Totality Is Not Total - A Critique of Insurrectionist Logic
I've heard activists, mostly insurrectionists, say that every aspect in our society is touched by capitalism and because this is true nothing in our society is valuable or worth keeping if an anti-capitalist social movement were to succeed.
While non-insurrectionists might agree with this statement, I suspect this idea plays a supportive role in the insurrectionist position against doing anything but inciting a revolution through attack.
While I believe the idea that everything in our society is affected by capitalism, I believe this truth misleads one to believe that everything is primarily capitalist and therefore unworthy of being reformed.
When someone asserts that everything in society is affected by capitalism they might be challenged by someone who says something along the lines of 'well what about X'? They then generally go on to defend their assertion by claiming that this variable X exists within an environment where everything is private property (public property to me = state property & state property = private property) and therefore is a capitalist product. As a result they claim that the totality of society is capitalist, and therefore everything must be discarded, and any attempt to reform variables of society will be pointless because they will always be within a system of private property therefore they will be capitalist.
Let me offer two examples of the capitalist totality argument; one about objects and a second about relationships. Google maps and Facebook are capitalist products, but an online mapping application & social network can exist in a non-capitalist society -- I don't really think this needs to be explained. Yes Google & Facebook have capitalist aspects like selling our data, but that doesn't mean that everything about mapping applications or social networks is specific to capitalism. To say that social networks are specific to capitalism is to say that they can not exist under communism, to say that is to argue that communism is a society where it is impossible for computers to be used to create virtual networks. Since this is true we can conclude that objects are not specific to capitalism, but are hijacked by capitalism; even though they might emerge in the capitalist context doesn't mean they are inherently capitalist. To argue that non-capitalist social networks like Diaspora are still affected by capitalism misleads one to believe that what an object is is determined by one environmental variable - in this case private property. If this were true then everything that happens in California is inherently Californian and could not exist in Arizona. While this might be true taking into consideration space & time, this does not mean objects can only emerge in an exact space & time, a few supporting examples include calculus, domestication, slavery, etc. The totality of capitalism does not create specific objects but simply alters them into being specific subjects
Since the totality of capitalism does not create specific objects but simply alters them into being specific subjects, relations between people also simultaneously have one foot outside of capitalism and one foot inside of capitalism - in other words they simultaneously consist of objective and subjective qualities. Remember that a single environmental variable, in this case private property, does not determine the nature of an object or a subject, if it did objects and relations would be specific to time & place and therefore not capable of emerging unless every single variable was identical. Since this is true all of our relations are not specific to capitalism, but fall somewhere on a spectrum of capitalist to non-capitalist. For example, a relationship where two people exchange information while shaped by capitalism is not specific to capitalism. Relationships characterized by the exchange of information can and have existed outside of capitalism, e.g. I assume hunters shared information with each other during hunts. So for example under capitalism, the teacher student relationship consists of an objective information sharing relationship and a subjective hierarchical/capitalist relationship.
Objective objects and objective relationships do exist and are altered by conditions that create subjective objects and subjective relationships. Subjectivities are only altered objectivities. These subjectivities are not characterized or determined by single environmental variables unique to space & time, but are determined by their relationship to other objects/subjects in society. As a result the claim that capitalism has created capitalist objects is false, it has only altered objects into capitalist subjectivities, and even that is misleading. Claiming that everything is a capitalist subject misleads one to believe that all objects & relationships are primarily capitalist. The truth instead is that objects & relationships that have become subjectivites fall on a continuum & are best characterized by their relationship to capitalism, in other words they can only be accurately characterized by whether they reproduce capitalism or function to reduce capitalist subjectivites.
If it is true that objects and relationships are not simply capitalist or non-capitalist, but instead fall somewhere on a continuum of capitalist & non-capitalist that strengthen or erode capitalism, then the insurrectionist position that everything reproduces capitalism and therefore must be thrown out or objected to is wrong. As a result objects & relationships should be supported and opposed based on whether they strengthen or erode capitalism. For example claims that worker owned cooperatives are capitalist and therefore should be opposed, regards the single environmental variable of private property as the defining characteristic of objects & relationships instead of how they relate to reproducing or reducing capitalism.To take my position to the extreme logical conclusion even capitalist subjectivities are capable of subverting capitalism, e.g. Facebook collecting data and selling it can move people to decentralized communist-esque social networks.
In conclusion, the inactive position of insurrectionists falls between reproducing and eroding capitalism, it is perhaps the weakest anti-capitalist position one can take because its neutral position against capitalism does nothing to reduce it.