Eternal Capitalism and its Sycophants by Jim Craven
One of my favorite poems of Bertolt Brecht:
“Those who take the meat from the table,
teach contentment.
Those for whom the taxes are destined,
demand sacrifice.
Those who eat their fill, speak to the hungry,
of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss,
call ruling too difficult,
for ordinary folk.”
Indeed those who most benefit from a given order or system, along with their sycophants, will always characterize–and martial contrived data and syllogisms in support of–their own system, interests, behaviors, proclivites–and supporting constructs–as “eternal, immutatble, inevitable”, in accordance with Their [Which they characterize as generalized “Human”] Nature. And if a given system is in agreement with, or does not violate, or does not attempt to suppress but rather actually puts to work, “Human Nature”, even if that “Nature” be rather ugly, such a system is likely to last longer and work “better” than some system that seeks to deny or suppress “Human Nature”.
In the old days, when the academic salesmen of capitalism were really crude, the texts would give the example of the proverbial monkey picking up a stick to reach low-hanging fruit from a tree. It was said that the stick was “capital” because, although the monkey did not craft the stick with a knife or even break it off of a tree, nonetheless the monkey saw an everyday stick and saw it could be used as a ” tool” in roundabout ways to produce his meal. Capital, the text tells you, is anyTHING that has been produced (or appropriated for uses beyond its natural state) used to produce something else. Capital, it was seen, is a THING or a “Stock” of conceptually fixed quantity in time and space, not a social relation that is historically determined and specific.

And it gets better. Since the monkey’s DNA is similar to Human DNA with (estimates varying from 92 to around 97% correspondence), but the monkey cannot even define, spell or plan “capital” or plan its further development, this must mean an INSTINCT, part of overall “Human Nature”, for “capital” and even roundabout methods of production and distribution. Further look at the monkeys fighting over the stick and the fruit. This is further “evidence” of other Human-Nature-based “INSTINCTS”: to “compete”; for selfishness; for “private property” (of the fruit) and its appropriation; even for “War”.
Now this is not merely an example of “extrapolating” from the features of the present to “understand” the causes of the present in the past without going into research on the past; this is also simply rationalizing, for the purpose of preserving, the present and its fundamental and defining features, imperatives and interests. After all, if only capitalism is in accordance with “Human Nature”, then it is futile–even disastrous–to try to change, modify or overthrow it (Human Nature is, after all, summarily and metaphysically asserted to be eternal, immutable and thus non-negotiatable).
Further, if it is the case that Capitalism (and its defining/differentiating categories and constructs that reflect the historical realities and uniqueness of that mode of production) is not immutable and eternal, but instead, is merely one of several modes of production historically determined and specific, which means that since “History” aint’t over until the human species is, then maybe not only capitalism, but even “Human Nature” itself (e,g, classic Homo Oeconomicus) can be changed and not accepted simply as “given, eternal, immutable or NATURAL.

When I think of all the academic salesmen (called professors) I had in economics going back to the mid 1960s, sometimes I smile, sometimes I don’t when I think of all that they could have turned me on to but didn’t because of their imperial arrogance and patent intellectual dishonesty in service of their capitalist masters and petit-bourgeois interests/proclivities. When I was in China and someone said that he thought sending the professors out to the countryside to work the rice paddies was a crime, I disagreed and think it would be a great idea (I’ll volunteer even with health problems) just to see some of these pampered and super-annuated elites do a decent day’s–and real–work for a change.

First it was Economic Growth is primarily a function of K/L ratios with “K” defined as a “STOCK” of “Physical” Capital (machines, tools etc). Then someone got the bright idea in the 1970’s that even with all these fancy machines, if your workforce is illiterate and not properly “tuned up” by the teachers at the schools, and if they can’t read a technical manual to fix the fancy machines, well what good are they? Along comes “Human Capital” (again a “STOCK” of Human education, skills and experience to interface with and further augment “Physical” Capital). Interestingly, the classic definitions of Human Capital didn’t even mention accompanying “work ethic”, socialization etc necessary to put that “STOCK” of education, skills and experience to effective use.

Now comes the late 1980s and the academic salesmen of capitalism get caught in another potential contradiction. Even if I have a “STOCK” of fancy machines, and even if I have a workforce of compliant and/or desperate workers bringing in a “STOCK” of their “Human Capital”, forced to sell their labor power or capacity to work for far less than the “value” they will produce through the appropriation and employment of that labor power, what if they, or even the capitalists and “investors”, have no hope, no cohesion, no cooperation or even no more belief in the system itself? Then what good is all that “STOCK” of Human and Physical Capital? So, along comes “SOCIAL” Capital–a “STOCK” of “GIVEN institutions” to promote socially requisite (for the continual expanded reproduction of capitalism) levels of trust, hope, cohesion, cooperation and buying into the system. It was not defined as David Gordon defined a slightly parallel concept of SSA (Social Structures of Accumulation): dynamic complexes of embedded and interrelated institutions and relations–politico-legal, socio-cultural-, economic, domestic and international–necessary for the preservation and expanded reproduction of capitalism and its fundamental and defining features–like “Capital” as an historically generated and specific relation.

Now there was a problem. The academic salesmen of capitalism could no longer simply ignore “institutions”, imperially “assuming” them away or as “given”. But here is now another problem: If social capital is about institutions to foster not only hope (without hope no reason to save, invest, give credit, suffer the tyranny of university profs, vote etc) but also “trust”, social cohesion and even cooperation, well with all this social shit about cooperation and social cohesion, etc, what about “Human Nature” and its associated “INSTINCTS” for selfishness, ultra-individualism, cooperation, private property, capital formation etc?
Well along comes Robert Putnam from Harvard to the rescue with his “Bowling Alone”. Yes, social capital is about getting people to be social and to buy into a social system that may be kicking their asses; but, but, people only do social stuff (like reprocity, cooperation etc) in order to really be individualists and do their own self-maximizing/satisficing things (profit, income, ultility, pleasure etc). When people are being “social”, or appear so, they are really only giving up short-term pain for long-term gain.: E.G. “I obey laws I personally don’t like so that others will obey the same and/or others and not fuck me over or interfere with the playing out of my own “Human Nature” in pursuit of my own individual interests. The social shit is like the stick for the monkey–merely another form of ‘capital'”.
Of course you have to watch it because this might even smack of a little “dialectics” like social and individual are both opposites and yet complements, or even that the social or macro is a lot more–or potentially less with internal contradictions–than the sum of the individuals or micros making it up–thus challenging the Thatcherite right-wing notion of “there is no such thing as society; there are only individual men and women and there are families”.

Why do we call the monkey the monkey and the human the human if they share perhaps 97% of common DNA? Why don’t we call the monkey a 97% proto-human and the human a 97% proto-monkey to show their commonalities? Well why do we have different names for anything? By having different names for different things, logically and linguistically, we are implying that these different things are called by different names because they stand in relation to– and are different from–each other in some very fundamental ways. Each possesses its own defining, differentiating (from other things with their own respective different–defining–features) and naming characteristics. Why do we have even the words Communalism, Slavery, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism, Communism?

First of all DNA is not all that makes any organism what it is and what it is capable of. Rats, who also share considerable DNA commonalities with humans–enough to make them suitable analogs for research purposes–for example, are capable of learned behaviors and retaining that learning for some time. Further, Human DNA is not 97% Monkey and 3% Human; it is 100% Human as that which is shared with common ancestors with the monkey, when interacted with that which is uniquely human, causes organic interdependency and resulting synergy producing a quantum leap in consciousness, capabilities, phenotypes etc. The same appplies with “social DNA” when, aspects of the present, which may appear to be in common or appear to be somewhat similar with something from the past interact; this creates a organic unity and new and quantum leap so fundamental that the new forms, for all practical purposes, are 100% part of that which makes in the present what is unique, characteristic, defining and differentiating it from something else–including aspects from the past that help to shape that unique present.

So yes, if you summarily define “capital” as a THING that is produced to produce other THINGS, yes it appears that “capital” has always existed and even there is a human biologically–based “instinct” to form and use “capital”. If you define “capital” as a social/power relation, then you have something historically developed and specific. The same with “credit”. If you define “credit” as simply a product of an “act”, like trusting and advancing resources today to be paid back tomorrow (for whatever kind of return–interest, portion of future output, hope of default to take moe valuable collateral advanced ) then it appears that “credit”, as it assumes superficial forms under capitalism, indeed existed also prior to capitalism. But now we are back to the monkey and the stick.

Economic surpluses have existed in some form since Communalism (sorry for reference to “some Canadian Tribe”, but the “Winter Count” is about production and setting aside surpluses for Winter non-hunting times), but in different modes of production and social formations, how, by whom, for whom and how the surpluses were to be ultilized were differnt in essence as well as form. The forms and methods of production and extraction of surpluses, for whom they were destined as well as how they were likely to be used, under Feudalism and Slavery, were quite open, direct and relatively unambiguous. Under capitalism, the production, extraction, realization and appropriation of the capitalist form–surplus value–is much more hidden, abstract, roundabout, mystified and dressed up.
The worker is “free” to sell his/her labor-power or is also “free” to starve. How can this be “exploitation” as the worker is “free” to choose? It gets even better: If a capitalist is an “owner” of one the means of production called capital, then the worker is a capitalist also because, as he/she is no longer a serf or slave or indentured servant, he/she also “owns” another “factor of production” called “labor power” that he/she is free to use or not use as she/he pleases.

The capitalist, who is partly defined in terms of his relation to non-capital as hot is partly defined in relation to cold and vice versa, once obtaining “ownership”(sanctioned/facilitated by institutions of “private property” which is not the same as personal property) and/or “control”, also sanctioned and facilitated by “private property”, not only acquires the power to hire and fire, but also acquires “ownership” of any surplus “value”. Surplus value, a form of economic surplus unique to capitalism, because that which is unique to capitalism (e.g. wage labor) is required to produce it, is defined as the difference between what the capitalist was willing to pay for the use of the labor-power (capacity to work which the worker “owns”) versus what the capitalist was able to sell the product of “labor” (the application of labor power in conjunction with other forces of production) for. And indeed the price obtained for that product of labor may even be at vaiance with the long-run “value” of it through let’s say market power and managed elasticities of supply and demand creating economic rents etc.

But as capitalism develops, attempting to mitigate fundamental and defining contradictions (part of what also defines and differentiates different modes of production–unique contradictions) in the course of attempting to mitigate or cover-up some contradictions(partly what SSAs–Social Structures of Accumulation–are about) new ones emerge and/or surface from relative hiding. For example the contradiction between the production of surplus value and its realization. In the course of attempting to increase both relative and absolute surplus value, and in the course of pushing down costs of labor-power, since those costs are also incomes of the broad masses who drive a large part of aggregate demand, well the classic problems of “underconsumption” and “overproduction” (not the same) also emerge and intensify thus increasing the role of finance capital realtive to industrial, manufacturing, and agricultural capital.

Historically, increasing mechanization of agriculture led to incerasing organic fusion between agricultural and industrial capital under the hegemony of industrial capital. The same occurred with increasing organic fusion of agricultural, industrial, manufacturing, “service-sector” and finance capital under the increasing hegemony of finance capital.

What happens is not new methods and powers for producing surplus value, but rather new methods and powers for realizing and dividing it. You can do compounding all day on a basic calculator racking up interest, late payments, over limit charges etc (over 50% of total profits of banks); but it is all a bunch of numbers on the caluculator until it is paid off and realized. And where do the funds to ultimately pay off–and thus have realized for the financiers–come from? More compounding? Yes, new types of financial instruments and markets continually extend the time horizons for “borrowing from peter to pay–or clear the accounts receivable–of paul”, but the possibilities are not endless. You can make bankruptcy impossible, but if I cannot pay off my debt what will you do? Here you get into what Marx dealt with dismissing exchange as the basis for genesis of surplus value: what one seller (lender) would gain as a seller, is offset as also a buyer (borrower).

Shifting divisions of Surplus value, into rent, interest, profit, dividends (property income) occur as different elements of overall “Capital” (as a class and social relation) emerge, compete, collude, and take more political-economic power relative to others. This can be seen in the shifting “functional” divisions of national income as well as in dominant and subordinate influences of various wings of overall “Capital” in the State.

to be continued…

About jimcraven10

About jimcraven10 1. Citizenship: Blackfoot, U.S. and Canadian; 2. Position: tenured Professor of Economics and Geography; Dept. Head, Economics; 3. Teaching, Consulting and Research experience: approx 40 + years all levels high school to post-doctoral U.S. Canada, Europe, China, India, Puerto Rico and parts of E. Asia; 4. Work past and present: U.S. Army 1963-66; Member: Veterans for Peace; former VVAW; Veterans for 9-11 Truth; Scholars for 9-11 Truth; Pilots for 9-11 Truth; World Association for Political Economy; Editorial Board International Critical Thought; 4.. U.S. Commercial-Instrument Pilot ; FAA Licensed Ground Instructor (Basic, Advanced, Instrument and Simulators); 5. Research Areas and Publications: International law (on genocide, rights of nations, war and war crimes); Imperialism (nature, history, logic, trajectories, mechanisms and effects); Economic Geography (time and space modeling in political economy; globalization--logic and effects; Political Economy and Geography of Imperialism); Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Law; Political Economy of Socialism and Socialist Construction; 6. Member, Editorial Board, "International Critical Thought" published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; International Advisory Board and Columnist 4th Media Group, (Beijing); 7. Other Websites publications at;;; 8.Biography available in: Marquis Who’s Who: in the World (16th-18th; 20th; 22nd -31st (2014) Editions); Who’s Who in America (51st-61st;63rd-68th(2014) Editions); Who’s Who in the West (24th- 27th Editions);Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (3rd to 6th, 8th, 11th (2011-2012) Editions); Who’s Who in Finance and Industry (29th to 37th Editions); Who’s Who in American Education (6th Edition). ------------------- There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state, to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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