Metaphysics, Metamorphosis, Monetisation: The Power of False Revolutions

[a talk delivered at the conference Sophistry: The Powers of the False organised by the superlative Nathan Brown and Petar Milat at MaMa in Zagreb]

Text below.

Part I. Money and the power of the false: Deleuze and cinema

The power of the false, la puissance du faux, is a recurrent motif in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, most forcefully in his Nietzsche and Philosophy where it is associated, in Nietzsche’s own words, with life‘s desire ‘to mislead, to dupe, to dissimulate, to dazzle, to blind’, sapping the moral foundations of the distinction between essence and appearance. It recurs in the discussion of simulacra, of ‘models of the pseudos in which unfolds the power of the false’, in Difference and Repetition‘s evocation of an anti-Platonism at the heart of Platonism itself. More marginally, but no less interestingly, in Deleuze’s 1966 celebration of the thousandth release of the Série noire, he details how the deductive (or Cartesian) and inductive (or Hobbesian) traditions of the classical detective novel, in which detection is synonymous with a logical or forensic inquiry after truth, have been terminated by a new regime of the intrigue, which teaches us that ‘police activity has nothing to do with a metaphysical or scientific search for the truth. Police work no more resembles scientific inquiry than a telephone call from an informant, inter-police relations, or mechanisms of torture resemble metaphysics’ (thinking of Benjamin’s reflections on the metaphysics of the police in the ‘Critique of Violence’, we could parenthetically note that Deleuze is arguably too quick to announce the break in this affinity between the cop and the philosopher).

The confrontation between the opposed wills-to-truth of the detective and the criminal has been replaced by the protracted and entangled contest between criminal and police collectivities in which truth is no longer, in Deleuze’s eyes, ‘the ambient element of the investigation’. Instead, the Série noire novels reveal an agon characterised by what Deleuze terms the compensation of error, a phenomenon – like Greek tragedy – linked to a social logic of restitution, of the restoration of equilibrium, in which the cop and the criminal do not confront each other in a specular, metaphysical relation, but rather in ‘deep and compensatory’ complicity. To the extent that the dialectics of detection and criminality are revelatory of a particular social nexus, the Série noire exudes a power of the false specific to a specifically capitalist indistinction between politics and crime, which leaves behind the socially anachronistic cunning of the detective and criminal as individuals to portray what Deleuze pointedly calls a ‘capitalist society [which] more willingly pardons rape, murder, or kidnapping than a bounced check, which is its only theological crime, the crime against spirit’.

I’ll return to such crimes against spirit shortly, but I want to linger for a while longer on the theme of the power of the false as it plays itself out in the second of Deleuze’s cinema books, The Time-Image, since it will allow me to explore the theme of this intervention, namely philosophy’s relationship to money as objective sophistry. It is around the figure of Orson Welles, not just as director but as the actor bringing to life the conceptual persona of the faussaire, the forger or falsifier, that Deleuze’s account of the power of the false orbits. Following the – to my mind erroneous – notion, already pushed by André Bazin and the Cahiers du Cinéma, of Welles as a Nietzschean film-maker, Deleuze rehearses a number of the themes familiar from his Nietzsche and Philosophy.

In Welles, the system of judgment becomes impossible precisely through the indiscernibility and undecidability between being and appearance, real and imaginary. Deleuze contrasts this with the persistence of judgment in Brecht’s concern with the reality of contradictions and Fritz Lang’s attention to the relativity of appearances. He returns again and again to the hall of mirrors scene in The Lady of Shanghai, corroborating Rancière’s acute remark that in searching for the marks of his periodisation of a shift between image-regimes Deleuze can’t help turning repeatedly to allegories of time and thought which are bound to moments of narrative, undermining the ontological cast of his inquiry. Inasmuch as the Nietzschean lesson that the collapse of essence is also the collapse of appearance is assumed by Welles, he opens up to a world of multiple forces without a centre, dramatised in the figures of bearers of exhausted force, impotent omnipotents like Bannister in The Lady from Shanghai, Quinlan in Touch of Evil, Arkadin in Confidential Report. Conversely, Welles’s Nietzschean conviction that becoming if life’s power of the false lies behind his sympathy for figures of what he calls ‘generosity’ (the only virtue for Welles, as he notes in his interviews with Bazin), who – in a very familiar Deleuzian theme – oppose becoming to History, are incommensurable to judgment, fundamentally innocent, like Don Quixote or Falstaff.

Now this characterisation of Welles depends on a thesis that is both metaphysical and meta-historical regarding the time-image itself. Welles is not just artist of the power of the false (which turns out to be the same as the ‘metamorphosis of truth’ which Deleuze identifies with art), he is, in Kane, the inventor of the time-image. And this image is the product of a crisis, the crisis of a sensori-motor regime which linked action and representation in the movement-image, subordinating time, whose only representation is indirect, in terms of an open totality that receives its summa in Eisenstein’s Hegelian cinema, to movement, and to the exigencies of action. Though Deleuze places the crisis in the immediate postwar period, with the proliferation of situation to which no reaction is adapted, his account of it is strangely congruent with Jameson’s formulation of the sundering of individual experience and systemic coordinates in his famous essay on the aesthetics of cognitive mapping (which was presented the same year as The Time-Image was released). Deleuze himself writes of this as a situation of non-totalisable complexity, which is not representable by a single individual – almost identical terms as Jameson.

There would be much to say about both these periodisations, and especially on the way Deleuze relies on a meta-historical narrative to pinpoint History’s collapse, but I want to focus on those elements in his argument which allow us to reflect on the link between the power of the false, time and money. What in Jameson’s account appears as a potentially paralysing crisis of orientation, or of mediation tout court, is, in impeccable Bergsonist fashion, turned by Deleuze into the occasion of an ontological revelation. The impossibility of totalising is the precondition for a direct experience of time, and this experience of time – dramatised cinematically not just by Welles, but also principally by Resnais and Robbe-Grillet – is at one with the crisis of truth and judgment, as a movement practically and instrumentally oriented towards action and reaction, is now subordinated to the voyance of time, to the contemplation of a spiritual automaton which Deleuze then links (very improbably, to my mind) to the theme of a ‘people to come’.

With the crisis of the sensori-motor dialectic of the movement-image, ‘a fundamentally decentred movement becomes false movement, and fundamentally liberated time becomes power of the false which now effectuates itself in false movement’. Without scanting the richness of formal and thematic analyses made possible by this thesis, I want to dwell on this link between falsity and time. Here Deleuze’s 1983 seminars are very useful in setting out some of the basic conceptual distinctions. There, Deleuze revisits the classical conception of truth in modern philosophy as one that considers truth as a distinction between the real and the imaginary (or essence and appearance) in the image, while falsity would be their confusion. The veridical man would be he who does not confuse, in the image, the modification imparted to the image by his own body and soul with the true representation of a thing outside it. Deleuze is at pains to argue that the power of the false is not the false; it is not error; it is not a celebration of confusion.

Deleuze’s philosophical suspicion of cinematic surrealism can also be explained in terms of his objections to an oneiric or hallucinatory temporality of confusion which would still rely on its difference and distance from a sensori-motor norm of correct representation. The distinction between the power of the false and the false is undergirded by the distinction between power and form. If, as Deleuze notes of the axioms of seventeenth century philosophy, only the true has a form, then the false is not another form but a power (a puissance: as Deleuze notes there is a pouvoir but not a puissance du vrai). This power works not through confusion but through the indiscernibility and undecidability between real and imaginary, essence and appearance, but also different tenses of time – whence the positing of the crystal as the symbol of an image in which the real and the imaginary, the actual and the virtual image would chase each other in a kind of circuit (incidentally, we can note Deleuze’s fascination in the lectures for the position, associated with Cleanthes, whereby the past is not necessarily true; in turn, we could also reflect, following comments by Carlo Ginzburg on the philosophical history of lying and myth, how the sophistic figure of the goat-stag can also open up a thinking of time beyond the existential coordinates of the past, present, and future – the goat stag does not exist but it is, was and will be as Ginzburg glossed Boetius’s De Interpretatione).

The power of the false is thus defined as the construction of crystalline formations, and linked to a practice of description, a description that does not, as with the movement-image or classical representation, treat its object as independent; crystalline descriptions unlike organic ones replace their object. The dislocation of the movement-image and this new regime then open the possibility of an experience of time in its pure state which is also a putting of truth into question. There is a whole welter of questions that could be put at this point, above all, to my mind, the question, at once political and metaphysical, of what is involved in treating the crisis of action, of practice as the occasion of a revelation of being, a transcendental experience, however constructed, which can only appear as the recovery, incarnation and redemption of a kind of Truth – the truth of being whose condition is the collapse of action. If action is the source of the illusion that space is conserved and time destroyed, according to Bergson, then its crisis (with its curious dependance on the crisis of political organisation, and of both liberal and revolutionary politics) is a revelation of time’s conservation and space’s destruction, or falsification.

The power of the false turns out to be intimately linked to a purification of an experience that is now no longer practical but transcendental (where the theme of the people has no philosophical necessity or political determinacy). This purification is also an autonomisation, with Deleuze rejoining a trajectory of modernism via Bergson. But the crisis of truth as the condition of a higher truth, the truth of time, has a curious precondition, which brings us back to the question of money. Echoing back to his article on the Série noire, in Time-Image Deleuze notes that cinema as an art is in a perpetual, constant relation with the international conspiracy of money, which conditions it from within, as the most intimate enemy. This intimacy is extremely acute in the time-image, whose potentially revelatory direct presentation of time, and whose temporally unhinged series constructed by the power of the false, are conditioned by an ‘internal relationship’ to money.

Thus, according to Deleuze, ‘money is the reverse of all the images that cinema shows, so that films about money are already, albeit implicitly, films in film or on film’ (the key examples here are L’Herbier’s Argent for the movement-image and Bresson’s Argent for the time-image). What’s more money is intimately bound to the pure experience of time, and especially of time’s dislocation of true representation: while movement can serve as an invariant measure for a set of exchanges or as an equivalence, ‘time is by nature the conspiracy [here’s that term again] of unequal exchange or the impossibility of an equivalence’, such that we could also link the time-image to the rise of financial over productive accumulation, of money-capital (or fictional capital) over productive capital. The time-image and the power of the false (brought together in that emblematic figure of both forgery and in his own words ‘hustling’, Orson Welles whose career as a whole was a monetary tragicocomedy) are thus really brought together by the objective sophistry of money, or the ‘infernal circuit between image and money’ whereby the crystal image ‘receives the principle that founds it: relaunching ceaselessly dyssymetrical unequal exchange without equivalence’. In cinema, money is where the people is missing.

Part II. Money as actually-existing metaphysics: Malabou on Heidegger

To explore further this move from sophistry as the threat of mercenary knowledge against the pricelessness of philosophy (explored for instance in Marcel Hénaff’s The Price of Truth) to money as objective sophistry, I want to now turn to another text in which money is revealed as the intimate enemy but also the extimate principle of metaphysics, Malabou’s recent reading of Heidegger, and specifically its thematisation of the relation between metamorphosis, metaphysics and capital. I want to suggest that the non-dialectical sublation of the dialectic proposed by Malabou in Plasticity is troubled if we add to her polyvalent exploration of the W, W, V triad – Wandel, Wandlung, Verwandlung (change, transformation, metamorphosis) – the U of Übergang, or transition, the problem of the ‘other change’ in Marx, the change against and beyond exchange. Or, to the extent that Malabou notes that her question is about transformation, I want to think, in counterpoint to her work, what transformation may mean in and beyond capital, or beyond the form of value as the principle of our social synthesis.

In a curious inversion, the problem of the social ontology of change is broached not in Malabou’s writing on Hegel but in her more recent Le Change Heidegger, a book which has the rare capacity of generating an ‘impious’, profane illumination from Heidegger’s work, of – to quote one of the few books along with Malabou’s to recast Heidegger outside of ‘Heideggerianism’ – creating a ‘topos where the man Martin Heidegger undoubtedly would not so much have liked to see himself led’. And one of the topoi alien to ‘the man Martin Heidegger’, but for some oblique and superficial remarks, is the question of the ontology of capital, understood as something other than the deployment of the essence of technology or an iteration of the epochal metaphysics of subjectivity. It is to this key question of dialectical thought that Malabou gestures in the conclusion of Le Change Heidegger, where she writes: ‘There obviously exists a proximity between Heidegger and Marx, which rests no doubt on the thinking of a possible coincidence between the ontological and the economic in the definition of exchange, of exchangeability and mutability, of the metamorphosable and displaceable character of value and the impossibility of transgressing this plasticity’. But what if exchange, as an anoriginary, dispossessing origin of philosophy expropriated the self-sufficiency of philosophy, the consistency of ontology, and the sovereignty of the philosophical? To locate the crux of the dialectic in the real abstractions of money and exchange, in the seemingly autonomous logic of the categories of capital, as Marx and a number of his more speculatively-oriented commentators have done, is to suggest the possibility that, to somewhat pastiche Heidegger, the essence of philosophy is not philosophical – in other words, that inasmuch as the unique ontology of capitalism sees abstractions having a social existence external to and in many ways indifferent to mental or philosophical abstraction, the problems of philosophy have a directly social character. This also means that philosophy can no longer propose its ethical or political mission as that of providing a conceptual synthesis for other disciplines or practices. If, as the likes of Adorno pointed out long ago, social life is already conceptual through and through, albeit in inverted and mystified ways, the notion that philosophy can propose concepts – such as plasticity – to reorient our practices is put into question.

Malabou’s call to ‘put an end to the dematerialization and demonetarization of contemporary philosophy’ is a timely one. But I think for this not to remain simply a mutation in the reservoir of analogies, images or metaphors of philosophy, but a real challenge to philosophy’s sterile dream of self-sufficiency, it involves exploring the ways in which the conceptual or speculative character of the existence of capital forces philosophy outside of itself, obliging it to reflect on how it is constituted by abstractions that are not of the mind, spirits it cannot fasten or totalise. To put it paradoxically, philosophy can only rematerialize to the extent that it grasp the ‘spiritualized’ character of capitalism. Inasmuch as capitalism is an actually existing metaphysics, philosophy is a crucial component of any transformative analytic of social life – as Marx amply demonstrated by mapping the inner dynamic of capital onto the logic of Hegelian categories; but it is also revealed as increasingly obsolete in its image as a kind of ideological reservoir of world-views that could be proposed to other practices and disciplines.

It with respect to Heidegger, and not Hegel, that Malabou poses the problem of the entanglement between metaphysics and capitalism. In Heidegger’s philosophy, she writes ‘metaphysics and capitalism coincide: hence too, “other thought” and “revolution” coincide. The two logics at work in Western change are generalized equivalence (Geltung) – everything is equal to everything, any being can be exchanged for an other according to the mercantile arrogance of calculus – and favour (Gunst) – the future exchange is exchange by disappropriation’. Homing in on the first of these logics, that of commensurability, indifference, or universal exchange, is crucial for any understanding of philosophy’s relation to capital. But the coincidence or identity of metaphysics and capitalism is not a symmetrical one. In fact, it could be demonstrated that in Heidegger’s work, as in most philosophical reflections on the constitution of capitalism, the latter is presented as the effect of a particular metaphysics that both precedes and underlies it. It is because being is metaphysically configured as indifferently exchangeable, as an ultimately abstract object at the disposal of arbitrary subjective will, that capitalism is possible. The perspective I would like to adopt instead, taking inspiration from Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s pioneering reflections on ‘real abstraction’ – that is, on the origin of philosophical thought and modern subjectivity in the non-mental practice of commodity exchange and the mediations of the money form – is that it is the extra-mental logic of commodity exchange which underlies ‘Western change’, and that consequently, to put it in somewhat exaggerated, but I think pertinent terms, while the essence of capitalism is not metaphysical, the essence of metaphysics is intimately entangled with coin and capital. The consequences of thinking the ‘coincidence’ of capitalism and metaphysics are considerable.

Malabou’s challenge in her reflections on Heidegger – to think the bond between exchangeability as a capitalist and a metaphysical principle, in the ambit of a radical thinking of change – is to be welcomed. But in treating exchangeability as the object above all of philosophical reflection she risks, in the guise of an appeal for an other thinking, reasserting philosophy’s vocation to comprehend, in the sense of encompassing and exhausting, change itself – in a repetition of that primacy of philosophy over the domain of abstractions which the very notion of real abstraction begins to deconstruct. This is especially evident in her allegiance to the Heideggerian motif of the originary, itself convertible with the ontological. Malabou writes of an ontological mutability that ‘presupposes the originary economy of an exchange before exchange before economy. Before money, before price, before sex. Before commerce. Before history itself.’ But the difference between a general, metaphysical thinking of abstraction and a thinking of the determinate, historical emergence of real abstractions is precisely that there is no originary economy; that economy, especially in its capacity to shape philosophical thinking ‘behind its back’, is the dissipation of a thinking of the originary. Or, to put it another way, that the origin-effect is a contingent but logically self-consistent effect of a social form. The essence of philosophy is not philosophical. If we wish to test philosophy’s political valences, its potential to dislocate present impasses of thought and action, we will not do this by presenting philosophy’s work on itself as the prelude to the creation (or reform) of concepts for other disciplines and practices. We would need to start instead from the moment of philosophy’s expatriation, from a comprehension of philosophy being beside itself (in history, in science, in politics, in capital…); from the scandal that abstractions are in the social ‘before’ they are in the mind. But this, unlike Heidegger’s, is a totally profane ‘before’, a strictly meaningless before – which can expatriate philosophy from its morbid pieties about its Greek or ‘Western’ origins, and truly terminate its dematerialization and demonetization.

This expatriation, as we encounter it in Sohn-Rethel and other who have located ontological convertibility in the social practices of ancient Greece, rather than in any misty realm of the spirit, is a matter of currency and coin. It is all the more interesting, in this respect, that Malabou brings our attention to some of the passages in Heidegger where the ontological scandal of money springs forth, closing Le Change Heidegger on Heidegger’s musings in the essay ‘Why Poets?’ on Rilke and money. The encounter of poetry in a desolate time with the form of money takes the form of a kind of threnody not so much for lost objects as for lost things, for originary relations not dissolved in the corrosive circuits of currency. Heidegger quotes the following verses from Rilke’s ‘Book of Pilgrimage’, the second book of the Book of Hours:

The kings of the world are old,

and they will have no heirs.

The sons are dying as boys,

and their pale daughters gave

all the sickly crowns to force.

The rabble grinds them into specie:

the time-serving lord of the world

distends them in the fire: makes them machines

that grumble and serve his will;

but happiness is not among them.

The ore is homesick. Its desire

is to forsake the coins and the wheels

that teach it to live small.

And from the factories and from the tills

it will return into earthly veins:

the adits of the mountains

close behind it on its return.

The plebeian sociality of labour timed and abstracted – The rabble grinds them into specie – is not the site of a possible emancipation, say of a species-being finding in its daily ‘grind’ the wherewithal to turn the coins and the wheels to better ends. As the juxtaposition between chtonic ore and worldly coin, or the natural-ontological and the social-ontic, suggests, the poetic gaze is here one of nostalgic distress. Two passages from Rilke’s letters, quoted by Heidegger, reinforce this impression of poetic saying not traversing but simply resisting the onslaught of generalised exchangeability. The first is articulated in terms of European authenticity against the banal barbarism of the New World (a note echoed in Heidegger’s own lectures): ‘Now, from America, empty indifferent things, sham things, counterfeit life are pushing their way across’. Capital’s adoptive home simulates the ontology of the thing in the ubiquity of the commodity, whose dynamic is that of a devouring, unstoppable indifference. The second quotation is more ambiguous, finding in the ‘sensible-supersensible’ nature of money a weird kind of spirituality: ‘The world withdraws into itself; and things, for their part, behave in the same way, by transferring their existence increasingly into the vibration of money and developing for themselves a kind of spirituality there that even now exceeds their tangible reality. In the period I am dealing with [Rilke means the fourteenth century] – money was still gold, still metal, a lovely object, the handiest, the most lucid thing of all’.

Yet in this contrast of the thing and the product, ore and money, as both allegory and reference point for Heidegger’s confrontation with the question concerning capital, we encounter the absolute limits of his conception of change, and the resources it may harbour for a contemporary thinking, such as the one proposed by Malabou, capable of thinking itself into and out of capital. What is most intriguing perhaps about the Heideggerian position, as viewed from the vantage of the thesis of real abstraction, is its strangely ‘empirical’ characterisation of capitalism, understood not through its social forms (and above all not through the contradictory and self-positing form of value), but through the philosophical extrapolation of certain phenomenal contents. Thus, when Heidegger discourses about ‘the objectiveness of technical domination over the earth’, we could note that he is confounding an effect with a cause. In the absence of an account of the social and economic forms – the value forms – that govern the expansion and intensification of capital, we are instead given a kind of ontological sublimation of economic terms: ‘What is human about humans and thingly about things is dissolved, within the self-assertion of producing, to the calculations of the market value of a market that is not only a global market spanning the earth but that also, as the will to will, markets in the essence of being and so brings all beings into the business of calculation, which dominates most fiercely precisely where numbers are not needed’.

In Heidegger’s sublimation and metaphorization of capital, the horizon of philosophy’s expatriation – what should philosophers do, once they take on the fact that capital actually ‘markets in essence of being’, such that to speak of such an essence becomes otiose? – is rescinded by treating philosophy as a critical observer of the anthropology of capital, in such a way that the sources and mechanisms of capital’s real abstractions are ignored. This is evident in the way that Heidegger, rather than acknowledging the determinate character of the exchange abstraction under capitalism, treats exchange as a kind of exchange in general. Thus, commenting on Rilke, he writes: ‘The self-willing man always calculates with things and people as he does with objects. That with which he has calculated turns into merchandise. Everything is constantly changed into new orderings. … Risked into defencelessness in this way, man moves in the medium of businesses and “exchanges”. Self-asserting man lives by his will’s stakes. He lives essentially in the hazard of his essence within the vibration of money and the validity of values. Man, as this constant exchanger and middleman, is “the merchant”. He weighs and evaluates constantly and yet does not know the actual weight of things. Nor does he ever know what, in him, actually has weight and outweighs. … The usual life of today’s man is the ordinariness of self-assertion in the defenseless market of exchanges’.

Now, though Malabou is rightly suspicious of Heidegger’s tendency to treat the bad infinite of objective exchange as an inauthenticity that could be offset by recovering the horizon of true ‘things’, the temptation in his work to‘form an essence, to sculpt it, to coin it like one coins money’, her deriving from Heidegger of the problematic of an economy ‘before’ capitalism fails to confront the dialectical challenge of real abstraction, namely that such an originary dimension is a fallacious extrapolation – a one-sided abstraction, to put it in Hegelian terms – from the determinate abstraction of commodity exchange, to general philosophical laws, as in the following formulation: ‘The economic law of being: every thing, beginning with being itself, constantly exchanges itself with itself, between presence and presence, value and favour, property and disappropriation’ (Malabou). Before returning to this problem of the ontology of exchange as it relates to the critical contrast between philosophical plasticity and capitalist flexibility, in Malabou’s dialogue with the brain sciences, another brief poetic and monetary detour is in order.

Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?

No, Gods, I am no idle votarist! …

Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair,

Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.

… Why, this

Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,

Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:

This yellow slave

Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed;

Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves

And give them title, knee and approbation

With senators on the bench: This is it

That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;

She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores

Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices

To the April day again. Come, damned earth,

Thou common whore of mankind, that put’st odds

Among the rout of nations.

This monologue from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, quoted in the context of Marx’s discussion of the fetish-powers of money in the Paris Manuscripts of 1844, is intended to underscore the manner in which the quantitative indifference of money can unleash the most varied and uncontainable of metamorphoses, making a mockery of stable identities or hallowed oppositions – the very creative-destructive power borne by the buccaneering bourgeoisie of the Manifesto. Shakespeare’s delirious vision and Marx’s commentary also mime the way in which a world structured by the money-form insistently tries to repel it, debasing it along with the threatening forms of otherness and mixture (‘the yellow slave’, ‘the common whore’). While not taking his distance from the gynophobic trope of ‘general prostitution’ as the dissolution of order, in his gloss on Shakespeare Marx does note the intrinsic bivalence, or hypocrisy, of this monetized social ontology – which joins sovereignty and baseness, intercourse and separation, infinite dissemination and homogenising unity:

If money is the bond binding me to human life, binding society to me, connecting me with nature and man, is not money the bond of all bonds? Can it not dissolve and bind all ties? Is it not, therefore, also the universal agent of separation? It is the coin that really separates as well as the real binding agent – the chemical power of society.

Shakespeare stresses especially two properties of money:

1. It is the visible divinity – the transformation of all human and natural properties into their contraries, the universal confounding and distorting of things: impossibilities are soldered together by it.

2. It is the common whore, the common procurer of people and nations.

The distorting and confounding of all human and natural qualities, the fraternisation of impossibilities – the divine power of money – lies in its character as men’s estranged, alienating and self-disposing species-nature. Money is the alienated ability of mankind.

The affinity of capital’s critique with capital is writ large. After all, what better name for communism than the fraternisation of impossibilities? This affinity is perhaps best regarded as an ambivalence, a bivalent potentiality which haunts critical dialectical thinking’s relation to its object. It is also a mark of immanence: the real critique of money is not an external critique – such as we may discern in Heidegger’s Rilke – but one that roots itself in the possibilities opened up by this universal confusion of traditional categories, identities and demarcations.

1 Marx, Early Writings, p. 377. 

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