#OccupyWallStreet Capitalism’s Death Drive, & Anti-Capitalism

#OccupyWallStreet reveals a number of propositions that need to be tested, challenges, debated, and problematized. This work cannot be done just by political pundits, but must be done by our political leaders. They need to deal seriously with the following:

  • Democracy and capitalism are not the same thing, in fact, left to its own devices they can be mutually exclusive means of governance (Yes, I consider capitalism a form of governance).
  • Neither Republican or Democratic policies actually seek to implement the invisible hand, both parties seek to use government (albeit differently-barely) to creatively manage the economy.
  • Capitalism’s drive to concentrate wealth may be a death drive–a desire to realize its own destruction in the satisfaction of its ultimate desire–complete control over all capital:

“Death then is a part of the desiring-machine,a part that must itself be judged, evaluated in the functioning of the machine and the system of its energetic conversions, and not as an abstract principle.” (Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipis, p. 332).

  • Given the increasing gap between the 1% and the 99% it seems impossible that there can be enough consumers left to consume the good the economy relies own. We are distributing wealth in a way that is, day by day, shutting consumers out of even basic necessities. Certainly, the standard of living has increased to a degree that many people confuse needs and wants. However,  the long term unemployed, uninsured, under-fed, and under-education in this nation is increasing and the stability of the economy is at stake.

Each of these points are meant to be contested, I see them as grim economic realities that require some very difficult policy adjustments because the market will not resolve these issues as long as our economic-political policies provide incentives that speed on this death drive. If we weigh our needs and our desires, our work is to take this death drive and hold it up to be “judged, evaluated in the functioning of the machine and the system of its energetic conversions.” The sole unifying goal of #OWS should be to help hold this instinct to light, other political effects are icing on the cake.

A great many of the swing-and-miss takes on the #OWS have levied complaints that the movement engages in class warfare and is made up of anti-capitalists malcontents. The charge of class may actually be a fair point and one that demands emphasis:

There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

If this movement accomplishes nothing other then forcing America to focus on income inequality, class mobility, and the growth of financial services beyond the scope of common sense controls then the movement will have done a service to this nation.

To the charge that the protestors are anti-capitalist; again sure there are probably a number of people drawn to the movement in part out of a politics of anti-capitialism. It is a mistake to either discount them or the movement because of their presence. What should frighten the 1% is that the 99% inevitably represents a heterogenous movement that lacks the kind of charismatic leadership that can make it so easy to discredit a movement. Thus, the movement has anti-capitalists, socialists, democrats (no these terms do not all mean the same thing), some republicans, and a great many other parts of the American political spectrum. Moreover, even calling someone anti-capitalist does not really tell us all that much about their politics (See Jeremy Gilbert’s critique of Naomi Klein’s No Logo in his book AntiCapitalism).

Social movements in the digital age are more heterogeneous that we could ever imagine, or it may be fair to say the heterogeneity that was always already present may be more visible today. When we read the group as a homogenous group of angry dissidents who defecate on symbols of authority (see, given the content of this post, the ironically named The Blaze‘s post on #OWS), we allow our selves to ignore the serious and pressing political problems that #OWS is trying to bring to light. #OWS is not a homogenous movement and it is  political miscalculation to read it as such–this is true of both is critics and supporters.

As the movement marks its one month anniversary, many have called for them to outline more concrete political goals. Yet, the nature of #OWS defies such demands. If #OWS is to remain a creative force that opens space for new creativity and movement in striated spaces of America’s unequal income distribution. Our best hopes for this movement is that it does not simply become another set of party slogans, instead it becomes a source for creatively undermining the systems that it opposes, not at a molar level to undo all of capitalism but at the micro level where shifts in flows of capital can be politically efficacious.


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Filed under Cultural Studies, Deleuze, news and Culture, Rhetoric

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