Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Absolute Capitalism as Annihilating Nihil

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The rise of financial capitalism, the deterritorialization of production and exchange, and finally the emergence of a virtual class without territorial identity have been accompanied by a general process of deregulation. The globalization of corporate trade hindered and rendered impossible any all-encompassing legal control on their activity. The sovereignty of nation states made way for global corporations acting with absolute freedom, disregarding the local authority and shifting their immaterial assets from one location to another. This is particularly evident in reference to the environmental crisis, as the legal limits to the exploitation of physical resources and the pollution of the environment are systematically (and ultimately, suicidally) ignored by corporations.

At the same time, the globalization of the labour market destroyed the unionized power of workers, and opened the way to a general reduction of salaries, increased exploitation and the erosion of regulations covering working conditions and working hours.

This is why I believe that the contemporary global system should be defined as one of absolute capitalism, in which the only effective principles are those of value-accumulation, profit-growth and economic competition. These are its all-encompassing priorities, and the overwhelming impetus at its core. All other concerns, including the survival of the planet or the future of the next generation, are subsumed to these greater goals.

Compared to the past situation of bourgeois industrial capitalism, the relationship between social welfare and financial profit is now inverted. In the industrial economy, profits increased when citizens acquired enough money to buy the goods that were produced in the factories. In the sphere of financial capitalism, financial indicators go up only if social welfare crumbles and salaries fall.

Unsurprisingly, those few hundred billionaires listed in Forbes magazine have hugely increased their capital in 2010, 2011 and 2012, years which were dramatically marked by rising unemployment, poverty and cuts to social welfare.

Far from emancipating society from any rule, Neoliberal deregulation has emancipated capital from the political law and social needs, while subjecting society to the blind adherence to the law of financial accumulation. It has marked the beginning of an age of capitalist absolutism, in which capital accumulation and particularly financial accumulation are entirely independent (ab-solutus, untied) from the social interest.

Subjected to the deterritorialized financial abstraction, Europe is now destroying welfare and prosperity and paving the way to fear and to a resurgence of nationalism, ethnicism and war. The ferocious material quantification of the living body of society is laying the basis for a violent reaction, as witnessed in the current trend of nationalism and xenophobia. Anti-German hatred is growing in the Mediterranean countries, nationalist parties are gaining momentum in France, Hungary, Finland, Italy and Greece, as ever greater numbers of people are turning toward racist sentiments, and a wave of depression and despair is sweeping the continent.

In the speeches of Angela Merkel and other European politicians, the European Union implies submission to the ethos of debt, impoverishment, unemployment, fear.

In this way, the Humanist tradition, which was based on the idea that human destiny is not subjected to any theological law or necessity, is finally obliterated.1


1. Berardi, Franco “Bifo” (2015-02-03). Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide (Futures) Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

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