Radical Philosophy #127 by Radical Philosophy

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A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume's Treatise

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Marx, it might be recalled, once famously remarked that ʻmoney and commodity cannot take themselves to the market; they cannot exchange themselvesʼ (Capital 1). Too often, traditional Marxism has reversed the catalogue, so to speak, to find value concealing behind it the veritable essence of capitalism, which was the exploitation of one class by another. For Marx, the classes existed only as ʻguardiansʼ and executors of the logic of the organic composition of capital. Hence the capitalist functioned as the ʻpersonificationʼ of capital, its ʻbearerʼ, in the same way that the worker personifies labour.

To give oneself as a thing that feels is to become extraneous clothing, for bodies to become ʻrolls of material that fold and unfold on one anotherʼ, such that – in a twist on Descartesʼ remarks on automata – it is not I nor you but the clothes themselves that feel: When your partner sinks his fingers in your vagina or when the lips of your mistress bare the penis, donʼt be excited by the old-fashioned idea that your body is reanimating and coming to life again, but by that more actual idea that you are sentient clothing!

The exposure of a repressed truth has become a seemingly irresistible strategy or discourse of contemporary historiography. So much so that, according to a syndrome that has become only a little less familiar, this strategy often reveals itself to be the ultimate motivation, the ultimate desire. However gratifying this may be to the historiographer, the historiography is short-circuited. So we need to establish whether there has in fact been a process, or agents, of repression in order to understand and assess how and why this might have Radical Philosophy 127 (September/October 20 04) changed; or whether what we are seeing today is not just the restatement of an old case, louder, as if we didnʼt hear it the first time.

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