Bonefeld on Clarke

Bonefeld makes the following important comments in his review article on The State Debate, which  both contextualize and put forward important criticisms of Clarke’s theory:

‘within the context of the CSE debate on the state, the emphasis on class struggle developed in response to the German state derivation debate. This debate was seen as downplaying ‘class struggle’ and as permitting a structuralist and functionalist conceptualisation of the state.’115

Yet

the protagonists of the class struggle approach never resolved the fundamental conceptual problem inherent in their approach to the state. If the problem of the German debate was its downplaying of the class struggle, does the emphasis on the class struggle overcome the problem inherent in the German debate? In other words, is the emphasis on class struggle sufficient for establishing the internal relation between structure and struggle, an internal relation which was so much sought after by those advocating the notion of the primacy of class struggle 116

….

It seems to me that the distinctive CSE approach to the state did not overcome the dualist conception of the relation between structure and struggle. This externality as between structure and struggle obtains in the conceptualisation of the ‘state’ as an object of class struggle and not as a mode of existence of labour in capitalism. The danger inherent in an approach centred on the primacy of class struggle is that class antagonism is understood as a relation between two opposing armies whose internal relationship remains unexplored.116

As I think Bonefeld rightly points out, Clarke’s contribution as well as the essay i posted yesterday, do the best job of bringing class back into the state debate. Yet Bonefeld also does highlights what was bugging me about the otherwise spot on Clarke paper I posted yesterday:

According to Clarke, Marx offers, in Capital ‘an analysis of the self-reproduction of the capital relation, within which the social relations of capitalist reproduction are regulated, albeit in a contradictory and crisis-ridden fashion, by the operation of the market’ (ibid.). As a consequence, Clarke does not understand the basic contradiction of the capitalist mode of production as the constitutive power of labour existing against itself in the reified form of capital. Rather, the basic contradiction of capital is understood to be capital itself.’ 117

Ultimately:

Clarke tends to integrate structure and struggle on the basis of a dualism between a determinist conception of ‘capital’ and a voluntarist conception of class struggle. While the constitution of capitalist power is seen in terms of a contradiction internal to capital, the development of this contradiction is seen as one of class struggle. According to Clarke, the state exists because of the class struggle, and the class struggle exists because of the internal contradictions of capital. This understanding of cause (internal contradictions of capital) and effect (class struggle) and result (the state), is not sufficient to conceptualise the internal relation between structure and struggle. Clarke’s understanding of the primacy of the class struggle is based on a distinction between structure and struggle—each of which is supposed to render its contrasting term coherent. The state is seen as escaping determinism because it is the constant object of class struggle and class struggle is seen as escaping voluntarism because it is qualified by capital being in contradiction with itself Is it not possible to suggest that Clarke’s attempt to conceptualise the internal relation between structure and struggle is sustained through a tautological movement of thought?

Critically assessing the notion of the primacy of class struggle does not imply its rejection simpliciter. Capital is class struggle. However, capitalist society is not a formless thing. The understanding of class antagonism as the essential social relation implies that the starting point is the social constitution and the historical movement of labour. Such an understanding entails that the so-called laws of capitalist development cannot be conceived of as laws internal to capital and hence as external to labour but, rather, as a movement of contradiction constitutive of, and constituted by, the mode of existence of labour in capitalism. The contradictory character of capitalist social relations are not constituted on the basis of ‘capital’, but in and through capital’s dependence upon labour. The conceptualisation of labour as the constitutive power of social existence is of fundamental importance for understanding the self-contradictory mode of existence of the form of the state.119

 

Thus

The contradictory constitution of capital needs to be conceptualised in terms of the constitutive power of labour. The contradictory existence of the state needs to be seen as being constituted by the mode of existence of labour in capitalism, the development of this contradiction needs to be seen as one of class struggle .120

 

 

 

 

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About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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2 Responses to Bonefeld on Clarke

  1. Joss Winn says:

    There’s a critique of Bonefeld and Clarke by my colleague Mike Neary, which may interest you: ‘Travels in Moishe Postone’s Social Universe: A Contribution to a Critique of Political Cosmology’ http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1569206042601792

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