A few notes to clarify some questions about my previous post, made on another blog:
The Capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois state, work to destroy “the old and the small,” (ie, homogenize cultures and languages, wiping out languages and ways of life, ect) in a number of ways. A fairly easy example is the manner in which accumulation by dispossession impacts communities. An example of this would be the impact of NAFTA upon Mexican farmers; wherein somewhere in the neighborhood of a million agricultural workers were uprooted, many finding themselves in low paying factory work, both here and in Mexico. Some of which, such as the US meat packing industry, had previously been well-paying jobs. Such mass uprooting have deep impacts in both the communities they left and the ones the left to. Perhaps a better example would be the housing crisis here, where the capital crisis is being solved by moving the debt burden off of investment capital, onto the general public, whilst allowing those same capitalists to dispossess large segments of the population, impacting the stability of communities.
Then we can look at the hypermobility of capital in the modern era, wherein capital is able to move quickly geographically, triggering mass population movements. (The NAFTA example might fall better in this category.) One can see this happening in large scale in India and China, as well as here in the US, where capital rapidly moves to find low taxes, regulations and wages. We can look to the movement of industry away from “the rust belt” to the South, as the most obvious example. Previously there was a mass movement from the South to the old traditional industrial cities. In Europe, smaller states (such as Ireland) compete to be relative tax/regulation havens, but have found that such strategies provide fleeting success, to say the least. Looking back at the housing crisis, one of the major economic impacts has been the manner in which “under water” mortgages inhibit migration, thusly inhibiting capital’s ability to extract surplus value via the benefits of mass migration (greater wage depression, lower labor organization, lower regulations, etc). Again, the obvious impacts of the constant mass migration particular to late Capitalism, both regionally and internationally, on both cultures and family life, have been well documented.
Now, it can be perfectly well argued that there are many benefits of having Mexican peasants working in the factory, over inefficiently growing corn on a few dozen acres. I am not an agrarian in the sense that I don’t think it is at all advisable to have a third or more of our population working the fields. The point is that these decisions are made for profit motive, in an exploitative manner, without thought or input from the communities impacted. Cultures change, some disappear, and sometimes new ones appear. There is no way of achieving a static state, nor would that even be advisable. I don’t even think that migration should be stopped, only that the system that allows the coercive laws of capital to necessitate such mass migration should come to an end. Modernization can, and should, be done in a more ethical manner, but capital does not recognize a place for, or a responsibility to, a community.
I think it is telling that the critique blows off the notion of the impact of kitsch upon low culture, yet laments the impact of the sexual revolution upon the same. (I don’t think the two are necessarily unconnected, but I don’t think I’ll go into that today.) There is too much of an association made between mass culture and kitsch. One does not necessarily have to be the other. Modern media make the possibility of a world without mass culture more or less impossible. I think my post about the Republican attack upon public television/radio touches upon this subject. It is not really too hard to see how the influence of capital turns one form of culture into kitsch, why Shakespeare is not kitsch but most television is. The easy comparison is why a kids’ show like Strawberry Shortcake is kitsch and Angelina Ballerina is not, can be picked out extremely quickly. One is selling something, one is not. For rather obvious reasons, this impacts the less educated classes more sharply and negatively.
The other day, I observed an example of how kitsch impacts religion, while seeing an “American Christian” iron cross t-shirt at a gas station. It was kitsch imitating kitsch, imitating a less kitschy proletarian cultural form – the “Christian” brand, imitating the secular “American Chopper” brand, imitating the biker gang aesthetic. Machismo bought, sold and moralized. It is not too hard to see the relation between machismo branding and a religiosity that focuses so almost singularly upon sex issues. Nor is it hard to see the relation between kitsch and inch deep Christianity.
A last quick note on unemployment by efficiency: In Capitalism, increased worker efficiency does lead to unemployment. This is not necessary, natural or even obviously logical. There is no reason that if efficiency increases twenty percent that some percentage of the workforce should be fired. Just as easily, hours could be cut back, and/or labor intensity reduced. The reasons why are particular to Capitalism and the coercive laws of the market, which I will not get too detailed on here. In any case, increased efficiency leads to increased unemployment, which leads to downward pressure upon wages. This is why the unprecedented increases in productivity realized in the last thirty or so years have not been reflected in increased earnings for the proletariat. In fact, the opposite has happened, and wage rates for the bottom sixty percent, or so, have been in decline. The only benefit to living standards of the proletariat in the Capitalist system come under government imposition, labor organization, periods of rapid growth and near full employment, such as the post-war years, or due to efficiency driving down the price of goods faster than the decline of wages. (Additionally, there has been the tactic of using easy credit to make up for declining wages.)