O I have so many things to tell you since we were apart, and most of them have to do with it getting dark out earlier and how incredibly unprepared I feel for this holiday season. Can we just skip this year? It seems the older I get the less enthusiastic I am for these shenanigans, which makes perfect sense, since Christmas used to mean tons of new things and a solid week to sit in my house and enjoy them. Now I mostly drive from suburb to suburb, coordinate dinner and drink meetups with in from out friends, spend endless hours comparing prices on gifts, etc, my god, I’m boring myself even as I try to make this remotely readable. Point is, I have never really felt the end of year so acutely.
I have a little theory cooking, which is partly Walter Benjamin, perhaps, and partly my own thievery from somewhere else, that all that is left (perhaps ever was?) in the phenomenal world is design. A language free from meaning! Baudrillard? Well I’ll have better sentences for you later.
What I really want to talk about this week is a little thing I like to call irony, which is also another installment of the as yet unlaunched tag “Lunches with Jay.”
Here’s what Jay said, and please take these quotes as suggestions of authenticity: “I was digging through the amendments of the Constitution the other day and noticed this interesting thing. You just think about this. The 13th amendment outlawed slavery, right, mid nineteenth century, ‘neither slavery norinvoluntary servitude, bla bla bla, shall exist in the United States’–right, got that. Now just a few years later the 14th amendment comes around and, while guarunteeing some basic citizenship rights for like, real people, also, post hoc, laid the law for corporations to be considered people as well. This is largely known as corporate personhood, and the most famous ruling for this is Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Do you see what I’m saying? There is a contradiction in the amendments. Corporations are owned by people, shareholders, so in a sense, they collectively own a ‘person,’ and isn’t this slavery?”
Okay I’ll admit I looked some of this up, but I thought this was a soapy little nugget of interest. Now I make no sincere claims that this is a blog on constitutional law, and I’m sure there is an entire discourse I’m missing here (I recognize this whole corporate personhood thing is hotly debated), but I wanted to take off from where Jay and I had to end our lunch, exactly as he raised his questioning voice at the end of “slavery,” and ask a follow-up question.
This has more to do with the creation of corporations than it does with their citizen status. I smell a little story of intrepid ingenuity. So it goes like this: I can’t have a physical slave? Well, then I’ll make an abstract one. It will work for me, make me money (as a shareholder); it will both produce goods for a market and be goods for a market, same as a corporeal (ha!) slave. And it will do all these things as I order it to.
Now my point is not to convince you that corporations are slaves in total, but to use what are clearly similarities to look at this thing I mentioned early. Namely, the shift from the physical to the abstract, by means of technology. In this case, the technology of shareholders, percentage ownerships, and those ownerships being traded as commodities themselves. I’m sure there are four hundred books I’ve never read that are about this shift, but, like most things in this blog, I’m just coming to it right now, with you, while you are at work or wherever, and can we just sit and ponder it for a second? In many ways, and this might be Marxist, this might be our greatest accomplishment in the surreal, since it essentially takes our most base necessity, that of production, and throws its various identities and shapes to the discretion of a sort of meta-market, a market that guesses at its actual market. See what I’m saying? Do not fear the robots in science fiction. Fear the ones we’ve already made.