Decadence and Cannibalism

July 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized) ()

A day or so after the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado, my eight year old son said to me that he was a little afraid to go to the movies now (we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man last week, but the Dark Knight Rises is probably a bit too scary for him anyway)

It’s all very well to say, well we live in Canada and  that sort of thing doesn’t happen here, except… In June a gunman opened fire in the food court at the downtown Eaton Centre killing two and wounding many others. In a sort of grim Final Fantasy scenario, a woman killed in Colorado narrowly escaped the situation at the Eaton Centre, having left the mall just minutes before the bullets began to fly.

Then just a few days before the Aurora killings, a community barbeque in Scarborough, in the east end of Toronto, ended in gun play with two dead and over twenty wounded.

It’s shocking. Not just the numbers involved, but the apparent randomness of the victims and the disregard for “innocents” shown by the killers. At the Eaton Centre, the intended victim met his death, but those wounded were to the assassin, collateral damage. Of course, in the case of Aurora, the accused  apparently intended to kill as many people as possible (to date his motives remain unknown other than a reported claim to be The Joker), but he had no connection to those he butchered.

Commentators were quick to offer the usual suspect: Isolated weird guys (sure seem to be a lot of “isolated weird guys” with guns though) in the case of Aurora, gangs and (sotto voice) foreign criminals in the Toronto shootings. But is there a larger pattern?

Below is an excerpt from an article published in Internationalist Perspective a few years back about the change in society. Call it decadence or call it something else, but look at the way wars are conducted today. All too often, there seems to be a need by various armies, nations etc, but simply to conquer, but to physically exterminate their enemies. The savagery of the twentieth century hardly needs footnoting. As capitalism continues, I would stay decays, the crisis also continues. There is a greater self-destructive impulse. At a higher level, as at a lower level. Grim thoughts indeed.

While the transition from the formal to the real submission of labor to capital entails an increasing reliance on the fruits of science and technology, and a concomitant recomposition of the working class that transforms the very meaning and nature of productive and unproductive labor, no matter how many changes occur in the forms and techniques of production, according to Marx, capitalism remains a mode of production whose “presupposition is – and remains – the mass of direct labour time, the quantity of labour employed, as the determinant factor in the production of wealth.” (Grundrisse, Penguin Books, p.704) However, the historical trajectory of capitalism produces a growing contradiction between its unsurpassable basis in the expenditure of living labor to produce exchange-value, on the one hand, and the actual results of its own developmental tendencies on the other: “But to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose ‘powerful effectiveness’ is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production …. [a]s soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange-value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth …. (Grundrisse, pp. 704-705) In short, when the production of real wealth is no longer dependent on the extraction of surplus-value (absolute or relative), no longer inextricably bound to the expenditure of living labor, capitalism ceases to be a necessary condition for the progress of the human species; ceases to be a progressive mode of production. Moreover, the perpetuation of value production, its continued progress in the form of the transition from the formal to the real domination of capital over society, then constitutes not just an obstacle to the progress of the human species, but a form of social retrogression! The more capital progresses, as it has since 1914, and especially after 1945, the more that progress reveals itself to be retrogressive or regressive; a mortal threat to the continued existence of human kind. The creation of a vast surplus population, the exploitation of which by capital is no longer necessary or profitable (at any wage), has sown the seeds of new and more devastating orgies of mass murder, deliberately orchestrated by the capitalist state.

From the Formal to the Real Domination of Capital: How Capital’s Progress Became Society’s Retrogression


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