庞蒂论自由 513

We shall arrive at the same result by considering our relations with
history. Taking myself in my absolute concreteness, as I am presented
to myself in reflection, I find that I am an anonymous and pre-human
flux, as yet unqualified as, for instance, ‘a working man’ or ‘middle
class’. If I subsequently think of myself as a man among men, a bourgeois
among bourgeois, this can be, it would seem, no more than a
second order view of myself; I am never in my heart of hearts a worker
or a bourgeois, but a consciousness which freely evaluates itself as a
middle class or proletarian consciousness.


And indeed, it is never the
case that my objective position in the production process is sufficient to
awaken class consciousness. There was exploitation long before there
were revolutionaries. Nor is it always in periods of economic difficulty
that the working class movement makes headway. Revolt is, then, not
the outcome of objective conditions, but it is rather the decision taken
by the worker to will revolution that makes a proletarian of him.


The evaluation of the present operates through one’s free project for the
future. From which we might conclude that history by itself has no
significance, but only that conferred upon it by our will. Yet here again
we are slipping into the method of ‘the indispensable condition failing
which . . .’: in opposition to objective thought, which includes the
subject in its deterministic system, we set idealist reflection which
makes determinism dependent upon the constituting activity of the subject.


Now, we have already seen that objective thought and analytical reflection are two aspects of the same mistake, two ways of overlooking the phenomena. Objective thought derives class consciousness from the objective condition of the proletariat. Idealist
reflection reduces the proletarian condition to the awareness of it,
which the proletarian arrives at.


The former traces class-consciousness
to the class defined in terms of objective characteristics, the latter on
the other hand reduces ‘being a workman’ to the consciousness of
being one. In each case we are in the realm of abstraction, because we
remain torn between the in itself and the for itself. If we approach the
question afresh with the idea of discovering, not the causes of the act of
becoming aware, for there is no cause which can act from outside upon
a consciousness—nor the conditions of its possibility, for we need
to know the conditions which actually produce it—but class consciousness
itself, if, in short, we apply a genuinely existential
method, what do we find?


I am not conscious of being working class or
middle class simply because, as a matter of fact, I sell my labour or,
equally as a matter of fact, because my interests are bound up with
capitalism, nor do I become one or the other on the day on which I
elect to view history in the light of the class struggle: what happens is
that ‘I exist as working class’ or ‘I exist as middle class’ in the first place,
and it is this mode of dealing with the world and society which provides
both the motives for my revolutionary or conservative projects
and my explicit judgements of the type: ‘I am working class’ or ‘I am
middle class’, without its being possible to deduce the former from the
latter, or vice versa.


What makes me a proletarian is not the economic
system or society considered as systems of impersonal forces, but these
institutions as I carry them within me and experience them; nor is it an
intellectual operation devoid of motive, but my way of being in the
world within this institutional framework.



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