Capitalism and Metaphysics

Lash, Scott. 2007. Capitalism and Metaphysics. Theory, Culture & Society, 24(5), pp. 1-26. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Contemporary capitalism is becoming increasingly metaphysical. The article contrasts a ‘physical’ capitalism – of the national and manufacturing age – with a ‘metaphysical capitalism’ of the global information society. It describes physical capitalism in terms of (1) extensity, (2) equivalence, (3) equilibrium and (4) the phenomenal, which stands in contrast to metaphysical capitalism’s (1) intensity, (2) inequivalence (or difference), (3) disequilibrium and (4) the noumenal. Most centrally: if use-value or the gift in pre-capitalist society is grounded in concrete inequivalence, and exchange-value in physical capitalism presumes abstract equivalence, then value in contemporary society presumes abstract inequivalence. The article argues that the predominantly physical causation of the earlier epoch is being superseded by a more metaphysical causation. This is discussed in terms of the four Aristotelian causes. Thus there is a shift in efficient cause from abstract homogenous labour to abstract heterogeneous life. Material cause changes from the commodity’s units of equivalence to consist of informational units of inequivalence. Formal cause takes place through the preservation of form as a disequilibriate system through operations of closure. These operations are at the same time information interchanges with a form’s environment. Final (and first) cause becomes the deep-structural generation of information from a compressed virtual substrate. This may have implications for method in the social and human sciences. The article illustrates this shift with a brief discussion of global finance.

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Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)



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Date Deposited:

17 Aug 2015 14:18

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2017 11:12

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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