Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Labor (representation) ->Value (representation) -> Money (transformation) -> Capital & the Generative mise en abyme

Fragments of citations posted here that I'm attempting to seam together in order to think the form of Anthony Macris' 1997 Capital, volume one: to think the form of it as 'the work of the negative' and an 'open-endedness of textuality' that is not indifference, but is 'indequation, rupture'.

From Spivak's 'Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value' (In Other Worlds)

"This textualization can be summarized as follows: the utopian socialists seemed to be working on the assumption that money is the root of all evil: a positive origin. Marx applies the dialectic to this root and breaks it up through the work of the negative. At each step of the dialectic something seems to lead off into the open-endedness of textuality: indifference, inadequation, rupture."(160)

‘It is not in the unilinear progressive account of the emergence of the money-form . . . that is Marx’s main “discovery”. It is in the full account of value-formation that the textuality of Marx’s argument (rather than the recuperable continuist schema) and the place of use value is demonstrated, and the predication of the subject as labor-power (irreducible structural super-adequation – the subject defined by its capacity to produce more than itself) shows its importance.” (157)

Anthony Macris 'Claude Simon and the emergence of the generative mise en abyme', AUMLA 99 May, 2003: 50-66)

"We can, in fact, think of contemporary capitalism as a kind of machine that writes itself into existence: as one vast, multi-functional, ever-expanding Gmea [Generative mise en abyme] that produces objects and services, images of objects and services, verbal descriptions of objects and services, and that configures and reconfigures them again and again in an endless series of variations driven by the valorisation cycle. Caught up in this vast system, the novel form circulates throughout it as a commodified linguistic entity, its characters and situations often reflecting the world through which it moves. And not only the novel: narratives of all kinds circulate throughout it, moving all the more quickly if they are for realising profit for their producers. . . .The capitalist image machine creates whole after whole, miniature after miniature, pumping out texts that mix differing orders of signification and materiality, playing out its endless mise en abyme across the entire urban landscape."

"To sum up the novelistic Gmea is broadly characterised by the following features:
1) An implosion of hierarchy between framing and embedded novel elements.
2) An emphasis of those elements on market processes, especially those related to capitalism's scriptural, image-producing and organisational technologies.
3) Forms of novelistic textuality that overlap and interface with originary capitalist texts.

4) A generativity of such intertextuality driven by the valorisation process." (63)

Spivak's argument is that Marx discovers, in the movement from Labor to Value to Money to Capital, not a continuous chain, not an origin from which value emerges ex nihilo [out of nothing], but rather the discontinuity, the ruptural, the endless/origin-less generativity of textuality. Marx's key insight - via spivak's reading - seems to be that exchange value is surplus to use-value, and the the social labor expended in producing the commodity, has the possibility of a superadequation, an excess of balance between use and exchange value, for the labouring subject. It is the emergence of the possibility of there being a superadequation that Spivak hones in on, and which she considers to be an operation of textuality: of linguistic creation.

For Macris the generativity of this textuality is both an aspect of consumer capitalism (post-fordist capitalism), and a formal technique that can be theorised and practised in fictional narrative. Thus the creation, or better, the generation of Value (whether aesthetic or ethical), is almost web-like across our culture by virtue of cultural-capitalism's colonisation of aesthetic and ethical fields. Macris might be suggesting, in his novel, that in order to generate Value (aesthetic and ethical) that is not stamped with commodity fetishism we need to go into the underground of the Value creating machine and witness its less than shiny working machinery; its exhausts and pressure ducts; the dirt and grit. This is the work of negation: to present a phenomenon as negative in order to clear the way for something else.

The question is, what possible opportunity for the re-presentation of this alterity when the method of presentation is negative-critical? This question brings up the rhythmanalysist's perspective. Rather than posit a new system of value, perhaps the work of the negative is multiple - there are older tempos and temporalities that reappear & re-presence in the time-space vacated by the force of the work of the negative. Derrida's hauntology in his reflections on disjointed time in Specters of Marx is another way to articulate this notion of multiple-rhythms constellating so as to sound their movement toward a rhythmic harmony.

It seems counter-intutitive to talk of harmony and negativity together. In musical terms we associate harmony with together-ness, euphony. This is not, however, technicallly accurate. Harmony, or tonality, is both consonance and dissonance. In order to think beyond harmony we can turn to Adorno's writings on Schoenberg's innovations with 12-tone music. Alternatively, we can turn to the polyrhythms of Steve Reich's, or Philip Glass's pulse-pattern repetition music. Another sounding of this non-harmonic polyrhythmia can be heard in the Necks' pieces.

What then might it mean to suggest that fictional narrative could generate a movement of rhythms that are, yes, negative but that such negations are how the movement is impelled, and that the eurhythmia that might be felt [see Lefebvre on the body - first post] is felt in patterns that have no use for judgements on the negativity of their initial provenance? [I'll come back to this - and go and listen to The Necks!]

In Mark Sanders' introduction to the theories of Spivak, he amplifies hre insertion of a textual dimension to the transition from labour power to exchange Value and, importantly, use value in Marx's writings. Key to Spivak's understanding of Marx after Derrida, is that money is the unrecognised supplement, which shows all the marks of writing. further, Derrida fails to distinguish between commercial and industrail capital: that money and circuits of exchange, are secondary to labour-power and production. This can lead to a mistaking of Marx's understanding of use-value's basis in labour power. For in the sphere of production "There one finds ' the necessary and essential super-adequation of labour-power to itself: it is in the nature of labour-power to create more value than it consume.'" (Spivak from 'Speculation on reading Marx' cited in Sanders Live Theory introduction: 55)

For Spivak exchange-value is a text and a representation: it has a differantial [sic] chartacter:

"This means that use-value, which Marx defines as what is left over when exchange-value is subtracted from the thing, is a theoretical fiction."

And for Sanders, Spivak next refers to "the definitive passage in the canon':

"In the exchange-relation of commodities their exchange-value appears to us as totally independent of their use-value. But if we abstract their use-value from the product of labour, we obtain their value, as it has just been defined. The common element that represents itself in the exchange-relation or exchange-value of the commodity, is thus value."(Capital, 1: 128)

The key terms here are 'abstract' and 'represent'. The answer to the question, not what is Value, but how is it produced, is, for Spivak, tied to how value abstracts and represents itself out of labour power. This representation and abstraction is textual: it works through supplementarity, through differance (the deferrals and differences of meaning that structure and move signs - as understood as signifiers.)

What sort of labour power is present in narrative fiction? Its writing is production, and yet such a production is made in the consumption, or reading. As Roland Barthes, in particular, argues, there is the doxa of a reading that accepts the conventional expectations, into which a text plays, as being those through which the reading is consumed: for Barthes this is the readerly response. Alternately, there is the reading that is impelled to effectively write the text, not least because the forms of the text exceed conventional consumption: the writerly text. Making the text run is the allusive term Barthes deploys to connote this writerly production. While 'run' summons up a thread loosened from a garment, or human locomotion , it is also machinic - like a generator. The text that 'runs' comes close to evoking the dynamism that Macris locates in the Generative mises en abyme of some of Claude Simon's work. I think, also, Macris's own novel, where the dynamism of a text that dances, more than runs, that at times sounds like eurhythmia, rather than the fordist clunk and grind of Chicago-blues based rock (from Muddy Waters to Nirvana), is that textuality of a labour power that is super adequate because it is, also, a machine for generating negations.

The questions I leave this post with are: What is this desire for unalienated labour - for an unmediated utility (or use-value)? What does labour act upon - what are the raw materials - of spectacular capitalism: the capitalism of the post-Warhol world?

What use is Macris' 1997 Capital, volume one?

PS: More thoughts on Marx's theory of value here at Roughtheory. org [link]