Plunder and war continue to spread across the world. They are stuff of past and present history. The greater the material product of society the greater the plunder; the larger the stock of productive forces the more extensive the destruction.
It is not the task of this manual to examine the plunder or the destruction, but to treat contemporary forms of resisting them. Among forms of resistance only two will be examined: a form which has become established as the modern model of revolution, and resistance which takes the form of a continually changing response to continually developing productive forces.
It is the task of the manual to apply the twentieth century model of revolution to the conditions created by the development of productive forces. By its successes this model has proved itself the quintessence of revolutionary political activity in modern times. Its processes have so far been limited to conditions characterized by a low level of development of productive forces. At a high level of development of productive forces, responses to the dominant social order take the form of attempts of individuals to realize their self-powers, their capacities, to the level made possible by social development. Social relations that have played out their historical role come into conflict with the possibilities opened up by the productive forces. Suddenly people who have come on the scene, who have become disenchanted with the entire system, who have become disillusioned over the system and who are ready now and willing to do something about it. The possibilities of the productive forces cease to be the subject of prayer, the promised land to which a savior will someday lead mankind.
The attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces is a threat to the stability of the dominant social order, which tries to purge itself of rebellious elements. However, in spite of the repressive character of the social context in which they appear, at a high level of development productive forces, rebellious responses to the social order do not avail themselves of the modern model of revolution. The attempt of individuals to live at the contemporary level of development of the productive forces does not give rise to activities consistent with the quintessence of revolutionary political practice, namely to revolutionary organizational ideology, leadership and the struggle for State power. On the contrary, distinct moves in the opposite direction can be observed.
Although the aim of the manual is to apply the modern model revolution to conditions of highly developed productive forces, a brief overview of responses which move outside the boundaries of this model will be given because these responses are themselves the field out of which leaders emerge, and because the field itself becomes a raw material which leaders attempt to shape and transform.
Responses to the social order have been conditioned by the available means for human development and by the form of the dominant social relations. In modern times, the material instruments as well as the social relations have served a specific historical function: the accumulation of Capital. The period of accumulation of Capital consists of an expanded reproduction of productive forces accompanied by a constant reproduction of social relations. At a low level of development of productive forces, the means of survival are scarce, there is little surplus and society is constrained by this material scarcity to expend its productive energy ensuring its survival. Productive activity is forced labor. It is enforced by a security apparatus whose level of development corresponds to the possibilities of the productive forces. Producers create an industrial technology which eliminates the material necessity for forced labor while reproducing the social conditions of forced labor. Productive forces which eliminate the material conditions of scarcity become social instruments for the maintenance of scarcity. Paucity ceases to be a function of nature and becomes a function of social relations.
It is said that the strength of the Ottoman Empire resided in a peculiar social relation. Children of victimized communities were kid-napped by an occupying army. The children were taken abroad, given military training, and a generation later they returned to their own communities as the occupying army. A similar but more refined characterizes the process of accumulation of Capital. It takes two distinct forms, depending on the two different historical sources of accumulated Capital: pre-capitalist communities and capitalism’s own wage laborers.
The Empire of Capital attacks pre-capitalist forms of productive activity, peasant economies, and transforms them into sources of primitive accumulation, into external and internal colonies of capitalism. Crude Ottoman methods of coercion are abandoned, not for moral reasons, but because refined capitalist methods prove historically more effective. Brute force gives way to the more civilized form of economic coercion. Kidnapping takes the more humane form of alienation, or sale, of the surplus product of the pre-capitalist community. The return of the children as a foreign occupying army takes the subtler form of a return of the alienated surplus product in the shape of foreign Capital, a foreign administration, a foreign army, plus an assortment of educators and missionaries. The bewildered invaded community cannot possibly recognize its alienated surplus product in the transformed shape in which it returns, incorporated in Capital, administration and army, even in the weapons, teachers and priests.
The other, predominant, and proper capitalist form of accumulation supercedes the peculiar institution of the Ottoman Empire as a method for turning the life of a community against itself. In this type of Capital accumulation, kidnapping takes the unremarkable form of a normal, uneventful capitalist working day. During the regular course of an average day, what is alienated by the producer is not a child; it is the producer’s own self, the productive power, the producer’s labor. This productive power, this living activity materialized in products of labor, does not return to the community of producers in the form of a foreign occupying power. On the contrary, it surrounds the producer from birth to death. It is the environment. It is home, work, play, and the spaces in between. The producer’s estranged activity turns against the producer in the form of the dominant institutions of modern social life: the State, commodity production and the division of labor. The communities occupied by the Ottoman army reproduced the next generation of oppressors in the act of reproducing themselves. The wage laborers of capitalism reproduce the State, commodity production and the division of labor in the act of reproducing themselves.
The two different forms of capital accumulation — estrangement of pre-capitalist producers’ surplus product, and estrangement of industrial workers’ labor — have led to two different historical situations for the human beings who are the sources of this accumulation. In one case the producer is excluded from the contemporary level of humanity, in the other the producer is deprived of human self-powers.
In the case of a pre-capitalist community transformed into a source of accumulation of Capital, a colony, the stable and comforting harmony of the traditional ways is destroyed, but not replaced. The colonized is severed from the form of humanity that had previously corresponded to a pre-industrial level of productive forces — a form of humanity made coherent and meaningful by the reenactment of cycles of social activity which responded to natural cycles: seasons, births, ages and deaths. The accumulation of Capital destroys the static harmony of the community without making the community dynamic. It destroys the necessity of the cycles of social activity without removing the dependence on nature. It destroys a harmonious, ceremonialized, mythologically justified struggle for survival mitigated by traditional feasts and familiar festivals, and leaves behind an anachronistic, hard, no longer justified, unmitigated struggle for survival. The oppression of the colonized does not lie in the destruction of the previous form of social relations: this form becomes a local anachronism at the moment when the productive forces of humanity make its transcendence possible. The oppression lies in the exclusion of the colonized from the humanity made possible by the development of productive forces; the oppression is experienced in the gap between the colonized and the “humanity” of the colonizer. The magnitude of the gap between the colonized and the colonizer is determined by the extent to which the colonized are deprived of the productive forces available to the colonizer. In other words, the smaller the Capital of the colonized community and the greater the exclusion from contemporary productive forces, the greater the gap between the situation of the colonized and the “humanity” of the colonizer.
On the other hand, in the case of the industrial workers integrally tied to the contemporary productive forces, the greater the social fund of accumulated Capital, the embodied labor stored in means of production, the greater the power of the social class that controls the accumulated Capital, the productive forces that confront the producer is the property of another class. The portion of expended living labor not necessary for the survival of that labor, the surplus labor, takes the form of Capital, the form of a material force that turns on the producer as the power of another class, as an alien force. Thus the greater the power of the productive forces, the product of labor, the greater the power of Capital, the power of the class that rules, the smaller the power of producers over the product of their labor, their self-powers in the environment their labor creates.
Labor power is estranged under duress; it is sold in exchange for a living wage; its estrangement is a condition for survival. In the form of Capital, the estranged power is appropriated by a class which, by “owning” it, personifies it. The power conferred on this class by the simple formality of “ownership” is the power to decide, and to order or decree, everything that is done with the productive forces which it personifies. Since what is done with these productive forces determines the shape of the environment in which contemporary human beings live and the activities in which they engage, the power of the class that personifies Capital is virtually absolute.
The powers estranged by the producers and personified by the rulers are divided and subdivided. Specific powers are delegated to specific offices or departments. The occupants of the offices are representatives in a representative democracy; leaders, heads or chiefs elsewhere where. Whether they reach the office by election, appointment or conquest, they wield the specific powers delegated to the specific office; they personify a specific fragment of the power estranged by society.
Among the personifications, embodiments, representatives of society’s estranged powers, by far the most important is the hierarchy of offices collectively known as the State. The State is the personification of the power of community, the estranged power of individuals to decide collectively the methods, means and purpose of their social activity. It is the specific office of the State to use all available means to ensure that the power of community remains estranged.
Since the productive power of society is estranged by producers, appropriated by another class, and represented by “persons” who occupy the offices to which the power is delegated, it appears to the producers that it is not the producers but the personifications who produce. This is an appearance, a hallucination, but it is difficult for one to see through the hallucinations of one’s own age, since one is born into them. In an earlier age, when it was said that France conquered Burgundy in a field, the real event was a military encounter between two armies recruited from among the populations of France and Burgundy, but the statement described the encounter between two individuals, the personification of France and the personification of Burgundy. In other words, it appears that the capacities, the powers, are not in the individuals who wield them, but in the personifications.
This hallucination could not arise if the assumed power of the personification rested on brute force, on coercion. If the power of the personification had rested on brute force in the case of France’s conquest of Burgundy, the history of the earlier period would have been remarkable since, in order to conquer the Duke, the King would first have had to conquer France — one individual against a multitude of peasants. If this had been the case, the King’s conquest of the peasants would have been so much more spectacular than his conquest of the Duke that the latter event would not have reached the history books.
But in this case the King would have had to be described in terms of his own self-powers, however great these might have been, and not as a personification, as a King, as France.
The power of the personification lies precisely in the hallucination, and not in the individual who occupies the office. Certain words pronounced by a specific individual are not a statement of policy or a declaration of war unless that individual is seen as the authority who has the right to state policy and declare war; the words of this individual cannot have consequences unless other human beings submit to this authority and consider it their duty to obey. The personification is able to wield the power delegated to a specific office only when the legitimacy of the office is accepted. Legitimacy is not a property possessed by the office or by the specific occupant of the office. Legitimacy is a property conferred on the office and its personage by all other individuals.
Although many of the commands of a personification are enforced by violent means, the granting of legitimacy is not the result of coercion. If the power of a personification rested on violence alone, the personification would not need to be legitimate to realize its commands. Furthermore, if the physical power of an individual was great enough to enable the individual to enforce commands, the individual would not need to personify estranged social powers. Violence accompanies the power wielded by a personification, but does not make the personification legitimate. The office and its personage become legitimate only when the authority of the office and its occupant is internalized by all other individuals. By accepting the legitimacy of an office to wield a specific social power, individuals abdicate their own power over that part of social life. As soon as individuals abdicate this power, the office to which the power is abdicated becomes an “authority” which has the “right” to wield that power; an individual who does not abdicate the power becomes a “criminal” who has no “right” to wield it; all others are obedient, “good,” and “law-abiding citizens” to the extent that they exert no power over that part of social activity. The abdication is not a historical event that took place at a specific time in the past; it is a daily event that takes place every time people submit to authority.
By transforming the productive power of society into an alienable commodity, into labor sold for a wage, capitalism extended the personification of estranged power into all realms of social life. As soon as an individual consents to sell productive energy for a given sum of money, this sum of money becomes the “equivalent” of the productive energy, the money possesses the potency of the productive energy. Money becomes the representative of productive power, instruments of production, and product. As soon as all individuals consent to sell their productive energy, money becomes the universal representative of society’s productive power. It is at this point that society’s productive forces become Capital, which is only another name for the power of productive forces represented by a given sum of money. And as soon as the productive forces take the form of Capital, possessors of large sums of money are Capitalists, personifications of the productive power represented by their sum of money, personifications of society’s productive forces. It is the sale of productive power that makes money the universal historical agent. At this point cities are built and destroyed, environments are transformed, history is made, by the spending of sums of money. At this point individuals or even communities have abdicated their power to build environments which suit them. Only investors, personifications of all social building, whose power resides in the creative potency of their money, are able to construct environments.
By abdicating their power of community to the State and their productive power to Capital, human beings alienate virtually all their golf-powers. Furthermore, by internalizing the power of the personifications by conferring on them the legitimacy of Authority, human beings simultaneously internalize their own powerlessness. Every act which lies within the sphere of influence of a personification is out of bounds for on individual. Individuals not only view the wielding of their own powers over the environment as illegitimate, morally wrong; they come feel themselves unable to wield these powers: the personifications are able to do everything; the individual is unable to do anything.
This much is common knowledge. However, it is a peculiarity of modern social life that the precise opposite is also common knowledge. In other words, it is obvious to everyone that these totally powerless individuals are the very same individuals who do the building, the transporting, the operating, the repairing, the thinking. Under the rule of personified powers, individuals simultaneously engage in productive activity and do not engage in it, or rather, it is the productive individuals who do the producing and at the same time it is not the productive individuals who do the producing. This paradox is the great wonder of the Western world; it is Europe’s singular contribution to world culture. The paradox resides in the fact that, as soon as individuals abdicate their self-powers to personifications of these powers, the individuals fall victim to the personifications; they become instruments, or media, through which the powers of the personifications are exercised. Thus it is possible for the same individuals to poison the air during the working day and to breathe the poisoned air while resting at night, since it is not these individuals who poison the air; it is General Motor. Thus it is possible for the same individuals to produce weapons in peace time and to slaughter each other with the weapons in war time, since it is not these individuals who produce the weapons or fight the wars; the weapons are produced by General Dynamics and the war is fought by General Eisenhower, Field Marshal Rommel and Marshal Stalin.
However, the creation of universal powerlessness is not capitalism’s only historical accomplishment. The other side of the picture is a truly representative democracy in which each individual is able to participate in at least a fragment of the personified power of society. This democracy is made possible by two characteristics of the universal representative of society’s productive power: it is liquid, and thus can flow from hand to hand regardless of rank or social office, and it is infinitely divisible, enabling everyone to have it. Thus while everyone is deprived of self-powers over the social environment, no one is excluded from a share in the personified powers.
What the individual can no longer do, money can do. And what the individual can no longer do includes everything that has become the prerogative of a special office: a profession, a specialized field, a discipline, a qualification, a license. With money, the individual is able to do what he is unable to do: he is able to buy the powers of an office, to engage an official. Through the paradox that constitutes capitalism's greatness, the individual is able to recover alienated self-powers in a strangely ambiguous form: he is able to build houses without exerting himself; to publish books without writing, editing or printing them, and even to enjoy himself without having any sensations. All this is made possible by the productive power lodged in money. To build a house, publish a book, or entertain himself, the individual only needs to spend given sums of money. The ambiguity of the accomplishment resides in the fact that the individual has done these things only objectively, but not subjectively, so to speak. This ambiguity can be seen more clearly with an illustration. Let us take the case of a man who "built his own house." In pre-capitalist times (and in pre-capitalist situations that survive in modern times) this statement is unambiguous. However, under modern conditions, the man who "built his own house" in reality merely paid sums of money to officers who personified the special powers required to build a house: an architect, a contractor, an electrician, a plumber, a mason, a carpenter, a decorator, a painter, a locksmith. The man who spends the money does not in fact build the house. However, the plumber, the electrician, and the other specialists merely spend some time earning money by wielding the special powers of their offices; it is not the intention of these individuals to build a house; furthermore, the experience of these individuals before, during and after the event is an experience of having spent time earning money, not the experience of having built a house. If the subjective experience of all individuals who lived this event were taken as the criterion for what happened, no house was built. However, since the material consequence of the event is a more solid criterion, the house exists; if the man who spent the money had not spent it, the house would not exist. Therefore it was the activity of spending the money that built the house.
As a result of a high level of accumulated Capital, the powers of the individual take two forms: the individual is able to buy the powers of one or several offices, or wield the special powers of an office. It has already been shown that the purchased powers are not in a literal and strict sense the individual's own powers; they are lodged in the money. However, the powers lodged in an office are not an individual's own powers either, in a literal and strict sense, whether the office is that of a politician, a physician or an electrician.
Strictly speaking, the self-powers of a human being who confronts material instruments are limited by the power of the instruments and the richness of the individual's imagination; the outcome is the unique result of the particular encounter of a specific individual with given instruments.
This is not the case with the powers of an office. For example, a “good electrician” is one who does no more and no less than precisely what is assigned to the office, or craft, of “electricians.” The accomplishment of a “good electrician” is under no circumstances the unique result of a particular encounter of a specific individual with given instruments. The “job” is the standard result expected from that office. Any other “good electrician” would accomplish exactly the same result. In other words, the powers reside in the office; the individual is merely a more or less efficient instrument of the office. Furthermore, to the extent that a human being becomes one with an office, identifies the powers of the self with the powers of the office, to that extent the human being becomes a personification of certain social powers and negates herself or himself as a human being. An individual who becomes what “we electricians,” “we doctors” or “we teachers” are, becomes a thing which responds in a specific standard manner, which performs its special expected routine, whenever it is activated by money. This internalization of personified powers is the cement that holds together the social relations.
During the course of Capital accumulation, there has been a recurring interest in the production of robots, and remarkably successful prototypes have been designed and produced. A robot is a machine whose behavior is similar to that of a human being who internalizes the division of labor. Like the human being who has been elevated to an expert or a professional, the robot possesses a specific virtue or potency, a special field in which its powers are developed to the level required by the task to which it is assigned. Like the expert, the robot is able to execute perfectly the powers of its specific office. The robot is able to evaluate whether it finds itself in one or another of a given set of situations, to choose the approach suitable to the given situation, and to correct itself if it errs. If the robot has the ability to evaluate, choose, and correct itself, these abilities are part of the instructions programmed into it when it was produced. In other words, these powers are not the robot’s own, but the programmer’s. The robot has no self-powers; it has no “self.” In any given situation the robot’s behavior takes the form of one of several pre-determined and therefore expected behaviors. Therefore the robot is an ideal component for an efficient division of labor. It is the model of an ideal citizen in a representative democracy. If it did not possess certain striking limitations, the robot would undoubtedly have replaced the human being as the New Man of industrial society.
Unfortunately for the society of personified powers, the robot’s limitations are not mere technological shortcomings; they are part of the robot’s very nature, so to speak. It has already been shown that industrial, strictly modern productive activity is characterized by the fact that human beings are simultaneously engaged in it and not engaged in it. With robots, this ambiguity would disappear: human beings would not be engaged in productive activity. However, the disappearance of the ambiguity could lead to the disappearance of industrial society itself, since the system of represented powers rests precisely on this ambiguity. Social life in an industrial epoch does not consist of a predicted sequence of expected situations, but of an unexpected sequence of unimagined situations. It is precisely the human ability to invent original approaches to unforeseen problems that is counted on to make the system function efficiently and predictably. This can be illustrated with the example of a traffic jam in the warehouse district of Manhattan. There are times on weekday afternoons when a large area of narrow streets becomes completely blocked with trucks, busses, cabs and cars standing one or two inches apart in a grid where all exists are barred. The normal flow of laborers and commodities comes to a complete standstill. Drivers are unable to continue to their destinations or to return to their places of origin: they are locked in place. Under present circumstances, the combined ingenuity of the human drivers is required to invent an exit out of an unexpected cul de sac, since every major traffic jam is historically unique. However, In the case of automated drivers, the trucks, busses, taxis and cars would have to be air-lifted out of Manhattan, an event which would only be followed by a yet more spectacular jam at the bridges when the automations try once again to reach their pre-determined destinations. If the automated drivers are programmed to activate another set of automatons in cases of traffic jams, for example an automated traffic police, the bottleneck could reach proportions which are unimaginable under present circumstances; it could lead to a complete standstill of all industrial activity.
Thus the individuals who are in daily contact with the dynamic elements of society, the constantly changing productive forces, are expected to be automatic and imaginative at the same time. For example, the drivers cited earlier are expected to exercise no more and no less than the powers of their specific office: the transportation of given goods to pre-determined destinations. However, precisely in the course of exercising the powers of their office, precisely while doing what “we drivers” have always done, these individuals are also expected to exercise their own self-powers, to do what “we drivers” have never done. Under present circumstances, namely when truck drivers are also human beings, it would not be normal, even for transport programmers, to expect a driver and a loaded truck to disappear only to be discovered months later locked in a newly built low-clearance tunnel. A “good driver” is not expected to have an imagination while exercising the powers of the office, an imagination which would explore the potential destinations and uses of the products in the truck. Yet the same driver is expected to have an imagination while exercising these powers in order to cope with unprogramed and therefore unexpected detours, bottlenecks and breakdowns. This duality, this only partial negation of the worker’s self-powers, is of course the source of continual turbulence in an otherwise stable system, a fact which explains the recurring interest in robots. The fact that human powers — desire, ingenuity, whim, caprice — remain necessary in an otherwise efficient system daily and hourly reintroduces the possibility that goods will not reach their pre-determined destinations.
Because of their closeness to means of production, their daily contact with society’s dynamic productive forces, the producers of Capital, of society’s personified power, are not in fact the ideal prototypes of modern society. These individuals cannot perfectly internalize the powers of their offices since, in the daily exercise of these powers, they are forced to transcend them.
The internalization of personified powers is best exhibited by Individuals whose daily activity separates them from the social means of production, who do not have daily contact with society’s productive forces. This generalization probably applies to most societies. For example, in a feudal society, it is not artisans who illustrate a stable and complete type of feudal human being. In daily contact with changing productive forces, artisans change their approaches, and therefore their behavior, their “type.” It is rather the members of the feudal ideological establishment, clerics, the intellectuals of the period, who are complete feudal “types,” who perfectly embody the dominant behavior of the age.
In modern society, complete types, perfect embodiments of the ruling behavior, can be found in activities which are physically separated from society’s productive forces, which are geographically quarantined: the activities of artists, independent “professionals,” full-time political organizers, and particularly the activities of members of the political and educational hierarchies. It is among these individuals that the internalization of personified powers takes its most acute form. When an individual “becomes” a plumber or a lathe operator, namely when an individual internalizes the powers of the office of plumbers or lathe operators, that individual internalizes the forms of behavior characteristic of the office, but not the thoughts and feelings, the entire “self,” so to speak, of the office. The thoughts and feelings, the self, are presumed to remain the individual’s own, and are even required during the exercise of the powers of the office, as was shown earlier. Therefore what “we plumbers feel” or what “we lathe-operators think” cannot have authority, and is therefore irrelevant, because thoughts and feelings are not among the powers of these offices. In other words, “we plumbers” install pipes in ways pre-determined by the office of plumbers, but “we plumbers” cannot think or feel in ways pre-determined by the office of plumbers.
The limitation of the powers of an office to forms of external behavior does not encumber the offices of the ideological establishment. When an individual internalizes the powers of an ideological office, the individual’s entire self is absorbed by the office. For example, what “We Economists think” is considered relevant, it is authoritative, it is licensed and certified by the office of economists. In this realm of social activity, the powers of offices extend to thoughts and feelings.
Thus, “We Sociologists think,” “We Lawyers think,” “We Situationists think” the thoughts of the office. Thus, “We Teachers feel,” and “We Artists experience” the official emotions socially, ally delegated to these offices. This is what makes the intellectual a complete type. The self-powers of such an individual are synonymous with the powers of all office, and thus a given individual is in all respects identical to all the other individuals who personify the powers of the given office.
Although the total immersion of an individual in an office is an acute mental disorder, as will be shown below, it is frequently experienced as a social privilege, as a form of well-being. This is not a case of being meek in order to be exalted; it is not a case of deferred enjoyment, of present suffering for the sake of future exaltation, of self-estrangement as a means to a later reappropriation of self-powers. On the contrary, this subjective experience of well-being, this “self-satisfaction,” is completely gratuitous; it has no human motivation. The experience of being privileged is itself lodged, not in the individual, but in the office. The “self-satisfaction” is characteristic of the given office.
This phenomenon of a total negation of self-powers accompanied by an internalized official self-satisfaction is extremely widespread among members of the academic establishment, formerly known as clerics, later as clerks, in France known as functionaries of the State, and known in the United States as professors. A professor is a clerk or functionary whose specific office it is to profess the thoughts of a given profession. In the past, at a lower level of personification of social powers, a similar functionary was said to profess the thoughts of a given school, or to read the conceptions of a given area of knowledge; this left open the possibility that, on another day, the same individual could profess the thoughts of another school, or read the conceptions of another area of knowledge. However, at the present level of personification, the individual is, or embodies, a given school of thought or area of knowledge. For example, a given functionary is a Sociologist, Economist, Anthropologist, Physicist. Furthermore, this is all the individual is, in exactly the same way that a chair is all that a chair is. An Economist cannot become an Anthropologist without ceasing to be what he was, any more than a chair can become a table without ceasing to be a chair, without first being decomposed into lumber and nails.
The individuals who occupy the offices of the academic establishment collectively personify the entire spiritual life of modern industrial society. The type of behavior which can be expected in these individuals has been illustrated by an experiment carried out at a major U.S. university. The “subjects” of the experiment were modern intellectuals. The experiment contained a random sample of individuals picked from among those who consider themselves, and are, military physicists, philosophers, mathematicians specializing in nuclear war, musicologists, specialists in the social-psychology of concentration camps, historians, price theorists, as well as aspirants to these offices. The “subject” of the experiment, the professor, is shown a room equipped with an electric chair. He is told that a “pupil” will be strapped to the chair during the course of the experiment. He is also told that the experiment is about “learning theory.” Neither of these statements is in fact true; they are designed to elicit the behavior the professor would exhibit if the situation were real. In actual fact the experiment is merely a game, so to speak, and not the serious business of government, riot-control or war. Therefore no “pupil” is actually strapped to the chair. Furthermore, the experiment is not about “learning theory” but about the behavior of the “subjects” of the experiment. The professor is then led to another room, from which he is to give the “pupil” a “test.” He reads a question into a microphone and hears the “pupil’s” answer over a speaker. In front of the professor is a panel of buttons; labels identify the amount of voltage administered to the “pupil” by each button. The panel goes as high as 450 volts, and buttons corresponding, to the highest voltages are marked “caution, severe pain.” Every time he hears a wrong answer, the professor is to push a button corresponding to a higher level of voltage which passes ‘through the “pupil.” As the voltage increases, the “pupil” pleads and protests: “Let me out. I have a bad heart...” The professor listens to the speaker, waits for wrong answers, and continues to increase the voltage.
It might be wondered what would happen to this planet if the people Plato called Philosopher-Kings, the most conscious members of society, had the power to make ultimate decisions. It might be asked what future humanity would have if this depended on whether or not a modern Philosopher-King, a ten-to-thirty-thousand a year man, a cultured intellectual, pushed the last button, perhaps as part of a “pacification program,” or as part of an experiment in “learning theory.” In the experiment described above, 63% of the professors, two out of three intellectuals, pushed the last button.
It is noteworthy that the “subjects” of this experiment are in fact objects in all respects except, perhaps, in appearance. The alienation of human powers takes its most acute form among the representatives of modern spiritual life. The personification of an intellectual office, of a department of knowledge, possesses a specific virtue or potency, a special field in which its powers are developed to the level required by the task to which it is assigned. It is able to articulate perfectly the thoughts of its specific office. It is able to evaluate whether it finds itself in front of one or another of a given set of problems, to choose the approach suitable to the given problem, and to correct itself if it errs. However, when it evaluates, chooses, or corrects itself, it is not exerting its own powers but the powers of the office: its forms of evaluation, choice and self-correction are integral parts of the program in which it was instructed. The powers of a living human being are precisely what it lacks. In the face of social productive forces, it waits for instructions. The products of human labor are an alien world to it, and it therefore lacks both the human imagination and the will to appropriate these forces as instruments for self-expression. In the face of a human being, furthermore one who protests and pleads with its “innermost human self,” its “moral core,” it reveals itself to be an inanimate object in which there is no sense of community with human beings, a machine which totally lacks the rudimentary species-solidarity without which the human being could not have survived until today.
Personifications of social power seem to animate the world. Only expected, official activity is experienced as real activity. The unofficial projects of an individual human being seem to happen in a social vacuum, cut off from the real life of humanity; they are pastimes, hobbies, wastes of time; they are experienced as empty intervals of inactivity. Estranged power of community — the State, government — is experienced as the only real community. Estranged productive power — Capital, money — is experienced as the only real productive agent. Personified power is internalized as the only form of human power. In other words, generations of human beings on all parts of the globe are convinced that State offices fight wars, that money works, that inanimate objects animate social activity. Without the aid of hallucinatory drugs, several generations of human beings experience a hallucination. Furthermore, it is not known that these individuals are more prone to hallucinations than earlier generations. The hallucination, the impression that personified power is the only form of human power, cannot easily be explained in terms of the individual psychology of generations of human beings. However, the hallucination can be explained in terms of the social relations these individuals are born into. Although money, either as paper or as coin, has not in fact been seen to build, produce, repair, speak, or entertain itself, it is in fact through the mediation of money that producers relate to each other and to the productive forces. Although a State office has not in fact been seen fighting wars or building roads, it is only through the mediation of an office that wars are fought and roads are built. The impression that the representatives, the personifications of human powers actually perform social activities is a hallucination. However, it is not a hallucination but a fact of modern life that individuals relate to each other and to the material environment only through the mediation of personified powers. Although the money and the offices do not possess social powers, they are universally accepted as equivalents or substitutes for the social powers. Money is not labor power or productive forces, but is accepted as their equivalent. The State is not the community of individuals which it rules, but is accepted as the equivalent of the community. Although money or social offices do not perform society’s activities, social activities can only take place through them. Since individuals are social, namely human beings, only to the extent that they take part in social activity, and since they can engage in social activity only by wielding the dominant forms of social power represented by money and wielded by offices, individuals become social beings by estranging their human self-powers and by wielding the estranged human powers represented by money and wielded by offices. As a result individuals are social, human beings, only in an inverted form, as wielders of personified powers.
It is not only the individual’s social existence — being in the world as more than a do-nothing and a nobody — but also the individual’s social importance — who or what one is in the world — that is determined by the personified power the individual wields. The unequal social importance of individuals is a direct result of representative democracy. In terms of physical and mental endowment, one individual may be twice as powerful as another, perhaps even three times as powerful, but not a million times more powerful. This imaginary possibility becomes a reality only when money becomes a representative of human productive powers and when the State substitutes itself for the community. Although it is physically impossible for one individual to wield the powers of millions, this is precisely what is possible with represented power. When money is accepted as equivalent to the productive powers of individuals, a few possessors of large sums of money are able to invest, or wield, the productive power of millions of people. When the State is accepted as the equivalent of the community, a single individual can speak for and decide for the entire community. Although the self-powers of individuals cannot be concentrated in one individual, the estranged powers can be concentrated. When the estranged powers are concentrated in Capital and the State, as embodiments, representatives of these powers, it not only becomes possible for one individual to be a million times more powerful than another, but for every individual to be more or less important than another. The so-called physical and mental inequality of human beings is small compared to the social inequality that results when their estranged unequal powers are reallocated among them in varying quantities of socially equivalent units. The democracy of represented powers is hierarchically arranged. The fragment of personified social power delegated to one individual is less than the fragment delegated to individuals on a higher rung, and more than the fragment of those on a lower rung. The more one has, the more one represents.
From this it does not follow that the more one represents the more one is. This is yet another illusion created by the fact that individuals relate to each other through the mediation of personified powers. Just as it appears that Capital and State offices perform activities which are in fact performed by human beings, it also appears that individuals who possess Capital or occupy high State offices are endowed with special capacities and powers, that they are more than other individuals. This hallucination is no longer experienced universally, largely because capitalists, the modern beneficiaries of this illusion, debunked it irreparably during their long struggle against feudal forms of personified power. When it was discovered that the magnitude of the monarch’s power directly depended on the productive activity of those he ruled, and not on personal endowments bestowed on the monarch by St. Peter, the average monarch, though he might represent a great deal, was seen to be very little: perhaps an amateur golf player.... However, the capitalists shrewdly threw dust in people’s eyes; while debunking feudal forms of personified power, they quietly installed their own. When the dust settled it slowly became apparent that the new form extended further than the old: to the innermost depths of the individual, to the most distant regions of the world. The power represented by an individual’s Capital reflects an individual’s self-powers as little as a nobleman’s title reflects his personal abilities, but the capitalist, little though he might be, represents not only the power of community, but also the productive power, the living creative energy, of every individual within his fief.
Capitalists were great critics of personified power when that power was based on family titles and divine rights. They were archenemies of the State when it was feudal. They were muckrakers of the plunder and social waste which consolidated the personified power of feudal lords. Early capitalists had a vantage point from which they could expose forever the feudal gap between the development of productive forces and the form of the social relations. As opposed to the high born whose power depended on social plunder and ceremonial waste, the power of early capitalists depended on the productive forces, and the growth of their power depended, not on plunder and waste, but on the further development of society’s productive forces. Capitalism contemptuously kicked the corpse of its predecessor into a historical hole, designating it as a dark age, a pre-history of humanity. Athena, goddess of reason, had triumphed at last; enlightenment and clarity were re-born after a long sleep, an unexplained amnesia. Never again would plunder and war be means to social power; never again would greatness coincide with the destruction of society’s productive forces. The new social relation, Capital, could not possibly lead to a rift between the productive forces and the social relations, since Capital is itself the productive forces. Yet for all that, capitalism was not exempted from the fate of its predecessors. From its very origin, Capital was also a form of personified power, the power of money — a fact which made it possible for early capitalists to lend their support to dying feudal powers during the brief historical moment before their final demise. As a form of personified power — as a personification of the productive power estranged by the creators of the productive forces — Capital enjoyed years of progress, in fact several centuries of glorious unfettered development, while it traveled inflexibly back to the very spot on which its predecessor had died un-mourned. Despite all its youthful inventiveness, exploits and ambitions, in its decrepitude it cannot even avoid looking like its predecessor. Capital did not bury its predecessor. Capitalism found it necessary to revive the ghost of its arch-enemy, to reconstitute the personified power of community, the State, and finally to magnify this power beyond all feudal dreams by enriching it with the productive power personified by Capital.
The social relations of capitalism become as dislodged from the productive forces as all earlier forms of personified social power. It is true that the magnitude of social Capital depends on the level of development of the productive forces, but this fact alone does not eliminate the family resemblance of capitalism with social orders like that of the Egyptian Pharaoh or the Chinese Emperor. The magnitude of the social power personified by the Pharaoh also depended on the level of development of productive forces. The main modern difference is that the Pharaoh did not know that the magnitude of the taxes which paid for the palace, the Pharaoh and the tax collectors depended on the level of development of Egyptian agriculture, whereas capitalism commemorates its connection with productive activity in museums which preserve souvenirs of the industrial revolution. What the museums commemorate is a Golden Age. The magnitude of social Capital, namely its dependence on the development of productive forces, began losing its central importance from the moment when Capital achieved absolute hegemony over all social activity. As capitalism grows old, its history becomes less the history of technological breakthroughs engineered by investors, and more the familiar history of princes and kings, pretenders and impostors. In an age when the State broadcasts its journey to the moon, society’s productive forces have once again become instruments for the construction of pyramids.
Unfortunately for capitalism, the productive forces did not stand still when it reached middle age. The development of productive forces which ushered Capital into world history retained its dynamic. While the wielders of estranged productive power become increasingly disconnected from the productive forces, while they immerse themselves increasingly in “events” within the hierarchy of personified power, they fail to notice that they are being deceived. Their own central activity, the accumulation of Capital, leads to an unexpected and irreversible result: it exempts over half the population from productive activity, and the number keeps growing. The mass exemptions from productive activity are accompanied by a proliferation of offices that wield estranged social power. The exempted are absorbed by offices as quickly as possible. The result is a unique historical phenomenon. The personifications of estranged productive power outnumber the producers who estrange it. Another historically singular result of the continued development of the productive forces is that the relative social importance of producers and those exempted from production, once known as a Leisure Class, become reversed. Behind appearances that become increasingly difficult to maintain, the real power of a productive worker is significantly larger than the personified power of an average office. Furthermore, every increase in the power of the productive forces enlarges the power of the producer as well as the bottom rung of the hierarchy of offices, further decreasing the relative power of each office.
The growing rift between society’s productive forces and the form of the social relations is accompanied by a growth of acute mental disorders among the wielders of personified powers, especially in the offices of the ideological establishment. Extremely articulate, highly educated and very cultured individuals engage increasingly in activities which, if performed by a working man, would lead to his commitment to a mental hospital for life, with universal approval. It is hard to find peasants or workers who spend years devising methods to derail trains, who develop plastics that will burn while sticking to the skin of a human being, who concoct poisons for a town’s water supply, who design concentration camps for people they consider threats to their Country’s security, who devote their lives to growing germs which can annihilate a year’s harvest. State officials consider a working man deranged if he shoots his foreman. It is not among workers, but among Chemists and Physicists, Sociologists and Economists, that the concentration camps are designed, that the burning plastic jellies are invented, the germs and poisons developed, the calculated slaughters patiently devised. These people are not considered deranged; each is considered an expert in a field. They are not committed to insane asylums; they are lodged in each other’s company in cities which are built by the estranged power of producers but are geographically removed from the centers of production. They are among the best lodged, best fed and best entertained members of modern society. Yet their behavior exhibits a complete dissociation between their apparently human powers of perception and the inhuman consequences of their actions. Like the one-year old child who blows up a house by turning on the oven gas without lighting the oven fire, these seeming adults continue to grin and play, remaining completely innocent of their own deeds. The childlike innocence, the helplessness in the face of productive instruments combined with a meticulous rationality and calculated scheming when the same individual operates the same instruments by remote control — in short, the mental derangement of these individuals, is a direct consequence of the dislocation of personified productive power from the productive process where it originates. An ancient foot soldier was perfectly aware of the human consequence of running a spear through another human being; a technician who pushes a button that releases a bomb could grasp the significance of his act only if his own home town were annihilated by a bomb; the mild mannered University of Michigan Professor who calmly defines the enemies to international security, who devotes his life to the development of model concentration camps, who passionlessly and objectively explores the possibilities of jellies that burn on living flesh — the Professor, unlike the footsoldier or the technician, is merely theorizing, experimenting with vials, calculating the slopes of lines on graphs.
The mental disorders that take root among the wielders of personified social power are further aggravated by the lack of species solidarity that accompanies the internalization of the behavior, thoughts and feelings of an office. The officers of the ideological establishment increasingly become the self-less thinking machines, the robots who were once thought of as possible productive workers. But the ideological officials are not as efficient as robots were thought to be by those who believed that machines, not human beings, created the productive forces. Like the monks who calmly inscribed spheres within spheres while the Church collapsed around them, the ideological superstructure loses contact with its social base. The scientific method and cold objectivity of the thinking machine are developed symptoms of a lack of empathy with human beings which leads to a profound inability to understand them. This inability in turn leads to coldly and scientifically designed policies and measures which are completely out of touch with the social situation for which they are designed. The measures lose their social, namely human, frame of reference; they are the calm and carefully pre-meditated designs of a maniac, a deranged robot, a mechanical monster that has slipped out of human control and begins destroying human beings helter-skelter with a mechanical indifference which, among animate beings, would characterize only a deity or an ape.
In general, responses to a social order are conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces and by the form of the social relations. However, in specific instances the weight of the productive forces or the social relations in conditioning an individual’s response depends on the individual’s daily activity within the social division of labor. The further an individual’s daily social activity is removed from society’s productive forces, the less the individual’s response is conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces, the more it is conditioned by the social relations. This is why the modern First and Second Estates, the officials of the governmental and ideological establishments, cannot view the productive forces as potential means to the development of their human powers, but only as threats to their personified powers. Among the wielders of society’s powers, responses to the social order take the form of attempts to further consolidate the hierarchy of personified power accompanied by attempts to obstruct the further development of the productive forces.
When personified productive power becomes dislodged from its source in the productive process, it loses its historical function, becomes an end in itself, and acquires an ahistorical dynamic of its own. Social power ceases to refer to society’s productive forces. Capitalism’s brief digression from the normal histories of civilizations comes to an end. Social power is once again a category that would be recognized by the Emperors, Pharaohs and Sultans of old: it once again refers to rungs in the hierarchy of personified power. However, because of its brief journey to the underworld of productive forces, the hierarchy of personified power became not only unbalanced but also irreparably unwieldy. The Sultan would fail to grasp one feature of the modern Sultanate: the best wine in the world has been watered down to the point of being tasteless; the number of officials has been allowed to exceed the number of slaves; personified power, the very essence of human existence, has been diluted. At a historical point when it is already too late, officials for whom the Sultan’s power is the form and substance of human power attempt to regain lost ground. At a time when the powers of average offices become as infinitely divisible as money, only the consolidated power of the entire hierarchy seems to retain its former grandeur. Yet every attempt to concentrate the watered wine leads to a further watering down. Economists familiar with the stories of kings who coined money when the State treasury reached bankruptcy fail to notice that the treasury of personified power is bankrupt. A poor man who became a millionaire in worthless dollars would not be likely to acquire the impression of having become a rich man. Yet an individual who internalizes the powers of a poor office, for example one who wields the authority that “We Anthropologists” are competent to wield, acquires the impression of gaining stature when the office is enlarged to “We Scientists.” Furthermore when the size of the office increases to “We Americans” or “We Germans,” the power wielded by a single official is watered down to a level corresponding to money that has become worthless per unit. Yet in respectable and cultured centers the office of “We Americans” is experienced as a personal power, particularly if the entire magnitude of the hierarchy’s power is personified by “Our Leader.”
The continuing development of society’s productive forces becomes a fetter to the social relations. Accompanied as this development is by further exemptions from productive activity, it obstructs the consolidation and concentration of personified social power. The personifications of Capital renounce their initial historical task. The gross, materialistic activity of transforming surplus labor into Capital is replaced by lofty spiritual aims: Order, Greatness, Honor. These tasks can no longer be left to the untrammeled functioning of the law of value, to what Economists call supply and demand, to unregulated competition among independent enterprisers at uncontrolled markets. The current historical tasks of Capital are the proper tasks of government; they can only be carried out by the central office of society’s Capital, the personification of all estranged human powers, the State. For the sake of stability and order, the development of productive forces must be controlled, obstructed, reversed. The cornucopia of technological progress ceases to give rise to hopes and increasingly spreads vague fears. Behind the productive forces slouches a rough beast, its hour come round at last, ready to loose mere anarchy upon the world. The temporal and spiritual powers of this world hide their terror-stricken grimaces under the masks of complacent grins provided by their offices. Physically removed from the productive forces and the producers, infrequent foreign tourists in the ghettos of the central cities, occasional official visitors to the productive plants, the suburban owners, managers and coordinators are menaced by the producers’ access to the instruments for their potential development. Geographical segregation from the producers transforms an initial malaise, a vague insecurity, into a fear of physical violence and finally into a fear of contamination. The “heads” of the production process are severed from the body; the pinnacle of history’s most developed form of cranium system becomes deranged. Removed by too many mystifications from the perception that it is the estranged power of the producers that the officials personify, the representatives of society’s estranged productive power become preoccupied with quarantining themselves yet further from the producers. Under their official masks of complacent calm and childlike innocence, they throw themselves feverishly into the research and development of means of repression, they preside over a proliferation of offices whose single task is to police the producers, further regimenting themselves in the process.
In the regions where the accumulation of Capital began, social relations turn from forms of development of productive forces into their fetters. However, it is erroneous to draw general conclusions from a localized event. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed. In the current situation over half of humanity has been excluded from the material benefits created by the accumulation of Capital and from the social privileges lodged in offices that personify the powers of accumulated Capital. This fact should have moderated the somewhat provincial optimism of those who noticed that Capital had returned to the threshold of the grave where its predecessors lay stone dead. It returned, but not to leap straight in; numerous last breaths remained to it, because Capital had not been provincial. By spreading its world market over the entire globe, it did not discover a fountain of perpetual youth, but it did succeed in prolonging its period of decrepitude.
Even while they become fetters to the further development of productive forces in the regions where the accumulation of Capital has turned against itself, the dominant social relations are forms of development of the same productive forces in regions where the accumulation of Capital is only beginning. The last stage of capitalism is indeed imperialism, world conquest, the inclusion of all humanity under the hegemony of Capital. The last stage, like the first, is an expansion of a specific social form of development of productive forces: it entails the transformation of productive activity into estranged activity, or labor, the materialization of this estranged activity in productive forces, the identification of the productive forces with a conventionally established equivalent, Capital, and the concentration of Capital in the social offices to which the productive activity is estranged. The expansion of Capital has always entailed an expanded reproduction of a historical form of social relations. Unlike the imperialism of Rome, the imperialism of Capital does not consist of a colonization which plunders the treasuries of vanquished potentates, levies taxes on peasants, and enslaves some of the colonized; it consists of the transformation of the daily activity of pre-capitalist societies into the reproduction of estranged labor and its personification, Capital. The last stage of capitalist development is the stage when the social relations of estranged labor and Capital are universalized. It is the period of Capital’s last expansion, the period when all the productive forces for which there is room in this social order are developed.
The last stage of capitalist expansion does not coincide with colonization. The identification of the imperialism of Capital with colonization has a historical importance of its own, and will be treated later. The actual expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital coincided with colonization only during early stages of capitalist development. Colonization, like religion, the family and the State, is a pre-capitalist social form, a survival from earlier days, which capitalism adapted to its own purposes, not only during the last stage of capitalist expansion but also during the first. Piracy, enclosures and trading companies do not make their historical appearance for the first time in the late nineteenth century; these forms of empire building make their historical debut as much as four centuries earlier, during a period none would call the last stage of capitalist development, when they do in fact serve as instruments for the geographical expansion of the social relations of Capital. By the end of the nineteenth century colonization no longer coincided with the expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital. Like the State, only much earlier, colonization became dislodged from the historical tasks for which capitalism initially used it, acquired an ahistorical dynamic of its own, and became an obstruction, a fetter to the further development of Capital.
During the early stages of capitalist development, the peasants of England and western Europe were forcefully deprived of their previous social activity, their form of human existence, and transformed into sources of primitive accumulation of Capital. However, the colonized peasants were not left suspended in this Limbo, this in-between condition when they are no longer what they were but are not yet what they’ve started to become. During this early period, colonization served its capitalist purpose. The process was completed. Primitive accumulation gave way to proper Capital accumulation. Limbo gave way to a new social order. The colonized became wage laborers who estranged their living activity in productive forces, and some among them became officials who personified the estranged productive power. The colonized were absorbed by the social relations of estranged labor and Capital. The empire of Capital expanded.
This is precisely the process that does not accompany colonization during the last stages of capitalist development. The colonized are deprived of their previous social order, their previous form of humanity, and are transformed into sources of primitive accumulation. And they are left suspended in this Limbo. The process is not completed. Primitive accumulation does not give way to proper Capital accumulation. No longer integrated in a pre-capitalist social order, the colonized do not acquire the social relations of Capital. Colonization ceases to serve the capitalist purpose of expanding the social relations of estranged labor and Capital; it ceases to be a social form of development of productive forces. It is no longer the empire of Capital that expands, but a type of empire much older than Capital, an empire like Rome’s, the empire of England, France, the United States.
During the period of capitalism’s decrepitude, when its engagement with dynastic affairs all but replaces its historical character as a form of development of productive forces, colonization does not expand the social relations of Capital but the power of dynasties. It is not through colonization that the productive forces for which there is room in the dominant social order are developed. What expands is not Capital but ‘western civilization,’ a salad in which pre-capitalist prejudices and superstitions are combined with feudal forms of State power and spiced with commodities that embody estranged labor. Serving this salad to everyone in the world is experienced by English officials as a civilizing mission entrusted by destiny to tall, light-haired, pink-skinned Protestant Christians. Topped with French dressing the same salad becomes ’ French Civilization’ and by the time it is made in USA it is a complete and all-exclusive Way of Life. If an English gentleman had announced this civilizing mission only a short historical moment earlier, he would have been dismissed as a charlatan or an idiot; his pretensions would at best have provoked amusement; perhaps his mission would have been understood and pitied as a delusion of grandeur needed by a pathetic and unsuccessful English merchant who peddled industrially produced Indian cloth to the peasants and artisans of agrarian England. Yet after a few centuries of accumulation of Capital, the delusion becomes a comprehensive Weltanschauung, and the deluded merchant becomes a civilizing colonizer. Contrary to a widely held view, this pretension does not in itself constitute racism. It becomes racism only when it is internalized by the colonized, when the salad called “western civilization” is digested. Forcing the colonized to digest this salad becomes the great historical task of colonization during latter-day capitalism.
Ignorant of the sources of the colonizer’s power precisely because the social relations of Capital are, and remain, unknown to them, the colonized acquire the illusion that they’ve been hit by a natural catastrophe. This was also true of the colonized peasants of England and Europe, but the illusion was dispelled as soon as they entered mines and factories and became harnessed to the process that created the power. But for the colonized peasants of later days, the foreign occupying army, administration, language, culture and religion are attributes of an alien being whose sources of power remain a mystery. And it is precisely the mysterious origin of the colonizer’s power, namely the absence of capitalist development among the colonized, that leaves the colonized no choice but to internalize the delusions of the colonizer, to become what the colonizer would have them be. Comparing themselves to this alien being with its mysterious powers, the colonized do not see themselves merely as inferior human beings, but as a different species. For the difference between colonizer and colonized is not subtle, spiritual, intangible; it is gross, glaring and visible — it is the difference between an adobe and cow dung hovel and a steel and concrete skyscraper, between a mule and a jet. The difference is far too visible to be ignored; the innermost depths of the human being cry out for an explanation. An explanation as gross as the mysterious difference in power puts an end to the mystery. The visible difference in power between the colonizer and the colonized is explained in terms of every visible human feature not covered by clothing: hair, eyes, skin and nose. When the difference in features is not visible enough, language, religion and toilet training are added. The explanation becomes the special concern of a new social science, Anthropology, the Science of Man, which is assigned the task of discovering and cataloging every visible difference among human beings, and even invisible differences. By the time this much has been accomplished, the development of productive forces among the colonized would only undermine the achievements of colonization. To the colonizer of latter-day capitalism, “native capitalism” is a meaningless combination of words with opposite meanings; it is neither the aim nor the outcome of colonization. Furthermore even if such an absurdity were possible it would merely lead to another absurdity, namely to the absurd possibility that the colonized would colonize each other and might even colonize the colonizer.
Colonization is not part of the last stage of capitalist development because it is no longer even a form of capitalist development. However, the identification of colonization with the last expansion of capitalism marks the beginning of the last phase of capitalist development. The identification of capitalism with a pre-capitalist social form which did not in the end serve to expand the social relations of capitalism becomes a historical precondition for the completion of the process which was begun and then blocked by colonization. The identification of the power of Capital with the power of the colonizer reduces capitalism from a system of social relations to a consortium of dynasties. Capitalism becomes synonymous with “western civilization.” This reduction becomes the foundation for the construction of the modern model of anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist revolution.
During the historical demise of feudalism, when capitalists had already established their power over society’s productive forces but continued to internalize the authority of feudal forms of power, champions of capitalism appeared among officials of the feudal hierarchy and among aspirants to feudal forms of personified power. Kings, princes, priests and popes, as well as pretenders to all these offices, became advocates and protectors of bankers, traders, outfitters and other equally low-born members of the Third Estate. The modest and enterprising townspeople gained a social recognition which nearly equaled their social power, and in exchange they became the main support of the local monarch, nobleman or prelate. The feudal lord granted “his own” burghers rights and privileges which did not in fact exist in the feudal structure of power. The frugal and hardworking burghers, concerned more with financial matters than with matters of State, were granted the right to free labor by liberal landlords who held on to their serfs; they were granted the principle of inviolability of contracts by sovereigns who observed contracts only when this was a means to more important ends; they were granted the sanctity of property from the once-upon-a-time heroes whose code of honor rested on the power to plunder. In exchange for the services rendered to them by these champions of the people during the last moments of feudalism’s existence, early capitalists became so dependent on the political, military and ideological offices of feudal society that this brief historical experience left an indelible mark on the entire subsequent development of the capitalist class. Long after they had established undisputed hegemony over society’s productive forces, the representatives of this class exhibited anxieties and insecurities bordering on paranoia whenever they were not backed up by strong-armed feudal protectors, technologically equipped feudal armies and modern survivals of the Church.
During the senile period of capitalism, when one-time forms of accumulation of Capital lose their initial historical function, champions of the colonized appear among officials of the ideological establishment and among aspirants to modern forms of personified power. Economists, philosophers, policemen, managers, as well as aspirants to all these offices, become servants and spokesmen of the colonized. Unlike the feudal champions of the bourgeoisie, the modern champions of the colonized consider themselves members of the oppressed class. In order to do this they find it necessary to overturn capitalist forms of social status and to reintroduce class distinctions based on social origin. Capitalism had abolished such distinctions and had replaced them with class distinctions based on social activity, on one’s relation to the productive forces. It becomes necessary to overturn the capitalist standard if such social categories as “working class intellectuals” and “proletarian generals” are to become meaningful again. These progressive sectors of modern society grant the colonized the right to the products of their labor and the principle that the producers control the forces of production. In addition to these political rights, the colonized acquire economic development. They cease to be perpetual sources of primitive accumulation and at last become proper sources of accumulation of Capital, industrial laborers. The process which was initiated by colonization moves to its completion. Its modern agency is the State.
Imperialism, the last stage of capitalist development, the expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital to every part of the world, is initiated by the seizure of State power in regions where colonization had blocked the further development of productive forces. The original historical sequence of this form of development of productive forces is reversed. Originally the capitalist form had not sprung into existence fully armed at the historical moment when the vanguard of the capitalist class seized State power. Direct control of the State, the central personification of social Capital, did not become historically possible until the capitalist class had established its power over the rest of society. However, the more developed the State apparatus becomes in the regions where the accumulation of Capital originated, the less the historical sequence of development of these regions needs to be recapitulated, and the more the last phase in the original regions becomes the first phase in the new regions. It becomes possible to institute the central relations of Capital accumulation directly by means of State power, without recapitulating the historical development of capitalism, just as, after the development of mechanized agriculture, it becomes possible to plow virgin lands with tractors, without recapitulating the historical development of agriculture. The State becomes the historical agency through which the colonized are liberated from the Limbo of perpetual primitive accumulation. Through the mediation of the State, the daily activity of formerly colonized populations at last acquires the social form of estranged labor. The modern model of revolution bridges the gap between the colonized and the humanity of the colonizer.
The State, the estranged power of community against the feudal form of which capitalism had originally asserted its existence and which became the concentrated personification of Capital only after the victory of capitalism over feudal forms of State, now becomes the initiator of the process of estrangement of productive power. Because their social power was originally developed in opposition to feudal forms of State power, early personifications of Capital had distinguished themselves from State officials. This distinction now becomes archaic. In the newly developing regions which pass through an anti-imperialist revolution, there are no capitalists; the individual personifications of social Capital are State officials who, in terms of social origin and political philosophy, are proletarians. At the historical moment when the productive forces of society make possible the universal development of human powers, the hierarchy of represented powers becomes universalized.
The seizure and consolidation of the estranged power of community, the State, has become the form of development of productive forces in conditions where to perform their historical earlier forms of Capital accumulation ceased task. Military, administrative and ideological activities — defense, organization, theory — become modern forms of revolutionary activity, archetypes of political engagement, synonyms of radicalism and movement. However, responses to the social order are not limited to these forms, they are not conditioned solely by the dominant form of the social relations but also by the level of development of the productive forces. The weight of the productive forces or the social relations in conditioning an individual’s response depends on the individual’s daily activity within the social division of labor. The less an individual’s daily activity is removed from the productive forces, the more the individual’s response is conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces. This is why the modern model of revolutionary activity has been successfully applied mainly among those who are not in daily contact with contemporary productive forces. At a high level of development of productive forces, responses to the social order have not been conducive to the application of the modern revolutionary model, they have not given rise to leadership and the struggle for State power, or even to minimally defined revolutionary organizations. On the contrary, distinct moves in the opposite direction can be observed. Historical time is running out on the modern archetype of coherent political engagement. The less people are excluded from the contemporary productive forces, the greater the social fund of accumulated Capital in which their labor is materialized, the smaller their need for the social relations that forced the accumulation of the productive forces.
The continuing development of productive forces creates the material conditions for new and unknown social relations — relations which are already in the process of formation in the old society but which cannot mature until they burst the fetters of the dominant social order. The consciousness of an epoch reflects only the dominant forms of social relations, although these are not the only forms. The hegemony of the dominant forms is restricted and sometimes challenged by survivals or even by renaissances of earlier forms, and it is undermined by new forms which develop under the protection of the dominant forms. The new forms are only buds; they are embryonic forms, and not forms of social relations in a full sense. They are neglected by consciousness, not because they are embryonic, nor because their magnitude or importance are negligible, but because the consciousness of an epoch is designed to reflect only the dominant forms. However, at the heart of the production process itself, where the accumulated productive forces are created, the dominant forms of social activity do not exhaust the possibilities of contemporary human existence. The ambiguity at the heart of the production of Capital, the ambiguity of activity that simultaneously consists of producers activating things and things activating producers, shatters the hegemony of the dominant form. Because of the dynamic character of the productive forces, producers must respond to continually changing circumstances. If they are not to be stamped, crushed or ground, producers are constantly forced to remain “on the ball;” unlike the colonized, they cannot imagine that the personified power of the official is the only form of human power, and unlike the official, they cannot renounce their self-powers and immerse themselves in the powers personified by the office.
It is precisely at the heart of the production process that the automatic individual is least developed. The illusion that production consists of things animating things is created by capitalist staging, lighting and sound effects, and it causes audiences to misconceive the nature of productive activity. It has not in fact been practicable to replace the human producer with a machine whose behavior is pre-determined. The social scientists looking for the robots who operate the technology, the machines that run the machines, have been surprised to find unruly, undisciplined human beings. The scientists have in general been disappointed. At the very center of the sophisticated mechanism that has become synonymous with efficiency itself stands an unpredictable and intractable demon. It turns out that the speed of the assembly line depends on whether or not individuals agree to perform the number of motions programmed. The magnitude of the product depends to an increasing extent on the quantity of the product workers take home in their lunch boxes, if not in trucks. The quality of the sophisticated product depends on the willingness of qualified workers to desist from making unsupervisable changes in minute measurements and adjustments. The continued existence of the directors, programmers, foremen and guards depends on the willingness of producers to continue returning to their jobs. The power of the producer to determine the shape of the material and social environment is not a distant dream but a daily fact.
If the producers appear unruly even to themselves it is because they continue to internalize the prevailing rules. While they cannot avoid exercising their own self-powers in situations which demand them, and do not always desist from exercising them in situations which do not demand them, producers continue to internalize official power as the only legitimate power and to experience their own power as illegitimate. If the consciousness of human beings determined their social existence, the hegemony of the dominant social relations would remain secure. However, if it is social existence that determines consciousness, then the modern social order rests on a foundation as secure as the rocks of ages of social orders that have long been defunct. Capitalism itself developed its peculiar forms of social power with a consciousness that was unfavorable to this development. The forerunner of the capitalist, the merchant, could not acknowledge the existence of his activity, even to himself, since he appeared to himself as a pious and useful member of a community in which his special callings, usury and extortion, were officially branded as sins. Yet even while he internalized the authoritative negation of his activity, the merchant continued to practice his increasingly profitable calling in a situation where the powers of authorities, of monarch, nobility and Church, increasingly depended on the fruit of the merchant’s sin, on money. When the merchant’s activity of buying and selling was combined with the artisan’s commodity production, money became Capital and the merchant became a personification of means of production, a capitalist — centuries before the development of economics, middle class morality, or the modern State. Without political representation in the monarchy or the feudal estate, and with a consciousness cemented to the morality of the Church, upholding the temporal and spiritual powers materially as well as spiritually, condemning the sins of usury and extortion with an overly zealous piety, early capitalists nevertheless accumulated a social power which restricted and finally challenged the ruling spiritual and temporal powers. Only then did usury become banking and extortion, marketing. What developed within feudalism was not a consciousness, an ideology, or even an organized revolutionary movement, but rather a practice, a form of social behavior which undermined and ultimately overthrew the piety, the gallantry and the sovereignty of the earlier form.
Contemporary producers develop the power of the productive forces, the means for the universal development of human capacities, with a consciousness unfavorable to this development. Just as the feudal merchants viewed the profits of trade, not as means for accumulating social productive forces but as means for purchasing estates and titles, a means for acquiring the prevailing forms of social Power, contemporary producers view the productive forces, not as means for the universal development of human capacities, but as means for earning money, as means for acquiring the fetish to which human capacities are sacrificed. Just as the early traders bankers and Outfitters demanded capitalist forms Of social Power from their own feudal lords, contemporary producers demand their own Powers from their own States. However, just as the feudal authorities could not grant Powers that did not in fact exist within feudalism, the State cannot grant the very Powers whose negation is a precondition for its existence. Producers cannot acknowledge their Power over the productive forces, even to themselves, since they still appear to themselves as free and law-abiding citizens of a representative democracy in which the public wielding of this power is illegal and immoral. They experience the appropriation of their own product as stealing and their direct regulation of production as sabotage, as criminal acts. They continue to internalize the authority of the class to which they estrange their productive power, and thus to reproduce the power of this class.
Yet even while they internalize the negation of their own power, producers continue to enlarge this power in a situation where the power of the authorities depends on the experience, imagination and ingenuity of the producers. With their consciousness cemented to the automobiles, suburban homes and Sunday outings of State and corporate clerical staffs, supporting the personified power of these officials materially as well as spiritually, condemning the criminality of rioting and stealing with an overly zealous devotion to private property, contemporary producers nevertheless accumulate productive forces that restrict and challenge the ruling temporal and spiritual powers. What develops under the hegemony of the dominant form of behavior, at the centers of production of Capital, is not a consciousness, an ideology, or even an organized revolutionary movement, but rather a practice, a form of social behavior that undermines the dominant form. Every act of theft and sabotage, every illegitimate expression of the producer’s power, eats away the legitimacy of the dominant authorities. Self-denial continues to lie at the heart of self-realization, but the rise of the second is synchronous with the decline of the first.
Feudal rulers built their most sumptuous palaces, fought their most glorious wars, and completed the philosophical Summa of their natural and eternal order on the eve of its demise. Modern rulers realize their most spectacular technological feats, fight their greatest imperial wars, and reach the highest levels of their scientific understanding, precisely at the historical moment when the cranium of Capital becomes deranged. During the period of Capital’ s last expansion, the period when all the productive forces for which there is room in this social order are in the process of being completed, individuals begin to relate to each other and to the material environment without the mediation of personifications. Things begin to fall apart. New forms through which producers re-appropriate fragments of estranged productive power appear with increasing frequency, and forms of appropriating the entire productive apparatus begin to appear. While the consciousness of producers remains cemented to personified power, the reappropriation of estranged productive powers increasingly turns the personifications of these estranged powers into hollow shells. It is not in the conscious use of the producers that the potentialities of the productive forces are reflected, but only in their social practice. The only potentialities reflected by consciousness are the potentialities of the productive forces that have been historically realized: Capital and the State. What cannot be reflected by consciousness is what happens when individuals re-appropriate their self-powers, when they cease to estrange the power of community to the State and productive power to Capital. It can at most be known what can no longer happen. It can no longer appear to individuals that personifications of their own estranged powers animate social activity. As soon as they cease to internalize the power of the personifications, human beings remove the legitimacy of Authority and simultaneously rid themselves of their own powerlessness. The cement that holds together the social relations begins to crack. The power to shape the environment in which human beings live and the activities in which they engage, the power to decide what is done with the productive forces, is removed from the offices that personify the power of community and the power of productive forces. The attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces moves outside the boundaries of the modern model of revolutionary activity; it moves outside the boundaries of personified power. The continually changing response to continually developing productive forces moves without pre-determined forms of social activity toward chaos, without well ordered and regularized forms of social power toward anarchy.