[-empyre-] entanglement

joseph tabbi jtabbi at gmail.com
Mon Apr 6 02:08:53 EST 2009

A belated word, regarding 'worth.'

As Jeff notes, it's a Holy Grail and likely to remain one because if
the 'real worth' of commodities were ever determined, that would be
the end of markets as we know them today.

Imagine that the dollar value of commodities could be known precisely,
and suppose this knowledge could be circulated immediately and
accurately, and suppose also that the kind of analytical instruments
used by disciplined traders were available to everyone. Further,
suppose that political conditions were stable, and not only stable but
more or less hands off so that trading could carry on relatively
freely, without protections or government interventions that skew the

(Jeff you're right, I am fond of utopian scenarios: they're good for

I imagine, fairly soon, the temptations to gamble would decrease, and
the field would be left to disciplined professionals free to
participate in a self-regulating market. Capital would flow toward
industries grounded in real productive capacity. Inequalities would be
greatly lessened but in this ideal case, wouldn't the low level of
profits make the capitalist game entirely uninteresting to producers
and traders?

Wouldn't a totally free and totally transparent market, and the
removal of barriers to trade, also remove the basic social
underpinnings of the market system?

Unlike that town in Germany (where the bank really was robbed after a
TV documentary), Global free trade is not just my own or the media's
utopian fiction. Globalization is a narrative that has gained
worldwide traction (in admittedly less than ideal circumstances but
when are economic conditions ever ideal?). One could mark the
beginning of the experiment with the inauguration of a global
neo-liberal turn during the time of Reagan, Thatcher, Pinochet, and
Deng (to name just the four world leaders pictured on the paperback
cover of Harvey's Brief History of Neo-liberalism). (Harvey's title,
by the way, always struck me as cutting two ways: the book, under 200
pages, is a 'brief history,' but Harvey's hope and expectation is that
the history of Neoliberalism itself will be relatively brief, in the
overall 500-year-plus duration of modern capitalism.)

Whether that history turns out to be an anomaly or the end or the
fulfilment of capital's Longue Duree, global neo-liberalism is
decidedly not a history of 'free trade.'  “In principle,” Wallerstein
writes, “in a capitalist world-economy the virtual market exists in
the world as a whole. But ... there are often interferences with these
boundaries, creating narrower and more ‘protected’ markets.”  Like all
perpetual-motion machines, the totally free market functions only “as
an ideology, a myth, a constraining influence, but never as a
day-to-day reality.” (World-Systems Analysis)

There will always be utopias and Holy Grails, and there will always be
governmental interferences (or, where governments are week, black
markets organized by other, more directly violent means). The
available options seem, to me, not to do without protections and
interventions, but to determine what KIND of interventions people can
live with. Of course, much depends on WHO is involved in these
decisions, whose interests are represented, which economists are
listened to, and which networks can be used to advance which agendas.

A pleasant Sunday morning to everyone - on this day away that remains
one of the legacies of an earlier, Christian era of captial's
development. (And Michael: part of me, maybe a seventh part, is
convinced by Zizek's "perverse" defense of Christianity.)


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