ontological communism – self-valorization

certain brands of post-structuralism scared off most ontological thinking. mapping the path would distract, so i’ll just lay it at the feet of post-sausserian epistemological analysis. recent returns to communism (no doubt partially due to the ground-clearing after the fall of ‘actually exiting socialism’) have begun highlighting the ontological definition of the concept: the production of man by man, the abolition of the present state of things, etc etc.

but the question begged by the autonomist citing of the ‘fragment on machines’ and the foucaultian concept of biopower is whether or not capitalism is already communism of a sort. changes marx attributed to the exclusive domain of communism seem to have been anticipated by capitalism – species being, etc etc. it is important to differentiate the subsequent strategy of capitalism from the old frankfurt school fear of complete colonization, however. instead of investing itself in communism (something that zizek comes too close to claiming by sarcastically entitling its subjects ‘liberal communists’), it offers a ‘third way’ that ideologically forecloses communism — ie: it naturalizes or de-libidinizes the potentiality of a communism that de-links from capitalist valorization.

early-mid negri follows the hegelian optimism for capitalism creating its own grave diggers via the tactic of the “self-valorization” whereby critical flows in the circuits of capital are diverted from capital valorization (understood here as the process of re-articulating or re-territorializing the flows necessary for the expanded reproduction of a given mode of production). the capitalist valorization process serves as the source of the freeing of flows, but its extraordinarily fine-tuned ability to re-capture those flows provides it a surplus to re-invest in additional circuits of valorization. the “self-valorization” (‘self’ being ‘auto‘ in both french/italian, indicating a auto-poietic feedback loop that its source is also its product, gesturing to Marxist assumption that the basis for surplus value is labor power) is the re-capture of relative amounts of surplus value which is then put to use within a non-capitalist valorization circuit. [i apologize if this prose is un-readable, it’s incredibly technical and i’m not proofreading very closely]

so a string of questions — what is the ontology of communism, and how is it reached? is this ontology unleashed by capitalist de-territorialization? are the conditions for a future ontology of communism produced by capitalism (the “it will have been” of the future anterior)?

a final provocation — in what ways does “communization” (or more continental, ‘communisation’) differ from self-valorization? my understanding is that ‘communization’ sees communism as the contingent possibility in every ‘moment’ (and for now, i’ll keep the definition of ‘moment’ open) — and in opposition to communism is socialization. so to restate: every moment has the contingent possibility of communization or socialization. the exact terrain of “the social” of course, varies. for a hegelian marxist, socialization is the tendency of increased relationality of abstract labor within the production process. further following the accompanying neo-hegelian state theory – the secular state emerges co-constitutively with its outside, the social, which is the private life of the citizen (civil society being the space of contact between the two). tiqqun’s subsequent work on these in “introduction to civil war” is pretty illustrative of their implication in the formation of Empire.

returning to the question at hand — communization appear to be a set of relations that doesn’t map onto any of this typology, in fact it seems to be relations necessarily take on a different articulation. rather than being strongly different than self-valorization, then, communization might be a clarification of the relationality necessary for a circuit of valorization to be properly defined as “self-valorization” rather than just alternately capitalist (surplus value not appropriated by the capitalist firm but still immediately placed back into circuits of capital valorization like 401k pay-ins, etc),¬†parallel (black markets relations that look like capitalism only without the sanction of the law),or supplemental (non-capitalist relations partly used to benefit capitalist production, ie: household production).

i guess i skirted any deep ontological questions & any positive steps v/v ‘ideology’. whoops.


5 thoughts on “ontological communism – self-valorization

  1. hach…I wonder if it wouldn’t be more effective to apply, as the basis of what you call “communisation”, the concept of the plural singularity in the meaning of Negri/Spinoza [i.e. the second book of “Ethics”]. I wonder why you did not refer to the multitude [in the strong ontological sense of the term],
    as a proper locus of communism [in every structural and historical moment of social existence], was it …intentional omission?

  2. CL –

    that seems like an extremely productive angle to follow. negri’s work on spinoza seems to underpin the ontological content of his version of communism.

    to give a little more historical perspective, i think the “communization” theorists are non-academic marxists who don’t consistently look to philosophy to answers political questions. therefore, a lot of their contextualzation is within marxist-specific trends, specifically debates within parties and internationals. for instance, I guess dauve claims three heritages: german-dutch councilism (which split from leninism at the time of the comintern), bordigaist italian marxist critiques of democracy, and the situationist international.

    my own work hasn’t tried to work through the multitude in a meaningful sense, yet. like you mention, multitude is overdetermined by its negrian inflections. there are obviously others who have taken the concept in different directions – virno, for instance, builds linguistics into the model. and connecting negri with hardt, recent work on ‘the common’ seems to displace the ontological question from ‘the multitude’, which could easily slide into leninist voluntarism.

    i’ve been meaning to look at JL Nancy’s book on community/communism. a friend sent me a proposal for some writing on ontological communism, i think it’s time!

    thanks again for the comments CL – i think you’re on to something good.

  3. hey there AWC,
    I’ve moved away from ontology and such (not meant as a “I’ve been there, done that” kind of dismissal, just saying that I don’t work on this stuff but once did)… in case you’re interested and in case it’s of some use, this is an old paper of mine –


    I don’t how much of this I’d still stand by, but some of it might interest you. Sorry for not engaging further here, I’m worn out. I’ll get back to you later with substantive things to say.

    take care,

  4. Thanks Nate, I really appreciate it!

    If I understand why you might be hesitant correctly, I think I’m hesitant to go into the territory of ontology too. In my MA thesis I used a lot of Foucault and took a swipe at Julian Reid’s book The Biopolitics of the War On Terror (probably a little unfairly). Enthusiasm over ontology seems to go in waves, and I think there’s currently an upswing, so I’m just trying to see if there’s anything there.

    My nose is telling me that ontology too easily muddles the waters when looking for “real movement”. But then again, that’s my Deleuzian insistence to get ‘closer to the real.’

    Thanks again for the link to the paper, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say.

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