In Service to Scarcity: The Pursuit of Value as the Production of Poverty

Rhodes, Jason

Publisher:  Insurgent Notes
Date Written:  17/04/2016
Year Published:  2016  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19390

This essay argues that exploring the roots and subsequent development of capitalist value theory over the course of the nineteenth century reveals a Janus-faced project:on the one hand, the development of a popular narrative which insists upon the "natural" inevitability of the scarcity which both backs value and precludes socialism, and on the other, an esoteric discussion of the need to channel the labor-power of society in directions that maintain the scarcity of the goods for which the majority exchange their time.



The anti-capitalist left is in need of a coherent, popularly accessible critique of capitalist value.We live in a time in which well-researched exposés of capitalist crimes are common—think Monsanto, or the numerous studies that trace everyday objects to the labor and environmental horror stories at the production end of their supply chains—but do little, if anything, to explain the systemic logic that produces the conditions under discussion, much less spark subversive dialogue about possible alternatives to capitalism.Indeed, both elites and the public seem to be held in thrall by a “market populism” that suggests that freedom is found in the marketplace, and “radical” critiques of the systems that produce our food, clothing or electronics frequently conclude by urging us to “revolutionize” the market via a redirection of our purchasing power.

What’s missing, of course, is any critique of the institution of capitalist value, an understanding of which is obviously necessary for any attempt to analyze and explain what drives the allocation of time and resources in our society, or to provide a clear and comprehensible answer to the question, what are we chasing, or being compelled to chase, in this rat race?Being able to answer this question seems crucial to any effort to make a convincing case that the race be scrapped, or to projects animated by a desire to scrap it, or at leastprovide exits and resting points from it along the way.
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