Apart from the distinction between the supra-historical dimension of use value, which is expressed in the fact that there are objects that satisfy needs at all, and the dimension of the thoroughly capitalistically structured use value qua value abstraction (which Adorno constantly denounces as a sham in his writings critical of culture: value orientation as an ideology in a “total delusional context”), one should see a further dimension above all in the fact that beyond the determination of the value of the commodity, which is equivalent to a very special formatting of objects, something else is grafted onto the commodity, a par-argon in the Derrida sense1, which is characterised “by a formal, general and predicative structure”; it is a supplement which adds further properties to the commodity as a sensual-transcendental thing, including aesthetic, cultural, phantasmatic and social “qualities” with which the goods are designed, for example as a picture, image, art, discourse, visiotype or jewellery. However, one should not understand grafting here in the sense of a subsequent attribution, but rather as a direct affection of the goods or as an inscription in the goods, as the non-sensical nature of the shape of the goods, which cannot be separated from the object in any way2. Here the predication plays an important role, inasmuch as the goods already offer a predicate or a judgement about themselves with their mere offering or exhibition, and this not in the sense of a statement S is P, but in the sense of the design or arrangement of P itself. 3 It was Benjamin who wanted one of the secrets of the money fetish to be discovered not in gold but in the “ornamentation of banknotes”, whose printing “authenticity” in turn only functions to the extent that banknotes are accepted on the market, with which they can be passed on, with an endless postponement of their redemption, which always remains endangered by hyperinflation. Benjamin succeeds in observing the similarity of the green tone of the shop window to the banknotes as a constantly precarious parallelism of the two inflationary spirals of desire and money, quasi from the outside, quasi with strange eyes.4
Let us put it differently once again. The secondary adjustment of theuse value, for which an entire industry of creatives is available today, does not simply consist in the addition of a cultural content to the commodity, possibly as an addition to the objective sphere of the use value, rather the creative and cultural industry intervenes massively in the production of use value. While the use value is necessary for a product to be realised in exchange as a commodity according to the satisfaction of a desire, creating the latter requires more than the production of a useful product. Usefulness may be the basis of the wish, but it is not enough to create the conditions necessary to sell a product, which is the only way to achieve full commodity status. The production of goods requires not only exchange, but, to put it a bit old-fashioned, the manipulation of utility, think of graphics & design, advertising and branding. These areas have a similar function to the one Marx attributed to transport, in that not only the products must come to the consumers, but also the consumers must come to the products. This requires the smoothest possible exchange of goods through the medium of money. The utility value is part of this process, but things are not used or consumed before they are sold. Products do not sell without being desirable in some form or another. Marx wrote that the production of a good is successful when the consumer’s need for the products as objects of consumption is created. Thus, the desire is not external to the production and consumption of use values, but is immanent to both processes. One can move things in a spatial sense, and one can move people in an emotional sense by stimulating their emotions, identification and loyalty, by driving their desires in the direction of certain brands and products. In order to achieve commodity status, it is not enough that a product is manufactured and has a utility value, it must sell and the sale must satisfy a desire. The latter two components constitute value. There is no intrinsic value which is added to the object quasi osmotically, but it takes meaning, signification and desire to create the commodity. The product must sell, otherwise it remains a potential commodity. Günther Anders has even spoken of the fact that the consumer in capitalism is terrorised into its need. And this also works without boundaries because freedom, according to Anders, is realised as freedom of self-praise or advertising. Advertising pretends, indeed it proves, that individuals behave correctly when they praise themselves and sell well.
Baudrillard has already radicalised the latter position in his book “Die Konsumgesellschaft” published in 1970. For Baudrillard the synthesis of abundance and calculation takes place in the shopping mail. 5 It should be understood less as an arrangement of types of goods optimised in any way whatsoever, but rather as an amalgamation of signs that are always divided, parts of a consumerist totality of signs. At this point, the cultural centre becomes an integral part of the shopping centre by culturalising the goods and transforming them into playful elegance and distinctive substance. In a kind of tracking shot, the consumers – genderless in the hermaphroditic milieu of fashion – flow through the air-conditioned shopping malls, which they digest at the end and give up to a homogeneous faecal matter. 6 The goods present themselves as captured power, not as results of production. They are perceived as manna, and their consumption is not knowledge of the world, not their ignorance, but their misjudgment, driven by a permanently irritated curiosity. One needs something like consumed violence, offered at room temperature, to increase it continuously.
According to Baudrillard, there is only apparent consumer freedom. Mass consumption is a social system for stabilising the cultural and social order. According to Baudrillard, the abundance of objects and possibilities of consumption is bound to magical thinking. The monstrosity full of colourful shelves does not live from the promise of satisfying needs, but from the “abundance” of signs and the “accumulation of the signs of happiness”. 7 “It is about the consumed image of consumption. This is the new tribal mythology, the morality of modernity “8 And further: “So it is not right that needs are the result of production, rather the system of needs is the product of the system of production. 9 It is not the products that are the primary goal of satisfying needs, but the prestige acquired with their purchase. The product mutates into an interchangeable sign of desire, moreover, the products and desires tend to become a “generalised hysteria”. Consumption promotes a kind of objectless desire, a desire that insists even without the choice of object. Thus, consumption is not oriented towards utility value, but towards the production and manipulation of social signifiers, or, to put it another way, consumption is a process of signification and communication based on a code that inscribes itself permanently and at the same time invisibly into the practices of consumption.
Consumption is a system of exchange and an equivalent of language. It is also a process of social differentiation and classification. The signs and products are not only significant differences in code, but also status values of a social hierarchy. The corresponding distinctive behaviour of consumers is experienced as freedom, and not as a compulsion to differentiate and obey a code. The consumer experiences his pleasure as absolute, without even registering the structural compulsion, which also ensures permanent change, while the order of the differences is maintained. 10 Baudrillard even states a compulsion to relativity, which provides the framework for a never-ending differentiation. And this proves to be the boundlessness of consumption. While prestige sticks to the positive difference, the distinctive signs know the negative difference: one does not consume the object, one rather follows the manipulation of the objects as signs. Baudrillard adds that products and wishes are by no means produced according to the same logic and rhythm. While the production of goods remains dependent on the productivity of capital, the production of wishes is based on social differentiation. Desires grow faster than the available goods. The differentiation of products must therefore be set in relation to the differentiation of social demand for prestige.
The consumer norm that Baudrillard calls the “standard package” refers less to the materiality of the products than to a certain ideal of conformity. The function of the market and motivation research is to generate a constant demand for the markets. The system of desires regresses to a pure manoeuvring mass within the production system, which Baudrillard describes as a consumer force or as the form of rational systematisation of productive forces on individual level. In the system of signs, products are no longer bound to a need or a function, but to a mobile and unconscious signification field. In the system of general interchangeability there are constant shifts to be reported, which means that the consumer’s desire for differentiation never comes to an end. At this point Baudrillard can summarise: 1) Consumption is not a function of enjoyment, but a function of capital production, and thus has a collective function. Production and consumption are one and the same logical process of the reproduction of capital and its control. Consumers are assigned to a collective code without solidarity being created, quite the contrary. 2) Consumption ensures the arrangement of signs and the integration of classes. 3) Consumption is based on a code of signs and their differences. The industrial production of differences defines the system of consumption. It is a monoplistic concentration of differences in so far as it stems from the production of artificially multiplied models. The differences serve to make them compliant with the code, to integrate them into a mobile scale of values. 4) Consumption implies less the functional use of products, but is based on a sophisticated system of communication and exchange.
Finally, according to Baudrillard, consumption forces the emotional duty to enjoy, it promotes the active moment (everything must be tried out) and a generalised curiosity transformed into diffuse activity. 11 It is a matter of systematically organised consumption. For Baudrillard, the freedom of consumption is a pure mystification; rather, freedom of choice is imposed in consumption; the system of consumption completes the system of choice that is also imposed – the shopping mall and voting booth are systemically produced places of individual freedom.
Second or third order consumption is also imposed, which is intended to integrate the constant self-transformation of consumers. It is even suggested to him that he organises projects in and with consumption, with which he undermines every marketing attempt to impose an identity imposed from the outside. The consumer is instilled with the idea that with all their knowledge of brands and advertising they can see through them, while fitting in precisely with this consumer culture. Lived experience is replaced by a conglomerate of lifestyles, whereby the contradiction between a sense of belonging to a trend and one’s own individuality must be excluded. Personalisation/differentiation takes place under the sign of the code, with the differences being used by the industry as distinctive signs; the differences are not mutually exclusive, but seal the integration of the group with their exchange. According to Baudrillard, the relationship between consumption and time is based on three preconditions: Leisure is the realm of freedom. Every human being is free and equal by nature. Time is the dimension a priori. It is there and waiting for us. The claim of leisure is to give time back its utility value, but it can only be freed as chronometric capital of years, hours and minutes in which one invests. Time therefore remains scarce and subject to the laws of exchange value. Not only working time, but also consumption time – the free time gained by a product, for example, which is consumed in liquid form and not frozen – mutates into interest-bearing capital, into virtual productive power that must be bought.
In the context of therapeutic care, another side effect of consumption, consumers finally regress to care cases: “In this sense, once again the TWA, the “airline that understands you”. And look how well it understands you: “For us, the thought of knowing you all alone in your hotel room, zapping wildly through the TV programmes, is hardly bearable. We want to do everything we can so that you can take your better half with you on your next business trip … with the special family rate, etc. With your better half at your side you will at least have someone to switch the TV with … that’s what we call love …”. The question is not whether you are alone – you do not have the right to be alone, because “for us this is unbearable”. If you don’t know what happiness means, we will teach you, because we know better than you do and we know how you should fuck your “half”, since she is your “Second Channel”, your erotic channel. You did not know that? Then you will also learn that with us. Because that is what we are here for. To understand her – this is our task … “12
From here, we now turn to Klossowski: While in the epoch of handicraft production the instruments and tools of the so-called Suggestion, whether it be book, picture or theatre, was valued much more highly than suggestion itself, whether it concealed the beautiful, the ugly or even the grotesque, the latter ultimately defying any Manichaean judgement, according to Klossowski, in the age of industrial capitalism, due to the mass, standardised and serial production of goods, the relationship between tool and suggestion is completely reversed: From now on, the sensation that can be experienced, possibly inherent in the “contests of pleasure” (Fourier), is much more important than the image, design or instrument that suggests it. And thus, according to Klossowski, “erotic pleasure” as a secondary utility value could separate itself from sexual need and could ultimately be regarded as a primordial need itself, which is shown, for example, in the utopia of a Fourier, in which the (erotic) work “in the euphoria of the imagination should be a spontaneous and creative action of people”. 13 On the other hand, however, it is precisely the serial production of goods or the perfected production of production instruments and consumer goods under capitalism that leads to the reduction of work to the simplest activity and possibly also to extended leisure time, whereby the enjoyment of sensation can no longer remain free. And finally, any time freed up under capitalism should be immediately reinvested in consumption, and this under the postulate of progress.
If we now link the functionally oriented concept of utility value, which purely expresses the usefulness of the object for a need, to the concept of secondary, differential utility value, which encompasses the parameters semiotics plus semantics, aesthetics and design, we are dealing here with a predicative structure, which today is directly grafted onto every commodity and which finds its most important form of expression in the brand, with which, on the one hand, a reduction in the complexity of the commodity is associated, and, on the other hand, usually also a kind of narrative. These are so-called brand narratives that enmesh, comment on, concentrate or even absorb the product, ultimately binding it completely to visiotypes or viscourses, the design of stereotypical and formulaic visibility of any kind. And so today we are confronted with a whole arsenal of the multiplication of commodity-shaped narratives, visibilities and symbolisms, which at least in part ensure that the prices of goods are no longer determined in the context of abstract work, but express the fact of the consumer’s evaluation or appreciation of the goods, which in turn correlates to the extremely limited creative, if not obscurantly stubborn interaction between marketing and consumer.
It is in this context that the French sociologist Vincent Lepinay sees a functional relationship between economic derivatives and the ubiquitous commodity star/promi; for example, the price of the professional football player Ronaldo is continuously co-determined by the price of a multitude of derivative, i.e. derived products, which in turn makes even Ronaldo’s hair and/or body design appear symbolically charged. The market success of the goods Ronaldo advertises will increase his own price (as a commodity), while commodities, because they now carry his name and thus an image, in turn mutate into derivatives themselves, whereby both types of commodity derivatives are there for each other, among other things because Ronaldo has actually managed, instead of living solely from commodities, to swing itself up to the commodity. Obviously, the commodity supports Ronaldo’s promoted goods, and vice versa: both types of commodity increase their price in pure reciprocity, as they both authenticate themselves as derivatives in the media gutters of the picture industry. Günther Anders wrote in this context: “In fact, there is no longer any fundamental ontological difference between the star actress, scattered in thousands of copies, and the nail polish, which is distributed in countless copies. The fact that in advertising star and mass-produced goods support each other (the star supports the goods by recommendations, the goods support the star by pictures enclosed in the packaging), that they form an alliance, is quite logical: they are “equal and like, who like to join together”. And not only are they the same, they have overcome their mortality in the same way: Both can, after all, continue to prove themselves in their reproductions after their death “14 It is immediately apparent at this point that the star/celebrity named Ronaldo has a price from the outset, albeit a derivative, possibly even parasitic price – parasite understood as the so-called socially necessary third party, which always runs the risk of eliminating its host (and itself)
According to Klossowski, it is not the market alone that determines it (as a sign of wealth), although it is also true that the star is something like a guarantee of wealth itself, because it has ever satisfied a demand. If the demand is now high because the star/celebrity presents himself to the public as unique, there seems to be no limit to his price. It should be noted at this point that the former head of the Deutsche Bank, Jürgen Ackermann, surprisingly comes to a very similar view of things when he says, for example, in an interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of 20.11.2009: “Salaries and bonuses are prices. In a market economy they are first and foremost determined by supply and demand”. Furthermore, Ackermann interprets these prices as the result of scarcity, summing up smugly that the scarcer the supply (on the markets) of people with the qualities in high demand, the higher their price must be as a result. And he quickly adds that one must not forget, however, that it is not scarcity alone, but also the seizure of particularly “favourable opportunity structures”, which ultimately allows management to (justifiably) raise the price of their salaries extremely – whereby Ackermann, in complete consensus with the experts, and this hardly seems surprising, completely dispenses with the concept of “performance” as a basis for legitimising particularly high incomes. Obviously, the winner-take-all markets (Frank/Cook) 15, which today guide the interests of management and where those subjects who ecstatically take pole position achieve considerably higher incomes in competition than the rest -, these markets clearly draw their models from professional sports, the art market and the cultural industry. One should certainly take into account the tautology contained in the relevant statements, for example when it is claimed that the elites alone are responsible for creating our jobs and increasing our prosperity. Since in current economics everything and nothing is capital, and therefore potentially every individual is a capitalist, and since incomes always follow the development of productivity, the only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that those capitalists who make the highest profits are at the same time the ones who contribute most to general prosperity. They are the ones who generate the large number of jobs, they produce the innovations and inventions and thus add the largest share to social prosperity).
In a further step, according to Klossowski, the translation of the celebrity or the star (whom Klossowski calls an industrial slave) into living money can be understood in the same way as the Marxist transformation of gold into money, whereby gold as money is exclusively opposed to all other commodities, in that the commodities express their wealth in it; at the same time, the star must become a sign of general wealth, whereby it still remains part of the wage system. The next, decisive and at the same time conceivable step would now be for the star to know how to use the general excitement directed at it, which is expressed in solvent demand, to put itself in the place of money, more precisely to embody the general equivalent (money) itself, whereby the star would actually mutate into a living coin. But gold is useless in itself, it is the money that gives value to gold, that makes it valuable. So it is not surprising that Klossowski finally talks about money as a sign again. He writes: “As ‘living money’, the industrial slave is at once a sign guaranteeing wealth and this wealth itself. As a sign, she stands for all kinds of material riches, but as wealth she excludes all other demand, if it is not the demand she represents the satisfaction of “16 In contrast to the industrial slave, therefore, living money will directly claim the status of the sign, indeed it will directly embody the sign, and by doing so, living money not only embodies the sign of abstract wealth, but also represents wealth itself with its body. However, as long as the star serves only to raise the price of any goods (sunglasses, shoes, television programmes, toothpaste, etc.), he remains what Klossowski calls an “industrial slave”. However, because the star remains the target of the masses’ desire, he still represents the unrivalled wealth and can thus, at least potentially, set himself up as living money. Money and star thus converge in pure semiotics (of money), the sign of an empty phantasm representing everything and nothing.
At the same time, both money and star represent value as a void, which here is to be understood as completely arbitrary/virtual. And this is also what Klossowski’s arbitrary/virtual value qua money in the book “The Living Coin” aims at, which is like a phantasm answering another phantasm. For Klossowski, the value-money phantasm is the better concept than the commodity fetish, both of which contain anything but subjective illusions, but are to be understood purely objectively, also in the sense of how the objects actually appear to the consumer, namely with a power/magic, i.e. endowed with phantasms that are not only based on responding to other phantasms, those of desire, but on disposing of this in all its opacity for the subject. And it is precisely this power that now exploits living money to take the place of dead money. And if prices are now largely detached from the value of goods qua abstract labour, as is the case today with branded goods, among others, and prices thus mutate purely as a result of the willingness of marketing- and advertising-seeking customers to pay, then it seems only logical to agree with Pierre Klossowski’s statement: “In the world of industrial production, it is no longer what seems to be free by nature that is attractive, but the price of what is naturally free. “17 Klossowski is not primarily alluding to the fact that consumers today are prepared to pay extremely high prices for the image or information value of a product, but rather to the fact that the price of body/lust/sex/emotion is rising, especially when not everyone has the means to rent a body for sexual intercourse.
So what is the current situation regarding the phantasm of the goods? It should be quite clear that on the one hand it is about grammars forced by surveys and market analyses, on the other hand about the pictorial and symbolic nature of the branded goods themselves, about their differential design. This is what e.g. sociologist Celia Lury, for example, pointed this out following Deleuze/Guattari18 , when she described the designed product as an object of the production of difference, to which, beyond the abstraction of quality to quantity (value abstraction), very specific qualities are added again and again, whereby the corresponding additional enjoyment of the branded goods often only ensures a lean or castrated Jouissance, whose excessive moment is permanently defused, insofar as the additional enjoyment / consumption contains a strange paregon, an adversarial structure, which for example, can be seen as a “paregon”. It is an adversarial structure which, for example, orders you to eat more in order to lose weight faster (low-fat cheese), drink coffee in order not to consume caffeine (decaffeinated coffee) or have sex in order not to touch your body (cybersex) (cf. Zizek). For a small group of buyers, this may indeed be a functionalisation of so-called paradessences (e.g. coffee, which is supposed to stimulate and calm down at the same time). Only if one then surrenders to excess and really consumes sugar, caffeine or sex extensively does an enlightened and affluent consumer feel guilty, but this is by no means based on a game of desire initiated by the prohibition in order to be in debt or to be able to escape from a good/evil system. Instead, it releases a secularised debt – possibly a supplement to the economic debt precisely fixed in the credit agreement, which is not paid off with interest but compensated with extensive fitness training. This is not so much the result of a prohibition as that of an order (Enjoy! ) and is therefore more like a (nihilistic) mood, with which one tries to assert and increase one’s self-assertion in all the consumer or financial gimmicks, in the sense of the continuously tested efficiency of the self, which in turn is a pure construction, which is expressed in and with the offers of goods (the enhancement industries), which promise enjoyment, and for many people it is then simply irrelevant what form of enjoyment it is; Pleasure that has its raison dètre solely in serving those who are called to enjoy. 19 And the highest form of enjoyment does not consist at all in the enjoyment of goods, but in the enjoyment of service, which is and always remains commissioned work, but is not recognised as such, but instead is enjoyed with relish, just as one enjoys the apple pie, one’s own joke or pornographic image, which ultimately leads less to Adorno’s slogan “Fun is a steel bath” than to that “vulgar paradis artificiel” in which Günther Anders saw the utopia of the congruist society realised, a media “monster” which with precision sells a service provided for the system not only as a pleasure, but this enjoyment is actually the act of doing or of service itself, whereby activity and passivity become permissive through and through, and nothing else says so, after all, mediality.
The iPhone is a commodity that has a price (based less on the abstract work than on the evaluation by the hypermaterially irritated and conditioned consumer (Stiegler)), and as such it transports and translates excellent materials such as narration and design, while as an exchange value it always remains related to other commodities: the iPhone used to tag a logo that, as an empty super-sign in the congruent interplay of marketing and consumer, is constantly being filled up with new meanings and visiotypes or, as the case may be, “translated”. As a commodity, the iPhone is always a phantasmatic symbol, and not least, this only functions in the mass media, digitalised amusement corset of radiant, technical objects – because without the Internet, its conception, marketing and distribution would be absolutely unthinkable today. However, branding, logos and empty identities lose their specific signifying power when they finally tend to refer too far or too generally to all kinds of objects and phantasms, thus overdosing their value: If everything is Apple, then Apple means nothing at all. Today we can see that not only supply, but also demand is subject to a social production process, which cannot get going anywhere without the corresponding communication and interpenetration, which, for example, the Apple corporation sucks in as information, data collection and interaction from, among other things, the voluntary offers of narcissistic profile neuroses from the various social networks. And as an element of the transitive, branded goods never close, but rather represent the “complete offer consisting of “recipe”, brand image, design and the connection with social events “20 , they are and remain a very special commodity that appears to be connectable, energetically rechargeable and extremely variable in terms of media, although it is itself subject to a cycle of invention and distribution, and this from the rise via the peak point to the decay. However, it should not be forgotten to mention that the IPhone does not only appear as a commodity sign, but always remains an object, which is a so-called nonhuman actant and as such the IPhone has long since mutated into the digital memory of actants; it not only bears the multiple traces of a human memory, but it is this memory itself as an externally outsourced object; Memory exists more strongly out there in the world than materialised in a plastic brain – telephone numbers, emails, SMS, notes and all information that can be sucked up from the Internet is stored on the hard disk of the iPhone without further ado, makes these data sets accessible at any time and thus the iPhone as an object/actant virtually controls the actions, behaviour and mentalities of social groups or even creates them in the first place.
In many cases, however, the goods no longer have any interiorisation or grafting of narratives, emotions, visiotypes, viscourses and sensations, be it in the one-euro-trash goods that can no longer even manage to pursue the merciless standardisation of emotion, because it simply can no longer trigger any emotions, or whether the emotional pull of the product is exaggerated to such an extent that the product ultimately no longer expresses any awareness of life or emotion but takes its place, or the design no longer represents the product but the product is the design itself, an endless story. Obviously, in the course of archiving and carnivalescing (Metz/Seeßlen) its last subversive potentials, the pop industry can be considered a shining example of a retro-magical commodity history, among other things when it is directly connected to totalitarian marketing strategies of the corporations, from which indeed vulgar commodities emerge – conglomerates of trash, impoverishment and glamour – with all the incorporated unintentional consequences of a nihilistic slackening of the commodity culture. “The spread of popular songs […] happens suddenly. The American expression >fad At this point it should also be noted that the commodity, if nowadays it does not transport either awareness of life or sensation, but rather takes its place (see the Redbull brand as a perfect lifestyle story), makes it really easy for the new fetishism or animism research to take the step of using theory to breathe a soul into the commodity or, alternatively, to ascribe a ghostlife to it, and even to understand capitalism itself as a penetratingly creative (and by no means destructive), even if ghostly force, which seems capable of devoutly reviving inanimate things with series of phantasms, whereby capitalism actually appears (in a new guise) as a source/subject of creative and at the same time as an object of ritual practices, truly a grandiose euphemism for what is done day after day in capitalism in terms of anti-production/destruction of potentials and subjectivations-what it does and what it affords itself, as if there really is such a thing as the soul of the commodity to be reinvented – and if the commodity souls are so bleakly neutral today, the souls of the conformists (Anders) are hopelessly overflowing, overflowing with the streams of commodities, opinions and emotions that the soulless devices secrete minute by minute to control, adjust and increase just such a thing as the soul or conformity coefficient (Anders) of consumers. At the same time, the so-called inner life of the commodities corresponds strangely with the inner life of the actants whom the process of commodification and valorisation addresses first and foremost, which initially corresponds to the comprehensible shift of the (symbolic) weighting of the commodities from the sphere of production to the sphere of reproduction, circulation and commodity-money transactions, and this above all with regard to the subjective ideas of the actants themselves. At the same time, it is no coincidence that metaphors are currently experiencing a renewed boom, in which fixed or dead capital is being dubbed, for example, as a vampire or a zombie eagerly attracting and absorbing the surplus value. Whether or not it is the human actor who, not entirely unjustifiably, believes in the animation of the commodity, whereas, conversely, the commodity itself seems to ignite this belief – in the age of postfordism, the search for the soul actually leads to a hyper-speculative revival of fetishism theory and animism research, both of which virtually worship the commodity with its spectral oscillation and/or the ghostly or dead capital as alien or zombie, as things that oscillate or float between sensuality and supersensuality, in the midst of the immanence of value. According to Jean Luc Nancy, the commodity bends the creative and social life incorporated in it to the equivalence of exchange, but at the same time the soul of the commodity appears as the paradoxical animus of an undead body, as a zombie soul. In this context, the fetishism researcher Pietz sees the magic moment of fetish formation in a modal shift, the mysterious transubstantiation of social practices into pure or ritual habit or law sanctioned by a society as a whole, finally the transition of a general into a universal form. And this universal form, according to Pietz, exists at the same time as a material object, or in other words, capitalist production is a mode with and in which social value is materialized as a fetish, namely in a dead thing, money. It seems that this alludes to a Marx, according to which the exchange value resists any approximation of the variables of the market, because it does not find its determining factor from the outset in the game of supply and demand, but has it in “abstract” labour, in relation to which the corresponding external measure appears in money. And it is this kind of objective, immanent and transcendental illusion which, for example, the ontology of Nancy with its critique of the current hegemonic fallacies of traditional economics tries to overcome by treating, paradoxically, commodity fetishism as a separate species of fallacy.
Marx remarks in Kapital Bd.1 that commodity fetishism consists, among other things, in the fact that the relationship between people appears as a relationship between things, or, to put it another way, the production of capitalist socialisation qua value makes a specifically social objectivity present, whereby value as a social medium and relationship in money and commodity appears in a material form. It is the characteristics of money that are represented as the perverse potentials of specific social conditions, whereby precisely this power potential inherent in money is on the one hand extremely real, but on the other hand is constantly misunderstood by the actors; Firstly, the money fetish in money possesses an objective form of existence, whereby it cannot be reduced to a subjective-psychological question of faith; secondly, economic fetishism is not a projection which may be attributed to things, but an “objectively valid thought form” (Marx), which, with its primitive matrix, is in many respects simultaneously is true and false. To illustrate this with a simple example: When shopping, the customer seems to be confronted solely with things or objects and their seller/owner, whereas the things as work products were and are woven in a very real way into a whole chain of actions, transports and translations inherent in abstract work, which now remain invisible in this concatenation, so that when buying, the social relations are reduced purely to the relationship between persons and the seller/owner of the goods and the knowledge of the price, without any of the participants in the exchange, who always also inaugurates actions, would think in a dream that the commodity could be a manifestation of value, of the necessarily abstract work that has coagulated in it, as Marx himself sometimes puts it in a highly problematic way – since this kind of incorporation involves processes in which countless agents plus further processes are integrated, from direct production to transport, to the agents that produced the cars and the petrol for transport, and so on. Of course, none of this is visible on the goods, so that the buyer of the goods, apart from knowing the price, has only a purely sensual relation to the goods, because he can try them on or sniff them and sometimes he even smiles at the person offering the goods.
If, on the level of the circulation of goods, the social relation of people to each other appears as a characteristic of things, or in other words, the goods appear as an incorporation of the social relation, as a kind of solidification of the social, and, as we have already seen, the goods then additionally appear to be equipped with a power/magic with which they really appear to the consumer in their opacity, then, of course, for the critic of commodity fetishism the question becomes more complex insofar as, in his view, the social relationship of persons to each other must appear to them as a value object and thus as a reversal at the same time, which immediately leads the theorist to face the following paradox: A theoretical practice that gains its object of knowledge through the representation of the inverted forms of appearance – commodity, money and capital – and the quasi inverted concepts based on them (whereby it is irrelevant whether reality determines the concepts or the concepts determine reality), and that wants to be immanent critique through this representation – this theoretical practice must be able to reveal the inverted reality as inverted, and this step obviously requires an extraordinary or enormous consciousness, which succeeds in deciphering the inversion and the value forms explicating it in theory, in order to describe/decode the real inversion as such, whereby basically the theoretical operation of deciphering can only be the correct reproduction of the inversion in the real. If value originates from factual circumstances which are represented as material circumstances, but which always require an enormous individual consciousness to be able to grasp value as a thought thing, then this would have to be shown in the process of representation itself. For Althusser, this is the theoretical practice (level 2), which transforms its source material, the various “ideologised” sociological and economic theories, into Marxist science. The isolated subject with enormous consciousness, however, always has to ask himself in the process of theoretical practice how it emerges as an effect of language as well as of economic conditions, the connecting link of which is the symbolic. The subject, however, neither invents the language nor the economic structure, nor does the distinction conscious/unconscious help to escape the symbolic concatenations and references extraterritorially. One can finally deal with their regularities without understanding them.
Two extremely problematic interpretations can be found in Marx’s analysis of fetishism: a) the introduction of the term reification as a phantasmatic inversion (goods as a reified expression of social relations / value-objectivity) and b) fetishism as a symptomatic metaphorisation (personification of the thing and/or personification of relations). If Marx had understood the economic structure/process of capitalism as the totality of social relations itself in the course of these two conceptions, in order to finally reduce society to the dyad “person-as-thing”, he would have had to reduce the triad “person-relation-thing” to that dyad, thus reducing the imaginary dyad of the transubstantiation of practices into fact/law (and around it).
IT would ultimately have remained the basis for any kind of symbolically mediated triad, and thus the symbolic universe of simulations, in which there is no reference to any element beyond or absolute to the processes of symbolic references or the permuted differences of the symbolic chains of goods and money, would have remained closed (as, incidentally, would have been the access to the asignificant material processes).
A concept of non-philosophy or non-economy serves to deduce how and why the processes of symbolic references and concatenations of capital (virtuality) possess a deeply material, machine-objective dimension within the capitalist structure, which is historically-really actualised. This can only be achieved by linking the logical structure of capital with the analysis of its historical-real content, and this in the last instance according to the real, which remains per se complete. It is precisely the Marxian terms “objective form of existence or appearance” and “objectively valid thought forms” (beyond a purely subjective illusion) that ultimately leave open whether Marx as a theoretician of reification has in fact retreated to the project of reducing the symbolic to an imaginary dyad dyade ding/person, or whether the term “objective form of existence/appearance” suggests something else, Namely, conditions in which the goods only meet as exchange values and precisely because of this a void is stretched beyond the utility value, which can only “fill” the symbolic without ignoring the material (which is understood here as an activity, as a stabilising and destabilising process of phased intraactivity. ) The Marxian discourse is always contaminated by the material/social things that make it possible and contribute to it, just as things are contaminated by discourse. And so here too, the term discourse cannot be understood as something that corresponds purely to a speech act, but rather as a material configuration of discourse practices, as that which makes possible or “criticises”, the fair-fair, or let it be made, which can be found, for example, in Latour.
1) Cf. Jacques Derrida: The Truth in Painting, Vienna 1992, 75.
2) Cf. Jacques Derrida: Marx`Gespenster. The indebted state, mourning and the new international, Frankfurt/M.2004, 252.
3) Cf. Günther Anders: Die Antiquierteheit des Menschen Bd.1. Über die Zerstörung des Lebens im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution, Munich 1980, 162.
4) Walter Benjamin: Collected Writings, Vol. VI, Frankfurt/M. 1976, 102.5)
5) Jean Baudrillard: The consumer society – its myths, its structures, Berin 2014,42.
13) Pierre Klossowski: The living coin, Berlin 1998, 27.
14) Günther Anders: Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen Bd1. On the destruction of life in the age of the second industrial revolution, Munich 1980, p.58.
15) Cf. Robert H. Frank/Philip J. Cook: The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us, London 1996.
16) Pierre Klossowski: The Living Mint, Berlin 1998, p.89.
17) Ibid., p.89.
18) Cf. Celia Lury: Consumer Culture, New York, 2011.
19) Cf. Günther Anders: Antiquiertheit des Menschen Bd.2 On the destruction of life in the age of the third industrial revolution, Munich 1980,173.
20) Markus Metz/ Georg Seeßlen, Capitalism as Spectacle, Frankfurt/M. 2012,
21) Max Horkheimer/ Theodor W. Adorno: Dialectic of Enlightenment. Philosophical Fragments, Frankfurt/M. 1983,189.
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