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This chapter engages with the question of postcolonial accumulation through an interrogation of several phenomena featuring the neoliberal milieu today, such as the new dynamics of capital accumulation based on a combination of the most virtual forms and the primitive, the extractive turn of economy, the redrawing of the space of capital through new zoning and supply modes, and the emergence of transit labour. Only in this way are we able to understand how the two phenomena—neoliberal capitalism and postcolonial capitalism—are combined as two interrelated parts of the global capitalism of our time. The issue of reproduction of the postcolonial condition is important, and without studying the dynamics of circulation laid down by Marx in volumes II and III of Capital, we shall be at a loss to understand how the postcolonial condition is reproduced on a global scale as the fundamental characteristic of contemporary capitalism.
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Marx included parliamentary acts, etc., in the extra-economic; thus, state budgetary instruments, public policies and other governing measures count in the way the social grounds are cleared for accumulation to take place. See, Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I, trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin Books, 1990), pp. 885–886. Unfortunately, not much advance has been made along the lead provided by Marx in investigating the role of the State as a clearing agency for the capitalist accumulation to begin in postcolonial democracies in particular. Postcolonial democratic theorists have emphasised the counterbalancing role of parliamentary democracy in the dynamics of primitive accumulation. See, for instance, Partha Chatterjee, “Democracy and Economic Transformation in India”, Economic and Political Weekly, 43 (16), 19 April 2008, pp. 53–60; Chatterjee argued that with the recent changes in India there was a new dynamics that tied the operations of “political society” (comprising the peasantry, artisans and petty producers in the informal sector) with the hegemonic role of the bourgeoisie in “civil society”. This was necessitated by the requirement of reversing the effects of primitive accumulation of capital with governmental activities like anti-poverty programmes. The mechanisms of electoral democracy become the field for the political negotiation of demands for the transfer of resources, through fiscal and other means, from the accumulation economy to programmes aimed at providing the livelihood needs of the poor. This, Chatterjee argued, is a necessary political condition for the continued rapid growth of corporate capital. Suffice it to note for the present that Chatterjee does not consider the State to be an agency of primitive accumulation, but rather the negotiating site for the protection of the poor, the expropriated. On the other hand, in India, the continuation of the Land Acquisition Act, now with some changes (the new name being The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitaion, and Resettlement Act, 2013) and first promulgated under colonial rule (1894), is a case in point that proves the active involvement of the State in the process of primitive accumulation resulting in expropriation of the people.
Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labour (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2013); in a sub-section on “The Primitive Accumulation of Modern Cartography” (pp. 30–43) Mezzdra and Neilson provide a compelling analysis of how the concept of primitive accumulation required for Marx an accompanying analysis of the expansion of the area for the operation of capital. Capital expanded by expanding the area of its operation—not only sector wise and in a societal sense, but also in a physical sense.
Marx significantly remarked, “So-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as ‘primitive’ because it forms the pre-history of capital, and of the mode of production corresponding to capital”— Capital, Volume I, pp. 874–875.
Alex Callinicos, “The Limits of Passive Revolution”, Capital and Class, 34 (3), pp. 491–507.
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, ed. Friedrich Engels, 1894 (Moscow: Institute of Marxism-Leninism, 1959; New York: International Publishers, n.d.), pp. 49–73.
Ibid., pp. 45–46.
Ibid., p. 54.
Ibid., p. 23.
Ibid., p. 27.
Ibid., p. 28.
“…the relation of capital to profit, i.e., of capital to surplus-value that appears on the one hand as an excess over the cost-price of commodities realised in the process of circulation and, on the other, as a surplus more closely determined by its relation to the total capital, the capital appears as a relation to itself, a relation in which it, as the original sum of value, is distinguished from a new value which it generated. One is conscious that capital generates this new value by its movement in the processes of production and circulation. But the way in which this occurs is cloaked in mystery and appears to originate from hidden qualities inherent in capital itself. The further we follow the process of the self-expansion of capital, the more mysterious the relations of capital will become, and the less the secret of its internal organism will be revealed.”—Italics Marx’s, Ibid., p. 31.
Ibid., p. 217.
Ibid., p. 225.
On this I have written extensively elsewhere on the postcolonial ways of accumulation; see Ranabir Samaddar, The Neo-liberal Strategies of Governing India (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), Chapters 5–8.
In recent time, some articles drew public attention. For instance, Jayati Ghosh, “Food Insecurity in South Asia”, Asian Age, 27 December 2005; Aruna Roy, “Minds and Intestines”, Tehelka, 10 December 2005; Nistula Hebbar’s four-part serial on wages, grains and the public distribution system, the title of the first part being, “Wages Fail to Come in Time”, Business Standard, 16–19 May 2005; National Human Rights Commission, “Extract from a Hearing on the Right to Food”, 2003; Colin Gonsalves, “The Spectre of Starving India”, http://www.righttofoodindia.org/data/colin.pdf (accessed on 15 July 2017); on famine and near famine condition in Kalahandi, Orissa, see for instance the report, “Agony in Kalahandi” by Farzand Ahmed, India Today, 31 July 1985 - http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/orissa-drought-famine-force-women-in-kalahandi-to-abandon-and-sell-their-children/1/354353.html (accessed on 20 August 2017); the famine continued for decades.
The similarity to the late-nineteenth-century colonial condition in the wake of global drought is striking. See, Utsa Patnaik, “The New Colonialism—Impact of Economic Reforms on Employment and Food Security in India” in Malini Bhattacharya (ed.), Globalisation— Perspectives in Women’s Studies (Delhi: Tulika Books, 2004); on the late-nineteenth-century situation, Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts—El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2002); also Jean Dreze, “Famine Prevention in India”, in Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen (eds.), The Political Economy of Hunger, Volume II, Famine Prevention (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).
This is brought out vividly in Md. Zakaria Siddiqui and Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, “Livelihoods of Marginal Mining and Quarrying Households in India”, Economic and Political Weekly, L (26–27), 27 June 2015, pp. 27–32; for a more nuanced study on the same theme, where she argues for a combination of the insights from labour studies with peasant studies, see Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, “Extracting Peasants from the Fields: Rushing for a Livelihood?”, Working Paper 216, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, February 2014; see also, Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Kim Alexander and Chansouk Insouvanh, “Informal Mining in Livelihood Diversification: Mineral Dependence and Rural Communities in Lao PDR”, South East Asia Research, 22 (1), pp. 103–122; on the significance of self-employed labour in India in the context of this discussion, Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector (Government of India, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, 2007).
Significantly Thomas Picketty in his recent investigation of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014) has discussed many of the “original” factors (such as rent, income, public debt, inheritance) in the production of wealth.
Capital, Volume III, p. 464.
Ibid., p. 533.
Ibid., p. 550.
Ibid. p. 555.
A book from which we have learnt so much is a case in point. Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar’s Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster (London: New Left Books, 1970) almost omits the State from discussion. It does not include the role of the State in the discussion on the realisation of surplus value through profit, interest and rent, and for that matter the constitution of classes. See especially Part 3 of the book.
Marx wrote of virtual capital in connection with money capital and in particular hoarding: “production of virtual additional capital in the present case… expresses nothing but a phenomenon of the process of production itself, production, in a particular form, of elements of productive capital. The large scale production of additional virtual money capital at numerous points of the periphery of circulation, is therefore nothing more than the result and expression of the many sided production of virtual additional productive capital, whose genesis does not itself presuppose additional monetary expenditure of money on the part of the industrial capitalists… The successive transformation of this virtually additional productive capital into virtual money-capital (hoard) on the part of A, A´, A″, etc. (department I), which is conditioned by the successive sale of their surplus product—i.e., by the repeated one-sided sale of commodities without a complementary purchase—results in repeated withdrawal of money from circulation and a corresponding hoard formation.”— Capital, Volume II, trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin, 1992), p. 573; For Marx, virtuality also indicated potentiality; thus, the potential of hoarded money or money in circulation to be additionally productive. See also the editorial note of Frederick Engels in Chapter 2, “The term—latent—is borrowed from the idea of latent heat in physics, which has now been almost replaced by the theory of the transformation of energy. Marx therefore uses in the third part (a later version), another term, borrowed from the idea of potential energy, viz.:—potential—or analogous to the virtual velocities of D‘Alembert,—virtual capital.”—p. 158 (n 1)
Consider the infamous case of the Bellary mines in India. The international boom for iron ore made India at the dawn of the new century the third-largest exporter of iron ore in the world, and one-third of the exports came from the Bellary area. The Bellary region alone exported 15 million tonnes of high quality iron ore worth $67 million overseas, mainly to China. A boom in the Chinese construction industry took place in the wake of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The international price of iron ore rose from $17 per tonne in 2000–2001 to $75 at its peak in 2005–2006. Around this time the demand from the Indian steel giants also grew. Thus, exports, which had been 75 per cent of total production, fell to 60 per cent, and the mined iron ore began to be supplied in greater volume to the Indian market. The giants of the industry—Arcelor Mittal, Posco, Tata Steel, Jindal—all wanted to build steel plants. In 2008, steel prices doubled, surpassing $700 per ton. Bellary mining symbolised the surge in demand for iron ore and the accompanying shift to privatisation and the open market economy in India. Women and children were pushed into the informal labour market, especially in sectors like mining, where deregulation of laws was aimed at attracting direct and private investment. Meanwhile, agrarian stagnation forced the landless agricultural labourers and marginal peasantry to look for other means of wage earning. By 2005, the hectic scramble for iron ore led to uncontrollable social and ecological chaos in the Bellary–Hospet–Sandur district. Most of the mining operations were carried out by small, illegal mining companies which did not abide by any environmental or social regulations. The working and living conditions of the workers were highly exploitative, there was lack of even basic facilities and the poor level of sanitation led to ill-health. Bellary recorded the highest incidence of HIV in Karnataka. Mining dust affected mine workers, who developed serious and chronic illnesses like tuberculosis, silicosis, cancer and other respiratory illnesses. Ill workers gave way to children and young people in this hazardous industry. Estimates put the number of daily wage labourers there around 60,000, half of them children under the age of 14 and around 20,000 of them women. The daily wage paid to men was around 110 rupees, to women around 75 rupees, children 50 rupees; on average a family earned about 180–200 rupees. The mining boom that began at the end of 2003 (when the price of iron ore rose from Rs 200 per metric tonne to Rs 2700 per metric tonne) made the Bellary Brothers the “mining czars” of the state. Figures and facts taken from http://bellary0.hpage.co.in/reddy-bros_1024057.html (accessed on 12 October 2015).
On the Ten Major Relationships (1956, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_51.htm (accessed on 6 February 2015).
Resilience is linked to the thesis of sustainability of life under capitalism so that labour as part of nature can be reproduced for production of surplus value. We shall discuss this in Chapter 5.
Of particular significance here is the creation of new mining zones through expansion of the mining sector. Analysts have noted the impact of India’s new mining policy on the livelihood of the indigenous people; however, mining companies are elated at the prospect of an extractive gold-rush. On 30 June 2016, as news trickled in of the impending change in policy following cabinet approval of the National Mineral Exploration Policy, which would open up to 100 new mining blocks for exploration, Economic Times reported “Exploration Policy Lifts Mining Stocks up to 18 per cent”— http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/news/exploration-policy-lifts-mining-stocks-up-to-18/articleshow/52981803.cms (accessed on 3 July 2016).
On this, the best help is Isaak Ilich Rubin, Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value, 1928 (Detroit: Black and Red, 1972); in particular, Chapter 16, “Socially Necessary Labour”; however, Illich overstates the case when he comments that the concept of socially necessary labour presupposes equilibrium between the given branch of production and other branches. Neoliberal zoning strategy for accumulation begins with dismantling such a presupposition.
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Chapter 9, “Formation of a General Rate of Profit (Average Rate of Profit) and Transformation of the Values of Commodities into Prices of Production”, pp. 254–272.
Heikki Patomaki, The Great Eurozone Disaster: From Crisis to Global New Deal, trans. James O’Connor (London: Zed Books, 2012).
On financial flows and global crisis, see Andrea Fumagalli and Sandro Mezzadra (eds.), Crisis in the Global Economy: Financial Markets, Social Struggles, and New Political Scenarios, trans. Jason Francis McGimsey (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2010); in particular Chapter 3, Carlo Verciione, “The Crisis of Law of Value and the Becoming-Rent of Profit”, pp. 85–118. Carlo Verciione notes that “the passage from the crisis of internet market conventions to the crisis of the real-estate market conventions lies not only in the cyclic repetition of the logic of finance, but marks a fundamental turning point in the dynamic of cognitive capitalism” (p. 88). See also Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, “Extraction, Logistics, Finance: Global Crisis and the Politics of Operations”, Radical Philosophy, 178, March–April 2013, pp. 8–18; also, Sven Opitz and Ute Tellmann, ‘Global Territories: Zones of Economic and Legal Dis/connectivity’, Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 13 (3), 2012, pp. 261–82.
On the simultaneity of the two processes, see the report on the new town in Gurgaon in India—“Gurgaon Grief: Now for the Next Shake-up in the Global Labour Market”—A Report in The Indian Express, 29 September 2011, p. 13. Another such zone at Rajarhat-New Town near Kolkata in India can be seen equally as a paradigmatic site for the operation of the principle of difference and repetition. On Rajarhat-New Town as a new zone of economy, Ishita Dey, R. Samaddar and Suhit Sen, Beyond Kolkata: Rajarhat and the Dystopia of Urban Imagination (London and New Delhi: Routledge, 2013).
Fernand Braudel, Civilisation and Capitalism—15th to 18th Century, Volume III, trans. Sian Reynolds (London: William Collins, 1985), p. 103; also see James Westfall Thompson, Economic and Social History of Europe in the Later Middle Ages, 1300–1530 (1931, New York: Frederick Ungar, 1969).
Recall Marx, “On the one hand, market-value is to be viewed as the average value of commodities produced in a single sphere, and, on the other, as the individual value of the commodities produced under average conditions of their respective sphere and forming the bulk of the products of that sphere” — Capital, Volume III, p. 178; here “sphere” is the zone.
Heikki Patomaki, “On the Dialectics of Global Governance in the Twenty-first century: A Polanyian Double Movement?”, Globalizations, 11 (5), 2014, pp. 733–750; also Heikki Patomaki, The Great Eurozone Disaster: From Crisis to Global New Deal, Chapter 6, pp. 104–132.
This is the classic neoliberal strategy—turning a crisis into a virtue; see Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neo liberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (London: Verso, 2013); this is true of the recent economic history of India where the crisis of debt, inflation, recession and general accumulation crisis of the preglobalisation era was turned from 1991 into a positive ground for neoliberal structural reforms.
Need economy is a concept used extensively by the late Indian economist Kalyan Sanyal, Rethinking Capitalist Development: Primitive Accumulation, Governmentality, and Post-Colonial Capitalism (Delhi: Routledge, 2013); we shall return to his work in Chapter 6.
Not surprisingly, Lenin stressed the question of colonies and the birth of finance capital; Rosa Luxemburg, too, situated her analysis of accumulation in the context of imperialism.
The Junius Pamphlet— http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1915/junius/ch01.htm#n3 (accessed on 10 February 2014).
V.I. Lenin, “The Junius Pamphlet”, 1916, Collected Works, 4th English edition, Volume 22 (Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1964, pp. 305–19), p. 308.
There were exceptions. Against the background of the Vietnam War, US Marxist writings focused on war and accumulation; see for instance, Simon Clarke, Keynesianism, Monetarism, and the Crisis of the State (Vermont: Edward Elgar, 1988), Chapters 10–11.
Phrase used by John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (New York, Oxford University Press, 1989); The Long Peace ignored the short wars of neocolonial aggression and conquest.
- Postcolonial Dynamics of Accumulation
- Chapter 3
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