My take on Commodity Fetishism

Marx’s concept of Commodity Fetishism has to be one of the most spectacular mindfucks I’ve ever experienced in my life, simply because of how basic and  everyday commodities (or in basic terms, shit that’s for sale) are. It’s always nice to discover something new, and it’s especially nice to realize you’ve been thinking a certain way without even realizing it. It’s like what Zizek says about unknown-knowns: it’s the things that you don’t know that you do know that keep you trapped. When understood, you walk away with this inverted understanding of daily capitalist life, as all of your upbringing under capitalist society is put on its head. It’s one of my favorite mindfucks.

Let’s say you need a new pair of shoes, and you go to the shoemaker. The shoemaker knows you. He knows you, your personal tastes, your whole family, your family’s personal tastes what you’ll need the shoes for, what the latest trends are, what materials the shoes are made out of, how all of these things will influence your social standing, the way that you walk, what other people will think about your shoes, etc. And not only does he know all of those things, but he knows how each of those things will influence the other things he knows, for example how the use of a certain type of material will influence the way that you walk, what your parents will think about the style of shoe, you get the point. He is an absolute master of his trade. He promises you to take all of these things into consideration when making your shoes, and he does. He gives you the best damn shoes you’ve ever seen. In order to make sure that he can continue to do this type of work in the future, what do you give him?

Let’s just now shift over to a capitalist universe. The shoemaker is still there, you’re still there, and you’re just about to give him something so that he can continue to do this work for other people. What do you give him? Cash. Simple answer, cash. And then you walk away. Does this seem strange to you at all? If the answer is no, then we need to explain the process of creation better.

In order to make the shoes, the shoemaker draws resources from the environment, draws inspiration from his years of experience living in society, assembles the resources in a culturally appealing way, and hands them to you. By giving him money you’re not returning any of those things to him, not directly at least. The money isn’t inspiration, the money isn’t the years it took get his trade down. It’s entirely unconnected and unrelated from the process of creation itself. He could buy the leather and rubber with the money you gave him. That would mean he would have to go to another leather and rubber master, give them more of these slips of paper that are also disconnected from their work in order to get what he needs. And here we come across one profound realization of Karl Marx: everywhere where man takes cash, man experiences alienation from life itself.

And just to bring the alienation point home, I’d like to engage in an exercise with you right now and ask you to look around wherever it is you’re reading and try to guess the price value of the objects around you if they were suddenly sold in a tag sale. You can imagine it. That bowl will go for a dollar each, that pair of shoes for five dollars, you get the idea. There’s nothing “one-like” about a bowl, or “five-like” about about a pair of shoes. The shoes and the bowls just exist, and we imagine “one” or “five” and then implant our ideas of what they might be worth onto those items. Again, there’s nothing one-like or five-like about these items.

Y’all ready for this? This is where Marx tells you that capitalist society is just as insane and strange as all of those “primitive” people of the world capitalist society takes a dump on. Marx says where else in the world do we see behavior like this, where man puts value onto an object and suddenly that object really does appear to have those values? The Third World, bitches! He cites an example of a tribe who, when their child gets sick, they put them in front of a totem pole, and by the belief that they actually put the child in front of a god and asked the god for forgiveness, the child becomes healed. Just as blocks of inanimate wood become gods, green slips of paper and cotton becomes an invisible life force that unites all objects. And that’s why it’s called commodity fetishism, because ordinary objects are taking on religious qualities.

And after all of this, you can nice and neatly wrap up this whole system of thought into two words: false consciousness. As long as we genuinely believe that objects have numerical value and that money is the holder of that value, we are not thinking freely.

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Slavoj + Kanye = Match Made in Heaven

Slavoj + Kanye = Match Made in Heaven

Well, it took me all day and believe it or not I’m currently facing a computer uprising…this disobedient toaster apparently doesn’t know how to install Windows live movie maker! So there goes my youtube fame. Here’s to hoping that it’ll pass along well enough that someone can make something good of it. Or at least that you can hear it. Because I really did my best to make it as cheesy as fuck. It’s all dark and shit in the beginning because both Slavoj and Kanye get hard-ons of for tragedy and how political reality ruptures your comfortable state of mind. I just there’s serious space for a bromance here. I think they’d have a great time talking about the double edged sword of normalcy and becoming indoctrinated, and Zizek likes analyzing everything Freud-style and Kanye likes anime, so why don’t these muhfuckas sit down and watch some Evangelion together, no? And New Slaves is ALL about Kanye’s struggle with his Big Other. It’s been the defining issue of his whole career. Kanye wrestles with what it means to be a happy member of society, and then takes shits on it. PLEASE tell me that Kanye wouldn’t enjoy Zizek’s inverted look at society and his take on the subconscious. I’m telling ya. 

But I hope this ushers in a new age of dialogue between Kanye fans and Zizek…fans. The melodrama and tortured happiness that’s found in Kanye is equally matched by the dark visions of the Slovenian philosopher, who insists that society was never something ever to be taken seriously, completely sustaining itself on “necessary delusions”. If you think I’m joking, take this beat and apply it to any lecture Zizek gives and tell me that the dark undertones of New Slaves don’t complement Zizek’s ultra-pessimism.

Shout outs Kanye West, Brandon Marshall, the guy who worked his darnest to imitate the beat the best he could, the slav-joy himself, Audacity media player, Coca-cola (the perfect commodity) and Southern Comfort, and our lady of free speech, WordPress. Just click download and it’ll be there. Have a good night!

Adventure Time, Anti-Capitalism and Post Apocalyptic Realities

It’s 5:41 in the morning, and I’m inspired to write this by two things: 1) A very smart PBS short on how BMO is a third wave feminist, and 2) a very scary dream I just had.

In the dream I had I had gotten to where I was by a time machine, only twenty years or so in the past (hmm.). There was a concentration camp, armed brutality, public executions, I had to get out of there. It was snowing everywhere, intolerable blizzard conditions. Still I managed to sneak out, somehow they weren’t bothered by me leaving. I strike it out on my own, trying to find food or life in this place frozen over. All the houses I see no one’s there, no power. This is really a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Civilization and order now cower in the face of terrible and monstrous non-human conditions. Eventually I see a house with a few plants growing in the garage. I enter and there’s a nice elderly lady telling me everything about how the water table in Hawaii has risen in this post-apocalytic world and just in general how to survive using plants. I start searching through her things for something to eat, I put some rice in a tubberware with some beans and just start to eat it raw, and she says something like “Rice without water? Oh, it’s been some time before that’s ever worked! Come to the kitchen and I’ll get you some water,” and I hold off because I don’t trust her, and I tell her that. She then says “You were right not to trust me,” unzips her parka layer by layer to display a frozen heart frozen through her clothes. The winter-magic turned her into an ice-demon. I woke up after that and started writing shortly after, glad to return to my corrupt, twisted, but still entirely orderly world.

What does this have to do with Adventure Time? Adventure Time also takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The show is about a boy and his magical talking dog friend as they spend their days acting like knights of ages past; going on quests, doing good deeds for princesses, killing bad guys, etc. The world of Adventure Time is a pseudo-feudal world with some twists that just don’t come from the past. All of the people are made out of candy. The main Princess of the land knows string theory and quantum physics. New forms of life appear that have never existed before, talking bubbles, animated, genderless gaming systems, Jake the Dog can stretch to an infinite size. The twist that explains all of this is that the world 1000 years ago as we know it destroyed itself in a nuclear holocaust the people of Adventure Time call “The Mushroom War”. While Finn the Human and Jake the Dog go on their quests and adventures you can always see the past bits of civilization in the background, tanks, shopping bags, computers, sometimes animated into new creatures like Junk Spirits, sometimes not. It is a brand new world built right on top of this one.

A phrase that’s been associated with post-marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek is the phrase “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.” Capitalism is much much more than just a system to distribute junk. It’s a system for organizing ideas. Capitalism, or I should say Capitalist Realism, defines what is possible and what isn’t. With the destruction of the world in Adventure Time and in my dream, new forms of enchanted reality can come in to fill the void. New ways of imagining reality, not just our dogmatically scientific way of understanding phenomenon that only treat as real things it can prove.

I don’t know where I was going with this. That dream I had was absolutely scary as fuck.

2ndary edit: Just found this.

3rd edit:  Updated links for Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism.

“A philosopher is someone who can show you how the way you think about a problem is part of the problem.”
-Slavoj Zizek

He said something more or less like this in a lecture I can't find. Bonus points if anyone finds it for me.