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In: Confronting Capital and Empire
In: Confronting Capital and Empire
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Abstract

The debate around labour power, and particularly regarding its status as the ‘most peculiar’ of commodities, has been widely revisited in contemporary Marxist thought and critical theory. This concept, which has often resurfaced in works by Negri, Spivak, Virno and numerous other contemporary thinkers, has a long prehistory in the work of Marx and subsequent Marxist theorists, perhaps most importantly in the work of Uno Kōzō, arguably the most influential and widely known Marxist thinker in modern Japan. Uno’s work, and particularly his major theoretical works of the 1950s, developed an entire logical analysis of the peculiar position of the labour-power commodity within capital’s drive, noting that this site marks the place wherein capital’s logical interior and its historical exterior interpenetrate each other, generating a volatile force of excess at the core of capital’s supposedly smooth and pure circuit-process. By developing around this point an extensive theoretical discussion of its dynamics of impossibility or irrationality, centred on a term – muri – that he raises to the level of a concept, Uno formulates a series of original theses in methodology, on the concept of population, and particularly around the figures of the logical and the historical in the critical analysis of capitalism. Focusing in particular on this ‘impossibility’ or muri that is nevertheless constantly ‘passing through’ the capital-relation, this essay investigates the entire range of Uno’s analysis, revealing not only a crucial thread of theoretical inquiry that remains contemporary for us today, but also another set of possibilities linking the critique of political economy to the renewal of revolutionary politics.

In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

Alain Badiou’s theoretical work maintains an ambiguous relation to Marx’s critique of political economy. In seemingly refusing the Marxian analytical strategy of displacement and referral across the fields of politics and economy, Badiou is frequently seen to be lacking a rigorous theoretical grasp of capitalism itself. In turn, this is often seen as a consequence of his understanding of political subjectivity. But the origins of this ‘lack’ of analysis of the social relation called ‘capital’ in his work can also be investigated by means of a detour into the economic writings of the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste, the political organisation in which Badiou played a leading rôle throughout the 1970s in particular. By excavating this theoretical work of the 1970s, we can identify more precisely the historical and political reasons behind Badiou’s ambiguous relation to Marx and specifically to Marx’s systematic grasp of the logic of capital. This excavation will consequently lead us to a reflection on the limits and openings in Badiou’s thought for the Marxian critique of political economy.

In: Historical Materialism

One of the most important crossmodal associations is between vision and sound, and we know that such bimodal information is of great importance in perceptual learning. Many crossmodal relationships are non-arbitrary or ‘natural’, and a particularly important case is object naming. While many object-name relationships are arbitrary, others are not. The clearest examples are known as onomatopoeia — the cuckoo and the kittiwake are named after the sounds they make. And a striking demonstration that such effects extend beyond onomatopoeic naming of familiar objects concerns shapes. When adults are shown two shapes, one angular and one with rounded contours, and given the words ‘Takete’ and ‘Maluma’ they will invariably associate ‘Takete’ with the angular shape, and ‘Maluma’ with the rounded shape. This effect was first described by Kohler in 1947, and there have been recent demonstrations of the effect with adults and young (3-year-old) children. Several researchers have suggested that these non-arbitrary associations may be of great importance in that they may influence and ‘bootstrap’ the infant’s early language development, particularly the learning of words for objects. If this is so, such associations should be present prior to language acquisition, and we describe three experiments which demonstrate such relationships in preverbal, 3–5-month-old infants, using random shapes, such as those in the figure, and angular and rounded face-like stimuli.

In: Seeing and Perceiving
The Historical Materialism Book Series is a major publishing initiative of the radical left. The capitalist crisis of the twenty-first century has been met by a resurgence of interest in critical Marxist theory. At the same time, the publishing institutions committed to Marxism have contracted markedly since the high point of the 1970s. The Historical Materialism Book Series is dedicated to addressing this situation by making available important works of Marxist theory. The aim of the series is to publish important theoretical contributions as the basis for vigorous intellectual debate and exchange on the left. We are convinced that a project of this kind can make an important contribution to the revitalisation of critical politics and intellectual culture.

The peer-reviewed series publishes original monographs, translated texts and reprints of ‘classics’ across the bounds of academic disciplinary agendas, and across the divisions of the left. The series is particularly concerned to encourage the internationalisation of Marxist debate, and aims to translate significant studies from beyond the English speaking world. We have previously published important studies of Marxist thinkers, key collections of sources from the socialist movement, works of philosophy, history and literary criticism, as well as political and economic studies. Future publication plans include texts in the fields of cultural and aesthetic theory, sociology and geography.

The Historical Materialism Book Series will expand significantly over the coming years with substantial and important books in all areas of Marxist theory. We are undertaking a project of publishing previously untranslated texts by Marx, long unavailable debates from the 2nd and 3rd Internationals, and English editions of important studies from the post war period. Equally significantly, we also aim to publish the work of the emerging generation of Marxist scholars and theorists. The Historical Materialism Book Series intends to be at the forefront of radical publishing for the coming period with a commitment to rigorous intellectual work produced within the many Marxist traditions.

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