Monday, October 31, 2011

cooperation, the social individual, cooperative consumption

Jason Read:

The individual of the sphere of circulation may be the isolated individual of freedom, equality, and Bentham, but the individual of production is a “social individual,” an individual whose capacities and abilities can only come into being with the necessary presence of others. The cooperation of these individuals constitutes a particular kind of surplus, a social surplus above and beyond the difference between necessary and surplus labor. Moreover, this surplus is obscured by the dominant representation of capital, by the images produced by the sphere of production, which present only isolated individuals contracting in their mutual interest. To the extent that this surplus appears at all, it appears as the power of capital, its miraculous capacity to produce surplus, what Marx refers to it as a “free gift to capital.”[xxiv] Thus, the sphere of circulation becomes a truly miraculous power, it generates the image of society made up of isolated individuals, and appropriates whatever exceeds this, by making it appear as capital itself....
there is the cooperative social individual of the hidden abode of production. However, this second individual does not appear, does not see itself in institutions and structures, instead what is immediately visible is the fetishism of commodities, money, and the power of capital itself.

Consumerism posits a value system that makes commonality read as inconvenient -- sharing and human interaction and all that are only so much hassle. This allows capital to appropriate the surplus value from cooperation that takes place anyway, under the guise of contested social relations, under the guise of status games and competitive identity displays?

Does collaborative consumption upset this ideological balance, making explicit the ways in which the benefits of cooperation are stolen by capital, or is it a way to attempt to preserve that value for "social individuals"? Or is an attempt to recapture the cooperative surplus and recirculate it as a commodity while leaving the underlying ideological construct of a society of atomized individuals intact?

Read argues that "never have human beings been more social in their existence, but more individualized, privatized, in the apprehension of their existence." As capitalism subsumes more of everyday life, sociality, etc., this contradiction widens, perhaps reaches an untenable level of dissonance. Pursuing the social life deepens one's isolation under capital. At some point the individual will cease to pursue the social within such a system and seek a way to escape or destroy it.

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