Saturday, March 12, 2016

Empire, the Glitch: Integrated World Capitalism and Inter-Imperialist Struggle

Events, strikingly analogous, but occurring in different historical milieux, led to quite disparate results. By studying each of these evolutions on its own, and comparing them, one will easily discover the key to the phenomenon, but it will never be arrived at by employing the all-purpose formula of a general historico-philosophical theory whose supreme virtue consists in being supra-historical.” 
- Karl Marx, “Letter to Otechestvenniye Zapiski (1877)” Collected Works Vol XXIV (New York: International Publishers, 1989), 201. 
History is not the history of repetition, anti-historic history, the history of kings and queens; it is finding the signifying breakthrough, recognizing the point when the scales were tilted.” 
- Félix Guattari, “Causality, Subjectivity and History (1965)” in Psychoanalysis and Transversality tr. Ames Hodges (South Pasadena: Semiotext[e], 2015), 241. 
“Marx's theory of historical repetition, as it appears notably in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, turns on the following principle which does not seem to have been sufficiently understood by historians: historical repetition is neither a matter of analogy nor a concept produced by the reflection of historians, but above all a condition of historical action itself.” 
- Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition tr. Paul Patton (London: Continuum, 2001), 91. 
“At present, in keeping with the general plan of the present work, we must examine the exact economic data on this question. . . 'From the purely economic point of view,' is 'ultra-imperialism' possible, or is it ultra-nonsense?” 
- V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” Collected Works Vol XXII tr. Yuri Sdobnikov (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), 271. 
“You will find out this is not enough. Not to think is only barking at the good stuff. Was it worth the shit, when it comes down? You will not know what the holding out was good for. This is pretty much it.” 
- Bottom of the Hudson, “Pretty Much It” Fantastic Hawk, 2007.

Empire is the Inertia of the End of History, the present made obscure to itself, its mystification and disconnection from political and economic reality and all antecedent facts. Empire is characterized by the perpetual re-emergence of the economic conditions of finance, monopoly, cartels, and capital outflows from the dominant imperial assemblages; the social conditions of austerity, impoverishment, xenophobia, and cognitive dissonance; and the political conditions of competition between belletristic demagogues. Empire and its repetitions are the consequence of unresolved class antagonism, i.e. the existence of economic classes and the disjunct between the interests of those who own the means of production and exchange, and those who are, by circumstance, compelled to sell their labour-activity. The political and economic antagonisms that gave rise to the world wars were never resolved, and thus they are now re-emerging. This lack of resolution and cyclical repetition is Empire. Empire is necessary for the continued reproduction and enlargement of Capital-Nation-States and the further development of Real Subsumption, i.e. “an evolutionary pattern in which the dominant governmental-business complex increased over time in size, power, and complexity - including social complexity;”1 

Empire serves four functions:

(1) it resets rates of profit for the ruling economic classes of the victorious imperial organisms, which had erstwhile been falling, by contracting their imperial organism to destroy their competitors and consuming the social and economic resources of the disturbed and defeated (and is thus characteristic of the relationship between ongoing “So-Called Primitive Accumulation”2 and the so-called “counteracting factors”3 to “the Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit.”4);

(2) it checks the power of the developing working classes of the respective Capital-Nation-States by subjecting them to conditions of total war and mass slaughter against one another;

(3) it socially mystifies the cyclical movements and disconnects the most proximate cycle, materially and superstructurally, from previous social and historical cycles and the causes and consequences of their specific degeneration. Empire does this to, as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri write, “enlarge the realm of the consensuses that support its own power,”5 “dissolving identity and history;”6

(4) it selects by competition the more industrially advanced and 'competitive' imperial organs, i.e. those which are most efficiently able to extort the most surplus labour from the working class in their own territorial assemblages to design and operate the most extravagant weapons against others. These four functions are really one and the same, namely that capitalist subsumption brings the working class into progressively more associated relations with one another – production and exchange are increasingly socialized - and thus successful conflict against the owners and directors of the means of production and exchange who exploit them – ultimately semi-unified finance capital - who, for their part, when confronted with the consequences of their own trans-national fixing agreements, drape themselves in the colours of their respective Capital-Nation-States and gin up an inter-imperialist conflict, in which, as Debord writes, fascism is “eliminated by stronger and more rational forms of the same order.”7

To combat the degeneration you must understand mass psychology. Socially damaged life demands dictatorial authority. Socially damaged life demands that the State transform itself into a suicidal body without organs. A perverse hatred of truth, concrete facts, proliferates unchecked among the socially asphyxiated. Thus gangsters and thieves, imperialist thugs, prey upon the sense of disorder and confusion to reinstitute stronger forms of the same fascistic structure. Empire is the entire cycle of the attempt of semi-unified finance capital to inaugurate their joint exploitation of the entire world and its degeneration into Inter-Imperialist Struggle.
“The incapacity for freedom on the part of the masses of people is not innate. People were not always incapable of freedom. Hence, fundamentally speaking, they can become capable of freedom.” 
- Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism tr. Vincent R. Carfagno (New York: Noonday Press, 1970), 218.

Beverly J. Silver and Giovanni Arrighi write that “a comparison with past periods that are broadly analogous with the present can help both in explaining the shifting perceptions and in dissipating the global fog that still surrounds us.”8 Maurizio Lazzarato writes that the “two major phases in the domination of finance capital”9 were “from 1870 to 1914, during which, for the first time, the complete process of capital developed – including industrial, commercial, and finance capital – in conformity with the exigencies of finance capital”10 and the second, which “began in the 1970s, after which it would no longer be a question of hegemony but of a total reconfiguration of the planet by finance capital and its axiomatics.”11 What characterizes our day today is precisely the completion of the process of competition. So if capitalism was once associated producers competing with one another, then monopoly is merely the consequence and culmination of this competition. Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly J. Silver argue that, in both the periods 1870 to 1914, and from 1970 to present day, “finance capital rose to a dominant position in the global economy relative to capital invested in production. In both periods, moreover, the financialization of economic activities proved destabilizing, culminating in major crises, notably in 1929 and 2008.”12 The monopolist or financier has thus, once again, come to occupy a position of both incredible power in virtue of their abstract wealth, thus ownership over the means of production and exchange, and incredible social reaction and sabotage with respect to the societies that they prey upon.

The repetitions inherent to capitalism and the state, and the repetitional functions immanent to the composite forms and mixed semiotics of Capital-Nation-State, occur in the manner of the rise and decline of respective hegemonies, and the restructuring of the world hegemonic system on ever larger foundations. Giovanni Arrighi writes that “the modern world system. . . has been formed by, and has expanded on the basis of, recurrent fundamental restructurings led and governed by successive hegemonic states.”13 He argues that capitalism and territorialism – i.e. what Deleuze and Guattari call relative deterritorialization and territorialization – function “as opposite modes of rule or logics of power,”14 or rather “different combinations of coercion and capital in processes of state-making and war-making which may be oriented towards the same objective as far as gaining control over territory/population or means of payments is concerned.”15 In other words, the two respective logics of power do not operate “in isolation from one another”16 but rather “in relation to one another, within a given spatio-temporal context.”17 Karatani writes that “the different stages of global capitalism arise as changes in the nature of the union between capital and the state and that these moreover unfold not as a linear development but as a cyclical process.”18 He argues that “repetition does not arise simply because people borrow patterns from the past,”19 but rather because they have to, because there is “a structure of repetition unique to the state”20 which “transcends the consciousness of individual persons.”21 Accounts of these repetitions, their social, political, and economic causes, functions, and consequences, can be found in the work of Marx (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon), Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (Thousand Plateaus), Kojin Karatani (The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange - 2014), Giovanni Arrighi (Geometry of Imperialism and The Long Twentieth Century), and Maurizio Lazzarato (Making of Indebted Man and Governing by Debt). This satisfactory account (to my eye, anyway) centers around Marx, Karatani, and Guattari, though the phenomenon they chart are also the substance of Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kondratiev's work; Lenin's Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917); Trotsky's The Curve of Capitalist Development (1923); Joseph Schumpeter's Business Cycles (1939); Makoto Itoh's The Basic Theory of Capitalism: The Forms and Substance of the Capitalist Economy (1988); and Ernst Mandel Long Waves of Capitalist Development (1995).

Empire is thus much like a glitch in history, insofar as it continually returns us back into an approximation of prior conditions that, as a function of Empire itself, remains only partially or obscurely recognized or understood. Empire is thus the indeterminacy or suspension of capitalist social relations within a play of Capital-Nation-States and their possible articulations with respect to one another in such a way as to preserve, and never imperil, bourgeois property rights, and indeed rather to circuitously and indirectly strengthen them through catastrophic social damage and warfare.

Marx writes that:
“The whole movement. . . seems to turn around in a never-ending circle, which we can only get out of by assuming a primitive accumulation (the 'previous accumulation' of Adam Smith) which precedes capitalist accumulation; an accumulation which is not the result of the capitalist mode of production but its point of departure.”

- Karl Marx, Capital Vol I tr. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1990), 873.

Anna Kornbluh writes that:
“The glitching circuit distills the topos of drive as a lurching, incomplete circulation propelled forth by its own failure to approach its object. We arrive at the end of a lengthy journey only to find ourselves back at the beginning. Later Marxist reformulations of primitive accumulation as a constant feature of capitalism, rather than a stage, make explicit what unfurls implicitly in this image of the glitching circuit.”
- Anna Kornbluh, “On Marx's Victorian Novel” Mediations, 25;1, 2016.

Gavin Walker writes that:
“[T]he 'sublime perversion' presented in the nucleus of capital is this torsion between on the one hand capital's endlessness, its untraceable and repeating origin, which is erased over and over again by the expression of the exchange process, which appears as a smooth circle without beginning or end, and on the other capital's seeming impossibility, its inability to control its drive toward its own suicide or transcendence of itself, expressed in the fact that capital must pursue the immiseration of the historical body of the worker, on which it nevertheless relies for the reproduction of labor power, that is, for the consumption of the very products it would produce. This 'vicious circle' in Marx is described by the term fehler-haften Kreislauf, which we might rather translate as a 'defective circle,' a circuit that arrogates itself as a circular interiority but can never completely overwrite the internal elements that undermine its very operation.”

- Gavin Walker, The Sublime Perversion of Capital: Marxist Theory and the Politics of History in Modern Japan (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), 12.

Empire is a “mass psychology of submission,”22 an “eternity of noisy insignificance.”23 Empire is the metastasis of Capital to every sphere of life; Empire is “the globalisation of the false”24 and “the falsification of the globe,25 it invades vertically from a spaceless instantenaity, transpiercing the exposed nervous system of the terrestrial and social aggregates; “an independent empire in the spectacle,”26 “the empire of modern passivity”27 which “covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory;”28 Empire is administrated decay, collapse, and the excise of duty upon the consequences of collapse, “a paroxystic form of integration of different types of machinisms: technical machines, economic machines, but also conceptual machines, religious machines, aesthetic machines, perceptual machines, desiring machines;”29 Empire is “an increased capacity for the machinic integration of all human activities and faculties,”30 “optimal libidinal consent,”31 “active submission,”32 and thus “the high point of the ascendency of capital over society;”33 Debord writes that:
In the integrated spectacle, the laws are asleep; because they were not made for the new production techniques, and because they are evaded in distribution by new types of agreement. What the public thinks, or prefers, is of no importance. This is what is hidden by the spectacle of all these opinion polls, elections, modernizing restructurings. No matter who the winners are, the faithful customers will get the worst of it, because that is exactly what has been produced for them. The widespread talk of a ‘legal state’ only dates from the moment when the modern, so-called democratic state generally ceased to be one. The fact that the expression was only popularized shortly after 1970 and, appropriately, in Italy is far from accidental. In many fields, laws are even made precisely so that they may be evaded, by those who have the means to do so.” 
- Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle tr. Malcom Imrie (London: Verso, 1990), 70.

Empire is “a geopolitics of crisis” in which “internal crisis. . . is not the sign of collapse but the motor of development,”34 that is, “a regime that effectively encompasses the spatial totality, or really, that rules over the entire 'civilized' world. . . an order that effectively suspends history and thereby fixes the existing state of affairs for eternity;”35 Empire “sets itself up 'above' and 'below' the pre-capitalist and capitalist segmentary relations (that is to say, at once and the same time, at the world level and at the molecular level);”36 Lenin argues that the phenomenon of so-called ultra-imperialism, described by Karl Kautsky, is “inevitably nothing more than a 'truce' in periods between wars.”37 He writes that:
“Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.” 
- V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” Collected Works Vol XXII tr. Yuri Sdobnikov (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), 295.
Lenin is asserting that so long as classes exist, so too will inter-imperialist struggle, that capitalist states cannot choose not to go to war with one another, that they are programmed to go to war with one another at a certain stage of class struggle and inevitably will as a constituent element of their very nature. He argues that the respective imperial organisms and their respective bourgeois financial oligarchies do not “divide the world. . . out of any particular malice”38 but rather as a function of “the degree of concentration which has been reached [which] forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits,”39 and that while “the forms of the struggle may and do constantly change in accordance with varying, relatively specific and temporary causes, but the substance of the struggle, its class content, positively cannot change while classes exist.”40 That said, if what Comrade Lenin argues is that no matter how arduous, how crazed its twists and turns, the consequence of inter-imperialist struggle – the theatre of gangsters of all stripes – can only be proletarian victory, then he may yet be proved right. If, however, what Comrade Lenin says is that the consequence of the immediate and specific inter-imperialist struggle that lay before him, and which he bore witness to, could only be one of the immediate and progressive victory of the proletariat, then clearly he was wrong - irrespective of however much one may wish Comrade Lenin to have been right - clearly it was not. Comrade Lenin would be off in his estimation by at least one Kondratiev wave! And just how many historical repetitions ought one allow Comrade Lenin, if he is allowed this one? 

Karatani contends, c
ontra Hardt and Negri, that the contemporary period is neither characterized by the emergence of Empire in their terms, nor the continuation of the kind of American Empire that characterized the period from the fall of the Soviet Union and into the Second Iraq War, but rather by “the emergence of multiple Empires.”41 Karatani therefore contends that the contemporary period is a repetition, a new “imperialistic period,”42 in which “supranational state[s],”43 “former world empires that were situated at the periphery of the modern world system – China, India, the Islamic world, Russia, and so on – have begun to reermege.”44 He contends that while “the state will undoubtedly go to great lengths in attempting to preserve the possibility of capital accumulation,”45 “the world in which commodity exchange (mode of exchange C) is predominant will regress to a world based on plunder and violent appropriation carried out by the state,”46 and that “the likely result of a general crisis of capitalism is war.”47

As Silver and Arrighi ask:
“What are the implications for the present of this pendulum swing back and forth between 'extensive' (cosmopolitan-imperial) regimes and 'intensive' (corporate-national) regimes superimposed on a linear trend of increasing complexity? If the pattern were to hold into the future, then we would expect the strategies and stucture of the governmental-business complex leading the next long century to be 'extensive' in comparison with the 'intensive' US regime, although of greater formal compexity than in the nineteenth-century British-centered material expansion of the world system.” 
- Beverly J. Silver and Giovanni Arrighi, “The End of the Long Twentieth Century” in Business as Usual: The Roots of the Global Financial Meltdown ed. Craig Calhoun and Georgi Derluguian (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 62.

Lazzarato writes that:
“In the period beginning in the 1970s, the global market is no longer fragmented into a multiplicity of national imperialisms embroiled in a bitter struggle, as had been the case before the First World War. It is configured, rather, as a polycentric transnational space traversed with tensions, antagonisms, and contradictory interests that manage momentarily to reconcile more or less well. In this configuration, 'the integrally economic state' is, given its diminished sovereignty, only one constituent of the power apparatuses that facilitate and guarantee the existence and proliferation of the logic of finance capital (M-M'). The state is no longer able to represent the general interest; on the contrary, it is radically subordinated to financial logic, functioning as a component part of its mechanisms.” 
- Maurizio Lazzarato, Governing by Debt tr. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2015), 230.

What is the relationship between Integrated World Capitalism and Inter-Imperialist Struggle?; What are the durations and durabilities of the so-called 'peacetimes' between periods of Inter-Imperialist Struggle, and why have they consistently degenerated into Inter-Imperialist Struggle?; What positive content, if any, ought we assign to periods of so-called 'peacetime' with respect to the periods of Inter-Imperialist Struggle which punctuate and bracket them?; Does the association of the means of production and exchange require a 'revolutionary crisis' as catalyst, as Lenin believed, or can this end be achieve without such a catalyst?; What is the current situation? Will a 'extensive' regime, of 'greater formal complexity,' arise to supplant US hegemony, as Arrighi and Silver argue? Is it 'a polycentric transnational space traversed with tensions, antagonisms, and contradictory interests that manage momentarily to reconcile more or less well' as Lazzarato holds? Is it a 'global regime of lex mercatoria,' an 'internal expression of agreement among capitalists' as Hardt and Negri argue? Or is it a new “imperialistic period. . . a fierce struggle to become the next hegemonic power," with world war being merely a capitalist crisis away, as Karatani holds?

Guattari and Alliez write that:
“The power of the productive process of Integrated World Capitalism seems inexorable, and its social effects incapable of being turned back; but it overturns so many things, comes into conflict with so many ways of life and social valorizations, that it does not seem at all absurd to anticipate that the development of new collective responses – new structures of declaration, evaluation and action – coming from the greatest variety of horizons, might finally succeed in bringing it down.” 
Félix Guattari & Eric Alliez, “Capitalist Systems, Structures and Processes” The Guattari Reader ed. Gary Genosko (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996), 246.

1 Beverly J. Silver and Giovanni Arrighi, “The End of the Long Twentieth Century” in Business as Usual: The Roots of the Global Financial Meltdown ed. Craig Calhoun and Georgi Derluguian (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 56.
2 Karl Marx, Capital Vol I tr. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1990), 872.
3 Marx, Capital Vol. III tr. David Ferbach (London: Penguin, 1991), 339.
4 Ibid, 316.
5 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 15.
6 Ibid, 34.
7 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & Red Press, 1970), 109.
8 Silver and Arrighi, "The End of the Long Twentieth Century,” 54.
9 Maurizio Lazzarato, Governing by Debt tr. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2015), 214.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid.
12 Silver and Arrighi, "The End of the Long Twentieth Century,” 54.
13 Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 2010), 31-32.
14 Ibid, 34.
15 Ibid, 35.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Kojin Karatani, The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange tr. Michael K. Bourdaghs (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 272.
19 Ibid, 274.
20 Ibid.
21 Ibid.
22 Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle tr. Malcom Imrie (London: Verso, 1990), 27.
23 Ibid, 15.
24 Ibid, 10.
25 Ibid, 10.
26 Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 22.
27 Ibid, 13.
28 Ibid.
29 Félix Guattari & Eric Alliez, “Capitalist Systems, Structures and Processes” The Guattari Reader ed. Gary Genosko (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996), 235.
30 Ibid, 244.
31 Ibid, 238.
32 Ibid, 238.
33 Ibid, 244.
34 Hardt and Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004), 314.
35 Hardt and Negri, Empire, xiv.
36 Guattari and Alliez, “Capitalist Systems, Structures and Processes,” 244.
37 V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” Collected Works Vol XXII tr. Yuri Sdobnikov (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), 295.
38 Ibid, 253.
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid.
41 Karatani, The Structure of World History, 282.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid, 283.
44 Ibid.
45 Ibid, 284.
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid.

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