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Tag: crisis

David Harvey and Robert Brenner

Robert Brenner and David Harvey held this conversation December 1, 2016, at the CUNY Graduate Center. The event was hosted by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics.

Here is the full conference, divided into 3 parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Infinite Crisis

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by Jacob Blumenfeld, Brooklyn Rail

Did the world already end? Did we miss the moment of our own expiration? That seems to be the question we are collectively asking ourselves at this moment through the medium of popular culture. No longer satisfied by seeing our planet repeatedly threatened by aliens, disease, robots, nukes, or nature, we find joy in watching humanity manage the fallout of disaster instead of preventing its occurrence. No longer convinced by the theme of the unification of mankind against a universal menace, we take pleasure in watching people divide and fight each other to the death along lines of race, status, and country. To believe in the once utopian ideal of the working classes of all nations joining together to make a more perfect world signifies now more than ever that one is certifiably insane.

Is there any hope left for a future without perpetual war, economic crises, environmental catastrophes, rampant misogyny, racist violence, gross inequalities, horrendous prisons, endless work? Nothing points that way. Utopia was always a stillborn idea, pronounced dead on arrival to this world we must leave. For some, the world only gets better by including more people in the wealth of society. For others, the world only improves by investing capital in productive lines of industry. Most people, however, don’t care one way or another. The point is to survive, to manage my own exploitation as best as possible until society lets me cash out with enough money to feed myself, pay my debts, and watch my kids and grandkids fall with delight towards a much worse existence.

This is the dawning of the age of post-post-apocalypse: life not after the catastrophe has struck, but after it has settled in as a permanent condition. Whether you’re a Maze Runner or a Divergent, the collapse cannot be reversed, only partially escaped. The hot Fury Road leads to an endless desert, and revolution only brings more Hunger Games. The force has not awakened, justice has not dawned, humanity has not evolved. But a world without heroes does not mean a world without villains. Billionaire vigilantes, suicidal death squads, nihilist mercenaries, and neoliberal politicians have all taken on the role of saviors from the threat of the even-worse option. The message is clear: we are the villains we’ve been waiting for. The true enemies of the present, however, are not people but abstract structures of domination. And how do you fight an abstraction?

In our mass-mediated imaginations, the structure of civilization has already collapsed due to one of the many choose-your-own-adventure disasters occurring in slow motion all around us. Whether Syria or climate change, the prison system or Brexit, the refugee crisis or Trump—it all ends in the same way: the inability of anyone to change anything at all. Progress, if it occurs, comes by accident, luck, or automation; humans only get in the way. Collective political change appears only as a cover for individual tyranny. People are constantly changing their lives to accommodate the impossibility of changing anything at all. Cybernetic dreams of greener pastures and cosmopolitan citizenship may circulate among the diverse ruling classes of the world, but for the rest of us, there’s no way to escape the utter subjection to national borders, international law, and the global market. No cosmoproletarian heroes are here to save us. Refugees come and go in every generation, but the magnitude of the desperation at the moment is overwhelming. A world civil war beckons while history marches forward inexorably to its completion in the supersession of man. No time to be alive like the present.

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Trumped

 

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Insurgent Notes #14: Nov 2016, Special Post-Election Issue:

Editorial: We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t

Anyone But by David Ranney

Dispatch From West Virginia by Michael Hough

Some Facts and Figures, and a Bit of Commentary to Go With It by RS

The Heavy Lifting of Class Struggle by S S and Michael Stauch


Internationalist Perspective:

 This is What Democracy Looks Like


It’s Not About NAFTA by Aaron Benanav


Not Us, Me by Jodi Dean


Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t. by Kirk Noden


“Global Trumpism” And The Revolt Against The Creditor Class by Mark Blyth


The Dangers of Anti-Trumpism by Cinzia Arruzza


Listening to Trump by Christian Parenti


Not a Revolution – Yet  by Mike Davis


What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class by Joan C. Williams


A Trump Boom?  by Michael Roberts


Fairfax County, USA by Matt Karp


A Time for Treason by The New Inquiry


How Trump Took Middle America by Gary Young


How America Got It So Wrong by Matt Taibbi


The Myth of the Rust Belt Revolt By Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr

Crisis and Critique

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CRISIS AND CRITIQUE: Critique Of Political Economy

Volume 3, issue 3, 16-11-2016 Edited by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza

It is 2016, and we are still living under capitalism. Yet, how does  contemporary capitalism function? How is it possible for a system, which declared its final victory in the beginning of the last decade of the previous century, to already face some of its most serious and profound crisis since the first decade, of the present century? The on-going crisis has reopened some of the (half) forgotten and prematurely answered & questions about the modes in which capitalism operates: the relation between the State and capital, the limits of capital, the forms of changes within capitalism, forms of domination and exploitation, social classes, et cetera . . .

Table of Contents

Introduction by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza PDF

A Marxian Critique of Neoclassical Economics’ Reliance on Shadows of Capital’s Constitutive Social Forms by Dennis Badeen & Patrick Murray PDF

Marx after Hegel: Capital as totality and the centrality of production by Riccardo Bellofiore PDF

Capital: A Critical Theory? by Jacques Bidet PDF

The Beast and the Universal: Hegel’s Critique of Political Economy by Ivan Boldyrev PDF

The “Capital ” after the MEGA: Discontinuities, Interruptions and New Beginnings by Michael Heinrich PDF

How to Read Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Campbell Jones PDF

Capital as Spirit  by Kojin Karatani PDF

Creativity vs. Unskilled Labour: Kant on Class Struggle by Ognian Kassabov PDF

How Not to Evaluate the Relevance of Marx’s Capital by Andrew Kliman PDF

The Critique of Political Economy and the ‘New Dialectic’: Marx, Hegel and the Problem of Christopher J. Arthur’s ‘Homology Thesis’ by Elena Louisa Lange PDF

The Economic Catastrophe as a Passionate Event by Frédéric Lordon PDF

Marx’s Destruction of the Inner World: from the Colonial Internalisation of the Psyche to the Critique of the Psychological Roots of Political Economy by David Pavón Cuéllar PDF

Radicalizing the Root: The Return of Philosophical Anthropology to the Critique of Political Economy by Jason Read PDF

Mapping the Abstract Essence of Concrete Existence: An Analysis of the Privative Form of Value, an Overdetermined Category by Frank Smecker PDF

Journeying on the Roads Not Taken: The Possessive Individual, the Commons and Marx by Massimiliano Tomba PDF

Economic crises, historical regression and social conflicts: an essay by Raquel Varela and Valério Arcary PDF

Capitalist Bulimia: Lacan on Marx and crisis by Fabio Vighi PDF

The ‘Ideal Total Capitalist’: On the State-Form in the Critique of Political Economy by Gavin Walker PDF

Phenomenology of Value: Badiou and Marx by Yuan Yao PDF

Can One Exit from The Capitalist Discourse Without Becoming a Saint? by Slavoj Žižek PDF

Interview with Moishe Postone: That Capital has limits does not mean that it will collapse by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda PDF

Notes on Contributors PDF

Download the full edition PDF

Needless Necessity: Sameness and Dynamic in Capitalist Society

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Marcel Stoetzler, Bangor University, UK (via Fast Capitalism)

In capitalist modernity, all that is fluid is frozen fast, and vice versa. Everything is at the same time solid and not. We need to do something. One must always produce.[1] But then, one must always produce the same. Production is always reproduction, no more, no less, albeit on an extended scale. Capitalist society is a treadmill:[2] “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that,” as the Red Queen asserted.[3] Society (re-)produces itself, using humans as its principal agents, as ever new and ever the same. Humans (re-)produce society as ever the same by making a fresh start every morning when the alarm bell tolls: a new morning promises gold – the matter of eternity – every single day anew. My consciousness is split on this matter: it tells me, on the one hand, that I have places to go (hooray!), I have some inner growing to do, but at the same time, I am proudly identical to myself (disregarding some metabolism-related corporeal change that one tries to keep separate from one’s sense of selfhood). I who took out the student loan yesterday will have to pay up tomorrow, although the intervening time – not least ‘the student experience’, as they say – will have made me a whole new person (with places to go, hooray!). Growing up, experience – going-beyond-and-through: ex-per-ire – or not, contracts are to be fulfilled. This is a rule society will enforce.

This article explores the dialectic of a twofold compulsion characteristic of modern bourgeois society: on the one hand the dynamism grounded in the compulsion to expand production, to never stand still, relax and enjoy, always to increase the labors of self-preservation, on the other hand the static, sameness and identity that are produced by the ‘real-abstracting’ processes equally central to the capitalist mode of production, the locking down of humans in their identities, including those of sex and race. The article examines these matters through the prism of Adorno’s late essay on the concepts of ‘static and dynamic’ that is taken as a vantage point for a reading of ‘The concept of enlightenment’ in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. The last part of the essay argues that capitalist society’s needless necessities impose themselves on society through abstracting practices in everyday life but also produce an equally contradictory set of social movements that have now opened up a fragile prospect for the revolutionary overcoming of capitalist society. The key point of the argument is that Horkheimer and Adorno’s unique emphasis on the critique of ‘the economic’ beyond that of ‘the economy’ is crucial to this radical perspective.

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The Free Machine

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by Rob Lucas / New Left Review / July-August 2016

Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism is an ambitious book, spanning economic history and theory, the trajectory of socialism, diagnosis of the crisis-prone present and a strategic vision for the future. [1]It is also an unusual one, treating topics typically ceded to left antiquarians with a free spirit that aims to build a grandiose historical-theoretical construction out of insights from Mises and Marx, Luxemburg and Hayek, Preobrazhensky and Gorz. And a best-seller—a notable feat for a work that covers such ground; due in part, perhaps, to Mason’s high visibility as economics editor at the BBCand Channel 4. Born in Lancashire in 1960, the son of a lorry driver and a primary school headmistress, Mason claims to have become ‘a Marxist at 16, a Trotskyist at 19’. He studied music and politics at Sheffield, starting an academic career in music in the early 1980s before switching to journalism. By the time of the late-90s dot.com bubble he was deputy editor of Computer Weekly, then joined BBC Newsnight as business editor, his first broadcast discussing the economic fallout of the 11 September attacks. In 2013 he moved to Channel 4. In these posts he has become a household name in Britain, known for his ruffled pieces-to-camera from the frontline of global uprisings. But he has straddled the range of media from TV and radio to newspaper columns, blogs, with a prominent Twitter and Facebook presence, and a novel set in China’s Wild West. This year he went freelance to engage with the ‘space opening up where the left of social democracy meets the radical left, green and autonomist politics’, unbeholden to the constraints of mainstream media, and has been a prominent commentator on the UK’s successive crises. Mason’s political positions have been oddly ambidextrous: supportive of Corbyn, Occupy and student protests—yet also seeming to call for an upgrade of UK nuclear weapons against the threat of Russian submarines and for the bombing of Assad. If there is a systematic explanation for such eclecticism, he has not yet offered it.

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Simon Clarke’s Guide to Capital: All Three Volumes

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Simon Clarke’s homepage / publications. Guide to Capital as doc / pdf


Capital, volume 1, Chapter 1.

Background:

The first chapter of Capital is both the most important, in that it introduces the basic concepts of Marx’s theory of value, and the most difficult.

Marx first began to work out his theory of value in the Grundrisse (1857), but the discussion there is very convoluted and incomplete. The first version of Chapter One of Capital is to be found in the Critique of Political Economy (1859), whose first chapter is in many ways the best introduction to Chapter One of Capital. The discussion of the Critique differs in a number of ways from that of Capital:

  1. In the Critique Marx does not make the fundamental distinction between value and exchange-value that is made in Capital
  2. in the Critique the argument has a much more ‘Hegelian’ flavour: the argument is entirely formulated in terms of the development of the contradiction between (exchange)-value and use-value
  • the logical and historical development of the argument are both present, but are separated: a logical analysis is followed by a historical one, whereas in Capital the two are more closely integrated
  • Marx devotes much more attention to money in the Critique (and in the Grundrisse) than he does in Capital, (the discussion of money in Capital refers the reader back to the Critique)
  1. The explanation of the theory of value in the Critique is rather different from that in Capital. In the Critique the discussion of commodity fetishism is more closely integrated into the discussion of the theory of value and it is clear that for Marx it is the ‘qualitative’ rather than the ‘quantitative’ dimension that is important: i.e. the theory of value is a theory of the way in which, through money and exchange, private labours are brought into social relation with one another. In Capital the exposition emphasises the quantitative dimension first: the theory of value as a theory of the ratio in which commodities exchange, before discussing the qualitative dimension.

The version of the first chapter of Capital in the English translations is a revised version that first appeared in the third German edition. In the first two editions the first chapter was shorter (roughly the first two sections of the later version and shorter versions of the third and fourth sections), and there was also an Appendix on ‘The form of value’ that was integrated into the third section in the rewrite. The change was made in an attempt to make the first chapter more comprehensible but it does introduce some differences in emphasis. (A translation of the first version of Ch. 1 and the Appendix is published, in a very tortuous translation, in Value Studies by Marx (A. Dragstedt, ed.). A much better translation of the Appendix has been published in Capital and Class, 4, 1978.)

Chapter One of Capital offers us a sociological theory of the market. Marx does not see the market simply as an institution in which individuals meet to exchange commodities, to be understood in isolation from the production of commodities, for exchange itself has implications for production. It is through the price mechanism that apparently independent producers are persuaded to produce in accordance with social needs: if too much of a commodity is produced, the price falls and less will be produced: producers will direct their labour into the production of other goods. If a producer is inefficient he or she will not get full recognition in the market for the work he or she has done, and so will be compelled to increase efficiency. Thus the market is the place in which the labour of individual producers is brought into relation with that of other producers, and so of society as a whole. The market is a particular way of allocating social labour, appropriate to a particular kind of society in which individuals work independently of one another to produce goods for the use of others. Thus the relation between individual producers in a commodity producing society is not directly recognised as a social relation – the producers do not get together to plan production as interdependent members of society. Instead the social relation between these producers takes the form of a relation between things, between the goods they exchange for one another. The exchange ratio, or exchange value, of commodities, is not, therefore, merely a relation between inanimate objects, but it expresses the relation between the labours of the individuals who have produced those commodities. This idea is the basis of Marx’s theory of value.

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From Welcome to Farewell: Germany, the refugee crisis and the global surplus proletariat

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by Felix Baum

In the summer of 2015, almost overnight, Angela Merkel transmuted in international public perception from a brutal whip of austerity policies, relentlessly squeezing already impoverished populations in the crisis-ridden South of the European Union, to the last defender of the humanist values Europe likes to take pride in. Having been regularly portrayed with a Hitler moustache in countries like Greece, she now reemerged as St. Angela, protector of the refugees. While Eastern European countries were busily erecting fences to stem the tide of unwanted intruders, and while the French state declared it sufficient to take in a mere 24,000 Syrians over the next two years, the head of the German government refused to give in to calls within her own party to limit the number of refugees, which was approaching one million (and eventually surpassed that figure by the end of the year). And just as the German hawkishness in dealing with the economic crisis of the Euro zone—seemingly irrational as it only deepened the recession—made observers resort to trivial psychology (was it maybe an exaggerated fear of inflation, deeply engraved in the German mentality, that drove those policies?), the willingness with which the German state, spurred on by its leader’s now famous We can manage!, opened its doors while almost everyone else did the exact opposite, left smart journalists wondering if Merkel’s biography (East German = victim of a Communist dictatorship = empathy for the persecuted) might provide a clue.

More critical observers, of course, suggested other readings. Some Marxists detected an “imperialist offensive” behind the German state’s seeming humanitarianism, welcoming Syrians to gain more influence on the war ravaging their home country while at the same time pushing for “a European solution” to the refugee crisis which, given Germany’s hegemony on the continent, could only turn out to be a solution in Germany’s very own best interest.1 Others focused more on the domestic situation, arguing that refugees are indeed most welcome in Germany, namely as fresh meat on the labor market at a time when many manufacturers are complaining about growing shortages of workers. In some cases, this line of interpretation feeds into a kind of left-wing nationalism that openly advocates “protecting” German workers from undue competition by foreigners. One prominent example is Sahra Wagenknecht, a high-ranking (and formerly Stalinist) politician of the parliamentary Left Party, who attacked Merkel’s policy as a “total failure of the state” and came out in favor of limiting the influx of refugees as the “population’s willingness to take them in has limits.” This earned her not only praise from the new right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but also a brown chocolate cake thrown in her face by leftist activists at a recent party conference.

Flashmob gegen Männergewalt, Köln 2016

Regardless of their political implications, both readings contain a grain of truth but ultimately seem questionable. It is true that the right to asylum, far from being an immaculate expression of humanism, has always just as much served as an instrument of power politics. (According to a recent study, of the 233,000 refugees the U.S. accepted between 1956 and 1968, a mere 1,000 did not come from “communist” countries, to name but one example.)2 And it is equally true that for capitalists, however much they claim that the ultimate goal of all their altruistic strivings is to provide jobs, full employment is simply a nightmare, as it strengthens workers’ bargaining position. Indeed, over the last nine months, representatives of German business have successfully pushed for lowering the barriers for asylum-seekers to enter the labor market. Still, both readings tend to underestimate to what extent politics, rather than following a consistent strategy, amounts to a hectic and highly contradictory muddling-through against the backdrop of growing global chaos. And what is more: if refugees are so beneficial for German capital and the imperial ambitions of its state, how is it that more recently the state-proclaimed “welcome culture” of summer 2015 has given way to very determined efforts to reinforce Fortress Europe?

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Vogelfrei: Migration, deportations, capital and its state

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by Antithesi

This text aims at contributing to the analysis and critique of the politics of the EU and the Greek state on the control and biopolitical management of migration from a proletarian standpoint. The great increase of the migration movement towards the European Union during the last two years, which was mainly caused by the intensification of the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been confronted on the one hand with an intensification of border policing up to the point of its militarization and on the other hand with the formation of a new political and legal framework through the agreement between EU and Turkey on the 18th of March of 2016 which negates basic principles of the international asylum law. Our interest in the issue of migration as a form of the international mobility of labour, as a form of permanent primitive accumulation and as a form of autonomous proletarian activity is not academic. On the contrary, we seek to equip ourselves with theoretical instruments which may be proven useful for the development of common struggles of local and immigrant proletarians, as an integral part of the class antagonistic movement against capital and its state.

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Political art group sets up Roman-style arena for refugees to be devoured by tigers

The Berlin-based collective Center for Political Beauty has launched a provocative stunt called “Eating Refugees.” It targets a law that prohibits refugees from flying into the EU without a visa.

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Known for its provocative actions blending theater and political activism, the collective of activists known as the Center for Political Beauty launched its latest intervention on Thursday. Called “Eating Refugees – Distress and Games” (“Flüchtlinge fressen – Not und Spiele”), it is an unusual spectacle.

Outside the Maxim Gorki theater in Berlin are four tigers in a cage. The caretaker is dressed like a Roman gladiator; his insignia refers to the European Union. In the background is a picture of Germany’s President Joachim Gauck.

A huge poster shows a little girl asking her mother: “Why don’t refugees just take a plane?” in reaction to the countless people who drown while crossing at sea or suffer trying to reach Europe on foot.

Against this setting, the group announced it was looking for refugees desperate enough to be ready to be devoured by those Libyan tigers. In a video, the activists claim that Angela Merkel and the German government, like a Roman emperor during a gladiatorial combat, have to power to stop this from happening with a simple thumbs-up gesture.

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Political Fundamentals and the UK Brexit Referendum

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Tony Norfield from here

What explains the desperation of British capitalism and Conservative Party in the lead up to the Brexit referendum on 23 June? Opinion polls have shifted in favour of a Leave vote and, while the accuracy of the polls is always in doubt, a shift towards Leave seems evident from widespread vox pop views in the media, in the panic of the Remain camp and in the financial market setbacks for sterling’s exchange rate. Equity markets have also been hit, and not just in the UK. As a sign of desperation, the Remain camp has even called upon the Labour Party’s lumbering has-been, Gordon Brown, to add his weight to what looks like a failing balance. Her Majesty has so far been allowed to stay above the dispute, just about. One can imagine that if the polls get any worse for Remain, then Downing Street could try to prompt a Royal appeal to her loyal subjects to do the right thing. Where has this revolt of popular sentiment come from?

My previous coverage of the Brexit referendum has focused on the situation facing the British ruling class in a world where its economic and political interests are clearly bound up with Europe, but where there has been a minority view that an alternative is possible ‘outside’, especially in a context of European economic crisis. But the significant support for Leave shows that this has underestimated a key point. What might otherwise be considered simply as popular disgruntlement with political elites – ‘vote Leave to teach them a lesson’ – is better explained as a widespread view that these elites have broken their pact with the people. The ‘Leave’ support, however disruptive it might be to existing power structures, is based on an appeal to the British state to restore the status quo ante. To understand this point, it needs to be put in context, one that will also confirm that this is not a debate in which one can take sides.

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Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism

Paul Mason gehört zu den wenigen Menschen, die es schaffen, im gegenwärtigen «Interregnum» den nur allzu notwendigen «Optimismus des Willens» aufrechtzuerhalten. Von seiner inspirierten Analyse der radikalen Demokratiebewegungen ab 2011 («Warum es überall knallt»), über seinen mutigen Journalismus während des deutsch-europäischen Putsches in Griechenland 2015 gelingt es Mason, in den Bewegungen der Zustände die wirkliche Bewegung zu entdecken, die es vermag, die Zustände aufzuheben. Nun führt er sein Projekt fort, in einem großen Aufschlag, wie man ihn seit Beginn der Krise kaum noch erwarten durfte: Während die Welt scheinbar ins Chaos driftet, findet er in den Tendenzen des Bestehenden die Saat eines Postkapitalismus. Der neoliberale Informationskapitalismus, so Mason, untergräbt die Möglichkeit seines eigenen Überlebens, während – in den Nischen der solidarischen Ökonomie und in den Staatskanzleien der europäischen Peripherie – andernorts das Neue schon im Entstehen begriffen ist. Natürlich stellt sich daraufhin die alte Frage: Was genau ist nun zu tun? Und wer zum Teufel tut es?

Moderation: Barbara Fried

weitere Infos/ further information: rosalux

Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor (Postone)

The current crisis has laid bare the contradictory and shaky character of contemporary capitalism. Yet the essentially inchoate responses to the crisis have dramatically revealed the absence of a robust conceptualization of post-capitalist society and, by implication, of a robust critique of capital. One result has been the continued hegemony of neoliberal discourses and policies. Moishe Postone seeks to fundamentally rethink the core categories of Marx’s critique of political economy in the fall 2015 Ellen Maria Gorrissen lecture. He argues that Marx’s mature critique of political economy, as elaborated in the Grundrisse and Kapital, provides the basis for a different critical theory of modernity with contemporary significance.

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Capitalism and Anwar Shaikh

(thenextrecession.com)

The most important book on capitalism this year will be Anwar Shaikh’s Capitalism – competition, conflict, crises.

As one of the world’s leading economists who draws on Marx and the classical economists (‘political economy’, if you like), Anwar Shaikh has taught at The New School for Social Research for more than 30 years,authored three books and six-dozen articles.  This is his most ambitious work.  As Shaikh says, it is an attempt to derive economic theory from the real world and then apply it to real problems.  Shaikh applies the categories and theory of classical economics to all the major economic issues, including those that are supposed to be the province of mainstream economics, like supply and demand, relative prices in goods and services, interest rates, financial asset prices and technological change.

Shaikh says that his “approach is very different from both orthodox economics and the dominant heterodox tradition.”  He rejects the neoclassical approach that starts from “Perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behavior, rational expectations, etc.” and then “various imperfections are introduced into the story to justify individual observed patterns” although there “cannot be a general theory of imperfections”.  Shaikh rejects that approach and instead starts with actual human behavior instead of the so-called “Economic Man”, and with the concept of ‘real competition’ rather than ‘perfect competition’. Chapters 3 and 7-8 emphasize that.  It is the classical approach as opposed to the neoclassical one.

The book is a product of 15 years work, so it has taken longer to gestate than Marx took from 1855 to 1867 to deliver Capital Volume one.  But it covers a lot.  All theory is compared to actual data in every chapter, as well as to neoclassical and Keynesian/post-Keynesian arguments. A theory of ‘real competition’ is developed and applied to explain empirical relative prices, profit margins and profit rates, interest rates, bond and stock prices, exchange rates and trade balances.  Demand and supply are both shown to depend on profitability and interact in a way that is neither Say’s Law nor Keynesian, but based on Marx’s theory of value.  A classical theory of inflation is developed and applied to various countries.  A theory of crises is developed and integrated into macrodynamics.  That’s a heap of things.

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Migration, refugees and labour

In depth analysis of EU migration and the ‘refugee crisis’ in relation to labour market restructuring and working class composition

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(translated from: wildcat no.99 – winter 2015/16)

The ‘summer of migration’ has ended. While numerous initiatives still support the ‘new citizens’, through organising day-to-day support, festivals, language courses and much more, the political class wants to invert this dynamic: they try to erect new borders, enforce deterioration of social standards and to use the refugees to politically divide the working class – as a catalyst for a very far-reaching social re-formation.

Within the political left, views on this development can be divided roughly into two sorts: some conceptualise the impressive self-organisation of refugees and the tearing down of border fences as ‘autonomy of migration’. Others see Merkel’s policies from a solely functionalist perspective: migration is beneficial for capital’s interest in cheap, qualified and motivated labour power and in additional contribution payers for the pension funds.

In reality these two aspects come together. By migrating towards the northern European centres many people try to become active subjects again. Capital wants to make use of their social energy for the restructuring of labour markets and to put pressure on local class relations. Furthermore, mass migration can have similar effects, like an economic stimulus program, by creating employment in job centres, in teaching, in construction, in the welfare and security sectors… in addition it lowers the reproduction costs of labour power (maintenance and education of a human being during the first two decades of their life costs around 200,000 Euro – Germany is a country of ‘old age’ and desperately needs young people!).

To have this impact proletarian migration must be controlled, something which those in power have increasingly been unable to do in recent years. The most recent stages of this loss of control were the escalation of the ‘refugee crisis’ in Greece in early 2015, the demolition of the border fences in Turkey in Mid-July 2015 in the aftermath of the fights over Tal Abjad in Syria and finally the trek of refugees from the main station in Budapest towards the Austrian border. In early September the arriving refugees were welcomed with applause in Vienna, Munich and other cities. Apart from the actual border-crisis, this reaction of the local population is the second aspect of the state’s loss of control and would have been unthinkable in the early 1990s. Thirdly, the ruling class has no strategy of how to ‘fight the underlying reasons for migration’. In fact, the opposite is true: the ever more brutal and destructive repression of oppositional movements in an increasing number of regions around the globe aggravates the social antagonism; crisis and wars result in the collapse of entire regions.

The about-turn of the Merkel government in summer was both an acknowledgement of this reality and an effort to re-claim control. The proclamation of a ‘culture of welcoming’ is part and parcel of this effort. Only by transforming the patient long-term work of refugee initiatives into a public event would the political class subsequently be able to invert it.

In the following we want to elaborate on the relation between the migration of refugees and labour migration into Germany within the European context. Initially, the distinction between ‘refugees’ and ‘labour migrants’ was a purely legal one: Greek workers who escaped the military junta and came to Germany in 1967 were categorised as ‘guest workers’. After the official recruitment ban of 1973, Turkish workers, who were trying to escape from the military coup in 1980, had to claim asylum. Senegalese migrants who risked their lives while crossing the Mediterranean were treated as illegal agriculture workers in Spain and as asylum seekers in Germany.

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On Communisation and its Theorists

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Endnotes – If the term “communisation” is missing from Endnotes 4 this is due partly to the topics we covered, and partly to our frustration with the way this word has become associated with a new theoretical brand and/or radical identity. We will return to the theme of communism in the present tense in Endnotes 5, but as a preview of that issue we here publish a critical take on “communisation” by some friends of ours and the classless society (Freundinnen und Freunden der klassenlosen Gesellschaft). We don’t agree with it all, and we will include a response in the forthcoming issue, but in the meantime we hope it will provide food for thought. This text was originally published in the Friends’ journal Kosmoprolet as a response to Théorie Communiste’s critique of the Friends’ 28 Theses on Class Society. A translation of TC’s original critique can be found here.

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Is This a Coup?

Yanis Varoufakis comments on Paul Mason’s documentary “#THIS IS A COUP” 

Paul Mason’s recently released four-part documentary #THIS IS A COUP, on the crushing of the Athens Spring, offers much food for thought. Paul and I have had many opportunities to discuss the issues it covers, including on stage in London in front of a magnificent audience. When the time comes, I shall publish my full account. But for now, here are some comments for each one of the four episodes, culminating to a general comment at the very end. 

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A Communist Life

by Felix Baum

Along with the return of economic crisis and social struggles around the world, the term “communism”—supposedly discredited once and for all by the experience of Russia and its satellite states in the 20th century—seems to be enjoying a certain comeback in recent years. Conferences on “the idea of communism” attract significant crowds, books by professed communists like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek find readers and grab media attention. However, more often than not this (surely limited) comeback does not seem to be driven by a genuine desire to retrieve the emancipatory content the term carried in the writings of Karl Marx and like-minded critics, as well as in practical movements from the 19th century onwards. Rather, maîtres-penseurs like Badiou and Žižek prefer to pose as enfants terribles, defending Maoism and flirting with Bolshevik terror, hence reaffirming precisely the unholy traditions with which a “communism” for the 21st century would have to break.

Paul mattick

In his new biography of Paul Mattick, a German-born worker who immigrated to the United States in 1926 and later emerged as one of the most important radical critics of his time, Gary Roth tells the story of a largely forgotten current in the 20th century that early on made a rupture with the statist caricatures of communism to which today’s media-savvy leftist intellectuals are still holding fast.1 Noting that this story is about “bygone eras in which a radicalized working class still constituted a hope for the future,” Roth steers clear of melancholy and nostalgia, instead seeking a justification for his work in the more recent reconfiguration “of the world’s population into a vast working class that extends into the middle classes in the industrialized countries and the pools of underemployed agricultural workers everywhere else.” In fact, though far from constituting a sustained, consistent assault on existing conditions, some recent struggles of parts of this class, most notably the “square movements” that spread from North Africa via Europe to Istanbul, exhibit certain traits—horizontal self-organization (or “leaderlessness), direct mass action against state forces, a focus on occupations—that point much less to the Bolshevik-Leninist tradition than to the one Roth describes, commonly referred to as council communism, though the resemblances should certainly not be exaggerated.

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China Crash

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The Faltering of Economic Transition. Ralf Ruckus

In days of panic selling and bursting bubbles, the Chinese stock markets appear to be a casino of roulette bets on future economic trends. Beyond the daily ups and downs of the stocks game, we can identify maneuvers of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other players, as well as long-term trends of Chinese capitalist development.1

What started all the fuss? Chinese share prices have been volatile for years, but started to rise especially fast in November 2014 – also in comparison to those in other countries.2 All in all they increased by more than 100 percent in six months before the market collapsed on June 12, 2015. The government started buying large amounts of shares, canceled new stock market launches, ordered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) not to sell shares and used other measures to stop the free fall of share prices. Only when half of the shares had officially been taken off the market and many of the remaining had been bought by state agencies did the fall slow somewhat. It continued, though, with more short periods of panic around July 27 and August 24, then leaving the index 40 percent lower than on June 12.3

These events happened in a financial sector framework that has stayed more protected and state-controlled than those in other capitalist countries throughout China’s “reform” period – i.e. from the late 1970s until today. Stock exchanges were set up in Shanghai and Shenzhen only in 1990 and 1991, in part to support the restructuring of SOEs. However, they played a minor role until the early 2000s, when the government made more efforts to further commercialize the financial sector to make it more suitable for capitalist expansion. A first large stock market bubble popped in early 2007, when shares went down after rumors that the government would raise the benchmark interest rates and go after credit-financed speculation.4 After 2007, the financial sector was further extended in the course of government policies to cushion the effects of the global economic crisis – i.e. a huge government stimulus program based on credit generated through the state-controlled banking sector.5 The effects of the crisis also led to the expansion of a “shadow” banking sector, which is largely outside the control of the government but plays an important role in financing private business and local governments’ development projects.6

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We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Anselm Jappe

Anselm Jappe was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1962. Now based in France, he is the author of several major works of critical theory and analysis in German, French, and Italian, with many translations of his works appearing in other languages, including English, Spanish, and Portuguese. He currently lectures at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris and the Accademia di Belle Arti di Sassari in Sardinia. Alastair Hemmens interviewed him for Field Notes in August.

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Rail (Alastair Hemmens): Let’s start by talking a bit about your intellectual development as a critical theorist. Could you say something about the historical and intellectual context in which your approach to critical theory first developed? Can you pinpoint any particular personal experiences that originally drove you towards the radical critique of capitalism?

Jappe: One of the strongest expressions of the vision of the world shared by many young people in the Seventies is Patti Smith singing “Outside of Society / That’s where I wanna be” (“Rock ’n’ Roll Nigger,” 1978). It is also one of the best summaries of the change that has occurred since then. Today, there’s lots of talk about “exclusion” from society, about “marginalization,” about the necessity of “including” all kinds of people in society. To be “outside of society” is now thought of as the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. This is not surprising, given that today the greatest threat that capitalist society poses to every one of us is that we are virtually superfluous and might easily become factually so. But in my adolescence, which took place in the latter half of the 1970s in the German city of Cologne, the echoes of the ’68 rebellion were still quite strong, even among very young people. And the very last thing that I and other unruly young people like myself wanted was to “integrate” ourselves into a society which seemed contemptible to us.

School and family, work and the state, bourgeois culture and traditional morality, everything seemed to want to “get us” and force us to “adapt.” For me, as for some others, it became the challenge of our lives to refuse to “adapt.” Naturally, that turned out to be much more difficult than we believed; but I dare say that I have tried at least to stay faithful to the spirit of my early youth, in two senses: First, in the attempt to understand and criticize capitalist society essentially through reading and discussion—let’s call it the political side of rebellion, which comes from the “head.” Secondly, in the refusal of the forms of life that the authorities imposed on us—that was the “existential” side of the rebellion, which comes from the “gut.” To me, it was a clear choice: neither sacrificial militancy, nor “love, peace and happiness” (nor “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll”, which is another version). Rather, to quote another song: “We gotta get out of this place” (Eric Burdon, 1965). So I chose Saint-Just and Bakunin for models. A little later on I started to read Marx, Marcuse, and Adorno, but I was also attracted to what was then called the “counterculture,” especially in its hippie form. I took part in a number of “collectives,” as they were called then, from opposition to authoritarian school measures to the anti-nuclear movement. When I was fifteen, a special teachers’ meeting was held to discuss whether I should be expelled from high school as punishment for my articles in the student newspaper. I wasn’t expelled, but it was a very close call.

My intellectual choices essentially served to deepen my rebellious spirit. I get the impression that this is much less common these days. Today, for certain people, a critical understanding of capitalist society goes hand in hand with a quiet university career (or the attempt at one) and does not appear to entail a rejection of bourgeois life and integration into society. On the other hand, “existential” refusal of bourgeois life today is often inarticulate and easily becomes a sort of alternative lifestyle choice, which can be recuperated into the logic of the commodity; the other possibility is that it leads to total self-ghettoization. There is a lot of discontent today but it is nearly always directed at some specific issue, from ecological disaster to racism, and very rarely at the totality of capitalist society. Postmodernism has profoundly reshaped even the antagonistic spirit.

So, I grew up with the myth of the French Revolution, and in 1974 – 75 (when I was only twelve years old) I thought that the Portuguese revolution was repeating it. You might laugh at my naïveté, but I prefer it to the attitude of those who, already in their teens, were preparing to “lose their life by earning it,” as we say in French. I was always somewhere between anarchism and heterodox Marxism, and never had any sympathy for Stalinist, Maoist, Leninist ,or any other authoritarian conception of revolution. Very early, I also became aware of the dark side of technological progress—a new theme back then—and I read authors like Ivan Illich and Régine Pernoud. But I had no ideological blinkers: I also read Nietzsche with great emotion.

Rail: In the English-speaking world, you are still best known for your work on Guy Debord and the Situationist International (SI). I would even say that your Guy Debord (1993) is still, more than twenty years on, considered to be the work on the subject. How did you first discover Debord? What effect, if any, has he had on your critical thinking? And why do you think your approach to his work still resonates so strongly?

Jappe: I got to know the Situationists in the context I’ve just described. A friend of mine, who was some years older and a kind of mentor to me, was one of the very few people at that time in Germany who knew about the Situationists. But I not only found their ideas quite hard to understand, they also really shocked me: they were directed against all of the radical left militantism that I was so close to (even though I was suspicious of it, but it seemed impossible to have any other kind of collective action). On the one hand, I felt that they struck at some of my innermost convictions; on the other, I was also fascinated by something much more profound, radical and, at the same time, poetical than the leaflets that the political groups around me distributed, which normally adopted a very moralizing tone. I was also very much seduced by the call for a revolution of everyday life. But it was only some years later that I read the work of Debord and the other Situationists systematically. Because I chose the Situationists as the subject of my Master’s degree, I was able to dedicate a lot of time to reading them. By that time I had moved to Italy and I studied philosophy in Rome. I did a Master’s degree under Mario Perniola, a professor of aesthetics who had known Debord and the Situationists personally and had been close to them around 1968. Officially, however, the SI did not exist in the academic world, or in the media. (It’s not right to complain about this: their strategy of resisting institutional and spectacular recuperation had worked quite well up until that point.) When Perniola suggested that I publish a part of my doctoral dissertation as a monograph about Debord, it turned out to be the first one dedicated to him.

If this book has been translated into five or six languages, and if it is still read today, even after the “discovery” of Debord, after his death in 1994, by a broad public and the consequential stream of publications about him, this might be due to the fact that I tried to stress his importance as a radical critic of capitalist society, both in theory and in praxis, as well as somebody who had succeeded in living as he wanted to live: outside of the spectacle. Most of the publications that came afterwards have emphasized—too much, I think—the aesthetic side of his activity, or his biography, or reduced his social critique to just a form of media theory. As such, they contribute, willingly or otherwise, to the incorporation of Debord into the postmodern culture industry.

But I did not want to foster the creation of a legend, nor did I want to become a “specialist.” Indeed, I continue to refer very much to his ideas, but I am also searching for the possibility of further developing a critique of the totality of the capitalist system. So, I cannot sympathize with those who develop “psychogeographical” mobile phone apps or other things like that! Nor with academics who praise Debord as a “prophet of the media age,” which ignores the fact that he articulated a merciless critique of all “permitted” forms of life, including nearly all forms of contestation—especially art! This “bitter victory of Situationism” was probably inevitable. It is all the more remarkable that the core of Debord’s analysis of the spectacle still stands as a landmark of critical social thought and that it can still be an important source of inspiration. Equally, his life and attitude can still be inspiring—and there are not very many figures of the 20th century about whom this might be said!

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