Monday, March 31, 2014

Are we at the end of Capitalism, and if so, what comes next?

This is one question Anne and I plan to raise in our discussion tonight. If Capitalism has reached a "terminal state" of delirium, as Deleuze says in the "Capitalism and Desire" chapter of Desert Islands, with a vast ocean of schizophrenic flows and growing/changing desires bubbling under the surface, then is it poised to break through the cracks? Or will capitalism continue to successfully push against this end point/absolute limit? Capitalism's inherent contradiction (reiterated by D&G in their collaborative work) is that the system promotes increasing flows, connections, and desires, yet they are governed by the rules of monetary/commodity exchange, or by the unwritten moral code of the state.  (The mouth-breast connection, which enhances sexual desire and pleasure, is steered towards marriage, family, and reproduction.)  At the same time, one could argue that capitalism continually improves itself by absorbing and adopting our changing desires -- sexual, economic, cultural, personal -- into the system. D&G suggest that capitalism, like fascism, is a structurally flawed system of savage repression that will soon crumble and be replaced by something new. But if capitalism is the most humanistic and transparent option out there, maybe the end is much farther away.

Also, I've been thinking about recent examples of these schizophrenic "leaks."  To me, examples of more patently chaotic or anarchic flows would be things like identify theft (hacking into Target), NSA and other forms of wiretapping, and the mortgage-backed securities fraud that caused the  recent financial collapse. The mortgage fraud, by the way, speaks directly to Marx's prediction that money will replace the commodity as the key factor in the equation, going from M-C-M to M-M.  D&G expand this analysis, suggesting that the dual role of banks -- providing free credit to consumers, yet also financing new capital for business owners -- is where capitalism "goes wonky" and crosses into a new threshold. (Deleuze says that Marxist thinkers need to study the role of banks in neo-capitalism as much as commodity and labor are studied.)  Still, I think there are some examples of "schizo-flows" that speak to our human desire to maximize our potential and life experience in more positive ways. These would include: legality of homosexual marriage (expanding the definition of nuclear family), digital libraries and humanities projects, social media, sharing and downloading music (starting with Napster, moving to I-Tunes and Pandora), and internet philanthropy websites like Kickstarter, which help people raise money for small business or projects.

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