an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image


Volume 2, April 2005, ISSN 1552-5112



Global Capital: The Currency of the Code



Nicholas Ruiz III





The ideology of the market is unfortunately not some supplementary ideational or representational luxury or embellishment (of the real) that can be … sent over to some cultural or superstructural morgue, to be dissected by specialists over there.  It is somehow generated by the thing itself…[1]



Is not thought itself, an appendix, an aberration, a hypertelic excrescence, a luxurious but lethal dysfunction, which contravenes the whole of evolution by suddenly becoming aware of it—paralyzed by its own image?[2]






Boundaries have always been made of flesh.  It is for that reason that the phantom in the mechanism has been exorcised.  Yet, something still tracks us, surrounds us (comprises us?) and still persists in postmodernity, some unknown we cannot define, some variable we cannot solve for—it is this object that drives theory and reality. We live in a frame of technical device and we occupy a body of organic substance; we construct texts, we illustrate a Screen; and we inhabit those fields of immanence conceptually and operationally—in their totality, they comprise a milieu.


Recently, modernity witnessed the birth of the double helix (DNA); postmodernity now bears witness as the helix bequeaths its evolutionary secrets to us all as Code.  We must never confuse the terrain of the Code for its cultural terms—nor can we any longer selectively ignore the outfitted reality that the Code’s terms can execute, nor the potential reality its cultural terms can create.  Indeed, our challenge today, is to recognize the Code, while we manage its effects, many of which are detrimental to the egalitarian polity many of us desire. 


The Code is real—and “we are not far from wolves” in embodying its material composition.[3]  Its effects are manifest as a strategy of deception and withholding, sequestration and discharge.  To survey historical modernity and even further back in time still, is to witness “capital accumulation over and over again across the space-time of the capitalist world economy.”[4]  We have only recently begun to call our bluff, which is to say, we have begun to coexist on familiar terms with Capital as the Code (and the Code as Capital); and are surprised to learn that it has conserved and replicated itself since the Beginning.


We have long been becoming-Capital—and we have always been Code.  There is nothing at all to speak of, in the absence of its currency.  Watson writes:


Above all, the human genome contains the key to our humanity.  The freshly fertilized egg of a human and that of a chimpanzee are, superficially at least, indistinguishable, but one contains the human genome and the other the chimp genome.  In each, it is the DNA that oversees the extraordinary transformation from a relatively simple single cell to the stunningly complex adult of the species, comprised, in the human instance, of 100 trillion cells.  But only the chimp genome can make a chimp, and only the human genome a human.  The human genome is the great set of assembly instructions that governs the development of every one of us.  Human nature itself is inscribed in that book.[5]


Of course, the Code only provides the instructions for the biomachine, which in many aspects of its embodiment, becomes a recording device of sorts, and that is how a child born of any particular color in the world, raised in another location, will adopt the operational practices to a large extent, of the location it inhabits, and we do this even as adults.  Hence the recording of a foreign accenture upon one’s extant verbiage, manifest just by simply spending time in another language milieu for a period of time.  The point here is to illustrate that despite the cultural coding of the machine (a femdamentalist topical favorite), the Code has somewhat of a hegemony over the technical limits of the machine.


Bioengineering of course, is working to efface all of that.  In that sense, we should dispense with older versions of concepts of human nature, and instead envisage a dynamic human inscription process, which can be increasingly associated with the active writing process of the machine.  The machine is a medium—indeed Biomedia[6]—and it can be inscribed upon, and this inscription can alter the program that it runs, and yet, there are certain functions of the machine, we are learning, that may in general, or at least at present, be immutable.  All of this with one caveat: though immutability for certain parameters may be real at one moment in time, say 2005 AD—this does not mean it will always be the case.  Welcome to the desert of the real.


The Code is our substance, our expression and demonstration—the material manifestation of which is Capital, in all of its forms and particulars; it is that with which we must contend.  Capital is not its only concept (with its sets of terms) that increasingly envelops the world, but it is the most material Creator of conditions and stipulations, as in parameters of utility, and we should understand it as having an ordering dual Basis—that of the material and that of the metaphysical. 

1 Corinthians 6:20: “You were bought with a price, therefore, honor God with your body…” 


Where the basis was once the Father, and then the Son, and even his Mother, or the Church—those forms of Basis are lost, effaced, exchanged for a new Basis today.  This is neither lamentation nor advocacy, but rather simply, observation.  The envelopment of Capital occurs in every human sphere—in the total milieu—from cowry shells and yams in the Pacific Islands to credit swaps and currency markets in London.  To this there is no exception—Capital is effective; its logics are territorial and expansive—and its Logos can take on any appearance in the world operation of our human temporal embodiment.  Paradoxically, it is historical—we do not exist until it does, and then we come to represent it; that is, we are the bodies of its work.  At the same time, it is ahistorical—it has no history to speak of, save what we construct through the reverse-transcription of its past via the discipline of history.  


With regard to the evolution of Deity, a trajectory through human space has been textually rendered for millennia (indeed, almost since the Beginning[7]) and that chronicle has meandered along the surface of our terrain, crusading and converting, while also extending the screen of history behind it, as it stealthed along.  Essentially, the chronicle provided a reference point and shadow from within which we have slowly been grasping toward another plateau.  The Deific backdrop of the world process makes less and less sense, to more and more people, as Capital rises everywhere at once, even if Capital is not here to save, but to slaughter and exclude by the manifestation of its absence.  That is the beauty and the terror of Capital in our world.   In the most blunt sense, humans are becoming increasingly weary of waiting for the ancient and pious Salvation they now feel will never come—in the face of Capital that is already here to greet them.


Many are under the spell of history, which provides Capital with a birth, a Beginning, but Capital was always present in its basic form: the Code.  We might even say, in our lighter moments, that Capital is the dream of the Code.  Where Culture dreamed of beauty, Capital yearned to be effective.  At last, Capital learned to effect beauty, so as to assimilate beauty as a veneer.


Today, Capital is beautiful—operationally, and that is the aesthetic we revere. 


The problem with the recognition of Capital’s enduring omnipresence is that there is no one to indict of the crimes Capital commits—do we indict ourselves, that is to say, human society? And then, do we punish ourselves?  After all Freud, already tried to issue such a judgment:


But with the recognition that every civilization rests on a compulsion to work and a renunciation of instinct and therefore inevitably provokes opposition from those affected by these demands, it has become clear that civilization cannot consist principally or solely in wealth itself and the means of acquiring it and the arrangements for its distribution; for these things are threatened by the rebelliousness and the destructive mania of the participants in civilization.[8] 


What Freud missed here is that the human instinct is precisely to work; there is not a renunciation of instinct in that activity, but rather an embrace of an instinct to survive, to produce, to replicate (and if not replicate, certainly to copulate—where replication becomes incidental for most of the species)—that is the Code’s agenda—the Code is as the Code does.  In addition, civilization can consist of Capital accrual and defense—and it has and does so—increasingly, via the “world-widing of the world” (i.e. globalization).  It is not wealth that most seek, but rather, production of a life or lives. 


Capital makes itself known, among other ways, as a function and a tool of precisely the “rebelliousness and destructive mania” of which Freud speaks.  Though circumstances are novel, the inception point of all of this is not contemporary, and we are merely molecular progeny in perpetual flux. We came into being from the point at which molecules began to self-organize, conserve—replicate—that is the beginning of utlitous Code, a manifestation of which today, is Capital; notice how it too, self-organizes, conserves, accumulates, replicates, etc.  It is in that sense, that Capital, and increasingly today, global Capital, represents and implements the Code, and is a tool of it.  We should note here that certain factions of Code are more represented by Capital, than Others. 


Consider the synthesis of our bodies, always driven by desire, which is to say, the desire of the minded-body, our Coded embodiment, is in many events, a machinic process.[9]  Beyond the intellectual transcendence of psychoanalysis, and beneath the rational edifice of philosophical thought, there is skin and bones, organs and flesh, blood and cellular material; and driving the system, beneath the organization of these larger macrofigures is molecular material, proteins, neurotransmitters, biochemical signaling agents, etc. It is their dialectic discourse with environment—that in general, categorizes the operation of the Code.  The Code’s beauty is in its ignorance of the discourse it is the focus of—meaning perhaps, the cell respires, produces, replicates and dies—apart from our thinking it, and in this sense is universally constant and true. 


Where humans, such as Descartes, only provided proof of thought (Western, of course), proof of thought did not, necessarily provide proof of purpose.  For that, many would choose Deity—which was always a form of Capital.  A form of Capital to provide certainty, or a Capital to provide meaning, always remains an event of utility.  Enter marriage, an investment vehicle in the production of the Code as Capital:


The production couple—the desiring–machines and the social field—gives way to a representative couple of an entirely different nature: family myth.  Once again, have you ever seen a child at play: how he already populates the technical social machines with his own desiring-machines, O sexuality—while the father or mother remains in the background, from whom the child borrows parts and gears according to his need, and who are there as agents of transmission, reception, and interception: kindly agents of production or suspicious agents of anti-production.[10]


In truth, if anything has been born in Capital’s name, we are only speaking of the birth of its recognition by us.  The recognition of its shaping of the World becomes unavoidable in our era.  Of course, the hoarding began in the cave and on the plain, to the extent that utility could be carried and defended, extracted, taken away and preserved.  Those events served as the basis for the formation of the structures of Capital, the institutions that would serve to preserve its dominion.  Today, all edifices become dissolvable, indeed need to be soluble, and become aqueous through the continuous deterritorialization of globalizing mediated bodies:


And for capital: the deterritorialization of wealth through monetary abstraction; the decoding of the flows of production through merchant capital; the decoding of States through financial capital and public debts; the decoding of the means of production through the formation of industrial capital; and so on.[11]


Hence the beginnings of the age of “strange piety.”  Out of the old stream—arises a new flow.  The early capitalist diaspora of the Genoese recognized and responded to the beckoning metaphysical face of Capital, and usury flourished, while Church cries of moral depravity fell upon deaf ears; in essence, bankers who broke old rules prospered.  The Italians adapted to their circumstances in as many ways as possible, so as to facilitate Capital’s accumulation, for example, by outsourcing their security needs to Iberian rulers and focusing on Capital’s expansion, instead.[12]  It is with irony, that some 700 years later, the Genoese streets would find themselves to be filled with protesters raging against the very same face of Capital at the G-8 Summit in 2001.  Then again, those that spoke directly to Capital in old Genoa, and had agency through Capital, were most certainly the minority of people, which is no different, in large measure, from circumstances today.  


When the Dutch superseded the Genoese in the 16-17th centuries as the capitalists of import, this evolution was characterized by the Dutch internalization of the military protection costs that the Genoese had outsourced at a far greater cost than the Dutch, who soon found they could provide protection for themselves at lesser cost.  With greater accumulation of power, the Dutch regime changed, stepped away from the model of the Italian city-state, and moved that much closer toward the realm of the nation state.[13]  By the time of the height of the British regime, the United Kingdom “…was a world-encompassing commercial and territorial empire that gave its ruling groups and its capitalist class a command over the world’s human and natural resources without parallel or precedent.”[14]  With the birth of the United States, the world would come to cower beneath the historical formation of even more powerful governmental-business complexes. 


As we can see, historically, and today, Capital and its methods (as with DNA and its analogs)—evolve.  Global Capital—the currency of the Code—evolves much like a living tool, and as a material metaphysical organism—a material event.  Marx wrote that Capital was dead labor, but we know now that Capital is immortal currency.  Like God, Capital can never be killed, precisely because it has no singular body—it has instead, multiple bodies—multiplicities—territories. The metaphysics of Capital, the extensive utility of all that is effective, in a forward-looking sense, if it is to give way to anything at all, will only concede to itself, that is, can only give way to a metaphysics of the Code.  Baudrillard once wrote of the indeterminacy of the metaphysics of the Code, and he was skeptical (and I would say, still is) of this new event:


Within indefinite reproduction, the system ends its original myth and all referent values that it secreted in accordance with its processes.  Putting an end to its myth of origin, the system put an end to its internal contradictions (no longer confronting the real or its referent)—it put an end also, to the myth of its own end: the revolution itself…The golden age of the revolution was that of capital where the myths of origin and the end still circulated…Once it has short-circuited these myths (and the sole danger that capital has run historically comes from its mythical demand of rationality that was tied into capital from its debut) within an operationality, without discourse, it becomes its own myth, or rather an indeterminate machine, aleatory, something like a genetic social code—then capital leaves no chance of a determinate reversal.  This is a veritable violence.  It remains to be seen if this operationality itself is not a myth, and further, if DNA itself is not a myth.[15]  


For Baudrillard, the myth of Capital is linked to the myth of DNA, perhaps by virtue of the order of the systemic Enlightenment rationalities they purvey.  Such rationality, in any form, is always of the order of the myth.  However, today it would seem that these myths have not only grown, but evolved; yesterday’s myths, have become today’s metaphysics; and yesterday’s metaphysics, have become today’s ghosts.  Capital and the Code—have become real.  Where the myth was always a story, a parable—a tale; the metaphysical always descends upon us from above, as a system and a method.  We know that the myth is false, where the metaphysical is something that is real, precisely because it is believed in.


Important in relation to Capital and the Code in postmodernity, is Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the becoming-body without organs; the schizoid-multiplicity traversing a thousand plateaus in real-time, anticipating and avoiding its destruction by the forces opposed to it, by becoming the master of a singular, yet collective, and mutiplicitous subjectivity.  Such a state is an ideal, and a responsive process of being in their thinking.  It is a reaction to the rise of Capital and the Code, and though you can never reach the state of being the Body without Organs (BwO) in principle, it serves as a new modular ontology for the new evolved milieu we inhabit. 


Deleuze and Guattari:


People ask, So what is this BwO? —But you’re already on it, scurrying like a vermin, groping like a blind person, or running like a lunatic: desert traveler and nomad of the steppes.  On it we sleep, live our waking lives, fight—fight and are fought—seek our place, experience untold happiness and fabulous defeats; on it we penetrate and are penetrated; on it we love.  On November 28, 1947, Artaud declares war on the organs: To be done with the judgment of God, “for you can tie me up if you wish, but there is nothing more useless than an organ.”  Experimentation: not only radiophonic but also biological and political, incurring censorship and repression.  Corpus and Socius, politics and experimentation.  They will not let you experiment in peace.[16]


In a sense, the BwO is what is left of the contrivance of humanity after Capital and the Code are through rebutting the device of psychoanalysis.  If psychoanalysis attempted to reconcile an imagined imbalance of fragmented mental states and events that were perhaps palpable in modernity, the BwO rejects that there is anything to put back together again in the first place—that is:


It is not at all a question of a fragmented, splintered body, of organs without the body (OwB).  The BwO is exactly the opposite.  There are not organs in the sense of fragments in relation to a lost unity, nor is there a return to the undifferentiated in relation to a differentiated totality…The BwO is desire; it is that which one desires and by which one desires…desire stretches that far: desiring one’s annihilation, or desiring the power to annihilate.  Money army, the police and State desire, fascist desire, even fascism is desire.  It is a problem not of ideology but of pure matter, a phenomenon of physical, biological, psychic, social, or cosmic matter. [17]


If global Capital writes the world, on the medium of our flesh that is biomediated Code—our currency, our living being has two choices—to write, or be written upon.  To write is to become-animal; to merge with boundaries and connections, and embody the flows of the world.  To be written upon, is to make the mistake of psychoanalysis:


We wish to make a simple point about psychoanalysis: from the beginning, it has often encountered the question of the becomings- animal of the human being: in children, who continually undergo becomings of this kind; in fetishism and in particular masochism, which continually confront this problem.  The least that can be said is that the psychoanalysts, even Jung, did not understand, or did not want to understand.  They killed becoming-animal, in the adult as in the child.  They saw nothing.  They see the animal as a representative of drives, or a representation of the parents.  They do not see the reality of a becoming-animal, that is affect in itself, the drive in person, and represents nothing.[18]


Deleuze and Guattari advocate the dispensing of the ideology of points of origin, beginnings and ends, to embrace the multiplicity of new lines of flight—and we should recognize this idea as an effect of the newly apparent rhizomic activity of the Code spreading across the world—the effects of which Capital distributes as rhizomic mediator.  This development does not put Capital necessarily at the service of good.  In fact, the hierarchies intrinsic within the world rhizome of the Code are far too brutally apparent.  The rhizomic currency of the Code should be the object of the organs of political action.  A truly political consciousness has in reality, yet to emerge, or at least, a truly egalitarian model of such an endeavor. 


In order to theorize the currency of the Code, indeed the currency of the human condition today, we cannot ignore the narrative of global Capital.  It is not a determinist sequence of events, but rather a part of the foundation for understanding just what a thinking body can become today; essentially, the newest part of our story.  The embodiment of thought and its application, increasingly, cannot be understood apart from the matrix it resides in—hence the temptation, perhaps agreeably so, to focus so closely upon the reading and writing of texts.  Thought in postmodernity takes its most radical textual shape via Capital, and is in turn shaped by Capital—in fact is Capital.  From ancient Greece to medieval Europe, and from dynastic Asia to the South American el campo, sequestration and withholding are the order of the day—in fact, have always been the order of the day.  These are the transparencies of the texts of Capital.

Critics of the market, or Capital, and the material effects of the currency of the Code, need to refocus energies, away from lambasting the observable data (that Capital is globalizing, as a currency of the Code) with regard to the rampant circulation of the helix.


Jameson writes:


This allows me to express my thesis in its strongest form, which is that the rhetoric of the market has been a fundamental and central component of this ideological struggle, this struggle for the legitimation or delegitimation of left discourse.  The surrender to the various forms of market ideology—on the left, I mean, not to mention everybody else—has been imperceptible but alarmingly universal…’The market is in human nature’ is the proposition that cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged; in my opinion, it is the most crucial terrain of ideological struggle in our time.  If you let it pass because it seems an inconsequential admission or, worse yet, because you’ve really come to believe in it yourself, in your ‘heart of hearts,’ then socialism and Marxism alike will have effectively become delegitimated, at least for a time.[19]


The problem with Jameson’s criticism here is that Marxism, socialism, or any other ideology, is not what is at stake in the recognition of our contemporary quandary.  Egalitarian polity is the goal, we presume, but we cannot say without question, that such and such ideology will achieve this or that goal.  The truth is, we simply do not know what will work in this situation, one way or another, though we can and should continue to speculate and experiment vis-à-vis polity.  What is clear is that Capital is globalizing, is becoming metaphysical, is ordering the world increasingly, and it seems to function as an extension of the Code, that is, Capital is a currency of the Code.  It is also clear that manning the intellectual bastions against conceptual relationships between the market and human nature—or the Code and its currencies (e.g. Capital) for a sort of ‘last stand,’ of Marxism is bound to yield nothing.


Today, a becoming-Capital emerges to face us, and this becoming will involve the internalization of the current field of social forces that composes our social system.  This becoming will efface what is left of Deity, and has itself become spiritualized in a supraterrestrial field that will increasingly overcode, overdetermine, and over-aestheticize the sphere of the real—reifying the new metaphysical system of Capital:  “The infinite debt must become internalized at the same time as it becomes spiritualized.”[20]  This is, in fact, happening.

Cursing the Code, or Capital and its newest metaphysics, or the human activity that emerges out of these devices, repeatedly—will not produce an egalitarian polity.  We are losing ground if we approach our milieu from the position of “defender” of this or that ideology, and quite simply, none of that, in any case, acts to change the devices in question.  Only the recognition of our situation, in a sort of basic science sense, where we attempt to gather the data, before passing diagnoses or resolutions, and certainly before issuing prescriptions, prior to the data analysis, will help us in the end to facilitate the management of circumstances that now lead us to realize that we are globalizing mediated bodies of Capital and Code.  Therein lie our new kinds and lines of flight for the development and evolution of egalitarian polity.



an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image


Volume 2, April 2005, ISSN 1552-5112




[1] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham; Duke UP (1991), p260


[2] Jean Baudrillard, Impossible Exchange, New York; Verso (2001), p59


[3] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis; UMN Press (1987), p28


[4] Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times, New York; Verso (1994), p13


[5] James D. Watson, DNA: The Secret of Life, New York; Alfred A. Knopf (2003), p166


[6] For more on biomedia, see Eugene Thacker, Biomedia, Minneapolis, U of MN Press (2004)


[7] Of civilization, that is, which is to say we have been defining the Real in terms of Deity as long as we have been defining terms it would seem.


[8] Sigmund Freud, “The Future of An Illusion” in Peter Gay (ed.), The Freud Reader, New York; Norton (1989), p689


[9] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, New York; Viking (1977), p296


[10] Ibid, p298


[11] Ibid, p225


[12] Giovanni Arrighi, “Spatial and Other ‘Fixes’ of Historical Capitalism”, Journal of World-Systems Research, X, 2, Summer 2004, 527-539 (532-533), online:


[13] Ibid


[14] Ibid


[15] Jean Baudrillard, L’Echange symbolique et la mort, Paris; Gallimard (1976), p 93-94


[16] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis; UMN Press (1987), p150


[17] Ibid, p164-165


[18] Ibid, p259


[19] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham; Duke UP (1991), p263-264


[20] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, New York; Viking (1977), p222