Living Amidst the Catastrophes of “the Living Contradiction”: Theses on Marx at 200
Abstract: Two hundred years after Marx’s birth, we find ourselves living amid the catastrophes of what Marx terms “the living contradiction.” I argue here that Marx’s immanent critique of capitalist society’s “economic law of motion” remains the indispensable basis for any coherent understanding of capital today and, hence, of any revolutionary project to bring about capital’s demise and supersession. This essay develops a careful reading of a discrete section from Grundrisse where we find key elements of Marx’s critique in concentrated form. I focus on the way that Marx consistently frames capital as contradiction – a set of barriers or limits that capital posits, presses past, and in superseding, posits again at a higher level of contradiction – culminating in Marx’s formulation of capital as “the living contradiction.” In conversation with contemporary value-form theory I consider what makes this contradiction living; in particular I consider the intertwined phenomena of class decomposition and surplus population as the phenomenal expressions of what value-form theorists have termed “asocial sociality,” the characteristic condition of commodity-subjects under capital. Ultimately, I contend that Marx remains the seminal theorist of capitalism, and that his immanent critique of the capital-relation and the value-form remains not merely relevant, but necessary and indispensable if we are to understand, and, more important, survive the pervasive crises of the present.
Keywords: Marx, Grundrisse, value-form critique, wertkritik, surplus population, class decomposition
View Full Text
Published in March 2020