03 March 2024

Freedom & necessity in an ambivalent medium of sociation

The very medium that sets us free from one another is the medium that enslaves us. It is two-edged. Individualized freedom is negated, constricted and even nullified by an eerie necessity that the explanations offered by economic theories can never fathom, remaining as they do on the surface, superficial.

How so? In earning our livelihoods we dissociated individuals sociate with one another via the medium of thingified value, a medium with many different 'faces' or 'forms' including, in particular, money, goods & services, wages & salaries, interest, dividends and rent. The latter are forms of income, and all of us need and strive to earn income to spend, as consumers, on what we (think we) need to live well or live at all. The sociating medium of thingified value, of itself, imposes on us the necessity of our immersing ourselves in it for the sake of earning a living. The medium and its various forms remain invisible, however, for today's superficial thinking, that is ignorant of the ontological difference. Nevertheless, it is only by virtue of this globally all-pervasive medium that there is such a thing as a global economy.

As bearers of forms of thingified value (aka private-property owners) we are dissociated from each other as free individuals. This is the socio-ontological core of individualism. We sociate with each other through various kinds of exchange, starting with buying & selling (goods & services, means of production & raw materials, stocks & bonds, etc.), and continuing with hiring (especially labour power), borrowing (loan capital), leasing (land). All these myriad exchanges are mediated by the appropriate forms of thingified value on the basis of formal contractual agreement among the individual, income-earning and consuming, players, who otherwise remain dissociated from each other and are free to shape their individualized lives according to the amount of income earned. The gainful game for earning income is competitive, often brutally so. The winners in the gainful game enjoy and treasure their individualized freedom. They are unknowingly the most willing agents of valorization and, more often than not, its most ruthless.

The medium of thingified value, namely, has a life of its own. It moves cyclically through its various value-forms, subject only to the simple principle of valorization, i.e. advanced money capital (a form of thingified value) must return finally, bloated with a surplus value. Otherwise, its loss-making movement is self-consuming and must eventually cease. This applies to individual capitalist enterprises, large and small, national economies, as well as to the global economy as a whole. The valorization principle of movement of thingified value, i.e. its continued, endless, senseless accumulation, imposes itself as a necessary law on all, with greater or lesser severity, greater or lesser consequences. 

The formal valorization movement requires also its appropriate material: living humanity and the Earth, with all it has to offer, both living and non-living, for continued valorization. The formal principle of valorization inexorably drives the material movement of the capitalist economy, requiring ever more energy that can only be supplied by intensifying exploitation of the Earth. As principle of movement, valorization itself is indifferent to both humans and the Earth, which are subsumed and exploited under their appropriate respective value-forms. 

The difficult transition to renewable, sustainable energy is being undertaken today without insight into the limitless valorization of thingifed value. Insofar it is a blind striving that leaves the status quo intact.

Further reading: On Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo

 An Invisible Global Social Value.

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