Fictitious Capital, Personal Power and Social Reproduction

Rebecca Carson


This paper examines social reproduction within the contemporary division of labour through a reading of Marx’s use of the term ‘fictitious capital.’ Due to the neoliberal process of financialization, credit money has come to inform the economy and thus social life in new ways with an intensification of the function of the credit system or ‘fictitious capital.’ This intensification has changed the quality of how capital generates profit through exploitation and subjection of members of capitalist society. An intensification of industrial factory work and thus the proliferation labour-time functioning as a measure of value has taken place in countries that had been so far on the so-called periphery of globalized production, where due to the decreased bargaining power of labour-power wages are low. While in countries where capitalism is centrally constructed and reconstructed, industry has greatly depleted and has been replaced largely with unemployment, low paying service industry jobs and increased creation of value through the M-M relation of ‘fictitious capital.’ Following Trenkle, with the dominance of ‘fictitious capital’ the commodity has become a variable form while ‘fictitious capital’ functions as capital’s elementary form. This creates the conditions for the emergence of exploitation of reproductive aspects of social life outside of the confines of directly capitalist relations. That is, with ‘fictitious capital’ the presence of social pressures of personal power rather than impersonal power generally associated with power structures within capitalist societies, comes to the fore. Here we find power functioning from the point of view of outside of the production process re-emerges within the capitalist process itself under new structural relations. This is nothing new to those on the periphery from those subjected to unpaid reproductive labour to colonized peoples, as Shulamith Firestone rightly predicted with increasing technologization of the mode of production, “cybernation may aggravate the frustration that women already feel in their roles.” This paper will show how with the dominance of ‘fictitious capital’ social reproduction relies on an intensification of personal power.

Social reproduction, the reproduction of capital and the reproduction of nature