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Feher-Class, Democracy, Modernity

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Two terms of the tripartitetitle need no further qualifications:they are self-explanatory. But the thirddoes. By modernity, we mean the period (and the region) in which capitalism, industrialization and democracy appear simultaneously, reacting to, reinforcing, complementing and checking each other. Yet another explanatory remark is necessaryhere. Democracy is used by us in a value-freemanner, in other words, not counterposed to liberalism as we are otherwise wont to do. It involves simply the following conceptual constituents: publicly (constitutionally) recognized political pluralism, formally free citizenry, the trend towards an increasing political equality.
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  Class, Democracy, ModernityAuthor(s): Ferenc Feher and Agnes HellerSource: Theory and Society, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Mar., 1983), pp. 211-244Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/657431 . Accessed: 21/02/2014 04:46 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  . Springer   is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Theory and Society. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 115.119.254.154 on Fri, 21 Feb 2014 04:46:31 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  211 CLASS, DEMOCRACY, MODERNITY FERENC FEHER and AGNES HELLER I. Methodological Premises la) Two terms of the tripartite title need no further qualifications: they are self-explanatory. But the third does. By modernity, we mean the period (and the region) in which capitalism, industrialization and democracy appear simultaneously, reacting to, reinforcing, complementing and checking each other. Yet another explanatory remark s necessary here. Democracy is used by us in a value-free manner, in other words, not counterposed to liberalism as we are otherwise wont to do. It involves simply the following conceptual constituents: publicly (constitutionally) recognized political pluralism, for- mally free citizenry, the trend towards an increasing political equality. Iaa) We state simply, without historical analyses of any kind, the fact of the more or less simultaneous emergence and later symbiosis, of democracy, capitalist organization of socioeconomic life and industrialization. We do not call this symbiosis either historically necessary or historically conting- ent. Both descriptions would mean setting diverse factors into the homogen- izing framework of a philosophy of history which we deliberately intend to avoid. We take them as facts or raw material of our interpretation, and not as embodiments of so-called universal laws. Our analysis will follow in the footsteps of at least one version of a tradition which can be legitimately called historical materialist, namely the contrasting of modernity with earlier or precapitalist) periods.' From the above it follows as well that we explicitly reject he customary historical materialist conception according to which one of these factors (the capitalist market organization of the allegedly eternal separate economic sphere) would determine the other two - in the last instance. 2 Such a determination in the last instance contains, firstly, tacitly or overtly, an empty overgeneralized tatement regarding he whole of history. Secondly, it replaces a rational understanding of a situation in which industrial capitalist interests, very often in conflict with express majority will, Sociology, La Trobe University, Australia This content downloaded from 115.119.254.154 on Fri, 21 Feb 2014 04:46:31 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  212 prevail in political decisions by an alleged determination which is a substi- tute for necessity, an historical mythology. Iab) In our view, modernity is a dynamic (in other words, unstable) coexist- ence of these different trends, in proportions varying from one society to the other, rarely in harmony, rather in more or less constant collision. Any radical position which embarks on explaining the vast period called moder- nity has to account for all three factors and their interrelations. A monocau- sal explanation of any kind is either a self-delusion or an ideology. Ib) Our title points to the fact that we do not renounce the use of the category of class, a gesture which is so trendy nowadays. On the other hand, we certainly use it with substantial modifications as compared to the thinker Marx whose name the category is mostly bound up with. Therefore it is appropriate here, at the start, to give a definition of our own. Iba) Social classes are human social ensembles which essentially and con- sciously contribute to social change via purposeful action, in keeping with their own interests and/ or needs. Ibb) Further, the dichotomous character of class relationship is crucial for us. The term in this specification stems obviously from the distinguished Polish sociologist, Ossowski.3 In the wake of Ossowski, we mean by dicho- tomous social relations mutually constitutive pairs of interconnected social entities none of which can exist (or for that matter, come about) without the other. They are antagonistic relationships presupposing, n the very relation and in the social space around them, inequality, hierarchy and subordina- tion. Ibc) In contradistinction to Marx, and in harmony with Max Weber, we are going to speak of political and socioeconomic classes as separate entities.4 Both clusters are dichotomous relationships. (Without this characteristic feature, namely this bipolar antagonistic structure, we do not acknowledge the existence of a class relationship at all.) But the constitutive dichotomy lies elsewhere in each case. With regard to the political class, the economic roots of each partner can be different. We shall return o this later.) This economic situation might or might not have a bearing on their political status (no generalized statement can be made regarding his), but their political interre- lationship affects both of them and it is precisely the latter that constitutes them as an antagonistic pair, a dichotomous entity. Obversely, in case of the only pure socioeconomic classes, the modern bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the political aspect of their existence is not constitutive of their being an This content downloaded from 115.119.254.154 on Fri, 21 Feb 2014 04:46:31 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  213 economically antagonistic pair. In every consistently liberal-democratic country, politically-formally both of them are equally free. What constitutes their existence as (socioeconomic) classes is the relation of economic depend- ence or exploitation, an economically dichotomous relationship. Ibd) In the spirit of our definition, we exclude from the cluster of class relationships hose social ensembles which are dependent but the members of which behave, individually and collectively, as mere objects. Obviously, what we have in mind is the dichotomous ensemble of slave and slaveholder. This immediately shows that while for us all class relationships must perforce be dichotomous, we do not recognize all dichotomous relationships as class relations.) This statement needs further corroboration, the more so as slavery can emerge even in modernity (e.g., the Southern states of the United States which were regarded by Engels as capitalistic even if not industrialized). Further, by this statement we clearly distinguish relations of personal de- pendence, which are not class-like in character, rom relations of subordina- tion and hierarchy without personal dependence which mostly are. (Needless to say, relations of subordination and hierarchy can be those of personal dependence as well, but under the heading class we are only speaking of the kind which is not.) For us, the concept of class, this arch-evil of leftist discourse, has a decidedly positive connotation as well: where there is class, there is liberty, at least a certain measure of it. It is paradoxical that we have to remind others, after decades of willful opposition to reification, of the emancipatory aspect of reification as expressed n class existence. It is human relations which appear in class existence as relations of things, whereas the non-class relations of personal dependence are in fact relations of things (mere objects). This is so for a very simple reason. Persons living in a rigid world of seemingly unalterable personal dependence regard themselves (if they achieve the level of self-reflexion at all) as things, in that they accept their existence as parts of a process which has no alternative. But a process without alternative is nature. Anyone who does not distinguish himself or herself from nature, is not only unfree but is also unaware of the existence of freedom and in this sense a thing. The maximum that a network of personal dependence can give birth to is, at peaks of unendurability, the quest for becoming different which is the well-known basic pattern of all slave muti- nies. However, sublime moments like those do not generate dichotomous class cohesion. Ic) The incurable ill of Marx's generalized statement regarding history as class history in the famous passage of The Communist Manifesto5 s that he confuses, or rather merges, three disparate elements. One is constituted by dichotomous social relations the antagonistic partners of which are some- This content downloaded from 115.119.254.154 on Fri, 21 Feb 2014 04:46:31 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

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