Knowledge, nature, property
Ozgur Narin: From the ''Origin of Species'' to the Genome Project or the Capitalist Book of the ‘Inventory of Genes’: The Capitalist Appropriation of Species and Genes / Christian Zeller: Knowledge and nature as fields of valorization of (financial) capital
From the ''Origin of Species'' to the Genome Project or the Capitalist Book of the ‘Inventory of Genes’: The Capitalist Appropriation of Species and Genesby Ozgur Narin
Who would believe after 150 years of publication of Darwin’s seminal work, now capitalist accumulation reaches a level of publishing an “inventory of Genes” book? Ironically, the writer of this book may very well be a Patent Office! Unfortunately, they give a wrong name. The name of this inventory genome manual must be “Origins of artificial Species under capitalist ‘natural’ selection and Private Property.”. Capitalist production has been a social production, but now becomes as well immediate production of society, to be more accurate, production of new genetic combinations of human and other species-being.
An institution Human Genome Project (HGP) and Celera Genomics published the genome data. It is open to public accession but there are some conditions to access these data sets. The major condition is acquisition of means of production to get and use the genome data. Because without the means of production, it’s impossible to evaluate the data and use it.
This paper tries to examine this capitalist genetic production from a different perspective. First, it tries to theorize the scientific production as real subsumption of scientific labour process. It defines the process of real subsumption of scientific labour as a continuing but never ending process since scientific labour as a creative activity can not be completely rationalized labour process. Capitalist accumulation tries to subsume scientific labour by transforming scientific production itself to a capitalist production. Scientific production in Genetics for capitalist accumulation leads to appropriation of gene combinations or more clearly the appropriation of human being as species. The gene combination and hence the genetic structure of human being becomes private property. There’s a process of “enclosure” for genetic algorithms of species (both human and other living organisms), meaning that capitalist accumulation strives for appropriation of species, tries to make them private property or commodity for capitalist production.
Can we look at this paradox from the Grundrisse’s perspective as Rosdolsky (1977) had also emphasized decades ago? According to this perspective, there’s an important difference between simple commodity exchange and capitalist commodity exchange. The circulatory characteristic of simple exchange is well known. But “circulatory nature of our argument” (Marx, 1976) reflects Hegel’s “bad infinity” as far as simple commodity exchange is concerned. When there is an exchange between capital and waged-labour, this circulatory movement becomes a “spiral”. The exchange of waged labour as commodity is a rupture in the continuous process of simple exchange that takes the exchange process to a new and higher level, i.e. capitalist commodity exchange. The specific exchange is a singularity point that transforms the circulatory movement to a new phase, to a spiral movement. Marx often emphasizes this transformation from circulation to spiral movement, referring to Sismondi (1819: 119). But what if the ontological being of waged labour becomes a commodity itself? Capital-labour exchange breaks the continuity of simple circulation and reproduce capitalist commodity production. Circle becomes a spiral. So what will happen when labour power itself, (not only as a capacity), as a being becomes commodity? Artificial labour power? What will be class composition, class consciousness?
The capitalist crisis that the world economy traverses is a critical conjuncture for a new era of scientific and technological innovation once the crisis is overcome within capitalism. But even overcoming crisis is a process of class struggle. The production of genetic combinations and appropriation of genes will develop faster. So the problem will be clearer. The capitalist production of genes, human being etc. will be the agenda of class politics in many ways. And this will not be too soon.
Knowledge and nature as fields of valorization of (financial) capitalby Christian Zeller
This contribution argues that in the course of neo-liberal deregulation policies and far-reaching institutional changes, concentrated financial capital increased its power. Institutional investors such as investment and pension funds took command over investments and the division of profits. A finance-dominated accumulation regime emerged that exerts its power on a global scale and reshuffles uneven development. The economic crisis did not end the power of financial capital. In contrary, more than before, supported by state action, it adapts its strategies and maintains its power.
Even more than in the previous period, in view of unsatisfactory possibilities for valorization, capital is seeking new fields for investment and placement. This is accompanied by an expansion of property rights and processes of commodification. Capital accumulation increasingly happens through rent-based income, which in turn is based on dispossession processes. In this context, the paper re-evaluates Rosa Luxemburg’s concept that capital accumulation depends on a metabolism between capital and non-capitalist areas.
A current form of dispossessing accumulation is the creation of new enclosures via the extension of intellectual property monopolies. Responding to the increasing socialization of creative and innovative labour capital seeks to increase control of humans and of social relations where there is knowledge or creative potential. Often such knowledge is produced in non-capitalist social relations.
The crisis reinforced capital's need to expand into new fields. Therefore it strongly increases its strategies for the control, appropriation and commodification of natural resources such as land, water and air (e.g. through tradable carbon emission certificates). These new fields are sources of important revenues in the form of rents. The capitalization of nature and of scientific knowledge has become a central characteristic of current capitalism under the dominance of financial capital and the current crisis will even reinforce these characteristics. However, it is not expected that such new fields of capital valorization will resolve capital’s fundamental challenges of creating new markets and increasing a sustained profitability. Thus, there is no space of a ‘green’ new deal. In contrary, the capitalization of nature will increase destructive characteristics.
Ecological issues, and (global) distribution issues are now inextricably linked by necessities of climate change policy.