Thursday, June 26, 2008

“Free market” became an imperative, a coerced activity, instead of an opportunity

Agamben Translation: “Threshold” to Ch. 5 from An und für sich by Adam

The economico-providential paradigm is, in this sense, the paradigm of democratic governance, just as the theologico-political is the paradigm of absolutism.
It’s not surprising, in this sense, that the collateral effect appears ever more frequently to be consubstantial with every act of governance. What the government aims at can be, by its very nature, reached only as a collateral effect, in a zone in which general and particular, positive and negative, calculated and unforeseen tend to be superimposed onto each other. To govern means to allow to be produced the concomitant particular effects of a general “economy” that would remain in itself entirely ineffective, but without which no governance would be possible. It is not so much that the effects (Governance) depend on being (Kingship), but being consists rather in its effects: such is the vicarious and effectual ontology that defines acts of governance. And when the providential paradigm, at least in its transcendent aspect, begins to decline, providence-State and destiny-State tend progressively to become identified in the figure of the State of modern law, in which the law regulates administration and the administrative apparatus applies and carries out the law. But, even in this case, the decisive element remains that to which, from the very beginning, the machine as a whole has been destined: the oikonomia, that is, the governance of human beings and of things. The economico-governmental vocation of contemporary democracies is not an incident along the way, but is an integral part of the theological inheritance of which they are trustees.


Transcendental Monsters from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro
In a brilliant article that draws surprising parallels between Husserl’s phenomenology and the “weird fiction” of H. P. Lovecraft, Graham Harman (2008) argues that Lovecraft’s tales of unrepresentable monsters cannot be read in a Kantian register...

Wood, more historically precise than Deleuze and Guattari, shows how it was only in post-feudal agrarian England that recourse to the market became, not just an opportunity (as it was for late medieval merchants in Italy, and early modern financial speculators in Holland) but an absolute imperative for both landowners and workers. “Markets of various kinds have existed throughout recorded history and no doubt before, as people have exchanged and sold their surpluses in many different ways and for many different purposes. But the market in capitalism has a distinctive, unprecedented function. Virtually everything in capitalist society is a commodity produced for the market. And even more fundamentally, both capital and labour are utterly dependent on the market for the most basic conditions of their own reproduction. . . This market dependence gives the market an unprecedented role in capitalist societies, as not only a simple mechanism of exchange or distribution but the principal determinant and regulator of social reproduction” (2002, 96-97).

In other words, there are markets without capitalism, but there is no capitalism without the absolute reign of the market. As Wood puts it, “this unique system of market-dependence means that the dictates of the capitalist market – its imperatives of competition, accumulation, profit-maximization, and increasing labour-productivity – regulate not only all economic transactions but social relations in general” (2002, 7). And this is the key to what I have been calling the monstrosity of capital. It is utterly contingent in its origins; and yet, once it has arrived, it imposes itself universally. Capitalism might never have emerged out of the chaos of feudal, commercial, religious, and State institutions that preceded it, just as Cthulhu might never have stumbled upon our planet. But in both cases, the unfortunate encounter did, in fact, take place. And it is only afterwards, in its subsequent effects, once it has in fact arrived on the scene and subjugated all its rivals, that capitalism is able – again, much like Cthulhu – to present itself retro spectively as an irresistible and all-embracing force. Capitalism arose “in a very specific place, and very late in human history” (2002, 95). But once it arose, it made market relations compulsory: as Wood says, the so-called “free market” became an imperative, a coerced activity, instead of an opportunity (6-7).

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