Archive for Nietzsche

Vicissitudes of Value

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2013/09/20 by las Pétroleuses

One of the more controversial constellations of concepts dropped in our lap by the Leftist tradition is Marx’s labor theory of value. On the one hand, in his own context, his views were entirely uncontroversial: when Marx was writing, the idea that value was a product of human labor was simply assumed across the political spectrum, and this had been the case for at least a century. On the other hand, we are looking back on this time from one after the “marginalist revolution” (among other things), and so there is a weird coloring which Marx’s analysis takes on: for those on the right, that enlightened condescension we all know so well, and on the left, that odd combination of nostalgic reverence (“if only we still lived in a time where value was such a simple conundrum…”) and embarrassed occlusion (not to mention those who obstinately defend Marx against all). Here, I’m going to focus on how Marx’s conception of value is stricto sensu idealist; in later posts I’ll address how this problem does not weaken, but in some cases actually strengthens other arguments of his (including, but not limited to, the infamous “law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”). This post is the first in a series which shall try to illustrate how, far from being outdated, the analyses Marx puts forth in Vol. I of Capital provide the tools for a robust understanding of our contemporary economic situation–how, as Ernest Mandel put it in his introduction to Vol. I, “Marx is much more an economist of the twentieth [or twenty-first] century than of the nineteenth.” (p. 12)

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Fate, or, Machine of Death

Posted in Reactions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2013/09/11 by las Pétroleuses

If you’re familiar with the webcomics scene, a few years ago you might have heard of a book called Machine of Death. It was edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !, being an anthology of about two-and-a-half dozen short stories all involving some form of machine which can unerringly predict one’s death. Needless to say the machine’s predictions (printed in as few words as possible on a business card) are “ironically vague;” my personal favorite illustration of this is from the last story in the book (“Cassandra”): a guy’s card reads “ASTEROID”, and so for months is followed around by scientists waiting to pick up the rock as it’s still hot from space; he dies during the filming, in a museum, of a documentary about him, when a display falls over and an old asteroid hits him in the head.

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