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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'val
Newmedia on Wed, 7 Mar 2012 05:16:52 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'value ab...


Jon (Michael):
 
> Let me ask a slightly different question, whether 
> capitalism can survive its necessary generation 
> of abundance?

Two questions (implied by yours) -- what do you  mean by "capitalism" and 
why do you presume that whatever-that-is has  "survived"?
 
Many have referred to the 1917-1989 Soviet economy (and now the Russian  
economy) as "state capitalism" -- not "Communism."  Ditto for China's  
before-and-after economies.
 
While this may make "communists" feel better about their favorite "utopia," 
 it clearly raises questions about our terminology (as well as, why 
"grammar"  matters, why "equations" don't work and why language is inherently  
*equivocal*!)
 
If you don't mind, could you consider the possibility that INDUSTRIALISM is 
 really what happened in the "developed" economies -- both those we call  
"Capitalist" and those we call "Communist" -- and, indeed, is what is still  
happening in the BRICS + TEN?
 
In other words, can *industrialism* survive abundance?  I don't think  so.  
In fact, is has already "expired."
 
Yes, the ideology of the US/EUROPE/JAPAN (aka the "Trilaterals") was that  
what they were doing involved "free-markets" and so on -- just as the 
ideology  of the Cold War "opposition" was that they were "Communists" (or 
Stalinists or  Maoists) -- but, stepping back from this elaborate ideological 
"cover-story,"  wasn't what *all* of these economic systems were really about was 
*industrial*  development, 
 
For the TRILATERALS, this development *stopped* 20+ years ago.  We are  all 
comfortable saying that Russia is no longer "Communist" and that China is a 
 "mixed" economy, so why do we persist in calling what we are living with 
as  plain-old "Capitalism"?
 
So that we can be righteously (and, therefore, ineffectively) *against* the 
 current state-of-affairs?  Or, so that we can ignore what has already  
happened?
 
Is the stagnation of middle-class incomes and the rise of the 1% over the  
past decades *really* the result of "neo-liberalism" or "late-stage 
capitalism"  . . . or something else -- like POST-INDUSTRIALISM or the 
DIGITAL/INFORMATION  economy (which, incidentally, we have *very* little to say about)?
 
 
> This issue may or may not be affected by the information  society.


Sorry -- but that's the key question we have to answer!  
 
Whether you are a *sociologist* (and therefore give "society" priority over 
 economics) or a "technologist" (like myself) or even an old-fashioned  
"political-economist" in your sympathies, it should jump out from this thread  
(along with the parallel comments in the "desire" thread) that we are *not*  
living in KANSAS anymore.
 
And that we really don't know what to say about it.
 
M. Goldhaber (along with others) calls what we are now experiencing an  
ATTENTION economy.  Really?
 
He also asserts that "For the most part, within capitalism, advertising  
merely redistributes how consumption spending will occur; it adds little to 
the  totals spent." Really?
 
If MASS-MEDIA (driven by advertising) -- a phrase that, according to the  
OED is the origin of our current usage of the term "media," which originally  
named a kingdom "in-between" Persia and Assyria -- did NOT "take-over" 
Western  society in the late 19th century, then what would have happened to the 
massive  scaling of production/consumption that we today categorize as 
"Fordism"  etc?  Would it have been possible?
 
Since Bernard de Mandeville specified that political-economy depended on  
the exploitation of PRIVATE VICE (i.e. *desire*) for PUBLICK BENEFIT (i.e.  
industrial-scale expansion) in the early 1700s, does the history of  
"capitalist" economics show any *breakthrough* in the required "consumption"  (i.e. 
expression of that *desire*) that can be separated from ADVERTISING?
 
And, what happens in "Kansas" when more-and-more people (like most on this  
list) ignore those ADS?  What if people tend towards only buying what they  
need and not what they (have been told by psychology-primed advertising 
that  they) want?  
 
What if GREED and the other VICES -- like Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Envy,  
Rage and Pride -- go out of "fashion"?  What if PSY-WAR on the "civilian"  
population doesn't really "work" anymore?
 
Consumption slows (or even declines) and we enter what many economists have 
 called the "nightmare scenario" . . . in which Mandeville's 300 year-old  
inspiration *stops* driving GDP growth.
 
Maybe TUMULT also declines?
 
Might that be exactly what has already happened?  Perhaps "capitalism"  has 
already stopped "surviving"?
 
Your question about "abundance" is one way of asking "what happens to  
people when they have enough"?
 
My questions about VIRTUE and VICE are, in fact, the way that (your)  
question was originally posed 300 years ago.
 
Look around.  We have indeed "met the enemy and it is us (i.e. our own  
"manufactured" *desires*)" . . . so what are we going to do about it?  
 
Stop "conspicuously" consuming -- obviously.
 
My further suggestion is that figuring out what language we need  to 
describe the world we already live in -- what McLuhan called "pattern  
recognition, under conditions of information speedup" -- would also be a good  place to 
start.
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY


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