Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Final Solution: Waste

The opposite of planned obsolescence is mandated superfluity. There was a period when unions exerted so much control in certain industries that some companies were forced to hire workers for jobs that essentially didn’t exist. Capitalism is actually a stream-lined system in which entrepreneurs attempt to minimize costs in order to produce commodities cheaply, but in a wealthy society, accommodations and concessions are often made for the sake of equanimity. Allowing the market to totally determine wages actually begins to have a negative effect on the social fabric evidenced by the deleterious effects of economic inequality. This was the theme of Thomas Piketty’s Capital. Concessions to labor made by the entrepreneurial or ownership class in fact ultimately guarantee the perpetuation of their own privileged elite. Naturally, with technology and automation some of these earlier assumptions have been and will continue to be challenged. Co-optation was a word used by 60s radicals to describe a process by which the proletariat is basically bought off. “Repressive desublimation” was an expression the Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse used to describe a process by which pleasure itself is used  for pacification. A recent New Yorker review/essay by Atul Gawande about Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism "Why Americans Are Dying of Despair,"(3/23/20) explores the rise in mortality in a demographic where it might not otherwise be expected,  in a growingy disenfranchised middle-aged white population.

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