I started Christian Marazzi’s Capital and Language today. Also today I was in a really enjoyable conversation with some friends about Dallacosta about which more notes later. In that conversation we talked about what I think is a tension in the Dallacosta piece between affirming a capacity for autonomous sociality and struggle vs affirming a capacity for struggle as derived from structural position. Because of that conversation that issue was on my mind as I read the first few pages of the Marazzi. Not much else to say on that right now, will come back to it maybe later as I read on.

Hardt’s intro talks about finance being neither “a realm of self-generating value” nor “merely composed of fictive values and pure speculation.” For Marazzi speech acts by important figures like the Chair of the Fed have a big impact on finance “but those effects are dependent on a speech community that shares a set of beliefs and linguistic conventions.” Interesting, but that doesn’t seem to support the claim that finance isn’t just speculative. This is interesting – “finance (…) attempts to represent the future value of labor and its future productivity” – but strikes me as speculative. (9.)

This irritated me: “factory labor was in many respects mute” while “the social labor outside the factory typical of post-Fordism is loquacious. Labor in service jobs, the media, health, education, and increasingly all other sectors of the economy is characterized by the centrality of language and linguistic capacities.” (9-10.) Cooperation among laborers required speech prior to post-fordism. So did child-rearing (the production of labor power). Hardly mute. And the loquaciousness of a lot of jobs is really over-emphasized.

“Language and communication are crucial for the production of ideas, information, images, affects, social relationships, and the like.” (10.) Sure. And to the degree which this is true, this is an appeal for attention to language on the part of people who study those things and their role in society regardless of time period. The claim does not have the temporal specificity it’s supposed to.

Re: the point about Dallacosta, this comes up in the intro to the Marazzi as well: “General intellect and the productive force of knowledge reside not only in machines but also, and increasingly today, in linguistic communication and cooperation (…) our brains, linguistic faculties, and interactive skills have taken the place of fixed capital (…) this indicates the increasing autonomy of living labor from capitalist control, since, by embodying General Intellect, it is ever more independently able to deploy and manage the productive forces of knowledge and language.” (10.)

To say “taken the place of” is overstated, under-emphasizing the role of fixed capital. And I’m not convinced the “increasingly today” is accurate. About the Dallocosta – two things. One, her analysis would suggest that some of these dynamics have been present in the capital relation from the beginning, even if un-noticed by a lot of marxists. Two, re: the derivation of subjective potential from objective factors, that is what’s going in the “increasing autonomy.” The recent events with the workers at Republic Windows and Doors were very exciting. They were intimately bound up with financialization, a major topic of Marazzi’s book and they demonstrated a certain autonomy of the working class. But they were tied to an organizational form (the labor union) which is quite old and recalled labor tactics of the 1930s. Not so new, or at least not the product of a new capacities of workers under post-fordism. (The speed of circulation of information about it and the ability to raise funds via the internet, that’s new. Not sure about the significance of that.) There’s no reason to peg “the potential freedom of social cooperation (…) the potential autonomy from capitalist control of the linguistic performance, knowledge production, and capacities of communication and cooperation of contemporary living labor” (11) to the periodization that Hardt ties them to.

Marazzi writes that “in the New Economy language and communication are structurally and contemporaneously present throughout both the sphere of the production and distribution of goods and services and the sphere of finance.” (14.) Very reasonable. But not true just of recent times. Likewise with Marazzi’s discussion on how investors make decisions (which I found helpful and interesting.)

Marazzi describes finance as having “a kind of herd behavior based on the information deficit of individual inverstors.” (21.) He references arguments by an economist named Andre Orlean that “it is in the nature of financial markets to function on the basis of the herd behavior of the mass of investors.” (23-24.) Herd behavior is inherent within liquidity, he says, and within the attempt “to transform what amounts to a personal wager on future dividends into immediate wealth here and now.” (24.)

The role of communicative practices in this is a really interesting subject. That same analysis could be extended further back in time. Arrighi writes (somewhere….) that we can understand Marx’s description of capitalism in terms of M-C-M’ (money-commodity-more money), where the hyphens indicate exchanges, as a long term cycle in capitalism and the global economy. M indicates the primacy of finance capitalists, C the primacy of goods-producing capitalists. Why can’t we take Marazzi’s analysis of the role of linguistic acts in the present and use that methodology to perform parallel analyses for earlier periods? (Likewise with production, with collective action, as in Sewell’s excellent book? [Go back to those notes eventually 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)


Somewhat related to Marazzi, read these:

– The recent pieces in HM.

– This by Vercellone

– These by Marazzi