…finally, a name, mentioned in passing in this recent Bloomberg write-up, appropriate to this most abysmal of architectural trends.
Now that this wrecker of cities has been named, hopefully we can get on with the real task at hand.
If anybody was in doubt that the run-up to the next election was going to be any less bizarre and typified by the corruption of the political by memetic contamination than the previous cycle…
The always-energetic Nishiki Prestige has commented briefly on this phenomenon in a recent post (disclaimer: the above two tweets were pilfered from his tl)—and what is particularly interesting is the sense of enthusiasm for Yang stems from a sense of disaffection resulting from, on the one hand, the recapturing and recoding of the divergences of 2016 into the status quo, and on the other the implosion of the so-called alt-right in 2017. As schism and factionalization took hold—and as Nick Land has pointed out, the alt-right is generally hostile to these things, which puts it at odds with its NRx cousin—strange hybrids like the ‘alt center’ and the ‘alt-left’ came into being (1, 2, 3). Perhaps such things are to be expected, per Land’s suggestion that the alt-right’s “essential populism” caused it to be inclined to be “inclined to anti-capitalism, ethno-socialism, grievance politics, and progressive statism”. Deeper still, however, these developments, by want of the ubiquity of UBI to it all, brings us back once again to the host of questions posed by the Left Acceleration moment— most specifically that of the curious resemblance of that program with the one posed by the stagnationists of the right.
Also food for thought: Andrew Yang proposes the creation of Anthropol as part of his legislative agenda.
Everything released by the Mad Scientist Laboratory of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) comes camouflaged in the most cursed of aesthetic choices (with no offender greater than their annual science fiction writing contest). Nonetheless, the content tends towards the extremely provocative. Even if we treat their anticipations of the immediate-to-near future with measured skepticism, the insight into how these fairly under-the-radar groups—think-tanks, study centers, R&D institutions, military wonk outfits of all stripes—think is instructive, and not simply because it tells us about how they think our time. When considered in light of the tendency of game theoritic and decision theory-incubated scenarios to tend towards the status of self-fulfilling prophecy, it becomes of utmost importance.
The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of War is the Mad Scientist Laboratory’s recent product, the end result of an intensive, five year study carried out by numerous individuals across dozens of publications, conferences and debate on the nature of warfare between the years of 2035 and 2050. As it grounds the question of military imperative in the context of rapidly accelerating technological advancements, the document’s scope overlaps significantly with the interests of this blog (for other scribblings on the topic of war, see here, here, and here). Of particular note is that the model of the near-future that is assembled over the course of the report features the notions of the intensive threshold and the convergent wave—though it, of course, fails to make this recognition. What is given instead is a schematism of two eras: the Era of Accelerated Human Progress and the Era of Contested Equality. The first is well underway, having been kicked off in 2017 (though perhaps a more appropriate anchor would have been 2016?), and culminating in an Era of Transition—that is, passes through an intensive threshold—around 2035.
The era that follows this transition moment, that of ‘contested equality’, builds to a crescendo slated to occur around 2050. The timing puts it in proximity to various singularitarian hypotheses that find around this time the ground zero for the Great Change. This is surely by no mistake; while the report doesn’t opt to speculate on what happens beyond 2050, it does make passing reference to the singularity by taking note of not only the ‘optimistic’ perspective offered by the likes of Ray Kurzweil, but also the dangers posed “to the very existence of humanity” by an “unboxed general artificial superintelligence [that] improves and evolves at… an exponential rate”. A third option is also offered, which sees the capacity of unlimited human adaptation via bioengineering and technological neuro-upgrades to allow the human to “keep pace” with superintelligence.
On the side of the transcendental wall closer to us, things still appear as exceedingly strange. The transition moment of 2035 is defined by the convergence of a series of scientific breakthroughs and technological systems: biotechnology, neurological enhancements, nanotechnology, advanced material sciences, quantum computing, AI, ubiquitous robotics, and additive manufacturing. Prior to the transition, conflict will be characterized more and more by the increasing role of robotics, cyberwar, and space-based surveillance and conflict. The principles of C3D2 will reign in this world: Camouflage, Cover, Concealment, Denial and Deception. These games will be played out against the backdrop of intensified hyper-urbanism, as the total magnitudes of humanity living in cities climbs ever-higher. This growth is warped and altered by immense changes in productive relations. Additive manufacturing will shatter the geopolitical order instituted by modern-day supply chain networks and trade flows, and the massified industrial working class will find its future looking dim.
Robotics and autonomous systems will underpin the smooth functioning of advanced societies. Additive manufacturing, computer-aided design and millions of industrial robots will dislocate significant portions of the global supply chain. Virtually anyone in the world with access to a computer system and 3D printer will be able to “print” anything from drones to weapons. Encrypted blockchains will be massively disruptive to commerce functions. Together with robotics, autonomy, and AI they comprise a perfect storm for “blue collar” and “white collars” alike, causing vast economic displacement as formerly high-quality information technology and management jobs follow the previous path of agricultural and manufacturing labor. Militaries, paramilitaries, mercenary groups, criminal elements, and even extremists groups all will be able to take advantage of this potential pool of manpower.
In this run-up to 2035, this all spells trouble for the dominant hegemons—that is, the United States and Western Europe. The battlespace, in keeping with Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui’s anticipated future of unrestricted warfare, cuts across all lines and scales, with the control of information flows and presentation taking a particularly high precedence. Going past 2035, however, everything changes. Where conflict had still been dominated by superpowers (the fading US and Europe, rising Russia and China), now any sort of long-term tactical superiority and political hegemony is undermined by the rapid oscillation of events and actors, displacements and shocks.
Limitations of Military Force. While mid-Century militaries will have more capability than at any time in history, their ability to wage high-intensity conflict will become more limited. Force-on-force conflict will be so destructive, will be waged at the new speed of human and AI-enhanced interaction, and will occur at such extended long-ranges that exquisitely trained and equipped forces facing a peer or near-peer rival will rapidly suffer significant losses in manpower and equipment that will be difficult to replace. Robotics, unmanned vehicles, and man-machine teaming activities offer partial solutions, but warfare will still revolve around increasingly vulnerable human beings. Military forces may only be able to wage short duration campaigns before having to replace expensive equipment, and even more priceless personnel. Militaries under these conditions will need to balance exquisite, expensive capabilities against less-capable cheaper alternatives, and also carefully balance the ratio of human soldiers to robotic or unmanned systems. As the skills and experiences that humans need to learn or acquire to be effective on these battlefields take long-times to develop, but will be expended quickly on the destructive mid-Century battlefield, militaries will need to consider how advances in AI, bio-engineering, man-machine interface, neuro-implanted knowledge, and other areas of enhanced human performance and learning can quickly help reduce this long lead time in training and developing personnel.
The Primacy of Information. In the timeless struggle between offense and defense, information will become the most important and most useful tool at all levels of warfare. The ability of an actor to use information to target the enemy’s will, without necessarily having to address its means will increasingly be possible. In the past, nations have tried to target an enemy’s will through kinetic attacks on its means – the enemy military – or through the direct targeting of the will by attacking the national infrastructure or a national populace itself. Sophisticated, nuanced information operations, taking advantage of an ability to directly target an affected audience through cyber operations or other forms of influence operations, and reinforced by a credible capable armed force can bend an adversary’s will before battle is joined. This will allow a nation to demonstrate to an adversary, or more specifically, to the adversary’s political leadership or national populace, that the “value of the object” in Sir Julian Corbett’s words, is too high to risk national treasure or lives. The most effective campaigns are ones that wield all elements of national power to compel an adversary to take or to acquiesce to a specific action, and it will be much easier, cheaper, and effective to use information, backed by credible military force, to achieve these goals. It also means that nations will increasingly look to use military force as a means of setting conditions for success in the political, economic, or even information spheres.
Expansion of the Battle Area. Nations, non-state actors, and even individuals will be able to target military forces and civilian infrastructure at increasing – often over intercontinental – ranges using a host of conventional and unconventional means. A force deploying to a combat zone will be vulnerable from the individual soldier’s personal residence, to his or her installation, and during his or her entire deployment. Adversaries also will have the ability to target or hold at risk non-military infrastructure and even populations with increasingly sophisticated, nuanced and destructive capabilities, including weapons of mass destruction, hypersonic conventional weapons, and perhaps most critically, cyber weapons and information warfare. WMD will not be the only threat capable of directly targeting and even destroying a society, as cyber and information can directly target infrastructure, banking, food supplies, power, and general ways of life. Limited wars focusing on a limited area of operations waged between peers or near-peer adversaries will become more dangerous, as adversaries will have an unprecedented capability to broaden their attacks to their enemy’s homeland. The U.S. Homeland likely will not avoid the effects of warfare and will be vulnerable in at least eight areas…
“He whispered something else: it is by headlong flight that things progress and signs proliferate” (ATP, 73).
Symbolizing the paroxysm of erotic fear, Pan is the quintessential figure of libidinal millenarianism. Messianic figures from Zoroaster to David Koresh are all indebted to the proleptic powers of Pan. If it is true that “Apollo wheedled the art of prophecy” from Pan, we can appreciate the complicated role played by Pan in apocalyptic discourses. (After the Orgy, 29)
Panic—social, cultural, political—appears to be on the agenda again, slipping subtly back into the driver seat after the relative quietness of 2018. It’s not that panic was ever far away; it rumbled deep below the surface, but its white-hot charge appeared dulled by the recoding of whatever had been unleashed in the cut that was 2016 into some sort of stable (yet fragile) status quo. That year’s cut was engendered by information-communication technology. It wasn’t on account of the acceleration of new consumer goods or some other novelty or lack thereof; what occurred in that year was the moment that everything flipped and the spiraling tendrils of internet—this promised utopia, fabled rhizome, ephemeral non-space of the multitude—penetrated the political and spread its corruption. Whether or not 4chan and deranged twitter cultists were the pivot that swung the election towards Trump or Russian agents subverted Western democracy through an insidious and imperceptible information war is immaterial; both options bear the mark of an age made unintelligible, and serve as the polarity that indexes the pure crisis that looms on the immediate horizon.
Everybody knows that their socio-political coordinates—and the wider cognitive maps these are embedded within—are being scrambled, and thus panic amplifies, even if the accelerant remains by and large consciously obscure. One needs to look no further that the language deployed in the ongoing Momo hysteria to see this self-blindness in action. “Microsoft is clamping down on the sick ‘Momo suicide challenge,’ which recently infiltrated the wildly popular online game “Minecraft”, reads a Fox News article from last year, while The Mirror reports that “Momo challenge is ‘hacking’ Peppa Pig, Fortnite…” In both of these cases, which serve as benchmarks for the revealing the absolute state of boomer dread, address the phenomenon itself as something self-spreading, “infiltrating” and “hacking” unsuspecting systems of its own accord. This stands in stark contrast to the typical conservative driver to identify all-too-human scapegoats for the activities of largely imperceptible, convergent system dynamics, and adds a surreal level of recursivity to the accurate realization that it is a “myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality”. The belief that this Thing is operating in this manner is making it operate in this manner. Cue the sheer hilarity of the ratcheting-up of paranoia in the face of the ‘Momo song’ (dutifully reported on by, once again, The Mirror): “The song is said to have first been circulated on the dark web, before making it out into the mainstream.”
The age-old fear of every aging generation is on full display in these words: the new is corrosive, the old values are in crisis, and the children are in danger (“First it took the children…. Now it’s coming for us”, cries one of the unfortunate souls of Hobbs End). At the same time, however, something else bleeds through, an alien signal lurking beneath the surface that affixes this particular manifestation of fear in context of the current world-shift. Lest we forget, non-living things moving as if they were imbued with life is the defining theological characteristic of the demonic, and it is for this very reason that Wiener was so inclined to pepper his writings on cybernetics—the science of systemic self-movement as much as that of control—on sorcerer’s apprentices, ‘demoniac sanctions’ and the Manichean games of gods and devils. From this point of view, the great paranoia of the Momo Challenge, just one of innumerable mutagens swirling about, is but an epiphenomenon of a deeper process, a virulent cultural strain caught in its attractor basin. Cybernetically-positive fluctuations and mutations tend rapidly towards maximum information density, and the decoded intensities and pathologies that are unleashed into orbital circulation appear as what they are: aberrant movements, multiplicitious but totally mobilized. Swarm and compression.
[The Economic Times offers an insight into the libidinal geopol that this compression drags to the surface in the most unfortunately reductive—yet telling—manner possible: “The key to such wildly delusional behavior lies, as does much else, in broad and radical shifts in Indian politics, communication technologies and self-perceptions. Many Indians have found themselves ushered by digital media into a frantic realm of hyperreality — one in which extreme feelings and continuously simulated experiences replace the obdurately dull facts of real life”.]
In 1986, Arthur Kroker wrote that
When mass disappears into energy, then the body too becomes the focus and secretion of all of the vibrations of the culture of panic noise. Indeed, the postmodern body is, at first, a hum, then a “good vibration,” and, finally, the afterimage of the hologram of panic noise. Invaded, lacerated, and punctured by vibrations (the quantum physics of noise), the body simultaneously implodes into its own senses, and then explodes as its central nervous system is splayed across the sensorium of the technoscape. No longer a material entity, the postmodern body becomes an infinitely permeable and spatialized field whose boundaries are freely pierced by subatomic particles in the microphysics of power. Once the veil of materiality/ subjectivity has been transgressed (and abandoned), then the body as something real vanishes into the spectre of hyperrealism. Now, it is the postmodern body as space, linked together by force fields and capable of being represented finally only as a fractal entity. The postmodern self, then, as a fractal subject – a minute temporal ordering midst the chaotic entropy of a contemporary culture which is winding down, but moving all the while at greater and greater speeds.
Similarly, the social as mass vanishes now into the fictive world of the media of hypercommunication. Caught only by all the violent signs of mobility and permeability, the social is already only the after-glow of the disappearance of the famous reality principle. This world may have lost its message and all the grand récits – power, money, sex, the unconscious – may also be abandoned, except as recycled signs in the frenzied world of the social catalysts, but what is finally fascinating is only the social as burnout. The world of Hobbes has come full circle when the (postmodern) self is endlessly reproduced as a vibrating set of particles, and when the social is seductive only on its negative side: the dark side of sumptuary excess and decline. (The Postmodern Scene, 155)
Kroker cuts to the burning, living heart of the matter—the entanglement of panic culture with the eclipsing of communication by hypercommunication, reality by hyperreality, and the basis of this shift in technological acceleration—but he dampens the fire by capturing it within a narrative of decline. In Kroker’s hands, headlong flight into the abyss is the defining trait of postmodern decadence, and recursion becomes just another idiot cycle spinning itself out in space. Entropy reigns supreme here, though it presents itself in a variety of the most seductive of masks.
Deleuze and Guattari strike out a different position. At the end of the ‘Geology of Morals’, right as Professor Challenger’s very body melts down as he “hurries slowly” towards the plane of consistency, they tell us that “panic is creation”, that the flight propelled by this state is the force that produces new things and madly proliferates signs. Suddenly it’s no longer a question of entropy and decadence—quite the reverse. This entails, by extension, something that is decidedly not postmodern. What now is but a panic rooted in dread, the germinal seed of the folklores of the future, may be the first inklings of a holy panic, not unlike a divine terror at a universe suddenly teeming—a ‘sumptuary excess’—with meaning (in contrast to the dreary horror of a world devoid of it).
Between now and then, however, one thing is clear: panic highlights the failure of any political and social attempt to harness contemporary technological-communicative systems for instrumental ends. In the wake of his eulogy for American civic life with Bowling Alone, a sizable number of commentators tried to assign Robert Putnam’s research to the dustbin by pointing to the intrinsically social dimensions of internet life. A 2011 NPR report, for example, cited study carried out the Pew Research Center which found
that 80 percent of Internet users participate in groups, as compared with 56 percent of non-Internet users.
Twitter users were the most social. 85 percent of them were involved in group activity offline, followed by 82 percent of social networking users. The results from the survey identify the use of social media and online activities as helpful in the process of disseminating information and engaging group members.
“The virtual world is no longer a separate world from our daily life and lots of Americans are involved in more kinds of groups,” said Rainie. Interacting on social networking sites is part of staying informed; the survey found that 65 percent of social network users read group updates and messages on these sites.
Eight years later, after the optimism of the Obama epoch has faded and the internet has been revealed as something that is driving cultural formations insane (not to mention the individuals inside those cultures), one can only ask: what sort of community is being called into existence by this?
“Rotted by digital contagions, modernity is falling to bits”.
Via The Guardian:
It is the most talked about viral scare story of the year so far, blamed for child suicides and violent attacks – but experts and charities have warned that the “Momo challenge” is nothing but a “moral panic” spread by adults.
Warnings about the supposed Momo challenge suggest that children are being encouraged to kill themselves or commit violent acts after receiving messages on messaging service WhatsApp from users with a profile picture of a distorted image of woman with bulging eyes.
The rumour mill appears to have created a feedback loop, where news coverage of the Momo challenge is prompting schools or the police to warn about the supposed risks posed by the Momo challenge, which has in turn produced more news stories warning about the challenge.
Tremlett said she was now hearing of children who are “white with worry” as a result of media coverage about a supposed threat that did not previously exist.
“It’s a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality,” she said.
In the previous post on Proudhon, Marx and Sorel I offered three stripped-down summaries of the distinctions between these figures, with an eye to how the cycle of critique unfolded and to the way in which Sorel’s anticipated future—industrial civilization intensifying through the proliferation of ‘prodigiously productive workshops’—appears in some respect as distillation of certain arguments of his two predecessors. Here, I’d like to go back to these summarizes and dump a series of quotes from each figure to better trace the argument.
“political economy is value-neutral and akin to the natural sciences”
The Poverty of Philosophy (Chapter 1): Political economy is a collection of the observations thus far made in regard to the phenomena of the production and distribution of wealth; that is, in regard to the most common, most spontaneous, and therefore most genuine, forms of labor and exchange.
The economists have classified these observations as far as they were able; they have described the phenomena, and ascertained their contingencies and relations; they have observed in them, in many cases, a quality of necessity which has given them the name of laws; and this ensemble of information, gathered from the simplest manifestations of society, constitutes political economy.
Political economy is, therefore, the natural history of the most apparent and most universally accredited customs, traditions, practices, and methods of humanity in all that concerns the production and distribution of wealth. By this title, political economy considers itself legitimate in fact and in right: in fact, because the phenomena which it studies are constant, spontaneous, and universal; in right, because these phenomena rest on the authority of the human race, the strongest authority possible. Consequently, political economy calls itself a science; that is, a rational and systematic knowledge of regular and necessary facts.
“Rigorous adherence to its discoveries will undermine capitalism”
The Poverty of Philosophy (Chapter 1): Labor, we say, is being organized: that is, the process of organization has been going on from the beginning of the world, and will continue till the end. Political economy teaches us the primary elements of this organization; but socialism is right in asserting that, in its present form, the organization is inadequate and transitory; and the whole mission of science is continually to ascertain, in view of the results obtained and the phenomena in course of development, what innovations can be immediately effected.
Socialism and political economy, then, while waging a burlesque war, pursue in reality the same idea, — the organization of labor.
But both are guilty of disloyalty to science and of mutual calumny, when on the one hand political economy, mistaking for science its scraps of theory, denies the possibility of further progress; and when socialism, abandoning tradition, aims at reestablishing society on undiscoverable bases.
Thus socialism is nothing but a profound criticism and continual development of political economy; and, to apply here the celebrated aphorism of the school, Nihil est in intellectu, quod non prius fuerit in sensu, there is nothing in the socialistic hypotheses which is not duplicated in economic practice. On the other hand, political economy is but an impertinent rhapsody, so long as it affirms as absolutely valid the facts collected by Adam Smith and J. B. Say.
General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century: To deduce the organizing principle of the Revolution, the idea at once economic and legal of reciprocity and of contract, taking account of the difficulties and opposition which this deduction must encounter, whether on the part of revolutionary sects, parties or societies, or from the reactionaries and defenders of the statu quo; to expound the totality of these reforms and new institutions, wherein labor finds its guaranty, property its limit, commerce its balance, and government its farewell; that is to tell, from the intellectual point of view, the story of the Revolution…
When I agree with one or more of my fellow citizens for any object whatever, it is clear that my own will is my law; it is I myself, who, in fulfilling my obligation, am my own government.
Therefore if I could make a contract with all, as I can with some; if all could renew it among themselves, if each group of citizens, as a town, county, province, corporation, company, etc., formed by a like contract, and considered as a moral person, could thereafter, and always by a similar contract, agree with every and all other groups, it would be the same as if my own will were multiplied to infinity. I should be sure that the law thus made on all questions in the Republic, from millions of different initiatives, would never be anything but my law; and if this new order of things were called government, it would be my government.
Thus the principle of contract, far more than that of authority, would bring about the union of producers, centralize their forces, and assure the unity and solidarity of their interests. Two producers have the right to promise each other, and to guarantee reciprocally for, the sale or exchange of their respective products, agreeing upon the articles and the prices…
The same promise of reciprocal sale or exchange, under the same legal conditions, may exist among an unlimited number of producers: it will be the same contract, repeated an unlimited number of times.
The system of contracts, substituted for the system of laws, would constitute the true government of the man and of the citizen; the true sovereignty of the people, the REPUBLIC.
“and deliver socialism in the form of productive decentralization not unlike that of the pre/early capitalist era of craft production. Insofar as large-scale industrialization proves intractable, it will be managed by free associations of workers via a federative structure.”
Philosophy of Poverty (Volume II): The theory of mutuality, or mutuum, that is to say exchange in kind, of which the simplest form is the loan for consumption, where the collective body is concerned, is the synthesis of the notions of private property and collective ownership. This synthesis is as old as its constituent parts since it merely means that society is returning through a maze of inventions and systems, to its primitive practices as a result of a six-thousand-year-long meditation on the fundamental proposition that A=A.
General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century: In cases in which production requires great division of labor, and a considerable collective force, it is necessary to form an ASSOCIATION among the workers in this industry; because without that, they would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two industrial castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society.
Such therefore is the rule that we must lay down, if we wish to conduct the Revolution intelligently.
Every industry, operation or enterprise, which by its nature requires the employment of a large number of workmen of different specialties, is destined to become a society or a company of workers…
But where the product can be obtained by the action of an individual or a family, without the co-operation of special abilities, there is no opportunity for association. Association not being called for by the nature of the work, cannot be profitable nor of long continuance…
I do not consider as falling within the logical class of division of labor nor of collective force the innumerable small shops which are found in all trades, and which seem to me the effect of the preference of the individuals who conduct them, rather than the organic result of a combination of forces. Anybody who is capable of cutting out and sewing up a pair of shoes can get a license, open a shop, and hang out a sign, “So-and-So, Manufacturing Shoe Merchant,” although there may be only himself behind his counter. If a companion, who prefers journeyman’s wages to running the risk of starting in business, joins with the first, one will call himself the employer, the other, the hired man; in fact, they are completely equal and completely free…
The Principle of Federation: Princes and kings, in the strict sense, are of the past: already we have constitutionalized them; the day is coming when they will be no more than presidents of federations. The same fate awaits aristocracies, democracies, and all the cracies, the gangrene of the nations, the bugbears of liberty. Is it only democracy — which thinks itself liberal and hurls curses at federalism and socialism, as its ancestors did in 1793 — that grasps the idea of liberty? We cannot wait for an answer indefinitely. Already we are beginning to turn our attention to the federal contract. We do not rely too much upon the stupidity of the present generation, surely, in expecting the return of justice from the cataclysm which will sweep it away.
As for me, whose views certain journalists have tried to suppress, either by calculated silence or else by travesty or slander, I throw down this challenge to my enemies.
All my economic ideas, developed over the last twenty-five years, can be defined in three words: agro-industrial federation; all my political views may be reduced to a parallel formula: political federation or decentralization; and since I do not make my ideas the instruments of a party or of personal ambition, all my hopes for the present and future are contained in a third term, a corollary of the first two: progressive federation.
“political economy is bourgeois mystification and the Proudhonists, while making pretenses of following a scientific methodology, consistently fail to exit the past’s metaphysical prison.”
The Holy Family (Chapter 4): As the first criticism of any science is necessarily influenced by the premises of the science it is fighting against, so Proudhon’s treatise Qu’est-ce que la propriété? is the criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy. — We need not go more deeply into the juridical part of the book, which criticizes law from the standpoint of law, for our main interest is the criticism of political economy. — Proudhon’s treatise will therefore be scientifically superseded by a criticism of political economy, including Proudhon’s conception of political economy. This work became possible only owing to the work of Proudhon himself, just as Proudhon’s criticism has as its premise the criticism of the mercantile system by the Physiocrats, Adam Smith’s criticism of the Physiocrats, Ricardo’s criticism of Adam Smith, and the works of Fourier and Saint-Simon.
All treatises on political economy take private property for granted. This basic premise is for them an incontestable fact to which they devote no further investigation, indeed a fact which is spoken about only “accidentellement”, as Say naively admits. But Proudhon makes a critical investigation — the first resolute, ruthless, and at the same time scientific investigation — of the basis of political economy, private property. This is the great scientific advance he made, an advance which revolutionizes political economy and for the first time makes a real science of political economy possible. Proudhon’s treatise Qu’est-ce que la propriété? is as important for modern political economy as Sieyês’ work Qu’est-ce que le tiers état? for modern politics.
Proudhon does not consider the further creations of private property, e.g., wages, trade, value, price, money, etc., as forms of private property in themselves, as they are considered, for example, in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (see Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy by F. Engels), but uses these economic premises in arguing against the political economists; this is fully in keeping with his historically justified standpoint to which we referred above.
The Poverty of Philosophy (Chapter 1): In the automatic workshop, one worker’s labor is scarely distinguishable in any way from another worker’s labor: workers can only be distinguished one from another by the length of time they take for their work. Nevertheless, this quantitative difference becomes, from a certain point of view, qualitative, in that the time they take for their work depends partly on purely material causes, such as physical constitution, age and sex; partly on purely negative moral causes, such as patience, imperturbability, diligence. In short, if there is a difference of quality in the labor of different workers, it is at most a quality of the last kind, which is far from being a distinctive speciality. This is what the state of affairs in modern industry amounts to in the last analysis. It is upon this equality, already realized in automatic labor, that M. Proudhon wields his smoothing-plane of “equalization,” which he means to establish universally in “time to come!”
All the “equalitarian” consequences which M. Proudhon deduces from Ricardo’s doctrine are based on a fundamental error. He confounds the value of commodities measured by the quantity of labor embodied in them with the value of commodities measured by “the value of labor.” If these two ways of measuring the value of commodities were equivalent, it could be said indifferently that the relative value of any commodity is measured by the quantity of labor embodied in it; or that it is measured by the quantity of labor it can buy; or again that it is measured by the quantity of labor which can acquire it. But this is far from being so. The value of labor can no more serve as a measure of value than the value of any other commodity.
The Poverty of Philosophy (Chapter 2): Just as the antithesis was before turned into an antidote, so now the thesis becomes a hypothesis. This change of terms, coming from M. Proudhon, has no longer anything surprising for us! Human reason, which is anything but pure, having only incomplete vision, encounters at every step new problems to be solved. Every new thesis which it discovers in absolute reason and which is the negation of the first thesis, becomes for it a synthesis, which it accepts rather naively as the solution of the problem in question. It is thus that this reason frets and fumes in ever renewing contradictions until, coming to the end of the contradictions, it perceives that all its theses and syntheses are merely contradictory hypotheses. In its perplexity, “human reason, social genius, returns in one leap to all its former positions, and in a single formula, solves all its problems.” This unique formula, by the way, constitutes M. Proudhon’s true discovery. It is constituted value.
Hypotheses are made only in view of a certain aim. The aim that social genius, speaking through the mouth of M. Proudhon, set itself in the first place, was to eliminate the bad in every economic category, in order to have nothing left but the good. For it, the good, the supreme well-being, the real practical aim, is equality. And why did the social genius aim at equality rather than inequality, fraternity, Catholicism, or any other principle? Because “humanity has successively realized so many separate hypotheses only in view of a superior hypothesis,” which precisely is equality. In other words: because equality is M. Proudhon’s ideal. He imagines that the division of labour, credit, the workshop – all economic relations – were invented merely for the benefit of equality, and yet they always ended up by turning against it. Since history and the fiction of M. Proudhon contradict each other at every step, the latter concludes that there is a contradiction. If there is a contradiction, it exists only between his fixed idea and real movement.
Henceforth, the good side of an economic relation is that which affirms equality; the bad side, that which negates it and affirms inequality. Every new category is a hypothesis of the social genius to eliminate the inequality engendered by the preceding hypothesis. In short, equality is the primordial intention, the mystical tendency, the providential aim that the social genius has constantly before its eyes as it whirls in the circle of economic contradictions. Thus, Providence is the locomotive which makes the whole of M. Proudhon’s economic baggage move better than his pure and volatized reason. He has devoted to Providence a whole chapter, which follows the one on taxes.
Results of the Direct Process of Production: It is puzzle of this kind which confuse Proudhon, because he looks only at the price of the individual, independent commodity, and does not view the commodity as the product of the total capital, hence does not consider the proportions in which the overall product with its respective prices is divided conceptually…
The weekly money which the class receives, and with which it has now to buy the means of subsistence, etc., is expended on a mass of commodities of which the price, viewing them individually and all together, contains in addition to a part which = wages, another part, which = surplus value, of which the interest referred to by Proudhon only forms a single part, and perhaps a small proportional part relatively speaking. How then is it possible for the working class, with its weekly income, which only = wages, to buy a quantity of commodities which = wages + surplus value. Since the weekly wage, seen from the point of view of the class as a whole, only = the weekly amount of the means of subsistence, it follows, as night follows day, that the worker is unable to buy the necessary means of subsistence with the sum of money he has received. For the sum of money he has received = the weekly wage, the weekly price of his labour which has been paid to him, while the price of the weekly necessary means of subsistence = the weekly price of the labour contained in them + the price in which the unpaid surplus labour is expressed. Ergo: “it is impossible for the worker to be able to buy back what he himself has produced. To live by working”, given these presuppositions, is, therefore, implicitly “self-contradictory”. Proudhon is entirely right, as far as appearances are concerned. But if he were to view the commodity as the product of capital, instead of independently, he would find that the weekly product can be divided into one part, the price of which, = the wage, = the variable capital laid out during the week, contains no surplus value, etc., and another part, the price of which only = the surplus value, etc.; although the price of the commodity includes all these elements, etc. But it is precisely, and only, the first part, which the worker buys back. (Whereby it is irrelevant for the present purpose that he may be, and is, swindled by the épicier, [grocer] etc., when buying back.)
This is the usual position with Proudhon’s apparently deep and inextricable economic paradoxes. They consist in the fact that he expresses the confusion created in his brain by economic phenomena as the law governing these phenomena.
“Communism exists on the far end of a road paved by the dissolution of all past social forms through continually intensifying industrial progress, mechanization, and scientific rationalization”
The Communist Manifesto (Chapter 1): The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
On the Question of Free Trade: …the protectionist system is nothing but a means of establishing large-scale industry in any given country, that is to say, of making it dependent upon the world market, and from the moment that dependence upon the world market is established, there is already more or less dependence upon free trade. Besides this, the protective system helps to develop free trade competition within a country. Hence we see that in countries where the bourgeoisie is beginning to make itself felt as a class, in Germany for example, it makes great efforts to obtain protective duties. They serve the bourgeoisie as weapons against feudalism and absolute government, as a means for the concentration of its own powers and for the realization of free trade within the same country.
But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Preface): The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.
Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals’ social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation.
Grundrisse (Fragment on Machines): Real wealth manifests itself, rather – and large industry reveals this – in the monstrous disproportion between the labour time applied, and its product, as well as in the qualitative imbalance between labour, reduced to a pure abstraction, and the power of the production process it superintends. Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself…
The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labour time so as to posit surplus labour, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labour of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them. Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary. On the one side, then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces thereby created, and to confine them within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value. Forces of production and social relations – two different sides of the development of the social individual – appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high.
Capital Volume 3 (Chapter 15): The periodical depreciation of existing capital — one of the means immanent in capitalist production to check the fall of the rate of profit and hasten accumulation of capital-value through formation of new capital — disturbs the given conditions, within which the process of circulation and reproduction of capital takes place, and is therefore accompanied by sudden stoppages and crises in the production process.
The decrease of variable in relation to constant capital, which goes hand in hand with the development of the productive forces, stimulates the growth of the labouring population, while continually creating an artificial over-population. The accumulation of capital in terms of value is slowed down by the falling rate of profit, to hasten still more the accumulation of use-values, while this, in its turn, adds new momentum to accumulation in terms of value.
Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale.
The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; that production is only production for capital and not vice versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the society of producers. The limits within which the preservation and self-expansion of the value of capital resting on the expropriation and pauperisation of the great mass of producers can alone move — these limits come continually into conflict with the methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which drive towards unlimited extension of production, towards production as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the social productivity of labour. The means — unconditional development of the productive forces of society — comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing capital. The capitalist mode of production is, for this reason, a historical means of developing the material forces of production and creating an appropriate world-market and is, at the same time, a continual conflict between this its historical task and its own corresponding relations of social production.
Capital Volume 3(Chapter 23): The labour of supervision and management, arising as it does out of an antithesis, out of the supremacy of capital over labour, and being therefore common to all modes of production based on class contradictions like the capitalist mode, is directly and inseparably connected, also under the capitalist system, with productive functions which all combined social labour assigns to individuals as their special tasks. The wages of an epitropos, or régisseur, as he was called in feudal France, are entirely divorced from profit and assume the form of wages for skilled labour whenever the business is operated on a sufficiently large scale to warrant paying for such a manager, although, for all that, our industrial capitalists are far from “attending to affairs of state or studying philosophy.”
It has already been remarked by Mr. Ure that it is not the industrial capitalists, but the industrial managers who are “the soul of our industrial system.” Whatever concerns the commercial part of an establishment we have already said all that is necessary in the preceding part.
The capitalist mode of production has brought matters to a point where the work of supervision, entirely divorced from the ownership of capital, is always readily obtainable. It has, therefore, come to be useless for the capitalist to perform it himself. An orchestra conductor need not own the instruments of his orchestra, nor is it within the scope of his duties as conductor to have anything to do with the “wages” of the other musicians. Co-operative factories furnish proof that the capitalist has become no less redundant as a functionary in production as he himself, looking down from his high perch, finds the big landowner redundant
“At the historical summit, seemingly endless mechanization collides with irreversible centralization and concentration of capital and productive forces”
Grundrisse (Fragment on Machines): …once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour pass through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery (system of machinery: the automatic one is merely its most complete, most adequate form, and alone transforms machinery into a system), set in motion by an automaton, a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.
Capital Volume 1 (Chapter 15): A system of machinery, whether it reposes on the mere co-operation of similar machines, as in weaving, or on a combination of different machines, as in spinning, constitutes in itself a huge automaton, whenever it is driven by a self-acting prime mover. But although the factory as a whole be driven by its steam-engine, yet either some of the individual machines may require the aid of the workman for some of their movements (such aid was necessary for the running in of the mule carriage, before the invention of the self-acting mule, and is still necessary in fine-spinning mills); or, to enable a machine to do its work, certain parts of it may require to be handled by the workman like a manual tool; this was the case in machine-makers’ workshops, before the conversion of the slide rest into a self-actor. As soon as a machine executes, without man’s help, all the movements requisite to elaborate the raw material, needing only attendance from him, we have an automatic system of machinery, and one that is susceptible of constant improvement in its details. Such improvements as the apparatus that stops a drawing frame, whenever a sliver breaks, and the self-acting stop, that stops the power-loom so soon as the shuttle bobbin is emptied of weft, are quite modern inventions. As an example, both of continuity of production, and of the carrying out of the automatic principle, we may take a modern paper mill. In the paper industry generally, we may advantageously study in detail not only the distinctions between modes of production based on different means of production, but also the connexion of the social conditions of production with those modes: for the old German paper-making furnishes us with a sample of handicraft production; that of Holland in the 17th and of France in the 18th century with a sample of manufacturing in the strict sense; and that of modern England with a sample of automatic fabrication of this article. Besides these, there still exist, in India and China, two distinct antique Asiatic forms of the same industry.
An organised system of machines, to which motion is communicated by the transmitting mechanism from a central automaton, is the most developed form of production by machinery. Here we have, in the place of the isolated machine, a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories, and whose demon power, at first veiled under the slow and measured motions of his giant limbs, at length breaks out into the fast and furious whirl of his countless working organs.
Capital Volume 1 (Chapter 25): Commensurately with the development of capitalist production and accumulation there develop the two most powerful levers of centralisation — competition and credit. At the same time the progress of accumulation increases the material amenable to centralisation, i.e., the individual capitals, whilst the expansion of capitalist production creates, on the one hand, the social want, and, on the other, the technical means necessary for those immense industrial undertakings which require a previous centralisation of capital for their accomplishment. Today, therefore, the force of attraction, drawing together individual capitals, and the tendency to centralisation are stronger than ever before. But if the relative extension and energy of the movement towards centralisation is determined, in a certain degree, by the magnitude of capitalist wealth and superiority of economic mechanism already attained, progress in centralisation does not in any way depend upon a positive growth in the magnitude of social capital. And this is the specific difference between centralisation and concentration, the latter being only another name for reproduction on an extended scale. Centralisation may result from a mere change in the distribution of capitals already existing, from a simple alteration in the quantitative grouping of the component parts of social capital. Here capital can grow into powerful masses in a single hand because there it has been withdrawn from many individual hands. In any given branch of industry centralisation would reach its extreme limit if all the individual capitals invested in it were fused into a single capital. In a given society the limit would be reached only when the entire social capital was united in the hands of either a single capitalist or a single capitalist company.
Centralisation completes the work of accumulation by enabling industrial capitalists to extend the scale of their operations. Whether this latter result is the consequence of accumulation or centralisation, whether centralisation is accomplished by the violent method of annexation — when certain capitals become such preponderant centres of attraction for others that they shatter the individual cohesion of the latter and then draw the separate fragments to themselves — or whether the fusion of a number of capitals already formed or in process of formation takes place by the smoother process of organising joint-stock companies — the economic effect remains the same. Everywhere the increased scale of industrial establishments is the starting point for a more comprehensive organisation of the collective work of many, for a wider development of their material motive forces — in other words, for the progressive transformation of isolated processes of production, carried on by customary methods, into processes of production socially combined and scientifically arranged.
Capital Volume 3 (Chapter 15): At any rate, it is but a requirement of the capitalist mode of production that the number of wage-workers should increase absolutely, in spite of its relative decrease. Labour-power becomes redundant for it as soon as it is no longer necessary to employ it for 12 to 15 hours daily. A development of productive forces which would diminish the absolute number of labourers, i.e., enable the entire nation to accomplish its total production in a shorter time span, would cause a revolution, because it would put the bulk of the population out of the running. This is another manifestation of the specific barrier of capitalist production, showing also that capitalist production is by no means an absolute form for the development of the productive forces and for the creation of wealth, but rather that at a certain point it comes into collision with this development. This collision appears partly in periodical crises, which arise from the circumstance that now this and now that portion of the labouring population becomes redundant under its old mode of employment. The limit of capitalist production is the excess time of the labourers. The absolute spare time gained by society does not concern it. The development of productivity concerns it only in so far as it increases the surplus labour-time of the working-class, not because it decreases the labour-time for material production in general. It moves thus in a contradiction.
We have seen that the growing accumulation of capital implies its growing concentration. Thus grows the power of capital, the alienation of the conditions of social production personified in the capitalist from the real producers. Capital comes more and more to the fore as a social power, whose agent is the capitalist. This social power no longer stands in any possible relation to that which the labour of a single individual can create. It becomes an alienated, independent, social power, which stands opposed to society as an object, and as an object that is the capitalist’s source of power. The contradiction between the general social power into which capital develops, on the one hand, and the private power of the individual capitalists over these social conditions of production, on the other, becomes ever more irreconcilable, and yet contains the solution of the problem, because it implies at the same time the transformation of the conditions of production into general, common, social, conditions. This transformation stems from the development of the productive forces under capitalist production, and from the ways and means by which this development takes place.
“political economy is utopian and thus to be vigorously critiqued”
Reflections on Violence (Letter to Daniel Halévy): A myth cannot be refuted since it is, at bottom, identical to the convictions of a group, being the expression of these convictions in the language of movement; and it is, in consequence, unanalysable into parts which could be placed on the plane of historical descriptions. A utopia, on the other hand, can be discussed like any other social constitution; the spontaneous movements it presupposes can be compared with those actually observed in the course of history, and we can in this way evaluate their verisimilitude; it is possible to refute it by showing that the economic system on which it has been made to rest is incompatible with the necessary conditions of modern production.
Liberal political economy is one of the best examples of a utopia that could be given. A society was imagined where everything could be reduced to types produced by commerce and operating under the law of the fullest competition; it is recognized today that this kind of ideal society would be as difficult to realize as that of Plato; but several great statesmen of modern times have owed their fame to the efforts they made to introduce something of this ideal of commercial liberty into industrial legislation.
“but the Marxists also make appeals to a scientific methodology that they do not adhere to (particularly in regards to the development of techno-industrial systems)”
Critical Essays in Marxism: The concentration of fortunes appeared to him [Marx]… under a very simple form of ‘landlordism’. Capitalist magnates, as he says, are the leaders of all the branches of industrial activities; concentration of revenue and the enlargement of enterprises were then regarded as synonymous. Today, it is entirely different, and it has become impossible to compare Marx’s forecasts with reality, because there is no basis of comparison between two absolutely different regimes…
Marx and his disciples were hardly concerned with the technical reasons that produced the formation of great enterprises. This is curious in Marx, who attached such great importance to conditions of technology. In his long dissertation, Kautsky does not speak of this crucial question at all. Pecqueur, in 1838, saw clearly that the steam engine is, as he said, an “agglomerator”, as Professor Reuleaux, in our days, regards the use of steam as one of the most compelling causes of enlargement. Industries which utilize heat are obliged to work at a rapid rate and with huge apparatuses in order to use fuel effectively. Almost everywhere advantage is found in using great mechanical speed and consequently in accelerating the daily productivity of various jobs. Here we have technical explanations that have great weight.
Illusions of Progress: Modern engineers are very much attentive to the dissipation of energy. That is why they make such great efforts to obtain very powerful motors at high speeds, in which the cooling losses are substantially reduced. Furthermore, in a general way we can say that in all the industries that use heat it is good to have mechanisms of large dimensions and very rapid output.
Related to the same order ideas is the capture of gases that metallurgical furnaces formerly lost, and their utilization for the heating of boilers.
The questions related to the dissipation of energy offer an interest of the first for the economist, for immense present-day installations have, from this point of view, an enormous superiority over former systems. The advantage of the powerful steam engine was impressive from the very beginning of large industry, and all the progress accomplished in the chemical arts has better shown the value of size. Authors (and especially socialist authors) have often forgotten the technical origin of this value of size. Thus they have attributed to any extended enterprise a superiority they would have much difficulty justifying scientifically. It is most extraordinary that so many so-called Marxists have reasoned about statistics concerning industrial concentration without going back to the technical bases of this concentration.
Illusions of Progress: If we agree with the historical philosophy of Marx, we must say that in spite of all the talk of Kautsky and of the admirers of Pierpont Morgan, the trusts do not characterize an era of superior capitalism unless it can be demonstrated that these organizations, so deplorably usurious, give rise to incontestable progress in the instruments of production. Now here is the opinion of Walker, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “the trusts destroy competition and the ‘invention-power’ of the people. I consider them absolutely pernicious. They constitute a veritable tyranny, and America will rid herself of them as she knows how to rid herself all tyrannies. By what means this will take place I do not know, but I have confidence in the enormous force of public opinion in this country”. Against such an authoritative opinion of the admirers of the trusts would have to bring solid proofs, but they have no done so. In order to utilize all the by products of the refining of petroleum, large establishments are necessary. But it is a long way from such a concentration to the monopoly of the Standard Oil Company. We do see what technical progress an ‘ocean trust’ could introduce into naval art.
Numerous American socialists have greeted the success of the trusts with enthusiasm because it seemed to them that the trusts constituted a forward step on the path to the nationalization of large industries. The matter seems simple enough to people used to resolving historical problems with abstract formulas. But when facts and men are considered such as they are in reality the socialist beneficence of the trusts no longer seems as evident as it does to Kautsky. According to Marx’s hypothesis the bourgeoisie will deliver to the revolution an industry in which the factories will be subject to truly scientific direction. One can say that in current scientific work individuals are jut about interchangeable. Thus it will be easy for the socialist regime to maintain good management over production, thanks to the cooperation of groups whose members will have received a serious scientific education – management under which the good methods learned in the schools will be continuously applied and in which esprit de corps will eliminate the inefficient workers. Thus the transition will be brought about by an economic bridge, whose solidarity we must be careful not to undermine during the years of preparation for socialism. According to Kautsky’s hypothesis this economic bridge does not exist, since until its dying day industrial capitalism would not be able to give a predominant place to science in its factories.
“Intensification of class struggle in its syndicalist form—of which both Proudhon and Marx were the great prophets—will throw industrial progress into overdrive”
Reflections on Violence: The day when the bosses perceive that they have nothing to gain by works which promote social justice or by democracy, they will understand that they have been badly advised by the people who persuaded them to abandon their trade of creators of productive forces for the noble profession of educators of the proletariat. Then there is some chance that they will rediscover a part of their energy and that a moderate or conservative economy may appear as absurd to them as it did to Marx. In any case, the separation of the classes being more clearly attenuated, the movement of the economy will have some chance of developing with greater regularity than today.
The two antagonistic classes therefore influence each other in a partly indirect but decisive manner. Capitalism drives the proletariat into revolt, because in daily life the bosses use their force in a direction opposed to the desires of their workers; but this revolt does not entirely determine the future of the proletariat; the latter organize themselves under the influence of other causes, and socialism, inculcating the revolutionary idea, prepares it to suppress the enemy class. Capitalist force is at the base of this entire process and it operates in an imperious manner. Marx supposed that the bourgeoisie had no need to be incited to employ force; but we are faced with a new and very unforeseen fact: a bourgeoisie which seeks to weaken its own strength. Must we believe that the Marxist conception is dead? By no means, because proletarian violence comes upon the scene at the very moment when the conception of social peace claims to moderate disputes; proletarian violence confines employers to their role as producers and tends to restore the class structure just when they seemed on the point of intermingling in the democratic morass.
Not only can proletarian violence ensure the future revolution but it also seems the only means by which the European nations, stupefied by humanitarianism, can recover their former energy. This violence compels capitalism to restrict its attentions solely to its material role and tends to restore to it the warlike qualities it formerly possessed. A growing and solidly organized working class can force the capitalist class to remain ardent in the industrial struggle; if a united and revolutionary proletariat confronts a rich bourgeoisie eager for conquest, capitalist society will reach its historical perfection.
Thus proletarian violence has become an essential factor in Marxism. Let us add once more that, if properly conducted, it will have the result of suppressing parliamentary socialism, which will no longer be able to pose as the leader of the working classes and as the guardian of order.
“It will not lead to the Marxian vision of centralization and concentration, however, but to the the rapid decentralization of productive forces—the proliferation of ‘prodigiously productive workshops’”
Reflections on Violence: Marx supposes, exactly as the syndicalists do, that the revolution will be absolute and irrevocable, because it will place the forces of production in the hands of free men, i.e. of men who are capable of running the workshop created by capitalism without any need of masters.
Reflections on Violence: The preceding explanations have shown that the idea of the general strike, constantly rejuvenated by the sentiments provoked by proletarian violence, produces an entirely epic state of mind and, at the same time, bends all the energies of the mind towards the conditions that allow the realization of a freely functioning and prodigiously progressive workshop; we have thus recognized that there is a strong relationship between the sentiments aroused by the general strike and those which are necessary to bring about a continued progress in production. We have then the right to maintain that the modern world possesses the essential motivating power which can ensure the existence of the morality of the producers.
Illusions of Progress: The same Hegelian biases inspired in Marx the idea of a technological development in modern production resulting in the disappearance of small enterprises, which would be crushed by industrial giants. It is certain that, in many cases, industrial concentration represents a superior stage in technology. But I have said earlier that the Marxists generally fail to examine the basis for this superiority. They reasoned in an abstract way in admitting the superiority of what impressed them by the enormity of its dimensions. The socialists seem to be in agreement today in recognizing that concentration does not make sense for agriculture as it does for metallurgy. But by the way in which they talk of small rural property, it is obvious that they understand very little about the reasons for its prosperity: they remain slaves to the biases that Marx had borrowed from Hegelian teachings, whose nature they do not understand.
The biological idea found in the romantic evolution makes any return to the early forms of society improbably. Marx thought that, when production had reached the stage where commerce is subordinated to industry, the forms he called antediluvian would never again appear in a country in the course of serious progress. In America, however, we have seen usury conquer under the name of trusts a large place in the economy. He never would have thought that the great factories could be replaced by the work of small family workshops; at the present time, however, we wonder if the use of small electrical motors is not likely to product (in certain regions at least) this transformation. It is advisable to make a less rigid model of capitalism than Marx has done.
Illusions of Progress: Reuleaux long ago affirmed that engines using hot air, waterfalls, or gasoline, and easily usable in applications of 1 to 3 horsepower, should be included “among the most important modern machines and regarded as carrying the seed of a complete transformation of a part of industry” that would return to a regime of craftsmen.
A nostalgia trip from twitter icon VOIDCOMM plummets us back to the heady days of #Rhetttwitter and Unconditional Acceleration: “This list was selected from key theorists and shitposters to select for music they view was influential to the aesthetic or (writing of) these theories”. No doubt the list will grow as time goes on (it’s already beginning for a spotify playlist), but what stands out to me if her perfect invocation of 2017—the unity of theory and shitpost.
Here’s an ultra-compressed offering on the distinctions in the triad of Proudhon-Marx-Sorel, inspired by my recent reading of William Clare Robert’s Marx’s Inferno (which offers one of the best—if not only, insofar as I’ve seen—serious treatments of the Proudhon-Marx conflict) and a series of feverish, subterranean conversations:
Proudhon: political economy is value-neutral and akin to the natural sciences. Rigorous adherence to its discoveries will undermine capitalism and deliver socialism in the form of productive decentralization not unlike that of the pre/early capitalist era of craft production. Insofar as large-scale industrialization proves intractable, it will be managed by free associations of workers via a federative structure.
Marx: political economy is bourgeois mystification and the Proudhonists, while making pretenses of following a scientific methodology, consistently fail to exit the past’s metaphysical prison. Communism exists on the far end of a road paved by the dissolution of all past social forms through continually intensifying industrial progress, mechanization, and scientific rationalization. At the historical summit, seemingly endless mechanization collides with irreversible centralization and concentration of capital and productive forces.
Sorel: political economy is utopian and thus to be vigorously critiqued, but the Marxists also make appeals to a scientific methodology that they do not adhere to (particularly in regards to the development of techno-industrial systems). Intensification of class struggle in its syndicalist form—of which both Proudhon and Marx were the great prophets—will throw industrial progress into overdrive. It will not lead to the Marxian vision of centralization and concentration, however, but to the the rapid decentralization of productive forces—the proliferation of ‘prodigiously productive workshops’.
Gregory Marks has an excellent analysis of Fisher’s Acid Communism up on his blog (which, unfortunately, I’m just now discovering). As it pays close attention to the question of temporality—special care is given to elucidating the identity of capitalist realism with the postmodern condition—it’s deeply relevant to the question of time, myth and class struggle: “Time stands still. Out of joint doesn’t even cover it”.
How do we escape?
Acid reveals another order of time that works against the time of purposeful production. Against the days of labour are the nights spent under florescent lights, and the repudiation of the workday for this night. Akin to Rancière’s workers of nineteenth-century Paris, whose nights were spent in creative work and refuge from the strictures of labour, twentieth-century psychedelia was a rejection of the predetermination of life by work and toil, and the “the revelation of a different world and the initiation of a new kind of relationship between beings”
Fisher makes clear that the altered perception of psychedelia is not an individuated escape from this rhythm, but a political refusal to participate. Far from being a hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, and ultimately assimilable to capital, psychedelia is a libidinal re-wiring of desire and re-weirding of experience. As Acid Communism, this refusal is also what dispels our capitalist realist stupor, and opens us to the arrival of something new. It is the making weird of our lives and our worlds, which uncovers the absurd machinery which keeps us in servitude.
The weird does not wake us, but makes us disturbingly aware that we have never been truly awake, and that other dreams are still possible. The weird does not transcend the psychic and libidinal structures that it disturbs, but remains immanent to them in its stark lucidity. The experience of the weird can be horrifying, but it can just as easily fascinate us as it draws us out of our preconceptions and awakens in us an awareness of the unnatural forces which inhabit us.
In this very last quote, we catch a glimpse of the continuities that stretched across Fisher’s thought, with the constructive implex of (re)weirding calling back directly to the the Spinozist core of the Cold Rationalist program. As he described in a 2004 post titled—so appropriately, in retrospect—Psychedelic Reason, the philosophy of Spinoza “tells you not to get out of your head but how to get out through your head”. Given that this ego-annihilating process was to intended to make one a conduit for the Lemurian signal (“the ultimate interests of any body lie in having no particular interests at all – that is in identifying with the cosmos itself as the BwO, the Spinozist God, the Lemurian body of uttunul”), what is happening here can be described as not only something truly weird, but something that is approachable through “awe, wonder and dread”. Since this horizon itself cannot be truly achieved, as Deleuze and Guattari are quick to remind us, these become not the openings to the howling void, but the implements for plateau-work.
In homage to Gabriel Tarde (1843- 1 904): his long-forgotton work has assumed new relevance with the influence of American sociology, in particular microsociology. It had been quashed by Durkheim and his school (in polemics similar to and as harsh as Cuvier’s against Geoffroy SaintHilaire). Durkheim’s preferred objects of study were the great collective representations, which are generally binary, resonant, and overcoded. Tarde countered that collective representations presuppose exactly what needs explaining, namely, “the similarity of millions of people.” That is why Tarde was interested instead in the world of detail, or of the infinitesimal: the little imitations, oppositions, and inventions constituting an entire realm of subrepresentative matter. Tarde’s best work was his analyses of a minuscule bureaucratic innovation, or a linguistic innovation, etc. The Durkheimians answered that what Tarde did was psychology or interpsychology, not sociology. But that is true only in appearance, as a first approximation: a microimitation does seem to occur between two individuals. But at the same time, and at a deeper level, it has to do not with an individual but with a flow or a wave. Imitation is the propagation of a flow; opposition is binarization, the making binary of flows; invention is a conjugation or connection of different flows. What, according to Tarde, is a flow? It is belief or desire (the two aspects of every assemblage); a flow is always of belief and of desire. Beliefs and desires are the basis of every society, because they are flows and as such are “quantifiable”; they are veritable social Quantities, whereas sensations are qualitative and representations are simple resultants. Infinitesimal imitation, opposition, and invention are therefore like flow quanta marking a propagation, binarization, or conjugation of beliefs and desires. Hence the importance of statistics, providing it concerns itself with the cutting edges and not only with the “stationary” zone of representations. For in the end, the difference is not at all between the social and the individual (or interindividual), but between the molar realm of representations, individual or collective, and the molecular realm of beliefs and desires in which the distinction between the social and the individual loses all meaning since flows are neither attributable to individuals nor overcodable by collective signifiers. Representations already define large-scale aggregates, or determine segments on a line; beliefs and desires, on the other hand, are flows marked by quanta, flows that are created, exhausted, or transformed, added to one another, subtracted or combined. Tarde invented micro sociology and took it to its full breadth and scope, denouncing in advance the misinterpretations to which it would later fall victim. [Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 218-219]
See also: D/G: Capitalism/The Thing/Fictional Quantities.