History after Lacan by Brennan Teresa;

History after Lacan by Brennan Teresa;

Author:Brennan, Teresa;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Routledge

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In this chapter I will suppose that the construction of a commodity binds energy in the same way that it is bound in the r epression of a hallucination. The energy bound in this way is that of living nature; it correlates with Freud’s ‘freely mobile energy’. I have suggested that the paths of freely mobile energy and those of the life drive are the same, once we analyse the idea that freely mobile energy follows the path of least resistance. Freely mobile energy only follows this path because something exists that resists. Like the hallucination, the commodity provides a point of resistance, in that it encapsulates living nature in forms which remove them from the flow of life. It functions analogously with hallucinations in that it binds living substances in forms which are inert, relative to the energetic movement of life. We can assume that the more of these relatively inert points there are, the slower the movement of life becomes. This slow movement underpins a different sense of time, which presents itself to consciousness, via a paradox, as the rapid time of modernity.

Time, as a glance through the various chapter headings of Capital1 makes plain,2 occupied Marx as well as Heidegger. But the temporal dimension in Marx’s value theory has been downplayed, obscured by Marx’s own emphasis on subjective human labour-power as the key factor in profit. In this chapter I will try to use Marx’s value theory without this subjective emphasis. I will argue that used this way, it becomes a theory of time and speed, in which time is compressed in favour of distance by the binding of nature in the fixed points of commodities. Read without its subjective emphasis, Marx’s value theory also shows that profit depends on the fixed points of commodities proliferating at nature’s expense.

But why the labour theory of value? It is the least used and possibly the most criticized aspect of Marx’s oeuvre, yet it remains unique in its stress on the ‘two-fold’ nature of a commodity.3In a market system, a commodity is always produced for exchange, and has exchange-value. But it also and always has use-value, and there can be no use-value without nature, or natural substance. Because of Marx’s emphasis on the two-fold nature of a commodity, the labour theory of value can become a theory whose essential contradiction is between natural energy and the time or speed of exchange. Marx, however, saw this basic contradiction in terms of labour-power and technology, where labour-power alone adds value, but where value will necessarily be diminished as more is spent on technology. Technology adds no value in itself, but more has to be spent on it, in order for capital to produce in the fastest time possible, and thus compete.

Understanding of this contradiction has been limited because of Marx’s subject-centred perspective which singled out labour for special treatment: labour was the subject, nature was relegated to the realm of object.4But if nature or certain natural forces are shown to


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