Two years of misrule – violence and ideology



The subsumption of work to capital assumes contours that do not allow more spaces for non-capitalist accumulation.

Recently, at an event promoted by Editora da Unifesp and Coletivo Editorial Ideias Baratas, when discussing the work Unequal and combined development: Modernity, Modernism and Permanent Revolution by Neil Davidson[I] I was asked to analyze, using their premises, the Brazilian hypothesis from its “redemocratization”, culminating with the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

The book deepens Trotsky's concept of uneven and combined development, especially from an archaic and modern perspective.[ii] To draw a dividing line between the two, Neil Davidson starts from the idea that modernity would have been established with the English Industrial Revolution. Due to the industrialization process that took place there, there would have been an intensification of the subsumption of work to capital, from formal to real – which would be fundamental for his exploration of the concept of modern. Therefore, in Davidson's reading, the archaic would be everything that is pre-modern, that is, loaded with characteristics prior to the advent of the English Industrial Revolution.

Having made the choice, the author starts to use the clipping to investigate its incidence in the interior of several countries of the West and the East, indicating in them the concomitant presence of elements of the archaic and the modern. In summary, the unequal and combined would be linked, in the work, to the set of these elements that are debated internally in the country, considering the elements of modernity (that is, post-Industrial Revolution capitalism). This archaic-modern dialectic would provide us with the tone of how these countries processed their insertion in global capitalism.

At a later time, with the advent of post-modernity, there would no longer remain, for some, any more possibilities for the permanence of even modern (much less archaic) elements in capitalism. Davidson puts himself in the opposite position. Supporting the viability of preserving the archaic-modern dialectic up to the present day, he argues that, even today, it would be possible to apply the thesis of uneven and combined development, based on the premises he put forward. To prove his thesis, he draws attention to cases of the confluence of the archaic and the modern in Latin America and especially in China, of which he makes a detailed analysis.

It is a work that, despite being very important for the analysis in particular of the trends of Trotsky's main concepts in Trotskyism today, raises some possibilities for investigation:

(a) having, in the author's evaluation, modernity established its premises from the Industrial Revolution (and, therefore, only from there would we have the possibility of coexistence, in countries on the periphery of capitalism, of the modern and the archaic), the great The question that arises (important for attributing an extension to the treatment given by the author to uneven and combined development) would be the following: would the archaic elements considered only be what exist since capitalism or can they also refer to pre-capitalist elements?

I think that the question is fundamental and, in my opinion, is not explored with the necessary depth in the work. The problem boils down, therefore, to the following question: the archaic, in the manner treated by the work, would be reduced to a set of elements prior to the Industrial Revolution circumscribed to capitalism itself (which would correspond to a number of elements that remain from an initial phase the subsumption of labor to capital – more specifically the formal subsumption) or would the archaic include, in addition, a set of “remnants” from other modes of production?;

(b) If it is the case of admitting only the first hypothesis (the archaic corresponding only to elements of the capitalist mode of production itself), we would be facing the verification that, even today, the real subsumption of labor to capital would not have completed the its cycle in countries on the periphery of capitalism, and therefore, based on the author's assumptions, this would be an indispensable element for understanding the specific and differentiated pace of these countries in the global process of capitalism. However, if this is the solution (that is, the dialectic relationship between the archaic and the modern would only be based on the capitalist mode of production), postmodernity really becomes a problem for the thesis – even if rejected by the author.

Admitting that, even today, the archaic corresponds to the initial moment of the subsumption of labor to capital, would be to admit that there are in current societies, especially in countries on the periphery of capitalism, spaces for a formal subsumption that is really expressive for the way of capitalist production. It would be almost like using an analysis model based on highly residual historical determinations that do not effectively impact local and global capitalism. With the increasing internationalization of the productive forces, the subsumption of work to capital, as a phenomenon thought from the perspective of global capitalism, is found at a very intensified and generalized level both in countries on the periphery and in those at the center of capitalism, corresponding to what I call hyperreal subsumption of labor to capital[iii].

I understand that thinking about the issue from the perspective of social form would be more effective (with the notion of legal form, its corresponding idea of ​​universalization of the subject of law and conformation of form to new historical determinations). This becomes even more evident if one understands that the archaic concerns elements of a mode of production that has already been superseded (the second possibility mentioned above).

From what has been exposed so far, it is easier to respond to the proposed challenge regarding the possibility of an analysis that starts from elements of the archaic and the modern in the period of “redemocratization” that would have culminated with the Bolsonaro government (and even its period of existence, period in which the issue becomes clearer in view of the phenomenon of the hyper-real subsumption of labor to capital).

Initially, as I insisted in exposing the presuppositions of Davidson's work, there is a problem in the location, especially when thinking from the Trotskyist concept of combined development, referring to the very notion of archaic and modern, especially for societies on the periphery of the capitalism in the early XNUMXst century. If at the beginning of the XNUMXth century it would have been easier to see the combination of both in pre-revolutionary Russia, for example, I believe that this is no longer so simple today.

And here, even if Davidson ruled out the hypothesis, the issue of postmodernity would indeed be a problem. Despite the fact that it is an expression of capitalism itself, considered by some to not even exist, the truth is that with each new historical determination, the capitalist mode of production conforms in a different way, even if it is preserved in the same social form of production as closes it. Therefore, although it is a continuity of capitalism, when considered from the perspective of the social form of production, postmodernity, in the dynamics of content, is a discontinuity that cannot be ignored.

It is what I usually call discontinuous continuity: it is continuous in terms of social form, although discontinuous in terms of content. And even if a change in social form cannot be made simply by altering the content, analysis of the latter helps us to understand the general movements of social form. Thus, with post-modernity we witness the passage from a rigid organization of the purchase and sale of the workforce, typical of modernity, to its flexible organization, and this is important for the analysis of the social form of production as a whole.

Hence, it is possible to say that there was a totalization of the subsumption of work to capital (which I call hyper-real subsumption), with no way of rescuing the archaic-modern dichotomy from the preservation reading key, with significant force within capitalism, elements of formal subsumption or previous modes of production. It would be nonsense even if highly circumstantial data, if possible, could be considered for reading an entire mode of production. There would be a loss of analysis from the perspective of totality carried out from the production itself.

Examples abound. A quilombola community at the beginning of the XNUMXst century is informed by its own historical determinations, different from the quilombos of the period of colonial slavery in Brazil. Foci of resistance and community with their own internal dynamics, the latter cannot be confused, even based on the notion of territoriality, with their current “remnants”. The meaning is simple: in capitalism, the subject of law tends to become universal, even though the dialectic relationship violence/ideology, nowadays, makes the existence of the archaic unfeasible.

Let's look at this in a little more depth, since it is also an important issue for the analysis of the archaic and the modern in the process that culminated in the Bolsonaro government and in his administration period. And here it is essential to study the issue of legal ideology and its relationship with violence as a component of the legal form. And this is important, since the archaic, in the analyzed concept, brings with it the remaining violence of the beginning of capitalism (in its relation with the legal ideology still in the process of consolidation, more specifically in the formal subsumption) and of previous modes of production ( where it falls directly on the producer, without the need for an ideology to support it).

Therefore, when Davidson analyzed the archaic-modern dialectical relationship, there was, in my understanding, a certain neglect of the issue of ideology and also of its dialectical relationship with violence. And here I am thinking of ideology in the Althusserian sense: a set of repeated practices that interpellate the individual as subject to a given mode of production. In the archaic, the violence/ideology relationship is different from the postmodern, and it is unsustainable to think of it in the same way today.

With regard specifically to the capitalist mode of production, the use of the dialectical pair ideology-violence demonstrates that the legal ideology (as well as the subject of law) tends to universalize itself and the extra-economic violence to the producer of the merchandise that remains, especially in countries on the periphery of capitalism, is an important element at its disposal in its constant search for universalization. That is, even this direct coercion must be seen from the point of view of the capitalist mode of production and not as another parallel social form.

Where there is capitalism with more incisive extra economic violence, the trend is not the end of legal ideology, but the need for its strengthening, developed especially from instances such as religion, which is only relatively autonomous, since it comes from the matrix itself ideological-juridical.

Even in countries on the periphery of capitalism, another observation must be made of how this “strong” legal ideology is dialectically related to violence. First, it will never be your legitimizer. It would not be possible for the state (state-form) to admit violence, leaving it averse to its thrust. Officially and using its repressive apparatus, the State will always be on the side of the discourse of the end of the violence practiced, for example, from “parallel powers”. The trend is towards the universalization of legal ideology and the subject of law, with the imposition of penalties and legal restrictions on holders of such “parallel power”.

The State cannot get rid of the assertion of its legal power and even its dispute within the legal form, otherwise we would be in another mode of production. See a trivial example. In the case of drug trafficking in Brazilian favelas, even though, in practice, political and public agents may be involved with it, it is not given to the state to officially approach traffickers as if they were their partners – as it does with a large part of the population. private initiative with its legally constituted companies.

On the other hand, trafficking organizes violence based on the assumption of the reiteration of the practice of buying and selling goods and, in particular, the workforce. That is, their violence follows the “aesthetic” pattern of what is imposed by the contractual ideology. Cocaine would be nothing more than a commodity that is produced and circulated and that is subject to the theory of value in the sense of economics (equal works in the abstraction process of capitalism). Therefore, the entire network of extra economic violence exercised by the trafficker over the producers of other goods is a mirror (although producing inverted images, which makes it impossible to admit it as a given of the form) of its structural matrix of the legal form.

However, by reproducing the structuring dynamics of the legal form in illegality, a doubly qualified violence is operated on the working class. Therefore, the violence of trafficking will never be revolutionary, since, in the dialectical pair with ideology, it reproduces the dynamics of the legal form (albeit from the perspective of the dialectic of the negative), and, if it is victorious, it will constitute a new mode of production, which I usually call barbarism (not in the sense given by Rosa Luxemburgo).

This is anti-revolutionary violence, which, if accepted as a rule, would replace the legal ideology with another, perhaps structurally similar, which, however, would no longer need to cover up (but would start to play a different role) violence in production and circulation. the buying and selling of labor power. In this case, for example, there would be no trace of the initial period of capitalism with its real subsumption or even of other modes of production.

Things like drug trafficking, work in conditions analogous to the condition of enslavement and other similar things have nothing to do, in our understanding, with the expression of the archaic, they are just dimensions of the conformation of the legal form to given historical determinations. Therefore, they are subject to the dynamics of potential expansion of the legal form at a time when the subsumption of capital to work assumes contours that do not allow more spaces for non-capitalist accumulation. All this is part of the typically capitalist accumulation process.

Therefore, care must be taken with the straying of some theorists who resort to social forms of production that are autonomous and lateral to capitalism to justify residual extra-economic violence (as when conceiving the existence of concomitant forms of original accumulation in capitalism). This position takes us out of the fight to transform the mode of production, placing us in the wrong field of dispute. We would no longer be debating against capitalism and its legal ideology, but against alternative and residual forms taken by the “archaic” (although, even though this type of violence is more visible in countries on the periphery of capitalism, it is about constituent element of the global dimension of the capitalist mode of production, which is already informed by an antecedent oppression of the countries of the center in relation to those of the periphery).

We would be struggling in a fight against what is residual, thought of as an expression of the archaic. With that, we would be trapped in the illusion that, once these violent archaic residual modalities are dissipated, we would be better able to break with capitalism. The error of this reading is evident. History itself demonstrates that, as long as capitalism exists, such forms of coercion, at best, will be fought from the perspective of the prevailing social form of production (the legal form) – which tends to its universalization.

If, on the contrary, the universalization were of extra economic violence against the producer, we would be in the process of dissipating capitalism, moving towards its replacement by anti-revolutionary forms and endowed with an ideology that would coexist, and no longer hide it, with this modality of violence. The fight must take place on the bases of the reproduction of the purchase and sale of merchandise, with this the violence that reproduces, even if only in a structural imitation, this dynamic (such as, for example, the aforementioned drug trafficking), will be eliminated and no longer reproduced, thus providing a truly revolutionary response to capitalism[iv].

Everything we have raised leads us to the following conclusion: we do not understand that the Brazilian “redemocratization” process, which led to the Bolsonaro government, can be thought of from the archaic-modern dialectic in the manner explained above. Even this government cannot be taken from this notion – and this even if it is considered to be the defender of an outdated nationalism, of “backward” choices in relation to questions of gender or sexuality or for having been the one who, in recent years, , less fought enslaved labor or promoted agrarian reform.

All these issues must be thought of in the perspective of the hyper-real subsumption process of labor to capital, involving a very specific relationship between violence and ideology. With this phenomenon, which is analyzed by some as an expression of the archaic, nothing else is the result of the victory of a fraction of the bourgeoisie that, after intense internal confrontation, resulted in the Bolsonaro government. A wilder fraction, which defends a capitalism with fewer human rights and less social rights, but still a dimension of capitalism. It must be thought of from the dynamics of typically capitalist accumulation and not from any other nature. Believing differently brings difficulties to the political struggle against this government from the perspective of class struggle. Finally, these years of misgovernment pose challenges for political theory and practice.

*Marcus Orione is a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo (USP).


[I] Available in

[ii] Here I think it is fundamental to highlight a passage by Trotsky himself so that we can understand the reason for the author's choice: “The laws of History have nothing to do with pendantesque schematism. Uneven development, which is the most general law of the historical process, nowhere reveals itself more clearly and complexly than in backward countries. Whipped by the lash of material needs, backward countries are forced to advance by leaps and bounds. From this universal law of the unequal development of culture flows another which, for lack of a more suitable name, we will call the law of combined development, alluding to the approximation of the different stages of the path and the confusion of different phases, to the amalgamation of archaic and modern forms. (TROTSKY, Leon. History of the Russian Revolution. IT 2nd. ed. Trans. Diogo de Siqueira and Patricia Mafra. first chapter, p. 22, Ed. From Sundermann, 2017. p. 22).

[iii] Check out about ORIONE, Marcus. Hyper-real subsumption of labor to capital and state – the case of the Brazilian Labor Court. LTr Magazine, Sao Paulo, vol. 05, year 85, May 2021 (in press). A shorter version of this article, with some changes and without touching on the theme of the state, is also present in the following work: ORIONE, Marcus. Hyper-real subsumption of work to capital and new technologies. In OLIVEIRA, Christiana D'arc Damasceno (Coord. and Org.). Revolution 5.0 and New Technologies. São Paulo: Tirant lo Blanch Brasil, 2021 (Transformations in the World of Work Collection, v. 3), (in press).

[iv] The last four paragraphs reproduce part of the broader thought contained in the following text: ORIONE, Marcus. On the banks of the Seine: towards a theory of the history of the working class. In: BATISTA, Flávio Roberto; MARTINS, Carla Benitez; SEFERIAN, Gustavo. Paris Commune, State and Law. Belo Horizonte: RTM, 2021. p. 113-132.

See this link for all articles


  • João Cândido and the Revolt of the Whipwhip revolt 23/06/2024 By PETRÔNIO DOMINGUES: In the current context, in which there is so much discussion about State reparations for the black population, the name of João Cândido cannot be forgotten
  • Fear and HopeJoao_Carlos_Salles 24/06/2024 By JOÃO CARLOS SALLES: Against the destruction of the public university
  • The collapse of Zionismfree palestine 80 23/06/2024 By ILAN PAPPÉ: Whether people welcome the idea or fear it, Israel's collapse has become predictable. This possibility should inform the long-term conversation about the future of the region
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Theological manual of neoliberal neo-PentecostalismJesus saves 22/06/2024 By LEONARDO SACRAMENTO: Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones