The life of capital : human life, reproduction, money and immanent logic

Carson, Rebecca (2021) The life of capital : human life, reproduction, money and immanent logic. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This dissertation reconstructs Marx’s critique of political economy from the perspective of reproduction. In doing so, the dissertation develops three main, interrelated arguments. The first is that the reproduction of capital’s social relations requires various complex forms of subjection. Here, I demonstrate that both impersonal relations –specific to capital’s fetish character –and non-capitalist interpersonal relations co-exist in a non-linear development, with the rise of finance capital engendering a counterintuitive return to interpersonal forms of domination. The second argument is that capitalist reproduction is formally determined by monetary circulation. When money circulates as credit money, money acquires a distinct temporality, placing future constraint on subjects. By understanding capitalist reproduction monetarily, this dissertation displaces the central contradiction of capitalism from production and wage-labour relationsto the tension between capitalist and non-capitalist forms. Consequently, production-centric accounts are shown to stem from a reductive reading of capital's logic. To address the lack of existing analysis, this dissertation develops a concept of non-capitalist elements as ‘immanent externalities.’ Such ‘immanent externalities,’ I argue, are formally necessary for reproduction to occur. Finally, the third argument is that attention to the contradiction between capitalist and non-capitalist forms and processes –internal to the reproduction process –reveals an underexamined contradiction underpinning Marx’s theories of exploitation and alienation: there are two conflictual concepts of life operating in capital’s reproduction, one capitalist and the other non-capitalist. The tension between capital’s life process on the one hand and human life and nature on the other begets a contradiction between the possibilities for their respective reproductions. Human life and nature engender natural limits to capital’s abstract forms; capitalism curtails the reproduction of natural life. This contradiction thus leads the dissertation to consider how concrete life retains an independence from capital. Accordingly, the dissertationasks how concrete life can be reproduced in independence from capital’s abstractions. By elaborating these three arguments, this dissertation develops a methodological framework to grasp the logical coproduction of three significant arenas of exploitation and domination today: social reproduction, ecological degradation and the expansion of finance capital.

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