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Marazzi's The Violence of Financial Capitalism

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Anonymous
Jul 14 2013 16:33
Marazzi's The Violence of Financial Capitalism

Has anybody read The Violence of Financial Capitalism by Christian Marazzi?

I've been trying to read it for some time but am finding it quite difficult, mainly because there are so many things in the first chapter which are wrong (or have since been proved wrong). Does it get any better? I skipped ahead to the second chapter last night and the idea finance capitalism now pervades every aspect of our lives is quite interesting but I'm not sure if it's a) entirely true or be) particularly helpful to look at things in that way.

Would be interested in hearing what people who've read the whole book think.

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Jul 14 2013 17:28

I haven't read it, but I think the financialisation of things like housing and education is worth thinking about. Obv can't comment if Marazzi's helpful or not here.

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Jul 14 2013 19:38

I think it's more about bringing things that were previously not commodities, or only semi-commodified, into circuits of capital accumulation. e.g. the massive leveraging of the housing stock: basically privatisation (right to buy) plus extension of affordable credit (mortgages, plus equity withdrawal and unsecured credit off the back of home ownership), created conditions for continued growth in consumer spending, but based on continued inflation of the house price bubble.

So now, there's a situation where deflating the housing bubble would probably cause financial collapse (given what sub prime did), but maintaining the housing bubble causes a housing crisis where the only people who can afford to buy are the buy-to-let landlords, which can only be maintained by state subsidies (housing benefit). I think that's an interesting phenomenon, and isn't the same as saying finance is bad and parasitic while industrial capital is good and productive. Rather, finance is the means by which certain use values are integrated into circuits of capital accumulation.

Something similar's happening with education, with universities increasingly turning to bond issues to raise capital in the new competitive market. That in turn creates upward pressure on fees, towards a deregulated fee structure and saddling students with even higher amounts of personal debt, to access degrees which are the difference between minimum wage cleaning drudgery and poverty wage clerical drudgery.

Like I say, I haven't read Marazzi, so I've no idea if his analysis touches on this, sheds any light or whatever.

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Jul 15 2013 11:29

Hi there, Jim I would be interested in your critique. I have read three books by Marazzi and a part from getting cranky about what he says on value I haven't been too furious with the rest of it.

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Jul 16 2013 11:37

Yeah I've read Marazzi's Violence of Financial Capital (although I have the 2010 original, I think they re-issued a slightly updated version last year). I also read Lazzarato's "The Making of the Indebted Man" in the same Semiotext(e) interventions series, and am currently working my way through Bifo's "The Uprising". Although they don't say exactly the same thing, they do work from a common problematic - i.e. the end of the law of value that ties the "Negri-line" post-autonomists together. At least Bifo is explicit about his text being an attempt to combat the logic of capital through the force of poetry (I shit you not), but really that applies to a greater or lesser degree to all the post-auts in the series.

I think the best use of these books is to read them for their suggestiveness whilst being aware of the mysticism at the heart of post-auts attempts to analyse capitalism without any theory of value. Marazzi's "biofinance" is a case in point. By leaning on the theories of immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism already cooked up by this team, he goes on to assert that capitalism no longer relies on the wage or production for its exploitation and accumulation, but instead uses finance to extract value directly from the living creative biopower of the class that has escaped the factory and now is distributed through the social space. Its an amorphous concept that has no concrete mechanisms of operation (if you look closely). However it does describe an aspect of contemporary developments that are really happening, if we can strip the mysticism from the post-auts and turn their narratives cum analyses on their head - to stand them the right way up, so to speak, then we may get somewhere.

My instinct is that between the limitations of the orthos & neo-orthos, with their "unproductive labour" shibboleth, and the post-auts and their "end of value" shtick, there is more chance of getting something insightful from re-Marxifying or re-value-theorising the post-aut stuff, than by trying to extend or "autonomize" the orthos. Some of the orthos are trying to stretch out the theory in the direction of taking financialisation seriously (e.g. Costas Lapavitsas - although I haven't examined his stuff yet), but generally their only reward for making the effort is accusations of heresy and dropping the law of value from the ortho camp. Also there are interesting heterodox Marxians out there like Dick Bryan and Michael Rafferty, who take finance seriously, and some of the "anti-Negri line" post-auts who reject the rumoured death of the law of value without buying into the unproductive labour orthodoxy.

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Jul 16 2013 11:39

Also this section from Capital's Shadow from the last IAR may also be relevant.

Quote:
Profit or Rent?

A number of these new developments have been taken up by the collection of post-autonomist theorists historically loosely grouped around the Paris- based Multitudes review and Toni Negri, including writers such as Carlo Vercellone, Christian Marazzi and Maurizio Lazzarato. One of the questions they raised was whether exploitation has escaped from the classically Marxist wage-labour form, extracted in the factory or workplace, and been replaced by a more generalised means of exploitation, spread somehow throughout the “social factory” as a whole. The common point of all these theories being the starting point originally posed by Negri back in the 1970s, of the supposed crisis of the classical law of value. The question is sometimes posed as “the becoming-rent of profit”

This phrase, is Carlo Vercellone’s, who has made this question of rent versus profit one of the centre- points of his analysis. In his analysis the becoming- rent of profit is a feature of a “cognitive capitalism” where the value-creating process can no longer be pinned down to a specific subsection of the worker’s life, in a particular place and time, but is spread throughout their whole waking life, and even dreams. There is a clear element of truth in this in the work of “creative” producers, whether writers of songs, novels, or obscure academic texts on social theory. For those of us who still like to leave our work in the office or workshop, though, the notion that this tendency has taken over the world of work as a whole, is less credible. And certainly the dormitory cities of the factory workers of Shenzen and the Pearl River Delta will not recognise their lives as being governed solely by “cognitive capitalism”, even if the iPads they manufacture end up in the hands of latte-sipping “cognitariat” creative workers in the West.

Christian Marazzi continues the cognitive capitalism theme with his notion of biofinance. Biofinance, is the idea that financial capitalism has taken over from industrial capitalism as the dominant mode of production. And that rather than extracting surplus value from the wage-labour of externally-directed labour in the workplace, it now extracts surplus value directly from the tendentially self-directed creative labour of the cognitariat, through the various mechanisms of consumer credit and debt. As a descriptive concept, biofinance is a seductive label for the developments we have been talking about, yet its analytical content is at best weak.

By contrast Maurizio Lazzarato, once a significant contributor to the cognitive capitalism research project, has, in his latest book, defected and now says “it seems to me that my friends in cognitive capitalism are mistaken when they make ‘knowledge’ the origin of valorization and exploitation [...] knowledge cannot provide the basis for the class struggle for either capital or the ‘governed’”. His alternative takes inspiration from Nietzsche and Deleuze and Guattari’s description of debt as power and Foucault’s idea of “making an enterprise of oneself”.

Yet ultimately, he too remains loyal to the overall problematic of the post-autonomists, re-asserting once more the crisis in the law of value and if anything, applying even more explicitly on the idea that “The financial and banking systems are at the center of a politics of destruction/creation in which economics and politics have become inextricable.”

Despite the unorthodox Marxian heresies of the post-autonomists over the question of value and the relative autonomy of the economic from the political, their contributions on the question of debt remain oddly mired in the same Euro- (or US-) centric isolationism of the TPRF-inspired “decline” orthodoxies of Foster and Magdoff and their ilk. The notoriously euro-centric perspective of the post- autonomists leaves little room for the role of globalisation in relocating production from the West to China and the rest of Asia and the southern emerging economies in Latin America and South Africa. The idea that the explosion of domestic consumer debt in the West was fuelled by the build-up of huge international trade debts between it and the emergent economies is simply ignored.

The irony here is that whereas the isolationism of the neo-orthodox stems from their assumption of an almost complete disconnection between politics and economics, in the post-autonomists, the opposite assumption - the total lack of such a separation - leads to the same result. Which brings into question how much either side are extracting their analyses from the facts of the current global economic situation, and how much they are simply extemporising from their pre-existing corpus of theory.

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Jul 17 2013 11:14

Okay, I am going to be an arse here and say that I think I do a pretty good intro-level critique of the rejection of value in chapter 4 of my book Autonomy: Capital, Class and Politics....

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Jul 17 2013 11:27
ocelot wrote:
Marazzi's "biofinance" is a case in point. By leaning on the theories of immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism already cooked up by this team, he goes on to assert that capitalism no longer relies on the wage or production for its exploitation and accumulation, but instead uses finance to extract value directly from the living creative biopower of the class that has escaped the factory and now is distributed through the social space.

"... the class that has escaped the factory"? Marazzi has obviously never been to China, then.

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Jul 17 2013 12:38

Ablokeiment - that is not what Marazzi argues. See the first two chapters of Capital and Affects. Marazzi argues what has changed is that now the order tends to proceed production in just-in-time production. Lets not reduce ideas to straw men

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Jul 17 2013 15:13
With Sober Senses wrote:
Okay, I am going to be an arse here and say that I think I do a pretty good intro-level critique of the rejection of value in chapter 4 of my book Autonomy: Capital, Class and Politics....

Given the price of these academic imprints, I'm afraid we'll have to take your word for it for now. I'd be interested in reading it tho, if you have any pre-pub drafts lying around...

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Jul 17 2013 15:18
With Sober Senses wrote:
Okay, I am going to be an arse here and say that I think I do a pretty good intro-level critique of the rejection of value in chapter 4 of my book Autonomy: Capital, Class and Politics....

Given the price of these academic imprints, I'm afraid we'll have to take your word for it for now. I'd be interested in reading it tho, if you have any pre-pub drafts lying around... wink