Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Hello, Voting Public | You Can Still Register to Vote... »

Friday, October 17, 2008


posted by on October 17 at 13:27 PM

Steven Shaviro just got me thinking. I read this passage in his penultimate post, “Crisis”

[O]rgies of destruction of capital, such as we are witnessing now, are part and parcel of the “creative destruction” (Schumpeter’s term, very much following Marx’s observations) that is the modus operandi of capitalism. Individual capitalists may suffer (though usually far less than the rest of us do), but these convulsions clear up the system, unclog it, so that new rounds of exploitation and capital accumulation may then take place…
…I read the passage and thought about another passage on page 104 of Raymond William’s book Marxism and Literature (one of the 27 or so books I constantly keep next to my bed). The William passage concerns the Benjaminian concept of correspondences:
At one level correspondences are resemblances, in seemingly very different specific practices, which may be shown by analysis to be both direct and directly related expressions of and responses to a general social process.

Walter Benjamin transformed (or translated, in the Latour sense—more about that in another post) the term from Baudelaire’s initial use of it in his poem “Correspondences”:

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité, Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté, Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.


Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
In a tenebrous and profound unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
The perfumes, the sounds, and colors correspond.

With all of this in mind, I now want to establish a new correspondence between of two seemingly dissimilar histories. The history of capitalism and the history of Dick Cheney’s heart.

Sensing a problem early Wednesday, Cheney saw the White House physician, who discovered the vice president was experiencing a recurrence of the irregular heartbeat. Cheney participated in regular morning briefings with President Bush, among other duties, and remained working at the White House until he went to George Washington University Hospital in the afternoon for treatment.

The process took nearly two hours, after which Cheney went home, said Megan Mitchell, a Cheney spokeswoman.

“An electrical impulse was delivered to restore the heart to normal rhythm,” she said. “The procedure went smoothly and without complication.”

From another report:

Mr Cheney, 67, has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery and operations to clear blocked arteries.

To begin with, correspond those details with the one in Shaviro’s passage:

[T]he modus operandi of capitalism…. these convulsions clear up the system, unclog it, so that new rounds of exploitation and capital accumulation may then take place.

Though one system or substance (or assemblage—more on that in another post) is social and the other organic, a diachronic (or historical) analysis of capitalism and Cheney’s heart would reveal convincing commonalities. The heart as the base of Cheney’s life; capitalism being the base of social life. The situation of the heart producing a certain type of person and the situation of capitalism resulting in a type of superstructure. Indeed, both went into a state of crisis at the same time, and both are treated with shocks to restore stability and confidence. Seriously, the two (the heart and mode of production) need to be examined as being expressions of some larger moment or world process.

RSS icon Comments


And both, as an expression of the body politic, have faults and limitations imposed by human fraility.

Posted by Vince | October 17, 2008 1:45 PM

however you want to slice it, they both need to die...

Posted by i have a medium penis | October 17, 2008 1:46 PM

i actually followed that.

Posted by max solomon | October 17, 2008 1:54 PM

it's not nice to wank in public, charles.

Posted by scary tyler moore | October 17, 2008 1:54 PM


Please ignore @4 - hater.

Posted by Cookie W. Monster | October 17, 2008 2:36 PM

not to worry, cwm@5, charles is quite adept at ignoring his detractors. i kind of grudgingly admire that about him.

Posted by ellarosa | October 17, 2008 5:30 PM

I hope there are oil fields in heaven.

Posted by shizawn | October 17, 2008 7:00 PM

When comparing the decline of the American empire with emerging markets one can think of it in terms of classical economic theory.

Means of production in the classical economic theory are:

Capital (characterized by return on investment)
Labor (characterized by wages and pension)
Technology (characterized by technology lifecycle and R&D expenditure)

For an economy at the early stages of capitalism, cost of capital is wildly high. That is why, in most emerging markets, real interest rate (interest rate - inflation) is typically high. At the same time, return to labor, characterized by wages, is typically much lower than developed markets. Technology, on the other hand, is most of the time "stolen", in the sense that an outdated, labor-intensive and cheaper technology is employed and almost no technological breakthrough happens.

In contrast, for an economy in the late stages of advanced capitalism, cost of capital is low thanks to the abundant capital stock accumulated over the earlier stages of capitalism. Wages are typically high thanks to automation and lack of slack in the labor market. Technology, shielded by intellectual property laws, is constantly improved and adapted.

It is worth to note that in a hypotethical economy where real interest rate (the return to capital) is zero, communism prevails. In such an economy, you can only create value by "consuming labor" or "producing technology". Capital is definitely necessary but the marginal utility of capital is zero.


Posted by Morgan | October 18, 2008 3:45 AM

The marginal utility of Cheney is rapidly approaching zero.

Posted by Morgan | October 18, 2008 3:55 AM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.