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Nitzan and Bichler

I've been a fan of Nitzan and Bichler for the last ten years. The following is a hilarious account of how an FT editor commissioned them to write a piece on differential accumulation but then didn't have the cojones to publish it:

Early in 2011, we received a surprising invitation from the Financial Times Lexicon. A reader had suggested that an entry on differential accumulation be added to the Lexicon, and the online content developer asked us if we would be willing to write it.

Our first thought was that this must have been a mistake. The FT speaks for capital. Like all mainstream financial media, its theoretical-ideological baseline is staunchly neoclassical (plus ‘distortions’ to account for the disobedient facts). Occasionally, it allows the odd piece by a soft-Keynesian, but that tends to be the far-left marker. Rarely if ever would you read in this newspaper a real critique of capitalism, let alone one that goes to the root (unless you include in this category Op-Ed pieces by Wall-Street-warriors-turned-social-activists and other converts specializing in the ‘social justice’ niche). All things considered, it wasn’t the natural outlet for our analysis of dominant capital, modes of power and strategic sabotage. Not by a long shot.

So how did we get invited?

Simple. The content editor received a request for an entry on ‘differential accumulation’. Naturally, he didn’t know what the term meant, so he searched it on Google and found The Bichler & Nitzan Archives. At that point, he should have taken the time to read a bit. Had he done so, he would have realized that this was the wrong subject to pursue. But slaving for the FT, he had already seen it all. He knew all the tricks of self-promotion, all the ways of making banality look like novelty, all the paths to a reinvented wheel. There was nothing Bichler & Nitzan, whoever they were, could possibly teach him. So instead of reading, he passed the buck and asked us to write the entry. It wasn’t too much of a risk. If the piece ended up being a misfit, he could always flip-flop and refuse it.

We knew all about such flip-flops. Over the years, we have received enough invitations-turned-rejections to work out the template. The cycle typically comprises three stages. It begins with our receiving an enthusiastic, flattering letter asking us to make an original contribution. It continues with a steady stream of encouragements and inquiries about delivery time. And it ends with a prolonged silence, after the editor realizes he got more than he had bargained for: a piece too creative for its own good and clearly unfit for print.