e-flux Conversations has been closed to new contributions and will remain online as an archive. Check out our new platform for short-form writing, e-flux Notes.

e-flux conversations

Conditioned Contemporaneity (Reartikulacija, Part 1 of 3)

If we pause for a moment to examine strategies of the contemporary market economy, we discover that in a large variety of social fields a common pattern applies, namely the production of profit and passivity. Due to its expansionist logic, capital is constantly forced to upgrade and change its strategies in order to hypercommodify discourse. Neoliberal logic has further employed the market to transform goods from commodity to hypercommodity, rendering useless goods irreplaceable in our daily lives. Hypercommodification has become the basic means through which the system exercises control over all social structures.

Marx wrote that the fetishism of commodities originates in the peculiar social character of the labor that produces them.1 According to Marx, articles of utility become commodities only as products of the labor of private individuals or groups working independently of each other. In the contemporary world, however, the transformation described by Marx is no longer possible. Today, articles of utility already function as commodities in the very initial stages of their production. Along with processes of selling and distribution, the very existence of goods is determined by the logic of the market rather than a particular social character.

This logic uses commercials, slogans, political and party speeches, elections, and so on to constantly upgrade and propagate realities which coerce society into a general state of passivity. Passivity here does not only imply a passive role with regard to global events, but a non-reaction to anything falling outside a sphere of individual subjectivity. What we now face is a condition of collective non-reaction that allows for the hegemony of capital to continue without regard for the dramatic escalation of social discrimination on the basis of race and class, xenophobia, and the marginalization of different gender and ethnic groups that accompanies it. It is also important, when speaking about passivity, to be keenly aware of the fact that the system has developed a parallel strategy through which processes of de-politicization, de-theorization, and de-radicalization are introduced through apparently political, theoretical, and radical discourses. As a result, not only are borders between real criticism and its mere illustration blurred, but so also is the subversive power of radical and critical analysis gradually abolished. The question that arises from this situation concerns how to initiate a process of re-activation that can engage the collective (society) as well as the subject (individual) in a fight against the hegemony of capital.

Fame, glory and luxury appear to be the most important values within the contemporary sphere of life. Propagated and branded on a daily basis by the media, these values have totally replaced the so-proclaimed democratic values of freedom and equality. It is interesting to see here how neoliberal ideology attempts to convince us that the market economy is the best possible system at the moment, to which there is no alternative, and to which we should be devoted in order to find fulfillment. Such mediation aims to convince the viewer/consumer that if one stands at the threshold of survival, without social security or prospects, that it is one's own fault for not taking sufficient risks to improve one's life. What is the reality hidden behind this false mediation, and what is the real purpose of it? Its intention is no doubt to intensify the dependence of the lower classes on the workings of the system in such a way as to benefit those in power. As described by Richard Keiser in an article entitled "Stadiums Put Corporate Guests First...," there has lately been a significant increase in class discrimination.2 He argues that the elites have begun to build new sports arenas with restricted VIP lodges specifically in order to provide spaces for the wealthy to distinguish themselves from the lower class. This is, by all means, a sign of pure class segregation and discrimination—something that becomes ever more present in other social spheres.

Read the full article here.