Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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Real Subsumption and the World Market
Before we move on, the expository development of our study demands that we look more closely at the relationship between this tendency toward the realization of the world market and the paradigm of disciplinary production and government. How does the spread of disciplinary regimes throughout the world represent a fundamental genealogical moment of Empire? We can give one explanation why this is the case by linking Marx's description of the phases of the capitalist subsumption of society together with his analyses of the tendency toward the world market. The two movements actually coincide at a certain point, or really the capitalist subsumption of society tends to be completed in the construction of the world market.
Earlier we saw that the practices of imperialism involve capital's internalization of its outside and are thus processes of the formal subsumption of labor under capital. Marx uses the term "formal subsumption" to name processes whereby capital incorporates under its own relations of production laboring practices that originated outside its domain.[23] The processes of formal subsumption are thus intrinsically related to the extension of the domain of capitalist production and capitalist markets. At a certain point, as capitalist expansion reaches its limit, the processes of formal subsumption can no longer play the central role. The processes of the real subsumption of labor under capital do not rely on the outside and do not involve the same processes of expansion. Through the real subsumption, the integration of labor into capital becomes more intensive than extensive and society is ever more completely fashioned by capital. There are certainly processes of real subsumption without a world market, but there cannot be a fully realized world market without the processes of real subsumption. In other words, the realization of the world market and the general equalization or at least management of rates of profit on a world scale cannot be the result simply of financial or monetary factors but must come about through a transformation of social and productive relations. Discipline is the central mechanism of this transformation. When a new social reality is formed, integrating both the development of capital and the proletarianization of the population into a single process, the political form of command must itself be modified and articulated in a manner and on a scale adequate to this process, a global quasistate of the disciplinary regime.
Marx's intuitions of the processes of real subsumption do not furnish us with the key we need. The passage from the formal subsumption to the real must be explained through the practices of active subjective forces. In other words, disciplinarity pushed to its extreme, imposed by the global Taylorization of labor processes, cannot actually determine the need for a new form of command except through the expression of active social subjectivities. The globalization of markets, far from being simply the horrible fruit of capitalist entrepreneurship, was actually the result of the desires and demands of Taylorist, Fordist, and disciplined labor power across the world. In this sense, the processes of the formal subsumption anticipated and carried through to maturity the real subsumption, not because the latter was the product of the former (as Marx himself seemed to believe), but because in the former were constructed conditions of liberation and struggle that only the latter could control. The movements of desiring subjectivities forced the development to go forward-and proclaimed that there was no turning back. In response to these movements in both the dominant and the subordinated countries, a new form of control had to be posed in order to establish command over what was no longer controllable in disciplinary terms.
PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATIONS
Just when the proletariat seems to be disappearing from the world stage, the proletariat is becoming the universal figure of labor. This claim is not actually as paradoxical as it may seem. What has disappeared is the hegemonic position of the industrial working class, which has not disappeared or even declined in numbers-it has merely lost its hegemonic position and shifted geographically. We understand the concept "proletariat," however, to refer not just to the industrial working class but to all those who are subordinated to, exploited by, and produce under the rule of capital. From this perspective, then, as capital ever more globalizes its relations of production, all forms of labor tend to be proletarianized. In each society and across the entire world the proletariat is the ever more general figure of social labor. Marx described the processes of proletarianization in terms of primitive accumulation, the prior or previous accumulation necessary before capitalist production and reproduction can begin to take place. What is necessary is not merely an accumulation of wealth or property, but a social accumulation, the creation of capitalists and proletarians. The essential historical process, then, involves first of all divorcing the producer from the means of production. For Marx it was sufficient to describe the English example of this social transformation, since England represented the "highest point" of capitalist development at the time. In England, Marx explains, proletarianization was accomplished first by the enclosures of the common lands and the clearing of peasants from the estates, and then by the brutal punishment of vagabondage and vagrancy. The English peasant was thus "freed" from all previous means of subsistence, herded toward the new manufacturing towns, and made ready for the wage relation and the discipline of capitalist production. The central motor for the creation of capitalists, by contrast, came from outside England, from commerce-or really from conquest, the slave trade, and the colonial system. "The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder," Marx writes, "flowed back to the mother-country and were turned into capital there."[1] The enormous influx of wealth overflowed the capacities of the old feudal relations of production. English capitalists sprang up to embody the new regime of command that could exploit this new wealth.
It would be a mistake, however, to take the English experience of becoming-proletarian and becoming-capitalist as representative of all the others. Over the last three hundred years, as capitalist relations of production and reproduction have spread across the world, although primitive accumulation has always involved separating the producer from the means of production and thereby creating classes of proletarians and capitalists, each process of social transformation has nonetheless been unique. In each case the social and productive relations that preexisted were different, the processes of the transition were different, and even the form of the resulting capitalist relations of production and especially those of reproduction were different in line with specific cultural and historical differences.
Despite these important differences, it is still useful to group the modern processes of primitive accumulation under two general models that highlight the relationship between wealth and command, and between inside and outside. In all cases, the primitive accumulation of capital requires a new combination of wealth and command. What is distinctive about the first model, which Marx described for England and which applies generally to Europe as a whole, is that the new wealth for the primitive accumulation of capital comes from the outside (from the colonial territories) and the command arises internally (through the evolution of English and European relations of production). According to the second model, which characterizes most of the modern processes of primitive accumulation outside Europe, the terms are reversed, such that the new wealth arises from within and command comes from the outside (usually European capital). This inversion of wealth/ command and inside/outside in the two models leads to a whole series of differences in the economic, political, and social formations of capital across the world. Many of these differences deriving from the two models were described adequately by theorists of underdevelopment in terms of central and peripheral capitalist formations.[2]
As we pass from modernity to postmodernity, the processes of primitive accumulation do indeed continue. Primitive accumulation is not a process that happens once and then is done with; rather, capitalist relations of production and social classes have to be reproduced continually. What has changed is the model or mode of primitive accumulation. First of all, the play between inside and outside that distinguishes the two modern models has progressively declined. More important, the nature of the labor and wealth accumulated is changing. In postmodernity the social wealth accumulated is increasingly immaterial; it involves social relations, communication systems, information, and affective networks. Correspondingly, social labor is increasingly more immaterial; it simultaneously produces and reproduces directly all aspects of social life. As the proletariat is becoming the universal figure of labor, the object of proletarian labor is becoming equally universal. Social labor produces life itself.
We should emphasize the central role that informational accumulation plays in the processes of postmodern primitive accumulation and the ever greater socialization of production. As the new informational economy emerges, a certain accumulation of information is necessary before capitalist production can take place. Information carries through its networks both the wealth and the command of production, disrupting previous conceptions of inside and outside, but also reducing the temporal progression that had previously defined primitive accumulation. In other words, informational accumulation (like the primitive accumulation Marx analyzed) destroys or at least destructures the previously existing productive processes, but (differently than Marx's primitive accumulation) it immediately integrates those productive processes in its own networks and generates across the different realms of production the highest levels of productivity. The temporal sequence of development is thus reduced to immediacy as the entire society tends to be integrated in some way into the networks of informational production. Information networks tend toward something like a simultaneity of social production. The revolution of informational accumulation therefore requires an enormous leap forward in the greater socialization of production. This increased socialization, along with the reduction of social space and temporality, is a process that no doubt benefits capital with increased productivity, but is one also that points beyond the era of capital toward a new social mode of production.
3.3 - RESISTANCE, CRISIS, TRANSFORMATION
The continuity of struggle is easy: the workers need only themselves and the boss in front of them. But the continuity of organization is a rare and complex thing: as soon as it is institutionalized it quickly becomes used by capitalism, or by the workers' movement in the service of capitalism.
Mario Tronti
The New Left sprang . . . from Elvis's gyrating pelvis.
Jerry Rubin
Earlier we posed the Vietnam War as a deviation from the U.S. constitutional project and its tendency toward Empire. The war was also, however, an expression of the desire for freedom of the Vietnamese, an expression of peasant and proletarian subjectivity -a fundamental example of resistance against both the final forms of imperialism and the international disciplinary regime. The Vietnam War represents a real turning point in the history of contemporary capitalism insofar as the Vietnamese resistance is conceived as the symbolic center of a whole series of struggles around the world that had up until that point remained separate and distant from one another. The peasantry who were being subsumed under multinational capital, the (post)colonial proletariat, the industrial working class in the dominant capitalist countries, and the new strata of intellectual proletariat everywhere all tended toward a common site of exploitation in the factory-society of the globalized disciplinary regime. The various struggles converged against one common enemy: the international disciplinary order. An objective unity was established, sometimes with the consciousness of those in struggle and sometimes without. The long cycle of struggles against the disciplinary regimes had reached maturity and forced capital to modify its own structures and undergo a paradigm shift.
Two, Three, Many Vietnams
In the late 1960s the international system of capitalist production was in crisis.[1] Capitalist crisis, as Marx tells us, is a situation that requires capital to undergo a general devaluation and a profound rearrangement of the relations of production as a result of the downward pressure that the proletariat puts on the rate of profit. In other words, capitalist crisis is not simply a function of capital's own dynamics but is caused directly by proletarian conflict.[2] This Marxian notion of crisis helps bring to light the most important features of the crisis of the late 1960s. The fall of the rate of profit and the disruption of relations of command in this period are best understood when seen as a result of the confluence and accumulation of proletarian and anticapitalist attacks against the international capitalist system.
In the dominant capitalist countries, this period witnessed a worker attack of the highest intensity directed primarily against the disciplinary regimes of capitalist labor. The attack was expressed, first of all, as a general refusal of work and specifically as a refusal of factory work. It was aimed against productivity and against any model of development based on increasing the productivity of factory labor. The refusal of the disciplinary regime and the affirmation of the sphere of non-work became the defining features of a new set of collective practices and a new form of life.[3] Second, the attack served to subvert the capitalist divisions of the labor market. The three primary characteristics of the labor market-the separation of social groups (by class strata, race, ethnicity, or sex), the fluidity of the labor market (social mobility, tertiarization, new relations between directly and indirectly productive labor, and so forth), and the hierarchies of the market of abstract labor-were all threatened by the rising rigidity and commonality of worker demands. The increasing socialization of capital led also toward the social unification of the proletariat. This increasingly unified voice posed the general demand for a guaranteed social wage and a very high level of welfare.[4] Third, and finally, the worker attack was waged directly against capitalist command. The refusal of work and the social unification of the proletariat came together in a frontal attack against the coercive organization of social labor and the disciplinary structures of command. This worker attack was completely political-even when many mass practices, particularly of youth, seemed decidedly apolitical-insofar as it exposed and struck the political nerve centers of the economic organization of capital. The peasant and proletarian struggles in the subordinate countries also imposed reform on local and international political regimes. Decades of revolutionary struggle-from the Chinese Revolution to Vietnam and from the Cuban Revolution to the numerous liberation struggles throughout Latin America, Africa, and the Arab world-had pushed forward a proletarian wage demand that various socialist and/or nationalist reformist regimes had to satisfy and that directly destabilized the international economic system. The ideology of modernization, even when it did not bring "development," created new desires that exceeded the established relations of production and reproduction. The sudden increase in the costs of raw materials, energy, and certain agricultural commodities in the 1960s and 1970s was a symptom of these new desires and the rising pressure of the international proletariat on the wage. The effects of these struggles not only were a quantitative matter but also determined a qualitatively new element that profoundly marked the intensity of the crisis. For more than one hundred years the practices of imperialism had worked to subsume all forms of production throughout the world under the command of capital, and that tendency was only intensified in this period of transition. The tendency created necessarily a potential or virtual unity of the international proletariat. This virtual unity was never fully actualized as a global political unity, but it nonetheless had substantial effects. In other words, the few instances of the actual and conscious international organization of labor are not what seem most important here, but rather the objective coincidence of struggles that overlap precisely because, despite their radical diversity, they were all directed against the international disciplinary regime of capital. The growing coincidence determined what we call an accumulation of struggles.
This accumulation of struggles undermined the capitalist strategy that had long relied on the hierarchies of the international divisions of labor to block any global unity among workers. Already in the nineteenth century, before European imperialism had fully bloomed, Engels was bemoaning the fact that the English proletariat was put in the position of a "labor aristocracy" because its interests lay with the project of British imperialism rather than with the ranks of colonial labor power. In the period of the decline of imperialisms, strong international divisions of labor certainly remained, but the imperialist advantages of any national working class had begun to wither away. The common struggles of the proletariat in the subordinate countries took away the possibility of the old imperialist strategy of transferring the crisis from the metropolitan terrain to its subordinate territories. It was no longer feasible to rely on Cecil Rhodes's old strategy of placating the domestic dangers of class struggle in Europe by shifting the economic pressures to the still peaceful order of the dominated imperialist terrain maintained with brutally effective techniques. The proletariat formed on the imperialist terrain was now itself organized, armed, and dangerous. There was thus a tendency toward the unity of the international or multinational proletariat in one common attack against the capitalist disciplinary regime.[5] The resistance and initiative of the proletariat in the subordinate countries resonated as a symbol and model both above and within the proletariat of the dominant capitalist countries. By virtue of this convergence, the worker struggles throughout the domain of international capital already decreed the end of the division between First and Third Worlds and the potential political integration of the entire global proletariat. The convergence of struggles posed on an international scale the problem of transforming laboring cooperation into revolutionary organization and actualizing the virtual political unity. With this objective convergence and accumulation of struggles, Third Worldist perspectives, which may earlier have had a limited utility, were now completely useless. We understand Third Worldism to be defined by the notion that the primary contradiction and antagonism of the international capitalist system is between the capital of the First World and the labor of the Third.[6] The potential for revolution thus resides squarely and exclusively in the Third World. This view has been evoked implicitly and explicitly in a variety of dependency theories, theories of underdevelopment, and world system perspectives.[7] The limited merit of the Third Worldist perspective was that it directly countered the "First Worldist" or Eurocentric view that innovation and change have always originated, and can only originate, in Euro-America. Its specular opposition of this false claim, however, leads only to a position that is equally false. We find this Third Worldist perspective inadequate because it ignores the innovations and antagonisms of labor in the First and Second Worlds. Furthermore, and most important for our argument here, the Third Worldist perspective is blind to the real convergence of struggles across the world, in the dominant and subordinate countries alike.
Capitalist Response to the Crisis
As the global confluence of struggles undermined the capitalist and imperialist capacities of discipline, the economic order that had dominated the globe for almost thirty years, the Golden Age of U.S. hegemony and capitalist growth, began to unravel. The form and substance of the capitalist management of international development for the postwar period were dictated at the conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944.[8] The Bretton Woods system was based on three fundamental elements. Its first characteristic was the comprehensive economic hegemony of the United States over all the nonsocialist countries. This hegemony was secured through the strategic choice of a liberal development based on relatively free trade and moreover by maintaining gold (of which the United States possessed about one third of the world total) as the guarantee of the power of the dollar. The dollar was "as good as gold." Second, the system demanded the agreement for monetary stabilization between the United States and the other dominant capitalist countries (first Europe then Japan) over the traditional territories of European imperialisms, which had been dominated previously by the British pound and the French franc. Reform in the dominant capitalist countries could thus be financed by a surplus of exports to the United States and guaranteed by the monetary system of the dollar. Finally, Bretton Woods dictated the establishment of a quasi-imperialist relationship of the United States over all the subordinate nonsocialist countries. Economic development within the United States and stabilization and reform in Europe and Japan were all guaranteed by the United States insofar as it accumulated imperialist superprofits through its relationship to the subordinate countries.
The system of U.S. monetary hegemony was a fundamentally new arrangement because, whereas the control of previous international monetary systems (notably the British) had been firmly in the hands of private bankers and financiers, Bretton Woods gave control to a series of governmental and regulatory organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and ultimately the U.S. Federal Reserve.[9] Bretton Woods might thus be understood as the monetary and financial face of the hegemony of the New Deal model over the global capitalist economy. The Keynesian and pseudo-imperialist mechanisms of Bretton Woods eventually went into crisis when the continuity of the workers' struggles in the United States, Europe, and Japan raised the costs of stabilization and reformism, and when anti-imperialist and anticapitalist struggles in subordinate countries began to undermine the extraction of superprofits.[10] When the imperialist motor could no longer move forward and the workers' struggles become ever more demanding, the U.S. trade balance began to lean heavily in the direction of Europe and Japan. A first phase of crisis-creeping rather than rampant-extended from the early to the late 1960s. Since the controls provided by Bretton Woods made the dollar de facto inconvertible, the monetary mediation of international production and trade developed through a phase characterized by the relatively free circulation of capital, the construction of a strong Eurodollar market, and the fixing of political parity more or less everywhere in the dominant countries.[11] The explosion of 1968 in Europe, the United States, and Japan, coupled with the Vietnamese military victory over the United States, however, completely dissolved this provisory stabilization. Stagnation gave way to rampant inflation. The second phase of the crisis might be thought of as beginning on August 17, 1971, when President Nixon decoupled the dollar from the gold standard, making the dollar inconvertible de jure and adding a 10 percent surcharge to all imports from Europe to the United States.[12] The entire U.S. debt was effectively pushed onto Europe. This operation was accomplished only by virtue of the economic and political power of the United States, which thus reminded the Europeans of the initial terms of the agreement, of its hegemony as the highest point of exploitation and capitalist command.
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