The Past, Present and Future of Space Accumulation

What happens when capital moves into space? In this session, we reflect on today’s space expansion through historical retrospectives, stories about encounters with present day astronauts and cosmonauts and thoughts about contemporary space culture and politics. We investigate the link between astronomy and colonial history, and the relationship between human space endeavours and decolonization on Earth. As more aspects of our daily lives depend on technological advances in space, we need to understand the role that capital accumulation plays in future space expansion. The session starts with individual talks and ends with a joint debate between the participants.

Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet

There is a consensus that climate change is a problem of inequality. Reams of research show how the richest contribute more emissions than the poor. Yet, this methodology rooted in carbon footprint analysis of consumption and lifestyle deploys an impoverished class analysis based simply on one’s income and consuming power. In this talk, I argue for a Marxist class analysis of climate change rooted in the relation to the means of production. From this standpoint, the climate crisis is not primarily a problem of ‘believing science’ or individual ‘carbon footprints’—it is a problem rooted in who owns, controls and profits from material production. From this basis, I review the class formation currently driving, and not delivering climate policy (the professional class), and the class with the social potential to win transformative climate action (the working class).

Cybernetic planning and climate change reversal

The worsening climate situation reveals the inability of the market system and of economic policy to deal with what conventional economics calls ”externalities”. We are faced with hard material constraints that any viable alternative to capitalism must be able to deal with. For example, we must produce a diverse basket of basic consumption goods, a certain number of hospital beds, and so on, while maintaining 10 gigaton per year net carbon dioxide sequestration. This challenge bears many similarities to problems considered in the study of cybernetics.

One qualitative change from the socialist calculation debate of the 1920’s is the invention of the digital computer and the internet. The rising computer-literacy in the population enables democratic computerized planning that can coordinate individual workplaces on a large scale. Our aim with this talk is twofold: on the one hand, to spark renewed interest around the potentials and challenges of cybernetic planning, and on the other hand, initiate development of and experimentation with such methods in the real world.

The talk begins with a brief history of planning, from Marx and Engels to Otto Neurath and Gosplan, and to modern thinkers like Stafford Beer and Paul Cockshott. We then go on to discuss how computerized macroeconomic coordination can be carried out that takes into account explicit material constraints. Such a system can continuously adjust recommended reallocations of productive resources, adapting to changes in the real world as fast as information can be put into the system and as fast as people can react to the suggestions provided by the system.
We identify maintaining viability as a key necessity of any post-capitalist economic system. By contrast, the consequences of runaway climate change is laying bare the inability of capitalist market economies to maintain viability. To turn a neoliberal slogan, there is no alternative to planning!

Tomas Härdin & David Zachariah

”Expropriating the expropriators”: The past, present and future of a gnomic utterance.

Embedded within the somewhat historically laden chapters on ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ that trace the ignoble historical origins of capitalism – emerging from a series of expropriative and privative acts – is the striking passage that announces the imminent revolutionary task in terms of the ‘expropriation of the expropriators’. If the wheels of capital accumulation and private property are not natural and organic processes but were initiated and driven historically by way of the expropriation of the commons into ever fewer hands, if the proletariat were forcibly created as an outcome of the direct displacement of rural workers into the towns, where they had nothing other than their labour-power to sell, then the practical and revolutionary negation of private property, the immiseration of the working class and the logic of capital accumulation would necessitate, according to Marx, its own logic of expropriation. As Marx writes: while once ‘it was a matter of the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers’, in the overcoming of capitalism there would be ‘the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.’ The dialectical logic of the ‘negation of the negation’ that Marx’s claim avowedly follows in this phrase has, with respect to its political and philosophical significance, been much discussed in the history of Marxism.

However, the debate surrounding it converges along no one single philosophico-interpretive or politico-strategic line. What would the qualitative difference be between the violent expropriation that constitutes the genesis and historical development of capitalism and the revolutionary force of an expropriation that would usher in a new emancipated era? Is the dialectical logic of a ‘the negation of negation’, by which the ‘expropriation of the expropriators’ operates, an overtly simplified and too schematic solution to a set of problems surrounding property, appropriation, and expropriation that have become increasingly more complex and ambiguous? Where do we stand with respect to expropriation, both as a problem and a solution to the problem, today? And how might this differ from the logic of appropriation, towards which Marx had a far more complicated and ambiguous relation?

The purpose of this panel will be three-fold: (i) to retrace the complex field of interpretations that, subsequent to the publication of Capital Vol 1, situated Marxists made surrounding the revolutionary process that made capitalism possible and that would make communism a lived actuality; (ii) to explore and critically elucidate the rich field of concepts (appropriation, property, the proper, disappropriation) that are, more generally, germane in Marx’s account of capitalist social relations and their revolutionary overthrow, as well as serving as interesting conceptual markers for thinking through the possibilities and obstacles that arise from the dialectical logic to which the claim of ‘expropriating the expropriators’ seems tied; (iii) to examine what meaning Marx’s claim may have for us today, in a context of a further generalization and deepening of the logics of appropriation and expropriation that reach beyond spatial displacements of peoples and material forms of dispossession, and extend to cultural forms, political ideas and the history of emancipatory struggle itself as sites of dispossession and deprivation.

Cecilia Cavalcante-Schuback, PhD researcher in Aesthetics, at Södertörn.

David Payne, wrote his doctoral dissertation at Essex University (UK) on the idea of emancipation. He is presently a lecturer and researcher in Political Theory at Södertörn, with specific interest in Marxist and Post-Marxist thought.

Erik Bryngelsson, Department of Philosophy, Södertörn University

The gilded genesis of structuralism and contemprorary discourse theory

I den presenterade uppsatsen så menar vi (Tor Hammer och Magnus Granberg) att Laclau och Mouffes diskursteori bygger på en reifierad konceptualitet som reflekterar värdeformens objektiva struktur. Denna konceptualitet härleder vi till Ferdinand Saussures strukturella lingvistik och dess förståelse av språket som ett system av värde homologt med det förespråkat av Leon Walras och Vilfredo Pareto. Med hjälp av den marxistiske lingvisten Genevive Vaughan visar vi hur Laclau och Mouffe utvecklar denna förståelse av värde samtidigt som de fortfarande är fast i en reifierad förståelse av språket ett som ett system av värde. Detta menar vi leder till att Laclau och Mouffe naturaliserar kapitalismen vilket gör det omöjligt för dem att tänka sig en kritik och praktik bortom kapitalet.

Tor Hammer är doktorand i sociologi vid Mittuniversitetet.

Decentralized finance, territorial appropriation and dispossession

What happens when techno-libertarian dreams of colonization—typically directed at either Mars or ocean space—are transposed onto nation-state territory? In 2013, actors within the global “startup city movement” collaborated with former political advisors to the Ronald Reagan administration and the post-coup regimes of Honduras to establish self-governing jurisdictions on Honduran mainland. The new territories, known as “startup cities,” “charter cities,” or “free private cities” internationally, were codified into law in 2013 under the name Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs). The project, while opposed by anti-colonial and land-based Honduran social movements, sparked the excitement of radical libertarian reformers and crypto and blockchain enthusiasts invested in “experimental” free market governance models worldwide.

My paper explores this convergence of techno-libertarian utopianism, new special economic zones (SEZs), and primitive accumulation. Mike Levien (2011,2012) and other scholars have identified how contemporary SEZ models are fueling new “regimes of accumulation by dispossession” that take land acquisition for real estate development as a primary aim while failing to absorb expropriated rural inhabitants as proletariat labor. However, while land for rent seeking in the real estate and mining sectors is one motivating factor for ZEDE developers, the Honduran case also highlights the links between “decentralized finance” and new territorial appropriations. In this presentation I will discuss the role of decentralized technologies in new colonization projects, the impacts of this process on nation-state and local sovereignties, and the prospects for new modes of accumulation and dispossession. The work presented is the result of roughly two years of field work on Honduran ZEDEs and the “startup city movement” and will include an analysis of the governing models, economic systems, and land appropriation methods of two of Honduras’s first “private cities.” Finally, I will present a theory of ”territorial flexibilization” within contemporary global capitalism.

Accumulation because we do not trust humanity

Through the prism of the ”prisoner dilemma,”  we try to describe ”some” difficulties in establishing a communist society. This dilemma, in the field of economy, is a way to make real-world predictions based on information about each person’s incentives. It helped economists understand how self-improving individuals could lead to self-harming crowds, but it was usually focused on the best market choice. Here we retain the more global impact,  a ”self-harming crowd” with its personal accumulation. 

Hur går vänstern vidare när alla människor är auktoritära?

Redan innan Max Horkheimer förordnats som direktor för Institutet för social forskning i Frankfurt am Main, inleddes ett projekt som avspeglade den växande förtvivlan över svårigheterna att mobilisera de arbetande människorna i Tyskland (och Österrike) mot reaktionen. Erich Fromm fick med början 1929 leda en enkätstudie som med hjälp av psykoanalytisk teori och massdata sökte svar på i vilken mån den tyska arbetarklassen kunde mobiliseras för en socialistisk revolution. Ansatsen byggde faktiskt på ett frågeformulär som Karl Marx varit med om att utforma, så problematiken var inte på något sätt ny. När de första resultaten publicerades i samlingsverket Auktoritet och familj (1936) hade förväntningarna på arbetarklassen växlats ner till att åtminstone kunna mobilisera något motstånd mot den nazistiska regim som dominerade Tyskland och snart även Österrike.

Studierna av reaktionens psykologiska förutsättningar togs upp igen under och strax efter kriget – bland annat i Fromms Flykten från friheten och Leo Löwenthals Falska profeter och Adorno med fleras rapport Den auktoritära personligheten. De fick ett nytt uppsving under de värsta Reaganåren genom kanadensaren Bob Altemeyer (Right-Wing Authoritarianism, 1981) och som en reaktion på rasistdåden Rostock och Hoyerswerda genom två långtidsstudier som bedrivits parallellt vid universiteten i Bielefeld och Leipzig sedan 2002. Kunskapsunderlaget om de socialpsykologiska förutsättningarna för den populistiska politik som blir alltmer dominerande på båda sidorna om Atlanten är idag bättre än någonsin, men studierna är alltmer tekniskt avancerade och därmed – som psykoanalysen i allmänhet – avpolitiserade. Baserat på ett nummer av tidskriften Arkiv, Tidskrift för samhällsanalys, kommer detta paper att diskutera vilka politiska slutsatser vi kan dra av de kunskaper vi faktiskt har, och hur de skulle kunna påverka Vänsterns strategi.

The Application of Taylorist and other Managerial Techniques on Public Sector Work within the Swedish State during the Second World War

I samband med problemen att finansiera mobiliseringen under kriget inleds en rationalisering av arbetet i (den civila delen av) staten av en tillsatt besparingsberedning (SOU 1943:13). Texten handlar om hur denna rationalisering spred managementidéer i statsförvaltningen, hur man med dessa idéer vill förändra arbetet i statsförvaltningen och vilka gränser dessa idéer stötte i form av målen med statsförvaltningen och andra former av statlig verksamhet. Källmaterialet utgörs av publicerade rapporter och opublicerat arkivmaterial från 1940 års Besparingsberedning. Materialet bestå av utredningar om arbetsprocesser och arbetsorganisation i flera olika statliga myndigheter.

I huvudsak var det fråga om en, i stora drag, tayloristisk rationalisering. Man undersökte arbetsprocessen och arbetsorganisation för att skapa kunskap om arbetet. Genom denna kunskap försökte man att specialisera arbetet, att anpassa arbetsuppgifter efter arbetarens kvalifikationer (och överföra okvalificerat arbete till okvalificerad arbetskraft; ”Babbageprincipen”, Braverman 1977) och mekanisera arbetet, där detta var möjligt. Samtidigt saknades ett tydligt mått på produkten då monetära marknadsinkomster ofta saknades eller motsvarade endast delar av ”produktionen” inom myndigheterna. I texten hävdas att en spänning uppstod mellan en formell kapitalistisk rationalitet (ex Weber 1983; Lukács 1971) och behovet av att reproducera det kapitalistiska samhället. I denna text framhävs att både värde och specifika bruksvärden (vilket kan tillgodoses genom en välfärdsstat) behövs för kapitalackumulation (ex. Lukács 1971; Arato 1972) och därmed för reproduktionen av kapitalismen (ex. Clarke 1982).

Det teoretiska problemet handlar således i stort om relationen mellan rationalisering och arbete i offentlig sektor. Texten tar upp delvis rationaliseringens relation till olika professioner, men framförallt kommer den att lyfta att den tidiga rationaliseringen inom staten inriktades på rutinmässiga kropps- och kontorsarbeten. Detta medförde, i enlighet med
babbageprincipen, att kvalificerade yrken skulle rensas på rutinuppgifter, vilka skulle överföras till en lägre kvalificerad arbetskraft. Ofta innebar detta att man också föreslog en feminisering av yrkeskåren, där kvinnor skulle utföra de okvalificerade kontorsarbetena.

Kapitalism, frihet och alienation

I kapitalismen finns en inneboende premiss om frihet. Människan måste vara fri för att kunna sälja sin arbetskraft som lönearbete och för att värde ska skapas. Premissen står dock i motsättning till sig själv. I uppsaten utvecklas hur denna motsättning kan komma till uttryck på dagens otrygga arbetsmarknad och hur kapitalismens inre motsättningar kan skapa både konkreta och abstrakta uttryck för alienation.