Exploring the intersections of ecology, technology, and ideology: Marx, machines, Gibson, and Shanghai.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

China/p.920/Reversing the Gears of Capital


China/p.920/Reversing the Gears of Capital

Along with the national debt there arose an international credit system, which often conceals one of the sources of primitive accumulation in this or that people. Thus the villainies of the Venetian system of robbery formed one of the secret foundations of Holland’s wealth in capital, for Venice in her years of decadence lent large sums of money to Holland. There is a similar relationship between Holland and England. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Holland’s manufactures had been far outstripped. It had ceased to be the nation preponderant in commerce and industry. One of its main lines of business, therefore, from 1701 to 1776, was the lending out of enormous amounts of capital, especially to its great rival England. The same thing is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any birth-certificate, was yesterday, in England, the capitalized blood of children.

---Capital, Vol. I. Karl Marx (1867) p.920

This vector of Marx’s astoundingly capacious research maps the flow of capital from Venice to Holland to England to the United States as each territory rises—predominantly through massive industrialization—and declines in global production preeminence. Once beyond the peak of mass-production, each has successively loaned out the capital gleaned from surplus labor to the emerging next-big-industrialization. One hundred forty years ago Marx stopped with the United States on the rise. Now we’re inhabiting a United States whose industrial production has climaxed; a US that has long since finished with the post-industrial pillow-talk, has tried to escape into what amounted to only a couple hours of ragged sleep, and is waking up to a horrific hangover, only to realize that no quantity of Starbucks (“Geography is a flavor”) can cure.

But what is China doing—taking the one-way flow of international credit transfer from the US to establish its place industrial-capitalist-apparent in this genealogy? Actually, China has been maneuvering into a position in relation to the US through investments and trade deficits that controverts, or at least complicates, this historical flow. On the one hand, this might signal genius at work (perhaps, at guess) in Beijing that will only be realized at a horizon yet to manifest. One wonders if the PhDs in the various Engineerings in the ’08 Olympics city underlined p.920 during their college days. On the other hand, the multiplicity of vectors regarding international credit at this moment may signal something still pre-emergent has more to do with the formal/structural unfoldings of transnational late capitalism than with The Cultural Revolution 2.0 as theorized in Beijing (or more likely, Shanghai).

What is clear is that some of the gears of Capital are being spun in reverse. Also clear is that any pastoral nostalgia in response to this—any hope for simpler better times would be absurdly and irresponsibly na├»ve. What is less clear is how the machine of Capital’s technological-biological-ecological interface is morphing.

Theorizing the techno-bio-ecological interface is why I’m initiating this blog, but with the understanding that, as William Gibson writes in his latest, “But when you look at blogs, where you’re most likely to find the real info is in the links. It’s contextual, and not only who the blog’s linked to, but who’s linked to the blog” (Spook Country p.65).

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