Theses on Marx

Antonio Negri

Thesis 3: Exploitation is the production of the time of domination against the time of liberation

If the law of value were to consist simply in the definition of the measure of  labor, then its crisis would imply the crisis of the capitalist constitution of society. But since the law of value cannot be reduced to the definition of measure, and since even in its crisis it still afirms the valorizing function of labor, and thus capital's necessity to exploit it, we must define what this exploitation consists of.

The concept of exploitation cannot be made transparent if exploitation is defined solely in relation to the quantity of labor extorted: in fact, lacking a theory or measure, it is no longer possible to define these quantities.  In addition, it is difficult to make the concept of exploitation transparent if we persist in separating, dividing, searching for transcendences or solid points internal to the circulation of social production, of communication as the pervasive mode of production.

The concept of exploitation can be defined only if it is posed opposite the processes of subsumption in their totality.  From this point of view, the concept and the reality of exploitation can be recognized within the nexus which links political constitution and social constitution.  It is in fact the political constitution which overdetermines the organization of social labor, imposing its reproduction according to lines of inequality and hierarchy.  Exploitation is the production of political lines of the overdetermination of social production.  This is not to say that the economic aspect of exploitation can be negated: on the contrary, exploitation is precisely the seizure, the centralization, and the expropriation of the form and the product of social co-operation; therefore it is an economic determination in a very meaningful way-but its form is political.

In other terms, the concept of exploitation can be made transparent when it is considered that in mature capitalist society (be it bourgeois or socialist) a political extortion of the product and the form of social cooperation is determined.  Exploitation is politically produced as a function of capitalist Power from which descends a social hierarchy; that is, a system of matrices and limits adequate to the reproduction of the system.  Politics is presented as a mystification of the social process and therefore as a mechanism which serves at times for use, at times for neutralization, and at times for blocking the processes of the socialization of production and labor.  In the period of the "real subsumption," the political tends to entirely absorb the economic and to define it as separate only insofar as it fixes its rules of domination.  Therefore, the separateness of the economic, and principally of exploitation, is a mystification of the political, that is of who has Power.

The law of value considers labor as time in which human creative energy is unfolded.  In the political constitution of advanced capitalism, the fundamental function of Power is that of stripping from the social process of productive cooperation the command over its own functioning of closing social production power within the griddings of the system of Power. The time of Power is therefore, the exploitation of social time in the sense that a machine is predisposed to emptying out the meaning of its liberatory goals. Exploitation is therefore the production of an armoury of instruments for the control of the time of social cooperation. The labor-time of full, whole social cooperation is here submitted to the law of the maintenance of domination. The time of liberation, which is the very time of the highest productivity, is therefore cancelled in the time of production.

Thesis 5. Marx's Theory of value is tied to the origins of the industrial revolution

The definition of the form of value which we find in Karl Marx's Capital is completely internal to what we have called the first phase of the second industrial revolution (the period 1848-1914).  But the theory of value, formulated by Ricardo and developed by Marx, is in effect formed in the previous period, the period of "manufacture," during the first industrial revolution.  This is the source of the theory's great shortcomings, its ambiguities, its phenomenological holes, and the limited plasticity of its concepts.  Actually, the historical limits of this theory are also the limits of its validity, notwithstanding Marx's efforts, at times extreme, to give the theory of value the vigor of a tendency.

To make our discussion more specific, let us note that already in the course of the second industrial revolution, and in particular when we find the passage from the professional worker to the mass worker, essential characteristics of the theory of value begin to fade away.  The distinction between "simple labor" and "socially necessary labor" loses every importance (except that of continually stimulating absurd arguments), showing the impossibility of defining the genealogy of socially necessary labor; and most importantly, the distinctions between "productive labor" and "unproductive labor," between "production" and "circulation," between "simple labor" and "complex labor" are all toppled.  In terms of productive versus unproductive labor, already in the second phase of the second industrial revolution, but continually more so as we enter the third industrial revolution, we witness a complete dislocation of these concepts: in effect, productive labor is no longer "that which directly produces capital," but that which reproduces society-from this point of view, its separation from unproductive labor is completely dislocated.  With regard to production and circulation, it is necessary to recognize that production is "subsumed within circulation," and vice versa, to a continually greater extent.  The mode of production finds in circulation its own form.  With regard to simple and complex labor, we witness a complete redefinition of their relationship (or the relationship between simple and qualified or specialized or theoretical or scientific labor).  It does not become a linear relation which can be led back to a quantity, but rather is more an interaction between completely original ontological stratifications.

Finally, the criteria of exploitation come to be placed under critique.  Its concept can no longer be brought back within the category of quantity.

Exploitation, instead, is the political sign of domination above and against the human valorization of the historical/natural world; it is command above and against productive social cooperation.  Now, even though this definition of exploitation is certainly contained within the intent of Marx's philosophy, it is nonetheless not clearly expressed within the historicallimits of his theory.

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