Capitalists Wage War, Capitalists Wage Work

Pinkerton Detective Agents during the “Homestead Riot.” The Pinkerton Detective Agency was a private militia hired by Capitalists and the U.S. government to put down strikes, infiltrate unions, and harass and murder workers and the Molly Maguires. Now owned by Securitas (the 2nd largest security firm in the world), Pinkerton is the direct ancestor of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which was founded after Congress passed laws preventing the government from using their services any longer.

 This week:

Essays from Naomi Jacobs, , Heathen Chinese, Sean Donahue, Al Cummins & Linda Boeckhout, and a review by George Caffentzis


We highly recommend the 30 Day Real Black History Challenge.

Prepare now for the Flood….

Have you seen Mad Max, Fury Road yet?  Damn good–but Jacobin’s got a great point about Christian Apocalypse fantasies and fears about the end of Capitalism.

Poverty’s effects on the mind are just as significant as on the body.



Primitive Accumulation

Pre-Capitalist methods of gathering large amounts of wealth, often involving direct violence by political actors. [Note–“Primitive” means ‘primary’ or ‘initial,’ not ‘uncivilized’]

Feudalism (where Aristocrats forcibly took 1/3 of a peasant’s production), Colonialism (where Empires stole wealth from foreign peoples), and Slavery (where the powerful enslaved people to derive wealth from their labor) were all forms of Primitive Accumulation.  The wealth derived from the violent expropriation of other people’s wealth or labor is the source of most modern Capital.  The conquest of the Americas, the enslavement of Africans, the Crusades, and the theft of indigenous land were all acts of Primitive Accumulation and produced the Capital which now rules our lives.

Primitive Accumulation still occurs–wars in the Middle East by Western countries, the direct selling-off of indigenous lands by states to private owners, and the exploitation is easier to see in these instances than in the Capitalist exploitation of labor.

To understand both Capitalism and Primitive Accumulation, consider that the gathering of wealth from others is an exploitative act.  Both forms involve people taking from other people in order to become wealthy.  By taking wealth and land-rights away from peasants and indigenous peoples, a new class was created who could only survive by selling their labor/time–the “Proletariat,” or working-class.  Without that original theft, Capitalism could not exist.


“…a modern boss is tolerant, he behaves like a colleague of ours, sharing dirty jokes, inviting us for a drink, openly displaying his weaknesses, admitting that he is “merely human like us”. He is deeply offended if we remind him that he is our boss – however, it is this very rejection of explicit authority that guarantees his de facto power.

This is why the first gesture of liberation is to force the master to act as one: our only defence is to reject his “warm human” approach and to insist that he should treat us with cold distance. We live in weird times in which we are compelled to behave as if we are free, so that the unsayable is not our freedom but the very fact of our servitude.”

–Slavoj Žižek

“…the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it…”

–Oscar Wilde

2 thoughts on “Capitalists Wage War, Capitalists Wage Work

  1. The Jacobin article does indeed raise some interesting points, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Stephen Maher rejects Western modernity as a panacea for the world’s problems.

    I can see how the “bad guys” in the Mad Max films are based upon Orientalist stereotypes of pre-modern/traditional societies, but I’m not convinced that the only possible interpretation of Fury Road is that it presents the “Western conception of modernity, rationality, and individuality as the only alternative to the uncivilized Other.” Furiosa’s people are portrayed as organizing along kinship and clan lines as well, for example.

    Maher writes, but doesn’t prove, that “the archetypal liberal individual” is “embodied in [Mad] Max and Furiosa.” However, their names allegorically identify them not with rationality but with Madness and Fury. It’s true that they are problematically depicted as vanguards/saviors for “the masses” at the end of the film (it still is Hollywood, after all), but I wouldn’t say that the best antidote to vanguardist ideology is a rejection of individual attempts at revolt and a glorification of “democracy.”

    Maher also writes that “Inequality in Joe’s society stems not from the exploitation of labor, or the ecological and social devastation wrought by capitalist production, but rather from Joe’s absolute power to ration water.” This actually relates to today’s glossary term: Joe’s seizure of the land (specifically, the high ground of the cliffs) and water was an act of primitive accumulation, which allowed him to subsequently become an exploiter of labor.

    Finally, while capitalist industrialization isn’t explicitly singled out as the culprit for “Who Killed the World?” (again, it’s still Hollywood), I still think that the implication is there for those who have the clarity of vision to see it.

    Ultimately, I very much appreciate Maher analyzing Fury Road in relation to all of these ideas, but I don’t think the conclusions he draws are the only ones possible.


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