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Behavior and body in the sights of capital
by Roland Rottenfuss
Friday Oct 16th, 2020 11:53 AM
The proclamation of states of emergency in the spring of 2020, even if not in all countries, helped to consolidate a state crisis management system that overturned constitutions and now completely bypassed democratic decision-making processes. In the name of public health... the measures were presented as without alternative and divergent expert opinions were ignored or defamed.
Behavior and body in the sights of capital
By Roland Rottenfuss

[This article published on Oct 5, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

In the wake of worldwide lockdown measures, an economic logic is discernible. The seemingly confused and desperate state intervention drives entire industries and many owner-managed companies to ruin, but at the same time serves as a pacemaker for a turnaround of a magnitude in human history. It is more than a simple change of cycle from a downturn to an upswing phase after the crisis has been overcome. The Lockdown 2020 accelerates the transition from the industrial age into a new, cybernetic age in the sense of a human-machine connection. Extract from the book "Lockdown 2020", Promedia Verlag, ed.: Hannes Hofbauer, Stefan Kraft. Text: Hannes Hofbauer, Andrea Komlosy

The virus, christened Sars-CoV-2, has become an instrument for this in two respects. The authoritarian measures to contain it have enormously strengthened the state, or better: its executive organs, on the one hand, and paved the way for new lead industries on the other. Only this close connection between the state and capital is capable of bringing about historical changes in the accumulation regime. It is no coincidence that it was a virus or - more precisely - its fight that can accomplish this. For on the one hand, the ruling resource-guzzling industrial and service society is reaching its limits - also in a physical sense. The repression of the wild and the simultaneous advance of factory farming makes it easier for viral pathogens to cross the human-animal barrier, so that epidemics become more frequent. On the other hand, the biotechnological-pharmaceutical complex - like its successful predecessor, the military-industrial complex - is consistently working on its rise. Now the breakthrough seems to be achieved.

Of utmost importance in this was to exaggerate the danger of the virus, to spread fear and panic and thus to avoid possible resistance. The location of the enemy corresponds to that of a war, declared by politics and brought about by opinion-forming media. The World Health Organization (WHO), which in recent decades has developed from an international supervisory and watchdog body into a lobby for large pharmaceutical companies, must be revealed as the much underestimated international hub of this war.

From the utilization of manpower to the utilization of body and experience

The global economic crisis of 2008 was followed by a long-lasting crisis of capital realization. From the end of 2017, production figures went down. In the euro zone, industrial production fell by 4.1% in December 2019 compared to December 2018, and the whole of 2019 brought a slump of 1.7% compared to 2018.[1] And in one of the most important old industrial sectors, automobile production, the peak of growth in the USA and Germany was already passed in 2016 and in China in 2017; from 2018 onwards, it went downhill.[2] In other words: industrial capitalism was already in crisis for a long time before the lockdown exacerbated it in an extreme way. The order situation of European industry collapsed as a result. In Germany it fell by an unbelievable 38% between January and April 2020[3] Worldwide hundreds of millions of people lost their jobs. And the UN World Food Program estimated as early as April 2020 that the effects of the Corona crisis would lead to a doubling of hunger in the world. Calculated in human lives: instead of the 135 million starving people in 2019, their number will rise to 235 million in 2020.[4] Capitalism has been in a cyclical crisis since 2008, which exploded in 2020 in an unprecedented way.

Basically, there are three possible solutions for crises in the utilization of capital: rationalization, speculation or market expansion. Rationalization can be achieved by means of technical innovations or cost reduction through personnel savings. Capital moves into the sphere of speculation when the so-called real economy does not promise a corresponding return. Market expansion takes place in the form of territorial expansion, which can be brought about either by war or by economic intervention - as was recently the case in the European context with the eastward expansion of the EU. However, market expansion also takes place beyond the gain in territoriality. It takes place in previously non-capitalized areas; since the 1990s, this has been happening on a large scale in services of general interest, where previously only state- or jointly administered insurance and pension models as well as health and nursing care facilities were privatized.

Now the utilization directly accesses the human body as such, its behavior and its experience.

In this commodification of body and experience we see a capitalist answer to the structural crisis of exploitation. The state measures to combat a virus support this upheaval, from which new lead sectors are emerging. Historically consistent with the transformation of the engines of growth and capitalist appropriation, the world faces a geopolitical shift from the transatlantic central space to Chinese dominance, whether hegemonic or in a multipolar framework yet to be negotiated. The Chinese economic dynamic is setting the pace. The close interlocking of state and capital in the phase of the formation of a new accumulation cycle, whose implementation is accompanied by political authoritarianism, also follows the Beijing model.

The capitalist model of society that has prevailed until now is based on human labor and its exploitation. Their appropriation via surplus value is not only considered in a Marxist perspective as the flywheel of capital accumulation, as the driving force of profit. In the course of the cybernetic turnaround, human behavior, its experiences as well as the human body are increasingly coming into the process of exploitation. They combine with the exploitation of human labor as a source of appropriation and successively replace it in its meaning.

Human behavior as a usable raw material

The sheer volume of data that each and every one of us delivers to their operators via digital channels on a daily basis is the raw material from which a new accumulation surge is created. Free of charge and "voluntarily" or by threat of exclusion from social spheres, human profiles are created in every communication on the net, which, tied up in billions, promise high profit rates and thus show capitalism a way out of the crisis. Although this business model, in which corresponding data collectors such as Google or Facebook operate as monopolies, has already existed for 15 to 20 years, in the state of corona lockdown, data delivery has multiplied and accelerated. Online purchases, ordering services, communication platforms and digital payment systems were able to achieve a state-imposed stimulus through curfews and distance bans, which - depending on the circumstances - was presented as having no alternative. The data collectors' business model also buzzed in the home office, on video conferences and in digital learning and teaching. Thus, people were forced to behave in a way that forced them to reveal their needs, experiences and behavior. These are the raw materials for a new accumulation model that will continue to determine post-corona everyday life even after the rehearsal in the lockdown.

Platform capitalism transforms empirical knowledge into market knowledge and control knowledge.[5] The knowledge about users that has been generated by the evaluation of behavioral and demand data provides the basis for the development of new products and and personalized offers that are customized to needs. In platform capitalism, the experiences of hundreds of millions of people serve to commoditize, i.e., behaviors are transformed into goods that are specifically sold to companies (or even to individual customers). But the delivered data have another function. They serve control in the sense of individual and societal optimization, starting with the well-being of the individual, through public health, to total surveillance. "Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every kind of human experience," writes U.S. economist Shoshana Zuboff[6].

Business areas genetic modeling and artificial immunization

The human body offers a usable raw material in the cybernetic age in many respects. Biotechnology and digital assistance in everyday life make it controllable and optimizable. The optimization of its functions can be applied in many areas of health care, fitness and aesthetics. It continues with the digital control of the home in the smart home and mobility in the smart city. In addition, possibilities of genetic modeling promise completely new life plans from reproduction to dealing with illness and disability to blocking the aging process, all of which will become marketable goods. Under the guise of medical necessity, the corona crisis offers an excellent entry point for this.

Human health or illness is one of the most promising future gateways to new capital exploitation. An essential component of this is artificial immunization, which has been the subject of every news broadcast since the state-fueled outbreak of the corona panic.
In this respect, April 12, 2020 was both a groundbreaking and disturbing moment for the German-speaking public. On Easter Sunday, of all days, when Western Roman Christendom commemorates the resurrection of God's Son, Germany's most wide-reach news program on the ARD Tagesschau, of all days, gave a new savior ten minutes for his message. It is probably no coincidence that on this day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the chairman of the world's most well-funded foundation, Bill Gates, announced hopefully a new light in dark times, the vaccine against Sars-CoV-19: "We will eventually administer the vaccine to be developed to seven billion people,"[7] he promised via the interviewer, who acts like an altar boy, to the audience in lockdown. His only asset that gives him such an authority, which is spread by state television, is the amount of capital he has at his disposal; medical, political or social knowledge would not be sufficient for the ARD editor-in-chief to invite him to the main Easter Sunday evening show. His obscenely large fortune, estimated at 110 billion US dollars, exceeds the annual budgets of a whole series of EU states such as Poland, Portugal, Greece, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania or Ireland. He dedicates a part of it - together with his wife Melinda, his son William and the stockbroker Warren Buffet - to the optimization of the human body within the framework of his foundation. Test and vaccination programs carried out worldwide form the basis for this.

A prerequisite for the success of these efforts is the loss of natural defenses, as has been observed in the past decades. Increasing sterilization in everyday life as well as the general weakening of human resistance due to air and light pollution, particulate matter, fear and stress have contributed to this.

In order to implement global testing and vaccination programs, Gates & Co. has woven a network of health organizations, politics and the media that is now awaiting its economic realization. Whether Gates himself profits from this or whether his efforts are philanthropic, i.e. philanthropic in nature, as is repeatedly claimed, is of secondary importance. His equity investments in pharmaceutical giants like Merck, Novartis and Pfizer will reward him for his commitment. In any case, the door has been opened for a wide range of earning opportunities on the human body.

The founder and mastermind of the Davos World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, who watches over the exclusivity of the annual elite events, already pointed out at the 2016 meeting that the future characteristic of capitalist exploitation will no longer be the sale and appropriation of human labor, but rather the human being itself: "One of the essential characteristics of the fourth industrial revolution is that it no longer changes what we make and work for, but that it changes ourselves"[8].

New lead sectors of the MBNRIC complex [9]

In a future cybernetic age, technologies that ensure adaptability, self-control, feedback, controllability, miniaturization, and individual and situational resource and energy use will predominate. Man is increasingly being displaced from the core areas of material production and services by automata, robots and artificial intelligence, which coordinates the machines with each other.[10] On the one hand, he is used in the "interface" with the machines as a highly qualified technician and in the planning of arrangements, on the other hand, as an unqualified, precarious worker in areas where the machine cannot be used. In this way, the incalculability of the human production factor, which has just revealed its physical vulnerability to the virus, is compensated by the development of artificial intelligence.

The Russian research group around Leonid and Anton Grinin as well as Andrej Korotajev from the "Eurasian Center for Global History and System Forecasts" has been working for some time on concrete methods to develop conclusions for future scenarios based on historical changes. Grinin and Korotajev speak in this context of the MBNRIC complex, to which they assign medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, information and cognitive areas [11] The abbreviation describes the most important future industries in the cybernetic age, which not only produce new products (such as artificial body parts, test and vaccines, and control and monitoring devices), but also create a new demand for personal optimization. This names the lead sectors for the new cybernetic age, which are acting as a kind of carrier rockets of transition.

At the same time, they point the way out of the cyclical crisis of capital utilization, which was exacerbated by the lockdown.

In the first quarter of 2020, pharmaceutical giants such as the Swiss groups Novartis and Roche or the French company Sanofi posted record profits due to the then ubiquitous corona hype. In its annual report, Novartis reported an increase in profits of 24 percent or USD 2.17 billion [12] The world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Roche, nevertheless achieved a 7 percent increase in sales. And the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi made 48 percent more profit between January and March 2020 than in the same period of the previous year. [13] The British group AstraZeneca achieved a 30 percent increase in profits; Amgen and Eli Lilly (USA) as well as Bayer (Germany) also achieved significant increases in sales and profits. Further high-flying sales were achieved in online retailing, data management, e-learning programs, video conferencing and digital communication, which are based on user data and whose marketing opens up new business areas in product development and advertising.

Nothing works without state aid: Corona-Keynesianism

In the course of measures to combat Covid-19, the development of authoritarian forms of government accelerated for all who wanted to see it. These were to be observed before not only in authoritarian states like Turkey, Russia or China, but also in countries like France and Austria already in the advance. Emmanuel Macron and Sebastian Kurz, regardless of their party-political origins, have long stood for a political shift of power away from the parliamentary legislature toward an increasingly autocratic executive branch. In addition, both men have caused lasting damage to the parties from which they emerged-Macron from the social democratic Parti Socialiste and Kurz from the conservative ÖVP-and made them obsolete in the long term.

The proclamation of states of emergency in the spring of 2020, even if not in all countries, helped to consolidate a state crisis management system that overturned constitutions and now completely bypassed democratic decision-making processes, many of which had been open to criticism before. In the name of public health, responsible presidents and ministers surrounded themselves with cronies of selected medical experts in order to decide ad hoc regulations in the innermost circle that brought social and cultural life to a standstill and permanently damaged or destroyed large parts of the economy. The measures were presented as without alternative, divergent expert opinions were ignored or defamed, and burgeoning debates were stifled with the murderous argument of "conspiracy".

At the same time, the state provided countless support measures to compensate for the loss of earnings of companies and workers caused by the lockdown. Smaller sums were distributed uncoordinated and helicopter-like over low-income earners in order to stifle resentment and protest. The state intervened deeply in the economic sphere with both the lockdown decrees and the aid measures. In doing so, the lockdown favored precisely those sectors that could unblock the exploitation of capital.

The European Union also participated in this support practice when, on 4 May 2020, it decided by videoconference - at the call of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - to raise 7.4 billion euros in no time at all in order to provide the three large organizations under the influence of the pharmaceutical industry with capital. The money went in roughly equal shares to the WHO, the GAVI Alliance on Immunization founded at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the CEPI Epidemic Coalition, which was also set up there. What all three have in common is the strong capital presence of the Gates Foundation.

The business journalist Norbert Häring writes on the Corona Donor Conference of May 4, 2020: "For a long time, Gates had to give money to the UN and governments to be allowed to co-govern the world. Now this is turning around." And further: "If governments collect billions of tax money for Gates and the World Economic Forum, the corporations have taken over the world government"[14] The president of "Brot für die Welt", Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, also criticized the loose hand with which those who profit from the crisis are financed in an interview with the SWR broadcasting station: "Those who ensure that people are really healed are not sitting at the table. It is those at the table who can now earn money"[15].

In almost all EU countries, led by Germany, Austria and France, state money has been and continues to be distributed, with aid programs to cushion social catastrophes and, above all, support for the new lead sectors. In addition to loans in the billions, this also involves direct state investment, as the example of the biotech company Curevac shows. In mid-June 2020, the German Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier, announced that the state-owned development bank KfW would be joining the Tübingen-based group. For 300 million euros, the Federal Republic of Germany will acquire just 23%, in order to be able, as it was said, to participate internationally in the race for a corona vaccine [16] The majority owner Dietmar Hopp, with an estimated 10 billion US dollars one of the richest men in Germany, does not need to fear a blocking minority of the state in his company.

This kind of state-organized capitalism on a Corona-Keynesian basis is reminiscent of military Keynesianism in wartime. And in wartime the heads of state of many EU European countries imagine themselves in war anyway, in the war against the virus. Commemorative ceremonies like those held in France, Italy and Spain fit in with this. While bombers thundered over the Champs-Élysées and the official Paris commemorated the Corona deaths on the national holiday of 14 July, two days later the Spanish king and his social democratic government honored those who died on or with Covid-19 like victims of war. In the presence of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Felipe VI did not miss the opportunity to pay special tribute to one of the "fallen", the journalist José Maria Calleja. He had spent half of his journalistic life writing against the Basque separatist organization ETA, which threatened him with death in return. He won this fight, according to Felipe VI, against the virus he finally lost.

Stagings like these are an expression of an authoritarian statehood that needs enemies and enemy images to be able to present itself as a savior from them. The virus provides an ideal instrument for this; in the fight against Sars-CoV-19, capital and state stand together. The latter has set itself the task of including the people in this alliance. However, it is by no means certain that this will succeed. For the turn of an era holds in store harsh social cuts and possible further coercive measures to enforce the new, cybernetic accumulation model. Resistance to this is conceivable - and possible.

[1] (3.7.2020)

2] Cf: Winfried Wolf, quarterly lie, in: Lunapark21, booklet 49, S. 5.

3] Christian Kreiß, Economic effects of the corona lockdowns. In: (20.7.2020)

4] (20.7.2020)

5] See Nick Srniček, Platform Capitalism. Hamburg 2018.

6] See Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Frankfurt/Main-New York 2018, S. 24

7] (20.7.2020)

8] Klaus Schwab on 19 January 2016 in Davos, see: (20.7.2020)

9] Cf: Hannes Hofbauer/Andrea Komlosy, Corona crisis. Push for a cybernetic turnaround. In: Telepolis on 20 May 2020; (20.7.2020)

[10] see here: Matthias Martin Becker, Automation and Exploitation. What becomes of work in digital capitalism? Vienna 2017.

11] Anton and Leonid Grinin, The Cybernetic Revolution. Moscow 2016.

12] (June 13, 2020)

13] (13.6.2020)

14] (20.7.2020)

15] quoted in: (20.7.2020)

16] (20.7.2020)

Hannes Hofbauer/Stefan Kraft (Ed.)

Lockdown 2020

How a virus is used to change society

Promedia Publishing House

280 pages, € 19,90

The public is considered an enemy that must be kept in ignorance, Chomsky said.
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