Teresa Brennan separates the social time of labour and production, from a natural reproductive time. Social time is furthermore characterised as artificial time, which via the speed of the acquisition of money (capital) diminishes or degrades natural reproductive cycles.
Money…is essentially time. Marx measured money in terms of labour-time, but by this argument it should be measured in terms of the speed of acquisition. Thus inflation and interest would be the measures of distance between sources of energy and the speed with which they are consumed, a measure which intersects with reproduction, especially but not only that of labour-power. We will regard money, then, as the phenomenal form of the socially produced time of speed, rather than of labour-time as such. This retains some of the reasoning behind Marx’s definition of money, although that definition conflated the social time of production with natural reproductive time, and it is these we are separating in this redefinition of the relation between value and price. The price of a commodity becomes inflated the further removed it is from its value, and especially inflated if its production has removed the source of value altogether. The price of money, measured in interest, would be affected by the same variable. Once more, time, as money and speed, literally encapsulates the natural energy whose flourishing it must diminish. For if the quantity of use-value overall as the basis of surplus-value is diminished, as I have argued it must be, something has to take its place. This something is the creation of an artificial space-time. This creation is the means whereby money rivals natural time in its imitation of reproduction.
Short-term profitability, with its inflated price, must lead to a diminution in long-term profit and productivity. In that the substantial material embodiment in productivity and profit has to be reduced or rendered unreproducible by the logic of production geared to speed, capital is its own worst enemy. How this is played out in total terms should be reflected in the crisis of capital, in its ‘long waves’ and ‘laws of motion’. In sum, what Marx saw clearly and before all was the inherent contradiction in capital as a mode of production. He saw it in terms of labour and technology, or constant and variable capital, as he defined it, where the former, to keep pace, had to expand at the expense of the energy input of labour. The contradiction is recapitulated in this account, although its terms of reference have changed. Or rather, its terms of reference have been stripped of their phenomenal forms, so that the contradiction emerges as what it is essentially: one between substantial energy and artificial speed. Yet we have established that the contradiction between energy and speed is not simple. Two forms of time are at issue: the generational time of natural reproduction, and speed, the artificial time of short-term profit. Speed, as I have already indicated, is about space as much as time as such. It is about space because it is about centralization and distance. Speed, measured by distance as well as time, involves a linear axis, time, and the lateral axis of space. In what follows, I will begin by emphasizing how, in the consumptive mode of production, the artificial space-time of speed (space for short) takes the place of generational time. For to the extent that capital’s continued profit must be based more and more on the speed of acquisition, it must centralize more, command more distance, and in this respect the artificial space-time of speed must take the place of generational time.
It is clear that generational time suffers because capital tends inevitably to speed up the production of all commodities, including naturally formed or agricultural ones. While there are countervailing tendencies in agriculture and labour-power, in terms of scarce or apparently irreplaceable sources, the speed imperative will override them wherever possible. As production speeds up, it is also clear, capital will diminish or degrade the conditions of the specific or overall natural reproduction of natural and agricultural products. But this is not the only way that generational time is short-circuited by short-term profit.
Brennan, Teresa. 2000. Exhausting modernity: Grounds for a new economy. London and New York: Routledge.