the ideal commodity

“… survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

Audre Lorde

I can appreciate Lorde's statement, because it assists and complements my ongoing, pseudo-scholarly work on "hipsters," marketing, self-delusion, self-branding, and the social politicization of consumption (and how this is realized on the Internet. I mean, since you asked.)

If the locus of one's social identity is changed via Internet communication, he or she can then displace the identity constructed by everyday synchronous discourse. New, asynchronous alternate realities of self can then be formed. Ok, so that's pretty obvious, but what does that signify, and how does this happen?

Culture. The internet has refracted and diffused not only how we consume, but how we express consumption:

To paraphrase Adorno, culture is the ideal commodity, one by which all other commodities are sold. Your lithographs, your limited editions, your ticket stubs, and other debris of systemic monetary exchange aid in your construction of a smaller grid, a more permeable structure, which you believe you are living outside of--yet this is housed in a larger, more oppressive, more insidious and expansive grid of capital, and all the ideologies which prolong capitalism's life.
How can someone like you dismantle the master's house, when you don't believe you were ever given the keys? Extending Lorde's metaphor only to contradict it: you are the urban planner, the materials developer, the architect, the resident, and the vagrant forever locked outside of a smaller community that you believe you've designed. However, all this activity is reactive, and predicated upon a preexisting hierarchy. Subculture does not foment under, or in opposition to, the dominant culture: they live in tandem, guided by the same modes of consumption. "Product" is the sole variable.

What we have chosen to believe is that our consumption habits are dictated by an individual ethic, when in reality that ethic has been informed entirely by what we consume. Employ hermeneutical phenomenology, with the capitalist landscape of both the Internet and the third dimension as your text: How can we interpret our personal ethical codes, our modes of existence, as being independent of a system that we are born into? "Subculture" disguises this ontological symmetry--it is only a representation of difference.

So, what? It means that revolution will never come from the underground. It is not a material or political failure, but purely a failure of aesthetics: that social space is comprised of people who already believe that they are living in a revolutionary or dissenting way. And so, revolution will probably never come at all.

Alex Cruise