Unibg International -Archive : Reading the Grundrisse
Unibg International

Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods

Reading the Grundrisse

Area bacheca: 820&

i) Guido Starosta (University of Manchester, UK & Historical Materialism)
The system of machinery and the social and material determinations of revolutionary subjectivity in the Grundrisse and Capital

This paper proposes a reading of Marx's exposition of the forms of the real subsumption of labour to capital - in particular, the system of machinery of large-scale industry - as constituting the dialectical presentation of the determinations of revolutionary subjectivity. In this way, it attempts to grasp the constitution of the emancipatory subject as immanent result of the very unfolding of the reified forms of social mediation of capitalist society and the specific transformations of the materiality of human productive subjectivity that they bring about. The argument is firstly developed through a close reconstruction of Marx's discussion of the determinations of large-scale industry in Capital. According to this reading, the essence of this capitalist transformation of the production process of human life lies in the mutation of the productive attributes of the collective labourer according to a determinate tendency: the individual organs of the latter eventually become universal productive subjects. This is the inner material determination underlying the political revolutionary subjectivity of the proletariat.

However, we argue that Marx's dialectical exposition of those transformations in Capital is somehow truncated and does not unfold the plenitude of the material determinations underlying the revolutionary being of the working class. The latter is presented as no more than an abstract possibility. A gap therefore remains between the 'dialectic of human labour' unfolded in the chapters on relative surplus-value in Capital, and the revolutionary conclusions at the end of Volume 1 in the chapter on 'The Historical Tendency of Capital Accumulation'. The paper then suggests that the so-called 'Fragment on Machines' from the Grundrisse contains a different but complementary perspective on the productive subjectivity characteristic of large-scale industry. Through a careful reading of the relevant passages of that early version of the critique of political economy, it is possible to find the elements for the completion of the systematic unfolding of the social and material determinations of revolutionary subjectivity.