Research Outline

From Subset of Theoretical Practice
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The Subset of Theoretical Practice is a research group that is currently engaged with developing a new approach to Leftist political thinking, in which political economic analysis and questions of political organization can be treated under a common theoretical framework. Departing from this initial proposition, we investigate several threads of enquiry, connecting Marxist political economy, political experimentation and new philosophical and formal tools.

Our group is associated to the Circle of Studies of Idea and Ideology, but participation is open to anyone who wishes to engage with the basic premises of our project in an active way.

We meet every monday and all our encounters are recorded and then included in our research map, together with any visual materials used in the presentation.

A summary of our research was published in 2020, in Crisis and Critique.[1]

Basic premises of the research

The strategic objectives of this research project can be defined by two interconnected imperatives.

First of all, our goal is to construct a theoretical approach capable of maintaining that politics is its own form of thinking — irreducible to science, ethics or aesthetics — without thereby losing any claims to its capacity to produce rigorous knowledge of social reality.

This objective requires us to avoid both the trope of Marxism as a “science of history” as well as the opposite one, which reduces politics to an autonomous field defined by immediate political action, struggle and decision-making. To avoid the first position, we must be able to demonstrate that politics has its own criteria of rigor and consistency, which cannot be reduced to its similarities to science, even when scientific results are mobilized as relevant political resources. To avoid the second, this internal consistency must be shown to also include the means for production of social knowledge and social technologies.

These two negative orientations are brought together in a more constructive way in our attempt to recast the binomial “political economy”, which preserves the difference between a field of political agency and another of materially-based social laws and tendencies, and to propose a further integration between the active and the descriptive dimensions of politics — between political organization and political economy — in such a way that local organizations can be conceived as small economic models and national and world economies as particular forms of large social organizations.

Our second goal is to substitute the strategy of theoretical "critique" for an axiomatic strategy.

Against what remains the main theoretical strategy of the Left — that is, proposing better descriptions of our current social reality in such a way that our theory is capable of locating and expressing the inconsistencies and weaknesses of our social system in ways that conservative depictions cannot — we want our theoretical space to be infinitely richer than our social world, so that capitalist social formations might appear within it as particular solutions within the broader space of other possible solutions to general problems of social coordination, allocation of resources and free association.

The strategy of regionalizing or situating the parameters of our social formation has profound effects both to theoretical construction as well as to the practice of politics, since the first sign of a broader theoretic framework is its capacity to reformulate problems in its own terms, meaning that, within this framework, communism becomes the theory of how to solve communist problems, and not capitalist ones.

Together, these two objectives suggest an overall approach to political thinking which combines a theory of social organization within which both capitalist and non-capitalist forms of organization are expressible and comparable while, on the other, we further reinforce our reliance on actual political practice as the primary experimental means to probe into the validity of new egalitarian hypotheses and structures — endowing political work with its own “epistemological” value, so to speak, while also connecting politics and social models in a more integrated way.