Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation
Department/Program Conferring Degree
capitalism, precarity, instability, Marx, Benjamin
This dissertation recovers stability as a critical concept. Once a fundamental political category, stability has been largely abandoned in contemporary political philosophy. Through a dialectical analysis of capitalist stability and instability, I criticize this abandonment and demonstrate that the concept of stability is essential for theorizations of justice. This dissertation, first, maps out a shift in political philosophy from an understanding of stability as central to political life, exemplified in social contract theory, to a fear of stability as detrimental to political life, evident in much contemporary political philosophy. I refer to this tendency to disavow stability and advocate for political praxes that are disruptive and destabilizing, as the politics of disruption. The politics of disruption, exemplified in the radical democracy tradition, precarity theory, and the Autonomista tradition can be encapsulated in the following tendencies: to critique capitalism only from the point of view of distribution rather than production, to theorize ephemeral disruptions of the present and not the total transformation of society, and to call on the most oppressed to resist their oppression. Second, through Karl Marx, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Neue Marx Lektüre, I explain the politics of disruption as an ideological formation of the capitalist dialectic of stability and instability. Through a novel reading of Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse, I argue that capitalism is a “stable instability.” That is, capitalist society is characterized by a dialectic of stability and instability: instability as the ongoing transformation of production and social life, and stability as the constant reproduction of capital at an expanded scale and thus the constant reconstitution of capitalist society as a seemingly-eternal present. Finally, I argue that this dialectic is generated by the contradiction between wealth and value, which creates the possibility of the negation of capitalist society while at the same time foreclosing that possibility. However, this analysis simultaneously reveals the historical possibility of negating capitalist society through the abolition of unstable wage-labor as value producing labor. I theorize this possibility through an engagement with Benjamin’s conception of “the new historical epoch” and his understanding of justice. Thus, this dissertation reclaims stability as emancipation from capitalism’s stable instability. foreclosing that possibility. However, this analysis simultaneously reveals the historical possibility of negating capitalist society through the abolition of unstable wage-labor as value producing labor. I theorize this possibility through an engagement with Benjamin’s conception of “the new historical epoch” and his understanding of justice. Thus, this dissertation reclaims stability as emancipation from capitalism’s stable instability.
Mulaj, Jeta, "Reclaiming stability: the dialectic of stability and instability in capitalist society" (2021). College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations. 305.
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