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By Gavin Smith

Modern kinds of capitalism and the nation require shut analytic cognizance to bare the stipulations of risk for potent counter-politics. however the perform of collective politics should be studied via historic ethnography if we're to appreciate what may well make people's activities powerful. This ebook indicates a study time table designed to maximise the political leverage of standard humans confronted with ever extra distant states and applied sciences that make capitalism more and more rapacious. Gavin Smith opens and closes this sequence of interlinked essays via offering a concise framework for untangling what he calls "the society of capital" and as a consequence a almost certainly arguable manner of seeing its modern beneficial properties. This e-book tackles the political conundrums of our occasions and asks what roles intellectuals may perhaps play therein.

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In the highland area where I worked in Peru, one source of livelihood for local people came from their household plots of arable land. In the years before I arrived in the area the small unit of the farm with its household labour reproduced itself by mobilizing labour through the domestic relationships in the household and putting them to work on the plot of farm land. Capital: Structural, Phenomenological, Financial | 37 Typically a husband and wife with their unmarried children – who begin as dependents and soon grow to become workers – constituted this labour force.

We may speak of age relations, patriarchy, race and gender; we may speak of the homeless and the unemployed and so on. While in none of these cases are we talking precisely of the kinds of relations this very small scenario has enacted, it is at least possible that traces of them could be found were we to ‘go behind the backs’ of some of these terms that we use in contexts far removed from what we think of as the economy or the market. The important point is, then, that a wide variety of ways in which the process of transferring value from one person (or group of persons) to others will create differences between 36 | Intellectuals and (Counter-)Politics people as well as relying on pre-existing ones.

What we are about to discuss is nothing like the way an actual capitalist society works, only an extrapolation from a characteristic feature of its reproduction: its ‘imperative to unlimited accumulation of capital’ (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005: 4). Subsequent chapters provide evidence for real, historical and varying actuality, but they are grounded in an understanding of the society we live in, in the terms laid out here. Marx begins a short reflection on his approach by stressing that his subject is not individual actors, or people’s subjective consciousness, or even the economy narrowly understood, but rather society as a whole – ‘the subject, society, must constantly be kept in mind as the premise from which we start’ (Marx 1904: 295, quoted in Rubin [1928] 1973: 3).

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