I just finished TLSD. As you’ve probably noticed I had my problems with it. I don’t want to go over them in detail again as they are available elsewhere on this blog. Instead I want to focus on two points: how the context of TLSD publication and Postone’s argumentative strategy make it seem more singular than it deserves and how money may have addressed what I saw as the gap in Postone’s analysis between structure, action, valorization and reproduction.
Regarding the first point as I signaled in my first post on re-reading TLSD, Postone’s work is not as singular as it presents itself. This is certainly true of the main points that he makes in his reinterpretation of the central categories in part one of Capital. What I rate as better analyses of these categories were already available in English in the works of Rubin and essays by Arthur, Backhaus, Reichelt, Open Marxism, Banaji etc. In addition there was 20 odd year of German scholarship to say nothing of Japanese value theory. All of this is obscured by Postone’s strategy of separating himself from all heretofore existing ‘traditional Marixsts.’
The second has to do with following up the main issue I flagged before which has to do with Postone’s interpretation of Marx’s presentation in Capital and how this informs his conception of capital and the way in which this conception as a historically dynamic form of mediation consists in a type of abstract social domination. To his credit Postone acknowledges that he does not substantiate this on anything more than a very abstract level. The closest he gets is what he terms the ‘dialectic of transformation and reconstitution’ but in my understanding this dialectic simply says that the collective action of social production and the forms of value they collectively constitute condition each other. The question of how this occurs is still up the in air. One crucial answer is money, which as Heinrich points out fills several essential functions in Marx’s theory enabling the valorization process and social reproduction, and which Arthur points out is missing in Postone’s analysis:
However, if one tracks Postone’s original introduction of the topic, it seems that he prioritises abstract labour over capital and that is why it is its own social ground. He introduces the notion of abstract labour in a different way from Marx, who brings it in as the substance of value. Rather, Postone argues that, in generalised commodity exchange, labour is abstract in the sense that, while its own activity is concrete and produces a specific product, it appears socially as a means of acquisition of any and every product through the exchange mechanism; hence its concrete specificity is displaced, and it takes on a form of abstract generality. It is only because all labours taken thus are integrated in a social totality that their products take the form of value.19
This argument strikes me as similar to putting the cart before the horse. In an exchange economy as such, labour certainly does not have the form of a means of acquisition in general, but only partially so, if one can find that interlocutor who happens to have a particular need for what one offers. It is only in a money economy that labour becomes a means of acquisition in general. The conditioning sequence does not run: abstract labour → value → money, but the reverse. Money posits all commodities as values, and their positing as value brings about the abstract identity of the labours embodied in all products.
Whilst I would argue another is the account of how money–and these other economic categories– compel individual actions not just on the abstract level in terms of mediation but in terms of the personifications and dull compulsions that Marx accounts for.