This chapter proposes a historical-genetic system, ascending from the abstract to the concrete, specific and conditioned by socio-spatial contradictions, of the forms and methods of exploitation of the worker by capital that are inherent in the global economy of the twenty-first century. From slave-like forms of personal dependence, the development of this system proceeds via the ‘classical’ forms of capitalist exploitation of the industrial worker, to the use of methods of generating and assigning monopolistic profits (as well as imperialist profits, based on the exploitation of the periphery), giving rise to significant new relationships of the exploitation of creative activity. The authors argue that the exploitation of the creative worker involves not merely the appropriation of surplus-value, but also the appropriation of universal cultural wealth. This result, associated as a rule not with a (creative) worker but with a subject of intellectual property (the corporation), has no value, but has a certain price. This situation allows the owner of a creative corporation to obtain so-called intellectual rent. On this basis, the authors demonstrate changes in the relationship of formal and real subordination by capital not only of the workforce, but also of the human individual, in particular of her or his free time. This study permits a constructive criticism of the categories of human and social ‘capital’, which in perverse form reflect real changes in the role of human beings and in their social relations within the modern economy.
The authors summarise their main propositions, showing the changes during the twenty-first century in the content and forms of the market, of money, of capital, and of the capitalist system as a whole. The conclusion is reached that during the stage of late capitalism, and in particular during the twenty-first century, two contradictory, mutually interconnected trends have been developing. On the one hand, transitional relationships are taking shape that are uneven in terms of space and time and that include features both of the capitalist system and of the post-capitalist realm of freedom. These transitional forms include the social delimitation and regulation of the market and capital, and the partial redistribution of profit to the advantage of society. On the other hand, new relations of alienation are taking shape and even more powerful than previously. These include the total market for simulacra; virtual fictitious financial capital, dominating the real sector and all of society; and the exploitation not just of industrial workers but also of creative workers, of world culture, and of nature. The final conclusion of the book is that late capitalism is the ‘sunset’ not only of the capitalist mode of production (or as Costas Panayotakis has observed, of the capitalist mode of destruction), but also of the entire epoch that Marx and Engels very deliberately termed the ‘realm of necessity’.
This chapter describes the post-Soviet school of critical Marxism in the context of the contemporary Russian intellectual milieu. Despite the collapse of the USSR and the incursion of Western social sciences, the topic of Marxism remains very widely discussed in Russia. Indeed, Marxist works have been appearing with increasing frequency in the new century. As a result, social scientists have defined themselves quite precisely in relation to Marxism. Several groups can be distinguished in terms of their relationship to Marxism. The post-Soviet school of critical Marxism, to which the authors of the book belong, declares itself to be Marxist, with a strongly critical attitude to social-democratic reformism. This school emphasises not just the reactualising of classical Marxism, but also its positive negation, criticism, and dialectical development. The school also stresses the need to understand the modern period (broadly, since the beginning of the twentieth century) as an epoch of global qualitative changes in the very bases of humanity’s collective life. These changes are creating the preconditions not only for a post-capitalist society, but also for a post-industrial, post-economic society (the ‘realm of freedom’). This approach makes it possible to view modern social and economic life in integrated systemic and dialectical fashion, within the context of its historical development. The crucial basis for such work is a new dialectical method, reconfigured in light of the transformations that have taken place in the past century.
In this chapter the authors identify the historical place and character of what they term the ‘modern market economy’ as the space-time of the ‘sunset’ of the system of capitalist production relations. This allows them to define the nature of ‘late capitalism’ as a space-time negation of capitalist production relations within the framework of this system, and to provide a theoretically and historically grounded periodisation of this era. Within the evolution of late capitalism, the following main stages are distinguished. First is (1) the ‘undermining’ of the basics of capitalism, under the sway of monopoly capitalism (imperialism). During this period (2) humanity has experienced the decades of the mid-twentieth century (characterised by fascism and social-reformism), and (3) the era of neoliberal revenge, globalisation and financialisation. Before us now is (4) the period of the increasing development of forms of negative transformation in the direction of conservatism, involving the retreat of classic capitalist exploitation in response to the mass use of ‘human’ and ‘social’ capital and the extraction of intellectual rents as capital exploits the cultural wealth of humanity. The authors systematise the changes in the system of social productive forces that result in the material and technical determination of the production relations of ‘late capitalism’. The basis of these transformations is seen to consist in the development of the creative content of labour. These provisions furnish the basis for exploring new forms of goods, money, and exploitation, and for systematising the global problems of humankind.
Karl Marx, Evald Ilyenkov, and the dialectics of the twenty-first century
Aleksander Buzgalin and Andrey Kolganov
This chapter argues that the best proof of the correctness of Marxism has to be its ability to answer the challenges of the modern epoch. Such a proof requires works that feature the dialectical development of a system of categories that integrally reflect the present-day state of the system of capitalist production relations, using the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete. The chapter recalls the main features of the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete as applied in Capital. The task is posed of constructing a system of categories that reflects the system of production relations of twenty-first-century capitalism. In order to fulfil this task, it is not sufficient to distinguish the various modifications of particular categories that characterise the present stage of the involution of the capitalist economy. It is necessary to develop a system of categories that reproduces the system of Capital at a new level of the development of capitalism. This is not development in the pure sense of word: to a certain extent, twenty-first-century capitalism is changing in order to survive, in a process of self-negation. This is not development (evolution), but involution.
Financialisation as a product of virtual fictitious financial capital
Aleksander Buzgalin and Andrey Kolganov
On the basis of the political-economic nature of commodity-simulacra posited in Chapter 6, the authors provide a theoretical derivation and empirical support for the new nature of money as a virtual product of fictitious financial capital. Money possesses a new set of contradictions and functions, which are demonstrated. This analysis helps the authors reveal the essence of financialisation. As a result of financialisation, money increasingly becomes virtual money. It is transformed gradually from a real product, a universal equivalent, into a probabilistic phenomenon, depending on the current state of global fictitious financial capital. The reasons for the development of this phenomenon are connected with the expansion of virtual fictitious financial capital, the stage of development of financial capital at which fictitious capital, as the main form of financial capital, acquires a virtual character. The term ‘virtual’ in this case signifies an increased degree of separation of the movement of fictitious capital from the underlying real capital, in which the market valuation of a significant part of fictitious capital is more dependent on the manipulations of the largest capitals and states than on the movement of real capital. Also in the mix are the illusory forms of the ‘debt economy’. This situation leads inevitably to the hyper-realised dangers of crisis and deregulation. The authors’ conclusions are demonstrated through generalised data that characterise the contradictions and the new quality of the modern financial market, and through a critical analysis of major works on finance capital and financialisation.
The dialectics of non-linear, multi-scenario social transformations
Aleksander Buzgalin and Andrey Kolganov
This chapter sets out to show that the methodologies of positivism and post-modernism do not permit an understanding of the modern market and capital, and doom scholars to achieving no more than descriptions of external forms. The next part of the chapter is devoted to criticism of the general expansion of economics and of its continuation, so-called ‘economic imperialism’. The authors demonstrate that in the area of theory, ‘economic imperialism’ leads to the reduction of an increasingly wide range of social and humanitarian research to a narrow functional description of the interactions between different actors within the market. In the field of practice, its effect has been to strengthen market fundamentalism. Finally, the original contributions of the authors include their analysis of the now-prevalent version of orthodox economic theory, which they designate ‘market-centrism’. As the authors see it, this approach identifies the economy in general with one of its historically possible forms, the market, and reduces all non-market economic relations to market ‘failures’. The authors’ achievements include their success in revealing the specific advantages of using the dialectical method for studying transformational systems, which are characterised by a patchiness of social time and space; in demonstrating that the historical process is fundamentally nonlinear; and in showing that a multi-scenario approach is required to comprehend it. This methodology is used to study the process of the ‘sunset’ of capitalism and the nonlinear dialectics of the evolution and involution of goods, money, and capital.
The authors show that the ‘sunset’ of the capitalist mode of production and of the ‘realm of necessity’ is marked by contradictions that indicate the limits of the present mode of production and of the epoch of social alienation as a whole. These limits are imposed by the progress of technology and by changes in the content of labour – that is, by the development of the productive forces, requiring mass participation by workers in creative activity in a wide range of fields. This development, however, leads to the rise of urgent practical tasks that humanity must resolve primarily through post-market and post-capitalist methods. There is an objective need to solve problems on the basis of solidarity, and not of competition, between individuals, firms, and countries. The progress of technology and of people’s social creativity causes relations of a transitional kind to develop within the framework of late capitalism. These contradictory relations combine the market and capital with early manifestations of the ‘realm of freedom’. Among these manifestations are the development of mass creative activity (education, health care, etc.) in fields such as the creating of public goods rather than commercial services; the subordination of regulatory activity by the state to the interests of society as a whole; the development of public control over the market and capital by the institutions of civil society; and others. Together, these point to an exhaustion of the potential of the market and capital for stimulating the development of technology and human capacities.
In this chapter, analysis of the literature and data provides the main argument validating the authors’ conclusion that the market has not only become global, but also has become a totalitarian force that is no longer a ‘socially neutral mechanism of coordination’. The market is now a product of the hegemony of corporate capital, featuring the intensive and extensive growth of new types of commodity – information, simulacra, and so forth. The authors demonstrate the new qualities acquired by value, use value, prices, and commodity fetishism within this new market, while exploring the contradictions of new non-limited resources (such as knowledge) and the commodity form of their existence. The authors indicate what is changed in the isolation of the producers, in the division of labour, and in its content, while showing how this leads to partial qualitative transformations of the market. The latter is transformed, gradually and nonlinearly but steadily, into a total market of networks. This market of networks (1) is locally controlled and regulated by the competing large corporate structures that manipulate most of the actors of this market; (2) covers all (and not only the economic) spheres of human life; and (3) involves the production not merely of goods but of their brands, ‘multiplying the falsehood of the forms generated by commodity fetishism’. An important outcome of our work, we believe, is that it reveals the political-economic nature of commodity-simulacra: their value and use value, prices, and the mechanisms through which their fetishisation is multiplied.
The starting-point for the book is its chapter on methodology. Found here are not only critiques of conventional Soviet Marxism-Leninism and post-modernism, but also a new rethinking of the classic dialectic. For the most part, however, the book focuses on revealing the new quality now assumed by commodities, money, and capital within the global economy. The market has become not only global, but a totalitarian force that is not a ‘socially neutral mechanism of coordination’. It is now a product of the hegemony of corporate capital, featuring the growth of new types of commodity: information, simulacra, and so forth. The book demonstrates the new qualities acquired by value, use value, price, and commodity fetishism within this new market, while exploring the contradictions of non-limited resources (such as knowledge) and the commodity form of their existence. Money is now a virtual product of fictitious financial capital, possessing a new nature, contradictions, and functions. This analysis of the new nature of money helps to reveal the essence of so-called financialisation. Capital has become the result of a complex system of exploitation. In the twenty-first-century context this exploitation includes the ‘classic’ extraction of surplus value from industrial workers combined with internal corporate redistribution of income by ‘insiders’; international exploitation; and the exploitation of creative labour through the expropriation of intellectual rent.