new economy rant from Jim O'Connor

Jim heartfield jim at
Tue Oct 3 12:27:33 PDT 2000

In message <s9d9ef78.000 at>, Charles Brown <CharlesB at> writes
>CB: An example of trivialization by commercialization is automobile model
>changeover EVERY year, no matter what new has been discovered. These are
>artificial new "needs/wants".

Well, OK, but I think that Marx's point is that ALL NEEDS are artificial.

Per cent of disposable income spent on food

Year US UK 50 20.6 - 55 18.8 - 60 17.4 35 65 15 31.1 70 13.8 25 75 13.9 22.7 80 13.4 20.9 85 12 18.4 90 11.6 15.8 95 10.9 13.9 99 - 12.8

According to the Rowntree Trust survey those things that are considered necessities has expanded considerably, (a consequence of past productivity increases). More than half those interviewed considered the following to be necessities: annual holiday away from home (not with relatives), television, telephone, deep freezer/fridge freezer, insuring home contents, hobby or leisure activity, washing machine (September 11, 2000).

In message <s9d9f2c6.009 at>, Charles Brown <CharlesB at> writes
>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.

No, I think running is a small part of the pleasure of running shoes. Otherwise, why Nike? To treat such symbolic hierarchies as without substance is to become otherworldly.

>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.

But 'keeping up with the Joneses' is an important thing for Marx who says in Wage Labour and Capital, that a modest home becomes a lowly hovel next to a palace. His point is that it is not the absolute physical needs htat are important, but one's social needs relative to other people - in principle, he means the contrast between profits and wages, as expressed in consumption goods.

The idea that one should not want to 'keep up with the Joneses' is capitalist ideology.

-- James Heartfield

Great Expectations: the creative industries in the New Economy is available from Design Agenda, 4.27 The Beaux Arts Building, 10-18 Manor Gardens, London, N7 6JT Price 7.50 GBP + 1GBP p&p

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