26 Feb 2013, 8:28pm

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The Revolutionary Subject vs. The Subject of Capitalism (a détournement)

I want to argue that today’s modern revolutionary subject is the subject of Capitalism. One meaning of this claim is that there is no subject proper that is not a shopper, and who has not been castrated from his or her real power by the law of value. But this can easily be misunderstood because what this indicates is that there is no way to represent the revolutionary subject, or the subject within Capitalism, because this subject isn’t a voter, a shopper, a worker. The revolutionary subject can’t be seen on any reality show. There is no subject outside of Capitalism, and yet, the truth about the subject of Capitalism is that it has no place within Capitalism.

That is, the commodity is not the simple empirical object that makes our social relations possible, but rather it is the revelation of the impossibility of clean and simple social relations. Therein resides the paradoxical achievement of how Capitalism presents the world to us: the vain quest for authenticity becomes mere shopping. But if this is the unique strength and power of a commodity like Coca-Cola–that it is not simply a way of experiencing the social world as soda pop, but that it already takes into account our own distance from it, and seems to know that it can never really be tasted or experienced–it is also this that opens up a certain way out, for we are always able to point to a deeper explanation of Coke, what it itself stands in for and what allows it to be sold.

It has been said that Capitalist society itself produces a communist party which is nothing more than the organization of the objective movement of history, while others have countered that the party is the organization of a revolutionary subject or agent of history.
But our subjective experiences, this life-style we’re in, is both our immediate experience and the ideas that these experiences match up with, and this life-style only works as a way to live if we can’t see that what we’re living is a life-style. Once we see it as a life-style we recognize that our lives are our self-creation.

To say that the subject today is Value is to say that we are self-determined, but that this self-determination is only how we create what seems objective by living together, how we collectively determine what we’ll be alienated from and how we’ll be alienated. What this means, then, is that those who believe the task of the party is to bring an identity or subjectivity to the proletariat are mistaken to the extent that they see this identity as present to itself. Instead, a revolutionary party is that extra point of concentration, incorporation, and naming that allows the revolutionary movement to decide how to take itself as an object and in the process to lose the sense of being supported by experience. This means a revolutionary party or organization should not aim at formulating a collective subject but rather it should help us face how we’ve already disappeared.

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