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THE REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE - VANEIGEM
Exchange and Gift - Page 36

The infection of human relations by exchange and bargaining is plainly linked to the existence of the bourgeoisie. The fact that exchange persists in a part of the world where it is claimed that there is a classless society suggests that the shadow of the bourgeoisie continues to rule under the red flag. Especially as the pleasure of giving, which appears in all industrial societies, defines very clearly the frontier between the world of calculation and the world of exuberance, of festivity. This style of giving has nothing to do with the prestige-gift practiced by the nobility, hopelessly imprisoned by the notion of sacrifice. The proletariat really does carry the project of human fullness, the project of total life: a project in which the aristocracy had failed, albeit failed magnificently. But let's give the devil his due: it is through the historical presence and mediation of the bourgeoisie that such a future becomes accessible to the proletariat. Is it not thanks to the technical progress and the productive forces developed by capitalism that the proletariat is in a position to realize, through the scientifically elaborated project of a new society, the egalitarian visions, the dreams of omnipotence and the desire to live without dead time? Today everything confirms the mission, or rather the historical opportunity of the proletariat: the destruction and supersession of feudalism. And it will do it by trampling underfoot the bourgeoisie, which is doomed to represent merely a transitional period in the development of man, albeit a transitional period without which the superseding of the feudal project would have been inconceivable: an essential stage, then, which created the lever without which unitary power would never have been overthrown, and above all could never have been transformed and corrected according to the project of the whole man. The invention of God shows that unitary power was already a world for the whole man, but for a whole man standing on his head. All that was required was to turn it right side up.

No liberation is possible this side of economics; in the world defined by economics there is only a hypothetical economics of survival. With these two truths the bourgeoisie is spurring mankind on towards the supersession of economics, towards a point beyond history. So the bourgeoisie is doing an even greater service than that of putting technology at the service of poetry. Its greatest day will be the day it disappears.

2

Exchange is linked to the survival of primitive hordes in the same way as privative appropriation; both together constitute the fundamental axiom on which the history of mankind has been built up to the present day.

When the first men found that it gave them more security in the face of a hostile nature, the formation of hunting territories laid the foundations of a social organization which has imprisoned us ever since. (Cf.Raoul and Laura Makarius: Totem et exagomie.) Primitive man's unity with nature is essentially magical. Man only really separates himself from nature by transforming it through technology, and as he transforms it he disenchants it. But the use of technology is determined by social organization. The birth of society coincides with the invention of the tool. More: organization itself is the first coherent technique of struggle against nature. Social organization -- hierarchical, since it is based on private appropriation -- gradually destroys the magical bond between man and nature, but it preserves the magic for its own use: it creates between itself and mankind a mythical unity modelled on the original participation in the mystery of nature. Framed by the 'natural' relations of prehistoric man, social organization slowly dissolves this frame that defines and imprisons it. From this point of view, history is just the transformation of natural alienation into social alienation: a process of disalienation becomes a process of social alienation, a movement of liberation only produces new chains; until the will for human liberation launches a direct attack upon the whole collection of paralyzing mechanisms, that is on the social organization based on privative appropriation. This is the movement of disalienation which will undo history and realize it in new modes of life.

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