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From Medieval Mnemonics to a Social Construction of Memory - page 15 / 23





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simply the sediment traces of historical or “dead” labor power, which suppos- edly is never in labor’s possession to begin with. In the case of DNA or sperm banking, the commodity is not the remnant of dead labor power but rather, the seed of potential labor power taken (often without compensation) from the bodies of laborers—not taken from their “labor power.” The Marxian question that arises from such analysis is, “Where is, or what is, the value added in sperm banking, genetic engineering, seed banking, or digital surveillance?” Does “value added” arise from enhancement made to biological memory or “commodity memory product” or from the degradation of the original source of the commodity as it is destroyed by changing environmental conditions?

The various categories of Marxist analysis such as use and exchange value (Marx, 1978, p. 253) might be applied fruitfully to present-day marketing, pro- duction, and banking of congealed human and other biological material (such as seeds, sperm, or DNA) or electronic data files, but such application is beyond the scope of this article. It is important to emphasize that Marx’s (1978) critique of commodity fetishism is roughly coextensive with his 1843 critique of organized religion generally:

Objectification is the practice of alienation. Just as man, so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his essence by an alien and fantastic being; so under the sway of egoistic need, he can only affirm himself and produce objects in prac- tice by subordinating his products and his own activity to the domination of an alien entity, namely money. (p. 52)

This form of false consciousness, mistaking human relations as relations between things or between “fantastic” beings, was subsumed under the contro- versial Marxist category of “ideology.” Human subjects, according to Marx (1978) in 1844, could not know themselves so long as they did not acknowledge the social character of production and exchange or the social determinants of religious thought as “the fantastic realization of the human being inasmuch as the human being possesses no true reality” (p. 54). Hence, without recourse to a more perfect world above or within, human salvation was to be found in revolu- tion and a utopian, communist society. Because Marxism is secularized, this argument is still problematic to Marxists, for it appears to make revolution a mechanical reaction to economic conditions, dependent on an evolving proletarian class consciousness as detailed by Marx in 1848.

As a Hungarian communist living in exile in Vienna in the mid-1920s, Georg Lukács took up this mechanistic view of revolutionary activity by examining why the proletariat, and no other class, was in a particularly privileged position to abolish class society. Lukács (1971/1985) acknowledged class consciousness had inevitable conflicting levels of agreement and disagreement within a total society. He recognized that people accepted and rejected in varying degrees their commodity labor status. This meant that workers did not always reject cap- italist exploitation and did not always share the same consciousness at any given

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