Stream on Critical Theory: “How the Commodity Form Dies”
Historical Materialism Conference 2014 “How Capitalism Survives”
Eleventh Annual Historical Materialism London Conference – 6-9 November 2014 – Vernon Square, Central London
More than ever the theoretical implications of Marx’s theory of capital haunt the never fully established world order of capitalist production and consumption. Capitalism is always changing, its elementary form, the commodity form, however, survives. Already in the 1930s, Walter Benjamin wrote: “The experience of our generation: that capitalism will not die a natural death.” Today we might add: capitalism even survives its own death. The secret of its undead nature resides in its “sensuous-supra-sensuous” form, the commodity form. But how can a zombie die?
In the last decades, the intertwinement of the commodity form and the shape time and space has been widely discussed. Scholars like Moishe Postone, Antonio Negri, Fredric Jameson, Michael Heinrich, David Harvey, David McNally, Massimiliano Tomba, Daniel Bensaïd, Stavros Tombazos, Neil Smith et al. have deepened our understanding of capital’s global dynamics of spatialization and temporalization.
This stream draws on this research and expands it to the site of language and symbolic economies: how does the commodity form survive by creating economico-linguistic structures beyond meaning? If we conceive of today’s global capitalism not only as an economic system but also as a global language in the crude sense, we can detect a “commodity language” (Marx), a real-abstract mode of the production of value and signification. Capitalism, however, is transcendentally meaningless.
This stream is interested in new assessments of theories central to Marx and Critical Theory such as critique, society, reification, second nature, natural history, commodification, fetishism, historical time, value, money, exchange, equivalence, ideology, domination, class, capital, social reproduction, epistemology, subjectivity etc. The stream is particularly interested in (but not limited to) papers that address:
• New perspectives on the contemporary relevance of Marx’s thought for Critical Theory (Heinrich, Bonefeld et al.) which explore the relationship between Marx and the work of early Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkheimer et al.)
• Productive and elective affinities between Marx, figures from the Frankfurt School and other critical theorists such as Bataille, Bensaid, Althusser, Foucault, Open Marxism, Postone, Heinrich, Kurz, Scholz, Dieter Wolf, Castoriadis, Davis, Illyenkov, Bogdanov Rose, etc.
• Monetary theory of value, state theory and the tradition of “Neue Marx-Lektüre” (from Pashukanis and Rubin to Backhaus and Reichelt)
• The question of “real abstraction” and the unity of commodity form and thought form (Alfred Sohn-Rethel)
• Theories of reification (Lukács)
• Theories of communization and value-form theory
• The intertwinement of capital, time and space
• Symbolic economies of “commodity language” (Marx, Hamacher, Goux, Derrida, Lacan, Lefebvre et al.)
• Adorno and the imagelessness of the political imaginary
• “Capitalist realism” (M. Fisher) and the aesthetic of the commodity form
• The biopolitical regulation of the population both as the collective exposure to a permanent state of exception (Benjamin, Agamben, Esposito et al.) and as the neoliberal condition of individual self-management (e.g. Virno’s “Grammar of the Multitude” or Lazzarato’s “Making of the Indebted Man”)
Stream coordinators: Sami Khatib (Berlin) Chris O’Kane (Seattle)
Register you abstracts here by 1 June 2014: http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/conferences/annual11/submit