In one of the most famous monologues in the history of cinema, the actor Ned Beatty, in the role of a boss of high finance, for four minutes, pursues an astonished Peter Finch, who embodies a famous anchorman, or the power of TV and the teaches a dramatic lesson in how things are in the world. We are in 1976, the screenwriter was Paddy Chayefsky, the film was called Fifth Power and was directed by Sidney Lumet. The synchronously flawless tandem of two of the Jewish American Community's top talents won four Oscars. 45 years have passed and those phrases are more and more current.
"You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples - begins Beatty". But… “There are no nations, there are no peoples. There are no Russians, no Arabs, no Third Worlds, no West ”. We are still in the midst of the Cold War and the Arabs are causing the price of oil to skyrocket. Nonetheless, Beatty continues: “There is only one system of systems. A vast and immense, interdependent and intertwined, multivariate, multinational domain of dollars: petrodollars, electrodollars, multidollars, deutsche marks, pounds, rubles, yen ”. “… It is the international currency system that determines the totality of life on this Planet”. “This is the natural order of things today. This is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today ”. It should be noted that Chayefsky, through Beatty's mouth, mentions both the atomic and subatomic Newtonian world of quantum physics, and that of extraterrestrial space.
“America doesn't exist, democracy doesn't exist. There are only IBM, ITT, ATT, Dupont, Dow, Union Carbite and Exxon. These are the nations of the world today. The world is a set of corporations inexorably regulated by the immutable and merciless laws of business ”. And here the prophet Chayefsky, anticipating the themes of contemporary debate by half a century, launches himself into a pragmatic vision. “Our children will live to see that perfect world in which there will be no wars, no hunger, no oppression, no brutality. A vast and ecumenical financial company for which all men will work to create a common profit in which all will have a shareholding. And every need will be satisfied ”. Fantastic!
Beyond the fact that the wars are still there, there is something to think about. The visionary author ranks 180 degrees with respect to the socialist views that had changed the world since the mid-nineteenth century, when Marx and Engels wrote their reflections. And in contrast to the workerist and 1976 visions of a few years earlier, Chayefsky in XNUMX already describes an "ecumenical financial community" in which "all men will work" (funds, banks, investors, savers and day traders) not to collectively manage means of production and distribution but "to create a common profit" and, in this community, "everyone will have a shareholding". Exactly what is happening today! Obviously, making the necessary distinctions ...
Instead of TV there is the Internet; therefore, instead of the seduction that organizes consent, there are surveillance and censorship; instead of the corporations that produce and distribute physical goods, or the major companies that were listed on the New York Stock Exchange before the advent of the technodigital era, there are the Bigs of Silicon Valley and the Mutual Funds of Wall Street. In place of "common profit" there is an immense virtual exchange value, n times higher than the value of the real economy, and from this value power derives its own profit. This "profit" is undoubtedly generated by the community, but its ownership and redistribution have nothing to do with the concept of "common heritage".
In the last two centuries of the last millennium, the style of power has undoubtedly changed. There are no longer the theocracy and the aristocracy; above all there is no longer democracy as we have known it from 1945 to 2001. However, the helm of history has remained firmly in the hands of an occult oligarchy and the route is drawn - as always - from one day to the next, as the of alliances and clashes at the top, despite the fact that there are long-lasting projects and visions. In essence, the political dimension, in which choices are made, is controlled in every aspect… today more by the technological power and by the financial power concentrated in the hands of very few individuals.
This contemporary era, which largely corresponds to what Chayefsky's character describes, is defined in many ways by different authors, some call it post democracy, others surveillance capitalism, great reset or new world order; it seems to me, however, that it is a new form of feudalism: a digital financial feudalism. Why?
In the past, the emperor or king, and their vassals and valvassors, had land, movable property, real estate and physical money… all this constituted the fiefdom. The owners of the fiefdom granted their subordinates fractions of territory, and / or movable property and / or sums of money and these concessions did not affect the original properties as they took place on a free loan basis. The lowest part of the human hierarchy, that is the serfs, thanks to their work and their creativity, made the portions of the fief better. What came from it, in terms of products, services and coins, ended up largely in the coffers of the hierarchical chain, to the point of making the court of the king or emperor as large as possible. The servants were left with only the bare minimum to survive. It was feudalism: first the medieval one and then the modern one.
It went more or less like this for centuries: from the ninth to the eighteenth, until the French Revolution.
"Do not worry - the dominus said to his subjects in those rare periods when he did not use them for war - you think about working and I defend you from the enemies". In reality it was not quite so, but in compliance with this false promise the gleba satisfied the economic claims of the dominus with gifts of various kinds that reached "the lord's pantry" and even sometimes undergoing the ius primae noctis. In essence, the relationship was based on the loan for use, thanks to which 1% (aristocracy and clergy) owned 70-80% of the whole. A bit like today. Almost always (but not "always") with the names of the owners changed.
Over time, power, torn apart by the American, French and Russian revolutions, changed its mask and allowed the bourgeois first and then the proletarians to even become owners of goods, lands and means of production, while reserving the right to manage the labor force in industries and the "new money" in the form of banknotes, thanks to perverse debt / credit alchemies, known today as "bank seigniorage".
The money until 1971 was however backed by something else (gold, GDP) then became, in the Nixon era, fiat money, that is, any money that is accepted by a government to pay taxes or debt, but is not anchored or supported directly by gold and other valuables. Fiat money has no significant intrinsic value or use value (e.g. like a cow or a beaver hide). Fiat money derives its exchange value from the extensive use made by markets and governments; the parties engaging in the exchange simply agree on its relative value at a given time. In some sovereign nation it can be "created" by their central banks ad libitum without having to suffer too much or give explanations ... see quantitative easing recent.
About thirty years after that fateful 1971, other extraordinary events happen. Nasdaq, New York's tech stock market, despite the 2000 bubble, turns out to be an extraordinary powerhouse of value, especially for the so-called “.com” companies, the ones that dominate the scene today. It also triggers the immense enhancement of those financial products called derivatives, which will be put under scrutiny by the G20 in Pittsburgh in 2009 when, due to the subprime bubble, world leaders discovered that their value already amounted to 600 trillion US dollars.
After a few years of observation and attempts at reform, the derivatives are now fully rehabilitated and their unscrupulous danger has been forgotten. These phenomena, enhanced by the digitization of exchanges, that is, computing power applied to algorithms, are also favored by the speed of the networks and by the ubiquity and anonymity of the active subjects. In essence: the interactions of these factors have produced a total mass of the value listed on the stock exchange that is no longer measurable today. With an obvious euphemism, the technicians speak of uncertain actual quantification. Its amount, in fact, calculated in US dollars, has grown dramatically over the past 20 years in a chaotic and uncontrolled way, to the point that there are no shared measurements of how much "money" circulates in the stock exchanges. According to some estimates, this sum is four times greater than the entire planetary Gross Domestic Product which in 2019 would amount to a figure between 80 (International Monetary Fund estimates) and 84 trillion (World Bank estimates), therefore 320 - 330 trillion. According to other "observers", however, the sum of circulating on the stock exchanges would be 12 times greater than the planetary GDP. Of this opinion is the WFE (World Stock Exchange Federation) which states that the total value of the shares would be about 100 trillion dollars; but, listen, listen ... the value of the "derivatives" would now have reached 1 quadrillion ... that is, 1.000 trillion.
You understand well that we are talking about a hyper real sum, even a little "abstract", which seems to be taken from a delirium of Scrooge Scrooge. A sum that cannot be translated or traced back to goods, products or services of the real economy, but therefore defined as fiduciary money or exchangeable - God forbid - but on the basis of the mutual trust of financial operators. And that sum would be destined to increase!
In this techno-digital-financial scene in which monetary values, now driven by Artificial Intelligences, reproduce themselves exponentially and the Dome of financial operators becomes the guarantor of abstract value, the new dominas understood, already ten years ago, that it was possible to establish new feudal relations with the population base. How?
If we keep in mind that:
- in the last 25 years the land that can be cultivated and on which to build has been flanked in progress by new digital territories (domains) such as .com, .edu, .info, .world, etc.
- from the exploitation of these territories (domains) and from the exploitation of the digital world as a whole, based on the power of numerical computing, the future production of wealth will come. (So it is stated!)
- these territories (domains) can be extended to infinity and are given on loan for use, especially in the case of social networks, so that the most advanced members of the communities (more than 1 billion humans) can exercise their productive capacity and talent there , in apparently independent forms that tend to be voluntary and free.
- the money that is lent by those who have it to individuals, companies and states through complicated alchemy comes from apparent Big-Bang "Nothing-Everything" (see recent "quantitative easing") and has become potentially unlimited.
- this money in progress will also benefit in the future from the exponential support of digital currency (bitcoins and Co.) also considered fiduciary money.
If we keep these considerations in mind, the future scene becomes clearer: the fog of Neoliberalism is clearing, still based on limited raw materials that make the dollar oscillate and quarrelsome comparisons with the workforce and consumers and ... the sun rises of the great techno reset. -financial.
Contemporary fiefdoms are no longer lands, physical goods and money guaranteed by gold or other, but digital territories that are deregulated and tend to be devoid of those boring limits typical of the material world. And virtual money, or the exchange value produced in digitized exchanges, becomes the guarantee, justification and lifeblood of those new fiefdoms. At this point the abstract dimension of a-material fiefdom is totally freed from the physical dimension and becomes a basically infinite Cloud, as digital territories tend to be infinitely producible and masses of exchange value also, as disconnected from the real economy. and instead based on trust. All beyond the control of the States and the limits of the development of the Newtonian tradition.
Here, then, is the route: to take the old constitutions to the attic; control a few and selected United Nations Agencies with virtual money flows, so that international treaties prevail; maintain dialogue between the oligarchies at the G20 and… travel calmly towards transhumanism.
The first devastating effects of New Feudalism are under the eyes of all: on employment, on family-based social organization and on health control. Every previous bioethics gives way to the biopolitics of the domina.
This is the situation today. The incessant and passionate coitus between the Big digital, that is FAGAM (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft) and surroundings and the big of digital finance that is the mutual funds and the big investment banks, thanks (also) to the dizzying growth of Nasdaq and NYSE during the pandemic, gave birth to a dynasty of new para-occult and transnational powers; a dynasty made up of shareholdings and boards of directors that control and merge with each other relying on the mediation of international law firms as they once relied on weddings in cathedrals. The new summit, as in the times of related monarchies, behaves in a feudal way: it gives portions of digital territory (servers, computing power, cloud, etc.) to individuals and companies and portions on a "loan for use" of fiat and fiduciary money to the treasuries of the states deprived of sovereignty (the vassals), which thanks to the valvassori (the banking system) allocate them to individuals, families and small and medium-sized companies (see in Europe the MES or the Recovery Fund). All borrowers: thanks to both work and creativity, they “cultivate and optimize” the portions of digital territory and credit that are granted to them on loan for use and remunerate the intermediate layers and the top of the pyramid of domina. Remuneration occurs above all: through unnecessary consumption of multinational goods and services; costs induced for individual and collective health; direct and indirect taxes that, through the states, end up in the coffers of the domina in the form of interest on the public debt, to the point that 1% now owns 99% of the world's wealth.
In fact, in the triangle essential to the production of wealth: "money, infrastructure, human capital", the latter is reduced by a workforce capable of negotiating to the role of serfs "borrowers". It is no coincidence that the large properties, in the various strategic areas, are concentrating in the hands of subjects who are increasingly interconnected with each other and that the digital future is oriented towards giving every control tool on "loan for use", production, learning and transport.
What properties remain in the hands of the former bourgeoisie and former proletarians? The lands, the buildings and the savings. The first two will increasingly be subject to unbearable progressive taxes. While the "savings", which have long been in the crosshairs of greedy "collectors" and "investors on your behalf", thanks to a frenzied promotional pressure and the fact that alternatives to investments become increasingly taxed and risky, are deliberately entrusted by the new serfs in the management of domina, who roll them in the bags, redistribute some profit here and there but use them to strengthen their hegemony. Alternatively, the savings are directly "invested", thanks to online brokers platforms by day traders looking for easy profits. In these cases the laws of the casino apply more and more and it is known that the croupiers always win. Inexorably, we thus pass from globalization and techno-financial glebalization.
The "physical infrastructures" and in particular the central nervous system of global communications, or that complex system made up of cables, satellites, pylons, antennas and surroundings, whose function is to distribute and disseminate content and allow remote financial transactions, are becoming increasingly strategic . Here the game sees the cables in first place, so much so that a frenzied action is underway for the transoceanic laying of submarine cables, stretched for thousands and thousands of kilometers. As it happens, the main players in this business are the FAGAM companies - Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft together with the large telephone companies and investment banks, of course. On the satellite signal transport front, on the other hand, the omnipresent Mr. Tesla, Elon Musk, who with his SpaceX project wants to put 12.000 satellites into low orbit, that is 2.000 more than those put into orbit by the 1957 to present.
It is superfluous to recall in conclusion that all the companies involved in the new feudalism are overvalued on the stock exchange and that their securities are traded 24 hours a day by tens of millions of large and small traders who buy and sell with PCs and smart phones from every corner of the world. That is why, as Chayefsky said 50 years ago: "There are no longer any nations or peoples ... but a vast and ecumenical financial company for which all men will work to create a common profit and in which all will have a shareholding."
In Paris, with a hint of sarcasm one would say: "Impeccable!"