Desocupados De Antonio Berni Analysis Essay

Ranging from the charming to the absurd, the work of Antonio Berni has been ubiquitous in Argentina since the 1930s, when he was a young artist advocating for political change. Little-known in the United States today, his works are a staple in many of Argentina’s major institutions, forming the core of permanent collections like the Latin American Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA) and the National Museum of Fine Arts. With an oeuvre that spans several decades of the twentieth century (Berni was prolific until his death in 1981), the diversity of his styles is astounding. While visiting Buenos Aires recently, I encountered small Chirico-style surrealist panels, expressive mural-sized scenes similar to those of Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, and—most curiously—an enormous papier-mâché sculpture of an alligator-monster with a woman’s legs emerging from its mouth.  

Antonio Berni | La pesadilla de Ramona (The nightmare of Ramona), 1964, Mixed media, approx. 3 x 2 x 10 feet, MALBA, Buenos Aires.

Antonio Berni | La sordidez (Sordidness, from the series Cosmic Monsters), c. 1964, wood, steel, iron, aluminum, cardboard, plastic, roots, nails, and enamel, approx. 4 x 4 x 13 feet, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The distinct phases that mark the progression of Berni’s artistic career were greatly influenced by the artist’s travels, and by the political and social climate of his home country. Berni studied art in Europe during the 1920s, most notably with the French artist André Lhote, and found the Argentina he returned to in 1931 a dramatically changed place. In 1930, Argentina’s president had been ousted in a military coup. This inaugurated a period known as the Infamous Decade, an era marked by economic depression and widespread unemployment. Berni was among a group of artists that agitated for political change, helping to form unions and produce art with revolutionary content.

Antonio Berni | Manifestación (Public Demonstration), 1934, tempera on burlap, approx. 6 x 10 feet, MALBA, Buenos Aires.

It was at this time that the Mexican muralist Siqueiros visited Buenos Aires. Berni famously challenged the icon’s methods and theories, declaring his work ineffective in the Argentine context, and advocated instead for art that did not depend on commissions from the government and the elite classes. However, while Berni publicly went toe-to-toe with the famous muralist, questioning his ideas for the best revolutionary art, aesthetically their work was very similar. This can be seen in Berni’s 1934 painting, Unemployment, particularly in its large scale, narrative qualities, and realistic rendering of his figures. These elements became markers of Social Realism, a style that Berni was one of the primary practitioners of in the Southern Cone. 

Antonio Berni | Desocupados (Unemployment), 1934, tempera on burlap, approx. 7 x 10 feet.

The 1940s saw a series of coups and dramatic shifts in Argentina’s government, the effects of which reverberated throughout the following decades. Berni, who had spent time living and working in other parts of the country, returned to Buenos Aires in the mid-1950s. In response to the depressed living conditions he had seen and experienced all over, he invented two fictitious characters whose lives personified the struggles of countless Argentines. The first was Juanito Laguna, a boy originally from a rural farm, displaced to the outskirts of the city and struggling to survive in the shantytowns with his family. The second was named Ramona Montiel, a working-class girl who discovered that prostitution was more lucrative than the dismal salary she earned as a seamstress, and opted for the former, despite its hazards and the social ostracism it engendered.

Antonio Berni | La gran ilusión
(The Grand Illusion), 1962, mixed media, approx. 8 x 8 feet, MALBA, Buenos Aires.

Both Juanito and Ramona became integral to Berni’s art, their imagined stories exemplary of the realities experienced by many. Berni’s practice also shifted with the development of the personas, as he began building works through assemblage, and using materials collected from the shantytowns that were also the backdrops to his imagined scenes. In Juanito Dormido for example, Berni created a three-dimensional landscape for his character using a collage technique. He flattened aluminum cans and nailed them onto the work’s surface, attached a toy plane to Juanito’s hand, and outfitted the figure in real clothing and shoes. The method is indicative of Berni’s experimental nature as an artist, and is also based on techniques he had developed decades before, as he was known for collecting photographs and newspaper imagery to use as studies for his paintings.

Antonio Berni | Juanito Dormido, 1978, mixed media, approx. 5 x 4 feet, MALBA, Buenos Aires.

In the 1960s, Berni also created a series of monsters, assembled with discarded machine parts and industrial wares. Resembling post-apocalyptic creations one might see in a Tim Burton film, the creatures menace and consume the figures of Ramona and Juanito, or sometimes threaten the viewer themselves. In this way, they allegorized the increasingly global economic policies of the Argentine state, and their move towards industrialization, the effects of which continued to displace rural communities. These strange and dystopian works, while a notable departure from his earlier paintings, are indicative of Berni’s commitment to an accessible and narrative style of art-making, and his unceasing engagement with working-class communities. His work also fostered a movement of political engagement among artists in Argentina, a legacy that is very much alive in the practices of many artists working there today.

Antonio Berni | El pájaro amenazador (The Threatening Bird), 1965, approx. 6 ½ x 3 x 6 feet, MALBA, Buenos Aires


Several works from the later years of Berni’s career are being exhibited in the US for the first time in nearly 50 years, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The exhibition, Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona, will be on view until January 26th, 2014.

Nadiah Fellah is a doctoral student of Art History at the The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York. 

…sur­plus cap­i­tal along­side sur­plus pop­u­la­tion […über­flüs­siges Kap­i­tal neben über­flüs­siger Bevölkerung].1       

– Marx

When faced with the dis­clo­sure of the intrin­sic inter­con­nec­tion [of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem], the vul­gar economist…prides him­self in his cling­ing to appear­ances and believ­ing them to be eter­nal. Why then have sci­ence at all? But there is also some­thing else behind it. Once the inter­con­nec­tion has been revealed, all the­o­ret­i­cal belief in the per­pet­u­al neces­si­ty of the exist­ing con­di­tions col­laps­es, even before the col­lapse takes place in prac­tice.2

– Marx 

It is pos­si­ble to say metaphor­i­cal­ly that cri­sis man­i­fests the cir­cle in which the whole mode of pro­duc­tion moves with an immo­bile move­ment.3

                                             – E. Bal­ibar

The Specificity of Crisis Theory

Uno Kōzō’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis4 was first pub­lished in 1953, a com­plex moment not only in Japan, just a year after the end of the U.S. Occu­pa­tion, but also in the com­mu­nist world with the death of Stal­in, an event that ush­ered in a new era to the Sovi­et Union, and which inau­gu­rat­ed a peri­od of crises and upheavals in the world social­ist move­ment, soon to expe­ri­ence not only the rev­e­la­tions of the 20th Con­gress of the CPSU, but also the events of Hun­gary in 1956, the Sino-Sovi­et split, the “Ban­dung era,” the move­ments of decol­o­niza­tion and nation­al lib­er­a­tion. This peri­od, there­fore, would equal­ly mark a turn­ing point in the glob­al his­to­ry of Marx­ist the­o­ry, pre­vi­ous­ly fixed to the long after­math of 1917, the expe­ri­ence of World War II, and the ini­tial orga­ni­za­tion­al and polit­i­cal cul­ture of the social­ist move­ment. The piv­otal moment of the 1950s, there­fore, saw exten­sive new devel­op­ments in Marx­ist thought that par­al­leled and rein­ves­ti­gat­ed the prob­lems of the cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my in the post­war peri­od with­in this intense caul­dron of pol­i­tics inter­nal to the world social­ist move­ment itself: the prob­lem of monop­oly and the con­cen­tra­tion of cap­i­tal, the ques­tions of world cap­i­tal­ism, impe­ri­al­ism, and uneven devel­op­ment, the prob­lem of cri­sis and the par­tic­u­lar rela­tion of pol­i­tics to the log­ic of cri­sis with­in Marx’s cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my.

In the midst of this com­plex moment emerged Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis. From the out­set, this text was sit­u­at­ed not only in the midst of the afore­men­tioned glob­al sit­u­a­tion, but also at an impor­tant moment in the devel­op­ment of Uno’s work itself. The­o­ry of Cri­sis was also released almost exact­ly one year after he had com­plet­ed his most influ­en­tial and major the­o­ret­i­cal work, his two-vol­ume the­o­ry of the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, Keizai gen­ron, the first vol­ume of which was pub­lished in 1950, and the sec­ond in 1952.5 But two moments inter­vene in this peri­odiza­tion. First of all, already in the pre­war peri­od, in 1935, Uno had under­tak­en an exten­sive analy­sis of the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of cri­sis, result­ing in his essay “Shi­hon­sei shakai ni okeru kyōkō no hit­suzen­sei” [The Neces­si­ty of Cri­sis in Cap­i­tal­ist Soci­ety], pub­lished in Kaizō [Recon­struc­tion], one of the major jour­nals of Marx­ist the­o­ret­i­cal inquiry of the time. Over the near­ly 20 years since the pub­li­ca­tion of this ear­ly essay, Uno’s work had tak­en up all the major the­mat­ics of Marx­ist the­o­ry and polit­i­cal econ­o­my: the method­olog­i­cal dis­cus­sions of the “order of expo­si­tion,” eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy and the devel­op­ment of world cap­i­tal­ism, the analy­sis of the agrar­i­an ques­tion and the prob­lem of the tran­si­tion, the con­cept of the val­ue-form and the accom­pa­ny­ing analy­ses spe­cif­ic to val­ue the­o­ry, not to men­tion numer­ous top­ics in the analy­sis and exe­ge­sis of Marx’s work as a whole.

But between the pub­li­ca­tion of the first vol­ume of Keizai gen­ron in 1950, and the sec­ond vol­ume in 1952, Uno began to revis­it the the­o­ry of cri­sis and its cen­tral­i­ty for Marx­ist the­o­ry and polit­i­cal econ­o­my. Begin­ning with a series of lec­tures to the Tokyo Uni­ver­si­ty eco­nom­ics depart­ment in 1951, Uno began to under­take some­thing quite dif­fer­ent from his ear­ly work on cri­sis the­o­ry – which, while impor­tant, remains to a large extent a prepara­to­ry exeget­i­cal read­ing of the place of cri­sis the­o­ry in Marx – begin­ning to devel­op and for­mal­ize his orig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tion to the Marx­i­an analy­sis of the phe­nom­e­non of cri­sis around a series of points on which he con­tin­ued to expand in a num­ber of writ­ings that fol­lowed the appear­ance of The­o­ry of Cri­sis in 1953. It is nec­es­sary here to point out, there­fore, two spe­cif­ic points on which Uno’s analy­sis came to be locat­ed.

First,  Uno’s work on cri­sis express­es a gen­er­al prob­lem in Marx­ist the­o­ry: how to explain cri­sis both as a neces­si­ty, in oth­er words, as some­thing cycli­cal, and also as a con­tin­gency, some­thing that joins the ques­tion of cri­sis to polit­i­cal arrange­ments, ide­o­log­i­cal fac­tors, and oth­er seem­ing­ly “irra­tional” ele­ments that appear on the lev­el of his­tor­i­cal crises?8 Sec­ond­ly, Uno attempts to for­mal­ize and con­cretize the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of cri­sis, which, since its incep­tion, has been divid­ed large­ly between two sep­a­rate expla­na­tions of the for­ma­tion of crises: an excess com­mod­i­ty the­o­ry of cri­sis (so-called “under­con­sump­tion” or “over­pro­duc­tion”) and an excess cap­i­tal the­o­ry of cri­sis.9 The for­mer, tak­en in its broad­est sense, empha­sizes that crises stem from the dis­pro­por­tion of pro­duc­tion in var­i­ous branch­es of the econ­o­my and the accom­pa­ny­ing restrict­ed con­sump­tion of the mass­es. The lat­ter, on the oth­er hand empha­sizes that cri­sis erupts through the “absolute over­pro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal in a ratio to the labour­ing pop­u­la­tion,” and that this leads to reg­u­lar peri­od­ic and cycli­cal crises. As Mako­to Itoh, among oth­ers, has point­ed out, the essence of the dif­fer­ence between these two broad posi­tions, which are both rep­re­sent­ed in Marx’s work, par­tic­u­lar­ly in vol­ume 3 of Cap­i­tal, con­cerns their order of pri­or­i­ty, or log­i­cal posi­tion with­in the struc­ture of Cap­i­tal as a text. Essen­tial­ly, the excess cap­i­tal the­o­ry of cri­sis asserts that “excess com­modi­ties in the mar­ket and dif­fi­cul­ties of the real­iza­tion of sur­plus val­ue” are not the cause of cri­sis, but the result of cycli­cal crises caused by the excess accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal. In the excess com­mod­i­ty the­o­ry, this posi­tion­ing of cause and result is reversed, an argu­ment that sees excess cap­i­tal and a falling prof­it rate as effects of the deep­er cri­sis of the over­pro­duc­tion of com­modi­ties beyond the demand for their con­sump­tion.10

With the back­ground of Marx’s incom­plete and par­tial cri­sis the­o­ry as his guide, Uno attempt­ed to com­plete the sys­tem­ati­za­tion of a ver­sion of the excess cap­i­tal the­o­ry of cri­sis, focus­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly on the posi­tion of the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty. The excess com­mod­i­ty the­o­ry of cri­sis, in which the prob­lem is dealt with only at the lev­el of the sphere of cir­cu­la­tion (and which there­fore assumes that cri­sis could be ame­lio­rat­ed by state pol­i­cy or by mon­e­tary plan­ning), in essence can only explain cri­sis as an unex­pect­ed, “sud­den,” or excep­tion­al phe­nom­e­non, but can­not explain why cri­sis should be nec­es­sar­i­ly repeat­ed and peri­od­ic. In con­trast to such an expla­na­tion, Uno specif­i­cal­ly attempt­ed to devel­op the unfin­ished con­nec­tions in Marx’s the­o­ry of cri­sis between the excess cap­i­tal the­o­ry and the inabil­i­ty of cap­i­tal itself to pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty by means of cap­i­tal. By attempt­ing to for­mal­ize this link­age, Uno the­o­ret­i­cal­ly empha­sizes the cause and foun­da­tion of cri­sis as inter­nal to the cap­i­tal-rela­tion itself, a point that we should under­stand not only the­o­ret­i­cal­ly but also polit­i­cal­ly.11

The Actuality of Uno’s Crisis Theory

After the out­break of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis and its ongo­ing rever­ber­a­tions, we believe that Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis offers a pow­er­ful and impor­tant cri­tique of exist­ing inter­pre­ta­tions of the cause of cri­sis, point­ing us toward pos­si­ble polit­i­cal respons­es to the imme­di­ate con­junc­ture. For exam­ple, one of the most com­mon and pre­vail­ing ide­o­log­i­cal for­mu­las behind the typ­i­cal under­stand­ing of the 2008 cri­sis is that the world of finance is com­plete­ly autonomous from the “real econ­o­my” of man­u­fac­tur­ing and indus­try, that Wall Street and its 1% has become com­plete­ly sev­ered from “Main Street” and its 99% of work­ing-class and mid­dle-class pop­u­la­tions.

This way of think­ing has led to a gen­er­al con­cep­tion of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, wide­ly shared in a vari­ety of polit­i­cal spaces, in which Main Street is believed to func­tion in a healthy state so long as irra­tional finan­cial spec­u­la­tion is curbed on Wall Street. This man­ner of under­stand­ing the phe­nom­e­non of cri­sis thus ineluctably ban­ish­es from thought the notion that Main Street can actu­al­ly only thrive pre­cise­ly through exu­ber­ant finan­cial spec­u­la­tion on Wall Street, and that it is the fusion and not the sep­a­ra­tion of finance and the so-called “real econ­o­my” that con­tains the hid­den cause of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis. As Slavoj Žižek points out, it is around this ban­ish­ment from thought, this con­cep­tu­al fore­clo­sure, that the pop­ulist fac­tions on both the right and left con­verge in shared crit­i­cisms of state bail-outs; the pop­ulist left says that bail-outs mere­ly pro­tect the banks while the sac­ri­fic­ing the mass­es, while the pop­ulist right sees the bank­ing bail-out as an unfor­giv­able form of state inter­ven­tion and “social­ism” that goes against the log­ic of free com­pe­ti­tion, pre­vent­ing “the mar­ket” from return­ing to its sup­pos­ed­ly “nat­ur­al” sta­bil­i­ty.12

In con­trast to these super­fi­cial con­cep­tions of cri­sis that have attained a cer­tain sta­tus as “com­mon-sense” in recent years, Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis pro­vides a sys­tem­at­ic and tren­chant cri­tique of the cur­rent ide­ol­o­gy of the sep­a­ra­tion of finance from pro­duc­tion. This ide­ol­o­gy, in fact, has epis­temic roots that extend back to the very ori­gins of mod­ern polit­i­cal econ­o­my itself. It was the clas­si­cal polit­i­cal econ­o­mists such as Smith and Ricar­do who stan­dard­ized the the­o­riza­tion of the phe­nom­e­na of cri­sis mere­ly as a phe­nom­e­non of com­mod­i­ty cir­cu­la­tion, where defaults on pay­ments on com­modi­ties based on unre­al­iz­able prices stem­ming from spec­u­la­tion broke up the repro­duc­tive process of cap­i­tal, send­ing every­one into a mad dash for liq­uid­i­ty. The cause of cri­sis was thus explained away as a prob­lem of com­modi­ties not being sold even though they were pro­duced, which led the clas­si­cal polit­i­cal econ­o­mists to assert that the cause of cri­sis was ulti­mate­ly found in the sep­a­ra­tion of buy­ing and sell­ing. In this way they unwit­ting­ly repro­duced a way of think­ing of cri­sis that was clos­er to the real­i­ty of an ear­li­er his­tor­i­cal era of mer­can­til­ism.

What they failed to explain the­o­ret­i­cal­ly was how the very pos­si­bil­i­ty of grasp­ing, in thought, the exis­tence of com­modi­ties as prod­ucts of labor was itself based on an inces­sant over­com­ing of a spe­cif­ic social and his­tor­i­cal restric­tion placed upon cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion meth­ods, name­ly that for cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion to exist at all, cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion must con­sume as a com­mod­i­ty some­thing that cap­i­tal can­not pro­duce as a com­mod­i­ty direct­ly: the pecu­liar com­mod­i­ty of labor-pow­er.

The ide­o­log­i­cal ruse of the clas­si­cal polit­i­cal econ­o­mists was that, while this social restric­tion on cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion was espe­cial­ly clear, for exam­ple, dur­ing phas­es of eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty, when indus­try widened its scale of pro­duc­tion and thus need­ed to absorb more and more work­ers, it was equal­ly clear that indus­try could not assume that work­ers would nec­es­sar­i­ly “be there” for cap­i­tal in the right num­bers, since work­ers are not mov­able in the same way that, say, machin­ery as com­modi­ties are. They nonethe­less dis­avowed this fun­da­men­tal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion by the­o­ret­i­cal­ly treat­ing labor-pow­er mere­ly as a com­mod­i­ty that was a prod­uct of labor.

This was not sim­ply a dia­bol­i­cal plan on their part; rather, it was a the­o­ret­i­cal blind­ness, because all they could see were the imme­di­ate phe­nom­e­nal forms of the com­mod­i­ty and mon­ey. Because labor-pow­er could be bought and sold just like any oth­er com­mod­i­ty, with a use-val­ue and an exchange val­ue, they the­o­ret­i­cal­ly under­stood labor-pow­er in pre­cise­ly the same man­ner, as a com­mod­i­ty that was a prod­uct of labor. What the hith­er­to-exist­ing polit­i­cal econ­o­my failed to take into account was the specif­i­cal­ly cap­i­tal­ist nature of labor. Unlike a slave econ­o­my, in which the worker’s body itself is sold as a com­mod­i­ty, the for­ma­tion of the “dou­bly-free wage labor” – free to sell its work to the high­est bid­der, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly free or avail­able for exploita­tion – at the advent of the cap­i­tal­ist era con­notes a sit­u­a­tion in which what is sold as a com­mod­i­ty is the capac­i­ty, poten­tial, or force to work with­in def­i­nite lim­its and for a def­i­nite peri­od.13

And unlike var­i­ous pre-cap­i­tal­ist forms of labor, in which the com­pul­sion to work is gen­er­at­ed by means of cer­tain forms of “extra-eco­nom­ic coer­cion” (direct­ly feu­dal land­ed prop­er­ty-rela­tions, seigneur­ial sys­tems of ground rent in kind, direct rela­tions of force and vio­lence to com­pel serf labor), the for­ma­tion of labor-pow­er is only pos­si­ble when what is com­mod­i­fied – that is, cir­cu­lat­ed as a com­mod­i­ty – is not labor in gen­er­al but the spe­cif­ic capac­i­ty to work “piece­meal” or “for a deter­mi­nate peri­od.”14 This dif­fer­ence fur­nish­es us with the essen­tial prob­lem of the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty, a com­mod­i­ty that is bought and sold in the labor mar­ket, but that can nev­er be locat­ed in a sta­ble pres­ence. It is on this point that Uno’s inter­ven­tion into the excess cap­i­tal the­o­ry of cri­sis finds its basis, a point close­ly linked to what Marx called “the deep­est and most hid­den cause of cri­sis,” that is, the cause of its neces­si­ty.15

“The Deepest and Most Hidden Cause of Crises”

For Marx, this over­sight of the bour­geois econ­o­mists was not some­thing neu­tral, some­thing sim­ply to do with diver­gent modes of the­o­ret­i­cal inquiry. Rather, this over­sight con­cerns some­thing direct­ly polit­i­cal: in order to avoid the prob­lems posed for the the­o­ry of cri­sis by the form of the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty, bour­geois polit­i­cal econ­o­my also had to dis­avow the real­i­ty of class strug­gle endem­ic to cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, con­cen­trat­ed in the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. Althuss­er once point­ed out that the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of this lack of “vision” or “sight” is the key to the “read­ing pro­to­cols” Marx uti­lizes to explode the pre­sump­tions of bour­geois polit­i­cal econ­o­my. As Althuss­er argued, how­ev­er, the prob­lem is not that bour­geois polit­i­cal econ­o­my con­tained an “over­sight” where­as Marx empha­sized a “sight,” a “pres­ence” of a cer­tain prob­lem in con­trast to its “absence.” Rather, the point is that bour­geois polit­i­cal economy’s sight itself, its entire mode of vision, was pred­i­cat­ed on a set of for­mu­la­tions that pre­vent or restrain the fig­ure of labor-pow­er from com­ing to the sur­face: bour­geois polit­i­cal econ­o­my is struc­tured through a “vision” that is itself already iden­ti­cal with a cer­tain “non-vision,” a con­sti­tu­tive inabil­i­ty to rec­og­nize the prob­lem as a prob­lem.16

What this means, essen­tial­ly, is that because the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty must be assumed to be giv­en and present, but can­not be pro­duced direct­ly by cap­i­tal, the entire­ty of the his­to­ry of strug­gles over land enclo­sures, the fac­to­ry sys­tem, the life-and-death strug­gles of the work­ers “thrown onto the mar­ket” by the decom­po­si­tion of the pre­vi­ous social rela­tions, and so forth is involved in this process of trans­form­ing into a com­mod­i­ty that which cap­i­tal must con­sume absolute­ly in order for cap­i­tal to be “itself” despite capital’s fun­da­men­tal inabil­i­ty to pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty direct­ly.

It is sig­nif­i­cant that Uno often insist­ed on speak­ing of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion (shōhin­ka) of labor-pow­er, rather than sim­ply treat­ing it as an already-pre­sup­posed com­mod­i­ty – this active sense, or sense of process, is impor­tant, pre­cise­ly because what the bour­geois econ­o­mists ignored at the out­set of the cap­i­tal­ist era was the ongo­ing process of vio­lence, cap­ture, and dis­ci­pline cov­ered over or hid­den by the prod­uct of labor. Marx in fact tore open this con­cealed rela­tion pre­cise­ly by empha­siz­ing that the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty remains always in a state of flux and pre­car­i­ous­ness that symp­to­mati­cal­ly reveals the nec­es­sar­i­ly con­tin­gent process of becom­ing or not becom­ing-com­mod­i­ty, a process, more­over, that can only be man­aged by ide­o­log­i­cal state appa­ra­tus­es and social insti­tu­tions of the sort Fou­cault dis­cussed in his lec­tures on biopol­i­tics.17

More broad­ly, how­ev­er, Marx argued that this his­tor­i­cal and social restric­tion endem­ic to cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion – that cap­i­tal must con­sume labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty but can­not pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty direct­ly – rep­re­sents noth­ing short of what he called the “deep­est and most hid­den cause of cri­sis.” Marx writes:

The fact that bour­geois pro­duc­tion is com­pelled by its own imma­nent laws, on the one hand, to devel­op the pro­duc­tive forces as if pro­duc­tion did not take place on a nar­row restrict­ed social foun­da­tion (auf ein­er bornirten gesellschaftlichen Grund­lage), while, on the oth­er hand, it can devel­op these forces only with­in these nar­row bound­aries (den Schranken dieser Bornirtheit), is the deep­est and most hid­den cause of crises (der inner­ste und geheim­ste Grund der Crisen), of the cry­ing con­tra­dic­tions with­in which bour­geois pro­duc­tion is car­ried on and which, even at a cur­so­ry glance, reveal it as only a tran­si­tion­al, his­tor­i­cal form (his­torische Ueber­gangs­form).18

Here we should note some­thing cru­cial: the homol­o­gy between the nar­row social “foun­da­tion” [Grund­lage] on which pro­duc­tion rests and the “secret” or “hid­den” “cause” or “ground” [Grund] of cri­sis. The basic restric­tion that pro­duc­tion faces is con­tained in the fact that labor-pow­er must be indi­rect­ly pro­duced in order to over­come its inher­ent­ly lim­it­ed nature, and this indi­rect pro­duc­tion must be effect­ed through all sorts of “nar­row” social bases: the nation, race, gen­der, phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es of bod­ies, lan­guage, ide­ol­o­gy, the his­tor­i­cal restric­tions of con­sump­tion for sub­sis­tence, and so forth. This Grund­lage, on which labor-pow­er must be dealt with (because it is restrict­ed to the phys­i­cal cor­po­re­al­i­ty and fini­tude of the work­er), exists in a con­stant inter­change with the cause or Grund of cri­sis, the spasms and seizures that cap­i­tal must endure when it becomes a bar­ri­er to itself.

The major con­tri­bu­tion of Uno’s the­o­ry of cri­sis, it seems to us, is how he focus­es our think­ing of this “deep­est and most hid­den” cause or ground of cri­sis iden­ti­fied by Marx in the process of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er, while elab­o­rat­ing upon the way this deep cause becomes con­cealed by eco­nom­ic phe­nom­e­na pro­duced from with­in the unfold­ing of the accu­mu­la­tion process. Uno there­fore iden­ti­fied pre­cise­ly how the “nar­row­ness” (Bornirtheit) of capital’s own “bound­aries” or “bar­ri­ers” (Schranken) stem from “lim­its” (Gren­zen) thrown up by cap­i­tal itself, a reflex­ive rela­tion back upon its own foun­da­tions that always returns to the “onto­log­i­cal defect” of the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty.19

In a the­o­ret­i­cal tour de force, Uno demon­strates this con­ceal­ment in his analy­sis of the accu­mu­la­tion process, and what he calls “the direct cause of cri­sis” found there­in. The direct cause of cri­sis is specif­i­cal­ly iden­ti­fied in the accu­mu­la­tion phase of eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty, when pro­duc­tion process­es “widen” based on gen­er­ous exten­sions of cred­it and the estab­lish­ment of low inter­est rates, which allow cap­i­tal­ists to keep pro­duc­tion going with­out fear of sell­ing their prod­ucts of labor to final con­sumers. With widened pro­duc­tion, prices of raw mate­ri­als become inflat­ed while larg­er and larg­er num­bers of work­ers are absorbed in pro­duc­tion, the lat­ter of which rais­es wage lev­els and con­se­quent­ly pulls down prof­it rates.

The ten­den­cy of prof­it rates to fall as a result of ris­ing wages, how­ev­er, is itself con­cealed by exu­ber­ant spec­u­la­tions by com­mer­cial cred­i­tors on the prices of increas­ing­ly over­stocked com­modi­ties that con­tin­ue to be pro­duced with­out con­cern for final sales, itself made pos­si­ble due to the avail­abil­i­ty of cred­it to man­u­fac­tur­ing. With cred­it medi­at­ing finance and indus­try, the con­di­tions for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of cri­sis in the sep­a­ra­tion of buy­ing and sell­ing now appear across indus­tries, pre­cise­ly at the moment when the fore­cast­ed and spec­u­lat­ed upon prices of these com­modi­ties become impos­si­ble to real­ize, lead­ing to the phe­nom­e­non of excess cap­i­tal in the form of unsold com­modi­ties, which in turn leads to defaults on pay­ments and pan­ic among banks and cred­i­tors, who scram­ble for hard cash and cut back on lines of cred­it while increas­ing inter­est rates as a last ditch attempt to com­pen­sate for ram­pant default­ing of pay­ments. Ris­ing inter­est rates then col­lide with falling prof­it rates, result­ing in the inabil­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ists to rein­vest in pro­duc­tion and main­tain pro­duc­tion on the same scale. The social repro­duc­tion process is inter­rupt­ed and pro­duc­tion grinds to a halt. The result­ing phe­nom­e­non of excess cap­i­tal in the form of excess means of pro­duc­tion and means of con­sump­tion now exists along­side a grow­ing mass of unem­ployed work­ers, a point that con­nects us to the cru­cial ques­tion of pop­u­la­tion.

Thesep­a­ra­tion between excess cap­i­tal and a grow­ing sur­plus pop­u­la­tion thus becomes the volatile ground upon which the his­tor­i­cal ori­gins of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion are repeat­ed in a new phase of pros­per­i­ty with the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. The pos­si­bil­i­ty for the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er is secured, how­ev­er, only on the basis of the for­ma­tion of a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the phase of reces­sion. The sig­nif­i­cance of the for­ma­tion of a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion is that while cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion must cir­cu­late and con­sume labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty despite being unable to pro­duce it direct­ly, its own meth­ods of pro­duc­tion lead to the emer­gence of an avail­able mass of work­ers who have noth­ing except their labor-pow­er to sell as a com­mod­i­ty. This is pre­cise­ly where the cap­i­tal attempts to indi­rect­ly “pro­duce” labor-pow­er, through the for­ma­tion and main­te­nance of this “avail­able mass.” The cycle of accu­mu­la­tion can only be shown to be log­i­cal­ly sutured as a cir­cuit-process, there­fore, by pre­sup­pos­ing the­o­ret­i­cal­ly the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. Nonethe­less, as Uno argues, the sutur­ing of this cycle in the­o­ry remains stained or scarred by cap­i­tal­ist production’s fun­da­men­tal Achilles’ Heel, the onto­log­i­cal­ly-scarred labor-pow­er that becomes “incar­nat­ed” in capital’s body.20

To repeat the basic point of Uno’s the­o­ry of cri­sis, how­ev­er: this cycle oper­ates through, and not in spite of, the exis­tence of this Achilles’ Heel. At the same time, the Achilles’ Heel is occlud­ed in thought by the phe­nom­e­non of unsold com­modi­ties whose prices are exu­ber­ant­ly spec­u­lat­ed upon at the zenith of pros­per­i­ty, itself the result of cred­it and indus­tri­al financ­ing. One of Uno’s major con­tri­bu­tions to a the­o­ry of cri­sis is thus found in his analy­sis of cred­it in the accu­mu­la­tion process, and the role of cred­it in bring­ing about what con­tem­po­rary eco­nom­ic dis­course calls exu­ber­ant spec­u­la­tion. It is this wild spec­u­la­tion that arti­fi­cial­ly rais­es prices and makes the real­iza­tion of sur­plus val­ue dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble.

The very con­di­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ty that lead to this dif­fi­cul­ty in real­iz­ing sur­plus val­ue, how­ev­er, are them­selves formed by capital’s social and his­tor­i­cal restric­tions in attempt­ing to bypass or over­come – with­out resolv­ing – the prob­lem of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. Yet, at the same time, it is pre­cise­ly the exis­tence of excess cap­i­tal – the pletho­ra of cap­i­tal Marx exten­sive­ly ana­lyzes in vol­ume 3 – in the form of unsold com­modi­ties that stands rust­ing before our eyes in the most phe­nom­e­nal form. This hides or con­ceals the deep cause of cri­sis. As Uno writes,

The true cause (shin no gen’in) of the phe­nom­e­non of cri­sis is con­cealed with­in accu­mu­lat­ed, over­stocked com­modi­ties whose rise in price is fore­cast­ed by mer­chant and com­mer­cial capital’s spec­u­la­tions… The direct cause of cri­sis (chokuset­su gen’in) appears when the fore­cast­ed price is not real­ized, lead­ing to defaults on pay­ments. Phe­nom­e­nal­ly speak­ing, it thus looks like the root of cri­sis is found in the fact that, while com­modi­ties have been pro­duced, they can­not be sold.21

What is at stake in Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis, there­fore, is a think­ing of how the deep cause of cri­sis in cap­i­tal­ism is nec­es­sar­i­ly tied to the orig­i­nal, yet com­pul­sive­ly repeat­ed, his­tor­i­cal restric­tion of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion in hav­ing to con­sume labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty despite the inabil­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion to pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty direct­ly. This his­tor­i­cal restric­tion on cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion sig­ni­fies noth­ing less than the very ori­gins of the cap­i­tal­ist com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my, and is deeply linked to the orig­i­nal and irra­tional emer­gence of cap­i­tal as a social rela­tion, in the form of the “so-called prim­i­tive accu­mu­la­tion.”22

At the same time, how­ev­er – and it is on this point that Uno shows us what is tru­ly at stake for the­o­ry itself – this deep cause of cri­sis becomes occlud­ed in thought by the very meth­ods of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, once labor-pow­er is (and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly can be assumed to be) con­sumed as a com­mod­i­ty, a con­cep­tu­al physics of con­ceal­ment cen­tral to cap­i­tal, in which, in Marx’s terms, “the process van­ish­es in the result.”23 On the basis of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er, cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion can­not but help to con­ceal the deep cause of cri­sis with a more phe­nom­e­nal­ly imme­di­ate “direct cause,” name­ly in the pro­duc­tion of excess cap­i­tal. The task of his­tor­i­cal analy­sis accord­ing to Uno, there­fore, is to shed light on how this occlu­sion takes place prac­ti­cal­ly and not just log­i­cal­ly in order to demon­strate, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, that cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion can­not take place except through class strug­gle.

Crisis and the Theory of Populations Peculiar to Capitalist Society

At this point we must take up Marx’s the­o­ry of “the law of pop­u­la­tion pecu­liar to the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion” (der kap­i­tal­is­tis­chen Pro­duk­tion­sweise eigen­tüm­lich­es Pop­u­la­tion­s­ge­setz), because it is pre­cise­ly through this mech­a­nism that Marx demon­strates how the motion of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion also pro­duces the social con­di­tions of cap­i­tal­ist repro­duc­tion. But how and in what ways does Marx demon­strate this? In vol­umes 1 and 3 of Cap­i­tal espe­cial­ly, Marx shows how, on the basis of the trans­for­ma­tion of labor-pow­er into a com­mod­i­ty, cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion unavoid­ably leads to the over­pro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal itself and cri­sis. Uno has espe­cial­ly clar­i­fied how this can only occur at the zenith of the accu­mu­la­tion phase of pros­per­i­ty. What is the result­ing phase of accu­mu­la­tion? It is a phase of reces­sion, dur­ing which time two things gen­er­al­ly take place on the road to the renew­al of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion. First, the tech­ni­cal com­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal is reor­ga­nized with bet­ter and more effi­cient machin­ery. This process, how­ev­er, is restrict­ed by time, and can­not sim­ply take place auto­mat­i­cal­ly; in this regard, the time it takes to replace old machin­ery with new machin­ery deter­mines the tem­po­ral length of the phase of reces­sion. Part­ly because of the dif­fi­cul­ty in sell­ing off old fixed cap­i­tal in cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, a sec­ond process takes place. Obvi­ous­ly, this is the point at which work­ers are laid off dur­ing phas­es of reces­sion, form­ing what Marx called a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion. It is called this because this pop­u­la­tion now stands in a rela­tion­ship of rel­a­tive excess to the lev­el of demand for a reg­u­lar labor­ing pop­u­la­tion and thus is locat­ed in a gen­er­al sep­a­ra­tion or at a dis­tance from cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion. This pop­u­la­tion is not an absolute social sur­plus, but a sur­plus that can only be grasped in its rela­tion­al­i­ty to cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, from which it has been cast out as the most eas­i­ly dis­pos­able com­mod­i­ty: cap­i­tal can always dis­pose of the worker’s phys­i­cal body dur­ing the phase of reces­sion, in which cap­i­tal attempts to shed as much labor-pow­er as it can. And this rela­tion­al­i­ty is in essence con­tained with­in cap­i­tal itself, a cir­cu­lar or cycli­cal rela­tion that stems from the fact that “labor-pow­er is the form under which vari­able cap­i­tal exists dur­ing the process of pro­duc­tion” (Arbeit­skraft ist die Form, worin das vari­able Kap­i­tal inner­halb des Pro­duk­tion­sprozess­es existiert).25

In its rel­a­tive sep­a­ra­tion from pro­duc­tion, how­ev­er, this rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion now forms a social mass of work­ers who, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, once again have noth­ing but their labor-pow­er to sell as a com­mod­i­ty, estab­lish­ing and set­ting in motion a cycli­cal process of dis­pos­al and re-cap­ture of labor-pow­er. In this way, Marx the­o­rizes the law of pop­u­la­tions pecu­liar to cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, name­ly that while cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion can­not pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty direct­ly, it can pro­duce a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion, which func­tions as a mech­a­nism for cap­i­tal to bridge this gap indi­rect­ly.26

This mass of bod­ies must then sell their poten­tial to labor – their labor-pow­er – in order to con­sume their dai­ly neces­si­ties, in oth­er words, a cer­tain quan­tum of the means of sub­sis­tence that cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion can pro­duce direct­ly. Thus cap­i­tal, through the form of pop­u­la­tion, turns a direct bar­ri­er to itself into a new thresh­old of accu­mu­la­tion, trans­form­ing this Achilles’ Heel into a new begin­ning or com­mence­ment. In doing so, the “nar­row lim­its,” or the social and his­tor­i­cal restric­tions of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion are again over­come with­out being resolved, there­by estab­lish­ing the con­di­tions for anoth­er phase of pros­per­i­ty.

Let us now sum­ma­rize sev­er­al key points in the above dis­cus­sion. First, for Uno, the con­cept of cri­sis must be dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed between a fun­da­men­tal cause in the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er, and a “direct cause” in the col­li­sion between falling rates of prof­it and ris­ing inter­est rates, and in the phe­nom­e­non of spec­u­la­tion on excess cap­i­tal in the form of over­stocked com­modi­ties, which con­ceals from thought or cov­ers over the ten­den­cy of the rate of prof­it to fall. What is most vis­i­ble and tak­en as the cause of cri­sis are high prices on over­pro­duced com­modi­ties; when these can­not sell, the imme­di­ate result is a chain reac­tion of defaults on pay­ments, and thus fur­ther invest­ments in pro­duc­tion can­not take place. Anoth­er way to put this is that the direct cause of cri­sis is about the phe­nom­e­nal form of cri­sis. This phe­nom­e­nal form of cri­sis, how­ev­er, con­ceals the onto­log­i­cal form of cri­sis of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion itself in the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. Cri­sis for Uno, there­fore, has to be under­stood on at least two lev­els: the phe­nom­e­nal lev­el and the “onto­log­i­cal” lev­el.27

Sec­ond, how­ev­er, in Uno’s the­o­ret­i­cal elab­o­ra­tion of the neces­si­ty of cri­sis, cri­sis as a phase of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion does not mark the end of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem; rather, it is mere­ly a pass­ing phase that medi­ates the phas­es of pros­per­i­ty and reces­sion. It is dur­ing the phase of reces­sion that a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion is formed, which allows Marx to the­o­ret­i­cal­ly show how cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion can, as it were, com­pen­sate for its orig­i­nal and fun­da­men­tal inabil­i­ty to pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty by pro­duc­ing a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion, which cre­ates the gen­er­al social milieu, the “nar­row­ly restrict­ed social foun­da­tion” for the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er.

Yet even so – and here is where Uno’s analy­sis of the rela­tion­ship between excess cap­i­tal and sur­plus pop­u­la­tions becomes cru­cial –  the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er can­not be assumed to take place auto­mat­i­cal­ly on the road to renew­al and pros­per­i­ty sim­ply because a sur­plus pop­u­la­tion has been pro­duced as com­pen­sa­tion for capital’s inher­ent his­tor­i­cal restric­tion. The rea­son is that, pre­cise­ly because cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion has ground to a halt dur­ing the phase of reces­sion, it is as if a “dead zone” or void appears or inter­venes between excess cap­i­tal and sur­plus pop­u­la­tions. There is no mon­ey to be exchanged for labor-pow­er at this moment in the cycle. There is only decay­ing and dying – the “moral degra­da­tion” and the deval­u­a­tion of cap­i­tal.

Thus, Uno’s read­ing of Marx shows anoth­er way to think this con­cep­tu­al sequence of “the first time as tragedy, the sec­ond time as farce,”28 for the tragedy of capital’s inabil­i­ty to direct­ly pro­duce labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty now becomes trans­mut­ed – in the the­o­ry of cri­sis – into farce, where cap­i­tal still can­not pre­sup­posed its own abil­i­ty to cap­ture labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty even through capital’s enor­mous pow­er to pro­duce a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion as com­pen­sa­tion for capital’s fun­da­men­tal his­tor­i­cal restric­tion (the orig­i­nary and pri­mal “tragedy”). The dif­fer­ence between tragedy and farce here is found pre­cise­ly in the ambigu­ous phrase, reg­u­lar­ly repeat­ed in chap­ter 15 of vol­ume 3 of Cap­i­tal: an excess of cap­i­tal exists along­side (neben) a sur­plus pop­u­la­tion.29 Along­side, but it is a rela­tion of a non-rela­tion, for here there is no exchange. Along­side (neben) draws a rela­tion, but also a sus­pen­sion, it implies that some­thing is “corol­lary,” an “acces­so­ry,” tan­gen­tial, aux­il­iary and so forth. Two things accom­pa­ny each oth­er, but cause and effect are held in sta­sis – “along­side” reminds us of Balibar’s point, placed at the out­set of this essay: cri­sis fur­nish­es the entire mode of pro­duc­tion with a spe­cif­ic form of move­ment, but this move­ment is also linked to a par­tic­u­lar­ly per­verse form of immo­bil­i­ty, a ten­sion, an iner­tia; noth­ing hap­pens, which is pre­cise­ly the void in which to think the renew­al of the polit­i­cal from with­in Marx’s log­ic. Not even the pro­duc­tion of a rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion can guar­an­tee cap­i­tal­ist repro­duc­tion once, that is, we grasp the prin­ci­ples of the neces­si­ty of cri­sis. At this point, not even a god can save cap­i­tal­ism.

In this way, the his­tor­i­cal ori­gins of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion are con­cen­trat­ed inwards towards its own pure dri­ve, com­pul­sive­ly repeat­ed at the lev­el of the log­ic inher­ent in cap­i­tal itself, in which the his­toric­i­ty of capital’s con­tin­gent for­ma­tion is con­stant­ly and des­per­ate­ly repressed, cov­ered over by the phe­nom­e­nal neces­si­ty of its log­ic. The “onto­log­i­cal” cri­sis of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion is more accu­rate­ly its haunto­log­i­cal cri­sis.30On the the­o­ret­i­cal lev­el, Uno clar­i­fies how this takes place in the phase of pros­per­i­ty, which is itself based on the phase of reces­sion. Cri­sis is thus itself a peri­od, phase, or plane, we could say, that express­es the dif­fer­ence and inserts itself in the inter­val between the phas­es of pros­per­i­ty and reces­sion. To speak of the haunto­log­i­cal cri­sis, how­ev­er, is to return once again to the more fun­da­men­tal or onto­log­i­cal form of cri­sis, locat­ed in the labor-pow­er com­mod­i­ty, a hauntol­ogy that is a cen­tral ques­tion of the nature and con­cept of neces­si­ty itself – here Uno reminds us that the cycle of cap­i­tal­ist repro­duc­tion is nev­er sim­ply a mechan­i­cal cycle, but a pro­found­ly his­tor­i­cal one.

Labor-power as the “Indispensably Disposable” Commodity

One of the most impor­tant prob­lems that char­ac­ter­izes and dis­tin­guish­es Uno’s the­o­ry of cri­sis from the broad field of texts in the his­to­ry of Marx­ist the­o­ry devot­ed to the issue of cri­sis, is his insis­tence on the mean­ing and com­plex­i­ty behind the phrase “the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er.” For Uno, this phrase is the key to the entire­ty of Marx’s work, but also the piv­otal ele­ment in a cap­i­tal­ist com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my itself. Around this phrase an entire series of prob­lems and rela­tions are con­cen­trat­ed: the log­ic of cap­i­tal and his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, the ori­gin of cap­i­tal and its rep­e­ti­tion, the inside and out­side of cap­i­tal as a social rela­tion, and the pecu­liar dynam­ics by which these instances are invert­ed into each oth­er. But Uno also adds to this phrase a sin­gu­lar­ly com­plex con­cept, one that is decep­tive in its appar­ent sim­plic­i­ty. This is what Uno referred to as the muri, the (im)possibility, the impasse, the excess, the irra­tional­i­ty, the absence of rea­son, the forced nature of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er.

In this pecu­liar turn of phrase, Uno spec­i­fies that cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, which attempts to form a pure cir­cle of inputs and out­puts, always con­tains this muri as some­thing that is “pass­ing through” the entire cir­cuit. But this muri is also an excep­tion­al­ly poly­va­lent term: the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er is also treat­ed by Uno as itself the par­tic­u­lar­ly (im)possible phe­nom­e­non of cap­i­tal­ism, because as Naga­hara Yuta­ka and oth­ers have sug­gest­ed, cap­i­tal requires cer­tain degrees of force or forc­ing in order to under­take the “indi­rect” pro­duc­tion of this thing that marks capital’s fun­da­men­tal Achilles’ Heel and allows it to com­pen­sate for it. There­fore, we should imme­di­ate­ly note some­thing impor­tant – this muri iden­ti­fied by Uno in no way sug­gests that some­how cap­i­tal­ism is ground­ed in some­thing “tru­ly impos­si­ble” or that it secret­ly “doesn’t work.” It means, in fact, the exact oppo­site. Cap­i­tal works because of the dynamism and ten­sion that exists in this pecu­liar space, where­in labor-pow­er can­not be direct­ly pro­duced (a bar­ri­er that should be absolute) and yet this Achilles’ Heel tends to be over­come by means of the form of pop­u­la­tion.

We have attempt­ed on a num­ber of oth­er occa­sions to devel­op this con­cept of muri, a term that indi­cates a deep and com­plex field of prob­lems.31 For the time being we will sim­ply note that this term points toward cru­cial link­ages between the the­o­ry of cri­sis and the gen­er­al broad con­cerns of Marx­ist the­o­ry. It indi­cates, for instance, the (im)possible clo­sure of Marx’s the­o­ret­i­cal expo­si­tion of the log­ic of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion, sig­ni­fy­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty and impos­si­bil­i­ty to assume the clo­sure of the log­i­cal cir­cle that cap­i­tal­ist repro­duc­tion rep­re­sents; it reveals the nec­es­sary his­tor­i­cal con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of the log­ic, a struc­ture in which cap­i­tal must fore­close itself as a sphere of ratio­nal­i­ty, only para­dox­i­cal­ly, on the basis of a “nihil of rea­son” on – and through –  which the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of cap­i­tal­ist com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my rest and can­not but dwell.

Fur­ther, when we think of labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty in rela­tion to the cycli­cal nature of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, we are pre­sent­ed with its dou­ble and con­tra­dic­to­ry nature. In the phase of pros­per­i­ty, labor-pow­er is the most indis­pens­able com­mod­i­ty, for no oth­er com­mod­i­ty can pro­duce new val­ues with­in cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion. Yet, once this indis­pens­able com­mod­i­ty is con­sumed in the course of capital’s cir­cuit-process, cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion is already on the way towards an out­break of cri­sis at the zenith of pros­per­i­ty, which is also to say that once labor-pow­er is con­sumed in pro­duc­tion as the most indis­pens­able com­mod­i­ty, cap­i­tal­ist pros­per­i­ty is already mov­ing in the direc­tion of cap­i­tal­ist reces­sion, dur­ing which labor-pow­er now trans­forms into the oppo­site phe­nom­e­non, name­ly into the most dis­pos­able com­mod­i­ty in the phase of reces­sion. This is why labor-pow­er appears as the con­tra­dic­to­ry embod­i­ment of being indis­pens­ably dis­pos­able. What Uno calls the muri is a for­mu­la­tion that express­es the con­cep­tu­al dynam­ics of how labor-pow­er could exist as both indis­pens­able and dis­pos­able in the same space and time.32

Imperialism and Crisis

Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis con­cerns not only the log­i­cal posi­tion of cri­sis with­in the analy­sis of cap­i­tal. It also pro­vides us with extreme­ly impor­tant ana­lyt­i­cal tools for his­tor­i­cal research. These tools, how­ev­er, are not always explic­it­ly artic­u­lat­ed. Rather, we our­selves must derive them from the sys­tem­at­ic inter­ven­tion Uno is mak­ing, pre­cise­ly because these con­cepts often appear or are devel­oped in the inter­stices of his argu­ment and imply a care­ful under­stand­ing of the polit­i­cal­i­ty that lurks beneath the sur­face of this seem­ing­ly for­mal­ist inquiry. First, Uno clear­ly empha­sizes over and over again that the prin­ci­ples of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, or the (rel­a­tive­ly) pure log­ic of cap­i­tal tak­en in iso­la­tion, must nev­er be mis­tak­en for a direct reflec­tion of actu­al his­to­ry or the his­tor­i­cal process tak­en as the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, with all its inher­ent con­tin­gen­cies and sin­gu­lar­i­ties. In the way the­o­ry func­tions in the nat­ur­al sci­ences, so here the pure prin­ci­ples rep­re­sent a the­o­ret­i­cal arti­fice that can help us nav­i­gate through the Her­a­clitean flux of actu­al­ly exist­ing his­tor­i­cal phe­nom­e­na – in this sense, Uno takes over and devel­ops the impli­ca­tions of Marx’s well-known for­mu­la­tion: “in the analy­sis of eco­nom­ic forms, nei­ther micro­scopes nor chem­i­cal reagents are of use. The force of abstrac­tion must replace both (Die Abstrak­tion­skraft muß bei­de erset­zen).”33 Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis there­fore, is not sim­ply about how the phe­nom­e­na of cri­sis, its neces­si­ty, must be under­stood, in the final instance, mere­ly on the lev­el of prin­ci­ple or in the log­i­cal sys­tem of Cap­i­tal. Uno goes to great lengths to empha­size that in our actu­al world, these prin­ci­ples can­not be direct­ly applied to under­stand our present. The min­i­mal rea­son is that cap­i­tal­ism his­tor­i­cal­ly devel­oped into the stage of impe­ri­al­ism after 1860, and with this shift, the form of cri­sis changed in ways that, in Uno’s words, “dis­torts” (waikyoku sare­ru) the demon­stra­tion of the neces­si­ty of cri­sis on the lev­el of pure the­o­ry. The key change in the form of cri­sis in the stage of impe­ri­al­ism is that while crises still break out peri­od­i­cal­ly (there­by reveal­ing its neces­si­ty), it does not break out with the reg­u­lar­i­ty that it did in the era of lais­sez-faire cap­i­tal­ism, when crises broke out between 1820 and 1860 every ten years (there­by reveal­ing a peri­od­ic­i­ty and rep­e­ti­tion that could be for­mu­lat­ed into an object of knowl­edge).

In the stage of impe­ri­al­ism, how­ev­er, the phe­nom­e­na of chron­ic reces­sion and chron­ic unem­ploy­ment become the his­tor­i­cal norm. There are many rea­sons for this, but we can men­tion the key ones briefly. Here, Uno argues for the ana­lyt­i­cal need to pro­duce a the­o­ret­i­cal artic­u­la­tion between Marx’s Cap­i­tal and Lenin’s Impe­ri­al­ism: The High­est Stage of Cap­i­tal­ism. With the rise of finance cap­i­tal, the export of cap­i­tal to colonies and for­eign mar­kets can take place eas­i­ly, bring­ing back huge prof­its to the finan­cial cen­ters to the point where it becomes unnec­es­sary for cap­i­tal to trans­form the entire­ty of soci­ety under the axiomat­ics of a specif­i­cal­ly cap­i­tal­ist com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my. Large agri­cul­tur­al swaths of the world still locked in rel­a­tive­ly back­ward forms of social orga­ni­za­tion and gen­er­al com­mod­i­ty eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty no longer pose an obsta­cle to cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, but instead can be shaped and cod­ed to accel­er­ate cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment by virtue of becom­ing part of an expand­ing rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion, there­by, for exam­ple, con­tribut­ing to an over­all depres­sion of wages. Both nation­al and the colo­nial agri­cul­tur­al pop­u­la­tions now con­sti­tute stra­ta of an expand­ing for­ma­tion of an inter­na­tion­al rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion.

How can this be explained? We know that the rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion the­o­ret­i­cal­ly must be formed dur­ing phas­es of reces­sion. As we point­ed out ear­li­er, more­over, the tem­po­ral length of the phase of reces­sion is great­ly influ­enced by the time it takes to sell off old machin­ery (fixed cap­i­tal), and to replace old tech­nolo­gies with new­er, more pro­duc­tive and effi­cient ones. It is pre­cise­ly on this point that the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism into a spe­cif­ic stage of impe­ri­al­ism becomes sig­nif­i­cant. For, with the rise of finance cap­i­tal, monop­o­lis­tic invest­ments in increas­ing­ly larg­er and larg­er forms of fixed cap­i­tal in the organ­ic com­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal are raised expo­nen­tial­ly, pri­mar­i­ly because the dom­i­nant com­mod­i­ty dur­ing this era is iron and oth­er com­modi­ties in the extrac­tive, as well as heavy and chem­i­cal indus­tries (e.g., oil). The sig­nif­i­cance this holds for a the­o­ry of cri­sis is that phas­es of reces­sion thus become dragged out or elon­gat­ed over extend­ed peri­ods of time because of the huge dif­fi­cul­ties in sell­ing off and replac­ing such large forms of fixed cap­i­tal. Today, to take one exam­ple, we might think of this phe­nom­e­non pre­cise­ly in the new “ruins” of the Unit­ed States, the vast and aban­doned rust-belt of Pittsburgh’s steel mills, the emp­ty plants of Detroit, the desert­ed fac­to­ries of upstate New York and else­where. This is one of the key rea­sons why reces­sion in impe­ri­al­ism can­not help becom­ing chron­ic in nature, why the rel­a­tive sur­plus pop­u­la­tion expands to include nation­al and for­eign agri­cul­tur­al pop­u­la­tions, and why unem­ploy­ment gen­er­al­ly becomes chron­ic.

Third, as Lenin is quick to remind us, the export of cap­i­tal to colonies leads to world war over region­al suprema­cy in inter­na­tion­al mar­kets. This is an impor­tant point for an under­stand­ing of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, because war increas­ing­ly also becomes a means to extri­cate nation­al economies out of chron­ic reces­sion. As Uno point­ed out, it is on this point that the nature and func­tion of the arma­ments and muni­tions indus­try is extreme­ly impor­tant (here we might think about why Kore­an colo­nial pop­u­la­tions were con­sid­ered an “indis­pens­ably dis­pos­able” work­force in the Japan­ese mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex after 1937 and dur­ing World War II).34 At the same time, it also shows how the analy­sis of the phe­nom­e­non of cri­sis can­not sim­ply be under­tak­en with the pure the­o­ry or inter­nal log­ic of the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of a cap­i­tal­ist com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my alone. In oth­er words, we can­not sim­ply rely on Marx’s analy­sis in Cap­i­tal to grasp the his­tor­i­cal nature of cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis, but must also and equal­ly grasp Lenin’s analy­sis of impe­ri­al­ism and place it into rela­tion with the pure the­o­ry of cri­sis and its “fun­da­men­tal caus­es.”

Final­ly, in speak­ing of war as a means to extri­cate an econ­o­my from chron­ic reces­sion, we must there­fore speak of how the work of the state and para-state insti­tu­tions come to work for the repro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, and to work in the ser­vice of try­ing to real­ize in “actu­al” his­to­ry what Uno has demon­strat­ed to be impos­si­ble to real­ize even on the lev­el of capital’s log­ic, name­ly the ide­al or per­fect­ed expres­sion of the busi­ness cycle and a log­i­cal­ly pure cir­cle of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion. (Here is where Uno departs rad­i­cal­ly – to the left – of the likes of Schum­peter and his meta­phys­i­cal ideals of “cre­ative destruc­tion,” for exam­ple.) The state and para-state insti­tu­tions pro­duce pre­cise­ly this fan­ta­sy of being able to actu­al­ize in his­to­ry that which is demon­stra­bly impos­si­ble on the the­o­ret­i­cal lev­el. How they pro­duce this fan­ta­sy demands a think­ing of the state’s rela­tion to the econ­o­my, which is emphat­i­cal­ly not sim­ply as a super­struc­tur­al result of the eco­nom­ic base. Rather, it shows us a way to think the state’s sub­servience to the econ­o­my; the state and para-state insti­tu­tions work­ing as agents for the econ­o­my (we might think here of the old Althusser­ian for­mu­la­tion of “deter­mi­na­tion in the final instance,” but an instance “that nev­er arrives”). This is to say that the state demotes itself from an autonomous polit­i­cal pow­er over the econ­o­my, but only to pro­mote the econ­o­my through a vast pro­duc­tion of signs of the econ­o­my.35 Here, we devel­op this point by means of a deci­sive for­mu­la­tion in Anti-Oedi­pus, where­in Deleuze and Guat­tari write of the impe­r­i­al state: “Nev­er before has a state lost so much pow­er only in order to enter with so much force into the ser­vice of the signs of eco­nom­ic pow­er.”36 From what stand­point does the state enter with so much force into “the ser­vice of the signs of eco­nom­ic pow­er”? They men­tion: “From the stand­point of the flow of ‘free’ work­ers: the con­trol of man­u­al labor and of wages; from the stand­point of the flow of indus­tri­al and com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion; the grant­i­ng of monop­o­lies, favourable con­di­tions for accu­mu­la­tion, and the strug­gle against over­pro­duc­tion.”37 All of these moments alert us to the bizarre role of the state, which must always appear to func­tion – insti­tu­tion­al­ly, in its rela­tion to the law, in its appar­ent­ly autonomous inter­nal orga­ni­za­tion, in its inde­pen­dent polit­i­cal rela­tions – at a dis­tance from the social rela­tion of cap­i­tal, while nev­er­the­less serv­ing as the guar­an­tor or for­ma­tive force for the “nar­row social basis” upon which the capital’s dread­ful com­mence­ment is con­stant­ly repeat­ed in the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er. What the state does is effec­tive­ly recode the eco­nom­ic con­tent of capital’s own dynam­ics and rede­ploy this con­tent in anoth­er social vec­tor, in essence oper­at­ing as a force to con­ceal or over­code capital’s aus­tere log­i­cal vio­lence, appear­ing phe­nom­e­nal­ly to over­write this log­i­cal vio­lence so that it should appear as a reflec­tion of the nat­ur­al state of social rela­tions.

Keep­ing Deleuze and Guattari’s ear­li­er analy­sis of the form of the state in mind in rela­tion to the phe­nom­e­non of cri­sis requires us to think through the prob­lem of how labor-pow­er as a com­mod­i­ty is rep­re­sent­ed or includ­ed on the lev­el of the signs of the econ­o­my, and as a method by which cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis can be man­aged but nev­er elim­i­nat­ed. In oth­er words, how might the con­tra­dic­to­ry char­ac­ter of labor-pow­er as the indis­pens­ably dis­pos­able com­mod­i­ty be cod­ed as a sign of the econ­o­my? For instance, else­where we have ana­lyzed how des­ig­na­tions such as “man­u­al labor” ver­sus “skilled labor,” “fac­to­ry work­er” ver­sus “day work­er,” “mod­ern” and “feu­dal,” “devel­oped” and “back­ward,” “par­tic­u­lar­i­ty” and “uni­ver­sal­i­ty,” “nation­al” and for­eign,” all his­tor­i­cal­ly pro­duced cat­e­gories of knowl­edge, become mapped onto the pro­duc­tion of nation­al and eth­nic signs of econ­o­my such as “Kore­an” and “Japan­ese.”38 The pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge and the micro­physics of pow­er that accom­pa­nies it thus needs to be tak­en into account as a crit­i­cal way to under­stand how cap­i­tal­ist crises are man­aged through the form of the nation-state, and rep­re­sent­ed ulti­mate­ly as some­thing that is acci­den­tal and con­tin­gent. This is where Uno’s basic the­o­ret­i­cal ques­tion, “how to demon­strate the neces­si­ty of cri­sis?” has polit­i­cal mean­ing for us today.

We have seen the wide vari­ety of prob­lems in Marx­ist the­o­ret­i­cal work addressed by Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis. All of these prob­lems con­cern not only the­o­ret­i­cal ques­tions but polit­i­cal prob­lems and polit­i­cal projects. Here, we have to point out that Uno’s work, which often appears high­ly abstract, func­tion­ing at a lev­el that might seem to exclude the con­crete demands and tac­ti­cal com­plex­i­ties of pol­i­tics, may appear for­mal­is­tic, but this is only an appar­ent for­mal­ism. In fact, Uno’s cri­sis the­o­ry is con­scious­ly posi­tioned against the exces­sive for­mal­ism of much Marx­ist the­o­ret­i­cal work. Uno’s for­mal­ism is pro­duced to com­bat tire­some his­tori­cism and to open up more deeply onto the ques­tion of the his­toric­i­ty of cap­i­tal in the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of labor-pow­er.

In order to return with this point to the begin­ning, and think about where this analy­sis of cri­sis can lead us, let us quote from Uno at some length, in a lat­er reflec­tion on the nature of cri­sis the­o­ry and its posi­tion with­in his own over­all the­o­ret­i­cal sys­tem:

In recent years, I have attempt­ed to the­o­ret­i­cal­ly puri­fy the eco­nom­ic the­o­ries of Cap­i­tal on the lev­el of prin­ci­ple – on the one hand, my inten­tion has been to break through to new paths of coop­er­a­tion and inter­change between the field of the eco­nom­ic and the oth­er forms of social sci­en­tif­ic research, but on the oth­er hand, relat­ed in anoth­er sense to this same prob­lem, I have also tried to escape from the for­mal­ism that often con­strains or holds back the exten­sion of pos­si­bil­i­ties for research in polit­i­cal econ­o­my. I am of course ful­ly aware that I alone would be inca­pable of such a mas­sive task, but nev­er­the­less, even with­in the nar­row con­fines of my own research, I feel that I must con­sid­er my the­o­ret­i­cal project always in rela­tion to this larg­er prob­lem of social sci­en­tif­ic research in gen­er­al. For the major­i­ty of Marx­ists who believe that every sin­gle word and phrase pro­posed in Cap­i­tal is unchange­able and sacro­sanct, my attempt to the­o­ret­i­cal­ly puri­fy it has been con­sid­ered some­thing shock­ing or out­ra­geous, and for a large por­tion of this group, my work has been turned into some­thing that absolute­ly must be denounced for polit­i­cal rea­sons.

Of course, I do not imag­ine that I have a per­fect under­stand­ing of all aspects of the the­o­riza­tions present in Cap­i­tal, nor do I think at all that Cap­i­tal is a mis­tak­en work – every sin­gle thing that I have attempt­ed to do stems sole­ly from my per­son­al under­stand­ing of Cap­i­tal. This is pre­cise­ly because I think that unless we our­selves puri­fy the the­o­ry of prin­ci­ple latent in Cap­i­tal to the extent that it can be effec­tive­ly uti­lized in the analy­sis of impe­ri­al­ism, and in rela­tion to ques­tions such as the con­crete analy­sis of Japan­ese cap­i­tal­ism, it will be impos­si­ble to avoid laps­ing into for­mal­ism, and a real­iza­tion of effec­tive coop­er­a­tion between polit­i­cal econ­o­my and research in oth­er areas of social sci­en­tif­ic cri­tique and cul­tur­al knowl­edge will be impos­si­ble. It is this the­o­ret­i­cal process that will open new modal­i­ties for the set­tling of the the­o­ry of the prin­ci­ples of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, the log­ic of cap­i­tal itself. We can­not blame Marx for errors that result from the fact that he could not pos­si­bly have known of the stage of impe­ri­al­ism, but it is nev­er­the­less a fact that cap­i­tal­ism pos­sess­es this impe­ri­al­ist stage, and it is nec­es­sary that polit­i­cal econ­o­my, as a his­tor­i­cal sci­ence, is able to clar­i­fy its nature.

When we speak of the neces­si­ty of cri­sis, the neces­si­ty of war, the neces­si­ty of rev­o­lu­tion, and so on, we uti­lize this same iden­ti­cal word “neces­si­ty” (hit­suzen­sei), but these three for­mu­la­tions can­not be proven or legit­i­mat­ed through iden­ti­cal, or even sim­i­lar meth­ods, because the con­tent of this word “neces­si­ty” dif­fers in each case. Although Marx’s own con­sid­er­a­tions on this point remain unclear and unde­vel­oped, we can at least say that, since he had no knowl­edge of impe­ri­al­ist war, he con­front­ed a dif­fer­ent set of facts than we do with respect to the prob­lem of the neces­si­ty of war­fare. Thus we must also say that he obvi­ous­ly had a dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing than our own regard­ing the rela­tion or split between the neces­si­ty of cri­sis and the neces­si­ty of rev­o­lu­tion. In the case of the neces­si­ty of cri­sis, I believe that it can be proven, indeed that it must be proven, on the lev­el of the the­o­ry of prin­ci­ples of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, at the lev­el of the log­i­cal struc­ture of cap­i­tal, but if it is so, how should this neces­si­ty be proven? It is pre­cise­ly this ques­tion that has an inti­mate and insep­a­ra­ble rela­tion to the purifi­ca­tion of the prin­ci­ples of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, and it is the the­o­ry of cri­sis that pro­vides the touch­stone of these prin­ci­ples them­selves.39

Uno’s The­o­ry of Cri­sis pro­vides for us a way to think not only about Marx’s Cap­i­tal as a the­o­ret­i­cal struc­ture – it also pro­vides us with the con­di­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ty for a renew­al of pol­i­tics in the face of our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. While the­o­ry there­fore appears time­less and eter­nal, it emphat­i­cal­ly does not mean that the inter­con­nect­ed total­i­ty of the laws and norms con­sti­tut­ing cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety is itself time­less and eter­nal. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the the­o­ret­i­cal eter­nal­i­ty of the laws is pre­cise­ly what allows us to grasp the his­toric­i­ty and fini­tude of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion itself as it is com­pul­sive­ly repeat­ed in the present. And while the neces­si­ty of cri­sis does not sig­nal or sim­ply lead to the neces­si­ty of col­lapse of the sys­tem, it pro­vides us with the most pow­er­ful thought-image of how this sys­tem is nei­ther nat­ur­al nor by any means the “only game in town.” The his­tor­i­cal neces­si­ty of cri­sis allows us to think oth­er­wise about the neces­si­ty of cap­i­tal­ism itself in our every­day life. In this regard, Uno main­tained through­out his work a close fideli­ty to Marx, who reminds us in his 1868 let­ter to Kugel­mann that “once the inter­con­nec­tion has been revealed, all the­o­ret­i­cal belief in the per­pet­u­al neces­si­ty of the exist­ing con­di­tions col­laps­es, even before the col­lapse takes place in prac­tice.”40

The neolib­er­al state today, over­in­vest­ed in meta­phys­i­cal and wish­ful think­ing, would like us to believe pre­cise­ly that the prin­ci­ples of cap­i­tal­ism are eter­nal and that cri­sis is noth­ing but a sort of nat­ur­al acci­dent, some­thing that sim­ply needs to be ame­lio­rat­ed by an obscene and per­verse mix­ture of mon­e­tary pol­i­cy, state dereg­u­la­tion, chron­ic war­fare, and the police. But Uno reminds us: cri­sis is nec­es­sary for cap­i­tal, cri­sis is unavoid­able in cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety, and cri­sis is direct­ly polit­i­cal. Just like the cri­sis this time.

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