Let’s step back and review where this complexity comes from. In an attempt to model real-world phenomena, we made some apparently reasonable decisions: We modeled real-world objects with local state by computational objects with local variables. We identified time variation in the real world with time variation in the computer. We implemented the time variation of the states of the model objects in the computer with assignments to the local variables of the model objects.
Is there another approach? Can we avoid identifying time in the computer with time in the modeled world? Must we make the model change with time in order to model phenomena in a changing world? Think about the issue in terms of mathematical functions. We can describe the time-varying behavior of a quantity x as a function of time x(t). If we concentrate on x instant by instant, we think of it as a changing quantity. Yet if we concentrate on the entire time history of values, we do not emphasize change — the function itself does not change.
If time is measured in discrete steps, then we can model a time function as a (possibly infinite) sequence. In this section, we will see how to model change in terms of sequences that represent the time histories of the systems being modeled. To accomplish this, we introduce new data structures called streams. From an abstract point of view, a stream is simply a sequence. However, we will find that the straightforward implementation of streams as lists (as in section 2.2.1) doesn’t fully reveal the power of stream processing. As an alternative, we introduce the technique of delayed evaluation, which enables us to represent very large (even infinite) sequences as streams.
Stream processing lets us model systems that have state without ever using assignment or mutable data. This has important implications, both theoretical and practical, because we can build models that avoid the drawbacks inherent in introducing assignment. On the other hand, the stream framework raises difficulties of its own, and the question of which modeling technique leads to more modular and more easily maintained systems remains open.
Streams are a clever idea that allows one to use sequence manipulations without incurring the costs of manipulating sequences as lists. With streams we can achieve the best of both worlds: We can formulate programs elegantly as sequence manipulations, while attaining the efficiency of incremental computation. The basic idea is to arrange to construct a stream only partially, and to pass the partial construction to the program that consumes the stream. If the consumer attempts to access a part of the stream that has not yet been constructed, the stream will automatically construct just enough more of itself to produce the required part, thus preserving the illusion that the entire stream exists. In other words, although we will write programs as if we were processing complete sequences, we design our stream implementation to automatically and transparently interleave the construction of the stream with its use.
Our implementation of streams will be based on a special form called delay. Evaluating (delay <exp>) does not evaluate the expression <exp>, but rather returns a so-called delayed object, which we can think of as a “promise” to evaluate <exp> at some future time. As a companion to delay, there is a procedure called force that takes a delayed object as argument and performs the evaluation — in effect, forcing the delay to fulfill its promise.
We have seen how to support the illusion of manipulating streams as complete entities even though, in actuality, we compute only as much of the stream as we need to access. We can exploit this technique to represent sequences efficiently as streams, even if the sequences are very long. What is more striking, we can use streams to represent sequences that are infinitely long.
Streams with delayed evaluation can be a powerful modeling tool, providing many of the benefits of local state and assignment. Moreover, they avoid some of the theoretical tangles that accompany the introduction of assignment into a programming language.
The stream approach can be illuminating because it allows us to build systems with different module boundaries than systems organized around assignment to state variables. For example, we can think of an entire time series (or signal) as a focus of interest, rather than the values of the state variables at individual moments. This makes it convenient to combine and compare components of state from different moments.
The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.
In the strict sense, the unsold and discarded commodity is defrauded, too. Whether or not the commodity is valuable is determined only after the salto mortale of the exchange. The commodity that is not sold is entrapped in the form of “wanting in despair to be oneself” or in “sickness unto death” from Kierkegaard. Commodity may be seen as a synthesis of use-value and exchange-value only inasmuch as seen from the ex post facto stance, while such a synthesis does not exist ex ante facto. The value of a commodity can come into existence only after it is exchanged with another commodity, an equivalent.
Kojin Karatani, Transcritique: On Kant and Marx
In a close reading of Marx’s analysis of the commodity-form, Karatani ground the insurmountable persistence of the parallax gap in the “salto mortale” that a product has to accomplish in order to assert itself as a commodity:
The price /of iron expressed in gold/, while on the one hand indicating the amount of labour-time contained in the iron, namely its value, at the same time signifies the pious wish to convert the iron into gold, that is to give the labour-time contained in the iron the form of universal social labour-time. If this transformation fails to take place, then the ton of iron ceases to be not only a commodity but also a product; since it is a commodity only because it is not a use-value for its owner, that is to say his labour is only really labour if it is useful labour for others, and it is useful for him only if it is abstract general labour. It is therefore the task of the iron or of its owner to find that location in the world of commodities where iron attracts gold. But if the sale actually takes place, as we assume in this analysis of simple circulation, then this difficulty, the salto mortale of the commodity, is surmounted. As a result of this alienation — that is its transfer from the person for whom it is a non-use-value to the person for whom it is a use-value - the ton of iron proves to be in fact a use-value and its price is simultaneously realised, and merely imaginary gold is converted into real gold.
This is Karatani’s key Kantian/anti-Hegelian point: the jump by means of which a commodity is sold and thus effectively constituted as commodity is not the result of an immanent self-development of (the concept of) Value, but a “salto mortale” comparable to a Kierkegaardian leap of faith, a temporary fragile “synthesis” between use-value and exchange-value comparable to the Kantian synthesis between sensitivity and understanding: in both cases, the two irreducibly external levels are brought together. For this precise reason, Marx abandoned his original project (discernible in the Grundrisse manuscripts) of “deducing” in a Hegelian way the split between exchange-value and use-value from the very concept of Value: in Capital, the split of these two dimensions, the “dual character of a merchandise,” is the starting point. The synthesis has to rely on an irreducibly external element, as in Kant where being is not a predicate (i.e., cannot be reduced to a conceptual predicate of an entity), or as in Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, in which the reference of a name to an object cannot be grounded in the content of this name, in the properties it designates.
If there can be no revolution without literature, without fables that become action, that make history, at the same time, there can be no literature without revolution—no literature that does not in principle give us the power to say everything, to break free of the rules, to displace them, and thereby to institute and invent. As Marx would have it, it is impossible not to refer to a reign of freedom, one beyond the collective regulation of necessity, in which surplus work would no longer be an exploitive work, but rather art and invention. From Sade’s declared interest in ‘saying everything’ to Trotsky’s ‘everything is permitted in art’ to Blanchot’s ‘everything must be said. The first freedom is the freedom to say everything’ to Roque Dalton’s ‘ah, poetry of today, with you it is possible to say everything’ (here I refer to the El Salvadorian poet and revolutionary) to Derrida’s claim that literature is a ‘fictive institution which in principle allows one to say everything,’ literature names the event of absolute freedom. This is why, just as fabulous and precarious as the state it would threaten—it, too, is without guarantee, since everything is put in question—the revolution to which Blanchot refers names a moment of invention. No revolution without literature, then, also means no revolution without invention—and what is invented each time is literature, but literature as Marx understands it—which is to say: literature as what appears only in its disappearance, as what is never identical to itself, as what, never stepping out of history, engages changing historical and political relations, processes of transformation, and does so within a language that works to change further the shifting domains of history and politics, a language in whose movement the traces of the historical and the political are inscribed.
Eduardo Cadava,“Marx Before Literature.” In: Acta Poetica. 2010. (Trans from Spanish)
A radical publishing house, called Lawrence & Wishart, who at one time was connected to Great Britain’s Communist Party, is demanding the removal from the Marxists Internet Archive of the “Marx-Engels Collected Works”—hardcover books that sell for up to $50 a pop.
The archive has posted a message to its readers informing them that Lawrence & Wishart’s material will be removed April 30.
That the works will be removed ahead of May Day “is just grotesque,” wrote Scott McLemee, the intellectual affairs columnist for Inside Higher Ed. In an e-mail, he said he suspected academics might boycott the London-based publisher.
From a Marxist perspective, understanding the link between them, or between knowledge and politics, requires a theory of social abstraction. More precisely, the Marxist account of ‘real abstraction’ would provide the key required for the strategic articulation of cognitive abstraction with social abstraction. But if, as Alfred Sohn-Rethel maintained, the latter asymmetrically determines the former then the reassertion of their symmetry will be summarily dismissed as idealist delusion. By the same token, the varieties of representational modeling that, on Srnicek and Williams’ account, are supposed to yield cognitive traction on the abstract dynamics of capital will be disqualified in advance by the claim that such representation is congenitally blind to its own social determination. This demotion of representation follows from the bald claim that capital’s real subsumption of intellectual labour reduces all scientific representation to calculation, aping the abstractions of the value-form. But this in turn invites perplexity as to what exactly distinguishes ‘good’, i.e. cognitively virtuous and politically emancipatory abstraction, from ‘bad’, i.e. cognitively deficient and politically reactionary abstraction. How do the abstract categories of the Marxist dialectic – capital, labour, value-form, commodity, circulation, production, etc. – succeed or fail to map contemporary social reality when deployed in competing (and often politically antagonistic) explanations? What theory is fit to recognise ‘the real movement abolishing the present state of things’ in conditions of real subsumption?
I want to broach this question by contrasting accelerationism’s attempt at tracking the ‘real movement’ with that of Jacques Camatte, whose text The Wandering of Humanity is not only contemporaneous with those of classical accelerationism but shares their central premise – labour’s complete integration into capital – while drawing a radically different conclusion. Capital’s ‘domestication’ of humanity is to be countered not through the Nietzschean overcoming of the ‘all too human’ (the unleashing of desiring-production, etc.) but through the human community’s complete exit from the ‘community of capital’ enforced under real subsumption. Camatte’s analyses in many ways prefigure those of contemporary proponents of communisation. The group Endnotes define communisation as ‘the direct destruction of the self-reproducing relation in which workers as workers – and capital as self-valorising value – are and come to be.’ But as we shall see, Endnotes reject Camatte’s account of the logic of subsumption as well as his claim that human communities can withdraw from capital’s self-reproducing relation. They argue (rightly, in my view) that there can be no exit from the capital relation because it constitutes us: ‘What we are is, at the deepest level, constituted by this relation, and it is a rupture with the reproduction of what we are that will necessarily form the horizon of our struggles.’ Thus there can be no secession from the capital relation, only its abolition. Communisation is the name for this abolition-in-process. This is a lucid and compelling thesis. But it is the exact sense in which we are constituted by the capital relation, as well as the link between the cognitive and practical conditions for its abolition, that I would like to examine below. The rationale for doing so is the following: although radically antagonistic, communisation and accelerationism can be usefully contrasted in such a way that each illuminates the other’s blindspot in the articulation of cognitive and social abstraction.
1. — The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object [der Gegenstand], actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekts], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects [Objekte], differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective [gegenständliche] activity. In The Essence of Christianity [Das Wesen des Christenthums], he therefore regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form of appearance [Erscheinungsform]. Hence he does not grasp the significance of ‘revolutionary’, of ‘practical-critical’, activity.
2. — The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.
3. — The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung] can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.
4. — Feuerbach starts off from the fact of religious self-estrangement [Selbstentfremdung], of the duplication of the world into a religious, imaginary world, and a secular [weltliche] one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the fact that after completing this work, the chief thing still remains to be done. For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this secular basis. The latter must itself be understood in its contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction, revolutionised. Thus, for instance, once the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must itself be annihilated [vernichtet] theoretically and practically.
5. — Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants sensuous contemplation [Anschauung]; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous activity.
6. — Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man [menschliche Wesen = ‘human nature’]. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence is hence obliged:
- To abstract from the historical process and to define the religious sentiment regarded by itself, and to presuppose an abstract — isolated - human individual.
- The essence therefore can by him only be regarded as ‘species’, as an inner ‘dumb’ generality which unites many individuals only in a natural way.
7. — Feuerbach consequently does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual that he analyses belongs in reality to a particular social form.
8. — All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.
9. — The highest point reached by contemplative [anschauende] materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals and of civil society [bürgerlichen Gesellschaft].
10. — The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society or social humanity.
11. — Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
— Karl Marx, Theses On Feuerbach, 1845