chapter  15
14 Pages

The cost of anti-essentialism

ByPaul Smith

This chapter focuses on the elision of two classic Marxian concepts—agency and history—and their relationship. Marxism posits that long-term changes expose a historical logic—and it has been Marxism's job to grasp and explain that logic—as capitalism emerges and develops across time. This is one of the principal methodological drivers of Marxism, from which political concepts such as agency derive. Steve Resnick and Rick Wolff's opening gambit of rethinking Marx's distinction between productive and unproductive labor is an important theoretical move that makes possible their own related distinction between fundamental and subsumed class processes. Here already the anti-essentialist principle has made any definitions of class or collectivity very "messy". The concepts of class struggles and class interests must refer, in a non-essentialist Marxian theory, to the objects of those struggles and interests. The sections of Knowledge and Class that take up particular institutional forms within the overdetermined totality as case studies deal with entrepreneurial and state institutions.