The Spectre of the Commodity Form

My friend Ènziramire shared a paper with me, "Wages against Artwork: The Social Practice of Decommodification" by Leigh Claire La Berge. The author explores decommodification as the obverse side of commodification rather than its opposite (which should really be an expansion of the commons). I agree with this formula in general, but La Berge's case studies were of platform-communities where members directly exchanged goods, services, and favors for the same in return (especially among craft-artisans). Shared these thoughts with him, but also wanted to offer them for consideration and critique.

I think there's a tendency for some Marxists to overemphasize the specific influence or centrality of money in capitalism. Like, of course, money as the universal equivalent is what makes the vast abstraction and socialization of labor possible, but money itself is only a metaphor of value which is only expressed relative to another commodity (i.e., as a comparison of socially necessary labor time realized in aggregate exchange).

I'm not sure that the craft-barter experiments really escape commodity logic, which cascades and evolves from exchange. The author focuses on how one service acts as a metaphor in value for another, but that's already the basic assumption of even simple commodity exchange?! The only difference is that exchange is direct and "simple" rather than being mediated through money, but the money exchange was only ever a veil over the transference of value anyway.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if the communist slogan—"From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs"—is not specifically a retort against the commodity socialists whose visions were of equal exchange of labor? Read literally, isn't it about severing the social link between production and consumption as an economic movement, for one to give as possible and take as needed? Is this the true end goal?

If so, to what extent is the desire for equal exchange not just a petit bourgeois distraction from overcoming capitalist hell? I think it's telling that craft-artisans and boutique markets are often the basis of this ideal world, of specialized individuals fully actualizing themselves in their self-employed labor, and exchanging their fruits with other individuals. Where is the socialization of labor and the free distribution of product? Why are farmers' markets the model, as opposed to food banks? And socialized farming on the productive side, of course. But? Why?! Why does it always come to this over here?

There's definitely an easy answer!


  1. Replies
    1. leftists want one thing and it's fucking lebensraum...

  2. Negri would have wanted us to our way out of the commodity form, that's on the dead homie


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