Jacques Bidet


Why communism? 


A Jin Yuelin Lecture


Peking, October 2009

Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Department of Philosophy, Normal University


The theory initiated by Marx developed on two different registers.  On the one hand: Marxism learnt from political experiences – revolutions and class struggles –, with their successes and especially their setbacks.  On the other hand: from theoretical innovations.  Either internal:  from the Frankfurt School to Gramsci and Althusser, from world system approaches to materialist Feminism.  Or external: from Weber to Rawls, Habermas, Bourdieu, Derrida, Foucault and many other.  What is nowadays commonly called “Marxism” is a composition of all that.  Formulated in these general terms, the Marxist tradition continues to play a prominent role in the critique of modern societies.  It provides powerful arguments to unmask the destructive character of capitalism.

But Marx’s analysis also contained, in my opinion, from the beginning, some deficiencies that have marked Marxism until today. In my book, Théorie Générale, I tried to sketch a criticism and a reconstruction of this construction. The result is a concept of modern society and its history that differs on some points from that proposed by Marx.

In the first part of my presentation, I will recall briefly the main elements of this reconstruction, which I designate as the "metastructural theory”.

In a second part, I will present some perspectives of my current research, aiming to go further in this investigation.




First part.  The major concepts of Théorie Générale


Théorie Générale was organized around three concepts: metastructure, structure and system. 

1.1. The first term is that of metastructure

One remembers that Marx, in Capital, Book 1, Section 1, begins his exposition by an ideal theory of market production, which refers to the claim of capitalism to be defined as a "market economy".  Afterwards he will show why this claim is unfounded.  In fact, he says, in a full market economy, labour itself becomes a commodity.  In these conditions, we leave the supposed virtuous market logic, righteously oriented toward the production of use values, and we enter a capitalist logic of exploitation and profit, oriented towards abstract wealth, “surplus value”. But before coming to that point, he previously formulates an immanent criticism of the very idea of a “pure free market economy”, showing that it is in itself contradictory. This is precisely what is illustrated, as early as in the first chapter (paragraph IV), by the figure of fetishism.  The partners who accept the market as a natural law call themselves “free, equal and rational” while putting above their head a law that they recognize as imposing on them.  This is what can be called the "performative contradiction" of fetishism.  To this alienated human condition, Marx opposes immediately that of the free organization of the associated workers of the socialist future society:  "Let us imagine a society of free men possessing together the means of production and producing according to a concerted plan…". 

As a matter of fact, these two conflicting claims express two fetishist positions. That of liberalism: it proclaims itself as the substantial unity of democracy and the free market. That of socialism: it proclaims itself as the substantial unity of democracy and concerted planning. In both cases, the mediation - market or organization - appears ideologically as the relay of an immediately communicative discourse. I argued that actually the modern claim of “liberty, equality, rationality” is ideally defensible only on the basis of a critical relation between these two terms - market and organization –, a critical relation which would be effectively established by means of communicative discourse.

Marx was right to start the presentation of the modern form of society by the “position of modernity”, I mean: by what is officially declared in modern society as such. This is an "interpellation" from each to each in terms of “liberty, equality and rationality”, that Marx figured on the market scene. But, in my opinion, this interpellation is actually more complex. For this is not just a matter of contractual market interaction. We can address each other a “free and equal” only by establishing equally together a law by which everyone stands in a relation of freedom with everyone. Therefore contractual relation implies a double mediation that includes two poles: that of “each to each” and that of “everyone-among-all”. Each of these two poles has two sides, that of economic understanding (market / organization), and that of juridico-political reason (interindividual contractuality / central contractuality): the side of Verstand and the side of Vernunft. And this configuration can be verified as “reasonable” only under the criticism of the communicative discourse of each to each and of everyone among all.

Such is the “presupposition” posed by the modern class structure. It does not constitute the foundation of modernity, but its fiction reference. It is this complex figure - and not just the market - which "turns into its opposite” - in exploitation, domination, alienation - within the so called “capitalist” society. It is in this complex sense that the modern class domination is based, as claimed by the Frankfurt School, on an "instrumentalization of reason".   


1.2. It is from this metastructural viewpoint that we can now consider the structure, understood as class structure within the nation-state.

For this Marxian metastructural deficiency generates a structural error. Marx failed to grasp conceptually the fact that the “dominant class” includes two poles: one related to the market, governed by property, the other related to the organization, governed by competence. Owner’s power cannot exist without “competent” authority, in the broad sense of power-knowledge: an authority competent for supposedly legitimate cultural purposes and for alleged effective technical means. On the one side, then: the "owners". On the other: the "managers-and-competent." Or: "Finance" versus "Elite". They constitute two conniving and antagonistic poles, each of them being endowed with its own mechanisms of social reproduction. The unity within the "competence" pole, i.e. the continuity from managers to competent, from production to culture, consists in the fact that organization is always a matter of relation between supposedly rational means and presumably reasonable purposes.

This new working out of the Marxian conceptuality allows us not only to identify the "bipolarity" of the dominant class, but also to describe the other class. I proposed the name and the concept of "fundamental class" to refer positively to this historical social actor that a paternalistic language treats unilaterally as "dominated". One can decipher the positivity of the fundamental class only by considering, below the “class relations”, the “class factors” - market and organization - as what they are: our two primordial common rational reasonable resources beyond discourse, or the social forms of our common rationality-reason, – which are actually instrumented in their opposites. Thus understood, the fundamental class appears immediately as being divided into various fractions, according to which class factor predominates. Market relations: among 'independent' workers (peasants and others). Organizational relations: among the employees of public institutions. Or with more interaction between the two factors: among the employees of the private sector. It is also, in my opinion, in this conceptuality that exclusion and precariousness can be analyzed.

It is in this “structural context”, i.e. in this context of class domination, that in modern society everyone is “interpelled” as free, equal and rational. This is a more complex “interpellation” than the one Althusser had in mind. This interpellation is always both from-each-to-each and among-all. All declare and proclaim together: “we are free and equal!”. But this is an amphibological interpellation: from above it means that this “freequality” is actually given, and from below that it must be and will be achieved. This meta / structural relation (or the relation between metastructure and structure) determines the antagonistic and revolutionary character of modern society.


1.3. From the meta / structural analysis, another deficiency, of equal importance, appears in the Marxian construction, concerning the world-system. Market and organization are the two class factors, combined into the class structure. There is nevertheless a "metastructural asymmetry" between these two “poles”, i.e. a primacy of the “each-among-all” on the “each-to-each”. The things of the world are primarily the concern of all and everyone before anyone can decide he may dispose of whatever with another person. This is the Kantian thesis of an « original communism », which is secretly implied in the modern fiction. This means that this social structure, precisely as instrumentation of reason, can only exist under the community form of a nation-State under the aegis of an allegedly concerted organizational “last instance”: the State. That is the reason why capitalism emerges historically not as an empire, but as a pluriversum of entities, which had initially the dimension of the medieval city, then, growing with technological development, up to the size of conventional States, today tending to continental scale.

The peculiarity of the world system, by contrast with the class structure within the nation-State, is that it does not pose the metastructural presupposition. Hobbes already stressed that States are mutually in a “state of nature”, i.e. in a “state of war”. But we cannot simply distinguish between structure and system, between the part and the whole, between the (“acceptable” national) inside and the (“dreadful” international) outside: the whole is immanent, inherent in the part. Modern nation-State is “always already” perverted by the barbarity of the world-system. The barbarity of the centers on the peripheries is inherent in the centers themselves.

The necessary term of this historical trend is the world-State. It emerges on the horizon, as the ultimate geopolitical realization of this social logic of modernity. It is not to be understood as a utopia we should achieve, but as a historic social form, which takes place, slowly but irresistibly, behind our backs. What emerges is indeed a territory which is the world, a population that is mankind, a law which is that of capitalism. This global “statal” structure, still in gestation, is instrumented, and for a long time, by the capitalist forces of the central States, which dominate the world-system, and tend to dictate their laws through supranational institutions. Then what is looming on the horizon is an imperial global State, even if the tendency to its multi-polarization modifies the balances. But it is a modern class State, and as such an arena in which the metastructural injunction Marx reveals in the first chapter of Book 1 can be constantly heard. "Let us imagine an association of free men possessing in common the means of production”, and so on. Still, of course, remains the problem to know what we can today, at the time of ecological destruction, call “production”, "means of production", and if the pertinent question is that their "ownership”.


The third book of Théorie générale concerns practice, mainly political practice, seen from the consideration of its metastructural presuppositions through a critique of Rawls and Habermas. I leave this part aside.

This "metastructural theory" is summarized in Table 1. Its concepts have gradually clarified in the subsequent works[1].

My current research takes place in a nearly finished book, entitled Why Communism, The Metastructural Hypothesis. I aim to verify the metastructural hypothesis in the field of several disciplines, and therefore also on more specific topics, which are politics today, history of modernity, and cultural theory. This research is oriented towards the elucidation of the concept of “communism”, conceived as an alternative to both “liberalism” and “socialism”. It fits in this sense in a debate now underway in Europe illustrated by Badiou, Negri and Zizek and other eminent figures. But I consider this question in my own grammar.  




Second part:
About Why Communism


I will only summarize a few points, following the same plan as in the first part of this paper, in order to illustrate how these concepts can be used more concretely.


 2.1. New investigations on metastructure led me to apply the theory of modernity to the old question raised by Max Weber and to the current debate concerning the “modern” and the “Western”.

In Reconstruction of Historical Materialism, the young Habermas presented the question of the emergence of modernity in an evolutionary perspective imbued with Western superiority (see the Table given in Appendix). If you want to escape from of this trap, you must formulate a hypothesis endowed with a dual character: both historical, stating that something began somewhere at a given time, and generic, indicating that this something does not occur as the term of an evolution of the species, but by an unprecedented use of a common resource of humanity. That is, for example, exactly what both Adam Smith and Karl Marx do, when they select (and emphasize as being this essential resource), the former the faculty of exchange, the latter that of cooperation between free partners. They assume that these features belong to human nature. But each of them defines the new era by privileging one of them: either the free market (Smith) or the concerted organization (Marx), taken as the supposed vector of social contractuality, of emancipation and progress. As for me, I claim that this generic resource is to be found “below” these two (polarly opposite) figures of exchange and cooperation, “below” the mediations: in the very discursive immediacy.

I rely here on a further analysis of the same Habermas, which shows how communicative action, with its triple requirement of truth, rightness and authenticity, defines a situation in which partners recognize effectively each other as free, equal and rational. Assuming that communicative action becomes the rule of common political practice, it would precisely meet the requirements of a social contract.

Habermas aims to determine under which conditions such an objective could be achieved. As for me, I treat this paradigm quite differently: I just put forward the hypothesis that the characteristic of modernity is to assume supposedly this claim of a communicative action (of which the "social contract" is the explicit ideal formulation) as the official principle of social life and public institutions. I resume the "discursive-contractual" pattern, which aims to link these two concepts - discourse and contract - but in a purely analytical context: in order to identify the official "reference" which is characteristic of modernity, the presupposition posed by the modern form of society. What is declared in modernity beyond the contractual declaration is a discursive claim, the pretension of being a regime of "discourse".

The consequence of this paradigmatic reconfiguration is, I think, considerable. For thus understood, the modern contractual claim, now a discursive claim, is linked to this universal experience, common to all humans, of a supposed communicative relationship. It is therefore not surprising that all humans become so quickly "modern" when the opportunity is given: they are already endowed with the principle of modernity, all enjoying some experience of some supposed communicative interaction.

My hypothesis is that the emergence of modernity as a social logic is not to be found in the sole market form, as asserted by the Liberals, and (at least in a sense) by Marx himself. Modernity would actually happen in the coupling of two mediations, market and organization, under the claim of their submission to a regime of public speech/discourse. Taking the question this way does not mean that this "claim" is verified in reality, but only - in accordance with the Marxian approach - that it is from such a metastructure that we can account for the class structure which is specifically that of the modern form of society. And this leads to a new understanding of modern history.

If this hypothesis is correct, it happened a historical time in which the official slogan of liberty, equality, rationality would obscurely and gradually prevail: that of a public sociality ultimately governed by the standards of common speech /discourse, shared among equals. I argue that the location of this first oligarchic but structurally extensible phenomenon is the cultural space of the modest urban centers of medieval Europe. At the beginning is not the capitalist market, but the meta / structural configuration of which market is only a part. The Anglo-American Marxist school (see Robert Brenner, Ellen Meiksins Wood) deals with the problem of the beginning of capitalism, strictly understood as a competitive economy on a free market oriented toward profit, they rightly locate in the English sixteenth/seventeenth century. I raise quite a different question, in affinity with another historian tradition, illustrated by the Annales School and its today’s followers, who recognize in the city-states of the Italian thirteenth century the first outline of modern society.

The difference between Athens and Florence –between these Italian medieval republics and those of antiquity – is that the former is exclusively political, while the latter includes also economic activity. In this historical conjuncture, in which the old empire (Rome) and its (Carolingian, Germanic) successors collapsed and sovereignty split into small pieces, the Italian city gathers a population of merchants-producers and craftsmen (including their employees) who face the initial urban feudalism and become eventually strong enough to demand and obtain to participate in economic and political, legislative, judicial and executive power. Modernity begins with a scattered popular revolution. Of course, this revolution fails, and the feudal lords return. But its underground life continues, creating the foundation of modern political culture, of which Machiavelli is the symbol, and that is what reappears in the Reformation and the revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Clearly, this hypothesis engages a new reading of the subsequent history.


2.2. But before coming to that point, I would like to focus on the structure of modern society. And, more specifically: on the relations between social classes and political parties.  Doing that, I proceed now from history to sociology.

I recall here my scheme of modern society.









(in italics : )                                                           discursive immediateness                                      (in roman : )

Capital, Book I                                                                        ò                                                          proposed extension

Section I : the market                                                                                       MEDIATIONS                                                                              of  Section I      

__________________________________________   2 poles  _______________________________________

ò                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ò

Market (M)                                                                (economically) Rational                                           Organisation (O)

                  ô                                                                              2 sides    ô                                                                ô

Interindividual                                                                          (juridico-politically) Reasonable                                                                  Central

Contractuality                                                                                                                                                                                           Contractuality

_Metastructural State (supposedly rule by Law)

declaration,  denegation


Section II : Transformation of market into capital


Section III : capital                                                                  Structure                       proposed extension of Section III


_____________________________  2 poles  ______________________________

ò                                                                                                                                                                                                      ò

Market (M)                                                                                                                                                                                                            Organisation (O)

shareholders                                                                                                                                                                                          “managers”, “staff”, “officers”


___________________________  various fractions ___________________________

ò                                                                                                                                                                                                      ò

selfemployment (M)                                   firm (M+O  )                                  administration (O)

 “farmers”, “craftsmen”            /jobless/               “ waged workers and employees”          /jobless/     “state employees”

(Structural or) Class-State

violence - compromises - hegemony


M                                              Tendency/Agency (here : politics)                                                 O


_________   _             ___ _________  parties of dominant Alternation  ________                   ___________

ò                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ò

the party of Property                                                                                                                                                   the   party  of Competence

shareholders                                                                                                                                                                     “managers”, “staff”, “officers”

 ò                                                                                 elective affinities                                          ò

                                        the party of the Alternative                             “Alliance”  ñ

   with competence

 _______________________________                     __ “Unity” among _________________ ____________________ ____________                     

 “farmers”, “craftsmen”     /jobless/               “ waged workers and employees”                /jobless/               “state employees”

discursive immediateness and associated struggle







We saw that market and organization refer to the two polar social forces, both converging and antagonistic, which constitute the dominant class. There are indeed two classes. But not according to the traditional "capitalist / working class” pattern. The pertinent divide is between "capitalist owners  +  managers-and-competent-élite" and the "fundamental class".

We can understand why the fundamental class has always sought the alliance with the elite pole. The power of competence has actually another nature than that of property. Briefly, it makes itself felt only by “exposing” itself and communicating somehow (see Foucault). Clearly this competence pole is thus continuously, structurally reproduced. But it remains by nature more open to criticism and subversion. And it is less dramatically submitted than the power of the capitalist owners to the logic of abstract wealth. The organization maintains with discourse quite a different relation than market does.

In this regard, classical Marxism presents a surprising bias. It theorizes a supposedly two-class game, identified as capitalists and waged workers. But it inspires, contradictorily (and rightly), a constant political practice, which actually surreptitiously engages not two, but three protagonists: the fundamental class and the two elements of the dominant class, the capitalist owners and the managers-and-competent. And, what is even more surprising, this fight takes place on a political scene that includes only two places, the “right” and the “left”. Which - and this is the height of irony - do not correspond to the duality of the involved classes - but to the dual poles of domination. On the right: Finance. On the left: Elite.

In addition to this, note that the principle of formal legitimacy - or the principle of government by the majority, which divides the political scene into two parts – says by itself nothing of the substance of the dispute between majority and minority. However, it is noteworthy that this formal “majority / minority” couple determines constantly a substantial Left / Right (or vice versa) split, which is indicative of a very specific social, economic and ideological content. Put briefly, the Right gives more power to property (market), the Left more power to organization. That should give rise to a theoretical astonishment. As we can see, the paradox that Right /Left does not match with the class division, but with the bipolarity within the dominant class becomes clear only from the meta / structural analysis.

It is also with help of such theoretical approach that we can account for the paradoxical distribution of the vote of the fundamental class under the conditions of the modern bipolar domination. The employees most involved in "organizational" relationships, those who can better rely on a recognized competence to get organized collectively, have an “elective” affinity with the Left. 'Independent' workers and those who cannot do anything but take refuge in some market waged security managed from the top - in short, the most alienated, the most exploited ones – feels a similar affinity with the Right.

The rational standpoint of the fundamental class is to "break" the dominant class: to put an end to the functional connivance between its two constituent poles. The the only way to do it is to ally with “competence”, to release it from the hold of "property". That implies that the fundamental class realizes its own hegemony over the managers-and-competent and shows able to prevail politically within the Left. The alliance is a battle: the “elite” must be beaten as an adversary by a constant struggle against its prerogatives, to be elected as a partner. Only under these conditions we can speak of a “Left” in capitals, assuming somehow the values it proclaims. The "Left", so understood is not a structure (it has no location on a “class structure table”). It is an event that occurs only when the fundamental class is capable to overcome its own divisions and realize the unity among its factions.

We could observe, in the West, the raise of this historic opportunity from the 30s to 70s. The “managers-and-competent” together with the “fundamental class”, while remaining in their class contradiction, converged within the nation-State as national welfare State, on targets where everyone could partly recognize its own. 1968’ marked the paradoxical summit of this trend. This was only a beginning, one used to say. When, after the 70s, the neoliberal globalization disqualified this social matrix, the managers-and-competent tend spontaneously to offer their "skills" for the service of the new order dominated by Finance. Under these conditions, the traditional workers' parties lose their partners and also their benchmarks, and tend to dissolve. Clearly, a prospect of emancipation is to be rebuilt.

This was just a summary of the class confrontation in the West. One knows that the course of history was very different elsewhere, for example in China, under different historical conditions, but in a similar meta/structural context.


2.3. Let us turn now to the third concept, that of world-system. The issue is complex, and I'll stick to some philosophical considerations.

Modern political philosophy has taken the nation-State as the very paradigm of the political, where all its main concepts are formed: general will, free and equal citizens, sovereignty, democracy, legitimacy, law, universal suffrage, justice, "police" (in the old sense of national organizational politics), division of powers, and so on. ... The relationship between nations was thus defined negatively as "state of war". Political philosophy, with Kant, is in search of some reasonable ways to ensure its abolition. But it has nothing analytically positive to say about this non-institution which is the global whole constituted by nations and other territories.

Paradoxically, the Marxian problematic is part of this lineage. Certainly it carries out a sharp criticism of political economy and modern political philosophy which unmasks class domination behind contractual, private or public, arrangements. The state of war, once deemed to prevail among nations, is now projected within each society, but in the milder form of class struggle. Classical Marxism theorized the universal expansion of capitalism, based, as much as on its ability to compete, on the military power of the colonial States, supporting a "primitive accumulation" that became larger and larger over time. But its own central working concept – that of “capitalist mode of production” – is a concept of structure, of class domination. Such a concept does not allows it to develop a “systemic” problematic, a theoretical problematic of war, of national domination, that of a nation over other populations.

Carl Schmitt returns the situation, taking the “friend / enemy” couple – or the categories of war – as the primary concept of political philosophy, defining "the essence of politics." That is indeed a radical criticism of modern political philosophy: not only of Liberalism, but also of Marxism. Taking the “friend / enemy” couple as the key paradigm means understanding the class struggle as a kind of war waged by other means. This idea fascinates today radical Marxists. That however does not seem acceptable. If it is actually correct to distinguish between these two concepts, struggle and war, it is because they represent the two dimensions of modernity: class structure and world system. We must clearly distinguish these two theoretical dimensions if we are to understand what concretely happens, i.e. how they mix in a single configuration. And what kind of horror is produced, as the systemic form mobilizes and perverts the structural form, or rather multiplies structural class perversion by systemic perversion. And that is modernity.

The decisive, and unnoticed, point which must guide our analysis is however that there is, between these two dimensions – structure and system – a lexical order, a conceptual sequence, a “rational” succession in the Hegelian sense that "what is rational is real". For it is national class structure that is the key to world system. And not vice versa, in the sense that the whole would explain the part, as Wallerstein puts forward. The reason of that is that we can understand the system (of the nation-States) only starting from the (class) structure.

For first, due to the metastructural asymmetry between its two poles, between interindividual contractuality and central contractuality, this particular class structure can develop only within the nation-State form. This argument can seem purely idealistic (if you forget there is some presupposed ideality in the nation-State, always returned into its contrary). It can be taken as a materialistic assertion: because of its vastness relatively to available technologies (even without considering the old national and ethnic divisions), the capitalist geographical totality constitutes, from the very beginning, a whole which is not “meta/structurally” manageable. The space within which it appeared could not be institutionally unified by one central supposed common will or as an empire under a common domination, but only as a plural set, a systemic plurality of nation-States.

Second, it is the structural dynamic (that of the Marxian "capitalist mode of production" which combines specific technologies to specific social relations) that ultimately determines the tendencies and therefore the mutations within the system. The system itself has no tendency, except those deriving from of the structure. For it is the technological development under the stimulation of the modern capitalist (market-organized) social relations which leads to the fact that nation-states are increasingly larger and larger and more able to conquer in the world system space. And this structural tendency leads eventually to the emergence of a world-State, of a global modern class-State, embedded within the imperialist system.

As the imperialist system is refracted in the structure of the nation-State (and already of the world-State in gestation), the two figures, that of class adversary and that of national enemy tend to form a single one. This is bound to blur the distinction between structure and system, between adversaries and enemies, and to pit one against the other “class nations” and “racialized classes”. A testimony of that is also the fact that the nation-state is not only equipped with a police, but also with an army, an institution at the juncture of structure and system, naturally prone to take some part in the class struggles.


2.4. What kinds of practical, social and cultural orientation can be drawn of this analysis? I attempted to do it in the problematic of the world-State. Resuming this issues would exceed the limits of this paper (you can see Altermarxisme). I will confine my explanations to a few indications on the ideological field and the contemporary political arena.

2.4.1. If the metastructural hypothesis, with its "systemic" complement, is correct, it follows a general theory of modern ideology. We must distinguish, alongside "traditional" ideologies, two "modern" types of ideology. On the one hand: the  “metastructural" ideologies of the dominant class: together with the "utopias" of the fundamental class they lie in the same "metastructural field". This field is divided by the amphibology inherent to the class contradiction within the civil context of the nation-state structure. On the other hand, "systemic" ideologies: they belong to the capitalist world-system, which is the other – international, imperialist, colonial and postcolonial – barbaric dimension of modernity. These three contemporary forms of ideology  – traditional, metastructural, systemic – mix in various ways in social practices and struggles.

Table 2. “Ideologies versus utopias "in modern time



traditional recycled  in modern time

civil  modern:

= (national) structural

barbaric  modern:

= world-systemic


sexism, homophobia



ideologies: liberalism, republicanism

systemic  ideologies

(or cryptologies) :






utopias :




This approach allows on the one hand to link together, within the metastructure, the modern structural ideologies of domination and modern utopias of emancipation, which cannot escape (a fight within) a common conceptuality, that of the metastructural presupposition of freequality-rationality. These two kinds of discourse are immanent in practices, i.e. in acts that always are also speech acts, by which the metastructure is posed again and again and differently. “Liberty, equality and rationality” takes constantly new contents, by advances or retreats. In this, they differ from the “cryptologies”, or systemic ideologies, like racism, which do not fall under the modern metastructural "dispute" (the “différend”, see Lyotard), but are pure violence in cryptic language. And everything would be fine if these two kinds of discourse – ideologies and cryptologies – did not merge in our ultimodern time under systemic influence.


2.4.2. As for the modern political configuration, I will make a few comments on what regards the structure, irrespective of systemic relations that “overdetermine” the structure.


Table 3. Class positions in the context of the modern class structure



dominant classe

fondamental class


 class factors





(market + organisation) communication


 hegemonical  centers

pole of property

pole of direction-and-competence

fondamental class


hegemonical perspective

(social) liberalism


(liberal) socialism












Marxism, an ambiguous  theory:

communism from the perspective of socialism


I choose the term “Liberalism” to refer to the perspective of the owners and that of “Socialism” to refer to that the managers-and-competent. These two conflicting social forces, "Finance" and "Elite", tend to form an alliance either under a "social liberalism" or under a "liberal socialism", according to the balance of power. Neoliberalism has become the ideological tendency of the first and Republicanism (always with some touch of utopia) that of the second. I identify “Communism” as the perspective of the fundamental class. The fundamental class has good reasons to look for an alliance with the latter against the former. "Marxism" in its historical form appears as a Communism in terms of Socialism. A popular politics of emancipation, aiming to break class domination, is only possible when the fundamental class succeeds in teaming with the “Elite”, but, to put it in Gramscian terms, this time in hegemonic position. Clearly, Communism bears the enigmatic burden of both theory and utopia.



ANNEX. The evolutionary hypothesis of Habermas
(from a paper given at Fudan University, 2008)

In Reconstruction of Historical Materialism (1976), Habermas offered a picture of the future of mankind by articulating a theory of evolution, which understands phylogenesis as a Weberian rationalization process, and a theory of history, which reformulates the Marxian concepts of successive forms of society.

He draws his inspiration from Piaget’s ontogenesis. The child becomes an adult by through three stages of rationality: 1 / pre-conventional, in which facts and intentions are still confused, 2 / conventional, in which he is able to refer to values and principles, 3 / post-conventional, in which he is able to argue on the values and principles themselves. This path would be, according to Habermas, that of human societies in their historical sequence: 'Neolithic', 'ancient', 'advanced', 'modern' societies. But this evolution would be more or less rapid according to the three relevant dimensions of social existence: the "action systems" that organize everyday life (later designated as the "life world"), the legal and moral institutions, the "world views" proper to each particular civilization. The upper “post-conventional” rationality appears within the worldviews of advanced civilizations. But it prevails within the action systems and institutions only with modern times, characterized by "capitalist enterprise", "bourgeois private law", "formal democracy", "natural or rational law”, "separation between legitimacy and morality".








action systems


world views
































  Post-conventional     (a modern man ?)




(formal law)








[1] - Explication et reconstruction du Capital (Explanation and Reconstruction of Capital),  PUF 2004, which is an attempt to reconstruct the founding work of Marx on the basis of the analysis summarized in this table. It provides a kind of “matching piece” of General Theory.
                - Altermarxisme (Altermarxism), PUF, 2007, a book written with Gérard Duménil, an economist and a disciple of Althusser, which offers a historical and political orientation based on that approach in the spirit of the “alter-globalization” movement.

- Dictionnaire Marx contemporain (Critical Companion for Contemporary Marxism, Brill 2007, edited with Stathis Kouvelakis). See the introduction and the articles Bourdieu and Habermas.