Against image Value: Accumulation in the Oil Industry and the Biopolitics of Labour Under Finance

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Abstract

Current theses on the financialization of capitalism postulate a shift from investment in material growth to financial channels, with the implication that the extraction of value from the labour process is no longer the central locus of corporate profitability and that the antagonism between labour and capital in the accumulation process has been displaced by the tension between corporate managers and financial markets. This article challenges both claims of financialization and its political implications. Using an analysis of the oil industry in the US, focusing particularly on layoffs, I argue that, instead of inhibiting material accumulation, financialization signals a change in the form of investment that has led to the intensification of labour and its deepening subsumption under capital, transcending labour exploitation and extending the sovereignty of capital over the life of living labour.

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