Sunday, April 6, 2014

Negri and Dialectics

            I’m interested in the role that dialectics play in Negri’s analysis. In one sense, a dialectical relationship is opposed to an antoganistic one. In discussing the relationship between the self-valorization of the worker-subject and capitalist valorization, Negri states that “the relation is no longer dialectical, it is an antagonistic relation, always dominated, but full of risks and insurrections” (135). In this case, I assume he can refer to the situation as antagonistic because it has no movement and is characterized by emotion, otherwise I’m unsure of how it differentiates from a dialectic. Yet later on, Negri suggests “the theme of communism has melted into that of the transition, it has rooted itself in the antagonistic nature of Marxist logic” (168). Well wait, has Marxist logic become antagonistic now, instead of dialectic? Is it both, but can be defined differently depending on perspective?
            Luckily, Negri only complicates the matters later on with his understanding of communism that follows this idea above of transition. Displeased with the traditional notion that “the path to communism and to transition is their common negation of capital,” Negri suggests instead that “communism…takes the form of transition” (152-153). The idea of transition, for Negri, seems coupled with communism as a movement that opposes dialectics. At this point, it is clear that Negri is operating on another level, because it seems that he has set up the two elements of dialectics—antagonism and transition—to be opposed to it. He is consciously not using “negation,” or any other commonly used instance of aufheben, but it begs the question of whether the difference is merely Negri’s determined usage. His vocabulary is just different enough to constitute his own meaning, but he’s certainly teetering on the edge. Later, he writes “the relation of capital is a relation of force which tends toward the separate and independent existence of its enemy: the process of workers’ self-valorization, the dynamic of communism. Antagonism is no longer a form of the dialectic, it is its negation” (188). Ah, there we go. Regardless of Negri’s fun with “negative thoughts” that follow, the circle is complete: antagonism both is and is not dialectics, using its own language.  

            But what is it really accomplishing? I suppose Negri’s understanding, following his rule that communism is “a potent reversal of everything,” (158) means all terminology leading up to it is invalidated by the transition. But that can’t be because, according to Negri, antagonism (not dialectics) is the root of class struggle, hence surplus value, i.e. the engine of capital. Fortunately, the introduction does a great job of explaining Negri’s theory of antagonism as “a class seeking not to control another, but to destroy it in order to free itself” (xxi). Isn’t this dialectic too? Haven’t we seen this scenario in Hegel, where two self-conscious beings seeking recognition are willing to fight to the death? Haven’t we been saying all semester that you can’t say “no” to dialectics because then you’re just playing the game? It seems like Negri is certainly caught up in a game, I just don’t know if I fully understand his rules.

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