Time and Subsumption.

Like ‘reification’, ‘dialectic’ and ‘totality’ before it, subsumption has become one of those terms that is fetishised. Describing something as ‘subsumed’ is often treated as so theoretically sound that no account is necessary of what this process of subsumption is or if and how it relates to the categories Marx uses in the 1861-63 Manuscripts and The Results of the Immediate Process of Production. Moreover, the concept is also deployed in terms of periodisations of social development that fail to address the sort of social complexities that exist within capitalist society that Banaji’s work covers. Andres Saenz De Sicilia, who is currently working on a Ph.D. on subsumption at CREMP Kingston, provides a pointed criticism of these two trends and more in the following guest post.

Time and Subsumption, is an excellent paper about ‘the concept of subsumption, and its problematic status within Marx’s thought’. It explores ‘subsumption through an analysis of its temporal dimensions, and in doing so depart[s] from readings of the concept which conceive of it as a primarily historical category – that is, one that could be used to periodise different phases in the development of the capital relation’. Finally, ‘it challenge[s] this view by first briefly reconstructing Marx’s arguments about subsumption, then giving an outline and critique of this historical reading of the concept, then lastly … propos[ing] an alternative notion of the relation of subsumption to historical development through the idea of a synthesis of disjunctive times’.



About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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3 Responses to Time and Subsumption.

  1. prsmith5 says:

    Thanks for the post and the great essay by Andres. It provides a good point of reference for a project I have been slowly mulling about in relation to Negri and standing on the edge of time (to use a rather awkward expression). It’s good to know that I am not alone in finding the Unified Global Capital thesis suspect.

    • HR says:

      You are very welcome. If you happen to make it to this year’s HM London, I know that Andres is organising two panels on subsumption. Care to say more about your project?

  2. prsmith5 says:

    As indicated in the first reply, it’s rather rough at this point.

    Basically I focus on the implicit teleology lying behind Negri’s historicization of real subsumption and the temporality that goes with it. I more or less begin from Negri’s dismissal of Benjamin’s jetztzeit as a form of utopianism or idealism that mirrors capital’s reduction of the time of life to now-time, and, from this, problematize the method of the tendency as a temporal strategy for moving beyond capitalism. Using tendential analysis as an analytic tool that accounts for precise differences between contemporary capitalism and all led up to the present moment, the theorist looks for innovations that support various theses asserting that re-configurations of particular forms of production have or will have radicalized the capital-labor relation at the global level. In Negri’s case, when confronted with counter-examples to the tendencies emphasized (the hegemony of immaterial labor, the collapse of the law of value and the transition to pure antagonism, the one-world Empire thesis, etc.), he merely restates that tendencies cannot account for the plurivalent state of the present global labor market, yet still holds that these tendencies indicate a general direction in which development is progressing. With this, tendencies said to represent real or determinate abstractions escape the need for empirical confirmation, as they trace out not an existing reality but what is in the process of becoming.

    In questioning tendential analysis as a method, I attempt to challenge the notion that the futural direction of political-economy should serve as a privileged site for overcoming capital. Temporally, the disagreement might be best framed in terms of a time appropriate to the present and directed toward the future (Kairos at the edge of time or the void to use Negri’s language) vs. an inappropriate time of the present that is anachronistic insofar as it refuses to follow or merely redirect developing tendencies.

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