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Labour in the Era of Fictitious Capital

Norbert Trenkle (Krisis journal)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought II, no. 2 (2018): 101–113

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Keywords: Labor, fictitious capital, value theory

This essay discusses the consequences of the changed relationship between capital and labour after the end of the Fordist post-war boom. As a result of these changes, capital accumulation is no longer predominantly based on the exploitation of labour in the production of commodities like cars, hamburgers, and smartphones but on the massive emission of property titles like shares, bonds, and financial derivatives that represent claims to future value. These changes irreversibly weakened labour power, giving capital a freer hand than ever before. But making large numbers of workers redundant also had consequences for capital. The Third Industrial Revolution thus marked the onset of a fundamental crisis. The production of value through the exploitation of labour has been replaced with the systematic anticipation of future value in the form of fictitious capital. However, this form of expansion is reaching its limits and is linked with significant costs to society. Albeit sobering and chilling, this analysis suggests removing the political response of the left from the retrospective romanticising of the Fordist era capitalism and pursue the abolition of labour as a form of social mediation. In other words: pursue liberation from labour and from its dependence on capital accumulation rather than the liberation of labour.

doi: 10.46957/con.2018.2.6

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