(OPE-L) Additional note [on VFT]

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 10:16:35 EDT

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Additional note [on VFT]
From: "Jur Bendien" <bendien88@lycos.com>
Date: Tue, April 20, 2004 9:56 am

Paul Zarembka asked about the expansion of capital involving
non-capitalist modes of production. That is certainly relevant, since
original accumulation (ursprungliche Akkumulation) which is also
sometimes called primitive accumulation is a process which occurs all
the time, i.e. it is a permanent characteristic of capitalism as a mode
of market expansion. But the specific mode of destruction of
non-capitalist property relations and their transformation into
capitalist property relations, through robbery, plunder, looting,
enslavement, debt, usury etc. is not something we can directly infer
from the structure of the capitalist mode of production. Many different
forms of replacing non-capitalist modes of production with capitalist
ones are possible, and I think they mostly cannot be directly deduced
from the defining characteristics of capitalism as a mode of production,
they are historically contingent and depend on historically emergent
power relations.

In Marx's own time, Edward Gibbon Wakefield had a plan for the
"systematic colonisation" of New Zealand; today we have the corporate
transformation of Iraq on the basis of Pentagon blue-prints. The basic
point to be made here is that e.g. looting and other forms of criminal
disposession for the purpose of stimulating private capital accumulation
are rarely a form of unequal exchange, or exchange of any sort, because
property is simply confiscated and the victims get nothing. But the
foundational principle of bourgeois society is not theft, but the
ability to make money out of the labour of others through a system of
contractual obligations within a legal system, which justifies the fact
that some people gain more from trade than others do.

This is also reflected historically in ideas of bourgeois morality and
legality; there are legitimate and illegitimate ways of making money,
and then the moral controversy centres on which ways can be justified
and are compatible with the principles of fair competition. Thus e.g.
legalised theft is permissible, only if it means everybody will be
better off for it. Theft can be juridically redefined such that it is
not theft but a legitimate form of trade.

This is also how the invasion of Iraq has been justfied; okay, you have
to dispense with legal niceties, and conquer this country, fight a war,
dispossess some people, but, everybody will be better off in the end,
when the civilising mission of imperialism has been completed (cf.
Gregory P. Nowell, "Hobson's Imperialism: A Defense").

As regards "materiality", an interesting discussion of the cultural
implications of its redefinition in modern society can be found in N.
Katherine Hayles, "How we became posthuman", chapter 8: The materiality
of informatics.



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