A cultural apparatus always arises to serve the needs of capital. It’s not a conspiracy of any sort, of course. People intuit what would make them more competitive and promote these qualities in themselves, declaring them socially desirable.
What does capital currently need? A rootless labor force that won’t he held back by networks of human relationships from picking up and going whenever capital needs it at this point.
In order to create such a labor force, human relationships need to be devalued and come to be seen as fraught, dangerous, and really not worth the hassle. Remember all these checklists of “How to Support a Bereaved Colleague?” or “How NOT to Talk to a Special Needs Child’s Parent” variety? Obviously, nobody is going to memorize all those laundry lists of prohibitions and exhortations for every occasion. It’s easier to pretend that the bereaved colleague or SNC parent don’t exist.
Another strategy is to displace liquid capital’s qualities, such as unpredictability and endless mutability, onto human relationships. It’s not capital that’s making you feel confused and like you can’t keep up. Oh no, not at all. It’s the changing nature of dating norms and workplace flirtation.
Workplace as a space where people work together for protracted periods of time is positioned as extremely dangerous. Capital prefers self-employed, alienated workers who simply don’t have colleagues they know in person and could, say, form a union with. The next best thing (for capital but clearly not for workers) is a revolving-door office where nobody stays long enough to create any meaningful links.
7 thoughts on “Destroying Relationships”
Seems to me that, anymore, the world can’t stand the idea of accomplishing anything useful, or of initiating anything resembling progress.
Brilliant and unnerving, Clarissa. I’m quoting this on basil.CA – my readers need to see this. Thank you! – Bob
I’m glad you like it. 🙂
I’m not sure I buy it. For, uh, theoretical reasons rather than ones based on experience. This seems to assign to capital overwhelming explanatory power… Which, well, fair enough.
But capitalism as a social force didn’t just appear yesterday, and if we assign equally powerful explanatory power to it in the past… Then, what? The historical fact that there were unions and closer relationships between workers is to be explained by the needs of capitalism as well?
If I was more politically inclined, I’d even go so far as to say that a theory that frames capitalism as conceptually necessary isn’t likely to be able to form viable alternatives to it.
To put it more bluntly, people want to be able to make a living. And it’s easier to do that if you are not held back by relationships with other people. So they just train themselves to fear and avoid others.
This can all be explained without even using the word capital. People simply want to be more employable.
That something like this can repeatedly happen in our country shows how separated we have become.
Other articles have more interviews with the neighbors citing more disturbing behavior, but no one ever reported it, because they didn’t think it was “their business” to get involved (in protecting children from severe abuse and starvation)
What really gets me is the articles that come up in the opposite direction. People will holler for CPS if an 8-year-old goes to the park, or even plays in their own yard unattended, but knowing that several children are kept penned up and only allowed out to do yard work after dark, and are terrified of speaking to anyone, doesn’t cause any concern, apparently.