General Equivalences and the Freed Market

The capitalist market system is defined by the strictures of wage labour relations and the regulatory mechanisms, which are the used for the valorisation of capital and the commodity production which maintains, expands and homogenises this valorisation. These are the inevitable products of capitalist exchange relations and the creation of a general equivalence in which generic commodities, produced by capital through the wage labour relation, are circulated. For the purpose of these exchanges (some of which maintain the manufacturing and production bases of the classes of capital, and others which engender the final movement of commodities into their form as consumables) markets are used as mechanisms of distribution and sale. The extent of capitalist relations becomes universalisable in such an homogenised, controlled system. States, through their capacity to regulate market transactions and mediate the class relations of wage labourers and the owners of the means of production, create regulatory apparatuses which engender the recreation and revaluation of capital through a series of metamorphoses where relations are changed, markets are restructured and the fundamental germ of capitalism, that of the dominance of capital and its control of the means of production, are maintained and even boosted.

Out of these processes there forms a system of general equivalence, where the plethora of subjective values that work in variable economic systems are subjected to the increasing stringencies of capitalist valuations. Historical processes of accumulation pull alternative production systems into the wider capitalist structure, stripping down subjective valuation and pushing it into peripheral concerns. General equivalence becomes the major way through which commodities in production and for consumption become valued and homogenised, with alternative cost structures becoming either subsidised, externalised or minimised.

Capitalism is therefore the creation of equivalence within commodity production and the use of labour-power, with a basic hierarchy of control of the wage-earning classes maintained via systematised state intervention and control. The intermixing of the classes of capital and the bureaucratic classes of government becomes an inevitability which pushes for more control through capitalist means, and for the uprooting and destruction of various forms of traditional modes of life and alternative forms of socio-economic relations. There develops “the separation of labour-power from all its conditions of existence. The mode of life of the wage-earning class then suffers a deep degradation”[1]. Such exigencies shape the historical character of capitalism and the development of private property as a reality rather than an intellectual abstraction. Whether it be the enclosures throughout much of Europe from the late Middle Ages to the creation of huge infrastructure in America which expanded capitalist economies of scale, processes of accumulation have sucked huge areas of socio-economic relations into the homogenous field of value and the field of general equivalence.

Freed markets in the anarchist sense have a distinct relation to the processes of general equivalence. While capitalist markets have the need to constantly expand to re-engender the valorisation of capital through generating movements away from the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the dynamics of freed markets generate the natural decentralisation of economic activity and the value it creates. Profit is the not the guaranteed means of economic activity, nor even its most desired faculty, while capital as an economic reality is varied, truly heterogeneous and almost impossible to concentrate outside the mechanisms of state regulation. Monopolised capital in its monetary form or in its concentration amongst the wage-earning class becomes untenable when the general equivalence of capitalist relations is ended by the ability for individuals (removed from their class structures) to act on their innate desires and subjective preferences. “Freed from the oppressive tensions of capitalism we would surely prefer to turn such focus on say crafting baskets or writing poems rather than neurotically calculating and re-calculating the week’s remaining expenses or the quickest trip across town”[2].

Through this essay I intend to contrast the existence of the dynamics of general equivalence within capitalism with the theoretical and interstitial potentials of freed markets. Freed markets encompass so much more than the conceptions of capitalism. They can be seen as the totality of voluntary socio-economic relations which require reciprocal exchange and the movement of subjective values. Further from this, freed markets can act as a dynamic variable in opposition to both the objectivities of the state and the coercive power of existing capitalism. “It is precisely through not simplifying our desires into a form parsable by CEOs, politicians, and general assemblies, but instead embracing their infinite diversity and potency that we can begin to make traction against the forces that need visibility and human interchangeability to control us”[3]. Humanity’s needs and preferences are extremely variable and complex, open to a multitude of value judgments that aren’t codified into simple concepts like profit or capital. But it is precisely capitalism and its socio-economic energies, through the homogeneous field of value and the systems of general equivalences, that produces these simplistic tendencies. Instead of a variable, dynamic economic system that provides complex relations of abundance and scarcity and produces individualistic and collective productive arrangements, there is a Weberian “struggle for economic existence, whereby the formation of prices is a struggle for dominance, with money as the main weapon for such a struggle”[4].

Particular advocates of capitalist markets will declare that the idea of a general equivalence pervading the exchanges and transactions of capitalism is an impossibility due to the fact that human desires and beliefs are subjective in their capacities. Yet such a view is tending to the position that in unfree markets the actual subjective desires of individuals in all their multiplicity is in any way possible. In the unfree markets that exist in the capitalist framework, the Weberian axioms of action (which defined some of the basic concepts of purposive human action) become defined by one of their parameters, that of the economistic view. Weber identified four particular types of action within an economic society. “Value-rational actions, whereby action is taken because it leads to a valued goal, and ignores other consequences of attaining this goal; affectual action, which is an action driven by emotion; traditional action, where something is done because it is what is usually done”[5] and instrumentally rational action, which is the “exercise of an actor’s control over resources which is in its main impulse oriented towards economic ends”[6]. Under capitalism, instrumentally rational action, defined by “the conception of the profit motive and the idea that goods are bought based on a rational, cost-benefit analysis”[7], becomes the dominant mode of economic thinking and acting. Resources come to mean the genericism of capital, both as constant capital (resources, raw materials, etc.) and as variable capital (wage labour), which come together to form the basis of the wider socio-economy.

Within this wider field of value defined by the economistic view of action as seen under the capitalist conceptions of capital, the homogeneous field of value and the idea of the general equivalence are developed as mainstays of capitalist social relations. “In order for the commensurability of commodities to be completely defined, it is necessary to know the unit by which value is measured”[8]. Such a measure of value comes from the capacity for commodities to fuel continued economic growth and with it the valorisation of capital, and for other commodities to be consumed by the wage labourers whose value is extracted in the production process.

The wage is generally conceived as the marker of said value as it is the ability through which final-end products are able to be consumed, thus validating the capitalist production process. However, in the fluid economic relations which have developed between the wage-earning classes and the classes of capital, debt has developed as another force of value equivalence through mechanisms of privatised Keynesianism. In modern capitalism, with wages having stagnated relative to both productivity increases and the inflationary increases in living costs, there has been an amplifying need to maintain the valorisation of capital through the consumption of final-end products. New forms of monetary capital have been created which rely on the presence of debt instruments to continue to uphold current levels of consumption, pushing wage-earners into using mortgages, credit cards and other debt-and-interest instruments which, as well as maintaining consumption ratios, provide a new regulatory force that recreates the wage labour relation and provides new avenues of profit which capital can exploit. These new relations of production will be fleshed out later in the essay.

The homogeneous field of value is thus defined by the dynamics of wage-earning and profit-making, with the production of commodities being one capacity through which such antagonistic relations are regulated and maintained. The heterogeneity of values which inform freed markets in their production and distribution decisions are quashed under the regulative auspices of capitalist production and control. Further, this homogeneous field of value leads to particular nuances which favour the preservation of capital over that of wage labour.

Capital perceives value not in the destruction of the end-product through consumption, but through a “metamorphoses of value”. “For the capitalist the pattern of metamorphosis is inverted. It is transformed from C-M-C into M-C-M”[9], with the social relations of capital needing constant regulatory intervention to maintain this procedure. For the owners of the means of production to maintain their dominance, there is a consistent need to valorise capital, as well as allow for processes of devalorisation and revaluation which allows for the reconstruction of the dynamics of capital. Without the market being able to act competitively by destroying profit and equalising relations of capital and labour, the capitalist classes use the state as a tool of accumulation and valorisation. Through the state, the wage labour relation and all its contradictions are maintained. A huge set of regulatory apparatuses are constructed, aptly defined by Tucker and Carson in the five monopolies which maintain the power of capitalist firms and capital-owners. The monopolies of money, land, intellectual property, protectionism and communications and transport infrastructures serve to maintain the dominance of capital. Such monopolies construct these fields of general equivalence by continuously expanding the means of capital accumulation and removing alternative forms of productive capacity from the realms of reality. Entry barriers are erected which limit the actual processes of capital from reaching the wage-earning classes, with distribution of income being a relation of capitalism which furthers its valorisation instead of being a true market distribution which opens competitive avenues and rewards innovation instead of monopolisation.

Wage labour becomes a cog in the valorisation of capital, itself affected by the homogenisation of value. The wage-earning classes are treated as another commodity, adding to the value of production. This division between capital and labour “arises from a qualitative difference in the positions of the two social classes vis-a-vis the conditions of production”[10], with labour as the subordinate element which has no access to either the true regulative powers of the state or the transformational capacities of markets and capital movement. However certain regulations do trickle down to the working classes, as in some of the legislation that developed out the New Deal. Yet the effect of this is not the transformation of the positions of the working classes but rather the maintenance of capitalist social relations. “Capital is not a thing because it is a definite social relationship and the standpoint of capital and wage labour is the same because both are perverted forms of social reproduction”[11].

The processes of general equivalence then comes out of these relations. General equivalence is defined by capitalist production processes and the ability for wage labourers to access commodities through consumption. “The law of value, or the general law of equivalence, is the formal representation of the process of homogenization of economic objects. Its field is the general circulation of commodities as the homogeneous social space”[12] of wage labour and its concomitant social relations. Commodities are the result of productive capacities where the economistic value (as defined through instrumentally rational action) is the most prized part of any production process or the consumables it produces. The spaces of capitalist value that are defined around this specific conception of action produces an economic reality from which social relations and the collectivisation of labour by capital are produced. The state acts as the arbiter of these social relations, allowing for their maintenance and recreation through multiple cycles of accumulation. General equivalence is fundamentally the capability for alternative socio-economic relations to be crushed under the dominance of economistic conceptions of action which are defined by profit and the wage labour relation. Commodities are stripped of any value judgment, and homogenously defined in relation to their capacity to be consumed or to valorise capital. The productive relations which Colin Ward saw developing in a self-employed society of worker ownership are unable to be realised as wage labour is codified into the regulatory mechanisms which maintain capitalism. General equivalence is the means through which subjective value is simplified, codified and destroyed, as productive relations are made evermore strict and immovable. Even during crises, capital acts to allow for the recreation of production systems and wage labour relations so as to recreate surplus value extraction and the maintained field of homogeneous value.

But how does such value, and the productive systems which come from it and create commodities in a system of general equivalence, develop. As already mentioned, productive systems have a fluid character which allows for their recreation. Capitalism is defined as a morphological system, “in other words a space structured by relationships subject to the principles of qualitative difference and unequal influence”[13]. Ruptures and reconstructions are a necessary part of this system as without them the antagonistic character of labour and capital becomes too much. Ruptures are needed as a pressure valve. Through these ruptures there is also the requirement of regulatory systems which maintain the basic wage labour system and the field of general equivalence in commodity production. The state, as an arbiter of relations, is a major factor in the creation of these regulatory systems and the forms of accumulation they allow for. Whether it be from early primitive accumulation, through to the extensive regime of accumulation and its productive systems, and onto periods of intensive accumulation which specifically relied on a significant paradigm of consumption, the state has played a massive role in concentrating the interests of capital and creating new productive capacities which soak up excess product and maintain the variables of varied wage labour relations.

The most obvious and earliest form that this state-capitalist intervention took was in the relations and actions of primitive accumulation. “Primitive accumulation is a constantly reproduced accumulation, be it in terms of the renewed separation of new populations from the means of production and subsistence, or in terms of the reproduction of the wage relation in the ‘established’ relations of capital”[14]. Historically speaking this was the process of disenfranchisement, where agricultural labourers and those with access to common lands were subsequently made into urban labourers for the developing factory systems of the Industrial Revolution. It can be seen as the early development of both extensive and intensive forms of accumulation in the processes of capital valorisation. The extensive land monopolies of states which led to massive transport and communications infrastructures, skewing economic relations away from petty commodity production and decentralised, variable market activity and pushing these relations into the realm of national and international economies of scale, can be seen as a more modern form of primitive accumulation, as it soaks up existing capital and allows for its transformation and metamorphoses into new forms of economic activity.

The early English enclosures, being the most prescient form of historical primitive accumulation, expropriated huge amounts of land, in particular common land, into the hands of established landowners who had preferential access to both parliamentary representation and the English court system. What developed was a huge class of landless labourers who were dispossessed of common rights to land. “A Parliament of landowners was naturally tender of landed property…. The landed class, taken as a whole, and Parliament as its legislative body, failed to ensure that the essential modernization of a large part of English agriculture did not leave in its wake a trail of dispossessed”[15]. The parliamentary actions which helped engender the early enclosures were almost entirely on the side of established large landowners, many of whom were created out of the effective expropriation and nationalisation of monastic lands during the Tudorian era. Cottagers, farm labourers and those who relied to a huge extent on the existing common lands became “a trail of dispossessed”, removed from their natural rights to subsistence and survival. “The old communal system kept many small men in being, but with the prop of the common removed, numbers must have found it very difficult, and in some instances impossible, to survive”[16].

During the early period of the Industrial Revolution, such enclosures were extremely profitable for the developing factory system. With 2 million acres of land becoming enclosed under the Enclosure acts of 1850, the privatisation of land and open fields by and through the state led to an early landless proletariat. Poverty increased substantially, with poor relief expenditure swelling, and access to survival which the commons represented was cut-off. “The laboring people” became “crowded together in new places of desolation, the so-called industrial towns of England; the country people had been dehumanized into slum dwellers; the family was on the road to perdition; and large parts of the country were rapidly disappearing under the slack and scrap heaps vomited forth from the ‘satanic mills'”[17]. According to Ashton, “there was, especially in London and the South, a large supply of unskilled, unemployed people who were a charge on the parishes”[18] whom became the backbone of factory labour, particular in the cotton mills of the North of England. As Albert Jay Nock noted, the state was the primary conduit for such land expropriations and enclosures. Populations of individuals were removed from common land, and made cheap and available as labourers to be regulated and strictly controlled by the relations of capitalism. Thus not only is there the early use of state power for the development of capitalist economic expansion, but also the early use of said power for the regulation of wage labour relations. Wage labourers were placed under the control of the poor laws and an internal passport system, which regulated a labourers’ movements and their ability to choose work. The choice now became either the factory mills or the workhouses. ““The traditional unity of a Christian society,” writes Polanyi even from his secular Jewish perspective, “was giving place to a denial of responsibility on the part of the well-to-do for the condition of their fellows.” Or, as the Hammonds had put it: “the spirit of fellowship was dead””[19]. The traditional mores that defined the socio-economic relations of agricultural labour and the commons was utterly destroyed through the mechanisms of the state to benefit established landowners and the burgeoning capitalist systems of factories and intensive labour.

Much of later capitalist accumulation developed on the back of this system of land monopolisation and early wage labour regulation. European states also went through periods of enclosure and land accumulation, and in America there was the use of the state to develop massive transportation infrastructure which provided new outlets of economic growth, ending alternative relations of production and entrenching the wage labour relation in a country that didn’t have a European history of aristocracy and common land use. Instead, as Aglietta notes, America has a deep history of individualist political and economic thought, where the role of political economy is assigned this ideological baggage. Aglietta further goes on to theorise that the rapid rise of capitalist social relations in America is due to this individualist tendency. “All social activities were conceived as exchange relationships formed and unformed by the will of the contracting parties”[20]. Aglietta may well be right in his description, but I don’t believe he is in his theory. Rather, individualist doctrine was used and in many cases abused by centralised US court systems and political machines which relied on the legitimation of Jeffersonian rhetoric, much as Aglietta later points out. But such individualist tendencies do not explain the meteoric rise of the centralisation of capitalist relations into the wider political economy. Rather, it was the Hamiltonian mercantilist realities constructed by US governments and the industrial interests of the North, much of which were originally codified in the Constitution. State structures were always close-by and even integral in the development of American capitalism, whether in its legitimation through particular discourses or its destruction of alternative praxes of economic functioning. The Jeffersonian principles of independent agricultural labourers situated within local market structures and decentralised economies was fundamentally lost with the ratification of the Constitution, and the development of Hamiltonian economic constructions in the form of a central bank and widespread tariff system.

During the latter half of the 19th century, American capitalist relations gained a massive expansionary force in the form of mass infrastructure projects, in particular the construction of railways throughout much of the Midwest and South, dragging in economies previously defined by petty commodity production. Small-scale distribution systems were crushed by monopolistic distribution companies who could piggyback on the land monopolies granted to rail companies by the US government. Large industrial capacities and the ability to further regulate wage labourers for the interests of developing manufacturing and factory systems meant a move away from pure primitive accumulation to a system of extensive accumulation. Previous modes of production, such as a local foodstuffs system and small factories using independent labourers were transformed into an extensive expansion of infrastructure, factories and the mobility of labour. “The division of society (is) effected by classificatory and identificatory logic (which) operates on working time in production”[21]. Thus there is a move from classic conceptions of time, where labour-time is defined by natural characteristics of agricultural seasons and the needs of commoners and wage-earners, toward a systematised concept of time where things are done in relation to the demands of commodity production. In such a system industry is able to expand massively, usually on the back of huge state robbery through enclosures of land and transport monopolisation. Kropotkin noted such occurrences when large monolithic factory systems and manufacturing industries began to dominate smaller production outfits in the many industrialised economies of Europe and America. Primitive accumulation was overtaken by extensive accumulation.

Under general accumulation and previous primitive accumulation, the system of general equivalence begins to define both the production of commodities as homogeneous goods whose value is economistically determined through early mass production and the development of ever-expanding market economies, and the system of wage labour where labourers are treated as a collective whole, to be classified, hierarchalised and moved based on the demands of particular industries and capitals. However such a system meets natural limits due to the pre-existing social relations of wage labourers, which, while being transformed, have not wholly been removed as a construction of reality. Primitive accumulation had produced massive structural transformations but had only created and germinated an industrial system. Workers still held the knowledge of things like the commons and petty commodity production which provided more dignity and control. Such pre-existing relations limit the effectiveness of a consumer economy while there still remains the germ of resistance in the form of different socio-economic praxes.

A system of intensive accumulation is thus constructed which builds on the systems of industrial infrastructure developed under extensive accumulation. “The predominantly intensive regime of accumulation creates a new mode of life for the wage-earning class by establishing a logic that operates on the totality of time and space occupied or traversed by its individuals in daily life”[22]. A fundamental transformation of the wage-earning classes is enacted, with their productive relation to commodities fitting into the consumption relation which valorises capital. The field of general equivalence is fully enacted as the relations of capitalism, that of wage labour and capital, become emplaced within the generalities of capitalism and its production systems. The limits of extensive accumulation are overcome as wage labour is placed under the full regulative power of capital and entrenched in mass production systems which require constant inputs of capital and consumption, as witnessed in the production systems which developed around the time of the move toward intensive capital accumulation. These are Taylorism, Fordism and their successors.

Such forms of productive organisation enforce a new regulatory system on workers, building on past forms of accumulation and re-enforcing the system of general equivalence in the wider capitalist system. Wage labourers are fully subjected to the relations of capital and the needs of industry for constant consumption. Under Taylorism, there was the early development of the technical division of labour as wage labourers were increasingly individualised in their task roles and collectivised within workgroups under the supervision of bolstered management networks and team leaders. This form of organisation reached new heights under the systems of Fordism, as mechanisation was introduced leading to a further division of labour and an increase in the use of departmentalisation and management power. Worker autonomy, and collective working, were turned on their heads as the technical division produces a dialectical relation of increasing worker individualisation on the one hand and a collective realisation of wage labour on the other. Under these systems, productivity gains realised by labour are used for the purposes of capital valorisation and an increase in the extraction of surplus value. Wage labourers themselves are further homogenised as tools of capital accumulation, subject to the vagaries of capitalist discipline with no alternative modes of existence even provisionally available.

Later developments in production systems further such a dialectical relation of workers, with individualisation within the wage-earning classes and collectivisation under the auspices of capital both increasing. Productivity gains are increasingly divorced from wages and the collective means of labour organisation are destroyed by state intervention, limiting their influence and capabilities. Such was witnessed under Thatcher and Reagan during periods of deindustrialisation in Western countries. Under deindustrialisation, productivity has been completely divorced from wages, and the methods of production divorced from their consumption. Workers in developed countries are fully subjected to the consumption paradigm, and through new mechanisms the huge levels of internationalised overproduction are soaked up by forms of financialisation and state intervention. The forces of wage labour now inhabit an economy of services and minimal industry, with their wages determined by the output of international industry and the ability of workers to continue consumption patterns. Now with financialisation this also means the introduction of new methods of wage labour regulation in the form of a debt relation between banks, employers and labourers. Employers can afford to pay minimal wages completely divorced from productivity and even from living costs, with banks and other financial firms making the shortfall through forms of privatised Keynesianism. Mortgages, credit cards and other debt instruments maintain the consumption paradigm (and with it the valorisation of capital) and introduce another method of regulatory control as debt relations overtake industrial relations. “For the working and middle classes, they (mortgages) represent increased indebtedness due to a belief in homeownership. For global elites, they represent an opportunity for the continuation of the extraction of surplus value through financial markets”[23]. These classes of indebted individuals are now a widespread precariat, of part-time and low-wage workers and a class of unemployed surplus labour.

From the early interventions of primitive accumulation, through the expansion of capitalist relations under extensive accumulation, and onto the systems of intensive accumulation which reshaped wage labour relations and created huge regulatory machinery, there was constant recreation of the capitalist socio-economic order. Throughout out these systemic transformations, which invariably relied on the use of state power for their creation, there was the continual renewal of the field of general equivalence and the wage labour relation. The wage-earning class are increasingly homogenised as a tool of capital valorisation and regulated into dialectical relations of production. Any form of independence from the consumption paradigm and the wage labour relation are eliminated by the increasing stringency of regulative action by the classes of capital and the conduit of the state. Conceptions of time are homogenised around the concept of the wage. Time wages become the norm as agricultural work and the guilds are outmanoeuvred by large factory owners and the general classes of capital. When the factory system enlarges and internationalises, the division of labour is increased and entrenched and the autonomy of the wage labourer is quashed. During the periods of deindustrialisation, wage labour was implanted with new regulative relations in the form of debt and privatised Keynesianism, removing agency and ending the relation of wages to productivity. In these modern dynamics, the state intervenes both on behalf of capital, through subsidies which maintain monopoly and soak-up excess product, and on behalf of wage labour through things like the minimum wage and workplace regulation which limit the desire for radical change and maintain the antagonistic relations of capital and labour.

These are the fundamental relations of capitalism and its continual recreation and metamorphoses. The state plays a huge role in regulating, coordinating and systematising the mechanisms which reproduce capitalism. However such a conception does not define the theoretical definitions and interstitial realities of free, or freed, markets. Rather a distinction must be made between the regulative methods of existing capitalism in all its forms, and the definitions and realities of freed markets, which encompass a much higher level of social and economic interactions and relations.

The most obvious difference is the role and mechanisms of regulation within the freed market. Freed markets rely on a huge level of operationalised, nested forms of regulation which interact in polycentric ways with market actors and socio-economic relations. This can be as simple as attempting to maximise value through good relations with customers and other firms, giving a particular firm or entrepreneur the ability to maximise their subjective value preferences. Further from this, there is the ability for collective organisations (such as trade unions, consumer groups, etc.) to create levels of regulation which fit conceptions of particular rights, demands and necessities in their economies. Already, international social movements have created forms of social regulation through labelling movements and Fairtrade contracts[24].

Such regulatory mechanisms act as an alternative praxis to state regulation, which effectively subsidise externalities and favour largesse. As well as this, in the capital-labour dialectic the state fundamentally favours and acts on behalf of the classes of capital. As Manuel DeLanda would put it, under modern capitalism there exist anti-markets which emphasise monopoly power and extreme regulative control of all modes of production under the firm’s command via state bureaucracies. However, freed markets are the opposite, acting interstitially and relying on the bottlenecks of disaggregated information and imperfect market conditions. Under capitalist anti-markets, entrepreneurial spirits are nowhere near as important as the maintenance of regulated class relations between capital and labour. Things like competition, falling profits and an autonomy in work are a veneer on the general capitalist system. If such things were able to dynamically exist, capitalist social relations would be untenable. The antagonistic relations of capital and labour, regulated via the state, would be outcompeted by new forms of capital creation and access and the ability for wage labourers to operate in different socio-economic systems of action. In a truly freed market, rather than a system of general equivalence where all commodities’ value are measured relative to the wage labour relations’ ability to reproduce consumption patterns and capital valorisation, there would exist a plethora of value maximisation systems and subjective value preferences. A praxeological system where values and desires are met by heterogeneous forms of both capital and market systems. A freed market is not simply determined by economistic rationalism. Instead it is “only one denotation of praxeological understanding. It is based around seeing the market as a particular institution of economic praxis. But of course there exist other systems that may well sprout up in conditions of freedom and the unlocking of human desires and actions from the coercive state. This could include production for direct use, collective decentralised planning systems for public goods, primitivist economies, recommoning (as seen in Zomia and some of the right to repair movements) and economies of abundance, as are developing in filesharing and 3D printing. The market need not be “turned into an idol”, but rather understood and codified as a major area of human activity and value creation and maximisation. Markets and capital are heterogeneous due to their subjective valuation by individuals. In the same way one chooses between different products or services in a market, and leads oneself to different bargaining strategies and forms of price discovery, in a freed market one could and should have the ability to subjectively value and choose different economic governance structures and different forms of market and capital”[25].

And these are simply the theoretical possibilities. Where such freed market structures exist interstitially, there are decentralised systems of micro-firms and direct economy production, with high levels of competition and cooperation depending upon the socially-developed regulatory mechanisms. In the Shanzhai economy, black market production in micro-technologies and handheld-computer goods are produced through micro-manufacturers, with high levels of innovation in things like smartphones and tablets. In the Third Italy system, there are cooperative firms producing by order rather than relying on subsidised mass production. The Greek people, since the destruction wrought by the financial crisis, have begun to construct their own alternative economy through city-based cooperatives, local currencies and collective forms of consumption[26]. Finally, the Piqueteros of Argentina have constructed a gift-market hybrid economy where there is production for petty commodity exchange as well as production for direct use. Variable and intensive economies of scale, with significant independence from wage labour and autonomy for worker-entrepreneurs, are developed and honed in[27]. Something akin to Konkin’s entrepreneuriat is being developed in all of these examples. Nothing akin to a field of general equivalence is witnessed in these systems as value maximisation is not simply boiled down to an economistic relation of production and consumption.

Without the state, there is the ability to return to the relations developed from petty commodity production and common ownership of land and foodstuffs, as well as new advantages brought by the capitalist collectivisation of wage labour. Modern variants, like tool exchanges, capital formation alternatives and different conceptions of time which effect the dynamics of work and end the homogenisation of wage labour, can become existential realities. A distributist system of independent property holders, or a reinvigorated commons of unused capital are also possible. The realities of capitalism, those of regulated, enforced capital-labour relations, a huge imbalance between exchange and use value and a system of entry barriers and statist monopolies are simply the construction of one praxis among many alternatives, with the capitalist praxis being extremely fragile and far too homogeneous. The anti-markets of capital rely on state intervention, and the construction of complex regulatory apparatuses which need constant expansion and growth. Enforced scarcities and monopolies are the inevitability of such a system, with wage labour being the outlet for valorisation and consumption. In a world of declining resources, increasing abundance of information and technology, and new alternative praxes sprouting up, this system is neither viable nor desirable.

“Some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen’s guilds were abolished in the last [the eighteenth] century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition”[28]. Freed markets encompass such a range of opportunities for the freeing of the wage-earning classes from the tyranny of capitalism and the state. An independence in property holding, a range of spontaneously-ordered regulatory systems and an end to the antagonistic and fragile relations of capital and labour are entirely possible under a pluralistic system of socio-economic relations. A field of general equivalence cannot be constructed when the subjective, multitudinous desires of independent people and voluntary collectives are fully met in heterogeneous economic systems which meet demand, not through state subsidy and mass overproduction, but through variably scaled economies and principles of freedom, subsidiarity and pluralism.

[1] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 81

[2] Gillis, W. Debt: The Possibilities Ignored, 2014

[3] Gillis, W. Debt: The Possibilities Ignored, 2014

[4] Shaw, C. Money’s Perimeters of Freedom, 2016


[6] Weber, M. Economy and Society, 1978, 63


[8] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 40

[9] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 48

[10] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 49

[11] Bonefeld, W. The Permanence of Primitive Accumulation: Commodity Fetishism and Social Constitution, 2001, 3

[12] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 41

[13] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 19

[14] Bonefeld, W. The Permanence of Primitive Accumulation: Commodity Fetishism and Social Constitution, 2001, 11

[15] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures Part II, 2011

[16] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures Part II, 2011

[17] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures III, 2011

[18] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures III, 2011

[19] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures III, 2011

[20] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 73

[21] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 71

[22] Aglietta, M. A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience, 2015, 71

[23] Shaw, C. Redefining Money: The Praxis of Local Currencies, 2016

[24] Shaw, C. Creating the Seeds of Capitalism’s Death, 2016

[25] Shaw, C. Praxeology: The Importance of First Principles

[26] Shaw, C. Redefining Money: The Praxis of Local Currencies, 2016

[27] Shaw, C. Rethinking Markets: Anarchism, Capitalism and the State, 2016, 27-29

[28] Ferrara, C. The Austrian Version of the English Enclosures III, 2011

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