Capitalist Decolonization: A metaphorical Stabilization of Capital System’s social metabolic disorder of a Civilization in Crisis

Edward Akong’o Oyugi | Kenya

Capitalist Decolonization: A metaphorical Stabilization of Capital System’s social metabolic disorder of a Civilization in Crisis

“A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization”.
Aime Cesaire

An Introductory Preface

This paper examines, with a keen sense of history, the dynamic relationships and significant intersections between capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and the fundamental challenges that the complex process of decolonization, as a dicey metaphor, has generated over the years as it continues to retain the dubious distinction of enjoying the capacity to conceal and reanimate the deep structures of capital. Capital, more than capitalism, is intrinsic in the long journey and continued functioning of imperial capitalism, more particularly in a re-nuanced and recalibrated ideological temperature/environment. The above cognate challenges, constituting our predicament's historical coordinates, conflate into the substantive drivers of the ongoing poly-crises[1] – a neologism for what marks the critical point of political turbulence and societal unrest in the global political economy. Beyond the juridical ecology of capital, the accumulative/concentrative behaviour and historical dynamics and the monstrous social-metabolic powers of capital have become the main drivers of capitalism as the continuum against the background of which imperialism, colonialism, decolonization, and neo-colonialism continue to afflict a significant section of humanity. Therefore, from capital rather than capitalism, we must start our long journey towards a deeper understanding and effective deconstruction of its episodic and periodic flare-ups as predicaments confronting particular sections of the global society in accordance with the prevailing social order of capital. Under this conceptualization, recent events, including climate change catastrophe, a spate of pandemics, inflation, proxy wars, grinding inequality, unemployment, precarization of lifeworld, etc., though generally postulated as separate crises, have a common origin in the generalized crisis of capitalist civilization. But these crises did not emerge from a vacuum. They are overdetermined by the fundamental contradictions in the capitalist mode of production, based on which the circuit of capital (in the process of its reproduction) is threatened by the continuous outpouring of commodities which eventually crash into the institutional limits of the market, thereby opening a portentous gap between production and consumption and the pathologies of the current era adumbrating the final twitches of capital humbled by the headwinds of use-value recalcitrance in its social-metabolic function as the driver of capitalism. This could be summarized as the contradiction between nationally chained labor and a globally roving capital – a crisis succinctly captured by Engels in the following quote.[2]

The challenges are real and strikingly disturbing. They have to do with the dynamics of neo-liberal capitalism, instigating the peripheralization of the global Southern political economies into an extractive raw-material corner of the capitalist universe down the value chain. The structures, concealed beneath a carapace of cold steel of deception, are equally responsible for protecting and entrenching neo-colonial relations of production (in the periphery) and lavish consumption (at the centre). Hot on the heels of the strategic retreat of hard-boiled imperialism, the historic reign of neo-liberal capital has created international and domestic political-economic structures that have rendered decolonization a treacherous metaphor, the effect of which is to keep the peoples of the global South where they have been; with systemic mal-integration into the global capitalist political economy increasingly reflecting the pathologies of dependency and, therefore, the tragedy of Africa’s post-colonial trajectory as the default position of most of its nation-states.

All this has left behind a tumbleweed moment of neo-colonial confusion that would soon produce a lasting disjuncture between neo-colonial states and post-colonial nations, a situation exacerbated by the opportunistic delay in addressing the national question through identitarian inversions that are nearly succeeding as a political ruse intended to forestall the emergence of anti-imperialist forces that could put paid to the menace of neo-colonialism. With identity politics commanding a high degree of influence among many sections of society and even a significant layer of victims of capital, proper diagnosis of the prevailing poly-crisis is shelved for the time being, at least in the echo chambers of neo-liberal triumphalism, as imminent class conflicts beckon for a life-and-death struggle. A significant part of the challenges is that capital has been imbued with a remarkable sense of mobility to the disadvantage of labor that has remained chained precariously to the desolate ramparts of peripheral poverty and increasing precarization of human life.

It is no longer a subject of any serious debate that the process of decolonization has been compromised and, to a large extent, bogged down in a neo-colonial bind, coming out of which has required revolutionary energy necessary for a new spurt in the construction of an alternative paradigm of a new world order, bereft of any hegemonic relations. The situation has been made worse by a deepening democratic recession that seems to brook no national boundaries except a historical continuum that portends neo-liberal globalization of capital minus the company of a democratic spirit of internationalism. That is how capital’s transnationally expansionary behaviour reproduces conflicts on an ever-greater scale. Thus, rendering the common use of the concept of multinationalism a relative misnomer, hiding – to a large extent – the pertinent issue of domination of the local economies, in tune with the innermost determinants and obvious antagonisms of the global capital system (See Istvan Meszaros, in Beyond Capital, 2010).

The democratic recession is the subject of a drag sponsored by imperial forces that have been re-signified and re-axiomatized by the predatory machinery and logic of capital that is causing social metabolic disorders in nearly all capitalist societies. We are here not talking about any ordinary capital, which would be a waste of time and intellectual energy. Indeed, we are referring here to capital deeply mired in the increasing functional disorder of a long-drawn crisis of capitalism and not capitalism in crisis. We are referring here to capital that is tied with a thousand and one strings or wirings of social-metabolic functions to the chrematistic bastions of industrial and financial capital concentrated in the hands of the ruling corporate elite, i.e., capital in its most fundamental incarnation as a value-creating system of psycho-social domination anchored on hegemonic social relations.

The paper begins with the hypothesis that: capital,[3] more than capitalism (as its modus operandi), is the matrix on the basis of which the process of decolonization, re-colonialization and the accompanying dystopian poly-crisis, hung together in a conflictual playout of social-historical forces that stand between humanity, in its majestic potential, and the achievement of solidarity and common good among peoples of the world. Building on this hypothesis, the following central question arises: ‘‘what is the vital relationship between capital, in its social metabolic function, and modern expressions of imperialism, neo-colonialism, and the obstacles to successful decolonization as a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism?”. The question, as framed, has a lot to do with the process of decolonization having lost traction and increasingly veering off the path of social democracy and inclusive development by insulating the malign social-metabolic power of capital from the combined onslaught of the national- and social-democratic struggles/forces on capitalist imperialism as the particularistic expression of the rule and logic of capital as an obstacle to equality and democracy.

The need to address the above question with the necessary nuance and didactic calls for a contextual reiteration of the out-going spirit of the time (zeitgeist) against which the paper attempts to test the above hypothesis and, as a matter of course, seeks to provide answers to the attendant questions. In this regard, there is an emerging consensus that we live through multiple and overlapping crises. Under this characterization of the historical moment, recent events, including climate change catastrophe, a series of deadly pandemics, and hegemonic geo-political wars, including the ongoing proxy one between Russia and Ukraine, are mistakenly postulated as distinct and separate manifestations of the poly-crises, which have little or no effect on each other, leave alone any connection with the larger scheme of things in a neo-liberally globalizing world. Yet, the fact is that, apart from having a common origin in the social metabolic operations of capital, their substantive drivers include, but are not limited to, the steady acceleration and hegemonic prevalence of private-sector-led solutionism – all in the shadow of a public sector, purged of the spirit of the common good, and geared towards ministering to the interests of powerful corporations in the name of private ownership of the means and ends of production and obscene concentration of wealth in a tiny fraction of society.

We can break this down to the following problematic circumstances: massive re-financialization of the state and the economy on their long journey from a Keynesian respite, characterized by the rapid rise of right-wing neo-fascist populism (as the inherent symptoms of the dystopian return of authoritarian capitalism and not just the display of the exterior of its contingent deviation) to the turbo-charged neo-liberal excesses of the post-Washington consensus. With imperialist impulses deeply embedded in the DNA of capitalism, efforts to retool it to eliminate the systemic origins of poverty and obscene inequality, even the diversionary road to Davos, with its forlorn hopes for the potential of capitalism with a human face, is inevitably leading to a neo-liberal cul de sac. Along the way, it produces stale, doctrinaire, and nervous apologia for capitalism mired in ever-deepening systemic crises. A misguided detour from the dead end of such crises has, in the meantime, witnessed the headless revival of right-wing populism, causing it to chalk up incredible traction as political entrepreneurs exploit the attendant identity conflicts for immediate political gains[4] but more insidiously as a way of circling the wagons around conflicts frozen in make-believe and non-antagonistic contradictions. The main drivers of the conflicts have been the vagaries of neo-liberalism characterized by obscene inequality, extreme financialization of the economy at the expense of the productive virtues of capitalism itself, political leadership with questionable democratic pedigree, and toxic identitarian politics (as a function of cross-cultural incompetence) that pit one community against another in a hamster cage of growing neo-fascistic responses that have required commensurate violence necessary for the preservation of the neo-liberal economies of the world and the accompanying institutions of capitalist depredation.

To address the primary and overarching question raised above, three subordinate questions stand out and call for our attention. These are: what is the place of capital in the historical and structural dynamics of capitalism, imperialism, decolonization, neo-colonialism, and the accompanying poly-crisis facing humankind in general and the victims of imperialism in particular?’’, ‘‘what are the dynamics of the social metabolic disorder of capital regarding the origins and evolution of each one of the above?” and ‘‘to what extent are imperialism and capitalism connected to or implicated in the multiple and overlapping crises facing the world in the forms of widespread abject poverty, violently frozen conflicts, obscene prebendalism, rampant precarization of human life, underemployment, deepening inequality, pandemics, cost-of-living crises, and many other social upheavals arising from and attending the crisis of capitalism itself. Inevitably, this will lead to the breakdown of the political system's regulatory competence, giving way to the failure of social programs alongside a steep rise of disintegrative effects, particularly when the instruments deployed happen to overtax the legal media themselves and strain the normative composition of the political system.

Allow me to borrow a quote or two from one of the great critical theorists: Max Horkheimer, to reinforce the central argument in this paper. The quote runs as follows: ‘One should remain silent about anything to do with imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, decolonization, neoliberalism, and neo-fascist right-wing populism unless one is ready to talk about capitalism’ and its core driver: capital. The quote speaks for itself and therefore needs no further elaboration.

The terms – poly-crisis or perma-crisis – may appear to be mere buzzwords that wobble precariously in the impoverished vocabulary of triumphalist capitalism. When they are not glaringly absent in discussions about democratic reform of international and intra-national relations, they are duly deployed in a vulgarized, domesticated, and watered-down fashion. All that notwithstanding, they have become more visible in a new progressive discourse and literature in recent years. As critics of capitalism attempt to rethink democratic transformation in the context of discussions over the globalization of capitalism, the terminologies are slowly but surely arching their way back into the exuberant lexicon of the progressive critique of capitalism with the help of a bold social science and political practice that do not hesitate to disabuse themselves of the dogmatic hold of their founders.

Suppose we were to drill deep into the subject matter and distil the underlying meta-analyses (with diachronic and synchronic lenses) down to the critical insights into humankind's multiple crises; what are we likely to find? Of course, we are more than likely to find many things. We are likely to generate insights, the application of which may help us illuminate how global crises are interconnected, entangled, and worsen one another along a complex trajectory that can only portend danger to the future of humankind. They may also help us explain the conjunction of liberal democracy and capitalism at a fragile moment facing a significant threat to humanity. What this means, in other words, is that if the concepts, regardless of their levels of imprecision, are used with greater clarity and steady focus on the critical issues than previously, they could quickly generate an essential, if not novel, appreciation of our present predicament with its dystopian implications for the future of humanity.

Most of the crises we witness today have always occurred before in one way or another. Neither are they necessarily a farcical repeat of what has been experienced in different parts of the world. But not necessarily in a chain of equivalence, conflating or aggregating in a concertina of crises in a coherent string that may reveal the historical path of a trajectory of events with the necessary internal consistency needed to disclose where we, as a society and peoples of the world, are coming from and which direction we are headed as actors in a specific social formation. In an ideological itinerary characterized by false consciousness, the poly-crisis comes close to resembling what Professor Danny Ralph of Cambridge’s Centre for Risk Studies refers to as the biblical famines, inter-community wars, pestilence, etc., all of which are assumed to occur without any contextual connection with the broader meta-narratives of the historical process in question.[5]

What has changed, and will continue to change in the foreseeable future, and with far-reaching implications for the transformation of historical necessity into a democratic reality, is the relentlessness with which these dystopian events have been hitting us afresh with an intensifying frequency and unrelenting severity. Those who, for one reason or another, have gotten rid of these words from the staple of their vocabulary and ideological orthodoxy might delude themselves that the time will come when they will fix the problem once and for all and possibly get back to normal. The fact of the matter, however, is that the drive for wars (proxy or otherwise),[6] carefree attitude towards economic vulnerability to ecological calamities, widespread prebendalism, the callous proclivity towards social upheavals, and the itchy propensity toward territorial conquests equate easily to political-economic or social-cultural domination of other nations and peoples; a good part of it caught under the virulent grip of the geo-political spell of a Thucydides’ trap.[7] It also amounts to the predictable piling up of several but interlocked predicaments of capitalism that are germane to and benefit capitalist virtues of individualistic disorder, anchored firmly on the principle of utility that makes both the natural world and social sphere cast away their emotional brilliance and, by that same token, exacerbate the metabolic rift that Marx had eloquently written about (more than four centuries ago) with the remarkable insights of a peerless telepathist. Under the circumstances, even mother nature, like every being in the social sphere, can only defend its dear existence, leave alone that of the others, before the tendentious court of capital. And that is the tragedy of our times, which has far-reaching implications for peace in a world teetering at the brink of a social catastrophe.

The economically advanced countries of the North that had been deluding themselves that, by dint of the Westphalian accord[8] nearly seven centuries ago, they had, with peremptory finality, overcome the historical obstacles of the national question (as manifestations of neo-liberal capitalism in crisis), have had to deal with a rude shock that, with all the delusion of the orthodoxy in respect to the national-democratic foundation of sovereignty of the post-

The Westphalian nation-state, having been a general historical treasury of democratic consciousness and a revolutionary arsenal for the struggle to consolidate the national democratic gains, they have not been able to deal effectively with the race, culture, language, and identity-political questions wrought by neo-liberal globalization. In the cards are questions of the mistreatment of refugees seeking dignified accommodation in the global Northern societies, with the potential risk of turning out to be egregious collateral victims of a dysfunctional liberal multi-culturalism in which the incredible mobility of capital is grotesquely poised against geographically chained labor – with geo-political barricades erected between the capital saturated/concentrated North and capital-anemic/fleeing South within a neo-liberal framework in which capital is getting used to reproducing itself outside the typical labor market but in a labor-hostile environment, the capital-infested and speculative apparition of finance capital.

So what the hell is a poly-crisis? The quick and unambiguous answer is that it is the turgid conflation of diverse systemic shocks that arise from and signal the end of the long historical trajectory of capitalism as an ideological framework of organizing society based on class conflicts. In doing so, it has produced imperialism, occasioned slavery, begotten colonialism, anticipated the inevitability of decolonization, and, at the same time, spared no energy neutralizing the national-democratic effects of decolonization through the neo-colonial diversion of national liberation energies into social-democratic despair under the intense pressure of neo-liberal globalism. And in the process, it has generated a series of crises that have, in turn, triggered the agony of the prevalence of abject poverty, inequality, and widespread precarity worldwide. It is the crisis of capitalism masquerading as simple development policy failures arising from governmental incompetence and systemic failure of neo-liberal capitalism. Yet it is not just an economic and political crisis. It is, in fact, a crisis of the philosophical foundation of social science which has been reluctant to call the crisis by its proper name and not resort to a slew of diversionary monikers. The question we need to pose is: how can such a periodic dance with disaster be allowed to reach a juncture of such great danger?

It has been convenient for apologists of status-quo neo-liberal capitalist order to paper over such connections as it precariously saves the agony of dealing with the existential challenges of the looming alternatives to and mutations of capitalism. Such obscure jargons, like overlapping emergencies, ecological crises, cost-of-living crises, etc., are invoked conveniently – and rightly so – to describe and give a name to the complexity of the situation, the ambiguity of the human condition, and the misapprehension of their apocryphal provenance. Yet, they serve, with or without intention, to conceal the culprit, namely the totality of capitalist social relations and the nearly impenetrable social-metabolic Geist of capital. Even in situations deemed to have overcome the obvious historical maladies of capitalism and social sectors considered to be immunized against the social-metabolic malignity of capital, including the spiritual sector where morbid fundamentalism rains occult violence on the secular and ecumenical populations.

Capital system’s insubordination of capitalism in defiance of transitions

Adam Smith had warned nearly two centuries ago of the tendency of the growing power of capital to rig not only the economy but also the political system and the associated normative values and precepts in favor of the hegemonic interests of a tiny section of society. Capital, therefore, relies on the strategic agency and tactical spontaneity of its social metabolic capacity to influence life forms most fundamentally. It is Capital, that is increasingly reproducing itself. Spectrally, it has placed humankind a deep breath away from the monstrous eventuality when commodity forms penetrate every corner and cranny of the social world and where daily life grinds into the twisted orbit of capital before the victims are crushed by unsustainable debt, savage austerity programs and fiscal consolidation measures imposed by the WB and IMF as part of its bilateral mission to governmentalize neo-colonial political economies of the global South. To be sure, there is a solid link between austerity, debt, corruption, and over-taxation that the WB and IMF promote in the client economies. All this ends up infantilizing (see, Mazzucato, in Mission Economy) the African states to the extent of drawing their authoritarian right-wing tendencies towards populist fascism that is already spreading like a prairie fire worldwide and devastating societies out of common existential bonds. Ironically, such debts, though preceded by and shrouded in idiotic and inconsequential debt-ceiling rituals, have been accrued by financing corruption and both class- and imperialist wars like happened in feudal Europe when the Rothschilds financed both sides in the Napoleonic wars as a counterfactual reminder of the universalizing mission of the reign and logic of capital. Instead of taxing the rich, the capitalist state borrows and hands over the proceeds to the corporations in a spectacular sleight of hand, which ends up addicting the economy to the magic of the reproduction of capital. The tax revenues eventually needed to service the public debt are financed by over taxation and austerity measures adversely affecting the most necessary means of subsistence. The over-taxation being experienced in many economies of the global South, Kenya being an outstanding example, is not accidental: it is an entrenched principle of public indebtedness. It serves to derisk the corporate service providers, thereby dramatizing and elaborating how public debt benefits the corporate and private-sector elite. Thus, public debt creates a clear-cut conflict, mal-distributing or expropriating income from the working masses of taxpayers to the rentier class of public creditors and their local lackeys who manipulate the repayment modalities and mechanisms to divert a substantial bit to their offshore accounts, ready to deploy it in buying votes in the subsequent elections. Capital is the primary driver of the capitalist fraudulence behind public debt, but it is an excruciating burden on capitalism. That is why, without a productive economy, it is meaningless. There is no way capital will yield any significant interest if the capitalist economy fails to perform any productive function, i.e., if it does not create surplus-value, of which interest is just a part. This confirms, beyond any doubt, that public debt, apart from creating opportunities for speculative bubbles, aids the expansion of the stock market by promoting the creation of an “aristocracy of finance. And that is why, in recent times, debt has been used to subsidize big businesses to keep capitalism on life support. Playing a significant role in the reproduction of capital, public debt has become one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. The need for private funding of state activities impels the state into submission to capitalist interests, a neo-liberal catnip that vindicates the capitalist dream of a stateless reign of capital.

As to the question of who benefits from public debt, the answer is fairly straightforward. First, the question enables us to understand why nineteenth-century socialists like Karl Marx were so wary of public debt, which they saw – with a certain amount of perspicacity – as a tool of private capital in its self-reproductive mode. Furthermore, it confirms the Ricardian equivalence hypothesis that under the present circumstances of neo-liberal capitalism, public debt has hardly any effect on the accumulation of national capital, particularly in circumstances where the distribution of fiscal burden is meant to fall on the shoulders of the majority of taxpaying citizens whereas the benefits of incurring will accrue to a tiny section of the society, owing to crass inequality and runaway deficit of trust in the government. As the national debt finds its support in the public revenue, which must cover the yearly payments for interest, the modern system of taxation was the necessary complement of the system of national loans. As Marx, with incredible premonition, observed, “The loans enable the government to meet extraordinary expenses, without the tax-payers feeling it immediately, but they necessitate, as a consequence, increased taxes. On the other hand, the raising of taxation caused by the accumulation of debts contracted one after another, compels the government always to have recourse to new loans for new extraordinary expenses. Modern fiscality, whose pivot is formed by taxes on the most necessary means of subsistence (thereby increasing their price), thus contains within itself the germ of automatic progression. Overtaxation is not an incident, but rather a principle”.

The universal character capital acquires through ill-fated globalization en route to a universalizing mission, the more difficult it becomes to detect, pin down, and characterize its malign implication in the structuring of the human condition, except when we realize that neo-liberal capitalism operating under the guise of liberal multiculturalism has taken complete control of the political process itself against any hopes for popular revalorization of the common good and appreciation of cross-cultural competence. The unwieldy growth of its social-structuring efficacy materializes behind the façade of the ubiquity of ideology, which has very little to do with democratic struggles among social classes, but a lot more to do with the self-perpetuating architecture of desires for everything except satisfaction itself, always presenting itself as an ever-receding mirage behind the social-democratic horizon. This conception of capital requires the decisive abandonment of the traditional left-wing positivistic way of understanding capital as a mere wealth accumulation for the surplus appropriation of surplus values. Such understanding is hardly based on juridical-instrumental models of social reproduction in favor of the concrete, almost quantum-mechanical ways in which capital penetrates/invests the metabolic systems and forms of social life with value-coding functions that place it at the very metabolic core of individual and social life. In such a situation, capital becomes immanent and non-subjective and, by that same token, becomes a fundamental element in social relations. Like a vampire squid, it gets wrapped around the soul of humanity, causing a lot of misery to those living outside its social-metabolic orbit. In this sense, it cannot be external to power relations but the very fulcrum on which power relations and social/psychological identities are thrown into the bargain in a post-structuralist obsession with politics of identity and subjective difference away from everyday democratic struggles of bona fide social orders around a shared democratic destiny towards a common good. It is the kind of identity politics that has equipped people and even institutions with a new grammar of social behavior and vocabulary of communicative relationships with the propensity to describe nearly everything, even if the substance of the attendant political decisions runs counter to the interests of most of the earth, particularly those whose real social-class identities are at stake but wished away with a surfeit of hegemonic disdain by those in power. The underlying identitarian politics generates such reactionary sub-cultural counter-publics that can only consolidate the backward anti-democratic consciousness needed to anchor the social-metabolic functions of capital. That is why whenever money, as an exchange value, converts into the hegemonic spirit of capital, it ceases being a rational means to satisfy social and human needs and acquires an instrumental function in social power games damaging common human dignity. It thus tokenizes itself away from the labour power of commodity production into the contradictory relationship between fungible value (in itself) and substantive use-value (for itself), a process that demonstrates, with exceptional clarity, how value surmounts the use value obstacles, to reproduce the economic life of capitalist society as a by-product of its chrematistic nature.

Such freedom requires a national democratic solution to the many national-questions problems facing humankind. It also requires international solidarity, free of hegemonic relations and dominance of a cabal of nations away from what may turn out to be mere peace of the graveside, duly demanded of the weaker and subordinate countries and fragile economies, with the result that, instead of negotiating an existence in nations of citizens, we remain governmentalized into communities of descent. By that same token it renders the existence of a nation a daily plebiscite.[9] Worse still, it negates the need for an international democratic community (Willensgemeinschaft) which is a sine qua non for democratic coexistence among nations of the world.

Istvan Mészáros, in his famous book Beyond Capital (1995), proclaims that it is essential to recognize an important distinction between Capitalism and Capital, not only from an analytical point of view but to more effectively and convincingly theorize about a possible transition to a system of equality and democracy. He further posits that capital appeared thousands of years before capitalism and is, therefore, capable of outlasting its juridical-ecological expression. And that, by nature and under specific circumstances, capital can assume many forms and, therefore, continue without and even outlive capitalism, as is happening in many formerly socialist countries in Eastern Europe. It may, therefore, not matter whether we are dealing with forms of capitalism structured differently yet still driven by the fundamental logic of capital. This is because capitalism has never been a result of deterministic laws. It has always required political organization with appropriate material conditions that allow the social metabolic operations of capital to produce capitalism of losing traction in the face of overwhelming opposition from its worldwide victims. But not to the extent of sounding a death knell to capitalism, particularly when its social metabolic infrastructure is exposed to critical scrutiny and eventual democratic intervention. In this sense, he argues further that a revolutionary upheaval can overthrow capitalism in a limited area through the expropriation of the capitalist class and yet remain trapped in a rabbit hole of the social metabolic gravity of capital through a Svengali mechanism that guarantees the historical continuity of capitalist finance as the key vector of imperialist domination and neo-colonial repression.

Capital’s historic ascendancy to the ethereal sphere, having divested itself of excess materiality and, decidedly, away from the mundane world of use-value and historical attachment to the chrematistic allure of commodities, is by now nearly consummated on the much larger terrain of global influence. Behind the increasing detachment of financial assets from the true sense of value creation is the same dynamic that separates Starbucks from Kenyan coffee fields, Cupertino from Kinshasa and the surrounding mines, and are the same imperial-capitalist forces that made it possible for Mississippi to stand grotesquely behind Manchester nearly three centuries ago in as far as the relationship between cotton farming in the US and textile industries in imperialist England were concerned. Arising from the disturbing effects of this spectral process in which, like Hegel’s Absolute Geist, capital continues to support hegemonic globalization around its ever-growing concentration and crisis-ridden reign upon persistent democratic remission everywhere in the world, but more poignantly in the global South – where a wave of right-wing populism, rolling through the medium of political supremacy, is sweeping the African continent ashore with the fury and malignancy of rogue cancer running out of human organs and tissues to attack and debilitate. In sporadic violent eruptions of political instability, the sub-national skirmishes are today in Congo, tomorrow in Sudan, and the other day in Ethiopia and Somalia – nearly always following the fault lines of the pending national question, the resolution of which has suffered the delay on account of neo-colonial weaponization of tribal, regional and racial counter-insurgency maneuvers to serve the divisive interests of capital. It comes down to a situation in which nearly all are invited to pork-barrel politics of rent-seeking and who knows who in the executive layer of the pyramid of domination, according to which tribal and racial prejudices complicate the reality of power.

The continued reign and social metabolic control of the political-economic behavior of society by capital, the disturbing effect of which is cleverly obscured by the thoughtless axiomatization of capitalist orthodoxy (as the focus of analysis aimed at finding solutions to the poly-crisis of neo-liberal capitalism), should not discharge any critical social science from the mission and obligation to grasp the truth about the existing architecture and structures of exploitation present within the capitalist system. As Whitehead warned many years ago, such science should not be the kind that hesitates to forget its founders. In the productive, exchange, and distributive imperatives that emanate from capital itself as a historically specific mode of social metabolic control, it is usually muddled that capital is a historically created and, therefore, a historically transcend-able property relationship. Yet we have been habituated to treating it as an all-time and self-moving deep structure of a set of logical inner social relations. This renders the concept of capital, as Marx intended to treat it,[10] much more fundamental than capitalism. It has to do with the mode of functioning of a given capitalist society. In its typical social metabolic functioning, it can outlive capitalism in a post-revolutionary situation, particularly when revolutionary forces fail to destroy the bamboolike resilient deposits and footprints of its psycho-social metabolic operations. The rule of capital, deeply rooted in its social metabolic control of the prevailing system of division of labor and coding of values, cannot conceivably be made away with by political and state-bureaucratic acts alone without shaking to the ground the cognate axiological paradigm that is predicated on the dictates of capital in a social-historical crisis.

The conceptual and ideological frameworks for viewing the multiple crises discussed above have the common feature of stabilizing the global economy in the face of complicating the dynamics of the crises in question. Rather than interrogating the structural forces that shape systemic outcomes, these frameworks suggest that the pressing manifestations of the ecological breakdown, geopolitical tensions, and internecine wars provide bottlenecks and intractable stagflationary conditions that result from and inform neo-liberal policies that, in equal measure, promote the insidious reign of capital through over-financialization of the economy at the expense of labor and production of goods for use value within the framework of a solidarity economy that promotes the political economy of common good in sustainable societies.

The ontological structure of capital provides the logic that justifies why contemporary human life is defined by excesses arising from the over-concentration of capital in the hands of a few, through accumulation processes that allow rapacious thieves from the global South to slink effortlessly into Hugo Boss suits with the same grotesque indignity as their counterparts in Wallstreet. What follows in tow is over-securitization of social life and over-militarization society so that capital can receive the necessary protection from the instrumental power of the state in order for it to revalorize itself out of the basic need for peaceful enjoyments of the products of one’s labor. As Zizek correctly observes, the concentration of wealth always induces the need for excess enjoyment of things we do not need. That is why there must always be more and also why there is never enough of anything; with capital lodged between value (historically specific, abstract, quantitative principle of capital) and use value (transhistorical, concrete qualitative foundation of all human life),[11] antagonizing both and thereby activating the chrematistic laws of value – accumulation, concentration, the need for surplus, and hegemonic social order. Slavoj Žižek’s guide to surplus (and why it’s enjoyable) begins by arguing that “what is surplus to our needs is by its very nature unsubstantial and unnecessary”. That is why, according to Zizek, “we need a surplus to what we need to be able to enjoy what we have truly”.

Having provided a structural-historical geographical political economy of the deep connection between and catastrophic conflation of global capitalist finance, global flows of capital in the form of money, and modern imperialism, it can now be argued that the money-power of capital, enabling it to appropriate living labour and extra-human natures, expresses itself in particularly violent ways in the spaces of the global capitalist economy variously referred to as the peripheries, the colonies, the neo-colonies, Third World, and the Global South. The knock-on effect has unleashed a process driven by a strategic calculus according to which the class-instrumental energies of the state (the main weapon of big capital) and the accompanying centrifugal forces are arrayed against the centripetal tendencies of cultural identity, geographic attachment, consanguine community, and linguistic commonality of the nation-state (itself a victim of the delay in the resolution of the national question, a condition which Mahmood Mamdani[12] describes as unfinished pursuit of a state without a nation) and, thereby exposing the illusion upon which Anglo-Saxion notion of a nation-state is precariously anchored. This is compounded by the dwindling middle class, which cannot reproduce itself inside a state-fetishist system bedevilled by the congenital disease of Africa’s spineless middle class that obliterates every genuine public discourse, including fundamental issues like inequality. At work in all these is capital, reinforcing the already contradictory separation of state from a nation in a conflicting process that is a well-neigh proof of the tendency towards social disintegration, with the instrumental functions of the state remaining tied up with the increasing concentration of capital in the hands of neo-colonial elites playing sub-contractor functions that end up mis-integrating the neo-colonial economies with the global neo-liberal capitalist order.

Imperial juridical instruments fobbed off on the global South by the advanced Capitalist countries of the North are responsible for some of the most unfair treatments meted out in the way of unilateral, multilateral, or bilateral agreements that disadvantage the global South. In this respect, the paper further suggests that a crucial explanatory factor for the violence of the money-power of industrial and commercial capital in those spaces is that they have retained a subordinate positionality in the space and power relations within which money-capital flows into the social universe of the metabolic operations of capital where there still exists so much suffering, oppression and exploitation – all behind the sparkle of obscene and inaccessible wealth enjoyed by a small fraction of society.

Towards the end of the last century, to be more precise, in the 1980s, the global Southern debt crisis turned out to be a painful reminder of the close link between the operations of capitalist finance, international flows of capital in the form of central bank money, and modern neo-liberal imperialism. The resolution of the attendant crisis, as we all can remember, entailed the brutal disciplining of Third World economies via the imperialist imposition of structural adjustment schemes deceitfully crafted by the Bretton Woods Institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), large private commercial banks, and advanced capitalist economies (the Paris Club of creditors). While often welcomed with glee and grotesque indignity by sell-out local ruling elites, the policy prescriptions primarily benefit transnational capitalist firms, global financial institutions (underwritten by central bank monies through quantitative easing mechanisms) and driven by the interests of advanced capitalist economies in the global North. This significantly contributes to the extension and deepening of capitalist property relations in the global South, an eventuality that promotes passionate demand for right-wing populist and neo-fascist regimes that are expected to use every means necessary to forestall and contain the scary prospect of a meltdown. Such regimes, as we are witnessing across the globe, usually reach out for the most archaic of tools of repression as they strive to save capitalism from imminent collapse and decay. Blatant lying and deceit are part of an arsenal essential to the neo-liberal infrastructure of foreign and domestic policies. The widespread surge of religious fundamentalism and reactionary ethnic sub-nationalism come in handy to bolster their commitment to non-truthfulness in everyday politics, as accurately observed by Arendt.[13] Not to forget the concerted ideological depoliticization of society and the channelling of human creativity into socially and spiritually precarious, if not outright destructive, activities such as cultism and risky and excessive investment in Artificial Intelligence gizmos (AI) without a commensurate social-democratic framework mediated by a labor-friendly countervailing system to assimilate accrued benefits rather than strengthening the hegemonic control of the economy by the techno-feudal powers of the ruling oligarchies (Baran and Sweezy, in Monopoly Capital, 1966). Yet, beyond AI, a much more significant challenge is in the offing with the advances being chalked up in Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)[14] without the desirable collective moral-ethical guarantees as to how to negotiate some form of peaceful, leave alone existential, coexistence between human intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence.

From Imperialism to Decolonization: A journey that is yet to end

Like everywhere else in the global South, progressive nationalism (and the divisive narratives that drive conflict-ridden sub-national skirmishes), has placed the callous peripheralization of her vital interests at imperialism’s door in its most devious and pretentious stage of evolution. The patent abuses of colonial depredation, the blatant racial/ethnic discrimination,[15] and rampant human rights abuses inevitably have led to voices of resistance, laying the inadequate conditions for subsequent decolonization; inadequate because the anti-imperialist forces did everything in the book to stave off industrial-financial capital’s assault on independence and freedom of its victims except to appreciate the stubborn and rhizomatic power of capital beyond the arborescent influence of capitalism, were it not for the counter-insurgency measures preferred and sustained by the beleaguered imperialism in concert with the myopic senility of neo-colonial capitalism and it's political back-stoppers to slow down and disrupt the process of decolonization.

Up until now, the imperial juridical instruments still link such international protocols like TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property), Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), and the ill-fated MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Trade), and – the instrumental extensions of the stormtroopers of the Washington consensus – with others to protect the hegemonic interests of the corporate oligarchies of the advanced economies of the world and their expropriation of public knowledge and economic advantages of the global South. In this asymmetrical international order, greedy corporations set the agenda of managing global and local economies. This leaves the ordinary people (both in the global North and South) with little to say about their stake in the obtaining system. It allows outside or external powers to rig (down the wormhole of electoral politics) into power, pro-imperialist puppet regimes, rendering them pliant neo-colonial governments, ministering to the interests of global capital. This is achieved through many methods, one of which is by manipulating electoral processes that produce and entrench the kind of ideological framework and social space for pliable subjectivities that facilitate the rule of capital on behalf of the global Northern elite as part and parcel of the technology of neo-coloniality in its most innovative manifestation.

With all the above, how can the process of decolonization come to a happy end when its collateral state-formational functions remain under the malign influence and clutches of imperial corporate forces, which occasionally release their techno-feudal warriors into the dense canopies of the jungle of African electoral politics with the mission: to select the most pliable comprador political formations and actors who can play the role of loyal and reliable caretakers of Western-imperialist interests or in a more plain language: to control the circulation of power by rigging elections in favor of pro-imperialist forces of neo-colonial economic abjection. In the process, the constitutionally regulated circulation of neo-colonial state power is deeply compromised and rendered a playfield for imperialist hegemonic games, such that when the constitution fails to bring all public authorities into its regulatory ambit, it can no longer be expected to cover every sphere of bourgeois constitutional state action; particularly once the class-instrumental function of the state is brought under the express purview of capital’s social-metabolic control. This leaves little, yet possible, room for unofficial counter-circulation of power through other means necessary, an option that cannot do with social conflicts that remain frozen within the spheres of the puffy and swollen rivers of a liberal civil society, merely explicating the performative character of the self-righteous neo-colonial bourgeois society of unequal and share-holder citizens. It is a polite society with such diverse missions, providing the eco-systemic milieu for the social-metabolic efficacy of capital, and the effective confluence materializes an incredible distance away from the vital co- or over-determinants of the fundamental dynamics of social life.

In his Business World column, Rene Azurin has put this on record with indisputable veracity. Quoting from his column about the observations of Barbara Simon of the US Advisory Board of the Federal Elections Commission, who happened to have been the past president of the Association for Computing Machinery in the US, had this to say about how Western techno-feudal hegemony is deployed to disenfranchise the majority of the African electorate or to subvert the democratic will of the African people: “Having the software source code doesn’t guarantee that you will detect critical software bugs or malicious codes. Anyone with access to the election software of a major voting machine vendor can change the outcome of a national election”. This means that if a vendor of a digital electoral system intends to subvert software, one does not do something that a diagnostic checklist will detect. It’s easy to insert a Trojan Horse into the software because the testing won’t find it. The vote-counting machines are, therefore, designed to commit fraud due to their inbuilt, multifaceted vulnerabilities. This means that the cheating does not occur in the counting halls after the votes have been cast but in the programming of the machines at the European or American techno-feudal metropolitan headquarters, from where, according to Yannis Varoufakis,[16] the new cloud-based ruling elite control the world in favor of capital’s infiltration of the circulation of power in its most generic deployment. In other words, the machines select, and voters are forced to endorse the electoral outcomes through fraudulent processes that, in the majority of cases, produce a wide range of right-wing populist regimes with strong neo-fascist tendencies, among which vulture-like populists are grown fat, not just because they tell lies, but more importantly because they use these to defraud the people of their democratic rights in a multi-polarizing world in which capital is the ideological currency of managing conflicts. When challenged with glaring facts of fraud and malfeasance, their typical proforma snap is: elections are over, and the country must move on. The constitution, instead of protecting democracy, becomes the most lethal weapon for undemocratic leadership, with the judiciary playing ball in the interest of the sections of the oligarchy which can pay for injustice. The primary purpose is to return to the normal peace of the grave that the neo-colonized have habituated themselves to. Move on to where? Is it to a deferred democracy? Of course, most worrying is that such tech companies are busy developing ingenious ways of manipulating our preferences in general,[17] elections being just one of them. When pressed by the victims of their manipulation of the results of the election in question to open the electoral data management system, otherwise known as the servers, they will not be ashamed to invoke Intellectual Property Rights with the wounded conscience of a discredited charlatan. The newly anointed neo-colonial Sheriffs flock to Western capitals, looking for new investors to make deals with, in the shadows of a stalled decolonization.

Given the oversized role that the neo-colonial state plays in rent-seeking economies – against the erroneously assumed neo-liberal destatization of the capitalist societies – whoever controls the electoral process upon which transitions from one regime to another is predicated will naturally take the control of the distribution of vital resources and, therefore, the destiny of the society in question. This state of affairs feeds on and reinforces the untoward prevalence of state fetishism that has been, for a considerable period, the congenital disease of the bourgeoisie, obliterating nearly every genuine public discourse, including such fundamental issues touching on the management of common spaces and guarantees for democratic citizenship. Imperialism, as a stage, variety and phase of capitalist development, has attracted myriad conflicting interpretations from various anti-capitalist scholars and revolutionary practitioners. This anti-imperialist attitude of containment provides space and time for imperialism to adapt itself to new situations based on which it gathers new weapons, strategies, and tactics for advancing the hegemonic designs of capital as it continues driving neo-liberal globalization for it to remain in the game as the critical drive social relations. Staying in the game, in this particular sense, means that the peoples of the world must brace themselves for a future of growing inequalities, heartless economic nationalism, ecological insanity, the imminent breakdown of the financial/banking system (the engine that drives globalizing capitalism), the racket of internecine wars bred by capitalism, savage austerity measures that are gradually becoming the breeding ground of mechanisms of neo-fascism, and wealth inequality spiraling out of control. Suppose the fight against the social metabolic functions of capital remains on the back burner of the struggle to sanctify the commons. In that case, the struggle for democracy will remain a pipedream.

Finally, I will now conclude by paraphrasing Mariana Mazzucato once more and stating that:

short of democratic discipling of capital, doing capitalism differently will require that we reimagine the full potential of a public sector driven by public purpose. But most importantly, it requires democratically defining clear goals that a public purposed society needs to meet’ (Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism).


  1. Defined by Morin and Kern as “a nested set of globally interactive socio-economic, ecological and cultural – institutional crises that defy reduction to a single cause”, 4 Feb 2023.
  2. “this productivity of human labour which rises day by day to an extent previously unheard of, finally gives rise to a conflict in which the present-day capitalist economy must perish. On the one hand are immeasurable riches and a superfluity [super-abundance] of products which the purchasers cannot cope with; on the other hand, the great mass of society proletarianised, turned into wage-workers, and precisely for that reason made incapable of appropriating for themselves this superfluity [super-abundance] of products. The division of society into a small, excessively rich class and a large, propertyless class of wage-workers results in a society suffocating from its own superfluity [super-abundance], while the great majority of its members is scarcely, or even not at all, protected from extreme want. This state of affairs becomes daily more absurd and – more unnecessary. It must be abolished, it can be abolished. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, vol. 1, pp.148-9.
  3. Not in its monetary form but more particularly in its social metabolic meaning as elaborated by Istvan Meszaros, in his profound analysis of capitalism as a historical phenomenon quite distinct from capital, in Beyond Capital: Towards a Theory of Transition, 1995.
  4. Stankov, P., The Political Economy of Populism, 2012.
  5. An overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s understanding of the interconnectedness of issues and events and gives meaning to their experiences.
  6. And orchestrated by evil forces that are keen to conceal their blood-stained footprints in the long history human suffering.
  7. Like in the case of United States of America versus China.
  8. The Peace of Westphalia is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster. As a result of the Treaty of Westphalia, the Netherlands gained independence from Spain, Sweden gained control of the Baltic and France was acknowledged as the preeminent Western power. The power of the Holy Roman Emperor was also broken and the German states were again able to determine the religion of their lands. But that was all. Though it is widely regarded as the foundation of the modern international order, characterized by the coexistence of sovereign states which do not acknowledge any superior power, capitalism having priced the DNA for imperialism has nullified nearly all the democratic gains of the accord.
  9. Ernest Renan, What is a Nation, 1882.
  10. As we all know parts of the Marxian project on Das Capital could not be completed in his lifetime. Among the posthumous manuscripts that were not completed was the 3rd volume which broke off at the very beginning of his discussion of the subject. Since Marxism is a living and dynamic theory of society under capitalism, any extrapolations and interpretations about any aspects of his works should be welcome with the necessary caveats.
  11. Westra, Richard, From Imperialism to Varieties of Capitalism.
  12. Mahmood Mamdani, Neither Settler nor Native; The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, 2020.
  13. Arendt, H., Crises of the Republic, Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence …., 1972.
  14. A generation AI machines that are capable of ideation, using Generative Adversarial Networks (GANSs) in a process nearly similar to humans.
  15. Akin to its German and French chauvinistic culturalist origins respectively (Wulf D, Hund, Marx and Haiti: Towards a Historical Materialist Theory of Racism, 2022)
  16. Yannis Varoufakis, Our New Cloud-based Ruling Class, 2022
  17. Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, 2018; Homo Deus (A Brief History of Tomorrow), 2018.