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CULTURE & ORGANIZATION

Call for Papers

There will be a Special Issue of the journal Culture & Organization on: Commodities & Markets

Edited by Stevphen Shukaitis (Autonomedia / University of Essex) & Ming Lim (University of Leicester)

What would commodities say if they could speak? Marx’s wistful question can seem playful in some registers. Paul Jennings, for instance, proposed in his “Report of Existentialism” (1963) that everyday objects are constantly at war with their users: “things are against us,” he gleefully pronounces. And yet, objects voice themselves not only through our playful – or rueful – gaze.  If Marx had listened long enough, these talking commodities would have announced the traumas of their exploitative and violent birthing to him. Eventually, one imagines, they would have described the nature of the various forms of labour necessary for their production in the capitalist mode. As Fred Moten (2003) points out, history is marked by the revolt of the screaming commodity: the body of the slave fighting against its imposed status of thing-liness.

The rise of consumer culture, the proliferation and intensification of the commodity, can be understood as the expansion of the violence of accumulation all across the social field. The ferocious forces which separate the producer from the product of the labour process have not waned; on the contrary, they have become monstrously multiplied and rendered all the more invisible by their ubiquity in the society of the spectacle (Debord 1983). The critique and denunciation of these forces, have, in fact, become yet another commodity in the spectacle; something we witness today in the backlash against banks, bankers and speculators and all the glorified preening of capitalist consumption they stand for. Is this trend, then, the ‘new spirit of capitalism’?    

And yet, an alternative exists to the vicious dynamics described above.  One thinks, for instance, of the practices of Russian constructivists during the 1920s. The Constructivists, employing their artistic practices and knowledges to reconfigure industrial design and production, argued that rather than denouncing the seductive lure of the capitalist commodity it would be possible to utilize these energies to reshape the socialist world. This would move the objects produced for use and consumption from being capitalist commodity to be active participants in the building of this world: it would make them into comrades (Kiaer 2005).  Yet, how attractive is this vision to the postmodern consumer? Is it more or less dangerous than its alternative?

Today, therefore, we need to reconsider the “state of things,” or, put another way, the “state” of things.  Both bloody commodities and comradely objects exist, as a double edge, all around us:  the stubborn existence of sweatshop production and labour exploitation exist side-by-side with the proliferation of ‘helpful’ technologies and all sorts of interactive gadgets and participatory media networks. Fair trade products have moved from the status of marginal subcultural practices to multinational corporate cash schemes. Are we seeing the inauguration of a new era of ethical production through the commodity form (Arvidsson 2006) or the latest and most comprehensive example of alienation, one that is now self-managed through the fetish of ethical consumption?  What would objects now say to us?

This issue aims to find out. Possible areas for inquiry could include but are not limited to:

• Commodity fetishism, surfaces and glosses

• Revolting objects and rebellious products

• The current ‘ethical’ fetishes in production and consumption

• Autoreduction and reappropriation of commodities

• The labour of making labour ‘disappear’ from commodities

• Spectacular society and its other

• The commons in and through the ‘market’ and ‘markets’

• The madness of crowds and the taming influence of objects

References

Arvidsson, Adam (2006) Brands: Meaning and Value in Media Culture. London: Routledge.

Debord, Guy (1983) Society of the Spectacle. Detroit, MI: Red & Black.

Jennings, Paul (1963) “Report of Resistentialism,” Town & Country. Available at www.resistentialists.com

Kiaer, Christina (2005) Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism. Cambridge: MIT University Press.

Moten, Fred (2003) In The Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

We welcome original, high-quality articles between 6,000 to 7,000 words (including references) which are not currently under consideration by other journals and also shorter review articles, commentaries and book reviews.  Potential contributors are welcome to contact the Editors informally, and especially in the case of shorter pieces they may want to submit:  stevphen@autonomedia.org or m.lim@leicester.ac.uk

SUBMISSION PROCESS

Full submission instructions are available on the Culture and Organization publishers’ homepage:   http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/14759551.asp. Please read these in full before submitting your manuscript.

Important Dates

• Paper submission deadline: 3rd June, 2011

• Camera ready papers:  30th April, 2012

Publication scheduled for September 2012.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com