Goodbye "Class, Hello Antagonism
I mentioned previously that I have been slogging through Hegemony and Socialist Strategy by Laclau and Mouffe and Im glad I persevered through the 150 or so pages of theoretical construction to get to some basic application, written in basic english, because it provides valuable critiques of orthodox Marxist theory right at the points I have long struggled to define and elucidate. A big one being, can we revolutionarys really limit ourselves to organizing around the forces of production? The authors point out that increasing "commodification" of the social by advanced capital,together with "bureacratization" caused by increased intervention by the state is in fact creating "de-proletarianization". Couple this with an expansion of the field of conflicts and antagonisms ( no longer ONLY about ownership of the means of production) and we have this modern scene of uneven development and fragmented struggles. What to do? It turns out these new forms of subordination are creating a "moment of deepening of the democratic revolution... and politicization of all social relations" I can buy that. (Pun intended)
So it's obvious the old notions of class are transformed,and certainly these are not the first intellectuals to notice. Im a pretty good example of what they explain quite well, a fishing guide is a long ways from any factory. They also realize the ambiguous nature (the tension,as it were, so often found in good music ,art and theory) of this commodification of social relations- namely ,the way it can subvert inequalities by convincing people that access to an ever increasing range of goods equals social progress and the advance of democracy. Which it is not. Rather than "unity" , searched for in vain by Luxemborg, Labriola and Kautsky, we have "the 'plurality' of the social and the unsutured character of all political identity." We have also found some more tension because this is not the logic of pure difference found in your extreme libertarianism, a total lack of unity or common point of reference, the "There is no society" of Thatcher. In fact ,this is the tension between the two great themes of the democratic imaginary- equality and liberty.To much unity, goodbye autonomy. To much individual, goodbye collective.
This is the point where conservatives (Im thinking von Hayeck and The Road to Serfdom) rightly worry about collectivism (to much unity) creeping into totalitarianism, where law is used to give power to the expanding state to facilitate the expanding bureacracy. The reaction is what we see now, New Right meets the New Left in a bastardized liberal-conservatism. The defense of free markets and social hierarchy. Nein Danke. To resist this we need to balance liberty and equality to create a plural, radical democracy, democracy in every aspect of the social, economic (production and allocation) and political.
So what about hegemony? Here is where the unity comes in, discursively. Hegemony as the consolidation of all the discursive articulations, the unification of all it's possibilities and limitations. It will take one more installment to close this up. We still need a strategy.