Sacha Kahir and Anthony Iles: Notes Towards a Political Economy of Autonomous Collectivism

 

Notes Towards a Political Economy of Autonomous Collectivism

Sacha Kahir and Anthony Iles

 

 

Introduction

 

This text comprises a somewhat speculative attempt to provide a framework within which to reconsider the significance of artistic and cultural groups in the post-war period in terms of the models of organisation they fostered. The novelty of this approach shall be to identify the explosion of forms of 'Collectivism After Modernism' with more general tendencies of a search for community beyond their habitual location within national frameworks and beyond the disciplinary strictures which they so vocally sought to breach. Of particular interest here is how a turn to the environment is inscribed within the turn to autonomous collectivism – art here coincides with very widespread social movements which ceased, after the energy crisis of the early-1970s, to take the capitalist factory or commodity production as a central referent 2 , rather, they were oriented towards finding a 'logic of production or reproduction' outside of commodity production and thus there was a turn (in music and several art forms) towards liveness, process, 'magic', 'craft', attention to folk and ritual practices as well as renewed attention towards metabolic processes occurring in nature. This slightly vague generalisation will be more acutely specified later in order for us to understand precisely the performative moves through which autonomy is enacted. On the one hand group mythopoesis (anonymity, multiple name games, self-institutionalisation) was mimetic of the bureaucratic state, party forms and the turn to communications and information technology in the late-1960s which intensified after the Energy Crisis, on the other a turn away from industrial culture, cybernetic control followed art’s relentless search for original form towards the natural, abject and aleatory, crucially towards acts which could not be isolated from a landscape, site, in the actions or intentions of any one particular individual.

We might name these rituals of autonomy, but as foundational we take the state's presence, until it is defeated and decisively abolished, as a given and the analysis of these groups and social formations are therefore not understood to be submitted in every way to it, but in the last instance determined, even in disavowal. In this, there are two axioms we follow which aim to structure the study politically and two methodological trajectories, one minor and one major. The first of the two axioms is that: the object of the collectives and cultural groups was cultural autonomy. This first axiom will pose autonomy not as a certainty, but through the question: what is autonomy within the conditions of the group under study? The second, which shall be seen to modify and interfere with the first is that: the ceiling for any utopian ambitions is the state.1 This second axiom would seem to back track both on the inter- or rather outernationalism of the projects we seek to group, periodise and discuss comparatively, however it is key both to the practical steps such projects took and how we can understand them theoretically within a broader framework of our methodology. During the cold war the Republic of Yugoslavia was considered by many a beacon of internationalism, this both licenses the 'post-nationalism' of our approach, but also, to our minds suggests that if artists, even not explicitly dissident ones, take a distance from the state and society where they reside, then there are two potential lines of flight: one towards localism, another towards narrower nationalism (which becomes rare until the 1980s) and lastly, perhaps more ambitiously, towards, what we call after Howard Slater, 'outernationalism', an integration of cosmic elements: signifiers of space, other worlds, fantastic lands and combinations of archaic-futurism (think space ships and Egyptian pyramids). 1 As an organisation, what is the small organisation when it is not the state, nor draws its authorisation from the state? Moreover, what agency is organisation when it is not the state? If it does not seek to become the state, then its nature is defined at least partially by ensuring it self-defines differently? Or, does it seek to become something that is not the state? Any of the answers to these questions will shape the organisation with reference to the state-form in general, and the particular State which is its immediate point of reference.22

Our minor and major methodological trajectories are therefore as follows. Minor: we seek to periodise by unifying currents and tendencies within organisations and measuring them against developments in the capital-labour relationship during the post-war period. From the perspective of our present, looking back we see a convergence of insights from small groups across the political spectrum and across subcultural distinctions between the activist group, political groupuscule, journal, artistic group – these are each affected by the milieu in which they see themselves reside, nonetheless they can be seen to grapple with shared problems of small or funding, exclusivity/inclusivity, annexation, relevance/irrelevance etc. – by identifying some of these common problems, their solutions or mitigation and how they are articulated to wider totality imposed by political-economy we arrive at some picture of common tactics, strategies and the agency of the small group (whether it be cultural, political or both (in general the approach assumes each are always both: a political group necessarily engenders a culture and vice versa, whether avowed or not). This is minor insofar as the point is not to arrive at a stable periodisation. The second and Major methodological trajectory is to identify forms and problems of organisation for small groups, to isolate them somewhat from their self-perceived or pronounced aims or 'achievements' in their field and instead understand what they were determined by and what they self-determined on their own terms – what is their achievement in the realm of organisation as organisational form? What lessons can we draw from them in terms of contributions to understanding organisation as self-organisation. What is their original and ingular contribution toorganisational form – what can we learn from this?

To achieve this, which will remain a sketch in advance of more thorough surveys in the field, we mobilise some previously somewhat little known or inaccessible studies of theories of organisation. These were generated in ultra-left communist and anarchist small-publishing circles. Here we argue their relevance to all forms of non-state organisational practice.

 

Gianni Collu, 'Transition', 'Invariance', Serie I n. 8 (1969)

Jacques Camatte and Gianni Collu, 'On Organisation', 1972

Paul Mattick, 'Spontaneity and Organisation' in Anti-Bolshevik Communism , Monmouth:

Merlin Press, 1978, pp.117–138.

Henri Simon, Some Thoughts on Organisation, Baltimore: Collective Action, (1979)

 

[Ok, I’m not exactly sure how to do this, but one approach would be to write a very short summary, extracting what the determinate negations carried in these texts are and how they orientate our text. I think I can weave a short dense paragraph, once reunited with my notes in London.]

 

These are supplemented by materials which approach both the politics of groups and ethnographies of individuals and societies who are remote from the state. Crucially their relevance is not only in their autonomy from the state, but rather that these studies recognise and make palpable forms of culture, collectivism, belief and organisation formulated in response as much to the threat of the state as their purported antagonism or indifference to the state and capital. Primary in this piece of writing is attention to the work of Ernesto de Martino because he intersects the field of study we have delimited from a number of novel directions. Firstly, as a former fascist turned communist and a systematic critic of anthropology, de Martino directs our attention to an aporia in Enlightenment thinking and the philosophical basis of modernity which left it open to fascist movements and fascist thought.3 According to de Martino, modern anthropology made a cut or divide in order to designate the split between primitive subjects – as ‘a people without history’ -- and modern subjects -- as historical subjects with an ability for self-reflection.4 De Martino contended that in doing so western philosophy withdrew from producing ‘a history of being’, ‘they had forgotten that Existence had a history. They had ‘forgotten’, in other words, that the “Western” concept of “Reality” was itself a historical achievement.’5 The means of denying the primitive ‘historical consciousness’, itself asserted a position which was ‘ahistorical’.6 This left western societies open to forms of fascism which would exploit primitive fears, which themselves were exacerbated by the acceleration of modernity throughout industrial societies. De Martino therefore worked to restore a history of experience and subjectivity to the centre of academic work and a syncretic and interdisciplinary philosophical account of modernity. Within this magic played a central role. Initially de Martino understood magic as a ‘pedagogical practice’7, a means of training the human intellect, for him,

 

magic is a conscious act that shows the will of the subject wishing to differentiate

him/herself from an object and control it. Magic takes care of this fundamental

distinction. So through magic, human beings are able to dominate material and

immaterial entities: fire, plants, animals, other humans, their own interiority and passions,

and moreover, monsters, spirits, demons – and also deities.8

 

This act of differentiation and connection to the world -- presence -- though also sustains the possibility of its opposite, loss of control, loss of subjectivity, loss of distinction -- a crisis of presence. The radical doubt this situation involved and oscillation between these two states was crucial to de Martino’s reconceptualisation of human societies, and he argued that magic and shamanism were forms of radical skepticism which themselves underlie the development of modern rationalism.9 This is akin to Adorno and Horkheimer’s anti-facist work, Dialectic of Enlightenment , in which a history of the gradual mastery and expulsion of superstition is told

which doesn’t banish magic or the crisis of the emerging subject to prehistory. Most interesting to us here though is that where Adorno and Horkheimer sought to resolve problems of western civilisation for western civilisations, de Martino sought to study societies where this so-called ‘drama of presence’ -- the fear of control or fear of loss of control -- was not pushed out of sight but sustained as a public and community matter.10 Magic is, in Martino's theorisation, a different relation to the negative, not its suppression, but 'the protection of presence from the risks of existential crisis when faced with manifestations of the negative.'11

 

Image: Two Instagram posts indicting the removal of historical time -- producing ‘a false sense of timelessness’ -- of historical collections in museums .

 

A little more… then next paragraph: Chris Arthur?

 

De Martino and Chris Arthur>>>

 

Reflection on Collectivity [Possibly move up or move down?]

But what is collectivity? What is negative collectivity. Could we add a swarm of 4chan users collectively harassing actor Shia LaBeouf to this category? It is interesting that many who’ve explored collectivity and community began on the right like Blanchot and de Martino. Collectives like Tiqqun explore collectivity and the individual as an ontological category under the rubric of ‘forms of life’ and a return to politics, opening one famous tract citing the constitution of Solon, instrumental in leading to the formation of Athenian democracy, that proclaimed that any citizen not engaging in civil war could be cast out. But, this kind of politics has also been adopted by the right, most recently by billionaire tech guru Peter Theil in ‘The Straussarian Movement’, both taking their cue from Carl Schmitt. What is it that binds and unbinds collectivity? And, what of politics itself, a term originally used to describe the collective life of the city state? Furthermore what are collectives in the art world? One aspect of the art world might be a system of historicism by which history is removed from peoples and made to circulate as a function of artworks. There is arguably a progressive impulse for the mining of history from below but there are two senses in which this in turn returning historicity to moments of time, in contemporary art, removes them from the flow of time. This is frequently construed as artists activating specific moments in time or uncovering long overlooked episodes, but as much as art works are a public act, they are also a privatisation of events which were previously experienced directly, in that these events now are drawn into and dependent on the fortunes of a private individual an artist. Firstly, in the very temporary condition of exhibitions things, moments are lost from time as readily as they are reprised. Secondly, premised on being in need of activation tends to emphasise the event’s or specific culture’s very lostness. All collective forms orientate themselves with reference to the state, that may be an ‘idealist’ orientation towards a future-state-to-come, or a pragmatic one in terms of protecting the group from prosecution by the state, where it exists, or an anticipation of repression which dramatises and licenses certain forms of drop-out culture. Therefore apoliticism can be understood in certain circumstances as an anticipation of the threat of politics.

 

Autonomy: Making or Escaping History

 

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it

under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and

transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare

on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing

themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such

epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their

service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this

new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” Marx 18th

The Eighteenth Brumaire

 

In our contemporary moment we see a turn away from ‘revolutionizing themselves and things’ instead movements (on the right and the left) which ‘anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes’. Fully Automated Luxury Communism was a popular slogan appearing in debates, memes and even as an eponymously titled book written by a popular radical British social democrat. We would argue that there is no technological fix for capitalism, as capitalism is primarily a social relation that as Marx says has not a ‘single atom in it’, but that shapes the world around us through its need to expand. In FALC we have the eternal return of the notion of communism as the fulfillment of productive forces reaching a maturity that unleashes humans from toil and social divisions. Also, as Engels put it “Capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production.” In Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work the authors dream of more unfettered production (through 3D printers), fully automated logistics systems and blockchain currencies as part of a new commons. Others dream of ‘Smart Cities’ giving us access to utilities in a truly utilitarian manner. Here the left hand of Political Economy again names itself communism in ‘borrowed language’. Very crudely the left hand of accelerationism along with large swathes of the left all agree fictitious capital has gone too far, and yearn to return to the prelapsarian past of ‘The Spirit of 45’, to go back to the good old productivist days – though under a green new deal, industry without the smog – with fixes like Universal Basic Income to smooth out some inequality, creating a mass of ‘innovation’ from below, as the so-called precariat transform into a mass of Elon Musks. The tendency to full automation, however, is a pipe dream for a post-capitalist era where oligarchs, corporations and nation states have withered away. Why for example has Foxconn City infamous for being made suicide proof, which makes the majorty of the world’s Iphones not become fully automated, as intended? The city has been in lockdown, with its mainly migrant employees trapped there. Production is meant to resume as we write. We inherit a wealth of machinery and social relations so embedded with a horrific history that weighs on our shoulders and inequalities built into the fabric of its very being. As one of the artist statements in the October 75 event in Belgrade notes on the contradictions inherent in the Yugoslavian experiments:

 

“THE SELF-MANAGING SYSTEM OF FREE EXCHANGE AND ASSOCIATION OF

LABOUR THROUGH SELF- MANAGING COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST

REPRESENTS A NEW NON-OWNERSHIP RELATIONSHIP that examines and

revises the existing models of artistic work and behaviour. Is it not extremely comical to

build a self-managing social system using the political means of a feudal or bourgeois

structure?” Dunja Blažević - Art as a Form of Ownership Awareness

 

As Blažević points out, in the context of SKC, the artists’ alternative fell between two systems of circulation which each implied ownership, neither by the 1970s was progressive. One of which is ‘the system of social manager or budget’ and the other ‘the private system of free market art”. By her appraisal, circulation or rather consumption determines production. This was therefore statement which seems to advocate for and support then a turn to process and milieu rather than product. Yet, the historical irony is perhaps one we live in since process as product lives today as an area of expanding commodification, the commodification of services and commodification of experience. These are neither intensive or stable surplus value producing industries for capital – ergo frequent crises, the vagueness of post-Fordism (just after Fordism, not self-defining) suggests a holding pattern still persisting of feudal and bourgeois models of social production. On the other hand, the signature of capitalism as a world system is its ability to subordinate other systems of production and accumulation, even dysfunctional ones, to its interests. That process may also be understood as a subordination of other times to capitalist time. However, in the context of political practices of art in the Yugoslav Republic we can point here, both to the advanced criticality of art in the region in identifying and arriving at this impasse and the innovative orientations of the Yugoslav State towards elements of the service economy (early computing, extensive leisure industries, export of cultural industries, engineering and architecture) to which we will return through a discussion of New Tendencies. Blažević’s claim for a third way within the Yugoslav socialist State proposed an critical affirmation of self-management, potentially even an overidentification with it, through a reappraisal of the writing into history of New Tendencies we will see how this kind of affirmative and innovative relation to the State had collapsed even prior to Blažević’s formulation, which in turn will enable us to reappraise both the immanent criticisms by Blažević’s peers at SKC and the seemingly quietist refusal of these choices as forms of criticism of forms of continuity between late capitalism and the socialist State’s ‘neocapitalism’.12

So, if capitalism is above all else a social relation, but one embedded in the everyday fabric of our world, what does this mean for collectives and small groups who have tried to produce artistic work that is socially engaged, or preemptively attempted to exit capitalist relations? We will briefly turn to a current in communism, that inspired - often in the form mimicry and satire, while keeping a certain fidelity to the politics of the current - small groups or individuals who presented themselves as collectives that produced left wing and anti-fascist art in the 1980s and 90s. Another reference point for these groups were the political upheavals post 1968, and it is at

that juncture we will examine certain tendencies to self abolition, art strikes and an exodus from the art world, or the world in general. An exodus from the ‘artworld’ in the 70s by OHO might be compared with Camatte and Invariance’s break with activism in order to ‘publicly reject a certain perception of social reality and the practice connected with […] the process of racketization […] Since the essence of politics is fundamentally representation, each group is forever trying to project an impressive image on the social screen […] All political representation is a screen and therefore an obstacle to a fusion of forces.”13 This was written in 1969 and a year or so later OHO exited the art world to form the Šempas Family / Farm , part of a growing anti-political politics of exodus post-68, which attempted to stake out autonomy within the cracks of the post-war era social fabric. This exodus was also the desire to escape the nightmare of ‘state capitalism’, ‘command society’, ‘the spectacle’, ‘total domination’, ‘the social factory’, ‘reification’ and other popular terms to describe an environment that dominated us in a manner often associated with early humans (in typical stagist theories of history ), or equally animals,14 and particular domesticated animals. This might also contain a fear of ‘uncontrolled mimesis.’

The ‘total social fact’ of the force of capitalist reproduction on everyday life mediated through the state form. In much of the post war planned economics that included the ‘welfare state’ in the UK, Fordism in the US, or in Yugoslavia a mixed economy run on the economic sphere by ‘self managed collectives’ within various sectors, there are quite similar interactions between work, life and needs. As the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution stresses self managing communities ‘in broad field's of human activity outside material production, which are daily becoming more significant for man' these are referred to as ‘the formation of new self managing communities of interest’ creating ‘the establishment of new socialist self management relations, both among the working people performing these activities and [...] those who use their services’. This on one hand puts cultural production centre stage but also ‘[a]t the same time, the general population was inducted into a culture of socialist consumerism that had all the external features of prosperity: factories and department stores were popping up almost daily across the country, and employment was on the upswing. Socialist consumerism was not limited to tangible goods, but to a significant degree included cultural consumption as well. It was the golden age of festivals, which ranged from alternative theater to film and classical music; of World War II film spectacles; and of pop culture that easily flowed into socialist culture. ’ So, here we might15 see an attempt to collectivise ‘immaterial production’? As the social sphere through the post war rise of the teenager with new desires and a certain American cultural production come to dominate the ‘west’. OHO wore t-shirts inscribed with slogans from 60s pop culture like ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.’ This slogan takes on a much more subversive meaning within the setting of socilaist state politics, which saw its goal as satisfying needs. The t-shirt implies there is nothing that can be produced that can satisfy deeper needs beyond a kind of consumption / commodity relationship, which was already being examined by the ‘Praxis’ school of philosophy with its focus on reification. Along with ‘Black Wave’ cinema the Praxis school came under heavy censorship in Yugoslavia post 74. It is also interesting to note OHO’s engagement with reism a form of nominalism that examined the reality of the relationship between abstract universals and things, categories also examined in discussions on reification. This would probably take up an entire paper in itself so is only briefly mentioned here, but we’ll return to this later topic later in discussion on de Martino and the ‘crisis of presence’.

 

Ilustration 58: OHO gropu, We are OHO, 1970; broshure, image Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana

 

OHO who started as an artistic movement but became a commune Šempas Utopia / Family / Farm, following a tendency in the ’60s still in vogue with anarchists / autonomists, for example Tiqqun / Invisible Committee. This can be seen as a form of autonomy, but how autonomous from the state form is this even as a pre-figurative form? Autonomous groups tended to have a close relationship with culture that saw itself as opposing the norms of civil society. But, also from the left communist tendency Camatte was part tendency that saw ‘Capital’ as becoming autonomous through ‘real domination’ of nature and social relations through capitals real need to self valourise and expand not only quantitatively but qualitatively with an intensification of its process of commodification, which included the commodification of all human activity, through an equally expanding system of needs. Against the excesses of Stalinist forced collectivization that begins with the agrarian question of collectivising peasant production in which ‘ Bukharin said in the 1924-28 faction fights that the implementation of Trotsky’s leftist “super-industrialization” strategy could only be carried out by the most elephantine state bureaucracy history had ever seen. Bordiga was the first secretary and founder,16 along with Gramsci, of the PCI. The Bordigist position on capitalism’s origins in agrarian expropriation and mechanisation broke with a leftist take on classical political economies’ stages theory history used by everyone from Social Democrats to Stalinsts. Making communism more about social relations than a long march through historical phases of capitalist production to communism. “Classically, marxism historically identifies mechanisation with capitalism. The difference between the employment of mechanical forces in a capitalist society and in a socialist one is not quantitative, it does not lie in the fact that technical and economic management passes from restricted circles to a complete circle. It is qualitative and consists in the total overthrow of the capitalist characteristics of the use of machines by human society, something much more thoroughgoing and which consists in a “relationship between men” in opposition to the cursed “factory system” and the social division of labour.” Bordiga - Spirit of HorsePower Before returning to Bordiga, and concluding with a discussion of nature and second nature in capitalism and these debates for reconceptualising the ‘return to nature’ of central European land in the post-war period, we will first examine the blocked path of an affirmation of technological forces under capitalism.

 

New Tendencies and the Tendency of Left-critics of Post-Fordism to Affirm Forces of

Production

The tendency to affirm rather than completely negate existing forces of production can be connected to the historicisation of the New Tendencies exhibition cycle and movement, whose attempts to seize and develop under a rubric of artistic research emerging post-war technological affordances must be seen, not as a missed opportunity for a society oriented towards new technology led by artist-engineers (a worn-out dream long dreamt since Fourier or even St Simon) but rather what it served in practice, which was the international showcasing by artists of ‘possibilities’ of new technology during a sequence of state capitalist developments which sought to promote the Yugoslav Republic as a pioneer of both moderate socialism and technological development in the interests of an export programme (architecture, engineering, building materials, technology) aimed at the Non-Aligned countries. Contrasting FALC, which in the present proposes to seize existing tendencies in technological development and accelerate them towards purportedly socialist or communist ends e.g. for the automation and cessation of work, New Tendencies proposed the insertion of artists into the research phase of new technologies and materials in order to orientate those technologies differently, to widen their affordances and applicability. Yet, both moments grasp the significance of technology within capitalism badly. Raniero Panzieri’s critique of the capitalist development of technology was developed within the Italian workers’ movement and was intended to be a substantial intervention in a situation in which one of the largest Communist Parties in Europe was then oriented towards the salvation of the working class through the intensive development of industrial technology. Panzieri instead pointed out that not only was ‘planning’ not exclusively a socialist capability, capital was in fact fully capable of planning, nor was technology neutral or value free, rather he claimed, ‘ the relations of production are within the productive forces’.17 This reoriented the worker’s movement towards contestation and critique of both the form and content of capitalist technology, its organisation being arranged so as to dominate workers and reduce their agency, its content ultimately the end of intensifying the extraction of surplus value from living labour. Panzieri’s view carries an implicit critique of FALC, in that after it no communist programme could claim that state of the art capitalist technology could be simply taken and repurposed, because capitalist technology carries capitalist relations of production ‘within’ it. Indeed, pragmatic critiques of FALC’s view of labour freed by automation have cogently asked, ‘then who makes the robots, or the computer chips and so on’. How might one repurpose technology developed in capitalism without reproducing the division of labour it is designed to enshrine? Vulgar Marxism tends to reappraise the contradiction between relations of production and forces of production only settle for affirmation of the forces of production. An open Marxism or deeper reading of Marx’s account would recognise the deep imbrication of relations of production in forces of reproduction and their mutual reproduction. We’ll return to this to develop nuances of such fantasies of technological take over further, but at this point, remaining within a techno-positivist frame, it makes sense to look at an approach which has typified historical approaches to the rich culture of early-media art in the former Yugoslav Republic.

Late Viennese media-theorist Armin Medosch understands New Tendencies as 'setting itself into relation with the respective techno-economic paradigm', bridging Fordism, Fordism's crisis and post-Fordism to be supplanted by 'informational capitalism'. Through his tracing of the exhibition cycles of NT, a position is advanced by which artists represent through anticipation (though arguably perhaps also by mimesis) tendencies not embedded within technology per se, but rather in the system within which it is contained. In Medosch’s view artists are assigned an autonomy which wanders -- from agency over the predestination of technology in capitalism, to apparent organisational or ideological autonomy from the state, even when working largely directly with the institutions of the Yugoslav state. However in Medosch’s account their primary autonomy is mediated through technology, and a kind of preordained destination written into technology itself.

 

During those early years, the capacity for ‘ideation’, the creation and dissemination of

ideas, was ‘unlimited’ Meštrović suggested. The ‘coherency of the movement grew

consistently until 1963’ but then ‘waned sharply in that watershed year.’ Meštrović

suggests that the problems arose because of ‘the corrosive and corruptive action of the

basic material forces that direct the world and set it on a wrong course’, were not

foreseen. The NT movement had been unable to understand the basic contradiction

between ‘the historical horizon at which industrialisation transforms into socialization’

and the ‘conditions of neocapitalism’s moral postulates’ because of which, ‘that historical

process is constantly postponed.’18

 

Interestingly here, in contrast with FALC, propounded by Matko Meštrović, is a perspective which seems to grasp the Marxian contradiction between relations of production and forces of production. Yet with the mixed system on which the Yugoslav Republic was organised, part capitalism part socialism (or socialism with some free trade), undermine a seemingly natural movement through ‘industrialisation’ towards ‘socialisation’. Here, perhaps the historical teleology is ‘constantly postponed’ precisely by a situation of ‘neocapitalism’ i.e. impure capitalism, or socialism distorted by performance of some capitalist functions. Therefore the philosophy of history, imputed to Marx, that the unbridled development of the forces of production under capitalism will lead to communism, is here frustrated by ‘corrosive and corruptive action’. The fault is apparently a problem of ‘understanding’. Whilst can attribute this point to Medosch, which sadly allows him to side step critical discussion of NT’s self-organisation or orientation, it is perhaps Meštrović’s fatalism which this critical omission responds to, where in Meštrović it is some mis-perception or external factor distorting the natural course of events. Therefore, neither internally within NT, nor in its periodisation and historicisation by Medosch is there a view by which the movement’s organisational model is tested, or questioned. Whilst diverse readings of it as a movement understood it as a reflection on ‘the structure of the universe’ (Guy Brett) or on ‘nature as a great fount of physical phenomena, inexorable laws, and orderly relationships’ (George Rickey) the ‘nature’ of NT’s arrangements went unquestioned. Ultimately the blame for NT’s perceived failure to fully achieve its aims is down to ‘structure’ but one which either hides behinds opaque concepts of ‘neocapitalism’ or an invisible but undefinable ‘corrosive’ force directing history. For a movement interested in ‘defin[ing] an ordering system, according to which elements assumed a place within a structure.’ (Medosch, pp.80-81) very little self-examination of what structures they operated within or self-generated appears evident. A third issue arises from the model of periodisation applied to NT by Medosch, and others. This is a periodisation by which works respond to paradigms of labour-capital relations, but where is the periodisation by which art works and movements make their difference towards, or even grate against and express antagonism towards that central and centripetal force?

 

The Mystification of Computation in FALC and NT

According to US autonomist Marxists Midnight Notes, ‘far from being liberated from labor, the increasing computerization of production requires an ever-increasing exploitation of agricultural, manufacturing and reproductive labor.’19 This places media art which sought to either use capitalist technology differently after it was formed, or shape its formation directly differently at the research stage in a situation in which each participates in a problematic mystification of computerisation. The key to understanding computerisation is, as far as Midnight Notes point it out, would be to study the effects of the application of computerisation in industry, especially where it reorganises adjacent sectors to intensify exploitation. Crucial perhaps is that Midnight Notes’ analysis emerges in the late-1970s some years after NT had disbanded as a movement, yet firstly we might offer such analyses are available to the matrix of historicisation in which NT and other related movements are analysed in the present. Secondly, MN’s view develops directly out of the analysis of capitalist machinery by Marx, indeed Matteo Pasquinelli has recently argued that Marx himself drew from the early computation of Charles Babbage to understand the purpose of machines in capitalist production. Marx's insight, following Babbage, was that ' a new machine comes to imitate and replace a previous division of labour.' (Pasquinelli, p.46) In 1985 in the midst of an extended dispute within the UK’s print industry a group of radical print workers made their assessment of the coming technology then being introduced as part of a power struggle to displace militant workers:

It is claimed that computerised typesetting cleans up and re-integrates the production of print. The writing, editing, proofreading of text can now be done on one Video Display Terminal (VDT). In fact, workers are exposed to a new range of progressive psychological and physical illnesses, and the new technology represents another stage in the division of labour between operative, technical and maintenance tasks·. The real skill now lies in the hands of the computer programmer. The work is more individualised than ever, and each worker is one step further from control over the production process as a whole. In the proletarian alphabet, 'A' still stands for Alienation.20

This means that machinery in the capitalist production process ‘fixes’ a previous division of labour in place, its new organisation of tasks then allows the calculation of the precise quantity of labour to be purchased to fulfil the tasks in their new organisation.21 Prior labour and prior labour organisation embodied in actual living workers is at this point displaced and made invisible by the machine providing it with an aura of almost seamless magic.

 

The Exodus from Industrial and Postindustrial Production

As revolutionary organisations variously came to understand the centrality of the factory as waning – either through capital's response to the workers' refusal of work, or through capitalist restructuring (to which workers' themselves were forced to respond) – these organisations increasingly looked for revolutionary agency in other social struggles: the struggle of women, homosexuals, struggles over rent and housing, health, land and the environment, of black and other racialised communities. Concomitantly, it was also at this point that artists sought materials and a framework for their art away from the former core of art production and display, that is outside of the museum, gallery or studio. Artists during this period sought to embed their work socially within the new media and communications infrastructure (art by telephone), outdoors in the land, within the community (via the community studio), in urban and exurban situations. For artists in the 'east', the countryside was a particular locus because of later industrialisation, it's desertification, lack of purview by the state and nascent industrialisation made it a potent site with which to experiment with a remainder that could not be absorbed into the productive drives towards state capitalism. From Pécs countryside workshops to the Sempas Family’s farm, artists in Central Europe in the post-war period appeared to settle on semi-rural situations as ideal sites for group work and experimentation. During a period of accelerated urbanisation, this would apparently offer a bucolic landscape for retreat and freedom from the traps of either the state system of the arts or ‘illegalism’, private dissidence. In the context of renewed ecological concern at a planetary scale, these have been understood as proto-Land Art, or ecological practices. A view to which we will return. However, these perspectives can be complexified in several directions. Pécs seem to have specifically chosen their site not because of its rural qualities, but rather because of its semi-industrial resources. The group are understood by Maja Fowkes, to have developed forms of ‘experimental geometric abstraction, drawing directly on the industrial process of an enamel factory in Bonyhád’, moving ‘from there on to land art, conceptual and politically oriented work.’22 What is interesting in particular here, and where we wish to lay the emphasis is the status of ‘system’ in Pécs and others’ ‘ systematic engagement with land art’ and these works inalienable status as group works.23 Secondly, Group OHO, KOD and the subsequent formations such as Sempas appear to have moved instead from conceptual art, engagement with systems and cybernetic theories and media art, to a rejection of the ‘aesthetics of administration’ that conceptual art is often understood as reproducing, to a position of exodus and flight from either the post-Fordist turn to communications work and institutional critique. Yet, another way of understanding these steps is a persistence of attention towards group dynamics and self-organising systems but one which rejects cybernetics and the productivism inherent in perfecting models derived from information technology. Instead, direct engagement with nature’s ‘system of production’, that is a system which is neither a system, nor ‘productive’ -- incorporates laziness, waste, disorganisation as well as organisation. We might understand this not as an attempt to repair the ‘metabolic rift’ instead a rift with the metabolic rift.24

 

[Ok, so need a small transition from division of labour/machinery question to ontological inversion’ here, this shouldn’t be hard.]

 

“The historical specificity of capitalism is that an ʻontological inversionʼ occurs whereby (exchange) ʻvalueʼ, immediately just the negation of use value, gains self-presence, real ʻBeing’, albeit that of an empty ʻPresenceʼ. Thus value emerges from the void as a ʻspectreʼ that haunts the ʻreal worldʼ of capitalist commodity production. This original displacement of the material process of production and circulation by the ghostly objectivity of value is supplemented when the spectre (in the shape of self-positing capital) takes possession of it.” Chris Arthur25

 

“The fundamental theme of low ceremonial magic in Lucania is binding (in dialect:

fascinatura or affascino ). This term indicates a psychic condition of impediment or

inhibition, and at the same time a sense of domination, a being acted upon by a force that

is as strong as it is mysterious, one that totally removes a person’s autonomy as well as

his capacity for decision-making and choice. The term affascino also designates a hostile

force circulating in the air, inhibiting or compelling.” Enersto De Martino, Magic: A

Theory from the South

 

De Martino’s notion of history was deeply indebted to the philosophy of Benedetto Croce, loosely simplified as a conceptualization of all history as contemporary history with a focus ongnoseology – theories of knowledge based less on empiricism than traditional epistemology, and more on shared quotidian forms of intuition, as well as poetry and literature.26 With the notion of gnoseology: everyday common (shared) sense expressed through rituals and a social totality we can also see Croce’s influence on Antonio Gramsci. Certain aspects of De Martino’s project could be described as a kind of cross between Gramsci and Mircia Eliade, the former taking a phenomenological stance towards ritual and the scared where the sky, for example, doesn’t symbolize transcendence but is transcendence “human existence is possible only by virtue of (a) permanent communication with the sky (…) The sky directly, “naturally,” reveals the infinite distance… transcendence.”27 However, it is not the sacred that interests us but the magic of the profane, though, both are linked dialectically even for Eliade. Equally, Walter Benjamin stated in a similar vein, “the eternal is far more the ruffle on a dress than some idea”28

Ernsto De Martino work on magic, myth and ritual in the south of Italy attempted to take an anti-anthropological and anti-fascist stance towards the ‘primtive’, and has influenced thinkers important to our study, most notably Jacque Camatte but also numerous others including Paulo Virno and Pasolini. de Martino states that the object of his studies can only be directed to either a relic of a whole but now bygone society or as a ‘documentary stimulus that helps us to measure the internal limits and the internal force of expansion of the current civilization in which it is preserved as a relic” It is the latter implications of de Martino’s work that we will focus on, and what he termed ‘the crisis of presence’ and ‘binding’. Exploring the implications of these concepts outside the Lucanian rituals he explored in the Italian South during the late 1950s, and asking what these might contribute to exploring the existential limits and forces that plague us now driven by the weight of history haunted by the spectral force of capital. Articulating, as De Martino suggests “the peasants passion for the suppression of history’s oder…(to)...drive it far back as possible into indistinivness of chaos’’29 in our current historical climate while tracing other tendencies that problematise notions of the ‘primitive’, ‘history’, prehistory, teleology, and myth.

De Martino’s conception of “the metahistorical horizon of a force that binds and possesses” in a contemporary setting, we could argue, are the social and environmental manifestations of the spectre of capital’s ceaseless need to valorise. The invisible hand that sets our world in motion (in a manner not dissimilar to magical powers), as capital was once portrayed in the genesis of classical economics, is an invisible whip wielded by an invisible omnipresent demiurge. In ‘The Spectral Ontology of Value’ Chris Arthur attempts to explore the metaphysical nature of commodity production and value. Noting that the language used to describe commodity fetishism in Marx’s Capital make references to ʻghostly objectivityʼ, ʻsensuous supersensuousnessʼ,ʻmysteriousnessʼ, ʻturns into its oppositeʼ, ʻstands on its headʼ, (and) ʻmetaphysical subtleties”. There is Marx’s famous formulation that ‘capital is dead labour, which vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour”. Or, importantly for us, in relation to a Marxist critique of production, there are Bordiga’s essays from the early 1950s, which preempt Naomi Klein’s notion of disaster capitalism, and explore the human and environmental catastrophe that is large scale capitalist production whether under fascism, the communist party, or Keynesian social democratic measures, published under such titles as ‘Murder of the Dead’ and ‘Doctrine of the Body Possessed by the Devil’ (1951). Carlo Ginzburg stresses that for de Martino the end of the world through nuclear war or environmental destruction go hand in hand with our modern ‘loss of presence,’ As de Martino states ‘Two opposed terrors dominate our age: the terror to loose the world, the terror of being lost in the world.’

 

[MORE OHO, PECS, OTHER CENTRAL EUROPEAN LANDSCAPE ART HERE? THESE TENDENCIES NOT AS AN ANTI-MODERNISM BUT AN INTER-MODERNISM, an internal critique of modernity, productivism and existing relations of production?]

 

But, if our society differs from previous societies that practised magic as a negation of negation, where the ‘drama of presence’ -- the fear of control or fear of loss of control -- was not pushed out of sight but sustained as a public and community matter for the societies. The personal is now given supernatural powers that can save the world through consumer choice and crisis pushed into a kind of spectacular form to be binge watched on Netflix.

 

Since the essence of politics is fundamentally representation, each group is forever trying to project an impressive image on the social screen. publicly (rejecting) a certain perception of social reality and the practice connected with… theprocess of racketization (…) Since the essence of politics is fundamentally representation, each group is forever trying to project an impressive image on the social screen (…) All political representation is a screen and therefore an obstacle to a fusion of forces.”

 

Becoming Thing.

 

Though conceptual art began in a men’s toilet urinal, other forms appeared that attempted to fuse life and art on the level of phenomenology as experiments with individual and collective consciousness through happenings, or through the complete removal of the object in art, or conversely becoming the object.

 

I am. We are.

 

 

That is enough. Now we have to begin. Life has been put into our hands. For itself it became empty already long ago. It pitches senselessly back and forth, but we stand firm, and so want to be its initiative and we want to be its ends.

 

 

The question here is not of giving the death-blow to fantasy as such, but of destroying and saving the myth in a single dialectical process, by shedding light upon it. What is really swept away is real superstition.”

 

 

The aim is to shift here, to magic and introduce Ernesto De Martino Ernesto De Martino, Magic: A Theory from the South (Ernesto De Martino, Primitive Magic:

 

Another way through (and beyond) the impasse of community, would be not to seek to correct the ‘false version of community’ and substitute it for a transcendental, ideal and impossible one, is to think of the yearning for authentic community as symptomatic of a modern condition and to establish this symptom, the economic and social determinations structuring it, at the heart of an investigation into society, would be that of Georg Simmel’s notion of objective and subjective culture as a dynamic and dialectical movement which structures social form in modernity. The yearning for authentic experience and authentic community stems, for Simmel, from the advance of objective culture, everything which proliferates the cornucopia of objects which act as both facilitators, mediators and (apparently) obstacles to the living of our lives. For Simmel this presents or is a symptom of several connected problems of experience: the problem of being surrounded by a 'culture of things' which are commodities for sale, where the particular quality of things is consumed by its status as exchange value; the problem of the subject themselves constituting the commodity of labour power, persons are exchangeable, subjects treat each other like objects; people are reduced to things; particular things are reduced to money. Without speaking of who owns these things (don’t worry we will), this is already an interminable hostile world which structures itself with regard to the squishy and highly adaptable human subject as an existential, psychic and often directly physical threat. Yet, Simmel’s rather early and rare move, in distinction to so many other intellectuals who have examined this terrain and imagined themselves opposed to modernity, or able to rescue something from the past, to contrast the authentic life and ‘organic community’ (e.g. of the middle ages (Agamben)) vs. the empty alienation of the present, the wholeness of earlier social forms vs the autonomising separations which act on and around us every second, is to see the forces of modernity and modernisation as unleashing a surge towards assertion of the subjective. If fashion usually describes the frivolity of passing fads, this instead may be thought of as fashioning, self-fashioning, the attempt to assert the particular and personal over the universalising and making equivalent. Modernity inculcates the myth of the absence of myth, and therefore its hypertrophic compensation. On the other hand technology is striated with myth, this depends on a central fiction operative within capitalism -- that it is technology which creates value or profit, rather than human labour -- from this key mystification (one addressed at length in the work of Karl Marx and Marxian thinkers following him) several others follow: the idea that technology is ‘out of control’ and somehow not the result of human decision-making processes, the idea that technology may one day inherit human consciousness; the idea that technology is perfectable, while humanity is flawed. These ‘myths’ do pull human’s out of shape; do reorganise human work and sociality; do structure human consciousness; do reconfigure human relations with nature and each other. Humans as congealed technology, character masks, (Adorno, Endnotes)

 

The ‘factory system’ was as central to socialist states as to capitalism. But, Marx spoke of a ‘Factory Hell’ central to the working week. A description of workers as beings trapped in the being of the factory can often describe better the alienation felt from the repetitive work of say debeaking chickens all day, than the cold language of economics. As in Leslie Kaplan’s poetic existential workers inquiry.

 

“The great factory, the universe, the one that breathes for you. There’s no other air but what it pumps, expels.

 

You are inside

 

All space is occupied : all has become waste. The skin, the teeth, the gaze.

 

You move between formless walls. You encounter people, sandwiches, Coke bottles, tools, paper, screws. You move indefinitely, outside of time. No beginning, no end. Things exist together, all at once. Inside the factory, you are endlessly doing.”

 

 

Worker’s Inquiry / Ontological Form / Real Domination / Social Factory

 

You are inside, in the factory, the universe, the one that breathes for you.

 

“The question here is not of giving the death-blow to fantasy as such, but of destroying and saving the myth in a single dialectical process, by shedding light upon it. What is really swept away is real superstition.”

 

image

 

 

1'For more than forty years, Yugoslavia was one of the most internationalist and outward looking of all socialist countries in Europe, playing leading roles in various trans-national initiatives – principally as central participant within the Non-Aligned Movement – that sought to remake existing geopolitical hierarchies and rethink international relations.' http://1989after1989.exeter.ac.uk/events/conferences/rethinking-yugoslav-internationalism-30-september-1-october-2016/

2 In particular we are thinking of anti-nuclear movements (which in a sense did focus on factories of a kind), anti-militarism, women's movements, movements against pollution and roads, welfare movements, reproductive struggles etc.

 

---

1 This approach is related but also an attempt to go beyond the relationships specified in what Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes call the ‘Actually Existing Artworlds of Socialism’. The Fowkes' approach elsewhere is 'premisedon the idea that artistic life in Eastern Europe was profoundly shaped by the structures, conventions and workings ofthe overarching system, with artists and critics compelled to negotiate the often productive contradictions of actuallyexisting socialism. In that sense, the quotidian functioning of the socialist art system depended on the drawing up oftacit compromises and maintenance of calculated ambiguities in relations between party authorities and artists.' and‘This entailed the state moderating its political and stylistic demands, to the extent that ideological expectations ofwholehearted engagement with the socialist mission were replaced by the pragmatic understanding that artists should avoid sensitive topics and aesthetic excesses in work destined for public display. On the other hand, if they were to remain in the country and further their careers, artists were obliged to find a modus vivendi with the existing system and its artistic economy, with refusal of all involvement in official art institutions rarely a viable option.’ Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes, 'Introduction: Actually Existing Artworlds of Socialism', Third Text , 2018 Vol. 32, No. 4, 371–378, pp.371-372. This approach has the benefit of recognising artists’ relationship with the state as a dynamic, however, whilst it tends to try to specify aspects of the ‘artistic economy’ it tends to occlude the view of capital as a global totality, lending far too much credence to the idea of the ‘autonomy of the political’ over the economic, a fairy tale socialist states frequently drew comfort from.

2 Something close to this holistic approach, involving understanding capitalism or even capitalism-socialism as an integrated world system is specifically acknowledged within debates on contemporary art around SKC in Belgrade, e.g. Ješa Denegri, ‘If we accept these postulates in principle, at the next step we come across the first specific question: what is/are the social-economic basis/bases upon which the complex of contemporary art is built in the reality of today’s world? The characteristic mechanisms of global systems, neocapitalism on the one hand, and socialism on the other, essentially determine the shape and the position of art within the general processes of the functioning of these systems.’ Ješa Denegri ‘The Language of Art and the System of Art’, in SKC and Political Practices of Art , Belgrade: Prelom , 2008, pp.13-14, p.13.

3 Whilst here we concur with commentaries (such as Gutherz’s, see following footnote 2) which situate de Martino’s work within a historical sequence which includes the publication of key works of ethnography and the Italian fascists March on Rome, there is equally a shifting and developing but historically invariant dynamic, evident in his theorisation of the dialectic of presence/crisis of presence, for which de Martino’s thought attempts to account. This is captured well by Theodor Adorno’s aphorism: ‘All enlightenment is accompanied by the anxiety that what set enlightenment in motion in the first place and what enlightenment ever threatens to consume may disappear: truth.’ Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory , London and New York, Continuum, 1997. Enlightenment as product, motor and response to anxiety captures both the necessity of truth as process and enlightenment’s secret compact with practices which eschew the objectivity which is ostensibly Enlightenment’s goal. The search for truth and systematisation of established truth are sworn enemies.

4 T. S. Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’ (1942) quoted in David Gutherz, ‘Ernesto de Martino and the Drama of Presence’, Chicago Review , Vol.61, No.1, 2017 Available at: https://www.chicagoreview.org/ernesto-de-martino-and-the-drama-of-presence/ (Accessed: 2 July 2019)

5 Ibid.

6 Claude Lévi-Strauss quoted in Ibid. philosophical account of modernity. Within this magic played a central role. Initially de Martino understood magic as a ‘pedagogical practice’

7 Ernesto De Martino, Naturalismo e storicismo nell’etnologia , Lecce: Argo 1997, p.104, quoted in Sergio Fabio Berardini, 'Magic and History in Ernesto de Martino’s Primitive Magic’, Diapsalmata Rivista di filosofia, Anno II - Numero 1, Febbraio 2011, p.1.

8Ibid., Berardini, p.2

9Ernesto de Martino and the Drama of Presence’, op. cit.

10Through the history of magic, de Martino sought access to societies that didn’t push this “drama of presence” out of the public sphere, but rather treated it as a problem that concerned the whole community.’ Ibid.

11Ernesto de Martino, Magic a Theory from the South , Chicago: HAU Books, (159) 2015,

https://haubooks.org/viewbook/magic-a-theory-from-the-south/13_ch08

12The term ‘neocapitalism is used both by Matko Meštrović with reference to New Tendencies, and in the debates around SKC by Ješa Denegri. In the former, it is used to describe a whole system, a world system which incorporates both (even Yugoslav state) socialism and capitalism, we can therefore understand it as a levelling category for state capitalism, or for the world system which incorporates both capitalism and socialism as reciprocal poles of a relationship. In Denegri’s formulation, neocapitalism and socialism are again proposed as within a relationship of dynamic tension, neocapitalism is capitalism which has integrated elements of socialism. See Ješa Denegri, ‘The Language of Art and the System of Art’, in SKC and Political Practices of Art , Belgrade: Prelom , 2008, pp.13-14, p.13 and Matko Meštrović quoted in Armin Medosch, Automation, Cybernation and the Art of New Tendencies (1961-1973) , PhD Thesis, Goldsmiths University of London, 2012, p.155.

13Here Camatte shares ground with Max Horkheimer on rackets . ‘The sickness is socialized: in the intoxication of the communal ecstasy—indeed, as itself a community—blindness becomes a relationship and the paranoid mechanism is made controllable, without losing the power to strike terror. Perhaps that was one of the major contributions of religions to the survival of the species. Paranoid forms of consciousness tend to give rise to leagues, factions, rackets. Their members are afraid to believe their madness on their own. Projecting it, they everywhere see proselytizing and conspiracy. The established group has always taken a paranoid stance toward others; in this the great empires, indeed, organized humanity as a whole, are no better than headhunters.’

14This begins with the likes of Adam Smith’s conception of four main stages through history from the primitive to the commercial (civilized), but is adopted by social democrats and many Marxists. A post enlightenment teleology? haunted the Soviet Union and led to the idea that the road to socialism meant adopting a centralized accelerated form of what had happened more organically under capitalism. Leading those opposed to this to cite Marx’s letter to the left social revolutionaries "If Russia follows the path that it took after 1861, it will miss the greatest chance to leap over all the fatal alternatives of the capitalist regime that history has ever offered to a people. Like all other countries, it will have to submit to the inexorable laws of that system" - Marx, Letter to Vera Zasulich, 1881.

15Branislav Jakovljević, Alienation, Effects, Performance and Self Management, P202

16Loren Goldner, Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today, Critique#23, https://libcom.org/library/communism-is-the-material-human-community-amadeo-bordiga-today

17Raniero Panzieri, ‘Surplus Value and Planning: Notes on the Reading of Capital’ in The Labour Process & Class Strategies , London: Stage 1 for the Conference of Socialist Economists, 1976, p.12.

18Armin Medosch quoting Matko Meštrović in , Automation, Cybernation and the Art of New Tendencies (1961-1973) , PhD Thesis, Goldsmiths University of London, 2012, p.155.

19 George Caffentzis, ‘Two Themes of Midnight Notes: Work/Refusal of Work and Enclosure/Commons’ in

Towards the Final Jubilee: Midnight Notes at Thirty , Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2010, p.27.

20Workers' Playtime, Printers Playtime , London, May, 1984, p.10.

21 The general trajectory of how computerisation reorganises work today in the care and housing sectors (both sectors of reproduction), and continues to fix relations of production in favour of the separation of workers from the property they work on can be traced through the following recent article by Miranda Hall, ‘How to Pick a Smart Lock’, E-Flux, June, 2020,

https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/housing/333698/how-to-pick-a-smart-lock/

22Maja Fowkes, Green Bloc: Neo-Avant-Garde Art and Ecology Under Socialism, Budapest: Ceu LLC, 2015, p.12.

23Ibid., p.23 and p.24

24 The ‘metabolic rift’ is a term coined by John Bellamy Foster to understand Marx’s late conceptualisation of ecological degradation in capitalism as an ‘irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism’. John Bellamy Foster, Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature , New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000, p ix

25 The weight on our shoulders is ghostly, taking possession of our bodies from a distance. It clothes and dresses us, moves us around - the classical political economists saw it as an invisible hand. This possesion of our being by the spectre of capitalism that ultimately, to reiterate, contains 'not a single atom,' as Marx stated, is a central theme in the work of Chris Arthur and others building on Lenin's notion of the central importance of the ontological categories used in Hegel's 'Logic' (The Doctrine of Being) to structure Marx's 'Capital', but taking this further, and claiming that the ontology sketched out in the ‘Logic’ is that of capital itself. Therefore, moving away from focusing on the master slave dialectic that Kojeve and his numerous disciples saw as central to Marxism. And, instead looking towards capitalisms 'qualitative' and 'quantitative' expanding ‘contentless’ abstraction that shapes our reality and being (Real Abstraction) hidden in Hegel’s Logic. It is known that Hegel and his contemporaries such as Shiller and Herder had been following the birth of economics in the work of Adam Smith and others. Including, notably, Smith's pupil Adam Ferguson's 'An Essay on the History of Civil Society' (1767), which was one of the first critiques of capitalism's tendency to create strict, limited and fragmented specialisations in the workplace. As Ferguson wrote: 'Many mechanical arts succeed best under the total suppression of sentiment and reason' and ignorance is the mother of industry... Manufacturers accordingly prosper most when the mind is least consulted, and where the workshop may, without any great effort, be considered as an engine, the parts of which are men... Thinking itself in this age of separation may become a peculiar craft.'

26 Translator’s Note/ Intro, Benedetto Croce, What is Living and What is Dead of the Philosophy of Hegel , Russell and Russell, New York, 1969, Douglas Ainslie trans.

27 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, P.40 and P.162, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York , 1959, Willard R. Trask Trans.

28 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project , p.69, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, 1999, Howard Eiland and Kevin Mclaughlin trans.

29 Ernesto De Martino, Death in the Piazza, p.74 Chicago Review, Vol. 60/61, No. 4/1, 2017, David Gutherz and Daniela Licandro trans.