Dec 27, 2008

Comments on, Notes on Loren Goldner's "Fictitious Capital for B..."

Juan de la O has left a new comment on your post "Notes on Loren
Goldner's "Fictitious Capital for B..." (posted October 23, 2008):


You might find David Harvey's writings re "accumulation through
dispossession" nicely dovetail with and support Loren's argument.

I agree that, since the mid-1970s, capital has been attempting
to 'recompose' but, unless higher rates of exploitation are taken as
success - this has been an ongoing and deepening failure, more and less
a long-run contracted reproduction masked to some extent through a now
quite terminal financial hypertrophy.

So...for a Left that's barely left, Luxemburg's famous choice is more
relevant than ever before.


Nil said...

I forget if I already posted this here somewhere, it's one of my favorites these days. Wallerstein agrees that capital has been attempting to recompose since the 70s, but identifies some particular structural/material limits on accumulation of capital that are coming to the fore, and which limit capitalism's sustainability on it's own terms.

From "Globalization: A Long-Term Trajectory of the World System", by Immanuel Wallerstein. First published in International Sociology June 2000, reprinted as Ch. 3 of _The Decline of American Power_

1) "The rise of the real wage level as a percentage of costs of production", as a result of labor organization. This has been historically offset by new low-wage labor from "newly recruited migrants from rural areas, often entering the wage-labor market for the first time."

But, the crazy de-ruralization trend of the past decades means that there's little of these left. Wallerstein doesn't use the word 'imperalism' in this essay, but the connections seem clear: Capitalism has indeed taken over the world, there's nobody left to incorporate into capitalism. "Once the whole world system is de-ruralized, the only option for capitalists is to pursue the class struggle where they are presently located. And here the odds are against them. "

2) The end of the ability of the 'externalize costs' through ecological devestation, which "works as long as there are previously unutilized areas in which to dump waste. But eventually there are no more streams to pollute, or trees to cut down--or at least, not without serious immediate consequences for the health of biosphere." This is where we find ourselves, and the inability to externalize these costs any longer, the need to now pay the bill with the costs of cleanup are a serious limit on capital accumulation.

3) Expanding taxation to pay for the welfare state. "This has not been an optional expense... Social welfare efforts by governments have been the pay-off to tame the 'dangeorus classes,' that is, to keep the class struggle within limited bounds... And the level of [welfare] demands has risen steadily within each country, with no clear limit in sight."

I think he's gotten this basically right, although I'd frame it a bit more in terms of imperalism, connecting all of these trends. It's the colonized regions (internal and external) which provided the cheap labor, which served as the dumping grounds for ecological destruction, and the exploitation of which funded the welfare state, to buy off local labor aristocracies.

But the planet is now full.
Capitalism depends on continued expansion, but there is nowhere left to expand. Everywhere is capitalism. Everywhere is neo-colonialism, with the very beginnings of formation of true global classes.

Nick Paretsky said...


I'v thought of Harvey's concept of "accumulation through dispossession" too, such as in his The New Imperialism, when reading Goldner on primitive accumulation as an on-going process and way for capitalism to respond to its crisis.

I think Hamerquist's argument that the concept of inter-imperial rivalries and even a "U.S." imperialism are less relevant in today's global capitalism needs to be taken seriously and contrasted with Goldner's reliance on a traditional nation-state centered model of the international capitalist system.


Your comment, and your statement, "The planet is now full…Everywhere is capitalism," reminds me of a point made by Hamerquist (others have said this, too) that with a globalized capitalism there is no longer an "outside" to which capitalism can export its contradictions. For example, in his post, "Capitalism in Crisis?," H., discussing the idea he finds in Hardt and Negri's Empire of capitalist globalization being "both a cause of, and a response to the incorporation of the periphery" – the Third World being reproduced within the First in the form of ghettos and shantytowns – says it "points to the exacerbation of political fractures that previously could be exported – remember the Cecil Rhodes comment that imperialism was essential to prevent 40,000,000 Englishmen falling into 'bloody civil war' – it points to the import of populations and problems that previously could be externally quarantined."