Friday, October 30, 2009

Sinking hearts

Karl Marx, Capital:

Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost, was an unproductive worker. On the other hand, a writer who turns out work for his publisher in factory style is a productive worker. Milton produced Paradise Lost as a silkworm produces silk, as the activation of his own nature. He later sold his product for £5 and thus became a merchant. But the literary proletarian of Leipzig who produces books, such as compendia on political economy, at the behest of a publisher is pretty nearly a productive worker since his production is taken over by capital and only occurs in order to increase it.

Personally, I have known many talented people who have produced remarkable work out of the "activation of their own nature." But insofar as their writings or their music or their crafts never adequately "produced" on behalf of an appropriating sponsor, all were subsequently encouraged to view themselves as failures. This is because "productive" work is, in the capitalist estimation, only that work which contributes to capital accumulation; anything else has no "productive" value whatsoever.

This narrow definition of productivity is worth bearing in mind in periods of high unemployment, as individuals and their families wait for that Goldilocks occasion when they can once again contribute "productively" for the benefit of employers. This in spite of the fact that many American communities are in shambles, in desperate need of repair; and that so many people have all their creative capacity to give, yet no viable outlets to do so. It is a surely a mark of distinction that ours is a system incapable of bringing these needs together in a socially productive way.

No comments: