WHAT DO WE TAKE? … C) from Marx

KarlMarx

FROM MARX:

We get the idea that capitalism is concealment: hiding its exploitation well.

It conceals through seduction: the enamoured victim of the seducer is always blind to the depths of the one-sidedness of their relationship.

“… things do not always immediately appear as they are. The divorce between reality and the way it appears is a central aspect of Marx’s dialectical thought.”[i]

What we learn from Marx is the need to be critical and vigilant of appearances. In fact, it is precisely when everything looks quite rosy that we must be especially on our guard.

Marx argued that in communist societies technological development would seek to eliminate repetitive, physically demanding, unsafe and unhealthy tasks; reduce overall labour time, satisfy basic needs and develop human potential.[ii] The failure of communism is usually estimated by its inability to achieve, or even successfully approach the achievement of these goals.

However, in assessing this failure, it is also true that the communist states were set up at times when technologies were not advanced enough to make this forward-moving cultural-leap possible. Very many of the technologies capable of transforming our lives were developed in the capitalist, not the communist world, and the great spike in technological development that we are experiencing now came after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a sense, it could be affirmed that communism arose as a political alternative before its time. Ironically, the application of Marx’s Utopian dream is far easier to envisage now. Whilst, a development of our current AI and robotics technologies offers an alternative to human labour that could give us the means to nurture our potential, the pressing needs for systemic change that are demanded by the ecological crisis give us a sound reason for wanting to make such a revolutionary change as well.

One of the goals of all human societies, if they are truly human, should be to get humans out of the psychologically and physically tedious work spaces, and into environments where human potential can be focussed on tasks related to the full development of our human, homo sapiens, potentials. Technology is now our greatest hope, and the more utopian are our hopes for the technological world, the better. Nevertheless, it is also true, and it should always be uppermost in any technological thrust forward, that a Utopia will only ever be built once research and the production of new technologies are liberated from the profit-making obligations of the market place. (Capitalism + Technology = Dystopia) is the true equation behind the façade of the current System, but it is this same monstrous equation that has to be avoided at all costs.

One of the ways to achieve the liberation from tedious, repetitive work that offers no spiritual reward for the labourer, would lie through a complete automation of production – a process which is taking place, but which is unpopular because it produces unemployment, which produces, in our capitalist-monetary system, misery and poverty. What this implies, therefore, is another Marxist or neo-Marxist goal: the deconstruction of the idea of unemployment allowing for a conception of society to be formed in which being without a wage-earning occupation never has to be a problem.

[i] From Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad, MARX’S CAPITAL, Routledge, p.4

 

[ii] Ibid, p.8

Advertisements

THE PARANOID DEMANDS OF CAPITALISM

Image result for monopoly

Capitalism demands results. For this reason, it begins scientifically and ends anti-scientifically. The experiment in science is an attempt to prove the validity of a theorem, while in capitalism the experiment has to prove the validity of a dogma.

For the capitalist, the Universe revolves around his or her reality, which is how to make as much profit as possible from MY object. The total immersion in and obsession with this MY, which later becomes an insincere OUR, makes capitalism essentially a paranoiac.

Obviously a world dominated by the paranoid civilisation that is global-capitalism is hardly suited to humanism. For this reason, human-rights are for the majority of human beings, a largely deceitful concept. This lack of faith is part of an inverted condition of mutual suspicion because, in capitalist terms, anything that deals with the human is also untrustworthy. The human, for the capitalist, is a malicious concept, designed to undermine and diminish the MY which is “MY OBSESSION”.

But … what is the MY in capitalism?

It is not “me” but rather what I produce in order to obtain profits for myself, with the emphasis on the profits. The MY reality is equivalent to MY PROFITS.

Results in capitalism are, quite simply, PROFIT INCREASE. This is what capitalism demands. To be a good capitalist you must be obsessed with money. When the capitalist system talks of progress it means Maximising Profits.

The big letters manifest themselves proudly in the capitalist mind: P= Profit; Progress; Power and M= Me; Maximum; Money. PM and MP – capitalist fantasies ardently opposed to the letter H.

 

THE GIFT OF COMMUNISM

Communism was a great gift for capitalism because it enabled it to channel its hatred for the human into another term. It would have been difficult for the capitalists to maintain an aggressive dialectic against its real enemy humanity, but communism gave it the opportunity to do just that without the slightest complex of guilt.

It is hard to argue the ethical position that humanity is trying to rob me of my freedom to make profits, but the image of the communist oppression of individuality, easily transferred onto even milder forms of leftist politics like social-democracy, can be a seemingly valid argument to protest against an anti-capitalist tyranny perpetrated by humanity. Human-rights activists or ecologists now become easily slandered as “communists”.

Nevertheless, when the capitalist thinks of the left, he or she is really thinking of humanity. Humanity is the real enemy of capitalism.

 

CAPITALISM’S MONOPOLY DEATH-KNELL

For the capitalist, competition is healthy, it keeps the capitalist on his or her toes. But, how can MY PRODUCTS compete against Humanity? In order to keep the ruthless game of competition alive, everything must remain fragmented – there can be no monopolies.

And here we get to the paradoxical nature of capitalism: the aim of capitalism is to get results; which is to maximise profits; which is to grow; which is to swallow the competitors; which is to create your own competition; which is to become a monopoly – which is the death of capitalist freedom; which is the death of capitalism.

This is the contradiction rooted in the very essence of capitalism itself. the obsessive paranoia of the capitalist, constantly pushing forward to get results, can only, if successful, convert the capitalist – in the focal point of everyone else’s paranoias.

RODRIGO GARCIA, LUIGI NONO AND ZABRISKIE POINT – PART TWO: HOW TO TRAP A BEAUTY WE NO LONGER FEEL

zabriskie3

Rodrigo Garcia’s performance collage (see part one of this series) is an example of artistic autarchy. It creates its depth in an interior way, with inbuilt references: self-references created by its use of the mirror and the fold. Garcia’s own texts mirrored against Luigi Nono’s opera ; the Vietnam War reflected into critical contemporary texts about our consumer society. But where is the connection between war and consumerism? Why is this a mirror? The mirror is not reflecting a specular image, or at least not until we see the images channeled together. The tenuous link that Garcia has found needs something to clarify it. So Garcia introduces a bridge – Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.

In Garcia’s theatrical work, two scenes from Antonioni’s film are projected. The first, is a scene in which executives of a real estate company are watching a cheesy advert for the desert paradise they are planning to construct at Zabriskie Point. The colours and plasticity of this scene immediately build a bridge between the 60s film and our own 21st century consumer society reflected through Garcia’s own kitsch aesthetics. But what has this to do with Nono’s opera?

On the obvious level: the film is a 60s film, released in 1970, and therefore a near contemporary of Nono’s 1966 work. On the less obvious level, at least to an audience member who has never seen Zabriskie Point, Antonio’s film includes scenes of anti-Vietnam war protests and police brutality. Anti-Vietnam protest becomes an anti-consumerist symbol. Vietnam is a violent projection of the capitalist will for the ultimate power of globalisation and at the same time an area of equally violent resistance to that projected hegemony.

Zabriskie explosion_z

The second scene that Garcia projects is the film’s almost final sequence of the exploding mansion on the cliff face: the violent fantasy of ultimate resistance through annihilation of the enemy. We have an enormous “what if…” or “if only…” raised by the artist to stand against the reality which was the real historical progression of the narrative. In reality capitalism’s advance was not curtailed, despite the Vietcong’s victory; despite the destruction of the mansion in the desert the real estate project at Zabriskie Point would still have gone ahead. And the result of this unstoppable narrative sequence is the kitsch culture of consumerism we have today. A culture in which Nono’s opera seems to have no place, is absolutely ‘out of place’. In the autarchy of Garcia’s creation we also have a tremendous self-criticism: Why represent Nono’s opera in a place and time that could not possibly appreciate it? His answer: it is precisely the demonstration of how disassociated art is from our reality that justifies the representation.

Now Garcia folds back to enfold himself in associations with his own earlier work: an echo of his Golgotha’s Picnic. That piece was about violence and art. In essence the same theme, in which, after hours of hurling violent images at the audience he stages a baroque piano concert, provoking an exodus from the audience who, after stomaching, perhaps even enjoying the excitement of the violence, seem to find the beauty of the music unbearable. Or are our audiences now incapable of appreciating the beauty of the piano piece?

Rodrigo Garcia 510x382_1294600631_portada-1

                Garcia’s statement is that it is the saturation of imagery flung at us by the consumer society that is making us impervious to the beautiful in art. We are the products of nihilism and a positive, purposeful concept like beauty is anathema to us now.

1294391189_extras_portadilla_0

OUR IMMATERIAL AGE

costoflove3

We are often told that we live in the information age, but is this a limited and insufficient description of our times? Hardt and Negri used the terms “immaterial” or “biopolitical” to describe the type of production that we are moving towards today. According to Hardt these terms combine: “the production of ideas, information, images, knowledges, code, languages, social relationships, affects and the like… (that) designates occupations throughout the economy, from the high to the low, from health-care workers, flight attendants and educators to software programmers and from fast food and call-centre workers to designers and advertisers… Industry has to informationalise; knowledge, code and images are becoming ever more important throughout the traditional sectors of production; and the production of affects and care is becoming increasingly essential in the valorisation process.”[1]

            In the industrial age capitalism was a very tangible thing: production was carried out in factories, that were the symbol of the industrial revolution. For the anti-capitalist/communist revolutions the key was therefore to take control of those factories as well as the factory-like farms and mines that produced the materials that the factories processed.

            But now, in our “immaterial” age, capitalism has taken hold of a very different kind of production, which capitalism itself finds it difficult to trap. The question for capitalism today is: how do we manage to take and maintain a control over information, knowledge, codes and images, as well as affects and care, and turn these things into profit? Likewise, the most pressing question for the anti-capitalist must be: how do we prevent the control and exploitation of these things taking place?

            For us, the main problem here is in the effects socially, culturally and psychologically (or spiritually, if you like) that the capitalisation of the immaterial has had and will have as more and more of our immaterial world is converted into profit making commodities. The mind-set of today’s entrepreneurs is the following: people fall in love – how can we make a profit out of it; people need each other – let’s exploit that need; people hate and fear some other people – there is definitely a profit to be made there; people get ill and die – we can make money from that… etc., etc.. But the essential ingredient in the capitalist system is: people want to measure themselves against other people; people see a lack in themselves measured according to what others have and what enjoyment they have and they want to obtain that lack and that enjoyment for themselves.

            But what capitalism has to sell us is not quality, but quantity. And if we demand quality it must be paid for, it must be made more expensive. But how do we quantify the immaterial which is mainly differentiated according to its quality? Does the quantification of it diminish its quality? If you sell love how do you put a price to it? If you mass produce beauty what happens to the quality of that beauty? If the real quality of lives needs to be measured by immaterial things, what happens when the immaterial loses its own features of quality?

            If we do live in an immaterial age, shouldn’t our fulfilment come from a human embracing of the immaterial itself, rather than the perverted image we have of it that is created by capital?

    


[1] Michael Hardt, THE COMMON IN COMMUNISM – from THE IDEA OF COMMUNISM, edited by Douzinas and Zizek, Verso, 2010