Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tim's Holiday Guide to Commodity Fetishism

I just wrote this on a very gifted undergrad student's final paper and thought, hey, this is news we can use, so, here we go...and because it's Xmas haha and because Santa is a big old Coca Cola bottle or whatever, here is my paradoxical Yuletide gift to you! I think it's quite nice.

This is a really great essay that says a lot of important things in a good way. The only quibble is with the very commonly held assumption that commodity fetishism is somehow a block on knowing that human workers make stuff. If that were true, how could one even know, if the fetishism were effective? But we all know humans make stuff. And knowing that doesn’t dissolve capitalism. So what is it? I teach Marx a lot.

Capitalist economic theory rests on a labor theory of value! The whole idea is that we all know very well that humans make stuff. It's kind of amazing that people keep snapping back to this assumption about Marx, and one could write a whole book on that topic alone.

The key point is that fetishism in this case isn’t a belief. It’s a state of affairs in which commodities seem to behave as if they are agents, really powerful godlike ones, that determine the value of human labour. Sorry man, but the price of oil today means we have to fire you…that sort of thing.
Why do commodities have this power? Because there’s one commodity that has to under-sell itself all the time and that has to make more of itself all the time for the whole thing to work, and that’s the human being. What is being extracted by the system is the value of surplus labor time. I own a factory and I ask you to work an extra five seconds for the same pay. Or you do a tiny extra bit of a job in the same time as you do your regular job. You may not even notice and the factory owner might be a very committed socialist, doesn’t matter. Millions of their employees doing this will make the owner a huge lot of money.

Leisure time is a big old waste of money, so social media fixed that by making us watch ads all the time and more important allow corporations to harvest our data to hone those ads more and more—literally like Capital says, extracting value while we aren’t conscious of that, as if capitalism were a vampire.

Commodity fetishism isn’t a belief that commodities appear out of nowhere. It’s the fact that in capitalism, unlike in feudalism, it doesn’t matter one tiny bit what you believe at all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I Watch the World Go Round and Round

My first breakup song. So sorry cool kids I can’t help it, it’s etched. I was in the bus back from the night shift at Tesco at 5:30am and this came on the radio.

Isn’t it just so lovely that Phil sings “cayure” (“Need I say I care?”) like it’s in a working class accent?

Amazingly that “ahhhh” sound after the last chorus is not a sample. Listen really hard. It’s a cymbal. Phil went in a store and listened to every crash cymbal till he got one that sounded like that 80s (careless?) whisper of jouissance, in his vocal range and roughly in tune for something with a lot of white noise.

The opening fill after the first chorus is so simple and brilliant, if you know drums. And that’s literally one keyboard line there. Two tops.

You think this is plastic but really it’s the best kind of craft, the rubber meeting the road. Anyone can do vague angst. “I Don’t Remember” is Gabriel’s very best. It’s mostly just about that phrase. The point is to make it also be about a guy jerking off in front of the TV (“Turn It On Again”).

This is why my new book is going to have examples only from Phil Collins and Ariana Grande.

I recently spent an hour explaining to cool architects why Phil was better than Peter Gabriel; even I  was horrified by how effective my argument was, more than I had expected. Graham Harman made me do it lolol nice one Graham. Penguin seem to like the idea of me publishing it thanks Tom!

Need I say I love you,
Need I say I care?
Need I say that emotions
Are something we don't share?
I don't want to be sitting here,
Trying to deceive you,
Cos you know I know baby
That I don't wanna go.

We cannot live together
We cannot live apart
And that's the situation
I've known it from the start.
Every time that I look at you
—Well I can see the future,
Cos you know I know baby
TI don't wanna go.

Just throwing it all away
Throwing it all away
Is there nothing that I can say
To make you change your mind...

I watch the world go round and round—
And see mine turning upside down.

(Throwing it all away)

Now who will light up the darkness,
And who will hold your hand?
Who will find you the answers
When you don't understand?

Why should I have to be the one
Who has to convince you,
Cos you know I know baby
That I don't wanna go.

Some day you'll be sorry
Some day when you're free—
Memories will remind you
That our love was meant to be,
But late at night when you call my name
The only sound you'll hear
Is the sound of your voice calling
Calling out to me.

Just throwing it all away
Throwing it all away
And here's nothing I can say
Ahhhh....