Financialisation, Digitalisation and the New Capitalist Praxis

 

Introduction

In this paper, we aim to:

• Locate the development of digital technology as a new form of capital formation that seizes on the possibilities of the economic crises, which have led to new forms of value  acquisition for the ruling class.

• Make an initial assessment of the social, individual, and political impact of digital technology, both for individuals and the wider polity.

• Stimulate debate regarding how Capital, in its current form as the Spectacle, continues to benefit from the development of digital technology.

This paper is an open-ended endeavour, and one we aim to make as accessible as possible to 'non-techies' and non-academics. It is not an item to be filed under cultural theory, but represents a prefatory attempt to consider digital technology as part of the framework of a new world, by examining its impact on this one. The purpose of the text is polemical (from a libertarian-communist perspective), in the sense that by interpreting current tendencies in capitalism, we hope to reach a stronger position from which to subvert them. The target audience is therefore 'those who feel at home nowhere, but want to feel at home everywhere', both the 'traditional' proletarian and the recently-immiserated erstwhile bourgeois picked up and put down to carry out white-collar work according to the terms of zero-hours and variable-duration contracts.

 

Financialisation and the digital economy

The development of digital technology has been co-terminous with radical changes in economic activity in the West, to the extent that commentators can now talk about 'living on thin air' which, at first hearing, seems to posit that the world of industrial production is a thing of the past. This partial truth is relatively easy to swallow in economies where the production and exchange of things is overshadowed by the production and exchange of images, services, and consumer choices. However, it overlooks the ongoing horror of international debt and trade agreements, mass industrial catastrophes due to dangerous working conditions, widespread starvation, impure water supplies etc, which prevail primarily in the southern hemisphere.

Christian Marazzi (1) dates the onset of the Western economic shift in production techniques and priorities to the Fordist crisis of the 1970s, i.e., long before the current predominance of digital technology. He recognises the wider growth of "cognitive capitalism", and points out a significant feature of it, namely the "loss of strategic importance of fixed capital (physical instrumental goods) and the transfer of a series of productive-instrumental functions to the living body of the workforce".

As far as the economics of digital technology is concerned, this skews the bulk of the cost to the capitalist on to the initial phase of product design and production, with relative profit increase accruing with each iteration, as creative, unpaid labour is outsourced to the (potential) consumer. The symbiotic role of digital consumer and producer is discussed below.

Marazzi points to the progressive enclosure of humanity's most intimate capacities and desires as being characteristic of the process of financialist valorisation described above.(2) In the digital context, capital has joyfully seized on our naturally creative and expressive tendencies as a source of free labour, whether as market research (social media consumer profiling), design consultancy (trialling new products via open software piloting), and free advertising and 'self-marketing' (e.g., a 'like' ticked against a given cultural product on one's Facebook page).

This activity represents surplus value (in this case entirely from unpaid labour), which generates profit but does not stimulate jobs, wage increases etc. Marazzi quotes Jeff Davis, who identifies this approach as Capital's recognition of how to add value to its current practices, in re-establishing "a direct, transparent, participatory, creative, emotive, and expressive relationship with ...consumer-users". This further falsifies human subjectivity, and elides the difference between production as the manufacture of false needs as commodities, and alienated 'use' of such commodities, namely consumption,

From the early 1980s, "financial bubbles" were created by a growing amount of non-productive (3) capital, i.e., 'virtual' capital apparently unrelated to material production. This capital generation kept wages low (and hence spending power down), and led to the stagnation of the rate of accumulation, where this latter term is taken to mean the amount of profit yielded by a given amount of capital. These tendencies to depress wages and for capital to be 'worth less' diverged at this point, and led to the current dominance of financialisation, discussed in more detail below. (4)

As far as we are concerned, neither financialisation nor neo-liberal economic thought pre-dates the other, but both have developed in tandem, with the former acting as the practical expression of the latter. It is for that reason that we refer to a new capitalist praxis.

The financial crisis first openly discussed in the media in 2007 ushered in a range of long-term structural changes to the composition of the labour market, its activities, and the means by which capital has regrouped in order to make use of non-productive capital. The increasing abstraction of capital from traditional production of goods in Western processes of profit acquisition is partly characterised by the rise of the digital economy, and has been facilitated by it, both technologically and structurally.

The change of fixed-capital investment patterns away from those that support the production of goods freed up monetary resources. These tended to be spent on research and investment to enable the development of the financial industries and the service sector that supports it, together with the creation of the data-commodity sectors associated with digital capital. With regard to these two major developments, it might be useful to refer to a dual abstraction, or a displacement of accumulation from a direct relationship with production (financialisation), concomitant with an abstraction of the commodity form from things to images, relationships, and services (digitalisation).

On the issue of artificial intelligence, we need to consider the increase of the 'created' (e.g., algorithm-based software) inversely relative to the amount of living labour invested in the production of commodities. This increase implies the re-assertion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as the amount of value per commodity decreases. This tendency was also characteristic of the Fordist period, and had led to the export of material production to labour-intensive, low-income environments in the underdeveloped world. Financialisation was also an outcome of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

The depression of wages characteristic of recent neo-liberal economies is an expression of a reduction in the amount of value returned to the worker in order that they can reproduce themselves (as productive units). Up to a given point, this can and has been used by Capital as a means of combating the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, a strategy whose limit is in part determined by the possible response of the producer to 'austerity measures' in the form of riots, strikes, etc.

As downward pressure on wages is applied, it creates a gap in the worker's income, which is filled by loans as reinvested surplus value in the form of commodities. Further surplus value is then generated as interest, in the ongoing process of consumption of loan income. These loans are both commodities sold to the individual household, and as bundled products traded on the finance markets, whose share price is contingent on level of risk (with higher risk attracting a higher price).

If nothing else, the financialist tendency exposes the utter dominance of exchange over use (and thus the absurdity of capitalism), and profit cannot be presented as a simple adjunct of production, sale, purchase, and consumption. Instead, the alleged social good of greater wealth is revealed as the outcome of speculation (gambling), where the price of a commodity increases relative to the level of risk associated with the probability of the full act of exchange being enacted over time, and the commodity is shown to be simply surplus value reinvested from elsewhere. The logic of the casino indeed.

Effectively, when the amount of surplus value that could be yielded from traditional production in Western economies became 'non-viable' relative to the cost of infrastructure (fixed capital), such production was relocated to poorer countries, where surplus value yield was higher. The resulting profits were then more intensively redeployed in financial capital. The dot.com bubble, which burst at the end of the 1990s, was a premature investment in the digital sector, and was one example (of which the 2008 crisis was another) of investment based on a level of confidence not repaid by the level of 'reward'.

 

The image as the culture of the spectacle

Our perception of the image is, in the first instance, a sensory rather than an analytical experience, in contrast with our engagement with the word (5). The image is 'given to' the eye before the idea is understood by the brain. It shares this unmediated sensory quality with music, and the encroachment of the image over the word is consistent with the ever-increasing velocity of the transmission of commodities and value. (6) The image's act of manipulated representation is taken as the reality in the Spectacle

The present age has been described by Jonathan Beller as one of cinematisation, first initiated by photography, and characterised by the increasing dominance of the image as a primary commodity in Western economies. (7) This has been facilitated by but pre-dates digitalisation, and the ideological function of the artistic image also long pre-dates both photography and cinema in the service of an emergent capitalism, as is evident, for example, in Holbein's The Ambassadors (1533). It is probably more accurate to assign the act of communication (of text, image, spoken word) specifically as the predominant service-commodity of this phase of capitalism.

The internationalisation and penetration of Western commodity-culture on a previously unimaginable scale, has been waged by Capital from the 1920s, first with the assistance of the State (e.g., the Marshall Plan or the government of the USSR), and later as an almost exclusively commercial venture.(8) The image has become harnessed to the economic and the political via product promotion and the marketing of variants of capitalist ideology, from Bolshevism, through Nazism and Fascism, to neo-liberalism.

The common role of the spectacle as the marketing tool of political ideologies of all/any shades demonstrates that in relation to Bolshevik cinema, the "image-promoting spectacles" of a Sergei Eisenstein are no less illusory than those of Hollywood. They are both concerned with the manipulation of emotion, promotion of cultural norms, and propagation of social myths and archetypes. (9)

Where the Soviet Constructivists printed the (genuine) threat that "he [sic] who does not work does not eat" on dinner plates, the Nazis proclaimed that "work makes you free" over the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and elsewhere, an altogether more insidious form of words that many neo-liberal free-marketeers would willingly subscribe to in the here and now. (10)

Nazism and Fascism substituted an alienated proletarian self-representation for the possibility of autonomy which had raised its head in the post-World War I uprisings, through the creation of a spectacularised version of the collective mediated through the leader, as in films of Nazi rallies. Leni Riefenstahl, serial chronicler of Nazi rallies, provides the strongest possible example of aesthetics as a field entirely removed from ethical concerns. According to this approach, the image is paramount, divorced from content and social context in the wider sense of these terms. (11)

Gaston Bachelard (The Poetics of Space, p. xix) describes the image as the "property of a naïve consciousness." By linking naivety as lack of experience with a lack of historical referent, the image becomes an apt symbol of the present age, embodying an eternal and two-dimensional present that makes it impossible for us to critically assess the mendacity of the ruling class.

 

The data producer-consumer

Is data a separate asset class to capital and labour (World Economic Forum 2011)? In the sense that it could be one or the other, yes. Data is the product of creative, analytic, or classificatory/editorial activity. This is (a) 'labour' used as the term to express the energy expended in such production, and expressed in its commodity form.

(b) Data is also "cultural capital" (Pierre Bourdieu) in the sense of the power held in knowledge, potentially or actually exercised over others or used to enrich one's own experience. This power can, but does not have to, possess monetary value via, e.g., access to well-paid jobs. Intellectual labour involves generating data (definition (a) ) in order to potentially produce intellectual capital (definition (b)).

Data represent a product that is 'destroyed' in the act of consumption, and as much as the potlatch reinforces hierarchical relations and associated cultural values in this act of destruction, so consuming data as cultural commodity reinforces and extends the power of the Spectacle as ideological acts.

This brings us to the persona of the data processor or user of online media. Much has been said regarding this figure being simultaneously commodity and consumer. The previous distinction between the proletarian roles of consumer and producer, (who is thus also commodity. as provider of labour power) has now been elided, inasmuch as consumption and production now occupy the same time periods and virtual space.

As digital commodity consumers, we are also simultaneously producers and commodities insofar as we expend our labour in the production of goods or services (such as data generation) whose surplus value is realised and owned by another party, and expressed financially as profit.

From a more broadly political perspective, it might also be fruitful to ask 'what role does the participant in social media play in the schema of class relations'? On the one hand, they are proletarians (as above) yet, on the other, their activity constantly regenerates the Spectacle, and is thus proto-bourgeois.(12) The development of this duality has led to the growing influence of the Spectacle through the medium of digital technology, as a form of 'consented' (13) social control, where the proletarian is more consciously complicit in the act of reproducing an exploitative society than was previously the case.(14)

 

Digital Culture, Human Consciousness, and Identity

The rate of acceleration of production and dissemination of images has been immeasurably increased by the development of digital media. However, this progressive acceleration is merely a matter of degree, and originates in developed capitalism in photography, movies, and television, as Beller points out. (15)

There are specific challenges associated with new forms of media, in particular the primacy given to the representation over the reality of the thing or the experience. (16) The temptation to record actuality rather than experience it, and the facility the internet provides to channel-hop such representations, makes us all part of a movie that we seek to create, rather than a life that we live.

The chance offered to individuals by the Net to masquerade as personalities we are not offers infinite opportunities for self-invention. In that sense, it makes 'real' the proposition that we are who we say we are and what we choose to be. The extent to which we can create personae, and make 'players' of ourselves in the apparent soap opera of our lives, adds the elements of active engagement and invention in the construction of our spectacular (and alienated) selves.

However, the rate of refinement and qualitative change associated with the development of the virtual world creates social challenges that we are not yet equipped to consider, such as the nature and quality of our relationships. Given that more people are spending more time engaged in online communication, the notion of 'reality' is itself opened to debate. This has profound implications for the meaning of 'subjectivity', radical or otherwise.

As we perceive when we examine the construction of memory, the apparent transience of experience that characterises online activity conceals the ability of the powerful to tweak versions of us through our (self-)representation as data objects, held in 'data gulags'. The trivial attractions of subscribing to an eternal present help to create the control we cede over a version of ourselves, which can be re-transmitted to haunt us, either via marketing or policing.

The deadening seduction that the internet offers is to act as the consolation of the atomised and defeated, in the form of online games, pornography etc. Capitalism would be happy for us to scuttle from office to home (assuming one has to leave home to work or even has a job) in order to download our lives. Who would we challenge and who would we blame for this state of affairs?

The progressive personalisation and targeting of data strengthens this isolating tendency yet further, ensuring that the 'news' which people receive online is selected according to the existing political assumptions of the consumer. The primary contact we might have with others in the future would therefore be virtual, and the selection of 'facts' and, by extension, our social network, would be predicated on one's existing world-view.

One could vote for different shades of s*** via online survey, and, generally, face-to-face communication between humans would become increasingly unnecessary. Julian Assange argues that this false reciprocity and illusion of participation actually creates the opportunity to "build and fine tune a political figure" by knocking off the ideological rough edges of an individual, who could be re-designated, for example, as apparently challenging and polemical but ultimately compliant. (17)

The political subject is thus dissolved by consensus, and becomes an object, an externally-controlled work in progress. The logical endpoint of this scenario would be a re-imagining of the human as an entity who understands 'the social' as itself a story or a game to be played or spectated, rather than a defining and irreducible core from which all other possibilities flow.

As soon as humans learned to write, we created a record outside ourselves that we could refer to in the future, including the potential to create an account of ourselves that outlasted oratory or conversation. This represented an inescapable reification of human consciousness, and created the means by which our thoughts could be remembered without us being present, or indeed alive. This process has been made richer by the 'netification' of daily life, but the principle remains what it was at the time the Rosetta Stone was inscribed.

Clearly the nature of communication is deeply affected by the extent to which it is/can be recorded. The frozen memorialisation of life by Facebook and other media is qualitatively distinct in two essential respects:

• The self and how it is objectively presented (18) is a matter of our own choice, at least within the limited and alienated range of commodified options available and sanctioned.

• Our continued existence as 'cyber-memory', and ultimately the uses to which constituent data is put, is in the hands of data owners and managers.

The first point is crucial inasmuch as it is risks removing the continuing and unique relationship between oneself and another implied by subjective memory, and holds individual reminiscence up to 'objective' comparison with the virtual self, as the individual has chosen to construct or allow it to be constructed. The 'organic' aspect of memory is extinguished and replaced by the mutual relationship of objects.

Regarding the second point, to one extent or another, engagement with storecards, Facebook etc, are acts of 'living agency', and can be avoided or minimised if desired. However, the alienation of identity (expressed as a series of recorded commodity choices) makes it the property of others, and is added to the vast databank dealing with human behaviour, tastes, desires, etc.

What we are describing goes beyond the world of alienated commodities that Marx describes in relation to previous capitalist social relations, in that what comes back to confront us is both an alienation of our activity and a representation of this alienation (the spectacular version of 'reality'), as a commodified version of ourselves as consumers as well as producers.

 

Digital technology and contestation

A preliminary reading of the Net suggests that it has driven up the speed and potential extension of communicating social struggles, as well as increasing the velocity and sophistication of ICT-based surveillance. (19) The Net provides the opportunity to communicate freely and learn about the daily lives of others on a scale simply not imaginable twenty years ago. Thus, the aggregate of social media has provided the opportunity to extend social interventions rapidly and efficiently. It is therefore no surprise that States have been keen impose their control over such activity as soon as they are able.

However, there is an intrinsic tension between the 'anonymous' movement as a strategic means of enhancing collectivist tendencies, developing resistance and evading State scrutiny, and the progressive 'selfism' that characterises human behaviour in the present age. By selfism, we mean the stressing of the primacy of the individual's status and experience over the value of the collective, which the new social media promotes.

This could be described as the 'hegemonic trade-off', according to which the notional liberation associated with apparently (but not actually) 'freer' modes of global communication are bought at the price of narcissism, the intensification of the enforcement of normative values, and far more sophisticated consensual possibilities for State and commercial surveillance.

The policing possibilities offered by developing technology indicate a qualitative shift towards 'pre-emptive law enforcement', such as the recording and analysis of vehicle number plates in the UK, which not only enable the monitoring of individuals who have attracted prior police attention, but can also identify potential witnesses to crime, and make predictions regarding the site and nature of particular as-yet-to-be-committed criminal activities, by harmonising the location and alleged criminal profile of registered users of tracked vehicles.

Social media data has also been used, for example, to identify geographical concentrations of the holders of particular views, as was the case during the monitoring of social media content and activity following the 2013 street killing in the UK of a person wearing a Help for Heroes (and therefore implicitly pro-military) T-shirt. In other words, 'suspects' are identified on the basis of their views, rather than their actions.

The porosity, apparently flat structure, and flexibility of the Net are capable of ultimately defeating any attempts to contain and suppress it, assuming this freedom is what the mass of users want. The deliberate conflation of all contestation as 'acts of terrorism' is therefore a powerful ideological weapon in the battle between the polity and the State. Hacking and other forms of counter-attack become inflated into full-blown assaults on Western capitalism and the machinery of state, and are thus associated with the most extreme forms of behaviour, such as Muslim fundamentalist film clips of beheadings disseminated via social media channels. This form of 'psyops' deliberately obfuscates the variety of motivations of participants, eg, self-defence, journalism, humour, all-out assault etc, and the blurred lines between these categories.

Also, the struggle for digital space plays itself out in physical space. We are thinking of the negotiation of the respective powers of national and international law, such as the case of the Finnish MP who was pursued under US national law for using US-owned social media to disseminate Wikileaks footage of US army attacks on Iraqi civilians.(20) However, the near ubiquity of Western social networks imposes a structure that promotes free-market values at the expense of 'local' attitudes and social structures. (21)

It is hard to accurately measure and describe the constellation of relationships between big Capital and national governments that facilitates this centralising process, but the mutual benefits are clear. By definition, monopolisation favours large corporations, and thus provides an incentive for them to undertake activities that favour the agendas of government. Government's desire for secrecy and the suppression of information is self-explanatory, and it appears unlikely that the two factions will disagree on anything more fundamental than matters of detail.

Some writers have noted the lack of reference to the political economy in critiques of digital culture, and identified an assumption that the prevailing social relations are 'always with us', like the weather (or the poor, as St. Matthew would have it). Enthusiasts of the possibilities offered by the Net choose not to recognise that, as long as we live in a society where capitalist power relations prevail, the Internet will not be left to act as the fundamental agent of democratising change, while critics tend to view things in piecemeal terms, rather than strategically.

Certain commentators believe that the initial 'cyber-punk' tendency prevalent in the earlier days of the Net is being defeated by the centralising and controlling influence of the Cloud, in part because there was no coherent political programme associated with the cyberpunk tendency, which was ultimately naive and content to let matters take their course. As a result, we are now witnessing the vacuum being filled by both Capital and the State. It is tempting to assume that data is indeed as free and formless as the air, escaping the limitations of the geographical, but this belies a reality of vast, energy-guzzling data bunkers, a fact that demolishes the fable of online indeterminacy and lack of permanence.

The distinction between engagement with a thing and with an image is that the latter confers a non-tangible character on the act of production, but does not liberate the producer from their sensory (and thus corporeal) involvement with matter. Arguably, it is this corporeal dimension, in the form of sight, which confuses matters in the field of cultural theory relating to digital capital, where it is linked with aesthetics as an intellectual discipline rather than with perception as a pre-verbal experience.

Matters are complicated by the representational function of the image. The weakness of the overall Situationist critique derives from an incomplete understanding of representation, Spectacle, and Capital. This flaw is in turn based on a failure to understand Marx's notion of the dual value of the commodity, as item of exchange whereby surplus value is realised, and as use-value, which, excepting the false needs generated by capitalism, has a potential applicability in non-capitalist societies.

 

Financialisation and digitalisation - drawing together the strands

In producing any commodities, i.e., either visual or non-visual, under the terms of a capitalist economy, we create an alienated version of the world. An authentic expression of the world in terms of human self-realisation would be one where producers acted to fulfil each others' needs directly in the production of use-values and without the false mediation of exchange.

Financialisation puts the greatest distance thus far between capitalism and production, although it retains a proximate relationship. Speculation and share trading based on risk as an index of potential profit has been a feature of mercantilism from the initial phase of capitalism. However, what we are witnessing now is a form of undisguised 'peacetime' class war in the West against the poor, (22) which has used the depression of wages characteristic of neo-liberal economies as a window of opportunity.

Lender banks clear their books and make profit by selling debts, whose values rise in proportion to the risk of default, and which by the same proportion generate differing levels of interest income for the purchaser who passes on the purchased debts as loans to individual households. In effect, then (and this is the case with all consumer debt), the lower the market (exchange) value of the consumer in their capacity as worker/producer, the higher their potential surplus value to the lender, expressed as interest.

Where surplus value is 'traditionally' realised by the difference between the value of labour power and the lower value paid to the producer, we now deal with a situation where debt itself is exchanged for money and consumption as if it were a commodity, (23) expressing up to 100% or more of the difference between the value paid to the producer of other commodities or consumer of state benefits and the value necessary (expressed as wages/salary) to live. The lender continues to accrue surplus value after the exchange of the commodity/debt, in the borrower's ongoing act of consumption through the interest they pay. As such, low pay not only yields greater surplus to one capitalist as a production 'saving', but also opens up a new route to profit to another (or to the same capitalist as credit provider) in the form of loans to those who are in need of them due to the effects of super-exploitation.

However, having had its fingers burned by the crisis caused by over-investment in high-risk products that were not production-based, capitalism has an even greater need to re-investigate the opportunities associated with the digital economy, which have been made more attractive by advances such as the concentration of retailing in the hands of big players, such as Amazon.

The 2008 'financialist' crisis' demonstrated the risk of a complete uncoupling of profit generation from production. Digitalisation has the advantage of continuing to churn out commodities, albeit films or MP3s rather than pig iron, and thus engage in a form of production, however intangible the product may be in the literal sense.

Digitalisation closely corresponds to the long-term agenda of capitalism to which Marazzi refers, and is the means by which the entire human subject (body, mind, and emotions) becomes 'capitalised' (and definitively alienated from itself) in the process of production, rather than socialised in the act of self-realisation through interaction with others.

This change in the nature of commodities is significant in two senses. On the one hand, it locates the digital economy in the continuum of capitalist property relations, and provides evidence that we have not 'moved beyond Marx' (or capitalism itself). On the other, it demonstrates that digitalisation, in seeking our active, imaginative, and voluntary (unpaid) involvement, is extending capitalism's colonialism of 'the whole human' as a cultural, feeling, and intellectual subject by means of our active complicity in our developing total alienation.

 

Next steps

In a companion paper, we will critically assess the utility of systems theory as a framework to analyse forms of potential future libertarian-communist social organisation and activity, and their affinities with the Internet as a means of supporting an exchange-free, unmediated mode of resource allocation and social interaction.

 

Jim Fearnley. October 2014

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Footnotes

(1) Christian Marazzi "The Violence of Financial Capitalism".

(2) The Situationists were as prescient in their perception of Capital's colonisation of our whole being as sensual subjectivities as Marx was in his economic prognostications. Perhaps we are now at a point where we can bring both sides of the communist critique together, in order to formulate a unitary response to a united assault. Zurich and Berlin as one.

(3) We find this a somewhat problematic term, as the nature of commodities has changed, not the fact of their production. However, we concede its usefulness in describing a purely 'abstracted' form of capital accumulation, divorced from any kind of materially-productive activity, such as trading, debt purchase, etc.

(4) Among other characteristics, in a phase characterised by deregulation and liberalisation of economies, was the proliferation of financial intermediaries.

(5) Number could be defined as 'textual', but imposes an order, and so is 'hierarchical' be definition. There is a relationship between text and image (description), which is contingent on an a priori filter, namely the perspective of the viewer. This relationship is based on structural correspondences, and is more circumscribed in its definitional capacity than that which prevails between image and text.

(6) Although capitalist technological development reduces time, it does not bring it to zero, as HST demonstrates. Data is physical in having to be carried and stored by something (cabling and warehousing), and thus its journey through physical space delays its transmission.

(7) Beller, Jonathan L: "KINO-I, KINO-WORLD: Notes on the cinematic mode of production."

(8) Regarding the direct relationship between cultural industries, after the Second World War, there was intense competition between the US and French film industries, characterised by resource differentials and political divergences.

(9) The only substantive difference between them is the nature of the spectacular illusion(s) being promoted: one concerned with Bolshevik heroics, the other with romantic love, etc. Early Russian film does not, ultimately, come any closer than any other school of film to allowing actors to "portray themselves", but simply allows them to represent the 'unadorned human', most often the proletarian.

(10) Stalinist artistic values became progressively cruder and more obvious (substituting "bourgeois" for Nazism's "decadent" in their art-critical lexicon), championing individual productivity, heroic sacrifice for the Fatherland, etc.

(11) Subsequently, Riefenstahl turned her attention to a 'purer' form of collective identity, in her photographs of the Nuba tribe. These pictures simultaneously exoticised and objectified the beauty of individual Nuba, and were largely responsible for her rehabilitation by the artistic community, which was sanctioned despite the vileness of her earlier career. In the world of the image, there is no right or wrong, simply beautiful or ugly.

(12) This contradiction has been played out in the role of 'radical' artist. For example, Joe Strummer, now-deceased singer of punk band, The Clash, was doused with red paint by members of anarchist band, Chumbawamba, and draped with a placard accusing The Clash of selling 'fake rebellion'. Chumbawamba went on to achieve chart success themselves.

(13) We use the term 'consented' to indicate the agreement by one party to the actions of a another within the context of a lack of social parity between both parties. In contrast, 'consensual' implies that both parties to an agreement are entering into it as equals in the wider sense.

(14) The work of Maurizio Lazzarato and Tiziana Terranova on the 'immaterial economy' is particularly worth reading.

(15) Whether orthodox Darwinism is sufficient to entirely account for changes in brain development is debatable, but it seems possible that being exposed from shortly after birth to new forms of media may alter the brain's hard wiring within a single lifespan. This is consistent with, and illustrative of, the dialectic between humans and matter, whereby tool development affects human perception and behaviour in turn, in a symbiotic relationship.

(16) To the extent that gap-year students will talk about having 'done' a given country, as if such journeys were something 'outside' the traveller, rather than part of the process of living.

(17) New York Times review of The New Digital Age, 2 May 2013.

(18) In the sense of being an object or 'thing'.

(19) These opportunities should be regarded as ones of relative capacity, rather than as qualitative developments, if one considers that from years ago, GCHQ had the capacity to monitor any telephone calls made to or from the entire island of Ireland, which of course includes the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign state in its own right.

(20) Somewhat naively, privacy was invoked by the MP in question, who argued that her online existence was (or should be) as susceptible to confidentiality as her offline life.

(21) In pointing this out, we do not seek to defend Islam, state capitalism, etc, but merely point out the apparent 'givenness' of the Facebook cosmos.

(22) The class war against the proletariat and peasantry of underdeveloped countries has been a constant feature of capitalism, as demonstrated, for example, by chronic and deliberate international under-investment in the basic infrastructure to support human survival, cyclical famine, etc. In the West, the theft of some resources and destruction and profitable reconstruction of others, together with the 'winnowing' of the reserve army of unemployed proletarians, was traditionally achieved by large-scale wars. However, the ruling class now feels confident to reap its harvest across the globe without the fig-leaf of a 'social contract' or the lie of patriotism. For example, Detroit, an erstwhile beneficiary of the Fordist model of production, is estimated to have 20,000 people living on its streets, as a result of the 'free activity' of the market alone.

(23) This part of the discussion raises the question of whether the act of administering debt-derived loans is a 'productive' one in the economistic, Marxist sense. If the answer to that question is 'yes', then the loan is a 'bona fide' commodity. If 'no', must the loan be accorded a separate status of surplus value (i.e., capital), re-invested in the form of a consumer's debt (i.e., with further profit to be realised at the time the loan is repaid?