A Postcapitalist Manifesto
It is time to take back value. For many, value has long been dismissed as a concept so thoroughly compromised, so soaked in normative strictures and stained by complicity with capitalist power, as to be unredeemable. This has only abandoned value to purveyors of normativity and apologists of economic oppression. Value is too valuable to be left in those hands.
In the absence of a strong alternative conception of value, it is all too easy for normative gestures to slip back in. Priorities are still weighed, orientations favored, directions followed. Without a concept of value, by what standards are these choices made? Usually none that are enunciated. Standards of judgment are simply allowed to operate implicitly. Normativity is not avoided. It becomes a sneak. This can prove to be just as oppressive.
To take back value is not to reimpose standards of judgment providing a normative yardstick. That would do little other than to make the oppressiveness explicit again.
To take back value is to revalue value, beyond normativity and standard judgment. More radically, it is to move beyond the reign of judgment itself.
The first task of the revaluation of value is to uncouple value from quantification. Value must be recognized for what it is: irreducibly qualitative.
The revaluation of value as irreducibly qualitative must be insistently this-worldly. Appealing to transcendent values, styled as moral qualities, only raises the strictures of normativity to the absolute.
Lemma a. The revaluation of value is ethical by definition. That is why it cannot be moral.
Scholium. In an ethics, the transcendent moral opposition (Good/Evil) and its attenuated democratic offspring (normal/pathological) are “supplanted by the qualitative difference of modes of existence” (Deleuze 1988, 23). Ethics bears on what, qualitatively, a process can do, and in what direction that capacitation leads. It evaluates the singular how of “an immanent power’s” (25) mode of operation, as it consequentially unfolds. The project of a revaluation of values to give value its qualitative due takes the path of a processual ethics. Processual ethics is thoroughly relational. The immanently self-powering modes of existence it concerns come in multiples and mutually inflect. This qualifies it as an ecology, in the broadest sense.
Lemma b. The revaluation of values overspills the narrowly economic domain, into an ecology of powers (T49-T68).
To uncouple value from quantification in a way that affirms an ecology of qualitatively different powers means engaging head-on with the economic logic of the market. Value is too valuable to be left to capital.
The dominant notion of value in our epoch is economic. The domain of economic value is conceived of as the market. Market-based thinking deploys a consensus definition of money. That definition is threefold: unit of account, medium of exchange, and store of value.
Scholium. This definition actually skirts the issue of value. Since the “store of value” is nothing other than a quantity of units of account held in reserve, poised to enter exchange, the definition is circular. The circularity spreads the quantitative notion of value across the three roles, equating value with the ability of money to phase between them. The result is an obfuscation of value, both of how it actually functions in capitalism—which cannot be reduced to classical market mechanisms and the market’s central concept of exchange—and of what it might become in a revalued postcapitalist future.
The threefold market definition of money assumes that value is by nature quantifiable and posits money as the measure of value. These assumptions must be questioned in order to open the way to the revaluation of value.
The classical concept of the market assumes not only the quantifiability of value but the myth of equal exchange, as judged by the measure of money. This is the idea that one can get “value for money,” guaranteeing fair exchange. This fairness principle is seen to be the engine of the capitalist market.
Scholium a. The ideas of equal exchange and getting value for money are supported by the notion of money as measure of value. Money can be treated as the measure of value because it is used as a general equivalent: a yardstick for comparison. With this yardstick, incommensurable things can be commensurated. A “fair” exchange is when the use-value of a commodity object is judged commensurate with its price. Price provides a standardized third term enabling qualitatively different commodity objects to be compared. This, in theory, enables “rational” consumer choice. The value of a present sum of money can also be compared to a sum in the future, enabling “rational” life choices. The myth of fair exchange is undermined, however, by the concurrent market logic of getting a “good deal.” In consumer behavior, the allure of getting more value for your money is actually a stronger engine. This points to the fact that if you scratch the shiny surface of the market idea, the specter of unequal exchange immediately appears. Qualitative understandings of value then return, to shake the foundation of the quantitative vision of value. It takes little reflection to realize that the “goodness” of the good deal is only partially reflected in the price. The “calculation” of what constitutes a good deal does not only involve “rational” considerations. The sense that more value for money is obtained is strongly inflected by the subjective factors of the buyer’s dispositions, desires, and idiosyncrasies. “Use-value” (T91 Schol. b) is relative, and is impossible to separate from more subjective values such as prestige-value. These subjective factors cannot be commensurated from one consumer to another, or from one purchase to another. They are singularly qualitative “calculations.” They are also object lessons in the plasticity of value.
Scholium b. The myth of the commensurability of a present sum of money and a future value is also undermined, this time by the tendency of the market itself to exemplify the plasticity of value. This is called volatility. Volatility is two-headed. It arises from factors endogenous to the market, such as cycles, and crises arising as complexity effects of the market’s very mode of operation (speculative bubbles). It also arises from externalities, which include such things as wars, natural disasters, and weather (or more radically, climate change). Externalities are qualitative changes in the market’s outside environment that are secondarily reflected in price changes in the market (Hardt and Negri 2009, 155). Also included are price movements linked to valuations that are not exactly outside the market but are not fundamentally “calculated” in money terms either. The classic example is the added value of location as reflected in real estate prices. Location is valued as an indicator of quality of life. Quality of life is not in itself measurable. Higher prices in a desirable neighborhood are a way of putting a number on the immeasurable. They numerically express an incommensurability. This suggests a connection between value and vitality that is reflected in pricing but is irreducible to that quantitative expression because, in itself, it is directly qualitative.
Lemma a. Actual market dynamics assume unequal exchange. The way the market operates in practice is predicated more on excess than on commensuration. More-than is more equal than equal-to.
Lemma b. The more-than unbalancing exchange is due to qualitative factors. Although reflected in price, these qualitative factors are and remain externalities to the market. They are of another nature than their quantitative reflection, presenting a nonnumerical excess. They remain subjective, vital: equal to qualities of experience; pertaining to quality of life.
Lemma c. A revaluation of value must contrive to develop this connection between value and vitality that is presupposed by the market but disavowed by it. It must make qualitative excess a postcapitalist virtue—beyond the myth of equal exchange, the fairness of the market, and the rhetoric of commensuration.
The distinction between endogenous factors and externalities is ultimately unsustainable. This requires a rethinking of what it means for something to be “inside” or “outside,” and forces a distinction between system and process.
Scholium a. Everyone knows that fluctuations internal to the operations of the market fundamentally hinge on a certain privileged non-economic factor: affect. Markets run on fear and hope, confidence and insecurity. Affect is and remains an “externality,” but what exactly does that mean? It cannot mean that affect is a factor that is squarely outside the scope of the economy. That would be to underestimate its constitutive force in market dynamics, and to deny the long shadow it has cast over the discipline of economics from the beginning. Did not Keynes warn his fellow economists in his then-maturing field against the “underestimation of the concealed factors of utter doubt, precariousness, hope and fear” (Keynes 1973, 122)? Concealed—or not so concealed, but officially disavowed. Affect cannot be considered to be squarely outside the market, but neither is it a formal market mechanism that is recognized as inside its system. It is not an economic operator per se. It has its own nature and modus operandi, and they are qualitative. Affect qualitatively agitates the economy, but it also overspills it, extending to many a non-economic arena. It forces itself upon economic calculations but is not one itself. Market functions feel its force. It makes its mark economically, while remaining of another nature, in excess-over. We can sum up the “subjective, vital” factors that are called “externalities” with the word “affect.” Affect is a name for factors that make their mark on market dynamics while overspilling them, that modulate economic logic without belonging to it as such. A better way to capture affect’s fraught status than to say that it is an externality is to say that it is the market’s immanent outside. This term points to the fact that there are factors that belong to capitalism’s field but do not belong to its system (Massumi 2017a, ch. 1). It is to the immanent outside of capitalism that the revaluation of values must look to identify qualitative processes in embryonic form that might grow a postcapitalist future. The question of affect is closely related to the concept of intensity (T31, T42, T43). Intensity is a key to understanding the relation between the qualitative and the quantitative in economic terms.
Lemma a. The contrast just made between the economic system and a wider process, the latter pertaining to qualitative factors constituting an “immanent outside,” is a necessary tool for the project of revaluing value.
Scholium b. This expands and complicates the logic of inside/outside. A system demarcates itself from other systems, and in so doing delineates its operative inside from their externality. For example, the economy is systemically defined by a certain order of operations that mutually cohere. Those operations are distinct from the operations mutually cohering in a technical system, say a steam engine. But in addition to this internal/external distinction, there is the immanent outside, as a category in its own right. The economy and the technology of the steam engine as systems are mutually external. But the outside is something else. The steam engine drove the economy in the nineteenth-century, and the economy drove the invention and proliferation of the steam engine. Each became in each other’s dynamic embrace. Across their systemic difference, they are mutually included in the same, two-faced movement of becoming. The movement of double becoming is a processual coupling between two systems. The processual coupling belongs to neither system per se, but enters as formative force into the becoming of both. It constitutes their immanent outside. Process is the immanent outside of the in-between of systems. Since it is unbounded by any given system or set of systems, that immanent outside overspills systematicity as such. Considered in itself, this in-between is a wide-open. It is the expanded field of where systems’ becoming may go, beyond where and what they are now. Process is by nature in excess over system. It makes every system a constitutively open system. This distinction between internal/external (systems environment) and immanent outside (processual ecology) becomes extremely important for understanding complicity and resistance under capitalism (T34 Schol. c, T60, T76 Schol. b).
Lemma b. The excess that must be reclaimed and revalued for the postcapitalist future must be recognized as processual.
Scholium c. Close attention must be paid to the systemic operations of capitalism in all of its arenas (consumer market, labor market, and investment and the financial markets). However, systemic analysis is not enough. The analysis must extend to the expanded field of process. The word field is a handy way of holding onto the system/process distinction. “Capitalist field” can be used when the purview includes capitalism’s immanent processual outside, with “system” reserved for the operations of the economy in the familiar restricted sense, as formalized by the traditional discipline of economics.
Lemma c. The “capitalist process” is how the capitalist system dips into its own immanent outside to draw out new potentials for its becoming, or continuing self-constitution.
Lemma d. The question of excess is only secondarily that of “expenditure” as connected to destruction (Bataille 1988). It more fundamentally pertains to potential, which concerns destruction only to the extent to which it positively fosters becoming.
The myth of equal exchange is especially egregious as regards the labor market.
Scholium. The idea that salary is a fair exchange of a quantity of money for a quantity of life-time and bodily activity is identified by Marx as the foundational myth of capitalism. If this is an equal exchange, what is “profit”? Profit is an excess of the value the worker produces over and above the value of the money invested in his or her salary. Although the revaluation of value will also have to transcend the Marxian labor theory of value (among other reasons, because its critique is still articulated in quantitative terms, even though it points to the qualitative oppression of the “theft” of vitality; T33), this dramatically gives the lie to capitalism’s assertion that its system functions on a basis of equal exchange, or value for value. Reducing the “cost of labor” is a rallying cry for those in a position to use money in another of its roles, backgrounded by its threefold market definition: money as the vehicle of investment. What is this cry to reduce labor costs, if not a heartfelt call to preserve, or widen, the inequality of the salary “exchange”? That inequality is presupposed by the vehemence of the call, even if it is disavowed in the accompanying explanatory rhetoric of “fair compensation.” The antagonism between the capitalist’s “fair compensation” and the worker’s “fair wage” says it all. The unequal exchange of life-time and vital energies for the price of a salary demonstrates that in its investment heart-of-hearts capitalism runs as much on excess and incommensurability as it does in the market arena of consumer exchange.
Excess is written into the very definition of capital, in its difference from money as unit of measure, medium of exchange, and store of value, and related to its role as investment money.
Scholium. Capital is defined as the potential to derive from a present quantity of money a greater quantity of money in the future. Capital is not profit. Profit is the greater quantity of money derived. Capital is the potential to derive that quantity. That potential is the effective engine of the economic system. It emergently stirs in the system’s immanent processual outside.
The capitalist economy, despite its calculative fervor, is more fundamentally concerned with potential than it is with actual quantities.
Scholium a. Potential is a qualitative concept, in that it connotes transformation. Capital, as movement of potential, is the quality of money as transformational force, the force driving the system’s becoming. The transformation counts economically only as registered in the statistics. The numbers are quantitative signs of qualitative changes (changes in productivity, the changes in labor and management practices associated with increasing productivity, the life changes associated with the changes in labor and management practices, the increasing accumulation of wealth but also growing social inequality, the disruptions and opportunities of innovation, the accompanying cultural transformations, the appearance of new desires accompanying those transformations, new dispositions gelling those desires, the contingency of idiosyncrasies, sometimes going viral . . .). What the economic indexes index are life changes. They are disguised vital signs. Marx speaks of capital in terms of “social metabolism” and “metamorphosis.” The changes that the vital signs index overspill the properly economic sphere. The potential of the economy is ultimately life potential. The question of value is a vital question. Capital has its invisible hand on the pulse of life.
Scholium b. As heterodox economic thinkers (those who reject the market fundamentalism and rational-calculation religion of classical, neoclassical, and libertarian economists) frequently remind us, money is not a transparent instrument. It is an operator of life relation, harvesting and distributing potential and depotentialization in processual embrace with the economy’s immanent outside. The numbers assiduously count and recount the harvest and the distribution, but only indolently hint at the relation and the vital potential.
The issue of excess returns, with regard to the definition of capital and its connection to potential, in the question of surplus-value.
Scholium. Surplus-value is another name for capital as quality of money. “Surplus”-value names capital as the ongoing potential for deriving in the future an excess-over a present quantity. This—and not equal exchange or fair value for money—is the engine of the economy.
Surplus-value is primary in relation to value, as understood in terms of the market definition of money and as involving measurable quantities.
Scholium a. Surplus-value is an effect of turnover. It is the left-over of potential that drives the economic process forward. Profit is a punctual numerical harvest deducted from the process of surplus-value driving the economy continuously forward, across points of profit-taking. When profit is taken and used for investment, it is plowed back into the economy’s driving by surplus-value. Surplus-value and profit turn over on each other, always leaving a left-over: an excess of unabsorbed surplus-value for the future generation of still greater profit. Surplus-value is the ever-more-than-and-again of profit.
Lemma a. Surplus-value is immeasurable.
Scholium b. In and of itself, surplus-value cannot be measured (Negri 1996, 151–154; Bryan and Rafferty 2013, 137, 145, 147). This is because, being always by nature in excess over any sum of profit, it is supernumerary, not in the sense of extra in number, but of being beyond number. This indeterminacy is mirrored in the unquantifiability of the supply of money itself, which is in constant fluctuation as the debts that constitute it are ceaselessly created and extinguished as the economic system turns over on itself (Schmitt 1980, 64–78; Ingham 2004, 142).
Scholium c. The sense in which surplus-value is associated with turnover goes beyond the usual sense of the turnover of commodities, mediated by money, or of money as it changes form. More fundamentally, the turnover at issue is the economic system in its indeterminate totality turning over on itself: rhythmically overspilling its own systematicity to dip into the processual outside in order to avail itself of the self-constituting potential to be found there. This has more to do with the unpredictability of the “mutant flows” (Schmitt 1980, 234–35) associated with the continual creation of money to make room in the system for the always-in-excess over it that is surplus-value, than it has to do with the regularity of cyclic patterns of circulation. Mutant flows are those that do not go “from known to known” but from “metamorphosis” to metamorphosis (277–78). Financial derivatives are the epitome of mutant capitalist flow (T33 Schol. d, T34 Schol. d, T46 Schol. b–c, T49 Schol. b, T50–T52).
Scholium d. The capitalist system is characterized by its relentless drive for growth in the service of accumulation. Growth and accumulation are capitalism’s processual desire: its constitutive tendency (what Nietzsche might call its will to power). The surplus-value drive to excess-over gives the capitalist economy its dynamic quality of ever-moreness, for once and for all-over-again, in perpetual processual turnover. The engine of surplus-value lies at the beating heart of the capitalist system and dilates its veins. It is the expansive diastole for profit’s systolic contraction. More than just the quality of money—that is how it appears inside the system, as a halo-glow around profit—surplus-value is the processual quality of the capitalist system. It is what gives its quantifications their dynamic quality. It is the processual subjectivity of the capitalist system, self-absorbed in the generation of the numerical objectifications that feed its formal operations. It is how capitalism dips into the expanded field of its immanent outside (diastole), no sooner to contract the movements of potential found there into its profit-making system flow (systole).
Lemma b. More properly speaking, capitalism’s driving force is the differential between profit and surplus-value: their systemic/processual, systolic/diastolic asymmetry.
Scholium e. The concept of processual surplus-value as it is proposed here is not reducible to either absolute or relative surplus-value as defined by Marx (1976, 429–38). Marx’s surplus-value involves exploiting a quantitative differential to harvest profit from it. Absolute surplus-value is obtained by lengthening the working day without increasing wages. Relative surplus-value is obtained by increasing productivity, so that the “socially necessary labor-time” that goes into the production of a commodity is lowered relative to a competitor’s operations. Marx’s definition of surplus-value hinges on the labor theory of value, according to which value is the quantity of labor-time that is “congealed” in the product (128). Processual surplus-value, in contradistinction to these two forms of capitalist surplus-value, is purely qualitative and concerns the intensity of lived potentials. It is surplus-value of life (T22–T23, T28–T32). Capitalist surplus-value and processual surplus-value are, of course, related, but they cannot be equated. The former is the systemic capture of the latter. Their difference—the difference between quality of activity as such and the derivation from it of a quantitative yield—is internalized by the system, to serve as its driving force. The theory of surplus-value of life, and the process-oriented revaluation of values it serves, requires a reconsideration of the labor-theory of value, and a multiplication of the forms of capitalist surplus-value (T33, T34).
The future-looking definition of capital understood in terms of surplus-value (the potential to generate a greater quantity of money in the future, accumulable as profit) means that capitalism is fundamentally speculative.
The manner in which capital is speculative makes it a power formation in its own right.
Scholium a. Capital is a time-function. The time element is fundamentally nonchronological, revolving around potential, which is nothing other than futurity in the present. It only secondarily concerns the measure of time. Primarily, it concerns time as the qualitative interval priming the actualization of potential. Speculation is not a perversion of the capitalist economy. It is of its essence. It is its power function. Capital is the economic lever of the time of potential. As such, it captures the future of vitality: life’s qualitatively-in-the-making. It captures life potential. In this capacity, capital operates directly as a mechanism of power. Its economic functioning cannot be separated from its power function. To say that capitalism is a power over life is an understatement. It is a capture of life’s in-the-making, its very becoming (it is an “ontopower”; T55). When capitalism internalizes the difference between quality and quantity and counts it as profit, it monetizes the intervals of life-time feeding its formal operations. It economizes life activity. It is this economization that directly constitutes a formation of power. Life activity is channeled toward modes of existence and manners of relation propitious for the generation of profit.
Lemma. Power formations are apparatuses of capture.
Scholium b. The assertion of heterodox economic thinkers that money is not just a transparent instrument of exchange but constitutes a social relation (a “claim upon society,” as Simmel put it; 1978, 176) is accurate as far as it goes, but it is not sufficient. Money is not just a social relation. It is the operator of a power relation that is a constitutive factor of society—but more than that, of life (T14). Money arrogates life powers to itself (Cooper 2008).
The fact that the engine of capitalism is excess (surplus-value) belies the commonplace notion that price reflects scarcity.
Scholium. The financial markets are where money functions most intensely as capital in the surplus-value sense. It is self-evident that in the financial markets excess is operative in a way that presupposes not scarcity but processual abundance: the ability to endlessly proliferate and multiply (most particularly, in the current epoch of capital, through abstract financial instruments such as derivatives). The operative idea is not “how to do with less” but how to make “always more” from less. The surplus-value drive is most directly expressed in the speculative machinations of the financial markets, where the continued surfing of the flow of surplus-value is valued more (excessively so) than any particular landfall in profit. Profits are swept in the tide of perpetual speculative motion: data points on the cyclic beach of wealth, no sooner deposited than swept away to rejoin the flow.
The financial markets offer a better point of departure for postcapitalist alter-economic thinking than money in its traditional market role as currency.
Scholium. As already pointed out, the functioning of the capitalist economy cannot be explained solely with reference to the classical market functioning of money defined in terms of equal exchange. It is in the speculative sphere of the financial markets that the processual engine of the capitalist economy shows its true processual quality (its ultimately unsustainable running after surplus-value fueling endless growth and uncurbed accumulation). Aspirationally postcapitalist alternatives must transcend the standard definition of money and the market-exchange concepts it underpins, or risk being outfoxed by capital from the get-go. They must generate notions more akin to surplus-value than to money in its threefold definition. In a sense, they have to be more faithful to how the capitalist process actually runs than market ideology is—the better to turn its dynamic (in the way it is said in zombie movies that dead bodies “turn,” except in this case it is the inverse—a revivification). The turning of the turnover of capitalist surplus-value requires the alter-valuing of self-driving process. It requires the affirmation of an analogous dynamic quality of process, but one that does not lend itself to the quantification of the irreducibly qualitative that operates the economization of life.
Lemma. Occupy surplus-value.
A word for the alter-value that could drive a postcapitalist process is creativity.
Scholium. The choice of “creativity” is made in full cognizance of the fact that neoliberal capitalism has appropriated the term. “Innovation” and “creative capital” are buzzwords signposting this capture. Surplus-value is the engine of creative advance of the capitalist system. But the quality of capital’s creativity is best conveyed in a related phrase, which expresses the inherent violence of capitalism’s economizaton of life’s qualitatively in-the-making: “creative destruction.” But what of life’s in-the-making proper, considered as such, vitally instead of economically? What of the creative advance of life as it complexly plies its field of emergence, that immanent outside of the capitalist system whose qualitative differentials capitalism data mines for conversion to its own ends? Vital process too is self-driving. It too self-iterates, turning over on itself across its punctual expressions to continue apace. It too runs on excess, serially fed forward.
In other words, there is a qualitative surplus-value of life (Massumi 2017b) that provides the fuel for capitalism’s quantifications.
Lemma a. Economization is the conversion of one kind of surplus-value (surplus-value of life) into another (capitalist surplus-value).
Lemma b. Qualitative surplus-value of life is the processual given of the capitalist system. If it can be given to the system, perhaps it can be taken away from it. Even aside from this question of the withdrawal of surplus-value of life from quantification, it may be that it can be rejoined, upstream of its capitalist conversion. Even before capitalism is overcome, it may be possible to have one foot in both streams, in ways that prefigure its beyond. In that beyond, quantification would be beholden to surplus-value of life, rather than surplus-value of life being slave to accumulation.
Existing alter-economic models, such as cryptocurrencies, are modeled on money in its market definition. However, in practice they overspill that definition, toward dynamics of surplus-value creation.
Scholium a. In the design of cryptocurrencies, an appeal is often explicitly made to the threefold definition of money. This articulation of the currency model backgrounds the increasingly obvious fact that the appeal of cryptocurrencies has been in large part their speculative dynamic. What gives them their momentum is their ability to run away with themselves, becoming veritable financial markets. They become commodities themselves (as do national currencies, in a usually more well-behaved way, on the mainstream international money market). More than mere currency, they become financial instruments, ripe for speculation: in a word, they become capital. This is clear in the history of Bitcoin, which has seen successive speculative bubbles and busts. In the avalanche of new cryptocurrencies coming in the wake of Bitcoin and beginning in earnest around 2015, the “initial coin offering” (ICO) has taken a more and more prominent role. Modeled on the initial public offering (IPO), the ICO treats cryptocurrency in analogy with stocks, in other words as a form of equity (as capital). Equity refers to the “underlying” asset from which surplus-value and profit turnover is derived (although the very concept of an underlying asset is called into question by the way financial markets run: derivatives are defined precisely by their ability to abstract themselves from the value or even ownership of an underlying asset; T34 Schol. d). As is the case with any process of quantitative surplus-value production, this speculative dynamic fuels exploitation (Sassen 2017). With Bitcoin, those who are in a position to own the means of production (the increasingly exorbitant computing power needed to “mine” the coin) win. There is a jarring disconnect between the hypercapitalist speculative dimension of cryptocurrency and its exploitative underpinning, and the accompanying libertarian rhetoric of money equality for all, in independence from evil banks and “fiat” money, that has been the dominant legitimating narrative for it. The libertarian discourse deceptively brackets the entire concept of capital—practicing it to the hilt while purporting to act in the defense of the market, traditionally defined in terms of fair-value exchange, open equally to all, and fair to each (see also T89, T90).
Scolium b. There is a rapidly increasing number of emerging crypto-based alter-economy projects that attempt to design the exploitation out. Just to give two of many possible examples: Faircoin (https://fair.coop/faircoin/) works to counteract the libertarian cast of traditional blockchain currencies by creating a dedicated cryptocurrency for use among cooperatives that does away with the mining model and discourages speculation, in an attempt to restrict the currency as much as possible to a simple market model serving the micropayment needs of nontraditional collective economic actors. With EnergyCoin (under development; https://medium.com/@RafeFurst/energycoin-d08ddcab4a0c), cryptocurrency is mined by producing solar energy and feeding it into the grid. A portion of the increasing value of the coin is equally distributed among all coin holders as a kind of micro–guaranteed income, in an attempt to lessen the capitalist exploitation both of nature and of others. There are any number of ways of collectivizing cryptocurrency and attenuating its libertarian birthmark. Most, however, accept important compromises with the logic of the market. A maximally noncompromising, postblockchain speculative alter-economy is envisioned at the end of this text (T93–T98).
Local currencies, for their part, strive to disable the speculative side of capital and return to the simple money model.
Scholium. Local currencies (community-based token systems accepted by individual providers and local businesses; also known as LETs or local exchange trading systems) embrace money in its aspect of unit of measure and medium of exchange. Some intentionally subtract the aspect of store of value through “demurrage,” or negative interest on held assets, so that tokens lose value if they are hoarded. This is done to counteract the accumulation of value, which is the condition for the transformation of the currency into capital and is always accompanied by growing inequality. Nevertheless, certain inequalities, and even class distinctions, may well creep back in. “For example, middle-class resources like tools and equipment and scarce tools and knowledge earn media of exchange credits with very little expenditure of time. Conversely, lower classes typically offer time-consuming labor-intensive services” (Ingham 2004, 185). The myth of equal exchange, which is the cornerstone of the logic of the traditional market, is retained, along with some of its contradictions, but within a generally communitarian ethos.
Sharing economies also try to disenable economic speculation—and preserve the logic of equal exchange in their own way.
Scholium. With sharing economies, the notion of fair exchange is reattached to the time element, much more directly than in the case of local currencies. There is no formal unit of measure, no formal medium of exchange, and no store of value. And yet, there is inevitably an informal calculation of equivalence, bearing on how much time goes into the services exchanged, or into developing the competence behind the necessary skills. In the absence of a formal currency, time itself becomes the informal currency. This retains capitalism’s fundamental labor equation, time = money (T94, Strat. d). It actually attempts to make it more honest and live up to its own word by sidelining the exploitative element of profit. It brings into visibility that economic exchange is predicated on the capture of life-time, thus validating one of capitalism’s basic mechanisms, while attempting to counteract its oppressive effects.