Spivak’s value

The Spivak Carnival, the sequel of sorts to the Tronti blogweave, is going on this week; the page at Long Sunday for it is here. The piece under consideration is “Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value,” and the participants so far have focused on (limited themselves to considering?) Spivak’s sui generis style and idiosyncratic structuring, though I have not yet read s0metim3s’s, Nate’s, or Matt’s contributions. So far I have particularly liked pomegrenade’s interpellation of the Third World and the value chain.

I’m not participating in this carnival, mostly because my &*^% day job isn’t right now allowing me time to devote a proper amount of attention to the text, but I have a couple of small comments after my scattered reading of the piece. First, in her opening lines, Spivak makes a point of dismissing Deleuze and Guattari’s thought as a “last-ditch metaphysical longing.” But then there’s this, from pomegrenade:

I also find [Spivak’s] formulation on page 83 excellent, where she maintains that the question for Marx is not an ontological or phenomenological one of “What is value?” He is not concerned with the coining, or the originary emergence, of value. His concern is rather with moments of separation from the value chain: when and how does labor get separated from capital logic (through reproduction, affective labor, Third World labor, precarious work, etc.)? Similarly, how does the commodity become separated at the moment of consumption as gratification?

As Jon points out, it’s difficult to see how Spivak’s emphasis on separation is really that different from Deleuze and Guattari’s break-flows and segmentarity. This is meant less as a defense of D&G than as a hint at the possibilities of reading Spivak and D&G together, to perhaps read some of Spivak’s insights on value through a D&G immanence rather than Spivak’s occasional transcendent dialectic, which I notice most in her positing of an outside-inside.

Which leads to my second comment. I’m ending this post with a long quote from “Speculations” (or should the shortened title be “Scattered”?) that touches on the “immigration debate” happening in the U.S. (as well, perhaps, as the, ahem, discussion happening here and here). I point to it because here, unlike in other places, Spivak posits capitalism as a plane on which boundaries are continually drawn, erased, and redrawn rather than employing metaphors of center-periphery, First-World-Third World, etc. In other words, the quote insists on a reinsertion of the value question, which is mostly elided today, into the political nexus of immigration, borders, culture, and race without insisting on an inside-outside duality.

To state the problem in the philosophical idiom of this essay: as the subject as super-adequation in labor-power seems to negate itself within the telecommunication, a negation of the negation is continually produced by the shifting lines of the international division of labor….

It is a well-known fact that the worst victims of the recent exacerbation of the international division of labor are women. They are the true surplus army of labor in the current conjuncture. In their case, patriarchial social relations contribute to their production as the new focus of super-exploitation….As I have suggested above, to consider the place of sexual reproduction and the family within those social relations should show the pure (or free) “materialist” predication of the subject to be gender-esclusive.

The literary academy emphasizes when necessary that the American tradition at its best is one of the individual Adamism and the loosening of frontiers. In terms of political activism within the academy, this free spirit exercises itself at its best by analyzing and calculating predictable strategic effects of specific measures of resistence: boycotting consumer items, demonstrating against investments in countries with racist domestic politics, uniting against genocidal foreign policy. Considering the role of telecommunication in entrenching the international division of labor and the oppression of women, this free spirit should subject its unbridled passion for subsidizing computerized information retrieval and theoretical production to the same conscientious scrutiny. The “freeing” of the subject as super-adequation in labor-power entails an absence of extra-economic coercion. Because a positivist vision can only recognize the latter, that is to say, domination, within post-industrial cultures like the U.S., telecommunication seems to bring nothing but the promise of infinite liberty for the subject. Economic coercion as exploitation is hidden from sight in “the rest of the world”


4 thoughts on “Spivak’s value

  1. Eric,
    I like what I take to be the spirit of your remarks on this, and some of Jon’s elsewhere, a sort of bridge-building between ostensibly opposed/incompatible idioms. I also think that’s a great and very useful type of intellectual work. So, please say more on the Spivak/D&G non-contradiction when you can. I’m not super fond of either at the moment, in part cuz I think I don’t get it, but maybe seeing the not so obvious connections/similarities between the two could help me out.
    take care,

  2. hey eric,

    i really like this, especially the part about theorising value stuff in relation to movement on that plane that can’t really be summarised by ‘inside/outside’. and i was thinking about that long quote too (my post is on sunday, i think, so maybe i’ll expand more on it then). i’m not sure that talking about it as a ‘negation of the negation’ quite covers all the bases, though.

    cheers, anyhow.

  3. Jon–Thanks for noticing, cuz everything looked okay on the coding post, but some weird forces were at work. It’s fixed now.

    Nate and az–I’m glad you liked. Nate, I’m not sure that I can add anything too interesting just now. I’m trying to get some thoughts together on the recent actions surrounding the immigration legislation that would undoubtedly incorporate some of this stuff. Hopefully I can get to that soon. AZ, “negation of the negation” is super-inadequate, I guess you could say, and I also artfully elided a sentence in the middle of this snuck in the outside Third World, but I like that she hints at a way of not viewing division of labor as existing along national lines and that she foregrounds women’s part in this.

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