It all started with a bang. “It was necessary to create the conditions for a swerve.” But some bangs are bigger than others. If we eat our desert first and forgo the tough-going beginning of Capital, we’ll find the becoming-necessary of capital in chapters 26+. “Written in the annals of mankind of blood and fire” the so-called primitive accumulation provides the first stock to be thrown in the fire. Once added, as the newly dispossessed become abstract labor and therefore fit into the equation like an element, the encounter begins to work like a chemical reaction and M-C-M’ begins. But the original accumulation of forces was not enough to keep the process going on its own. Like an arranged marriage, the encounter is forced until the betrothed learn to love one another.
With critical mass achieved, the chemical reaction develops its own rhythms and gestures. The factory bell organizes the fluid motions of the assembly line. Even larger cycles begin to swing into motion with the boom and the bust of the market. But as Karl is ever so pleased to remind us, primitive accumulation is political economy’s original sin, and so the chemical process will always be haunted by a radical instability. Either Charlie Chaplin can’t keep up in our modern times or the organic composition of capital falls, swelling the reserve army of labor. But even as the violence of the system ebbs and flows, conditions need to be produced and re-produced. This is the ground on which the truth of history is perched.
One thought on “The Becoming-Necessary of the Capitalist Mode of Production”
which, of course, in the paper has the ranciere quote i put up here a while ago as its epigraph:
“In the face of those who denigrate decadence, the supposed optimism of the theory of productive forces is immediately ripped to piece by the play of two contrary powers: the grand tragedy of water and fire, of production and destruction, and the low comedy of earth and air, of fabrication and imitation. One may talk as much as one likes about Marx’s “Promethean” theory, but the body of Prometheus is fragmented from the outset. The materialism of history and the dialectics of revolution run the risk of never encountering each other in it.” Rancière, The Philosopher and His Poor, 69