Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the future, speaks.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the future, speaks. Charles Mudede

Seattle Times' business section has two stories about the biggest thing since Apple was bigger than Jesus, Amazon. One concerns the owners of capital, and the other, those who sell their labor power to make a living. The first story is about how Amazon's market capitalization has surpassed that of Google's parent company Alphabet. It is now the second-most overpriced US company—Apple, a corporation that's getting high on the crack of buybacks rather than new and interesting products, is still number 1. It has a market cap of $885 billion.

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The other story concerns a moment of class struggle that has pitted Spanish Amazon workers against their bosses. 98 percent of the work force in a fulfillment center on the outskirts of Madrid is on strike because of, yes, wages. In the words of that moving U2 tune: "...how long we sing this song?" The bosses say that what they pay is realistic and reflects competitiveness. The workers say otherwise; and to get the wages they feel they deserve they have resorted to the only tactic that's ever worked for workers stuck in this "how long" situation: the strike.

But here is the thing. One might think that the second-richest US company could distribute its enormous wealth fairly. Amazon, which in 2017 had 566,400 full- and part-time employees world-wide, might simply transform that market capitalization into better wages and happier employees. But it can't. Why? Because the capital associated with the employees is completely divorced from that represented by company's market value—the money that makes Jeff Bezos the richest American.

The economy of the workers is indeed that of 19th century capitalism. The one that makes Bezos so rich is not. The former is about a real-time circuit that's connected by production, distribution, and realization. Indeed, that's why the strike is still effective. It can block the realization of surplus value—profits. But it's super-hard for workers to disrupt the ethereal or gaseous capitalism of haute finance. Much of it is not located in the here and now of real-time money-commodity-money' cycle but in a fiction of the future. Two things that have moved the world's economy deeper and deeper into this kind of future (it's one among many): financial assets and debt.

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