• On the "Accumulation by Dispossession"

  • By Marco Berlinguer | 15 Jun 10
  • More the crisis of financial globalization deepens, more the left seems weakening. Italy, at least, perfectly mirrors such a situation.

    Nevertheless a qualitative change is mounting. For the better or for the worst, we are on the edge of a tipping point.

    Giovanni Arrighi would describe it as the arrival to its limits of the “long cycle of financial expansion”, now investing and disorganizing the same system of states, at its own center.

    Societies, this time especially in the global north, are growingly disoriented, in the hands of ruling classes which are just improvising.

    The only project amounts to desperately try to restore the old “normality”. While the list of exceptional, heterodox and unprecedented actions accumulated is already impressive, and - we can be sure - far to be concluded.

    To have a measure of the “impossible mission” they are engaged with, we should ask, with David Harvey, how intense and devastating is going to be the “accumulation by dispossession”, that states – already weak and delegitimized - should enforce in their attempt to keep alive the faith in the pyramid of “fictitious capital” (of debts and inflated financial values) accumulated in these decades, which is melting down.

    Furthermore that, while this is going to radicalize inequality, impoverishment and exclusion, it is as well going to further depress economy and deepen states fiscal crisis.

    As Hosbawn wrote prophetically some years ago, there is no linear future in front of us.

    The shameful last game we are witnessing – with the states and central banks keeping artificially alive with all sorts of tricks the financial capital, and this turning back to speculative gambles, betting on states failure, that is then on its own last underpinnings – gives the measure of a system simply going crazy.

    A confused and frustrated perception of a no way out situation is spreading, which can further screw our societies into irrational and disintegrating forces. But yet here - in the growing mass perception of the systemic nature of the crisis – also lies a possibility.

    A necessary condition would be to abandon any timidity and intellectual subalternity to crack ideas which trap or “slave” - as Keynes would say – our minds.

    If there was a political leadership today, its priority should be to promote an exceptional intellectual effort to grasp and re-frame the fundamental changes happened within the carapace of the financialization, among which one of the most important is the digital revolution and what Castells calls “informationalism”.

    As in the 30s, but yet in a very different fashion, a new institutional framework is dramatically necessary to guide what Polanyi would call a new “embeddedness” of economy into societies, that is also – and in first place - a de-commodification of central aspects of it. The most important of which is probably money. The decay of the financial system and of its untenable contradictions and irrationalities, should bring to call directly and without timidity into question the private appropriation and the capitalistic absolutization of money creation, which lies at the foundation of the neoliberal turn and of its disastrous outcome.

    Indeed, if we look around, mainly outside of the political systems, a new critical search is diffusively under way and spreading. It's meshing in unheard ways traditions, social forces, intellectual and creative capacities. It's attacking as a swarm, from many different angles, basic notions, which underpin the existing institutional and ideological framework. Questioning our understanding of wealth, value, development, well being. Exploring new ways of understanding and regulating collective coordination, action and production. Enlarging and transforming our vision of the connections we are part of as human being and as part of the nature.

    If there is a chance today it lies here: in the condensation of this diffused, but yet weak, scattered new critical inquiry into a new political vision.