This three-day seminar reexamines the fundamental relationships that wars and civil wars (among classes, races, sexes) have entertained with capital (and especially financial capital) throughout the history of capitalism. The financialization of the turn of the 20th century spurred two total wars, interrupted by the 1929 stock market crash and the civil wars within Europe. A century later, contemporary financialization is rushing us into the polarizations of the civil wars of the “ultimodernity.” The 2008 financial “crisis” heralded an era of subjectivized civil wars. This seminar studies these wars in view of Karl Marx’s notion of “primitive accumulation” as economic, political, and subjective conditions of capital. They are the strategic axes upon which the establishment of contemporary war machines resides.
Several scenarios can be envisioned: They involve the course as well as the outcome of these wars. The “Greek scenario,” in which the direction of the war rests in the hands of the financial machine, is the “capitalist” hypothesis. Governing/governed “power relationships” and “strategic relationships” coexist for the benefit of the former: the set of dispositifs of the governmentality functions like population-control weapons (“wars within populations”) and as reproduction of the power of the creditors’. This is what happened and is happening—with less cynicism, violence, and murderous determination than in Greece,—in all European nations. Capital’s war machine doggedly pursues the aim to make the population pay for its “financial innovations” by declaring an economic and political “state of emergency.”
The dreaded novelty in the sequence spawned by the 2008 financial “crisis” is exemplified not only by the heightened governmentality of the wars within the population (e.g. “austerity policies”), but also by the relationships that capital’s war machine will be intent on maintaining with the expansion of post-fascist war machines. These new fascisms seep into the depths of this political sequence by subordinating the governing/governed power relationships from the perspective of “war” (friend/enemy). The “new fascisms scenario” pitches its camp on the turf of civil wars. It expressly designates the foreigner, the immigrant, the refugee, the Muslim, as the enemy both from within and without, all the while asserting the “naturalness” of heterosexuality, a power dispositif that has been seriously weakened since the 1960s. “Race” does not limit itself to defining the enemy; indeed, along with patriarchy and heterosexuality, it constitutes the terrain for fascist and identity subjectivation (France’s Front National and the Manif pour tous, “march for all” have both mobilized against same-sex marriage, and are thus a dual political expression of this).
“Race” and patriarchal “heterosexuality” constitute a perspective on globalization that is distinct from that of financialization, but equally formidably powerful. Gender and race wars are two key mechanisms to control the “biopolitics of the population” that make up the international division of work and its sexual division.
While the capitalist machine continues to be wary of new fascisms, it is neither out of respect for democratic principles—capital is ontologically antidemocratic!—nor for the rule of law. Rather, much as in Nazism, postfascism can enjoy its “autonomy” in the face of capital’s war machine and escape from its controlling hand. The convergence or divergence between these two manners of carrying out “wars within the population” will depend on how current fractal civil wars play out.
The story has picked up pace since 2008 (the total crisis)—2011 (the Arab Spring). However, as we know only too well, it has not always gone in the right direction. The off-kilter balances of power favor capital’s war machine and the new fascisms that nourish and strengthen each other. Our only certainty: interconnected events and ruptures will occur on the turf of civil wars and their total immanentisation.
The seminar is held in French with simultaneous translations into Greek and English.
Eric Alliez is professor at the Université de Paris 8 and at the Centre for Research for Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London. His latest book is Défaire l’image. De l’art contemporain (Undoing the Image. On Contemporary Art, with Jean-Claude Bonne, 2013). He lives and works in Paris.
Maurizio Lazzarato is a sociologist and philosopher. His latest books are Marcel Duchamp et le refus du travail (Marcel Duchamp and the Refusal of Work, 2014), and Gouverner par la dette (Governing by Debt, 2014). He lives and works in Paris.
Eric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato jointly published Guerres et Capital (Wars and Capital, 2016).