EconoFiction, PhiloFiction

25 Theses at time (of capital)

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23 Jan , 2020  

1) Economic quantities can be changed in time precisely because money, as a so-called transcendental signifier of capital, has the quality of a pure quantity, whereby money is released from current acts of exchange and thus, as a monetary sign, accounts for the time accumulated in the commodity, which in turn means nothing other than that money, in its function as a measure of values, functions as a quality that seems to have a kind of timeless validity. Thus the abstract time package of money, of which it is also a sign, can be transferred to any arbitrary, concrete moment when real acts of exchange take place. The symbolic money itself does not have to have a value in order to be able to mean something; rather, as a material sign, it already indicates the price relations between goods; indeed, the goods enter into a relationship through money as potential values and thus share the same time as money. This sharing of the same unit that money stands for takes place in an economic space characterized by a quasi-simultaneity.

2) If we then consider the second function of money as a means of circulation, then the time of money is that of circulation, in which, within the framework of the concatenation of commodity-money transactions, each exchange act realizes itself in the next by negating itself as the present exchange act, so that the time of circulation appears as a succession of quantifiable and discrete transactions, each transaction being considered fleeting before it gains significance through another transaction. Consequently, money must not stand still in circulation, but when it circulates, it loses its fixed form and becomes indistinguishable from the commodities themselves.

3) Finally, the conceptual determinations of money as a measure of values and as a means of circulation, since both alone cannot make up the structural connection of the commodity-money-capital relation, must be supplemented by a third determination of money, which takes place as capital utilization in a constantly self-accelerating reproduction process. Money as capital undergoes very special metamorphoses in time, using the interval of production between the two points in time t and t+1, taking into account the difference between labour/labour force, in order to then circulate the past dead time stored in the products as a surplus. The associated economic math remains integrated into virtualization/updating circuits that are accelerated by production, circulation and distribution. On a macroeconomic level, these circuits present themselves as the chaos of the markets, which remains unpredictable and unmeasurable, while economic math continues to calculate as long as money is valid with all its functions.

4) With credit, the accelerated circulation of money itself becomes the precondition of all production; investment credit is to be understood as the anticipation of the time of production, while credit for credit includes the anticipation of the time for debt repayment. It is precisely from the perspective of macroeconomics that we are dependent on the construction of arbitrary time, which is understood as the complex acceleration, overlapping, overlapping and shifting of different times, i.e, rhythms, tempos, sequences, cycles and spiral movements, as Althusser writes, “accessible (is) only in its concept, which, like every concept, is nothing directly ‘given’, nothing in visible reality ‘readable’: it must be produced, constructed, like every concept” (Althusser/Balibar, Das Kapital lesen, 1972a: 133).

5) The abstract time of capital is a purely artificial time that belongs to a different dimension than the time of capitalist production processes. The necessity of making Marxist theory more precise by constructing a completely a-empirical and non-descriptive time has already been urgently called for by Althusser: “We go a step further and say that one must not be content with reflecting on the existence of visible and measurable times, but rather, out of strict necessity, one must ask the question of the mode of existence of invisible times, rhythms and imprints that would have to be revealed beneath the surface of every visible time. Even a simple reading of ‘Capital’ shows us that Marx was profoundly aware of this demand. It shows us, for example, that the time of economic production, insofar as it is only a specific time (changing according to the different modes of production), is, like any specific time, also a complex, non-linear time: a time of time, a complex time that cannot be read from the continuous time of life or the clock, which is

…must rather construct from the structures of production.” (Ibid.: 132) The influence of the structures on their different levels, elements and their relations corresponds to certain processes of de- and acceleration, sequencing, rhythmicization and fading of different times, i.e. the different dimensions of the structures produce as their effects overlaps of temporalities, “whose complex connection forms the actual time of the development of the process. (Ibid.: 137) Althusser’s concept of simultaneous non-simultaneity wants to trace the non-simultaneity of the times of the various levels (economy, politics, ideology, science, etc.) to each other in order to construct the transversal of complex overlaps of different times, rhythms, metrics and sequences within and especially between the various levels, and this taking into account the determinant effects of a complex structure (this is only present in effects, i.e. it functions as an absent cause). The question of the relationship between simultaneity and succession remains unresolved in Althusser’s work, whereby he sees temporalization as a tendency to merge with simultaneity, for example when he speaks of a system that is to be recognized through its dependency and structuring relationships, which would first make the whole into a whole, so that only then can one speak of an “organic whole”. (Ibid.: 141)

6) If the self-referential form of capital requires the separation of its content in production, then this addresses two things: If the qualified works are integrated into machine processes, they can be captured according to their technical specifications (by no means 100% uniform movements) by means of clocked time or metrisation, and these linear times would at the same time be understood in the sense of a flowing presence as spatialised times in which empirically ascertainable quantities of goods are produced. On the other hand, the conceptual-logical structure of the abstract time of capital refers to a time stretched into the future, which can by no means be measured with conventional measures, probabilities and instruments (clocks) with which linear time is captured, which the company “experiences” with each singular investment decision; what is at stake here is an abstract time that treats the current financial accumulation regime as the lending of or access to the future, which always implies the exhausting game of adjusting the relations of the present future and future present.

7) Capital involves accessing or accessing the future by transforming time into a project of its own future, with the present appearing only as a shadow of its own future. In this monstrous project, both credit and fictitious/speculative capital inscribe themselves in the sense of a monetary realization of future that is supposed to be taking place now, but there is no guarantee that this projected future will actually occur, just as the production of goods does not guarantee their sale. The future congeals into a farce of colonization, which is under the dictate of a naked repetition of the same thing over and over again.

8) With the abstract time of capital qua differential accumulation, however, there are also constantly changing temporal norms, which abstract time reflects only retrospectively (what is capital-conforming necessary abstract labor only becomes apparent after the successful realization of profitable goods). And the economic-philosophical discourse, in turn, summarizes this in the sense that virtualization, as the temporalization of time in time, is supposed to run timelessly, as if time could identify itself, in order to finally set itself beyond the instantaneity of time as zero, as pure simultaneity or virtuality. If, for Hegel, the concept in its identity is the power of time itself, in that the unifying spirit directs the process of real things that make time, then the possible reference to the concepts of virtuality/simultaneity immediately catches the eye here. Hegel’s synchronicity is then also simultaneity itself, the presence of the being in all its determinations, to which the continuum of a homogeneous time is presented, from which one can easily conclude that all chronological times can be grasped in the course of a virtual simultaneity (Hegel’s spirit).

9) While real production processes take place in time, the (conceptual) construction of the abstract time of capital is the problem of the relationship between the differential temporalization of time (virtuality) and actualization, and this as an effect of capitalist structures. This concludes the

Recognition of erratic “movements”, innovation cycles and time leaps, of course, the construction of breaks due to the virtualization/updating circuits themselves. These processes can certainly not be depicted one-to-one in monetary terms, because the respective progressions of dynamic, differential accumulation remain essentially opaque despite the presence of the various measures of capitalization at the level of total capital, so that the reality of capitalist reproduction as an overall complex can only be grasped in purely conceptual terms; capitalist utilization would always be understood as simultaneity (the a priori eludes temporality) and at the same time as successive processes that capital accumulates in a specific way. Being in (measurable) time would have to be understood as an effect of the actualization of the quasi-transcendental law of capital, which becomes quite urgent for companies purely as a compulsion to adapt economic actions.

10) Thus, the abstract time of capital, in addition to its function of permanently lending to the future, possesses the momentum of a time that only retrospectively reflects the present. In this second aspect of the abstract time of capital, we are thus dealing with a retrograde effect, which reflects only retrospectively the various levels of production of capital, whose constant increase is accompanied by a growth in quantity per unit of time and an acceleration of time in the production processes, whereby normally the growth in quantity exceeds the acceleration. For the purposes of the conceptual representation, this belatedness also means that the expectations of capital are quantitatively updated as if the updates had existed from the beginning. And at the same time, the updating of a quantitative dimension as information about production processes and their production levels that has arrived late, so to speak, is “reflected” by the abstract time of capital, whereby production conditions must constantly be readjusted and newly created according to the updates that are still to be achieved, so that averaging of profit rates as virtualization/updating interconnection and thus orientations towards the future must always be thought of simultaneously with the factor of post-sustainability.

11) The simulative “space” of the temporalization of time (simultaneity) and the temporalizations of capital, its virtualization/updating circuits, is the market, or rather are machine-based distribution networks, in which the innumerable realizations of profit take place, which in semioses take place without subject. At this point, we are dealing with problems of transmission, of transport, because capitalist goods have always been the result of the temporalization and spatialization of capital, which is articulated as a necessity for increasing productivity with its tendency to increase output per unit of time, as a necessity for at least temporarily obtaining extra profits for individual capital and the complementary acceleration of innovation and shortening product life cycles, an acceleration, motivated by the credit system, of the wear and tear of machinery, which is to be evaluated independently of the technological, purely economic.

12) Within the framework of its differential accumulation of capital, capital must accelerate the times of actualization/virtualization of production and circulation to an increasingly urgent degree in order to finally approach the ideal of (impossible) virtuality (simultaneity/reversibility) or zero time. And if the titles of fictitious and speculative capital are even circulating today as claims to the infinity of time, they must simultaneously translate into technologies that enter into areas of the speed of light in order to project the future in real time from now on. As a claim to the future, financial capital constantly reckons with its techno-imaginary side in an accelerative way, thus breaking through a boundary to which industrial capital was still exposed even under physical conditions, until finally it touches upon the zero time of capital. Thus speed in relation to quantification (growth in quantity per unit of time) is becoming increasingly important in capitalism, and acceleration is to be understood as an excellent derivative of speed, especially the acceleration of circulation processes, which is driven to its maximum point, namely the speed of light – digitalized financial transactions in real time and “just in time” production are only two examples of the hatred of capital in the long run, as Tiqqun puts it. It should be noted at this point that the processes of technological acceleration must correspond to an analytically separable increase in quantity per time unit,

If one wants to speak of social time shortages, i.e. only if the growth rates of the production of goods, services and information exceed the acceleration rates of the corresponding processes, social time resources become scarce, otherwise technological acceleration tends to release social time and leisure. Not only is production, information and transport faster, but also more and more, so that the measure of output increase per time unit is actually also important, with which the whole extent of intensification, acceleration and growth and consequently the shortage of time resources can be taken into account.

13) Finally, within the framework of the differential accumulation of capital and the existence of plural capital, capital remains compelled to always update itself in time, even if it has long had enough of itself and wants to get rid of itself, enough, for example, of the referential weight of classical goods and credits, in order to enter a posthuman age of pure virtualizations of financial flows. It still wants to escape the “weight” of time in order to illuminate its own future with the ease of virtualizing circulations. With regard to the acceleration of circulation and transport times, even Marx speaks, on the one hand, of the destruction of space by time, whereby every second that capital needs for its realization will have been one second too many; on the other hand, it has to focus on the economy of circulation and turnover times itself, because the telos of utilization demands the realization of speeds that exceed itself, until zero time finally sets in, so that even the mediality of the means of transport and communication is called into question. But ubiquitous real time could only happen because of time wars, which the resistances of space and time pass through in ever smaller time quanta, until every localization and temporalization of the global itself is called into question. Capital is indeed globalizing itself today by means of ubiquitous media technologies, in that it withdraws time periods from the global itself, and this according to a media-technological economy of performative sentences, which still isolate the trauma of a difference between production and circulation by capitalizing it until production/circulation can ultimately no longer be located on the globe and yet at the same time cannot aspire to an external border. But not only that, these time wars lead to the fact that even the so-called real time, with which signals are transmitted within the global networks, threatens to become too slow, so that, for example, the buyer of a CDS, which is offered in London in order to use minimal time advantages, is more likely to settle in Frankfurt again and not in Hong Kong. Strictly speaking, capital is not allowed to escape the traumatology of the manifold (temporal) cuts through production/circulation/consumption, cuts that it only grasps in so far as it permanently shifts its own border internally, as an “economy of the cuts of the cut” (Deleuze/Guattari), but without ever getting rid of its black zones and times, just as one cannot get rid of the danger of exhausting oneself in one’s production and circulation times, precisely because one has ever borrowed from the future and actually exhausted it. The acceleration of computerized time cycles, which curiously leads to non-linear results (doubling the dose does not produce twice the original effect), is today that of an invisible growth of high frequency transactions that demonstrate the approach to the zero time of capital. Thus the abstract time of capital should at least be identified in its concept (ideally) with zero time, whereby the so-called real time of capital today actually incorporates the tendency, supported by technology and media, to set turnover times equal to zero, so that in the end capital would be one with pure virtuality, with timelessness or time as such. Nevertheless, capital can never achieve this concept, insofar as its presence in the postponement, the différance of capital, constantly eludes (in time), and thus something always escapes the attributions of capital, whether it is that the future must be borrowed for every present, or that capital as a form of money does not realize itself.

14) …

15) Marx writes: “The more the circulation metamorphoses of capital are only idealistic, i.e. the more the circulation time = 0 or approaches zero, the more capital functions, the greater its productivity and self utilization becomes. (MEW 24: 127-128) Or, in a similar vein: “The maximum utilization of capital, like the continuity of capital.

or the time of circulation = 0; i.e., the conditions under which capital produces, its limitation by the time of circulation, the necessity to go through the different phases of its metamorphosis, are abolished. It is the necessary tendency of capital to strive to set circulation time = 0, i.e., to cancel itself, since only through capital is circulation time set as the moment determining production time. (MEW 42: 529) Capital, which sets its own circulation time equal to 0 or sets itself as a given simultaneity, would actually be equal to pure virtuality, which would then be understood here as its mode of being – an impossibility that only the idealistic concept dares to think, insofar as (idealistic) capital could actually cancel itself out in itself. In reality, it always remains relegated to its quasi-transcendentalism, and this would have to be understood as the effect of effects. To the conceptual representation, that vernullification of time (virtuality) must appear as the impossible, as if it were possible to represent it: this is the addressing of virtual reason (value as a regulative) to the transcendental. And Marx insists: “Circulation time expresses only the speed of circulation; the speed of circulation only the barrier of circulation. Circulation without circulation time – i.e., the passing of capital from one phase to another at the same speed, with which the term changes – would be the maximum, i.e., the coincidence of the renewal of the production process with its completion. (ibid.: 531) Real time today has a very real tendency to settle at zero, which would ultimately mean the erasure of every trace of capital, its own production and circulation, and would be tantamount to its final death through all deaths (crisis), which in turn would paradoxically correspond to its maximum expenditure and exploitation. Marx argues that the time of circulation equals zero, which corresponds to the highest productive utilization of capital, but in the course of the necessarily consequent extinction of all times of circulation and production, this is at the same time a real impossibility. It can of course also happen that the traces of production and circulation disappear through a spasmodic reduction of speed, so that the growth of capital, which normally takes place through accelerating spiral movements, is decelerated, standstills that seem so abominable for its neurotic ethics of growth.

16) The time of financial capital stretched into the future remains identical to the retrospective time of capital in so far as the available data and information to which the mathematical and stochastic risk models of the financial industry refer come from the past, on the basis of which one calculates the valuation of fictitious capital from the point of view of lending and discounting the future, without taking into account that the future parameters and variables will change precisely because one has already invested or speculated on the future with monetary capital in the present. In this phase of comprehensive capitalization/financialization, the entry of time into itself appears as the real-time movement of fictitious and speculative capital, so that financial capital, on the one hand, constantly calculates with itself by means of the application of stochastic models from financial mathematics and will never be finished with the calculation, and, on the other hand, permanently suffers from the unavailability of itself and of the future.

17) Already with the credit capital has usurped time itself, which is already appropriated as the coming present, whereby the future is no longer an inescapable horizon stretched out before the present, but itself becomes an integrative part of a present, which in turn contracts past and future in itself and for this very reason is always already the present future, calculation and planning. In this, a limitation becomes apparent that consists in constantly reducing reason to the legendary calculation without wanting to face a rational and strict unpredictability (of the economic) of what is universal and yet at the same time an exception, namely, the unique, exceptional and unpredictable singularity. In order to exclude the exception, calculating reason would ultimately have to connect with the unconditional, the sovereignty that consistently eliminates the unforeseeable event.

18) For Marx, the future 2 seems to be the time that is complementary to the third determination/function of money as money that exploits itself. In principle, money functions at this point the argument

already as (speculative) money capital, which in terms of time implies that the present, through the calculation of its future, finds a valuation in and through its future, but in the end everything turns out differently than one can foresee in the present moment – because the future reacts precisely to how one tries to calculate the future. Not the becoming of the present on the basis of its past, but its becoming in relation to the future thus clearly comes into focus, the future, to which one in turn attributes a becoming itself, as it is determined by present expectations. Future 2 is shown here by the fact that money in the present is valued by what it is said to have been worth in the future. But since one cannot calculate in advance exactly what the money will have been worth in the future, the money can only be calculated purely speculatively in its relation to itself, or in other words, the speculative calculation with the money is its own permanent temporalization, which makes the money regime present and at the same time shifts it further and further forward, in other words, present futures and future presences are not congruent, i.e, as soon as a future present actually becomes current, the difference between it and the future that capital expects (present future) and whose prospects it once used, is also updated, and thus other futures than those expected always return to the present. (Cf. Esposito, The Future of Futures, 2010: 177f.) According to Elena Esposito, the temporal circularity of financial economics consists precisely in the fact that the present is dependent on the future, which in turn is referred to the present, which is governed by it. (Ibid.: 28) With respect to the future, we are thus at the same time dealing with an extension of the present, in a very twisted sense with the future tense 2 of “being there”. This also means that capital, so to speak, always already has its back to the future – apart from its own undeniable indeterminacy and unavailability it also relies on the fact that things will always have gone well (for capital) from behind. And this view of the future portrays the future as a closed future, precisely because the future is determined exclusively by a horizon of expectation that wants to eliminate the really new, and not only that, capital is its future, it has ever stipulated its future and it has determined it out, which immediately shows that this ominous occupation of the future, which is free of any anti-axiomatic surprise and virulence, is not possible, can only be written from the future tense 2, even though even this time is to be overcome again and again – the continuum of capital thus adheres precisely to the idea of plunging towards its future in complete neutrality on the one hand, while on the other hand constantly having to overtake its own future, its trauma par excellence, which is made worse by capitalization, which in the context of its futurology is based on absolute self-presence or which, through capitalisation, relies on absolute self-presence or topicality in its futurology, wants to be caught up with and yet cannot be caught up with.

19)) However, the problem shifts once again when we think of forms of capital that are no longer directly linked to (industrial) production processes. Speculative transactions refer even more clearly to a “repaid” time, which cannot be represented as a circular movement, but rather as an exponential curve, which simply does not return to the starting point; rather, the continuous growth of monetary capital itself is evident here. Here, an investment made at a given point in time is represented as a tangent to the exponential curve, which indicates a crack, break or caesura with the curve of continuous growth in value. The current investment as a tangent therefore documents not only the surplus – money plus the excrement G’ – but also the break with continuity, inasmuch as the before and after can no longer be “rhymed” here, precisely because of the surplus, which means that non-equivalence and differential repetition are shown in the context of a synthetic exchange. And as a straight line, the investment expresses a pure intensive quantity: Time has not passed, rather it is given directly as a degree of an intensive and intended variation – intended because the investor expects an increase in money, intensive, insofar as the calculation expresses a degree of variation (e.g. the gradations of light are purely gradual), which in turn has nothing to do with an extensive quantity. Intensive quantities have nothing to do with shapes and their duration and thus only allow for intrinsic, gradual distinctions. The intended rate of value increase, which is attributed to the formula of capitalization, does not allow for any

as a cycle returning to a starting point. The current investment empties, so to speak, the presence of money, because it introduces into the presence an anticipated and at the same time non-determined return of money, which implies first of all a gradual and intensive and only secondly a numerical value. In this way, crematistics generates an empty form of time in which no current temporal value exists, but rather the coincidence of an empty before and after. And we are definitely dealing with a difference in the rate of increase after each particular return of money, so that the respective speeds at which the investment takes place will also always have changed. In a sense, they don’t rhyme.

20) Furthermore the question arises how to describe an instantaneous change of different quantities by means of the parameters position, speed and acceleration. To answer this question, mathematicians have developed the concept of infinitesimal quantities, which are results of limiting processes. Thus, the variation of a quantity that occurs between two moments through the course of time tends towards zero. As is well known, at any given moment the status of a moving body can be defined by its position (r), its velocity (v), which expresses the tendency to change its position, and by its acceleration (a), which in turn expresses the tendency to change its velocity. Instantaneous velocities and accelerations (instantaneity in the sense of a limiting now) are thus limiting quantities measured by the rate of two infinitesimal quantities. First of all, the parameters (r) and (v) are varied during a time interval t0-t1, whereby this interval tends towards zero. Intervals are to be understood as derivatives of time and are written since Leibniz first as v=/dr/dt and then as a=dv/dt. And thereby the latter formula, i. e. acceleration, implies the derivative of a derivative. In the course of Einstein’s theories, this also means that the status of absolute simultaneity cannot be achieved. And from this, in turn, it can be concluded that there is nothing left for capital as absolute contingency that could still interiorize its abstract time. Time would then actually coincide with absolute space.

21) According to Elena Esposito, the models used to price derivatives are generally not capable of taming the differences between two futures. If the present future, which expresses what is expected of the future, and the future present, which denotes the future that will actually occur, are not congruent, then in the course of using performative mathematical calculation methods, a future present always becomes real, with which the difference to the future that is expected and, to a certain extent, fixed, and whose potential may have been used, is updated.

22) Derivatives allow the contraperformative, time-binding shaping of the present and the future, whereby the specific shift of the present into the future qua derivative prevents the actuality of the present from being clearly separated from the actuality of the future. What is added to the “determination” of differential pricing qua temporalization is that the future of differential and risky pricing implies the splitting of the future pay-off, which in turn inaugurates the thetic contingency qua derivative contract. Thus, the specific time constraint of derivatives can be understood as the relation between a withdrawn present and a split future, both of which, however, must be updated and at the same time remain out of date (insofar as certain possibilities are not updated). But here, too, it cannot be assumed that price movements are unconditionally unconditional, whereby it is also necessary to show how the specific calculation of the future not only splits the present, but also disciplines it.

23) The inactual dimension of the present, which consists in pricing out risk, cannot be eliminated, not even by the realization of a future event, or, to put it another way, the present can never occur as fully actual, not even in one of the coming future presences. Full actuality would be close to virtuality or virtuality itself. Actualization, however, does not take place through simultaneity or similarity (with the virtual), but always through the temporalizing differentiation between the virtual and the current, and this under the condition that

that the present itself contains virtual and actual moments. Actualization does not realize the potential, but negates it, or, in other words, actualization is not the development or metamorphosis of the virtual, but its limit. The present future per se remains unstable, insofar as the future present, when it is actualized, permanently revises present decisions.

24) The temporal shift in the price movements of the derivatives is thus by no means to be understood as a temporal extension of the present (anticipation), but rather it ever already includes the endogenous splitting of the present itself (Esposito overlooks this). At the same time, the futuristic contingency, which however cannot do without updating in the present, reports the necessary counterperformativity of derivative pricing: the the thetic contingency of the derivative implies the real, contingent concatenation of the future (in the present) qua derivative pricing, and this at least until the end of the derivative contract and its pay-off. And thus the possibility of anticipating the price formation qua an extension of the present is not only impaired, but all anticipatory models (Scholes) prove to be the subsequent elaboration of the fact that an option has achieved the realized price. The possibilities that speak against the current price must be understood as drastic consequences of the pragmatics of the future of differential pricing: In principle, the present future is revisable qua differential temporalization, because it is constituted by the thetic contingency of the reality of the infactor. Even the past, which determines the present as a revisable future, remains filled with the non-updated contingencies of other pasts. However, these contingencies that were not updated in the past remain only fictitious idealizations, because they have indeed not been updated, i.e. in contrast to future inactualities, they remain forever inaccurate.

25) Implicit volatility is ultimately to be understood as the indefinite of the derivative price movement: It can only exist because of the splitting of the present reality of the price with respect to an unknown (current and in-actual) future. The futuristic contingency is generated by the indefinite plasticity of the derivative, or, to put it another way, the virtual reality of the derivative price movement is endogenously/immanently constituted and it is updated by money. As one of the conditions that guarantees the plasticity of derivative price movements, the market is then to be understood as the space of a material topology that offers the possibility of updating future contingencies of derivative pricing. The contingency that takes place in derivative markets requires a dynamic, even a metastable toposcription, i.e. only the market indicates the contingency (in the present), more precisely: it is the medium of (relative) contingency.

translated by deepl.

Foto: Stefan Paulus

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