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In other words, this is the fundamental action of a society: to code the flows and to treat as an enemy anyone who presents himself, in relation to society, as an uncodable flow, because, once again, it challenges [met en question] the entire earth, the whole body of this society.
I will say this of every society, except perhaps of our own – that is, capitalism, even though just now I spoke of capitalism as if it coded all the flows in the same way as all other societies and did not have any other problems, but perhaps I was going too fast.
There is a fundamental paradox in capitalism as a social formation: if it is true that the terror of all the other social formations was decoded flows, capitalism, for its part, historically constituted itself on an unbelievable thing: namely, that which was the terror of other societies: the existence and the reality of decoded flows and these capitalism made its proper concern.
If this were true, it would explain that capitalism is, in a very precise sense, the universal form of all societies: in a negative sense, capitalism would be that which all societies dreaded above all, and we cannot help but have the impression that, historically speaking, capitalism…in a certain sense, is what every social formation constantly tried to exorcise, what it constantly tried to avoid, why? Because it was the ruin of every other social formation. And the paradox of capitalism is that a social formation constituted itself on the basis of that which was the negative of all the others. This means that capitalism was not able to constitute itself except through a conjunction, an encounter between decoded flows of all kinds. The thing which was dreaded most of all by every social formation was the basis for a social formation that had to engulf all the others: that what was the negative of all formations has become the very positivity of ours, this makes one shudder.
And in what sense was capitalism constituted on the conjunction of decoded flows: it required extraordinary encounters at the end of a process [processus] of decodings of every kind, which were formed with the decline of feudalism. These decodings of all kinds consisted in the decoding of land flows, under the form of the constitution of large private properties, the decoding of monetary flows, under the form of the development of merchant fortunes, the decoding of a flow of workers under the form of expropriation, of the deterritorialization of serfs and peasant landholders.