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Patents as Assets: Intellectual Property Rights as Market Subjects and Objects (Kang, 2020)

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by Hyo Yoon Kang, in Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism (MIT Press, 2020)

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Patents occupy a hybrid node in the entanglement of science, technology, and finance within capitalist economy and law. A patent, an intellectual property right creating a monopoly of twenty years, contains different proprietary modes in which an invention’s potential may be materialized in social relations: via appropriation, possession, commodification, and assetization. These modes may not necessarily always overlap. This chapter describes and problematizes a specific turn to assetization that patents have taken: the transfiguration of patents into speculative financial assets. In light of the scholarship about the marketization and financialization of sciences (Nelkin 1984; Mirowski 2011; Birch 2017) and cultural studies of capitalization processes (Muniesa et al. 2017), I extend the question of patent value (Kang 2015) to examine the practices and mechanisms of valuation by which patents—legal property rights—are transformed into assets. I delineate the different ways in which patents are valued and acted upon as financial assets, which are premised on layers of legal and financial abstraction. Whereas it is well known that patents commodify, alienate, and eclipse their original referents—the inventions (Strathern 1999)—the analysis here shows that patents are enacted as real options in valuation practices and have been used as instruments of financial hedging. As a result, I argue that law itself is turned into a speculative financial asset.

Conspiricism in General and the Pandemic in Particular (TC, 2021)

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Théorie Communiste, January 2021

Originally published in French at dndf, translated by Cured Quail

They hide everything from us, we are told nothing
The more we learn, the more we know nothing
We aren’t really informed about anything
Did Adam have a belly-button?
We are hiding everything, we are told nothing […]
The John Doe case and the Jane Doe case
Whose murderer cannot be found
They hide everything from us, we are told nothing
We are hide-and-seek and hide-the-thimble
Blindfolded and John Doe
They are the kings of information

– Jacques Dutronc, 1967

Imagine that we’ve been lied to for centuries and centuries / That certain high-ranking communities know the recipes / The secrets of life, not that which we are allowed to see.

– Keny Arkana

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It’s a Class Struggle, Godamnit! (Hampton, 1969)

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Speech delivered at Northern Illinois University, November, 1969, via marxists.org

What we’re going to try to do, is we’re going to try to rap and educate. We’re glad to try to throw out some more information. And it’s going to be hard to do. The Sister made a beautiful speech as far as I’m concerned. Chaka, the Deputy Minister of Information, that’s his job—informing. But I’m going to try to inform you also.

One thing Chaka forgot to mention that Brothers and Sisters don’t do exactly the same. We don’t ask for any Brother to get pregnant or anything. We don’t ask no brothers to have no babies. So that’s a little different also.

After we get through speaking, for those people of you who don’t think you understood all of the ideology exposed here so far, and the ideologies that I will espouse, we will have a question and answer period. For those people who have their feelings hurt by niggers talking about guns, we’ll have a cry-in after the question and answer period. And for those white people that are here to show some type of overwhelming manifestation of guilt syndromes, and want people to cry out that they love them, after the cry-in, if we have time, we’ll allow you all to have a love-in.

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The Money Theory of the State

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Reflections on Modern Monetary Theory

by Jamie Merchant, Feb 2021, Brooklyn Rail: Field Notes

“No domination is so easily borne, even so gratefully felt, as the domination of high-minded and highly educated officials.”

— Georg Friedrich Knapp1

Kafka’s unfinished final novel, The Castle, can be read as a parable about the misrecognition of power. In the course of trying to discover if he has, or has not, been appointed as a land surveyor by the local authorities, the protagonist K. becomes obsessed with the authorities themselves, the officials of the great castle whose shadow looms over the village below. Its bureaucrats cut nearly superhuman figures, working tirelessly day and night on countless cases while keeping track of innumerable files with an otherworldly zeal that overawes K. and the villagers, who respect and even revere them. Over the course of the narrative, though, it becomes evident that all this strenuous paper-pushing might be completely pointless, directed to tasks they may never complete, involving problems and questions that cannot be resolved or perhaps never existed in the first place—including, probably, K.’s appointment. The officials might very well have no idea what they are doing, or they might be useless drones, working themselves to death toiling away in busy work that never goes anywhere. But for K. this is unthinkable. For their prestige flows from the impersonal rule of the mechanism, the calcified, methodical, formal procedures that, as in a cage, enfold and dominate the officials and the villagers alike. K. deploys his own formidable powers of reasoning to penetrate their mysteries in his quest to gain permission to enter the castle. But the more he learns, the more he calmly reasons and deduces the state of affairs with impeccable logic, the more transfixed he is by the officials’ cabbalistic aura, the more entangled he becomes in their byzantine networks of influence, and the more he effectively dominates himself.

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The Year the World Went Viral (Dauvé, 2021)

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by Gilles Dauvé, Feb 2021

Until the early days of 2020, when they spoke of “viruses”, Westerners usually meant something was wrong with their computers (Asians were arguably better informed). Of course, everyone knew the medical meaning of the word, but these viruses remained far away (Ebola), relatively silent despite the 3 million annual deaths from AIDS (HIV), even banal (winter flu, cause of “only” 10,000 deaths in France each year). And if sickness struck, medicine worked miracles. It had even done away with space: from New York, a surgeon could operate upon a patient in Strasbourg.

Back then, it was mostly the machines that got sick.

Until the first days of 2020.

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Der negative Anthropologe: Ulrich Sonnemann

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by Roger Behrens, Jungle World, 2012

Ulrich Sonnemann ist nicht nur der Kritischen Theorie zuzurechnen, sondern hat sie entscheidend mitgeprägt: Einerseits durch sein philosophisches Hauptwerk »Negative Anthropologie«, andererseits aber auch durch seine publizistische Einmischung in die Skandale und Debatten der bundesdeutschen Öffentlichkeit. Dass Sonnemann und seine Schriften, die seit einigen Jahren in sorgfältiger, bibliophiler Edition beim zu Klampen-Verlag erscheinen, heute kaum mehr wahrgenommen werden, spricht fast schon für seine Bedeutung für die Kritische Theorie: In der Ignoranz, die ihm im universitären Betrieb schon zu Lebzeiten widerfuhr, spiegelt sich das herrschende Desinteresse an der Kritik überhaupt.

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The Age of Disorder

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Deutsche Bank, Long-Term Asset Return Study, Sept 2020

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Economic cycles come and go, but sitting above them are the wider structural super-cycles that shape everything from economies to asset prices, politics, and our general way of life. In this note we have identified five such cycles over the last 160 years, and we think the world is on the cusp of a new era – one that will be characterised initially by disorder.

Not all disorder is ‘bad’. Indeed, if the themes of the world economy swing like a pendulum, then it may be that some have swung too far from a ‘sensible centre’ and are due to revert. This can have a cleansing effect. What is worrying, though, is that several themes appear poised to revert at a similar time. This is the point – that simultaneous changes to structural themes will create a level of disorder that will define a new era.

Before we review the key themes of the upcoming “Age of Disorder”, we must note that while some historical super-cycles have begun and ended abruptly, others were slower to evolve and end. The most recent era – the second era of globalisation, during 1980-2020 – is much more like the latter. It started slowly and has been gradually fraying at the edges over the last half-decade. The end of this era has been hastened by Covid-19 and – when, in years to come, we look at the rear- view mirror – we may see 2020 as the start of a new era.

Epidemics may have social scarring effects, increasing the likelihood of social unrest. They may also have mitigating effect, suppressing unrest by dissuading social activities. Using a new monthly panel on social unrest in 130 countries, we find a positive cross-sectional relationship between social unrest and epidemics. But the relationship reverses in the short run, implying that the mitigating effect dominates in the short run. Recent trends in social unrest immediately before and after the COVID-19 outbreak are consistent with this historic evidence. It is reasonable to expect that, as the pandemic fades, unrest may reemerge in locations where it previously existed.

“No Individual Can Resist”: Minima Moralia as Critique of Forms of Life (Jaeggi, 2005)

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by Rahel Jaeggi (Constellations, 2005)

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Can forms of life be criticized? Can we say whether particular forms of life are good, successful, or even rational? Since Kant it has been broadly accepted that happiness or the good life, in contrast to the morally right, cannot be determined philosophically. And since Rawls the ethical content of forms of life has been regarded, in view of the irreducible ethical pluralism of modern societies, as not up for debate. Philosophy has thus withdrawn from the Socratic question of how one should live and restricted itself to the problem of how, given the multiplicity of mutually incommensurable “comprehensive doctrines,” a just common life can be secured as the “coexistence” of different forms of life. The question of how we lead our lives has been consigned to the domain of unquestioned preferences or irreducible and unchallengeable identities. As with taste, there is no quarreling with forms of life.

This restraint is alien to Adorno’s critical theory.


See also by Jaeggi:

Minima Moralia by Adorno

A world without money: communism (Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs, 1975-76)

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Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme was originally published in three parts, as three separate pamphlets, in France, between 1975-6. It was produced by Dominique Blanc, shortly after the dissolution of the Organisation des Jeunes Travailleurs révolutionnaires. The name Quatre Millions de Jeune Travailleurs was apparently ‘adopted’ from a 1971 PSU youth publication (Parti Socialiste Unifié – a French Socialist Party), presumably to satisfy French publishing laws, and texts continued to be published under this name through the 1970’s including the widely distributed tract A Bas Le Proletariat/Vive Le Communisme.

PDF: English / French


  1. What is Communism?
    • Science Fiction?
  2. Communism or Capitalism?
    • The Corkscrews
    • The Capitalist Mode of Production
    • Private Property
    • Profit
    • Wage Labour and Industrialisation
    • The State and Capitalism
    • Recuperation
    • Primitive Society
    • Marx and Engels
  3. The End of Property
    • What is Property?
    • The Agrarian Question
    • From Scarcity to Abundance
    • The Transformation of Products
  4. Beyond Work
    • Work and Torture
    • Science and Automation
    • Class Society and Robotics
    • Remuneration
    • Laziness
    • Allocation of Tasks
    • Undesirable Jobs
    • The End of Separations
    • Production and Consumption
    • Production and Education
  5. Money and the Estimation of Costs
    • Money
    • Congratulations
    • The Law of Value
    • Free Distribution
    • Labour Time
    • Fanciful
    • Elevator or Stairs?
    • Calculation
    • Comparisons
  6. Beyond Politics
    • The End of the State
    • The Workers’ Councils
    • Democracy
    • The Electoral Circus
    • The Strike
    • The Party
  7. Insurrection and Communization
    • Violence
    • The Army
    • Vengeance
    • Reconversion
    • Rupture
    • Internationalism
  8. Proletariat and Communism
    • Lenin
    • Bourgeois and Proletarians
    • Waiting for Godot
  9. Becoming Human
    • History
    • Communism among the Guarani
    • The Levellers
    • Scientific Socialism
    • Communist Activity
    • Activity and Program
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Mattick and Council Communism in Miserable Times: Critique Between Defeat and Crisis

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A reading list by A New Institute for Social Research, 2021

See also: Theses on the Council Concept

A few accounts of the emergence of the tendency

New theory, new practice

Against and beyond the old movements

The critique of organization

From depression to fascist war

Mattick’s critical theory vs. postwar society

The Economic Foundations of Council Society (Canne-Meijer, 1948)

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1954, Henk Canne Meijer and Gé Hoogland

by Henk Canne-Meijer

Originally published in Dutch in Radencommunisme, 1948, as part of the Dutch and German communist left’s debate about the period of transition from capitalism to communism. The text later appeared in pamphlet form in 1972, from which this translation was made. – via marxists.org. See also: The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900-1968) by Philippe Bourrinet

Preface

Only about a year ago we accomplished a new, a fourth, edition of the study by the Dutch prewar Group of International Communists, which first appeared in 1931: The Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.

As this G.I.C. published a second edition in 1935, it wrote in a preface: “At present the politico-economic ideal of the masses, of either socialist and communist or of catholic, christian or of neutral workers, envisages the State as the big, general caretaker of their interests. The practical implication is that the masses are orientated towards state capitalism, even if they are not conscious of it.“

The preface payed attention to the fact that this situation had its origins in a truth of experience from the period that lies behind us; that the conditions of struggle are completely different in the forthcoming period; that henceforth the self-determination of the masses, born from the necessities of the struggle, becomes the guiding principle of the new ordering of social life.

Under these circumstances the “Fundamental Principles” became a theoretical writing against old state socialist conceptions in the first place.

How these necessities of the struggle and, accordingly, the new experiences have articulated themselves was the problem that occupied Jan Appel, Henk Canne Meijer and B.A. Sijes in this study of 1946, as former members of the G.I.C. (who had fused with the Communistenbond Spartacus). At present, parties and parliaments lose significance and interest. Be it with clarity, or in part still confused, the workers generate waves of strikes and enterprise occupations throughout the whole of Europe.

November 1972
Spartacusbond and Uitgeverij De Vlam

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Onward Barbarians (Endnotes, 2020)

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An anti-government protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile, on March 6, 2020. Esteban Felix / AP

by Endnotes, Dec 2020

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At the beginning of May 2020, hunger riots erupted in Santiago, Chile. Lockdowns had deprived men and women of their incomes to the point of near starvation. A large movement of self-organized community kitchens soon spread across the country. Later in the month, riots spread through Mexico in response to the police murder of Giovanni López — a construction worker who had been arrested for not wearing a mask — while thousands of despairing migrant workers broke the curfew in India. Some Amazon warehouse workers in the US and Germany had begun to strike in protest at poor COVID-19 safety protocols. (1) Yet these stirrings of workers’ struggle in the world’s largest retailer were quickly drowned out, at the end of May, by a mass movement of unprecedented size that swept across the US in revulsion at the live-streamed police murder of George Floyd. Largely initiated by black residents of Minneapolis, the uprising was quickly joined by Americans from every place, race and class. In the first riots and demos one could even spot a few supportive militiamen in a Querfront worthy of the age of QAnon. (2)

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A Guide to Value-Form Theory

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via reification of persons and personification of things (2021)

It’s winter in the middle of a global pandemic. You have time on your hands and you like to read. Maybe you’ve stumbled across Heinrich twitter and want to know what the hell is going on? Maybe you’ve read Michael Heinrich’s Introduction to all 3 volumes of Capital or you listen to (and patronize) Reel Abstractions, but you still want to read more value-form theory (at least until Science of Value comes out?)

This blog post will introduce you to other important contributions and contributors to value-form theory. I have tried my best to include free links to all of the readings. If the reading does not have a link, you may be able to find it somewhere else for free online. I am also happy to take suggestions for what to add. I wrote this quick and off the top of my head. 

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The Big Takeover

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by Jarrod Shanahan, Hard Crackers, Jan 7th, 2021

On January 6th a determined mob from across the United States descended on Washington, D.C. They rumbled with police, overturned barricades, breached the perimeter of the United States Capitol, and smashed their way into the building itself – all while both houses were in session. Inside, the insurgents played cat and mouse with police and federal agents, gleefully traipsing the evacuated halls of Congress and the Senate, and marauded through the offices of high-level politicians, who escaped a direct confrontation by a matter of minutes. The scene at the Capitol was replicated in miniature across the US, with large crowds menacing state houses in Washington state, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and others. But nothing compared to the spectacle playing out in the nation’s capital.

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The State of the Pandemic (Toscano, 2020)

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by Alberto Toscano, Historical Materialism 28.4 (2020) 3–23

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The Covid-19 pandemic has further intensified a crisis in the functions and the perception of the state. It has also revealed underlying contradictions in both mainstream and radical ideologies of the state. A desire for the state as guarantor of public welfare vies with fear of the state’s hypertrophic capacities for surveillance and control. Following a brief exploration of the intimate modern connection between plagues and the state, the article tries to map some of the ways in which the state has been at stake in political and theoretical commentaries on the pandemic. Is an epidemiological politics from below, beyond the plague state, possible? Can recent emergency measures be seen as incomplete or inverted anticipations of a communist use of the state of exception? Or is the primacy of the political we are currently experiencing a mere fetish, indissociable from the rule of capital?

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Some Stories About Communization

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by Jasper Bernes, Nov 2020-Jan 2021, via Substack

(see also Planning and Anarchy (2020), and Belly of the Revolution (2018))

Part 1, Nov 26, 2020

I want to do a series of posts on the theory of “communization” as it has developed since 1968, because it seems to me there is a great deal more interest in the term and desire than there is comprehension. There are many reasons for the abuse the word has suffered, but foremost is that, in France, from whence it derives, “communization” never at first served to name a tendency or a coherent theory. It was simply a term of art that a loosely connected network of communist projects used to explain their vision of communist revolution.

Even as the term courant communisateur – communizing tendency, or communizer current–began to be applied to these groups retrospectively, many questioned and resisted the term, drawing attention to the way that it conflated advocates of communization, who can exist in the world here and now, with those who practice communization, that is with people who do not yet exist.

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The New Movement (Henri Simon, 1974)

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Dec 1970, Szczecin

Influential in its day and expressing the optimism of its times, this text describes the characteristics of the New Movement of class struggle of the 1960s and 70s and its relationship to the Old Movement. Published in English translation from the original French by Solidarity, London 1976.

by Henri Simon

1. The struggle against capitalist domination, which, in its various modern forms occurs in every country in the world, exhibits new tendencies, which are in complete contrast with what occurred before the beginning of the 20th century.

2. The common and essential feature of these tendencies, is the way in which those who struggle manage the totality of their affairs by themselves in all circumstances of their lives, in the field of action as well as thought.

3. The signs of what could be a radical transformation of social relationships are to be seen in the upheavals of capitalism itself in its crisis and its attempts to adapt itself. These signs can erupt in isolated explosions rapidly destroyed by the dominant interests or they can be traced through their slow progress and more or less stemmed by reforms.

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The Masque of the Red Death (Poe, 1842)

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by Edgar Allen Poe (1842)

The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the madness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress, and termination of the disease, were incidents of half an hour.

But Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his crenellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

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Marx on Social Reproduction

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by Paul Cammack (Historical Materialism, 2020)

Marx is generally reckoned to have had too little to say about what has come to be defined as ‘social reproduction’, largely as a consequence of too narrow a focus on industrial production, and a relative disregard for issues of gender. This paper argues in contrast that the approach he developed with Engels and in Capital, Volume 1, provides a powerful framework for its analysis. After an introductory discussion of recent literature on social reproduction the second section sets out Marx’s approach to the ‘production of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation’. The third addresses his account of reproduction in Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 23. The fourth and fifth compare the relationship of the family to industry and exchange as depicted in Capital and in the present day respectively. The conclusion suggests some implications for theories of social reproduction.

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Beyond Reification: Reclaiming Marx’s Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity (Pepperell 2018)

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by Nicole Pepperell, Contradictions Vol. 2 number 2 (2018)

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György Lukács’s influential interpretation of commodity fetishism as “reification” shapes many contemporary critiques of the apparently objective and impersonal form taken by capitalist social relations. Such critiques seek to debunk the false veil of objectivity that results from fetishism, revealing the real character of the social relations underneath. This line of criticism, however, often attributes totalising power to capitalism, which undermines its own critical standpoint. I argue that the solution to this dilemma lies in understanding the fetish not as an ideological veil that needs to be debunked, but instead as a novel form of social interdependence that is genuinely – not illusorily – impersonal. This impersonal form is generated by a diverse array of disparate social practices whose interaction yields this unanticipated and unintended result. Within this framework, the diversity of the underlying social practices offers a practical potential basis for constituting new forms of social interdependence that lack not only the semblance, but also the reality of capitalism’s oppressive objectivity. READ PDF

See also by Pepperell: