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Philosophy of Flight: or, mutations of the reserve army


by Abdul-Karim Mustapha (Duke University, USA)


The thesis of Polanyi, like that of Durkheim in his famous study on the Social Division of Labour, is that class composition will remain fixed, more or less, throughout the transformations of capital.  What changes, they argue, are the ideological articulations of class, their capacities to announce themselves as bodies linked together through economic cooperation.


But since the days of those thinkers capital itself has changed, and so has the means of constituting subjects, hence class.  It remains that what we can observe in the various periods of capital on a world-scale is the endless mutation of the reserve army, that ineluctable class, which is continuously dispossesed and possesed by capital.


My goal in this paper is to revise the notion of the reserve army, as a hinge, the quilting point for every composition and recomposition of classes; at the same time, also to suggest that in the period of cognitive capital all subjects are linked by virtue of being assailed into the new reserve army. What constitutes that division or separation between classes is not economic or social hierarchy, but rather the capacity for flight.