The Cthulhu Cult of Capital

An apocalyptic mode has descended upon me in recent weeks. The winter is always a difficult time for me, as it is for a lot of people living this far North, but the usual doldrums have been intensified by the depressing social and political situation so many of us are finding ourselves in. The culprit of this situation is clear to me; it is primarily economically determined and its name is capitalism. But understanding the particularity of the crisis had eluded me for some time. After all, for the rich to get richer it would seem that they need people to buy more products so that they can profit and so it would seem like a broadly Keynesian approach would be attractive to THEM (to use the negative name for the ruling class, since it seems more and more difficult to even point them out anymore). Such an approach is attractive to me too! I would prefer to not live under harsh austerity measures, which threaten to turn me and my friends into a permanent debtor class and to increase the suffering of those who were already worse off, or see the profession I’ve been training for disappear in the name of belt-tightening.

Does anyone really believe THEY are worried about inflation? The current “jobless recovery”, a very soft name for a harsh reality, reveals the underlying vindictiveness of the capitalist class towards both the working class and the middle class, who inexplicably buy the austerity line. As they continue to magically make profits they refuse to redistribute that wealth along even the softest Social Democratic means and punish workers and professionals for something the capitalist class themselves caused. It’s a true anti-humanism and I finally gained some understanding of it through reading Alberto Toscano’s “Chronicles of Insurrection: Tronti, Negri, and the Subject of Antagonism” in the edited volume The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics (available for free through the Open Access publisher Re.Press). In the article he discusses Mario Tronti, the virtually unknown theorist of workerism, and his description of the unilateral relation of capital to the workers. In other words, capitalism is dependent upon workers to function in real terms, but nonetheless “the political history of capital is the history of the successive attempts of the capitalist class to emancipate itself from the working class.” Capitalism, too, has it’s theory of antagonism and utopia: “capital is concerned with the dialectical use of antagonism, whose ultimate if utopian horizon is the withering away of the world class the untrammled self-valorization of capital”.

For some time now my working mythic-model for capitalism, especially through the technology of money, has been the Golem (which Hardt & Negri use in Multitude). However, if Tronti’s description of the separation of workers and capital is true, and it does seem to me to explain the current intentional attempts at a jobless recovery and destruction of any secure, non-precarious career for workers, then this myth doesn’t do it for me. Instead, capital is not a Golem, but Cthulhu and the capitalist class are his priests. It isn’t just the workers anymore, capital wants to be free from all humanity.

“If we don’t get them, they gonna get us all” – Dead Prez

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15 Responses to “The Cthulhu Cult of Capital”

  1. Jim H. Says:

    There are billions of consumers in China and India and less consumer protection legislation. Where do you think capital will flee?

    Inflation? Not a problem. But for a different reason than the one you give. The idea is to pay off debt with cheaper dollars.

  2. Stephen Says:

    I’m down for running up on them crackers

  3. Alex Says:

    Wow. This is great. Benjamin’s fragment ‘Capitalism as Religion’ (not a fragment I entirely agree with) says that capitalism as religion is a pure cult, conjuring up the image of cultists drably continuing their rituals in the face of sanity – he also said it it a giant machine of guilt, which we might read as debt. Today in the UK the bankers get their bonuses, which have been unchanged since the crash other than a brief attempt by the otherwise neoliberal Labour party to tax them at 50%, because people are so afraid of the spectre of capital flight. Each day the Market reports tell me that this year is going to be exceptionally good. The movement to financial speculation, which you didn’t mention, is of course a great evidence for what you suggest (how much have we heard the term ‘financial alchemy’), though a visit to Tesco (with their express robot checkouts) will provide all the evidence of the autonomists favourite passage of Marx, the fragment on the machines.

    In the UK I really have a hope that people are starting to wake up to this. The ordinary people shutting down Britain’s largest high street the week before Christmas in protest as to why, while we are taxed, corporations dodge tax. The university students radicalised in the occupied universities teaching and learning from trade unions willing to strike on the day of a royal wedding. The EMA kids (from the ‘London slums’ in there own words), girls and boys fighting to save the £30 a week that keeps them in transport and books, running with pure joy in the streets in protest, dancing in front of police lines, realising for the first time their poverty is linked to the whole rotten system (overhearing economic analysis in frantic London slang is pretty special when their analysis is more just than the whole political class). UKbackback, the next new thing, means disrupting tax havens (Occupy Monoco), high street banks with speculative arms, financial centres. Grit in the cogs, the human strike.

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    In a similar mood, I tracked down this old Weblog post of mine.

  5. Bryan Says:

    A truly object-oriented analysis avant la lettre!

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I hope that someday I can develop a new school of philosophy whose primary impact is to be an inside joke for bloggers.

  7. APS Says:

    I don’t get the joke. Someone want to clue me in?

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Bryan is referring to my old post, not yours.

  9. Hill Says:

    God, I love that song, Anthony. I listen to it on a near daily basis. (Speaking of leftist violence…)

    For all the DP fans out there, this hour long documentary is a must watch:

    Anyone that reads this blog ought to be a Dead Prez fan.

  10. Yrruk Says:

    Some apocalyptic musings: There is a point at which one would rather the powerful fail, for the sake of that failure and their recognition of that failure itself, than oneself succeed. For an increasing number of my waking hours, this is how I think and feel.

    The Joker’s ideology might first become attractive with a wink and nudge, but I predict that it will be soon taken seriously, a self-conscious ressentiment unashamed of itself, with a gray vitality analogous to Chigurh’s pointless promise-keeping.

    A theological superlative: “I would gladly go to hell if I knew I could take them and theirs too.”

    A more serious and less schizo aside, related to an inversion of that superlative: in my reading and thinking about pessimism, I wondered if a certain question had ever been asked (surely it has) and how it was answered, “Is it right, obligatory, or even possible for X to act in a way such that X goes to hell in order that Y doesn’t?” Andrea Yates was the concrete example I had in mind. Also, I don’t know how seriously hell is taken in academic theology.

  11. Wayne Kasper Says:

    I can’t help but see current ideology as Lovecraftian, especially its bizarre incitements to ‘ecstatic’ self-destruction:

    http://perelebrun.blogspot.com/2011/01/placid-island-of-ignorance.html

    Right-wing discourse also seems to confuse and derange liberal commentators as much as the Old Ones did Lovecraft’s scholars, investigators etc.

  12. burritoboy (Alex) Says:

    Actually, the connection between Lovecraft and capitalism is very close: both are entirely nihilist. Houellebecq makes clear the connections in his book on Lovecraft (which is really the best thing he ever has done). Or, to put it in more artsy terms: Lovecraft is simply a Celine that publishes in Weird Tales.

  13. Yrruk Says:

    Fantastic, someone else has read Houellebecq’s Lovecraft. I couldn’t say where Houellebecq ends and Lovecraft begins, but apparently H doesn’t stray too far from what we know of L from other sources. A free pdf version of the book is available from Urbanomic, link: http://blog.urbanomic.com/dread/archives/houellebecq-lovecraft.pdf

  14. Translations in Honor of Ongoing Revolutions: A Weekend Link Post « An und für sich Says:

    [...] excerpts from the work of Mario Tronti (h/t Alberto Toscano), whose work I mentioned in a recent post. Posted in link posts. 7 Comments [...]

  15. Hill Says:

    Dead Prez update: You’ve got to check this video if you aren’t familiar.

    Hell Yeah:


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