Crisis of capital and the end of politics

Salem Arif Quadri, Landscape of Longing, 1997-9


First part of the “Presentation” of the newly released book by Alex Demirović

the thread of history

The two texts by Alex Demirović – Authoritarian populism as a neoliberal strategy for overcoming crises and Democracy of councils or the end of politics – compose a sophisticated critical arsenal that encompasses a dialogue with several theoretical dimensions. Among them, in the first text, with the analysis of the Jamaican Marxist living in London, Stuart Hall, one of the founders of New Left Review, the first to characterize the period of economic policy implemented by Margaret Thatcher as a form of domination guided by “authoritarian populism”; at another time, he argues with the theoretical replacement of the classic populism/democracy relationship presented by the political scientist Jan-Werner Müller.

The text on the councils begins by moving away from Hannah Arendt's republican-liberal interpretation of the link between formation of councils and revolution, and proceeds to present the discussion on the critical tradition around council democracy linked to the German Revolution of 1918; In this text, as a theoretical counterpoint and a point of immersion in fundamental elements of a critique of politics in the bourgeois form, Marx's classic reading of the Paris Commune is also presented.

Faced with this wide range of inflection and reflection, the trait that outlines the various possible mediations that configure Demirović's two instigating texts is the very thread of the story. The connection between 2018 is quite clear, when popular authoritarianism, or right-wing extremism, becomes a relatively common and articulated manifestation of the global bourgeoisie, and the various processes of configuration of an autocratic resolution of the various bourgeois forms of “ overcoming” crises throughout the 1871th century: Nazism, Fascism, Latin American dictatorial forms, etc. Less evident is the understanding of the dimensions that project a dialogue between the current global political-economic moment and the lessons of the conjuncture that delimited the Paris Commune in XNUMX and the attempt to implement the councils in Germany.

At first glance, the dynamics of domination behind the Trump-Bolsonaro logic – as a broad project to reorganize the world bourgeoisie in the face of the financial crisis that began in 2008 – is unquestionable, as is its intimate connection with neoliberal dynamics. A connection that, taken seriously, is also inseparable from the Lula-Dilma period. PT governments could be characterized, using the term used by Demirović in line with Nancy Frazer, as a progressive neoliberalism.

An analysis of the relationship between contradictory developmentalism, or neo-developmentalism[I] of the PT, and the international neoliberal force does not, of course, allow any automatic subsumption to the Brazilian reality. Even so, it is not difficult to assume that future historians of Brazil will be clear that the post-dictatorship conjuncture must be read as a unique phenomenon, not only because Bolsonaro revived the basements of the dictatorship, but also as an expression of a broad process of reorganization and contingency of the world bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie, which has as one of its main constitutive characteristics not being homogeneous and static, as a constant process of becoming the personifications of capital – industrial capital participates in a different way from commercial capital in the production of surplus value [ii] –, definitely learned from the catastrophe that defined the entire XNUMXth century, the need to manage the world. It is necessary to dominate capitalist domination. Everything now is a matter ofgovernance of the democracies"[iii], in the neoliberal phraseology used by the Trilateral Commission (1973).

On an abstract level, Marx already knew, critically welcoming the symbiosis between classical political economy and modern political philosophy, that the very existence of a specifically bourgeois, cosmopolitan – world bourgeois [Weltburgerlich] – as Kant said in 1784[iv], representation of a supposed human universality, is as fragile as its own self-delusions. The pandemic that collapsed the world in 2020 reveals the truth of this fragility in the most cruel way, it works as a magnifying glass of the truth of barbarism.

On the thread of history, relying on geographers Jaime Peck and Adam Tickell (Neoliberalizing Space), Demirović points out three phases of neoliberalism that, despite changes in processes, do not necessarily express qualitative leaps in organization, but moments of reorganization, displacement and rationalization of the logic of bourgeois domination. The crisis of welfare state, from the period characterized by the attempt to reconstruct the European economy under North American command in the post-war period, as we know, reached a decisive point when President Nixon decreed, in 1971, the end of the gold-dollar parity and the Bretten Woods system became ends in 1973.

The almost 30 years of Europe's attempt at economic and social recovery and the expansion of the capital-relationship in the Americas, Asia and the Middle East[v] – it is worth remembering that different phenomena, even if they are two sides of the same coin – before being understood as a “new” phase of the bourgeois world, are the expression of a fundamental process that articulates structural dynamics of capitalist logic. Everything changes so that nothing changes.

The hasty definition of an ideology restricted to the “advanced industrial society”, in which the structure and function of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would have been altered, as Marcuse indicates in his classic analysis written precisely at the intersection between the welfare state and neoliberalism,[vi] often prevents access to the structure that sustains the capital-relationship. It is commonplace for some Marxist traditions to assume qualitative differences between phases and cycles of accumulation, without taking into account the internal structural movement of the capital relation. A classic theme, typical of that since Hilferding, and later with the, still unavoidable, reading of Lenin on imperialism, which began with the characterization of capitalism as organized at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. [vii]

The differences between the conjunctures, evidently, are still clear, the pressure points of the class struggle operate in different space-times, as well as the new geopolitical dynamics. Just remember, for example, that from the end of World War II until 2020, the USA, as the largest empire of the bourgeois era, directly or indirectly participated in all the politically significant events of the XNUMXth century. Even with this aspect in mind, and precisely because of it, it is possible to advance an answer: as long as the capital-relation is based on the capital-labour dialectical distortion, as long as this mediation takes place in a salaried form and as long as profit is the apparent engine of operation of the system – it doesn't matter if the ideal (expected) mean of the exploitation process more or less regulates the rotations of the production/accumulation cycles, or the interactions between production and distribution ratio change – we will still be stuck in the same dynamics, whether throughout the European XNUMXth century, whether in the XNUMXnd century, if we get there.

The two texts by Demirović, as will be clear to the reader, allow us to suspect any theoretical and historical split between the critique of neoliberalism and the very foundation of the bourgeois political form. Particularly in relation to the critique of neoliberalism, the conjunctural assumptions, in terms of presenting economic and social data and historical particularities in relation to Europe, can be found in the reflection written together with Thomas Sablowski in 2012, a well-known aspect of the critique from a Marxist sociology of work, the interrelation between productive restructuring and overcoming crises: “To escape the crisis that hit profitability at the time, capital followed several strategies: the displacement of production to the periphery or semiperiphery of capitalism; the direct attack on the working class in the centers (mass layoffs, weakening of unions, falling wages, dismantling social benefits, precariousness) and the opening of new possibilities for capital investment through deregulation, liberalization and privatization.” [viii]

With diverse themes, the articles are combined, as indicated, by the very historicity of the capital-relationship, by the very thread of history – mainly considering the historical-theoretical reading on council democracy and Marx’s analysis of the Paris Commune – , before taking how beforehand From a Marxist way of considering the history of the capital-relationship, the false opposition between economy/politics, or even democracy/market, dissolves and becomes explicit as an internal dynamic of the permanent process of accumulation of capital and its (re)compositions, always more and more organic. Any discussion about governance, based on a false opposition between democracy and authoritarianism, which does not consider the complexity of this process, is expressed, above all, as a conjunctural symptom of the same movement. Capturing the specific difference of these symptoms within the conjuncture-structure dialectic remains the fundamental task of criticism.


Phases of neoliberalism and the short circuit of authoritarian populism

The first phase takes place between 1973 and the mid-1980s, the so-called neoliberalism of rollback, disruptor. As it represented the first confrontation with the Welfare State, this phase became the most emblematic of neoliberalism: privatization and systemic alteration of the role of the State are its main characteristics. The second phase, from the mid-1980s to 2008, the so-called neoliberalism of roll out, it prints a readjustment and intensification of the process of systematic introjection of neoliberal logic within civil society. Significant of this period is the impact of the lean production as a response to the crisis of Fordism. The third phase, in turn, begins with the financial crisis of 2008, it opens the period of predominance of “authoritarian populism”.

In the critical reading of these phases, Demirović presents two fundamental theses. The first has as a critical assumption something that is presented in the article on council democracy. The so-called “short circuit” between bourgeois forces and subalterns. The double meaning of this short circuit that contradictorily brings together structurally antagonistic forces, however much it has already occurred in a punctual manner in other periods such as Nazism and Fascism, had not yet become, as it is now, a project of permanent and progressively conscious mobilization of the world bourgeoisie.

Demirović does not seek to clarify the foundations of this shortening, he restricts himself to showing its characteristics. He argues that the central element to explain the rise of authoritarian populism cannot be just (!) the change in the living conditions of the European and North American working class caused by the increase in unemployment with access to cheaper labor in countries peripherals after the end of the cold war; or changes in family relationships, increasingly atomized and reflecting the precariousness and change in the standard of living intensified by the 2008 crisis. a split that is part of domination and manages to influence the bourgeois agenda and the formation of political will with its immense resources”. It is not, therefore, a completely new and external element, brought about by a conjunctural change from 2008, but an internal and necessary unfolding of the previous phases.

What the neoliberal period allows us to verify is a potentialization – and this word is important here – of the internal impulses of the bourgeoisie (which takes effect between left-wing progressives and right-wing extremisms). The shift towards a counterfeit turn against the abstraction of the political system, or the corruption of the State, is strategic to “overstep the limits of legality and official policy and bring together the various activities of the National-Conservative and Fascist-National-Socialist right”.

The short circuit also refers to an immanent dimension of the bourgeois world, given, for example, the disproportion between variable capital and constant capital in the formation of the organic composition of capital, the core of surplus value production. Simplifying a lot, it would be possible to say that the “electric current” of labor power is always much greater than the “resistance” organic composition of capital. The bourgeois political form, since the middle of the XNUMXth century in Europe, seeks either to alter the current or to alter the resistance.

The other thesis, an internal development of this short circuit, is presented as a critique of Jan-Werner Müller's text, Was this Populism? Ein Essay (2016), through which the classic opposition between democracy and authoritarian forms is questioned. Against Müller, he states that he “ignores that authoritarian populism – unlike the extreme right – is not opposed to democracy, but appropriates it and argues to act in the name of a true democracy”. Basically and directly, the presupposition of Demirović's criticism and that of every serious Marxist: democracy will never be true in the bourgeois world. The classic question of modern political theory of a unified will representative of popular sovereignty that would be sustained in the plurality of individual wills had already been definitively criticized by Marx.

The illusory political community, in which the representative State formally replaces religion as the foundation for the circulation and realization of a sovereign/unified will, maintains the point of reference, which can contradict individual wills, “outside” the very process of will formation. The State based on a logic of theological representation (which formally, as a representational logic, remains from absolutism to the bourgeois State), ceases to occupy a central and unifying place of the so-called political element, insofar as the religious moral structure becomes becomes more and more a phenomenon limited to “private-smallness [limitations] worldly” (MEW I, 352).

In his youth, before the well-known investigation and exposition of the “anatomy of civil-bourgeois society”, Marx had already indicated that the logic of bourgeois politics maintains an authoritarian dimension, that is, what defines bourgeois political emancipation is precisely the maintenance of a systemic will that needs to materialize as class domination, at the same time, in which it legitimizes itself as a universal political form. We will come back to this later in Demirović's exposition of some aspects of Marx's critique of the bourgeois political form.


Some structural issues of the capital-relation in view of neoliberalism

In the first phase of neoliberalism, as the first landmark of bourgeois self-reflexivity in this conjuncture, so to speak, the questioning of the trilateral commission precisely about the “governability” capacity of the welfare state is quite revealing. An internal investigation of this period, as a particular production/distribution relationship, is usually covered by the geopolitics of the cold war. In relation to this, forcing a simplification, two central and evident points: (1) The Social Welfare State is, above all, a movement of attempt to overcome the crisis of the era of catastrophe, particularly the effects of the hegemonic war , itself an expression of the multiple universe that composes capitalist competition. A war, in essence, between the European and North American bourgeoisie, not a struggle between capital and work, therefore it would hardly represent a movement within this contradiction;[ix] (2) The State of

Social well-being is also a product of the correlation of forces in the class struggle that the existence of the Soviet Union provokes in the post-war period. Here it is not necessary to remind something well known, although always displaced by the bourgeois historical distortion: any human and social dimension of capitalism comes from the workers' struggle, although it may not “appear” like that. The Welfare State would not be what it was without the concrete threat of the “real socialism” of the Soviet Union, even with all its contradictions.

Considering the first point, and without delving here into the complex problem of the specific temporality of capital in its historicity between crises, expansion and rearticulation of productivity bases, it is important to note that the so-called “golden age”,[X] never, by means of a concrete threat, endangered the functioning and dynamics of capital accumulation. Any structural opposition between democracy/interventionist social state and free market economy is false. Despite the cycles of accumulation, the contradictory unity of capitalist circulation, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, that is, the immanent nature of the crisis as a moment of expansion/retraction of capitalist processes, it is necessary to take into account that – considering the specific organicity between forces of production, relations of production and relations of distribution, that is, of the fact that during a crisis all these sectors need to be affected – the very apparent autonomy of the necessary unit between production (relationship of internal articulation of the productive forces, for example , difference between constant and variable capital) and distribution relations (rate of profit, credit system, intercapitalist competition, etc.) is an intrinsic factor of the formal immanence of the crisis, of the “most abstract form of the crisis”.12

Latin American dictatorships, as is well known, set the framework for the emergence of neoliberalism and the re-articulation of surplus value distribution processes and are a historical example of this apparent autonomy between the productive force (consolidation of the Fordist model in South America) and distribution relations (control and distribution of surplus value produced, credit system, etc. in Europe and the United States). When we consider the Brazilian example, the influence of the international situation is reflected in the direct support of companies to dictatorial governments, a fact that is very well documented.[xi] In addition to the obvious influence of the cold war, the crisis that neoliberalism opens up creates another relationship in Brazil.

The threat of João Goulart's particular “Welfare State” and his three-year plan began to play an important role in the rhetoric of the 64 coup. As Paul Singer pointed out, this role intensifies from the mid-60s onwards with the change in the international division of labor, when “capital exporting countries began to realize part of the surplus value produced abroad, importing products from subsidiaries of their own companies”.[xii] It is worth resuming here the important statement by Antônio Rago, something that, due to the moment we are living, needs to be remembered: “There is no need to reduce the dictatorship to a simple exercise of arbitrary power by some over others. Dictatorship is in the very anatomy of civil society, in the social relations of production. The dictatorship of capital over labor achieves its ultimate objective: how to achieve high rates of economic growth with increased productivity and a politically forged decrease in the value of the workforce. The workers explained it with a simple expression: the wage squeeze policy”.[xiii]

Advancing a note that would require a more extensive reflection, it would be possible to say that the deregulating neoliberalism of Europe and the USA is realized in the Brazilian dictatorship through a kind of servitude neoliberalism[xiv], heir to the well-known colonial route/form. As we know, the historical condition of exporting raw materials unfolds in Brazil in the XNUMXth century a particular dynamic of systemic adaptation of slave labor into salaried employment. The serfdom neoliberalism concentrates in the State the mediation of the interrelationships between big international capital and the national bourgeoisie. At the international level, privatization, destitution of the State as an economic agent with privileges, cuts in public spending and debureaucratization in places where the continuous processes of formation of the financial centers of capital (attraction of capital regulated by a credit system that guarantees a certain stability of reproduction), essentially in Europe and the USA, allowed a specific concentration of capital in Brazil, a process of concentration of the means of production and a more orderly command over labor exported outside the borders of Europe and the USA.

Regarding this aspect, it is important to pay attention to something fundamental, often left aside by many historical-sociological absolutizations of the complex problem of expansion/accumulation of the capital-relationship: competition and centralization are composed of a kind of relative necessity, as processes, at the same time, autonomous and conditioned: “To the extent [Measure] in which capitalist production and accumulation develops, to the same extent [Measure] competition and credit, the two most powerful levers of centralization, develop. Just like that, the progress of accumulation multiplies centralizable matter, that is, individual capital, while the expansion of capitalist production creates social shortages here, technical means there, for those powerful industrial enterprises whose realization is linked to a previous centralization. of the capital. Today, therefore, the reciprocal attraction of individual capitals and the tendency towards centralization are stronger than ever before. But although the relative expansion and impetus of the centralizing movement is to some extent determined by the already attained greatness of capitalist wealth and the superiority of the economic mechanism, the progress of centralization does not in any way depend on the positive growth of the greatness of social capital. . And especially this differentiates centralization from concentration, which is just another expression for reproduction on a larger scale. Centralization can occur through a mere change in the distribution of existing capital, through a simple change in the quantitative grouping of the components of social capital. Capital can grow here in one hand until it forms grandiose masses, because there it is private (withdrawn) from many individual hands” (MEW 23, p.655).

There is no doubt that understanding capital as a measure [Measure] – qualitatively as a process of accumulation, production of surplus value (apparently as the production of socially necessary commodities) and reproduction of labor power with the aim of valuing capital (apparently as a necessary and equivalent part of socially necessary labor time to produce socially necessary goods) – implies apprehending the movement of the expanded reproduction of many individual capitals that concentrate the control of production of more value, to the same extent that the centralization provided by the credit system allows, for example, systemically arbitrary displacements of masses of money, as capital, from other branches, fictional advancement of the reproduction cycles that guarantee the stability of a fictitious surplus value (projected for the future) of one or more reproductive cycles, being able to guarantee the profit below the productivity when necessary or a investment of an advanced capital for the technological elevation of the technical composition of the capital.

Capitalist, “free” competition has always been the same on the other side of capitalist monopolization. Holder of power, the capitalist, as personification of the accumulation process, can act as if he exercised a rational control of the future relatively detached from his internal movement. Here Chesnais's critique (La Mondialization of capital, 1994) to the political element of the accumulation regime with financial dominance – even though we can discuss the validity of the concepts, “accumulation regime” and “regulation mode” – gains clearer contours, after all it allows us to understand how within this internal figuration of competition, the Shareholder capitalism can influence not only the distribution of capital, but also directly alter the organization of the production process: “What Chesnais highlights as unprecedented is the role that property and rentism have taken on, as well as the accommodation of this position of externality to production in the within the production itself. Thus, the congenital pathology of capitalism based on the contradiction between capital and labor is now combined with the contradictions that originate from the centrality of finance: on the one hand, accumulation is slow and, on the other hand, finance is insatiable at the level of its punctures”.[xv]

Regulatory and serfdom neoliberalism are two sides of the same coin. Despite being well known, it is worth remembering that this relationship implies the integration of global capital and its international regulation. The complexity of the dynamics of surplus-value distribution relations shows how the actualization of the capital-relation on a global scale, no matter the period, allows singular “perversions” in its way of realization. In the case of the Brazilian bourgeois State, which only gained its most complete form with the dictatorship, being subordinate to Uncle Sam's designs is the rule. The exit from the dictatorship and the redemocratization process coincided, not by chance, with the second phase of neoliberalism, reaching its peak after the first Lula government, when another capitalist aberration was consolidated in Brazil: “privatized Keynesianism” and privatizing.

In “progressive neoliberalism”, the State needs to return to act in a more regulatory way than in the previous phase, not to guarantee social rights or ensure a common interest, but to integrate the individual more and more into the capitalist mode of production, increase its appearance of naturalness and spontaneity. The particularity of this integration obviously depends on the role that a country plays in the global reproduction of capital. As if this “new” “symbiosis” between the worker and the productive process expressed a previous unity: “Individuals must ensure their own competitiveness and maintain their employability on its own initiative. Thus, they must monitor the “portfolio” of their competences and keep them at a high level, showing flexibility for new requirements; elaborate, evaluate, and optimize one's capacity and act with one's own responsibility”.[xvi]

Considering this second phase of neoliberalism, an important aspect of what was designed was precisely a systemic arrangement of “global productive restructuring”. [xvii] The neoliberal revival of Toyotism in the 1930s in the late 1980s by the just-in-time-production ou lean-production, mentioned by Demirović, expresses this movement. At the lean production, in general, the aim is to increase productivity through production methods that, among other purposes, seek to increasingly integrate the worker into the production process, optimizing the workspace by training fewer workers, increasing the fluidity of production. introduction of new technologies, etc. Briefly: it is about the search for a maximum point of rationalization of the production process of relative surplus value.

The Great Crisis of Fordism and welfare state, is an expression of the dynamics of self-reproduction of world social capital that is reflected by the height of the appearance of capitalist competition, by directing relations of appreciation and devaluation: this is what it means to re-establish the governability of democracies. The fact that a salaried worker, in the midst of economic growth stagnation - that is to say: capital accumulation at levels lower than expected -, has free access to health, in addition to taking money out of circulation in a possible branch, influences the decrease in the organic composition of capital, implies an internal limit to be overcome by the very logic of capital manifested by capitalist competition.

The weapons of overcoming are varied, but they are all built on a common ground, which is not new: directing class consciousness away from the working class,[xviii] dissolve class antagonism – the distortion [Verkehrung] systemic relationship between capital and labor – in atomized, individual personifications of the capital-relationship. Individualism and selfishness, increasingly naturalized and globalized in the neoliberal era, are not mere products of a perversion [Verkehrung] psychological or moral, but of a systemic necessity.


The production-distribution dialectic between catastrophes

The structural crisis (Meszáros, Mandel) that articulates the post-war period of the XNUMXth century, as widely known, establishes, in its genesis, the displacement of the “homeland” of bourgeois logic,[xx] Western Europe, towards US imperialism. Between Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Gulf War of 1991, the center of gravity that moves inseparability – systemic, not contingent! – between politics, economy and war that characterizes the “accumulation machination” [xx] capitalist is the same. Taking Clausewitz's classic phrase: if “war is nothing more than the continuation of State policy [die fortgesetzte Staatspolitik][xxx] by other means”, it is possible to affirm, as already indicated, that the second world war was nothing more than the realization of capitalist competition by other means. An analogy that is ratified when we consider that, despite the specific differences, the illusion of competition and politics make up the same movement as the illusion of the capitalist mode of production.

These elements are important for us to understand the unfolding of the second thesis defended by Demirović. The period of the extreme right taking power and its various representations with the crisis that erupted in the USA in 2008 does not represent the end of a conjuncture that expresses a new feeling of dissatisfaction present in all social strata, accentuated in the indeterminate middle class, with policy and its administrative shortcomings.

On the contrary, the movement we are experiencing indicates a process of reorganization and an attempt to maintain this same logic, or as the title itself indicates, a neoliberal strategy of overcoming/domination [Coping] of crises. The systemic character of the capital-relation expansion, often assumed as a beforehand by certain “Marxisms”, thus losing its complex specificity, it cannot be confused with a metaphysics of the expansion of power in itself, as if the dominion of man over man always tended, at any time and in any society, to expansion!

In this sense, it is necessary to keep in mind how, despite the contingencies immanent to the expansive and always constitutive character of the bourgeois world, the multiplicity of apparently diverse causes express the same process. For example: the transformation of the representativeness crisis into an exclusive and causal result of supposed political and administrative inefficiencies, that is, of subjective choices of individuals in power and the alteration of the conscience of those who are not in power (this split is in itself even a fallacy!), blocking its understanding as a process inherent to the incapacity of bourgeois logic to eliminate poverty, inequality and misery – phraseology that unites the conjuncture of the welfare state and neoliberalism.

Even if the “lack of comfortable, peaceful, reasonable democratic freedom that prevails in advanced industrial civilization”, a sign of “technical progress”, of the predominance of technological rationality, as Marcuse emphasizes, can be considered an element of a certain alteration in the self-reflexivity of the relationship capital-labour, does not mean that the core of reflexivity has been, in itself, altered, or that the form of domination has undergone a qualitative mutation, after all, the layer of reality that serves as the basis for representations daily establishes false parameters and constructs based on in points of reference imposed by the practical determinations that reproduce the relations of production.

A very illustrative historical example, which points to an internal dynamic of this ever-repeating crisis of political representation, is the complex structural effect of the interwar period and the 1929 crisis on the formation of everyday representations, for example in Germany, of the mass that forms the force of work, essentially divided into “workers [worker]", those “outside the factories” and employees [Employees], “those who live in stores, offices, streets of the big city”.[xxiii]

By echoing the picture of the crisis in the “big city” of Germany in the 1920s in a review of Siegfried Kracauer’s 1929 book (The employees), Bloch draws attention to the nuances in the formation of a class consciousness. Without dealing here with the sociological differences, so to speak, between “worker” and “employee”, and problematizing the reduction of the worker to the factory proletarian, it is quite evident that both make up, as wage earners, the same social layer of historical agents obliged to sell labor power. Although Kracauer and Bloch indicate that the latter are more inclined to confuse the hierarchy of companies with a supposedly spontaneous-natural hierarchy of the world, especially when this “naturalness” moves in the crisis, giving the impression of being alive and also devouring even those who bow to the “religion of everyday life”.

The attachment of this new bourgeois middle class[xxiii] to the rise of the Nazis does not, therefore – in any way – stem from an external element, from a particularity of the ethos of a people, on the contrary, it is an expression of the spontaneous impulses of the practical determinations of the relations of production. O ethos of the people is articulated as a means of channeling everyday representations to the extent of the particular historicity of the formation of production relations in Germany in the 1920s.

More than half a century after this European upheaval, the dispute for hegemony in the world with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the meteoric rise of China as a world power since the mid-1990s outlines a scenario that appears as new, but moves the same essence of the relationship -capital. In this sense, seeking to rehabilitate this idea that authoritarian populism – perfected for more than 30 years within the USA – is an expression of an internal rupture of redirection of the world bourgeoisie, coming out of Demirović’s texts, I will present a small theoretical digression so that we can understand how the bourgeoisie, or the complex structure that makes up the capitalist class, manages to determine ever more efficient strategic directions, since the principle of domination, however much in the bourgeois world all forms of government may refer to moments prior to it, continues a logic of its own authority in which social domination can appear as disconnected from “political or theocratic domination”[xxv]. The main effect is not new and has long since been explained by various critical traditions derived from Marx and proven by the class struggle of the XNUMXth century: social antagonism cannot appear as constitutive of sociability.

In structural terms, one of the main aspects of the magic of the “invisible hand” – which, as indicated, always expresses two sides of the same coin, as “free” competition, on the one hand, and as concentration/centralization (monopoly), on the other – is precisely the process of distributing the surplus value produced by the totality of social capital among individual capitalists. This dimension has repercussions on Marx's classic explanation of how, in the transformation of the medieval mercantile world into a bourgeois world, the historical-systemic visibility of the formation of value as surplus value and profit, and of the workforce as salaried work and wages, becomes becomes invisible in properly capitalist distribution, when profit is naturalized as an engine of sociability and salaried work as a “humanization” factor.

If we go back to the well-known introduction of Grundrisse, it is possible to find the prelude to an important critique of basic concepts of classical economics: production, consumption and distribution. The impossibility of separating them as an organic whole is articulated with the systemic need for relative autonomy for each of these relationships. The universalization and naturalization of capitalist production as a reflection of humanity's natural-civilizing instincts is associated with distribution processes as a result of historical moments of organization of societies. Marx's target is the apologetic-scientific confusion of classical economics – always criticized by him – which, based on the gradation of people's productivity, establishes the “summit” [Height] of an “industrial people” as the “summit” of history.[xxiv]

Bourgeois self-consciousness is inseparable from its historical self-distortion, an aspect already more than evident for the young Marx.28 The history of the victors as a measure – presupposed and veiled – of the history of the vanquished. The general part of the economics books (Marx has Mill and Smith in mind in this passage) introduces the “universal conditions” of any and all production as proof of present progress. “For economists”, he adds, “this general/universal part is not just about that. Production, first of all, must be – see, for example, Mill – unlike distribution, etc., presented as encrusted [eingefaßt] in eternal natural laws, independent of history, opportunity in which bourgeois relations are, in abstracto, pushed under the table like irrefutable laws of nature. In distribution, in the opposite sense, men must have allowed themselves, in fact, every type of arbitration”.[xxv]

The distribution would be the result of external factors to the historical process, pre-economic elements, therefore, determinants beforehand of production. Distribution would correspond to the division and allocation of land, distribution of wages and profit, to production, respectively, land, labor and capital. The historical struggle and development would organize distribution and determine production, as if a historically legitimized mode of production was born. “If societies are considered as a whole, distribution still seems, on the other hand, to precede production and to determine it; as if it were a pre-economic fact [anteökonomisches fact]. A conquering people divides the land among the conquerors and thus imposes a definite form and division of landed property; consequently determines production. Or it turns the conquered into slaves and thus turns slave labor into the foundation of production. Or, a people, by means of revolution, break the great landed property into parcels; thus giving production, through this new distribution, a new character. Either legislation perpetuates landed property in certain families, or it divides labor [as] hereditary privilege and fixes it in castes. In all these cases, and they are all historical, distribution does not seem articulated and determined by production, but, on the contrary, production appears articulated and determined by distribution”.30

As indicated, Marx removes any division between distribution and production, even demonstrates the systemic functionality of this separation and how the historical relationship between distribution and production necessarily composes the same inseparable movement.31 But from that point, making a leap to the manuscripts that make up Book III of The capital, the distribution process, in a different dimension from the critique of the introduction to floorplans, gains a new systemic place, both in Marx's exposition and in the historical development of the bourgeois world,32that is, in the internal becoming of the capital-relation.

Distribution is – considering this origin in the distribution/production interrelation particular to the various modes of production prior to the capitalist mode of production – internalized by a historically unprecedented movement, through which specifically capitalist competition produces an arbitrary “center of gravity” to determine displacements and expansion mobility and determination of production relations.

The process of “equalization/compensation” [Ausgleichung], much more than just determining the rate of profit between the branches of production, of constituting a social mechanism for determining prices by a mere relationship between supply and demand or, in essence, the distribution of surplus value,33 can be considered as the systemic power that particularizes the form of the bourgeois political element, the moment in which in total reproduction the capitalist mode of production manages to guarantee the exercise of discretion by the capitalist class. The exposition of this issue goes beyond the limits proposed here, it is only important to retain that the will, previously considered a factor of historical contingency – “in the distribution, in the opposite direction, men must have allowed themselves, in fact, all kinds of will” –, without losing this character, now operates within the process of competition between capitalists, as an element of rationalization of competition between capitalists, who now move and direct history, but in a space of displacement of their own.

It is certainly not a matter of problematizing the ever-answered question of the relationship between politics and economics, or of the critical explanatory organization of the lack of the possibility of understanding legal relations as “forms of the State” through an internal – even if historical – unfolding. , “The scientific analysis of the capitalist mode of production demonstrates, on the contrary, that it is a mode of production of a characteristic type, which belongs to a determinate [Bestimmtheit] specific historical, which, like any other determined mode of production, presupposes a given degree of the productive social forces and their forms of development as its historical condition [.] A condition that is itself the result and the historical product of a previous process and from which the new mode of production departs as a given foundation; in such a way that the relations of production corresponding to this specific, that is, historically determined, mode of production – relations that men contract in their process of social life, that is, in the creation of their social life – have a specific character, historical and transitory; and that, finally, the so-called relations of distribution are essentially identical with these relations of production, one side being twisted [kehrseite] of them, in such a way that both share the same historically transitory character.” (MEGA II 4.2, p.895).

One of the main issues of Marx's work, that is, of the critique of the bourgeois world and its historical development, involves understanding, above all, that the capital-relation is not a metaphysical entity that operates according to an insurmountable automaton, now represented as the State, sometimes as History, sometimes as some form of transcendent direction of the world. It is not, it is always important to remember, the criticism that considers the simulacra of liberation that everyday life offers, either under the rule of differences between social classes, or under a supposed plurality of “individual” interests, as a mere sociological problem, political or philosophical. On the contrary, the capital-relation is composed of a complex dynamic that, despite being multiple, constitutes a concrete center of gravity that always feeds back or oxygenates its diverse sociological, political and philosophical representations.

The great neoliberal conjuncture, guided by the equalization that capitalist competition imposes in the period, is, above all, the explanation of the progression of the control mechanisms of the social antagonisms that constitute bourgeois politics. Mechanisms that are as old as the dynamics of equalization are immanent to the capitalist mode of production. The alteration of the forms of control, of the “situations [conditions] of the capitalist mode of production”, does not imply changing its conditions, but the other way around. The expression of the articulations of maintenance of conditions is highlighted by Marx in a passage that could be transcribed literally to elucidate the dynamics of neoliberal domination, not just its “liberal phase” normally restricted to the XNUMXth century: “Capital achieves a stability of this equalization, to a greater or lesser extent, the greater the capitalist development in a given national society; that is, the more appropriate the situations in a country [conditions] of the capitalist mode of production. With the advance of the capitalist mode of production, its conditions [Conditions] also develop, or he subjects the whole to the social conditions within which the production process advances in relation to itself, to its specific character and to its immanent laws. The continuous equalization [Ausgleichung – compensation] of continuing inequalities [Ungleichheiten] are realized more quickly: (1) the more mobile the capital, that is, the more easily it can be transferred from one sphere to another; this also includes spatial mobility; (2) the more quickly work can be flung from one sphere to another and from one place of production to another.

Item (1) assumes complete freedom of trade (free trade) within society and elimination of all monopolies, except the natural ones, that is, arising from the capitalist mode of production itself. And even more: development of the credit system, which concentrates floating social capital (floating) as an inorganic mass of social capital before individual capitalists; subordination of the various spheres of production under capitalists, (this included in the assumption, if it is assumed, that it is a question of the transformation of values ​​into production prices in all spheres of production exploited in a capitalist way; however, this equalization itself finds greater obstacles if numerous and massive spheres of production not operated in a capitalist way interpose and intertwine in the new spheres operated in a capitalist way.) A certain density of population.

In item (2) the overcoming [repeal] of all laws that prevent workers from migrating from one sphere of production to another or from one place of settlement of production to any other. Indifference of the worker towards the content of his work. Maximum possible reduction of work in all spheres of production to simple work. Elimination of all professional prejudices. Above all, submission of the worker to the capitalist mode of production, etc. additional details are beyond our limits, as they must be developed in a treatise “On Competition”.[xxviii]

Contrary to what the classic reading of Pollock [State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations, 1941][xxviii] With regard to the primacy of the political over the economic in the phase of so-called state capitalism, equalization is not a “law” particular to the market economy or a response to state intervention in the economy, whether in the Nazi-fascist form of state capitalism. or not welfare state postwar. Just as the specifically capitalist market, in addition to mercantile circulation, presupposes some degree of competition, the specifically bourgeois political element presupposes “equalization” as the drive center of the subjectivity of the “automatic subject”[xxix], of the value that is valued, as a movement of self-reflexivity of self-awareness of the individuality of the capitalist. Starting concretely from contingency, from the “lack” of controlled predictability of the market, which seems to insert and equate everyone as owners of goods in the chance of becoming history, in which inequality, maintained as a “plan of God” by birth – after all, as they say, no one chooses whether they are born rich or poor! – is offset by the “arbitrity” of competition as the apparent engine of history, as an illusion of the universal power of arbitration.

Between successive catastrophes – from the naturalization of the fascination of accumulation inherent to the violence of the colonial system, a constitutive assumption of the capitalist mode of production, to the apotheotic apathy of the 2020 pandemic that appears, in turn, as if it were an external chance to the global process of production [xxx]– the “social conditions within which the production process advances in relation to itself” are daily perverted as random, apparently alien “situations” and are mystified as something in themselves. And here without unfolding with due seriousness that Marx's texts demand this subtle difference between “condition” and “situation”, it is important to make clear that, as “an automatic subject” [ein automatischer Subjekt], that is, as a movement to replace its presuppositions through cycles of accumulation, capital does not immediately reproduce the will of its members, but reproduces itself by conditioning the will of individuals and groups to its reproduction. This aspect, well known under various approaches in Marxism, is fundamental to apprehend the bourgeois political element: this is not formed by a mere reflection of the capitalist mode of production or by some type of adaptive superstructural ideological process, nor can it be explained solely by the traces history of the relationship free (slave) trade / (european) free will constitutive of modern liberalism, always authoritarian[xxxii]; on the contrary, it is the very self-reproduction of capital that abstract the political element.

And abstracting here does not simply mean deriving something from the real, conforming a false or true representation, but expresses the movement that pulls out a moment that is internal to itself: “The continuous equalization” [..]

“of continuous inequalities”, that is, the replacement of free will at a systemic level “overcomes” (naturalizes and neutralizes) its individual character among capitalists who, by “freely” carrying out their free will, think they are following the authority of a common need , universal: “While, on the basis of capitalist production, the mass of immediate producers is opposed by the social character of their production in the form of a strictly regulatory authority and a social mechanism of the labor process and a fully articulated hierarchy – an authority that , however, only falls on its carriers as the personification of working conditions in relation to work and not, as in previous forms of production, as political or theocratic rulers –, among the carriers [Links] from this authority, the capitalists themselves, who only confront each other as owners of commodities, the most complete anarchy reigns, within which the social bond of production only becomes valid [claim] as preponderant natural law [übermächtig] in relation to individual arbitrariness”. [xxxi]

The validation of the social bond of production as a law of nature appears as a denial of arbitrariness. A specific “negation”, since the validation process denies performing the link in another form, that is, it potentiates it through [über-mächtig] of the will of capitalist individuality which, at the basis of the mode of production, is the personification of the “work condition” – an authority that is not the personification of the transcendent (“political and theocratic rulers”), but of the transcendental necessity constituted by historicity of the formation of the work process. A complex movement that converges a relationship that unfolds a historical-spatial layer that organizes and reproduces the totality of social life, including the flows of formation of wills and interests.[xxxii]

*Vinicius Matteucci de Andrade Lopes is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at USP.



Alex Demirović. Capital crisis and the end of politics: authoritarian populism, neoliberalism and council democracy. Translation Isabelle Sanders & Vinícius Matteucci de Andrade Lopes. Goiânia, Publisher Phillos Academy, 2021. Available at:



[I] Dilma, Temer and Bolsonaro: crisis, rupture and trends in Brazilian politics. [digital resource] / Armando Boito Jr.. Párias Ideias Collection: Orgs. Antônio Camelo; Virginio Gouveia. – Goiânia-GO: Publisher Phillos Academy, 2020.

[ii] Marx works on these differences in Book III of The capital (MEW 25, MEGA II 4.2).

[iii] GROZIER, MJ; HUNTINGTON, SP; WATANUKI, J. The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission. New York University Press, 1975.

[iv] KANT, I. Idea of ​​a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2011

[v] Process mediated by all sides by the geopolitics of the cold war.

[vi] MARCUSE, H. One-Dimensional Man. Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. (1964).

[vii] The concept appears for the first time in an essay by Hilferding published in the magazine of the theoretical organ of the Austrian socialists, “Der Kampf” (1915), “Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Klassen?”. See Organisierter Capitalismus. Vorausssetzungen und Anfänge. Hrsg. Heinrich August Winkler. Göttingen.Vandenhoeck. Ruprecht, 1974.

[viii] DEMIROVIĆ, Alex and SABLOWSKI, Thomas. The crisis in Europe and the accumulation regime with financial dominance. Trans.: Kristina Michahelles and Simone Goncalves. São Paulo: Rosa Luxemburgo Foundation, 2015, p. 32 / Finanzdominierte Akkumulation und die Krise in Europa., 2012. (available in:

[ix] Evidently there is no capitalist competition without capital-labour antagonism and the conjuncture is more complex in terms of arranging the correlation of forces between wars, considering the small history that leads to the outbreak of World War II: the role of social democracy as a defender of representative parliamentarism and the State; the distorted opposition between the liberal world and autocratic bourgeois ways of life, which reveals, in reality, a passage of internal development of the liberal world; the role of the effects of the Bolshevik Revolution on the self-reflexivity of the mode of operation of the political/economic relationship, etc. The simplification that we have adopted serves to not lose sight of the macrostructure of the movement of history within the development of the capital-relation, mainly from the era of catastrophe.

[X] HOBSBAWN, age of extremes: the short twentieth century: 1914-1991. Trans.: Marcos Santarrita: São Paulo: Companhia das Letras. 1995.p. 223 and ss. 12 Without generalizing while formulating, the question of the “most abstract form of the crisis”, which normally appears in the contradictory unity between use and exchange value, or between “development of the productive forces and the limited nature of consumption” (REICHELT, H. Zur logischen Struktur des Kapitalsbegriff, Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt am Main,

1971, p. 188). “Universal possibility [general], abstract from the crisis – means nothing more than the more abstract form of crisis, without the content, without a reason capable of filling the content of it. Buying and selling can be separated. they are while crisis potency, and their coincidence always remains a critical moment for the commodity. They can, however, convert into one another in a fluid way. It remains a critical moment, therefore, in such a way that the more abstract form of crisis (and thus the formal possibility of crisis) is the very metamorphosis of the commodity which contains, only as a developed movement, the contradiction, enclosed in the unity of the commodity, between use-value and exchange-value, and consequently between money and commodity. (MEW 26.2, p. 510)

[xi] See Waiting for the truth. Entrepreneurs, jurists and transactional voters. Stories of civilians who made the military dictatorship. MOTELEONE, J. [Et. alii]. São Paulo. Editorial Alameda, 2016.

[xii] “These alterations constitute, in fact, an unfolding of trends that have their origin in the reorganization of capitalism on a world scale, under the hegemony of the United States, after the second world war. With the agreements of Bretton Woods, in 1945, world capitalism was endowed with a series of bodies and institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), which allowed the gradual liberalization of international trade, which resulted in an intense expansion of international trade. In a first phase, this expansion took place mainly among the advanced capitalist countries, unfolding, from the 60s onwards, in a gradual opening of these countries' markets to exports.

manufactures from less industrialized countries.” (SINGER, Paul – The Crisis of the “Miracle”.7th Edition. RJ: Paz e Terra,

1982, 89-90, apud RAGO, ANTHONY. Ideology 64: managers of atrophic capital, pp. 358 and 359.)

[xiii] RAGO, ANTHONY. Ideology 64: managers of atrophic capital, São Paulo: Thesis (Doctorate) – Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, 1998, p. 362.

[xiv] The utopia of an autonomous Brazilian capitalism was brought down by the 1964 coup: “The internationalization of the economy completed and deepened its economic subsumption, giving it the limits of its industrial accumulation, which materialized in distortion and incompleteness, determining the total and definitive impossibility of any fantasy regarding the autonomization of the national capitalist system.” (CHASIN. J. “Hasta cuando”? About the November elections. In: Essay n. 10, São Paulo, 1982)

[xv] PAULANI, L.. M. “The crisis of the accumulation regime with dominance of financial valuation and the situation in Brazil”. In: Advanced Studies 23 (66), 2009, pp.27-8: “When talking about the dominance of financial valuation, this does not mean that financial valuation is quantitatively more important than productive valuation, although, as we will see later, financial wealth has grown exponentially over the past 30 years. The prevalence of financial valuation is qualitative rather than quantitative. The fact that its exteriority in relation to production has been lodged within the very core of the productive sphere is what explains the countless changes that have taken place there, whether in the work relationship (growth in precarious and informal work, in the number of temporary workers, self-employed and part-time, etc.), whether in the form of management of the work process (flexible workers, Toyotism), or even in the organization of the production process as such (generalization of just in time, customizing production, productive relocations).”

[xvi] DEMIROVIĆ, Alex. Capital crisis and the end of politics: authoritarian populism, neoliberalism and council democracy. Trans. Isabelle Sanders/ Vinícius Matteucci de Andrade Lopes. Párias Ideias Collection – Goiânia-GO: Publisher Phillos Academy, 2021, p. 91.

[xvii] SAWAYA, R. Economic power, development and neoliberalism in Brazil. In: Magazine of the Brazilian Society of Political Economy. 39/October 2014, p. 130.

[xviii] The antagonism between capital and labor continues to produce and reproduce class consciousness, adjudications, imputed (Lukács) by the duty of survival in the system, is delimited by the inevitable self-reflexivity of consciousness, no matter to what degree it is designed, after all, the class consciousness is imposed, which precisely makes the spontaneity of its mobilization impossible.

[xx] In Chapter 25 of Book I, The modern theory of colonization, Marx explains this: “In western/western Europe, the homeland (Heimatland) of political economy, the process of original accumulation is more or less accomplished”. (MEW 23, p. 792)

[xx] “The [colonial system] proclaimed the machination of accumulation [Plusmacherei] as the last and only end of humanity”. (MEW 23, p. 782). O Plusmacherei is not simply the “production/extraction” of More (Marx does not use the term “value” anywhere here), but the “machination” [Macherei], the action that acts motivated by greed [scielen], by the fascination [Macherei – facinus] to accumulate, provided by the establishment of the credit system of the banks, which lend money to the State to transform the land to be colonized into a means of production and capital. Deep down, what Marx is subtly indicating here, critically articulating religious metaphors as he always does, is that the colonial system, the formation of credit systems, of rentiers operating alongside and internally in absolutist States, is that before understanding the “greed” as an ideal moral-religious artifice, apprehended as something in itself, it is necessary to understand how the concrete rationalization of greed is constituted, that is, how the fascination is systemically internalized and the specific forms of capitalist greed are constituted. About the term: MACHEREI, Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm, digitalisierte Fassung im Wörterbuchnetz des Trier Center for Digital Humanities, Version 01/21.

[xxx] Not only of “politics”, as a general concept or a relationship that would be defined by internal characteristics, but of “State policy”! It is worth remembering that Clausewitz's analysis of the “metaphysics” of War is written shortly after Napoleon's wars of hegemonic expansion (1792 – 1815), Vom Kriege (first edition, 1832). “Apart from this factual difference existing in wars, the point of view needed in practice must be to delimit exactly and clearly [:] war is nothing but the continuation of State policy by other means.” [Außer diesem faktisch bestehenden Unterschied in den Kriegen muß noch der ebenfalls praktisch notwendige Gesichtspunkt ausdrücklich und genau

festgestellt werden, daß der Krieg nichts ist als die fortgesetzte Staatspolitik mit anderen Mitteln.]

[xxiii] BLOCK, E. Erbschaft dieser Zeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1962, p.34.

[xxiii] “Their situation has also changed since the war; but your awareness has not increased fivefold, the awareness of your situation is completely out of date. Despite meager wages, production lines [laufendem Band], extreme insecurity of existence, fear of old age, barriers of the “higher” strata, in short, proletarianization de facto, they still feel like bourgeois middle class. Their bleak work makes them apathetic rather than rebellious, credentials nurture a status consciousness that has no real class consciousness behind it; haunted only by the exteriority, without further content, of an absent bourgeoisie. In contrast to the worker, they are very loosely integrated into production; therefore, economic changes are perceived only later or only slightly understood.” (BLOCK, E. Erbschaft dieser Zeit. Op. cit.)

[xxv] MEGA II 4.2, 898.

[xxiv] MARX, K. Ökonomische Manuskripte 1857/1858 [Grundrisse]. MEW 42.Berlin. Dietz Verlag, 2015, p.22 28 In the writings of German Ideology, for example, this is a recurring criticism.

[xxv] floorplans. MEW 42, p.42 (my italics). 30 MEW 42, p. 31. MEW 42, p. 31 and ff.

[xxviii] MEGA II 4.2, p. 269-70.

[xxviii] “The execution of the plan is imposed by state power in such a way that nothing essential is left to the operation of the laws of the market or other economic “laws”. This can be interpreted as a supplementary rule stating the principle that all economic problems should be treated as if they were ultimately political. The creation of an economic sphere in which the State should not intrude, an essential aspect of the era of private capitalism, is essentially repudiated” […]“For example, new investments no longer automatically flow to the economic fields where the greatest profits are obtained, rather, they are directed by the planning committee. As a result, the mechanism known as equalization of the rate of profit has ceased to function.” (POLLOCK, F. “State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitation”. In: Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Hrsg. von Max Horkheimer. Jahrgang 9. 1941, p. 205).

[xxix] The term “automatic subject” appears in book I d'The capital in the first moment in which he deals with the transformation of money into capital in the specifically capitalist form of circulation. (MARX, K, KI, p. 169)

[xxx] Harvey points out in his text some of these internal links: HARVEY. Anti-capitalist policy in the time of Covid-19, In: Coronavirus and the class struggle. Land without masters, 2020, p. 16. Available at:

[xxxii] LOSURDO, D. Counter-History of Liberalism. 2. Editing. Trans. Giovanni Semeraro. São Paulo: Ideas & Letters, 2006.

[xxxi] (MEGA II 4.2, p. 898, emphasis added)

[xxxii] The formation of the work process as a valuation process happens through a complex historical “legitimation” that involves.

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