I am going to make a proposal about growth. Capitalism, first used by Marx, based on an older word, capital, begins with the word capital, from the Latin cap meaning head, and in latin a new head of cattle, a phrase we still use. The issue in roman law, with a long history as tribal herdsmen melded into landed estates, as in most traditional societies, is, who owns that new “head”, that birthed calf, that increase in the “stock” of the tribe? Capitalism in its modern form is an outgrowth not just of the language, but of the reality of growth, reproduction, sexuality. I propose that capitalism is a group of procedures and laws for dealing with the reality of the results of sexual reproduction of cattle and humans. In Rome women, grain and cattle and slaves were owned, and cattle was the measure of wealth. There was very little economy besides these. The word interest in latin also means “offspring”. In the world one of the great mysteries is reproduction and growth. Capitalists feel they are dealing with a powerful force – because they are. The way this is being played out now is, first, who owns capital, what is its relationship to ownership and society? From this perspective the confluence of the biotech industry , finance and the economy is not surprising. The rise of the biotech industry is seen as a new surge of – guess what? – growth
Melinda Cooper’s book, life as surplus, is suggesting that the language of economics as growth, and the language of biotechnology as the controlling of the life growth process, are coming together in a single enterprise woven together by patents to treat all of life as patentable and ownable. This would extend to all lifeforms before they even exist and the antibiotics to control them.
The word used in Rome for “interest,” as in from a loan, was the same word as for offspring (birth). The word profit, same as ours, imply mrans “to produce forward.”
The organic continuity between the tribal herd and it’s management and the capitalism of today is profound and suggesting that capitalism is really about the growth of important things, using the sexual process of the universe and needs to be respected, what Marx called the production and reproduction of society. It is not just a game for personal well-being at the cost of others.
I think the seed of rethinking economics is right here in the issue of production and reproduction of the things important to society. If the sexual process of the universe, it’s deepest mystery, works its way to increase, what is the relationship of that increase to society, to the routines of ownership, to class and caste?