Capitalist Decadence

Ein Auszug aus einem – wie ich heute feststellen konnte – genialen Aufsatz vom auf diesem Blog schon gelegentlich erwähnten Loren Goldner, der in den hier bereits vorgestellten ‚Insurgent Notes‘ veröffentlicht wurde:

The capitalist counter-offensive since the late 1970s is the one closest to us, and thus merits a more detailed accounting. All these social and cultural phenomena, from the breakup of cities into suburbia and exurbia, the proliferation of shopping malls and “edge cities,” the “reconquest” of the inner city, previously abandoned by the middle classes during the postwar boom, in the form of worldwide gentrification and expulsion of the poor to trashy sprawl, by way of the overt corporate takeover of “education,” to the even greater privatization and atomization of people by individual technologies and the vast ocean of trivia they “communicate,” must be understood from the vantage point of the potential human material community whose inversion they are. And it must never be forgotten that these “post-modern” phenomena, in North America, Europe and East Asia, touted as they are as “growth,” coexist on a world scale with the “planet of slums,” in Mike Davis’s phrase. What is noteworthy about the past three decades is the way capital appropriated for itself much of the ideological froth of the defeated and co-opted movements of the 1960s. It was not the first time that the rebellion of the alienated middle classes helped to pioneer the next phase of accumulation. In the 1930s it was exactly these classes who populated the bureaucracies of the emerging welfare state. After the late 1970s, one might say that the personal computer, for the well-to-do classes of the “advanced” capitalist sector, will stand as a symbol of this phase of accumulation as the automobile did for the earlier period. Yet the computer, like the automobile before it, was much more than a technology, bound up as it was with a whole ideology of freedom. That latter ideology was the “revolution” against “bigness” and “bureaucracy” and “hierarchy,” against the “Organization Man” and the “grey flannel suit,” once among the battle cries of the 60s New Left. Where the earlier movement, both in its political as in its Bohemian/ counter-cultural form, had counterposed hedonistic consumption to the then-dominant “Puritanism,” here was the capitalist class and its minions themselves, headed by its Wall Street and City of London yuppie vanguard, plunging into designer drugs, gourmet restaurants and high fashion S+M. Not much was said about the ever-lengthening work week, both for these “creative classes” touted by hip and vacuous social theorists (e.g. Richard Florida), not to mention for the two- and three-paycheck working class family that was the road kill of the “new economy” and the “information superhighway”. And for the “creative classes” and many others, the PC, cell phone and Blackberry eliminated the antagonism between work and leisure, not in Marx’s “all-sided activity,” but as 24/7…work. The quasi-totalitarian incorporation of failed rebellion reached into every aspect of life, from chic New York restaurants in some former warehouse district, with photographs of 1930s breadlines as interior decoration, to the obliteration of the offbeat café or independent bookstore by Barnes and Noble. Huge shopping malls appeared with little or no service personnel, let alone people knowledgeable about the merchandise, in cavernous halls of commodities; every business and state agency able to do so replaced receptionists with endless telephone trees of irrelevant options and interminable waits, cutting costs by forcing unpaid labor time on those they ostensibly “served”; all the “oppositional” culture of the past, from blues and jazz to once-subversive books was served up under cellophane at Borders. In the name of the new, ultra-reified hype of “information” (as if books such as Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind or Marx’s Capital constitute “information” side by side with the latest Tom Peters management manual), libraries shredded millions of books to move into reduced, wired space. Arrogant Silicon Valley CEOs and their publicists who had always hated books and serious thought touted the “paperless” economy of the new millennium. Millions of “middle management” jobs (admittedly of no redeeming social importance) disappeared through high-tech downsizing, and those who lost them disappeared into the recycled suburban oblivion covered over by the chorus of the “new economy”. Universities remade “liberal” education as extended vocational training for their “customers,” handing over the tattered remnants of the old humanities to the “everything is corrupt” mantras of the post-modern deconstructionist Lumpenintelligentsia, expert in projecting its (no argument- very real) corruption onto the very emancipatory universal movements in history—revolutions—from which Insurgent Notes draws inspiration. Such ideological decay helpfully diverted attention from the accelerating decay of American infrastructure—the “old economy” of sewers, subways, street and road pavement, bridges, New Orleans levees, or tenement apartment buildings. Perhaps most astounding in this whole ideological facelift was the emergence of the MBA and computer geek and investment banker, figures widely reviled and ridiculed in the climate of the 1960s, as little less than culture heroes and “revolutionaries”. The forgotten “absent-minded professor”, still (in some cases) having a whiff of the old (and now passé) humanism, was replaced by the sleek, tanned, cynical “radical” post-modern literary theorist, networking his or her way to tenure and from conference to conference. Modest houses and neighborhoods built for workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the post-1970s reoccupation of the inner city by the dual income /no kids yuppie class, were refurbished in the general “quotation” of the culture of the past, stripped bare of the vibrant street life that had once made them bearable for their earlier inhabitants. (Adding insult to injury is the little-discussed “fact” that the typical US working-class family spent 15% of its income on housing in 1950, and spends on average 50%—usually one full paycheck—today.) This new dispensation also involved a massive war on memory, from the proposal to turn Auschwitz into a theme park to the malling of the site of the great street battles of San Francisco’s 1934 general strike. Radical longshoremen in the 1950s had mixed with literary Bohemia in San Francisco’s North Beach or at New York’s White Horse Tavern, but today the fully-containerized ports have relocated far away, with one-tenth the number of workers, and one hardly imagines a similar mixing in those old venues of the yuppies and the zoned-out workers from the nearest Macdonalds. Just as capitalism, through primitive accumulation, had always lived in part off the looting and destruction of pre-capitalist social formations, so had bourgeois culture in its ascendant centuries lived off pre-capitalist cultural strata (e.g. its mimetic relationship to the European aristocracy). As capital turned inward on itself, the self-cannibalization of its social reproductive base since the late 1970s was echoed with eerie concision in the self-cannibalization of its once-emancipatory culture in the ideological Ebola virus spread by the post-modern nihilists and deconstructionists, the Foucaults, the Saids and the Derridas. As Marx said long ago, “the ruling ideas of every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class.”


4 Antworten auf „Capitalist Decadence“


  1. 1 Subprole 29. Juli 2010 um 19:01 Uhr

    What follows in conclusion, then, is a program for the “first hundred days” of a successful proletarian revolution in key countries, and hopefully throughout the world in short order. It is intended to illustrate the potential for a rapid dismantling of “value” production in Marx’s sense. It is of course merely a probe, open to discussion and critique:

    1. implementation of a program of technology export to equalize upward the Third World.
    2. creation of a minimum threshold of world income.
    3. dismantling of the oil-auto-steel complex, shifting to mass transport and trains.
    4. abolish the bloated sector of the military; police; state bureaucracy; corporate bureaucracy; prisons; FIRE; (finance- insurance- real estate); security guards; intelligence services; cashiers and toll takers.
    5. taking the huge mass of labor power freed by this to radically shortening of the work week
    6. crash programs around alternative energy: (in the long run, if possible) nuclear fusion power, solar, wind, etc.
    7. application of the “more is less” principle to as much as possible (examples: satellite phones supersede land-line technology in the Third World, cheap CDs supersede expensive stereo systems, etc.).
    8. a concerted world agrarian program aimed at using food resources of North America and Europe and developing Third World agriculture.
    9. integration of industrial and agricultural production, and the breakup of megalopolitan concentration of population. This implies the abolition of suburbia and exurbia, and radical transformation of cities. The implications of this for energy consumption are profound.
    10. automation of all drudgery that can be automated.
    11. generalization of access to computers and education for full global and regional planning by the associated producers
    12. free health and dental care.
    13. integration of education with production and reproduction.
    14. the shift of R&D currently connected with the unproductive sector into productive use
    15. the great increase in productivity of labor will as make as many basic goods free as quickly as possible, thereby freeing all workers involved in collecting money and accounting for it.
    16. a global shortening of the work week.
    17. centralization of everything that must be centralized (e.g use of world resources) and decentralization of everything that can be decentralized (e.g control of the labor process within the general framework)
    18. measures to deal with the atmosphere, most importantly the phasing out of fossil fuel use by 3 and 6

  2. 2 Subprole 30. Juli 2010 um 0:56 Uhr

    Ein Radio-Interview mit dem Genossen L. Goldner: http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/39583

  3. 3 Subprole 06. März 2011 um 13:56 Uhr
  1. 1 Loren Goldner: »Der historische Moment, der uns hervorgebracht hat« « Subprole Pingback am 06. März 2011 um 14:22 Uhr
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