Whither the critique of political economy in post-Marxism?

Daniel Avatar

In my dissertation, I made an argument that the decisionism of Badiou, Zizek, Laclau and other so-called ‘post-Marxist’ theorists is derived from an intra-theoretical debate amongst left-Heideggerians, specifically against the pervasive authenticity politics and existentialist politics of the time. I argue that Lacan’s ‘ontology of lack’ was the alternative formula that enabled these thinkers to posit a break from Heideggerian ontological politics which opened the door for a politics based on the decision and the event.

But in more ways than one, this argument is too theoreticist. If we want to take these theories of decision and the event seriously, we have to read them as a historical materialist response to the transformation of class composition concurrent with the shift from Fordism to neoliberalism, or with the shift to societies of control.

At the same time, decisionism and evental politics among post-Marxists should not be reduced to a vulgar refusal to confront political economy, rather, it is a response to a more general premise of political economy which is the fact that the proletariat is now an evanescent figure which must be invented, i.e. the proletariat is not automatically derived as a result of class conflict.

The disappearance of the masses and the rise of structural unemployment are two such features of this shift in political economy. The irony is that post-Marxist sought to move away from existentialist politics but find themselves embroiled in existentialist politics by embracing decisionism and the event. At least this is the accusation today’s historical materialists make.

Near the end of his life, Sartre said, to paraphrase, “I was a moralist in a political age.” What if today’s post-Marxists remain within this same impasse Sartre faced?

One response

  1. collin237

    Nowadays, and increasingly in the probable future, proletarians are machines. And unlike the robots of folklore, real robots are incapable of even wanting to rebel.

    Real robotic workers, such as those in car factories, have no human semblance. The humanoids presented by the holdovers of Marxism are fakes, nothing more than fancy talking dolls hyped by the media.

    The truth that Marxism — and perhaps all of modern philosophy — was designed to hide, is now becoming apparent: The only meaningful division between people is, and has always been, whether they’re for or against the solidarity of all Humans as equally responsible causal agents in a single material world.

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