In her new book, “Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse?” (2019), McKenzie Wark argues that the all-pervasive presence of data in our networked society has given rise to a new mode of production, one not ruled over by capitalists and their factories but by those who own and control the flows of information.
In other words, the driving force of capitalism today is no longer industrial labor, but intellectual, affective, symbolic labor – the virtual social presence that Marx designated in the Grundrisse as ‘The General Intellect’.
Theorists like Deleuze and Guattari recognized decades ago that the form of capitalist appropriation transforms alongside the mode of production, never actually achieving what Marx called the “real subsumption” of society.
For his part, Wark draws on the writings of the Situationists and a range of contemporary theorists to explore the vast panorama of the contemporary condition and the classes that control it.
“The end of the dominance of capitalism as a mode of production is not a subject that has received much attention. For its devotees, it has no end, as it is itself the end of History. For its enemies, it can only end in Communism. If Communism — a state that exists mostly in the imaginal realm, always deferred into the future — has not prevailed, then this by definition must still be the reign of Capital… the present is defined mostly in terms of a hoped-for negation of it. Some theology!… The concept of Capital is theological precisely to the extent that questions of its possible surpassing by other exploitative modes of production remain off limits.” (Wark)
Below is Wark in conversation with Natasha Lennard about the book, filmed at Verso Books in Brooklyn on October 9, 2019:
McKenzie Wark is the author of “Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene,” “General Intellects: Twenty-One Thinkers for the Twenty First Century,” “A Hacker Manifesto,” “Gamer Theory,” “50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International” and “The Beach Beneath the Street,” among other books. She teaches at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York City.
Natasha Lennard is a Contributing Writer for the Intercept, and her work has appeared regularly in the New York Times, Nation, Esquire, Vice, Salon, and the New Inquiry, among others. She teaches Critical Journalism at the New School for Social Research and is the author of “Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life” and coauthor of “Violence: Humans in Dark Times” with Brad Evans.
“The source of Capital’s power is the monopolization of the technical knowledge to direct production and transmute the inputs of production, including the expended lifeforce of workers, into wealth.” (Amelia Davenport)