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Re: <nettime> Facebook's perfec spam laboratory.
Keith Hart on Fri, 18 Jan 2013 12:43:37 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Facebook's perfec spam laboratory.

I wish I had your talent and time for kindness, Ed. Felix has admitted
that his initial post was sloppy, so he won't take offence, I hope,
if I report that, when I saw it, my heart sank. I decided to leave
it alone. The freedom to ignore messages is more commonplace than
Facebook's detractors suppose. I never understood why some people
complain about all the messages they have to ignore. It takes me next
to no time at all to pass them by. I suspect that it's fear of being
overwhelmed by unwanted messages or worse of being adulterated by
them, fear of the unwashed masses.

In any case, I haven't come here to offer empirical testimony of life
in a commercial hell. It isn't a question of what it's really like
down there. The problem is one of ideology, not of personalities,
practices and social forces. The ideology is of course bourgeois and
it is unknowingly reproduced by the bourgeoisie's detractors. That's
why my heart sank. I have been trying to get the message across for
decades, but it never soaks in.

We all know Adam Smith's origin myth for capitalism and can easily
resist it: being self-interested is universal, a part of human nature,
the propensity to truck etc. Herbert Spencer's evolutionary version
is more insidious. Human beings once lived in communities animated by
altruism (aka the free gift), all very nice and solidary. Division
of labour broke it up and markets emerged to express and coordinate
our selfishness. Commercial life is less noble than the primitive
utopia, but it is much more efficent. Social darwinism is just one
step away. The point however is that a socialist tradition, which
espouses an anti-market ideology going back to Aristotle via the
medieval schoolmen, reproduces the opposition while inverting it.

Marcel Mauss wrote The Gift explicitly to refute the twin postulates
of bourgeois ideology. Market contracts depend on a a hidden social
infrastructure and there is no such thing as a free gift. Commodities
are social and gifts are interested. To be human we must be concerned
with our individual self-preservation and we must learn to belong to
each other in society. Some societies make that easier than others.
Markets contain both these elements together and so does Christmas.
There is no point therefore in socialists demonizing markets. We have
to bring out the humanity in them that is obscured, marginalized and
repressed by bourgeois institutions.

Having spent years feeling dependent on technical wizards for internet
access, Web 2.0 has been something of a liberation for me. It give
me a chance to exercise my social skills without having to ask for
permission first. Facebook has many faults, not least its monopoly.
But I fear Apple, Google and Amazon more. It will in any case die
the death before long, since the logic of command and control
will alienate its users. What I have noticed, here on nettime and
especially in the unlike-us list, is something like the following
story. Once upon a time not long ago a internet progress was driven by
a free class who shared and were untainted by commerce. Facebook has
replaced that and now a brainwashed mass celebrates its gullibility
and ignorance in ways that must repel all sensitive souls, if they
were ever to risk contamination by joining in.

I contend that this is a variant of the socialist inversion of
Spencer's bourgeois myth. Any historical or sociological explanation
that starts from this premise has its answers mapped out already.
Empirical enquiry is redundant.


On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 7:35 PM, Ed Phillips <ed {AT} cronos.net> wrote:

> Felix,
> I find myself heartened to see your thoughts in my inbox, and that has
> been the case for me for many years.

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