Friday, May 25, 2007

Marx and Windows

It's the exams season and I'm once more working as a supervisor. Today in one of the rooms in the new extension of the college, with a huge glass wall but no windows. There's an air conditioner which is always either too cold or hot. The control is a flimsy plastic switch, which some people take pleasure in pouring superglue on. As a result I often find myself in a freezing room (with 20 shivering candidates). I wonder what happened to windows: a great invention, which helps to regulate air flow and temperature. Best of all, it doesn't take electricity. What will happen to these air conditioners when energy prices quadrupole?

The exams period is good to catch on all the reading I avoided. For the past three days it has been Das Capital. I expected something densely complex, but to my surprise the text - while cumbersome and tedious - is far from difficult. Another surprise was to find Marx overtly antisemitic:

The Capitalist knows that all commodities, however scurvy they may look, or however badly they may smell, are in faith and in truth money, inwardly circumcised Jews [...]

(Volume I, Part II, chapter IV, The General Formula for Capital).

All I can say is, look at the mirror, dude.

Probably the worst thing is his sense of humour. He loves to make these erudite, smug and completely not funny comments. He sounds like those types in the British Library one has to avoid at all costs, especially if you're a young good looking girl.

On a more learned note, it is interesting that Marx's world, in which value is congealed labour, is a world of nature shaped by man (sic). That is: nothing in his account is finite, certainly not water or energy. Capitalism has unleashed a world of exponential growth, restricted by its own speed limit only, or perhaps by the uprising of the proletariat. It is a presupposition he shares with liberals, and one that we may all soon find disastrously wrong, when the finite-ness of our world will force us to stop building offices without windows.


نیکی said...

This is such a smart point.

It's been a long time since I've read any marx, but i would say that he does in fact deal with finite-ness (I know that's not a word), but of course not in terms of the "raw" material of energy or water.

Anyway, i think you should write about this more extensively.

mink said...

I think I should read more Marx to make a real argument. I come to this through his concept of money, which in Capital is ultimately gold. But today money means nothing but trust in a political-economic order. Some Peak-Oil-ers who see an energy crisis coming up soon are proposing money based on an energy-standard, something you can't just print but will actually 'mean' something in real terms. But as a critique of Marx this may have implications beyond money. Still have to get my head round these things.