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Power, Paranoia, and Capitalism's Veiled Authority
By now, it should be evident that COVID-19 fundamentally stems from the unchecked influence of financial capital. More broadly, it reflects a world that can no longer sustain itself by profiting from human labor, instead resorting to a compensatory strategy of continuous monetary stimulus. As the traditional labor-based economy diminishes, the financial sector swells, yet its instability necessitates global crises, extensive propaganda, and the imposition of biosecurity measures. How can we escape this destructive loop?
Since the third industrial revolution (marked by microelectronics in the 1980s), automated capitalism has been gradually erasing the significance of wage labor as its core essence. We have now crossed a point from which there's no turning back. Rapid technological advancements have rendered capital progressively incapable of extracting surplus value from labor power. The advent of artificial intelligence accentuates this impossibility – it's essentially game over.
Consequently, the bedrock of our world no longer lies in the labor imbued within commodities like cars, phones, or toothpaste. Instead, it resides in precarious speculations reliant on mounting debt, revolving around financial assets such as stocks, bonds, futures, and notably derivatives, whose valuation remains perpetually secured. Only our unwavering faith in the value-generation of these assets prevents us from recognizing the chasm that lurks beneath us. And when this conviction wanes, an almost divine intervention transpires, inducing collective hypnosis through doomsday narratives of contagion, coupled with tales of deliverance.
Nonetheless, reality exhibits its unyielding nature, persistently rapping at the threshold of our awareness. As the cancerous growth of financial dominance pervades the fabric of society, capital makes the calculated choice to unleash its colossal twin, a Leviathan-like entity that thrives on global crises and business models intricately tied to digital technology, capable of extending its dominion over all aspects of life on our planet. The signs are unmistakable; a form of 'gentle authoritarianism' is already gazing upon us. In the present moment, stemming the current requires safeguarding the sacrosanct realm of human dignity — a foundational principle that cannot be subject to negotiation and serves as the indisputable cornerstone for erecting an alternate societal endeavor.
The “window of opportunity” remains open, although it is imperative that we cultivate a sense of discernment, summon fortitude, and experience a collective epiphany. The era affords us the chance to counterbalance these encroaching forces, but it necessitates a keen understanding of the situation, the audacity to confront it, and a shared awakening that unites us all.
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THE INTERPLAY OF CRISIS NARRATIVES
How imminent is the arrival of another pandemic to strengthen the current trajectory? The following excerpt from a recent article on Bloomberg provides a rather plausible answer that is still relevant today: “For anyone hoping to see light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel over the next three to six months, scientists have some bad news: Brace for more of what we’ve already been through." To delve into this statement, let's consider the following potential scenarios that could define our future:
Central banks will persist in generating substantial amounts of money, primarily aimed at inflating financial markets.
The narrative surrounding contagion (or a comparable storyline) will maintain its grip on entire societies, at least until Digital Health Passports have been universally implemented.
Traditional liberal democracies may undergo dismantling, eventually making way for regimes built upon a digital panopticon — a controlled landscape of surveillance technologies that gains legitimacy through overwhelming emergency-related clamor.
Seems rather bleak, doesn't it? But perhaps not so, if we examine how the cycle of health crises (characterized by lockdowns, followed by partial reopenings, interspersed with new closures prompted by minor waves) increasingly resembles a global dramatization, with various players shifting responsibility to ensure that the specter of emergency endures, albeit in a weakened form. The underlying rationale for this somewhat disheartening scenario is straightforward: minus the presence of a viral threat to rationalize monetary intervention, the debt-dependent financial sector could crumble overnight. Simultaneously, the emergence of inflation, combined with supply chain bottlenecks (especially regarding microchips), poses a looming risk of a severe economic downturn.
This predicament presents an intricate dilemma, seemingly insurmountable, which explains why the ruling classes are reluctant to release their grip on the narrative of crisis. From their vantage point, the only plausible escape route might involve the controlled dismantling of the tangible economy and the established liberal framework, while artificially propping up financial assets. This strategy encompasses shrewd tactics like financial "greenwashing," exemplified by investments in ESG(Environmental, Social, and Governance) securities — a seemingly eco-friendly facade that conveniently justifies further debt expansion. With all due acknowledgment to the advocates of change akin to Greta Thunberg, the intentions behind these maneuvers extend far beyond planetary preservation.
Instead, what we are currently observing is the rapid decline of liberal capitalism, a system that has become outdated. The future appears bleak from an objective standpoint. Global financial and geopolitical interests are being safeguarded through extensive data collection, blockchain ledgers, and the exploitation facilitated by digital applications disguised as empowering innovations. The root of our predicament lies in the unrelenting evolutionary logic of a socioeconomic framework that is willing to forsake its democratic principles to survive. It embraces a monetary system propped up by corporate-controlled science and technology, media manipulation, and catastrophic narratives coupled with a disheartening form of pseudo-humanitarian philanthro-capitalism.
By capitalizing on our personal feelings of responsibility for environmental degradation, the impending climate lockdowns seamlessly extend the pattern established by Covid-19 restrictions. If the virus was the initial unsettling course, a substantial helping of carbon footprint anxiety combined with fears of energy scarcity is already being presented as the main dish. Individually, we are being convinced that our detrimental influence on the planet demands retribution. Having been first terrified and regimented by the virus and now guilt-tripped for our ecological impact, we have internalized the directive that our inherent right to existence must be earned through adherence to ecological mandates dictated by entities such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. These directives are sanctioned by technocratic governments, supported by their law enforcement apparatus. This represents the epitome of cynical capitalist realism.
The introduction of Digital Health Passports, which were dismissed as conspiracy theories merely two years ago, marks a pivotal moment. The widespread tagging of society is indispensable for the ruling elites to gain our confidence in an increasingly centralized power structure that is being marketed as a path to liberation. Once we cross the threshold into a world of digital identification, the tightening of controls is likely to unfold gradually and seamlessly, reminiscent of Noam Chomsky's well-known analogy: just as a frog placed in boiling water will instantly leap out, if placed in lukewarm water with the temperature slowly raised, it remains oblivious, even content, until its strength wanes, and it succumbs, unaware, to its demise through boiling.
The aforementioned prediction, however, must be understood within a context marked by conflict and significant uncertainty. Firstly, there exists emerging evidence (albeit subject to substantial censorship) of genuine popular opposition to both the pandemic-related psychological operations and the broader Great Reset agenda. Secondly, the ruling elites find themselves in a state of deadlock, leading to confusion regarding their next steps. This confusion is exemplified by several nations choosing to de-escalate their responses to the health crisis. It is crucial to emphasize that the core issue is fundamentally economic in nature: how to navigate extreme financial instability while safeguarding their wealth and privileges.
The global financial system essentially operates as an enormous Ponzi scheme. If those at the helm were to lose control over the creation of liquidity, the resulting detonation would devastate the entire socioeconomic foundation. Concurrently, a recession would erode politicians' credibility. Consequently, the elites' seemingly sole viable strategy appears to involve orchestrating a controlled dismantling of the economy (resulting in a collapse of the global supply chain and an ensuing 'everything shortage'), while simultaneously introducing a worldwide digital framework to facilitate a technocratic takeover. The timing of these maneuvers is of paramount importance.
THE PAND-ECONOMY PARADOX: FINANCIAL INTRICACIES AMIDST CRISIS CONCEALMENT AND CENTRALIZED CONTROL
Narratives Concerning the potential onset of a recession, financial analyst Mauro Bottarelli succinctly encapsulated the interconnected dynamics of the pand-economy: “Maintaining a state of semi-permanent health emergency is more preferable than a steep market crash that would make the memory of 2008 seem like a minor event.” The 'pandemic' acted as a lifeboat launched to salvage a sinking economy. In essence, it serves as a monetary maneuver designed to extend the lifespan of our finance-centered, terminally ailing mode of production. Capitalism, utilizing the vehicle of the virus, endeavors to perpetuate itself by emulating conditions that are no longer attainable.
Summarizing Covid-19's economic logic, the bailout of the financial sector in September 2019 — necessitated by its impending turmoil after years of Quantitative Easing — involved an unparalleled expansion of monetary stimulus. Trillions of dollars were conjured into existence through the wand of the Federal Reserve. This influx of substantial funds into Wall Street hinged on the suspension of economic activity on Main Street. From the perspective of the short-sighted capitalist perspective, there appeared to be no alternative. The digital currency generated as binary data cannot be permitted to inundate the tangible economic cycles on the ground, as this could trigger an inflationary wave reminiscent of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Such an event would be significantly more catastrophic for a stagnant and globally interwoven economy.
Predictably, the gradual revival of credit-based transactions within the real economy led to an upsurge in inflation, thereby exacerbating the plight of those on the ground. Wages, revenues, and savings were all impacted as a result. It's vital to note that commercial banks function as intermediaries between the ethereal realm of Central Bank digital money and the tumultuous landscape traversed by the majority. Consequently, any unrestrained expansion of Central Bank reserves (essentially currency created from thin air) triggers price inflation once commercial banks release funds (or debt) into the broader society.
The 'pandemic' was strategically employed to expedite the pre-existing macro trend of monetary expansion while deferring the consequences of inflation. Following the lead of the Federal Reserve, central banks globally have inundated the financial landscape with vast amounts of liquidity, a course of action that has devalued currencies, harming ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, the transnational turbo-capital wielded by the elite continues to thrive within the financial sphere, absorbing the small and medium-sized enterprises it has suppressed and dismantled. In essence, there is no concept of a free meal for the general populace. The Central Bank's money-printing apparatus operates solely for the benefit of the top 0.0001%, aided by the virus or any equally compelling global threat.
Currently, it appears that central bankers are engaging in the art of strategic delay. However, as the Covid-induced economic buoyancy wanes, the question arises: how will the ruling elites manage a landscape of zero interest rates and direct deficit financing? To put it plainly, what unforeseen “contingent event” or “divine intervention” will they rely on to extricate themselves from this quandary? Could it involve extraterrestrial contact? A cyber-attack targeting the banking system? An Atlantic tsunami? Military exercises in Southeast Asia? A renewed War on Terror? A Third World War originating in Ukraine? The possibilities are numerous.
Meanwhile, ordinary individuals find themselves ensnared in a suffocating dilemma. If credit must be extended to businesses, Central Banks must concurrently curb inflation — a feat that can only be achieved by reducing credit availability. Escaping the clutches of rampant inflation necessitates managing the disruptive aftermath of excessive money creation, ultimately leading to the weakening of work-based societies. Many of us find ourselves caught between the inflation of essential goods and the deflationary impact of income loss and savings erosion. In an economy characterized by stagnation yet rampant inflation, suppressed business transactions are redirected into financial assets.
One tool employed to prevent liquidity from permeating the real economy is the Federal Reserve's Overnight Reverse Repo facility (RRP). Despite persistently injecting freshly minted currency into financial markets, the Fed employs reverse repos to absorb any surplus of the very cash it injects into Wall Street. Essentially, this entails a zero-sum game of give and take: during nighttime, financial entities deposit their surplus liquidity with the Federal Reserve, which uses the same Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed Securities it drains from the market during the day through its quantitative easing (QE) initiatives as collateral. By August 2021, the utilization of the Fed's RRP had exceeded $1 trillion, prompting the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to double the RRP limit to $160 billion, effective from September 23, 2021.
This brings us to the significant concern: how will the Federal Reserve's tapering efforts align with reverse repos of such colossal proportions? Can the long-anticipated reduction in monetary stimulus even be executed in an environment where the global financial bubble thrives on leveraging at zero interest rates and structural borrowing? Yet, simultaneously, how can central bankers continue to expand their balance sheets as the impending specter of stagflation — a combination of stagnation and rising inflation—looms ever closer?
The logic behind this monetary mechanism has taken a twisted turn. The self-centered and chaotic dance of financial capital has spiraled far beyond its usual madness, hurtling towards an impending reckoning. Can an impending and devastating recession be averted? The prevailing political response seems to embrace the ancient adage that 'desperate times call for desperate measures,' which essentially implies that no atrocity against humanity can be deemed unthinkable when the persistent denial of systemic collapse continues. Is this not a lesson that history has consistently taught us?
The crisis we are currently grappling with isn't primarily epidemiological in nature. Its initial purpose is to address the potential cataclysmic financial vulnerability to toxic risks and the subsequent management of inflation. It's noteworthy that central bankers struggle to raise interest rates to a mere 2%, especially considering that during the 1970s, rates were escalated to 20% to combat inflation. However, as Covid-19 has reminded us, the intricate financial maneuvers of today's scale are effective only when executed under the veil of emergencies—such as blockades, lockdowns, and restrictions. This concealment serves a dual purpose:
Concealing the impending disaster akin to the sinking of the Titanic (the finance-centered 'work society');
Orchestrating the rollout of an enormous monetary reset grounded in economic downturn and centralized control over people's lives.
BIOPOLITICS AND TECHNO-CONTROL: EMERGENCY CAPITALISM AND DIGITAL DOMINATION
The ramifications of emergency capitalism are undeniably rooted in biopolitics. They revolve around managing an excess human population that is becoming increasingly surplus within a landscape characterized by extensive automation, financial intricacies, and an imminent reproductive model implosion. This is precisely why the triumvirate of Virus, Vaccine, and Covid-19 Pass assumes paramount importance as tools of social manipulation. 'Virus passports' are strategically designed to familiarize the masses with the utilization of digital wallets that control access to essential services and personal sustenance. Those marginalized, rendered redundant, and those who resist conformity are the initial targets subjected to control through poverty management systems that are overseen directly by dominant capital entities. The blueprint involves the conversion of human behavior into digital tokens logged onto blockchain ledgers managed by algorithms. Fostering global fear serves as the ideal ideological instrument to steer us toward this predetermined outcome.
As public discourse is muzzled by censorship and intimidation, we are being led into a dystopian realm driven by bio-techno-capitalism, whose nightmarish traits are likely to become fully apparent during the next global crisis. This would provide the rationale for the introduction of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), which, as expressed by Agustin Carstens (General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements), would bestow “complete control over the regulations that will govern the usage of that Central Bank liability, i.e., money, and we will possess the technology to enforce that.” The integration of digital currency with digital identity succinctly encapsulates an advanced form of monetary servitude, which will initially encompass the unemployed, such as recipients of Universal Basic Income (UBI), and potentially extend its reach to a significant portion of the populace. When Larry Fink (CEO of BlackRock) asserts that “markets exhibit a preference for totalitarian governments over democracies,” his words demand earnest consideration.
Dividing society based on vaccination status represents a watershed moment reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. Unless resistance prevails, an obligatory digital identification system will be introduced to monitor our behavioral 'virtue' and control our societal access. The Covid-19 crisis served as the perfect Trojan horse to usher in this groundbreaking shift. The ID2020 Alliance, comprising influential entities like Accenture, Microsoft, the Rockefeller Foundation, MasterCard, IBM, Meta, and the pervasive GAVI of Bill Gates, has long been orchestrating a global digital identification structure underpinned by blockchain technology. This serves as the foundation for a potential seamless transition into monetary control. Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) would empower central bankers not just to trace every transaction but, more importantly, to withhold liquidity access for any cause deemed valid. Within the broader scope of the 'digitization of life' initiative lies the concept of an 'Internet passport' which, subject to regular assessment, could exclude anyone deemed unworthy from online access. If an individual's social credit score dips below a certain threshold, securing employment, embarking on travel, or securing loans might hinge on submitting to 'rehabilitation programs,' effectively creating a subjugated underclass.
Historically, a pillar of fascism was the private ownership of industry under governmental control. What's remarkable is that despite compelling evidence of a revolving door system between the public and private sectors, a significant number of public intellectuals have yet to grasp the trajectory we're on. Italian writer Ennio Flaiano astutely observed that the fascist movement comprises two groups: the fascists themselves and the anti-fascists. In today's landscape, where numerous self-proclaimed anti-fascists either quietly or enthusiastically support the medically driven authoritarian shift, this paradox is more pertinent than ever.
THE INTERSECTION OF CONSPIRACY THEORY, POWER, AND EPISTEMOLOGY
The contemporary landscape of propaganda is heavily influenced by the epistemology of conspiracy theory, which operates as a rhetoric of exclusion. The outright dismissal of 'paranoid thinking' leaves the official narrative as the exclusive purveyor of truth, regardless of empirical evidence. Consequently, as Ole Bjerg asserts, “the true pathology emerges from mainstream reactions to so-called conspiracy theorists… in the form of an epistemic state of exception that jeopardizes the integrity of public discourse and intellectual critique.”1 In essence, paranoia characterizes the stance of modern-day inquisitors, who employ their inquisition-like tribunals to stifle any 'heretical' thoughts deviating from the dogmas of emergency capitalism. The sweeping accusations directed at 'paranoid Covid-deniers' and 'anti-vaxxers' not only signify the erosion of democratic bonds but also indicate the proliferation of an ideological affliction, unprecedented in its global scope.
Jacques Lacan's insights from the 1960s illuminate how capitalist power functions by eluding visibility and veiling itself in secrecy, effectively concealing both its authority and its impotence. Within capitalism, everything appears to operate organically, as if no one were issuing or following commands, but rather acting on their instinctual desires. “What is remarkable, and what goes unnoticed,” as Lacan contends, “is that the master signifier becomes even more impregnable since the clouds of impotence have been aired.”2 This prompts the question of its existence, its nomenclature, and its localization—these become apparent only through the deleterious effects it engenders. This should not lead us to categorize Lacan as a fringe conspiracy theorist. While traditional masters rely on symbolic authority, the capitalist master delegates its authority to the intangible objectivity of its modus operandi. As neoliberalism illustrates, mastery is ostensibly surrendered, yet simultaneously reasserted in the form of 'leadership.' Lacan's argument is that this stratagem creates an opening for deeper, more surreptitious forms of manipulation.
Much like the corporate-dominated mainstream media, numerous adherents of Lacanian theory today revel in ridiculing 'conspiracy theorists.' Often, they do so by citing Lacan's maxim that “there is no such thing as a big Other,” implying that no one is orchestrating events behind the scenes. Or, to borrow from Slavoj Žižek's recent commentary, “there is no need to fabricate pandemics and weather calamities, as the system generates them inherently.” However, these arguments fall short, as they overlook how power exploits the inherent inconsistency of the big Other, harnessing it to its advantage. In other words, if there exists an unconscious, conspiracies, and manipulation are inescapable. The effectiveness of any power structure hinges on its capacity to weaponize the inherent self-contradiction within its realm of meaning against the neurotic masses.
Despite his profound engagement with Hegelian thought, Žižek overlooks the speculative nature of (finance capitalist) power in this context. Systemic contradictions stand as the very bedrock and vitality of any power structure. The fundamental speculative stratagem of power involves transforming ontological inconsistency into a condition of possibility. This phenomenon becomes especially evident in the contemporary “authoritarian turn” of capitalism, which hinges on the strategic use of emergencies for ideological purposes. Ultimately, these emergencies possess genuine relevance only insofar as they align with capitalist emergencies, harnessed at opportune moments to advance capital's interests. The assumption that these emergencies will evade or subvert the established power framework overlooks their existing functionality within capitalist power dynamics. My interpretation of Covid-19 as an outcome of financial volatility aligns harmoniously with this speculative perspective: pandemic contingencies align with capitalist imperatives, and hence, from the outset, were bolstered by a potent ideological machinery.
The rhetoric of exclusion that permeates the public discourse surrounding Covid-19 can be comprehended through the lens of what Lacan, inspired by Freud, termed “successful paranoia,” which might be seen as tantamount to the “closure of science.”3 In essence, “closure” signifies the positivist faith in scientific objectivity, achieved by rejecting (foreclosing) the 'subject of the unconscious' as a source of questioning, skepticism, and error. Within the context of Lacan's discourse theory, successful paranoia resonates with a hyper-efficient belief system reinforced by the “intriguing union between capitalism and science.”4 The authority exerted by what is presently unilaterally promoted as 'authentic science' (so authoritative that it suppresses skepticism, stifles discourse, and enforces censorship) mirrors the authority of a new religion, as Lacan cautioned in 1974: “Science is replacing religion and is even more domineering, obtuse, and obscurantist.”5 Capitalism harnesses science and technology, just as it capitalizes on the health sector—one of the most lucrative industries globally.
The 'science' we are compelled to adhere to is commandeered by financial elites and their political accomplices, thereby functioning as a barrier against recognizing the crumbling state of 'our world.' Genuine science, which continues to operate behind the veil of censorship, would never advocate dictatorial mandates akin to those still in force in democratic nations worldwide. Blind faith in 'Covid-19 science' reveals a desperate yearning to retain capitalist power, even in its authoritarian mutation. Yet, the trajectory of scientific progress underscores that science, fundamentally, constitutes a discourse grounded in its own inadequacy. Major scientific breakthroughs stem from a principle of insufficiency: an awareness that truth, as the foundation of knowledge, inherently lacks. Or, in Lacan's words: "Il n'y a de cause que de ce qui cloche" ("There is cause only in what doesn't work”)6. This is the kind of science that warrants fervent advocacy.
The current state of affairs reveals a paradox: while the foundational underpinnings of the system—specifically, the value-producing interplay between capital and labor—have ground to a halt, the sweeping influence of the Covid-19 narrative grants capitalism another reprieve from confronting its structural maladies and ongoing metamorphosis. This stratagem is emblematic of capitalism's ability to divert attention from its core dilemmas, effectively sidelining serious inquiries into its inherent sickness and intricate transformation.
To comprehend the prevailing dynamics, one can turn to the clinic of neurosis, which offers insights into the profound yearning of the average neurotic for a masterly figure. Such a master's purpose is to provide reassurance that the world rests upon steadfast foundations. In many instances, neurotics cling so fervently to the existing power structure that they adopt perverted roles to ensure its functionality—akin to a masochist eagerly submitting to their dominatrix-like authority. Perversion, in this context, serves as a directive to derive pleasure from the power dynamic, and contemporary individuals frequently acquiesce to authority as they strive to solidify their own positions of power. Tragically, the conservative patterns of neurosis and perversion aren't exclusive to one group but are, at times, embraced by ‘intellectuals ,’ including both liberal and radical leftists, as well as conservatives, and right-wingers, whose dedication often stalls at mere virtue-signaling or participation in discrediting conspiracy theory contests.
Nevertheless, there is still room for optimism. Despite the relentless merging of science and capitalism to construct an airtight belief system that stifles dissent, our seemingly triumphant paranoid world is destined to fall short of achieving complete structural coherence. Paradoxically, the current global clampdown on humanity might herald the most promising opportunity yet for a radical opposition to rise against the impending regime of capitalist accumulation and its unyielding exploitation of emergency scenarios. This juncture could serve as a turning point, a crucible for a forceful confrontation against the prevailing systems of power, paving the way for a more equitable and just future.
The true power to shape this world has always lain in your hands. Choose well!
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Ole Bjerg, “Conspiracy Theory: Truth Claim or Language Game?”, Theory, Culture & Society, 2016, pp. 1-23 (6) ↩︎
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, book 17, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, trans. Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 2007), pp. 177-78. ↩︎
Jacques Lacan, Écrits. The First Complete English Edition, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), p. 742. ↩︎
Lacan, 2007, p. 110. ↩︎
Jacques Lacan, Freud Forever: An Interview with Panorama, trans. Philip Dravers, Hurly Burly 12, 2015, pp. 13-21 (18). ↩︎
Jacques Lacan, Freud Forever: An Interview with Panorama, trans. Philip Dravers, Hurly Burly 12, 2015, pp. 13-21 (18). ↩︎