capitalism

publication (article): revising sangiovanni's reciprocity-based internationalism

I have just had an article published in Ethics & Global Politics entitled 'Revising Sangiovanni's Reciprocity-Based Internationalism: Towards International Egalitarian Obligations.' 

The paper considers aspects of international capital ownership and interstate trade and argues that these practices, under my modified version Andrea Sangiovanni's of 'reciprocity-based internationalism' (which attempts to account for when and how egalitarian obligations might be generated through social, political, and economic relations), themselves generate egalitarian obligations. I also work with Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century in this article. 

The full reference is as-follows:

Heaney, Conor, 'Revising Sangiovanni's reciprocity-based internationalism: towards international egalitarian obligations', Ethics & Global Politics, 9, 2016

You can download the paper here, where there is also a more detailed abstract, if you're interested.

 

our collective insomnia

Arthur Winfree was a theoretical biologist whose work, among other things, focused on the connections between organisms and the "time-worlds" through which they navigate their "life-worlds." Considering, for example, mosquitoes, Winfree experimented with how certain “time shocks” were reacted to by the objects of the experiment. Manuel DeLanda, in his famous Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, writes the following in relation to Winfree’s research:

Winfree’s main result is, basically, that a singular, critical stimulus applied at a singular, sensitive moment has a destructive effect on the sleep-awake cycle of organisms, giving a population of mosquitoes, for example, permanent insomnia. (2013: 106-107)

In other words, Winfree’s results suggest that certain modifications in an organism’s life-world can rupture the internal relationship that organism has to itself (its rhythms, habits, and so on). This is not, in itself, surprising. Humans tend to obey circadian rhythms, it would seem, partially due to the fact that natural selection tends to “select” modifications that enable the continual development of organism-and-life-world (where the unit of evolutionary selection is not “the organism” but “the organism and its environment”). The human life-world is one experienced largely in terms of the temporal cycle of day-and-night. It makes sense, therefore, that the human-as-organism would come to regulate itself in relation to the life-world (of day-and-night) that it inhabits.

But this self-regulation of which humans (and all other effects of evolutionary processes) are capable of doesn’t always occur quickly. Sometimes there are historical developments or ruptures which off-set the balance and force new adaptations to the fore. Technological innovation and development has, in many – though by no means all – urban areas rendered the distinction between online and offline increasingly problematic or increasingly inapplicable. In sites where this permanent online-ness is operative, we see an expanse of strategies of surveillance, a more pervasive and individually targeted virtual landscape of advertisements to fend off, resist (and often submit to), and the permanent opportunity to be “working.” The erosion of the online/offline distinction bears the potential of eroding the labour/leisure distinction: one can always be consuming and one can always be producing. Indeed, the social injunction is that one ought to be doing precisely these two things, at all times.

When is there time to sleep? That contemporary labour relations wage a war on sleep – where sleep is only valued to the extent that it replenishes calorie-dependent, appetite-dependent, taste-dependent, and liquidity-dependent supplies of human capital, potential productivity and consumption – is no new thing. But let’s say that the “new digital landscape” wages war on sleep in a new way, and therefore commands new responses. The imbrication of neoliberal capitalism and advanced digital technologies tends towards a culture of permanent production, consumption, and, as such, permanent collective insomnia. Has the critical stimulus to produce this collective insomnia in us already been applied, like to the mosquitoes in Winfree’s experiments?

References

DeLanda, Manuel, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013)

ratios of food production

I am currently making my way through Jason W. Moore’s 2015 book Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. In the final substantive chapter, entitled ‘The Long Green Revolution: The Life and Times of Cheap Food in the Long Twentieth Century’, Moore continues the book’s trend of analysing what he argues are the necessary moments of appropriation that couple any movement of capitalist exploitation. Whilst exploitation is related to forms of paid labour, appropriation is related to forms of unpaid labour. Capitalist accumulation, Moore argues, necessitates moments of exploitation to be couple with moments of appropriation. There are a number of examples of unpaid labour that have been necessary for capitalist expansion and accumulation: slave labour, reproductive labour, and the labour of the non-human (whether non-human animals or land). One of capitalism’s central production dynamics is, of course, that of food production, production which is differentially distributed along class lines, generating food regimes and subjecting others to hunger regimes. Moore highlights a worrying statistical trend in relation to the efficiency of food production in the past eighty years:

It took about 2.5 calories of energy to deliver a calorie of food in the 1930s. The ratio then moved sharply upwards, to 7.5:1 in the 1950s, and 10:1 by the early 1970s. By the twenty-first century, fifteen-to-twenty calories were needed to deliver one calorie of food from farm to table, considerably more for globally sourced fruit. (Moore, 2015: 252)

Surely, this raises more than just questions about the “sustainability” of current food production practices. It also pushes against those issues of the differential distribution of what food is produced (i.e. the allocation of food and hunger regimes along class lines) as well as the feasibility of continuing to intensify industrialised-corporatised agricultural production. “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” doesn’t seem to come close to a substantial response to this glaring failure of capitalist production.

References:

Acker, T.L., et. al., ‘Energy Inefficiency in Industrial Agriculture’, Energy Sources, Part B, 8, 4 (2013), 420-430

Canning, P. et. al., ‘Energy Use in the U.S. Food System’, Economic Research Report Number 94 (Washington: United States Department of Agriculture, 2010)

Moore, Jason W., Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso, 2015)

Steinhart, J.S., and Steinhart, C.E., ‘Energy Use in the U.S. Food System,’ Science, 184, 4134 (1974), 307-316

Pimental, D., et. al., ‘Food Production and the Energy Crisis,’ Science, 182 (1973), 443-449