The constitution of time

Antonio Negri

on displacement
p.56 The displacement occurrs in the process of real subsumption. The tendency of real subsumption presents itself, formally, in terms of a linear logic: the reality of capitalist domination realises itself as systemic and totalitarian. The whole of society becomes productive. The time of production is the time of life. At this point, however, the formal and linear tendency must remember its own reality: it is a tendency of capitalist development. But that capital is a relation, a relation of exploitation. The deplacement of the development at the level of real subsumption is then an antagonistic dislocation. The fact that everything has become productive does not deny the asymmetry of the productive relation: it does not deny the exploitation that constitutes the productive relation. The social realisation of the capitalist productive relation overdetermines, does not negate but rather accentuates exploitation.

p.52 The more processes of subsumption develop, the more they create the collective. Time is given here as –already from the point of view of capital – collective: collective capital, collective working class.

on circulation
p. 62 In order to perfect its formal functioning circulation needs to ignore time. Every relation is relative: comparisons between monetary quantities. Surplus value is annihilated in the indifference of interest. The frame within which we move is that of reified equivalent. As such, indifferent to determination, hence not circular.

p. 65 the whole history of bourgeois thought had seen equilibrium (to which it aspired as its own absolute) in terms of mediation. Hence the terms of the linear process of rationalisation, of Aufhebung, of criteria of preferential rationality, of natural wisdom. Here on the contrary, the regime of production of truth anticipates reality, and functional rationalisation runs through paths that are constantly interrupted, problematic, mobile –thought is tranformed into a constitutive strategy. Bourgeois science must reconstitute itself, above and against a collective and irreversible time, as abstract measure. As function of equivalence and circulation – in other words, as money. Hegel, in order to make mediation work, must now get rid of the paragraphs in the Phenomenology on ‘Enlightenment and Terror’ – because here what generates science is not the struggle against superstition and regulation of absolute freedom of capital, but rather superstition and terror. Transcendence and the circularity of science, do not come together in ‘overcoming’ but in ‘foundation’. Hence the insufficiency of ‘negative thought’ and of the reflection on Krisis, today, whatever form they take: in the reference to Hegel that is characteristic to them, negative thought is like a glove turned inside-out, uncertain between representing the hand or the turning, between making apparent the reality of mediation or simply narrating its necessity.

Going through the tautology of time and value allows us to appreciate a concept of crisis that is cosubstantial to the actual phase of capitalist development. Real global and somultaneous crisis, founded on the antagonism that substantial plurimus times of subjects oppose to the analytics of command.

The crisis is then the adequate point of view to face real subsumption. A crisis that is founded on the plurimus times and collective subjects that the dislocation of real subsumption poses at the centre of social space. But what does it mean to say plurimus, substantial and antagonistic times? In Marxist vulgate, even the most recent one, the antagonistic substantiality is reduced to the use value as independence and autonomy from the exchange value. What is then the theoretical and practical relation that can be defined between the traditional conception of use value and the antagonism of plurimus times and subjects? Positing the problem in these terms means to posit the problem of dislocation (of the new qualification) of use value in real subsumption of labour under capital.

But to confront these problems and solve them we propose these intermediary theses:
a)use value – the fundamental one, labour-force – is offered to exchange. It becomes exchange value.
b)Within exchange, capital – that is constructive potenza – reforms, restructures use value, in the combining of productive factors.
c)Within the capitalist construction of exchange value, the relative independence of use value can be found through (a dialectics that shows) successive displacements in the composition of the labour force.
d) But within real subsumption, totalitarian, of society under capital, this relative independence is not conceivable anymore.
If this relative independence – ad absurdum – carried on being possible, this would entail that the process is indefinite (dialectically indefinite). But it isn’t so: unless we assume circularity and eternal return as true images of the process, as in fact the analytics of capital does in a mystifying manner. Marxian theory of the ‘normality’ of the working day, in many ways ambiguous, becomes, from this point of view, important since it poses a ‘superior’ limit (of the working day itself) whose presence is essential in all equations. It is also useful to remember here, to fix the limit, the temporal paradox of Harrod who demonstartes the impossibility of a ’total affluence’ on the side of consumption (there is insufficient time to buy all commodities on offer).
e)Use value could be at this point defined as subtraction, antagonistic as negative quantity, inside and against real subsumption. This subtraction is formal and material.
f)By formal subtraction we mean generic subtraction from capital command. The ghetto. The crisis of the law of value, in its realisation, is here conceived as end of any paradigm of value: and one refuses this end. It is however an iullusionry condition. Even if it can work as a precondition.

On time (secondary)
The time of political economy is nomenclature, self-declaration of value, command. It is therefore negation of real time, which is perceived as antagonistic, or –rather- reduction of it within formally dialectical schemes: the cycle and the cyclical movement, the market and the plan –in other words, time is configured, in the cyclical movement, in the form of and according to the ordering criterion of the economic space, as reversibility of all points, circulation, currency. Ideal time is, from this point of view, balanced space. This reduction is valid for theories of the state as much as for political economy, and in general also for all human sciences. […]

Here we need to get to the hard core, that point of logical proposition and practical project that, in the extreme separation, capital offers as validity, justification of its existence –justice, qualification of its being.
In this respect three passages need to be identified.

1)capital doesn’t present itself only as measure and as system, it presents itself as progress. This definition is essential to its legitimation, both internal and external. In this perspective political economy is all keen to take into the time of administration (accumulation as administration, reversible time, eternal return, the cyclical) the innovative element that history produces anyway. Jetzt-Zeit, innovative punctuality, utopia: capital regards them as its own. Progress is eternal return enlightened by the lightening of Jetzt-Zeit. Administration is enlightened by charisma. The city of the Devil is enlightened by Grace. Elements of innovation are reduced to numerical and quantitative measures and only as such referred to progress, itself enlightened and commanded. Progress is the representation of a process of leaps forward in which however all factors are reducible to proportion. The difference is only qualitative. The economic cycle is the clearest example of capitalist progress: all its terms are modified according to substantially quantitative effects and trajectories. So, the Jetzt-Zeit and the utopia are presented as innovation, as taste of the real, inside of the routine of the temporal being of command. Utopia and routine are presented as abstract identity, necessity. Economic determinism, the hidden hand that is the natural law and hence becomes state law, keeping the numinous and obligatory character of natural law –here we are in the hard core, where necessity is identified with interest and with self-representation of capital as progressive.

The science and the practice of capitalist power operate a dislocation of the point of view when they realise the real unsustainability of the antagonism implicit to subsumption. […] The second dislocation assumes the irresolvable character of the relation, it presupposes antagonism. The bourgeois point of view wants to represent here one and only one pole or the relation. If innovation is always aporetic, if it is always fed by antagonism, -if it originates outside of the system of power- then it must be annihilated. The content of the second dislocation, on the side of capital, is the ontological zero. The time of capitalist revolution ends in that of the resetting of real time. Absolute hegemony of the war industry. Progress triumphs into nothingness.

Here we need to digress. Let’s ask ourselves: this idea of zero time of innovation and of permanent capitalist revolution, wasn’t it once a much more powerful and extended notion than what it appears in the analysis of its direct field of application- the world of bourgeois ideology?
Isn’t this myth of innovation as Krisis, as systemic project, capable of being applied to ideological behaviours beyond the frontiers of bourgeois thought? The answer is yes: the thought of innovation, understood as exclusive capitalist self-determination of development, based on the time of command, of measure –isteresis of development, has invested the thought of socialist revolution.

“A historical materialist cannot do without the notion of a present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still and has come to a stop. For this notion defines the present in which he himself is writing history. The historical materialist leaves it to others to be drained by the whore called ‘Once upon the time’ in historicism’s bordello. He remains in control of his powers, man enough to blast open the continuum of history.” “History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now [Jetzt-Zeit]” …”…the time of the now which is shot through with chips of Messianic time…”

As Walter Benjamin writes in the thesis on the philosophy of history. Well, this notion is ruinous. Far from being the destruction of historicism and its perverse political effects, the notion of messianic Jetzt-Zeit is the greatest modernisation of reactionary thought: it is conversion of historical, plural, punctual, versatile materials into the taumaturgic illusion of empty innovation. The concept of messianic Jetzt-Zeit reduces the tautology of subsumption to mysticism –and mysticism always stinks of master (whatever Agamben and Fachinelli say). In Benjamin one finds again the paradox, equivalent and opposed to the stoic one, of the creationist notion of measure-time. Agostino d’Ippona: ‘time was created simultaneously with the world, and with the creation of the world change and movement were also created, as is evident in the order of the first six or seven days’. Exactly. If an innovative mythology is established in a formal universe, it loses the flavour of materialism and of the creativity of the only creative time: that of the masses. The historical continuum is thus reduced to elementary series and posed in the condition of being systematically reorganised. The only real practice of the now-time is that of abstract rupture, of the abstract unit of productive time –hence, it is the mechanic and methodical dimension of equilibrium. The Jetzt-Zeit is a kind of measure-time.

These were random sections from La costituzione del tempo, later published by Continuum in the collection Time for Revolution (translated by Matteo Mandarini) here translated by Arianna Bove for the mailing list members of the generation-online reading group.
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