Indecent Bazaars. Thought of the Day 113.0

centerperiphery

Peripheral markets may be defined as markets which generate only a small proportion of their financial inflows from local business and investors, but which attract the interest of ‘global’ investors. Emerging markets and markets for financial exotica such as financial derivatives are examples of such peripheral markets. Because emerging markets are largely dependent upon attracting international funds in order to generate increases in securities prices and capital gains which will attract further funds, they are particularly good examples of the principles of Ponzi finance at work in securities markets.

A common characteristic feature of peripheral markets is that they have no history of returns to financial investment on the scale on which finance is drawn to those markets in a time of capital market inflation. Such returns in the future have to be inferred on the basis of conjecture and fragmentary information. Investment decisions are therefore more dependent on sentiment, rather than reason. Any optimism is quickly justified by the rapid increase in asset prices in response to even a modest excess net inflow of money into such a market.

Emerging markets illustrate this very clearly. Such markets exist in developing and semi-industrialized countries with relatively undeveloped pensions and insurance institutions, principally because only a small proportion of households earn enough to be able to put aside long-term savings. The first fund manager comes upon such a market in the conviction that a change of government or government policy, or some temporary change in commodity prices, has opened a cornucopia of profitable opportunities and therefore warrants the dismissal of a history of economic, financial and political instability. If he or she is able with buying and enthusiasm to attract other speculators and fund managers to enter the market, they may drive up asset prices and make the largest capital gains. The second and third fund managers to buy into that market also make capital gains. The emulatory competition of trading on reputation while competing for returns makes international investment managers especially prone to this kind of ‘herd’ investment.

For a while such capital inflows into the market make everyone happy: international fund managers are able to show good returns from the funds in their care; finance theorists can reassure themselves that greater financial risks are compensated by higher returns; the government of the country in which the emerging market is located can sell its bonds and public sector enterprises to willing foreign investors and use the proceeds to balance its budget and repay its debts; the watchdogs of financial prudence in the International Monetary Fund can hail the revival of finance, the government’s commitment to private enterprise and apparent fiscal responsibility; state enterprises, hitherto stagnating because of under-investment by over-indebted governments, suddenly find themselves in the private sector commanding seemingly limitless opportunities for raising finance; the country’s currency after years of depreciation acquires a gilt-edged stability as dollars (the principal currency of international investment) flow in to be exchanged for local currency with which to buy local securities; the central bank accumulates dollars in exchange for the local currency that it issues to enable foreign investors to invest in the local markets and, with larger reserves, secures a new ease in managing its foreign liabilities; the indigenous middle and professional classes who buy financial and property (real estate) assets in time for the boom are enriched and for once cease their perennial grumbling at the sordid reality of life in a poor country. In this conjuncture the most banal shibboleths of enterprise and economic progress under capitalism appear like the very essence of worldly wisdom.

Only in such a situation of capital market inflation are the supposed benefits of foreign direct investment realized. Such investment by multinational companies is widely held to improve the ‘quality’ or productivity of local labour, management and technical know-how in less developed countries, whose technology and organization of labour lags behind that of the more industrialized countries. But only the most doltish and ignorant peasant would not have his or her productivity increased by being set to work with a machine of relatively recent vintage under the guidance of a manager familiar with that machine and the kind of work organization that it requires. It is more doubtful whether the initial increase in productivity can be realized without a corresponding increase in the export market (developing countries have relatively small home markets). It is even more doubtful if the productivity increase can be repeated without the replacement of the machinery by even newer machinery.

The favourable conjuncture in the capital markets of developing countries can be even more temporary. There are limits on the extent to which even private sector companies may take on financial liabilities and privatization is merely a system for transferring such liabilities from the government to the private sector without increasing the financial resources of the companies privatized. But to sustain capital gains in the emerging stock market, additional funds have to continue to flow in buying new liabilities of the government or the private sector, or buying out local investors. When new securities cease to attract international fund managers, the inflow stops. Sometimes this happens when the government privatization drive pauses, because the government runs out of attractive state enterprises or there are political and procedural difficulties in selling them. A fall in the proceeds from privatization may reveal the government’s underlying fiscal deficit, causing the pundits of international finance to sense the odour of financial unsoundness. More commonly rising imports and general price inflation, due to the economic boom set off by the inflow of foreign funds, arouse just such an odour in the noses of those pundits. Such financial soundness is a subjective view. Even if nothing is wrong in the country concerned, the prospective capital gain and yield in some other market need only rise above the expected inflation and yield of the country, to cause a capital outflow which will usually be justified in retrospect by an appeal to perceived, if not actual, financial disequilibrium.

Ponzi financial structures are characterized by ephemeral liquidity. At the time when money is coming into the markets they appear to be just the neo-classical ideal of market perfection, with lots of buyers and sellers scrambling for bargains and arbitrage profits. At the moment when disinvestment takes hold the true nature of peripheral markets and their ephemeral liquidity is revealed as trades which previously sped through in the frantic paper chase for profits are now frustrated. This too is particularly apparent in emerging markets. In order to sell, a buyer is necessary. If the majority of investors in a market also wish to sell, then sales cannot be executed for want of a buyer and the apparently perfect market liquidity dries up. The crash of the emerging stock market is followed by the fall in the exchange value of the local currency. Those international investors that succeeded in selling now have local currency which has to be converted into dollars if the proceeds of the sale are to be repatriated, or invested elsewhere. Exchange through the local banking system may now be frustrated if it has inadequate dollar reserves: a strong possibility if the central bank has been using dollars to service foreign debts. In spite of all the reassurance that this time it will be different because capital inflows are secured on financial instruments issued by the private sector, international investors are at this point as much at the mercy of the central bank and the government of an emerging market as international banks were at the height of the sovereign debt crisis. Moreover, the greater the success of the peripheral market in attracting funds, and hence the greater the boom in prices in that market, the greater is the desired outflow when it comes. With the fall in liquidity of financial markets in developing countries comes a fall in the liquidity of foreign direct investment, making it difficult to secure appropriate local financial support or repatriate profits.

Another factor which contributes to the fragility of peripheral markets is the opaqueness of financial accounting in them, in the sense that however precise and discriminating may be the financial accounting conventions, rules and reporting, they do not provide accurate indicators of the financial prospects of particular investments. In emerging markets this is commonly supposed to be because they lack the accounting regulations and expertise which supports the sophisticated integrated financial markets of the industrialized countries. In those industrialized countries, where accounting procedures are supposed to be much more transparent, peripheral markets such as venture capital and financial futures still suffer from accounting inadequacies because financial innovation introduces liabilities that have no history and which are not included in conventional accounts (notably the so-called ‘off-balance sheet’ liabilities). More important than these gaps in financial reporting is the volatility of profits from financial investment in such peripheral markets, and the absence of any stable relationship between profits from trading in their instruments and the previous history of those instruments or the financial performance of the company issuing them. Thus, even where financial records are comprehensive, accurate and revealed, they are a poor indicator of prospective returns from investments in the securities of peripheral markets.

With more than usually unreliable financial data, trading in those markets is much more based on reputation than on any systematic financial analysis: the second and third investor in such a market is attracted by the reputation of the first and subsequently the second investor. Because of the direct connection between financial inflows and values in securities markets, the more trading takes place on the basis of reputation the less of a guide to prospective returns is afforded by financial analysis. Peripheral markets are therefore much more prone to ‘ramping’ than other markets.

Why would such a crisis of withdrawal not occur, at least not on such a scale, in the more locally integrated capital markets of the advanced industrialised countries? First of all, integrated capital markets such as those of the UK, and the US are the domestic base for international investors. In periods of financial turbulence, they are more likely to have funds repatriated to them than to have funds taken out of them. Second, institutional investors tend to be more responsive to pressure to be ‘responsible investors’ in their home countries. In large measure this is because home securities make up the vast majority of investment fund portfolios. Ultimately, investment institutions will use their liquidity to protect the markets in which most of their portfolio is based. Finally, the locally integrated markets of the advanced industrialized countries have investing institutions with far greater wealth than the developing or semi-industrialized countries. Those markets are home for the pension funds which dominate the world markets. Among their wealth are deposits and other liquid assets which may be easily converted to support a stock market by buying securities. The poorer countries of the world have even poorer pension funds, which could not support their markets against an outflow due to portfolio switches by international investors.

Thus integrated markets are more ‘secure’ in that they are less prone to collapse than emerging or, more generally, peripheral markets. But precisely because of the large amount of trade already concentrated in the integrated markets, prices in them are much less likely to respond to investment fund inflows from abroad. Pension and insurance fund practice is to extrapolate those capital gains into the future for the purposes of determining the solvency of those funds. However, those gains were obtained because of a combination of inflation, the increased scope of funded pensions and the flight of funds from peripheral markets.

Production of the Schizoid, End of Capitalism and Laruelle’s Radical Immanence. Note Quote Didactics.

space

These are eclectics of the production, eclectics of the repetition, eclectics of the difference, where the fecundity of the novelty would either spring forth, or be weeded out. There is ‘schizoproduction’ prevalent in the world. This axiomatic schizoproduction is not a speech act, but discursive, in the sense that it constrains how meaning is distilled from relations, without the need for signifying, linguistic acts. Schizoproduction performs the relation. The bare minimum of schizoproduction is the gesture of transcending thought: namely, what François Laruelle calls a ‘decision’. Decision is differential, but it does not have to signify. It is the capacity to produce distinction and separation, in the most minimal, axiomatic form. Schizoproduction is capitalism turned into immanent capitalism, through a gesture of thought – sufficient thought. It is where capitalism has become a philosophy of life, in that it has a firm belief within a sufficient thought, whatever it comes in contact with. It is an expression of the real, the radical immanence as a transcending arrangement. It is a collective articulation bound up with intricate relations and management of carnal, affective, and discursive matter. The present form of capitalism is based on relationships, collaborations, and processuality, and in this is altogether different from the industrial period of modernism in the sense of subjectivity, production, governance, biopolitics and so on. In both cases, the life of a subject is valuable, since it is a substratum of potentiality and capacity, creativity and innovation; and in both cases, a subject is produced with physical, mental, cognitive and affective capacities compatible with each arrangement. Artistic practice is aligned with a shift from modern liberalism to the neoliberal dynamic position of the free agent.

Such attributes have thus become so obvious that the concepts of ‘competence’, ‘trust’ or ‘interest’ are taken as given facts, instead of perceiving them as functions within an arrangement. It is not that neoliberal management has leveraged the world from its joints, but that it is rather capitalism as philosophy, which has produced this world, where neoliberalism is just a part of the philosophy. Therefore, the thought of the end of capitalism will always be speculative, since we may regard the world without capitalism in the same way as we may regard the world-not-for-humans, which may be a speculative one, also. From its inception, capitalism paved a one-way path to annihilation, predicated as it was on unmitigated growth, the extraction of finite resources, the exaltation of individualism over communal ties, and the maximization of profit at the expense of the environment and society. The capitalist world was, as Thurston Clarke described so bleakly, ”dominated by the concerns of trade and Realpolitik rather than by human rights and spreading democracy”; it was a ”civilization influenced by the impersonal, bottom-line values of the corporations.” Capitalist industrial civilization was built on burning the organic remains of ancient organisms, but at the cost of destroying the stable climatic conditions which supported its very construction. The thirst for fossil fuels by our globalized, high-energy economy spurred increased technological development to extract the more difficult-to-reach reserves, but this frantic grasp for what was left only served to hasten the malignant transformation of Earth into an alien world. The ruling class tried to hold things together for as long as they could by printing money, propping up markets, militarizing domestic law enforcement, and orchestrating thinly veiled resource wars in the name of fighting terrorism, but the crisis of capitalism was intertwined with the ecological crisis and could never be solved by those whose jobs and social standing depended on protecting the status quo. All the corporate PR, greenwashing, political promises, cultural myths, and anthropocentrism could not hide the harsh Malthusian reality of ecological overshoot. As crime sky-rocketed and social unrest boiled over into rioting and looting, the elite retreated behind walled fortresses secured by armed guards, but the great unwinding of industrial civilization was already well underway. This evil genie was never going back in the bottle. And thats speculative too, or not really is a nuance to be fought hard on.

The immanence of capitalism is a transcending immanence: a system, which produces a world as an arrangement, through a capitalist form of thought—the philosophy of capitalism—which is a philosophy of sufficient reason in which economy is the determination in the last instance, and not the real. We need to specifically regard that this world is not real. The world is a process, a “geopolitical fiction”. Aside from this reason, there is an unthinkable world that is not for humans. It is not the world in itself, noumena, nor is it nature, bios, but rather it is the world indifferent to and foreclosed from human thought, a foreclosed and radical immanence – the real – which is not open nor will ever be opening itself for human thought. It will forever remain void and unilaterally indifferent. The radical immanence of the real is not an exception – analogous to the miracle in theology – but rather, it is an advent of the unprecedented unknown, where the lonely hour of last instance never comes. This radical immanence does not confer with ‘the new’ or with ‘the same’ and does not transcend through thought. It is matter in absolute movement, into which philosophy or oikonomia incorporates conditions, concepts, and operations. Now, a shift in thought is possible where the determination in the last instance would no longer be economy but rather a radical immanence of the real, as philosopher François Laruelle has argued. What is given, what is radically immanent in and as philosophy, is the mode of transcendental knowledge in which it operates. To know this mode of knowledge, to know it without entering into its circle, is to practice a science of the transcendental, the “transcendental science” of non-philosophy. This science is of the transcendental, but according to Laruelle, it must also itself be transcendental – it must be a global theory of the given-ness of the real. A non- philosophical transcendental is required if philosophy as a whole, including its transcendental structure, is to be received and known as it is. François Laruelle radicalises the Marxist term of determined-in-the-last-instance reworked by Louis Althusser, for whom the last instance as a dominating force was the economy. For Laruelle, the determination-in-the-last-instance is the Real and that “everything philosophy claims to master is in-the-last-instance thinkable from the One-Real”. For Althusser, referring to Engels, the economy is the ‘determination in the last instance’ in the long run, but only concerning the other determinations by the superstructures such as traditions. Following this, the “lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes”.

The Feedback of Capital and Standard of Living. Some Wayside Didactics.

20110111-cartoon

It is often said to countries in trouble that their people were living above their standards. That their consumption is higher than their production. This, in fact, is true … for everybody on this planet. In financial terms.

Look at the image of Figure 1. People (Labour Power), together with machines from the capital (MoP) produce goods that only (mostly) humans consume. Left the production, right the consumption.

Untitled

Figure 1: Production and consumption of humans and capital

If everything that is produced is consumed (according to Jean Baptiste Say), it is obvious that humans consume more than they produce. This seems contradictory with the ideas of Marx, but it isn’t. Marx said that Labour Power with the help of MoP produces, and that this production is fully attributed to Labour Power and is thus skimmed when it consumes less than this production. We can also equally well say that MoP (‘capital’) is producing with the help of Labour Power. Or just say that both are producing and say that each is the right ‘owner’ of its own production.

In the above figure, the arrows show the flow of production-consumption. The payment for produced products is an arrow in opposite direction. In this example, humans get 95% of consumption while they do only 50% of the production. They thus also only get 50% of payment. The rest of the consumption is paid by ‘borrowing’ money somehow, and they live above their standard. The payment goes 50% to the capital. But, because capital does not consume, this payment is used to increase the capital. Two extreme scenarios:

• The money for payment of production is fully in the form of a loan to the humans. Money starts thus accumulating at the capital.

• The money for payment is fully used to invest in new capital. In that case, the ‘consumption’ of capital is 50%, but after one cycle, a larger part of the production is done by capital. See figure 2 below.

Untitled

Figure 2: Production and consumption of humans and capital, if the capital consumes as human, but this consumption is used as new starting capital in a new cycle

In the first step, 50% of the production and consumption is done by capital. In the second cycle it is already 67%. In the third cycle it is 80%, then 89%, etc. In general 2n−1/(2n−1 + 1) at step n; capital doubles at every cycle, where humans stay constant. The final situation is that 100% of production is done by capital. Obviously, sooner or later the system has to switch to the first scenario.

In either scenario, the capital accumulates. The basic ingredient is that capital does not need consumption for its survival; any ‘consumption’ is directly converted into more capital. The system will probably have a mix of the two. After all, capital cannot go on doubling all the time.

So, we see that capital is condensing at the capital. That is because the means of production – other than human labor – do not consume, and, therefore, humans do consume more than they produce, and the means of production (machines) do consume less than they produce, with the total in a zero-sum-game way consuming exactly what they produce. The owners of the means of production get the rights to consumption and these rights are constantly increasing. It is a positive-feedback run-away system.

Let’s put this in an example to explain it better. Imagine I make clothespins and so does my neighbor. However, my neighbor has slightly more costs than me, or is slightly less productive for some reason (work accident, or so). He earns just enough to survive. He makes one ’unit’ and this barely covers the cost of life, which is also minimally 1 unit. I am slightly more productive, or my cost of living is slightly lower. Therefore, I can save a little ‘money’. Let’s assume the former, I am more productive. Now, either I make 1.1 units and the surplus 0.1 units I trade for a clothespin machine, or I work a little less on making clothespins and in this spare time – one hour per day – I make the machine myself. Let’s assume the second scenario, because it is easier reasoning, although they are equivalent. We both make two ‘units’ of pins, sell them and buy things (two units worth) to survive. I however, make as well a machine that makes pins.

After finishing my machine, maybe after ten years, the total production goes up. The demand for our pins stays the same. The markets needs two units of clothespins. It now means that I will get more share of the profit. Imagine my machine makes as much units as a human can, one unit per year. We thus have three units to offer to the market. The price of pins on the market could (and will) drop through the mechanism of supply and demand. In principle down to 67% of the original price. Not lower, because that would imply that the total price of more pins would be lower than before.

To make it simple, imagine exactly that happens. The price is 2/3; one unit of pins gives only 2/3 consumption rights. We sell three units and thus get a total of two units of consumption rights. These are distributed over the production units. My neighbor has one third of the production units and thus gets 1/3 share of the consumption rights, a total of 2/3 units. I and my machine get 2/3 share, 4/3 consumption rights. Note that I confiscate – skim – the production rights of my ‘slave’ machine.

Now my neighbor has a problem. He gets 2/3 units of consumption rights, there where one full unit is needed to survive. He did not start working less, or become less productive, or lazy. He simply lost his percentage share of the means of production. And once this starts, there is no stopping it. It in fact accelerates.

There are two scenarios. Either I keep producing pins myself, as shown above, resulting in immediate misery for my neighbor, or I stop working altogether on making pins manually, and we go back to the situation where we make two units of pins, sell them, and each one gets one unit of consumption rights. However, now I have 100% free time (my machine doing all the work), and I can dedicate it to make a new machine. This takes only one year instead of ten, since I now have 100% free time, instead of only 10%. In the first situation, I could lend 1/3 of my consumption rights to my neighbor. However – nothing is for free in this life – next year I want 10% profit on my loan. His problems will be bigger next year. Next year I will refinance his loan. Etc. The reader will easily understand that my neighbor will wind up being my feudal possession. I will take everything he owns. Instead, I could opt for the second path, producing a new machine in my spare time. In that case, next year we will have 4 production units, my neighbor and I as human labor, and two mechanical units. These mechanical units are mine and will claim the consumption rights; together with my own labor, I will now get 75% of the two consumption rights. 1.5 for me and 0.5 for my neighbor. This path leads to the state where I have 100% of the consumption rights. Or I can again decide to use part or all of my human labor or machine power to make new machinery. Sooner or later, anyway, my neighbor will have to borrow consumption rights from me. This is a feedback system. Any small perturbation results in a saturation in which I will get 100% of the consumption rights and where I will wind up being the feudal lord of my neighbor. One could argue that this reasoning does not work, because the rest of the world is also increasing productivity and the price of the products offered by them (and the cost of living for me and my neighbor) goes down, as fast as the price of our clothespins go down and we will both easily survive. First of all, we consider here only the local effect, independent of the full market. Technological innovation creates immediate misery for some, a deterioration of life while these people are doing nothing worse. Second, when the rest of the market is behaving in the same way, we remain with an overall effect of condensation of wealth. Capital attracts capital. This is a form of the Matthew Effect, named after the apostle from the bible, transferring money from the poor to the rich. Matthew 25:29,

For onto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Two Conceptions of Morphogenesis – World as a Dense Evolutionary Plasma of Perpetual Differentiation and Innovation. Thought of the Day 57.0

adriettemyburgh3

Sanford Kwinter‘s two conceptions of morhpogenesis, of which, one is appropriate to a world capable of sustaining transcendental ontological categories, while the other is inherent in a world of perfect immanence. According to the classical, hylomorphic model, a necessarily limited number of possibilities (forms or images) are reproduced (mirrored in reality) over a substratum, in a linear time-line. The insufficiency of such a model, however, is evident in its inability to find a place for novelty. Something either is or is not possible. This model cannot account for new possibilities and it fails to confront the inevitable imperfections and degradations evident in all of its realizations. It is indeed the inevitability of corruption and imperfection inherent in classical creation that points to the second mode of morphogenesis. This mode is dependent on an understanding of the world as a ceaseless pullulation and unfolding, a dense evolutionary plasma of perpetual differentiation and innovation. In this world forms are not carried over from some transcendent realm, but instead singularities and events emerge from within a rich plasma through the continual and dynamic interaction of forces. The morphogenetic process at work in such a world is not one whereby an active subject realizes forms from a set of transcendent possibilities, but rather one in which virtualities are actualized through the constant movement inherent in the very forces that compose the world. Virtuality is understood as the free difference or singularity, not yet combined with other differences into a complex ensemble or salient form. It is of course this immanentist description of the world and its attendant mode of morphogenesis that are viable. There is no threshold beneath which classical objects, states, or relations cease to have meaning yet beyond which they are endowed with a full pedigree and privileged status. Indeed, it is the nature of real time to ensure a constant production of innovation and change in all conditions. This is evidenced precisely by the imperfections introduced in an act of realizing a form. The classical mode of morphogenesis, then, has to be understood as a false model which is imposed on what is actually a rich, perpetually transforming universe. But the sort of novelty which the enactment of the classical model produces, a novelty which from its own perspective must be construed as a defect is not a primary concern if the novelty is registered as having emerged from a complex collision of forces. Above all, it is a novelty uncontaminated by procrustean notions of subjectivity and creation.