Capitalism and collective action : a Marxist account of the erosion of political commitment in liberal capitalist cultures
The task of this thesis is to show that a renovated Marxism can offer a comprehensive explanation for the erosion of political commitment in contemporary liberal capitalist cultures. Post-Marxism forms the point of departure for the explanation to be developed. An evaluation of this work suggests that the problem is related to the forms of subjectivity instituted by neo-liberal capitalism. A renovated dialectical Marxism offers the means of filling the gaps in the post-Marxist account. Renovation requires a specific anti-economistic, anti-deterministic reading of two distinct but related strands of the Marxist corpus. The first of these is the theory of capitalism as total mode of life, as found in the work of Marx and Althusser. The second is the account of proletarian revolution developed by Marx and Gramsci. Both strands are read as accounts of subjectivity. The second is also read as an analysis of the constitution of collective political commitment. A comparison of the two will show that the subjects produced by neo-liberal capitalism are incapable of the kind of self-disciplined political commitment needed to undertake and complete demanding collective tasks. This conclusion is only possible, however, if a psychoanalysis rendered in historical institutional terms (mainly that of Freud and Lacan), is articulated to a renovated Marxism, as argued for by Althusser. In addition to the work of Althusser, that of Habermas on the bourgeois public sphere and Castoriadis on institutions suggest the means of articulating psychoanalysis to Marxism. The resulting theory offers a comprehensive explanation of the realities of contemporary social relations as instituted by neo-liberalism since the early 1980s, specifically as manifested in the erosion of political commitment.