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bholatdavid_beyondequality2010rethinkingmarxism

bholatdavid_beyondequality2010rethinkingmarxism

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This article was downloaded by:
[University of Chicago] 
On:
2 June 2010 
Access details:
Access Details: [subscription number 784375792] 
Publisher
Routledge 
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Rethinking Marxism
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713395221
Beyond Equality
David M. BholatOnline publication date: 09 March 2010
To cite this Article
Bholat, David M.(2010) 'Beyond Equality', Rethinking Marxism, 22: 2, 272 — 284
To link to this Article: DOI:
10.1080/08935691003625588
URL:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
Beyond Equality
David M. Bholat
My paper explores the character of Marx’s critique of equality as an ideal and thesalience this critique has for progressives today. I suggest a reading of Marx different from the standard Marxist critique of liberalism as an emancipatory butunrealized set of ideals whose primary function in capitalist society is to conceal itsconditions of inequality and unfreedom. Rather, I argue that Marx gestures at thelimitations of liberal ideals, and shows why they are logically compatible withcapital. This means that progressives are tasked with transcending, rather thanmerely appropriating, ideals such as freedom and equality.
Key Words:
Karl Marx, Liberalism, Equality,
Capital
First and foremost, socialism means a new cultural world
. . .
Butsecond
 * 
/
what cultural world? Some socialists are ready enough withfolded hands and the smile of the blessed on their lips, to chant thecanticle of justice, equality, freedom in general and freedom from ‘theexploitation of man by man’’ in particular, of peace and love, of fettersbroken and cultural energies unchained, of new horizons opened, of newdignities revealed. But that is Rousseau adulterated with some Bentham.
 * 
/
Joseph Schumpeter,
Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy 
This paper argues that equality in particular and the ideals of liberalism moregenerally are insufficient ultimate ends for progressives. This insight comes fromMarx in a passage at the end of chapter 6 of volume 1 of
Capital.
The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose bound-aries the sale and purchase of labor-power goes on, is in fact a very Edenof the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom,Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and sellerof a commodity, let us say of labor-power, are determined only by theirown free will. They contract as free persons, who are equal before thelaw. Their contract is the final result in which their joint will finds acommon legal expression. Equality, because each enters into relation withthe other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchangeequivalent for equivalent. Property, because each dispenses only of whatis his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to his advantage. Theonly force bringing them together, and putting them into relation witheach other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interest of each.
ISSN 0893-5696 print/1475-8059 online/10/020272-13
2010 Association for Economic and Social AnalysisDOI: 10.1080/08935691003625588RETHINKING MARXISM VOLUME 22 NUMBER 2 (APRIL 2010)
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ U ni v e r si t y  of  Chi c a g o]  A t : 18 :19 2  J u n e 2010
 
Each pays heed to himself only, and no one worries about the others. Andprecisely for that reason, either in accordance with the pre-establishedharmony of things, or under the auspices of an omniscient providence,they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal,and in the common interest. (1976, 280)The significance of this passage is its grounding the ideals of liberalism
 * 
/
freedom,equality, property rights, Bentham (self-interestedness)
 * 
/
in capital, which Marxelsewhere defines as a social relation in which workers are free from forms ofservitude like slavery, but also
free
of means of meaningful and material survivalsuch that they are compelled to sell themselves to capitalists.
1
What Marx thuseffects in this passage is an ideological distancing from our everyday politicalvocabulary. His provocation is that what are often identified as natural rights areactually historical conventions that achieve their apotheosis with the ascendance ofcapital; the ideals of the Enlightenment and contract theory are linked to theemergence of commodity labor relations.For Marx, capital thus shapes social relations and subjectivity, meaning andmaterial life (Postone 1998). Consequently, the significant contradiction of capitalis
not
between liberal ideals and the capital relation (as in standard Marxistinterpretations) because these realms are in fact intertwined. Rather, the relevantcontradiction is between capital
s discourse and social relation on the one hand,opposing postcapital possibilities latent and unrealized in the present on the other.According to Marx, capital generates a dynamic totality that brings into existencethe conditions of possibility for its own overcoming, while also constraining thisachievement.In this first of a proposed two-part essay, I focus on Marx
s critique of equalityas an abstraction grounded in capital.
2
I argue that the task Marx sets forth is notmerely to actualize equity, but to go beyond it. A move toward a postliberal,democratic, postcapital society is one to which this paper seeks to make acontribution.
Left Victory or Defeat?
The connections between, on the one hand, private property and self-interestedness,and,ontheotherhand,capitalasasocialrelation(laborasacommodity)arerelatively
1. Marx
s object of critique was
capital.
Capitalism
is a term of art foreign to his corpus.Marx
s investigation is therefore both more parsimonious and more precise than most theories of
capitalism
today, without being any less robust. I therefore use the term
capital
where
capitalism
is more frequently used, at the risk of awkwardness in syntax. I view Marx
s analysistherefore as quite at odds with versions of antiessentialist Marxism which
refuses toacknowledge the (ontological) dominance of any particular class process
(DeMartino 2003, 7).While I agree that other social relations need to be analyzed to adequately grasp capitalistsociety today, I think Marx would still prioritize the capital relation over all others.2. In the second part of this essay, I propose to examine Marx
s critique of freedom as an idealand more fully elaborate on Marx
s claim that the discourse and social relation of capital are atodds with postcapital possibilities that capital brings into existence.
BEYOND EQUALITY 273
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ U ni v e r si t y  of  Chi c a g o]  A t : 18 :19 2  J u n e 2010

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