Larval on Commodity Fetishism

Larval Subjects writes about the isonomy between the logic of commodity fetishism in Marx and structuralist and post-structuralist accounts of language:

The argument runs something like this: texts, signifiers, discursive structures, signs, and language are both what is given and are the agencies through which anything given is given, therefore to investigate anything it is necessary to interpret these signs and texts. It is in this way that Derrida’s perhaps misinterpreted thesis that there is nothing outside the text, or Lacan’s thesis that “the universe is the flower of rhetoric”, or that Peirce’s semiontology is generally understood. As a consequence, any change or phenomena is to be accounted for in linguistic, textual, or semiotic terms. As a consequence, the theorist comports himself in much the same way as the bourgeois political economist in the grips of commodity fetishism. The riddle of all phenomena are to be sought in texts, signs, signifiers, and language, such that all non-linguistic actants disappear altogether.

Larval begins the post by noting that this discussion may seem at first odd—namely the move from the structure of capitalism to recent discussions on linguistic access to reality—but of course, as he knows, this is a “classic” argument against the linguistic turn from the materialist left. But what Levi does here, which is an improvement, is not to say “these two moves are analogous” (the “Hitler was a vegetarian” move), as many are want to do, and thinks that’s enough of an argument. (It’s amazing how often various theories are said to mirror the structure of capitalism: this theories talks about things, and you know, that sounds like a fetish for a commodity… and so on…) One should show how this or that theory blocks the analysis of political economy, but if you use the word “replicate” in your analysis, it’s a fudge for the actual analysis that needs to be done.

What Larval does here is to write instead that this move is a subset of what he argues is a larger fallacy, and thus he’s not led to silly claims (as one often reads) that somehow seems to describe deconstructionists or Lacanians as responsible for our world as corporate raiders and sweathshop owners.

Ok, maybe the Lacanians are. But the point stands that this is a better way to discuss the linkage between Larval’s version of SR and Marxian strains of realism.