Abstract Labour: A Critique by Jean-Marie Vincent

By Jean-Marie Vincent

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This labour is the only path to life and to becoming human because it is also participation in the social whole, participation in the accumulation of material and spiritual goods which causes humanity to progress. Labour as self-realisation is thus an 'ought', a value which transcends individual, egotistical reactions in its form or expression; it must take on supra-individual contents since these must be compatible with the common interest. As Adorno would say, the dialectic of the singular, the particular and the general is not fulfilled here: the singular cannot be integrated into the general or the universal by reason of its particularity; it must, on the contrary, make its particularity conform to an abstract universal in the form of an 'ought'.

In fact, there is a subordination of the social life-world to the system-character of value (or 'real abstractions') because the social life-world intervenes in and nourishes the mechanisms of its own subordination. This means, more precisely, that the social life-world runs up not only against external obstacles but also against its own unilateral orientations, which manifest themselves as. communicative acts or exchanges of information in the perspective of valorisation (self-evaluation conditioned by the valorisation of others and of objects), and as rigid norms which protect and sanction the exchanges of values, to the detriment of other kinds of exchanges.

Luklics was no doubt somewhat justified in his strenuous criticism of the 'pessimistic' internal life which shields itself with power in order to enjoy its Lukacs: Individuality and the Teleology of Works 23 own moods within the complacent sphere of egotistical isolation; but here again the internal life in question is characterised by an overflow which retreats from the experience of inner schism, from the disjunction of the individual from social relations, and from the fallacious character of totalisations put forward in the sphere of practice.

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