Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Origins of Bourgeois Individualism - Part 4

We began this series on "Bourgeois Individualism" by discussing Paul Krugman's naive defence of the IS-LM Model and pointing out that it "mysteriously" fails to reconcile the neoclassical analysis of "Investments-Savings" equilibrium (Say's Law) based on the timeless simultaneous "exchange" of goods and services in natura (or in kind) without the presence of any "money", with the presence of the monetary medium in the Keynesian "Liquidity-Money" component of the IS-LM Model. And we explained how this "model", like every other "model" of bourgeois "economic science", cannot account for the existence of money simultaneously as a means of exchange and as a store of value (even in electronic form! something Krugman does not understand as he displays in a recent post on his Blog!) - for the simple reason that bourgeois economic analysis only "sees" market prices, and therefore fails to understand that behind the "observable phenomenon" of "market prices" there is just as "observable" a "reality" as that of "value", which refers to the political command of capital over living labour. It is this "political" reality of capitalist command through the wage relation that bourgeois economists simply "cannot see" because they say they "cannot observe it" through "empirical" market prices!

In other words, the only "reality" (Latin res, thing) that the bourgeoisie understands if that of "things". For the bourgeoisie, capital is a "thing", living labour is a "thing", social relations of production are "things" or "quantities" that can be brought together into "simultaneous equations" and "econometric analysis" that can explain and "track" numerically - by "measuring" it - the direction and dysfunctions of the capitalist economy. Even movements in the "monetary medium", the one capitalist "institution" tha most closely "signals" the antagonism of the wage relation (through inflation and deflation, credit and liquidity) - even "money" is "quantified" in the "mathematical identity" of the aptly-named "Quantity Theory of Money". All these "equations" and "models" and "macroeconometric analyses" attempt to "measure" the social reality of capitalism as if it were an immutable and "objective" reality or "thing". What eludes bourgeois economists is that although the capitalist economy may "seem" like a relationship of "things" or "quantities" (GDP, money supply, unemployment rate and so on) at any one time (if time is "frozen"), in fact and in reality this "time" is not the time of "social antagonism" but that of "mathematical identities" that are mere (strategic-ideological) "instruments" or "tools" used by the bourgeoisie to impose ITS OWN will to power, its own cynical and oppressive command over living labour under the clever disguise of "economic laws" and "methodological individualism".

Through its "mathematical equations" and muddled "modelling" of the capitalist economy, the filthy acolytes of the bourgeoisie that call themselves "economists" merely aim to describe this specific historical economy as a timeless "system" of "relations between objects, things and quantities" - as a "science" with its own "laws" - and not as an abominable "system" of exploitation and violent command!

The interesting thing to note for our purposes in this discussion is the obvious "discrepancy", incoherence or "apory" - or even "contra-diction" - between the "system" of bourgeois economic "modelling" which aims to reduce social life to a mere "quantitative relation"....and on the opposite side the irrepressible antagonistic needs of both the bourgeoisie to present social labour as an aggregate of individual labours (!) and of us workers to re-assert our individual needs as social needs under the ineluctable reality of social labour!!

It is at this juncture that bourgeois "individualism", which relies on the "abstraction" of living labour into "labour power" that can be "quantified" by the money wage and "systematised" with bourgeois econometrics (!) - it is here that this bourgeois "individualism" clashes with and crashes against the hard rock (reality!) of our "concrete physical needs" as "being-humans", as "individual expressions" of our species that can fully realise our needs only through the recognition of our necessarily "social" living activity, of "social labour"! We have therefore a clash, an antagonism of two irremediably opposed "needs": the abstract "individualism" of the bourgeoisie that allows an individual "genius" (the sanctified and sanctimonious Steve Jobs to Tiger Woods to any Hollywood or pop "star") to amass social resources drawn from and commanding over the living labour of millions, billions of "workers and consumers" whose needs are prescribed and short-changed by capitalist institutions that - far from respecting the needs of individual being humans - in fact reproduce their command by obliterating the needs of individuals into one uniform, one-dimensional mass society based on a mass market and mass consumption! Capitalist accumulation is dependent, on one side, on the "isolation" of being-humans into "individual workers" at war with one another, and, on the other side, on the artificial and violent "homogenisation" and massification of being-humans into individual workers and "consumers"!

Perhaps the most ironic formulation of this contra-diction in the reality of bourgeois individualism came this week from the Financial Times who saluted Steve Jobs of Apple as "a genius who gave consumers devices that they did not even know they wanted"! Marvelous, is it not? Why, capitalism has finally morphed into a Utopia in which our every need is satisfied....before we even know it!!

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