subjecthood

The self-determining, autonomous ‘I’ was forged during the 18th and 19th centuries in relation to beings who fell outside of the bounds of cognisability in a burgeoning capitalist economic and political system: those whose labour was unfree, enslaved, and those whose lands were viewed as non-productive wasteland. For Marx, the legal subject is essentially living a phantasmic existence, rooted in the violence of abstraction and the commodity form. However, Marx’s critique of the chimerical nature of this subject has had to be stretched (as Fanon noted, discussed below) to account for the ways in which the alienation of labour (the precondition for assuming the status of legal-political subject) assumes a subject who is self-possessed, and also, how the capacity for self-possession and autonomy was thoroughly racialised and emplaced within a colonial logic (Spivak 1999; Ferreira da Silva 2007)”

Brenna Bhandar, “Dis-assembling legal form: Ownership and the racial body”

Identity documents and the dossiers that accompany them are one of the techniques that organize categories of state subjecthood, such as the citizen, the undocumented, the temporary work visa holder, the certificate of Indian status cardholder or the Canadian permanent resident (Browne 2005). The application procedures to obtain such documents and the use of ID documents are about border control and self-control, where the successful card applicant is realized as responsible, strategizing, rational choice- making, and self-controlled. In this way, application procedures function as both neo-liberal and neo-pastoral governance practices.
—  Simone Browne, “Digital Epidermalization: Race, Identity and Biometrics,” Critical Sociology, Vol.36, No.1 (January 2010), pg.137
Although one of its chief presuppositions is the critique of the sovereign subject the conversation between Foucault and deleuze is framed by two monolithic and anonymous subjects-in-revolution: ‘A Maoist" and “the workers’ struggle.” intellectuals, however, are named and differentiated; moreover, a Chinese Maoism is nowhere operative. Maoism here simply creates an aura of narrative specificity, which would be a harmless rhetorical banality were it not that the innocent appropriation of the proper name “Maoism” for the eccentric phenomenon of French intellectual “Maoism” and subsequent “New Philosophy” symptomatically renders Asia transparent.
—  Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak

Maybe there is no way around subjecthood? This could be the case, since the forces of the market are interested in its production as well. For value to be attributed to an artwork it needs to be personalized and subjectified to a certain degree. As a product it relates to a person (its author) who in return seems to be somewhat contained by it. It is for this reason that many collectors expect to get a hold of a slice of the life of an artist if they acquire her work. The work is saturated with her life, her lived labour (lebendige Arbeit), and is valuable for this reason only. Now this search for value within lived labour gets even more pronounced in the current context of ongoing devalorization. A result of the 2008 financial crisis is that more and more desperate searches for value take place. The “personality” of the artwork is of course not a solution to the insecurity concerning value in art, it is a way of repressing and intensifying it.

So does this mean we have to continue elevating artworks to the level of quasi-subjects if only due to our own implication in current market conditions? Or is there a way of staying loyal to our belief in the agency of art without embracing such animistic scenarios that only feed the market’s desperate attempt to ignore the shaky ground onto which its values are built?

—  Isabelle Graw, Introduction to Art and Subjecthood: The Return of the Human Figure in Semiocapitalism (2011)
…a radical passion and passivity such that one becomes unfit for subjection, because one does not possess the kind of agency that can hold regulatory forces of subjecthood, and one cannot initiate the auto-interpelative torque that biopower subjection requires and rewards.
—  Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study– Fred Moten & Stefano Harney (28)
The symbolic death or exclusion of Blackness from Humanism means that it is not ‘Whiteness’ or White supremancy but 'Humanity’ as an ontologically anti-Black structure as such which stands in antagonism with Black bodies, since its self-understanding of its own subjecthood as value is coherent only so long as it is measured against the killable and warehousable objecthood of Black flesh.
—  No Selves to Abolish: Afropessimism, Anti-Poltics & The End of the World, K. Aarons (10)
Capitalism makes it seem as though all legal subjects as legal subjects are equal. Thus consuming legal subjects are free to spend their income as they please, producing legal subjects are free to offer their labor-power for sale to any taker, moral legal subjects can maximize marginal utilities, and political legal subjects can vote as they please. All legal subjects are free and equal. In practice this enables the well-off legal subjects of the stage of consumerism to feel comfortable with monstrous inequalities that from another point of view might be totally unacceptable. This ideology that takes in only one narrow dimension of human existence becomes so hegemonic, that in the stage of consumerism it is difficult for ‘common sense’ to see behind this many-layered curtain. Rapidly growing inequalities sometimes become the basis for organization and struggle, but it is always against an immensely powerful ideology of legal subjecthood and triumphant ‘free’ enterprise.
—  Robert Albritton, Marx’s Value Theory and Subjectivity (2003)