The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital

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Synopsis About this title Francis Fukuyama may declare the "end of history", and neoliberal capital embraces this belief. Review : 'The Beginning of History brings creativity to the center of anti-capitalist thought and through it provides new meanings to the concepts of anarchism, socialism and communism. Create a Want.

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Upload PDF. What is the lament about 'de-professionalisation' of the professions and the rise of 'managerialism' in public services but the pain of this process of coupling between the cyclical time of the professions and the corresponding value practices, with the cyclical time of the markets and the subordination of the former to the latter? Hence in this book we are clearly distancing ourselves from the view that regards postmodernity as communism in waiting. Indeed, this is what the approach of Hardt and Negri may at times seem to imply.

If this approach were correct, the project of this book, that is of making sense of capital's categories for our times, would be pointless, since in the world of global multitudes defined in purely positive terms, the categories of capital value, rent, interest, profit, etc. On the contrary, for this book the objects of categorical references do exist, perhaps mutated, but they are alive and kicking, and are reproduced in the daily practices and their articulation through which the reproduction of planetary livelihoods occur.

Unlike Hardt and Negri, a central tenet of this book is that despite all the morphological mutations, the social force we call capital is still today more than ever based on processes of measurement of social practice, a measure that turns the doing, whether 'material' or 'immaterial', waged or unwaged, into work Chapter Thus, despite a common root in the theoretical milieu of what has been called autonomist Marxism, there is a difference between, say, a politics that looks to the 'creative,' 'immaterial' workers almost as the 'vanguard' of the revolution and those like myself who look instead to the Zapatistas and other similar commoners, especially the indigenous, the peasants, the just-in-time factory workers in the 'free trade zones' of the third world, the peasant mothers, the slum communities struggling in a variety of contexts for livelihoods and dignity.

Rather, because the struggles of those commoners point with maximum clarity for all of us at the ruptures of the coupling between the measure of capital and other measures, between capital's values and other values. Hence they pose the urgent question of the decoupling of cyclical time as defined by the 'end of history' perspective and the cyclical time promoted by a struggling social body and its 'beginning of history' horizons.

The beginning of history : value struggles and global capital - JH Libraries

This maximum clarity is perhaps achieved because in these struggles the problematic of the decoupling from capital, the problem of how to keep it at a distance, often becomes a question of life and death. Here, the reproduction of livelihoods on the basis of value practices other than capital, and the safeguard or promotion of livelihoods autonomously from capital circuits, become the only terrain for the preservation of bodies and the regeneration of their webs of relations, communities.

These struggles therefore allow us to focus on the front line, a front line that also traverses the lives of precarious 'immaterial workers', but that often does not appear so neat - apart from the instances in which they get together and are able to seize common spaces and turn them into projects of welfare from below, as for example in the cases of the movement of social centres in Italy, or when they seize the streets and set up a barrier to neoliberal policies promoting further precariousness, as in France in the first months of This because in a context of pervading markets, 'lifelong learning' policies or 'small business loans' help to recast the individual's puzzlement over how to access means of livelihoods, from being one opening to new modes of co-production and common access to means of existence, to one necessitating instead business acumen, risk-taking within a given market structure and consequent successful outperformance of others.

The beginning of history instead peeps through the struggles for commons, that is relations to nature, 'things' and each other that are not mediated by the market measures that individualise and normalise, commons in which bodies can live, nurture, prosper, desire and even collide without being measured by money, but instead make up their own measurement of each other and 'things'. The 'prehistory' of humanity, to use Marx's famous expression, which we shall discuss below, is an old order that has come to an end, and a new one is built on its ruins.

Alternatively, the course towards the beginning of history is a gentler one, with progressive reforms promoted by progressive parties having won political power. They both belong to the 'seizing power' mythology extensively criticised by John Holloway and in different ways by the politics of immanence in Hardt and Negri ; These two classic strategies, which for a long time have been seen as opposites, shared indeed few important elements in that they understood the relation between a political party and the masses as one of indoctrination.

The party knew what the beginning of history looked like, and it was taking the masses towards that destiny. This generally implied the application of a model that believed in 'stages' of development from pre-capitalist, through the 'necessary' transition of primitive accumulation, land expropriation and forced collectivisation, to socialist accumulation at rates of growth possibly higher than the Western counterpart and finally, in a far distant future, communism, with the disappearance of the state and the 'realisation' of all the repressed fantasies of the present projected into a future rising sun.

In other words, the classical radical tradition, whether reformist or revolutionary, embraces a concept of time that is overwhelmingly linear because stageist, 'progressive', while the socialist masses have to endure linearity by being subjected to a cyclical time that measures their activities on the shop floor in pretty much the same way that cyclical time measures the activities of the capitalist masses: stopwatches, attentive foremen and disciplinary practices were the ingredients constituting this measure. Lenin, after all, fell in love with Taylorism. Whether this 'progress' is believed to occur through reforms or revolution is here secondary.

The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital

In both cases, by keeping out circular time, the problematic of value and norm creation, and displacing the emergence of the new to the future, socialist models were founded on a political practice that was based on a split between organisational means and aspirational ends. The organisational means gulags, political killing, repression, vertical hierarchy within the party, un democratic centralism, etc.

Extreme Machiavellism was embedded in the structure of the production of social transformation. The action of the socialist prince did not require conforming to the aspirations for different modes of doing of the socialist masses. The radical tradition based on this disjunction regards the subjects of history as input, and the beginning of human history as an output rather than as a living force giving shape to new value practices.

The approach of this book is thus that history is not an output, and people are not inputs. History does not begin after the revolution, but it begins any time there are social forces whose practices rearticulate phase, cyclical and linear time autonomously from capital, whatever their scale of action. And since, as we shall see in Chapter 2, every social practice is a value practice, that is a social practice that selects 'goods' and 'bads' and constructs correspondent measures and relational practices, to pose the problematic of the beginning of history is to pose the problematic of the overcoming of the value practices of capital.

The first task of this book is therefore to talk about a front line and the social processes emerging therein. On one side, a life-colonising force we call capital Chapter 3 , using an arsenal of a variety of means, sometimes brutal, sometimes seductive and appealing, for the sole purpose of the endless growth and reproduction of its monetary value. On the other side, life-reclaiming forces, whose practices seem to strive to cut loose their links with the colonists and rearrange the web of life on their own terms, but often enchanted or over rearrange the web of life on their own terms, but often enchanted or overwhelmed by the parables of the opposing camps whispering that, actually, there is no alternative.

It sounds like the struggle between good and evil, but it is not: it is fundamentally a struggle to define what is good and what is evil, or, better, what we value and what we do not.

Massimo De Angelis

There is no need to conceive of this front line as a straight border, with a clear-cut division between sides. Indeed, the fractal nature of the mechanisms of normalisation to commodity production, as discussed in Chapter 15, implies that this front line of struggle passes through diverse scales of actions, traverses subjects and institutions, and the problematic of its identification is one with the problematic of positing value practices that are incompatible with those of capital.

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