File spoon-archives/baudrillard.archive/baudrillard_1995/baudrillard.09-95, message 27

Date: Fri, 29 Sep 1995 23:33:05 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: cgb->dab: Capital

Once upon a time, Douglas wrote:

> Then, Baud loses me a bit: "Capital, in fact, was never linked by a 
> contract (literal?) to the society it dominates.  It is a sorcery of 
> social relations, it is a *challenge to society*, and it must be 
> responded to as such" (15).  Does this mean the rules are merely 
> *implied* and that the contract is not what dominates us, but we are the 
> ones which authored the contract by engaging in capitalism?

Seems to me that the whole paragraph preceding this answers your 
confusion a bit, D. The flaw in "leftist thought, from the theories of 
the Enlightenment up to Communism," is that we believed that capital(ism) 
was an object, which was subject to our control, rules, contracts, etc. 
(more on objects in a sec) We are/were seduced by capital, and 
rationalized that seduction in the form of elaborate rules like the 
social contract, which we then expect capital to play by.  For B, capital 
is playing a different game, and we (Marxists esp, perhaps) are cynically 
sticking to ours.  We're playing in the big leagues, and trying to call a 
"do-over"--"holding out the mirror of equivalence hoping that it will 

I think that it not that the contract dominates us, but rather that we've 
fooled ourselves, one way or another, into taking that set of rules (and 
a mighty utopian one it is) for the Law, and then cursing capital for 
failing to play fair.  Does that make Republicans right in more than one 
sense of the word? Blecch. I don't think so.  I think their (and this is 
a horrible overgeneralization) agenda is just as utopian--they 
misunderstand capital in the sense that they believe that capital will 
play fair if we stop interfering with it.  Liberals believe that 
interfering with it is the only way to get to play fair.  Baudrillard's 
answer to this is that capital isn't interested in either game, or in 
playing fair--it's not interested in "economic or moral rationality," 
heck, it's probably not interested, period.

More on objects, but more a question than an interpretation.  And this 
hails back to the beginning of the week, when Ben writes:

> pushing the object into the top of the
> subject/object hierarchy in an ironic move which (somehow - it's not
> entirely clear to me) disrupts the hierarchy.

I want to refer to this quote, and more generally to what Ben was saying 
about Baud's earlier work.  Although it sounds like I'm trying to 
rationalize not having read the early stuff, I just finished reading 
Kroker's The Possessed Individual (his hyperbole makes B sound like clarity 
personified), and his treatment of B's earlier stuff implies that B is 
either negating or flipping or [???] his earlier work.  As someone who 
hasn't read them, I'm not in a position to speak to this.  But if I read 
you right, Ben, you were suggesting that much of B's later work is 
hyperbolized versions of the earlier? If you could speak to that alittle 
more, I'd be grateful.

Object-wise (up to the quote), I had the same murky difficulty with the 
subject-object thing.  But what he doesn't say in Fatal, perhaps a rare 
omission since everything else gets plugged into this formula, is that 
perhaps he's speaking about more-object-than-object.  B's object is 
neither res cogitans nor res extenda--it's passed beyond the stage of 
extension, expansion, or explosion, yes? the confusion for me was that he 
seems not to bother explaining that he's using the term in a 
less-than-traditional sense.  (if I deserve a hammering, it's because I'm 
being very generous in my read here.  but it does follow, given the sheer 
volume of more-x-than-x comparisons going on in FS).  From SimSim, I'm 
looking at page 29, where he talks about abolishing active and passive, 
the last stage of the social (deterrence).  It's a world that is 
populated by objects which no longer rely on a subject for identity, pure 
objects.  I think. (oops. that's how descartes got started...:)

Collin Brooke
University of Texas at Arlington



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