Monday, August 25, 2008

Why the GDP is Madness

I've read some analysis like this before, but this short piece in a recent Harper's really does a good job of making the case for the insanity of subordinating all other priorities to the cash economy.

Some of my colleagues may disapprove of the way the piece seems tinged by a certain nostalgia for the "traditional" family. They may object to this as essentialist, or as a call for the return of a way of life that was patriarchal, homophobic, and disapproving of many other forms of difference.

I think all these criticisms are meaningful, and would hope that we can work toward a future in which the non-money economy is not founded on unrecognized drudgery by women, and in which closely knit communities are not based around principles that insist on homogeneous aesthetic choices and sexual practices.

However, at the same time, I think we cultural studies scholars, especially those of us who work on popular culture, have an unfortunate tendency to valorize a variety of consumption-based practices and cultural forms simply because they seem "radical" or like something that would shock the oppressively square church-going denizens of middle America.

It may be fun to feel edgy and hip, but so long as our cultural forms are based on consumption, they only serve to hand over to capital ever more power to make decisions about what is best for our society as a whole. And capital, as this piece points out, is systemically incapable of giving a damn about anything other than ever more profit, and ever more production. If we want to introduce any other values at all back into our political discourse, we're going to have to enter into discussion with our neighbors... even if those neighbors may hold values that make us uncomfortable.

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