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.

Surplus. What All Could Social Activists Do, But Debate?

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The social surplus is a basic concept of classical political economy which has been revived in the post-war period by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy. They defined it as

.. the difference between what a society produces and the costs of producing it. The size of a surplus is an index of productivity and wealth, and of how much freedom a society has to accomplish whatever goals it may set for itself. The composition of the surplus shows how it uses that freedom: how much it invests in expanding its productive capacity, how much it consumes in various forms, how much it wastes and in what ways.

The surplus can be calculated in alternative ways. One is to estimate the necessary costs of producing the national product, and to deduct the costs from the national product. This raises the conceptual problem of calculating the necessary costs of production. Some of the outlays recorded as costs by firms (such as outlays for superficial product differentiation and advertising) may be unnecessary from the social viewpoint. Hence the determination of the necessary costs is crucial for this first method. A second method is to estimate the various expenditures absorbing the surplus (non-essential consumption, investment etc.) and to add them up.

The re-elaboration of the surplus concept in the post-war period is connected to the evolution of certain features of capitalism. In Monopoly Capital Baran and Sweezy argued that capitalism had made a transition from a competitive phase to a monopolistic phase in the twentieth century. In their view, the concentration of capital in giant corporations enables them to fix prices, in contrast to nineteenth century capitalists who worked under more intense competition. These giant corporations set their sales prices by adding mark-ups to production costs. Such price setting gives the corporations control over the partition of the value added with their workers. Corporations also strive to increase their profits by reducing their production costs. On the macroeconomic plane, the general endeavour to reduce production costs (inclusive of labor costs) tends to raise the share of the surplus in GDP. This rising surplus can be sustained only if it is absorbed. The consumption of capitalists, the consumption of employees in non-productive activities (e.g. superficial product differentiation, advertising, litigation etc.), investment and some part of government expenditure (e.g. public investment, military outlays) are the main outlets for absorbing the surplus.

As almost sixty years have elapsed since the above framework was formulated, it is legitimate to ask: has the increasing ratio of trade to global output impaired the diagnosis of Baran and Sweezy with regard to the monopolization of capital, and with respect to the inclination for the surplus in GDP to increase? Has increasing trade and integration of markets raised competitive pressures so as to restrict the pricing latitude of industrial conglomerates?

The immediate effect of global trade expansion obviously must be to increase overall competition, as greater numbers of firms would come to compete in formerly segregated markets. But a countervailing effect would emerge when large firms with greater financial resources and organizational advantages eliminate smaller firms (as happens when large transnationals take on firms of peripheral countries in opened markets). Another countervailing trend to the competition-enhancing effect of trade expansion is mergers and acquisitions, on which there is evidence in the core countries. A powerful trend increase in the extent of firm level concentration of global markets share could be observed in industries as diverse as aerospace and defence, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, trucks, power equipment, farm equipment, oil and petrochemicals, mining, pulp and paper, brewing, banking, insurance, advertising, and mass media. Indications are that the competition-enhancing effect of trade is balanced (perhaps even overwhelmed) by the monopolizing effect of the centralization of capital, which may sustain the ability of large corporations to control the market prices of their products.

On the other hand, if mergers and acquisitions imply an increase in the average size of the workforce of corporations, this could stimulate a counterbalance to corporate power by higher unionization and worker militancy. However, the increasing mobility of capital, goods and services on the one hand, and unemployment on the other is weakening unionization in the core countries, and making workers accept temporary employment, part-time employment, flexibility in hiring and dismissing, flexible working days and weeks, and flexibility in assigning tasks in the workplace. Increasing flexibility in labor relations shifts various risks related to the product markets and the associated costs from firms onto workers. Enhanced flexibility cannot but boost gross profits. Hence the trend towards increased flexibility in labor practices clearly implies increased surplus generation for given output in individual countries.

The neoliberal global reform agenda also includes measures to increase surplus generation through fiscal and institutional reforms, both in developed and underdeveloped countries. Lowering taxes on corporate profits, capital gains and high incomes; increasing taxes on consumption; raising fees on public services and privatization of these services, of utilities and of social security – all these policies aim at disburdening the high income earners and property owners of contributing to financing essential services for the maintenance of the labor force. These reforms also contribute to increasing the share of surplus in total output.

In brief, in the era of neoliberal policies evidence does not seem to suggest that the tendency for the share of surplus in GDP to rise in individual countries may have waned. If so, what is happening to the surplus generated in international production?

Baran and Sweezy argued that the surplus of underdeveloped countries had been and was being drained away to the centers of the world-system. Their description of core firms‘ overseas activities in Monopoly Capital can be read as a description of offshore outsourcing activities today if one replaces subsidiary with suppliers:

What they [giant multinational corporations] want is monopolistic control over foreign sources of supply and foreign markets, enabling them to buy and sell on specially privileged terms, to shift orders from one subsidiary to another, to favour this country or that depending on which has the most advantageous tax, labour and other policies…

The authors’ view was that imperialism had a two-fold function with respect to the surplus: finding cheap foreign sources of supply (which increases the surplus in the home country), and using other countries‘ markets as outlets (which helps absorb the surplus of the home country). A major motive of transnational companies in their current practice of outsourcing parts of production to underdeveloped countries is to cut production costs, hence to increase gross profits. When the corporation of a core country decides to outsource its production to a peripheral country, or when it shifts its sources of supply of intermediate inputs to a peripheral country, this increases global surplus creation. Global output remains the same, the costs of producing it decline. For the firm, the effect of offshore outsourcing is the same as if it were to reduce its own (in-house) costs of production, or were to outsource to a cheap supplier in the home economy. If the workers in the core country dismissed due to the offshore outsourcing find newly created jobs and continue to produce surplus, then global output increases and surplus creation increases a fortiori. If the workers dismissed due to the outsourcing remain unemployed, then their consumption (provided by family, unemployment benefits etc.) absorbs part of the surplus produced by other workers in employment. Should the supplier in the peripheral country expand her production to meet the order under subcontract, there will also be some increase in surplus creation in the peripheral country. In this case the total increase in surplus may accrue to both countries  economies – in indeterminate proportions.

It is worth noting that the effect of offshore outsourcing on productivity in the core economies is ambiguous. The formula

Productivity = (Sales Revenue – Material Input Cost) / Number of Workers

shows that an increase in material input cost (due to the increase in outsourced inputs) and a reduction of the in-house workforce (due to outsourcing) may ultimately affect the outsourcing firm‘s productivity either way. The gains that motivate firms to outsourcing are not gains in labor productivity (which arguably could legitimize outsourcing from a social viewpoint), but gains in gross profits – i.e. in surplus appropriation.

It emerges that the basic tendencies in the production and growth of the social surplus described by Baran and Sweezy have not changed under globalizing capitalism. New economic policies, corporate strategies and international rules of conduct appear to promote increasing surplus transfers from the periphery to the core of the world-system. In order to lift itself out of destitution the periphery is exhorted to remove restrictions on trade and capital flows, and to compete for advantageous positions in global value chains controlled by transnationals by improving quality, reducing costs, innovating etc. The export-led growth economic strategy compels peripheral producers to individually compete for exportation by repressing wages, and conceding much of the surplus produced to their trade partners in the core countries. Part of the surplus accruing to the periphery is consumed by transnational élites imitating the consumption of the well-to-do in the core societies. On the other hand dollarization, capital flight and official reserve accumulation exert downward pressure (a pressure unrelated to trade balances) on the exchange rate of peripheral currencies. The undervaluation of peripheral currencies, reflected in deteriorating terms of trade, translates into a loss of surplus to the core countries, and reduces the capacity of poor countries to import capital goods from the core. The resulting meager per capita fixed capital formation in the underdeveloped countries bodes grim prospects for the welfare of future generations of working people in the periphery. These trends are maintained by the insertion of millions of workers in Asian hinterlands into global production networks, and by the willingness of peripheral states governed by transnational élites to continue free trade and capital transactions policies, and to accumulate foreign exchange reserves. Africa’s poor populations await their turn to be drawn into the world labor market, to eke out a subsistence and produce a surplus, of which a large part will likely flow to the core.

In order to prevent the drift of the victims of globalizing capitalism to irrational reaction (religious or nationalist fanaticism, clash of civilizations etc.) and to focus their attention on the real issues, social scientists and activists should open to debate the social and economic consequences of the export-led growth idea, all the theories and policies that give precedence to global efficiency over national saving and investment, and the social psychology of consumerism. There is pressing need to promote socio-economic programs based on the principle of self-sufficient and self-reliant national development, wherein the people can decide through democratic procedures how they will dispose the social surplus they produce (how they will distribute it, how much they will save, invest, export) under less pressure from world markets dominated by transnational companies, and with less interefence from international institutions and core states. Within the framework of the capitalist world-system, there is little hope for solving the deep social contradictions the system reproduces. The solution, reason shows, lies outside the logic of the system.

Consequentialism -X- (Pareto Efficiency) -X- Deontology

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Let us check the Polity to begin with:

1. N is the set of all individuals in society.

And that which their politics concerns – the state of society.

2. S is the set of all possible information contained within society, so that a set s ∈ 2S (2S being the set of all possible subsets of S) contains all extant information about a particular iteration of society and will be called the state of society. S is an arbitrary topological space.

And the means by which individuals make judgements about that which their politics concerns. Their preferences over the information contained within the state of society.

3. Each individual i ∈ N has a complete and transitive preference relation ≽i defined over a set of preference-information Si ⊂ S such that si ≽ s′i can be read “individual i prefers preference information si at least as much as preference-information s′i”.

Any particular set of preference-information si ⊂ Si can be thought of as the state of society as viewed by individual i. The set of preference-information for individual i is a subset of the information contained within a particular iteration of society, so si ⊂ s ⊂ S.

A particular state of society s is a Pareto efficient if there is no other state of society s′ for which one individual strictly prefers their preference-information s′i ⊂ s′ to that particular state si ⊂ s, and the preference-information s′j ⊂ s′ in the other state s′ is at least as preferred by every other individual j ≠ i.

4. A state s ∈ S is said to be Pareto efficient iff ∄ s′ ∈ 2S & i ∈ N : s′i ≻ si & s′j ≽ sj ∀ j ≠ i ∈ N.

To put it crudely, a particular state of society is Pareto efficient if no individual can be made “better off” without making another individual “worse off”. A dynamic concept which mirrors this is the concept of a Pareto improvement – whereby a change in the state of society leaves everyone at least indifferent, and at least one individual in a preferable situation.

5. A movement between two states of society, s → s′ is called a Pareto improvement iff ∃ i ∈ N : s′i ≻ si & s′j ≽ sj ∀ j ≠ i ∈ N .

Note that this does not imply that s′ is a Pareto efficient state, because the same could potentially be said of a movement s′ → s′′. The state s′ is only a Pareto efficient state if we cannot find yet another state for which the movement to that state is a Pareto improvement. The following Theorem, demonstrates this distinction and gives an alternative definition of Pareto efficiency.

Theorem: A state s ∈ 2S is Pareto efficient iff there is no other state s′ for which the movement s → s′ is a Pareto improvement.

If one adheres to a consequentialist political doctrine (such as classical utilitarianism) rather than a deontological doctrine (such as liberalism) in which action is guided by some categorical imperative other than consequentialism, the guide offered by Pareto improvement is the least controversial, and least politically committal criterion to decision-making one can find. Indeed if we restrict political statements to those which concern the assignation of losses, it is a-political. It makes a value judgement only about who ought gain (whosoever stands to).

Unless one holds a strict deontological doctrine in the style, say, of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy state and Utopia (in which the maintenance of individual freedom is the categorical imperative), or John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (in which again individual freedom is the primary categorical imperative and the betterment of the “poorest” the second categorical imperative), it is more difficult to argue against implementing some decision which will cause a change of society which all individuals in society will be at worst indifferent to. Than arguing for some decision rule which will induce a change of society which some individual will find less preferable. To the rationalisitic economist it seems almost petty, certainly irrational to argue against this criterion, like those individuals who demand “fairness” in the famous “dictator” experiment rather than accept someone else becoming “better off”, and themselves no “worse off”.

Malthusian Catastrophe.

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As long as wealth is growing exponentially, it does not matter that some of the surplus labor is skimmed. If the production of the laborers is growing x% and their wealth grows y% – even if y% < x%, and the wealth of the capital grows faster, z%, with z% > x% – everybody is happy. The workers minimally increased their wealth, even if their productivity has increased tremendously. Nearly all increased labor production has been confiscated by the capital, exorbitant bonuses of bank managers are an example. (Managers, by the way, by definition, do not ’produce’ anything, but only help skim the production of others; it is ‘work’, but not ‘production’. As long as the skimming [money in] is larger than the cost of their work [money out], they will be hired by the capital. For instance, if they can move the workers into producing more for equal pay. If not, out they go).

If the economy is growing at a steady pace (x%), resulting in an exponential growth (1+x/100)n, effectively today’s life can be paid with (promises of) tomorrow’s earnings, ‘borrowing from the future’. (At a shrinking economy, the opposite occurs, paying tomorrow’s life with today’s earnings; having nothing to live on today).

Let’s put that in an equation. The economy of today Ei is defined in terms of growth of economy itself, the difference between today’s economy and tomorrow’s economy, Ei+1 − Ei,

Ei = α(Ei+1 − Ei) —– (1)

with α related to the growth rate, GR ≡ (Ei+1 − Ei)/Ei = 1/α. In a time-differential equation:

E(t) = αdE(t)/dt —– (2)

which has as solution

E(t) = E0e1/α —– (3)

exponential growth.

The problem is that eternal growth of x% is not possible. Our entire society depends on a

continuous growth; it is the fiber of our system. When it stops, everything collapses, if the derivative dE(t)/dt becomes negative, economy itself becomes negative and we start destroying things (E < 0) instead of producing things. If the growth gets relatively smaller, E itself gets smaller, assuming steady borrowing-from-tomorrow factor α (second equation above). But that is a contradiction; if E gets smaller, the derivative must be negative. The only consistent observation is that if E shrinks, E becomes immediately negative! This is what is called a Malthusian Catastrophe.

Now we seem to saturate with our production, we no longer have x% growth, but it is closer to 0. The capital, however, has inertia (viz. The continuing culture in the financial world of huge bonuses, often justified as “well, that is the market. What can we do?!”). The capital continues to increase their skimming of the surplus labor with the same z%. The laborers, therefore, now have a decrease of wealth close to z%. (Note that the capital cannot have a decline, a negative z%, because it would refuse to do something if that something does not make profit).

Many things that we took for granted before, free health care for all, early pension, free education, cheap or free transport (no road tolls, etc.) are more and more under discussion, with an argument that they are “becoming unaffordable”. This label is utter nonsense, when you think of it, since

1) Before, apparently, they were affordable.

2) We have increased productivity of our workers.

1 + 2 = 3) Things are becoming more and more affordable. Unless, they are becoming unaffordable for some (the workers) and not for others (the capitalists).

It might well be that soon we discover that living is unaffordable. The new money M’ in Marx’s equation is used as a starting point in new cycle M → M’. The eternal cycle causes condensation of wealth to the capital, away from the labor power. M keeps growing and growing. Anything that does not accumulate capital, M’ – M < 0, goes bankrupt. Anything that does not grow fast enough, M’ – M ≈ 0, is bought by something that does, reconfigured to have M’ – M large again. Note that these reconfigurations – optimizations of skimming (the laborers never profit form the reconfigurations, they are rather being sacked as a result of them) – are presented by the media as something good, where words as ‘increased synergy’ are used to defend mergers, etc. It alludes to the sponsors of the messages coming to us. Next time you read the word ‘synergy’ in these communications, just replace it with ‘fleecing’.

The capital actually ‘refuses’ to do something if it does not make profit. If M’ is not bigger than M in a step, the step would simply not be done, implying also no Labour Power used and no payment for Labour Power. Ignoring for the moment philanthropists, in capitalistic Utopia capital cannot but grow. If economy is not growing it is therefore always at the cost of labor! Humans, namely, do not have this option of not doing things, because “better to get 99 paise while living costs 1 rupee, i.e., ‘loss’, than get no paisa at all [while living still costs one rupee (haha, excuse me the folly of quixotic living!]”. Death by slow starvation is chosen before rapid death.

In an exponential growing system, everything is OK; Capital grows and reward on labor as well. When the economy stagnates only the labor power (humans) pays the price. It reaches a point of revolution, when the skimming of Labour Power is so big, that this Labour Power (humans) cannot keep itself alive. Famous is the situation of Marie-Antoinette (representing the capital), wife of King Louis XVI of France, who responded to the outcry of the public (Labour Power) who demanded bread (sic!) by saying “They do not have bread? Let them eat cake!” A revolution of the labor power is unavoidable in a capitalist system when it reaches saturation, because the unavoidable increment of the capital is paid by the reduction of wealth of the labor power. That is a mathematical certainty.

Autonomous Capitalist Algorithmic Virus and its Human Co-conspirators. #AltWoke

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Although #AltWoke is a vertical political school of thought, it doesn’t disregard protests or horizontal action. However, we are opposed to kitsch recklessness. Effective protests come from frustrated entities with specific goals in mind, which is why Occupy fizzled out, despite its global audience. The Civil Right’s Movement was strategic and had specific goals in mind. Standing Rock is another example. Yes, riots are protests as well and can also be effective insofar the anger of the oppressed, expressed as violence against private property, highlights a failure or injustice on the state’s end. As an example, the violence in Ferguson led to the development of the Black Lives Matter movement, and this movement examined a specific problem.

We are not opposed to identity politics, per se. We’re opposed to identity politics in its current form. We think a better answer to the current mode of virtue signaling would be to add terms to the modern lexicon that explain intersectionality and, specifically, terms that talk about internalized racism, patriarchy, etc. It’s important to discuss identity in a way that is deserving of the complexity the issue presents. Take lived experience and match it up against statistics, don’t present it as an absolute fact that everyone should automatically agree with.

Many of these terms already exist and deal with identity in a systematic way, as opposed to pointing to lived experience as if it’s an infinite truth. If you think notions like Othering by way of Fanon or cultural hegemony by way of Gramsci are too academic, then make these terms part of the general lexicon until they no longer seem obscure. Teaching Gen Z to understand hegemony and media should be the next big emancipatory project.

We’re a technologically based society and  #AltWoke believes that our political decisions should be framed around this premise. Having access to endless streams of information will cause profound changes, culturally, sociologically, psychologically and perhaps even neurologically. Thus, you should think more critically about the way you engage with technology. This can only happen by educating yourself outside of our writing and manifesto.

The Left thinks we’re the Alt-Right while the Alt-Right thinks we’re AntiFa. In an age where nuance is meaningless, this proves to us that we’re doing something useful.

Neo-Con Times are Non-Sociological Times

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This one is brute force.

Those who cut their eye-teeth on the likes of Austrian economics ten or fifteen years back have moved far beyond the analytical limits of the utilitarian framework and the facile solution to every social problem in terms of getting Big Government off our backs and leaving it to Smith’s invisible hand to automatically harmonize the private interests of individuals with the policy interests of the State and forge organic solidarities within and between Nations through the operation of the law of comparative advantage, while the State prudently limits itself to enforcing contracts and seeing to the military defense of the Nation. They are trying to perceive those aspects of life that lie outside the field of vision of the force-economics binocular- namely, Man’s specifically and irreducibly social being.  They have come to question the view of individuals as homogeneous, interchangeable, and isolate utility-maximizing machines endowed with rights derived from a fictive “state of Nature” in which all social relations are abstracted away as a methodological first principle, held to take shape only posterior to a putative “social contract” that binds the hitherto asocial individuals together, and only through the media of self-interested economic exchange and common subjection to the coercive power of positive law. In their rebellion against the poverty of these economic and juridical abstractions, they strive to piece together the concrete existence of the individual as a social animal compelled by its very Nature, and not just rewards and punishments, to seek out and affiliate with others….

Let’s contrast this inherently sociological current in politics to its nemesis. The latter strives to efface every aforementioned dimension of social belonging and personal identity and lump every individual into one big boundless mass, differentiated only in terms of technical specialization in the capitalist production process and by a proliferation of sexual and other “identities” shorn of their social substance and freely adopted and then discarded at will by consumers as though so many shifting vagaries of fashion. The social ties of shared descent, territory, memory, language, tradition, religion, and rule are progressively delegitimized by a relentless campaign of propaganda, homogenizing consumerist monoculture, and not least of all, coercive government action including military conquest (“regime change”). Meanwhile, asabiyyah is derided as so much ridiculously obsolete superstition, dull-witted provincialism, and mental pathology that stunts and “oppresses” the individual. Each particular society is progressively stripped of its boundary-maintaining capacity and slurred into the others- and since only particular societies exist, this means that society itself is becoming an endangered species.

Activism and Militancy: Empire of the Sands. Note Quote.

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Negri writes:

In the post-modern era, as the figure of the people dissolves, the militant is the one who best expresses the life of the multitude: the agent of biopolitical production and resistance against Empire […] When we speak of the militant, we are not thinking of anything like the sad, ascetic agent of the Third International […] We are thinking of nothing like that and of no one who acts on the basis of duty and discipline, who pretends his or her actions are deduced from an ideal plan […] Today the militant cannot even pretend to be a representative, even of the fundamental human needs of the exploited. Revolutionary political militancy today, on the contrary, must rediscover what has always been its proper form: not representational but constituent activity.[…] Militants resist imperial command in a creative way. In other words, resistance is linked immediately with a constitutive investment in the biopolitical realm and to the formation of co-operative apparatuses of production and community.[…] There is an ancient legend that might serve to illuminate the future life of communist militancy: that of Saint Francis of Assisi. Consider his work. To denounce the poverty of the multitude he adopted that common condition and discovered there the ontological power of a new society. The communist militant does the same, identifying in the common condition of the multitude its enormous wealth. Francis in opposition to nascent capitalism refused every instrumental discipline, and in opposition to the mortification of the flesh (in poverty and in the constituted order) he posed a joyous life, including all of being and nature […] Once again in postmodernity we find ourselves in Francis’s situation, posing against the misery of power the joy of being. This is a revolution that no power will control – because biopower and communism, co-operation and revolution remain together, in love, simplicity, and also innocence. This is the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist.

Once again it is particularly difficult to find any ideas that bear any relation to classical Marxism in the extract above. For Negri, the militant [activist] becomes an individualist who confronts the capitalist system in a “creative” way and who draws his own revolutionary strength from his or her own very uniqueness and his or her capacity to identify with the conditions of the masses. On top of this, the hero of this type of militancy is St. Francis of Assisi! In reality, genuine Marxist activists are able to place themselves at the vanguard of the working class, not only because they have won the trust and respect of workers through their ideas but also because they are able to connect with the political consciousness of the working class at a particular given moment and raise it towards the accomplishment of the socialist transformation of society. These types of activists never act on the basis of their own individuality, but know how to use it by linking it up with the individualities of other activists and put it at the service of the revolution. The political activist is in no way some sort of dour killjoy, but is the driving force of a whole class, the proletariat.

For the activist, being part of the proletariat also means not being afraid to represent it. On the contrary, each day of the activist’s life is dedicated to advancing the working class in its quest for the final victory. The Marxist activist’s revolutionary duty is to organise and lead, without ever becoming separated from his or her own class. Lenin, in a critique of Rosa Luxemburg’s conception of party organisation – which he saw as a vanguard based on revolutionary discipline – says the following in “Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder” about how the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party can be maintained.

First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and – if you wish – merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct.

All this has little to do with the ideal kind of activist described in the pages of Empire. In conclusion, we have a good suggestion for bringing Negri’s theory face to face with stark reality. What would happen if Negri’s “activist” went to a factory gate, or any other workplace at the beginning of the day’s shift, and invited the workers to “have fun” and “disobey”, in order to subvert the established order? We do not claim to know the conditions of every single workplace or factory, but we are certain that in those places that we know and where we often go to give out leaflets and organise campaigns, the level of alienation and fatigue caused by waged labour under the control of the capitalists is very high. Activists going to workers and proposing to them the type of activity that Negri suggests would be lucky to get away with less than a scratch! Again, once petit-bourgeois theories are confronted with the reality of the situation, they show their completely bankrupt nature.

Hyperstructures

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In many areas of mathematics there is a need to have methods taking local information and properties to global ones. This is mostly done by gluing techniques using open sets in a topology and associated presheaves. The presheaves form sheaves when local pieces fit together to global ones. This has been generalized to categorical settings based on Grothendieck topologies and sites.

The general problem of going from local to global situations is important also outside of mathematics. Consider collections of objects where we may have information or properties of objects or subcollections, and we want to extract global information.

This is where hyperstructures are very useful. If we are given a collection of objects that we want to investigate, we put a suitable hyperstructure on it. Then we may assign “local” properties at each level and by the generalized Grothendieck topology for hyperstructures we can now glue both within levels and across the levels in order to get global properties. Such an assignment of global properties or states we call a globalizer. 

To illustrate our intuition let us think of a society organized into a hyperstructure. Through levelwise democratic elections leaders are elected and the democratic process will eventually give a “global” leader. In this sense democracy may be thought of as a sociological (or political) globalizer. This applies to decision making as well.

In “frustrated” spin systems in physics one may possibly think of the “frustation” being resolved by creating new levels and a suitable globalizer assigning a global state to the system corresponding to various exotic physical conditions like, for example, a kind of hyperstructured spin glass or magnet. Acting on both classical and quantum fields in physics may be facilitated by putting a hyperstructure on them.

There are also situations where we are given an object or a collection of objects with assignments of properties or states. To achieve a certain goal we need to change, let us say, the state. This may be very difficult and require a lot of resources. The idea is then to put a hyperstructure on the object or collection. By this we create levels of locality that we can glue together by a generalized Grothendieck topology.

It may often be much easier and require less resources to change the state at the lowest level and then use a globalizer to achieve the desired global change. Often it may be important to find a minimal hyperstructure needed to change a global state with minimal resources.

Again, to support our intuition let us think of the democratic society example. To change the global leader directly may be hard, but starting a “political” process at the lower individual levels may not require heavy resources and may propagate through the democratic hyperstructure leading to a change of leader.

Hence, hyperstructures facilitates local to global processes, but also global to local processes. Often these are called bottom up and top down processes. In the global to local or top down process we put a hyperstructure on an object or system in such a way that it is represented by a top level bond in the hyperstructure. This means that to an object or system X we assign a hyperstructure

H = {B0,B1,…,Bn} in such a way that X = bn for some bn ∈ B binding a family {bi1n−1} of Bn−1 bonds, each bi1n−1 binding a family {bi2n−2} of Bn−2 bonds, etc. down to B0 bonds in H. Similarly for a local to global process. To a system, set or collection of objects X, we assign a hyperstructure H such that X = B0. A hyperstructure on a set (space) will create “global” objects, properties and states like what we see in organized societies, organizations, organisms, etc. The hyperstructure is the “glue” or the “law” of the objects. In a way, the globalizer creates a kind of higher order “condensate”. Hyperstructures represent a conceptual tool for translating organizational ideas like for example democracy, political parties, etc. into a mathematical framework where new types of arguments may be carried through.

Honey-Trap Catalysis or Why Chemistry Mechanizes Complexity? Note Quote.

Was browsing through Yuri Tarnopolsky’s Pattern Chemistry and its affect on/from humanities. Tarnopolsky’s states “chemistry” + “humanities” connectivity ideas thusly:

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Practically all comments to the folk tales in my collection contained references to a book by the Russian ethnographer Vladimir Propp, who systematized Russian folk tales as ‘molecules‘ consisting of the same ‘atoms‘ of plot arranged in different ways, and even wrote their formulas. His book was published in the 30’s, when Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of what became known as structuralism, was studying another kind of “molecules:” the structures of kinship in tribes of Brazil. Remarkably, this time a promise of a generalized and unifying vision of the world was coming from a source in humanities. What later happened to structuralism, however, is a different story, but the opportunity to build a bridge between sciences and humanities was missed. The competitive and pugnacious humanities could be a rough terrain.

I believed that chemistry carried a universal message about changes in systems that could be described in terms of elements and bonds between them. Chemistry was a particular branch of a much more general science about breaking and establishing bonds. It was not just about molecules: a small minority of hothead human ‘molecules’ drove a society toward change. A nation could be hot or cold. A child playing with Lego and a poet looking for a word to combine with others were in the company of a chemist synthesizing a drug.

Further on, Tarnopolsky, following his chemistry then thermodynamics leads, then found the pattern theory work of Swedish chemist Ulf Grenander, which he describes as follows:

In 1979 I heard about a mathematician who tried to list everything in the world. I easily found in a bookstore the first volume of Pattern Theory (1976) by Ulf Grenander, translated into Russian. As soon as I had opened the book, I saw that it was exactly what I was looking for and what I called ‘meta-chemistry’, i.e., something more general than chemistry, which included chemistry as an application, together with many other applications. I can never forget the physical sensation of a great intellectual power that gushed into my face from the pages of that book.

Although the mathematics in the book was well above my level, Grenander’s basic idea was clear. He described the world in terms of structures built of abstract ‘atoms’ possessing bonds to be selectively linked with each other. Body movements, society, pattern of a fabric, chemical compounds, and scientific hypothesis—everything could be described in the atomistic way that had always been considered indigenous for chemistry. Grenander called his ‘atoms of everything’ generators, which tells something to those who are familiar with group theory, but for the rest of us could be a good little metaphor for generating complexity from simplicity. Generators had affinities to each other and could form bonds of various strength. Atomism is a millennia old idea. In the next striking step so much appealing to a chemist, Ulf Grenander outlined the foundation of a universal physical chemistry able to approach not only fixed structures but also “reactions” they could undergo.

The two major means of control in chemistry and organic life: thermodynamic control (shift of equilibrium) and kinetic control (selective change of speed). People might not be aware that the same mechanisms are employed in social and political control, as well as in large historical events out of control, for example, the great global migration of people and jobs in our time or just the one-way flow of people across the US-Mexican border!!! Thus, with an awful degree of simplification, the intensification of a hunt for illegal immigrants looks like thermodynamic control by a honey trap, while the punishment for illegal employers is typical negative catalysis, although both may lead to a less stable and more stressed state. In both cases, new equilibrium will be established, different equilibria housed upon different sets of conditions.

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Should I treat people as molecules, unless I am from the Andromeda Galaxy. Complex-systems never come to global equilibrium, although local equilibrium can exist for some time. They can be in the state of homeostasis, which, again, is not the same as steady state in physics and chemistry. Homeostasis is the global complement of the classical local Darwinism of mutation and selection.

Taking other examples, the immigration discrimination in favor of educated or wealthy professionals is also a catalysis of affirmative action type. It speeds up the drive to equilibrium. Attractive salary for rare specialists is an equilibrium shift (honey trap) because it does not discriminate between competitors. Ideally, neither does exploitation of foreign labor. Bureaucracy is a global thermodynamic freeze that can be selectively overcome by 100% catalytic connections and bribes. Severe punishment for bribe is thermodynamic control. The use of undercover agents looks like a local catalyst: you can wait for the crook to make a mistake or you can speed it up. Tax incentive or burden is a shift of equilibrium. Preferred (or discouraging) treatment of competitors is catalysis (or inhibition).

There is no catalysis without selectivity and no selectivity without competition. Equilibrium, however, is not selective: it applies globally to the fluid enough system. Organic life, society, and economy operate by both equilibrium shift and catalysis. More examples: by manipulating the interest rate, the RBI employs thermodynamic control; by tax cuts for efficient use of energy, the government employs kinetic control, until saturation comes. Thermodynamic and kinetic factors are necessary for understanding Complex-systems, although only professionals can talk about them reasonably, but they are not sufficient. History is not chemistry because organic life and human society develop by design patterns, so to speak, or archetypal abstract devices, which do not follow from any physical laws. They all, together with René Thom morphologies, have roots not in thermodynamics but in topology. Anything that cannot be presented in terms of points, lines, and interactions between the points is far from chemistry. Topology is blind to metrics, but if Pattern Theory were not metrical, it would be just a version of graph theory.