The book is an invitation to discuss, and to all those who have commented on the book, however adverse their criticism, I am very grateful for their acceptance of the invitation. (1) The experience of the last two years has been rather like playing at the edge of the sea and being hit by big waves of enthusiasm and criticism which roll me over and over: an exhilarating and sometimes confusing experience, in which I occasionally lose the thread of the argument. Coming home to Capital & Class is perhaps a way of finding my feet before the next wave comes.
The central thread is that the struggle against capital is a struggle against fetishism, and that fetishism must be understood as a process of fetishisation. The argument has its roots in the CSE debates of the 1970s. (2) In the CSE State Group of that time, we developed an understanding of the state as a particular form of the capital relation: an aspect of the fetishisation of social relations under capitalism. In this, we were influenced by the German state derivation debate (see Holloway & Picciotto 1978), but sought to go beyond that debate, both politically and theoretically (see CSE State Group 1980, LEWRG 1979-1980). For me, the most important turning-point in that discussion was the argument that fetishism has to be understood not as fait accompli, but as process; as form-process or process of formation; as struggle. (3)
The book Change the World Without Taking Power is intended to draw out the implications of this argument--already considerably developed in the pages of Common Sense, and in the three volumes of Open Marxism. The distinction between fetishism-as-accomplished-fact and fetishism-as-process is important, because it is the dividing line between an authoritarian understanding of Marxism and a libertarian understanding.
To see fetishism as an accomplished fact leads to an elitist understanding of theory, and to the view either that revolution is impossible, or that it must be led by an emancipated vanguard acting on behalf of the working class: this leads to a focus on the state, which is precisely a form of organisation on behalf of; that is, a form of exclusion and repression.
To see fetishism as a process of fetishisation, on the other hand, is to start from a self-divided subject (of which theory is a self-contradictory moment) struggling (contradictorily) against its/ our own alienation or fetishisation, driving towards social self-determination--necessarily pulling...