Blog Post

9 Theses toward a Neochartalist Philosophy of Capitalism

Graphics by Michelle Jia : Image Flickr ( I ) 

"Capital" is not what capital is called, it is what its name is called.

Joan Robinson (1954)

The following represents an attempt to articulate a neochartalist philosophy of capitalism. The 9 theses collected here spring from the startling insight of the leading neochartalist school of political economy known as Modern Monetary Theory (MMT): namely, that money is a boundless public monopoly that belongs to the people, rather than a finite form of private investment and speculation that owes its existence to capitalists. Or, as MMTer Stephanie Kelton will also put it, “Money does not grow on rich people.”

Political governance constitutes the center and unoutstrippable ground of economic life, argues MMT; and a currency-issuing government will never run out of a unit that it alone supplies. Public spending, therefore, can always be made to justly shape and include everyone in processes of social production. This will not cause inflationary price rises, insists MMT economists, so long as disbursements remain directed at real resources and productive capacities. What is required to immediately address systemic poverty and environmental degradation, MMT shows, is neither the restoration of tax-and-spend liberalism, nor the calamitous destruction of the value-form but, rather, collective will and the political capacity to produce money whence it always emanates: government balance sheets, which is also to say, thin air

On this critic’s reading, MMT’s revelation not only transforms the central problem of political economy; it also radically reconfigures how we both imagine and answer the neoliberal catastrophe.

9 Theses

(1) Capitalism is the arbitrary law that no sovereign currency-issuing government should wield its boundless public purse to fully serve the peoples and environs money encompasses.

(2) Capitalism derives its contradictory laws of motion from the aforesaid arbitrary law.

(3) Capitalism’s subsidiary laws of motion engender a highly unstable and exploitative economic system.

(4) Capitalism is the false name given to the totality that modern money conditions.

(5) Capitalism’s namesake (the imagined “capitalist totality” and so-called "capitalist mode of production") reduces the whole of monetary relations to private capital relations.

(6) Capitalism’s naming (a nineteenth-century conceit) represses money’s publicness, infinitude, and answerability.

(7) Capitalism is neither the subject, nor the prime mover of modernity.

(8) Capitalism is a cataract in the eye of history.

(9) Capitalism does not exist.

Assistant Professor

Scott Ferguson holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Film Studies from UC Berkeley and is presently co-director of the Film & New Media Studies Track in the Department of Humanities & Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and Director of Humanities Research for the Modern Money Network. His current research and pedagogy focus on Modern Monetary Theory and critiques of neoliberalism; aesthetic theory; the history of digital animation and visual effects; and essayistic writing across media platforms. He has published in Screen, boundary 2 online, Qui Parle, CounterPunch, Liminalities, Naked Capitalism, Dollars & Sense, Flassbeck Economics International, "In the Moment" (Critical Inquiry), Rebelion, Contexto y Accion. His book Declarations of Dependence: Money, Aesthetics, and the Politics of Care is forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press.