Abstract Labour: A Critique by Jean-Marie Vincent

By Jean-Marie Vincent

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One can thus easily understand how Habermas can conceive of today's problems according to a simple dichotomy between the social life-world and the systemic world of instrumentality and technology. On one side there is normativity and expressivity, and on the other, mechanisms and automatic effects that no one can control. That is why, from Habermas' point of view, the main problem of the day is that of the colonisation of the life-world by systemic forms of organisation which proliferate and overflow their bounds.

The political (le politique) as a set of autonomised forms which serve the production and circulation of power, smothers or at least puts a damper on politics (Ia politique) conceived as free expression and imaginative deliberation over the social. The political continually calls into question the most fundamental right, that of full participation in political activity and its creative possibilities. It is thus mistaken to remain content with discourse about the guarantee of rights without becoming directly concerned with the conditions by which these rights can be made effective.

In his pre-Marxist writings, the idea that individuality has become problematic recurs like a leitmotiv, above and beyond the variety of subjects treated and the displacements of theoretical perspectives. For Luk4cs, the individual is called radically into question because he can no longer recognise himself in his objectivations; there has ceased to be any true correspondence between soul and action. There is indeed no continuity of being- continuity, that is, between the subject and what constitutes its domain of externalisation and intervention; the subject is a mere fragment thrown into a broken world, in which objectivity (the character of objects) is chaotic and objects are heterogeneous with respect to each other and other people.

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