“To study the articulation between the laws of capital accumulation and the laws of competition means to elucidate the contradictory process of the generalization of the wage relation and the stratification of the two polar classes… it means to ask what determines the hierarchy of social relations” (Aglietta 2000: 18). It means to study how production and consumption are directed, determined as a result of social processes. Both Open Marxism and the Regulation Approach (especially the Regulation texts analysed in this paper) stick to Marx’s concept of class. Aglietta thus states in his introduction to Theory that he is going to analyse “the development of the forces of production under the effect of the class struggle” (2000: 16).
Yet, class is an uneasy concept. Jessop, for example, although often staying very close to other methodological techniques taken over from Marx, states outright that many “sites and stakes of resistance to capitalism” are little suited to class analysis. “The struggle to establish accumulation as a dominant/hegemonic principle of societalization typically extends well beyond class struggles, even broadly understood” (2002: 32). Aglietta states that in his methodology he accepts “that the class struggle produces, transforms and renews the social norms which make economic relationships intelligible”. But as for the broader vision of history as a movement of class struggles which will at the end lead to the abolition of classes, Aglietta states that his “work does not keep faith with this philosophic vision” (2000: 67).
Open Marxists construe class as some epistemological principal divisor that they use for making sense of the space of the entirety of social interactions. Analytically, they use the term ‘labour’ as an umbrella for a whole range of phenomena, from ‘class’ in a sociological sense to ‘labour power’ as a factor of production, and it is barely used in some spatial sense to denote an actual entity with social characteristics.
The state then constitutes the concentration of the “all-penetrating freemasonry” of capital in its function “to guarantee and protect the bourgeois rights of property” (Bonefeld 2000: 39). Regulationists extend the role of the state beyond the protection of property rights24 and into the assistance in production of social consumption norms.
At the end of the day, the decisively different outlook of Open Marxism and Regulation Approach pertaining to the whole issue of class struggle and production/consumption can be summed up as follows. Regulationists “conceive capital not as an immanent entity but as the development of the wage relation. Every major crisis is a crisis of the present conditions of reproduction of this relation”. The crisis then starts as the problem of the production/consumption circuit (Aglietta 2000:169)25. Open Marxist have the strong tendency to present crises as the effect of ‘insubordinate labour’. The Great Depression is presented as a breakdown of labour-capital relations. The breakdown was imminent in the aftermath of the October Revolution, which “had been the loudest declaration by the working class that the old relations between capital and labour was at breaking point” (Holloway 1996a: 16). However, ‘capital’ managed to postpone the crisis via credit expansion (1996a: 17).
The description given by Aglietta could not be more different. The crisis of 1929 was a failure to open up a new consumption model, due to the inability to institute the Fordist contract on an economy wide basis. “We have seen, for example, how in the mid 1920s the semi-automatic production process created an internal barrier to its own development by further weakening the workers’ movement after the blows it had already suffered in the wake of the First World War” (2000: 155)! So, the crisis was due to the weakening of the working class power.
“The global freemasonry of capital” (Bonefeld 2000: 40) has no place in the portrayal of capital-labour relations in the Regulation Approach, where “the socialization of consumption becomes a decisive terrain and battle-ground for the class struggle” (Aglietta 2000: 165).
5.1 Epistemology and methods
The epistemological base of Open Marxists can be relatively easily summarised since they follow the same formula in most texts. What drives the happening of political economy is the effort by capital to reintegrate labour into production. Capital endlessly strives to gain and re-gain the ‘command of labour’, while ‘insubordinate labour’ breaks away from this control from time to time.
Consumption attains a very unidimensional character. ‘Labour’ needs to be given more things to consume in their free time so that they don’t mind being exploited in their working time. So that they don’t mind to produce.
This framework has a notably manichean quality. There are two entities that constantly fight each other. Ironically, since the professed dialectical approach of Open Marxists prevents them from identifying goals, let alone intermediate goals of analysis (the danger of ‘intermediate concepts’, as presented in Bonefeld et al 1992a: xvi), the fetishisation of these two categories attains gargantuan proportions. Capital, the active principle, manipulates. It manipulates labour into producing. Labour, when aware of its condition, tries to be ‘insubordinate’. Other than that it is manipulated, and manipulated via production practices (as when Taylorism leads to fragmentation of tasks so that labour cannot resists so easily) and via bribing through consumption.
Regulation authors (at least those that we focused on here) have a notably different approach. There is no overall message to be given. They try to dissect the conglomerate of financial innovation, institutionalising of credit economy, concentration of capital and its changing interaction with states structures. In other words, they engage actively with the more mainstream accounts of globalisation as a process.
However, at every level of analysis, Regulationists, while constructing a concept, also portray it as a reflection of reality, reality being practically by definition that something out there pregnant with contradictions. Whenever portraying a concept, Regulationists incessantly hint at links to other concepts, overlapping or completely contradictory, so that the whole narration becomes a flow of expressions of different angles of reality. In this way, capital is a static concept, one that is the opposite of labour. This is the highest level of abstraction. But at the same time, capital is the ’definite social relation’, which underlies the development of productive forces as one phase of history, the capitalist phase.
The basic epistemic assumption is that of disequilibrium rather than the ideal of equilibrium found it neoclassical economics, connected with theories of social contract. ‘Structural forms’ are identified as mechanisms for containing the conflictual tendencies. However, what underlies this is the strict rejection of teleological explanations (Boyer 2000: 48). And on the other hand, the notion of structures as sites of conflict precludes them from basing their analyses on explanations of intentional, individualistic content. In this, they stick to the spirit of Marx’s understanding that “in the social production of their life, men enter into social relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production…” (Preface to a Critique of Political Economy, cited from Elster 1985: 243).
As opposed to the replacement of ‘intermediate concepts’26 by a professed description of forms, where “something or other exists only in and through the form(s) it takes” (Bonefeld et al 1992a: xv), Regulationists state they stick to Marx’s “refusal to postulate an immutable essence underlying the variability of phenomena” (Aglietta 2000: 15). On a more methodological level, for them, “the tension characteristic of every process of knowledge does not take the from of an opposition between the theoretical and the empirical” but instead “between abstract and concrete within the development of the theory itself”27. Crucially, “it follows that concepts are not introduced once and for all at a single level of abstraction”, and therefore a theory is “never final and complete”28. Seen in this light, Open Marxism and the Regulation Approach move on totally different epistemo-methodological planes.
The second crucial difference is that the Open Marxists refuse to see “human practice… as something that is condemned to execute economic laws” (Bonefeld 2000: 47). This is curious, since it was Marx himself who stressed how “in the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production” (Critique of Political Economy, cited from Elster 1985: 243)29. What the Regulationists choose therefore to pursue are the “structural contradictions”, “tensions” and “dilemmas” that arise out of the accumulation and regulation process (Jessop 2002: 14 and 21). The Open Marxists, on the other hand, seem inclined to go beyond demasking forms as social relations (indeed, they want to portray them as ‘forms’, as said above), and rather portray the happening in reality as the happening ultimately driven by wills. At least this is one reading of the insistence on a refusal to deal with “laws”. What we have instead is the struggle of wills. Maybe these are not pictured quite as independent wills of atomised individuals, as in neoclassical notions. But where structures are rejected, the will becomes the driving force of history and the liberal, social contract notions grin in the masks of Marxism30.
5.2 Discussion pragmatics – coherence, logic, and ‘straw-men’
When trying to reflect some ‘reality’, a discourse inevitably manipulates on two levels. First, every discussion uses certain terms, and the way these terms are formulated determines the outcome. Secondly, the outcome is also determined by the way every the discursive system is open to introduction of new terms of the discussion.
Regulation Approach authors duly identify the space in which they place their methodological constructs. They take a discourse – the neoclassical, general equilibrium approach – and deconstruct it. In doing so, they formulate rather densely their own terms of discussion. The Open Marxists take a different, very specific route and we need to chart it here in order to understand the crux of their argumentation.
Open Marxists reject rigid categories, as they say, and prefer to engage in a dialectical discourse. This section will illustrate that this leads to, first, construal of intermediate narrative categories that have a tenuous relationship with reality, and secondly, to targeting arguments by would-be opponents that are heavily re-interpreted. Let us start by illustrating how dialectics becomes difficult to differentiate from a cavalier attitude to analytical formulations.
The Bretton Woods arrangement is portrayed as the capitalist exploitation tool that has outlived its usefulness. How did the system work?
“The Bretton Woods system regulated the international deficit financing of demand on the world market on the basis of an inflationary supply of dollars to the rest of the world” (Bonefeld 1996b: 35). In this sentence, Bonefeld implicitly equates the dollar overhang with the inflationary dollar expansion of the late 1960s (when the US government was responding to fiscal pressures by feeding more dollars into the international financial system). But these are two different things. The dollar overhang (world supply of dollars overshooting par value volume of gold reserves held by the US central bank) was being created ever since the creation of the dollar as the Western world’s peg currency. The fact that dollar substituted other means of payment does not mean that it had to automatically have an inflationary effect.
The abandonment of the system of fixed exchange rates “established a market for currency speculation”, according to Bonefeld (1996b: 41). Again, this categoric statement is untrue. Currency speculation is perfectly possible in any world where exchange rate realignment can be done, in other word, in every real world. In fact, it is precisely the regime of fixed rates that presents best opportunities for big single rewards based on attacks against currencies, as the events of 1992, when Britain was forced out of the EMS, demonstrated.
Now, after the fall of Bretton Woods and the onset of general economic slowdown in 1970s, ‘capital’ was acting to save capitalism through the rise of ideology of monetarism, and “governments of all persuasions espoused the monetarist sermon of hope in market freedom with almost indecent haste” (1996b: 46). He adds that “monetarist policies had been adopted in all western capitalist countries by mid-1970s” (1996b: 47).
Now, there is a big problem here. When Open Marxists speak of ‘monetarism’ they tend to mean almost any laissez-faire policy, and only flimsily differentiate ‘monetarism’ as a policy of stable accruals to money supply copying economic growth31. Even so, it is very difficult to see what made Bonefeld use the date of mid-1970s, some time before Thatcher or U-turn in Roccard’s policies in France, for example.
The theme of ‘depoliticisation’ of policy is a typical leitmotif of Open Marxist texts. However, the whole issue of why governments could have chosen to distance policy-making from day-to-day political upheavals is presented in a relatively fuzzy way. So, Burnham states that “one of the most important lessons of the 1920s was that by switching from ‘discretion’ to ‘rules’ in economic policy, governments could ‘externalize’ the imposition of financial discipline on labour and capital” (2000: 20). It is absolutely unclear why this should be a 1920s lesson. The gold standard, first, operated for a long-time before the war and governments just wanted to return to it. They did, and those that stuck to ‘rules’, secondly, rather than reverted to discretion (such as France, which stuck to Gold Standard until 1934) experienced severe problems.
The argument then takes another interesting twist, when Bonefeld mentions that “floating currencies increased the demand for international reserves…” (1996b: 42), probably meaning central bank holdings of reserve currencies. But this would actually be counter-inflationary (draining liquidity from the market), not inflationary, as he seems to be suggesting in that section!
Terms are used without anchoring them in a specific context, without regularising their content by customary identification with a broad range of other terms. At this level, the discourse can be characterised by eviction of specific meaning from categories, which cease to be that and become free-floating signifiers. Sentences lose specificity by being re-repeated fragments tied together by freely chosen conjunctions.
For example Burnham states that “discretion-based approaches are highly politicised since national governments play the central role in controlling inflation…” (2000: 22, emphasis added). This sounds as if the issue of inflation was the driving force for ‘politicising’ economic policy. While a possibility, this is not borne out by the rest of the text. (The fact that the Regulation Approach strongly rejects this monetarist stance has already been discussed.)
Then, many statements are simply very difficult to understand when we look at the context. Holloway contends that prior to Nixon’s decision to close the gold window “holders of dollars increasingly sought security by converting their dollars into gold” (Holloway 1996a: 32). This statement is difficult to square up with the fact that the demand for dollars was actually sharply increasing at the time and dollar holdings were growing (Kenen 2000: 454)32!
What was really happening was that the divergent price of official gold (made possible by the 1961 Gold Pool and then the introduction of two-tiered price system in 1968) and private market opened up arbitrage possibilities for those who could convert dollars (i.e. for central banks) for gold at the Fed and re-sell it. This is what the French did, for example (Eichngreen 1996: 133). The Open Marxists here sign up for the view propounded by some American authors that the US government had no choice but to simply shut the window at the time.
But Open Marxist narrative strategies go even deeper. Construction of arguments sought to be refuted is done in a fashion that can be described as very convenient – the target arguments erected may resemble the original in a rather distant way.
A good example of this strategy is an article by Holloway on Keynesianism. It starts
Keynes lounging in an armchair, comfortable, thoughtful and benign…For much of the post-war period, Keynesianism was presented simply as a beneficial, rational, scientific advance in the management of the economy (Holloway 1996a: 7).
The target is given, in the words Keynes and Keynesianism. From now on the words are pursued relentlessly – although their content is difficult to establish. The content is partly given by the assertion that “the central feature of Keynesianism was the acknowledgement of the organisational strength of the working class”. This alleged trait of Keynesianism is, however, then based on assertions that are open to some questions. Holloway imparts to Keynes a discovery that after the Russian Revolution “the assumption that labour power could simply be treated as any other commodity on the market was no longer valid”33. Holloway then contends “As a result, Say’s Law had lost its validity: it could no longer be assumed that market forces alone would ensure the most efficient use of resources” (1996a: 13). And he supplements this by a general quote on social justice by Keynes, one not taken from his General Theory.
Now, Keynes never said Say’s Law had any validity (adding here the caveat ‘in a money economy’ might be overprudent, but so be it). And he did not disprove it on account of the organisational strength of the working class34. His challenge to Say came as a liquidity preference theory: money, as the most liquid asset, leads to a preference for hoarding it, thus leading to general underemployment in the production (Lewis and Mizen 2000: 103). Holloway actually presents “Say’s Law” as
the foundation of orthodox economic theory, which held that total demand for goods must equal total supply, so that the financing of production automatically created purchasing power to purchase all the goods produced. Foster and Catchings pointed out that there was no such automatic balance, since the flow of money was constantly interrupted by saving (as indeed Marx had pointed out in Chapter 2 of Capital sixty years before) (1996a: 11).
Now, to imply that ‘orthodox economic theory’ did not take into account acts of saving, which was left to Marx and then Keynes to do, is quite incredible. Especially since under gold standard ‘saving’ often took the rather explicit form of taking money out of circulation and into the cupboard. On the other hand, savings banks were a rather widespread phenomenon by the end of 19th century.
No, what really is at issue with Say’s Law is the axiom that “an individual act of saving (abstaining from consumption) inevitably leads to a matching act of investment (supplying consumption to be invested in the production of capital wealth)”. Keynes was not concerned with interruption by savings, he was concerned about the issue of savings allegedly leading into exactly the same level of investment. His conclusion was that “investment rather than savings becomes the driving force” (Lewis and Mizen 2000: 117). Notice that this is the conclusion by Keynes, not an assumption he was seeking to refute. His policy prescription was exactly to focus on “the financing of production of goods”. Holloway presents this the other way round.
At any rate, the historical analysis presented in the same article holds as little together as the theory argument. “Credit is the key to understanding the distance between 1917 and 1929” (1996a: 17) says Holloway, to draw parallels to alleged credit expansion of 1980s that postponed the eruption of a capitalist crisis. The Russian Revolution made ‘capital’ extend its hands to itself in the form of expanded money capital. How can this be squared up with the fact that by mid-1920s all of the major economies were on the gold standard which Holloway himself understands as a deflationary measure? Not to mention other facts. Before the Crash, Americans stopped investing heavily in Europe (Kindleberger 1986: 118), and by 1929 Germany, for example, was pursuing a rather tight monetary policy. In fact, prices were falling for a few years in the run up to the Depression, notably in the agricultural sector (Kindleberger 1986: 73-4), which accounted for a large slice of the American economy. Holloway simply makes too much of the narrow speculative bubble that was developing on the Wall Street and from the wildly rising prices there makes the strongly implied construction that there was a credit over-expansion elsewhere.
5.3 Discursive formations
The main problem of even comparing Open Marxism with any other political economy discourse is that Open Marxist authors openly strive for un-clarity. It seems this is part of a strategy of what they see as re-introducing dialectics into the Marxist discourses. They not only reject ‘empiricism’. Any positivist approach is effectively precluded by their use of language which leaves wide room for establishing what causal schemas could be involved. Categories are not defined through each other and through sets of laws, as in Regulation Approach, but are left deliberately vague. Consider referring to “Adam Smith and his theory of the invisible hand” (Bonefeld 2000: 47). It is probably safe to oppose this by saying that Adam Smith hardly elaborated any theory of ‘invisible hand’. What he did was that he laid out the groundwork for theories which saw decentralised exchange as an equilibrating mechanism of society. This is still some way off from general equilibrium theories as formulated by the end 19th century. These took prices as the transmission mechanism leading to equilibrium. The implication of such statements seems to be that Marx did not work with the notion of equilibrium. Of course he did. Except that in his case, the equilibrium was physical, as pointed out in section on capital circuit.
Instead of following categories through their metamorphoses, Open Marxists posit two main ones, ‘capital’ and ‘labour’ and put forward an explanatory framework where the two unfailingly show up in the subject-object positions, in one way or the other. This is, by the way, curious, since they reject portrayal of phenomena in a genus-species way. However, the drawing up of two categories that play such a pivotal role unfailingly leads to the stratification of perceived social relations in this way.
In order to leave categories fluid, Open Marxists employ the language where it is almost impossible to disentangle the verbiage and establish strict relationships. Let us make a few examples again.
When speaking of the breakdown of Bretton Woods system, Bonefeld employs sentences such as “as indicated by Holloway the abandonment of the Bretton Woods system signalled the breakdown of the cornerstone of Keynesianism” (1996b: 35). The abandonment of a thing signalled its breakdown? On the same page we learn that “the dollar… performed the dual function of international and national currency”. Well, any currency that can be traded internationally is probably an international currency, is it not? After mentioning ”balance of payment imbalances” Bonefeld asserts that “as long as the US maintained a large trade balance….”. Does he mean a large volume of trade, or a large surplus, or…? What is meant by the phrase, still on the same page, “the dollar functioned as credit that was supplied to other countries”? The conventional reading would be that other countries were given a credit, i.e. extension of their purchasing power made dependent on their future repayment. However, in reality this was the other way round – the US customers were given a credit, as the US did not have to immediately balance its trade and financial account, and was meant to do so in the future35. But we do not know what these sentences mean. Practically every formulation is ambivalent.
In Open Marxism, there is (bar a few exceptions) no ‘capitalist’ only ‘capital’, there is no bourgeoisie and proletariat, only ‘capital’ and ‘labour’. In Regulation Approach, one can follow a rather strict distinction between ‘social labour’ (transformative power of society), ‘abstract labour’ (notion helping to define the space of value), ‘labour power’ (factor of production), and ‘labour’ as a class; in Open Marxism, this is all ‘labour’. While Regulationists speaks of ‘capitalism’, (Aglietta 2000: 24) a system with a defined time and space dimension, Open Marxist mostly do not.
This insistence on putting capital in the driving seat of their sentences inevitably gives the narration of Open Marxists a certain ‘conspiratorial streak’. This is strengthened by the regular introduction of the polar opposite, ‘labour’, which resists ‘capital’. How this is done is unclear. For example, Holloway comments at one point that “beneath the visible, organised power of labour lay a less visible, more insidious power: the power of the exploited to resist exploitation” (1996b: 8). It is never made clear the “organised power” of labour is different from “the power of the exploited to resist exploitation”. Even if the latter is meant to be the “power” not to work, as opposed to power to work at a collectively negotiate wage, both are still, are they not, the power to resist exploitation?
The Regulation Approach and Open Marxism share a number of similarities. When it comes to political economy, both approaches reject the neoclassical notion of a market of individuals who are apriori endowed with sets of production abilities and consumer preferences, and whose trading leads to a harmonious being of this collectivity, which exists through the market and maybe through the state with whom the individuals had entered a social contract.
In economics, Open Marxists by extension reject the notion of general equilibrium. Regulationists, of course, too, but also by showing that the idea has limited explanatory power. They criticise the aura of scientificity that neoclassical propagandists veil around it (Aglietta 2000: 13).
Both schools of thought reject the idea that new technologies and the reorganisation of labour processes associated with post-industrial economy can loosen the exploitative relationship of capital-owners and labour-providers. As an extension, both are critical of the productivist notion which assume that exploitation can ease as soon as enough productive capacity is build to satisfy people’s needs.
Both schools of thought try to bring Marxism up to date by applying Marxist concepts to contemporary phenomena. And both schools try to ‘open up’ Marx and save him from the grasp of ‘increasingly fossilised Marxism’ of structures and determinate outcomes.
However, as this paper has tried to show, the nature of discursive approaches that these two schools adopt cause that the outcomes are very different beasts indeed.
The Regulation Approach elaborates on Marx. It takes Marx’s concepts of high level of abstraction, such as relations of production and forces of production, as the basis of a methodological and epistemological extension of Marxism into the contemporary world. By analysing the logic of existence of commodity economy, the Regulation Approach comes to postulate the wage relation as the necessary primus inter partes of institutional forms.
Open Marxism does not add any analytical concepts to the repertory either of Marxism or neoclassical analysis. Rather, it borrows, on the one hand, Marxist concepts, mostly from Marx but also from the Regulation Approach and from the state-derivation debate of 1970s, on the other hand from the neoclassical discourse (‘depoliticisation’). Open Marxists refuse to join these concepts up to create a structural analysis. The key terms such as ‘labour’, ‘capital’, ‘accumulation’ are used to show that capitalism is, despite all surface appearances, always the same exploitative process.
As a result, the school is decidedly and self-consciously ahistorical. Connected with this, the refusal to concern themselves much with structural forms leads to the paradoxical outcome that as the Open Marxists do not deal with phenomena as spatio-temporal fixes, they cannot describe how the phenomena permeate each other, and metamorphose into different forms. What is the result? In the sincere opinion of the author of this paper, Open Marxism ends up as a cluster of fetishised notions. Emptied of content and constantly deprived of settling in contexts, words such as ‘capital’, ‘labour’, ‘credit’, ‘inflation’ and so on emerge as a small set of oppositions which take on themselves the whole brunt of the narrative. Introduction of modalities as well as new notions is precluded. There are no types of crises, only crises, no inflationary effects of economic interactions only the inflation. We are not constantly reminded, as in Regulationist texts, that ‘capital’ represents a whole range of social interactions, we only are made to think of it as that something that opposes that other something, ‘labour’.
The simple conclusion would be this. Open Marxism is ahistorical, fetishised, conceptually rigid. In economics, it sticks to simple static analyses and never ventures into more dynamic ones. It is consciously non-predictive and does not generate much in terms of falsifiable hypotheses. The explanations it offers are functionalist.
So it appears that this is a self-defeating discourse – it can never achieve what it nominally claims to be doing. This is what this paper tried to illustrate. Despite explicit reminders of the need to view social relations as such and get rid of their fetishisation, in those very same narratives, Open Marxism achieves the same. For example, the term ‘overaccumulation’ is a harmless concept. The way Marx or Regulationists use it is more a micro-economic than macro-economic one, it does not deal with aggregate phenomena. However, in the hands of Open Marxist authors it becomes a shorthand for any kind of problems in the production-consumption circuit. It amalgamates monetary and labour value magnitudes. It becomes the fetishised explanation.
The distortion of arguments of would-be opponents, described in the ‘Pragmatics’ section of this paper, should probably not be dismissed as just an aberration, a pendant of a discussion that should otherwise focus on the ‘substance’ of Open Marxist arguments. This is about substance. Marx’s way of discourse was to take the dominant one (for example based on Ricardian economics) and engage with it through widening and overlapping circles of analysis. Open Marxist choose to present their targets in a sentence and then retreat into their very own narrative - even quoting each other, which gives the discourse an incestuous quality.
The scream of which Holloway speaks at the beginning of his Change36 is thus not just a scream against the reality. It is also a scream against the sophistication and complexity of other strains of Marxism.
Let us return to the ‘Introduction’ to Open Marxism, where we read that “open Marxism offers to conceptualise the contradictions internal to domination itself. Crisis, understood as a category of contradiction, entails not just danger but opportunity. Within theory, crisis enunciates itself as critique” (Bonefeld et al 1992a: xi). What follows from this is that Open Marxists primarily seek to create a meaning. Not the meaning, but rather an enunciation of some primal stances of consonance and opposition as the reader is taken through the discourse.
And therein lies the paradox. Open Marxists profess allegiance to Marxist devotion to praxis. Indeed, it is this devotion that leads them to abandon Marxism of structures which they see as Marxism defeated (1992a: ix). Instead, they refuse empiricism and refuse conceptualisation that would follow certain rules, turning Marxist categories into a stream of free-floating signifiers. This gives the discourse an essentially literary rather than analytical quality, leading to subject-empowerment at most through inciting a will to action. How this could initiate a praxis – if we understand praxis as a movement through reality – remains a very open question.