March 7, 2017

Abstract Labour: A Critique by Jean-Marie Vincent

By Jean-Marie Vincent

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But this approach, which presents itself as a return to the past, the recognition of past errors, and the retrieval of the solid ground of human rights, is singularly insensitive to the recurrent crisis of individuality. l One could, of course, stress the positive aspect of this demobilisation or progressive disappearance of performance-orientated people who are at permanent war with themselves and others. But it must be understood that the individual freed from grand abstractions is most often guided by what Peter Sloterdijk calls cynical reason2, that is, an acute consciousness of one's own interests and an instrumentalist conception of social relations.

It tends to ignore the complex correlations which locate and define the mobile relations of subjectivity and objectivity; it also neglects the historically conditioned character of individuation as it has taken form since the outset of bourgeois society. It should therefore not astound us that this analysis tends to apprehend the crisis of individuality according to a one-sided view of decadence which disconnects the problematical individual of today from the multi-dimensional crisis of social relations.

Fraternity and participation are not seen as effects to be sought in certain social relations, but as values which individuals must put into practice (one aim, among others, being to change their social relations). For him, individuals are strongly constituted and structured totalities who suffer essentially from the gap separating their internal make-up from their works, their subjectivity from their objectivity (especially the derived objectivity created out of human practice). The problems of society are in this sense problems of action, that is, problems of the social consequences of mingled individual praxis-initiatives, or again 'non-meaning' which may arise from the pursuit of subjective meanings.

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