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Monday, 1 May 2017

Capitalism and reaction

Since I read Silvia Federici's claim that capitalism is rather reactionary (and not a progressive step) is her Calliban and the Witch great book the claim haunts me. First of all it contains the most straightforward antidote against accelerationism; there is no point in furthering capitalism or outcapitalizing it for it is a source of reaction and not of progress. Accelerationists have always relied on the idea that looking at ways of life that preceded capitalism is the reactionary move for it is like setting the clock backwards. Noys and others have criticized accelerationism for this single track metaphysics of historical change. But if we add to this critique Federici's claim we get a quite interesting picture: looking back is not looking at other forms of power that capitalism displaced and deterritorialized, but it is to look at the other forms of resistance and fight that capitalism silenced. In other words, it is looking at what could have happened if the old forms of power were dissolved in a different way. It is not enough to dissolve oppressive structures like traditional communities or religious hierarchies, they have to be dissolved in an advantageous way, in a way that promotes justice. At this point the accelerationist would cite Marx and Deleuze & Guattari to support the claim that much has been gained by getting rid of structures of a feudal mode of production and a despotic territorial machine. The Federician would then reply that the fight was under way and capitalism just pre-empted the more interesting results to come through. The non-accelerationist is forced to look into the fabric of the social that capitalism disrupts - is it just traditionalism or are there seeds of something else?

It is a complicated discussion and Federici faces it by historical considerations starting with the mass murder of the witches. When you look at what happened since the 60s of last century, maybe there is also a case for the Federici claim. Civil rights movement, Stonewall, the second wave of feminism, students protests, psychodelia and alternative life were all instrumental to displace some traditionalist forms of power. They did deterritorialize. They were to a great extent incorporated in capitalism by creating new markets and by informing libertarians. It is clear that through this incorporation they lost most of their biting force - they become no longer about different modes of life, of desire, of pleasure and of sharing the sensible but rather about inclusion. They became extremists, to use the vocabulary Pasolini crafted towards the end of his life. They fought for inclusion so that the previously discarded became individuals (capable to create families and to buy their living with a working force). Today I felt like saying: it's here, it's before us, in front of us the reactionary character of capitalism, it's happening again and again everywhere: replace unions with pension funds, replace the struggle for income with the increase in credit, replace the efforts to build sustaining communities by the demand for different forms of family. It's all there before us: an engine of reaction.

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