The U-word

Notice he didn’t say “consumed,” though, in the same essay, he describes “production and consumption” as the “movement” of private property:

karl-marx-photo

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it – when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directly possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., – in short, when it is used by us. Although private property itself again conceives all these direct realisations of possession only as means of life, and the life which they serve as means is the life of private property – labour and conversion into capital….The human being had to be reduced to this absolute poverty in order that he might yield his inner wealth to the outer world. [emphasis added]

Let us say it again: To accept “consume” as a synonym for “use” is to adopt the terminology and worldview of private property rather than plain human beings. To do so is to truncate and distort one’s view of the very process one professes to want to elucidate, by conceding the hypothesis that human product-use activities are only interesting and important insofar as they serve their own “conversion into capital.”

Social critics of the world, unite and cease your use of the “consumer” vocabulary! Be precise and objective! There is still a world to win, or at least describe.

Answer to Facebook Spying

Were it charged with doing so, the United States Postal Service could easily create and maintain a non-commercial, not-for-profit, no-advertising, completely secure alternative to Facebook, which exists to harvest marketing data for its corporate clients. The fact that such an obvious thing remains unmentioned and unmentionable speaks volumes.

Long Slow March

snake Apart from providing invaluable, presumably at least partly unintended assistance to the overclass by helping legitimize the catastrophic “vocabulary of consumption” as the prevailing way of describing issues of product design and product use, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has a long history of getting weaker and worse at pursuing its own mission. The accommodationist process is approaching its logical end. Having long ago chosen to refrain from investigating and reporting on issues of political economy and product policy, Consumer Reports now faces competition from other mere product review enterprises. In reply, what is Consumers Union doing? Why, capitulating further, of course. It has just now created the first-ever marketing campaign on behalf of the “Consumer Reports” brand name.

Big Brother was a rookie.

A Valuable Phrase

Bertrand Russell photo TCT‘s editor has been going through a phase of reading Bertrand Russell. It is very worthwhile.

Among the treasures to be had thereby is the fact that, at moments, as you’re reading along, Russell hits upon a phrase that packs a truly huge punch. One of these is “insufficiently scientific optimists.”

This concept speaks volumes in several directions, not least of which is its usefulness for making sense of the prevalent habit among greens and lefties of treating science as a problem, rather than a solution. (If you think this is just a minor problem, step over to any major greenish website and get a load of the ubiquity of the “we need new worldviews” trope. It is dominant.)

Russell is genuinely liberating on this vital issue. The problem isn’t science; it is that our overclass and their forebears only respect science insofar as it helps them make money and extend their own power. To blame this on science is a fatal mistake, if you hold out hope for a decent human future.

We are not going to rescue ourselves with shamanism or alt-nihilism or self-referential story-telling. The problems we face are too large and too difficult.

Meanwhile, TCT repeats the point: Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony is part of an elite scramble to contain the data-scraping scandal to “politics.”

Least Surprising News

eyeball Advertising Age for March 30 includes a story titled “Brands Just Can’t Seem to Quit Facebook.”

Well, duh.

Facebook exists to collect marketing data, to perform for corporations what people with cameras and stopwatches do inside corporate workspaces.

According to this report, at most 5 of Facebook’s top 1,000 advertisers even might have ceased using the platform as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Most likely, none have.

“This speaks to how important Facebook is as an advertising channel, and that brands are surely making the decision that the benefits of the platform outweigh the smaller risks of brand damage due to association with it,” [marketing research firm CEO Gabe] Gottlieb says.

As Gottlieb knows, the institutional fact is that the spying done by Facebook and an ever-expanding portion of the rest of the infrastructure for off-the-job life is every bit as vital to corporate capitalists as is detailed knowledge of paid labor processes. Barring a huge popular uprising against them and their system, the powers-that-be are simply never going to desist from gathering such data. Power concedes nothing, and scrambles to cover its trail when important concessions threaten to get discussed. Hence, this phony little mea culpa melodrama.