1976 American satirical film 'Network'. Howard Beale, Capitalism, Commodification of Human Labour, Corporate State, Corporatocracy, David McNally, Environmental Collapse, Financial Elite, Free Market Ideologues, Gross Inequality, Inverted Totalitarianism, Karl Marx, Keith Farnish, The Elite 1%
I think many of us intuitively understand that free market ideologues have a narrow path to walk in order to keep afloat their construct of a world that is best run by the omnipotent and omniscient capitalist market system. Perhaps the idea that our globalized capitalist economy knows best is as damaging to society as the teachings of a fanatical cult urging all its members to drink from the poisoned chalice. Certainly the needs of the global capitalist economic system, currently propped up by money printing, supersedes all other considerations, including compassion for our fellow man and the well-being of the environment which is the forgotten lynchpin of the economy, not to mention the crucial factor in determining whether or not humankind continues to survive on this planet.
In the realm of the worker and the capitalist elite(the ones who own the means of production), the exploitation of humans on such a large-scale amounts to a society of wage-slave toiling zombies:
The distinguishing feature of a capitalist society is the commodification of human labour—and it is this that differentiated early modern England from any other nation. England was not the first country to develop long-distance trade or to plunder other parts of the world; throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, countries like Portugal, Spain and Holland exceeded England in these regards. What set English society of the time apart from its European rivals, however, was that it alone established an extensive labour market, the key to capitalist development. […]
On the labour market, every economic transaction touches directly on essential qualities of human life—material, social and moral. In exchange for wages, those who sell their labour power surrender to the capitalist ultimate control over the work to be done, its conditions, pace and organization. Rather than treating our creative energies as a unique source of personal identity, “the owners of the conditions of production treat living labour-power as a thing” (Marx, Capital, v. 1, trans. Fowkes, 1976, p. 989). The result is a profound personal alienation, a hollowing out of the meaning of life. This is why the poor, as we shall see, have historically resisted being driven into the labour markets as their only means of survival.
Reflecting on this relationship, Karl Marx described work under capitalism as alienated labour: Relinquishing control over her labour, the worker suffers an estrangement from an essential part of her humanity. As Marx (Wage Labour and Capital, Progress Publishers, 1952, p. 20) put it in one succinct passage:
“But the exercise of labour power, labour, is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. And this life-activity he sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of subsistence. Thus, his life-activity is for him only a means to enable him to exist. He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labour as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life. […]”
For the worker, in other words, work is a means to life, but not life itself. Real life begins after work, during “free time”. The familiar expression, “Thank God It’s Friday”, is a depressing acknowledgement that work for the majority is oppressive, alienating, boring and dehumanizing. Of course, things look very different from the vantage point of the capitalist.
Since the worker alienates control of her labour to the employer, the capitalist is in a position to exploit that labour—to force the labourer to perform an amount of work that exceeds the value of the wages paid. Indeed, this is the whole point of the transaction for the capitalist: to make a profit on the purchase of labour by getting workers to produce more value than what they are paid. And this difference between labour’s output and the wages paid—called surplus value—is the secret to the massive inequalities of capitalism: enormous amounts of the wealth produced by workers accumulate in the hands of the owning class.
And our economic system labels everyone the cold and dehumanizing term of “consumers”. Your behavior is methodically studied and cataloged so that the system can exploit your consumerist tendencies:
When you accept the label of ‘consumer’, you accept that you have become a financial object, willing to be manipulated by whatever marketing tricks abound. Consumer choice would be far better entitled ‘Conchoice’, a term describing the true level of choice that individuals are provided with, should they find themselves within the consumer culture.
Here is an email from Darbikrash, entitled ‘Buy or Die’, which illustrates the mind-numbing, invasive nature of corporations and the consumer culture:
…As there are too many goods chasing too few consumers (with any money left) the end game is to invent markets, to cajole and hoodwink people into believing they need something that they really don’t, and then to create products to port into this fabrication, rotating through product ideas at high speed to “see what sticks”.
What is really laughable is the degree of planning, co-ordination and control that exists in a typical retail outlet, say for example, Bed, Bath and Beyond. Every square inch of that jumbled, packed to the rafters collection of junk and useless assorted trinkets is planned. The product lineout is planned seasonally, and rotated to reflect the calendar quadrant. Each product, each one, is placed at the precise height, shelf location, and aisle location to optimize traffic and elicit the best response to a shoppers’ buy signals. The orientation of the aisles, the sequence to which high demand products are placed to maximize traffic to get to that product is profound. They know with statistical certainty which direction you will turn your shopping cart when you enter the store and when you reach the end of a given aisle.
They run full scale mock-ups or “focus groups” to optimize traffic patterns to increase the sales volume of the highest margin items. Shelf placement is determined by the highest margin. Products with lower margins are back charged to the manufacturers with “slotting fees”, bribes in effect to obtain higher shelf placement in a more lucrative aisle.
The store locations and real estate acquisition decisions are made with greater precision than a military invasion of a foreign country, and in many ways it is just that. They know to 6 significant digits the average household income within a 40 mile radius of each store location. They know how many times you leave the house to buy a product, and how far you are willing to drive to get it. They know if you’re male or female, married or single, and they know the preference curves of your demographic. They know how close to the entrance you will want to park before you drive off in disgust, and they know what type of music to play over the loudspeaker to increase your propensity to buy. They know how many visits you’ll make (on average) per calendar quarter, and the average amount of money you’ll spend at each visit, to incredible accuracy.
But just try and pass a law that restricts a multi-national from acting as a sovereign state. Just try to pass something that will put consumer protections in place. Imagine the uproar if there was an initiative to place healthy food in the front of a store and unhealthy food in the back, for example. There would be riots in the streets, with calls of Communist and Police state tactics shouted from every corner.
Who runs this country?
I thought this article was very well put. The odd situation we put ourselves in, that we work many hours to get a pay check then go and spend it on junk from the shops, giving money back to those who pay us. Whether the price of goods are overpriced is debatable, as you know they have huge profit margins but if you factor in environmental costs and whether the people in developing nations that produce the resources/goods were given a fair price, then would the price of the items in shops cost more then they do now even if they made no profit?
Some good articles on work below.
This website also has some good articles. To those who see primitivism and panic – Remember you can entertain a thought without accepting it. There are good points/ideas to be found everywhere.