Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 8 (segundo semestre de 2003)  
number 8 (second semester of 2003)




Human Progress and Development

Werner Bonefeld *

* University of York, United Kingdom. E-mail:


- I.
The Financial Times commented in 1993 that globalisation is the most effective wealth-creating system ever devised by mankind. It acknowledged, however, that globalisation remains an incomplete force since 'about two-thirds of the world's population have gained little or no substantive advantage from rapid economicy growth. In the "developed world" the lowest quartile of income earners has witnssed a trickle-up rather than a trickle-down' (Financial Times, December 24, 1993). This one-quarter has since expanded to include about half the population.

And the so-called 'developing' world? Where did it stand in 1993 and where does it stand in 2003? Figures on poverty and deprivation suggest that it has transformed into a 'global' slum (see Chossdovsky, 1996). The distribution of wealth is now as unequal as never before. Disposable income is redistributed in favour of the betterment of the few, be it through tax cuts, downward pressure on wages, or simply through a growing mass of redundant labour with nothing to sell, including its labour power (Krugman, 2002; Carchedi, 2001; Altvater, 2002).

And the wealth creating potential of globalisation? It appears to have run out of steam at the start of the new millenium (Brenner, 2002). The New Economy was sustained by credit-expansion, especially consumer credit. Debt fed on to itself. Its ideology and practice of share-holder value, led to ever more esoteric means of profit generation and valuations of companies that had little to do with actual productive development. The wealth creation of globalisation has always been more apparent than real. During the last decade we have seen the deep recession of the early 1990s, the European currency crises in 1992 and 1993, the plunge of the Mexican peso in December 1994 which rocked financial markets around the world, the Asian crisis of 1997, the Brazilian crisis of 1999, the Argentinean crisis of 2001. Japan teeters on the edge of depression, the European economies are in dire straights, the trade deficits of both the USA und the UK are at record levels, and then there is the speculative bubble in the New York Stock Exchange and the dramatic global slowdown. As Itoh (2000, p.133) comments, 'the nightmare of a full-scale world economic crisis cannot easily be excluded'; indeed, there is hardly a day without warnings about the immanent burst of the bubble and a world wide depression.

- II.
Over the last 25 years, monetary accumulation has expanded much more rapidly than productive accumulation. The growing gap between monetary accumulation and productive accumulation has led to a point where monetary accumulation by far exceeded the production of surplus value, leading the cycle of capitalist accumulation to look more and more like an upside down pyramid (Mandel, 1987, Bonefeld, 1996). There was, then, an accumulation of capital in the form of money (M...M') divorced from productive accumulation, leading to an ever greater accumulation of monetary claims on the future generation of income through productive accumulation. Monetary accumulation divorced from productive accumulation is an accumulation of capital that is suspended from the direct exploitation of labour (M...P...M'). The more money accumulates dissociated from productive accumulation, the less it is validated by the production of surplus value and the more claims on the future exploitation of labour accumulate in an increasingly speculative and potentially fictitious dimension. The weakening strength of the link between an ever expanding credit-superstructure and its rapidly diminishing productive foundation which generates the earnings with which to check the expansion of credit, is intensely crisis-ridden and, as will be argued below, violent in its relation to labour. While money asserts itself as the source of its own valorisation - M...M' -, it exists only in and through the ability of capital to harness labour as the variable component of capital accumulation. In short, M...M' presupposes and subsists through the guarantee of M...P...M' that is, the exploitation of labour.

The resolution to monetary crisis, then, relates to the relation between necessary labour and surplus labour that is, the relation between the constitutive parts of the working day and the class relation which constitutes it. However, the very reason for the existence of the credit-superstructure makes this solution difficult to achieve. As I have argued elsewhere, it was the crisis of productive accumulation in the late 1960s/early 1970s that led to the dissociation of monetary accumulation from productive accumulation (Bonefeld, 1993). Monetary accumulation divorced from productive accumulation is essentially an accumulation of unemployed capital. As Marx (1966, p. 251) noted, '[t]he so-called plethora of capital always applies essentially to a plethora of capital for which the fall in the rate of profit is not compensated through the mass of profit - ... - or to a plethora which places capitals incapable of action on their own at the disposal of the managers of large enterprises in the form of credit. This plethora of capital ariss from the same causes as those which call forth relative over-population, and is, therefore, a phenomenon supplementing the latter, although they stand at opposite poles - unemployed capital at the one pole, and unemployment worker population at the other'. Money capital continues to function as capital in the form of credit, sustaining productive accumulation by mortgaging its future. Financial crises, then, indicate the precarious foundation of the speculative gamble on the future exploitation of labour. Whether this gamble will lead to a full blown crisis or whether it can be contained on a permanent basis, with a progressive deterioration of conditions, increase in poverty, violence, famine, ecological destruction, and local wars, depends on the outcome of class struggle. There is no certainty. (1)

The history of the last twenty-five years suggests that capital has found it increasingly difficult to adjust the relationship between monetary accumulation and productive accumulation on the basis of a stronger link between money and value production. Certainly, rates of productivity have increased. Yet, there is no surer indication than the ballooning of bad debt or, as was 'recently' discovered, 'bad profit', that capital has not succeeded in imposing a recomposition of the relations of exploitation adequate to the accumulated claims upon surplus value. And the 'redundant worker population'? What meaning does the speculative gamble hold for the poor and miserable?

- III.
Is the relationship between global financial turmoil and the expansion of poverty a mere coincidence, or simply a lack of adjustment of the part of the so-called self-determining market agent to the democracy of demand and supply, a mere chance development, or are these two intrinsically linked? The Argentinean meltdown is an obvious case. In a country of 35 million, 19 million are classified as poor as of June 2002, 'with enarnings of less than $190 a month, 8.4 million are considered destitute, with monthly incomes below $83' (Auge, 2002). This presents a poverty rate of 54 percent of the population whereas in 1993, according to the World Bank, the poverty rate was a 'mere' 17.6 percent (World Bank, 2000). Argentina is far from an anomaly. Mexico's poverty rate hovers around 40 percent (Cypher, 2001). One-quarter of the world's population are earning under $1 per day, with 100 million children living or working on streets (cf. UNDP, 2000) In the great city of Sao Paulo, of its 14 million inhabitants, about 5.5 million live in the so-called Favelas in conditions of unspeakable poverty and desperation. In some Cities, street children are systematically murdered as the only way of enforcing respect for private property. They are deemed redundant and thus disposable. UNICEF reported in 1990 that ten million children are suffering from severe malnutrition and a further 200 million are inadequately nourished (UNICEF, 1990). UNICEF also reported that water crises contribute to 34.6 percent of all children death in the so-called third world. Food crises affects more than 100 million people in Africa and this number is growing. And Asia? And Russia? The list goes on and on, and it is not limited to the so-called 'developing' countries.

The USA is, for many, the example of a successfully globalised economy that, by the late 1990s, achieved full-employment. It is the richest society in the world. Given these achievements, one would be tempted to conclude that Clinton's War on Poverty was successful. However, when looking at conditions in the USA, the declared war on poverty looks more like a war on the poor. Vulliamy (2002) reports that 33 million people are living below the poverty line. Six million are said to belong to the working poor, often holding more than one job to make ends meet, leading to a working week of between 70 and 80 hours a week (International Herald Tribune, 6.3.1996). The scale of poverty that persists amid USA affluence has led to the most unequal distribution of income among developed countries (Madrick, 1995, Negt, 2001). Soupkitchens have become most popular. According to the anti-hunger group Second Harvest, of all those relying on soupkitchen to meet their basic intake of food, 62 percent are women, 38 percent are children, 54 percent are single parents and 16 percent are over 65 years of age (Frankfurter Rundschau, 12.3.1998). About 40 percent of those using soupkitchens are employed - these are the working poor. It has been estimated that about 15 percent of the poor in the USA live in conditions of abject deprivation (cf. Negt, 2001, p. 269). According to Vulliamy (2002), one in eleven families, one in nine Americans, and one in six children are officially poor. The proportion of children without health cover has increased from 63.8 percent in 1992 to 67.1 percent in 2000 (ibid.).

The New Economy was not only charactised by increasing levels of poverty and deprivation. It was also sustained by credit, including consumer credit. According to Richard D. Wolff, 'US families increased their personal indebtedness beyond anything every experienced in any other place or time....US consumer debt rose from $1.4 trillion in 1980 to $6.5 trillion in 2000' (Wolff, 2002, p. 121). The Economic Policy Institute (2002), a Washington based think tank, noted that 'by 2001, total household debt exceeded total household income by an all-time high of nearly 10 percent. Much of the run-up in debt occurred over the economic boom, as the ratio of debt to personal income rose from 87.7 per cent in 1992 to 109.0 per cent in 2002'. Writing in the context of the US, Magdoff etal (2002) argue that, by 2002, outstanding private debt is two and on quarter times GDP, while total outstanding debt - private plus government - approaches three time the GDP. The economy, they conclude, is now completely debendent upon, and overshadowed by, a mountain of debt (cf. Bonefeld, 2003).

The great scandal of global capital is that it is choking itself up on the pyramids of accumulated abstract wealth. Yet, when looking at social conditions, when listening to the ever more urgent demand for greater labour flexibility - this destructive conquest of atoms of additional labour time (Sennet, 2000) -, it seems as if the global crisis is really just a consequence of a scarcity of capital. This is indeed the conclusion one would have to reach when one looks at Africa's misery, when one sees the thousands and thousands of children living in poverty, not just in Africa, not just in Latin America and Asia, not just in those areas of the world deemed inessential by global capital but also in the centres of globalisation, in Europe and the USA. Yet, the dramatic increase in poverty and misery across the globe is not caused by conditions of economic scarcity. There is too much capital, too many commodities that can not be sold for profit, too many workers are 'overexploited', on the one hand, and, on the other, too many workers are not even exploitable - these belong to the growing mass of redundant labour. Unemployment is itself a productive force. As the board member of Toyota, Mr. Shiramizu, put it 'in France there are many unemployed people and so [those with jobs] tend to work harder' (Financial Times, 3.3.03). Over the last two decades, profits have risen and so too has unemployment, and so too has the accumulated claim on future profits. Labour productivity has increased and so has poverty. Wages have stagnated, and conditions deteriorated. Marx focused this 'constellation' well when he argued that '[s]ociety suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence; too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does bourgeois society get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones' (Marx and Engels, 1996, pp. 18-19). And by the creation of new forms of wage labour and the progressive expansion of old forms of wage labour in the sweat shops of the world. Might Daniel Cohen (1997, p. 15) not be right when he argues that globalisation is not responsible for the ever more precarious conditions of work, poverty, and war; and that, instead, it is the restructuring of work that makes globalisation possible and gives globalisation a bad name?

- IV.
Adam Smith was certain in his own mind that capitalism creates the wealth of nations and he noted that 'the proprietor of stock is properly a citizen of the world, and is not necessarily attached to any particular country. He would be apt to abandon the country in which he was exposed to a vexatious inquisition, in order to be assessed to a burdensome tax, and would remove his stock to some other country where he could either carry on his business, or enjoy his fortune more at his ease' (1981, pp. 848-49). Ricardo concurred, adding that 'if a capital is not allowed to get the greatest net revenue that the use of machinery will afford here, it will be carried abroad' leading to 'serious discouragement to the demand for labour' (Ricardo, 1995, p. 39). According to Hegel, the accumulation of wealth renders those who depend on the sale of their labour power for their social reproduction, insecure in deteriorating conditions. He concluded that despite the accumulation of wealth, bourgeois society will find it most difficult to keep the dependent masses pacified, and he saw the form of the state as the means of reconciling the social antagonism, containing the dependent masses. Ricardo formulated the necessity of capitalist social relations to produce 'redundant population'. Marx developed this insight and showed that abstract equality subsists through the inequality in property. For Marx, the idea of 'equal rights' is in principle a bourgeois right. In its content, it is a right of inequality: '[t]he power which each individual exercises over the activity of others or over social wealth exists in him as the owner of exchange values, of money. The individual carries his social power, as well as his bond with society, in his pocket' (Marx, 1973, p. 157). Against the bourgeois form of formal equality, he argued that the society of the free and equal rests on the equality of individual human needs. Adorno and Horkheimer argued that anti-semitism is a fetishistic, barbaric critique of capitalism that makes the hatred of capitalism functional for capitalism. Luxemburg argued that the fight against barbarism is a fight for socialism.

From within the logic of economic rationality, human values such as dignity and integrity are a scandal. They inhibit the full utilisation of technical efficacy of human social labour, resisting the transformation of mankind into a mere resource, that is, a living agent who, to use the economic conception of Man (2), embodies human capital. For the perspective of economic value, humanity is merely conceived as an irritating factor of production, a living resource that has to be integrated into the well-oiled systems of economic production and political machines. Humanity, in short, is seen as a mere agent of economic development whatever its content, be it the production of food or poison, or indeed the transformation of the human body into a thing to be sold for profit. Economic value recognises progress and development only in terms capital accumulation for the sake of accumulation, whatever the social and environmental costs. Man, if she appears at all, appears as a mere unit of account, a mere utility, a resource, an economic thing. The category of development, or progress, is however completely empty, is meaningless (begriffslos) if viewed in abstraction from its content and that it, the relations between humans, their conditions and needs.

In sum, paraphrasing Kant's notion of science, only that progress and development is true which helps the common Man to her dignity.(3) And progress in terms of humanity as a resource? Any analytical derivation of human social existence from presupposed criteria of economic rationality is forced to accept the world of capitalist economic value as a world where the human being obtains as a mere factor of production that requires more fine tuning to improve its effective, efficient, and economic usage. The analytical derivation of human existence from the presupposed world of hypothesised economic structures not only accepts without question the deadly slogan that the existence of Man as an embodiment of human capital is not only liberating but, also history's finest and final achievement. In short, the derivation of the human being from presupposed economic values does not inquire about the foundation of the human world and instead accepts that this foundation is pre-given and beyond comprehension - it is said to reside in the invisible whose hand makes the world go round.

The market liberal reference to the invisible hand operates like an explanatory refuge. It explain everything with reference to the unexplainable. For it, the critical insight that 'theoretical mysteries ... find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice' (Marx, 1975, p. 5), is a scandal because it dissolves that which is certain (as economic value) and holy (as the invisible) into a question of the social and historical constitution of human social relations, however perverted they might be in the form of capital. The acceptance, then, of the invisible hand as the administrator of exact market justice does not really lead to a vicious circle of meta-theories upon which the theory of unintended consequences depends. It leads, in fact, to the return of marke liberalism's most pressing concern, that is to legitimate the existing relations of capital. The 'original position' of traditional theory is that of an ancilla constitutionis [servant to existing powers or, in this context, to constituted economic relations]. Kant's emphatic demand that scholarly work has to reveal the true character of the constituted world of things and that failure to do so amounts to deceitful publicity (Kant, 1979), shows the falsehood of conceptions of progress that pretend to espouse human values only by presupposing humankind as a living resource, as human capital.

In the Preface to his Philosophy of Right, Hegel argued that those who render abstractions effective in social life are engaged in the destruction of social reality. There is no other social reality than the reality of human social relations however perverted their existence as personfications of human capital. Human relations, then, can be destroyed - in the name of economic value and that is, through the identification of the purpose of human existence as an economic resource. Human values such as honesty, sincerity, tolerance, integrity and especially dignity have no price and can not be quantified, neither sold nor bought, nor capitalised. These values connote individual human distinctiveness, difference, sense and significance, that is, Man in possession of himself as a subject. In the context of a conception of progress and development as economic growth for the sake of economic growth, and of freedom as capitalist freedom and that is, the freedom of market agents who are free to meet their needs of subsistence as living commodities, utilizing their property to the best of their income generating ability. Critical-practical judgement is suspended through the identification of really existing humans as mere personifications of abstractions, as human capital. There is only one human standard which, though unchangeable and indivisible, can be lost - through the imposition of abstract identity (cf. Adorno, 1990), an identity that denies human values and needs - better: that knows of only one need and one value, and that is, the identification of humankind as an economic resource whose freedom consists in its ever ready sacrifice as a human machine on the pyramids of accumulation for accumulation's sake.

William Robertson (1890, p. 104) rightly argued that 'in every inquiry concerning the operation of men when united together in society, the first object of attention should be their mode of subsistence'. Their capitalist mode of subsistence does not seem favourably disposed to their needs. Sub-Saharan Africa is dying of Aids - yet can't afford to purchase the required medicine which is available, at a price (see Rau, 2002). Street children are disposed by killer hands in Latin America, and beyond. Whole continents are disembowelled, their populations suffer from malnutritian, face starvation, many die prematurely; and their raw materials are plundered. At the same time, productive capacity in the industrialised North is left unused not because of a lack of human needs but because of a lack of effective demand. Monetary accumulation is feeding on to itself, yet an ever growing mass of the world's population lacks effective purchasing power to make ends meet. Huge and growing levels of military expenditure contrast with diminishing welfare support for the poor and miserable. Since 1945, wars have been fought mostly in those areas of the world where the integration of populations into the world market society of capital is precarious, that is, where capitalist forms of social reproduction are deemed underdeveloped. Between 1945 and the early 1990, Latin America has had 396.000 war death, Africa 5.3 million, the Middle and Far East, 1.8 million, Asia 4.6 Million and Europe 238.000 (Gantzel and Schwinghammer, 1995, p. 150). This development has continued unabated. How many wars have been fought since the end of the Cold War? How many will be fought, not in years ahead, but in the next few months? Afghanistan has again been transformed into rubble. So, too, has Iraq, and where next? And then there is terrorism. The events of September 11th demonstrated with brutal force the impotence of sense, significance, and thus reason and ultimately truth. The denial of human quality and difference was absolute. Their death was total - not even their corpses survived. And the response? It confirmed that state terrorism and terrorism are two sides of the same coin. Between them, nothing is allowed to survive. Huge investments into, and a huge amount of human engery and planning is directed, paraphrasing Wacquant (2000), not to tackle poverty, but instead towards a war on the poor and miserable.

- V.
The pros and cons in the debate on globalisation are well established and there is no need here to offer yet another review.(4) The global in globalisation means the global domination of capitalist world market relations, including importantly the crisis-ridden dissociation between monetary accumulation and productive accumulation, over nationally regimented populations who are free to utilize, as equals in exchange relations, their income generating capacities. This domination is personified by multinational companies and banks. Their global reach through 'free trade', structural adjustment programmes and increasingly conflicts, military and otherwise, is assisted in particular by the USA - the only remaining superpower that embodies the concentrated political force of the new Empire of globalisation. From the perspective of domestic relations, the global constitutes the political and economic space in which the national bourgeoisie frees itself from domestic contraints or controls. The global economy does not represent universal human values but particular domestic class interests. The global economy, then, anchors domestic forms of exploitation through the threat of moving investment abroad should local resistance to the dictate of economic adjustment expose, as Smith put it, the proprietors of stock to a vexatious inquisition. Capital flight is the response to such vexing questions (see Holloway, 2000, 2003).

The world market is the categorial imperative of capitalist production within national borders, between national borders and beyond national borders. It is 'the basis and the vital element of capitalist production' (Marx, 1966, p. 110). The productivity of the 'domestic' exploitation of labour acquires its livelihood in and through world market conditions. It is this market that suffuses, confirms and contradicts the 'domestic' exploitation of labour. Thus, whoever wants to speak about the division of labour has to speak about the world market society of capital. The division of labour entails the international division of labour, the former cannot be conceived without the latter; better: the international division of labour is the presupposition of the national division of labour. In other words, the 'national' acquires its livelihood as a territorialisation of space which is sustained by and subsists through the international division of labour.

The notion of the international division of labour entails the equalisation of the rate of profit on a global scale. This equalisation 'compares' the productive labour set to work within industry with the productive labour of all other industries, leading to the determination of an average rate of profit on the world market. The constitution of an average rate of profit obtains as the average world market rate of profit. This equalisation and averaging entails the unleashing of a 'heavy artillerie' (cf. Marx/Engels 1996, p. 17) upon national states should exploitation of labour within their jurisdiction fall below the average world market rate of profit. This heavy artillery impresses itself upon national states through pressures on the exchange rate, the accumulation of balance of payments deficits, drains on national reserves, capital flight and impoverishment of social conditions. In other words, the prevailing conditions of economic value impress themselves upon national states through the movement of money capital that transcends national states, forcing them through the speculative pressure on currencies, to either adjust to world market conditions through competitive productity growth or be faced with deteriorating domestic conditions. World money is not only a means of exchange or a means of payment and, in case of debt, repayment; it obtains, also, as a power that polices the 'domestic' adjustment of labour productivity to globally competitive levels (see Bonefeld, 2000).

The circumstance that the equalisation of the rate of profit obtains at the world market means that the domestic productivity of labour is validated in terms of 'value' only in and through the 'global' conditions of exchange. The formation, then, of an average rate of profit transforms the apparantly local conditions into conditions of the 'organic composition' of 'global capital'. 'World trade' is exclusively driven by the satisfaction of 'needs', that is, the need of profit realisation as the basis of expanded accumulation. From its inception, the cosmopolitanism of capitalist freedom is founded on the ownership of commodities. This ownership is in and for itself beyond every religious, political, national and linguistic barriers. Its language is 'price', its grammer is the reduction of all human activity to the economy of time, and its community is that of abstract wealth, represented by money. Money 'is itself the community [Gemeinwesen], and can tolerate none other standing above it' (Marx, 1973, p. 223). It is the true res publica of capitalist social relations. Thus, capital, whether in terms of commodity capital, money capital, or productive capital, does neither have a national character nor a partiotic affiliation. Its partiotism is money and its language is international. Protectionism, in short, amounts merely to a measure of defence within free trade. The global freedom of capital entails that previously separate and distinct histories become subsumed and condensed into a single world history 'insofar as it made all civilised nations and every individual member of them dependent for the satisfaction of their wants on the whole world' (Marx/Engels, 1970, p. 78). It is in and through the world market that the interconnection between 'the individual with all other individuals' (Marx, 1973, p. 161) are produced. The world market, then, poses the totality of capitalist social relations and as such a totality posits the basis of the productive practice of all individuals.

The world market posits the most developed form of individual interconnectedness and interdependence. It incluces not only 'the activity of each individual' (ibid.) but is, also, 'independent of this connection from the individual' (ibid., p. 161). Their connection as social individuals is constituted by impersonal relations, by the things themselves as world market relations. These relations create 'spontaneous interconnection, a material and mental metabolism which is independent of the knowing and willing of individuals, and which presupposes their reciprocal indepedence and indifference' (ibid.). Behind the liberation of the social individual from relations of personal dependence, the rule of objective conditions obtains: 'Individuals are now ruled by abstractions' and these abstractions subsist in the form of objective world market conditions that 'are independent of the individual and, although created by society, appear as if they were natural conditions, not controllable by individuals' (ibid., p. 164). The innate necessity of development as capitalist freedom to create 'a constantly widening sphere of circulation, whether the sphere itself is directly expanded or whether more points within it are created as points of production (ibid., p. 407), strives irresistably towards the universalisation of capitalist value relations as the presupposition of development. In sum, 'it is only in the markets of the world that money acquires to the full extent the character of the commodity whose bodily form is also the immediate social incarnation of human labour in the abstract' (Marx, 1983, p. 141). It is through exchange that the 'national ground [is pulled away] from the foundation of every industry' and transfered to 'conditions of production outside itself, into a general context' of exchange (Marx, 1973, p. 528). This constant undermining of 'locality' and its integration into conditions of general exchange entails that the 'general foundation of all industry comes to be general exchange itself, the world market, and hence the totality of all activities ... of which it is made up' (ibid.). The search, then, for new markets, new natural resources, and new workers is, with necessity, a constant search (cf. Luxemburg, 1975).

- VI.
'My People are Tired of Development, they just want to live' (Gustavo Esteva)

The Economist reported in 1986 that it is a generally held belief in investment circles that no capitalist development can occur in a country until the land question is settled and land property is privatized (quoted in Caffentzis, 1995, p. 27). From the perspective of capitalist value, the privatisation of land property is crucial. It is the basis for development as capitalist freedom.(5) Capital, as Marx noted, 'is the separation of the conditions of production from the labourer' (1972, p. 422) and that this separation 'forms (bildet) the conception [Begriff] of capital' (Marx, 1966, p. 246). Capitalist freedom depends on the separation of social labour from its means; it is capital's constitutive force. What, however, happens to those populations that, in the course of the debt crisis, have been rendered independent from their conditions and, instead, are now 'free to collide with one another and to engage in exchange within this freedom' (Marx, 1973, pp. 163-64) as self-determining and that is, self-responsible agents of human capital? Caffentzis (1995) has argued that famine is more likely as a consequence because, in order to service debt, the export of crops has to be promoted to sell on the world market either at prevailing world market prices or below in order to compete with subsidised farm produce in the North, ruining Third World farmers. Whatever the price level, the transformation of food into a commodity makes it difficult for freed populations to meet subsistence needs. As Maria Mies (1993) has shown, once the subsistence food of the poor enters the world market, it becomes an export commodity and is no longer available for the poor for whom it has become unaffordable. Where, however, is their employability to come from, against the background of the progressive expansion of redundant labour on a world scale? If their labour power can not be employed in exchange for a living wage, what else do they have to sell to generate income?

Whatever the answer to this question, and I will come back to it below, the poor countries have, over the last 25 years, become massive exporters of capital in order to earn hard currency to service their debt. In addition to export earnings, they have been able to service their debt by disposing the left-overs, for example contaminated waste, from the industrialised countries. While the North has been able to externalise the costs of its progress, privatisation and poisoning of land and water amount to operations that, as Dalla Costa (2003) has argued, produce hunger, poverty and premature death. For the proponents of capitalism, these outcomes have nothing to do with capitalism. Rather, they have to do with lack of faith. 'Starvation is God's way of punishing those who have too little faith in capitalism' (Rockefeller Sr., quoted in Marable, 1991, p. 147).

Development as capitalist freedom will transform some of those who have been separated from their means into wage labourers. This, however, will be, as Dalla Costa (2003) shows, the fate of only a small minority, that is, those who can and will find employment in the rapidely expanding sweat shops of the Third World, or indeed in the countries they emigrate to. Then there is the proliferation of child labour, cheap to hire and easy to fire, many crippled before they reach adulthood, etc. (Seabrook, 2001). According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO) the overall number of children under 15 who were 'economically active' was around 50 million at the beginning of the 1980s. Today, it reports, there are 'more than 200 million child labourers worldwide, some 180 million are now suspected to be toiling in the "worst forms" of child labour' (ILO, 2002a, p. 1). Nevertheless, they are not shot as so many are in Latin America, they have not been killed after birth because of their gender, and they have not been forced into prostitution. Can it however be said that their capacity to work is allowed to prosper and their freedom to make good use of their capabilities is allowed to flourish at the earliest stage of their development? The international exploitation of children is a scandal. What however happens to those who fail to find work? Erich Fromm once argued that no psychology is needed to explain why a hungry person steals food. Psychology, and ultimately mass psychology is needed, he argued, to explain why those who are starving do not steal bread. Stealing is, of course, a criminal offence against the laws of private property, and, as such, it is an offence against the law of abstract equality. Altvater (2002) suggests that the informal economy has grown as a result of rising unemployment, with, for example, the percentages of informal labour in total employment ranging from 30 per cent in Chile to 84 percent in Uganda. Poverty and misery is a great laboratory for the invention of new forms of wage labour and for the re-discovery of old forms of 'human capital' utilization (see Caffenzis, 1999).

Over the last decade there has been an increase in the trafficking of women and children, who are literally 'stolen', under the pretence of a wage contract in the North, into prostitution. Global human smuggling has grown into a multi-million dollar business spanning the entire globe (cf. Kyle and Koslowski, 2001). New markets have emerged in human organs and babies. The proprietors of labour power are confronted not only with new forms of exploitation, they are also transformed into a saleable resource to be operated on and sold, with babies being produced for export (Federici, 1997). Marx's notion of the doubly free wage labourer appears to have been transformed. The doubly free wage labourer has indeed become, at least for a growing part of humanity, more than just a labouring commodity. It has also become a carrier of human capital, that is, a living agent whose body substance and reproductive being can be sold on the market, just like any other commodity.

Chira (1988) has shown that, in the early 1990s, trade in children to advanced areas included about 5000 South Korean children who have been exported to the USA each year. By the late 1980s, an adopted child was reckoned to arrive in the US every 48 minutes (Raymond, 1994). Raymond has also confirmed the existence of 'baby farms' where children are specifically raised for export. Surrugate motherhood, especially but not exclusively the use of Third world women, is a widespread practice (The Guardian, 7/10/95). Surrogate motherhood means that the reproductive autonomy of women has become a commodity. The womb is hired out, becomes a productive means, and subject to the laws of contract. Her reproductive capacity is in fact commerialised and becomes a mere 'factor of conception and for gestation' (Judge Sorkow, quoted in Mies, 1993b). As a commercial contract between the proprietor who has the right to sell, hire out and produce with her womb, on the one hand, and, on the other, the hiring party, issues of legal regulation, and health and saftey standards are of course important. Is the proprietor of a womb allowed to smoke once the womb has been hired out and thus made effective as a factor of child production? What about issues of insurance and liability, in case of birth defects? And genetic or infectious deseases? These questions will have to be addressed within the framework of the bourgeois conception of liberty and rights, and that is, within the institution of private property.(6)

Liberalism views the wage contract as a contract between equals where the labourer sells his/her capacity to work, not however himself/herself as a person. The labourer is seen to sell a commodity (i.e. the capacity to work) but not himself as a human being. How can one differentiate, however, between the person and his/her capacity? Can one sell the one without the other? The same question holds in relation to the commercialisation of the womb. If the womb is bought and sold, does the 'whole' women stand apart from this transaction and that is, the transformation of her reproductive capacity into a commercial factor, a factor of production? The human being is indivisible, can not be dissected as a thing for hire and remain an autnomous human being. The person can not be divided up in saleable parts, unless the commercialisation of the person, and the person's body parts, is seen through the lense of economic rationality and utility. In this view, the rationally acting proprietor of stock, be it in terms of capital, labour power or reproductive capacity, merely submitts to the market mechanism, offering their services at prevailing prices. Whatever the moral objections, the surrogate mother industry continues to flourish. It addresses, on the basis of relations of effective demand, the needs of childless couples in the North and the income generating needs of poor women especially, but not exclusively, in the South. Poverty, after all, is not unfreedom (Joseph and Sumption, 1979). It is, as the advocates of capitalist freedom put it without shame, an incentive. Then there is the commercialisation of body parts and hence the income generating sale of these parts, that is, the introduction of the human body into the capitalist market. Dalla Costa (1998) reports that in the last few years, the sale of human organs has become a desperate means of earning money particularly for people from the Third World. What is the price of a kidney? Mies (1993b) reports the kidney price to have stood, in 1988, at $50.000; and the price for a rented womb at $10.000. Once, however, a kidney has been sold the marketable asset is lost. What further dissections are possible to generate income?

As with the illicit trade in human organs, the proliferation of prostitution is arranged by organised crime - the businessmen of the underworld who, utilizing market opportunities, exploit poverty for profit and create through crime the conditions for future civilised, that is, legally regulated and thus taxable forms of exchange. Now, as then, mass prostitution continues to generate profits for one of the most florishing industries at the world market level, the sex industry. Sex tourism is one example and the trafficking of women to work as prostitutes in slave like condition is another (Kempadoo and Doezema, 1998). Trafficking of women is rampant (Observer Magazine, 23.2.03). These women, many as young as 14 or 15, if that, are held in conditions of slavery. How many for pornography? How many for prostitution? How many for snuff movies? The re-establishment of forms of slavery was raised as a significant problem in the 1993 meetings of the non-governmental Organisations in Vienna and of the UN's World Conference on Human Rights. According to an estimate, slavery was the condition in which over 20 million people were working in the world in 1990 (The Economist, 6.1.90). This figure has since then increased - Bales (2000) suggests a figure of 27 million - because of the continued expansion of child labour working in slave-like conditions in the sweat shops of the world and because of the vast increase in the trafficking of women and children that followed the implosion of the former Eastern Bloc.

The ongoing conversion of human beings into human capital, into a resourceful utility, cash and product, is founded on the negation of human values. This negation celebrates its triumphs in the transformation of the individual owner of redundant or, in any case, superfluous labour-power into a bodily thing that can be hired out or dissected into saleable parts. The 'logic of separation' which as Marx insists, is constitutive of capital, has reached a new intensity. It 'begins with primitive accumulation, appears as a permanent process in the accumulation and concentration of capital, and expresses itself finally as centralisation of existing capitals in a few hands and a deprivation of many of their capital (to which expropriation is now changed)' (Marx, 1966, p. 246). It now involves separation of body substance from the human being (Dalla Costa, 1998b). It encroaches upon humanities bodily substances and reproductive powers - development as capitalist freedom where humanity is 'turned topsy turvey, vivisectioned, and made a commodity' (Dalla Costa, 1995, p. 12). This then is the transformation of the labourer from her liberal existence as a labouring commodity into a carrier of human capital. 'Capital passes through the factory, planation, dam, mine or carpet weaving workshops where it is by no means rare for children to be working in conditions of slavery' (ibid., p. 8). It now passes also through the commercialisation of redundant populations as owners of commodities, for example kidneys, and as factors of 'conception and gestation'. The dialy struggle for survival, for life, of 'redundant' populations has opened new commercial opportunities. The human body is transformed into an economic resource, a bodily thing, for income generation.

- VII.
Marx once famously declared that all relations 'in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being' have to be overthrown (Marx, 1975b, p. 182). And he added in a later work that every emancipation is the return of the human world and of human relationships to Man himself. The standard of critique is Man himself, his dignity and possibilities.

Marx's critique of capitalism is, today, rejected. It is deemed to be 'too' negative, criticised for its lack of positive, constructive proposals for a more human regulation of capitalist reproduction, and its utopian perspective, the society of the free and equal, is rejected as a mere protective shield that hides its indifference to the urgent need to deal with human suffering by humanising conditions. In the misery of our time, then, development as capitalist freedom, if humanised, is endorsed as a means to remove many sources of unfreedom, especially poverty and social deprivation. Whether, however, development is reduced to economic growth or enlarged to the much friendlier idea of development as the unshackling, politically and economically, of the individual from the chains of parochial constraints and relations of personal dependency, it remains mired in a conception of progress that sees the full and complete integration of humanity into the world market society of capital as the best of all worlds. In this conception, the world market society, which in its contemporary form is called globalisation, is presupposed as the most advanced system of wealth creation, capable of sustaining individual freedom. The goal of development is thus the participation of every individual as an equal participant in the development of capitalist freedom, contributing to the ever expanded forward march of capitalist values where the yardstick of success for both things and persons is the reduction of time into price. Time is money. 'The economy of time: to this all economy ultimately reduces itself' (Marx, 1973, p. 173).

Poverty and misery is not the result of a lack of desire for development but, in fact, a direct consequence of a form of social reproduction that sacrifices human existence on the altar of money. Given contemporary conditions of misery, the idea of development as catch up reveals itself as the real dystopia. What would a fully, capitalistically developed world look like? How many planets would be needed to 'serve as mines and waste dumps' (Sachs, 1999, p. 2)? Sachs rightly insists that 'it is not the failure of development which has to be feared, but its success'. What, he asks, 'would a completely developed world look like' (ibid., p. 4)? Dalla Costa (2003, p. 147) makes a similar point when she argues that in discussions on sustainable development, 'there is usually no mention of the unsustainability for humankind and the environment'.

In the misery of our time, I would suggest that development should be oriented by a completely different entelechy of human development - by the society of the free and equal. Taken, as Agnoli (2000, p. 203) argues, 'as a basic orientation of our social practice, this orientation can lead us forward to humanisation. Our entire behaviour, from the mundane to the highest expressions of the intellect, would look different, friendlier, more human, if we allow ourselves to be led not by the existing reality of profit, power, the seizure and pursuit of power, and the presveration of power; but instead by this utopian ideal of the society of the free and equal'.

How can such humanisation be conceived? How can development be conceived as development of human freedom? Does the humanisation of inhuman conditions not presuppose these conditions as eternal? There is no certainty and there are no easy answers. Humanisation, today, has to be posed as a question. A central component of this question has to be the critique of capitalist social relations. This critique, following Marx, has to demonstrate 'ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But for Man the root is Man himself' (Marx, 1975b, p. 182) and 'Man is the highest being for Man' (ibid.). Critique, then, has to return the world of things to the human being herself by showing that the forms of economic value are constituted by and subsist through the social practice of active humanity. In short, and as Marcuse reports, 'the constitution of the world occurs behind the backs of the individuals, yet it is their work' (1988, p. 151). The conceptualisation of capitalist relations as forms of human social relations does not entail Man [Mensch] as an 'abstract individual' but as a member of a definite form of society (Marx, 1975, p. 5). Marx's critique of the constituted forms of capital seeks to bring to the fore their social foundation, that is the human basis of their existence. The foundation of human existence is Man herself.

The above quotations from Marx's earlier work are usually seen to carry little weight. Marx is said to have matured as a result of his serious study of political economy, leaving behind his youthful idealism and espousing instead a mature critique, not of economic categories, but of bourgeois economics. This view accepts, rightly, that Marx was a highly intelligent scholar and it is for this reason that his mature work has indeed to be studied carefully. When he then argues that critique has to return the relations amongst the things themselves, the constituted forms of the economic categories, to 'relations between humans' (Marx, 1972, p. 147) and that the critique of the fetishism of the commodity form entails its deciphering on a 'human basis' (Marx, 1962, p. 105), this would indeed require serious attention. Further, he is adamant that his critique of political economy entails a 'general critique of the entire system of economic categories' (Marx, 1976, p. 250; and Marx, 1975c, p. 96). The economists, he (1972, p. 274) argued, 'do not conceive of capital as a relation' and provide justifications for the 'capitalist form, in which the relationship of labour to the conditions of labour is turned upside-down, so that it is not the worker who makes use of the conditions of labour, but the conditions of labour which make use of the worker' (ibid., 276). Might it therefore not follow that the presupposition of economic value as the foundation of humanisation contradicts the ends of humanisation? The presupposition of economic value reduces human relations to economic categories, confirming the economic view of Man as a living resource and so frustrating development as human freedom through the derivation of human relations from economic categories. In this perspective, humans can of course change their circumstances but they can do so only as embodiments of human capital. They remain, in short, imprisoned in a conception of progress that denies the human dignity of Man as a person. This derivation contrasts sharply with the critical insight that each form of capital, even the most simple form like, for example, the commodity, 'is already an inversion and causes relations between people to appear as attributes of things' (Marx, 1972, p. 508) or, more emphatically, each form is a 'perverted form' (Marx, 1962, p. 90).(7) The critique of economic value, in short, is subversive: it thinks the world up-side down deriving human social relations not from presupposed structures but, instead, deriving these from real human relations in an attempt to bring to the fore what is hidden behind the objective coercive force of capital, of development as capitalist freedom. The critique of development as capitalist freedom has to show the human content, however perverted and debased, that subsists, suffuses and contradicts the coercive force of capitalist freedom.

There can be nothing more essential in society than the human being. If, however, essence is conceived as something other than the human being, then society transforms into a humanless world, a world of economic objectivity where the human being stands accepted as a mere commodity, an economic unit, a bearer of human capital. Further, if the espousal of human essense is rejected because of its existentialist connotion, then we have to accept the view of the world as something governed by a multiplicity of social forces whose meaning we cannot judge because there is no standard of critique - better: the reduction of Man to an economic unity is affirmed and combined with the ethical appeal that this reduction has to have a human face. Everything becomes relative and there returns, through the backdoor, the idea of humankind as both, person and embodiment of human capital. It is well known that, in the world of philosophical convictions, unfavourable conditions need not to be changed. All that is required is to interpret them more favourably. For example, some appear to suggest that it is the competitive character of capitalist accumulation that renders capitalism crisis-ridden (cf. Callinicos, 2003). There is, then, no need to abolish relations of exploitation and domination. Instead 'competition' needs to be replaced by an effective, state-regulated 'economy of labour'. In contrast to such inverted Smithian notions of the malevolent effects of capitalist competition, the critique of political economy amounts, as Horkheimer (1992) put it, to a judgement on human existence and that is, to the conceptualisation of the totality of human social praxis that constitutes, suffuses and contradicts capitalist social relations (Bonefeld, 1995). The orientation on the entelechy of human freedom entails the critique of economic categories, a critique which deciphers their appearance of independence on a human basis. This is the basis for Marx's insistence that all relations where human beings obtain as mere personifications of economic categories have to be overcome so that humankind relates to herself, not as a resource, but as a purpose, as social individuals, as human dignitaries.

The critique of economic categories is, of course, not enough. It merely opens the perspective of development as human freedom. What, then, needs to be done? Wage levels and income guarantees - be it in terms of money, goods or services - have to be defended and improved conditions have to be demanded. Pressure needs to be asserted to liberate millions of people from conditions of poverty and deprivation. However, the concept of welfare is not enough. 'The demand is now for happiness. The demand is for a formulation of development that opens up the satisfaction of the basic needs on whose surpression capital was born and has grown' (Dalla Costa, 1995, p. 14). Happiness entails the human need for time, as against a life consisting solely of labour-time, this reduction of social time into value, into money. Happiness entails the need of relations of human dignity and integrity, as against the human body as a mere container for labour-power or a living organisism of human capital. Happiness entails the need for collectivety and solidarity, against the isolation of and indifference between individuals seeking to make ends meet as personifications of capitalist value relations. Happiness entails the need for public space, as against enclosure, privatisation and communicative systems driven by development as capitalist freedom. Happiness entails the need for education, pleasure, human significance and mutual recognition. Happiness, in short, entails common human needs - food, shelter, clothing, love, affection, knowledge and, most importantly, the mutual recognition of human beings as dignitaries. (8)

The demand for social relations based on human dignity has to stop short of moaning about the 'excesses' of capital. A lamenting critique merely seeks to create a fairer capitalism, conferring on capital the capacity to adopt a benevolent developmental logic. Capital is with necessity 'excessive' in its exploitation of labour. The purpose of capital is to realise profits, not to create employment or to secure humane conditions. To lament this is to misunderstand its social constitution. Further, the critique of politicians, however necessary that might be, fractures the understanding of the essence of the political in capitalist society. Politics is the system of the seizure of power and the retention of power and the exercise of power. What needs to be comprehended is that the constitutive basis of the state does not rest with the political class. Discontent with politicians amounts to, paraphrasing Marx, a critique of charactermasks, deflecting from the social constitution of their existence and because of this it affirms the state as if it were an 'independent being which possesses its own intellectual, ethical and libertarian bases' (Marx, 1968, p. 28). It thus amounts to a mere rebellion for a virtuous state - a state, that is, which secures the bonum commune of a capitalistically constituted society. Within a capitalistically constituted form of social reproduction, this bonum commune is the commune of abstract wealth through the bonum of capitalist accumulation (cf. Agnoli, 2003).

Discontent is important. It is not, however, 'progressive' in and of itself. Discontent which renounces internationalism in the name of nationalism is regressive and violent, in its form and content, to human needs. Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, focused this well when, assessing Malaysia's financial collapse in 1997, he argued: 'I say openly, these people are racists. They are not happy to see us prosper. They say we grow too fast, they plan to make us poor. We are not making enemies with other people but others are making enemies with us' (quoted in Financial Times, 4/9/97). Leaving aside the discrimination of particularly Malaysian citizens of Chinese background, what is meant by 'we' and who are the 'racist they'? In its structure, the conception of 'speculators' as the external enemy bent on destroying relations of national economy harmony, belongs to modern anti-semitism (cf. Bonefeld, 2003b). The scandel of globalisation is not 'speculation'. The scandel is rather the reduction of human existence, of life, to an abstraction, to a human resource that exists for the economy as if it were a person apart. Speculation presupposes this abstraction and results from its continued reproduction.

If development as human freedom takes itself seriously, it has, following Kant's dictum, to reveal the deceitful publicity of the relations of capitalist freedom as an end in itself, and it does this by recognising that the topsy-turvy world of capital is not an economic apriori but a social relationship between humans. The struggle for development as human freedom is a struggle against abstractions, and that is, a struggle for the equality of individual human needs. 'It is precisely necessary to avoid ever again to counterpose 'society' as an abstraction, to the individual' (Marx, 1959, p. 93).

Paraphrasing Marcuse (1998), the human being is a thinking being and if thought is the site of truth, then the human being has to possess the freedom to be led by thought in order to realise what is recognised as truth, namely that economic endeavour is not an end in itself but, rather, a means to meet human needs. In contrast, then, to the freedom of capital where the 'process of production has mastery over man', development as human freedom has to mean that production is 'controlled by him' (Marx, 1983, p. 85). Development as human freedom has, thus, to mean the complete democratisation of all social forces, making them accountable to human needs in and through the democratic organisation of socially necessary labour by the freely associated producers themselves. The democratisation of human social relations opens the right perspective for the struggle for a world where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. Democracy is a most important human value. It is too important to be restricted to forms of political democracy and that is, it has to be expanded to include all areas of social life, from social democracy to economic democracy. Most importantly, democraticisation has to mean the democratic organisation of the economy of time, transforming it from its reduction to cash into human social time (cf. Wilding, 1995). How much labour time was needed in 2002 to produce the same amount of commodities that was produced in 1992? Twenty percent? Forty percent or fifty percent? Whatever the percentage might be, what is certain is that labour time has not decreased. It has increased. What is certain too is that the distribution of wealth is as unequal as never before. And how does capitalist society cope with the expansion of 'redundant populations', on the one hand, and, on the other, the overaccumulation of abstract wealth in the form of an ever growing mortgage on the future production of value? The contradiction between the forces and relations of production does seek resolution: destruction of productive forces, scrapping of labour through war and generalised poverty and misery, and all this against the background of an unprecedented accumulation of wealth.

The struggle for the complete democratisation of all social forces focuses on the principles of the social organisation of labour and the associated forms of wealth distribution. Instead of a social reality where the products of social labour appear to have mastery over Man, social reproduction has to be returned to Man, reconciling human reproduction with the environment and thus with herself as a self-determining, self-conscious, that is, democratic being. Development as human freedom amounts not only to a theoretical and practical critique of global exchange relations, tilted against the 'underdeveloped' world - that too. First and foremost it has to be a practical and theoretical critique of the perverted reduction of Man to an economic agent. Human freedom means that Man no longer exists for the economy but, rather, that the economy exists for Man. In sum, the alternative entelechy of development as human freedom has to demand the democratic organisation of economic relations of necessity by the associated producers themselves.


1. See Mattick's (1934) assessment of the inter-war crisis in terms of permanent crisis - as it turned out, he was much too optimistic. The crisis was resolved - in blood (cf. Bonefeld, 1996b).
2. See Mattick's (1934) assessment of the inter-war crisis in terms of permanent crisis - as it turned out, he was much too optimistic. The crisis was resolved - in blood (cf. Bonefeld, 1996b).
3. Kant's notion reads: Only that science is true which helps the common Man to his dignity (Kant, 1868, p. 625). For comment, see Bonefeld (2001a).
4. For a good assessment, see Rosenberg (2000); see also Bonefeld (1998) and Bonefeld and Psychopedis (2000).
5. On this, in relation to the so-called underdeveloped areas of the world, see Dalla Costa (1995); Caffentzis (1995). For a theoretical argument on the permanence of primitive accumulation as a continuously reproduced presupposition of capitalist social relations, see Bonefeld (2001b).
6. On this, see the pioneering work of Lori B. Andrews, an advocate of the commercialisation of body substances. For assessment, see Mies (1993b) on whom this part of the argument draws.
7. In the German edition of Kapital, Marx uses the phrase verrckte Form (Marx, 1962, p. 90). In German, 'verrckt' has two meanings: verrckt (mad) and ver-rckt (displaced). Thus, the notion of 'perverted forms' means that they are both mad and displaced. In other words, they are forms of human social practice, in which 'human beings produce, through their own labour, a reality which increasingly enslaves them' (Horkheimer, 1992, p. 229).
8. On this see, Wallerstein (1998).


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