“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marx a Correlationist

That was what I was arguing today, oh dear oh dear. Among other things. How you can see this for yourself: read chapter fifteen of Capital 1. He talks about the difference between tools and machines. This difference only makes sense if what "machine" means is correlated to a (human) subject.

Is this the reason, or one reason, why Soviet economies have failed thus far? Because they have not achieved escape velocity from modernity?

He asked provocatively.

1 comment:

athousandflowers said...

Hi Tim,

I was thinking this the other day. Its hard to see how he couldn't be. The division is different though: rather than "mind" that can't get at the world that it has constructed ("bourgeois" correlationism?), it is "labor" that constructs the world, while our minds can't get outside of their position within that process. The class conflict provides the possibility for breaking out of those categories, i.e. we can come into contact with otherness, but this is just to move to another position within the broader labor/world correlation. So, if bourgeois correlationism is just one big split between mind and world, Marxist correlationism is more subtle: it accounts for the inability of the bourgeois correlationist to get at the world (false consciousness corresponding class position), and posits a new correlation: labor or human activity/world as object of labor. The basic categories of thought that trap the bourgeois correlationist are replaced with the basic forms of the current mode of production, but the human/world split has just changed its contours, not been annihilated completely.
Further, the very concept of commodity fetishism relies on a firm distinction between "social relations between individuals" and "relations between things." This would need to be rethought within OOO without such a discontinuity that can allow fetishism (and alienation more generally) to be an "inversion" of some distinctly human qualities. Has anyone to your knowledge discussed non-human forms of alienation?
A final thought: this correlationism may be at the root of the Marxist tendency not to think life after the Rev. That is, outside the current relations and mode of production, and so it can't be thought. This doctrine (that the revolution is a "free act" and so can't be envisioned in advance) is always alluring because it leaves things open, but also always feels like an escape hatch from the difficult imaginative work involved in radical politics. If OOO is trying to get us out of both kinds of correlationism (mind/world, labor/world), then maybe OOO could allow a rethinking of this relation with what comes next.

Thanks for the provocative post,
Nick (from Carbondale)