domenica 10 aprile 2016

4.3. The xeno-dollar and money as an instrument of hegemonic power - Pt. XXIV - Excerpt from the essay «Money, Revolution and Acceleration in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus», Obsolete Capitalism Free Press/Rizosphere, 2016

The xeno-dollar and money
as an instrument of hegemonic power

At the beginning of the 70’s, the topic of money became a primary concern in the rhizosphere. Thanks to differential- money, namely the main instrument used by liberal democratic systems to assault, restructure and regularise national and international economic crises, the French Nietzschean revolutionary community wanted to build a new analytic grid that could overcome the ideological morass which still clutches a significant portion of the traditional Left as well as of the new antagonistic Left. Klossowski produced, as his farewell to publishing and writing, a brief text, dense and enigmatic, titled La Monnaie vivante (Living Currency, 1970), which presented his peers with more than one critical interrogative on the industrial and commercial world, and on money as an instrument and simulacrum of the vital agent soothing human impulses. In a handwritten letter sent in autumn 1970, Foucault greeted Klossowski’s volume as “the greatest book of our times”. That was the same period in which, at the beginning of 1971, Deleuze and Guattari attended Foucault’s lectures at the Collège, having just finished the in itinere draft of the Anti- Œdipe. The role of the “imperial” currency – the US dollar as hegemonic currency – within the Western economic system, as well as the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rates regime, were at the centre of the tense international political debate. In December 1969 inflation in the United States reached 6%. Nixon, as soon as he was elected president, was struck by the prediction made by his own staff that the dollar had to be rescued in maximum two years. The world was jammed by xeno-dollars and the US reserves could not compensate anymore the increase in the global amount of dollars with the corresponding amount of gold as contemplated in the agreement. In a few months, in 1971, violence in the Vietnam war reached its peak, and so did military expenses and the related budget deficit. The United States had entered a
recession in 1970 and unemployment was at 6% and growing. The issues presented by domestic economic circumstances were unprecedented: inflation was high in a phase of recession, as opposed to the usual combination of recession and deflation, as it had previously happened during the Great Depression in 1929. The situation was out of hand. There was no empirically tested academic theory which corresponded to such an economic situation; there was no plan. Any technical decision could equally mean the salvation of global commercial leadership or its collapse, precisely at a time when the international Communist movement was challenging Anglo-Saxon industrial capitalism the most. The sudden breakdown of the Bretton Woods system could cause a rapid downfall of the hegemony of American power, the winner of World War II. Power can switch sign. Nixon’s staff was divided between monetarists, namely the rising star Friedman and the Chicago School, and orthodox mainstream economists, such as Burns and the Federal Reserve. Friedman and those favouring the free floating of exchange rates unpegged from the gold standard prevailed. Timing was crucial. In May 1971 West Germany left the Bretton Woods system, instituted in 1944 on the ashes of the Axis Powers, letting the German Mark free to float. The situation deteriorated and Nixon’s economic staff had to hurry: it was time to take actions because the element of surprise and the promptness of intervention were crucial. In August 1971, Nixon suddenly announced to the nation and to the whole world that the US dollar was not convertible in gold anymore, leaving the American currency free to float too. After about 3,000 years from its invention, money lost its tie to an objective and concrete value. It was the first time in Western history, without considering the periods of war and brief experiments, always ended in failure: money completed its final transformation, to which it was probably destined ever since its invention, becoming a pure simulacrum of value in all its forms, from the round- shaped metal piece to banknotes. The question that economists asked themselves are several: Will the “orphan money” be able to stand only based on its face value? Will the hegemonic currency, i.e. the dollar, be able to walk on an “empty space”? Has money grown enough to demonstrate its maturity? The monetary de-aurification is the temporary situation in which we are still today: a mixture of sovereign, post- sovereign, xeno- and headless currencies that float freely without any fixed exchange rate, victims of speculations and market imbalances. However, the monetary coordinates within which Foucault develops his analysis are not simply related to the contingency of events, but rather to the study of forces and their effects on the domain of sovereign formations associated to the research and analyses conducted within the Rhizosphere. The concept of money considered by Foucault in the lectures that he gave between 10 February
and 10 March 1971 is, surprisingly for most people but not for the Rhizomatics, the Ancient Greek currency employed between the seventh and fifth century B.C.; that is the historical, social, economic and institutional period when money, conceived as Greek measurement, eventually becomes the core of an “immense social and polymorphous practice of assessment, quantification, establishing equivalences, and the search for appropriate proportions and distributions” (LWK, 134). According to Foucault, this analysis should approach the hypothesis according to which money constitutes a political instrument used to create and preserve new balances during profound social transformations: thus, money does not preserve relations of sovereignty but relations of dominance. It is fascinating how Foucault introduces the concept of money towards the end of the lecture he gave on 17 February 1971, as redistribution of relations between the discourse of justice and the discourse of knowledge, and of the relations between the just, measurement, order and truth: “The institution of money, which is not just a measure of exchange, but which was established mainly as an instrument of distribution, division, and social correction” (LWK, 129). 


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