Monday, June 10, 2013

The Vast Lie

"It is likely that the survival of capitalism is no longer possible without the creation in the consumer of a series of psychically disruptive needs which circle about such wants and emotions as the desire for excessive security, the alleviation of guilt, the lust for comfort and new commodity, and the consequent allegiance to the vast lie about the essential health of the State and the economy, an elaborated fiction whose bewildering interplay of real and false detail must devil the mass into a progressively more imperfect apperception of reality and thus drive them closer to apathy, psychosis, and violence. Nineteenth-century capitalism exhausted the life of millions of workers; twentieth-century capitalism can well end by destroying the mind of civilized man." (Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself, p. 355-6)


SEH said...

I understand 'Twentieth-century capitalism' to be crony capitalism.

Thomas said...

I can certainly understand that. But if you mean by that to defend "capitalism" in some other, purer, sense, I don't quite see the point, I must say.

For me, the history of twentieth-century capitalism begins in earnest in 1913, when the FED was established. There was certainly some cronyism involved, but the important effects were institutional.

Mailer would eventually call it, I think accurately, "corporatism", which isn't really capitalism at all (as Chomsky would also point out). It's basically a command economy with "free market" ideological cover. The important prices are all fixed, not incidentally like the LIBOR.

We live under a financial oligarchy that manages its affairs through a corporate hierarchy. The news is entertainment and all real intelligence is "centralized".

There has never been a form of capitalism that was not heading in this direction. This is because economic power and political power have never been effectively separated.

[what follows should really be worked into another post ... it's not a finished thought]

While the solution is simple it is very subtle. I think Lisa Robertson got it right in her thinking about money and language.

Monetary sovereignty is the power that produces the difference between civis and domus, polis and oikos ... ultimately the difference between the public and the private sphere.

So long a money = debt, personhood = guilt. That's where it begins and (I fear) never ends.