TALK: “Capitalism beyond property? The recuperation of General Intellect through Capital.”

The Great Transformation: On the Future of Modern Societies

September 24, 2019, 10:30 Uhr

Friedrich-Schiller-Univeristät Jena, lecture hall complex

For a long time it seemed to be two prerequisites seemed to be necessary for capitalist market economy to function properly: crystal clear property titles on the one hand and scarcity on the other. In the meantime, free information and user generated content has become ubiquitous. In his 2015 book, Post-Capitalism, Paul Mason concludes that “an economy based on information, with its tendency to zero-cost products and weak property rights, cannot be a capitalist economy”. In this development, which could be described as the triumphal rise of general intellect, Marx‘ famous term developed in the Grundrisse to describe the ever increasing amount of general social knowledge embodied in capitalist production, lies what Marx calls the inner frontier of Capitalism and its reproductive model based on the exploitation of the workforce in direct labor.

But this development doesn’t seem to be accompanied by a crisis of capitalism, let alone its end or transformation into some post-capitalism, zero marginal cost society or commonism. However, the reality is rather a mutation of capitalism towards a form that is based on digital platforms which generates billions in cash harvesting general intellect itself. Powerful internet corporations appear bent on imposing a new world order, with its own rules, laws and backed by an inexhaustible capital base. The ruling class of the digital world as Nenad Romic called the Silicon Valley digital oligarchy a couple of years ago, is apparently giving rise to a new digital capitalism. The communist utopia described in the Grundrisse, the global triumph of general intellect, is actually becoming a reality – albeit firmly within a capitalist framework. Capitalism is by no means disappearing, rather, it is intensifying as Jason Williamson from the Sleaford Mods poignantly remarked.