Fascism’s Incognito – Brechtian Circular Circuitry. Note Quote.

Carefully looking at the Brechtian article and unstitching it, herein lies the pence (this is reproduced via an email exchange and hence is too very basic in arguments!!):

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1. When Brecht talks of acceding to the capitulation of Capitalism, in that, being a historic phase and new and old at the same time, this nakedest manifestation of Capitalism is attributed to relationality, which are driven by functionalist propositions and are non-linear, reversible schemas existing independently of the specific contents that are inserted as variables. This may sound a bit philosophical, but is the driving force behind Brecht’s understanding of Capitalism and is perfectly corroborated in his famous dictum, “Reality as such has slipped into the domain of the functional.” This dictum underlines what is new and what is old at the same time.
2. Sometime in the 30s, Brecht’s writings corroborated the linkages between Capitalism and Fascism, when the victories of European fascism prompted consideration of the relationship between collective violence and regressive social configurations. At its heart, his corpus during the times was a defining moment of finance capital, an elaborate systemic treatment of economic transactions within the literary narrative with fascistic overtones. It is here the capitalist is consummate par excellence motivated by the rational calculus (Ayn Rand rings the bells!!!). Eschewing the narrative desire of the traditional dramatic novel, Brecht compels the readers without any recourse to emotional intensity and catharsis, and capturing the attention via phlegmatic and sublimated pleasures of logical analysis, riddle solving, remainder less, and bookkeeping. This coming together of the financial capital with the rise in European Fascism, despite leading to barbaric times in due course, brought forth the progeny of corporation merging with the state incorporating social functions into integrated networks of production and consumption. What Brecht reflects as barbaric is incidentally penned in these tumultuous ear, where capital evolves from Fordist norms into Corporations and in the process atrophy human dimensions. This fact is extrapolated in contemporary times when capital has been financialized to the extent of artificial intelligences, HFTs and algorithmic decision making, just to sound a parallel to Nature 2.0.
But, before digressing a bit too far, where is Brecht lost in the history of class consciousness here? With capital evolving exponentially, even if there is no or little class consciousness in the proletariat, there will come a realization that exploitation is widespread. This is the fecund ground when nationalist and fascist rhetoric seeds into a full-grown tree, inciting xenophobias infused with radicalization (this happened historically in Italy and in Germany, and is getting replicated on micro-to-macro scales contemporarily). But, what Brecht has failed to come to terms with is the whole logic of fascists against the capitalist. Fascists struggle with the capitalist question within their own circles (a far-fetched parallel drawn here as regards India is the right ideologue’s opposition to FDI, for instance). Historically speaking and during times when Bertotl was actively writing, there were more working class members of the Italian fascists than anyone else with anti-capitalist numbers. In Nazi Germany, there were close to 30 per cent within stormtroopers as minimal identifies and sympathizers with communism. The rest looked up to fascism as a stronger alternative to socialism/communism in its militancy. The intellectual and for moral (might be a strikethrough term here, but in any case…) tonic was provided for by the bourgeois liberals who opposed fascism for their capitalist bent. All in all, Brecht could have been prescient to say the most, but was too ensconced, to say the least, in Marxist paradigms to analyze this suturing of ideological interests. That fascism ejected itself of a complete domineering to Capitalism, at least historically, is evident from the trajectory of a revolutionary syndicalist, Edmondo Rossoni, who was extremely critical of internationalism, and spearheaded Italian fascist unions far outnumbering Italian fascist membership. Failure to recognize this fractious relationship between Fascism and Capitalism jettisons the credibility of Brechtian piece linked.
3. Althusser once remarked that Brecht’s work displays two distinct forms of temporality that fail to achieve any mutual integration, which have no relation with one another, despite coexisting and interconnecting, never meet one another. The above linked essay is a prime example of Althusser’s remark. What Brecht achieves is demonstrating incongruities in temporalities of capital and the human (of Capitalism and Barbarianism/Fascism respectively), but is inadequate to take such incongruities to fit into the jigsaw puzzle of the size of Capitalism, not just in his active days, but even to very question of his being prescient for contemporary times, as was mentioned in point 2 in this response. Brecht’s reconstructing of the genealogy of Capitalism in tandem with Fascism parses out the link in commoditized linear history (A fallacy even with Marxian notion of history as history of class consciousness, in my opinion), ending up trapped in tautological circles, since the human mind is short of comprehending the paradoxical fact of Capitalism always seemingly good at presupposing itself.
It is for these reasons, why I opine that Brecht has a circular circuitry.

Conjuncted: Financialization of Natural Resources – Financial Analysis of the Blue Economy: Sagarmala’s Case in Point.

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The financialization of natural resources is the process of replacing environmental regulation with markets. In order to bring nature under the control of markets, the planet’s natural resources need to be made into commodities that can be bought or sold for a profit. It is a means of transferring the stewardship of our common resources to private business interests. The financialization of nature is not about protecting the environment, rather it is about creating ways for the financial sector to continue to earn high profits. Although the sector has begun to rebound from the financial crisis, it is still below its pre-crisis levels of profit. By pushing into new areas, promoting the creation of new commodities, and exploiting the real threat of climate change for their own ends, financial companies and actors are placing the whole world at the risk of precarity.

A systemic increase in financial speculation on commodities mainly driven by deregulation of derivative markets, increasing involvement of investment banks, hedge funds and other institutional investor in commodity speculation and the emergence of new instruments such as index funds and exchange-traded funds. Financial deregulation over the last one decade has for the first time transformed commodities into financial assets. what we might call ‘financialization’, is thus penetrating all commodity markets and their functioning. Contrary to common sense and what civil society assumes, financial markets are going deeper and deeper into the real economy as a response to the financial crisis, so that speculative capital is structurally being intertwined with productive capital – in this case commodities and natural resources.

Marine ecology as a natural resource isn’t immune to commodification, and an array of financial agents are making it their indispensable destination, thrashing out new types of alliances converging around specific ideas about how maritime and coastal resources should be organized, and to whose benefit, under which terms and to what end? The commodification of marine ecology is what is referred to as Blue Economy, which is converging on the necessity of implementing policies across scales that are conducive to, what in the corridors of those promulgating it, a win-win-win situation in pursuit of ‘sustainable development’, entailing pro-poor, conservation-sensitive blue growth. What one cannot fail to notice here is that Blue Economy is close on heels to what Karl Marx called the necessary prerequisite to capitalism, primitive accumulation. If in the days of industrial revolution and at a time when Marx was writing, natural resources like lands were converted into commercial commodities, then today under the rubric of neoliberalism, the attack is on the natural resources in the form of converting them into speculative capital. But as commercial history has undergone a change, so has the notion of accumulation. Today’s accumulation is through the process of dispossession. In the green-grabbing frame, conservation initiatives have become a key force driving primitive accumulation, although, the form that primitive accumulation through conservation takes is very different from that initially described by Marx, as conservation initiatives involve taking nature out of production – as opposed to bringing them in through the initial enclosures described by Marx. Under such unfoldings, even the notional appropriation undergoes an unfolding, in that, it implies the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned – or not even the subject of ownership – from the poor (or everyone including the poor) in to the hands of the powerful.

Moreover, for David Harvey, states under neoliberalism become increasingly oriented toward attracting foreign direct investment, i.e. specifically actors with the capital to invest whereas all others are overlooked and/or lose out. Central in all of these dimensions is the assumption in market-based neoliberal conservation that “once property rights are established and transaction costs are minimized, voluntary trade in environmental goods and bads will produce optimal, least-cost outcomes with little or no need for state involvement.”. This implies that win-win- win outcomes with benefits on all fronts spanning corporate investors, the local communities, biodiversity, national economies etc., are possible if only the right technocratic policies are put in place. By extension this also means side-stepping intrinsically political questions with reference to effective management through economic rationality informed by cutting-edge ecological science, in turn making the transition to the ‘green economy’ conflict-free as long as the “invisible hand of the market is guided by [neutral] scientific expertise”. While marine and coastal resources may have been largely overlooked in the discussions on green grabbing and neoliberal conservation, a robust, but small, critical literature has been devoted to looking specifically into the political economy of fisheries systems. Focusing on one sector in the outlined ‘blue economy’, this literature uncovers “how capitalist relations and dynamics (in their diverse and varying forms) shape and/or constitute fisheries systems.”

The question then is, how far viable or sustainable are these financial interventions? Financialization produces effects which can create long-term trends (such as those on functional income distribution) but can also change across different periods of economic growth, slowdown and recession. Interpreting the implications of financialization for sustainability, therefore, requires a methodological diverse and empirical dual-track approach which combines different methods of investigations. Even times of prosperity, despite their fragile and vulnerable nature, can endure for several years before collapsing due to high levels of indebtedness, which in turn amplify the real effects of a financial crisis and hinder the economic growth. Things begin to get a bit more complicated when financialization interferes with environment and natural resources, for then the losses are not just merely on a financial platform alone. Financialization has played a significant role in the recent price shocks in food and energy markets, while the wave of speculative investment in natural resources has and is likely to produce perverse environmental and social impact. Moreover, the so-called financialization of environmental conservation tends to enhance the financial value of environmental resources but it is selective: not all stakeholders have the same opportunities and not all uses and values of natural resources and services are accounted for. This mechanism brings new risks and challenges for environmental services and their users that are excluded by official systems of natural capital monetization and accounting. This is exactly the precarity one is staring at when dealing with Blue Economy.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Liberalism.

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In a humanistic society, boundary conditions (‘laws’) are set which are designed to make the lives of human beings optimal. The laws are made by government. Yet, the skimming of surplus labor by the capital is only overshadowed by the skimming by politicians. Politicians are often ‘auto-invited’ (by colleagues) in board-of-directors of companies (the capital), further enabling amassing buying power. This shows that, in most countries, the differences between the capital and the political class are flimsy if not non-existent. As an example, all communist countries, in fact, were pure capitalist implementations, with a distinction that a greater share of the skimming was done by politicians compared to more conventional capitalist societies.

One form of a humanistic (!!!!!????) government is socialism, which has set as its goals the welfare of humans. One can argue if socialism is a good form to achieve a humanistic society. Maybe it is not efficient to reach this goal, whatever ‘efficient’ may mean and the difficulty in defining that concept.

Another form of government is liberalism. Before we continue, it is remarkable to observe that in practical ‘liberal’ societies, everything is free and allowed, except the creation of banks and doing banking. By definition, a ‘liberal government’ is a contradiction in terms. A real liberal government would be called ‘anarchy’. ‘Liberal’ is a name given by politicians to make people think they are free, while in fact it is the most binding and oppressing form of government.

Liberalism, by definition, has set no boundary conditions. A liberal society has at its core the absence of goals. Everything is left free; “Let a Darwinistic survival-of-the-fittest mechanism decide which things are ‘best'”. Best are, by definition, those things that survive. That means that it might be the case that humans are a nuisance. Inefficient monsters. Does this idea look far-fetched? May it be so that in a liberal society, humans will disappear and only capital (the money and the means of production) will survive in a Darwinistic way? Mathematically it is possible. Let me show you.

Trade unions are organizations that represent the humans in this cycle and they are the ways to break the cycle and guarantee minimization of the skimming of laborers. If you are human, you should like trade unions. (If you are a bank manager, you can – and should – organize yourself in a bank-managers trade union). If you are capital, you do not like them. (And there are many spokesmen of the capital in the world, paid to propagate this dislike). Capital, however, in itself cannot ‘think’, it is not human, nor has it a brain, or a way to communicate. It is just a ‘concept’, an ‘idea’ of a ‘system’. It does not ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ anything. You are not capital, even if you are paid by it. Even if you are paid handsomely by it. Even if you are paid astronomically by it. (In the latter case you are probably just an asocial asshole!!!!). We can thus morally confiscate as much from the capital we wish, without feeling any remorse whatsoever. As long as it does not destroy the game; destroying the game would put human happiness at risk by undermining the incentives for production and reduce the access to consumption.

On the other hand, the spokesmen of the capital will always talk about labor cost contention, because that will increase the marginal profit M’-M. Remember this, next time somebody talks in the media. Who is paying their salary? To give an idea how much you are being fleeced, compare your salary to that of difficult-to-skim, strike-prone, trade-union-bastion professions, like train drivers. The companies still hire them, implying that they still bring a net profit to the companies, in spite of their astronomical salaries. You deserve the same salary.

Continuing. For the capital, there is no ‘special place’ for human labor power LP. If the Marxist equation can be replaced by

M – C{MoP} – P – C’ – M’

i.e., without LP, capital would do just that, if that is optimizing M’-M. Mathematically, there is no difference whatsoever between MoP and LP. The only thing a liberal system seeks is optimization. It does not care at all, in no way whatsoever, how this is achieved. The more liberal the better. Less restrictions, more possibilities for optimizing marginal profit M’-M. If it means destruction of the human race, who cares? Collateral damage.

To make my point: Would you care if you had to pay (feed) monkeys one-cent peanuts to find you kilo-sized gold nuggets? Do you care if no human LP is involved in your business scheme? I guess you just care about maximizing your skimming of the labor power involved, be they human, animal or mechanic. Who cares?

There is only one problem. Somebody should consume the products made (no monkey cares about your gold nuggets). That is why the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say said “Every product creates its own demand”. If nobody can pay for the products made (because no LP is paid for the work done), the products cannot be sold, and the cycle stops at the step C’-M’, the M’ becoming zero (not sold), the profit M’-M reduced to a loss M and the company goes bankrupt.

However, individual companies can sell products, as long as there are other companies in the world still paying LP somewhere. Companies everywhere in the world thus still have a tendency to robotize their production. Companies exist in the world that are nearly fully robotized. The profit, now effectively skimming of the surplus of MoP-power instead of labor power, fully goes to the capital, since MoP has no way of organizing itself in trade unions and demand more ‘payment’. Or, and be careful with this step here – a step Marx could never have imagined – what if the MoP start consuming as well? Imagine that a factory robot needs parts. New robot arms, electricity, water, cleaning, etc. Factories will start making these products. There is a market for them. Hail the market! Now we come to the conclusion that the ‘system’, when liberalized will optimize the production (it is the only intrinsic goal) Preindustrial (without tools):

M – C{LP} – P – C’ – M’

Marxian: M – C{MoP, LP} – P – C’ – M’

Post-modern: M – C{MoP} – P – C’ – M’

If the latter is most efficient, in a completely liberalized system, it will be implemented.

This means

1) No (human) LP will be used in production

2) No humans will be paid for work of producing

3) No human consumption is possible

4) Humans will die from lack of consumption

In a Darwinistic way humanity will die to be substituted by something else; we are too inefficient to survive. We are not fit for this planet. We will be substituted by the exact things we created. There is nowhere a rule written “liberalism, with the condition that it favors humans”. No, liberalism is liberalism. It favors the fittest.

It went good so far. As long as we had exponential growth, even if the growth rate for MoP was far larger than the growth rate for rewards for LP, also LP was rewarded increasingly. When the exponential growth stops, when the system reaches saturation as it seems to do now, only the strongest survive. That is not necessarily mankind. Mathematically it can be either one or the other, without preference; the Marxian equation is symmetrical. Future will tell. Maybe the MoP (they will also acquire intelligence and reason somewhere probably) will later discuss how they won the race, the same way we, Homo Sapiens, currently talk about “those backward unfit Neanderthals”.

Your ideal dream job would be to manage the peanut bank, monopolizing the peanut supply, while the peanut eaters build for you palaces in the Italian Riviera and feed you grapes while you enjoy the scenery. Even if you were one of the few remaining humans. A world in which humans are extinct is not a far-fetched world. It might be the result of a Darwinian selection of the fittest.

The Concern for Historical Materialism. Thought of the Day 53.0

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The concern for historical materialism, in spite of Marx’s differentiation between history and pre-history, is that totalisation might not be historically groundable after all, and must instead be constituted in other ways: whether logically, transcendentally or naturally. The ‘Consciousness’ chapter of the Phenomenology, a blend of all three, becomes a transcendent(al) logic of phenomena – individual, universal, particular – and ceases to provide any genuine phenomenology of ‘the experience of consciousness’. Natural consciousness is not strictly speaking a standpoint (no real opposition), so it can offer no critical grounds of itself to confer synthetic unity upon the universal, that which is taken to a higher level in ‘Self-Consciousness’ (only to be retrospectively confirmed). Yet Hegel does just this from the outset. In ‘Perception’, we read that, ‘[o]n account of the universality [Allgemeinheit] of the property, I must … take the objective essence to be on the whole a community [Gemeinschaft]’. Universality always sides with community, the Allgemeine with the Gemeinschaft, as if the synthetic operation had taken place prior to its very operability. Unfortunately for Hegel, the ‘free matters’ of all possible properties paves the way for the ‘interchange of forces’ in ‘Force and the Understanding’, and hence infinity, life and – spirit. In the midst of the master-slave dialectic, Hegel admits that, ‘[i]n this movement we see repeated the process which represented itself as the play of forces, but repeated now in consciousness [sic].

Capital as a Symbolic Representation of Power. Nitzan’s and Bichler’s Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder.

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The secret to understanding accumulation, lies not in the narrow confines of production and consumption, but in the broader processes and institutions of power. Capital, is neither a material object nor a social relationship embedded in material entities. It is not ‘augmented’ by power. It is, in itself, a symbolic representation of power….

Unlike the elusive liberals, Marxists try to deal with power head on – yet they too end up with a fractured picture. Unable to fit power into Marx’s value analysis, they have split their inquiry into three distinct branches: a neo-Marxian economics that substitutes monopoly for labour values; a cultural analysis whose extreme versions reject the existence of ‘economics’ altogether (and eventually also the existence of any ‘objective’ order); and a state theory that oscillates between two opposite positions – one that prioritizes state power by demoting the ‘laws’ of the economy, and another that endorses the ‘laws’ of the economy by annulling the autonomy of the state. Gradually, each of these branches has developed its own orthodoxies, academic bureaucracies and barriers. And as the fractures have deepened, the capitalist totality that Marx was so keen on uncovering has dissipated….

The commodified structure of capitalism, Marx argues, is anchored in the labour process: the accumulation of capital is denominated in prices; prices reflect labour values; and labour values are determined by the productive labour time necessary to make the commodities. This sequence is intuitively appealing and politically motivating, but it runs into logical and empirical impossibilities at every step of the way. First, it is impossible to differentiate productive from unproductive labour. Second, even if we knew what productive labour was, there would still be no way of knowing how much productive labour goes into a given commodity, and therefore no way of knowing the labour value of that commodity and the amount of surplus value it embodies. And finally, even if labour values were known, there would be no consistent way to convert them into prices and surplus value into profit. So, in the end, Marxism cannot explain the prices of commodities – not in detail and not even approximately. And without a theory of prices, there can be no theory of profit and accumulation and therefore no theory of capitalism….

Modern capitalists are removed from production: they are absentee owners. Their ownership, says Veblen, doesn’t contribute to industry; it merely controls it for profitable ends. And since the owners are absent from industry, the only way for them to exact their profit is by ‘sabotaging’ industry. From this viewpoint, the accumulation of capital is the manifestation not of productive contribution but of organized power.

To be sure, the process by which capitalists ‘translate’ qualitatively different power processes into quantitatively unified measures of earnings and capitalization isn’t very ‘objective’. Filtered through the conventional assessments of accountants and the future speculations of investors, the conversion is deeply inter-subjective. But it is also very real, extremely imposing and, as we shall see, surprisingly well-defined.

These insights can be extended into a broader metaphor of a ‘social hologram’: a framework that integrates the resonating productive interactions of industry with the dissonant power limitations of business. These hologramic spectacles allow us to theorize the power underpinnings of accumulation, explore their historical evolution and understand the ways in which various forms of power are imprinted on and instituted in the corporation…..

Business enterprise diverts and limits industry instead of boosting it; that ‘business as usual’ needs and implies strategic limitation; that most firms are not passive price takers but active price makers, and that their autonomy makes ‘pure’ economics indeterminate; that the ‘normal rate of return’, just like the ancient rate of interest, is a manifestation not of productive yield but of organized power; that the corporation emerged not to enhance productivity but to contain it; that equity and debt have little to do with material wealth and everything to do with systemic power; and, finally, that there is little point talking about the deviations and distortions of ‘financial capital’ simply because there is no ‘productive capital’ to deviate from and distort.

Jonathan Nitzan, Shimshon Bichler- Capital as Power:_ A Study of Order and Creorder 

 

Conjuncted: Whats Right-Wing With Negri? Note Quote.

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Already with his concept of the socialised worker, Negri had rejected the central pillar of Marx’s economics – the relationship between value and labour. As the whole of society becomes a social factory, so the duration of labour becomes unquantifiable and it becomes impossible to reduce specific forms of labour into abstract socially necessary labour. As the 1980s and 1990s unfolded Negri underpinned his new politics with reference to two fashionable right wing theories – the idea of a ‘weightless economy’ developing out of a high tech ‘third industrial revolution’ and, more recently, extreme versions of globalisation theory depicting the death of the nationstate. Today Negri claims that ‘immaterial labour’ has taken the place of industrial labour as the hegemonic form of production that other forms of labour tend towards. Negri’s descriptions of contemporary production will seem unfamiliar to most workers: ‘A gigantic cultural revolution is under way. Free expression and the joy of bodies, the autonomy, hybridisation and the reconstruction of languages, the creation of new singular mobile modes of production—all this emerges, everywhere and continually’.

[Global corporations are anxious to include] difference within their realm and thus aim to maximise creativity, free play and diversity in the corporate workplace. People of all different races, sexes and sexual orientations should potentially be included in the corporation; the daily routine of the workplace should be rejuvenated with unexpected changes and an atmosphere of fun. Break down the old boundaries and let 100 flowers bloom!

Exploitation, in the Marxist sense of the pumping of unpaid surplus labour out of workers, has ended. Exploitation today means capturing the creative energies of a joyous, cooperating multitude – who may be inside or outside of the workplace. The domination of dead labour, such as machinery or computers, over living is finished because living (for Negri, intellectual) labour is now dominant. The tool of production is now the brain. Paul Thompson explains how Negri’s thinking parallels right wing accounts of the economic changes since the 1970s:

This appears to be remarkably similar to knowledge economy arguments, which we might briefly summarise in the following way. In the information age, capital and labour are said to have been displaced by the centrality of knowledge; brawn by brain; and the production of goods by services and manipulation of symbols. As a commodity, knowledge is too complex, intensive and esoteric to be managed through command and control. The archetypal worker in the new economy makes his or her living from judgement, service and analysis… As none of this is calculable or easily measured, it is the inherent property of the producer… This shifts the power balance to the employee, an increasing proportion of whom fall into the category of mobile, self-reliant and demanding ‘free workers’.

Thompson goes on to provide a detailed critique of the idea of immaterial labour. Even at the most immaterial end of the labour market, intellectual property regimes allow the commodification of knowledge. And such workers are still subject to exploitation and control centred upon the workplace.

Far from the workplace ceasing to be the centre of capital accumulation for the ruling class, it plays an increasingly important role in a world of labour intensification and tightening managerial control. The workplace is still the point at which fixed capital necessary for the production of most goods and services is centralised. And it is still the site where surplus value is extracted from workers – the central obsession of capitalists and states – and thus the point at which those opposed to the rule of capital should concentrate their efforts. Just like his vision of the weightless economy, Negri’s account of
globalisation is almost entirely unsupported by empirical evidence. He writes that:

large transnational corporations have effectively surpassed the jurisdiction and authority of nation-states…the state has been defeated and corporations now rule the earth!

Moishe Postone: Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor. Note Quote.

Moishe Postone: Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor from The American Academy in Berlin on Vimeo.

Moishe Postone’s work establishes a crucial distinction between the critique of capitalism from the standpoint of labour and the critique of labor in capitalism.The former implies a transhistorical account of work, while the latter situates labor as a consistent category – capable of “social synthesis” – within the capitalist mode of production. But, does this distinction require us to abandon any form of ontological account of labour? As Postone would say,

It depends what you mean by an ontological account of labour. It does force us to abandon the idea that transhistorically there is an on-going development of humanity which is effected by labour, that human interaction with nature as mediated by labour is a continuous process which is led to continuous change. And that labour is in that sense a central historical category. That position is closer actually to Adam Smith than it is to Marx. I think that the centrality of labour to something called historical development can be posited only for capitalism and not for any other form of human social life. On the other hand, I think one can retain the idea that humanity’s interaction with nature is a process of self-constitution.

One of the most important contributions of Time, Labour and Social Domination is a novel theory of impersonal domination in capitalist society. To him “traditional Marxism” is a criticism of capitalism from the standpoint of labor. Postone’s Marxism, by contrast, is a critique of labor in capitalism. Since Marx’s theory refers to capitalism, not society in general, labor cannot be a transhistorical category. Instead, it must be understood as an integrated part of capitalism. This means that labor cannot provide a standpoint from which to criticize capitalism, and neither can the proletariat: “the working class is integral to capitalism, rather than the embodiment of its negation”. The struggle, then, should not be a struggle of labor against capital, as traditional Marxists thought, but a struggle against labor seen as an integral part of the valorization of capital.  This conclusion has implications for Postone’s understanding of domination in capitalism. Rather than being a matter of class relations, it takes the form of domination by impersonal and quasi-objective mechanisms such as fetishism, in the construction of which labor is deeply implicated. The benefit of this reinterpretation, according to Postone, is that it shows the usefulness of Marx’s theory not only in a criticism of liberal nineteenth-century capitalism but also in a criticism of contemporary welfare-state capitalism or Soviet-style state-capitalism. The latter forms of capitalism are just as capitalist as the former since they all build on the valorization of capital built on labor. Abolishing private ownership or rearranging the distribution of goods is not enough to escape capitalism. Postone both builds on and criticizes the approaches of Lukács and the Frankfurt School. There is much in his book that shows his affinities especially to the latter – such as the criticism of welfare state capitalism or the stress on fetishism – but he nevertheless criticizes these earlier thinkers for being bound to a transhistorical conception of labor. Lukács in particular is singled out for heavy criticism since he saw the proletariat as the Subject of history, as capable of grasping totality and hence offering the standpoint of critique. Engaging with the Hegelian legacy, or should I quip lunacy in Lukács, Postone arrives at one of his most important and provocative arguments. “Marx suggests that a historical Subject in the Hegelian sense does indeed exist in capitalism, yet he does not identify it with… the proletariat”. Instead it is capital that is portrayed as a Hegelian Geist – as a subject and self-moving substance, following its own immanent historical logic. Hegelian dialectics, then, is specific to capitalism and is not a tool for grasping history in general. Thus, to Marx, the “totality” was not the whole in general, and certainly not a standpoint which he affirmed. Instead, he identified totality with the capitalist system and made it the object of his critique: “the historical negation of capitalism would not involve the realization, but the abolition, of the totality”, Postone argues. The working class cannot lead history towards this negation. In fact, it is only by breaking with the logic consitutive of this totality, in which the working class forms part, that a different, post-capitalist society can be born.

The abolition of the totality would, then, allow for the possible constitution of very different, non-totalizing, forms of the political coordination and regulation of society.

In a question asked about if the capitalist form of domination not better defined as the appearance of truly abstract relations as if they were concrete, personal relations? Furthermore, does this inversion, or at least the recognition of the crucial role of abstraction in capitalism, render a definition of class struggle untenable, or are we rather in need of a concept of class that takes this distance from the concrete into consideration? Postone says,

I am not sure that I would fully agree with the attempted reformulation. First of all, with regard to the quote “relations between people appearing as relations between things” what is left out of this version of what Marx said is that he adds that relations among people appear as they are, as social relations between things and thingly relations between people. Marx only explicitly elaborated the notion of fetishism with the fetishism of commodity. All three volumes of Capital, are [our change] in many respects, however, a study on fetishism even when he doesn’t use that word. And fetishism means that because of the peculiar, double character of the structuring social forms of capitalism, social relations disappears from view. What we get are thingly relations: we also get abstractions. However, one dimension of the fetish is, as you put it, that abstract relations appear concrete.They appear in the form of the concrete. So, for example, the process of creating surplus value appears to be a material process, the labour process. It appears to be material-technical, rather than moulded by social forms. And yet there are also abstract dimensions and regularities that don’t appear in the form of the concrete. I am emphasising this is because certain reactionary forms of thought only view capitalism in terms of those abstract regularities and refuse to see that the concrete itself is moulded by, and is really drenched with, the abstract. I think a lot of forms of populism and anti-Semitism can be characterised that way. Now I am not sure that this appropriation of the categories of Marx’s critique of political economy renders a definition of class struggle untenable, but it does indicate that class struggle occurs within and is moulded by the structuring social forms.This position rejects the ontological centrality or the primacy of class struggle, as that which is truly social and real behind the veil of capitalist forms. Class struggle rather is moulded by the capitalist relations expressed by the categories of value, commodity, surplus value, and capital.

Postone’s approach only seems far-fetched if we continue to equate capitalism with the economy. Not if we think of it as a form of life. For example, after Darwin wrote, natural processes, such as adaptation or sexual selection, came to be seen as operating within history. This gave us the naturalist novel of Zola or Norris. “Nature” was seen to structure history (the Rougon-Marcquet saga, the strike in Germinal etc.) as well compel individuals from within. For Postone, it is not “natural” Darwinian processes that do this but an historic process, capitalism. Another example of the same idea is Max Weber’s “spirit of capitalism.” Weber can be read, and wanted to be read, as saying that there are forces outside capitalism on which capitalism depends, such as religious ethics. However, Postone is suggesting that such “spiritual” Weberian forces as asceticism, compulsivity and hypocrisy (Weber’s famous triad) are internal to capitalism, structuring its motion. But, there are ambivalences to his theory, and especially ones concerning science and technology. Postone rejects the view, associated with traditional Marxism, that sees industrial production as a neutral, purely technical process that could be salvaged from capitalism and carried on in similar form in socialism. To criticize capitalism, he argues that we also need to criticize industrial production, or at least the form it has assumed in capitalism. The problem is that he simultaneously argues – based primarily on a famous passage in Grundrisse – that science and technology creates the preconditions for an overcoming of capitalism, since they enable human beings to create unprecedented “material wealth” in a way that relies less and less on human labor. Since in capitalism “value” can only be created by labor, capitalism increasingly comes to be characterized by a contradiction between the processes generating “wealth” and “value”. Unlike “value”, Postone appears to think that “wealth” is a category that it is fine to apply transhistorically. “Wealth” existed in precapitalist societies and must also be imagined as something that can exist in post-capitalist, socialist societies. What happens with capitalism is that the creation of “wealth” can only take place through the production of “value”, i.e. through the exploitation of labor and valorization of capital. However, by showing that “wealth” can be produced in abundance without relying on labor, science and technology open up possibilities of overcoming capitalism. Here Postone portrays science and technology, not as irremediably implicated in capitalism, but as potentially liberating forces that point beyond capitalism. That is of course fine, but the question then becomes how to distinguish the good and bad moments of science and technology. Postone calls for a transformation of not only of “relations of production” but also of the “mode of production”, but without giving us much in the way of explaining how much or how radically the latter needs to be changed.

Then there is the problem of dialectics. As mentioned, Postone confines Geist and totality to capitalism. This claim has some antecedents in earlier critical theory. Adorno, for instance, claims that the role of Spirit in capitalism is taken by “value”: “The objective and ultimately absolute Hegelian spirit [is] the Marxist law of value that comes into force without men being conscious of it” (Adorno). The posture of taking up arms against “totality” itself is of course also familiar from older critical theory. Adorno, however, never confined dialectics in toto to capitalism. Although Postone does allow for some forms of dialectical interaction (e.g. people changing their own nature reflexively through acting on nature or the reciprocal constitution of social practice and social structure), he argues that such interaction only becomes “directionally dynamic” in capitalism. In other words, dialectics in the sense of a historical logic or necessity only exists in capitalism. This raises the question of how capitalism can be overcome. If there is no Geist but capital, then dialectics cannot point the way out of capitalism. Liberation can only mean liberating oneself from dialectics, by creating a world in which it is no longer dominant.

The indication of the historicity of the object, the essential social forms of capitalism, implies the historicity of the critical consciousness that grasps it; the historical overcoming of capitalism would also entail the negation of its dialectical critique.

However, sometimes Postone himself seems to grasp the relation between capitalism and its outside dialectically, as when he uses the term “determinate negation” for the movement whereby capitalism is transcended. But if the overcoming of capitalism is a determinate negation, doesn’t that require the premise of a totality transcending the capitalist system, as Lukács thought?  Sometimes Postone writes as if the totality of capitalism were driven towards its own abolition by its inner contradictions. However, apart from the discussion of technology and wealth referred to above, it is hard to see that he specifies anywhere what kind of contraditions might bring about this self-abolition.

Ideology

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For Žižek, we are not so much living in a post-ideological era as in an era dominated by the ideology of cynicism. Adapting from Marx and Sloterdijk, he sums up the cynical attitude as “they know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still, they are doing it”. Ideology in this sense, is located in what we do and not in what we know. Our belief in an ideology is thus staged in advance of our acknowledging that belief in “belief machines”, such as Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses. It is “belief before belief.”

One of the questions Žižek asks about ideology is: what keeps an ideological field of meaning consistent? Given that signifiers are unstable and liable to slippages of meaning, how does an ideology maintain its consistency? The answer to this problem is that any given ideological field is “quilted” by what, following lacan, he terms a point de capiton (literally an “upholstery button” though it has also been translated as “anchoring point”). In the same way that an upholstery button pins down stuffing inside a quilt and stops it from moving about, Žižek argues that a point de capiton is a signifier which stops meaning from sliding about inside the ideological quilt. A point de capiton unifies an ideological field and provides it with an identity. Freedom, i.e, is in itself an open-ended word, the meaning of which can slide about depending on the context of its use. A right-wing interpretation of the word might use it to designate the freedom to speculate on the market, whereas a left-wing interpretation of it might use it designate freedom from the inequalities of the market. The word “freedom” therefore does not mean the same thing in all possible worlds: what pins its meaning down is the point de capiton of “right-wing” or “left-wing”. What is at issue in a conflict of ideologies is precisely the point de capiton – which signifier (“communism”, “fascism”, “capitalism”, “market economy” and so on) will be entitled to quilt the ideological field (“freedom”, “democracy”, Human rights” and so on).

Žižek distinguishes three moments in the narrative of an ideology.

1. Doctrine – ideological doctrine concerns the ideas and theories of an ideology, i.e. liberalism partly developed from the ideas of John Locke.

2. Belief – ideological belief designates the material or external manifestations and apparatuses of its doctrine, i.e. liberalism is materialized in an independent press, democratic elections and the free market.

3. Ritual – ideological ritual refers to the internalization of a doctrine, the way it is experienced as spontaneous, i.e in liberalism subjects naturally think of themselves as free individuals.

These three aspects of ideology form a kind of narrative. In the first stage of ideological doctrine we find ideology in its “pure” state. Here ideology takes the form of a supposedly truthful proposition or set of arguments which, in reality, conceal a vested interest. Locke’s arguments about government served the interest of the revolutionary Americans rather than the colonizing British. In a second step, a successful ideology takes on the material form which generates belief in that ideology, most potently in the guise of Althusser’s State Apparatuses. Third, ideology assumes an almost spontaneous existence, becoming instinctive rather than realized either as an explicit set of arguments or as an institution. the supreme example of such spontaneity is, for Žižek, the notion of commodity fetishism.

In each of these three moments – a doctrine, its materialization in the form of belief and its manifestation as spontaneous ritual – as soon as we think we have assumed a position of truth from which to denounce the lie of an ideology, we find ourselves back in ideology again. This is so because our understanding of ideology is based on a binary structure, which contrasts reality with ideology. To solve this problem, Žižek suggests that we analyze ideology using a ternary structure. So, how can we distinguish reality from ideology? From what position, for example, is Žižek able to denounce the New Age reading of the universe as ideological mystification? It is not from the position in reality because reality is constituted by the Symbolic and the Symbolic is where fiction assumes the guise of truth. The only non-ideological position available is in the Real – the Real of the antagonism. Now, that is not a position we can actually occupy; it is rather “the extraideological point of reference that authorizes us to denounce the content of our immediate experience as ‘ideological.'” (Mapping Ideology) The antagonism of the Real is a constant that has to be assumed given the existence of social reality (the Symbolic Order). As this antagonism is part of the Real, it is not subject to ideological mystification; rather its effect is visible in ideological mystification. Here, ideology takes the form of the spectral supplement to reality, concealing the gap opened up by the failure of reality (the Symbolic) to account fully for the Real. While this model of the structure of reality does not allow us a position from which to assume an objective viewpoint, it does presuppose the existence of ideology and thus authorizes the validity of its critique. The distinction between reality and ideology exists as a theoretical given. Žižek does not claim that he can offer any access to the “objective truth of things” but that ideology must be assumed to exist if we grant that reality is structured upon a constitutive antagonism. And if ideology exists we must be able to subject it to critique. This is the aim of Žižek’s theory of ideology, namely an attempt to keep the project of ideological critique alive at all in an era in which we are said to have left ideology behind.

Capitalism’s Triumph or Commoditizing Communism

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Why is revolution not possible? This is an old debate.

Terms like “socialist” and “revolution”, and “right-wing groups” tend to mean different things to different people, according to their perspectives. which can be quite contradictory, in many regards. Revolutions don’t tend to resolve such contradictions as absolutely as idealists and ideologues tend to imagine. Counter-revolutionary tendencies persist in the society, and even among the revolutionaries, such that it’s never really “over”, and the struggle continues.

Technically, “socialism” is a theoretically “necessary” supposedly “interim” period, during which an elite vanguard seizes political power, “on behalf of” the proletariat, and struggles to transform society, toward the eventual emergence of communism, which is to say, democracy, the ultimate utopian communist dream. That transformation is essentially the suppression of counter-revolutionary (anti-democratic) tendencies, and inculcation and cultivation of revolutionary (democratic) tendencies among the masses.

Marxian concentration on capitalism was all about demonstrating how undemocratic, and thus unjust, irrational and inefficient capitalism tends to be, despite it’s claim to be, relatively speaking, “more democratic” than monarchy, say, or feudalism. He merely sought to show that it is not the ultimate, final stage of that evolution, as it’s proponents tend to assert, but that, like the “socialism” he proposed to supplant it with, an interim stage, which would, in fact, sow the seeds of it’s own destruction, even as previous socio-economic paradigms had done before them.

At the time he was doing all this theorizing, a hundred years ago, his premise of an educated working class, capable of democracy, seemed a virtually impossible utopian dream, considering conditions in the masses, steeped in centuries of ignorance, illiteracy, grinding poverty and religious indoctrination. Rather than second guess his conclusion, then, that further resort to elitism was “necessary” to change those conditions, I’d prefer to just point out that, in fact, those conditions have changed, profoundly, since then, such that the prospect of democracy is no longer such a distant utopian dream, but more feasible and viable a prospect than ever before in human history.

Technology, the engine of all socio-economic relations, has evolved, especially in terms of communications. Here and now, into the 21st Century, both capitalist and “socialist” elitism have become outmoded, I think, and need to “wither away” with the whole concept of the “State” as we now know it, as an externally imposed governor…as Marx predicted would some day be possible. Anymore, most of us aspire to democracy, and we realise that we aren’t there, yet. The issue is not whether anti-democratic rightwing reactionary conservative and fundamentalist counter-revolutionary elements of our society, will, or can, prevent democracy from ensuing. The issue is whether those, who tend to be staunchly opposed to racism, sexism, cultural chauvinism, eco-rape, murderous monopoly corporate fascist ripoffs, and imperialist warmongering, will call off the demoralized cynical defeatism of electoral boycott and excessive splitting, and will step up to actually seize the power, for a change…democratically, electorally…and then proceed to suppress counter-revolutionary anti-democratic tendencies legislatively and judicially, from now on…explicitly for justice and peace, to save the planet. Which, of course, is why the right is freaking out like they are, even now waging “low intensity” civil war, desperately trying to prevent that from happening. For Revolution to be at hand, we must not try and smash capitalism, or even right-wing resistance at that, as democracy is invested in and of itself with enough potency to destroy capitalism and its moribund form, fascism. But, the authorial point of exploiting freedom as against suppressing it is the Negri’s position on the corollaries of reaction to right-wing accelerationsim. So, whatever be the seductive power of neoliberalism, which indeed is undeniable, banking on the track record of proletariat would be stuck in the molasses of the past, or even getting to dynamically shift the agency to cognitariat be akin to letting the seduction of neoliberalism suck the agency in. The alternative is agency/ies, which someone like the obscure Agamben would call “Whatever Singularity” (even Gayatri Spivak flirts with the idea), or precariat, which is the umbrella term for the ones stripped of or dehumanised by the forces of neoliberalism. Unless, the left has this in vision, left is a position best avoided for excepting archival purposes. Yes, commoditising communism spells doom, and we are ideologically headed towards it.