Posted on “Dispossession and Domination” – Moishe Postone (historian) and Barry C. Lynn (journalist, writer)

The experience of economic domination may be—and certainly is by most—felt as an all-encompassing structure of manipulation. Whichever way one turns, that way is blocked. Whatever one would like to plan for oneself, the situation has already made more than enough plans for what it intends to do with each of us, with how each of us is to be used or discarded with regard to purposes that are rarely our own.

This experience makes it difficult to comprehend that the powers that one encounters at every turn have long been in the midst of severing any engagement with actual social planning. Economic domination and national planning—whether with regard to infrastructure, work, innovation, housing, education, health, the financial structure, the natural environment itself—which were once unitary in corporate America, have over the past thirty years been in a process of extricating themselves from each other.

These corporations act according to one principle: that dispossession has become the fiercest form of possession. This is not the ‘dispossession of the commons’ in which capitalism originated. It is a form of capitalism that is powerful by disaggregating itself of factories; disaggregating itself of employees and even of needing to have a street address: it dominates the mechanisms of distribution and from that vantage is able to manipulate outsourced producers as well as its trapped ‘customers’.

This form of corporation does not so much use the state as its functionary, but aims to elude state control and functional collaboration with the state—even on the level of foreign policy—and instead seeks to act as an autonomous state with disregard to national boundaries. “Congressional gridlock,” the inability of congress to act and to engage the real problems of the nation, is fundamentally a function of this transformation of the corporation

This technique of domination has penetrated every level of American life. The place of cell phones in daily life functions as a small-scale model of the same “just in time” production that opportunistically uses everyone in their range on short notice. The exact same dynamic is evident in the art world, where the rise of a curatorial mechanism is taking precedence over what anyone makes or sees. And it is this same society-wide mode of production that has made any attempt to criticize, contest or transform national life so difficult, right into our faltering ability to imagine anything other than what we already have.

In our day of discussions, Barry Lynn will help us understand the new “arbitrage corporation” and its monopoly forms, and Moishe Postone will be on hand to think with us about how his interpretation in his seminal work on Marxism gives us further insight into these social transformations.

Readings:

Barry C Lynn, End of the Line and Cornered; several recent articles are also circulating.

Moishe Postone, Time, Labor and Social Domination; several interviews and articles are also circulating.

What the department looks like
Full program description
Paul Chan interviews Robert Hullot-Kentor
Breixo Viejo interviews Robert Hullot-Kentor about the One-Year MA Program