Monday, 6 October 2008

The Chronophage and The Promise of Credit to Come

"The historic role of Capitalism itself is to destroy history, to sever every link with the past and to orientate all effort and imagination to that which is about to occur. Capital can only exist as such if it continually reproduces itself; its present reality is dependent upon its future fulfilment. This is the metaphysic of capital. The word credit, instead of referring to a past achievement, refers only in this metaphysic, to a future expectation".

John Berger
Pig Earth

“The capitalist system is, in its own narrow way, very future-oriented. The capital value set on an enterprise is nothing other than its anticipated future profits – the discounted present value of the return it is thought it will yield. Yet the representation of that potential return as a single, numeric entity flattens and simplifies that future. Capitalist ownership has always earmarked a future stream of revenue to the capitalist. In doing so it allowed the future to be colonized by, and mortgaged to, wealthy individuals and corporations. At various times industrial and national monopoly or regulation sought to render the process more predictable, and better at capturing the anticipated surplus. Today the world’s leading financial institutions combine privileged information with computing power, derivatives and mathematical formulae – ‘quantitative finance’ – to achieve the same end. Of course these institutions, taken individually, are from being infallible seers. The future always retains an irreducible element of uncertainty. But one or another financial cluster will gain the prize by getting the outcome more right than anyone else. This is today’s ‘great game’.

“Eventually capital can only deliver on expectations by crowding out the expenditures – and absorbing the reserves – which society needs to reproduce and protect itself. In the last couple of decades financialization has greatly boosted the ability of a few wealthy individuals, finance houses and corporations to make claims on the future. The fiscal system used to allow for a countervailing public claim on future revenue but taxation has steadily lost ground to financialization, and public interests have lost ground to private ones”.

Robin Blackburn
Age Shock: How Finance Is Failing Us

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