Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Millennial Capitalism: First thoughts on a second coming, Comaroff (2000)

I found this article particularly useful and profound, myself drawing heavily from the following:
"The effects of rampant liberalization; on whether it engenders truly global flows of capital or concentrates to a few major sites; whether it undermines, sustains, or reinvents the sovereignty of nation-states or whether it frees up, curbs, or compartmentalizes the movement of labor; whether the current fixation with democracy, its resurrection in so many places, bespeaks a measure of mass empowerment or an emptying out of its meaning, its reduction to paper. "
I believe that consumerism produces poverty. Capitalism is a system that needs poverty. Capitalism can only transform the marginalized and disempowered by offering foreign aid or national aid, but this is still enforcing money and the principles behind credit on populations who are otherwise not involved. This is forcing a culture in order for others to be a part of the global conversation. In the age of millennial capitalism, technology talks and money listens.
Consumption has become an identity, both individual and social. We are defined by the things we own, and technology has played a large part in that. We are now buying things that we use to communicate. In the same way that I speak to someone, my identity is in myself. Now, in the same way that I email someone, call someone, text someone, post to Facebook, my identity is still behind all those things, my mouth is metaphorically all of those things. I am my technology.
Also mentioned is the the relevance of increasing consumption in shaping reality. Our reality is not in the land, Marx reminds us that the age of capitalism is separated from the land, so then our reality is where? In space? In a virtual headspace? There is land and air and then what? What are we existing in? Work and online shopping?
Social class is very much extent in this age of equality. “Generation, gender, and race as principles of difference, identity, and mobilization” commit to a forum that demands equality, when the mere act of acknowledgment separates.  Modernity is measured through wealth, health, and vitality. So are the poor not modern? Or not a part of modern society? Postmodern is a person made of objects. Post modern is a fantasy. What other societies reached a post-modern society, and what happened to them? How is capitalism the connecting factor in all of these things?
I think anthropologically, modernity reaches a threshold, and beyond that threshold is societal decline. I believe that we as a capitalist society are close to that threshold, and the pull between stasis and change are a result of this level of modernity. Each generation understands the new generation has different, less “moral” if you will. At what point does that actually become true, that it actually is something that all of society agrees with? That the moral of humanity has been compromised for the sake of consumption?
There are these epochal shifts in the constitutive relationship of production and consumption, of labor and capital. No longer producing, only consuming. No longer having money, but having excessive labor.
With more communication technologies, we need more stuff to talk about, but not too in depth of thoughts which defy the simple nature of these technologies, and with more people in the world, we need more jobs, so we need more stuff to make, and we need that stuff to break so that we can keep those jobs.
Percieved salience of the wealth of nations. Perceived noticablity of the wealth of nations. What do we notice about nations that allows us to depict them as having wealth. Are they actually wealthy? No, they are very much in debt.  There is no longer identity in labor. There is no longer identity in labor. There is identity in the things we can buy. Which is brilliant really, because with infinite amounts of buying options, we will work ourselves to death to pay off our debt.
                        Gambling as become the hope of managing our debt, thousands of dollars that we will never be able to afford, because we were never able to afford it. Hope comes in the luck of winning large sums of money. A postmodern society that relies on luck. When did we become so spiritual? We expect immediate return. We expect immediate purchasing power

Monday, January 25, 2016

Money in an Unequal World: Keith Hart

Both John Locke and Karl Marx conceived of their times as "an age of money that left humanity suspended uneasily between a past dependency on nature and the possibility of building a just society in the future (p. 74). In terms of their viewpoints and the current relationship between markets and money, that is, current global markets and virtual money, what age are we in now? What is next? What does the author mean by the "modern era", specifically "modern"? What is a modern economy?

The communications revolution has led to the decline of state capitalism and an increase in global inequality. The distance involved in global economics, and thus the distance involved in the digitized exchange of money and services, has caused a detachment of the "money circuit" from the real economy of production and trade. Keith Hart claims that this is the source of and possible solution to growing economic inequality, as the machines offer ordinary people to be in the forefront of technological change, and allows ordinary people who are online to work against the governments and corporations who threaten to dominate the future of the Internet. Is this a realistic perspective on the future of global capitalism? Is virtual capitalism a universal informal economy?

I find the notion of "constructing a society fit for human beings" to be open to a broad range of anthropological interpretation. Money got humanity out of a state of nature, then into class separation, then into global conversations, with communication technology allowing economic distance to make us more culturally aware. Does this cultural awareness help or harm economic relations? In terms of modernization and globalization, by nature, if you are not a capitalist does that make you poor, if you own property but no money, if you can not trade for more money? Or does this only matter if the person you are trading with is trading for money and not land?

If value is worth in general, can money actually be a universal method of measurement of value without suggesting the representation of universal values and social processes? I believe that money is merely a way for inequality to be institutionalized for benefit of the small percentage of those who control the value of money. Commercial empires have developed modern industry, creating a sort of cultural colonialization by capitalism, without integrating the poor/rural populations into the profits of capitalism, but extracting and using their lands.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Fetishism of Commodities

As Marx explicates, the commodity is not complicated and easy to understand as long as it is tied to its use-value. When a piece of metal is turned into a bed frame through human labor, its use-value is obvious and the bed frame, as a product, remains connected to its material use. However, as soon as the bed frame "emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness". Once it is perceived as a commodity, the social relations changes. It turns to a commodity that is now exchangeable goods for the equivalent value. As Marx state, a product has no value within itself unless it is seen in the relation to other product or products. Therefore, value is immaterial but objective. Unfortunately, in a capitalist society people take things for granted it. They begin to treat commodities as if the value is within the products themselves, rather than paying attention or appreciating the amount of labor has been put to make that product. Marx posits, "The mysterious character of the commodity-form consists therefore simply in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men's own labour as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things". This process makes it complicated because the social relation according to people is then the exchange value rather than the use vale.

Individuals see social relation between the commodities because they pay the equivalent value rather than noticing the social relation between capitalist and exploited labor. Since we build the social relation only with the product, the producers of those commodities remain largely invisible and far away from our sights. Doing so, we provide them not only with more money but also power to exploit the labor market even more. Although human labor plays an important role in determining the value, people in capitalist society are led to accept that they are not in control of any market forces. However, the reality is that the capitalists leave us with no choice but they provide us with the plenty of options to select. For example, there is not much different between Iphone 5, 6 and 6plus. Although these phones are not much needed, the price people pay for them is insane. We do not question the price because Apple is the only company that owns the means of production. We buy them and raise the demand in the market. Therefore, they can supply more. Meanwhile, we do not care what raw materials are used to make it or who are exploited in the process to make those phones. The only thing we know is that since everyone is buying them we should buy it too no matter how hard we work and even get exploited to afford that price. This is how we fuel the cycle of “commodity fetishism” in the society.

Karl Marx Capital, Chapter One: Commodities/the Fetishism of Commodities

The mode of production is capitalism and wealth is measured in the collection of commodities.
Individual commodity is an external object that poses qualities that satisfy a particular human need. A need? What is the difference between a need and a want of a commodity? At what level of societal acceptance of want of the commodity makes it then a societal need? According to Marx, the nature of the need (how it comes to be) makes no difference, and how it satisfies the need makes no difference (can be direct or indirect).
I think the idea of a commodity as a fetish speaks to its indirect quality and the idea of a want becoming a need. For this to happen, Marx claims it involves larger society, which I believe means there is some agreement, which means there is a need. Really there is no need, and this is how we become mass consumers, because we think that we need these things only because we think that others want them or will want to exchange them. A commodity is a whole composed of many useful properties, which are only societal inventions of standards.
John Locke: “The natural worth of anything consists in its fitness to supply the necessities, or serve the conveniences of human life”.  It is this idea that makes people into slaves and takes nature for granted.
Also, if value exists only in exchange and nothing has intrinsic value, then how do you explain sentimental value? This is only assuming that people are a part of the exchange system.  So then do human beings have value?
Without use-value, the commodity is just a product of labor. The value of a commodity is related to the value of any other commodity as the labor-time necessary for the production of one to the production of the other. How is this embodied in cheap oversea labor associated with globalization? How does it affect western value of the commodity? Greater productivity equals less time and less crystallized labor which means less value.
A thing can be a use value without being a value when it’s utility to man is not mediated through labor, like nature. A thing can be useful and not be a commodity.The value of a commodity would therefore remain constant if the labor-time required also remained constant. So what happens when less labor is required and more can be made?
He who satisfies his own need with the product of his own labor admittingly creates use values, but not commodities. For commodities, he would not only have to created use values, he would also have to create social use values. But it has to be exchanged. If the thing is useless then so is the labor in it, which I believe is what makes invention so difficult.
The labor of a private individual manifests itself as an element of the total labor of society through exchange; material relations between persons and social relations between things.This is why you can basically buy the same products at a scale of prices. Those with more money pay more for their goods because they have more money.

Value is a relation between persons, a relation concealed behind a material shell. It is not actually the product that causes the relation, so how does this play into the notion of a commodity being a fetish?