The social relations of contemporary capitalism are perceived, as in pre-capitalist social formations, as relations of personal dependence, subordination and domination; the social causes of these relations appear masked in the phantasies of personal values, personal excellence or deficiency, personal merits or faults, and so on. Social tensions that necessarily arise from these same relations are ultimately experienced as interpersonal conflicts. In short, Močnik writes, ‘The class struggle assumes in the eyes of those involved the fantastic form of personal intrigues.’ The more these individuals perceive their social position in terms of their personal biography, or the success or failure of their ‘career’, and experience their relations to their fellow men and women through competition struggles and mutual exclusions, the more they blindly support and reproduce the structure of capitalist domination.
This is, according to Močnik, the mechanism behind the processes that we perceive today, in their existential immediacy, as a re-feudalization of social relations. It comes to light in the entire sphere of civil society, where any element of the individual lifeworld, from lifestyle or entertainment to family relations – elements that were originally of no interest to the state – now might turn into an ideological apparatus of the capitalist state, having huge impact on the political life of society.

In fact, the overall social, historical and cultural ground on which this new interest in Marx occurs is increasingly narrowing. It is shrinking together with the light of the central sun of freedom, the figure of the free and equal individual that has been for the last two centuries illuminating the worlds revolving around it. The more the sun cools down, ever-larger parts of its system are swallowed by the new vernacular darkness. And while here, around the dimming light of an old, tired and ever-weaker freedom, Capital is well preserved, lovingly taken care of and seriously discussed and studied – as is right and proper for such a valuable and long-canonized piece of the world’s cultural heritage – there in the darkness people don’t give a damn about the book. Rather, they get buried again with their holy Bibles, Qurans or Torahs, with their reconsecrated national myths, or the masterpieces of post-truth trash. But if it is true that they have abandoned Marx, it is even more true that Marx has abandoned them. He no longer talks to them in their new vernaculars – the languages of the decaying post-translational societies that have become slow to catch up with the acceleration of technological development, global trade, finance and politics; that increasingly lose the capacity to convey the complexity of the contemporary world and to critically reflect upon its contradictions, dangers and chances; that have scrapped the ideas of enlightenment – which once raised them into the spheres of secular universality, natural and human sciences, culture, the rule of law and political freedoms – to replace them with the neo-medieval ‘values’ of servitude, ignorance and superstition; that have sunk into their own ahistorical temporalities, without any relation to a common history, the languages of those who were liberated from Marx only to be left behind by global capitalism. They have accumulated an enormous capacity for political mobilization, but it is today increasingly activated for the interests of domination and exploitation. It is from this ever broadening and deepening vernacular darkness that contemporary capitalism draws today the ideological energy for its ongoing reproduction. At stake is a metabolism between the neoliberal economy and neo-medieval social relations, a kind of ideological accumulation of the capitalism of our age.

Boris Buden

 

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