new economy rant from Jim O'Connor

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Oct 3 11:52:44 PDT 2000

>>> dhenwood at 10/03/00 02:08PM >>>
Jim heartfield wrote:

>Not consumption, but the campaign against consumer goods is the
>expression of Marx's theory of commodity fetishism.

[Along those lines, a quote from Ernest Mandel's Late Capitalism I like to trot (ha) out from time to time, which sort of splits the diff between the two Jims.]


Marx fully appreciated and stressed the civilizing function of capital, which he saw as the necessary preparation of the material basis for a 'rich individuality'. The following passage from the Grundrisse makes this view very clear: 'Capital's ceaseless striving towards the general form of wealth drives labour beyond the limits of its natural paltriness, and thus creates the material elements for the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption, and whose labour also therefore appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of activity itself, in which natural necessity in its direct form has disappeared; because a historically created need has taken the place of the natural one.'


CB: In the case of gym shoes , they add to my rich individuality as a use-value in running and playing sports ( actually a need that persists from the human phase of what Mandel calls primitive natural needs, from the exilharation and pleasure of using muscles to the feel good of better health; although even 200, 000 years ago there were historically created needs, probably sports). Getting harassed because my gym shoes are out of style with the Nike type merely detracts and distracts from my fulfillment of my rich individuality.

In general, not every commodity coming out of the bourgeois cornucopia enhances our rich individualities, and the "keeping up with the Jones" phenomenon often represses our individual potentials. (Mandel recognizes this by his caveat "the extent to which they are not trivialized or deprived of their human content by capitalist commercialization ")

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