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CIRCULATION PROCESS OF CAPITAL
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“All the differentiations in capital arising from the circulation process—in fact the circulation process itself—are actually nothing but the metamorphosis of commodities (determined by their relationship to wage-labor as capital) as an aspect of the reproduction process.” —Marx, TSV, 3:268.
The sphere of society which takes up the middle ground between the private sphere of individuals and their families and the official sphere of the state. This includes the large number of voluntary organizations and associations, NGOs, political parties, trade unions, professional associations, charities, churches and religious organizations, cultural and educational groups, etc. In bourgeois society it would seem that this should also include capitalist companies and corporations (though this is often downplayed or ignored), but it would also definitely include all the many organizations formally or informally representing the capitalists, such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, industry groups, lobbying organizations, numerous reactionary “think tanks”, and so forth.
The general concept of civil society can be traced back to ancient times, but derives especially from the thinkers of the Enlightenment, and after that especially Hegel and Marx. It was also a prominent theme of Alexis de Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America (1840). De Tocqueville contrasted the voluntary associations of Americans for private and public purposes with the domination of the state in Europe, and felt that this tended to help form Americans into a distinctive nation.
However, in more recent times the notion of civil society has a much more pronounced bourgeois air to it. In bourgeois society bourgeois individuals, or at least bourgeois ideas, generally control or pervade most of the organizations and associations that make up civil society, as well as control the state. Despite this, civil society is presented as being somehow and in some way, qualitatively superior to the state. This is generally only really true for those relatively few parts of contemporary civil society that are controlled, or at least very strongly influenced, by the working class.
The liberal bourgeois tradition treats civil society as in many ways superior to the state, since the state ultimately depends on force, whereas the organizations of civil society are voluntary. However, as Lenin said, the bourgeoisie rules by means of the gendarme and the priest. Both are means of class rule, even if force lies directly behind one method while “mere” ideological indoctrination lies behind the other. Where ideology fails, force begins. If you start from the perspective of the actual needs and interests of the working class and masses, rather than simply focusing on which method of bourgeois domination of society is “best”, then the supposed superiority of the civil society seems far less clear. And curiously, the bourgeoisie itself often rails against civil society—though not in those terms—as when they condemn the pervasive role of “special interest groups” (omitting any mention of course of the groups which represent their own “special interests”!).
The fact is that both the bourgeois state and bourgeois civil society must be overthrown by the revolutionary proletariat! We will then construct our own revolutionary proletarian state and our own revolutionary proletarian civil society. (Some concessions will have to be made to the old civil society in order to maintain the unity of the masses, such as by allowing the continuance of religious groups provided they do not engage in counter-revolutionary activity.) Eventually, as socialism is transformed into communism and the proletarian state withers away, that proletarian socialist civil society will be itself further transformed into communist civil society.
“There is yet another major misconception–that ‘innocent’ people are being caught in the crossfire between the Naxalites and the police. First, this is not a fact. Secondly, the ‘people’ are not a homogeneous mass; the ruling elite and their hangers-on are with the state, while the masses of the oppressed are with the Naxalites. The former support state terror (as in the Salwa Judum), while the latter act together with the Maoists to resist such terror. The misconception of a homogeneous populace is linked to postmodernist thinking of a so-called ‘civil society’, which conceals class divisions within society. All the same, in conflicts involving state terror and the people’s resistance to it, there will be some sections not allied to either side, but the majority are polarised into two camps–a minority allied with the state, on the one hand, and the masses backing the Naxalites, on the other.” —Azad, spokesperson for the Communist Party of India (Maoist), “Maoists in India: A Rejoinder”, Economic and Political Weekly, October 14, 2006.
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