Another thing I need to be working on is publishing articles. Publish and perish and all that jazz. So expect some upcoming posts on sketches for article ideas. This should be one of them. But i’m to tired and ornery from a day of cutting paper and marking essay. So instead, here are two polemical theses on Marx’s concept of personification: (a) deals with the problem of Structure and Agency Postone seems to think his new interpretation of Marx might have. (at least this is one of the things he signals towards and never seems to have followed up on. (b) might be used to batter that tedious debate between Marxist humanists and Althusserians to shit.
The argument for (a) runs dangerously close to characterizing Marx’s theory of personification as ‘dialectical.’ This is true only insofar as you want to obfuscate how Marx’s theory of social constitution and inversion interact. If you think its helpful to say its a dialectic and that it mediates peoples actions and leave it at that be my guest. To me an full fledged account of how social labour constitutes personified things, capitalist valorization and the law of value which invert to personify and compel the action of individuals seems more interesting. So too does a discussion of how this process consists in agents constituting a structure which then compels agents. This full fledged account can also bypass Postone by articulating how money–not just this abstract entity called abstract labour–functions in this process.
Idea (b) is sorta related to (a) in the sense that the theory of personification seems to overcome the one sided humanists and althusserian interpretations of Capital. One might argue that such a theory points to Marx having a different conception of human nature in Capital, wherein humans are the only animals that can collectively construct social structures that in turn construct them.