Turning the Tables

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“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, a lion’s share of SF/Fantasy is concerned with just this.  Almost to the point of running with Marx’s ‘great idea for a story!’.

It’s also a great illustration that the best Marxism is Gothic Marxism.  A Marxism which recognises the uncanny, the weird, the surreal, the fantastic, as both truthful expression and invaluable heuristic.  The real world is made so strange, so bass-ackwards, so haunted and haunting, so alien by capitalism, that only historical materialism informed by the uncanny and the dreamlike can truly capture it.

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