In the Communist Manifesto, written over a century ago, Karl Marx predicted the inexorable globalisation of capitalism. In the opening lines of Das Kapital, Marx speaks of capitalism presenting itself primarily as an accumulation of commodities – and of the defining feature of capitalist market economy being that human labour – and with it the human being itself – is itself transformed into a commodity to be bought, sold and used.
Marx’s analysis of the inherent contradictions of capitalism have become more evident today than at the time he wrote. We all see today that the interests of global capital and its ‘bottom line’ are irreconcilable with the need to protect the earth from climate change, to reduce the gulf between rich and poor countries and strata of society, to eradicate the roots of crime and terrorism, to overcome the epidemics of ‘stress’, ‘mental illness’, ‘anti-social’ behaviour, to prevent cultural degeneracy and ‘dumbing down’, to halt the decline in verbal and emotional literacy, and with it, the growing incapacity of human beings to experience deep spiritual intimacy with others.
The result is an era of ‘globalisation’ which Teresa Brennan has correctly characterised as one of social psychosis. This social psychosis is the direct result of the total commodification, consumerisation and marketisation of all aspects of human life, together with the total devaluation of all deep human values, their transformation into subjugation to ‘shareholder values’, and their transformation into brand values attached to things – consumer commodities.
The subject as producer sells himself and his energy to the system (and the given) without care and concern for the products, which somehow have their own life, prostrating himself as a slave to their production, while the worker as consumer buys and takes the products from the system (and the given), telling the system to “go screw itself”. Alienation as self-alienation takes the form of setting one aspect of consciousness against the other, giving rise to a dynamics of alternately using and being used, exploiting and being exploited, … objectifying and being objectified. Michael Kosok.
Where life is reduced to using and being used, no wonder that social psychosis manifests itself in every conceivable variety of ‘abuse’ – whether through violence and war, individual and state terrorism, torture and physical abuse, religious and sexual abuse, drug and the abuse of psychiatry and medicine to suppress all the individual symptoms of a sick society. All this is backed up by a constant abuse of education, marketing and the media to turn human beings into culturally ignorant wage slaves on the one hand, and autistic consumers or ‘users’ on the other.
In the era of social psychosis that has resulted from the globalisation of capitalism, it is no longer possible to achieve revolutionary social change or revolution through political means alone. For politics itself has become marketised – resulting in a situation in which political ideologies and parties of all colours are themselves marketed and sold as commodities. As a result:
One either functions within the system, accepting it, or one functions outside the system, rejecting and attacking it, but the system itself remains un-transformed. Ibid.
As a result, revolutionary socialism, in the era of social psychosis, can no longer take the form of political activism, for in this situation:
….any one-sided action is always a passive reaction to a given.
Conformity means simple acceptance of the given while rebellion means simple rejection of the given; both are therefore reactive mechanisms to the given.
Indeed the highest form of normalcy functions by simultaneously permitting both acceptance and rejection, conformity and rebellion, playing off one against the other without transcending either. Ibid.
What is required is a ‘socialism with soul’ – a socialism that rescues human subjectivity from the essence of ‘abuse’ – the alienation of alternately or simultaneously using and being used, exploiting and being exploited, objectifying and being objectified, violating and being violated, terrorising and being terrorised, persecuting and being persecuted, attacking and being attacked, judging and being judged.
The revolutionary must always attempt to overcome one’s continual tendency to simply react passively and one-sidedly in the static and contradictory modalities of mere acceptance versus rejection, or the mechanical game of either conformity or destruction, of judging either true or false. A revolutionary transcends judgement as an end in itself and is concerned with transformation, conversion, salvation and resurrection in the deepest sense.
The only truly revolutionary means to the overcoming of social psychosis is the deepening and expansion of what Mike Kosok, like Martin Buber, termed ‘inter-subjectivity’ – a deepened recognition of and relation to the other as a subject or soul and not as an object or thing. Paradoxically, this deepening of inter-subjectivity – of the immediate relations between one human being and another - can only serve as a means to a revolutionary ‘end’ as long as it is not itself reduced to a mere means to any end but instead valued as an end in itself – as the very essence of ‘revolution’ in the age of social psychosis.