Do Not commodify your dissent!
I think you have to look at the role of marketing in the system to make any sense of the argument against this concept we keep using: “capitalism.”
Marketing and propaganda are essentially conceptual twins. Marketing is used on a mass scale to influence attitudes about nearly everything in modern life, and the attitudes that result are at the basis of how humans formulate their sense of the world.
Marketing is not (and was not) necessary in small communities with entrepreneurial mom and pop businesses integrated into the social structure. Those were essentially the communities that made up the fledgling new nation that became today’s American Empire of fifty states. Yet those types of businesses can work on some of the basic principles of this concept we call “capitalism.” So “capitalism” is problematic without closer examination if it’s to be identified as a problem.
So I turn to the issue of marketing. What makes marketing possible? Mass marketing becomes a phenomenon only in larger social and economic systems. I think it can be argued that it’s the size of the social system itself that makes such a technique even possible. And it’s also the excessive accumulation of capital resources in the hands of a few that makes it possible to develop the expensive techniques that marketing involves. So it’s not simply “capitalism” that’s the problem, its something to do with size and force of capital as it transforms in various ways for those who have the control of the capital and the techniques. It’s the potential for creating something like ponzi schemes of accumulation where the money seems like it’s abundant, available, and didn’t cost a huge amount effort to accumulate for those who end up with it. It’s become abstracted from real, every day, genuine life in that sense.
A corporation is a private tyranny. A vertically integrated collective with a logical, objective-oriented design, hierarchically organized in a command and control structure, just as a military is organized with its machine-like sociopathic purpose to “engage and destroy” (mission statement of the army). Russia created a similar empire called the Soviet Union based on that same structure. It was called communism, but it was a collective with a design more like a corporation that operates in a capitalistic system than any sort of organic, locally based and environmentally interactive communal social system.
In the modern day principles of collective, social design, an objective takes on the necessary characteristic of “efficiency” whether that social collective be a corporation, a military, or a government bureaucracy.
Efficiency becomes a kind of god of objectives, permeating the entire social system. People have to be plastic and malleable to take part in an efficient system, because they have to change their behavior in order to model the behavior needed to achieve efficiency. Cultural traditions that may have all sorts of ethical and moral basis give way to efficiency, and they disappear.
Commodification is not only a process that translates human relationships — which include caring, moral and ethical values, and genuine feelings — into “things” and makes the process of capital accumulation possible, commodification is inherent in all marketing techniques and includes the implicit (co)modification of human behavior through attitudinal influence as self objectification.
Commodification sets rational guidelines for what can and can’t be thought about the world, while human beings themselves are ultimately much more than that rationality. Those guidelines inevitably enhance the evolution of the logic of technology, which is utterly rational, machine-like. It enhances the immersion of it through the social structure, it influences the design of cities and human living spaces which are always at odds with machine space (try walking in a city while ignoring the cars and the roads).
Thus a relentless, daily marketed commodification of humans and everything else enhances the sales that make the corporations accumulators of wealth and the sources of the very ideas that people live by through an integrated system of marketing, TV shows and movies that show how all this stuff is supposed to work, and jobs that employ people in producing the system.
What matters to me, then, is to understand marketing in our political system, and how it defined the “hope” people had when they elected Barak Obama. Or, perhaps as Jacques Ellul might term this sense of marketing I’m thinking of, “sociological propaganda.”
Marketing would not exist outside a large, technological system that organizes humanity for the ultimate purpose of the employment of technology itself in the world. Human built environments are designed for the technique of using technology as an interface between human beings and the world. Society then becomes an artifice of that technique. As this artifice, society is ultimately defined by technology and its use rather than the other way around. Therefore, the human beings in society are ultimately defined by the machinery of this system. Machines define our humanity. Our inherent humanity is excluded from that process by the very logic in how that takes place all around us, every day, which is simply, without ethics, feelings, emotions and human love, the logic of a technological society.
Marketing is a technological system with an inherently dichotomous design. The dichotomy expands the ideas of technological production while restricting the ideas about what that production does to our basic humanity. That dichotomous design exploits cultural taboos rather than exposes them, and this is the aspect of the dichotomy that restricts our ability to share our imaginative thoughts. Thus we have the cross purpose systemic nature of technological society where the technology is openly and evolutionarily expansive in order to accommodate the need of those forces intent on growth of their role sets, while being at the same time constrictive of the idea creation abilities of those needed to do their specific role within the machinery of production that allows for the creation, evolution, and employment of the technology that makes the system both functional and expanding.
This is, in the end, a demonic and inhumane system of exploitation that transforms individuals from independent actors in the natural world, interacting in concert with their friends, families and local communities in direct relation to forces of nature and their need to survive, to actors within a vast mechanistic system which they come to understand through rules that inhibit their limits to imaginative thinking. Those rules form their accepted cultural taboos.
In the end, this vast mechanistic system is destructive to everything that supports it, just as cancer is destructive the body it consumes.