surplus human sociality as ghost capital

Charles Tonderai Mudede (his name provides the link) uses Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759 to back up the idea it’s not the past that haunts the present but the present haunting the past. The ghosts are from now and matters of sympathetic identification with the figures of the past, the dead who generally have been done wrong. Smith argues we naturally side with those being beaten down and if they are killed it’s our natural empathy animating us to seek vengeance on their behalf.

Mudede calls this pushing of the social feeling potentially to beyond the death of those in whom we invest it a surplus, a surplus of human sociality. We don’t for the practical purpose of social participation need to identify ourselves with dead people but we do for the same reasons we identify ourselves with living people. Both are in a sense gratuitous. Although it might be said to be a matter of social utility in order pursue our own advantage, for example in producing ourselves as social subjects and in having social identities at all, that we have social feelings for the living if they are the same feelings we extend to the dead, if there is no difference and no distinction made, which practically there isn’t, is there a difference? Practically there is not because the cultural expectation we will side with the victims of historical wrongdoing is as strong as that at work in the social expectation we will show empathy towards those around us who are living.

To recognise as such crimes against humanity of which the victims are dead is as powerful an impetus to, and not just a matter of, correct thinking as the recognition of crimes on those who are alive. In fact in this case the values are inverted.

While the crimes of the present may be questioned those of the past rarely are. Our empathy with the dead of genocide matters more in the present than our identification with victims of the genocides that are ongoing and belong to the present. More surplus human sociality accrues to those who make the right identification, so that, culturally achieved, it goes to their advance in society. In other words, it has current utility and is to their advantage in a more than cultural sense.

Bringing in Adam Smith indicates that the advantage is economic and belongs to political economy. And I agree with Mudede. The ‘ghost’ as a figure of capital needs the emergence of hyper-culturality from ultra-sociality. Despite ants being ultra-social, having not developed symbolic exchange to the same level of ghost capital, they are not hyper-cultural. “There are no ghost ants.” (footnote 15)

The implications to be derived from ghost capital as the figure or value attached to surplus human sociality go in two directions, to the dead foundation and to the haunting of the living. Mark Fisher is famed for the sort of haunting I think being implied here. By the dead foundation I mean that calculation of a sign now marked as a cross or given arbitrary symbolic designation said to start time, said to be the point from which the time, lived and living time, starts. This is the time of inner duration. (see on computus here)