31 August 2013

THE SELF AS CAPITALIST SUPERSTRUCTURE

The ideological superstructure, in Marx's materialist formulation (his first huge assumption), always arises from the economic base. By "ideology" he meant all the non-materialist social forms of exchange including religion, political thought, personal relations, and social relations including media, sport, arts, literature, education--really, everything in the realm of ideation including our very psychic make-up--the hyper/post/modern Self. So, by his materialist formulation (deterministic in the extreme), ideation is set by or at least corresponds to the material base. The material base is the means of production. The means of production is the type of economy a society has, but looked at in terms of ownership. So he studied the history of economies (sitting in the British Museum library)--tribal, communal (in the form of the Greek city-states), feudal, and capitalist--and attempted to "scientifically" understand (with his assumptions) the workings of capitalism (by studying history and pouring over real data).

Today, the always evolving capitalist system (with its practice of creative destruction) has obviously moved from an industrial-based means of production to one that is ephemeralized (Marx predicted this) into symbolic forms. Industrial capital needed producers, which required destruction of the previous cottage-based industry (and families) and fragmentation of lifeworlds into atomized individuals, with ideological emphasis on individuals who had "freedom" and "equality" (to consume mostly). It is the era, e.g., of universal suffrage. By contrast, the previous feudal society emphasized loyalty and honor (to the feudal owners of land).

Post-World War II in the post-industrial economies there has been an extremely rapid metamorphosis of people from producers to consumers (which helped capitalism just after the war to escape a new post-war depression--mentally, too!), with production after 1973 beginning to move elsewhere--Marx said "Capital has no country." We, the Boomers, are the result of a half-millennium of reification of the individual, and now the further reification of and near total emphasis on the Self--the single most important concern of our era.

The Self, then, becomes an entity (the most "real" thing anyone can seem to "know" about) that is worked on, shaped, transfigured, and retooled. You can wake up tomorrow and choose (with considerable help from the media!) who you "want" to be. Importantly, once the Self becomes a thing, it can be brought into the economic marketplace. It was never a conspiracy, of course (it is naturalized into what seems perfectly valid), but this is exactly how the looter elite maximizes fortune-making: production fled offshore for lower labor costs, and the Self now as commodified, isolated, and empty. The Empty Self, then must be filled up by purchasing the (symbolically) proper product or psychically merging with the perfect celebrity (while the newest of the looter elite plays casino with our wealth).

So, the social organization of production in this post-industrial, global-consumer capitalist era reaches with its tentacles deep into the person to create its needed and naturalized human entity. It is not difficult to look around and see the discontented and corrosive world it has created.

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