I share the central point of Rose's text, i.e. the idea that the transformation of the labor force of the proletariat into commodities does not imply that its psychic and human essence is also destroyed. If there were not differences between feelings, emotions, aspirations, desires, human intentions and the character of wage labour to which the workman in decadent capitalism is returned, there would be no possibility of seizing consciousness, revolt, awakening to imagine another social mode of organization.
To produce, is, at the same time, producing oneself. But owning to the fact that the production of the proletariat, the output of his work, itself, is alienated, that value, itself, is confisquated (and restored only partly in the form of a wage), there is alienation, separation, and thus, the possibility of becoming aware of it. The proletariat, is stripped of the product of his work. Insofar as the extension of the law of the value after Second World War also reaches (in a not-hierarchical order) culture, education, human relations, moral and emotional support, communication, house work, the breeding of chickens and the anti-virus vaccine, the culture of beans and peas produced today in Kenya rather than in our gardens...., the proletariat is stripped of all these aspects also. The management of arable lands, the state of the rivers and floods, the education of the child and even the number of children (in China), noise pollution, pesticides in vegetable food, antibiotics in animals, all that escapes it. Owing to the fact that that escapes it (him?), it can become aware of the catastrophic drift in which capitalism engages these various aspects of human production, and oppose it.
Since the beginning of this discussion, I think that we will not gain grand' thing (to understand the development of the class consciousness), discussing "what characterizes the human being" (Marlowe) or the "abstract concept of needs and human characteristics" (Rose). Man is, above all, a social being. His needs are not determined, once and for all, by its "human nature", but the needs of the human species are defined in interaction with the level of development of the productive forces (mainly) and according to its relation with the other species which populate planet. The "needs" of the generation of our parents, born after the 1st world war, and who knew the second war, are not the same as ours, and ours are not the same as those of our children. The "needs" for people in Africa are not the same as the needs for Europeans (one can detail the needs for the different generations here). The satisfaction of needs is thus, from the outset,socially defined (and I do not speak here about the false needs created by marketing in order to increase the consumption of useless things). It is not, moreover only characteristic of man. The primates non=humains of the beginning of the century are not the same as those of today, in particular because of contacts with the human (but that, I would be unable to develop it without reading more modern ethology).
To understand why class consciousness did not develop on a global level until now, and why there is a chance that it will develop in the period to come, to affirm that there are "human needs", a tension between "social being" and "human essence" is not enough. It should be specified how the trajectory of capitalism caused at the same time in developing these human needs (education, health, the correct food should be today with the range of all, given the technological development of capitalism), and, in a contradictory way, to alienate an increasingly large part of the population from the satisfaction of these socially defined needs. It is the condition to anchor this discussion in reality. An example: Why young people of higher education are revolting in March 2006 in France, if it is not because of the fact of studies creating the need to have a productive activity in relation to this level of education, which became impossible in the society of today? Another example: one revolts because the anti-AIDS drugs exist (technological development) but cannot be distributed as one would need it in Africa (because of the law of the value).
The possibility of a global awakening (i.e. generalized in the whole world) and general (i.e. applying to all fields of the life) results from increasing alienation related to the increasingly important product of human social activity (social wealth), which, in theory at least, could allow for the satisfaction of man's needs.
I have not read in its entirety History and Class Consciousness, by Lukacs, I confess it. But, reading the quotations that Rose gives, I wonder whether the thought of Lukacs is not contaminated by the structuralism which invaded all the social sciences during the 20th century, and perhaps also revolutionary theory. This structuralism is characterized, it seems to me, by binary oppositions: form vs content, meaning vs significance (in linguistics), objectivation vs subjectivation. In the case of Lukacs, the distinction between "social being" and the "true needs of man". It would be necessary, one day, to make a criticism of this structuralism in revolutionary theory. I launch an initial idea: I wonder if we tend to project also the opposition between the categories "exchange values" and "use value" onto man, "the use value" would be "true needs", the "exchange value" social being (but this idea is completely immature, and should be worked out, or cancelled).
In any case I do not understand Rose when she says "it is this thrust of the" human ? "which makes it possible for man to measure the difference between his subjectivity (modeled by capitalism) and his needs which pushes him to seek another thing". In my opinion, the measure of the difference between socially defined human needs and the possibility of satisfying them in current society form part of human "subjectivity" (which cannot be reduced to the need for food, housing, protection, etc...), without which it would not be possible to imagine another form of social organization, nor to develop a revolutionary will to change.
|Home||IP Archive||Texts||Discussion||IP's French site||Links|