh out value form theory. But really just in the initial stages.

        At any rate hope you found what you were looking for re: Heinrich as you may have noticed I think his intro to capital is excellent and offers the form analytic interpretation Harvey’s companion doesn’t. But as you also may have noticed i’m not a big fan of Harvey’s companion.

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