Monday, February 22, 2010

The theft of friendship

More from chapter 2 of The Politics of Identity, by Stanely Aronowitz. The connection of what he is writing about to "identity politics" is a bit obscure, but it boils down to the question of whether the working class has sufficient subjectivity as a class to lead the revolution, or whether the revolution will occur regardless of class consciousness thanks to the inherent contradictions of accumulation -- i.e. capital will run out of labor to exploit, or ways to squeeze labor with the machines that deprive them of the subjectivity necessary to complain about their fate. Capital "subsumes" labor and deprives it of a standpoint from which to critique its position, as capital determines labor conscoiusness as a natural fact, a reified, given thing. (This apparently is derived from Lukacs and History and Class Consciousness.

Identity politics, if I get what Aronowitz is saying, is a reflection of capital's subsumption of labor and social institutions and so on. "Management is a technological expression of the logic of domination, a means of creating a closed universe such that contradictions, far from disappearing, take the form of the appearance of 'social problems' subject to manipulation by social policy.... Capital successfully transforms 'alienation' into a social neurosis that becomes the property of an individual who is now called 'deviant' from the social norm of integration and subordination." In other words, alienation becomes a personal-identity problem, to be solved through psychological corrections and adjustments, not through collective action.

I was struck by this sentence: "Just as property is the theft of the labor of the immediate producer in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, so technology is the theft of the artisan's craft in the transition from the formal to the real subsumption of labor under capital." It seems as though this could be extended to cover a more recent transformation, a new dimension (enabled by networking technology) of the logic of capital: the subsumption of immaterial labor under capital, which plays out as the theft of friendship. Our social behavior is taken away from us, in the sense that it is turned to account by capital.

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