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Understanding Contemporary Capitalist Order

Capitalism is both a lifeworld and a governance system. As Islamic revolutionaries we are struggling to overcome capitalism but this struggle in its predominant form must take place within the capitalist order. It is therefore essential for Islamic revolutionaries to understand how contemporary capitalism works. Without such an understanding we will not be able to identify and intensify its systematic contradictions.

Capitalism emerged first as a system of governance and then as a lifeworld in the 11th century AD in a few Italian coastal cities. From the 16th century to the end of the 18th century AD it consolidated its hold over Europe and America and built several nation states. The imperialist capitalist conquest of Asia, Africa and the Americas enabled it to become the dominant system of governance globally.

Throughout its history capitalist form of governance has evolved. Capital – the spirit of hirs and hasad (takathur) governs individuals and societies through organization of markets and states. The organizational forces of capitalist markets and states have evolved throughout history. These organizational forces can be described as “regimes of accumulation”.

The regime of accumulation – the form of market and state organization – that has emerged in the twenty-first century is somewhat different from the earlier forms of capitalist accumulation regimes. In this essay we shall describe this contemporary accumulation regime and attempt to develop some suggestions regarding the appropriate Islamic revolutionary response.

Monopoly and Competition

The Italian economist Ugo Pagano has described the new capitalist regime as “intellectual monopoly capitalism”. Competition in capitalist markets necessarily and eventually leads to the growth of monopoly. The twenty-first century regime of accumulation is characterized by the monopolization of information by America (Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon) and China (Badiu, Alibaba, Tencent) based firms.
Capitalist competition has always served as a means for abolition of private property – that is why the corporation is the archetypal form of capitalist property. Monopolization of resources – oil, pharmaceuticals, finance, information – serves the same purpose, the purpose of the abolition of private property.

Monopolization of information deprives individuals of the possessive use of their information resources. The monopoly force of Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tech is underwritten by the legislative acts of the United States and China. Currently capitalist states create informational monopoly through the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs) creating a global monopoly over its application. The leading Big Tech firms (Apple, Microsoft, Alibaba) monopolize information use and other firms’ capacities to absorb information flow innovations is systematically limited.

Limiting information possession and usage has largely been practiced through capitalist legislation by capitalist states. Thus the corporation has the legal right to use information created by its employees during the work process – it also has the right to shield an ever-increasing range of trade rights.

Since the 1990s the American system of information monopolization by corporation has been globalised through the UN/WTO based Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement originally drafted by the American corporations: International Business Machine (IBM), Pfizer and Microsoft. Information components of production processes were legally treated as independent assets of corporations. “Patent thickets” have emerged whereby innovations are split into several patents making imitation very difficult (as Apple did with the iPhone).

On the other hand there is no legislation regarding who can collect Big Data and for what purpose. There are no standardised measures for valuing data held by Big Tech. Permissive legislation has also enhanced appropriation for Big Tech’s ‘offshoring’. Big Tech has emerged as a leading lobbyist in Washington and within the Chinese Communist Party.

Big Tech Dominance

Big Tech dominates the intellectual/information economy. Its almost exclusive access to harvest data, the dramatic concentration of digital information and its control of data centers and under sea cable system creates formidable barriers to entry in the industry for smaller firms.

The Big Techs processes heterogeneous data, vast amount of it through most advanced artificial intelligence algorithms which are kept secret. They are capable of learning by themselves as they crunch data. Thus patented technologies become obsolete before they can be imitated by other firms. AI serves as a self-enforcing monopoly mechanism. In the ‘cloud business’ – dominated by Microsoft, Amazon and Google – intangible assets that Big Tech appropriates from others are sold as a “black box” meaning that the buyer cannot have access to the underlying algorithms. The use of the ‘service’ generates more data, thus the user contributes to the build up of the monopoly powers of the cloud service providers. ‘Open source’ services by Alibaba, Microsoft, Google are designed to enable their users to contribute to the build up of the business and contributes to the monopoly power of these Big Tech corporations.

The packet system is used to increase the monopoly force and surplus appropriation by Big Tech. This is especially the case of research contracts extended by Big Tech corporations in the areas of computer studies, genetics, criminal studies, robotics based surgery and political ‘science’.

Take Microsoft in 2022, a world leader in AI patents. It has good relation with both the US government and the Chinese Communist Party. Its researchers include American and Chinese scientists. In 2022 it extended 4516 research contracts. But it monopolized patent ownership. The total number of patents obtained in 2022 was 35,233. Co-owned patents were only 318. Thus Microsoft owned 99 percent of total patents registered. Microsoft thus monopolized information generated by outside scientists. 88 percent of its research was co-authored while only one percent of the research output generated some revenue for outsiders.

Systemic Impact

In the existing capitalist regime of accumulation Big Tech exercises power over society’s information and over most other capitalist firms. Most corporations become dependent on Big Tech and smaller firms in the IT industry are forced to become innovation contractors. Most corporations contribute to capital accumulation by Big Tech. These Big Tech corporations are leading organizations of global supply/value chains without directly controlling the tangible means of productions. Imperialism is informationally technologised .

Capital is accumulated by the Big Tech monopolies through out the ‘whole value chain’ that depends on its intangible assets (information). The monopoly involves control not only over production in the subordinated firms but also over credit condition and product quality. Subordinated firms become dependent on information monopolists for consumer access. Big Tech plays a key role in global planning. Strategic planning by Big Tech firms exceeds their legally owned assets. It is a principal mechanism for organizing capitalist product, labour, and financial, markets since they have access to detailed data through self-learning AI algorithms.

While Big Tech depends crucially upon the legislative and regulatory support of the imperialist state- especially America and China – their global planning and market strategies do not always cohere to the national interest of the imperialist states which are nation-states. The pursuit of national interest by imperialist states thus plays a role in limiting the planning reach and monopoly power of the Big Tech corporations. The ultimate source of hegemonic power remains the imperial nation-state which seeks to use, sometimes successfully sometimes not, Big Tech as one of its instruments for the exercise of its hegemonic systemic powers.

The growth of informational monopoly has systemic costs reflected most conspicuously in the decline of the rate of growth of production in the global economy since the 1970s until today and in the environmental catastrophe confronting the world to which Big Tech contributes intensely. Big Tech endeavors to perpetuate its temporary monopoly of information into a permanent advantage has led to the stagnation of capitalist growth, excessive financialisation and system imploding integration.

The Islamic Revolutionary Response

The power sustaining informational monopoly capitalism is the capitalist state which provides the legal framework for its governance processes. State power must be used to break the social stranglehold of the information monopolist corporations.

Alhamdolillah two Islamic states – Iran and Afghanistan – exist today. They must resolve to challenge the power of the information monopoly. Two initiatives are essential in this regard. First of all Iran and Afghanistan must reject participation in the global regulatory regime built around TRIPS and administrated through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They must reject constraints imposed by WIPO and WTO on the national use of technological innovations and effectively subvert the patent systems in their national economies.

Secondly, they must urgently develop nationalized information service platforms and effectively exclude global monopoly corporations from making inroads into national economy and society. Information satellite sabotage must be thwarted and internet provision to the business sector and the general public must be strictly regulated and channeled through the nationalized information service platform. Information management must be a component of the military strategy of the Islamic states for multinational information corporate planning and strategy is an integral element of the war of terror the imperialist capitalists are waging against the Islamic states.

In non-Islamic state Muslim countries such as Turkey and Pakistan Islamic groups and mukhliseen-e-deen (those who seek to live Islamic lives, individually and socially) must recognize that all IT devices’ usage in their countries is subordinated to the surveillance of the imperialist states and their client informational monopoly corporations. The most lethal weapon is the mobile phone through the use of which data is instantly gathered by the imperialist governments and corporations. The use of mobile phones has spread like wild fire throughout non-Islamic state Muslim countries. Internet usage is also widespread in households , businesses , even in madrassahs and mosques – Islamic groups and madrassahs are offering IT training programs and encouraging the growth of web based businesses. All this enables the enemy – the imperialist governments and the information monopolist corporations – to constantly exercise surveillance over Islamic movements and Muslim societies.

It is therefore essential for Islamic groups and movements in non-Islamic state Muslim countries to avoid and discourage the use of the mobile phone and particularly information technology devices and apps in general. Conventional means of communication through face to face contact have played an important role in the success of the Afghan jihad. The Taliban leadership carefully monitored and limited the use of IT apps thus obstructing the provision of information to the enemy.

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