Tag Archive: marx

Jun 29 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Laissez Fairyland – making the intangible less tangential by Annieli

Here we present a simple solution to see that a fad is the result of the same type of behavior that causes any other good to be purchased. It is the characteristic of the good, and the interaction of the various agents with their neighbors that causes the peculiar pattern of behavior that is called fad.

Is Reaganism such a good and as a commodity is its commodity fetishism available for analysis beyond its intangible assets. Yet Reaganism is tangible and attempts to memorialize the commodity extend materially far beyond the cinematic and the televisual nature of the Great Communicator. The fad of VooDoo(sic) Economics is a useful example of how to discuss intangible assets as forms of virtual capital. The production and reproduction of the Reaganist myth is its own market. Its production of character/reputation and trust/reciprocity is of course legendary and its diffusion to the North American form of teabaggery continues with the institutional support of right-wing venture capital like the Kochs.

In the United States, commentators frequently equate supply-side economics with Reaganomics. The fiscal policies of Ronald Reagan were largely based on supply-side economics. During Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, the key economic concern was double digit inflation, which Reagan described as “Too many dollars chasing too few goods”, but rather than the usual dose of tight money, recession and layoffs, with their consequent loss of production and wealth, he promised a gradual and painless way to fight inflation by “producing our way out of it”.

An example of fad economics occurred in 1980, when a small group of economists advised Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue. They argued that if people could keep a higher fraction of their income, people would work harder to earn more income. Even though tax rates would be lower, income would rise by so much, they claimed, that tax revenues would rise. Almost all professional economists, including most of those who supported Reagan’s proposal to cut taxes, viewed this outcome as far too optimistic. Lower tax rates might encourage people to work harder and this extra effort would offset the direct effects of lower tax rates to some extent, but there was no credible evidence that work effort would rise by enough to cause tax revenues to rise in the face of lower tax rates. … People on fad diets put their health at risk but rarely achieve the permanent weight loss they desire. Similarly, when politicians rely on the advice of charlatans and cranks, they rarely get the desirable results they anticipate. After Reagan’s election, Congress passed the cut in tax rates that Reagan advocated, but the tax cut did not cause tax revenues to rise.

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.

– Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I

As one can perhaps see, the transgressive role of the State in the struggle among classes will become the key problem for making this critique work as will the impending institutional arrangements making that State ubiquitous and global.

“”In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

-Ronald Reagan

Reaganism was a political perspective in the United States based on a friendly-seeming, grandfatherly-type ex-actor telling us that government could do no good, and then proceeding to become the head of the executive branch of the United States government, drastically expanding the public debt as he saw fit. Why anyone believed it is beyond us.

Prominent lies promoted by Mr. Reagan include:

The “free market” is always more efficient than the government at providing solutions to problems. (See universal health care)

The “government” is incapable of solving a country’s problems (See Hurricane Katrina)

Some woman somewhere on welfare had a Cadillac and a color TV. (He made this up).

Hardworking blue collar Americans should hate suffering poor Americans for eating their tax dollars instead of working their asses off for giant corporations themselves. (See trade union)

The “rich” are a beleaguered and overtaxed suffering demographic. (Who pay well for political campaigns!)

In Britain, there was a very similar political movement referred to as “Thatcherism,” named for the Iron Lady who advocated the same principles. The impact of this was slightly less than that of the States.

In Marxist philosophy, however, the term Cultural Hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society – the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores – so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24, 2012:  Carlene Cahill of Petersburg, Virginia, holds up a set of signs she made during a Tea Party Patriots'

                    We live in a Tea (Party) service economy

The embodiment of those social constructs in the past decade are our pseudo-revolutionary objects of derision and humor, the teabaggers (aka Tea Party patriots and its libertarian factions). Cultural work has been often times difficult for many since its socially embodied labor derives from a multitude of divisions as well as a variety of controversies often dialectically dichotomous and intellectually challenging: for example cultural studies versus political economy approaches to critical theory. This is too small a space to solve the problem (it can be solved) but to point to some rudimentary examples like the personality Cult of Reagan to show the need for ecumenical approaches to critical analysis.

Come below the fold to see if we can’t disentangle the whole mess:

OCTOBER 27, 1980 More than two dozen papers drop Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury “The Mysterious World of Reagan’s Brain,” a week-long sequence that runs on the eve of the 1980 election. One of those papers, The Indianapolis Star, receives 850 calls of protest before it agrees to reinstate the strip.

Dec 29 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: The Media Landscape After the Culture War by Annieli

Every war seems permanent as does every revolution until it ends which requires much in the way of interpreting rather than explaining the victory to the vanquished, even in mediated spaces that can digitally define cultural landscapes. How possible is it to consider Walter Benjamin’s  (http://www.digplanet.com/wiki/Theses_on_the_Philosophy_of_History) point on the failure of historical materialism “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”? More specifically how do we treat cultural danger as presented in the (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme) meme of “Culture War” and how can we incorporate Marxist analysis to remediate or reconcile the memories that emerge in momentary crisis that obscure the critically real history embodied and assess their actual danger or risk.

Landscapes have that same problem of memory, as actual experience of an expansive and contemplative view of a world or as saved representations of concrete and abstract journeys through those same worlds. The first is individually ontological whereas the latter is a social ontology representing and reproducing an historical relationship to others in a cultural context. Both involve human labor at various scales but it is the crises of value and meaning assigned to those experiences that inform global discourses of war and environment on an unprecedented scale and scope. Today’s culture wars find themselves waging these combative discourses in a media landscape (http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/media-landscape_b37736) or Medienlandschaft.

The phrase culture war (https://www. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war)represents a loan translation (calque) from the German Kulturkampf. The German word, Kulturkampf, was used to describe the clash between cultural and religious groups in the campaign from 1871 to 1878 under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In American usage the term culture war is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal. It originated in the 1920s when urban and rural American values came into clear conflict. This followed several decades of immigration to the cities by people considered alien to earlier immigrants. It was also a result of the cultural shifts and modernizing trends of the Roaring 20s, culminating in the presidential campaign of Al Smith. However, the "culture war" in United States of America was redefined by James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. In this work, it is traced to the 1960s. The perceived focus of the American culture war and its definition have taken various forms since then.

 

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.” Walter Benjamin (1940)

  In such historical landscapes who are “cultural workers” and what does cultural work as contrasted with cultural objects look like, is it different of the same as all kinds of work and what kinds of value does it produce or more directly can individuals produce “particular kinds of independent and critical reflexivity modelled on the autonomy of the work of art” (Bennett 2011, and Bennett 2009) Societies exist in such landscapes and their collective experiences are often organized or reproduced as mass spectacles, either actual or mediated and consumed in a variety of ways, often driven by tragedy or circumstance.

A well-ordered society would like the bodies which compose it to have the perceptions, sensations and thoughts which correspond to them. Now this correspondence is perpetually disturbed. There are words and discourses which freely circulate, without master, and which divert bodies from their destinations, engaging them in movements in the neighbourhood of certain words: people, liberty, equality, etc. There are spectacles which disassociate the gaze from the hand and transform the worker into an aesthete.

 

What kinds of spectacles effect these transformations? Do they bear a family resemblance to the manufacturing of consent where spectacles include all forms of mediated politics and of course the intersecting claims of “entertainment” as with Limbaugh the entertainer (“Okay, so I am an entertainer, and I have 20 million listeners”) as a form of reactionary cultural work. It would be easy to say the following if we could identify the “concrete historical context” and since there are multiple mediations, how would a dialectical method of analysis explain rather than merely interpret such products of culture with multiple tropes of cultural war contesting for domination.

In short, mass-mediated products are determined by various factors-the systems of ownership, the process of cultural production, the level of struggle, the state of consciousness in society at a given time, and so on. A dialectical method of analysis would involve studying all these factors within a concrete historical context so as to explain the multiple mediations that infuse a product of culture

For example, while dystopian, there are multiple ideologies at work in the following example of spectacular speculation where doomsday prepping and its media representations are in reality a capitalist industry that exploits the potential danger of refugees coming from cities to attack rural preppers in a variety of romanticized post-apocalypse scenarios. These narratives have a burgeoning market appealing to a variety of religious and political secessionists all with disposable income or transferable construction skills for survival. They become amplified by the seasonal and media driven rise in firearms purchases. All of these actions represent desires for a kind of aesthetic autonomy, however driven by social underdevelopment.  

Ron Douglas, for example, has gathered enough supplies to keep his eight person family (two parents, six children) functioning off the grid for a year. His supplies can be broken into four categories: food, energy, shelter, and protection. He’s become such an expert that he is one of the founders of Red Shed Media Group, a business that organizes Prepper expos (40,000 attendees at $10 a person), has a hugely popular podcast radio program, and owns the rights to successful survivalist books.

Under the fold the concrete becomes either more wet or more abstract                      

Jun 30 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: 30 June 2013 A Ghost in a Machine walks the Globe by Annieli

If one can claim that a virtual economy offers increased possibility for revolutionary political change, that change should be measured against more material forms of analysis rather than treating information commodities as epiphenomenal. The tenuous connection between correlation and causation much like the meme of “Voodoo Economics” was treated more lightly and less seriously in a 2010 Bruce Watson piece on zombies and vampires as seasonally or cyclically symptomatic of a national economy:

there appears to be a loose connection between recession cycles and monster movies: zombie films tend to be more popular during boom times, while vampire flicks are ascendant when the economy is bad. As I wrote at the time, this makes a certain sort of symbolic sense: after all, as unthinking consumers, zombies reflect the tone of high-consumption boom times. The more melancholic vampires, on the other hand, suggest buyer’s remorse. While the zombie/vampire recession cycle didn’t always hold true, I found that it had a few interesting connections to the economy. For example, for most of the Reagan spend-till-you-drop 1980’s, zombie films dominated movie theaters. In fact, vampire movies’ only brief moment of ascendence in the decade was in 1987-1988, when a stock market tumble sent the economy into recession. Similarly, in 1991 and 2001, vampire films spiked and zombie films fell behind as recessions struck.

Aside from the doomsday preppers and faux survivalists in Dollywood and Hollywood invoking the fear of a zombie apocalypse as signs of an impending breakdown of urban society double-coded as racism, vampires and zombies can be differentiated by information while serving as cultural commodities in mass media. Vampires are asymmetric information commodities since in media narratives their representations appear conventional at first, whereas zombies are symmetric in that we know them instantly by their appearance. In either case they represent a pathological tipping point where fear trumps rationality and wooden stakes, garlic, holy water and shotguns make their appearance in contemporary film.

In a material context, such contemporary monsters represent the same class fears represented by European revolution in the Nineteenth Century not unlike the colonizers’ fears of the colonized or the contemporary anti-immigrant discourse where Americans ignore the labor history of the bracero and the coolie as invisible, informal Gastarbeiter.

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre

Marx’s invocation becomes more or less ironic in the post-Soviet period

Spectres de Marx: l’├ętat de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale is a 1993 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida The title Spectres of Marx is an allusion to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ statement at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto that a “spectre [is] haunting Europe.” For Derrida, the spirit of Marx is even more relevant now since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism. With its death the spectre of communism begins to make visits on the earth. Derrida seeks to do the work of inheriting from Marx, that is, not communism, but of the philosophy of responsibility, and of Marx’s spirit of radical critique.

The philosophy of responsibility may be best represented in the problematic role of information and national security in a virtual surveillance state where Ed Snowden may be a vampire presently in the undead transit lounge of a Russian airport, avoiding the cleansing hot light of sunshine law. The disclosure of information asymmetrically held by a democratic state committed to a public sphere operates in contradiction to its multinational, geopolitical obligations.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. [4] If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist Link

Virtuality has conditioned all forms of labour to some degree, creating different classes of worker, set against each other, not conscious of the web of virtuality that links them all into a single multitude. That unity is virtual in one sense – a potential that could be activated by virtuality in another sense, the resources of the net.

Come below the squiggle for more “mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun (sic) energies.”

Mar 31 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: 31 March 2013 an ACM Introduction by Annieli

I have been thinking about how to introduce some of the methodologies we use in DK to augment the basic liberalism and progressivism necessary to produce more and better Democrats. This piece is intended to introduce some basic texts which for many might seem too simplistic and even heretical but are hopefully useful for those wanting to consider that many of the perspectives often reflected in DK have a sincere and authentic theoretical foundation.

I chose a recent diary by Kos on conservative understanding of the decline in bee populations to serve as an example of how an understanding of Marx can add to the interpretive strength of an already strong argument. The “light comes on” is not enlightenment in any earth-shaking sense but it is a reflection on the need to consider that there are preexisting social analysis methodologies that have made progressives more effective in guiding action and organizing resistance to the rise of RW power.

Buried way at the bottom of this piece on the increasing death rate of honey bees:

But Mr. Adee (the South Dakota owner of the nation’s largest beekeeping company), who said he had long scorned environmentalists’ hand-wringing about (pesticide use in crops), said he was starting to wonder whether they had a point.

Of the “environmentalist” label, Mr. Adee said: “I would have been insulted if you had called me that a few years ago. But what you would have called extreme – a light comes on, and you think, ‘These guys really have something. Maybe they were just ahead of the bell curve.'”

I’m going to do some stereotyping and assume that a South Dakota farmer who scorns “extremist” environmentalist is a Republican. It’s not much of a stretch. So like Sen. Rob Portman’s conversion on marriage equality because of his gay son, or Sen. Mark Kirk’s conversion on health care services to the less-wealthy because of his debilitating stroke, Adee decides that maybe the dirty fucking hippies are onto something when he, himself, is directly affected by unfettered degradation of our environment.

I emphasize the expression directly affected because it is important for acting in a way to understand Anti-Capitalism  This point of view recognizes that there are changes in consciousness, the understanding that a tension between beliefs and reality has been heightened and proven transformative. In this diary Kos discusses the contradiction of GOP ideology in confronting the complex yet revelatory incidence of bee death as a sign of impending ecological disaster. This serves as a useful way to provide a foundation to discuss the theories necessary to understand a Marxist position on the need to transform

the present relations of production.

But many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests. While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths. The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths. Neonics, as farmers call them, are applied in smaller doses than older pesticides. They are systemic pesticides, often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.

This suspicion is the simple result of an economy driven by capitalist desire to systematically maximize profit that also ignores the externalities connected to the use of technologies that also harm the environment and in the long-run destroy even the industry itself. American beekeeping and honey production is both hobby-farm, small scale cottage industry and large-scale agribusiness. In other countries it can be even barely organized gathering. Ultimately change comes from knowledge and its productive application, but a knowledge that is crucially aware of direct effects as critical practices.

I have chosen two elementary texts on Marx to give readers an introduction that is often distorted by cold-war anti-communist reactionaries that one finds in the Marx 101 search on the internet, although Brad DeLong’s Understanding Marx lecture is a good one. I have chosen Peter Singer’s. Marx: A Very Short Introduction (2000) and Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right (2011). This is not a book review, although I would hope that these two accessible texts might appeal even to the less doctrinaire Kossack. Please come below the squiggle to contribute to the discussion of the basics.