Occupy yourself and get over it … 50 ways to leave capitalism or don’t you wish socialism was a freak like me

Stephen’s recent post on Simon Hardy’s manifesto got me thinking…  there’s 50 ways to leave your lover according to Paul Simon.  Well, clearly many of us have been and are falling out of love with our economic and social organization.  What should we do about it?  How should we break up?

I think the metaphor (although I’m not really sure it’s a metaphor and not just the case) of our relationship to capitalism as an emotional and sexual relationship is instructive.  It encourages us see that falling out of love with capitalism is not enough.  We’ve already done that.  But we’ve got other needs to fill.  We’ve got to get our kicks somehow and while we might not love our economics and social relations anymore, I think that we are still very much making the odd booty call to capital when we get that itchy feeling.  We know it’s wrong, we know we shouldn’t, we know neither of us will be able to move on but … unfortunately we are getting any action anywhere else.

In other words, capitalism (or corporatism) might be a horrible partner but it sure fucks us good.  Smartphones, long haul flights for 1p, strawberries in winter, massive houses and massive debts, these things are just to tempting.  We need them (or at least us smart people can find very convincing rationalizations for why we need them). .

No matter how much we hate each other, then, it seems too hard to tear ourselves apart.  Like the battered wife or kidnap victim we cannot help but make emotional attachments to even the very worst of partners.  But what would we say to someone trying to leave this kind of relationship: you’ve just got to get out of it, the big gesture, the arguments, the endless heart to hearts just keep alive the false hope that you can change the other person.

Indeed, I had a friend once who was in a relationship that he hated.  He convinced himself that the girl was both his ultimate partner and his worst enemy.  He loved and hated her.  Rather than deal with it, he’d talk to anybody and everybody about it.  He’d get drunk and pour his heart out to strangers.  Of course, he never did anything about it until he came to realization that he’d have to go a few months without sex in order to keep his sanity, his friends and his livers from frying.

That’s why I’m not convinced about the whole occupy movement.  It has great symbolic value but what else does it achieve?  I’m not sure it really achieves much.  It’s got a few academics on telly and youtube, it’s made a few of us feel better, but it seems to me that it actually ties us even closer to the very things we hate. We all know that out computers are made in horrible conditions that we wouldn’t wish on anyone but what choice do we have other than to buy them!  We buy sustainable tuna when we can, we don’t get plastic bags we don’t need, but fuck man, we need a smart phone to know what’s happening at the occupy camp.  We can politically offset it!

Just as we wish our partners were freaks like the Pussycats Dolls, we wish that some alternative economic and social relations could do the kinds of things capitalism can. At some point we have to move on.  Occupation is not enough.  We need to get over it.

5 thoughts on “Occupy yourself and get over it … 50 ways to leave capitalism or don’t you wish socialism was a freak like me

  1. That is a real question if we are to interrogate the mentality of capitalism. If the question is both to have smart phones and dream about alternatives should we seek new ways of creating consumer pressure on corporations? Or, with a romantic utopian image, should we ask do we really need all these stuff? If we think about alternative economic and social relations, where should we begin then? Perhaps the beginning will be when the ones who suffer most (e.g. Foxconn workers) will ask questions about ownership and will occupy the smartphone stores. Are we expecting these from occupation movements or are we expecting new politics to persuade people why they need a better life/work conditions?

  2. Our love-hate relationship with capitalism is no more than the latest chapter in the very long story of our problematic relationhip with money. Freud’s oft-cited observation of the close asociation between money and shit, and the consequent anality of economic interaction more generally reflects an attitude towards wealth that is confused to say the least. Or, at least, it seems to be very confused now because we tend not to reflect on it and, in doing so, massively overdetermine the privileged domain of the economic as a self-evident and neutral ‘truth’. Earlier depictions of money and economy associate them with the morally ambiguous and profoundly libidinous figures of the Trickster (Hermes was, among many other things, a god of Trade, Money and the market place) and the Devil (cf. the series of Epinal prints of Le Diable d’Argent from the 17th century onwards that depict a flying ‘money devil’ shitting coins into the outstretched hands of the mesmerised bourgeoisie). That said, for all this reflexive honesty about the fecal nature of money, no-one else seems to have been able to resolve the knotty issue of what to do to free ourselves from this enticing, empowering and enslaving thing that we all hate so much. Occupy won’t either, but at least they’re reminding us to ask the question.

  3. The invisible hand is capable of performing many more feats than economists think not least of which is the invisible handjob (shameless plug for my working paper coming soon!). The tolerance and openness that Hardy talks about (and Stephen nicely critiques) are all well and good but people have other needs to. There’s civilization AND ITS DISCONTENTS.

  4. I’m sorry but this has to be said. first of all grammatically this is a horribly written article. Secondly putting your opinion in and saying things like “educated smart people like us” immediately discredits any merit you might possible achieve through writing this. Thirdly you make it plainly clear that you do not know enough not care to know enough about this topic to be even discussing it as a possibility for those who do wish to seek an alternative for the trap we are born into without choice. And as soon as we are old enough to consider and rationalise the alternatives it is too late because we have to get a job and a mortgage.

    Sorry fella but this was a completely irrelevant article.

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