Notes on the Preface to History and Obstinacy.

The preface to H&O provides a number of important definitions that frame the subsequent chapters. These definitions indicate that whilst N&K’s definition of Marxian categories are not marxologically sound, they are utilizing them in an expansive way, to analyze the relationship between history and obstinacy (the book’s appendix provides a lengthy definition of these, and the other categories).

Labour is defined as the ‘human ability to change matter purposefully’. Therefore, labour does not only consist in commodity production, but also ‘engenders social relations and develops community.’

This sets up a discussion in which N&K set up relationship between labour, history and obstinacy. In essence, I see the crux of this relationship as follows: they hold that labour produces both heteronomy and autonomy. They are concerned with how this has occurred historically (where it has mostly produced heteronomy), how this influences the present, and the contemporary relationship between historical heteronomy (capital/capital within us) and what they term counter-capital (obstinacy/autonomy).

Here are what I see as the important passages:

“In abbreviated outline form, this book is about the POLITICAL ECONOMY OF LABOUR POWER [ARBEITSKRAFT]: of what do those human characteristics capable of bringing  about material change consist? How do the “essential” powers of humans come into being, so that we are able to work, control our lives, and become autonomous? The economy of this labour capacity is capital’s polar opposite. It constitutes COUNTERCAPITAL” 73


“We apply the term “political economy of labour power” — in other words the battle between OBSTINACY AND HISTORY — to domains not traditionally associated with industry: the politics of love, war, and the “capitalism within us.” We have matter-of-fact reasons for adopting this cross-mapping approach. For one thing, it disrupts our habitual ways of seeing. Labor capacities rule daily life, just as they react virulently when societies create monsters such as fascism, for example. It is essential that we recognize our labour in all its aggregate states, and not solely in those belonging to mid-level functionality” 76










About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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