The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future

For a general discussion of topics relating broadly to power and political economy (e.g., capital-as-power, Marxism, neo-classical economics, institutionalism).

Moderator: sanha926

The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Fri Jan 01, 2016 2:51 pm

Bichler, Shimshon, and Jonathan Nitzan. 2015. The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future. Working Papers on Capital as Power (2015/04, December): 1-29.

ABSTRACT: The study of capital as power (CasP) began when we were students in the 1980s and has since expanded into a broader project involving a growing number of researchers and new areas of inquiry. This paper provides a bird’s-eye view of the CasP journey. It explores what we have learned so far, reviews ongoing research, and suggests future trajectories – including the coevolution of Concepts of Power–Modes of Power (COP-MOPs); the origins of capitalized power; the state of capital; finance as the symbolic creordering of capitalism; the role of labour, production and waste; the capitalized environment; and the need for post-capitalist accounting.

Jonathan Nitzan
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future

Postby Corentin Debailleul » Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:03 pm

Hi everyone!

My name is Corentin Debailleul, this is my first post on this forum.
The comments below were originally addressed to Nitzan & Bichler but they thought it made more sense to publish them here and have more people involved, so here I am.

CasP rejects both neo-classical economy and Marxism. Nonetheless, neo-classical economy is assimilated to an obfuscating faith while some merits are acknowledged to Marxism. It might be illuminating to detail the relation between Marxism and CasP: what is worth keeping in Marx and what not?
What about social classes, class relations, class struggle? Are they central in the definition of a mode of power? Are they defined on the basis of their position in the mode of power (ruling class vs. ruled class, for instance)?
Marx claimed it was time to change the world, that theory and practice have to go hand in hand. How does CasP consider this interdependence?
If I see the creation of autonomous research centres as an interesting proposal, I think it’s a bit short a political perspective. How to avoid CasP to become a new academic niche?
In relation to the last two remarks, Marx assigns the working class the task of overthrowing the capitalists and eventually abolish all classes and produce communism… CasP presents itself as a radical critique of capitalism, how does it envision its abolition (Aufhebung)? Would the revolution be the creordering of a new (better) mode of power or would it be the end of modes of power?

What is the relevance ‘area’ of CasP in current society? To what does it apply and to what not? Are there relations that are not power relations? Or of non-capitalist types? Legacies of past modes of power? Some relations prefiguring the world ‘we’ want to create?
Doesn’t the ‘state of capital’ concept take the risk of reproducing some of the clumsiest determinism of Marxism by willing to force all political logics into one category?

Reading ‘Converting Quality to Quantity’ on DT Cochrane’s research, a question of methodology came to my mind: Isn’t there a difficulty arising when you want to study the differential accumulation of one company? How can you know if the company is differentially accumulating because of its own actions/specific conditions or because the other companies are ‘decumulating’? Is it about taking a number of competitors large enough to define the ‘average’?

Reading about Baines’ research, I wondered if someone (Tim Di Muzio maybe?) ever tried to compare yearly CO2 emissions with the differential accumulation of some important CO2 producers or of companies funding climate-sceptic scientists…

I know most of my questions cannot be answered so easily but hopefully we can make something out of them.

Best regards,
Corentin Debailleul
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:02 pm

Theory and Praxis, Theory and Practice, Practical Theory

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Fri Jan 29, 2016 12:58 am

Jonathan Nitzan
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:39 pm

Theory and Praxis

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:07 pm

The full dialogue between Debailleul, Bichler and Nitzan is now posted as a Working Paper on Capital as Power. It is titled "Theory and Praxis, Theory and Practice, Practical Theory" (2016), and it can be found here:

Jonathan Nitzan
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future

Postby leedoran » Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:45 pm

HI to all (!)

Bichler and Nitzan’s (BN) response to Debailleul’s ‘intervention’ in response to BN's recent (2015) CasP: Past, Present and Future piece is both informative and helpful. Informative because the emerging focus on praxis broaches the question of action in the ‘real’ world of politics. Thus, political economy is the focus and not political science dismembered from its social science – and economic - heritage. Helpful because we are beginning to get a bit more insight into what BN’s call for ‘research institutes’ means on the ground (“…a series of autonomous, non-academic research institutes that are informed by and cater to social action” [emphasis in original].)

What is Power?

Debailleul raises “… the tough issue of defining ‘power’…” only to move on to his next. BN never address D’s definitional issue directly in their response, though one imagines their response is obvious, perhaps too obvious to re-state, once again: Capital is [as] Power, after all.

And yes, most of us here pretty much agree, either because we came to CasP with that bias or were convinced by the huge and growing mound of empirical, evidence-based science now continuing to pile up in its favour.

But is it as simple as that? I would suggest not. To wit: Michael Mann has spent a career (lifetime?) investigating The Sources of Social Power. His first book dates from 1986 and the fourth in the series appeared in 2013. I dare say he’s not finished quite yet.

Mann finds that social power comes in four varieties:
• Ideological
• Economic
• Military
• Political

I find his classification useful. When applied to, for example, the US of A over a bit of its recent history (see Part 8 The Consolidation of Social Power in my Morphing Capitalism into an Economy for Humanity? (2015)) we gain new insight into the strength and dominance of the Economic gang as it strives to buy up all the rest. Its success is impressive, but not complete, quite yet. Just think Bernie Sanders to begin to access the emerging failure of the capitalist ethic at the cutting edge of politics and political life, there.

Capital as Power has not become Capital is [Absolute] Power, quite yet, though the first Tuesday in November of this year may give us some very strong clues as to what’s in store on that front.

What’s Next for CasP?

BN are proposing to roll out CasP through the aforementioned research institutes around the planet. I would propose reading (and then applying?) what dozens if not hundreds of researchers have already produced on CasP-relevant topics in multiple and multiplying disciplines from everywhere, as well.

If social power comes in four varieties each continuously vying for dominance, then political economy – broadly defined - comes in, arguably, dozens of forms. BN recognize as much when they say in the second sentence of the eighth para of the Class and Class Conflict section in their Praxis response: “… the capitalist mode of power is a single, albeit multidimensional, process of creordering conflict.” [emphasis added by me, Lee].

BN’s single telling tip of the hat to the multitudinous varieties of political involvement (not to mention action) available in 2016, bold italicized here, conceals more than it reveals. Both the environmentalists and the feminists – to bring just two of the new-ish ‘disciplines’ to the table - began their determined and studied assaults on the nature and structure and functioning of the economy, narrowly defined, in the 1970’s. In both cases, their work is mature now. And studiously ignored by most ‘economists’, including BN.

In the interest of time and space just one example: J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The end of capitalism (as we knew it): a feminist critique of political economy first appeared in 1996 – twenty years ago now! Who among you has even read it? Never mind added it your students’ reading list. Never mind incorporated its views and perspectives and yes, discipline, into yours. There are probably dozens more in the feminist genre, if you will. And many – if not most - are worth attending to for CasP applications and actions.

There are scores if not hundreds of books on sustainable economy (say what? is that the latest tongue-in-cheek oxymoron?) that have accumulated since sustainability burst on to the scene in 1987. Watch for the 30th anniversary beating of the weak and tuberculin chest of that poor thing next year. And now that Maurice Strong is dead, we no longer have a pragmatic leader for action on that file, either. But you can ‘bet your boots’ no economist of orthodox or heterodox stripe is incorporating those books into his (sic) reading list, not to mention the briefing book. Economy is only what happens when money is involved, after all. Hahahaha…

The Bottom Line?

The lessons of intersectionality from the feminists and comprehensive scope both geographically and discipline-wise from the sustainability crowd are lost on the whole largely ♂ economic establishment, even when it calls itself political economy. Capital is [the] Power after all.

How many more ‘disciplines’ are being studiously ignored? Oh, very many, for sure: international development [from a feminist perspective, as well], evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, war and violence studies, gender-in-all-its-multiple-and-multiplying forms, including sex and ♂ and ♀ studies, anthropology including its recent and emerging sub-genres, plain old ordinary sociology, the literature of _________________ [fill in the blank with a place and/or time], the history and histories of _______________ [another blank to fill in] … The list goes on and on.

More research? Sure. But praxis out in the real world of action (looking for “who do I need to shoot?”) must be based, for starters, on what we know now in order to begin, as a practical matter, to act now.

So that is Lesson 1. Know what we already know – and start to apply it in real actions in the ‘real’ world of political economy, tomorrow (or even today). That’s a major - if not the single most important - priority for CasP’s next move as an integrative and integrated homebase for the bridgehead to actions, imho.

Thanks to you all, especially D+BN: you are the best.

Cheers from here,


PS. And this doesn’t even touch on the ultimate arbiter of success: values. Maybe we could approach that, as well, before long, with some focused attention?
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:36 am

Re: The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future

Postby max gr » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:54 pm ... 34c07b46ef

"Non-banks often provide a strikingly simple vision of the lending process. Last year, a group of Dutch companies, including Syntrus Achmea, launched a scheme to lend €3bn of mortgages to the 2.5m individuals paying into the country’s health and welfare pension fund. The fund would also invest in the loans. That meant borrowers were effectively investing in their own housing debt."
max gr
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:36 am

Return to Political Economy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests