The „Death of Class” Debate in the Light of G. M. Tamás and the Value-critique

My paper examines the discourse of the “death of classes”, including Ulrich Beck’s concept of the risk society, in the light of value-critique. Drawing on the insights of Moishe Postone and G. M. Tamás, I present an interpretation of Marx which offers the possibility to distinguish between two different theoretical approaches, the ‘traditional Marxist’ and the “value-critical”. The former refers to those theories that conceive capitalism in terms of class relations rooted in private property, mediated by the market, and define the category of domination within the terms of class oppression. The value-critical perspective, on the other hand, captures the structure of capitalism through a critical analysis of value and abstract labour. It does so by assuming an abstract form of domination that can be traced back to historically specific forms of value and value-producing labour. I argue that the class concept used by late Marx grasps the structural features of capitalism but is less suited for mapping the socio-cultural aspects and unequal relations of different social groups. Ulrich Beck and the “death of class” arguments make relevant observations about the distribution of wealth and related social phenomena, but these critiques can only be applied to traditional Marxism.

Released: Replika 125, 11–33.
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