The people: A terrible abstraction

What is a people? According to what modern legislators have laid down as binding in practice, a people is nothing more than the totality of a country’s inhabitants whom a state power defines as its members. Regardless of the natural and social differences and antagonisms between them, these members form a political collective by virtue of being subordinate to one and the same state authority. Being obligated to the same rule and its agenda is the common cause they stand up for as a people.


A letter to our readers concerning Marx's “labor theory of value” and the achievements of finance capital

In our articles on the financial crisis and the concept of finance capital, we have written down a few basic determinations of the extensive business that finance capital undertakes beyond providing agriculture and industry with loan capital. We ourselves sorted out in our own minds, and challenged our readers with insights like the following: that the securities trade brings about a unique sort and magnitude of growth (that always but only gets called a “bubble” when something goes wrong); that, in the process, finance capital gains manifold responsibilities in the “real economy,” but its profits are not paid out of surplus value; that its economic position is the basis for its extraordinary power to decide with its own successes and failures the weal and woe of all the interests and efforts that make up the charm of the market economy, etc. The fact of the matter is that the finance trade accumulates securitized, tradable legal claims to proceeds that could never possibly be paid out of the production of surplus value — from which it obviously follows that this is not what securities are all about. It is also a fact that the widespread devaluation of such claims places the entire money economy in danger, which is therefore averted with massive guarantees of value by the political authorities on their own account, which even calls their own guarantee power into question — an all-too-obvious indication that these peculiar objects of value are not actually uncovered and “ultimately” no more than empty claims, but rather the “core” of wealth in a market economy, which cannot be allowed to suffer a “meltdown” (as experts like to express it using terms from an ultimate ‘maximal credible accident’ in the nuclear industry). Finally, it is also a fact that, since the beginning of the crisis, economic experts have been bombarding the public with information about the design of securities, and assessments of the significance and dangers of repeatedly repackaging them, which doesn’t explain anything . So we have concluded that we should counter all this useless information with an explanation of the political economy of the financial sector.

Noam Chomsky
A Radical Critic from, of, and for the Land of the Free

Noam Chomsky is a rare bird indeed. On the one hand, he is an established intellectual, a member of the respected academic elite; on the other hand, he is a world-famous, radical leftist critic — especially of the U.S. On the one hand, he is a professed anarchist and socialist whose critical views lie far outside the mainstream, having nothing to do with the typically constructive proposals usually offered to business and the state. On the other hand, he insists that his anarchist and “libertarian socialist” views are anything but extreme, but rather merely express the natural desire of all mankind: the desire for freedom. Chomsky regards himself as part of an intellectual tradition that is as humanistic as Europe and as American as apple pie, a tradition that includes intellectual luminaries such as Humboldt, Schelling, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Jefferson, J.J. Rousseau or Michael Bakunin. For Chomsky, regardless of the theoretical and practical disputes between these thinkers, as ardent advocates of freedom they agree on the most important point of all: “‘Man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being…’ [whose] true end [consists in] the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity.”

The next act in the war on terror
The United States conducts air strikes and forges a new alliance policy against the holy war of the Islamic State

In Mesopotamia, irregular militias have managed to become a regional power factor and proclaimed an “Islamic state.” They wage their war in order to consolidate their existence and extend their reach. In the West, the new power, which rules over parts of Syria and Iraq, is perceived exclusively by the bloodthirsty ways they enforce their rule: mass executions of overpowered enemies, soldiers and civilians alike; brutal expulsion of ethnic groups with the wrong beliefs or wrong loyalty; but especially by the demonstrative beheading of people the jihadists consider to be representatives of the West. The Islamic state and its objectives are fully subsumed under these barbaric practices — and because they admit no justification, no good reason for it, politicians and public opinion in the West deny the unwelcome upstart absolutely any political motive and purpose. President Obama grants “neither religion nor state!” to the ravages of these warriors. They are the pure evil that wants nothing more than the destruction of the good: violence for the sake of violence, murder for the sake of murder. The Islamic state is declared to be an enemy of mankind that must be destroyed in order to save civilization. All violence against it is legitimate and the help of all countries is due.

The head as a source of revenue
The contradictions of intellectual property

Intellectual property is a controversial matter. Many people don’t see why they should pay for text, software, music, or movies when they can be copied without effort or downloaded for free from the Net. And some people discover the ugly, unjust side of property in the ownership of “immaterial” goods, while the ownership of tangible, physical things they consider entirely proper. On the other side, it is not only the majority of artists who insist on the right to their works, from which they also have to be able to live. Politicians for their part find that especially intellectual property gets too little respect. They are willing to listen to the complaints of the media companies, which need a fully enforced copyright for their profits. The German government considers that already quite well realized within the country, but only inadequately put into practice outside it. The world abroad is rife with the “theft of ideas” and “product piracy,” by which not only the profits of multinationals are stolen, but also the “technical edge” of “our” economy in general. For the leading economic powers, it is a challenge to look after the protection of intellectual property abroad where foreign rulers decide how to deal with copyright, patent, and trademark complaints. Intellectual property has consequently become the object of a political struggle in global competition.

Improving the world with Facebook: Zuckerberg makes his contribution

In December 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan took the birth of their child, this moment of private happiness, as an occasion to publicly anounce their intention to donate 99 percent of their Facebook assets — just a measly 45 billion — to charity. In a letter to their baby girl, they professed that the birth moved them to reflect on the world in which she will grow up. And of course, the inventor of the platform for self-promotion on the world wide web decided not to keep the letter under wraps until his daughter could read it, but posted it for the whole world to read on Facebook. The Zuckerbergs have big plans: “Like all parents” they want only the best for their child, but unlike the vast majority of parents, this does not mean making sacrifices and saving money so that their child can go to school and have a better life than her parents. Given the enormous private power embodied by their wealth, the Zuckerbergs are more demanding: they wish to lay a whole “better world” at their little daughter’s feet.

China’s progress on the path to financial power and world power
(Abridged and revised)

In the spring of last year, the professional observers of world affairs reported bad news from the Far East: “China’s new development bank divides the West” (Die Zeit, Hamburg, March 17, 2015); “US isolates itself: China stirs up the world order” (Die Presse, Vienna, March 30, 2015); “The latest in de-dollarization: US forfeits credit” (telebö, March 25, 2015); “The past month will be remembered as that moment when the United States lost its role as guarantor of the global economic system” (Die Zeit, April 15, 2015). The dollar’s dominance at an end, American power losing its allure as guarantor for the global economy, the unity of the West destroyed by China — all because of the founding of a bank. How come?

Culture: how does it work?

Lovers of culture generally know that it has been around for a while. It hasn’t gotten any better though. Nowadays, just about everything that is outside the realm of necessity indulges in a rather peculiar use of the freedom that comes into its own in cultural matters.

But first to the exciting question of when the business got started.


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