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Capital as Power: Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism

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  • Bichler, Shimshon
  • Nitzan, Jonathan

Abstract

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 think of capital as an economic entity that they count in universal units of utils and abstract labor, respectively. But these units are totally fictitious: they can be neither observed nor measured. They don’t exist. And 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 breakdown is no accident. Every mode of power evolves together with its dominant theories and ideologies. In capitalism, these theories and ideologies originally belonged to the study of political economy -- the first mechanical science of society. But the capitalist mode of power kept changing, and as the power underpinnings of capital became increasingly visible, the science of political economy disintegrated. By the late nineteenth century, with dominant capital having taken command, political economy was bifurcated into two distinct spheres: economics and politics. And in the twentieth century, when the power logic of capital had already penetrated every corner of society, the remnants of political economy were further fractured into mutually distinct social sciences. Nowadays, capital reigns supreme – yet social scientists have been left with no coherent framework to account for it. The theory of Capital as Power offers a unified alternative to this fracture. It argues that capital is not a narrow economic entity, but a symbolic quantification of power. Capital has little to do with utility or abstract labor, and it extends far beyond machines and production lines. Most broadly, it represents the organized power of dominant capital groups to reshape -- or creorder -- their society. This view leads to a different cosmology of capitalism. It offers a new theoretical framework for capital based on the twin notions of dominant capital and differential accumulation, a new conception of the state of capital and a new history of the capitalist mode of power. It also introduces new empirical research methods – including new categories; new ways of thinking about, relating and presenting data; new estimates and measurements; and, finally, the beginning of a new, disaggregate accounting that reveals the conflictual dynamics of society.

Suggested Citation

  • Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2010. "Capital as Power: Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism," EconStor Preprints 157829, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:esprep:157829
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    1. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 1996. "Putting the State In Its Place: US Foreign Policy and Differential Accumulation in Middle-East “Energy Conflicts”," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 608-661.
    2. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2006. "New Imperialism or New Capitalism?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-86.
    3. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2002. "The Global Political Economy of Israel," EconStor Books, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157972.
    4. Harcourt,G. C., 1972. "Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521096720, February.
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    6. Veblen, Thorstein, 1904. "Theory of Business Enterprise," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1904.
    7. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 1995. "Bringing Capital Accumulation Back In: The Weapondollar-Petrodollar Coalition – Military Contractors, Oil Companies and Middle-East "Energy Conflicts"," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 446-515.
    8. Joan Robinson, 1953. "The Production Function and the Theory of Capital," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 81-106.
    9. Bichler, Shimshon & Rowley, Robin & Nitzan, Jonathan, 1989. "The Armadollar-Petrodollar Coalition: Demise or New Order?," EconStor Preprints 157848, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    10. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2002. "New Economy or Transnational Ownership? The Global Political Economy of Israel," EconStor Preprints 157818, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    11. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2004. "Dominant Capital and the New Wars," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 254-327.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2013. "Can Capitalists Afford Recovery? Economic Policy When Capital is Power," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2013/01, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    2. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2021. "Unbridgeable: Why Political Economists Cannot Accept Capital as Power," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 109-117.
    3. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2016. "A CasP Model of the Stock Market," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 119-154.
    4. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2018. "Arms and Oil in the Middle East: A Biography of Research," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 418-440.
    5. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2015. "Still About Oil?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 49-79.
    6. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2014. "Can Capitalists Afford Recovery? Three Views on Economic Policy in Times of Crisis," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(1), pages 110-155.
    7. Hager, Sandy Brian, 2014. "What Happened to the Bondholding Class? Public Debt, Power and the Top One Per Cent (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 155-182.
    8. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2021. "Unbridgeable: Why Political Economists Cannot Accept Capital as Power," EconStor Preprints 228594, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    9. Baines, Joseph & Hager, Sandy Brian, 2019. "Financial Crisis, Inequality, and Capitalist Diversity: A Critique of the Capital as Power Model of the Stock Market," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    10. Hager, Sandy Brian, 2013. "Public Debt, Ownership and Power: The Political Economy of Distribution and Redistribution," EconStor Theses, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157991, September.
    11. Cloke, Jon, 2017. "A lack of space—The birth-crises of ultracapital," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 239-246.
    12. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2017. "Growing through Sabotage: Energizing Hierarchical Power," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2017/02, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    13. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2020. "Growing through Sabotage: Energizing Hierarchical Power," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(5), pages 1-78.
    14. Fix, Blair, 2019. "How the rich are different: Hierarchical power as the basis of income and class," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2019/02, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.

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