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Since the Renaissance, artists introduced imaginative narratives to complement, or even replace, the Christian stories that functioned to shape society. They tried to introduce new mythologies. Despite the danger of encountering criticism from rationalists, as well as the threat of being absorbed by commercialism, some mythologies managed to gain influence in modern societies. Wagner’s venture, undertaken in an era no longer dominated by theology, but also not yet favored by “mythophile” psychology and spirituality, is arguably the most successful of them all. This chapter analyzes the ingredients of the success for the narrative to become a forceful mythology in the nineteenth century. This includes the ideology of humanism, the romantic idea of myths as symbolic narratives, Feuerbach’s idea of gods as signs of human alienation, Nietzsche’s view of Wagner’s Ring as an instance of anti-intellectualism, and the interpretation of the opera as at its core a socialist work of art. According to the author, the Ring should be conceived of as a special type of modern myth, namely a revolutionary myth.
As both the record of and rationale for a settler construct, “Native American literature” has always been uniquely embattled: a body of production marked by particularly divergent opinions about what constitutes “authenticity,” sovereignty, and even literature. As such, its texts announce a culture beset by paradox: simultaneously primordial and postmodern; oral and inscribed; outmoded and novel; quixotic and quotidian. Above all, its texts are a site of political struggle, shifting to meet expectations both external and internal. This Introduction sets out the plural, capricious, and contested character of both Indigenous texts and our habits of evaluating them.
The advances in economic and social history over the past years enabled me to empirically test assumptions about the long-run development of markets. The review by Geoff Hodgson of the resulting book, The Invisible Hand?, is lucid but incomplete. I argue that the rise to dominance of factor markets, followed by that of financial markets, took place already in several early cases, and that all market economies, through an endogenous process, saw the accumulation of wealth and, next, the translation of this wealth into political leverage, creating a feedback loop with negative outcomes which is very hard to break.
The move to a more digital, more mobile, and more platform-dominated media environment represents a change to the institutions and infrastructures of free expression and a form of “democratic creative destruction” that challenges incumbent institutions, creates new ones, and in many ways empowers individual citizens, even as this change also leaves both individuals and institutions increasingly dependent on a few large US-based technology companies and subjects many historically disadvantaged groups to more abuse and harassment online. This chapter aims to step away from assessing the democratic implications of the internet on the basis of individual cases, countries, or outcomes, but rather to focus on how structural changes in the media are intertwined with changes in democratic politics.
This chapter introduces the concept of data colonialism. Nick Couldry argues that capitalism has developed a new mode of colonialism, in which the appropriated resources are not land, land resources or bodies, but life itself, which is appropriated for value through the extraction of data traces, often via social media platforms. This new data colonialism, Couldry argues, paves the way for changes in capitalism whose full shape we cannot know yet, but which will be built around not just labor relations data relations that appear in and through media and public life. Such data relations produce value by imposing categorizations, that is, alternative modes of knowledge about the social world. Beyond introducing this concept, Couldry also hypothesizes a worrisome result: A hollowing out of previous ways of knowing the social world, with potential profound implications for the politics of social justice.
In 1967, Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Kotex, hired women's marketing consultant Estelle Ellis to create and run the corporation's new sex education program. The Life Cycle Center, which opened in 1968, did not produce advertisements, but rather developed sex education curricula for public school classrooms. Its program, the Life Cycle Library, divided women's lives into distinct stages, tethering Kimberly-Clark goods and services to specific junctures of an idealized, heterosexual life. Ellis transformed the “life cycle” into a profitable, enduring marketing concept for Kimberly-Clark. She also extended the Center's influence, rendering it a research and educational authority on women's reproductive health for teachers, social scientists, government actors, and readers. Ellis's career reveals how marketers infiltrated powerful sites of institutional and public health discourse, reshaping them to fit commercial aims and intentions.
Chapter 1 discusses the structure of ideology in capitalism. According to Adorno, ideology is a “socially necessary illusion” that is embodied in the legal, social, and political institutions constitutive of capitalism. Using Hegel’s category of “semblance” (Schein) in the logic of essence, I argue that although individuals take themselves to be free and equal in capitalism, such moral intuitions are in fact grounded on, and therefore conceal, the deeper relation of domination. Finally, I discuss Marx’s account of the objectivity of the ideology of equality and freedom in capitalism. In contrast to slave or feudal societies, where there was no claim to equality and freedom, domination by capital is mediated by the institution of wage-labor, which requires equality and freedom.
Chapter 5 discusses the dialectic of necessity and contingency in Hegel’s logic, and explains what it means to say that the power of the totality over individuals is “absolutely necessary.” For Hegel, necessity does not exclude contingency, but rather requires contingency. Hegel’s conception of the interrelation of necessity and contingency underpins Marx’s analysis of capitalism. A capitalist economy is essentially a market economy, and the economic laws of capitalism obtain not despite but rather through the irregularities and contingencies inherent to the market. Given the lack of central economic planning, individuals have the illusion of freedom in the market, yet, Marx argues, such an illusion only contributes to the “despotism of capital.” Finally, I elaborate on the various shapes of freedom in capitalism, and argue that such freedoms are not the freedoms of self-determination, but result from contingency and randomness.
The Introduction discusses why, to draw out a genuinely critical social theory from Hegel’s thought, we must turn away from his official social and political philosophy in the Philosophy of Right, and instead use the logic of essence in the Science of Logic. The logic of essence, I suggest, does not present a historically invariant ontology, but sets out an ontology that is specific to capitalism. Finally, I introduce the central thesis of the book, namely, that the categories of the logic of essence give expression to the general structure of social domination in capitalism.
The Conclusion briefly clarifies the structure of the logic of the Concept which, according to Hegel, is the realm of genuine freedom. In Hegel’s view, modern society as a whole is the actualization of the logic of the Concept, and the excessive disturbances of the economy can be successfully tamed by the rational intervention of the state. Using Marx’s early Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, I argue that the transition from the logic of essence to the logic of the Concept in capitalism necessarily fails. According to Marx, the state in capitalism cannot in principle function as the universal, and necessarily remains a capitalist state.
With the rise of surveillance capitalism digital platforms hunt and capture ever more dimensions of once private experience as raw material for datafication, production, and sales. Under these unprecedented conditions, elemental epistemic rights can no longer be taken for granted. Unlike twentieth century totalitarianism, however, surveillance capitalism does not employ soldiers and henchmen to threaten terror and murder. It is a new instrumentarian power that works through ubiquitous digital instrumentation to manipulate subliminal cues, psychologically target communications, impose choice architectures, trigger social comparison dynamics, and levy rewards and punishments – all aimed at remotely tuning, herding, and modifying human behavior in the direction of profitable outcomes and always engineered to preserve users’ ignorance. The result is best understood as the unauthorized privatization of the division of learning in society. Just as Emile Durkheim warned of the subversion of the division of labor by the powerful forces of industrial capital a century ago, today’s surveillance capital exerts private power over the definitive principle of social order in our time. We must promote individual epistemic sovereignty, law, and democracy as the only possible grounds for human freedom, a functional democratic society, and an information civilization founded on equality and justice.
The Conclusion argues that the historical parallels we identify in Irish, Russian, and Ethiopian famine relief are neither incidental nor trivial. Their understanding may be improved if one views humanitarian efforts as an outcome of moral economic considerations, and this approach is consistent with the recent recognition of the links between humanitarianism and capitalism. Our moral economy approach sees practice as central to humanitarian history. This should be a transdisciplinary endeavour, informed by a wide range of debates and observations, including donor psychology, humanitarian logistics, and critical accounting. Our perspective, with a focus on fundraising appeals, allocation, and accounting, is of relevance to current humanitarian policy and practice, which is briefly sketched, and we hope it will inspire future research and practice.
By the end of the nineteenth century, railway expansion had led to the formation of a technocratic bureaucracy in Chile and other countries in Latin America. Central to this formation were the engineers who oversaw and regulated both public and private railways. Recently, historians have begun to re-examine engineers’ roles in this period. By employing methods and theoretical framings from the history of technology, this article argues that engineering was an important framework through which state–capital relations evolved, making engineers pivotal actors in the evolution of political economy at the time.
The new history of capitalism (NHC) places a great deal of emphasis on slavery as a crucial world institution. Slavery, it is alleged, arose out of, and underpinned, capitalist development. This article starts by showing the intellectual and scholarly foundations of some of the broad conclusions of the NHC. It proceeds by arguing that capitalist transformation must rely on a global framework of analysis. The article considers three critiques in relation to the NHC. First, the NHC overemphasizes the importance of coercion to economic growth in the eighteenth century. We argue that what has been called ‘war capitalism’ might be better served by an analysis in which the political economy of European states and empires, rather than coercion, is a key factor in the transformation of capitalism at a global scale. Second, in linking slavery to industrialization, the NHC proposes a misleading chronology. Cotton produced in large quantities in the United States came too late to cause an Industrial Revolution which, we argue, developed gradually from the latter half of the seventeenth century and which was well established by the 1790s, when cotton started to arrive from the American South. During early industrialization, sugar, not cotton, was the main plantation crop in the Americas. Third, the NHC is overly concentrated on production and especially on slave plantation economies. It underplays the ‘power of consumption’, where consumers came to purchase increasing amounts of plantation goods, including sugar, rice, indigo, tobacco, cotton, and coffee. To see slavery’s role in fostering the preconditions of industrialization and the Great Divergence, we must tell a story about slavery’s place in supporting the expansion of consumption, as well as a story about production
Potatoes were deeply embedded in nineteenth-century arguments about the merits of capitalism. The potato’s contested status emerges clearly in discussions about Ireland. In the eighteenth century, the potato’s contribution to the Irish diet had been viewed positively, because it enabled population growth. By the mid-nineteenth century it had become both an alarming illustration of the perils of economic autarky and a testament to the evils of capitalism. Commentators on all sides of the debate agreed that the potato encapsulated something of capitalism’s essence. At the same time, as urbanisation and industrialisation advanced, the conviction that the population’s eating habits had a material impact on the body politic only deepened. The new language of nutrition provided a vocabulary for expressing this relationship. From the mid-nineteenth century the potato’s growing importance within the working-class diet attracted the worried attention of nutritionists and statesmen, who condemned the effects of ‘lazy potato blood’ on the working body: the potato’s popularity with workers was blamed for lacklustre economic growth. Talking about potatoes provided a way for working people, scientists, economists and politicians to discuss the enormous changes that were reshaping nineteenth-century Europe in ways that stressed the close connections between economic practices and everyday eating habits.
The 1898 crisis enabled the rapid growth of German-owned plantations and fincas de mozos, where German planters carved out a partial sovereignty that included a judicial system, the appointment of representatives of state authorities, and a combination of violence and patriarchal affection. Q’eqchi’s expressed their interpretation of this new economy through the figure of El Q’eq, a half-man, half-cow, produced from the sexual union between a German coffee planter and a cow. As a hypersexualized beast charged with protecting German plantations and ensuring order, El Q’eq also revealed the territorial limits of Guatemalan state sovereignty and unsettled claims of a linear march toward a liberal nation-state. El Q’eq was also a reflection of plantation discipline, the sexual economy of plantation life, and the perversion of Q’eqchi’ morals and social norms in racial capitalism.
Chapter 1 opens with an 1865 rebellion led by the elderly Q’eqchi’ commoner Jorge Yat, who was charged with wanting to return to an era of republican democracy and dissolve caste hierarchy. The chapter uses that event as a window into the social, economic, and cultural worlds of nineteenth-century Alta Verapaz on the eve of coffee capitalism and the 1871 liberal revolution. In particular, it demonstrates how indigenous communities distant from the centers of state power maintained a political and territorial autonomy. It further demonstrates how Q’eqchi’ society was composed of tensions between republican values of representative government and caste hierarchy, between solidarity and individualism, and how Q’eqchi’ patriarchs faced democratic challenges from below.
The introduction highlights how Guatemalan state-building in the nineteenth century continually rendered Mayas as anachronistic subjects rather than agents of the future. Guatemalan state officials and coffee planters labeled certain forms of difference uncivilized or anachronistic to justify denying citizenship rights and to legitimize the application of coerced labor laws to individuals deemed not yet civilized. However, as the Introduction highlights, Q’eqchi’ Mayas continually undermined these strategies and built innovative political modernities based on a combination of radical liberalism and Q’eqchi’ cosmologies. The Introduction provides an overview of how modern notions of linear, measurable time and space and racial-capitalism–based political modernities and colonialism interact. Finally, it provides a methodology for reading along and against the archival grain and for dialoguing with disparate visual, textual, and oral sources.
Drawing on a far-flung, multilingual archive of contracts and financial instruments from around the western Indian Ocean, this article highlights how cross-cultural trade depended on the ability of groups to translate between one system and another, rendering one commercial lexicon legible to another so as to produce commensurability and allow for conversions to take place. Law constituted a foundational building block of this process: Indian Ocean merchants drew on a deep well of legal concepts and forms as they attempted to make their worlds legible to one another, mobilizing the grammars of law to bridge commercial systems. We situate these dynamics within the context of the Indian Ocean ‘bazaar’, establishing it as a site for thinking about the place of cross-cultural trade in world history, and the histories of global capitalism more broadly. We suggest that Euro-American capitalism’s very agents had to adapt their commerce to the idioms, logics, and contracts of their business partners around the Indian Ocean – a vernacular world of the bazaar that was itself already in motion.
This chapter focuses on the UK’s biggest and most influential festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (EFF), analyzing its benefits and risks. It considers some of the EFF’s advantages: the opportunities for artists to do a three-week run, to build relationships with other artists, and take part in an international hothouse for seeing work, learning, and developing. The chapter also considers the EFF’s pernicious effects: its unregulated labour conditions; environmental impact; lack of integration into Edinburgh’s year-round performance culture; economic and cultural exclusiveness; competitive individualization of success and failure; and pressures on mental health. It ends by proposing ways the EFF and its emulators could improve their social impact by investing in infrastructure, Edinburgh’s performance culture, and performance makers; actively supporting artists’ mental health; offering structural mentoring support; introducing regulations that protect workers; actively supporting more diverse makers, critics and audiences; and advocating for collaboration over competition. The chapter advocates for a vision of the fringe as, not a neo-liberal capitalist market, but a civic sphere.