[Marxism] Consumer Culture

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Fri Apr 30 12:40:58 MDT 2004

In a message dated 4/30/2004 3:25:58 AM Central Standard Time, 
emusis at adelphia.net writes:
>But here's a proposition for debate:

"The fundamental contradiction in the world today is between capitalist 
production -- its dynamic compulsion to grow or die --  and the capacity of the 
earth to sustain it without exhausting itself and the environment that sustains 
all life, and therefore between the rule of capitalists and the survival of 
life itself, including especially the rest of humanity as that form of life 
conscious of the threat and capable of choosing between utopia or oblivion " <


Actually, this propositions has been debated for a very long time with folks 
associated with this list, presented in a more complex form. Having no desire 
to recast the entire controversy, pardon if I approach the subject from the 
standpoint of the "philosophy" of Marx. 

"The fundamental contradiction in the world today" actually remind one of how 
Chairman Mao Zedong articulation of contradiction was deployed in the 1970s. 

What if one approached the subject from the standpoint of that which is 
fundamental to contradiction? One can see - if they try hard enough, contradictions 
everywhere. Between you and I, between me and the computer in front of me, 
between myself and the chair I am sitting on . . . but I derive a different 
meaning from Marx writings concerning the development of the laws internal 

A "fundamental contradiction" as opposed to that which is fundamental in a 
given contradiction. The latter means when that which is fundamental to things - 
contradiction, changes - everything dependent and constituting the 
contradiction must in turn change. Not all at one time, nor does this imply that change 
is direct and immediate. 

Here is the philosophic basis for disagreeing with the above formulation and 
the theoretical basis for stating "fundamental contradiction" poses the 
question incorrectly. What is fundamental to capitalist production consist not 
simply in labor versus capital, but in its existence as a form of property. That is 
to say that labor versus capital is a form of property creating a unique 
cycle of reproduction. 

We have correctly rallied against capitalism for a life time. Today, let us 
begin rallying (theoretically) against the bourgeois property relations and 
begin defining exactly what we are talking about. First we are talking about 
reproduction of something based on a unique circuit or cycle. Capitalist 
production means reproduction on the basis of the circuit - cycle, labor and capital is 
riveted to as driven by the bourgeois property relations or in short speak - 

Over and over Marx speaks of bourgeois property and Engels explains how the 
impact of Marx writings altered the ideological sphere and popularized what 
became called "the capitalist mode of production." 

What we are talking about is a distinct pattern of reproduction, because 
after capitalist commodity production arises we are faced with a process of 

Let us retreat and examine this "Consumer Culture" whose appearance form is 
incorrectly understood as the emergence of a fundamental contradiction that is 
collisions between capitalist production and the ability of the earth to 
sustain life. "Fundamental contradiction" has a meaning and more than implies "that 
which shall govern the movement of history and serve as the impetus of the 
class struggle" at this stage of development of the productive forces. 

Again my outstanding argument with the above proposition is that is poses the 
issue incorrectly. I do not dispute the environmental destruction of 
bourgeois production and the threat to the biosphere. I do not dispute that this 
property relation created a breach in the biosphere and disrupts the metabolic 
process of the earth. I do not dispute whether there is a finite limit to fossil 
fuel on earth, which is self evident even if we cannot define the limit. It is 
self evident because the earth is finite.  And for the sake of argument will 
accept a proposition that says we run out of oil in 10 or 20 years. 

The law of contradiction is not "between things" ("capitalist production -- 
its dynamic compulsion to grow or die --  and the capacity of the earth to 
sustain it") but "within things." 

The dispute is not the obvious destruction to the earth, but rather the 
manner in which the question is posed. The way any question is posed on earth, by 
definition must contain its solution or the question has not been posed 
properly. The "fundamental contradiction" is not between capitalism and the earths 
carrying capacity ("the capacity of the earth to sustain"). 

I am not challenging comrades commitment to the overthrow of bourgeois 

That, which is fundamental to the contradiction inherent in bourgeois 
property, that is the destruction of the biosphere of the earth, is its unique 
reproduction cycles that creates unique needs that require an immense energy 
infrastructure solely to drive exchange for profits. 

Marx takes extensively about the "needs" and "The Meaning of Human 
Requirements:" in his "Economic and Philosophic Manuscript of 1844." What is called the 
"Consumer Culture" is not the culture of the consumer but bourgeois culture 
that creates a unique set of needs as the logic and basis of its self 
maintenance or mediation - God I hate the word mediation. Marx deployed this term in his 
English translations but the Marxists in America have not understood its 
daily and material meaning and we are in the best position to describe Marx 

The "fundamental contradiction " is not "capitalist production and the 
capacity of the earth" or "the finite nature of fossil fuel" or the insatiable 
demands of the consumer but the internal logic of bourgeois production itself. Let 
us look at something everyone in American society understand and unravel that 
which is fundamental to the logic of bourgeois production and why it destroys 
the earth. I am of course speaking of the automobile. 

It is not the internal combustion engine that is driving the greenhouse 
affect but rather the production of automobiles on the basis of bourgeois property. 
Here we shall see how the consumer is created and reproduced on the basis of 
bourgeois property. And understand the appearance form and manifestation of 
this internal logic of production as environmental crisis and "energy crisis." 

End Part 1

Melvin P. 

More information about the Marxism mailing list