Holloway, La Boetie, Hegel

Heathwood Press

September 17, 2013

By Richard Gunn and Adrian Wilding

ABSTRACT: The article presents a comradely critique of John Holloway’s Crack Capitalism, one which endorses Holloway’s notion of grassroots revolution but which raises questions about his discussion’s conceptual basis. In particular, Holloway’s reliance on Etienne La Boétie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude is found wanting whereas strands of thought concerning ‘contradiction’ in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit are held to provide more adequate foundation. Hegel, it is argued, not merely accounts for the possibility and necessity of revolutionary transformation; his account of the French Revolution in relation to the theme of ‘recognition’ indicates how revolution may be understood in a ground-up or grassroots sense.



Already in the title of John Holloway’s latest book, Crack Capitalism, the reader gets an inkling of something dynamic and urgent, something which  draws them in and pushes them forward towards a radical conclusion – an imperative of emancipation. As one of Holloway’s favourite thinkers, Ernst Bloch, might have said, there is something intriguing here even at the outset, something well worth following. Because Holloway’s title contains an ambiguity that will be a clue to the book’s profound message: ‘crack’ is both imperative and adjective, the urgent need to ‘crack’ capitalism inseparable in the author’s eyes from the presence of already-existing ‘cracks’ and fissures in the capitalist edifice. The emancipation which on the Marxist left was traditionally ascribed to labour and awaited in some future revolution is for Holloway to be decoupled from a labour exposed as mere obverse of capital’s coin, and construed not as potentiality but actuality; emancipation exists here and now, though at the margins or ‘interstices’ of a pervasive domination and exploitation. Put another way, in a formulation which recurs in Crack Capitalism, freedom exists ‘in, against and beyond’ capital. The marvellous idea of an already-existing ‘interstitial freedom’ is only one of many insights in this immensely rich and persuasive book.