About

 

 

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.[i]

 

With Sober Senses is a new project in which I am trying to reorientate my research and writing towards mapping out the territory of capital accumulation with Australia, in a way I hope will reach a larger audience and may be useful for those trying to understand and change the society they live in and make up.

Much of the writing I will put up here will be in draft form and contain ideas and conjectures which I hope will be challenged and tested. Due to the very nature of capitalism, it’s incredible dynamic speed, attempts to understand what is happening are often late to the feast. Apparently Hegel argued that ‘the owl of Minerva’, that is knowledge and understanding, only takes flight at dusk….that is after the events and the changes have happened. Frankly that isn’t much use for those of us caught in the thick of it. It is thus necessary to attempt read in the present the tendencies of the future and paint outlines of where we think things are going so we can intervene and perhaps break open the possibilities for the formation of emancipatory politics.

Core Arguments

Rather than commenting on everything and anything this blog will focus on trying to investigate a set of core theses as part of a relatively clear research program. This research will be on what I think are the main fault lines of capital accumulation in Australia. By this I mean what are the points where the accumulation of value has run into or faces certain barriers, problems or contradictions. Coupled with this I want to trace the lines of class struggle in Australia, how they cause, contribute to, condition, emerge out of and/or intersect with these fault lines. At the moment I suspect most of the attacks of this struggle will be waged by capital, offensives launched against both the previous gains of the working class and the present recalcitrance and rebellious behaviour whereby many of us refuse to be reduced to simple living deposits of labour-power to be put to work at the rate and intensity demanded by capital. But also I want to draw out some of the experiences of struggles, including those struggles that happen as part of unions,  that involve the political Left and those struggles that don’t look like struggles as traditionally understood, and those that don’t happen under the labels of the political Left, trade unions and official organisations.

Core theses:

1)      That the determining dynamic of Australian society is capitalism – the endless processes of accumulating value.

2)      That accumulation in Australia is in a condition of ‘precarious prosperity’, a seemingly healthy economy powered by a resources boom with an uncertain future.

3)      Major fault lines are opening up for capital:

  1. The cost and productivity of skilled blue collar labour in mining, construction and transport.
  2. The ability to afford a level of state services in a global context of a liquidity shortage and a worries about a looming ‘dip’ in the global economy.
  3. A shortage of workers for low paid industries such as retail and services.

4)      In short the problem for Australian capital is workers. Workers in Australia are not working hard enough, in the right jobs and at the right wages for capital’s desires. We are the cause of capital’s problems.

5)      This is manifesting in a number of front-lines of struggle

  1. An increasingly coordinated, both across employers and with the state, offensive on the conditions and accumulated rights of workers – especially those in mining, construction and transport.
  2. A thorough going reconstruction of the provision of state services which includes job losses and downsizing, reductions in funding for community organisations and experiments with social impact bond and other mechanisms of financialisation. The purpose here is to make less state and community workers do more and push other tasks and costs of reproduction back into ‘the home’ i.e the unpaid work of , largely, women, reduce the cost to capital for financing the state, meet the demands of credit rating agencies and free up the state to meet various needs of capital.
  3. Welfare reforms to push those on a variety of benefits intothe bottom tiers of the labour market

6)      Globally ‘capitalist-parliamentarianism’ (to use Badiou’s term and one that is more preferable than ‘liberal democracy) is becoming increasing authoritarian and technocratic to enforce the discipline on the population that capital demands.[ii] This process is also happening in Australia

7)      The most important thesis: social struggles contain the possibilities and kernels of a much better society.

Methodology

“There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a change of gaining its luminous summits.”[iii]

How can we make sense of the world we live in, how can we understand it? My intention  is that my approach will be ‘materialist’ that is to understand the world not from the point of its expressed ideals and ahistorical notions but rather to dig into the actual social reality of our lives, to try to grasp how society is organised on both an everyday and society-wide level. But a friend pointed out that terms like materialist are often used to wave an ideological flag, to declare allegiance rather than anything substantial.

And in a way for me that is true. My research draws heavily on the ‘Critique of Political Economy’ pioneered by Marx and the work on numerous other writers and thinkers who we could label ‘Marxist’.

In the Introduction to the Grundrisse Marx gives us some solid advice. It seems to make sense to start with the world as it appears – big chunks of facts and figures about the societies we want to look at. But the categories these facts and figures might refer don’t really tell us much if we don’t grasp the complex social relations that animate them. The example Marx uses is to say that if we want to understand a society ‘politic-economically’ then a category like population doesn’t tell us much unless we understand how the population is cut through by class, and also the basis on which these classes arise and the social relations that constitutes this basis.[iv]

If we just look at the economic data that gets poured out by private and government bodies we can only understand the world from the lop-sided world view of the dominant ideology. Rather we have to go deeper. We have to start from the way that our lives are organised in capitalism and its core organisational logic and use this to make sense of this great stream of information. This is something we can only do in our heads.

But we are also dependent on the information produced by the state, private business and largely pro-capitalist NGOs. Most of us don’t have the time to go out and carry out our own research, nor the financial ability to do so. Much of what I will be doing here will be wading through Treasury documents, submissions from employers association and the like to get the data that we can then attempt to use to understand the world – grasping them by thinking about what life is really like in capitalist society. In practice I’ll have a statement from the Business Council of Australia in one hand talking about productivity and in the other my battered copy of Capital.

There is a strange question of time here; capitalist society is incredible dynamic and fast. Economic crisis can emerging seeming from nowhere with action and understanding lagging far behind. Government policy and activity attempts to produce the best environment for capital accumulation and reproduce the broad circumstance necessary for its survival – but if often does so after the fact. For the rest of us, capital seems to be something that happens to us, its growth and crises both outside of control. The speed of these developments and their apparent randomness is often immobilising and strategy and tactics lag behind. To be useful we must read the wind.

(The photo in the header is of comrades from the Wollongong Out of Workers from the early 1980s)


[i] Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848 Political Writings vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1993), 70-71.

[ii]Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. Ray Brasser, Stanford University Press (Standford, California 2003), 7.

[iii] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes, vol. 1 (London: Penguin Classics, 1990), 104.

[iv] Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundation of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft) (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 100.

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All work on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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2 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: … is behind the sun’s glare? | crashcourse666

  2. mechkary2@yandex.ru

    Hello.
    1. In Russia, there is no strong left opposition. Party Zyuganov – racist.
    Why?
    Answer.
    a. Dial google site for Russian “Sochi Dargins” will come out on the site of the St. Petersburg branch of the party Zyuganov racist slander article annoying ethnic Dargin titled “How a Russian Caucasus”
    Attend to that in the Nogai steppe (where are Neftekumsk and South Sukhokumsk) descendants of Russian colonialists (who Bole than indigenous Nogai) becomes smaller than Dargins
    b. dial the search site Yandex “Magomedov tram” will come out on the Russian slanderous Caucasophobia
    at. in close to Zyuganov’s party newspaper “Soviet Russia”, “kavkazofobskaya article Caucasian ridge problems”

    2. In the Russian fascists in power – Zhirinovsky, Minister of Tkachev as an example
    Fascists from Russia sometimes like evrosoyusche power in the United States, a fascist Alexei Navalny in 2008 proposed to close the Chechens and Ingush in the ghetto

    3. Let us promote the idea. Seychs almost everywhere in the world the state gives a person 100% set of civil rights upon reaching a certain age. It is necessary to demolish the medieval anachronism. The rights should be tied to the level of development and scholarship

    4. According to information available on the territory of St. Petersburg, Bryansk region passed an unconstitutional ordinance (the AKP), according to which at night are prohibited from being on the street by people under 18 (!) Years. This contradicts the basic law of Russia – the Constitution, Article 27 on freedom of movement. In addition: 1. Under current law people have the right to start work at the age of 14, to have sex with 16 years, to use public transport to 7 years. A closer look we see that: – The law does not prohibit part time in private, such as for example, help in plumbing work or setting up computer equipment. ACP prevents the implementation of a permanent employment or part-time because it is possible to return to the place of residence to part-time work at any time of the day – the AKP prevent sexual and personal life of the citizens, since the law is not regulated, what time should commit acts of intimacy, acts of intimacy is allowed to do at any time, in any dwelling, respectively, can not be regulated by the return from the meeting – Citizens have the right to use public transport, long before 18 years of age, respectively, prevents the return of the AKP in the residence with good transport links. And if long-distance trains arriving in the city of residence of a citizen in the night? 2. Many citizens are forced to help elderly relatives, which are moved through the city 3. Nonresident citizens often come back at night in a hostel in the city study of native settlements 4. The citizens formed a negative image of the police and the state as a whole (the risk that young people protest can go to the extremist community) 5. Discrimination contributes to mental illness, aggravates social problems may be a factor of depression and suicide crimes 6. The citizen is not obliged to carry a watch, have hours and hours to be able to use. So this is a gross violation of national and international. 7. Moreover, it is a violation of the Russian Federation adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Articles 2,7,9,10,12,17 pact (since 16 years, people have the right to privacy), 18,21,22, 26 Please distribute, write to the United Nations in the Court of Human Rights, the President of Russia, the Russian prosecutor’s office, the investigative committee of Russia

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