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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The theology of market self-organization is the postmodern version of Adam Smith’s capitalist/Calvinist notion of the Invisible Hand

Whitehead’s God from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro
God, or the Body without Organs Steven Shaviro shaviro@shaviro.com
How to imagine a form of self-organization that is not exploitative
This is the point at which Deleuze and Guattari encounter Marx. There are two ways in which the logic of the Body without Organs can be identified with the logic of Capital that Marx describes. In the first place, when the Body without Organs interrupts and deadens production, it also captures the fruits of production (the products), attributes these products to itself, and distributes them all across its surfaces. This is what Marx calls exploitation, or the extraction of surplus value. And in the second place, just as, for Marx, the surplus value extracted in the process of production cannot be realized without a concomitant movement of circulation, so, for Deleuze and Guattari, the productions of the connective synthesis cannot be actualized without the concomitant circulations and inscriptions of the disjunctive synthesis, as recorded on the surface of the Body without Organs.
This is how the Body without Organs is a "machine" of both repulsion and attraction. It takes the form both of a "recording surface," and of what Deleuze and Guattari call the socius: "a full body" of social production (10). Under the capitalist mode of production, this socius is the body of Capital itself, "the body that Marx is referring to when he says that it is not the product of labor, but rather appears as its natural or divine presupposition" (10). Human labor is the actual, material cause of social reproduction today; but Capital is the quasi-cause, sterile and seemingly unengendered or self-engendered, upon whose surfaces this reproduction is recorded, through whose mediations it is organized, and to whose depths we cannot avoid attributing it. "Human labor" must here be taken to include the productivity of what Virno (2004), and Hardt and Negri (2001), call "immaterial labor," "affective labor," and "general intellect." Though certain theorists (e.g. Lazzarato 2004) seem to think that such phenomena invalidate Marx’s insights about the exploitation of "living labor," they actually conform all too fully to the ways in which productive causal processes are appropriated by, and assimilated to, the quasi-causality of Capital.
Marx describes how Capital arrogates the products of living labor to itself, so that it appears as if the surplus value extracted from that labor were a "natural" result of Capital’s own autonomous process of "self-valorization." But this "appears as if" is not a mere falsification; part of Marx’s point is that the self-valorization of Capital is, in its own right, a sort of objective illusion, or what Deleuze and Guattari call an "apparent objective movement" (1983, 10-11). In capitalism’s image of itself, labor is placed alongside raw materials, machinery, rent, and so on as a mere input of production; profit is calculated as a function, and indeed a product, of the total capital advanced. The creative role of living labor is thereby occluded. But this image is not just a mystification (though it is also that). For it is less a false representation of the capitalist system, than it is an actual aspect of Capital’s self-representation. And this "ideological" self-representation is itself necessary to Capital’s own internal functioning. Entrepreneurs and enterprises must themselves adopt this image, this method of calculation, in order for the capitalist mode of production to work at all. This is what it means to say that Capital per se is the quasi-cause of social production – in contrast to living labor as its material cause. Marx says that "the movement of capital is. . . limitless," because "the circulation of money as capital is an end in itself. . . the valorization of value takes place only within this constantly renewed movement" (1992, 253).
In Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, Capital as the Body without Organs incessantly "falls back on (se rabat sur) all production, constituting a surface over which the forces and agents of production are distributed, thereby appropriating for itself all surplus production and arrogating to itself both the whole and the parts of the process, which now seem to emanate from it as a quasi cause. . . the socius as a full body forms a surface where all production is recorded, whereupon the entire process appears to emanate from this recording surface" (1983, 10).
Capital is not the material cause of what it produces; but, as that which organizes and conceptualizes the system of production, it emerges retrospectively as the quasi-cause. This is perhaps why we should be suspicious of the current mania for self-organization and emergence. There is nothing inherently liberating about such concepts. For every Deleuzian account of selforganization, like the brilliant one worked out by Brian Massumi (2002), there is also an account, by the likes of Friedrich Hayek (1991) or Kevin Kelly (1994), of the capitalist market as a wondrously self-organizing system. The theology of market self-organization is the postmodern version of Adam Smith’s capitalist/Calvinist notion of the Invisible Hand; like its predecessor, this theology simply ignores all questions of exploitation. For Deleuze and Guattari, the problem is how to imagine a form of self-organization that is not exploitative, and that does not just reproduce and expand itself, pushing itself to its limit and then recomposing itself anew at every limit. This is also the problem of how genuine novelty, as imagined by Whitehead and by Deleuze, might be something other than incessant capitalist innovation, "capitalistic fashion-novelty." 8:40 AM 8:13 AM 8:02 AM

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