Home Forum Political Economy Perverse Instantiation

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• #249731

I wonder if Capital as Power theory reaches to the abolition of income-producing private property and of money, markets, capital and finance? Logically, I think it ought. Of course, this sounds very much like a Utopian Marxist proposal. I think we agree here that money is not a measure of value in any shape or form. Money is an implementation of power. In this form, the only form it has, money measures power (of a certain type) precisely because it instantiates that power. This is the (social) power to create or destroy formations (real and social) against human resistance (real and social). In other words, people with more money can do stuff even if people with less money don’t want them to. This is a potted summary as per Bichler, Nitzan, Martin and Fix, as best as I can express it. (The social is a special and emergent sub-set of the real in the priority monist perspective. It is not ontologically separate from the real.)

Money is solely about (human) power. The entirety of value theory surrounding money is fallacious. To start at the simple beginning:

“Numbers that exist purely as numbers and do not represent amounts of quantities are called pure numbers. Examples of pure numbers are 8, 254, 0, 21 + 5/8, 2/5 and 0.07.” [1]

When we use numbers in an attempt to refer to real things (applied mathematics) we use pure numbers with units. These are called denominate numbers. “It is often necessary or convenient to compare two quantities. Denominate num­bers are numbers together with some specified unit. If the units being compared are alike, the denominate numbers are called like denominate numbers. If units are not alike, the numbers are called unlike denominate numbers… Numbers can be compared by subtraction (for example) if and only if they both are like denominate numbers or both pure numbers.” For example, we can subtract 5 meters from 8 meters and 5 dollars from 10 dollars but we cannot subtract 5 meters from 10 dollars. So far, so good, and all rather obvious of course.

However, a problem also arises when the unit is not real and/or not stable (Fix). The dollar unit is neither real nor stable. A dollar is a notional human creation. It is not fundamentally real and it is never stable (as we well know). The dollar is social-fictively real of course, raised and held up by social fictions in the laws, regulations and customs which we all maintain. The media used to record its numbers are real, but the dollar itself is not fundamentally real in the sense that a real object with mass is fundamentally real.

A founding reason why science works is that its units are stable and definable. In science we are using math operators on stable (stable enough) and defined (defined enough) units. As I say these days, “refer to the SI – International System of Units”. In economics, or at least in finance, we are using math operators with denominate numbers where the unit is unreal and unstable. This ipso facto renders the operations fallacious in pure science terms. The operations are nevertheless deemed valid and forced through and upon us by law, regulation and custom.

These fictions work for a time, work in some places and work for some. These fictions do not always and everywhere work for everyone. Nor do they work in the collision of the economic system with the real system, the environment. And we can see, foundationally as it were, why these fictions do not work ultimately. They do not work with real stuff. We seek to order real stuff (which actually includes humans who are also made of real stuff) with notional sums. The notional sums can never adequately and sustainably order real stuff.

The relation of this to value theory is complex. I don’t want to be too prolix. Suffice it to say here that money cannot measure ethical precepts nor can it measure or compare real quantities of different types (different units). So why would we consider that money and its operations are the correct way to manage human lives and the environment? Expressed in these terms we see the fundamental absurdity of it.

I often write of “Rules” and “Laws”. In my definition “Rules” mean all human legal laws, regulations and customs. “Laws” mean all the fundamental laws of hard science thus far discovered from nature and elucidated in science. The thing about Rules is that they can be Fundamental Physical Laws-congruent or Fundamental Physical Laws-incongruent. If incongruent they are inoperable. We can have a capital punishment law (unwise I argue) that is operable. It is Fundamental Physical Laws-congruent. We cannot have a resurrection pardon law (except in science fiction). It would be Fundamental Physical Laws-incongruent.

There is absolute and immediate (or near-immediate) incongruence of this type and there is also asymptote or limits incongruence. That is to say a rule can operate for a while, maybe a long while in human lifespan terms, but can eventually hit an asymptote or limit. This is what has happened with the capital-finance-money system of (ultimately faux) money valuation. We have hit the limit where the fictions fail. The system is fundamentally flawed and leads inevitably (axiomatically one could say) to catastrophic collapse.

It is interesting to consider the concept of “perverse instantiation”. Typically this is applied to AI. “Perverse instantiation is a type of malignant AI failure mode involving the satisfaction of an AI’s goals in ways contrary to the intentions of those who programmed it.” – EA forum.

The capitalist system itself is a case of perverse instantiation. The rules of capital (re property, money and finance) constitute a programmed set of instructions. These instructions were and are executed by human agents, now also by computer agents and no doubt at the “bleeding edge” by AI agents. We are seeing the malignant failure of this system in progress in real time. While programmed to satisfy the wealth and power lusts of the oligarchs, this system is also programmed, by default and disregard, to destroy the world. We cannot save the world with this system. That is my prediction. Of course, it is an easy prediction to make now. It is one minute to midnight.

This all asks the question. To survive, must we fully envision the abolition of income-producing private property and of money, markets, capital and finance? If not, what is envisaged and/or advocated from a Capital as Power perspective?

Note 1: Sentences on math concepts given in quotes are from LibreTexts Mathematics.

• This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.
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• #249733

This all asks the question. To survive, must we fully envision the abolition of income-producing private property and of money, markets, capital and finance? If not, what is envisaged and/or advocated from a Capital as Power perspective?

As I see it, the capital as power approach argues that (1) capital is best understood as the quantification of organized power; and (2) this understanding alters the way we theorize, historicize, research and relate to capitalism in practice.

I think that the practical implications of this understanding — namely, whether to defend, reform or abolish capitalism — are open ended. These implications are influenced by the notion that capital is power, but that notion alone does not chart the path forward. For example, CasP anarchists might prefer a system that minimizes organized power; disillusioned neoliberals might argue that the best defense against the quest for power is invigorating capitalist competition; while CasP fascists might go for centralized state and racial power instead.

A side note. The chief capitalist quantities are those used for the creordering of power. But I think that quantities will remain necessary in any complex society, even egalitarian ones. It is difficult if not impossible to juggle the balls of complexity without them.

• #249734

As I see it, capital is best understood as a social fiction: a socially constructed fictive reality. Capital consists of denominate numbers (whose units are the numeraire) which we cooperatively, or under duress, pretend or accept can refer validly to real quantities and which we use to manipulate real quantities. By “real” I mean real stuff. To shorthand that, if it has measurable mass, energy or momentum it is real stuff.

I argue that we need to understand the crucial difference between the real (in the above definition) and a human or social fiction. I will keep things aphoristic for brevity. Everything is real. Not everything is true. Even a fiction is real. A fiction or a false statement is constructed as patterns in media just as a true statement is constructed as patterns in media. To shorthand the difference between “real” and “true” in these senses, a crooked stud in framing is real but it is not true: using “true” in the sense that a carpenter uses the term “true”. I often have recourse to this brilliant definition by Peirce.

“That truth is the correspondence of a representation to its object is, as Kant says, merely the nominal definition of it. Truth belongs exclusively to propositions. A proposition has a subject (or set of subjects) and a predicate. The subject is a sign; the predicate is a sign; and the proposition is a sign that the predicate is a sign of that which the subject is a sign. If it be so, it is true. But what does this correspondence or reference of the sign, to its object, consist in?” – Charles Sanders Peirce.

If we consider representations or models which attempt to be accurate in at least one particular, it is clear that we can have true models (true in at least that one aspect) and false models (false in at least that one aspect). What do we mean by “true” here? Technically, we mean a homomorphic correspondence between the model and modelled object or process. Homomorphism is the best way to conceive the “true” relation. A homomorphism is a structure-preserving relation between statement or model and the object (the predicate in Peirce’s statement). The “true” consists in the structure-preserving relation.

With respect, I feel CasP is failing of its own radical promise and insights if it does not arrive at the full conclusion that the untrue “representations” – they are actually prescriptions not representations – of money, finance, capital with respect to reality and as calculations for the manipulation of reality ought to be wholly and radically abolished. Naturally, this would need to be a stepped process not an instant, wholesale abolition which would immediately collapse into total destructive anarchy. But if we cannot envisage and then action, stepwise, the abolition of capital what are we doing? I argue we are doing nothing but pursuing a hobby in the interstices of capitalism to distract ourselves from our existential plight.

The complete abolition of capital and capitalism is an existential necessity. It has become empirically clear that the existential crises of climate change, the sixth mass extinction and the clearly imminent pandemicene (to name three) are not in any way solvable by capitalism. These crises are created and exacerbated by capitalism and its wholly prescriptive approach which recognises no natural limits and uses its fictive denominate numbers to manipulate real stuff in a manner which is clearly destructive of life on earth.

• This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.
• #249736

With respect, I feel CasP is failing of its own radical promise and insights if it does not arrive at the full conclusion that the untrue “representations” – they are actually prescriptions not representations – of money, finance, capital with respect to reality and as calculations for the manipulation of reality ought to be wholly and radically abolished […] The complete abolition of capital and capitalism is an existential necessity, [etc.]

1. Yes, I agree. Capitalism should be radically transformed and, if possible, replaced by a different, saner from of social organization. But you don’t need CasP to draw this conclusion. Marxists, anarchists and many social democrats hold similar views.

2. CasP’s main contribution is to show that capital is power, and that capitalism is a mode of power. But I don’t think these claims per se are enough to assess the pros and cons of capitalized power. Such assessment requires that we figure out, both theoretically and empirically, exactly how, to what extent and with what consequences capital is power and capitalism a mode of power. In my view, this research remains very much in its infancy.

3. These uncertainties do not mean we should not try to change or abolish capitalism. The very imposition of capitalized power and its assorted forms of sabotage is good enough reason to jettison it, even if it doesn’t terminate humanity. But I think we should be careful not to deduce our preferences from ‘CasP findings’. Regrettably, these findings, however promising, require more breadth and depth to replace the existing ideologies and critiques of capitalism.

4. I’m voicing these reservations not to diminish CasP, but to defend it. I think CasP is a very effective template for analyzing — and ultimately changing — capitalism. It helps avoid the difficulties and impossibilities of Marxist materialism and neoclassical utilitarianism while offering insights into crucial processes they serve to hide. But these advantages hinge on keeping CasP a vibrant, open science. Once CasP starts accumulating preset ‘positions’, ‘assertions’, ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’, its science and novelty will fizzle out and dogma will take over.

• #249744

Jonathan,

Thank you for your reply. All your points are theoretically valid. However, the issue is time. The delay of political praxis indefinitely for the relative or stage completion of the science aspect becomes ever more problematic. In turn, you could validly ask, “What do you expect the CasP Core (for want of a better term) to do?” Realistically, there is nothing more to do than what you are doing already. Citizens and intellectuals are faced, somewhat equally I think, with their powerlessness to effect change in this system; at least so long there is no broad-based solidarity of the major classes and no broad understanding of what is actually happening, environmentally and in the political economy of power.

I referred to money, finance and capital as fictions, as social fictions. I ought to be more careful about terminology, definitions and expositions. The power of capital in this system is no fiction. It is very real as CasP uncovers and elucidates. The social fictions exist, at the publicly conscious  and debated levels, as the tales which hold that money and capital are measures and stores of value. This is the “theology” and “catechism” of capitalism to use the very useful Fixian (Blair Fix) analogy. CasP uncovers that money and capital are measures and stores of (social) power which translatable into physical power.

To speak pedantically, social power is all physical too, in the monist view of the cosmos as a complex relational physical system. The theology and catechism of capitalism, preached and propagandised to the populace incessantly by politicians, business leaders (so-called), media talking heads, the advertising industry and all the bought and suborned managers, advisers, bureaucrats and apparatchiks of neoliberal capital, are dinned into the brains of all those indoctrinated under this system. The ideas in their minds are entirely what they have been trained to think. There is no element that they have critically deduced for themselves. In the literal physicalist sense, the firing pathways and circuits in their brains, in their synapses, have been trained and to a significant degree sense formed, laid down, wetware-wired – as per plastic brain theory – to accept the rubrics and platitudes of capitalist dogma as self-evident truths. This is the physical sub-stratum and indeed the basis of the human network of false consciousness under capitalism.

It is this level of mind programming and indeed of firmware or wetware installation in the brains of the populace from birth to maturity which produces what we may call the hive mind of capitalism. However, we would be selling humans short if we didn’t consider that they still have autonomy and the ability to detect and process the gap between their real physical and emotional or conscious qualia state (under increasing impoverishment, exclusion and privation) and the claims that under capitalism they are and always will be living in the “city of light” [1]. A further phrase I find useful in this context is “the day prophecy fails”. The day is fast approaching when the prophecy of capitalism fails. We will find we are not living in the eternal cornucopian embrace of  endless  production and blissful consumption but rather in a dystopian hellscape of runaway climate change and ecological disruption. No recitation of catechisms will fill empty bellies or placate existentially terrified minds at that point.

As I have said before, (scientific) theory of this general type (like CasP) must be prepared for the day that people are ready to hear it. So I guess this is part of the role of Capital as Power: to produce theoretical models more homomorphically congruent  (my terminology) with aspects of reality and to deploy them to replace the mythic constructs of capitalism with more realistic models ready for use when people lose faith in capitalism. Eventually the idea that billionaires should have, almost in their hands alone, such huge wealth and indeed a majority of the world’s wealth and the attendant power to creorder the world to their wishes and against the majority will begin to seem obviously wrong and insane to the majority. Work and cling to the tiniest hope. That’s about it.

Footnote 1: “The City of Light” is featured in the dystopian series “The 100”. The series is full of grinding, grisly violence and plot holes often associated with improbable recoveries from gut holes but it has some interesting symbolism and an extensively imagined continuous collision between technology and barbarism. “Perverse Instantiation” Parts I and II explore AI and AI brain implant issues, imaginatively and sensationally.

• This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.
• This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.
• #249747

1. It would be nice to offer solutions, but first we need to convince our audience there is a problem. We have been trying to do so for over 40 years, and truth be told, it seems that we don’t even have an audience…. For example, our 2022 Hebrew book, Capital and its Crisis, received a grand total of zero reviews. We continue to research and publish regardless; but our ability to influence the course of history seems rather limited.

2. On a more positive note, have a look at our 2018 paper, ‘The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future‘. Section III: Future, suggests seven research trajectories. Pursuing them might help construct a better world (if you prefer watching, here is the video).

3. And then, there is the younger generation of brilliant CasPers, whose research is almost always impressive and occasionally mind boggling. A lot of promise there, or so I hope!

• #249750

I guess this comes under the heading of preparing theory for the day it is required. Compared to human life spans, history can move slowly. It’s like the old joke though. How did you go broke? At first slowly, then quickly. How did capitalism collapse? At first slowly, then quickly.

I will reveal my Anglocentrism here. “Capital and Its Crisis” IMHO needs an English translation, quite a task of course. Can a good, inexpensive or free, open automated translator do a first pass which can then be edited? I feel certain you have considered this but have other priorities.

Such a pass example edited by me (though the automated translator is probably not free for commercial use):

“Capitalism rules the world. Heated discussions continue between establishment scholars and those critical of the nature of global capitalism. The problem is that the nature of the institution, the central quantity in capitalism – capital – is unknown. After more than two hundred years of vigorous Capitalist development, there is still no logical theory of capital – not in science, economics or Marxist political economy and not in the social sciences in general, whether they are positivist or critical, modern or postist. This is evident during capital crises. At such times, the helplessness of the trusted experts and managers is revealed. Questioned on the thinness of their capital theory and sometimes, in their moments of anxiety and panic, they even confess that they do not understand the nature of capital nor its crises. And when the protest flags are raised and the demonstrators leave their homes and workplaces in anger and take to the streets, it turns out that the masters of capital don’t have an alternative plan. They do not understand the essence of Capital, nor its results.”

No doubt, my edited translation is poor but I could laboriously read your book in this way. I am not planning to do so at this stage. I’ll wait to see if a translation is coming. After all (and please forgive the chauvinism and obviousness in pointing it out):

“English is the universal form of communication in science. Although many countries still publish journals in their native tongue, English is currently the best way to share one’s research findings with scientists in other parts of the world.” – languageconnections

• This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.
• This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Rowan Pryor.