3 of 3: From ruling through anti-ruling to integral living

From ruling through anti-ruling to integral living
Ruling, anti-ruling, integralising
[suggested titles: I’m obviously not one for snappy headlines]

This is the last of three pieces occasioned by a Mike Macnair article (December 18 2014) which included a conception of politics, one that surprised and puzzled me. In the first article (XXdateXXX) I presented his argument and offered some comments, having contextualised it with a sketch of what the communist project, communising, has to be about when viewed scientifically, and we’ll find it useful to return to this. In the second article (XXdateXXX) I showed how Mike’s conception was unnecessarily narrow, so I applied Marx’s generative and productionist processual ontology to political matters to identify the necessary abstract constitutive elements of a more adequate conception, that of the political dimension of human living, within which politics, as an activity, is only a part.

Simply drawing upon, re-working, and extending some existing ideas, concepts, and evidence, I’ve followed where the argument has logically led, and it has revealed the bare outlines of a conception. Perhaps surprisingly, from a seemingly empty shell, a number of ideas and concepts have been born, and these will be built upon, allowing a better grasp of not only the present and the past but also what’s involved politically in the process we value, communising, especially in identifying its necessary transitions, the carnal achievement of which is always contingent, never guaranteed.

I’ll apply the political conception that has emerged from my analysis to elaborate upon the nature of the communising process, identifying the political dynamics and political forms corresponding to the sequence Marx made in his Gotha analysis. This was his evaluation of the 1875 draft founding programme of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands), a letter sent to German comrades, published as Critique of the Gotha programme after he had died. But first two other matters, namely, showing the limitation of the idea of there being a ruling class in capitalist society; and identifying common ways of ruling, thereby showing the limitation of oft-invoked dichotomies such as hegemony/domination and consent/force.

“The ruling class does not rule”

Fred Block said this1 when arguing that the ruling social class of capitalist society has undergone a division of labour, with executive managers and manager-owners of capitals, busily trying to accumulate surplus-value, being complemented by a coordinating state run by executive managers, including politicians, working as societal steersmen. There’s also been the Foucault madness seeing government everywhere as a disciplinary force, with one tentacle even controlling our libido.2 But by and large both conceptions actually refer to ruling (call it governing-over, if you want), and this legitimates my reserving the g-word proper to denote philanthropic governing (either co-governing or self-governing), involved in a different kind of political generative means, an anti-political kind, the mode of political living that is de-ruling.

But Block had put his finger on a difficulty in the ruling class conception, namely, that it usually ascribes a class consciousness, understanding, foresight, and will to the class as a whole, or sections of it, which then succeeds in enacting it as state policy and practice. This requires political cohesion, expertise, generation of an ideational climate, access to state managers, and an awareness of what is necessary to either reproduce or modify societal conditions in the face of current and longer-term weaknesses and threats. A knowledgeable collective subject. It would mean that state behaviour could largely be traced back to a directing ‘brain’, the top of the class; the state as their pseudo-public instrument, under immediate class control, putty and puppets in their hands.

We’re accustomed to being with people, praising them, blaming them, and it takes an effort to think about our interactions in a different way, including how we attribute responsibility for the occurrence of events. What I’m getting at is that social relations, albeit needing people to create and sustain them, can have causal force themselves and so bear responsibility. Having the onticity of a force, such a relation has emergent causal forces generated by the behaviour of the people who are using and are organised by that relation. It means that some features of events are not due to the causal forces of people, either deriving from their individuality or made available to them by their groupal or social positions. And that is exactly what is novel about ruling in a society living from and through capitalist production, one using the capital relation to organise the productive forces: it is the first human society where the most consequential kind of ruling is immediately by a social relation and not immediately by human beings, including those dastardly capitalists.

In the most fundamental sense, in virtue of the most consequential causal forces at work, no-one rules capitalist society: it is ruled by a social relation. That relation is the capital relation, more accurately its value dimension. This is the first time in human classed history that a kind of society isn’t ruled directly by people necessarily organised as a social class. It means the capitalist class is not a ruling class, the ruling class of capitalist society. It also means that because ruling is done by a social relation, and not another kind of social entity such as a class – and this is a crucial point – we need to recognise that the concept of ruling class is not the most general conceptualisation of the agent of ruling: for that we can use the term ruling force. The value dimension of the capital relation is the ruling force of capitalist society, whereas in all other class societies the ruling force was a class, making it a ruling class. Block didn’t go far enough, in two senses: in capitalist society not only does the ruling class not rule, the class isn’t even a ruling class; moreover, and to the contrary, it is a ruled class, just like the working class. We need to acknowledge this explicitly.

Because contemporary society is ruled by a social relation, and not people, because ruling is not done consciously by even one person, this explains why the emancipatory task of the sole occupant of a social relational-position with this capacity, the worldwide working class, is not a project solely benefiting the working class, making it a class project, but one benefiting the whole of humanity, making it a humanist project. Capitalists themselves need to be emancipated from the capital relation.

But of course, I exaggerate – and Marx did too: even in the Paris manuscripts he showed he knew all this;3 but as Block put it, Marx’s analysis was “clouded by his polemical intent to fix responsibility for all aspects of bourgeois society on the ruling class”.4 Yes, the capitalist class is itself ruled – putting into perspective moralistic criticism of ‘capitalists behaving badly’ – but it is also the case that the capitalists, their senior executive managers, and senior state managers, rule over the working class. This complexity is best captured by saying the first-order ruling force is a social relation, the value dimension of the capital relation, a relatively abstract way of ruling, and second-order ones (governing-over) are social groups (governors, exploiters, other oppressors), including the capitalist class and all these senior managers, exercising a more concrete way of ruling. (Importantly, other second-order ruling forces are social oppressors not engaged in exploiting those who hire out their labour-power.) First-order ruling is necessarily immediate whereas the second-order kind is necessarily mediated in and through the control form. Block was half-right.

Distinguishing power, force, violence, coercion, domination – and rule

[no doubt, given column width, this will have to be shorter]

It’s important to be clear about the similarities and differences between the six realities listed in the sub-heading. I’ve spoken of force and power as general onticities, but those words are more usually used to describe political onticities. Power, the general onticity, is a force giving an entity the capacity to do something through action (rather than by suffering, being on the receiving end of action: that’s the exercise of a susceptibility). Power, the political onticity, is political power, the force that when prevailingly exercised causes domination;5 that capacity can be possessed by a social relation (necessarily sustained by people), or by a person-in-relations or a group-in-relations (in the last two cases it’s the joint production of people and the means available to them given the social relational-positions they occupy). Force, the general onticity, is either a power or a susceptibility with realisable capacities. Political force is a kind of political power, the one possessed by a person-in-relations or a group-in-relations, with the capacity either to threaten violence or to carry it out. (Obviously threatening can occur even if the capacity to exercise political force is lacking: the illusion of force, pseudo-force, the realising of quite a different capacity.)

Coercing is trying to make people do things they don’t want to do; political coercion is a quality of some exercises of political power, and it isn’t necessarily violent. As just said, domination is the condition achieved by the victorious exercise of political power, and the dimensions of its identity can be social, intergroupal, groupal, or interpersonal, sometimes necessarily co-existing. Domination consists in oppressions, including exploitation: oppression is superordination that restricts both the capacity and the ability of others to flourish as healthy people; exploitation is superordination where others perform social surplus labour and have the corresponding product taken from them. And ruling, as we know, consists in control of access to valued entities and control over the quality of relations.

Ways of ruling – and of de-ruling

So how does this help us understand how ruling, and de-ruling, is achieved? Don’t we already have adequate accounts? The oft-repeated hegemony/domination, consent/force, consensus/legitimacy/force, true/false consciousness? Even abstractly a dichotomy may not be adequate, but when it is presented without an extensive detailing of how it is concretised in many different situations, spatially and temporally diverse, one is justified in being sceptical. Electoral abstention rates go from 20% to near 50% for national elections, up to 70% for Euro and local elections; that’s not a display of widespread consent but rather indifference and resignation. In practice we don’t rely on dichotomies, we invoke in ad hoc fashion all sorts of reasons (fear has been a favourite since the Twin Towers attack). The point is, we haven’t done the conceptual work to generate a more comprehensive account. So how can we add a bit of complexity to this, a dose of reality?

In such a case, lists are best when they are exhaustive, but their principal utility is not classificatory but offering a tool, a conceptual vocabulary, to help discover what is happening – and then what to do. Göran Therborn has examined how processes of sense-making (he calls them ideological processes) make people subjects, not just subjugating them (ruling them) but also qualifying them to act and to suffer – even to contest and overcome their subjugation. In effect he identified and described six pervasive ways of ruling. With respect to matters of what exists, what is good, and what is possible, if a better way of ruling is not deemed possible then ruling is achieved, correspondingly, by a sense of inevitability, deference, and resignation; if the contrary, present rule can nevertheless be accepted because of accommodation, a sense of representation, and being scared, even afraid.6

It means the effects of the unqualified exercise of different political forces, all at the same degree of abstraction-concretion, are as follows, some being ways of ruling, others of de-ruling.

  • Ruling forces:
    (1) Ruling powers: the exercise of political power results in domination. So the exercise of exploitative power causes exploitative domination; that of oppressive power causes oppressive domination; (non-violent) coercive power, (non-violent) coercive domination; and violent power (ie force), violent domination.                                                                          (2) Ruling affordances: the exercise of political susceptibility results in being ruled. A sense of inevitability; trained deference; spontaneous meekness; merging self with the ruler or with the fetish; habits realised as routines; political indifference; political resignation; accommodation; sense of representation; frightened, fearful, feeling terrorised.
  • De-ruling forces. The exercise of de-ruling powers or susceptibilities result in co-governing, even in self-governing:                                        (1) De-ruling powers: so the exercise of emancipatory power causes emancipation; liberatory power, liberation; liberatory administrative power, liberatory administration. Mundanely, abstaining is a degree of conscious refusal lacking in indifference.                                                 (2) De-ruling affordances: anti-authoritarian disposition; egalitarian sensibility; empathy, regard and care for others, comradeship, altruism; confidence to act; belief in success, ‘the future is ours’.

Importantly, this means that the political dimension of human living, not politics, isn’t about power, more accurately its exercise, nor even about ruling as such, but about the configuring, and re-configuring, of political forces and their exercise, that is, the dynamic between the exercise of ruling and anti-ruling forces, with the latter subject to two inner-dynamics, initially between re-ruling and de-ruling, and then amongst de-ruling forces between co-governing and self-governing. As each of these necessary dynamics marks a phase in the prospective history of communising, they provide a meta-strategic framework. This is all a bit different from ideas such as ‘taking power’, ‘seizing power’, ‘seizing the state’ and ‘smashing the state’.

If humanity can reproduce by co-governing and self-governing, refraining from ruling, then political living will have ended, and, as I elaborate below, living would be simply integral – be it social, intergroupal, groupal, interpersonal, or intrapersonal. Decision-making would be in an integral form, that is, in a governing form, not a political one.

So politics has its time, and we can envisage it having had its time. All entities have their limits, marking them off from others, and this applies to their temporal identity. Instead of taking time as an external metric, and applying it to entities, quantifying duration and rates of change of time, we can understand the temporal quality of an entity as having both a generative and a generated dimension. In this an entity can vary in its temporal extensions, simultaneously being directed into the past, future, or the ephemeral present; hence Ernst Bloch’s analysis of fascism in Germany.7 And temporalness can also be either ‘stretched out’ or ‘compressed’, made dense, lived intensely, with years, even decades, ‘packed’ into weeks or days. Frozen times; heady days. All this is possible through two kinds of inner-relations: a set that is a figuration of generative temporal forces, whose work is then realised as stable times or crisis – more particularly as, eg, the turnover time of capital or the developmental cycle of domestic groups, and, more generally, as the life cycle.8 Temporalness is necessarily generated from within: an entity has endochronogeny.

And this is no less the case with the political dimension of human living. Its temporality may have arisen before a sporadic societal surplus product was created, when humans first contested the quality of relations, those between people and those between people and valued entities. As described below, its demise comes with the end of ruling, with the widespread achievement of co-governing and self-governing. The transformation of ‘the political’ is so radical that what remains deserves a new label: the residue of politics is governing matters, an aspect of the integral living of the universal class for-itself.

Communising – again

And so, the political, which we all have a certain justified preoccupation with, if not obsession. It’s no surprise that the central political concept, the denotation of the most forceful relevant onticity, is not disagreements, or decision-making, but the mode of ruling, especially in how it relates to political practical imperatives, on one side of the causal structure, and to political practices on the other. So there’s a two-step movement here: (1) through the mode of ruling, this generative means, the attempt is made to regularise, to institutionalise, to bring order to the political dimension of human living, because (2) order is a forceful condition assisting action that’s directed at satisfying political practical imperatives. The principal imperative is control: control of access to valued, thus significant, entities, and control over the quality of relations. It means control is primary, and that possession and ownership are secondary. Importantly, control of access is not so much about the providing of a right of way (rights and duties; custom, law; codified or the test of either reasonableness or precedent) as it is about securing that way. This is what security, and its politics, is all about: securing in place (and time) propitious conditions for valued practices.

This conception of ruling, through inversion, locates the content of the political practical imperative of any social subordinate, here that of the proletariat, allowing identification of its own political task: to undermine that order, to dis-order it, to re-order it on a basis that allows control to be exercised in and through two universalising projects, each being the class as struggle: the proletariat’s generalising affirmation as an emancipatory struggle against exploitation and other oppressions, and, simultaneously, its individualising affirmation as the individual and collective engagement in liberatory experiments – the two projects constituting the joint pursuit of freedom-from and freedom-to, which I mentioned in my first article. These projects, in promoting human flourishing at the expense of suffering, encourage humanity to transform into the universal class for-itself.

This political task requires, after a rupture with capitalist society, the discovery of how to institutionalise a mode, and sub-modes (particular ways), of re-ruling, all the while trying to make it anti-ruling (but never nihilistic), the fulfilment of lack, the achievement of absence, by encouraging the development of de-ruling forces at the expense of re-ruling forces (this is what a dynamic is). This effects four transformative transitions: changing the superordinate mode of ruling from it being a mode of re-ruling to it becoming a mode of de-ruling; within the latter, making the superordinate sub-mode self-governing rather than simply co-governing; so that the superordinate political mode becomes anti-ruling rather than ruling; all this amounting to the living of freedom less as emancipation and more as liberation. Importantly, the shift to de-ruling isn’t just moving from one political form to another, but moving to the only more abstract political form with the capacity to realise, through communising, the universal class for-itself.

So politics is about control – perhaps only freaks are upfront about this. Two processes of control have already been identified, concerning entities in general and relations in particular. If de-ruling is to be extended then a third societal control process is required, control over a kind of human relation, the intrapersonal: self-control. With citizens being educated, learning that freedom is the recognition of necessity, learning to take more and more responsibility, exercising greater self-discipline and better judgment, it means that alter-discipline, including coercion and even violence, doesn’t have to be exercised by authorities – done on behalf of society, more accurately benefiting its anticipated leading social force, the working class, the bearer of the potential to become the universal class both in-itself and for-itself. The citizenry has the opportunity to become their own authors, their own governors, perhaps progressing to become non-citizens by managing to take over all the work hitherto done by state bodies: living becoming less alienating, more authentic, less opaque, more transparent, as what had been relinquished by previous generations and made strange, is now made familiar and one’s own, bringing it home.9

This extending of de-ruling requires, as a minimum, three processes. First, de-ruling has the best chance to become predominant when social classes no longer exist, which means social class relational-positions need to be phased out. As Stalinism shows, the state ownership of productive (and destructive) means can allow the productive forces to be organised by a social relation other than the capital one, ending the mutual constitution of the two social classes, but it leaves extant a social class, the working class, because it remains dependent on hiring out its labour-power for sustenance, and that is how it’s reproduced. Workers without capitalists.

The only way to eliminate the worker social relational-position is for the right mode of production to emerge, and for certain conditions to prevail. It requires producers and providers (labourers) to associate, to cooperate without becoming owners, rather than be employed by capitalists or public authorities as workers; and for the capitalist mode of production and the state-stratum mode10 to be replaced by the associative mode (communal, communist, if you wish): the associative mode of production and service provision is the ‘right’ mode. But this is not enough: de-commodification is needed. This in turn requires participatory hierarchical societal planning, not just economic planning. By contracting to submit to the plan that they have helped develop, individual labour becomes immediately social and no longer abstract, their product no longer a commodity. As such, from being a worker, they transform themselves by becoming a social associate, melding into the collective societal endeavour.

The second process encouraging the spread of de-ruling is political vigilance: defending the rule of the working class (albeit modified in secondary ways by maintaining the support of allied classes and/or strata, or at least their quiescence); monitoring the conditions and consequences of all occurrences of social surplus labour; and ensuring that unauthorised such labour is not performed, be it for a social class, a stratum of state managers, or a stratum within voluntary associations.

The third process is extending individual and collective self-regulation, the self-government of human activities and control over non-human forces. Necessary here is significantly reducing time at work to allow new habits to develop. Independent of extending the scope of planning, more and more workplaces need to be governed associatively (and this can occur in those organised by either the capital relation or the state-stratum relation), with everyone being encouraged to participate. Essential is the phasing out, the absorbing into civil society, of the work of the governing stratum of society, re-uniting the living by each person of economic and political matters as a single, sublated, integral form, phasing out alter-governing positions (specialised ones, occupied by ‘them’, ‘the others’: the authorities, the politicians), ending the dividing of people into those who govern and those who are governed. The sublation of governing-over by co-governing and self-governing is no other than the thorough-going communising of the political dimension of human living.

This sublating is of the greatest import, signalling the transition of the communising of humanity from a mode of political living to a mode of integral living; the living of integrity, not of a series of fragments; authentic living, not alienated living; living solidarity, not estrangement; living an integral society, not being subjugated by an integral or other state;11 a homogenising, a pulling-together through a totalising transformation. From first- and second-order economic and political living (the matricular living of an unstable unifying-differentiating, of a unity-in-difference) to the living of a sublated lack of separate orders. It means two processes are going in opposite directions: whilst the immediate nature of labour is being transformed from private and abstract to social and concrete, immediate living as a whole is being transformed from alienated separate ‘spheres’ (seemingly concrete in their excluding particularity) to a sublated oneness, the many-in-the-one, a simplifying of form, of societal organisation, the authentic living of the concreteness of each particular immediacy as connected, as integrated with all others, as a concrete abstractness, as abstract. The life-blood returning from the sand.

It means communising transitions from being a political project to becoming an integral project. Political living transitions from being first- and second-order living to becoming integral living – integrated, not split. The communising process is not just the communising of politics, economics and culture, of cultural, political and economic behaviour, of the economy, culture and polity, the communising of society – no, the communising process has proceeded to become not the communising of society but of humanity, of its generative and generated dimensions, the communising of both intra-human practice and the interaction between humanity and the rest of nature, animate and inanimate, the communising of the metabolic practice of the species, communising fully accomplished (vollendet).

As de-ruling extends, anti-ruling would be transitioning from a more abstract mode of de-ruling, more negative than positive in its positivity, to a more concrete configuring of de-ruling forces which we would expect to be increasingly a mode of self-governing (rather than co-governing as such), to realise affirmative individual and collective self-governing. Importantly, co-governing alone is an inadequate label because there would be a healthy, philanthropic, pervasive yet partial, practical ‘merging’ of self and other. Living conditions would, increasingly and spontaneously, engender an awareness that the welfare of others is a need of one’s own, not simply a possible want, causing the ‘boundaries’ of one’s thought and felt self (and non-conscious self) to extend and involve others, making living vicarious in a healthy way, as another dimension of philanthropic practice. Enveloping others and being enveloped would develop a more collective self, the transformation of the self-other inner-relationship by an increasingly intensive communising. Call it practising non-erotic love, being in love. The new woman, man, and child – communising humanity communised, an increasingly expansive communising, on both a more extensive and intensive scale.

But self-governing has its limits of possibility, as does co-governing which also has its volume of necessity: self-governing can never eliminate the need for certain co-governing. This isn’t an either/or onticity, be it voluntaristic or authoritarian. It’s just that some practices are best done with co-governing – not least because they can’t be done on a coordinated individual basis, however intensive that collective self may appropriately develop. And complementary self-governing will enhance efficiency, it will be philanthropic: taking responsibility for one’s own contribution, monitoring one’s actions, regulating oneself, changing one’s behaviour.

With de-ruling extending, the political dimension of human living would be transformed by transitioning the superordinate generative mode of political living from it being a mode of ruling to it becoming a mode of governing, more particularly self-governing. From rulers and ruled, from governors and governed, to a community of self-governors.

This transformation is so radical that, as I have said, it makes no sense, it would be unwarranted, to continue speaking of there being a political dimension of human living. What remains of political matters, the ensuring of widespread participation in deciding, implementing, monitoring, and back to devising, revising and deciding – the continuity within the discontinuity – amounts to nothing other than governing matters: the political dimension of human living has morphed into the governing dimension of human living, more accurately it has become integral human living; the generative force has transformed from a political mode, the ‘articulation’ of ruling and anti-ruling, into the governing aspect of the integral mode. The integral is no less than the form of the universal class for-itself. The full philanthropic development of politics is realised not as politics but as government, self-government. With the sublating of ruling, the universal class for-itself comes into being. The communising of humanity would have transformed from a narrow political, economic and cultural project into an undifferentiated integrated project. Integral living would have arrived.

The significance of this is hard to exaggerate: the erstwhile political, now the organising of communist society, is regulation, order, association in an integral form, achieved not by ruling but by governing, self-governing. This is what the integrating of humanity, the sublating of alienation, looks like. The integral generative mode for living communally (communistically, associatively) is necessarily individual and collective self-governing. With self-government becoming the norm, the normal way of living, so unremarkable it would escape comment, it would be like fish lacking a word for water.

The Gotha analysis schema

So how does this account compare with Marx’s Gotha analysis?12 The industry standard for mapping post-capitalist society is particularly light on political detail, something I have tried to address, but in 140 years now, most of us have adhered to the taboo that talking about the future, any future, is speculative, utopian. But those who may benefit from trying to create socialist society are fully justified in being exasperated when saying, you want us to give up what we know for something you admit you know hardly anything about? You want us to trust you with our welfare? Are you crazy? Do you think we’re that irrational? There is no doubt that we need to exercise our scientific imaginations.13

In his analysis Marx sketched a contingently necessary sequence, from capitalist society to the dictatorship of the proletariat (his rarely used phrase for the rule of the working class),14 then through the lower phase of communism to the higher phase. The sequence is necessary because how we choose to live can only be within the physical possibilities afforded by the society’s production of goods and provision of services (and how children are turned into adults), and of these possibilities what is practically possible requires certain enabling conditions, including the existence of the requisite forces. And the sequence is contingent because human living is an open development, determined but not pre-determined. It’s a world of surprises, magnified by our limited knowledge: unforeseen forces exercised, well-known others inexplicably lying dormant, unanticipated interactions, our plans frustrated; and our claims to knowledge may prove inadequate, our expectations based on ignorance.

If we are indeed able to achieve a sustainable political and cultural rupture with capitalist society, initiating the rule of possibly the whole working class,15 then, concerning the mode of political living, scientific communists (including professed Marxists) should argue for the creation of conditions encouraging the diminution of re-ruling forces and the growth of de-ruling forces, moreover those of self-governing. Likewise we should argue for conditions both allowing the de-commodification of production and provision, and shifting distribution away from the monetised wage fund (allowing it to acquire more the character of a social consumption fund) towards personal accounts of labour time units accruing from demonstrated need and individual work (duration plus premiums for intensity and difficulty, the latter in terms of skill and harshness).16 (Note that needs is left out of Marx’s formulation of an even more advanced, healthier, kind of society, the lower phase of communism.) The combined effect of this is to transform labour from being immediately private (and, contingently, mediately social) to becoming immediately social, thereby ending abstract labour; as a correlate, goods and services are simply use-values, lacking a value dimension and thus the quality of being a commodity. We would also argue that labourers do a mix of jobs: indoors/outdoors, brawn/thinking/emotional labour, of different statuses – all subject to the fact that not everybody can achieve the requisite expertise or competence.

The movement of value-bearing use-values (commodities) would be doubly recorded: a monetisation of a social (abstract) labour time which can be compared with the socially necessary average; and that average, derived from an aggregate of individual (concrete) labour times, so non-social, that is, not socially necessary, used in planning as a marker of efficiency and other considerations when comparing economic units. In contrast, movements of use-values would only be inscribed with their (concrete labour) time aggregates, and only compared as part of mutual learning between producers/providers/distributors, and possibly used to make planning more efficient. Interestingly, here the labour is socially recognised immediately and yet, in being concrete (social) labour, its magnitude has the quality of being individual (albeit aggregative), so not socially necessary – unlike the labour borne by sold commodities whose magnitudes always contribute to the punitive and ever-changing socially necessary average, labour stripped of its particulars, exposed in its abstractness. In these conditions the temporal magnitude of a use-value has these three qualities: it is individual, not socially recognised except as a parameter for remuneration and planning; it isn’t involved in the application of a socially necessary standard; and by comparing it to the (social) average the relative efficiency of its production, provision or distribution can be identified. This draws out the important difference in social effect between a mere social average (as found in the use-value), which may or may not be acted upon, and one with the force of necessity (as found in the commodity), one that immediately regulates, even punishes.17

Scientific communists would also argue that the state, initially a set of organisations largely unsupervised by the rest of society, be socialised through such measures as the dissolution of certain bodies; the ending of other practices; the increasing performance of its still-relevant activities by coordinated collectives (leftie vocab for organisations); and, with adequate training and experience, the frequent rotation of staff between hierarchical positions.

There’s an important difference between the state as the principal organiser of threats, coercion, and violence, and the state as public, not private, publicly controlled, not privately controlled. In Engels’ day the state did much less economic and life-sustaining work, including coordination, and was easily seen as fundamentally a gang of violent men, a fictive family ostensibly offering protection, keeping order, making life secure. Today, the centralisation of much work in state organisations – a preliminary socialisation (communisation) – is a start, but the communising task is how to transform the rule of the officeholders, and the network of offices, into de-ruling administration, ultimately into co-governing and self-governing administration. Is there anything other than a paucity of scientific knowledge on this?

This period ends when, in effect, all labour is immediately social, meaning that all goods and services are simply use-values. This is the start of what Engels and Marx had come to identify as communist society. There would be no need for a means of purchase, one of the utilities of whatever functions as money. And the other uses of money? No need for it being a unit of account, even for credit purposes (economic activity would be recorded as aggregated individual (concrete) labour times – the clock-watching, albeit now altruistic and philanthropic, continues); nor money as a means of unilateral payment (paying a debt, making a gift); nor as a store of wealth (non-communal wealth would solely reside in one’s personal property: consumption goods, including perhaps a home). With digitisation, withered money wouldn’t even have the utility of being recyclable.

So no abstract labour, only individual concrete labour; no value production, only use-value production and provision; no social classes, only voluntary associations. Participatory hierarchical planning to allocate productive/providing forces, and the production, provision, and allocation of use-values. We’d argue for a transition in distribution from individual (concrete) labour calculation plus need towards plain want, whatever the individual desires (Global Ambrosia, or, if you prefer, Ambrosiastan) – subject, of course, to constraints of resource availability and, the biggie, climatic conditions.

The expectation would be that by now the bulk of de-ruling would have become self-governing, and that re-ruling would be unnecessary. However, if persistent oppressions still existed, scientific communists should support the exercise of rule, including force, upon those responsible for sustaining oppressive organisation. (The committing of oppressive acts is secondary.) It seems inescapable that there would need to be a spatially-based supervisory hierarchy, perhaps organised sporadically (with the concomitant problem of preserving institutional memory), one even capable of practising violence, the strike of last resort. Nevertheless, given the conditions described, the expected highly predominant mode of political, now integral, living would not be ruling, nor even co-governing, but self-governing.

In the first article I denoted the start of this epoch, the eventual realising of the universal class for-itself, as marking complete communising, the successful completion of the communist project. In a limited sense that’s true; but communising would still have work to do, not least in increasingly satisfying whatever each person wants.

The degree of communising described would mark what can be called, as with Marx, the lower phase of communism. However, he never spoke of the higher phase – ever. At the start of this section I simply parroted the error. What he said in his Gotha analysis was “[i]n einer höheren Phase der kommunistischen Gesellschaft”18 ([i]n a higher phase of communist society): a, not the. This dual view of his was not necessarily binary. Indeed, because Russian nouns lack articles, Lenin may have been done a disservice at marxists.org as the error appears repeatedly in the five other major European-language translations of State and revolution. Moreover, who else may have been under the binary misapprehension, be they Engels, Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, plus all those trained at cadre school?

This second phase of communist society would start when distribution becomes pure want. Beyond that, what can one rationally say? Well, in the Paris manuscripts Marx had said “communism is not as such the goal of human development – the form of human society.”19 But here he was using a different conception of communism, namely, “the abolition of private property” in the means of production, “the positive supersession of all estrangement, and the return of man from religion, the family, the state, etc, to his human, ie social existence”, all part of “the emancipation and recovery of mankind.”20 The Gotha analysis, by contrast, is solely focused on the possibilities created by changes in social production conditions, and, as we have seen, it allowed him to outline three societal figurations.

But we should end with a phrase of Engels’ mentioned last time, one describing what he envisaged if all went to plan and the state withered away: “[s]tate interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and by the direction of processes of production.”21 What is glaringly absent in the replacement is unmediated human contact, people getting together – deciding on the contingencies, such as which things and which production. Instead of being governed (partly through the state) what orders people in Engels’ account are two non-human, technical forces: the requirements of “things”, and the requirements of ‘the economy’. This is truly odd. Humans becoming functionaries, tools, of what they have made. It’s like a dystopia designed by Gastev.22 Is this what will become of human freedom as the recognition of necessity?

Summarily, we can envisage communising, a mode of political living and later (and perhaps even earlier) of integral living, as a sequence of at least six epochs:

  • communising epoch 1: often described, perhaps erroneously, as original communist society. The accepted historical record may show my ignorance, but I take it there wasn’t a stable societal surplus product and so social classes couldn’t exist. However there would have been societal division based on, eg, age sets, gender, the more proficient – including those reputed to communicate with inanimate forces, non-humans, ancestors, even the unborn. But did these divisions, besides perhaps helping to produce a distribution of status and prestige, result in persistent, not occasional, oppressions: ie, were there rulers in the absence of classes? Were any social groups oppressed, even if they didn’t know it because of the dominant societal views, including the expectation anyone may have had of what amounts to equality and, more generally, fairness? Also how socially unbridled was it to practise freedom-to? I take it that being oppressed consists in suffering socially imposed restrictions upon one’s capacity and ability to flourish in virtuous ways. Did oppression only come with class society, ie with exploitation? Is that likely, is that really plausible? What’s the evidence?
    Independently of this, humans surely would have contested the quality of relations, those between people and those between people and valued entities. This may have been as co-governing and/or as self-governing, but if conditions were indeed socially oppressive then these disagreements would have been practised not as governing but as politics: a mode of ruling would have been used. In any case, privileges may have been allocated to the societal superordinates of any consequential hierarchy. Lastly, there’s also the matter of living through pre-scientific knowledge: doesn’t that preclude the possibility of living authentically, living the absence of alienation?
  • communising epoch 2: class society, a minority controlling both the production and distribution of a largely stable societal surplus product and the quality of relations. The superordinate mode of political living is ruling. Communisers (communists) have tried to do what they can; with the creation of capitalist labourers, the proles, their historical subject with the adequate potential capacity had been born. The communisers were now in business.
  • communising epoch 3: the rule of the working class, following a rupture with capitalist society. Scientific communists arguing for participatory hierarchical societal planning to become more pervasive at the expense of value production; for de-commodification when conditions allow (a rational proviso of this whole schema); for producers, and providers too, to freely associate in making goods and providing services; and for distribution to shift from wages plus need to premium-adjusted individual (concrete) labour time plus need. Concerning the articulation of the mode of re-ruling and the mode of de-ruling, we’d argue for the latter to become both predominant and increasingly self-governing at the expense of co-governing; we’d combat any politics and practices of proletarian corporatism and chauvinism (please see the first article).
  • communising epoch 4: the lower phase of communist society, coming into being when all labour becomes immediately social – so no abstract labour and no value production. Also no social classes, and no loitering violent gang (the state). Participatory hierarchical planning allocating productive/providing forces, and the production, provision, and allocation of use-values. We’d argue for a transition in distribution from individual (concrete) labour calculation plus need towards plain want, whatever the individual desires – subject to the resource constraint and climatic conditions. We’d expect that by now de-ruling would largely have become self-governing, transforming political living into an aspect of integral living. The universal class for-itself would now be in being.
  • communising epoch 5: the second phase of communist society, coming about when distribution becomes pure want. All labour still immediately social. Integral living remains largely as self-governing. Well, all that’s the expectation arising from what we know.
  • communising epoch 6+: the generative dimensions of other phases cannot be identified, let alone described.

Relating this periodisation to the regulation of the principal political practical imperative (control of access to valued, thus significant, entities, and control over the quality of relations), we can compare the necessary times of governing, ruling, the political dimension of human living, and integral living:

– – – – – – – – – – – – co-governing & self-governing – – – – – – – – – – – >
– ? – ; – – – – – – – governing-over (ie, ruling) – – – – – – – |
– ? – ; ruling (2nd-order forces) | (1st & 2nd) | (1st -, & 2nd) |
– ? – ; – – – – – political dimension of human living – – – – -|
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| integral living >
CE1  |- – – – – – – – – CE2 – – – – – – – – – | – – CE3 – – -| CE4, 5, 6+ – ->

[NB (1) Formatting problem: hence ‘- – -‘ and ‘. . .’; also ‘|’ may be unaligned. (2) The prevalence of co- & self-governing is obviously not constant. (3) For CE3 ruling, “1st -“, minus, means the 1st-order force weakens to extinction (undermined by the co- & self-governing forces of planned production); 2nd-order ruling forces, too, would be expected to wither (due to those economic forces, plus cultural & anti-political ones).]

Developing the earlier idea that the political is necessarily about ruling, human political history is now understood as a struggle between some people using modes of ruling and others using modes of anti-ruling, especially the latter as a mode of self-governing to sublate the political dimension of human living as an aspect of integral living. Human political history is a management struggle, controlling the management of human affairs. The management of government, of administration. The scientific communist aim is none other than to make us all managers, make us all governors, make us all administrators. This gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘the managerial revolution’.23

I started these three articles by discussing Mike Macnair’s conception of politics. After outlining a conceptual framework I used it to look at the communising process and Marx’s Gotha analysis. Applying the mode of ruling concept I argued for two scientific communist conceptions, of the political dimension of human living and of the communising epochs of human development – with obvious implications for political strategy and the content of any programme, be it transitional, minimal, maximal, or, importantly, delimited in some other way.

The investigation has tried to be a scientific exercise in communist reason, that is, emancipatory and liberatory reason. It allows us to recognise that politics (political practice) and political theory is intelligible in terms of governing and governing theory, which in turn is intelligible in terms of integral living and integral theory. It means integral theory is a scientific expression of communist reason; its application and development is an attempt to further the communist practical and epistemic interest.

Marxism, quite perversely given what it aspires to achieve, has a highly underdeveloped conception of what’s involved in politics. So I’m making a Kevin appeal: can we please talk about the elephant in the room? In this nothing would please me more than the rational rejection of what I have presented, and the development of more plausible ideas and concepts to apply in our work.


1. F Block ‘The ruling class does not rule: notes on the Marxist theory of the state’ (1977) in his Revising state theory: essays in politics and postindustrialism Philadelphia 1987 pp51-68.
2. Daniel Zamora ‘Can we criticize Foucault?’, 2014: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/foucault-interview/.
3. “[W]e shall see how the capitalist, by means of capital, exercises his power to command labour; but we shall then go on to see how capital, in its turn, is able to rule the capitalist himself” Karl Marx ‘Economic and philosophical manuscripts’ (‘EPM’) Gregor Benton (tr) Early writings Harmondsworth 1975 p295.
4. Block p54.
5. It was dissatisfaction with Nicos Mouzelis’ unargued reduction of what is ruling, the polity, and politics to mere power (realised as domination) that led me to recognise that mode of domination (his key political concept) is in fact one of several generative means of ruling, thereby requiring a more abstract concept, mode of ruling: Post-Marxist alternatives: the construction of social orders Basingstoke 1990 pp73-9: https://books.google.com/books?id=kd2xCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA73&dq=mouzelis+post-marxist+alternatives+73&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiv9-aYm-vOAhUhApoKHbaRBZYQ6AEIHjAA#v=onepage&q&f=false.
6. G Therborn The ideology of power and the power of ideology London 1980 pp93-8: https://books.google.com/books?id=2W7UEJG9V1kC&pg=PA93&dq=therborn+ideology+power+93&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4gqD60enOAhXCfywKHS5GDk4Q6AEIFDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false. Also seriously neglected has been the excellent Thomas Mathiesen Silently silenced: essays on the creation of acquiescence in modern society Winchester 2004, an update of a 1978 book (in Norwegian): excerpts at amazon.com. Here, surprisingly, like Durkheim and Weber, neither refer to the other’s work.
7. Heritage of our times Neville Plaice and Stephen Plaice (trs) Berkeley 1991 part 2 (Erbschaft dieser Zeit [1935] is best translated as Legacy of these times).
8. Respectively, Marx Capital: a critique of political economy Vol 2: the process of circulation of capital [1867-70 and 1877-8; Friedrich Engels (ed) 1885] David Fernbach (tr) London 1978 part 2; Meyer Fortes ‘Introduction’ to Jack Goody (ed) The developmental cycle in domestic groups Cambridge 1958 pp1-13; Erik Erikson Identity and the life cycle New York 1959.
9. Coincidently, Alfred Schuetz, newly an exile, wrote ‘The stranger’ and ‘The homecomer’, 1944-5 (both online). Not to sound too Benjaminist or Blochist, ‘mystical’ or ‘spiritualist’, but a class, too, can be in exile – even without having gone anywhere.
10. The state-stratum mode of production and service provision exists when production/provision conditions and the social surplus product are controlled by a stratum of senior state managers. This has been the predominant mode in Stalinised non-capitalist societies.
11. On the integral state: Christine Buci-Glucksmann Gramsci and the state [1975] David Fernbach (tr) London 1980 pp90-110, 282-90.
12. Marx Critique of the Gotha programme [1875; 1927, but version censored by Engels, Karl Kautsky and Johann Dietz Die Neue Zeit 1891] anon (tr): https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/index.htm.
13. Fictional scenarios can also be didactic, eg Evgeny Preobrazhensky From NEP to socialism: a glance into the future of Russia and Europe [1922] Brian Pearce (tr) London 1973, presented as lectures delivered in a 1970 Moscow: https://www.marxists.org/archive/preobrazhensky/1921/fromnep/index.html.
14. Hal Draper The ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ from Marx to Lenin New York 1987 chapter 1.
15. All actions said to be on behalf of the working class, all of it, can only ever be the actions of a class minority, so substitution always occurs; the question is how benign can it ever be. (This also applies to the idea that the whole working class can either take power or rule.)
16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_economics; http://www.participatoryeconomics.info/.
17. On this difference: Peter Hudis, ‘Yes, there is an alternative – and it can be found in Marx’, 2014, end of part II: http://www.praktykateoretyczna.pl/czasopismo/yes-there-is-an-alternative-and-it-can-be-found-in-marx/; videos, podcasts and other articles on this and post-capitalist society at http://www.internationalmarxisthumanist.org/authors/hudis-peter.
18. https://www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/marx-engels/1875/kritik/randglos.htm.
19. ‘EPM’ p358.
20. ‘EPM’ pp358, 349, 358.
21. “Das Eingreifen einer Staatsgewalt in gesellschaftliche Verhältnisse wird auf einem Gebiete nach dem andern überflüssig und schläft dann von selbst ein. An die Stelle der Regierung über Personen tritt die Verwaltung von Sachen und die Leitung von Produktionsprozessen.” Anti-Dühring [1878]: http://www.mlwerke.de/me/me20/me20_239.htm#Kap_II (compare with Emile Burns (tr) https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch24.htm – at the end).
22. Aleksei Gastev, choreographer of man as instrument of The Machine, the metallisation of the revolutionary body: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksei_Gastev.
23. James Burnham The managerial revolution: what is happening in the world New York 1941.

Postscript (6 July 2016)

Today I came across a remarkable book online which may affect the above Gotha section: Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution. Its argument came from the prison writings of Jan Appel, a council communist. After emigrating from Germany to Holland in 1926 he co-founded the Group of International Communists (Groep van Internationale Communisten, often referred to by its German acronym, GIK), and the 10 or so comrades developed the argument. It was first published in 1930 in German. 60 years later another small group brought it out in English. The argument is c. 130 pages:
http://www.aaap.be/Pages/Transition-en-Fundamental-Principles-1930.html (improvement on the marxists.org – eg, title of Chapter One; also has PDF)
http://www.aaap.be/Pages/Transition-de-Fundamental-Principles-1930.html (Grundprinzipien kommunistischer Produktion und Verteilung; also PDF of the 1970 re-publication).

My argument focused on labour-time accounting, as does the GIC’s; similarly, but in contrast with the information flows we take for granted today, the GIC say they weren’t aware of the Gotha analysis: “these Marginal Notes only came to our notice after we had concluded our study. They correspond so closely with the outline given here that our work to some extent appeared as if it were no more than a contemporary elaboration of Marx’s conception” – ‘Epilogue’, 1990 pp198-9 (“Diese Randglossen hatten wir erst nach Abschluß unserer Studie zur Hand. Sie deckten sich so vollkommen mit der hier gegebenen Darstellung, daß unsere Arbeit gewissermaßen nur als die zeitgemäße Ausarbeitung der Marx’schen Auffassung erscheint” – 1970 p135). However incongruous this may seem – in censored form it had been published in Die Neue Zeit in 1891 – it shows, even apart from Marx’s unpublished early work, what didn’t form the common sense of communists at the time.

The ‘after’ in the above passage is italicised by Mike Baker, the 1990 translator and editor, and appears as such at marxists.org, but not at Association Archives Antonie Pannekoek which followed the original German. Given this independence it is surprising that the backcover of the 1990 book starts by saying it is ‘based upon’ the Gotha analysis (PDF; at marxists.org, beneath the Contents, in full but without attribution). This impression endures; take this from 2013: “[t]he GIC was meticulous in assembling Marx and Engels’ comments on the topic of communist society, and their ideas are seemingly an elaboration on Marx’s brief comments in the Critique of the Gotha Programme” (David Adam ‘Marx’s Critique of Socialist Labor-Money Schemes and the Myth of Council Communism’s Proudhonism’, 2013: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/alternatives-to-capital/marx%E2%80%99s-critique-of-socialist-labor-money-schemes-and-the-myth-of-council-communism%E2%80%99s-proudhonism.html – many comments were generated by its re-posting at https://libcom.org/library/marx%E2%80%99s-critique-socialist-labor-money-schemes-myth-council-communism%E2%80%99s-proudhonism).


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