- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Commodity fetishism and fantasy 'rights'

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on November 18, 1999 at 16:33:30:

In Reply to: Social classes...the whole gamut! posted by David on November 18, 1999 at 08:29:07:

: : SDF: There is no such thing as "objective value". Money is a social convention and circulates amidst a GENERAL SOCIAL PRESUMPTION of value. Values reside in people, not in objects. If a bar of gold could talk, it could value its body as an "objective value". But gold remains mute.

: When I used the term 'objective value,' what I meant was that the money is backed by a tangible good.

SDF: So? "Tangible goods" do not exist independently of valuing people.

: In the case of a gold standard, I could take my 20 dollar note and go to my local holding bank and ask for my gold depoist that the note represents.
: Of course the value of money itself is subjective, gold would be utterly useless if it was not considered to be of value and if no one was producing.

SDF: So you have deconstructed your own argument about "objective value". Can we drop it?

: : And money doesn't have to be "backed" at all. When money WAS gold, it wasn't backed by anything at all. The general spirit of economic optimism (or fetishism -- see Marx) keeps its value afloat -- please read some Keynes...

: You are correct, however the gold itself was tangible.

SDF: I can touch money with my fingers too. This is still a fantasy argument, a defense of "commodity fetishism," where the commodity (in this case money) takes on an existence apparently (but not really) independent of the people who trade it, by virtue of its SOCIAL qualities. Money, more specifically, is just a material thing -- the gold coin a stone, the dollar bill a piece of cloth -- but not to the participant in commodity fetishism, for whom money is something else.

: The problem with the current system of Federal Reserve Notes is that they devalue whenever the feds print more.

SDF: Gold was devalued when they mined more; every high school student knows of the enormous inflation created in the Old World by the appropriation and circulation of the gold reserves of the New World upon its conquest by the Spanish. We are still in the land of fantasy, of "objective value" independent of valuing people.


: : SDF: When we INVEST, we buy a commodity in hopes of "making money" off if it. When we CONSUME, we don't intend to resell the commodity we bought. The point of distinguishing C-M-C and M-C-M was, among many other things, to distinguish investment from consumption.

: I see, so one is a model of consumption while the other is a model of investment. I have no argument with them as such, however, I do not think that one or the other is exclusive to certain classes.

SDF: Social classes are determined EMPIRICALLY, not theoretically, by whether any particular person or group of people get their income primarily from investment or from selling their labor-power to an investor or investors. Investment is not "exclusive" to the owning class, yet investment DEFINES the owning class as an observable way of life.

: I agree, I just do not think we would be capable of such rapid growth if we did eliminate investors.

SDF: How about this? Would we be capable of such brinksmanship if we eliminated investors?


: : SDF: You appear to be saying that you think the right to work SHOULD be dependent upon elites who move money around. Would you like to exercise your right to be "unemployed"? Or would you like to make things less painful for yourself, and recognize the existence of social classes in a way that is uncluttered by the rhetoric of apology for the owning class?

: No. It all comes down to the right to your own life.

SDF: A "right" which is another fantasy. You exist, today, because your mommy successfully pushed you out of her womb, not because of anything you did, and you continue to exist because of an environment that contains the right gases for your body to breathe, the right liquids for your body to drink, and the right temperature and climactic conditions to support your current species-existence within its ecological niche. You have NO right to life WHATSOEVER independently of these things.

Most importantly, you continue to exist in human society because your society is the right society to support your existence, and you have NO right to life WHATSOEVER independently of the GROUP creation of such a society. (And that group creation, of course, starts with your mommy who suckled you and your family and/or your community which provided for your well-being and education.)

But such a society is persistently threatened under capitalism by the behavior of a group of powerful parasites, the owning classes, who view the working classes not as human beings but as mere "investments," to be thrown away like trash when the rate of profit on their labor-power isn't high enough. It is precisely the distinguishing mark of capitalism that, though it generates enough material resources for the well-being of all, that it prefers to generate societies where the majority of people, the working classes, are potential trash. It is furthermore the distinction of Randists to PREFER to live in a society where most people are potential trash.

: If you own a farm

SDF: And if you don't own a farm you of course have the right to get together with the vast majority, the working class, and COLLECTIVIZE the farm, so as to defend the society where you have a right to life...

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