Machinic Surplus Value

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“Celibate machines reproduce human surplus value, furnishing the bourgeoisie with recording rights to all of capitalism’s operative axioms, bringing organic stratometers, judgments of God governing isometric command chains, crushing down on schizonomadic economic swarm space. Diffused through the microphysical weave of spinal multiplicity, metrophage control command sequences institute the bourgeoisie as the optimal distribution profile for State power. No more dysfunctional despotic masters: slaves command other slaves in the ravenous stomach of the crystal factory complex – the mutant, urogenital servomechanism calibrated for the reproduction of the capitalist socius in the gambling dens of Terra Nova markets.”

In the “Civilized Capitalist Machine” chapter of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari (henceforth D&G) introduce a major revision of Marx’s analysis of capitalist dynamics: the addition of what they describe as machinic surplus value to the more tradition category of human surplus value. They begin by grappling with what Marx described as the organic composition of capital, that is, the input-ratios of constant capital (fixed costs like machines and other equipment, raw materials, building, etc.) to variable capital (human labor) as contained in the commodity – and thus as serving as an index for what is happening within the process of production. This organic composition can be analyzed with the very basic formula C/V, with C denoting constant capital and V denoting the variable capital; if C rises over V, this means that more capital is being put towards fixed costs, and if rises over C then it is a greater allocation to the human labor.

D&G choose instead to approach this by way of a different formula: Dy/Dx. In this differential relation, Dy represents the fluctuations of variable capital, its rises and falls over time, while Dx denotes the fluctuations of constant capital. They write:

It is from the fluxion of decoded flows, from their conjunction that the filiative form of capital, x+dx, results. The differential relation expresses the fundamental capitalist phenomenon of the transformation of the surplus value of code into a surplus value of flux. The fact that a mathematical appearance here replaces the old code simply signifies that one is witnessing a breakdown of the subsisting codes and territorialities for the benefit of a machine of a another species, functioning in an entirely different way. This is no longer the cruelty of life, the terror of one life brought to bear against another life, but a post-mortem despotism, the despot become anus and vampire: “Capital is dead labor, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more the labour it sucks. (AO, 228)

What they are describing here as the surplus value of code refers to the innate laws governing pre-capitalist modes of economic and social organization (I’m not comfortable at all with this concept, but I’ll have to get more thoughts in order to properly articulate why), while the surplus value of flux is the surplus value of Marx proper. The Janus-faced fluctuations within Dy/Dx (or C/V) are thus expressing the very process of “all that is solid melting into air”, as everything that was once fixed (coded + territorializing) is unleashed from itself, stamped with new codes, and entered into the mad circulation of the market. Commodity production then, for D&G as with Marx, is historically specific, and is therefore conceivable as being ultimately transitory.

But here we enter into a problem by way of that most contentious of Marx’s theoretical concepts, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. To summarize it as briefly (and thus insufficiently!) as possible, Marx suggested that over time the ratio of constant capital to variable capital would continue to grow, which would lead to progressive obsolescence of the human laborer, and on the other side of this a fall in the average rate of profit (average being the average of the capitalist economy as a whole). This is because of the race downwards of the value – magnitudes of socially-necessary labor time – imparted to the commodity in the face of overwhelming mechanization; from this perspective, the entire capitalist economy is like a gigantic clock  running down, with the zero-point basically being a fully-automated economic system.

This tendency is dampened occasionally by counter-tendencies that push the rate of profit back up, which has led to a plethora of debates over the real status of the tendency to fall within Marx’s own theory (my personal feeling is that it is of utmost importance, and that it can be empirically demonstrated, which is something I attempted in my Uncertain Futures book. The nuclear kernel of the accelerationist reading of Marx is also predicated on the centrality of the tendency). D&G, for their part, write that

First of all, it appears that – in keeping with Balibar’s remarks – this tendency to a falling rate of profit has no end, but reproduces itself while reproducing the factors that counteract it. But why does it have no end? Doubtless for the same reasons that provoke the laughter of the capitalists and their economists when they ascertain that surplus value cannot be determined mathematically. (AO, 228)

This leads them to grapple with the specter of a capitalism that, while emerging from historically-specific – and ultimately contingent – factors, has become something that exists without end, for everything that can end it is is modulated within it in order to serve as the very means of reproducing it. The classical Marxist problematic is reproduced here: capitalism, as a system, has no exterior limit (it will continually move itself to the peripheries, wherever they may be), only an interior one that is capital itself. 

It is here that the concept of machinic surplus value is introduced:

This problem was raised again recently by Maurice Clavel, in a series of decisive and willfully incompetent questions – that is, questions addressed to Marxist economists by someone who doesn’t quite understand how one can maintain human surplus value as the basis for capitalist production, while recognizing that machines too “work” or produce value, that they have always worked, and that they work more and more in proportion to man, who thus ceases to be a constituent part of the production process, in order to become adjacent to this process. (AO, 232)

D&G refer to “Fragment on Machines” from the Grundrisse in a footnote to this passage. It is there that Marx describes how automation, on the one hand, levels the human laborer through the stripping of the sort of agency that characterized simple commodity production and remakes them as a “conscious linkages” in an inhuman automation, while on the other hand engenders the “blow this foundation [for expanded reproduction of capitalist social relations] sky-high”. In clear relation to the dynamism between the fluctuations in the organic composition of capital and the rise and falls of the rate of profit, Marx describes capital as “a moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour, on the other side, as sole measure of wealth”.

This discourse on the contradictions of automation is clearly an influence on D&G’s construction of machinic surplus value, as is another term introduced by Marx in the “Fragment”: the general intellect.

Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are  of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process. (emphasis mine)

The relationship illustrated here, between the development of fixed or constant capital (particularly in the form of automation) and a more generalized techno-scientific development, would have been of supreme importance to D&G. By the time Anti-Oedipus was published in 1972, theories of a wide-ranging transformation in the nature of the capitalist mode of production had been swirling about for some three decades. James Burnham’s 1941 The Managerial Revolution discussed the intensifying role of managers and technocrats within the structural organization of both the economy and the state, a thesis that would be reiterated in 1960 by Daniel Bell in his work The End of Ideology. For Bell (who, like Burnham, was a lapsed Marxist), the ideologies of old were exhausted in the face of rationalized production and scientific management; insofar as change would continue, it would be modifications of the then-currently existing structures. These insights would lay the groundwork for his 1974 text The Coming Post-Industrial Society, which – as its name suggests – analyzed what appeared to be the overcoming of the industrial era through the ongoing expansion of techno-scientific control and automation. The term “post-industrial society” had by this point already been introduced by the French sociologist Alain Touraine in his 1969 book The Post-Industrial Society: Tomorrow’s Social History, while Zbigniew Brzezinski offered his own elaborations in his 1970 work Between Two Ages: America in the Technetronic Era (Brzezinski had a participant in the “Commission on the Year 2000, launched in 1965 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and overseen by Daniel Bell; many of the insights developed there ended up in this work).

067_Dawn-of-the-Computer-Age

With this transformation in the nature of industrialization and society, so too was there a mutation in the traditional class structure. In the 1970s, Barbara and John Ehrenreich theorized the emergence a professional-managerial class: “salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor…(is)…the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations”. The expanded necessity of education at all age levels, the increased role of engineers and scientists, the rampant growth of managers and divisions of firms dedicated to human relations, so on and so forth – these constitute some of the ranks of the professional managerial class as a distinctly post-Fordist phenomenon, in contrast to the industrial managerialism of the Fordist epoch.

Earlier still, the French Marxist Andre Gorz introduced what he dubbed the “scientific and technical worker”, which D&G take-up in the course of their discussion of machinic surplus value. It would be mistaken to say, however, that they view this new worker as the source of machinic surplus value: they posit that it does indeed come from machines – but where there is an increasing number of machines, the number of ‘scientific and technical workers’ will expand. Following Samir Amin’s analyses of the globalized restructuring of capitalism, D&G find here a dynamic give-and-take between the core and peripheries of the world system. Machinic surplus value – and the ‘new class’ adjacent to it – flow in one direction, and with human surplus value going in a different direction. The former concentrated in the core countries, where we might say that post-industrialization was most emergent, while the latter moved to the peripheries, in a maneuver that Alain Lipietz (of the Regulation School of post-Marxist economics) would describe as the emergence of “peripheral Fordism”. For D&G, this is the great flux-movement of capitalist deterritorialization itself:

As Samir Amin has shown, the process of deterritorialization here goes from the center to the periphery, that is, from the developed countries to the underdeveloped countries, which do not constitute a separate world, but rather an essential component of the world-wide capitalist machine… And if it is true that the tendency of the rate of profit to a falling rate of profit or to its equalization asserts itself at least partially at the center, carrying the economy toward the most progressive and the most automated sectors, a veritable “development of underdevelopment” on the periphery ensures a rise in the rate of surplus value, in the form of an increasing exploitation of the proletariat in relation to that of the center. (AO, 231)

So here we have a two-fold movement: the increasing post-industrialization of the core, correlated to the higher rates of automation, the introduction of new class formations, and a falling rate of profit, which is necessitated in turn on the industrialization of the periphery, characterized by the expansion of human labor and thus surplus value extraction. This produces a counter-tendency against the falling rate of profit. Constant spatial re-organization of the integrated capitalist system therefore makes the claim “capital has no external limit” possible. We are thus compelled to return to the site that Marx found the opening a post-capitalist future: in the increased contradiction between the efficiency of the means of production (itself an indicating the increasing centrality of techno-science coupled to an ongoing rise in constant capital in the organic composition of capital) and the mode distribution. In this sense when they suggest against Samir Amin to “accelerate the process”, it can only allude specifically to the intensification of these conditions and contradictions. It follows that post-capitalism, the “New Earth” that is a “place of healing”, may very well be for D&G, some sort of automated society.

But what of this notion of machinic surplus value? By sketching the above, we can see that they retain a close proximity to Marx’s own theories (there are some other complicated things going on in this chapter that overflow classical Marxism, and they will have to be addressed at some point) as well as the most constructive offerings of the neo-Marxists – and for this reason the concept of machinic surplus value doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything at all. They suggest as one point that it also plays a role in the “elevation of the rate of profit” (AO 223), though this seems at odds with the core/periphery dynamic they trace as the backbone of the world system of their day. One possibility is that this refers to the fact this division is not absolute: as we’re far from a fully-automated society, there will still be variable capital – and thus human labor and ‘human surplus value’ – present in the composition of the commodity, while constant capital (the source of this alleged machinic surplus value) is still a factor of production in the periphery. Even if relations in the periphery are characterized by the continual expansion of variable capital with the ratio of constant capital holding the same for each individual unit, the total constant capital would itself increase, even if the rate of profit was continuing to rise.

The other path is to cut to the core of this concept, which is to deal head-on with this suggestion that machines do actually add value to the commodities they produce – which is, after all, explicitly what D&G state when they first introduce the concept. This is a profoundly anti-Marxist argument, and if held steadily throws a wrench into the entire schema they develop across the course of the “Civilized Capitalist Machine”. If machines are capable of adding value is a way analogous to human labor, then there is never, at any point, a difference between a proletarian, and, say, an auger. If there is no distinction between the two, everything becomes flattened – there is no longer any sense of historical progression or the unfolding of processes like the internal fluctuations of the organic composition of capital itself. And if there is no progression, then the entire analytic structure of the work collapses.

Simply put, the category of machinic surplus value, as presented in Anti-Oedipus, is capable of torpedoing the entire work.

The Italian Futurists made a similar move in their own critique of Marx (h/t to Vince Garton for drawing my attention to this topic when we discussed this topic many moons ago). In a brief note titled “Synthesis of Marx’s Thought”, Marinetti vehemently rejected the conclusions of Marx’s value theory by writing that

In Marx’s opinion, the function of capital, in the production process, is sterile. Only the object of labor is fertile. The highest value of the product is exclusively the result of labor, and to this it must belong. Instead, it passes unfairly to the capitalist, in the form of profits. Profit is the surplus value… Now, the premise that the function of capital is sterile in the production process is false. If the production function of capital were sterile, the industries in which salary-capital (labor) prevailed over fixed capital would have to provide higher revenue than those industries in which fixed capital prevailed over salary-capital (labor). But this doesn’t happen in reality! (Critical Writings, 317)

The Futurists anticipated a world in which the progressive development of the means of production would produce a society of abundance, as indicated by the breathless descriptions in “Electric War: A Futurist Visionary Hypothesis” of a world where “Hunger and need have disappeared” and the “need for tiring, humiliating labor is finished… No longer having to toil in order to acquire food, man has at last conceived the pure notion of endlessly breaking records”. (Critical Writings, 223). Such a world seems at odds with the classical interpretation of Marx, in which the rate of profit falls towards some sort of catastrophic scenario. I’m wondering if the introduction of machinic surplus value by D&G doesn’t try to address this same disconnect, between reality and theory. Writing in the waning years of Fordism, before the crisis of the 1970s truly reared its face, D&G – and the Marxist left at large – were grappling with a capitalism that seemed to capable of overcoming its most irrational excesses, and perhaps even long-term tendencies that were supposed to have shaken the core of the system.

Yet the collapse of the rate of profit leading to catastrophe is not the ultimate conclusion of Marx’s mature work. Yes, the rate of profit was determined to decline in relation to the accelerating obsolescence of the human laborer and its replacement by machinery (engendering, in turn, a growing mass of superfluous people) – but this tendency wouldn’t look like a long-term stagnation. The progressive development of the means of production, the integration of techno-science into the industrial process, is a mark of a capitalism that is strong and expanding, a dynamic that in turn masks the falling rate of profit and its ultimate implications. What’s more is that as this double process unfolds, the efficiency of machinery is increasing, with is constantly raising the total productivity of the industrial system. In this regards, you end up with something that looks like this:

manufacturingemployment

manufacturingoutput

The introduction of something like “machinic surplus value” can never tell us something about these sorts of tendencies, because 1) they fail to apprehend the critical nature of Marx’s construction of “value”, and 2) it potentially derives from a fundamentally incorrect appraisal of how Marx conceives of capital’s long-range tendencies and transformations (which is necessary is one is hoping to delineate a possibility space from a Marxist ground).

Luckily there is a simple solution. The conundrum in Anti-Oedipus is that the rest of the major maneuvers in “The Civilized Capitalist Machine” can be conformed to Marx’s own analysis – so we’re capable of jettisoning machinic surplus value outright without damaging the integrity of their argument. This entire thing becomes a big-ass shaggy dog story.

Also, to be fair to D&G, they seemed to have realized themselves the fundamental problem inherent to the concept. It returns again in the pages of A Thousand Plateaus, but it has been transformed:

In the organic composition of capital, variable capital defines a regime of subjection of the worker (human surplus value)  the principal framework of which is the business or factory. But with automation comes a progressive increase in the proportion of constant capital; we then see a new kind of enslavement: at the same time the work regime changes, surplus value becomes machinic, and the framework  expands to all of society. It could also be said that a small amount of subjectification took us away from machinic enslavement, but a large amount brings us back to it… [people] are no longer consumers or users, nor even subjects who supposedly “make” it, but intrinsic component pieces, “input” and “output,” feedback or recurrences that are no longer connected to the machine in such a way as to produce or use it. In machinic enslavement, there is nothing but transformations and exchanges of information, some of which are mechanical, others human.

This isn’t a firm distinction between machinic surplus value on one side and human surplus value on the other; it’s that human surplus value has become machinic. What this means isn’t that machines are adding value – we’re no longer discussing here the individual machines of production, but the very nature of the capitalist system as a whole. If surplus value is machinic, it’s because human labor has been recast in the cybernetic era; if there is a peripheral Fordism or industrialization that lingers in the manner of old, it is going to be dominated and structured internally to post-Fordism, post-industrialization. And this is a far more constructive vision than the confused deployment of the term in Anti-Oedipus. 

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18 thoughts on “Machinic Surplus Value

    1. Hmm, not sure! I have a whole mess of notes on various tensions in the Civilized Capitalist Machine section of AO, which I need to write up sometime. If this leads a bigger project, who knows, it if it did it would be quite some time before I get a chance to do anything meaningful for it 🙂

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  1. Initial thoughts:

    V never drops to zero – and the relation between C and V is only ever a ratio in the abstract; with that abstraction also being a erasure (de-emphasis?) of the complex role of humans as not only labourers, but also decision-makers (enbrianed actants in the causal network) and consumers. The actual terrain of production isn’t so abstract, nor is it a smooth calculation.

    Actual capital (vs. its animated abstraction) remains entangled with/in more than just expenditures and labour. The flow dead-as-fuck capital is always causally routed through the circuits of ongoing human relations coupled to desires that are not strictly profit-oriented.

    “Capital is dead labor, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more the labour it sucks.” (Marx, Capital: Vol 1, chapter 10)

    In the absence of a commandeering, self-organizing A.I (Skynet?) “the progressive obsolescence of the human laborer” wouldn’t suffice to completely eject the organizing powers (nodal role) of the human from the “fully-automated economic system”. There is no push or pull without animal desires/consumption.

    If the “nuclear kernel of the accelerationist reading of Marx” is predicated on the centrality of the tendency of falling profit, as expressed in the calculous of abstract values unhooked from actual imperatives and ‘values’ of living bodies, then no wonder I find its pseudo-mathematic certainties (that Capital is leading us down a particularly stringent technomic path, and as “something that exists without end”) so alarming narrow?

    I’m gonna think on the latter half of this and comment some more… I’m also open to being further educated in the nuances of Marx’s calculus at ANY point.

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    1. Awesome stuff, M! I do agree with most of what you’re saying here – Marx’s analysis is outlining primary tendencies that he argues through capitalism that shape its contours and development over time, but there is always counter-tendencies as well as contingent events that can impact things. That said, a few quibbles with some of your counter-points:

      >V never drops to zero – and the relation between C and V is only ever a ratio in the abstract; with that abstraction also being a erasure (de-emphasis?) of the complex role of humans as not only labourers, but also decision-makers (enbrianed actants in the causal network) and consumers. The actual terrain of production isn’t so abstract, nor is it a smooth calculation.

      The problem with this is that what Marx is describing as variable capital and constant capital is strictly relegated to the sphere of production, which is where, for Marx, one can locate the historical specificity of the capitalist system. When we talk about the organic composition of capital, we’re talking about the actual inputs into the production of the commodity. Constant capital is the capital outlays for the non-human input costs that are used up in the production process, variable capital the human input costs. So we’re quite separate from decision-making processes here as well as consumers (these are considered as well, but through separate means), and I would definitely reject the idea that these can only exist in the abstract. When I was working on Uncertain Futures (where I argue that the movement from C/V to the more complex calculations concerning the falling rate of profit can be validated empirically), I followed the suggestion of Michael Roberts – a great Marxian economist – in using the net national fixed assets data for the measure of constant capital and employee compensation + benefits for the variable capital. Furthermore, both C and V have counterparts in non-Marxian econ: fixed and circulating forms of capital + costs of labor, respectively.

      If we conceive a point in time which zero capital outlays are flowing through the ‘V channel’, with C absorbing the brunt of it, then we’re not in capitalism anymore. This would be a post-capitalist society – and this is an important point, because it illustrates something about Marx’s critique, that it is illustrating that capitalism is historically bounded. It’s a transitory system. It actually isn’t capable of existing forever. This isn’t to say that FALC or utopia exists on the other side, but it does point to the possibility spaces for maneuvers in determining what comes ‘after’.

      As for the relationship between this and the wider accelerationist argument, I suspect that many (the more strict Landians) 1) would reject the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, whereas I think the concept has validity and can be demonstrated, 2) would reject Marx’s argument about the historical specificity of capitalism, going both forward and backward in time, whereas I would argue that it is historically specific. Additionally, the AI/skynet imagery, while evocative, interests me far less in comparison to these matters (which is why most early U/Acc essays avoided those terminological pitfalls). When it comes down to it, I’m going to side with Marx over Land – and from that point of view, what is described as “capital autonomization” begins to run headlong in the possibility of capitalism’s overcoming (and now we’re getting into Nietzschean territory).

      So with that in mind

      >its pseudo-mathematic certainties (that Capital is leading us down a particularly stringent technomic path, and as “something that exists without end”) so alarming narrow?

      is not something I recognize in my own thought, or in what I wrote above (which was a critique of Deleuze and Guattari for bringing something into the argument that actually supported the idea that capitalism is eternal!), aside from the bit on the stringent technomic path. I think we’re already there, and the desires and human emotive pull-through you addressed above is being mediated by these relations.

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      1. i’ll play the “strict Landian” part:

        1) I guess there isn’t much of a problem with the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall, as long as something like phase transitions in technological base (creative destruction) are taken into account. the asset destruction that such transitions bring about pull the profit rate back up.

        2) capitalism, defined as the regime of free wage-labor, is certainly transitory. but the general tendency to growth (or, more precisely, STEM compression) seems to be rather transcendental.

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      2. With regards to the first, absolutely – I mentioned briefly here that are counter-tendencies but didn’t really go into them here, since it wasn’t really what I was dealing with (trying to keep it restricted to what I perceive as contradictions in D&G’s project). The counter-tendencies that Marx outlines in Capital Vol. III are:

        -Raising the ‘rate of exploitation’ of workers (e.g. accelerating the rate of productive output per unit of labor time)
        -Economic immiseration (this has its own complex series of tendencies and counter-tendencies, like we’ve talked about in the past wrt to Malthus vs. Ricardo vs. Marx)
        -Falling costs of constant capital
        -Unemployment pool exerting pressure on wages

        and two or three other primary ones that I’m totally forgetting atm.

        2) I don’t disagree with this at all, and Marx certainly wouldn’t either (he’s not defining capitalism simply as growth)

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  2. a rather simple and limited suggestion:

    by claiming god=nature=industry at the beginning of AO, perhaps DG realize that they’ve put the labor theory of value into question. the problem is, of course, the labor theory of value defines the political dimension of marxism (labor being necessary to production and that its role is neither properly recognized nor rewarded – in fact, capitalism cannot function without maintaining this dirty little secret).

    i think you’re right that attempts to afford productive capacity to machines or other things leads us down a problematic route, eg new materialism. the alternative is to figure out how it all fits back into the traditional marxist account of SV. i think you’re onto a way to precisely just that.

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    1. This is an EXCELLENT point, thank you! I don’t think it solves the issue, like you point out here, but this does indeed help contextualize their series of maneuvers – for example the extension of surplus value into pre-capitalist modes, like transforming Marx’s surplus value into the “surplus value of flux” and having a “surplus value of code” precede it.

      I’ve been thinking about ATP’s specific comments on capitalism as the mature form of the arguments advanced in AO – the transformation of machinic surplus value as something operating alongside human surplus value into a qualitative transformation in the nature of human surplus value, the movement from acceleration as imperative (“accelerate the process”) to description (“at the complementary and dominant level of integrated (or rather integrating) world capitalism, a new smooth space is produced in which capital reaches its absolute’ speed, based on machinic components rather than the human component of labor”), etc. Mark Fisher made a point in his thesis, Flatline Constructs, that ATP is decidedly less focused on production in the manner of AO, with becoming moving more and more to the foreground instead. I’m wondering if perhaps this shift is connected with the overcoming of potential theoretical pitfalls – I’d be curious your thoughts on this!

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      1. i agree with MF that production is the central focus of AO but not ATP. in some ways, it’s bc ATP picks up where they left off at the end of AOs conclusion that revolutionary thinking is not done through the quantitative economics of the capitalist axiomatic but a new philosophy/science. so in many ways, AO is an internal critique of capitalism and ATP is riding the molecular line of flight.

        that said, I feel like the nomadology plateaus stand a bit aside the rest of ATP. certainly there are bridge points, like the segmentarity and smooth/striated plateaus. but the nomadology and its noology really is picking up specific arguments from AO and running with them, as opposed to most of ATP instead picking up new fields of art/science not previously explored.

        the labor theory of value question is a curious one. nearly all of the political principles of capital are anthropocentric- machines steal jobs from humans but add no value, all new value is a product of the sweat of the workers brow, the workers deserve to own their own means of production (aka machines).

        working through the machine-human connection can be fruitful. i think you’re exploring the right lines- no doubt, the reference to mumford on technics and a mode of subjection based on enslavement to a megamachine is key here. lazzarato explores it in his Signs and Machines, arguing that we’re currently living in a new age dominated by the megamachine. it’s also stieglers project, himself taking many of deleuze’s archive to make his own argument (mumford, leroi-gourhan, etc).

        so id say we’re in a strange dilemma where DG both want to erase the human-machine distinction but maintain the critique of capitalism based on surplus value. the precise way we resolve this dilemma leads to a defining feature of our politics. perhaps we could even survey different responses to alt our the political disagreements.

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      2. >the labor theory of value question is a curious one. nearly all of the political principles of capital are anthropocentric

        Yeah, it is an interesting question. I’ve been quite taken of late by Moishe Postone’s reading of Marx’s mature theory – not sure if you’ve read much of him or not, but his basic drift is that it is not so much a critique of capitalism from the point of view of labor, but a critique of labor under capitalism. I think this allows a potential way out of a lot of theoretical problems that gets one stuck in either in reformist projects (underconsumptionist solutions to the immanence of overproduction) or reactionary tendrils (either ultra-capitalist or distinct longing for pre-capitalist modes). It also gets around that the suggestion that the goal is the unification of the worker with the totality of their production, which Marx already attacked in Critique of the Gotha. This, I think, puts a different spin on what the ‘free association of producers’ who directly own the means of production might look like, or what something beyond even that could entail. Not to say that it’s a blueprint or anything quite like that, but it opens up an interesting possibility space of considerations.

        >lazzarato explores it in his Signs and Machines, arguing that we’re currently living in a new age dominated by the megamachine. it’s also stieglers project, himself taking many of deleuze’s archive to make his own argument (mumford, leroi-gourhan, etc).

        Very cool! I’ve had Signs & Machines sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now but have never really picked it up for an in-depth read. I’ll remedy that tonight. Also I’ve never read anything from Stiegler. Do you have any suggestions for what might be interesting, especially wrt to what we’re discussing here?

        >the precise way we resolve this dilemma leads to a defining feature of our politics. perhaps we could even survey different responses to alt our the political disagreements.

        I think this sounds like it would be very interesting & enlightening!

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    1. Maybe the diagonal of Roden-esque anthropologically unbounded posthumanism 😉 but to be quite honest, either fork in this hard distinction can be analyzed without the concept of machinic surplus value, since the fall of value-added is precisely the movement of increased mechanization.

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