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The cosmopolitics of capital and the right of things

My project on the cosmopolitics of capital is interested in the parallel accounts of a cybernetic history provided by Marx - redemption comes from a revolution that capital and its associate proletarization of humans through abstract work made possible -, by Nietzsche - redemption comes from deepening the nihilistic process by transvalorating all values through an explicit Wille zu Macht - and Heidegger - redemption comes from a Turn away from the growing (nihilistic) exposition of things as objects that is prompted by the way Ge-Stell enables a presence that is tied to a standing reserve and this Turn is maybe leading away from the very idea that being is presence. I wonder whether the cybernetic element in the account Mauss provides in The Gift is another account to be added.

The account I have in mind reading Mauss is as following. The prehistory of purely individual contracts - the system achieved by an admirable revolution that brought about commerce, broke with a system of gift that overburdened people, developed the marked and enable economics - is not composed by primitive barter or a system where credit had no role but rather by a system of exchange through gifts. In such system, credit was already fundamental and contracts were made all the time with the help of liturgies, rituals, special things in total social facts that encompassed the distribution of goods and services, religion, politics and magic. Such system - which Mauss finds in the Pacific coast and in several indo-european societies (ancestral Roman law, Hindu law, Germanic law) - makes no distinction between real and personal law. This means that laws are about a society of persons and things - and a society is constituted by nexum between persons and things. One has obligations, as a consequence, both towards persons and towards things. Things appear in gifts, or in signs for pledges, and they carry not only a magical power that have to do with honour and social bonds but also a social power - an objects given to make a pledge, like the id card one leaves to make sure a payment due is going to be made, is dangerous both for the lender and the receiver, for example. In this system, one presents others with things as gifts to make sure other things will come back to her but also one cares of things beyond their use as mechandise - things command duties. In fact, in the exchange through gifts system, a presence of a thing comes with concern - a gift presented could be poisoned, could place the receiver in a burdening network of obligations, could require reciprocity beyond one´s capacities. Giving something is a laden with a network of reciprocity ties that depend on everything else, reciprocity is cosmic and this is why the Hindus expect gifts to be retributed both in this life and after death (as we care for our names after death in any system of debts). When purely individual contracts replace the gift system, things become objects of transaction, they become something like merchandise. They loose their rights.

To be sure, Mauss has little to say about redemption apart from welcoming signals that a community moral was coming back and urging the rich to take care of their fellow members of society either freely and by obligation. He does call for greater generosity in our purely individual contracts, but his Turn is more a reform than either a deepening of the process or a break with it. Still, his account of how things become objects of transaction and ultimately mechandise can be coupled with Heidegger´s diagnosis of how things gradually stop thinging - stop presenting themselves in a concernful approach - and become objects of knowledge and therefore have their intelligibility extracted to the point of loosing any importance. Heidegger´s account is one where the Turn somehow redeems things and give back their rights. The extraction of the intelligible from the sensible is the nihilist project that Nietzsche diagnoses and that Heidegger associates with the metaphysical quest. In Marx, the end of the alienated work will make merchandise turn back to something else as production will be fully appropriated by human societies and nature itself will prove to be their inorganic body. One can read in all this a struggle towards the right of things.

This is perhaps how animism can be an antidote to capital, albeit not yet an opposing force itself.


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