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Month: February, 2021

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.