Jodi Dean has a new post on Value-form theory. While it should come as no surprise I disagree with her criticisms of value-form theory, I think the piece is an interesting illustration of how different readings of Marx lead to different conceptions of communism.
For instance Dean’s criticism of Endnotes interpretation of value:
At the same time, there is something here that feels elite and surgical, like an extraction or excision of workers and their productive labor. It’s like the people who matter, in their material work and lives, somehow don’t matter anymore. It’s as if the real movement of people as the actuality of communism is jettisoned. My discomfort here is part and parcel with my dislike of emphases on alienation and reification. Those seem designed to show how capitalists are also trapped and oppressed, how everyone is caught in a bad system. I don’t buy it. I think that there are elites who benefit from the system, who like the system, and who even if they are somewhat alienated would gladly pay for their privilege with a little alienation. In fact, I think complete disalientation is an illusion.
is reflected in what I take to be her conception of the overcoming of value and communism:
So the good thing about the value form is that it equates different kinds of labor in the form of abstract labor power. The problem with capitalism is that it doesn’t go far enough in this direction. Instead, hedge fund managers are somehow more valuable than school teachers or factory laborers. Uneven equalization is thus equalization as the proletarianization of the rest of us while the very, very few at the top are unique, singular, and super-rich. It’s like the long-tail (power-law, 80/20 rule) version of employment. I don’t think, then, that the equalization I support would count as abolishing the value form. I think it would be better describing as realizing it (in keeping with the already ongoing liberation of labor from the commodity form via unpaid labor).
While these ideas are not part of the Marxist discourse I am a part of, and don’t resemble my understanding of Marx or communism, I’m curious to find out more about Dean’s work and where her interpretations come from. Is anyone familiar with her work?