The Accursed Sovereign

Acephalic Capitalism

Posted in Criticism, Film, Philosophical Anthropology by bradishn on February 15, 2010

Though I only just saw this interview with Zizek for the movie Examined Life, I was struck by the imagery of the interview, as well as its interplay with Zizek’s topics.  He truly illustrated his point through the location in which he was interviewed.

However, I was reminded of Georges Bataille, probably the most influential thinker in (and for) my thesis.  In La Part Maudite, Bataille claims that the keystone to understanding a society lies within what it does with excessive energies (such as the potlatch in certain American Indian cultures, or certain ritual festivals in Aztec society).  Capitalism differentiates itself from other societies by reincorporating excessive energies into its productive capacity.  That is, excess energies are subordinated to the creation of capital. Superfluous labor hours are spent creating more factories, which in turn enables the creation of additional superfluous labor hours.  It is a feedback loop of labor energy.

But what about consumer capitalism?

Perhaps certain avante-gard art forms have captured the image of acephalic capitalism.  Pure consumption, with no subordination to capital, has resulted in a society which unthinkingly consumes everything it produces, regardless of whether the produced item is gold or feces.

To put it crudely, what if it breaks down like this: archaic societies consumed indeterminately, but knew exactly how much they needed to shit.  Capitalism reincorporated as much shit as possible, and by eating shit also increased its capacity to create shit.  But finally, consumer capitalism weaned itself off anything but shit!  Stripped of all nutritive value, the consumptive processes in consumer capitalism can no longer be distinguished from defecation.  When we watch television we are crapping into our own mouths, and when we flush the toilet we are all writing the next Hollywood blockbuster.

In a classical analysis regarding production and consumption, Marx does an excellent job of showing the interconnectedness of production and consumption (Marx, Karl.  “The Grundrisse” in *The Marx-Engels Reader,* edited by Robert C. Tucker, 2nd edition.  W.W. Norton & Company, New York: 1978, pp. 222-46).  Once again, everything that can be done has been done; it’s merely a matter of recycling it, incorporating it, and then cycling it out of our system only to be recycled once more.


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