Viewing posts tagged commodity fetishism

Turning the Tables

“A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a use-value, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it satisfies human needs, or that it first takes on these properties as the product of human labour. It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.”

- Karl Marx, Capital vol.1


Consciously or not ...

Powerlessness Corrupts

More curated tumblr jottings, which some people seemed to like.  Rewritten and expanded.


There is, in fandom, an impulse to denounce which is very congruent with a similar impulse that exists in some iterations of right-on politics.  It comes from a similar place: helplessness.  We’re always told that power corrupts, and it certainly does.  But powerlessness corrupts too.  People in fandom get accustomed to worshipping that which is handed down to them.  They can then discover the opposite but equal pleasure of execrating that which is handed down to them.  What both have in common is the idea of passively accepting what you’re given.  And yes, hating on something is a form of passivity quite distinct from the activity of criticism.  Passive acceptance of texts is, contrary to myth (a myth largely put around by fans, amazingly enough) far more common within fandom/s than in the general television viewing public. 

Jane Q Citizen puts Doctor Who (or whatever) on her telly, doesn’t like it, and so switches over to hunt for something she does like… or she likes it (having no long-cherished internal needs that she ...

8

"Is there anything the servants can get you Doctor?" asks Edward Grove over the deep, low tolling of the clock.  "It is such fun giving them little chores to do!" he chortles, using the voice of the butler, Mr Shaughnessy.

"No thank you," says the Doctor icily.

"Very well," says Edward, vocally turning to the servants, "You may leave, all of you.  Return to your duties.  I shall chime if I need anything."

The clock is central to the organisation of time in capitalist society.  It regulates work.  Since work is life, it regulates life.  The chiming of the clock, like the jangling of the bell, is a summons to the servant, just as the factory worker must clock in and clock out at the right times.  The industrial revolution fundamentally changed how people perceived time, not only by drastically changing how long it took to do certain things, but also by subjecting the workforce to new schedules.  The organisation of labour in capitalist production centres also made time seem repetitious, on a permanent loop.  The same set tasks, over and over again, for hour after hour.  The clock is ...

17

Ms. Kizlet is using the wi-fi signal to control people in the coffee shop.

 “I do love showing off,” she says through a waitress she has made her puppet. “Just let me show you what control of the wi-fi can do for you,” she adds through the mouth of a young girl.

It’s a tech demo. Here’s what this latest version of the operating system can do. Upgrade now. The iconography is all ruthlessly current. Particularly fitting: Kizlet and her crew are playing around on iPads as they do their little Steve Jobs routine. You almost expect her to reveal that they’ve captured Clara with an “oh, and one more thing.”

Kizlet explains that they’ve “released thousands” of base stations into the world, blanketing the whole of humanity in their Worldwide Web of Fear.

Meanwhile, Clara’s on her laptop. She recognizes the vulnerability in every grand system: people. With just a bit of clicking around she’s figured out where Kizlet is transmitting from. The most obvious spot in London, really. Kizlet's client loves using grand projects for his own purposes. It’s what he did in the Underground, and it’s what ...

19

LIN'n'DA has allowed 'Mr Kennedy' into their little circle of friends.  His determination to find the Doctor is the opposite of their desire to socialise & laugh while sharing their ideas & obsessions & histories.  Even if much of what we know about LIN'n'DA is just Elton's garbled wish-fulfillment, it's still a nice story.  Until Kennedy arrives.  It's never the same again.  Hierarchy is introduced, along with work schedules & targets & orders & timetables & a drive for objective 'results'.

"Though we had to admit," recalls Elton, "he was right. His methods were much more rigorous. It felt like we were getting closer & closer to the Doctor."

As if that had ever been the point.

"Umm, Mr Kennedy?" says Elton cautiously, raising his hand as though he's a kid at school trying to attract the attention of his teacher... & actually, LI'n'DA's headquarters now looks like a school room.  The friends are sat at desks, toilng away individually & silently at private work.  Mr Kennedy is every inch the teacher.  He sits at the head of the room, behind ...

21

Earl plays a C on his harmonica.  It starts a sympathetic resonance in the pipes that stretch under and through the regime on Terra Alpha, like the arteries in a body.  What flows in these arteries is sugarly gloop, the outpourings of the Kandy Kitchen.  It fills the regime with the glucose it needs to survive.  And the regime uses it to kill dissidents or refuseniks or men wearing pink triangles, drowning them in sweetness.  Earl's note causes the encrusted, crystallised, fossilised sugar coating the insides of the pipes to crack and fall.  Tonnes of the stuff falls on top of Fifi, Helen A's savage attack dog and beloved pet.  She sent it into the pipes to kill the Doctor and the Pipe People, the surviving aboriginals on her colony.

"Happiness will prevail," says the artificially fruity voice on the colony tannoy system, "Factory guards are joining forces with the drones to destroy the Nevani sugar beet plant here in sector six. We will keep broadcasting."

This is a revolution.  The killjoys are marching and demonstrating, and having their own melancholy parties in subversion of the rules.  The factories ...

26

The Doctor, the Brigadier, some scientists and a Ministry bureaucrat have ventured inside Axos, a living ship that has just landed on Earth.

The Axons have greeted them.  They are a nuclear family - man in charge, surrounded by wife and boy and girl - modelled on classical statuary, their skin a lustrous gold.

They reflect the prejudices of those they meet.  They are part of Axos and have formed themselves from the ship/entity.  They easily adapt their image to Westernism, Patriarchy, Classicism, the worship of the commodity and of wealth itself.

In return for shelter (ostensibly), they offer "a gift... a payment".  They appear unable to quite understand the concept of 'gift', immediately amending their use of the word.  They meant 'payment', which implies a commodity transaction.

Their payment is...

"Axonite!"

It looks like a mineral, something torn from the ground by labour.  In reality it is just another aspect of Axos, individuated from the amorphous and tentacular mass of the whole so it will pass as a rock.

"Axonite is the source of all our growth technology," says Daddy Axon, "Axonite can absorb, convert, transmit and programme all forms of energy."

Note the ...

36

The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie are brought in to see the Master of the Land of Fiction.  He has dossiers on them.  He is, as Zoe says, very well organised.

"We have to be," he says, "The running of this place requires enormous attention to detail. It's a responsible position, but very rewarding"

A 'responsible position'.  So it's a job.

"Responsible to who?" asks the Doctor.

Not to a person, says the Master, to "another power. Higher than you could begin to imagine."

A system, an inhuman hegemon.

He congratulates them on the way they handled their tests.  They have passed the job interview.

It transpires that the Master is a writer.

"Did you ever hear of the Adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway?" he asks.

"No, I can't say that I... wait a minute, a serial in a boys' magazine?"

"The Ensign!  For twenty-five years, I delivered five thousand words every week!"

"Twenty-five years, five thousand words a week..." Zoe adds it up... "that's well over half a million words!"

"That's why I was selected to work here," says the Master.  He got headhunted.

He spent his life working ...

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