Colletti on fetishism, science and revolutionary negation.

I think the following excerpt demonstrates, not only that Colletti was an incisive reader of Marx, but that more of his work should be translated. Hopefully someone who is fluent in French, Italian and German will write what would be bound to be an interesting and illuminating study on Colletti, Althuserian Marxism and the New German Reading of Marx.

“Marx’s attitude towards capitalism is a function of two different perspectives. The first is the revolutionary perspective, which aims at the overthrow of bourgeois society in order to re-establish on a new basis the human relations which have been reversed and turned ‘upside down’ in this society. The second is the scientific perspective, which aims at reconstructing the way the system functions and develops. Although quite different these two perspectives do not appear juxtaposed in Marx’s work: rather they are closely connected so that each is supported and reinforced by the fact that it follows as a consequence of scientific analysis; and the latter is push to its extreme conclusions by the orientation and impulse of revolutionary teleology.

This broadening of the domain of political economy, which follows from the need to go beyond that commodity-production which was the last element for Smith and Ricardo, corresponds in Marx to the fact that his theory of value is also a theory of fetishism of commodities and capital. It is a theory through which he not only limits the confines of the whole system from the outside but also uncovers the character of the ‘upside-down’ reality in which human relations appear as relations among things and things appear to have social qualities.

In other words, the knowing or scienctific perspective, pushed to its extreme consequences, becomes for Marx a revolutionary project. The need for the socialist transformation reappears from within the economic analysis. Thus it is not sufficient to understand and explain the production of commodities: it must be abolished, i.e. the material and social conditions within which the fetishistic inversion takes places must be reversed. Even when explained and understood, the mechanism whereby social human labour appears in the objective forms of ownership of things and the world of products dominates the producer does not thereby cease to exist and function.


Thus, science is not enough, since it is not just a matter of correcting Smith’s and Ricardo’s interpretation of reality but of correcting this very reality….. In a nutshell, science is not enough….the very social process must be inverted. In fact, political economy is not a true science. Only the revolution is the true science. Since labor must dispose of capital instead of the reverse, the only treatise that can enunciate this scientific axiom is the socialization of the means of production.

In this total negation of the capitalist system…the socialization of the means of production means only this: the abolition of commodity production and therefore, the abolition of money as well; the abolition of the market, i.e., of buyer-seller relations and, therefore, of all the contractual and juridical forms that have come about with exchange; the abolition of the state and, therefore, the transformation of politics in to the ‘administration of things.”

(Lucio Colletti, ‘The Theory of the Crash.’)


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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3 Responses to Colletti on fetishism, science and revolutionary negation.

  1. Kevin Barry says:

    What, precisely, can we learn from Colletti? He unquestionably knew his stuff, however, he wholly repudiated his previously held beliefs, ending up as a Senator representing Berlusconi’s ‘Forza Italia’.

    • HR says:

      I think Colletti has many insightful things to say about the early Marx, the late Marx, the relationship between the early Marx and the late Marx and ‘Capital’. So if you think these things are worth learning about, then I think that is what can be learned from Colletti.

      While I am aware of the deplorable political direction he took in his later life I don’t see this as a reason to avoid his earlier writings.

      • negative potential says:

        Yeah, it’s like saying we shouldn’t read Adorno’s excellent Introduction to Sociology or History and Freedom because he called the cops to clear out his lecture hall. And didn’t Marx and Engels (privately) support Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War, for fuck’s sake?

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