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The Expanse, Syfy

At his peak, Cecil Rhodes—the defining figure of the second part of capitalism's British moment (it followed the Dutch's founding moment in the 1600s)—stated: “To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could; I often think of that. It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far.” He understood that the economic system that made him filthy rich was limited to just one realm, planet Earth. Rhodes' sadness can be attributed to the fact that since the creation of the Bank of England in 1694 (it's here that the infinity of government debt was discovered), capitalism was in essence limitless, an eternal god (the invisible hand) only constrained by the devil of matter.

More than a century after Rhodes was buried in what is now Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe, Seattle's Jeff Bezos, the figure who is currently at the top of what appears to be the conclusion of capitalism's third moment—which began after capitalism's second great 20th century war, is American, and has two parts (one defined by the New Deal; the other by neoliberal globalization)—recently predicted that one day, the solar system will be populated by an astounding 1 trillion humans. (At present, Earth has 7.6 billion people.) It is important to keep in mind that much of Bezos's present fortune is valued in a distant future that is composed of nothing but pure speculation. So, it's not a surprise that his imagination is actively populating that future with an incredible number of humans (or Amazonians). This world is not enough for the infinite. It's maddeningly pressing matter to be and do much more.

Bezos seems to be free from the sorrows of Rhodes. He hopes to die with the bright idea that all of his ever-growing value will be realized in a time and place that resembles a TV show his corporation, Amazon, salvaged from the Syfy channel not too long ago: The Expanse. The poor in this world or worlds are Belters. Mars is colonized by the military-industrial complex. Earthlings have a basic income. The rich rule the solar system. "I won't be alive to see the fulfillment of that long-term mission," Bezos said at an event in San Francisco. "We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that Earth is finite."

An important aspect of Karl Marx's critique of capitalism describes its subjects as actors or, closer yet, as the dramatis personae ("the masks of the drama"). In this sense, the workers are not really speaking as themselves when they demand higher wages or health insurance, but as characters in a culturally constructed drama that has one group playing labor and the other as the owners of the means of production (and reproduction). When Bezos says "that the Earth is finite," he is not speaking as himself, but as a master of capitalism. A director of this performance would make light come out of his mouth as he said these impossible things. We would also see his eyes glowing. And he might float in the middle of the stage. The invisible hand is now the deus ex machina.