The Crisis of Over-Accumulation

The age of post-modernity marks a transition best articulated as a cultural expression of the structural reconfiguration of the socio-economic system.  This era is dominated by the “logic of prosthesis” wherein labor translates as the act of consumption rather than that of production. This transference triggered by the technological innovations in the sphere of mechanical labor gave way to the ethos of mass consumption. In Post-Fordism, we witness “a shift to new ‘information technologies’: more flexible forms of labor process…decline of the manufacturing base…a greater emphasis on the ‘targeting of consumers by lifestyle, taste and culture…globalization” (Latham 9). Gramsci’s ‘regulation theory’ gave rise to a ‘regime of accumulation’ engendering the growth of a middle class disillusioned by various media apparatus’ propagating agency as consumption, commodity fetishism and the production of artificial needs.

In the decade to follow 1970, the “crisis of over-accumulation” began exhausting the perpetual rhythm of the capitalist system. It was Marx who first recognized that “capitalism is pregnant with contradictions.”  The undeniable structural flaws of the system rendered the relationship between the socio-economic and the cultural sphere riddled with the potentiality to one-day collapse. This inevitability manifested itself in the era of Post-Fordism.  Over the past thirty years, we have witness the relationship between capital and labor growing estranged as well as living standards falling in tandem to deindustrialization and the outsourcing of labor to less developed nations. This structural shift in the mode of regulation can be attributed to “the powerful tension in postwar capitalism between an ascetic ethos of production and a hedonistic ethos of consumption- between the competing demands of work and of leisure” (Latham 7) which manifested itself namely in the youth culture. In the decades to follow 1970, which marked a perverse reconfiguration of the mechanism in which the socio-political apparatus exercised it power over society at large, the notion of youth remained central as did the question of the cyborg.

The fetishism of the youth has always been a central element of the systemic structure of the capitalist apparatus. Even at the peak of Fordism, the youth was conceived “not merely as an empirical category but as an ideological abstraction, in a way that erased distinction between youthful bodies and mechanic processes” (Latham 8). The hybrid form of manufacturing innate to the Fordism rendered the human and machine as interconnected entities in the productive process.  Thus, one could wage the argument that it was this techno-economic paradigm signified the birth of the cyborg. Whereas, “prewar high technology had centered on industrial production, the postwar period has seen the rise of so-called postindustrial technologies of information that have further collapsed distinctions between human and machine” (9). It goes without saying, that more and more with the evolution of technological innovation do we witness the blurring of boundaries between corporal and the mechanic entities.

In relation to the youth culture and the notion of the cyborg, “Marx’s dialectical image continues to grasp the basic logic of capitalist automation, whether industrial or cybernetic in form” (25).  Whereas in Fordism the fetishism of youth was rooted in the productive power tied to the able bodied demographic, in post modernity the youth is perceived as a “consumable substance”.  In other words, perpetual youth has become a commodity that can be obtained through the act of consumption. The cyborg manifests itself in commodification of the biocybernetic, cosmetic and medical possibilities laced with the promise of evading age. The mechanism of mass media is designed to solicit the seductive possibility of perpetual youth packaged as something that can be obtained at a cost.  In advertisements, among many other forms of media text, Marx’s theory of ‘use-value’ is replaced by what Haug coins as the ‘promise of use-value’.  This shift sheds light in the perverse direction the system has headed in one last desperate attempt at structural sustainability.  The glut of commodities has necessitated the production of sign value and the use of media text to instill lack where there is none.

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