Financing the Image of a Post-Capitalist Media

If you switch on television it’s just ridiculous and its destructive. It kills us. And talk shows will kill us. They kill our language. So we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television… I think there should be real war against commercials, real war against talk shows, real war against “Bonanza” and “Rawhide”, or all these things. – Werner Herzog

One of my occasional pastimes involves trying to extract subversive, anti-capitalist lessons from the narratives of mainstream Hollywood movies. A favourite example here is the 2011 Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It. Trying to impress his girlfriend by showing how good he is with his receptionist’s two kids, plastic surgeon Danny (Sandler) takes them out for the day. However, as he is out for the day with the two children by himself, he realises that he will need to produce evidence that this was indeed a wonderful outing. Thus, instead of concentrating on simply having a good time with the kids, with the occasional photograph snapped along the way, Danny spends the whole time obsessively setting up constructed poses for the camera, at the expense of the children’s enjoyment.

just-go-with-itThis, surely, is a perfect metaphor for the modern (post-Fordist) capitalist workplace in which bureaucratic self-auditing (diagnosed and described perfectly by Mark Fisher in his book Capitalist Realism), instead of assessing the quality of the work, comes to replace the work itself. The culture of “performance management” means that, instead of just getting on with the work, we spend much of our time taking snapshots of ourselves doing the work.

Just Go With It, then, holds up a remarkably critical mirror in order to reflect the absurdity of the modern capitalist production process. In doing so, it gives us an image of production which very much speaks to a contemporary economy characterised by secular stagnation, falling productivity rates and, to quote David Graeber, “bullshit jobs.”

Capitalism is the most productive economic system the world has ever seen but, as Marx predicted, private property will eventually serve to constrain and hold back productivity. What was once the red-hot motor powering production will in the end become an obstacle to production. Perhaps we can identify points where private property has started holding back productivity in today’s economy. Today’s open source and self-styled “hacker spaces” present a more powerful and potent image of production than many, if not all, modern capitalist workplaces. We are surely faced with a crisis in the measuring of the value of labour when, under rules governing the calculation of GDP in EU states, money changing hands as a result of drug dealing and prostitution is included in GDP, whilst the economic value of all the unpaid caring, open source programming, media production and numerous other forms of volunteering goes completely unmeasured.

Thus, a free service such as Independence Live, dependent upon individuals donating their spare time, presents us with yet another image of production. This time, however, it is an image of post-capitalist production. An image of production as it might be if production were not constrained and held back by private property. This is one reason why what Independence Live does is politically radical. But there is a danger: we must not allow the image of post-capitalist production to blind us to the reality that what Independence Live does currently takes place within a capitalist world of private property. So, on that basis, I would encourage you to try and support the current crowdfunder, if you have not already done so.

As producers and consumers of media we are, as Werner Herzog says, at war.

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