Posts Tagged ‘capitalist society’

“The powerlessness of the workers is not merely a ruse of the rulers but the logical consequence of industrial society, into which the efforts to escape it have finally transformed the ancient concept of fate.”

– Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic Of Enlightenment. 1944/1947. Translated by  Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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“While it is true that the proletariat
cannot just take the machinery of the State into its own hands and make it operate
in its interests, the same thing may be said of the machinery of the economy.
All the proponents of self-management, and particularly all our contemporary
mystics of self-management, have yet to understand that there is a
discontinuity between capitalism and communism. In fact, the movement of the
occupation of the factories and the theory of the BO correspond to a stage of proletarian
retreat, a stage in which the totality of capital represented by the State can
no longer be confronted directly, since it is not simply a matter of a handful
of individuals. The factory occupations movement is a movement that binds the
proletariat to the means of production, that makes it dependent on them. By occupying
the factories, the proletariat does not escape the socialization of capital,
which makes all human beings interdependent, but puts itself at its service.

The proletariat has withdrawn, defeated, to the places of its immediate
existence and, instead of calling it by its real name, all kinds of theoreticians
have presented this retreat as a new form of struggle, a new means to attain a
really revolutionary consciousness. The occupation of the factories without the
destruction of capital in its existence (the community of capital) can only
lead to the paralysis of capital; but the working class is also paralyzed,
immobilized, remaining so to speak within capital. If production in the
factories is resumed (self-management), then one implicitly accepts the rationality
of capital, since one restores capital without the capitalist and his
repressive appendages: foremen, psychologists, etc.; one approves of the
division of society into enterprises and therefore one accepts the resumption
of production even in those factories whose products are contrary to the
interests of humanity, like automobile factories.

It is obvious that the discourse concerning
the destruction of the State, considered simply in its anti-state dimension, is
limited to exposing the generalized state-worship that has swept over the vast
majority of the population. On the one hand, if society engenders a
State—society is the totality of social relations—the State tends to become
society as the inevitable correlate of the access of capital to the material
community. Capital, Marx says, develops a coercive relation; as a result, this element is
found in all organizations dominated by capital and therefore it is also
characteristic of the State in its activity as coercive agent that springs into
action when economic coercion, derived from the rationality characteristic of a
particular process of production, is no longer sufficient. That is to say,
employing the old terminology, the situation is no longer characterized by
having civil society on one side and the State on the other, but rather by the
penetration of the latter into all of society’s organizations.

Recalling what Marx said about the
nationalization of the land, that the land cannot belong to either the direct
producers or even to any particular generation of humanity, but rather to the
species as a whole, Bordiga emphasized the fact that the communist revolution
cannot serve to benefit a single class, regardless of how universal that class
may be. Were it to do so, it would remain in the stage of the generalization of
the proletariat and would not proceed towards its abolition. If one then
declares that every person should become a producer, one mutilates humanity at
the same time that one casts aside an entire historical-practical acquisition;
man does not have to intervene directly, personally, in order to produce! And
furthermore, such a demand is revealed to be more and more contradictory with
each passing day. As a consequence of the enormous productivity of labor, the
act of production can no longer define man; only human activity, the
development of the human forces as ends-in-themselves, can be the fundamental
determination of a humanity that is finally liberated from capital.”

– Jacques Camatte, “The KAPD and the proletarian movement.

Invariance, Series II, No. 1

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“Historically, growth along a single developmental path and shifts from
one path to another have not been simply the unintended outcome of
the innumerable actions undertaken autonomously at any given time  by individuals and the multiple communities into which the world-economy is divided. Rather, the recurrent expansions and restructurings
of the capitalist world-economy have occurred under the leadership of
particular communities and blocs of governmental and business agencies
which were uniquely well placed to turn to their own advantage the
unintended consequences of the actions of other agencies.  

The strategies
and structures through which these leading agencies have promoted,
organized, and regulated the expansion or the restructuring of the capitalist
world-economy is what we shall understand by regime of accumulation
on a world-scale.  The main purpose of the concept of systemic cycles is to
describe and elucidate the formation, consolidation, and disintegration
of the successive regimes through which the capitalist world-economy has
expanded from its late medieval sub-systemic embryo to its present global

The entire construction rests on Braudel’s unconventional view of
the relationship that links the formation and enlarged reproduction of
historical capitalism as world system to processes of state formation on
the one side, and of market formation on the other.  The conventional
view in the social sciences, in political discourse, and in the mass media is
that capitalism and the market economy are more or less the same thing,
and that state power is antithetical to both. Braudel, in contrast, sees
capitalism as being absolutely dependent for its emergence and expansion
on state power and as constituting the antithesis of the market economy.

More specifically, Braudel conceived of capitalism as the top layer
of a three-tiered structure – a structure in which, “as in all hierarchies, the upper [layers] could not exist without the lower stages on which
they depend.”  The lowest and until very recently broadest layer is that
of an extremely elementary and mostly self-suficient economy. For
want of a better expression, he called this the layer of material life, “the
stratum of the non-economy, the soil into which capitalism thrusts its
roots but which it can never really penetrate” (Braudel 1982: 21–2,

Above [this lowest layer], comes the favoured terrain of the market economy,
with its many horizontal communications between the different markets: here
a degree of automatic coordination usually links supply, demand and prices. and alongside, or rather above this layer, comes the zone of the anti-market,
where the great predators roam and the law of the jungle operates.  This –
today as in the past, before and after the industrial revolution – is the real
home of capitalism.  (Braudel 1982: 229–30; emphasis added)

A world market economy, in the sense of many horizontal
communications between di erent markets, emerged from the depth
of the underlying layer of material life long before capitalism-as-world-
system rose above the layer of the market economy. As Janet Abu-
Lughod has shown, a loose but none the less clearly recognizable
system of horizontal communications between the principal markets
of Eurasia and Africa was already in place in the thirteenth century.
And for all we know, Gills and Frank may well be right in their claim
that this system of horizontal communications actually emerged several
millennia earlier.

Be that as it may, the question that bears directly on our research is
not when and how a world market economy rose above the primordial
structures of everyday life; it is when and how capitalism rose above the
structures of the pre-existing world market economy and, over time,
acquired its power to reshape the markets and lives of the entire world.
As Braudel (1984: 92) points out, the metamorphosis of Europe into the
“monstrous shaper of world history” that it became after 1500 was not
a simple transition. Rather, it was “a series of stages and transitions, the
earliest dating from well before what is usually known as ‘the’ Renaissance
of the late fifteenth century.”

The most decisive moment of this series of transitions was not the
proliferation of elements of capitalist enterprise across Europe. Elements
of this kind had occurred throughout the Eurasian trading system and
were by no means peculiar to the West:

Everywhere, from Egypt to Japan, we shall  find genuine capitalists,
wholesalers, the rentiers of trade, and their thousands of auxiliaries – the commission agents, brokers, money-changers and bankers. As for the
techniques, possibilities or guarantees of exchange, any of these groups of
merchants would stand comparison with its western equivalents. Both inside
and outside India, Tamil, Bengali, and Gujerati merchants formed close-knit
partnerships with business and contracts passing in turn from one group to
another, just as they would in Europe from the Florentines to the Lucchese,
the Genoese, the South Germans or the English.  There were even, in medieval
times, merchant kings in Cairo, Aden and the Persian Gulf ports. (Braudel
1984: 486)

Nowhere, except in Europe, did these elements of capitalism coalesce into
the powerful mix that propelled European states towards the territorial
conquest of the world and the formation of an all-powerful and truly
global capitalist world-economy. From this perspective, the really
important transition that needs to be elucidated is not that from feudalism
to capitalism but from scattered to concentrated capitalist power. And the
most important aspect of this much neglected transition is the unique
fusion of state and capital, which was realized nowhere more favorably for
capitalism than in Europe:

Capitalism only triumphs when it becomes identified with the state, when it is
the state
. In its first great phase, that of the Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa,
and Florence, power lay in the hands of the moneyed elite. In seventeenth-
century Holland the aristocracy of the Regents governed for the benefit and
even according to the directives of the businessmen, merchants, and money-
lenders. Likewise, in England the Glorious Revolution of 1688 marked
the accession of business similar to that in Holland. (Braudel 1977: 64–5;
emphasis added)

– Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London & New York: Verso, 1994, 2010. pp. 10-12

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