Review

 

The Substance Of Capital

 

 By Robert Kurz

 

         kurz1  kurz2

 Above: A strikingly designed book cover by Michel Prigent suggesting a disappearing substance

This excellent new book from Chronos Press is being distributed by AK Press UK. Mail order from the shop for £9.50 + p&p.,

Or tto order direct from the publisher by mail please send a cheque payable to " Chronos Publications " for £9.50 plus P&P (£1.77 UK, £4.75 Europe or £5.60 US) to BM Chronos, London WC1N3XX.

To start with it's an exceptional piece of work which traces the dialectical roots of the postmarxist position developed from the groundbreaking analysis of Moishe Postone in his book, Time Labour And Social Domination. It critiques the roots of contemporary revolutionary thought and deals with the somewhat astonishing fact that the concept of substance itself has never been fully analysed either in Marxist critique or elsewhere.

There are a number of ways that this theory differs from "currently existing" or "labour" Marxism principally in its departure from the ahisorical "for all times" self belief of orthodox Marxism by anchoring its positions in present society and history, specifically 21st century conditions of the third industrial revolution, which is to say the age of computers. In confronting this profoundly changed historical environment Postone and Kurz describe an enormous reevaluation of the concept value from the "vulgar marxist" interpretation crudely based on a labour theory of value assumed by orthodox Marxists up to and including Negri inspired Autonomist Marxists and postmodernist "Neo-Marxists", along the way freeing its use of critical theory from the debris of the long since broken definition of Marxism as a mere ideology of modernization.

It integrates the female perspective articulated by Roswitha Scholz before systematically and devastatingly deconstructing the ahistorical and reductionist tenets of the traditional Marxist point of view as having been tainted by the protestant work ethic, as well as by its incarnation in the opportunistic form of reformist "Euro-Marxism" which expels forever into some hypothetical future the long held revolutionary recognition of the councils as the authentic locus of change. Kurz points out that traditional Marxism has become an abomination by assuming a degraded form of quasi-buddhistic ideology surrendering the will to live and the desire to change everything to a castrated, grovelling attitude despairing at the "eternal return" of capital, arising from a fallacious reading of vol 3 of Capital that leads to the belief that the collapse of capital is inevitable, a fallacy assumed by otherwise lucid theorists including Rosa Luxemburg and Anton Pannakoek. Kurz refers to this as "Collapse theory".

Kurz points out that critical theory from the 1920s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was in effect a self censoring highwire act stage managed by soviet propagandist in chief Bukharin and his successors with little real purpose apart from the effort to whitewash the atrocities committed by various soviet regimes in their "five year plans", i.e. through the mechanics of modernisation.

Kurz then discusses "probability fields" including the contrasts and conflict between actually existing humanity and theory especially the abstract form of humanity presupposed by postmodernism. It's by and through the insights and breakthroughs achieved by applying value theory as elaborated in Postone's book that Kurz and the other theorists of the Krisis and Exit groups transcend the ahistorical and non material positions so many of the activists and theorists of our time still base their writing and actions on. Through a rigorous critical process Kurz shows that that kind of theoretical/critical self deception is neither necessary or desirable. Sadly this book comprises only the first two sections of what Kurz originally intended to be four sections long before his premature death in 2012. This excellent translation is the first appearance in the English language of what is surely a founding document of post Marxist value theory, the most advanced and coherent political theory of the historical crossroad we inhabit.

 

Grant McDonagh

18 April 2017