Interview with Sasha Lilley at KPFA

As you know, I’ve been complaining about the Left’s silence on the book.  But there are leftists out there who “get it”–who understand that I’m urging us toward an American version of perestroika which would put us more securely and more consciously  on the path to market socialism.  Sasha Lilley of KPFA in San Francisco is one of those leftists.  She read the book very closely, and very critically, and so was able to conduct an interview that illuminated both the strengths and the weaknesses of my argument.  I’m now her biggest fan.

Here’s the link to the interview.


Today I’ll post some more  thoughts on corporate personhood, having read the key precedents of Citizens United and realized that the debates over the legal standing of corporations are far from over.  You might even say that we’re just now catching up with William J. Rehnquist and Byron White, the dissenters in Bellotti (1978), who denounced their colleagues for ignoring the distinction between “natural persons” and corporations.  Uh oh.  We’re catching up with the arch conservatives of the Burger Court?



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7 responses to “Interview with Sasha Lilley at KPFA

  1. Jim B.

    I get it, Jim. Too bad some of the folks on the leftie blogs that I sometimes inhabit don’t. Keep up the keeping on.

  2. Marcelo Corrales

    I am one of those leftists out there who gets it too, Professor Livingston.

  3. Brad

    Dr. Livingston.
    A lowly grad student here.

    This is the first I have heard about your new book, so I will definately check it out. The interview was certainly first rate.

    I became intrigued with the concept of disaccumulation after struggling through chapter 1 of Pragmatism and Political Economy (which I really appreciated, by the way). My sense is that it is a really helpful political and historical tool, but I am having a bit of trouble getting a firm grasp of it. I even dug up Martin Sklar’s SDS article for clarification, but it was not of great help.

    My hang up revolves around the place of surplus value in an economy in which net investment no longer drives growth. Are you saying that surplus value is no longer the source of M'(prime), or that is no longer has to be? I am pretty sure that you are not saying that the move from wages to profits is not a function of the intensification of the rate of exploitation, but rather the growth of constant over variable capital (C/V).
    Capitalists have long claimed that the value they add is in the form of an opportunity cost for not consuming their income instantly….this has always seemed laughable. Are you saying that when they invest today (say, for example, in the Taiwanese Company Foxcomm), they are not actually deferring income?

    I am a confused soul.

    • I’ve been noodling around these issues for about 40 years, and I’m not sure I fully grasp their basic content, let alone their implications. We’re all confused souls because we’re grappling with truly novel developments, live possibilities that no one knows what to do with.

      Just to give you one example, my guess is that Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse resonate with all kinds of readers, ca. 1955-1975, because they’re addressing the end of repression as if it’s actually in view, as a historical event overtaking human civilization. Why? Because it is, in fact, in view, due to the live possibility that saving, withholding, abstaining, delaying had become unnecessary to drive growth–or to structure character. Marcuse is more explicit about this than Brown, to be sure, but the rediscovery of Freud is animated by a realistic sense that civilization no longer requires repression. What then?

      Well OK, surplus value loses its investment function, that’s the key. Look at pp. 704-08 of the Grundrisse, where Marx gets very serious about the limits of the labor theory of value. And then ask, what happens when the general law of accumulation is over, that is, the C/V ratio no longer moves the way Volume 1 specifies? When “constant capital” begins to shrink along with “variable capital”? Yikes. All bets are off. That’s pretty much what happens after 1910.

  4. Brad

    Thank you for the reply.

    Because wealth is now generated by machines, it is no longer socially functional to extract surplus value for investment. In spite of itself, capital becomes superflous. “The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself.” (705)

    OK. I am still a bit confused on this point: Because we are still under the vise of capital, is production still based on surplus-value, even though it no longer needs to be?

    And because its valorization requires stratospheric rates of exploitation (see Foxcomm), capital is not only superflous, but more perverse than ever?

    • Yes to all of the above, and all of it theorized if not plainly predicted in, you guessed it, Volume 1 (General Formula for Capital) and, less aphoristically, in the Grundrisse.

      Production is still based on the relentless pursuit of surplus value (except where primitive disaccumulation has taken hold), but value as such is no longer predicated on or measurable in terms of labor time.

  5. Brad

    Growth would occur whether exploitation took place or not. But would the rate of growth be lower if capital did not seek out high rates of surplus value?

    As proportionally fewer people are involved in the production of subsistence, more and more people are living off the surplus value of others. If the rate of surplus value decreased, would this trend reverse?

    I am just having trouble wrapping my head around why exploitation has intensified.

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