The other night my friend D gave me a quick run down on some ideas he’s been thinking on, they set some wheels turning in my head, revisiting bits of this.

(D’s consistently engaged with some of my more meandery and maybe less textually focused posts, some of which are ones in which I try to think out what I actually think about, you know, stuff. Thanks D, I appreciate it.)

There’s a long term cycle between the most profitable places to put capital – productive or financial. Currently, financial is the more profitable, and perhaps the class fraction calling the shots or whose interests serve as the current center of gravity.

Debt limits elasticity. For workers, it ties people more strongly back into the need for a wage. For employers, it ties them into the need to continue surplus value extraction without interruption.

Credit extends elasticity. For workers, it lets people either go without work or purchase more than their wages allow. For employers, it lets them expand faster than their current rate of exploitation would allow, or allows them to weather less profitable periods.

There’s a difference between systemic and class-wide elasticity and more localized or firm/market specific elasticity. Lower paid and/or more highly indebted employees have less elasticity to go without wages. This can be extended by financial support from others. Productive and service capitalists’ elasticity is partly a function of creditors, and in some cases pooling of resources for less immediately financial reasons and more nakedly political reasons.

Elasticity always refers to a relationship. For employers, elasticity includes the ability to make concessions. Workers with less elastic employers (in relation to their need to make profits and the rate of turnover they need) will face greater repression and will face a lower ceiling in terms of winnable reforms (this involves elasticity in the sense of the quantity of profit, I think). Less elastic workers will be limited in the duration which they can be without wages; this does not necessarily effect the intensity of their struggles aside from the factor of duration.

Changing gears, sort of. If a shift to new productive centers takes place so that the center of profitability once again comes to be productive capital, those sectors will have a higher ceiling. New reforms will be possible. If this happens, some will take the winnability of reforms as an index of class power. That’s sort of true, in that the presence of reforms will be a response to class power or at least a worry about class power. But gains under capitalism is not the same as communism. The sectors with the greatest ability to raise (and/or, the greatest success in actually raising) the ceiling will not necessarily be the most radical elements or the elements most capable of producing a break.

I should re-read Alquati’s “network of struggles in Italy” piece… there are at least two axes here, vertical and horizontal. Vertical refers to both the intensity of a conflict at some point (in some sector or in relation to some employer or market) as well as the size of winnable gains (not identical, two different things). Horizontal refers to connections across points. There are disagreements among some about relationships between vertical and horizontal, and what translates into what… some think that gains are what most move horizontally (inspire others) and inspire stronger conflicts (intensity, verticalness); others think it’s the intensity of the struggle that most transmit horizontally. Both are probably true. A sense of universality, a value system, a vision, is necessary as well.

Advertisements