20 June 2009

Moving Beyond Class

I am really fond of the argument (I know found in the Althusser chapter of New Departures, I am sure it is elsewhere) that overdetermination will become the epistemology of a communist society. That is empiricism (and to a lesser extent rationalism), but determinist epistemologies nonetheless, have been the epistemologies of capitalism and as we move beyond this phase of humanity a new epistemology, overdetermination, will become predominate in society.

Much of the economic analysis (in fact all of it?) that has been undertaken within the framework of overdetermination has been done using the entry point of class (ie the work of Resnick and Wolff and many of their students including myself). The argument "why class" has been made many times and I will not repeat it here except to say that the choice of class as an entry point makes good sense within the Marxian tradition given the goals of our theories.

As we move beyond capitalism class will no longer be a useful entry point in the study of economic processes. Moving to a classless society will in fact render class fairly useless as an entry point for economic analysis.
The golden age of overdetermination in a classless society will have to find new entry points to study the economy, as an entry point of something that no longer exists will be both backwards and obsolete. The search for new entry points that logically make sense for economic analysis will be an important step moving forward.

Class will be regulated to the entry point that made sense under the system where the entire epistemology did not. It is only in moving beyond capitalism, and moving beyond modernism and humanism that overdetermination will have a chance to be fully utilized in society. Class as an entry point will have to die.


Daniel MacDonald said...

Hey James,

This is a really interesting idea. One of the "things" that really gets me about Marxism is getting Marxists to talk more about "what's next". So, my question for you is similar: given that class is a good entrypoint for Marxists given the goals of your theories (which I believe I understand), what do you foresee as useful entrypoints in a society that is dominated by overdetermination? What will our theories look like and what will they deal with?

James Miehls said...

This is THE question moving forward for me. Also one that I do not have a satisfactory answer for. Certainly we know what is not acceptable, the movement from private to state capitalism that happened after the revolution in the Soviet Union. That set of entry points and theories resulted in an unacceptable ending (at least partially).

So in trying to achieve a classless society class is a useful entry point. So I guess the real question becomes what are our goals in a transitioning society? Equality of wealth? Then wealth becomes a good entry point. Do we buy the "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" ideology?
Then distribution of surplus distinct from class becomes a useful entry point.

Of course the very nature of overdetermination makes this type of foresight difficult, we don't know what some of the contradictions that will arise in our theory will be until the theory is implemented.

I understand your frustration with the what's next part of the Marxian tradition. It was a fairly inevitable problem given that Marx himself never focused much attention on these questions. I theory that is based upon capitalism has little to say about beyond capitalism, but is in my opinion something that must be theorized much more acceptably to have a larger body of people take Marxism seriously as a theory that can yield acceptable results post capitalism.