On the Peculiarity of Class Reproduction in the Society of Exchange\ud and the Popular Subject of Rising Inequality in the United States

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Ivanova, Maria N (2017)
  • Publisher: Sage

Capitalism as a mode of production and a form of social organization differs from all hitherto existing society in that it does not rely on the preservation of traditional hierarchies or on direct coercion to secure its reproduction. Capitalist society coheres on the basis of exchange which establishes a network of interdependent relations between individuals. Drawing on the work of Alfred Sohn-Rethel, this paper engages with the apparent paradox of how the reproduction of class society takes the form of spontaneous exchange transactions between autonomous individuals. The paper further argues that the conceptual basis of cognition is historically and socially conditioned and highlights the unique identity between the structure of exchange and the conceptual mode of thinking. Finally, the paper demonstrates how the hidden character of social domination and ‘the secret identity’ of commodity form and thought form serve to systematically obscure the true origins and nature of fundamental social problems. The case in point is the popular topic of rising inequality in the United States, a direct outcome of the reproduction of class relations, the underlying cause of which – the deepening division of intellectual and manual labor – is either conveniently ignored or, worse still, glorified.
  • References (3)

    Acemoglu, Daron (2002) 'Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market', Journal of Economic Literature 40(1): 7-72.

    Alon, Sigal (2009) 'The Evolution of Class Inequality in Higher Education: Competition, Exclusion, and Adaptation', American Sociological Review 74(5): 731-755.

    Autor, David H., Lawrence F. Katz, and Alan B. Krueger (1998) 'Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?', Quarterly Journal of Economics 113(4): 1169- Table 2 Distribution of net worth in the United States, 1983-2010

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