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COMMUNISM OF CAPITAL?

Call for Papers for an ephemera Special Issue on: Communism of Capital?

http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/communismofcapital.pdf

Issue Editors: Armin Beverungen, Anna-Maria Murtola and Gregory Schwartz

Deadline for submissions: 29 February 2012

Today, neoliberal capitalism is increasingly put into question. Whereas two decades ago business school gurus argued that the US was ‘the most “socialist” country around’ (Drucker, 1993: 6), today’s self-appointed business leaders know they cannot do without a certain communism. George Soros, Bill Gates and others refer to themselves – not without irony – as ‘liberal communists’ (Žižek, 2008a). Recognising the evils induced by capitalism these patricians of the market proselytise market philanthropy to deliver many of the ostensible benefits of the communism of yore. Newsweek, reflection on the national bailout of the banks in response to the financial crisis, declared: ‘We are all socialists now’ (Meacham, 2009). Yet, the one thing that seems beyond question in such projections of communism is capital itself.

At the same time, theories of cognitive capitalism, immaterial labour and biopolitical production suggest that some kind of communism is already at work within capitalism. According to Hardt and Negri, immaterial labour ‘seems to provide the potential for a kind of spontaneous and elementary communism’ (2000: 294). Similarly, Virno defines post-Fordism as ‘the communism of capital’, since it ‘puts forth, in its own way, typical demands of communism (abolition of work, dissolution of the State, etc.)’ (2004: 110-111). The contemporary enjoinments to pursue work that is authentic, ethical, spiritual, evoking and invoking the community, friendship and collaboration (Heckscher and Adler, 2006), chime in with invitations for employees in work organisations to ‘just be themselves’ (Fleming, 2009), thus delivering on some of the promises of communism. From a ‘paleo-Marxist’ perspective (Adler, 2007) we can surmise that concrete changes in technology and work organisation assure us some version of communism in substance, if not in form.

However, such projections of work organisation rely on a commons in production without opening up production to a commons that will tear apart the dominance of capital. For Negri (2008: 157-180), the communism of capital is marked by new forms of capture of the creativity of labour. For Virno (2004: 110), communist demands and objectives have been subject to ‘an insiduous and terrible interpretation’, for example in the way that unemployment and precarity accompany overwork. For Holloway (2010), more fundamentally, it is the communal, communising and communistic doing that, in capitalism, exists in the mode of being denied. For Read, capital operates ‘through the abstractions of money and labour, which are all the more effective in that they are not believed or even grasped’ – ‘the cynicism of the productive powers of the general intellect today, is a cynicism without reserve, in which every aspect of one’s existence, knowledge, communicative abilities and desires become productive’ (2008: 146, 150). The question for Negri, Virno, Holloway and Read, then, is how to overcome this enclosure by capital.

Yet even anti-capitalism seems to return only as communism of capital. As Žižek (2008b) and Fisher (2010) point out, capitalist realism already embraces a certain kind of anti-capitalism – ‘corporate anti-capitalism’ is discernible in the products of Hollywood, such as Wall-E and Avatar, but also in the way that today it is acceptable or encouraged to express anti-capitalist sentiments at work (Fleming, 2009). Anti-capitalism as a signifier thus loses its radical edge, especially as it is contained within a parliamentary democratic politics (Žižek, 2008b: 184). Indeed, the more gushing the moralism against the evils of our age, the more certain the conclusion that capitalism is an eternal, natural system of social organisation.

At this impasse we might be at once more sceptical and more hopeful. We might hedge doubts about the communism of capital in view of Groys’ (2009) argument that language – the basis of a communist politics – will remain silent as long as the commodity form mediates it. We might question the communism of capital by insisting, with Ranciere (2010), on the politics of emancipation and not the logos of history as the purveyor of communism. We might deny its ethical claims by revealing the underlying ‘ontology of profit’ (Badiou, 2008: 47) – that with capitalism as ‘a system that hands the organization of our collective life over to the lowest instincts, to greed, rivalry and unconscious egotism’ (Badiou, 2010: 96) the communism of capital is a simulacra of late capitalism. And if communism is ‘not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself’, then where are we to look for ‘the real movement which abolishes the present state of things’ (Marx and Engels, 1998: 57; emphases in original)?

Contributions

For this special issue of ephemera we invite contributions that address various aspects of what could be conceived as the communism of capital. We are especially interested in papers that try to cover the following interrelated areas of organisational inquiry.

First, we are interested in contributions that seek to locate the attempts by capital to organise society as producers. For example, in what ways are social forms mobilised in the name of a discernible communism, and how do such dispositifs reproduce the dominance of capital? Based on postworkerist/autonomist thought, how or to what extent is production based on the common, and what kinds of political effects does this produce? Alternatively, drawing on the Lacanian/Hegelian tradition, how does anti-capitalist ideology work in practice in the organisation of work, and what negations and contradictions are involved?

Second, papers could explore how capital organises consumption in society via affective, discursive and cognitive means. For example, how do contemporary ideas of corporate social responsibility, business ethics or leadership utilise ideas of communism? In what ways, and to what extent, do efforts to purvey capitalism as, essentially, a creature of communism lead to new ways of constructing (and consuming) the subjects of capital?

Third, we welcome papers that interrogate how capital organises politics and the state. For example, there is a way in which the state, by over-coding existing codes and values, uses the terminology and imagery of ‘community’ to refer to ways of fragmenting and depoliticising its social responsibility in the face of escalating inequality, poverty and precarity generated by capital. How might we understand this apparent harkening to deep-seated, basic communalism in terms of the communism of capital, with the state presiding over the inscription of the social body as a renewed object of appropriation of capital?

Finally, we welcome theoretical or empirical contributions that bring together or provide a cross-examination of some or all of the above areas of inquiry. For example, following Guattari and Negri’s (2010) proposition of the pre-eminence of organisation, how might we move from the communism of capital towards the communism discussed by Marx and Engels in 1848? Or, in addition to the post- workerist, autonomist, Lacan- and Hegel-inspired approaches that we have discussed here, in what other ways might communism, beyond capital, today be thought or advanced?

Deadline for submissions: 29th of February 2012

Please send your submissions to the editors. All contributions should follow ephemera guidelines – see http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/submit.htm. In addition to full papers, we also invite notes, reviews, and other kinds of contributions – please get in touch to discuss how you would like to contribute. In anticipation of the special issue, we plan to host an event on the themes, at which we will ask the selected contributors to present their work.

Armin Beverungen, armin.beverungen@googlemail.com 

Anna-Maria Murtola, annamariamurtola@gmail.com 

Gregory Schwartz, g.schwartz01@gmail.com
References
Adler, P. (2007) ‘The future of critical management studies: A paleo-Marxist critique of labour process theory’, Organization Studies, 28(9): 1313-1345.
Badiou, A. (2008) The meaning of Sarkozy, trans. D. Fernbach. London: Verso.
Badiou, A. (2010) The communist hypothesis, trans. D. Macey and S. Corcoran. London: Verso.
Drucker, P. (1993) Post-capitalist society. New York: HarperBusiness.
Fisher, M. (2010) Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative? London: Zero Books.
Fleming, P. (2009) Authenticity and the cultural politics of work. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Groys, B. (2009) The communist postscript. London: Verso.
Guattari, F. and A. Negri (2010) New lines of alliance, new spaces of liberty, trans. M. Ryan, J. Becker, A. Bove and N. Le Blanc. London: Minor Compositions / Autonomedia / MayFly.
Hardt, M. and A. Negri (2000) Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Heckscher, C. and P. S. Adler (2006) The firm as collaborative community: Reconstructing trust in
the knowledge economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Holloway, J. (2010) Crack capitalism. London: Pluto Press.
Marx, K. and F. Engels (1992 [1848]) The communist manifesto. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Marx, K. and F. Engels (1998) The German ideology. New York: Prometheus Books.
Meacham, J. (2009) ‘We are all socialists now’, Newsweek, 6 February 2009. [http://www.newsweek.com/2009/02/06/we-are-all-socialists-now.html].
Negri, A. (2008) Goodbye Mr. Socialism: Radical politics in the 21st century. London: Serpent’s Tail.
Ranciere, J. (2010) ‘Communists without communism?’, in C. Douzinas and S. Žižek (eds.) The idea of communism. London: Verso.
Read, J. (2008) ‘The age of cynicism: Deleuze and Guattari on the production of subjectivity in capitalism’, in I. Buchanan and N. Thoburn (eds.) Deleuze and politics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
Virno, P. (2004) A grammar of the multitude: For an analysis of contemporary forms of life. New York: Semiotext(e).
Žižek, S. (2008a) Violence. London: Profile Books.

Žižek, S. (2008b) In defense of lost causes. London: Verso.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

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The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com 

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Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

The Rouge Forum: Apocalypse Now and Again

 

Update 30 March 2009

 

A Message from Rich Gibson

 

Dear Friends

A reminder of the outstanding Rouge Forum Conference, Education, Empire, Economy and Ethics at the Crossroads, May 15 to 17, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at Eastern Michigan U. http://www.rougeforumconference.org/

This is the only education-based conference in North America that will seriously take up questions of economic collapse, perpetual war, and the booming rise of inequality and irrationalism–and what to do. Keynote speaker, Staughton Lynd, will address the question at hand: What is to be done?

A blast from the past sets up our current condition: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” Dickens speaking for Micawber in David Copperfield.

The Obamagogue: “But one of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we’re all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country.” March 24 2009.

Let us be clear: The Education Agenda is a War Agenda and agenda to mask class war, a war of the rich on the poor which the rich clearly recognize and the poor do not—yet.  The most important less is we are NOT all in this together.

The core issue of our times is the accelerated rise of color-coded inequality met by the potential of mass class conscious resistance. The promise of perpetual war is every bit as real as it was with Bush. The same bankers who produced this very real economic crisis, collapse, are the bankers of the Obama regime. His transparent demagoguery has not worn out yet, but it may soon as the wars are lost and the economy spins into either deflationary chaos or the almost equally ruinous alternative: rampant inflation.

Here we see firms using bailout money to bribe the political class: http://www.newsweek.com/id/190363
Is it hard for liberals to hold up their notion of democracy inside what is now clearly a capitalist democracy, the former overwhelming the latter, while the near seamless merger of the corporations and banks with the political class is finalized? No it is not. Why?

Rolling Stone on “The Wall Street Revolution”: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26793903/the_big_takeover/7

George Soros Sees No Bottom to World Financial Collapse
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE51K0A920090221

Quotes From the Great Depression–note the parallels
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/writing/2009/03/great-depression-quotes-1929-vs-2008-1.html

Here are two pieces on what can happen if class conscious resistance does not begin to materialize:
* Fights break out at auto dealership as jobs are lost: http://www.freep.com/article/20090328/BUSINESS06/90328025/Fights+break+out+as+auto+dealership+closes
* Preparing for Civilian Unrest In America: Michel Chossudovsky: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12793

On the upside, resistance and red flags are flying in France: Academic and student anger grows; The nation’s universities continued to be disrupted by strikes and protests against proposed teacher training reforms last week, while university presidents called for a year’s delay in introducing the changes to allow time for reflection and consultation: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090320100214606

On the downside, because of grotesque misleadership from groups like United For Peace and Justice, the potential of a million people in the streets in the US six years ago opposing the wars, only 5-10,000 turned up on the anniversary this year:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032101368.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Could sanity be peeping up in this mire of crises in the US ? Some districts are limiting homework
http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-homework22-2009mar22,0,5760396.story?track=rss

Wayne Ross and I have a piece under consideration at Z Mag: The Education Agenda is a War Agenda
http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20965

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-border25-2009mar25,0,761284.story
Is it not odd that DHS is going right into Mexico? “Through “strategic redeployments,” the Department of Homeland Security plans to send more than 360 officers and agents to the border and into Mexico, Napolitano said. Costs across the board, totaling up to $184 million, will be revenue neutral, funded by realigning from less urgent activities, fund balances, and, in some cases, reprogramming, she said. ”

And is it not odd that troops are going to be sent to the US side of border areas to do police work???????

Two sources to add to John Bellamy Foster’s current book, “The Great Financial Crisis,” are classics:
Dunayevskaya: Outline of Marx’s Capital: http://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1979/outline-capital/index.htm This is a terrific teaching tool.

Lewis Corey’s (aka Louis Fraina) book, “The Decline of American Capitalism,” written in 1932, arranges an understanding of the present collapse in notable, prescient, detail. Only a very few reasonably priced books are left in print.

The Rouge Forum Blog is up and you are welcome to join it. http://therougeforum.blogspot.com/

And in hopes that this week we can leave ’em laughing:

South Park on the Economy:
http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/220760

SNL: Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford??!! http://consumerist.com/consumer/clips/snl-skit-dont-buy-stuff-you-cant-afford-252491.php

A modern, roaring, version of L’Internationale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx7A3UYKXj4

Thanks to Susan, Perry, Steve, Wayne, Amber, Doug S, Joe B, Kenny, Sherry, Matt, Victoria, Joe C, Adam and Gina, Bob, Victoria, Tommie, Michael, David, Sharon A., Della, Barbara, Faith, Denny, Jim B, Kim B, Gil, Ernesto, Angel, Jackie, Ann, Candy, GF, Peter, Ricky, Steve, Dennis, Kirk, TC, Bob S, John and Mary, Mary and Paul, and to adjuncts everywhere.

Good luck to us, every one.
Rich Gibson

(More news on those Seattle teachers who resisted testing their students next week).

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski