Read, “The Real Subsumption of Subjectivity by Capital”

Here are my notes for Jason Read from last week, just for the sake of having everything available on the blog.

Read, “The Real Subsumption of Subjectivity by Capital.”

Read is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Southern Maine.  This book, The Micropolitics of Capital, is his only book, but he has published numerous articles reading Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and Althusser.  The chapter we read is the final chapter from The Micropolitics of Capital.

In this chapter, Read is addressing a “limit” in Marx’s thought: “The simultaneous recognition of subjectivity as pure ‘subjection’ and subjectivity as collective power, combined with the fact that all of this is developed in an abandoned draft, would seem to suggest that we are at a, if not the, ‘limit’ of Karl Marx’s thought” (104).  Read discusses the different formations of “the social” in transitions between forms of capitalism (112).

For those of us less familiar with Marxism (including myself), it may be helpful to clarify some terms:

I understood formal subsumption to designate the shift between “pre-capitalist” and capitalist modes of production (112).

Real subsumption seemed to entail a critical shift to direct production of subjectivity.  It is the “subsumption of society by capital, and thus the transformation of social relationships” (113).  It is “the transformation of the technical and social conditions of the labor process: A transformation in which what is originally outside of capital, the social and technical conditions of labor, becomes internalized” (114).

Notes/Potential quotes for discussion

115—the production of objects is always a production of the one producing.

116-117—transition to machinery reorganizes the collectivity of workers, expands it beyond the factory to include scientists, etc.

118-119—“What is perhaps more useful for out purpose here is the light the fragment sheds on a different contradiction: the contradiction of real subsumption, which is a contradiction between the total subjection of sociality and subjectivity to capital and the concomitant development of a subjective and social power irreducible to abstract labor.”

123—“Here this process of self-transformation and experimentation is presented not as the epochal difference between capitalism and what came before but as constitutive of a new form of fixed capital: subjectivity as fixed capital.  Knowledge and social relations are incorporated not only into fixed capital as machinery but also as human subjectivity.  This new subject is produced during ‘free time,’ outside of the time of wage labor—it is produced in and through consumption.”

125—“It is a model of labor in which the effect on social relations, on subjectivity, is not a byproduct of a more primary transformation of things as in the schema of the labor process but is directly produced by labor itself—labor becomes autopoetic.”

130—the city or social space as fixed capital; 131—archive of immaterial labor, cartographies of value

132-133—subjectivity as fixed capital

136—“The capitalist mode of production must fetter this abstract subjective potential by tying it to particular modes of subjection, particular ways of living.”

139—biopolitics of capitalism

143—“Paradoxically, the production of subjectivity, of a specific individualized subject, is thus leveled against the productive power of collective subjectivity.”

147—Hardt and Negri’s use of “biopolitical” to include “everything that constitutes a ‘form of life’” including “styles, desires, communities, and ways of communicating.”



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