Capital as Power
A Study of Order and Creorder
Routledge – 2009 – 464 pages
Conventional theories of capitalism are mired in a deep crisis: after centuries of debate, they are still unable to tell us what capital is. Liberals and Marxists both think of capital as an ‘economic’ entity that they count in universal units of ‘utils’ or ‘abstract labour’, respectively. But these units are totally fictitious. Nobody has ever been able to observe or measure them, and for a good reason: they don’t exist. Since liberalism and Marxism depend on these non-existing units, their theories hang in suspension. They cannot explain the process that matters most – the accumulation of capital.
This book offers a radical alternative. According to the authors, capital is not a narrow economic entity, but a symbolic quantification of power. It has little to do with utility or abstract labour, and it extends far beyond machines and production lines. Capital, the authors claim, represents the organized power of dominant capital groups to reshape – or creorder – their society.
Written in simple language, accessible to lay readers and experts alike, the book develops a novel political economy. It takes the reader through the history, assumptions and limitations of mainstream economics and its associated theories of politics. It examines the evolution of Marxist thinking on accumulation and the state. And it articulates an innovative theory of ‘capital as power’ and a new history of the ‘capitalist mode of power’.
"In Capital as Power Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler address one of the oldest theoretical conundrums in the discipline of political economy -- the theory of capital -- with a view to supplying a more satisfactory answer to the question 'what is capital?' While the work clearly fits into the tradition of radical political economy it is not easy to place it in any one school, and this for very good reason: Nitzan and Bichler are trying to create a new approach to political economy." - Brennan, Jordan. 2009. Review of "Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder." Canadian Journal of Political Science 42 (4, December): 1057-1058
"Capitalism is the 'natural reality' of the day: we live in and with its beauty and perplexities. As of now, we seem to be helpless before its gigantic leap forward and submit ourselves to its power. The rules by which we abide, the morals we keep and the very life we love to cherish all sprout up, engage, adjust, fight in and with the different manifestations of capitalism, and owe much debt to its intricate legacies. But do we know what capitalism really is? And how do we know that what we know of capitalism is accurate? This book brilliantly examines and rigorously analyses these very old questions of political economy and the theoretical attempts to define capitalism in its political, social and philosophical sense, situating them in the classical political economy of the 18th and 19th centuries." - Vineeth Mathoor, Review of Nitzan and Bichler's "Capital as Power" By Capital & Class, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 2 (June), pp. 337-340.
1. Why Write a Book About Capital? Part 1: Dilemmas of Political Economy 2. The Dual Worlds 3. Power 4. Deflections of Power Part 2: The Enigma of Capital 5. Neoclassical Parables 6. The Marxist Entanglement I: Values and Prices 7. The Marxist Entanglement II: Who is Productive, Who is Not? 8. Accumulation of What? Part 3: Capitalization 9. Capitalization: A Brief Anthropology 10. Capitalization: Fiction, Mirror or Distortion? 11. Capitalization: Elementary Particles Part 4: Bringing Power Back In 12. Accumulation and Sabotage 13. The Capitalist Mode of Power Part 5: Accumulation of Power 14. Differential Accumulation and Dominant Capital 15. Breadth 16. Depth 17. Differential Accumulation: Past and Future
Jonathan Nitzan teaches political economy at York University in Toronto.
Shimshon Bichler teaches political economy at colleges and universities in Israel.