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  • Rowan Pryor
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      Part 2 of review.

      We will start out again bearing in mind Jesús’s key question: “What are the ontological properties of the ‘virtual’?” This question is crucial given that we are trying conceptually to fit the virtual, as a “puzzle piece” into the monistic, real, material system and determine the virtual’s mode of existence in situ and in operation in that system: how it transmits effects to the other non-virtual parts of the real system and how it receives feed-backs in return. To jump ahead the answer to this is information and the field is information theory. I can take people to the gate of information theory (maybe) but I cannot really enter that field. I do not have the erudition necessary.

      First, I will have to convince the reader that my metaphysics make sense and do relate to the empirical. It is easy in itself to posit a monistic real system. That’s part of the fun of philosophy. It’s easy to posit things. It doesn’t mean they are right but they are easy and fun to posit. Then, if we make logical deductions from a posited a priori with some epistemic justification, we find we can end up in interesting places and possibly even with hypotheses that are testable. In the words of a great American Pragmatist philosopher:

      “The best that can be done is to supply a hypothesis, not devoid of all likelihood, in the general line of growth of scientific ideas, and capable of being verified or refuted by future observers.” – C. S. Peirce.

      The project of unifying ontology for real and formal systems must begin, as in all metaphysics, with a priori justification. “A priori justification is a type of epistemic (knowledge) justification that is, in some sense, independent of experience.” [1] The a priori justification follows.

      All that exists is best understood as a single, complex system. Modern physics interprets the cosmos as a single relational physical system and this understanding informs its entire research program. Progress continues in discovering further dependable laws and relationships within the posited single system. Confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson [2], as hypothesized, and the detection of gravitational waves [3] from a spacetime distant cosmological event, are recent demonstrations of the predictive power and experimental reach of modern physics. The overarching and clearly monist principle in modern physics is that of Relational Theory. The positions and properties of any detectable object, process or field value can be determined only in relation to the positions and properties of other objects, processes and field values.

      Metaphysics must, I contend, take this lead from the relational system monism of modern physics and employ the thesis of a single connected system to potentially resolve, by logical deduction from the specific a priori, the central philosophical problems of ontology and epistemology; the problems of being and knowledge. The relational system monism of physics yields successful theoretical and applied results over much of its investigative domain. By extension, relational system monism may be used in metaphysics as an Occam’s Razor (simplest consistent explanation) to generate solutions for some of the most difficult problems in metaphysics (and to dismiss philosophical non-problems which are controversies arising solely from poorly justified suppositions). More importantly, from the point of view of this review, the ontology of formal system / real system interactions can be logically systematized and possibly even investigated empirically, within a monist framework.

      Let us look at a simple monistic systems/sub-systems schema which can be developed. The pipe symbol (||)  is used to indicate a system interface. Each system is a sub-system of the system to its left.

      A.            Cosmos || World || Human || Brain || Mind || Formal System

      The schema may also be rendered in the plural on earth as;

      B.            Cosmos || World || Humans || Brains || Minds || Formal Systems

      Schema B explicitly posits systems of systems in the World (meaning on Earth). For example, we can think of a system of human brains, a system of human minds and a system of formal systems.

      The above schema B. would necessarily posit, via strict physicalism or materialism, that each system is a real physical system as defined by physics and do so as simply and naively as follows. Each system is a sub-system of the system to its left. A sub-system of a real system must be a real system. This chain of reasoning  finally results in the seemingly contradictory assertion that a Formal System is a Real System. Yet this contradiction is only seeming, not actual.  In this purview, a Formal System is simply a special case of a Real System. It is possible to demonstrate how and why it is a special case. A book, for example of Euclidean geometry, contains a Formal System yet the book physically is a real system comprised of the atoms and compounds which make paper, glue, ink and so on. In turn, the implied concept that “A Real System can contain a Formal System” can be developed out as operative via and solely via real physical processes between real physical systems.

      We are compelled to ask, where does human-generated Formal Euclidean geometry in its entirety exist? It exists in the real systems of brains, instruments, books, computers and other media where physical substance and physical processes encode it. (Systems are not static structures in space but processes in space-time. Put another way, processes are structures moving and changing in space-time and exchanging matter, energy and information.) This view in turn notes that brains (and minds) both encode and decode Formal Systems in patterns and processes of physical substance involving matter, energy and information.

      This firm insistence on complex real system, monist consistency across all systems has finally resulted in the seemingly contradictory assertion that a Formal System is also a Real System, as stated above. Yet the contradiction is only seeming, not actual. A Formal System is indeed also a Real System and it is simply a special case of a real system. Real systems and formal systems are nominally and epistemologically separate but they are not ontologically separate. In a unified Physicalist ontology, the “formal system” is still a real subsystem of the larger or full real system. It is in the transmission of information both ways and in the operations on and with that information, via human action, that we see the nominally Formal and the Real interact. Information and information transfers are the key issue when it comes to considering the relationship of formal and virtual systems (as special types of real systems) with the rest of real system reality.

      The above must be true under the a priori assumption of priority monism IFF (if and only if) the a priori assumption itself is true. A theory model (descriptive or prescriptive) is (or becomes in the emergent sense) a novel subset of the monistic system. A sub-system model of a system never fully replicates or models the entire system. The model must always be incomplete. If finance modelled the real economy in a manner analogous to the way a Newtonian finite state machine for a computer game models real terrain and real action, then the finance model would certainly be incomplete with respect to the real economy. However, following Cherizola, we posit that the finance model is prescriptive not descriptive. It prescribes real operations, it does not describe them. And it prescribes them to trained persons. We are educated and encultured to receive and execute the coded instructions from the virtual and prescriptive finite state machine of capital and finance.

      Any formal system instantiates data or information in patterns of real matter or energy. An “agent”, a human mind for example, encodes and decodes these formal patterns. Every operation is real; meaning every operation is a real system operation including the operations where information is instantiated (encoded) as patterns in real media and then decoded from the real medium, interpreted and acted upon. I refer here to the transmitting of matter, energy and information between real systems, including minds and formal systems instantiated in real systems. The information in formal systems is instantiated (in some real medium) as patterns which can influence the development of further patterns. That is the key: patterns which, with other additives like algorithms, controls, directions plus added new materials and energies, influence and engender the production of new and often more and/or larger entities exhibiting pattern (as “finished productions”) in what we may well say is an overall kind of auto-catalytic sprawl process. Clearly, all of this must refer to aspects of information theory. Humans (human agents) perform the role of conceptualisers, planners, encoders, decoders, translators and transformers of the information in these patterns into productions.

      With the above in mind, let us examine another of Peirce’s key statements critically.

      “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

      We can now answer Peirce’s crucial concluding question and the answer illuminates Cherizola’s key question. Valid ideas, models and virtual models (descriptive or prescriptive) are able to demonstrate some truth or some creordering power (via dependable correspondence with linking and descriptive or prescriptive potential) in modelling or creordering broader reality and are able to do so precisely because they contain linked relations as formal systems just as broader reality itself contains linked relations as real systems. The linking of objects and relations (laws) each to each is the key meta-homomorphic principle. IFF (if and only if), the a priori assumption for Complex System Monism (the essential and complete monism of the cosmos as a monistic system of sub-systems) is true, then the assertion that formal systems are a special subset of real systems and thus real as well as formal, is entirely supportable. What this means in detail, and what meaning-possibilities follow, from positing that formal systems are also real and a special sub-set of real systems, must be explored.

      Models (descriptive or prescriptive) are a system subset of monistic system reality and share the same characteristic of being systems, specifically sub-systems, of the whole system. I contend that it is this shared systems nature itself, within the system-monistic cosmos, which crucially suggests the likely inescapable sharing of fundamental Laws relating to information and entropy by real and formal systems and which ensures that real connection (as truth correspondence or command-response correspondence) is possible between the formal and the real and that a model (a physical scale model, a mathematical model, a computer model, an algorithmic model, an heuristic model or a language statement as a model) can successfully reference and describe what we colloquially term broader, external or objective reality.

      To reiterate, these considerations very simply and completely answer the key philosophical question, “what does this correspondence or reference of the sign, to its object, consist in?” Its ontological connection, with the mind and body mediating, consists in the transfers of matter, energy and information (especially information) between two real systems, one nominally formal but still real (the model) and the other demonstrably and classically real in the physicalist sense, as the object in the physical monistic system. Its potential truth correspondence or reference as epistemological connection consists in the degree of analogical congruence or homomorphism exhibited by the idea system or model system in relation to the real system and the meta-homomorphism of each being systems (as mentioned above).

      I hope I have made sense. These are not easy ideas and they are not easy ideas to get across.


      [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Online.

      [2] Nobel Prize in Physics 2013, Englert and Higgs – “for …discovery of the predicted fundamental particle…”

      [3] Sep 14 2015, LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) sensed distortions in spacetime caused by passing gravitational waves generated by two colliding black holes 1.3 billion light years distant.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
      Rowan Pryor
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        Part 1 of a “review” of ‘From Commodities to Assets: Capital as Power and the Ontology of Finance.’

        I have been turning over in my mind how to “review” Jesús Suaste Cherizola’s excellent essay. Of course “review” is altogether too presumptuous a word for me to use. I do not possess the breadth of knowledge to review it properly.  That said, it was the central importance of ontology to the argument that drew much of my attention. When reading any form of economics or political economy I pay great attention to the a priori ontological assumptions, implicit and explicit, and to the taxonomy of “ontological objects” presented. It is from its taxonomy of “ontological objects” that a discipline can be (or cannot be) logically or empirically constructed. The ontological objects, which may be any or all of objects, processes and abstractions, can be drawn from so-called pure reason and/or from experience (empiricism).

        I have a basic rule these days. “If the ontology is wrong, then everything is wrong after that.” The ontology of Jesús’s essay is NOT wrong. I am strongly of the opinion that it is correct in all points where I detected ontology at work. That doesn’t automatically mean that all observations and deductions made from the stance of a valid ontology will be correct. That, of course, depends on the accuracy of the observations and deductions themselves. Nevertheless, all the observations and deductions in the essay looked sound to me. Rather than doing a “blow by blow” review, I intend to focus on a very intriguing question Jesús posed near the end of the essay. “Many questions remain to be answered. For example, I have defined capital as a ‘virtual’ structure. This concept needs to be clarified: what are the ontological properties of the ‘virtual’?” This is a very important question. I feel I may be qualified to assist in answering it. I hope what follows will be more interesting and useful to people than a “blow by blow” review. In addition, Jesús has supplied the very kernel of the answer to his own question in his own essay. It leapt out at me when I saw it.

        First, let me justify my statement: “If the ontology is wrong then everything is wrong after that.” The history of the discipline of medicine is a great example. While medicine had a false ontology of ontological objects, as in the humors theory, it could never progress. It was trapped in unempirical falsehoods and false prescriptions, false “cures” and so on. When it developed a more accurate ontology of the basics of the human body and its organs and systems and also discovered pathogens as an ontological class it could begin to make progress. Modern conventional economics is still at its “humors” stage. Economic value is a humor theory.

        The practical ontology of a discipline is the taxonomy of “ontological objects” fundamental to that discipline. This ontology will include fundamental objects, forces and fields and their fundamental relations. The periodic table of elements (a taxonomy) is fundamental to chemistry as are atoms, ions, electrons, protons and other fundamental objects plus fundamental process categories (exothermic and endothermic for example) and even fundamental laws, like the laws of thermodynamics. To look at a formal ontology, most of us could easily name off the ontological objects, categories, parameters and rules of chess, which together establish chess ontologically and formally:- King, queen, pieces, pawns, board and movement rules. Chemistry deals with real systems and has an ontology of real objects. Chess is a formal system and thus has an ontology of formal objects. They both have formal notations which is interesting to note at this point. A real system discipline has a formal notation and a formal system discipline has a formal notation. This is an obvious point, but surely intriguing at some level.

        Real system ontologies can be wrong, empirically speaking. The ontology of alchemy was wrong. The ontology of early medicine was wrong. While the ontology of these disciplines was wrong their practitioners couldn’t do much… except fool the credulous! Kind of sounds like conventional economics does it not? Completely formal system ontologies cannot be empirically wrong (as they refer to nothing real) but they can be any or all of internally inconsistent, unworkable in practice, aesthetically unpleasing and even incomprehensible to the human mind if the formal ontology is a real mess. The human mind itself has to be able to work with formal system ontologies and this puts limits on what and which formal ontologies will work. I will give a small example. Imagine I rewrite one new rule of chess while leaving all other rules, parameters, board and chessmen the same. The rule I rewrite is the pawn promotion rule for when it reaches the 8th rank. “When you promote a pawn it has to become a Wyvern”. The rule is non-executable as I have not defined the Wyvern as a piece, nor its movement rules. The formal ontology is now inconsistent / incomplete. The new rule will ruin a subset of Chess games at the juncture where a pawn promotion is a player’s best move, surviving move or even only move.

        Now, I will get back to Jesús’s key question: “What are the ontological properties of the ‘virtual’?” This question is key because we want to integrate the real and virtual or rather perhaps the real and the formal in one ontology. This is absolutely crucial and it should become clear why as we proceed. A virtual construct is a formal construct, or an expression or product of a formal construct, which is very clearly either modelling the larger real or else directing the larger real in the sense Jesús talks about in his essay with the expression “performative power”.  A useful virtual construct will either model the larger real usefully in some way or it will influence (creorder) the larger real in some required way (via ordered performances by humans as agents). Jesús’s essay has made this very clear to me in a new way and permitted the extension of my own ontological conceptions. Of course, the idea that finance reflects (models) the world is the basis of much conventional economic ontology. The idea that finance influences (creorders) the world comes out of CasP and comes out in a well demonstrated and particularised way in Jesús’s essay.

        Jesús’s basic ontology for political economy is partly explicit and partly implicit. I hope I am not wrong in saying this. It is explicit in that it is expressly materialist or physicalist. It is also implicitly monist. That is to say, he is clearly dealing with one substance throughout in terms of substance philosophy, namely the material. The key question then comes as follows. How is the virtual actually material (by implication) and how does it interact with the rest of the material world? Jesús gives a couple of more-than hints which essentially answer his own question. As I say, he has the full kernel of the answer already in his essay. In part 2 below I will start from my end of the matter and get back to Jesús’s answer and what it means, to me at least. But I won’t keep people in suspense about Jesús’s very clear answer to his own question:

        “The central idea of this ontology is that the financial realm is not the ‘mirror’ of the real economy, but a language that participates in the creation of social reality — a code that makes possible a specific form of social interactions and power relations.”

        As a sometime programmer and a sometime modifier (modder) of virtual reality games, the word “code” leapt out at me. The virtual reality is coded; first encoded, then decoded, then executed. And the reality it all happens in is one monistic reality. But how is it all “one substance” as per the monistic assumption necessary to make the theory work? That is what I will deal with in Part 2.

        • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
        • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
        • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
        Rowan Pryor
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          I am very late in commenting on this essay by Jesús Suaste Cherizola. In this first comment I want to touch briefly on the issue of ontology in economics. What a relief it is to find economic analysis which takes ontology seriously. Ontology is integral to the entire CasP project though understandably it does not get foregrounded in every text. The term “ontology” appears in Cherizola’s essay title and gets 8 more mentions in the text, excluding the citation. This is significant and refreshing. Mentioning ontology and the need for re-examining economic ontology on the RWER blog gets a very uneven response. Some understand the need for such an endeavour but many dismiss it as a presumed metaphysical side-show unrelated to economics or even anything real. Mentioning ontology on other economics blogs draws responses from being completely ignored to dismissive remarks that ontology is speculative, post-modern (sic) or already fully settled in economics.

          Of course ontology is not settled in orthodox economics. It’s obsolete. Much of it is still 19th C stuff and it was wrong then. The other issue is that many people don’t seem to understand that both scientific disciplines and formal disciplines have ontologies. Ontology is not the exclusive preserve of religious and speculative metaphysics. The ontologies of empirical and formal disciplines are very different (in derivation) from those of metaphysics. However, this thread is not the place for me to pursue this issue. At this stage I would like to know if;

          (a) I should write a more in-depth comment specifically on Jesús Suaste Cherizola’s essay? and

          (b) What would be the best thread for me to write a little on ontology and the need for applying ontological methods and schemas to economics?

          I hope I am not too late to give more detailed comments on the essay. at least.

          in reply to: COVID-19 and Capitalism #246869
          Rowan Pryor
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            Scot, I basically accept your points, albeit with significant caveats. COVID-19 is probably not going to be to capitalism what the Black Death was to feudalism. That is if we hold that the Black Death brought down Feudalism. In other words, COVID-19 looks unlikely to bring down capitalism, on its own. It might or might not modify (neoliberal) capitalism longer term. It certainly makes capitalism even more unviable for the poor and vulnerable. There are historians who argue, with backing research, that the Black Death made the rich richer. If this happens again, if we see COVID-19 directly operating to make the rich richer (and I think there is already data for this conclusion), then in that sense COVID-19 is going  to be to capitalism what the Black Death was to feudalism.

            As I wrote in my above posts, I would be careful about equating COVID-19 in ANY way to influenza. People naturally look for analogies but the pathogens and diseases are scarcely analogous at all except for the pulmonary infection route and the fact of being RNA viruses. They are not even in the same phylum (of Realm: Riboviria, Kingdom: Orthornavirae). That is a long way back up the classification tree and I argue that that matters. Genetics, epigenetics and phenotype matter. Code and conformation matter. I argue we should be aware of this and expect, albeit not with absolute certainty of course, the SARS-CoV-2 virus to interact very differently with humans than do the Influenza A virus and Influenza B virus, for examples.

            It is possible that influenza, of some variety at least, has existed as infecting and transmitting between humans for about 8,000 years. Perhaps we could put a plus or minus of 2,000 years on that. That is a lot of coevolution of humans and influenza viruses. Some examples of coronaviruses, namely some cold coronaviruses have also existed and co-evolved with humans. These may have been around for up to 18,000 years plus or minus several thousand. In classification terms this gets us down three steps to Family: Coronaviridae. This means something for sure but how much it means is still uncertain. Maybe we should look to coronavirus cold behaviour for some indicators but not those already refuted. SARS-CoV-2 is not benign like the  cornoavirus cold. But SARS-CoV-2 appears capable of multiple infections within a year in the same person, just like the coronavirus cold, and even against immunisation in a significant number of cases. SARS-CoV-2 appears to be showing a considerably greater ability than does influenza to execute immune escape and vaccine escape and without so much relying on rapid mutation to achieve this as does influenza. SARS-CoV-2 also causes more death and morbidity than standard seasonal flus though perhaps not more than 1 in 100 year flu pandemic mutations.

            SARS-CoV-2 is a very different “beast” from the influenza viruses. This suggests we should not automatically expect its progress to be the same as influenza pandemic(s). It could be the same, better or worse than flus over the long term. We just don’t have enough data yet. The other point I made was that this was a novel zoonosis, a pathogen brand new to humans in terms of infecting and being directly transmitted between humans.  We have not co-evolved with SARS-CoV-2 except since about November 2019. This matters as this becomes and is a punctuated equilibrium evolution event. The salient point about punctuated equilibrium evolution is that evolution is vastly more rapid than in the long equilibrium periods in between. This is especially the case on the side of a mutating virus rapidly colonising huge numbers of immune-naïve humans numbering in the billions. This rapid evolution event is potentially very dangerous as it does, as the name suggests, carry the real possibility of puncturing an equilibrium; namely the recent and current equilibrium we have lived in, as a modern, industrialised, globalised and over-populated civilization. I don’t think the potential dangers of this can be over-emphasised. Eradication was in order initially. Since we have failed that test, extreme caution and strong suppression (global 95% vaccination, plus treatments and NPIs) are in order. Since we are still failing all of these for at least 2/3 rds of the world population, I can only state again I don’t think the potential dangers of this situation can be over-emphasised.

            Global warming is much more clearly an existential threat to our system and even species than is SARS-CoV-2. However, I don’t think that we can rule SARS-CoV-2 out as a possible real threat to our system though not to our species. We will very likely co-evolve and co-exist with SARS-CoV-2 eventually but it could look like co-existence with flu-size epidemics which are more frequent than flu epidemics tend to be. One issue that exercises me is the multiplicative nature of these threats. Dealing with climate change is and will be bad enough; touch and go in fact. Dealing with climate change times SARS-CoV-2 looks even worse. That is a real worry.

            • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
            in reply to: Marx’s notion of alienation and CasP #246866
            Rowan Pryor
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              Thank you, Jonathan, for your succinct reply. My comments tend to be discursive and prolix. I also appear to have missed the point.

              The term “dialectical determinism” I will take to encompass the additive meaning of “dialectical materialism” and “economic determinism”. I accept your point that there is a problem in basing “dialectical determinism on narrow economic arguments”. Whether Marx does this in the entire body of his works might be an open question. However, the practical point is that the Marxists do it. The orthodox neoclassicals also do it.

              CasP has refuted the arguments for narrow economic value measures (UTILS and SNALTs): the “value controversy” as I call it. Of course, CasP has not ended arguments about value per se and I don’t think CasP claims that. CasP has simply pushed arguments about human and human social value(s) back to where they belong, in axiology and ethics.

              I agree with your point 2.

              In point 3 you write “Hanging these delays on ‘countervailing forces’ is reminiscent of neoclassical ‘distortions’. A theory that claims to grapple with the fate of humanity should include any meaningful countervailing force in its core.” I agree, if the countervailing forces actually are not at the core or if the program of finding the countervailing forces is not at the core of the dialectic. There is a further problem. Countervailing forces can emerge or evolve at higher or later stages.

              However, CasP again sidesteps or annuls this problem. If it finds, or reasserts the finding of, power at the core of the system, as it does, then it has fixed on a “timeless verity”, at least in the time span of human history. Power or rather social and physical power always lie at the heart of human societies (along with other basic verities to use that terminology). New forms of power can emerge and evolve and must be newly identified at the “speciation level” but power as such is a constant genus or category.

              It is all too easy to slip into old habits of thought while attempting to grasp a new conceptual paradigm. I continue to make this mistake. At the same time, I take nothing on trust. Where the taking on of an unorthodox theory could entangle me in a new orthodoxy I am wary to say the least. The touchstones have to be science but not scientism and empiricism but not the settling for mere surface appearances.

              • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
              • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
              in reply to: Marx’s notion of alienation and CasP #246855
              Rowan Pryor
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                Please see Part 1 above first.

                Part 2 – The issue of “Laws” and “Tendencies” in Marx.

                “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra.

                This is a fraught area, not just in Marx but in science and the philosophy of science, including Humean style empirical philosophy. It might be clear from my part 1 that I view a basic scientific law as NOT precisely an expression of event or process regularity but as a point-in-time regularity in a system, formally defined as closed, which regularity can be sequentially confirmed by further point-in-time observations. This is as in “A Fundamental Scientific Law is an expression of a relation (between two or more observable objects, forces or field values as variables) that is universal in all experimental observation thus far and invariant in manifestation under observation, to a standard of 5-sigma certainty, for the hard sciences.” Admittedly, this definition left open the question of point-in-time stasis versus time-in-process dynamics (taking the “arrow of time” from the net entropy process in the cosmos as ultimate closed system).

                If time is reduced to a point in time, in conception, then the idea of cause must be abandoned and replaced by the idea of (“mere”) simultaneous conjunction. Laws then become not explanations of causes but merely descriptions of simultaneous conjunction to be expected (predicted to hold true) at any point in time. We expect Ohm’s Law to apply each time we test it and each time we use it in practice. I regard tendencies and trends, which are processes, as the emergent outworkings of the phenomena we attempt to capture with Fundamental Scientific Laws. There is always an explanatory gap in the emergence of tendencies and trends. Whether Marx and/or his interpreters had/have this in mind with ambiguous usages of “law”, “tendency”, “law of the tendency”, “tendential law” etc., I do not know for sure. I would view “tendency” as the predicted direction of action of a “law” provided it is not interfered with or modified by a new, confounding factor or “law”. Hence the Newtonian “law of gravity” on earth predicts all objects aloft will fall toward earth. That is the tendency of the law. But we know objects can be held up, kept aloft by aerodynamic forces and so on.

                Jonathan Nitzan criticises Marx for “dialectical determinism” which “perhaps explains why many of his predictions failed to materialize.” But if someone is predicting a “tendency” based on “laws” whose inherent tendency may be modified, confounded or countervailed by other factors  or tendencies (elsewhere detailed or left as open possibilities) then that person cannot be fairly charged with simplistic determinism. The question always arises of whether it is Marx or his more simplistic interpreters who are being dogmatically deterministic. Did “many of his predictions failed to materialize”? Did some which we focus on, employing our own confirmation bias, fail to materialize? Did all fail to materialize? Did some materialize in ways WE are failing to recognise? Are some yet simply to materialize in the future since the time progress of capitalism is not over? This is a Gish gallop for sure but not entirely unjustified if we are to systemically and comprehensively examine all the overt predictions.

                “(T)he rising purchasing power of workers, the creation and spread of the welfare state and the proliferation of parliamentary democracies in a many countries (which) suggested far less inevitability than Marx had hoped for” can be seen as countervailing tendencies whether predicted or unpredicted. Of course, this can be bowdlerized philosophy or motivated political economy reasoning acting like an intellectually dishonest slippery eel and putting in qualifications AFTER the event… unless we can find some hypotheses related to these countervailing tendencies in Marx’s texts. If I get both really bored and really studious (a strange confluence of characteristics!) I may check Marx for these theses of countervailing tendencies. Or perhaps they are just magical unicorns I am too optimistically hoping to find? I think maybe not but I am not sure.

                Is it the case that any contention that, “the rising purchasing power of workers” is a continuous and open-ended truth which holds for whole of the capitalist era and will continue to hold, is itself too dogmatic a claim? Has it not already failed? Have not wages in the US stagnated and fallen, differentially compared to returns on capital since about 1980 and the advent of the neoliberal era? Could this not be seen as the re-establishment of the main tendency of the original law after the exhaustion of a countervailing tendency (Keynesian Welfarism) ?

                I have more thoughts but must leave it at that for now. If I am well off track or out of order from a CasP theory perspective, Jonathan and others need time to exercise right of reply rather than face an endless wall of text (gibberish?) from me. 🙂

                • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                in reply to: Marx’s notion of alienation and CasP #246853
                Rowan Pryor
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                  • Total posts: 88

                  There are laws and there are tendencies. This might sound like a flippant reply intended to rescue Marx’s position. It is intended to rescue Marx’s position, somewhat, but it is not flippant. In a complex system with feedbacks, the operation of any law can be countervailed by opposing and feedback forces. The law then manifests as a tendency in the system, not as a unidirectional arrow of historical determinism. Dogmatic Marxists and (dare I say it) opponents looking for strawman arguments are equally likely to misinterpret the basic expression of a law (so-called) as a prediction that the real historical tendency of the entire system will be simple and unidirectional; in a word deterministic.

                  Of course, the whole issue of what a “Law” is, is fraught. What is meant in science by the term “Law” is a “Fundamental Scientific Law” of nature. What was meant, even in Marx’s time, generally was a mechanistic and deterministic Newtonian view of fundamental scientific law.  As a philosopher and political economist Marx was paradoxically attempting to both harness the uses of mechanistic law thinking (including causal determinism as an a priori principle and reductionism as a method) and yet to transcend such simple determinism in order to arrive at a material dialectic capable of deeper and more complex explanations and predictions. “Dialectical Materialism”, a term coined by Joseph Dietzgen, not Marx, is essentially a proto complex systems theory. This waswell before Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy and general systems theory so Marx was a trail blazer, acknowledged or unacknowledged.

                  The issue of what a fundamental scientific law actually is cannot be ignored, especially from our modern perspective. A Fundamental Scientific Law is an expression of a relation (between two or more observable objects, forces or field values as variables) that is universal in all experimental observation thus far and invariant in manifestation under observation, to a standard of 5-sigma certainty, for the hard sciences. A Fundamental Scientific Law is a (useful) human artefact no less than a functional piece of pottery. This is not to denigrate or devalue either. Both a Fundamental Scientific Law and a pottery piece are made out of real stuff; their “shape” is cast from real stuff. In the case of the pot the shape is concrete (the material is fired clay to avoid any appearance of misstatement) and in the case of the Fundamental Scientific Law the “shape” is abstract and almost invariably mathematicised.

                  Hard science derives much of its theoretical and applied power from radical modelling simplification (reductionism if you like) of the systems it observes. This is clear even when we begin to look at the issue of the “three-body problem” or “n-body” problem after Newton had solved the two-body problem for us. The path of radical (and mechanistic) modelling simplification is not open to the honest philosopher nor to the honest social scientist of political economy. I will come back to that in this or my next post. Even hard science does not operate without a priori assumptions. This might seem an absurd or paradoxical claim but it is not and this reality does not prevent science making theoretical and practical advances. Indeed simplifying a priori assumptions assist the process.

                  Newton employed a number of a priori assumptions to develop his Newtonian mechanics. The central ones were the assumptions of;

                  (a) pure empty space;

                  (b) a universal inertial system; and

                  (c) the action of force over distance through pure empty space.

                  Even as expressed, we can perhaps begin to see the internal and external contradictions in and to Newton’s assumptions. The near contemporary philosopher (their life spans overlapped), one Bishop George Berkeley, certainly saw these contradictions and wrote “De Motu” (full title in English “On Motion: or The Principle and Nature of Motion and the Cause of the Communication of Motions”) as a critique of the assumptions of Newton’s physics. Berkeley’s critiques were and remain prescient in the light of modern physics. Berkeley arrived at his prescient critiques via the path and methods of monist immaterialism. The immaterialism was not material (forgive the joke) for reasons I will not go into here, or yet. The monism (as an a priori assumption of substance consistency through the system) was central, perhaps adventitiously so, to Berkeley’s deductions essentially prefiguring some of the discoveries of modern physics.

                  Berkeley essentially deduced that, in a material system, (also a presupposition of Newton’s);

                  (a) a pure empty space could not exist and to propose such was an ontological contradiction;

                  (b) a universal inertial system could not exist and have effects on material bodies if it were immaterial, as pure empty space; and

                  (c) the action of force over distance through pure empty space lacked a transfer or transmission mechanism or medium for the operation of said force over a distance of pure, empty space.

                  These deductions appear very prescient in the light of modern physics. Space is not “pure” or empty. It is a scalar field (the modern term) with scalar field values and vacuum energy. The scalar field is something, not nothing, and it must fulfil the role of being the containing inertial system. (I am not so confident of this inertial field claim and of course will accept correction from card-carrying physicists). Einstein solved “how” gravitational force could operate over distance by re-casting it as a (four-dimensional) bending in space-time detectably induced by the presence of massive objects.

                  Speaking of Einstein, one of his own papers explicitly shows his use of an a priori justification to commence his scientific reasoning in order to develop a testable hypothesis. His a priori justification meets the philosophical definition as follows “A priori justification is a type of epistemic (knowledge) justification that is, in some sense, independent of experience.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Online.) The paper in question is “ON THE ELECTRODYNAMICS OF MOVING BODIES By A. EINSTEIN June 30, 1905. The passage in question is:

                  “We have not defined a common “time” for A and B, for the latter cannot be defined at all unless we establish by definition that the “time” required by light to travel from A to B equals the “time” it requires to travel from B to A.”

                  This definition amounts to an a priori assumption. It’s a very reasonable one and has, one would think, good general ad specific epistemic justifications. But strictly speaking it is not and can never be provable by deduction or empirical experiment. The Youtube video titled “Why No One Has Measured The Speed Of Light” by Veritasium illuminates this issue. Apologies, this has been a long but necessary digression.

                  To return to the issue of Marx’s use of the terms “laws” and “tendencies”. A “law”, even in Marx, we probably may take as an expression or claim that there is a fundamental scientific law in question. If this so, I don’t think Marx is always right on this score. Some “laws” he identifies appear to me to be axioms rather than laws. They are “axioms of capitalism” in the sense that setting the axioms (rules) of capitalism in prescription, and then in practice, as given constructions of private property, given operations of financial rituals and so on, instantiates these axioms in the system and gives them a superficial fundamental law appearance. The capitalist system in this sense is a man-made system of prescribed axioms. I think Marx was continually grappling, in a dialectal manner, with the “real real” and the “socially fictive and instituted real” in both their actualities and appearances as continually reflected in a material dialectical, that is feed-back, system. He was doing this with the tools of his day, then inventing his own new tools,  and the results are astonishing albeit understandably still somewhat confused, at least in exposition and maybe fundamentally. To this day, the entire “bifurcatory” nature of political economy has not been fully resolved (to my mind) despite the enormous step of seeing capital as power and solving the “value controversy” at a stroke. But an enormous, and brilliant, step is not a new and comprehensive system of thought entire, if I may be permitted to say this. There is still a great work to be done. I will try to come back to this matter in some subsequent post. By the way, I do not think I am the one to do this great work but I feel I perceive the need for it to be done.

                  In examining Marx’s great and personally unfinished crowning work, Das Kapital Vols 1, 2 and 3, we have to understand that Marx himself understands he is entering into the exposition of an essentially monistic and complexly interrelated system with multiple and iterative feedbacks: a system which proceeds dynamically and complexly in full physical extent through its full evolution in time. He also understand or continually discovers as he goes on (this can be seen in the Grundrisse for example) that he is examining an enormous complex with inadequate tools and methods and inventing his own new tools and methods as he goes. He is dealing with realities and appearances, and their multiply iterative interactions, for even the appearances humans create (both their reasonably accurate models and their illusions and delusions) still interact with material realities through the agency (actions) of physically real humans.

                  In this context, where does one begin, both in terms of analysis and in terms of exposition? This is the problem Marx faced in Das Kapital. The entire system is a monistic, complexly evolving, whole existing all at once in any instant in monistic or holistic totality and emerging and evolving over time: a vast and protean target for analysis. How can it be made the subject of reductionist or even linear exposition? For exposition is language is unavoidably linear. Every sentence is linear and the whole text is linear, relying on “looping” back to concepts and on the parallel exposition of topics in sequential chapters which topics must then be fused dialectically in further exposition.

                  The answer to the question of “how?” must be by a plunge “in medias res” somewhere in the circuits of extant capitalism. That the commodity is chosen is not to fetishize the commodity as the essence of capitalism. The “essence” of capitalism is its totality in any point in time and its potential to emerge and/or evolve new aspects over time. The commodity is chosen for historical reasons and exposition reasons. This perhaps hints at a (positive not negative) informed critique of Suaste Cherizola’s, ‘From Commodities to Assets’, but this is not the intent of this post. Rather, we must still deal fully with “laws and “tendencies” in Marx.

                  As my ass is getting sore from sitting too long, I will need to post a second part to this.

                  • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                  in reply to: COVID-19 and Capitalism #246848
                  Rowan Pryor
                    • Topics started: 18
                    • Total posts: 88

                    Please read my above posts first. I’ve split my loosely linked “arguments” into bite sized chunks.

                    Part 2 – The COVID-19 experience and what it might mean. (continued)

                    The Australian Experience.

                    Australia had been well distanced from the global COVID-19 experience. Australia is an island continent with a “sea moat”. Distance and sea separation conferred real advantages for pandemic control. Benefits included the relative ease of closing borders and the time lag of COVID-19 incursions (plural for variants) into Australia. We could see mistakes being made elsewhere in the world and we had time to think and not make the same mistakes ourselves. The story of how and why Australia started, from about July this year, to throw away these advantages is an interesting and instructive one. The story, in my opinion, says something about neoliberal logic and about legacy institutions which can defend the people against neoliberal logic in surprising and unforeseen ways.

                    However, we must backtrack to early 2020. The mistake that the US and neoliberal-led world made (apart from a half dozen or so countries including China) was to NOT aim for suppression and indeed eradication of SARS-CoV-2. Eradication was the policy which “dominated”, in economic jargon, all other policies. This was obvious to epidemiological and economic experts at the time. It was also obvious to these experts that there was and would be no trade-off between human health and well-being goals and economic goals: that damaging health goals would damage economic goals and vice versa. There were several experts at that time who made precisely these predictions. On the economics side, Australian Economics Professor John Quiggin was one such who made precisely these predictions. On the opinionated blogger side, yours truly also made substantially the same predictions albeit from a Marxian rather than a Keynesian perspective.

                    It wasn’t hard to make these predictions. One simply had to consider the costs of one initial eradication lockdown, possibly of about six weeks duration, compared to multiple, ongoing cycles of lockdowns and relaxations to “flatten the curve” so that the medical system could cope and morbidity and death rates would not become unacceptably and even unsustainably high. Following eradication, the national economy can stay open internally but not quite so open externally. It was and is the notion of closing off the national economy, to some extent, from the global economy which particularly sticks in the neoliberal craw. Note that this closing off refers to mass people movements, like tourism, family, business and elite travel, but not so much to global physical supply chains and surely not at all to virtual commerce. Along with this, the idea of at least semi autarky (self-sufficiency in national production) makes a reappearance. This again is an affront to transnational corporations (TNCs), in particular, who make a living on global labor arbitrage and transfer pricing for tax avoidance purposes. In addition, there are many small and mid-size businesses who benefit from cheap migrant labor (another form of labor arbitrage) to perform onerous and even dangerous jobs which the home population will no longer perform, accustomed as it is to higher expectations and refusing gross levels of exploitation.

                    Australia was, as I said, well placed to benefit from its natural advantages. In addition to those named above, Australia’s population is spread out with just 25 million people living on a continent little smaller than the “Lower 48” contiguous states of the USA. Admittedly we mostly live around parts of the very long coast and not in the central deserts. Even though Australia is a highly urbanised society with 86% urbanised in 2020, according to the World Bank, a large proportion of these still live in detached houses on their own blocks of land. In Australia, about 70% of all dwellings are separate houses. This makes isolation and distancing easier for COVID-19 prevention. Apartment blocks are now sometimes derided as the equivalent of “vertical cruise ships”: the early spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships having become something of a byword.

                    After an initial COVID-19 wave, delayed and small by international standards, Australia (except for the state of Victoria) enjoyed long periods of almost COVID-19 free status with life often unimpeded by that disease or any restrictions related to it. Such were and are the benefits of COVID-19 suppression. Nevertheless there were costs and programs to halt the first wave. The two most important initiatives were Jobkeeper and Jobseeker. Jobseeker is simply our unemployment benefit scheme. Its rate was doubled for a period and all job search requirements shelved for a period. Jobkeeper paid employers to keep workers on even if there was no work for them to do or they could not attend work. Conditions were attached but many employers and large companies were able to rort this system for a total in the billions. Many, even though breaking the rules, were not and still are not required to pay it back.

                    The real reason for these programs was the neoliberal fear of a collapse of the circuits of capital. Keeping worker and unemployed income going during a lock-down is really a way of keeping capitalist and rentier income coming in. The workers and unemployed are “collateral beneficiaries” of the fiscal measures used to keep capitalist and rentier income flowing. The real objective of all neoliberal policy is to keep capitalist and rentier income flowing. As soon as the danger to capitalist and rentier income and the circuits of capital looked past the Jobkeeper and Jobseeker promgrams were abruptly ended despite ongoing worker and unemployed need. To reprise an earlier quote:

                    “… was this (the initial Keynesian-like response) a turning point, the beginning of the end of the neoliberal age? Tooze is sceptical. The radical policy choices of 2020, he writes, were “Janus-faced.” On the one hand, they did reduce inequality, pull people out of poverty and reinvigorate left politics. But the “basic logic” of these fiscal interventions was always conservative. There was no redistributive impulse behind them, no coherent program for societal change. The actions of governments and central banks, he writes, were not Keynesian but Bismarckian: “Everything must change so that everything remains the same.” It was an ad hoc, top-down, crisis-fighting response with the thoroughly unrevolutionary goal of preserving the system.” – Ryan Cropp.

                    Large corporate interests, the same interests who donate to the major Australian political parties, have a vested interest in completely reopening the Australian economy to the globalised world economy. These interests include corporations with vested interests in people movements, especially the Airline, Cruise Ship, Tourist, Travel and Immigration Agent industries plus primary (and tertiary) industries whose business models rely on the exploitation of migrant labor and overseas sourced fee-paying students. This list is a roll call of important Australiam industries sans just the coal, gas and iron ore extraction industries. Even these rely to some extent on international worker and management movements. Australia is a branch office nation under globalized neoliberalism. The pressure from the corporations, business in general (big and petty bourgeois), and I am guessing the USA behind the scenes, to “open up” became so great that Veblenian sabotage of Australia’s almost COVID-19 free status become a near certainty.

                    The Federal Government had been essentially low-key sabotaging Australia’s efforts from the start. The key and relevant constitutional responsibilities of the Federal Government, very much a do-nothing-for-the-people government since the advent of neoliberalism, had been and still are quarantine stations  and funds for vaccine acquisition and distribution to state level. It has point-blank refused to build any purpose-built quarantine stations for a long time and has since dragged its feet. Almost two years into the pandemic, Australia still has built no proper quarantine stations at all. Instead, it has relied on a cobbled together and leaky hotel quarantine system. With vaccines, it attempted to penny pinch and left Australia grievously short of vaccines until very recently.

                    By contrast, our state governments still do real things because they have to. They have responsibility for example, for public hospital systems and public health in general. They knew they would suffer the pain if their hospital systems collapsed. So they implemented state border controls which kept a number of states mostly COVID-19 free. This was even though the Federal Constitution guarantees free trade across state boundaries, more or less. It seems to be a grey area that the Federal Govt was unwilling to test in the Federal Court of Australia. Sometimes a do-nothing Federal Govt is a boon!

                    But the neoliberal pressures could not permit this situation to continue. Thus began the deliberate sabotage (in my opinion) of our general COVID-19 free status. The business lobby in a public letter demanded Australia “open up for business”. The Premier of New South Wales at or just before that time had conveniently let a Delta variant outbreak spread in NSW with a patently late and inadequate set of local lockdowns. By this time it was known how early and hard lock-downs had to be to supress COVID-19 to get the later benefits of widespread COVID-19 free status. On cue, the NSW state Premier told the people “We have to live with COVID-19”. This is despite the palpable fact that people sicken and die from COVID-19 at unacceptable rates if any pretence of a public preventative health stance is to be maintained. Vaccines were then pushed hard: a good thing in itself as supply became available.

                    Vulnerable people are now essentially to be sentenced to die from COVID-19, sooner or later, in a straight-out Social Darwinist policy. The truth is not being told about the latest overseas data, quite a bit of it from Israel, but also from the USA and UK, on immune escape, vaccine escape and the ghastly potential for the whole leaky vaccine “paradox” to blow up in our face; namely that the virus could evolve into much more lethal strains from the “forcing” of leaky vaccines. Due to the nature of COVID-19 all extant vaccines are unavoidably leaking. This means fully vaccinated people can still catch and transmit the virus in a significant number of cases. The potential for force evolving more lethal and vaccine resistant strains is clear. What is needed of course is vaccination rates in the 90% to 95% range of the total population PLUS multiple NPIs (non pharmaceutical interventions and public quarantining, isolation and distancing procedures. This is what it would take to push COVID-19 to eradication at this late and dangerous hour.

                    However, neoliberal capitalism has decided and decreed that even dangerous pandemics cannot get in the way of business as usual. Of course, this is a proximal solution for neoliberal business. Businesses, and more importantly people, will be seriously damaged and decimated in the long run. But somewhere still there will be those who will be differentially advantaged by even this process. However, even differential advantage must ultimately collapse when the entire system collapses. That is the final asymptote. COVID-19 is vastly more dangerous than most realise. It is a wholly new, to current generations, punctuated equilibrium evolutionary event. The outcomes are still completely unknown.

                    That 0.1 kilograms to 10 kilograms estimated weight (allowing for margins of error) of SARS-CoV-2 virions recently and currently in humans could have the current to-date effects and such dire future-possible effects on global human and economic systems might seem incredible. The vast power of the information encoded in the virions’ RNA strand is indeed astonishing. This amount of virion code plus envelope and spike proteins is confounding a global human system. The neoliberals think they are still in charge. They are not. Nature has executed a coup, the ramifications of which are not even imaginable to the impoverished neoliberal imagination.

                    in reply to: COVID-19 and Capitalism #246844
                    Rowan Pryor
                      • Topics started: 18
                      • Total posts: 88

                      Please read my above background post first.

                      Part 2 – The COVID-19 experience and what it might mean.


                      It’s interesting that the disease is called COVID-19 and the pathogen that causes it is called SARS-CoV-2. This may simply be an artefact of scientific naming conventions. However, to my mind it bears certain hallmarks of re-badging. Since the species name / variant name are currently “Severe acute respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus / Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” and since the first species common name example was SARS then the obvious common name, for both new disease and new pathogen, would have been SARS2. The very name SARS2 would have carried certain ominous and appropriately salutary warnings and implications. The “rebadging” of the disease as COVID-19 (used  colloquially to mean both disease and pathogen) seems almost made to order to obscure, at least in the public mind, the rather sombre implications of the disease and its family to sub-genus “relatives”.

                      Imagine if a new variant of Ebola arose. Imagine that like SARS-CoV-2, this new variant of Ebola was more transmissible but less lethal than its original variant. We can note here that the combination of higher transmissibility with lower lethality can still generate equal or even more deaths overall. The outcomes depend on the values of each parameter; even then as modified by social, medical and epidemiological responses. We can also note that very high death rates are terrifying. Nobody wants to risk catching a  disease with a 50% death rate even if it is not very contagious. Neither does anybody want to risk catching a disease whose death processes are rapid and florid (a haemorrhagic fever with collapsing organs and bloody fluids issuing copiously from all orifices as in Ebola) or whose death processes are not much slower but agonisingly suffocative instead (SARS1 and SARS 2). This is if they really understand what is happening. Under the Western medical model, for good medical reasons, the death process from SARS2 (COVID-19 ) is sequestered from public view.

                      If the new hypothetical disease variant of Ebola was called Ebola2, at least colloquially, then the public would form a great, and one would think salutary and very useful, fear of it. Thus, if it still caused equal casualties overall (without medical measures and social control interventions) the public would not need to be aware necessarily of the “contagiousness times lethality” equations for variants but simply to be aware of the close family resemblance of the two diseases. This in order to be suitably cautious about it and to accept medical and social controls. However, if the disease were called EBVID-19 (using the same naming convention and assuming it too arose in 2019) would this evoke associations which perhaps ought to be evoked? Encouraging excessive complacency is surely as dangerous as provoking excessive alarm. I think it was unfortunate that COVID-19 was chosen as the disease name.

                      The next point of this preamble is to note that SARS-CoV-2 as a pathogen, unfortunately for us, falls into what might be called a socio-evolutionary “sweet spot”; meaning a sweet spot niche for the virus NOT for humans. Our social and economic systems (and even our evo-psyche makeup) seem of natures which confer on us social, economic and even evo-psyche blind spots to the true long term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Central to this is our clear tendency to see a truly new evolutionary entity (a novel zoonosis to give it its technical term) as a static entity.  SARS-CoV-2 is an evolving entity, not a static entity. SARS-CoV-2 initially appeared relatively unthreatening, at least to neoliberals and the “neoliberlised” public. Its initial death rate seemed unspectacular, to non-medical people, even though it was at least ten times that of most seasonal flus. Its initial spread rate via its significant transmissibility, seemed concerning but not genuinely dangerous to most observers.

                      This allowed wishful thinking and a set of ideologically generated myths to take hold. They certainly weren’t medical or scientific ideas, though some were simplistic caricatures of scientific ideas. It was “just a flu”. It didn’t need to be eradicated, only the “curve needed to be flattened”.  And “herd immunity” would be achieved and able to see off the challenge of SARS-CoV-2. To any virologist, the virus’ close relation to SARS1, its general relation to all coronaviruses and its nature as an RNA virus ought to have sounded real alarm bells and indeed did sound alarm bells for some. But such “alarmists”, or rather realists, were ridiculed and sidelined. This is how neoliberalism does business with impact science. It sidelines discomfiting research which does not fit the business-above-all narrative. In reality, these myths are now being exploded.

                      SARS-CoV-2 is not just a flu. It’s not a flu at all in fact. It’s a coronavirus. It mutates slower than Alphainfluenzavirus flu, however in a large pandemic mutation rates are increased by the sheer volume of infected hosts. Its latest variants are much more contagious than flu. SARS-CoV-2 (Delta variant) is now the second most contagious human pathogen known to man. Its evolution to that point, since its emergence, took only about 12 months, so “mutates slow than flu” is scarcely a consolation. Finally, it causes a vascular disease, attacking blood vessels in organs all over the body, notwithstanding its current pulmonary infection route. The evolution of an enteric route (there are enteric coronaviruses) is also possible and much to be feared, especially but not only if such evolution occurs first in Africa, as is quite possible. We needed to eradicate this virus at the outset, not “flatten the curve”, not least because of its powers of mutation (which reasonably could have been predicted from its coronavirus and RNA nature). “Herd Immunity” was also likely to prove to be a myth as it indeed has been proven to be. Coronaviruses typically reinfect multiple times. Immunity decays for SARS-CoV-2. It is not lasting. We are now seeing immune escape and vaccine escape occur with the twelve-month. The vaccines are already quite “leaky”. Leaky vaccines can lead to the rapid evolution of much more virulent variants.

                      SARS-CoV-2 is in the process of turning out to be the “perfect” pathogen to take advantage of the circuits of capital, the circuits of people and the circuits of consumption intrinsic to neoliberal capitalism. I refer in the first instance to the continuing encroachment of endless growth on the wilds (see “COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital” in the Monthly Review) which has yielded multiple cases in the last few decades of novel zoonoses crossing over to humans. Overall, a system which prescribes endless growth and invariant capitalist and consumerist rituals cannot be anything but a stationary target to an overall system (the biosphere) continually demonstrating emergent and evolutionary capabilities. It was possible, perhaps even highly likely though not inevitable, that a pathogen would evolve to take advantage of the circuits of people and the circuits of consumption in an over-populated, over-connected and inflexibly prescribed global system.

                      Finally, we ought to note that the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 presents us with a contemporary instance of punctuated equilibrium evolution. Even those now cognisant of the mutation powers of SARS-CoV-2 seem not recognise this as the beginning of the exploitation of a wholly new evolutionary space. Humans and SARS-CoV-2 did not exist together, as host and pathogen, before about November 2019. Our co-evolution has just begun, as opposed to say human influenzas where there have been centuries at least of coevolution already. In punctuated equilibrium evolution we will see, very likely, hyper-rapid evolution especially on the RNA virus’ side of the equation. There is even the potential for such rapid evolution to outpace technological innovation or at least the progress of the product via logistics chains out to the population.


                      The Australian Experience.

                      I am going to have to post again to cover this.


                      • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                      • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                      • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                      • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
                      in reply to: COVID-19 and Capitalism #246842
                      Rowan Pryor
                        • Topics started: 18
                        • Total posts: 88

                        I am not sure that I have an argument per se. At this stage, I feel I have a series of observations. These observations seem to confirm to me that looking at COVID-19 responses through the various and rather complementary prisms of Marxian analysis, CasP analysis and a Veblenian view is conducive to understanding the government and elite responses to the pandemic. I speak to the Australian experience. Australia has been and remains considerably “neoliberalised” on the American model during the decades of the 1990s and 2000s. By neoliberalised I refer to the program of privatization and the application of market fundamentalism. The early American (Reaganite) model in turn was influenced by Thatcher or rather by her programmatic theorists, notably Madsen Pirie and his Adam Smith Institute.

                        First, I will have to do some backgrounding. Australian left-leaning economist, John Quiggin, recently wrote an article titled “Dismembering government – New public management and why the Commonwealth government can’t do anything anymore”. The Commonwealth government in context is Australia’s Federal Government. This article is well worth reading and appears in the “The Monthly”, an Australian on-line magazine. It helps us understand neoliberalism in Australia, and its outcomes.

                        Dismembering government also means disremembering government. I am sure Professor Quiggin had this play of words in mind. I also am old enough to remember when Australian Federal government actually did things and actually ran things. It was a far better Australia, after adjusting for lesser technology and lesser womens’ and indigenous rights, at that stage of scientific and social history. It was also a better Australia because the environment was less damaged.

                        It was an ultimate aim of nascent neoliberalism, as early as Thatcher and her guiding Omega File, produced by Madsen Pirie and his Adam Smith Institute, to “restructure the state” so radically (or rather so reactionarily) that the idea of government assisting citizens would no longer by imaginable by the citizens themselves. Citizens would lose the ability to conceive and expect that government (their own democratic government!) would or could help them. Rather, as we have come to see, neoliberal governments would exist solely to help corporations, oligarchs and plutocrats achieve their ends. In Castoriadis’ terms this equates to reducing the socially imaginary possibilities of community, cooperation and collective welfare.

                        Unfortunately for the neoliberals, part of the populace remained in the conformation of “stubbornly resisting sludge” pitted against this program. Michael Pusey in his 1991 work “Economic Rationalism in Canberra : A Nation-Building State Changes its Mind,” highlighted this very fact that adopting “economic rationalism” or neoliberalism means changing your mind and goal away from being a nation-building state run by and for the people. It means giving all that up. It means becoming a disintegrating state, ruled by corporations and oligarchs, like the UK and the USA. They are further along their path of neoliberal disintegration and catabolic cannibalizing of the legacy infrastructures and values of the Keynesian welfare state. “Economic rationalism” as a term was probably restricted to Australia. It contained a strong pejorative implication centred on the idea that “economic rationalism” was a narrow, so-called rationalism which excluded social concerns. The rationalism was indeed faux or pseudo almost precisely in the sense meant by Ulf Martin in his term “pseudo-rational mastery”.

                        Part of Pusey’s argument was that economic rationalism recasts “society as the object of politics” and thus as “some sort of stubbornly resisting sludge” (to the goals of corporatism and plutocracy). In a morbid flight of fancy, one can imagine that a naturally arisen zoonotic virus, spread by policies consistent with the entirety of neoliberal logic, will perform the clean up of the stubbornly resisting sludge quite efficiently, like bacteria bred to eat an oil slick. The stubbornly resisting sludge are the poor, the homeless, the brown people, the black people and the old people. How to clean up the stubbornly resisting sludge? The SARSCoV2 virus appears made to order from nature and comes with bonus mutation kit included. I am not suggesting this part of the neoliberal plan was preconceived. I doubt that anyone is clever enough to so utilize emergent and evolutionary phenomena, which are both by definition and in empirical expression, entirely new and unpredictable.  (The 600 right-wing policy initiatives of the Omega File show us what was preconceived if we wish to trawl through that document set.) However, I do argue that once the “SARSCoV2″ virus arises with its particular and evolving characteristics, the neoliberal response is internally consistent to neoliberalism and leads inevitably to a Social Darwinist expression. Indeed, part of the early response was already institutionally pre-embedded.

                        The failure of the WHO to make an early pandemic call for the SARSCoV2  virus was less due to pressure from China than it was due to earlier pressure on the WHO from neoliberal governments, led by the USA, to not make global pandemic calls in relation to earlier flu pandemics like the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. The neoliberal fear was that shutting down or constricting economic activity would cause economic losses, mainly to the rich of course. The morbidity and death tolls on poorer humans simply were not a concern.

                        This marks the end of my brief backgrounding. My next post will outline the Australian experience through my eyes. I’m using writable and readable chunks to make this easier on me and the reader.

                        • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Rowan Pryor.
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