Diet Soap Podcast #158: Are Abstractions Necessary?


The guest this week is the youtube star and Marxist Brendan Cooney and we discuss Marx and Hegel. This is the second half of our conversation, slightly edited. You can find more from Cooney on his Kapitalism101 blog.

I am still planning on canceling the Podomatic feed for Diet Soap and moving the podcast to If you subscribe to podcast through podomatic you’ll need to change over to the new feed by the end of the month, that means that this podcast will be the last podcast on the podomatic website and next week you’ll find instructions on how to switch the feeds instead. When I make the switch I’m also going to restart the Diet Soap philosophy workshop and that workshop will continue weekly, or at least it will be a part of every episode. That means that while I’ll continue on discussing Hegel once a month, I’ve decided to expand the workshop to a weekly format. After each Diet Soap episode subscribers to the podcast will get a chance to participate in a conversation about that episode. So, yes, there will be regular Hegel episodes, but subscribers will also get a chance to discuss all the different subjects that we cover or bring up their own ideas. Finally, I am also going to start a monthly podcast with C. Derick Varn called Pop the Left. We’ll take a critical look at the politics of the Left from a Leftist perspective and, at first, that’ll be hosted through the same RSS feed as Diet Soap, but if a few more people donate or subscribe I’ll start a second feed for Pop the Left on its own. So, you can help me start a new podcast by donating today.

[...] In the second part of my latest interview with Doug Lain I discuss the different levels of abstraction at which Marx discusses value relations and the particular approach I’ve taken in my Law of Value series. I’m sorry the interview ended when it did as I think we had some miscommunication about real abstractions toward the end of the video. It seemed like Doug was making the point that any society uses abstractions in the way it agrees upon common language, viewpoints and philosophical orientations. But this is not the same as the real abstraction of abstract labor that Marx is dealing with in a capitalist society. Abstract labor is not a commonly agreed upon mental abstraction that unifies the mental orientation of social subjectivities. Abstract labor is an objective abstraction imposed upon subjectivities. Rather than producing some unified, socially agreed upon, mental abstraction in subjects it creates contradictory and confusing subjectivities that fragment the social body. [...]

Can you explain more why you think that abstractions are inevitable to mediate all thinkable social organizations? I mean inside a single company we usually coordinate our social labour only with a collectively constructed and constantly updated to-do list. But is this list an abstraction if it refers to concrete tasks of concrete people?


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