Time Wars & Capitalization

time-wars

One of those fascinating things about reading the Grundrisse periodically is that it weaves a tale of time, over and over, one that deals with capitalization and production not as “self-expansion” as many suggest, but rather as a cycle of self-circulation (feed-back circuits), and acceleration of the process of surplus value into profit without loss. Below I quote only two passages:

The frequency with which the same capital can repeat the production process (creation of new value) in a given period of time is evidently a condition not posited directly by the production process itself. Thus, while circulation does not itself produce a moment of value-determination, for that lies exclusively in labour, its speed does determine the speed with which the production process is repeated, values are created — thus, if not values, at least to a certain extent the mass of values. Namely, the values and surplus values posited by the production process, multiplied by the number of repetitions of the production process in a given period of time.(Page 471).

The smaller this labour time, the greater, as we have seen, the relative surplus value.(Page 453).

Throughout their many volumes (51?) Marx and Engels always come back to this cycle of value creation, and how capitalists over time discovered more efficient (Taylorism) ways to speed up this process between production of surplus value, and the uselessness of the products themselves. The capitalist has never concerned himself with the product, as much as the process of production. How to compress the time between production and circulation. For as they’ll say: “Thus, in addition to the labour time realized in production, the circulation time of capital enters in as a moment of value creation — of productive labour time itself. While labour time appears as value-positing activity, this circulation time of capital appears as the time of devaluation. (Page 471).” The point of capitalism is to narrow the time between value creation and the “time of devaluation” to nil.

One reason we’ve seen the capitalists enter into the current roulette wheel of Fast Trading which does away with the product altogether, yet retains its shadow as temporal circulation between loss and gain.

Ultimately this leads to the actual contradiction of capital:

“The continuity of production presupposes that circulation time has been
suspended. If it has not been suspended, then time must pass between the
different metamorphoses through which capital must travel; its circulation
time must appear as deduction from its production time. On the other hand, the nature of capital presupposes that it travels through the different phases of circulation not as it does in the mind, where one concept turns into the next at the speed of thought, in no time, but rather as situations which are separate in time. It must spend some time as a cocoon before it can take off as a butterfly. Thus the conditions of production arising out of the nature of capital itself contradict each other.”(Page 481).

It’s at this point in the Grundrisse that he gives his Theories of Surplus Value and Profit. (from 481 onward…). No room to resolve the time of suspension with that of speed here. I’ll only leave the base circle:

“‘Circulation is the more productive the more rapid it is; i.e. the less time
it requires to relieve the entrepreneur of the finished product and bring it to
market, and to bring the capital back to him in its first form.’ ‘The
entrepreneur can begin production again only after he has sold the completed product and has employed the price in purchasing new materials and new wages: hence, the more promptly circulation acts to bring about these two effects, the sooner is he in a position to begin his production anew, and the more profits does his capital bring in a given period of time.’ (Page 568).

If as Marx suggests this is the basic capitalist project then how could it ever end in Communism? The capitalist could care less about politics except as it pertains to this need for speed and profit. Capitalism sits outside politics altogether and does not care whether it is neoliberal or free-market communism. It has one objective the accumulation without waste of surplus value. The crisis in capital comes during that moment of Suspension when circulation comes to a halt and must lie fallow. In its seeking to accumulate it forgets that time is not free, its money; and, money is stored time. But as Marx says “money, in its immediate form, can therefore not be said to speed up the circulation of capital, rather delays it.”(Page 600). As long as that money is in circulation rather than brought back to the origin and production cycle we are in the “time of devaluation”.

In the very first chapter of Capital, Marx explains that value is time, the accumulation of time—time objectified, time that has become things, goods. It is not the time of work, of working in time, that produces value, for it matters little whether one is lazy or efficient. This is what he means by Suspension of time in the product. The product is frozen time. Money is frozen time. Anything outside the production cycle is frozen time, or the “time of devaluation” or pure loss. It’s this oversaturation of the market by overproduction whether in industrial or financial markets that tips the scale of time and produces the very contradiction of a slow-down or deceleration in the production cycle that causes the circulation of money to lie fallow – the Cocoon effect (Marx), or the “time of devaluation”. Only after lying fallow between two productive cycles, awaiting a new one to emerge does the market enter those depressive times, and it is this contradiction that must be overcome for the production cycle to begin anew.

In our time we are seeing the rise of immaterial financialization (i.e., fast trading, etc.) seeking to bypass the production cycle altogether, while at the same time automating and accelerating these very processes in a vacuum of ever faster circulation between the profit/loss time barriers in this process. Yet, the accumulating effect of surplus-value disappears within the virtual/actual process of this cycle leaving less and less profit over time due to entropic informational loss between cycles. It is this that has yet to be overcome. We (humans) exist outside the loop now, as extraneous and bit player in a game that no longer needs us as programmed modules. Therefore we’ve entered a new stage in the Time Wars.

The problem for the capitalist is not to overcome some external barrier, but rather to overcome time… the only politics is the temporal wars we’re in. Will those that support a Left or Right Accelerationism win the Time Wars? Or some other path? Or will the Time War of our current Mass Extinction Event overtake all players in this End Game? That remains to be seen…

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