Thursday, 16 August 2007

Between Primitive Accumulation & the New Enclosures

Global demand for coltan was soaring throughout the war because of the massive popularity of coltan-filled Sony Playstations. As Oona King, one of the few British politicians to notice Congo, explains as we travel together for a few days, “Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.”

Modernity is many things. Secularization is one of them, and speed-up, and the cult of technics, and disenchantment of the world, and false orientation to the future. But right at the heart of capitalist modernity, we would argue, has been a process of endless enclosure. The great work of the past half-millennium was the cutting-off of the world's natural and human resources from common use. Land, water, the fruits of the forest, the spaces of custom and communal negotiation, the mineral substrate, the life of rivers and oceans, the very airwaves—capitalism has depended, and still depends, on more and more of these shared properties being shared no longer, whatever the violence or absurdity involved in converting the stuff of humanity into this or that item for sale. Enclosure seems to us the best word for the process's overall logic.

- Retort, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War

These New Enclosures . . . name the large-scale reorganization of the accumulation process which has been underway since the mid-1970s. The main objective of this process has been to uproot workers from the terrain on which their organizational power has been built, so that, like the African slaves transplanted to the Americas, they are forced to work and fight in a strange environment where the forms of resistance possible at home are no longer available. . . Thus, once again, as at the dawn of capitalism, the physiognomy of the world proletariat is that of the pauper, the vagabond, the criminal, the panhandler, the street peddler, the refugee sweatshop worker, the mercenary, the rioter.

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