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The Need to Fight for “Collective” Interests

Monday, March 14, 2011

Workers occupy the capital building in Wisconsin.

In my other blog, The Excerpt Mill, I quote Jean-Paul Sartre’s views on how groups of unrelated people can come together to form a cohesive political force; what Sartre calls, a “group.”  In an age where academic philosophy is dominated by poststructuralist and postcolonial thought (what many like to stupidly call “the postmodern condition!”) it’s important to look at how groups of populations can form a synthesis of “group consciousness.”

Many academics, and, unfortunately, some community “activists,” have come to mistakenly believe that there is no way in which a personalized experience can come to form something in common with another personalized experience.  In the throws of poststructural and postcolonial philosophy many argue that specific groups, in a situated epistemic condition, cannot, if ever, be spoken of as a collective or come together with other specific groups to form a collective unity that argues and fights for a collective goal (as that would be “oppressive”).

Much of this thought, however, overlooks the fact that actual systems of oppression and economic structures tend to create specific groups and formations within the capitalist system: there are populations which are (unwittingly and sometimes unknowingly) forced into specific socio-spatial areas/places that Marxists call “the working class” in where their labor is exploited and appropriated by another specified (and less geographically confined) class that Marxists call “the capitalist class.”  Because of this fact it is imperative that diverse groups of people of this (economic) socio-spacial class come together to fight for their collective interests against the collective and totalizing force of the capitalist system.

Sartre writes:

[I]n the movement of History, an exploiting class, by tightening its bonds against an enemy and by becoming aware of itself as a unity of individuals in solidarity, shows the exploited classes their material being as a collective and as a point of departure for a constant effort to establish lived bonds of solidarity between its members.  There is nothing surprising about this: in this inert quasi-totality, constantly swept by great movements of counter-finality, the historical collectivity, the dialectical law, is at work: the constitution of group (on the basis, of course, of real, material conditions) as an ensemble of solidarities has the dialectical consequence of making it the negation of the rest of the social field, and, as a result, of occasioning, in this field in so far as it is defined as non-grouped, the conditions for an antagonistic grouping (on the basis of scarcity and in divided social systems).

Thus the common praxis, as the totalisation and struggle against a common praxis of the enemy, realises itself in everyone as the new, free efficacity of [their] praxis, as the free intensification of [their] efort; every freedom creates itself laterally as the totalisation of all freedoms, and totalisation comes to it through the others as a lateral dimension of its individuality, in so far as it is freely individual for them.

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