1. If something like the present can be isolated, be it in a wholly artificial fashion, the materiality or substance of that present is the past. Everything existing now is nothing but the coagulation of the past at a given moment.
2. To look into the past, as in giving a historical account, one can only seize upon the past materialized in and as the present moment, and ‘unravel’ it. History as reconstructed from the incarnate past is something that must be made or produced at any given moment in time.
3. This is not to say that the past is subject to the whims of a given present. The present production is constrained by conditions imposed upon it by the materialized past, conditions of possibility for any production whatsoever, including the production of history.
4. The production of history, or the seizing of the past as a material, is the determination of the manner in which the past will really constrain, impact, and otherwise influence the present. Because the present cannot do without making of the past a history in this sense, the materialized past is always a historical materiality.
5. The gap between the past ‘as it really was’ and the past as historically reconstructed coincides with the gap between the conditions of possible production and the actual course taken by the production process.
6. The present instance is an instance of interminable production. The material and means of this production are univocally composed of the materialized past determined historically, or as historical materiality. This production does not leave the past intact, but always to some degree alters or even destroys it, just as the materials of production in the more limited economic sense do not often survive the production process.
7. The past as materialized at a given moment is never present in its inviolate totality. The present is composed only of the remains of the past that have survived thus far, akin to the ruins of great cities that remain standing only incompletely. The production process to which the past is submitted determines to what degree it will remain intact, and to what degree it will be ruined.
8. The product of the present production is the past, in that present activity is recorded, materialized, in the effects it leaves upon the body of the past. Thus, while the past as it was may be altered or ruined to some degree, these changes replace what has been lost with ‘new’ past, with a new configuration that materializes that most contemporary passing of time.
9. The temporalization or historicization of the material past, its transformation from mere determinable condition to determinate historical materiality, is not the effect of human agents alone. Humanity as labor, as the active force of present production, only becomes determined as such as the result of a prior production process, one in which the historical materiality incarnate in a human form is set apart from the rest. This separation, like all determinations of historicity, is wholly artificial and unnecessary, it has no physical or metaphysical priority; it is real only in effect, insofar as this effect is conserved and reinforced throughout the production process. If this separation is of principle interest for Marx, and for all historical materialists, it is because it constitutes our condition, our past and our present, our legacy and burden. It is under this separation that we currently labor and rest. And the transformation of this condition is not as simple as a shift in concepts; it will involve a massive mobilization of productive forces.
10. Thus, temporalization does not have humanity as its agent, even if humanity attributes this to itself (an attribution whose effects, again, are far from arbitrary). Production as temporalization, more generally, does not have an agent; it is undirected and blind, and the directed production organized by human agency is only a species of a generally undirected process.
11. The future does not lie beyond the present, as that which follows it. As we have seen, the consequences and effects of the present exist only insofar as they fall back upon the past and incessantly recompose the conditions of present production. There is nothing beyond the present, nothing ‘after’ it, only a present that alters its own condition, and thereby alters itself in a circular manner. If there is a future, it is synchronous with the present, or even prior to it. If the present is the determination of the past as condition, futurity is the very underdetermination of present production by the past that conditions it. The futurity of the past is that by virtue of which the present must determine how the past will determine it, or by which the present must render the past historical. Futurity is the insufficiency of the past to its own consequences.
12. When seen from the general economy of history (natural history), in which production is undirected or ‘Darwinian’, futurity entails only a relative non-deducibility or contingency of historical transformation. Seen from the restricted economy of human history, however, in which humanity organizes itself massively, and hence seizes a determining influence nearly adequate to the agency it ascribes itself (even if the former is by no means as ‘conscious’ as the latter), futurity entails a degree of freedom as massive as the social body itself. Freedom, in this sense, is equivalent to the under-determination of action by the constraints of its conditions. The freedom in question is not that of individuals; individuals may have a certain degree of freedom in this regard, but the conditions that determine this degree are themselves determined by the more massive social agency. Individual freedom supervenes on the freedom of the society at large, which is capable of freely determining the degree of freedom of the individuals that compose it. The freedom of the social body is not unlimited, but it is always greater than that of any given individual.
13. The freedom of society in determining its own conditions, and hence the conditions of the individuals that populate it, is nonetheless capable of acting as if it were unfree, of acting more constrained than it actually is, and hence of making this unfreedom real in effect. There are two basic modalities of such self-imposed unfreedom. The first is premodern or traditionalist, and involves the self-imposed constraint of present production in the name of the preservation or conservation of a given configuration of the past, as if this configuration itself exercises constraint. The second is postmodern and capitalist. Rather than constraining activity in the name of a determinate configuration of the past, it subordinates the freedom of present production to determinability itself. It seeks to limit the exercise of freedom in production for the sake of the maximization of the conditions of production; in other words, it imposes upon present production the end of a massively determinable materiality, and hence a massive capacity for determination that is nonetheless held in reserve. The consequence of this peculiar organization is that the vast majority of the social body is stripped of its hard won influence in social determination at large, which is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the representatives of the movement of ever increasing determinability (capitalists). When humanity’s self-fashioned agency is displaced onto the matter it had previously mastered, that matter becomes capital.
14. Communism is the attempt to wrest back the power of social determination from its displacement by capitalist logic. Yet it does not, for that, ignore the danger of lapsing back into traditionalism. (Or rather, it should not ignore this danger. The catastrophes of 20th century communism are in large part due to such ignorance.) In the place of the empty and infinitely deferred futurity of capitalism, it seeks maximal coincidence of futurity or freedom with social determination or present production. The future of communism is not ‘in the future’ in the common sense, but in the present, buried deep within the self-constraining logic of capitalism. The difficulty of communism lies not only in undoing this logic, but in confronting the production of social existence with the terrifying imminence and immanence of the future.