In this revised and expanded version of a 2010 talk, Robert Kurz examines the continuing relevance, and the limitations, of the concept formulated by Adorno and Horkheimer in 1944—the “Culture Industry”—with discussions of “cultural pessimism”, the postmodern “cult of superficiality”, the role of technology in cultural change, the “abstract individual”, advertising, the Internet, “virtualization”, “interactive” media, exhibitionism and narcissistic self-promotion, the pseudo-“gift economy” of the Net, the impact of the current economic crisis on the culture industry, the “depletion of cultural reserves”, “estheticization”, and the impossibility of a separate “cultural revolution”.
In this 2006 interview, Robert Kurz offers a succinct definition the “radical critique of value”, and discusses the nature of the commodity and markets, the “ontologization of value”, abstract labor, the unsavory side of Enlightenment ideology, “the liberation of the abstract individual” as a result of the current global crisis, the “double Marx”, fetishism, Anselm Jappe’s book The Adventures of the Commodity, the continuing relevance of Guy Debord’s concept of the spectacle, and other topics, in an interview for a Brazilian online publication.
Norbert Trenkle of the Krisis Group discusses the crisis of abstract labor in which “capitalism now only functions as a gigantic machine for exclusion and marginalization”, characterized by overaccumulation, the resort to fictitious capital in order to valorize capital and “the total diffusion of abstract labor throughout all of life”, resulting in “the brutalization of individual competition, the exacerbation of sexist and racist violence, the spread of nationalist and ethnic identity politics and the growth of religious sects and mafia gangs”, phenomena that “constitute extensions of the dominant, exclusionary and destructive effects of capitalist logic under crisis conditions”.
Anselm Jappe reflects on the significance of the ongoing crisis of commodity production and the reactions of mainstream commentators, the representatives of the “anti-neoliberal” left, and ordinary people, the role of credit in prolonging the system’s death throes, and the pitfalls of blaming scapegoats for what is actually a systemic collapse, and the “fundamental crisis” of the “value-form”, caused by the immanent contradictions that lie at the heart of the system of commodity production, which we should not save but destroy as quickly as possible in order to make the “leap into the unknown” of “a more human society”, or else endure worse barbarism to come.
Anselm Jappe rejects the traditional concept of politics and proposes a post-political politics appropriate for the crisis conditions of our time, a politics whose task is to “at least preserve the possibility for future emancipation against the dehumanization imposed by the commodity” and is based on a combination of non-representational direct action, the rehabilitation of the idea of sabotage, and anti-capitalist theory that transcends the fixed boundary between praxis and theory, without succumbing to the temptation to seek immediate results by yielding to traditional political attitudes and methods.
A brief review of the history of the “value critique” current and its antecedents, with particular emphasis on its relation to the tradition of the critique of modernity, technology, and the ideology of progress, as well as a discussion of the capitalist recuperation of the “transgressive” cultural politics that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s partly in connection with the search for a replacement for the proletariat as “revolutionary subject”.
Anslem Jappe’s preface to his 2011 book, Credit unto Death: The Decomposition of Capitalism and its Critics, in which the author cautions his readers that “emancipation cannot be the simple result of capitalist development” but will instead “be a leap into the unknown, without a net”, and that the “the crisis is not … synonymous with emancipation”, a claim that “defines the theme of this book”.
Are free individuals the necessary prerequisites for a successful struggle for freedom? - Anselm Jappe
In this text written in late 2011, Anselm Jappe criticizes the popular slogan “We are the 99%” in the context of a discussion of the “anthropological regression” induced by capitalism that has attenuated humanity’s capacity and desire for freedom, emphasizes the continuing relevance of the core concepts of value analysis for the understanding of the current capitalist crisis, and maintains that the present task of revolutionaries “… confronted by the disasters caused by the permanent revolutions unleashed by capital … is to ‘preserve’ some of the essential acquisitions of humanity and to attempt to cultivate them so that they assume a higher form”.
Anti-economics and anti-politics: on the reformulation of social emancipation after the end of "marxism" - Robert Kurz
In this 1997 essay, Robert Kurz discusses the question of the “embryonic form” of “the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society” (Marx); rejecting both the “all-or-nothing” view of the extreme left that sees such a project as doomed to integration into capitalism, and the reformist concept of “dual economy” where cooperative businesses produce for the capitalist market, he advocates a process of “disconnection” from the value matrix that incorporates aspects of both the old cooperative movement and modern “microelectronic” technology while preserving a commitment to overcoming the system of commodity production and a refusal to produce for the market.