WHAT DO WE TAKE? … C) from Marx

KarlMarx

FROM MARX:

We get the idea that capitalism is concealment: hiding its exploitation well.

It conceals through seduction: the enamoured victim of the seducer is always blind to the depths of the one-sidedness of their relationship.

“… things do not always immediately appear as they are. The divorce between reality and the way it appears is a central aspect of Marx’s dialectical thought.”[i]

What we learn from Marx is the need to be critical and vigilant of appearances. In fact, it is precisely when everything looks quite rosy that we must be especially on our guard.

Marx argued that in communist societies technological development would seek to eliminate repetitive, physically demanding, unsafe and unhealthy tasks; reduce overall labour time, satisfy basic needs and develop human potential.[ii] The failure of communism is usually estimated by its inability to achieve, or even successfully approach the achievement of these goals.

However, in assessing this failure, it is also true that the communist states were set up at times when technologies were not advanced enough to make this forward-moving cultural-leap possible. Very many of the technologies capable of transforming our lives were developed in the capitalist, not the communist world, and the great spike in technological development that we are experiencing now came after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a sense, it could be affirmed that communism arose as a political alternative before its time. Ironically, the application of Marx’s Utopian dream is far easier to envisage now. Whilst, a development of our current AI and robotics technologies offers an alternative to human labour that could give us the means to nurture our potential, the pressing needs for systemic change that are demanded by the ecological crisis give us a sound reason for wanting to make such a revolutionary change as well.

One of the goals of all human societies, if they are truly human, should be to get humans out of the psychologically and physically tedious work spaces, and into environments where human potential can be focussed on tasks related to the full development of our human, homo sapiens, potentials. Technology is now our greatest hope, and the more utopian are our hopes for the technological world, the better. Nevertheless, it is also true, and it should always be uppermost in any technological thrust forward, that a Utopia will only ever be built once research and the production of new technologies are liberated from the profit-making obligations of the market place. (Capitalism + Technology = Dystopia) is the true equation behind the façade of the current System, but it is this same monstrous equation that has to be avoided at all costs.

One of the ways to achieve the liberation from tedious, repetitive work that offers no spiritual reward for the labourer, would lie through a complete automation of production – a process which is taking place, but which is unpopular because it produces unemployment, which produces, in our capitalist-monetary system, misery and poverty. What this implies, therefore, is another Marxist or neo-Marxist goal: the deconstruction of the idea of unemployment allowing for a conception of society to be formed in which being without a wage-earning occupation never has to be a problem.

[i] From Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad, MARX’S CAPITAL, Routledge, p.4

 

[ii] Ibid, p.8

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THE POSITIVE DOOR OPENED BY THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

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The latest report from the ICC warns that a climate catastrophe will likely happen only twenty-two years from now unless drastic systemic action is not taken[i]. Of course, there is nothing positive about this emerging scenario, if we let it unfold it will be an absolute tragedy for humanity. Nevertheless, the ugly prediction itself does carry a positive mask, because it also comes with an emphatic cry to remodel our relationship with the world and with the technologies we created to improve our relationship with the world.

This last point is very important: the technologies we are using that are proving so harmful to the ecosystem, are technologies that were created to make the world a more comfortable place to live in. The planet goes dark at night, so we have technologies that give us light; the winters are cold, so we have technologies that keep us warm; the summers are too hot, but technology can make a space cool; there are huge distances between places, but we have technologies that can move us around quite quickly.

So, if the basic purpose of technology is to make the world a more comfortable place to live in, it is an absurdity to keep using technologies that are incrementing those same uncomfortable factors that they are supposed to be mitigating.

Here we have, what we call, the technology-world paradox. What we created to make us more comfortable is aggravating the discomfort.

Capitalism naturally defends this paradoxical relationship, because it is a perfect cycle for making money. The rising mercury in the thermometers will necessitate more air-conditioning, which makes it hotter, which will further boost the sales of air-conditioners. But not just that, an increase in natural disasters will also create an increase in the economy of reconstruction. Capitalism knows that in every catastrophe there is a potential fortune to be made. Of course, this is a perverse and ultimately internecine game.

Until now, our technology has been created without taking this absurd condition into consideration. However, what should change as the unfolding catastrophe gets closer, is precisely the political attitudes towards this paradoxical relationship. The logical (and anti-capitalist) position that is becoming more and more obvious, is that technology, the purpose of which is to make our lives more comfortable, cannot be allowed if it exacerbates the discomfort levels created by the natural environment. Technology must become clean.

For many of us, perhaps for most of you reading this article, this is an obvious statement; but we also know that capitalism is being stubborn with its propagation of dirty, fossil-fuel technologies, and it seems to want to exploit every single last drop of oil and the last crumb of coal that we have on the planet. For the old capitalism, all this oil and dirt is a marvellous source of free money for those who have created the infrastructures for exploiting it, and those exploiters don’t want to surrender the lovely privileges they have forged for themselves.

Yes, we know we now have the clean technologies to replace the dirty ones, but the catastrophe scenario only worsens, and that is because there is a complete lack of will in the capitalist wealth-system that we are immersed in to make that change.

The fundamental question facing us today, is not how we can change the technology, but how can we make those who control the current bad technologies change.

Currently, are global economy is driven by two kinds of ideologies which have the same liberal basis. On the one hand there is the neo-liberal ideology which opens the door to capitalist desires and promotes the prolongation of dirty technologies, and on the other hand, there is a social-liberalism that wants to put state funding investment into renewable-energy technologies to fill the lack coming from the private sector. As such, an avoidance of the ecological catastrophe depends on the triumph of the latter. And yet, as we get closer and closer to the fatidic date, now 2040, the success of the positive option seems to be growing less rather than more likely of coming about.

Yes, this ideological failure to make a common-sense change is very concerning. So, where is that door we claim to see beginning to open onto a positive scenario?

The positive door is actually created by the growing obviousness of the ineffectiveness of liberalism (i.e. capitalism) to mitigate, let alone resolve, the crisis.

This inability of the system to save itself, opens the door to a radical redrawing of the economy. Instead of financing the transition to clean technology, the real solution will have to come through making the need to finance that change-over irrelevant.

In order to make technologies that will make the world a more comfortable place without making the same world more uncomfortable, we need to pull the spanner out of the works – and that spanner is capitalism.

Until we recognise this, the struggle to save the planet is ultimately a futile one.

Our current hope depends on social democracies gaining enough power to take positive steps forward. Nevertheless, our democratic cycles indicate that those steps will eventually be removed by the arrival of neo-liberal, nationalist governments that will replace them. In other words, if the future of the planet depends on the whims of the voters who are manipulated by Wealth-as power through the media to decide according to short-term political and economic concerns rather than long-term progress, we are doomed. If we call the neo-liberal democracy -A and the social-democracy path +A, we get an equation of -A +A = 0.

What we see through the new door that is opening, however, is the need for a complete overhaul of our capitalist system, and a complete change of perspective on what our money is used for. Not a Marxist redistribution of wealth, but a redefinition of Wealth itself; unchaining wealth from the idea of accumulation of money and/or goods and anchoring it to the idea of human fulfilment. This simple idea revolutionises the concept of labour goals and the purposes of the entire economy. Making money is suddenly not the do-all and end-all, and when and where money is an impediment to fulfilment it should be phased out or restructured.

What this door offers is a new perspective that we can call B. The equation thus boils down to A against B – and the struggle is clearer. B knows who its enemy is. It is not confused like +A which doesn’t realise that a large part of its ineffectiveness lies in its own condition as A. B, on the other hand, is unambiguous. It knows where the root of the problem lies.

Of course, it doesn’t make the struggle any easier, but it does make it clearer.

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

REALITY AND COHERENCE

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“The world of everyday life is not only taken for granted as reality by the ordinary members of society in the subjectively meaningful conduct of their lives. It is a world that originates in their thoughts and actions, and is maintained as real by these.”

(Peter L. Burger and Thomas Luckmann,

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY)

 

For reality to exist for someone, the world has to be perceived as a coherent place. Once coherence is lost, reality itself breaks down and madness sets in. But this doesn’t mean that the coherence we perceive is real.

In fact, it may be quite the opposite: a coherence constructed out of a pattern which we are told exists but doesn’t at all. One such fantasy is the economy.

The economy seems coherent, although we hardly understand it. Its coherency comes from the fact that we are constantly told about it; about its behaviour and about what our governments and bankers do to keep it running smoothly or drive it out of crises. We know that when things go wrong with the economy it will affect our lives and condition our own behaviour psychologically and materially.

Our civilisation is obsessed with the economy, so: How can it not be coherent? How can it not be real?

And yet: it is only coherent while we believe it to be. In actual fact, it is very similar to any religion – its coherence depends on the faith of its followers. The economy has a wide collective following, but once the collective starts to doubt its coherence the aura of reality around it quickly starts to fade and its coherence becomes cracked and wobbly.

The greatest barrier against progress is not a fear of change so much as a fear that the reality we believe we are immersed in will be rendered incoherent. That is the fear we need to overcome; because the truth is, it already is and always has been essentially incoherent.

SOCIAL FREEDOM AS A FEASIBLE CONCERN

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Human societies are created around human activity and the requirements that come from the organization of that activity. Freedom, in a social sense, has to be defined by the freedom of choice that an individual has in deciding which activity he or she wants to pursue. A freedom-promoting society would, therefore, be constructed in a way that allows each person to pursue the activities they feel are the most suited to them.

Traditionally this idea of society is absurd: because the society itself has its own needs that must be met in order for the same society to function, and, as such, it requires a certain amount of its members to engage in tasks that would be of no interest to them. To compensate for this denial of freedom wages were introduced. In this way, wage-labour can be defined as a compensation for slavery.

Nevertheless, with the development of technology and especially robotics and manufacturing using 3D copiers, the idea of a social freedom can once again be imagined as a feasible thing. The implementation of automation should be seen as a process of liberating salary-compensated slaves in order to liberate their creative, sapiens potentials.

At the same time, the economy has to be adjusted that would guarantee the well-being of each member of society. The most logical evolution would be toward a non-monetary society, but before this revolutionary transition can be achieved, a universal basic-income is the most progressive economic idea. An explanation of UBI and some historical background can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income .

If it is feasible, the promotion of social freedom through the development of technology should be seen as a goal for society and a part of political parties’ programmes.

Organisation: A Human Obsession

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Human beings are obsessed by the way we are organised. We are obsessed by the family, the state, our religions; we live in a gossip loving, envious society that above all loves money … All these factors exert strong organisational fields over our lives. But while it is relatively simple, for some, to stop flag-waving and escape from the grip of their local church, or stop watching reality shows and disappear from their family radar, it seems impossible to remove ourselves from the gravitational force of money.

Money is the perfect form of organisation, itself perfected by the control methodologies implemented through the organisation of the great organiser – the economy.

We are a social-animal species. We are born vulnerable and dependent on those who can nourish and protect us. Until, in theory, we leave the nest, but the independence we imagine we gain in our maturity is a myth that is never truly obtained, because we never free ourselves from the obsession we have with that which is always organising us; an obsession which leads to blind faith, and that is the worst loss of freedom. The way we are organised is the way things are: we sense that; we implicitly believe it; but does that mean that we cannot change it? Is the way things are, the way things have to be?

Despite our obsession with organisation, we also need to believe in the anti-organisation concept of freedom. Most Westerners cringe at the idea of loss of freedom. Freedom is a symbol that all human beings should aspire to. But why? If we are so obsessed with organising our lives according to the way things are, and freedom represents that which is not the way things are, why do we place so much importance on this anti-organisation concept.

Certainly, if one lives under the singular-will organisation of a dictatorship, one can dream of the liberating effects that an organisation like the one we call democracy offers. But what happens when you discover that the free world of liberal democracies doesn’t actually offer you real freedom at all? Where does one go from there? Must we surrender to blind faith, and console ourselves with the absurd, illogical belief that the organisation that controls us actually allows us to be independent and free?

The real problem lies in the fact that we never truly organise ourselves: our lives are always organised for us; within a paradigm built in order to organise most of us in a way that allows us to be exploited for its own purposes. No matter how free we think we are in this world of unlimited possibilities, for the vast majority of us, our relationship is a submissive one, determined by the power that organises us. And yet, do you ever ask yourself why we are organised in this way; or how this organisation came to be taken for granted in the first place?

True, we are a social-animal and freedom from organisation is impossible. Nevertheless, it is possible to break free and escape the nest, just as some of us really do break free from the organisation of the family. Organisation can work for everyone, in a way that allows each one of us the power to develop our talents to the fullest. We don’t have to be organised and moulded according to the will of that seemingly random, abstract force we call the economy. Yet, for a liberating organisational force to be possible, we first have to deeply question the reasons why we have been organised in this anti-liberating way in the first place. In order to see the way out, we first have to understand why we really do need to escape.

ART AS ANTI-PRODUCTION

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Labour becomes productive only by producing its own antithesis (that is, capital)” Karl Marx

Let the artist not kid him/herself: no matter how much the artist creates, he or she does not produce. In order to produce, the artist must find an agent of production.

The agent of production is that which produces nothing itself, but knows how to turn the creations of others into commodities. The agent of production may be a capitalist, or it may be the State, or it may be an antithetical Mr Hyde character created by the Dr Jekyll artist himself. In whatever form the agent of production appears, once the creation is turned over to the agent it loses its autonomy and the artist loses his/her freedom in relation to the work. Even in the latter case, where the artist (anti-producer) becomes his/her own agent: a stress is produced on the artist’s creativity. The marketing of art, in any fashion, produces a stress on art.

The labour of art is, therefore, essentially unproductive. Art only becomes productive when the agent takes hold of the creation and produces it, i.e. turns it into a marketable commodity. In his or her essence, the artist remains an anti-producer; an outsider to the economy; an economic aberration in fact.

The fact that art can survive at all in an economic-political society is an indication of its enormous strength. In theory, it should have been made extinct long ago by both the capitalist and socialist systems that are both so deeply immersed in the politics of production.

Not only is this great anti-producer Art a tremendously powerful human drive and social force, it may also be a marker showing us the way to a post-production society in which capital, perhaps even the monetary system itself, has been rendered obsolete.

In fact, all truly positive, purposive political and social thinking will need to analyse the creative and unproductive force of art in order to revaluate and recreate the positive human society that we are all crying out for. The answer to all our problems lies in the anti-productive nature of art.

PROGRESS VS THE GRAVITY OF WEALTH

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PROGRESS

Progress is change with continuity. Revolution breaks continuity.

However, when the change gravitates into a cyclical motion, revolution is needed to reinstate progress.

In a positive, progressive sense, revolution is a poor term for the idea of this interruption of cyclical motion because it implies a new kind of cyclical motion rather than a positive redirection with a continual-change momentum. In a practical sense, however, all revolutions have in fact been redirecting-breakaways that have gravitated back into cyclical motion.

An analysis of this reality indicates a pessimistic vision of a never-ending cyclical reality. But, does it have to be so? And if so, why?

Nietzsche and Deleuze argued that this had to come about because ideals and purposes cannot be sustained once they are achieved. But, what happens if purpose has a deliberately unattainable objective? That purpose becomes the purpose of always becoming rather than the maintenance of what is? That it becomes motored by progress and creativity itself? Could this not be the basis for a forward pushing drive for humanity?

Yet, if this is possible; how is it that we’ve never been able to manage it before?

 

WEALTH

What is the gravity that has constantly pulled progress back around itself into a cyclical form?

That gravity is “wealth”. “Wealth” as a driving force within the libido of our very civilisation itself.

Any deep analysis of civilisation will always indicate (either positively or negatively, depending on the stand-point from which the analysis is carried out) the role of Wealth in the creation and maintenance of all civilisations. In other words, civilisation is a construct erected by Wealth in order to move all accumulations in an upward way that benefits Wealth itself. All revolutions, so far, have been simple replacements of Wealth without ever removing Wealth from the central position of society.

Wealth uses its own gravity to bend continuity, drawing it back and looping it in cyclical knots.

For this reason, the main foe to human progress is Wealth.

Cycles are necessary for the perpetuation of Wealth – and this explains why we have always had a cyclical reality. For Wealth to perpetuate itself it needs cycles. Wealth has always been the centre of Civilisation; therefore, Civilisation has always had a cyclical form.

If we now interpret Lampedusa’s famous political axiom: “In order for things to remain the same, things have got to change” from this point of view, we see the clever reversal that Wealth itself needs to bring about in order to maintain itself, takes place by bending the curve of progress so acutely that it can curl down and around and perpetuate itself as a cycle.

So, is continual progress impossible, or is it merely inconvenient for Wealth?

If progress is defined as economic growth, then continual progress is impossible; but if progress means an advance of humanity as a whole in the fields of learning, creativity and general well-being, then the answer is the latter – it is not impossible, it is only inconvenient for Wealth.

Wealth is diminished in authentic human progress, and maintained by a politics based on slave-creating economies that function in cyclical forms. For human progress to be possible we have to declare war on Wealth.

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THE WOEFULNESS OF WEALTH AND THE LOTTERY OF LIFE

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Wealth has always been a reactive and cynically pessimistic force, for it essentially raises and protects itself by stimulating and encouraging whilst at the same time destroying or negating the great hopes of humanity. In fact, through its manipulation of all the agents of power, it replaces humanity with fantasies of the national spirit, of religious crusades or jihads, of the glory of Empire, or, in the case of capitalism, with the illusion of individual freedom and the achievements such phantasmagorical freedoms can bring.

All of these fantasies have a common cause – to dehumanise the human and diffuse any common aims through separation and segregation. Wealth is about disconnection, the establishment of differences. The stance of Wealth is of Us against Them; of Master and Slave; of our Gain against their Loss.

The result of the accumulation in Wealth of the Few is an intensifying of the Poverty of the Many. Capitalism has long been successful in creating the mirage of satisfaction through the seeming great progress toward the technological man. But the price paid by Wealth in the mechanisation and digitalisation of society is one of an unveiling of its own trickery. As civilisation falls deeper into an unauthenticity, society becomes more and more scarred by the false, virtual reality imposed on them; a reality lacking in true potentials; where everyone has an opportunity to be successful, whether talented or not, but success depends on it being an elitist concept. Only a small few can be truly successful, even though anyone and everyone has a chance. Life therefore becomes a lottery, and as more players come into the game, the prize swells but the chances of winning it are less and less.

But the mirror of the simulated reality of false potentials that we are facing has formed fissures and cracks. The distortions caused by these cracks allows us to look past the false image in order to discover that everything is mounted on an empty blackboard. Below the fragile surface of the mirror there is … nothing.

THE ANTI-SAPIENS PROCESS OF CIVILISATION

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Human history has been a steady process of de-Sapienisation through social and tribal stratification. Once knowledge became associated with excess, and subsequently wealth and power, and it was realised that the ownership and protection of technological know-how was a necessary means of maintaining that excess, then humanity lost touch with all possibilities of identifying itself as a species and became a prisoner to the man-eat-man scenario of the stratified species, divided by casts or race, culture or nationality, and measured according to possessions or accumulations, or simply, after its invention, by the quantity of money one possessed or was empowered to obtain.

Through categorising and measuring, humanity has lost touch with its essence and, in even greater terms, with its destiny. Knowledge has become a peripheral aim. Knowledge has lost its primary position in Human-Sapiens identity to become just another tool that can be used to gain advantages in the competitive struggle for excess and the will to be measured highly in the in the economic society of modern civilisation.

For the homo-economicus the idea of freedom means being able to maintain a control of one’s life and keep oneself afloat as comfortably as possible upon the competitive waters of the excess-fuelled, money-edified civilisation. In order to do this, the majority are willing to sacrifice other more Human-Sapiens freedoms such as the freedom to obtain knowledge or the freedom to be granted the power to use any acquired knowledge creatively and productively in the arts and sciences. Instead, intellectual freedom is a victim to a desire by Excess to capitalise the ownership of innovation and ensure, through copyrighting, that profits made from artistic and technological innovations are channelled upward into the sphere of wealth and power.

In this way, it can be seen how the oppression of knowledge is predominantly a political problem. A problem that will never be overcome until the idea that wealth is a sovereign power that must produce privilege, even within democracies, is tackled head-on by democratic societies in order to be transcended.

Globalisation and The Death of Democracy

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One of the aims of globalisation was to separate politics from economics, and yet in practice it has merely reduced the political to a slave-status, servicing the dictatorship of the global marketplace. The Economy, the economic world and its institutions, are not chosen by the people – the polis is for politics. Given free rein, the market will transcend politics, creating its own cultures that are totally at the mercy of Wealth. The creation of global, macro-economics is, therefore, an immaculate fraud against democracy and freedom. The logic of the fraud being that: in order to create a firm and unquestionable dictatorship, the people should firstly be given the illusion of democracy by allowing them to vote for their local and state governments while, at the same time, shackling those same governments to the dictates of the world market place. As such, no matter who the people elect for their governors, it can have no effect on the will of the market. What pushes wealth unto the wealthy is the economy, not the parliaments, and the polis are never asked to vote for any of globalisation’s economic institutions, even though the World Bank and the IMF are the real forces shaping our lives.

Without control of the economy, the life-blood of the State (money) is also pushed out of the realm of political control. The politicians try to put on a brave face, but even the neo-liberal parties are made to look like helpless buffoons before their electorates when the power that really runs the economy (Wealth) decides to get tough and make sure everything is flowing completely in its own favour. Local anger is vented at the local government – the economic regime is too abstract, or too distant. After all, how can it govern us if we didn’t vote for it?

Democracy melts away. There is no democracy at all. We didn’t vote for those who make decisions now. We all live in one huge global dictatorship.

It does not matter what the international financing institutions do or might do, whatever is done is carried out without any democratic mandate. Yet, they can do whatever they like. And though they may assure themselves that they are acting responsibly they are still acting without our blessings, and operating behind our backs.