Archive | January 2017

Communising & the mode of ruling, & the civilising mission of civil society: from ruling through anti-ruling to integral living (Wars of position: Marxism & civil society – Manchester, 8-10 June 2017)

I have been invited to present an extension of the mode of ruling argument at a conference, Wars of Position: Marxism & Civil Society, organised by the Communism specialist group of the Political Studies Association, the UK academic body. It’s being held at the People’s History Museum. The star-turns are by Jodi Dean, Stathis Kouvelakis, & Kevin Morgan.

The organisers suggested 13 broad topics in their call for papers:

  • History, civil society, & the ‘idea of Communism’ debate (Badiou, Žižek, Dean et al.)
  • Civil society & political strategy in recent/contemporary left formations (e.g. Podemos, Syriza, Five Star Movement, Die Linke, Parti de gauche)
  • Theoretical debates in the Marxist tradition on ‘civil society’ (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Lukács, Althusser, Marcuse, Poulantzas et al.)
  • The struggle for ‘proletarian culture’ in the 1920s & after
  • Communism, the nation, & the popular fronts in the 1930s & 1940s
  • New Lefts & communism
  • ‘Anti-revisionism’ & cultural revolution
  • Eurocommunism & civil society
  • ‘Post-Marxism’
  • Marxism, gender, & the family
  • Marxist parties & intellectuals / education / science / religion / writing history / the media / the family
  • Marxism & the arts / the avant-garde / popular culture
  • Marxist parties & their cultural institutions, publishing houses, publications, & counter-hegemonic events

The conference is part of a publicly funded project, Wars of Position: Communism and Civil Society, run by Ben Harker, that uses the post-1945 “papers of three British communists who emphasised the importance of civil society as a site of politics”, Monty Johnstone, John Attfield, Paul Olive:

The conference is in collaboration with the People’s History Museum & the journal Twentieth Century Communism: &

Draft programme: conference-schedule-kopie

I’ll post the book of abstracts when it’s available, & also the set of animated PowerPoint slides that I’ll use.

My abstract is an abbreviation of the Stockholm one, plus a consideration of how communising in post-capitalist society requires developments in civil society to allow the ‘civilising’ of economic & political life, perhaps enough so that integral living can be both achieved & sustained. In having to condense the Stockholm abstract it became a little clunky, which I’ll have to remedy:

Communising and the Mode of Ruling, and the Civilising Mission of Civil Society: From Ruling through Anti-Ruling to Integral Living

Marxists have significantly under-conceptualised both cultural life and, perversely, political life. The scientific communist argument has been impaired by not applying generally the mode of production conception: scientific understanding requires concepts of mode of ruling (cf. Mouzelis) and mode of sense-making (meaning and feeling). This pre-positioning is meta-strategic, analytically prior to positioning and manoeuvring.

The continual capitalising of people’s lives is opposed by their communising, the anti-force. The mode of ruling idea allows recognition that, politically, communising is developing anti-ruling at the expense of ruling, with the former harbouring a dynamic of re-ruling and de-ruling, and de-ruling itself hosting a dynamic of (collective) co-governing and (individual) self-governing. Because each of these necessary dynamics marks a phase in the prospective history of communising, they provide a meta-strategic framework.

Civil society – as freely associating – can sublate, ‘civilise’, political society and economic society, thereby integralising society as an integral civilisation (Gramsci). Freedom is lived less as freedom-from (emancipation) and more as freedom-to (liberation). De-ruling is the only political process and form with the capacity to realise, through communising, the universal class for-itself, and the integral is its form, and so the form of communist society. This processual perspective contrasts with the event-talk of seizing power and smashing the state, fatherly supervised by the prescient party.

If systematic exploitation and other oppressions can be ended – the content of ruling (governing-over) – then politics is reduced to co-governing and self-governing (deciding, implementing, revising, etc.). This is, through using the mode of anti-ruling, the sublation of the mode of ruling as the mode of governing; of ruling (politics) as governing; of alienation as authenticity (solidarity, etc.). In being anti-ruling, scientific communists are anti-political; it makes them integral, not political.

The mode of ruling argument is on this blog in three posts, plus this preamble:

. . . there’s always a labour process . . .


São Gonçalo, Brazil, July 2013 – outside, a few kilometres to the south, a wonderful view to the west, the bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, Cristo Redentor . . . value delivered through sale, souls cleansed through religion . . . a realm of possibilities, eventuating in two monuments to two accumulations.