Capital can’t be reasoned with …

Capital can’t be reasoned with … the importance of affective politics by Joseph Kay
Sep 19 2013 10:10

When we limit ourselves to reasoned critique we cut ourselves off from the everyday experiences of life under capitalism from which any revolutionary rupture must grow.

David Graeber’s article on ‘bullshit jobs’ seems to have struck a chord, being widely republished and discussed, as well as inspiring numerous responses. One of these in particular, which takes on the slightly broader theme of ‘zombie social democracy’, is very much worth reading. However, I think this debate raises a broader political question that’s possibly more significant than the contested specifics here.

Graeber’s style is very much that of the anthropologist – where the truth of a narrative isn’t so much in its literal veracity as in its resonance and affective power, its meaning in a given context. This understandably infuriates Marxists, whose approach is one of critique, and who, intent on dispelling mystifications, set about pointing out all the errors. Father Xmas isn’t even real! Read more at

One thought on “Capital can’t be reasoned with …

  1. Joseph Kay writes:

    “We neglect the normative and affective dimensions of the class struggle at our peril: these are the stuff movements are made of”

    i don’t really understand normative in this context? a little like the ‘Judean People’s Front’ version of class struggle?

    “It shouldn’t be too hard to articulate an affective politics compatible with anti-capitalist critique. … a recent Gallup poll found that 70% of American workers hate their jobs”

    The article talks of ‘affect’ as if it can be contrived and put out as a program for workers.

    “For any Marxists itching to point out that, actually, labour is not a commodity, labour power is, this is exactly the pedantic preference for theoretical correctness …”

    Here ‘libertarian communists’ & ‘marxists’ appear as contrary actors in a play. The author may not intend it but this bit sounds like an a reference to Humphrey McQueen.


    “Anti-work seems like a good place to start”

    In the hollywood version of spactacus – i watched the movie yesterday – spactacus was a slave who led a revolt of the poor from southern italy. the roman consul, from memory his name was gracchus, put down the revolt with the roman army and crucified the slaves all along the appian way right up to the gates of Rome … gracchus said something like: ‘i am doing this not just to defeat spactacus, but to put down all the revolts of the future’… now that is class war, hollywood style.

    I don’t like either the Monty Python or the Hollywood versions.

    In the world i know, capitalists steal all the resources and in exchange we get jobs that hurt and sometimes maime us. if we make it into the middle class we get better jobs that are better paid but are still alienating … some of us get a pension and can look forward to dying in a nursing home.

    if capitalists no longer give out jobs (because of a financial crisis or if there is a ‘strike’ of capital) and the state gives no welfare, we get desperate and revolt as in egypt, greece, spain …

    Where do you stand on a line of ‘reason’ and ’emotion’ …

    Is the struggle linear?

    i think not.

    Ian Curr
    23 September 2013

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