Kapital is capable of distorting perceptions, value-judgments and decision-making processes. Its effects have been studied by psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, military-industrial and labor relations scholars, anthropologists, and other non-economic and non-financial fields. All of them can be influenced by the effects of Kapital, but its effects on the Culture of any nation-state deserves to be investigated in the SMP Compendium. The significance can be traced back to why The Fourth Estate exists and from where the Blog’s name originated.
To begin, every Culture and Tradition originate from a people, a Totality, who created it. Such Cultures and Traditions are shaped over the course of centuries for some and even millennia for others. The social bonds which united them were molded by a shared set of customs and norms that they created to maintain a sense of social cohesion. In every Culture, there is the Low Culture accessible and known to all, and the High Culture reserved for those who devote themselves to it. They can be the clergy in the context of religions, the esoteric (as opposed to the exoteric) in the case of the Occult, and the elites from the commoners.
In the Western world, this was understood as the old Three Estates System that predate the Enlightenment. All of the best contributions to Western Culture were the result of the High Cultures among the various Western peoples. The Low Cultures are able to exist because they are more well-known by larger numbers of people, who in turn pass them down to the next generation through words, texts, stories, and mythologies. The High Cultures live on because of how they easily stand out as the creations of the spiritual and intellectual minds. Since few of them exist, it is understandable to expect that they would be receiving posthumous attention.
Yet one of the noticeable effects in the changeover from Western Culture to Western Civilization has been the blurring of High and Low Cultures. The signs are more obvious under Liberal Capitalism, where Kapital disintegrates the barriers between High and Low Cultures through the artificial engineering of “Pop Culture.” Everyone is familiar with Pop Culture by dint of how well-known and easily-accessible they are through the power of mass communications and mass advertising firms. Even that Liberal Capitalist Friedrich von Hayek understood the implications of those implications when he and Ludwig von Mises addressed in the “Economic Calculation Problem” as well as in The Road to Serfdom. Those technologies became the subject of his more obscure writings on Cybernetics, outlining the basis of the decentralization and the deluge of trivial information in the digital realm.
What Pop Culture has done since it became feasible around the turn of the 20th century is the loss of distinguishable characteristics in everyday media. Everything must appeal to some target audience somewhere and everyone who encounters it is more likely to be the lowest denominator for simple-mindedness. Nothing from Pop Culture is sacred or meaningful on a deep level; on the contrary, it is meant to be shallow and superficial to the point of being tedious and tiresome. Kapital, not talent, skill or devotion, reigns supreme.
The problems of Pop Culture accumulated by the latter half of the 20th century, when the Bretton Woods System enabled the proliferation of Subcultures. A Subculture is the subset of a much larger Pop Culture devoted a specific interest, topic or hobby. Most “Fandoms” since Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle created the character Sherlock Holmes share those characteristics. The people involved rarely ‘broaden their horizons’ into other Subcultures unless it pertains to their own. In the realm of the political, some have claimed that this is a sign of “Tribalism”; in the ream of social interactions, it is called “Toxicity.” Both are just terms that refer to the same phenomenon introduced by the emergence of the “Division of Labor” since the Enlightenment.
The implications that Kapital has on the subversion of Culture raises many implications. Is there a consistent pattern of characteristics associated with Subcultures and their interactions with the broader Pop Culture? Why do certain Subcultures, like those from the 1960s Counterculture, tend to eventually die out? How frequent is it for any cultural trend to become outdated, ceasing to exist for simply not being ‘new’ enough (Read: maintain a high enough Marginal Utility to generate the most Kapital through the “greatest happiness for the greatest number”)? When does it become apparent that certain Subcultures and trends should be revisited on the basis of “Nostalgia?” And what conclusions can be drawn about declining Socialization and the loss of true individuality, from mundane social interactions to political-economic discourse?
The most consistent pattern of Subcultures and whatever trends that originated from them are associated with social identity and one of the defining traits of Liberal Capitalism. Liberal Capitalists in general reject all collective identities such as Class, State, Church and Totality by favoring the Individual to the exclusive of the rest as the Totality. The motive rests on trying to ‘to be free from a herd mentality devoid of substance and ‘to be free to’ adopt a new identity as the Individual sees fit. What happens is that the Subcultures are not meant to change the Pop Culture, but try to be different for the sake of simply being different and not much else. Since Liberal Capitalism resents the Traditions and Cultures of the past for being ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’, there is no past to consider as inspiration.
Certain Subcultures tend to die out as a result of their Marginal Utility in generating Kapital. Experiencing more of the same provides a new ‘Incentive’ for creating something entirely new, even if it tries too hard to be original and comes across as vanity. This manifests in Subcultures having to adapt and stay relevant, deviating from what has been done to the point of alienating long-time fans for the sake of ‘being different’.
The concept of “Memes,” as Richard Dawkins understood it in The Selfish Gene, serves as another aspect of whether Subcultures live on or die out. True to the Darwinian side of the Liberal Capitalist ideology, Memes engage in a survival of the fittest in which the most well-known ones get to be passed on to the next generation like the genes in the Darwinist Theory of Natural Selection. This too is another parallel to the sort of conclusions that von Hayek was thinking in regards to the rise of mass communications and mass advertising technologies in the 20th century. A similar pattern is also discernible among various trends that emerge and disappear from the broader Pop Culture as commodities of an earlier Zeitgeist. That presents another potential opportunity for Kapital to stimulate any sentiments related to Nostalgia.
In essence, the recent rise of Fandoms and the proliferation of Nostalgia-drive movies, TV shows, video games, and so forth in the 2010s were influenced by Kapital itself in accordance with the Incentives of Supply and Demand. It matters very little whether one appreciates the endless monotony of remakes, reboots, rehashes, and sequels or resents the lack of variety. There is Kapital to be garnered from Nostalgia and Fandoms to be created. Unfortunately, the result is the recreation of the same herd mentality that Liberal Capitalism had once derided in the first place; the only difference is what the herd mentality is fixated on.
There is a negative consequence associated with the prevalent of Pop Culture and subordinating Subcultures and that is the loss of true collective identities. True authenticity disappears and everyone gets to be anything but themselves as part of a larger whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. Any deterioration of identities of Individuals and Totalities can be correlated to the neglect and rejection of the true Traditions and Cultures that made the Pop Culture feasible. Without a shared Culture or Tradition, Socialization becomes difficult, if not outright impossible. This translates to the enforcement of the Left-Right Political Spectrum, thus solidifying the legitimacy of the Liberal Capitalist Financial Regime and the anonymous powers of Kapital.
No search for true individuality begins until the self-aware assurance that one is part of something greater than themselves. The whole is far greater than simply being the sum of its parts as Rene Descartes’ “Cartesian Self” had people believe since the Enlightenment.
Categories: Compendium, Economic History, Philosophy, Politics
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