Friday, March 16, 2007

In Response to Resty O.

Expectorants sounds pretty anguished in his post.
I've always assumed making noise in the name of the poor and the oppressed is the right thing to do, though I've also been wary of possible victimology in all that. Where does my personal politics lie? Have I been drawing a clear line? Or am I allowing the 'devil' to play on my very human tendency to envy, to distrust, to hate?...Where are the communists and leftist ideologists coming from? Is it basically from such a position of pure envy, or from the feeling of being violated of their human right to choose their lot in life?

Compelled to provide some sort of response, I quote one of my favourite Frenchie philosophes, Jean Baudrillard (The Consumer Society, 1970. Translated 1998 version by Chris Turner):

The Paleolithic, or the First Affluent Society

For Sahlins, it was the hunter-gatherers who, in spite of their absolute 'poverty,' knew true affluence. The primitive people of those societies have no personal possessions, they are not obsessed by their objects, which they throw away as and when they need to in order to be able to move about more easily. They have no apparatus of production, or 'work': they hunt and gather 'at their leisure', as we might say, and share everything within the group. They are entirely prodigal: they consume everything immediately, make no economic calculations and amass no stores. The hunter-gatherers has nothing of that bourgeois invention, economic man, about him...He sleeps a lot. He has trust - and this is what characterises his economic system - in the wealth of natural resources, whereas our system is characterised by despair at the insufficiency of human means, by a radical catastrophic anxiety which is the deep effect of the market economy and generalised competition.

...Beneath a gigantic apparatus of production, we anxiously eye the signs of poverty and scarcity. But poverty consists...neither in a small quantity of goods, nor simply in a relation between ends and means: it is, above all, a relation between human beings. The basis of the confidence of primitive peoples and for the fact that within hunger, they live a life of plenty, is ultimately the transparency and reciprocity of social relations...There is among them no accumulation, which is always the source of power...Wealth has its basis not in goods, but in the concrete exchange between persons.

Shifting Objects - Shifting Needs

Until now the whole analysis of consumption has been based on the naive anthropology of homo oeconomicus, rather than homo psycho-oeconomicus. [Classical political economy] has not been a theory, but an immense tautology: "I buy this because I need it" is equivalent to the fire which burns because of its phlogistic essence....This rationalist mythology of needs and satisfactions is as naive and helpless as traditional medicine when faced with hysterical or pyschosomatic symptoms...if one admits that need is never so much the need for a particular object as the 'need' for difference (the desire for the social meaning), then it will be clear that there can never be any achieved satisfaction, or...any definition of need.

...The truth of consumption is that it is not a function of enjoyment, but a function of production...Enjoyment would define consumption for oneself, as something for one's own benefit. But consumption is never that. Enjoyment is enjoyment for one's own benefit, but consuming is something one never does alone. One enters...into a generalised system of exchange and production of coded values where...all consumers are involved with all others.

And in relation to the Tim Yap post below:

The Fun System or Enforced Enjoyment

One of the strongest proofs that the principle and finality of consumption is not enjoyment or pleasure is that that is now something which is forced upon us, something institutionalised, not as a right or a pleasure, but as the duty of the citizen.

...consumerist man regards enjoyment as an obligation; he sees himself as an enjoyment and satisfaction business. He sees it as his duty to be happy, loving, adulating/adulated, charming/charmed, participative, euphoric and dynamic...He must see to it that all his potentialities, all his consumer capacities are mobilised. If he forgets to do so, he will be gently and insistently reminded that he has no right not to be happy.

Since we cannot regress back into hunting and gathering, I tend to see the last two paragraphs as some sort of palliative. If there's satisfaction to be had from not being (or struggling not to be) a slave to the matrix, then I'll take whatever I can get. :)

No comments: