The Political-Aesthetic Economy of Narco-Capitalism

The Political-Aesthetic Economy of Narco-Capitalism

Lecture Andres Saenz de Sicilia, 25 April 16:00-18:00, location to be announced

In what sense can we understand capitalism as violent? There is much discussion of structural and ‘slow’ violence in the modern world, yet for many, Marx included, capitalism replaces the direct violence of previous epochs with an impersonal, abstract and mediated form of social power. On such a view, the persistence of violence in capitalist societies represents something aberrant, a residue of past incivility tied to a lack of political and economic progress. But are violence and capitalist development intrinsically opposed in this manner?

Contemporary Mexico suggests otherwise. Since 2006, collusion and conflicts between rival cartels, government forces and corporate interests have given rise to an entrenched dynamic of violence and impunity which has done little to harm the success of its national economy. Far from being an exotic and irrational deviation from the normal functioning of market societies, Mexican ‘narco-capitalism’ presents us with a perfectly viable configuration of capitalist accumulation – perhaps even a paradigmatic instance of accumulation in its neo-liberal form. This situation has much to tell us about capital per se, its possible modalities and its geopolitical conditions. In this paper I outline the concept of narco-capitalism by tracing the central articulations between organised crime, state and capital in Mexico today. I then go on to explore the integration of violence into the accumulation process, not only as practice and commodity, but also as image. The aesthetic dimension of its violence is crucial to the reproduction of the narco-capitalist order, and points to its irreducibility to a mere political or economic logic. Instead, I suggest that it must be considered as a cultural form.

Andrés Saenz De Sicilia is a teaching fellow in Philosophical Studies at Newcastle University and a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam’s School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). He obtained his PhD from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University in 2016 and has previously been a research fellow at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, as well as teaching at the University of Roehampton, Central Saint Martins and University College London (UCL). He has published in journals such as Language Sciences and Radical Philosophy as well as the Sage Handbook of Critical Theory, and is currently completing a book on the concept of ‘subsumption’ in Kant, Hegel and Marx.