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Reading Colin Drumm’s book through a CasP filter has led me to a few conclusions and one big question.
The conclusions include:
First, for capitalism to emerge, the ruling elites had to change the fundamental nature of money by cleaving from it the function of storing value (wealth), thus allowing wealth (now “capital”) to accumulate within the accounting books of finance without removing money from circulation.
Second, changing the nature of money changed the nature of the market, allowing it to become the primary tool for transferring power from the ruled to the rulers (via contractual obligations instead of tradition). Before the introduction of modern money stabilized the money supply and allowed it to grow with the population, through peace and war, the market itself was intermittent and could not play a central role to daily existence.
Finally, for the ruling elite (whether capitalist or pre-capitalist), power equates, first and foremost, to freedom FROM the market (i.e., Drumm’s “outside option” and “liquidity preference”). You can only be free from the market, or relatively free from it, if you can meet your basic needs WHILE accumulating wealth. You do not need liquidity to live.
While capitalism fundamentally changed the nature of money and “the Market” (among other things), did it change the nature of power, or did it just change how power is expressed and experienced?
I would argue the fundamental nature of power is the same under capitalism as it was under feudalism. Both modes of power rely on laws to impose obligations on (“coerce”) the individual. The fact that the laws of feudalism arise from a mixture of secular and religious sources is irrelevant (and to be expected, given the history). The Law, whatever its source, is the rulers’ primary mechanism for subjugating the ruled (whereas violence is the the conqueror’s primary mechanism).
To me, the real difference between capitalism and feudalism is how power is expressed by the rulers and experienced by the ruled. Under feudalism, power was expressed and experienced the same way, personally. There was no way to hide, obscure or avoid cause and effect, or its consequences. Under capitalism, power is expressed impersonally through the Market, which creates an asymmetry in how power is experienced by the rulers and the ruled. The rulers are relatively free from the Market, which creates for them the opportunity to accumulate more power. The ruled, however, are completely dependent on the Market, and their need (their liquidity preference) leads them to a condition of chronically surrendering their power to “market forces,” which render the hand of the rulers invisible.
Regardless, for the concept of different “modes of power” to make sense to me, the nature of power must remain constant from mode to mode. If the very definition of power changes between modes, you might as well coin a new term each time.
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