Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vampire Capitalism

With the crash and resuscitation of finance capitalism and its fordist counterpart (auto and other manufacturers) by the state and with the popularity of vampires in consumer culture I thought I would add some links on vampiric capitalism and the vampire state in light of my 2005 article; Gothic Capitalism, which I would like to point out has been published in Slovinian by anarchist comrades in Serbia.

Marx of course was writing in the era of the popular vampire novels while Dr. Polidori first published a vampire novel, and Sheridan Le Fanu published his vampire short story, it was Dracula, that had a larger popular impact with mass publication of the book and its follow up as a stage play.

Marx identifies capital as dead labour living off the life force of the working class a class it created for its own ends (thus the later zombie motif that has also increased in popularity in mass culture during this captialist crisis, see my Gothic Capitalism for more on this)

The notion of vampire as symbol of capitalist oppression is certainly not original
to Stoker, who was doubtlessly influenced by or at least aware of the works of Karl Marx and other socialists who considered the vampire something of a patron saint to capitalists.
Discussing Marx, critic Andrew Smith says his “rhetorical fulcrum in this respect relies on an imaginative juxtaposition with images drawn from the pre-capitalist world. Hence, it is no coincidence that he keeps coming back to these occult pictures”. Or as Ken Gilder writes in his book Reading the Vampire, “modern capitalism here is by its very nature excessive, driven by‘irresistible force’ to consume and accumulate. Marx draws on the metaphor of the vampire timeand again to describe its processes”.
Critic Steve Shaviro gives us an even more detailed view of Marx’s use of the vampire motif, More generally, vampires and zombies are vital (if that is the right word) to the functioning of capitalist society. Traditional Marxist theory, of course, focuses onvampires. Marx himself famously describes capital as ‘dead labor which, vampirelike,lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks’ .

In the nineteenth century the Gothic Revival also found itself central to
political and cultural debates. In Victorian England, the gothic suburban villa
empowered the middle classes and the building of Houses of Parliament made a
statement about ‘making a nation’ and creating a national identity. John Ruskin
attacked Marx and Engel’s ideology through his writings about the Gothic and
William Morris championed the Arts and crafts movements while attacking the great Gothic Revival perpetuated by practitioners such as George Gilbert Scott as bringing about capitalism.

Karl Marx

Capital Volume One
Chapter Ten: The Working-Day

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.

Constant capital, the means of production, considered from the standpoint of the creation of surplus-value, only exist to absorb labour, and with every drop of labour a proportional quantity of surplus-labour. While they fail to do this, their mere existence causes a relative loss to the capitalist, for they represent during the time they lie fallow, a useless advance of capital. And this loss becomes positive and absolute as soon as the intermission of their employment necessitates additional outlay at the recommencement of work. The prolongation of the working-day beyond the limits of the natural day, into the night, only acts as a palliative. It quenches only in a slight degree the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour. To appropriate labour during all the 24 hours of the day is, therefore, the inherent tendency of capitalist production.

It must be acknowledged that our labourer comes out of the process of production other than he entered. In the market he stood as owner of the commodity “labour-power” face to face with other owners of commodities, dealer against dealer. The contract by which he sold to the capitalist his labour-power proved, so to say, in black and white that he disposed of himself freely. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.”

The Grundrisse

Capital posits the permanence of value (to a certain degree) by incarnating itself in fleeting commodities and taking on their form, but at the same time changing them just as constantly; alternates between its eternal form in money and its passing form in commodities; permanence is posited as the only thing it can be, a passing passage — process — life. But capital obtains this ability only by constantly sucking in living labour as its soul, vampire-like.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Chapter 7

But in the course of the nineteenth century the urban usurer replaced the feudal one, the mortgage replaced the feudal obligation, bourgeois capital replaced aristocratic landed property. The peasant's small holding is now only the pretext that allows the capitalist to draw profits, interest, and rent from the soil, while leaving it to the agriculturist himself to see to it how he can extract his wages.

The bourgeois order, which at the beginning of the century set the state to stand guard over the newly emerged small holdings and fertilized them with laurels, has become a vampire that sucks the blood from their hearts and brains and casts them into the alchemist's caldron of capital.

Capitalism originates in Gothic Culture and the fact that it now has reached its historic epoch, it's tendrils now encapsulate the entire globe, unlike any other time in history. Its commidification of our lives is now complete, hence the growth of the mass culture of consumption that is mirrored in the popularity of vampires and zombies as cultural motifs are the visions of ourselves alienated from our humanity, they are the ultimate consumers.

Robert Park, later sociology chair at the University of Chicago, took a more global
perspective on the phenomenon of “vampiric capitalism,” in his journalistic critiques of western exploitation within Africa, both of its peoples and resources (Lyman, 1992). American sociology, after the 1920s, would reject the use of both journalistic and philosophical analyses of evil for a more thoroughly scientific methodology (Greek, 1992). However, the discipline then was left with great difficulties in discussing evil (now referred to as deviance) without transvaluing it as sickness (Menninger, 1973) or as sign of social malaise or anomie (Orru,1987), leaving treatises on the nature of evil to more ethnographically inspired writings such as criminal biographies, novels, plays, and ultimately screenplays.

Popular culture now has labeled the latest capitalist crisis as a problem of both vampire banks and zombie banks. How fitting. America no longer manufactures goods for the world, that capitalist role is now being played out by China. Under Reagan America became a consumer of credit and goods, and thus has a zombie economy.

Zombies reproduce through consumption of the living, which serves as a nearly endless supply of brother and sister Zombies. Consider earth’s current human population explosion as a metaphoric never-ending supply of both brains and new Zombies. As one character in the original Dawn says when warning survivors of the process: "It gets up and kills. The people it kill get up and kill." It’s a never-ending supply of both consumables and consumers (a capitalist dream). But, of course, the perishable items (bread and bullets) in the mall run out. And when they do, survivors need to make very difficult choices. Where’s the next mall? What place do we pillage next? An island, perhaps?

As today and in the Zombie world, sustainability and survival are interchangeable. When the resources for survival run out and the malls have been picked clean, then we will reach for sustainability as a final solution. Or we will eat brains.
Simply put Capitalism, zombie or vampire, sucks!

Check out this fun blog;Vampire Capitalism