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Articles by Sandwichman

Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.3

3 days ago

Inversion

Marx stated repeatedly in the Grundrisse that capital
inverts the relationship between necessary and superfluous labour time. Capital
both creates disposable time and expropriates it in the form of surplus value,
reversing the nature-imposed priority of necessity before superfluity and
making the performance of necessary labour conditional on the production of
surplus value. Marx’s analysis of this inversion bears unmistakeable traces of
Ludwig Feuerbach’s critique in The Essence of Christianity of the
inversion of collective humanity and the divine, which had so influenced the young
Marx. The theme of inversion returns in the first chapter of Capital in the
section on the fetishism of the commodity, where in the first sentence Marx comments
on the commodity’s abundant

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Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.2

4 days ago

Ambivalence

Published in 1821, The Source and Remedy of the National
Difficulties was a major influence on Marx’s analysis of ‘disposable time.’ In
an 1851 notebook, Marx logged a 1000 word summary of the pamphlet. He also
discussed it extensively in volume 3 of Theories of Surplus Value. His
discussion of disposable time in a section of his Grundrisse notebooks that
came to be known as the ‘fragment on machines’ has inspired rethinking of
Marx’s mature work by authors ranging from Raniero Panzieri, Antonio Negri, and
Paolo Virno to Moishe Postone. Yet those re-evaluations do not acknowledge the decisive
contribution of The Source and Remedy. This chapter examines Marx’s admiration,
criticisms, and uses of the pamphlet, and the neglect of the pamphlet by
subsequent writers, and offers

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Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.1

5 days ago

Der Gefesselte Marx

Karl Marx’s preface to A
Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy contains the best-known
description of his theory of history. At some point contradiction between the
relations of production and the forces of production become fetters on the latter,
ushering in a period of social revolution. The traditional interpretation is
that the social revolution will unleash technological advances that enable
industrial production to expand by “leaps and bounds,” even as free time for
workers also increases. Marx’s description, however, specifically referred to a
general conclusion he had reached in the 1840s that “became the guiding
principle of my studies.” He did not suggest it was a précis of those
subsequent studies. In the Grundrisse, Marx had developed a much

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Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.0

8 days ago

The second part of my book proposal is a chapter outline and summary. I will be doing that on the installment plan, one chapter at a time. Below is a table of contents:Fetters/Der Gefesselte MarxAmbivalenceInversionAlienated labour and disposable timePauperism and “minus-labour”From sufficiency to planned obsolescence… and back?The revolutionary classA nation is really rich if the working day is 6 hours rather than twelve.The return of disposable time: time filled with the presence of the now

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Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading part one.

14 days ago

Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial readingTom WalkerOverview (chapter summaries will be presented in a future post)This book proposes a remedial reading of the relationship in Marx’s critique of political economy between the forces and relations of production, real wealth, and value. It is remedial in two senses. First, it seeks to remedy the long-standing misconception of the 1859 preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy as Marx’s definitive statement on the contradiction between the forces and relations of production. Second, it does so by acknowledging the influence of the 1821 pamphlet, The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties on Marx’s conception of disposable time as real wealth.In his celebrated 1859 preface, Karl Marx stated the

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Opium of the People and Radical Chains

May 12, 2024

The historical dust has not settled, but at this moment it seems clear that a proletariat which does not embrace Marxism is entirely possible. Why not, then, Marxism without a proletariat? In a thoughtful article, "Radical Chains: The Marxian Concept of Proletarian Mission" (Studies on the Left, September-October, 1966), Oscar Berland argues that this is not only a thinkable but also a necessary thought. Ronald Aronson’s "Reply" to Berland agrees that the proletariat has lost its revolutionary potential, but forcefully asserts that to scuttle the concept of proletarian mission is to scuttle Marx himself. The present paper in general sustains Berland, but puts the argument in sharper terms. At the same time, and this is its major purpose, this paper attempts to show that Marx’s mature

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The University at War and the Iceberg Strategy

May 2, 2024

While looking for old sources discussing the "manpower channeling" policies of the U.S. Selective Service (draft) during the Vietnam war, I uncovered a treasure trove of 1960s essays on the military-industrial-academic complex. The first one that caught my eye was "The University and the Political Economy" by James O’Connor. O’Connor later wrote The Fiscal Crisis of the State and founded the journal, Capitalism Nature Socialism. "The University and the Political Economy" appeared in the 1969 first issue of Leviathan, which was a successor to Viet-Report, enlisting many of the latter journal’s key personnel.I had some difficulty finding a digitized copy online of the Leviathan issue but then it turned up on the old standby, JSTOR, which has a nice collection of alternative press

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SEIZE THE MEANS OF INSTRUCTION!

April 29, 2024

Fifty-four years ago Les Temps Modernes published an essay by André Gorz titled, "Destroy the University." I am posting it here adding occasional underlining for emphasis and commentary at the end. As I will explain in my comments, this piece is of interest to me because of its relevance to current student demonstrations but also because of Gorz’s pioneering thought on ecological politics and on the future of work.Destroy the University, by André Gorz1. The university cannot function, and we must thus prevent it from functioning so that this impossibility is made manifest. No reform of any kind can render this institution viable. We must thus combat reforms, in their effects and in their conception, not because they are dangerous, but because they are illusory. The crisis of the

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Leisure to Attend to Our Spiritual Business

April 10, 2024

ABSTRACT: Time is central to Martin Hägglund’s discussion of secular faith and spiritual freedom. Time is precisely what is finite in this life and presides over the relationships we value and our risk of losing them. Hägglund adopted the notion of disposable time from Karl Marx’s Grundrisse and reframed it as the more descriptive socially available free time. Following Marx, Hägglund advocates the revaluation of values so that socially available free time would become the measure of value rather than socially necessary labour time.A close examination of the origin of Marx’s analysis of disposable time suggests that questions of faith and freedom were inherent in the concept as it was expressed in the 1821 pamphlet, The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties that influenced Marx,

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The Unknown Unknown Marx

March 29, 2024

– By Tom Walker

“The Unknown Unknown Marx,” EconoSpeak

Toward the end of his 1968 essay, “The Unknown Marx,” Martin Nicolaus quoted Marx’s enumeration of four barriers to production under capital that “expose the basis of overproduction, the fundamental contradiction of developed capital.” Nicolaus qualified what Marx meant by overproduction to be “[not] simply ‘excess inventory’; rather, he means excess productive power more generally.”

‘These inherent limits necessarily coincide with the nature of capital, with its essential determinants. These necessary limits are:

‘1. necessary labour as limit to the exchange-value of living labour-power, of the wages of the industrial population;

‘2. surplus value as limit to surplus

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The Unknown Unknown Marx

March 26, 2024

Toward the end of his 1968 essay, "The Unknown Marx," Martin Nicolaus quoted Marx’s enumeration of four barriers to production under capital that "expose the basis of overproduction, the fundamental contradiction of developed capital." Nicolaus qualified what Marx meant by overproduction to be "[not] simply ‘excess inventory’; rather, he means excess productive power more generally."‘These inherent limits necessarily coincide with the nature of capital, with its essential determinants. These necessary limits are:‘1. necessary labour as limit to the exchange-value of living labour-power, of the wages of the industrial population;‘2. surplus value as limit to surplus labour-time; and, in relation to relative surplus labour-time, as limit to the development of the productive forces;‘3. what

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Matt Huber’s and Leigh Phillips’s “classical Marxist critique” of Kohei Saito

March 9, 2024

I have expressed my disagreement with Kohei Saito’s Slow Down and Marx in the Anthropocene in previous posts. I welcome Huber’s and Phillips’s critique of Saito at Jacobin. They get much right in their criticism of Saito’s Utopianism and implicit primitivism but they share with Saito a fundamental misreading of Marx. This misreading is based on a speculative interpretation of a stirring but ambiguous passage in Marx’s Preface to his 1859 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes

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Labour power as a common-pool resource

March 8, 2024

Labour power as a common-pool resource: in memory of Paul Burkett

Human mental and physical capacities to work have elastic but definite natural limits. Those capacities must be continuously restored and enhanced through nourishment, rest, and social interaction. Over the longer term that capacity for labour also has to be replenished by a new generation of young people, reared by the previous generation.

It is this combination of definite limits and of the need for continuous recuperation and replacement that, according to Paul Burkett, gives labour-power the characteristics of a common-pool resource. As Burkett explained, Karl Marx also regarded labour power not merely as a marketable asset of private individuals but as a “reserve fund for the

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Lost in translation: Slow Down by Kohei Saito

January 2, 2024

Kohei Saito’s "manifesto" of degrowth communism was BIG in Japan, selling half a million copies in the first year and a half after publication. It’s debut in English is already tarnished, though, by a colossal, cringe-inducing Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion error that repeats throughout the book.The formula for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit is: multiply the Celsius temperature by 1.8 and add 32. The addition of 32 is to account for the fact that the freezing point of water is 0° in Celsius but 32° in Fahrenheit. However, when converting a temperature change, such as the IPCC’s upper limit of 1.5° C above preindustrial global annual mean temperature, one doesn’t add 32. In Slow Down, the 1.5°C limit is rendered as 34.7°F, suggesting that the IPCC thinks we would be O.K. with a global

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Is Redistribution the Solution?

December 9, 2023

Toward the end of a very interesting and worthwhile conversation about how right-wing “populism” co-opts righteous anger at established institutions, Vincent Bevins asked Naomi Klein how she would counter that co-optation. Her answer was to advocate a “real left that has a political program that is actually redistributive,” which sounds good until you realize that the capitalist economy is already massively redistributive so “redistributing the redistribution” would end up building a doppelganger of capitalism, to use Naomi Klein’s own term.

Throughout his mature critique of political economy work from the Grundrisse to Capital to his work with the First International, Marx consistently advocated shorter working time as the prerequisite for the

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Seeing the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

December 5, 2023

It is a problem that has vexed and eluded Marxists — and tantalized critics of Marx — for a century and a half. If I am correct, Karl Marx had an intuition of the argument I am about to present but he couldn’t quite bring himself to articulate it. A bit over a century later, in "Proletariat and Middle Class in Marx: Hegelian Choreography and the Capitalist Dialectic." Martin Nicolaus almost got it or may have gotten it but couldn’t put it into words. The question is usually framed in terms of a New Middle Class, although the agglomeration isn’t a class, it isn’t in the middle, and it isn’t particularly new. For background on the debates about this so-called new middle class, see Val Burris’s 1986 review article, "The Discovery of the New Middle Class" in Theory and Society, Vol. 15, No.

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Growth below zero and the development of the productive forces

November 18, 2023

Was Karl Marx a “degrowth communist” as Kohei Saito claims in Marx in the Anthropocene? In a word, no. But the whole truth is even stranger and more wonderful than Kohei Saito’s oxymoron anachronism.André Gorz is credited with the first use of la décroissance (degrowth) in the context of modern criticism of the political imperative of economic growth. The occasion was a public forum held in Paris by Le Nouvel Observateur on June 13, 1972 to discuss the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report. Gorz’s remarks were largely a reply to a speech and interview given by European Commission President, Sicco Mansholt.In the interview, Mansholt had called for “growth below zero” and the end of wasteful and environmentally destructive consumer society. Gorz acknowledged the compatibility of Mansholt’s

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Risk, Ambiguity and Daniel Ellsberg

June 20, 2023

The death of Daniel Ellsberg on Friday reminded me of his contribution to economics and his influence on my own thinking. In 1987, I was at Cornell, beginning an abortive PhD candidacy. In one of my courses there was an assigned reading on decision theory by Leonard Savage. One of the footnotes referred to an article by “Daniel Ellsberg” and I naturally wondered if it was the same Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame. “Risk, Ambiguity and the Savage Axioms” was indeed by the same Daniel Ellsberg. It also happened that a copy of his PhD dissertation was available at the Catherwood ILR library, which I read eagerly.

Ellsbergian ambiguity is very similar to Keynesian uncertainty with the important distinction that Ellsberg performed experiments,

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The Unbearable Tightness of Peaking

February 5, 2023

– Sandwichman @ Econospeak

The Unbearable Tightness of Peaking

Sandwichman came across a fascinating and disconcerting new dissertation, titled “Carbon Purgatory: The Dysfunctional Political Economy of Oil During the Renewable Energy Transition” by Gabe Eckhouse. An adaptation of one of the chapters, dealing with fracking, was published in Geoforum in 2021

As some of you may know, the specter of Peak Oil was allegedly “vanquished” by the invention of methods for extracting “unconventional oil” from shale formations (or “tight oil”), bitumen sands, and deep ocean drilling. A large part of that story was artificially low interest rates in response to the stock market crash of 2008 and subsequent recession. 

What Eckhouse’s dissertation and

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The Unbearable Tightness of Peaking

February 1, 2023

Sandwichman came across a fascinating and disconcerting new dissertation, titled "Carbon Purgatory: The Dysfunctional Political Economy of Oil During the Renewable Energy Transition" by Gabe Eckhouse. An adaptation of one of the chapters, dealing with fracking, was published in Geoforum in 2021As some of you may know, the specter of Peak Oil was allegedly "vanquished" by the invention of methods for extracting "unconventional oil" from shale formations (or "tight oil"), bitumen sands, and deep ocean drilling. A large part of that story was artificially low interest rates in response to the stock market crash of 2008 and subsequent recession. What Eckhouse’s dissertation and article explain is the flexibility advantage that fracking provides because the investment required for a well is

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This Life: faith, work, and free time, part two

December 22, 2022

This Life: faith, work, and free time, part two

At the beginning of this year, I posted a response to Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular faith and spiritual freedom. In October I learned of a conference next May in Belgium at which Hägglund will be one of the keynote speakers. So I submitted an abstract to present a paper.

When it came time to start working on a draft for the conference, I remembered my blog post and it formed the core for the rest of the draft. In that earlier post, I wrote about Marx’s identification in the Grundrisse of the inversion between necessary labour time and superfluous labour time. During editing of a first draft of the conference presentation I took a break and went for a walk. There it struck me that the

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This Life: faith, work, and free time, part two

December 18, 2022

At the beginning of this year, I posted a response to Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular faith and spiritual freedom. In October I learned of a conference next May in Belgium at which Hägglund will be one of the keynote speakers. So I submitted an abstract to present a paper.When it came time to start working on a draft for the conference, I remembered my blog post and it formed the core for the rest of the draft. In that earlier post, I wrote about Marx’s identification in the Grundrisse of the inversion between necessary labour time and superfluous labour time. During editing of a first draft of the conference presentation I took a break and went for a walk. There it struck me that the inversion of necessary and superfluous labour time was a parallel to the inversion of this life and

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The Audition Commodity

November 17, 2022

The Audition Commodity

Richard Serra and Carlotta Fay Schoolman produced the video, “Television Delivers People” in 1973. It manifests a critique of television mass media that was subsequently defined by communications scholar, Dallas Smythe as the “audience commodity” but the outline of which had already been presented by him in 1951 in the Quarterly of Film, Radio and Television:

The troublesome fact is that under our uneasy institutional compromise by which the stations are publicly licensed and commercially operated, the effective, if not the legal, responsibility is divided. And the voice which speaks most often to the consumer is that of the advertiser. Is it any wonder that the consumer is confused and inarticulate in trying to

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The Audition Commodity

November 11, 2022

[embedded content]Richard Serra and Carlotta Fay Schoolman produced the video, "Television Delivers People" in 1973. It manifests a critique of television mass media that was subsequently defined by communications scholar, Dallas Smythe as the "audience commodity" but the outline of which had already been presented by him in 1951 in the Quarterly of Film, Radio and Television:The troublesome fact is that under our uneasy institutional compromise by which the stations are publicly licensed and commercially operated, the effective, if not the legal, responsibility is divided. And the voice which speaks most often to the consumer is that of the advertiser. Is it any wonder that the consumer is confused and inarticulate in trying to express his judgment as to how these media should conduct

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Happy 155th Birthday to volume one of Capital

September 16, 2022

Happy 155th Birthday to volume one of Capital!

In his 1965 farewell lecture at Brandeis University, Herbert Marcuse read a long passage from the Grundrisse’s “fragment on machines” and then observed: “But Marx himself has repressed this vision, which now appears as his most realistic, his most amazing insight!”

In Time, Labor and Social Domination, published 28 years later, Moishe Postone addressed the same section from the Grundrisse and commented:

These passages do not represent utopian visions that later were excluded from Marx’s more “sober” analysis in Capital but are a key to understanding that analysis; they provide the point of departure for a reinterpretation of the basic categories of Marx’ s mature critique that can overcome the

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Happy 155th Birthday to volume one of Capital!

September 14, 2022

In his 1965 farewell lecture at Brandeis University, Herbert Marcuse read a long passage from the Grundrisse’s "fragment on machines" and then observed: “But Marx himself has repressed this vision, which now appears as his most realistic, his most amazing insight!"In Time Labor and Social Domination, published 28 years later, Moishe Postone addressed the same section from the Grundrisse and commented:These passages do not represent utopian visions that later were excluded from Marx’s more "sober" analysis in Capital but are a key to understanding that analysis; they provide the point of departure for a reinterpretation of the basic categories of Marx’ s mature critique that can overcome the limits of the traditional Marxist paradigm.Who was right? Did Marx repress his most amazing insight

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