Time, Labour, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory by Moishe

Postone
Review by: David McLellan
The American Political Science Review, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), p. 1009
Published by: American Political Science Association
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as well as objective. form of social practicepermits an approachthat is subjective. only that associated with the FrankfurtSchool is even a candidate for offering a satisfactory approach to these questions. This focus on the commodity as a socially constituted.Vol. in some respects. The Frankfurt School was at least equipped to grasp the dynamicof the Marxiananalysis: it failed in the lack of any sufficiently materialistgrounding in its approach. But what if someone's disability prevents him from posing any sort of threat to others? What if the others can affordto ignore him (as they can afford to ignore. private property relations. Drawing heavily on Marx's Grundrisse. Labour. Of all the strands of twentieth-centuryMarxism.. 393). 87. I imagine they would provide a fine starting point for a semester's discussion of economic rights in a graduateseminar. We are left to imagine how workers might become collective commodity owners.The articles that Ellen Paul and her fellow editors have assembledin this volume are certainly stimulating and provocative. dragged down by the welcome demise of the quaintly termed "formerlyexisting socialist societies. the negative effect on social organization of a technology that saves both laborand time. Universityof California. any postcapitalist democracy entails more than a simple combinationof democraticpoliticalforms with the disappearance of private ownership of the means of production. to demonstrate that these crises cannot end without fundamental change. as well as a socially constituting. Postone's aim is. mediating the dichotomy between structure and action. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press." But the crises of capitalism remain unresolved and. and the contrastbetween the theoreticalability of people to control their social environment and their practicalsubjection to abstractand impersonal forces outside their control. This "political deficit"is one that Marxbequeathed to his followers and that remains unfulfilled. through a criticalreconstructionof Marx's theory. responsibility. and bourgeois domination. as traditionally understood. was too influenced by a narrow Parisianperspective. Moishe Postone's magnum opus has arrived at an appropriatemoment.105. and human vicissitude.postliberal. and the emergence of new social movements as a response to the appearance of new economic and environmentalproblems on a global scale. StructuralistMarxismwas always something of a contradictionin terms and. No one seems to have time or patience for that: everyone is too busy rushing to the defense of the bottom line. therefore. and he has largely succeeded. 4 American Political Science Review logic of contractarianismto the case of the disabled. $49. Postone's reconstructionof the core of Marx'scritique of capitalismis (like Marxhimself) most definitely sociology. But Postone does not provide us (any more than does Marxhimself) with an account of alternative. e. totalizing. -It is clear that traditionalMarxismas a criticalsocial theory with emancipatoryintent is inadequate. 14 Jan 2015 18:44:19 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions DAVIDMCLELLAN . there is a great danger. deepen. 424p. For him. in a philosophical way-with all the doubts and difficultiesthat answer to the intractability of the subject matter-the complex connections between property. Postone's substantial work at least provides a solid socioeconomic basis on which to build future projections. Contractarianargument gets its foothold in political experience from the fact that we all have to come to terms with others in society who are in a position to make life difficultfor us. Marxiansocial analysis has fallen on hard times.95. It is a startingpoint that allows at least an approachto explaining the destructive paradoxes of modem society: the continued production of wealth amid poverty. it is pretty clear that its real moral foundation must be sought elsewhere. 1993. that one will take the politicalpositions one is defending to be more important than any deep and considered reflection one can offer on arguments and methods-as though the future of the West depended on how much rhetoric Jan Narveson could marshalin defense of capitalismor as though the plight of the homeless depended on David Copp's not yielding an inch to the libertarians. when writing on economic issues. people who live in other continents)? Then he cannot base a moral claim on the necessityof their coming to terms with him: he must base it. a genuinely democratic approach would also involve the constraints to democratic self-determinationthat are imposed by "the abstract form of domination rooted in the quasi-objective. ratherthan politics. economy.the rise and fall of so-called socialist societies.71 on Wed. agency.211. Universityof Kent.Canterbury 1009 This content downloaded from 141. His analysis suggests that the social limits to democracyin capitalistsociety lie deeper than simply the vast discrepancybetween formal political equality and concrete social inequality and that.Postone develops an account of capitalism that goes far beyond the market.g. and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. It is the capitalist industrial production process itself (and not merely market mechanisms or private property relations) that so structures social labor in modern society that it leads inevitably to alienationand domination. It is obviously the fruit of long years of research and lengthy meditation. the essential point in the reinterpretationof Marx'stheory lies in the distinction between a critique of capitalism that starts from the standpoint of labor. In general. on his moralrightto be dealt with on terms of equality. in any case. Long in the making. It is the kind of work that is well worth waiting for.collective forms of social organization outside the sphere of immediate production.Berkeley JEREMY WALDRON Time. in what has been called its "economic deficit. Though that right may be expressed in contractarianjargon. and a critiquethat is based on an analysis of the historicallydeterminate nature of labor under capitalism. By Moishe Postone. what one misses is a sense that anyone is willing simply to explore. All the same. instead. Among the phenomena of the last half-centurythat escape its ambit are the development and recent crises of stateinterventionistpostliberalcapitalism. justice. historicallydynamic form of social mediation that constitutes capitalism"(p. No." It is this deficit that Postone aims to make good. meaning and material life. For Postone. He has produced the best analysis of Marx's mature socioeconomic theory since David Harvey's The Limitsto Capital(1982). And Ana- lytical Marxism (on which Postone has some telling footnotes) is an attempt to rethink Marxismthrough a methodological individualism that is quite alien to the mainspring of the Marxist tradition.