Cooperation and the Personification of things.

One of the mistakes I made in my thesis was that I did not focus on the importance of subsumption in Marx’s account of fetishism or the lack of a sophisticated account of subsumption in Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre. Here Marx draws personification together with the type of subsumption that occurs with an increasing division of labour:

“The different operations performed successively by a worker in a patriarchal or craft-based business in order to make his product, which are mutually intertwined as different modes of his activity, and follow each other in chronological sequence; the different phases through which his work passes, and in which it undergoes variation, are separated from each other, isolated, as independent operations or processes. This independence becomes solidified, personified, when each simple and monosyllabic process of this kind becomes the exclusive function of a particular worker or a definite number of workers. They are subsumed under these isolated functions. This work is not divided among them; they are divided among the various processes, each of which becomes the exclusive life-process of one of them — in so far as they function as productive labour capacity. The heightened productivity and complexity of the production process as a whole, its enrichment, is therefore purchased at the cost of the reduction of labour capacity.” mecw 30 278

The difference between Marx and the others can also been in the following where his account of such a fragmented social division of labour subsumes production and underlies commodification, leading to the domination force of capital. (The others for their part tell their story on the basis of the commodity itself, thus undercutting any explanation that is based on the social character of labor etc.)

But the combination — cooperation, as it appears in the division of labour, no longer as the parallel existence of the same functions or their temporary subdivision, but as the separation of a totality of functions into their constituent elements, and the unification of these different components — now has a twofold existence: it exists on the one hand, if we look at the production process itself, in the workshop as a whole, which, as a total mechanism of this kind (although in fact it is nothing other than the manifestation of the workers’ cooperation, their social mode of action in the production process) confronts the workers as [IV-159] an external power, dominating and enveloping them, in fact as the power of capital itself and a form of its existence, under which they are individually subsumed, and to which their social relation of production belongs. On the other hand, it exists in the finished product, which is in turn a commodity belonging to the capitalist. mecw30.278


“The increase of productive power which arises from the division of labour, this social mode of existence of labour, is therefore not only capital’s, instead of the worker’s, productive power. The social form of the workers’ combined labours is the existence of capital over against the worker; combination confronts him as a paramount destiny to which he has fallen victim through the reduction of his labour capacity to an entirely one- sided function, which is nothing apart from the mechanism as a whole, [IV-160] and therefore depends entirely upon it. He has himself become a mere detail.”
Page mecw 30.280


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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