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On Two Monsters the Humanity Faces

· 16 min read

There are two inconspicuous monsters that the humanity is currently facing. These two monsters are mere human products, but have hitherto been completely untamed. They are gradually engulfing, demolishing and devastating human’s own lives. They work in collaboration with one another, depriving the humanity of its autonomy and ruling it like a totalitarian monarch. The beauty of this monarchy is that it allows dissents and rebellion; yet it uses these dissents to fortify and reinforce its total control. The first monster is Res , while the second is Famulavaritia . In this essay, I will discuss Res and Famulavaritia independently in terms of their etiology and individual influences on humans. Then, I will discuss their confluence and the intricate mechanism of their monarchical structure.

The First Monster, Res, and Reification

In this section, I will present Lukács’s theory of reification and its embodiment of Res. According to Lukács, under the capitalist economy, objects are transformed into things for exchange, or commodities. They circulate in the market solely based on their exchange values, marked by their price, while their qualitative use values have been ignored and abandoned in this process. Such domination of exchange values motivates and facilitates commodity production and exchange on a global level to the extent that commodities become the “universal category of society as a whole” (Lukács, 174). Under this condition, the evaluation of qualitative relations becomes the evaluation of quantitative relations. Most noticeably, the social relations manifested during the labor process become objectified quantitative relations between the laborer and the commodity. In fact, for Marx, the exchange value is the prime indicator of the quantity of labor involved in the production process (Lukács, 176).

For instance, prior to the domination of the capitalist economy, a shoemaker handcrafts a pair of leather boots from scratch by his own hours in the back of his shed. He subsequently exchanges that pair of boots with his peasant neighbor’s potatoes. In the capitalist economy, however, the shoemaker moves to a modernized factory, clocking in every morning at 7 o’clock and clocking out at 9 o’clock in the evening. He uses mechanized needles to stitch the soles to the heel and the most soles that he could stitch were 654 in a day. In the factory, he hands down his “finished product” down the assembly line, as the next shoemaker in line would trim the stitches. Somewhere down the end of the assembly line that our shoemaker does not have access to, thousands of thousands leather boots are packaged, shipped and sold to some foreign country. Of course, the shoemaker does not have the faintest idea of who would purchase the shoes with the soles he just stitched.

The above example entails several crucial characteristics of the labor process in the capitalist economy. The most important one is that the original human relationship existed in the production and exchange process degrades into the relationship between human and object. In the first scenario, the neighbor would be appreciative to the shoemaker for the boots, while the shoemaker would feel the same way for the potatoes. In the second scenario, the shoemaker hides behind the veil of factories and mass production, that his labor simply gives rise to part of a product that will eventually be sold to somebody whom he would never meet. In other words, the labor power involved in producing the shoes is no long for the sake of satisfying human’s needs, but rather it has been quantified into the “time socially necessary for [the finishing of a product]” (Lukács, 176). In this way, even the labor power itself degrades into a kind of commodity that exists objectively and independently of the laborer, with which the laborer can exchange for money for the amount of work he has accomplished.

With the objectification of labor power, the commodity- and commodity-exchange-dominated world begins to emerge. In this world, the commodity flows give rise to their own laws that in turn regulates the commodities and their flows. The “invisible forces” that these laws possess influence and generate power control over human activities within the world of commodities (Lukács, 175). Consequently, humans try to study these forces and discover these laws. However, even humans are rather successful in this quest, the most they can achieve is to take advantage of what they have discovered, with no ability at all to alter or control them. Furthermore, since the labor power of humans has also been degraded into a kind of commodity, it therefore is also subject to the control of such laws and forces. As Lukács points out, “a man’s activity… turns into a commodity … subject to the non-human objectivity of the natural laws of society” (175). As we can see, the trend that something created by human activity starts to govern human relations has already begun to emerge.

Subsequently, under the governing of the physical laws of commodity, the fundamental labor process shifts too. On the one hand, the labor process became the subject of rational calculation, just like how people would treat commodities. Factories calculate each single step of the production process, specialize workers in their tasks in the most efficient ways to maximize each individual’s labor power to create maximum yield. This is the case in the shoemaker example as he is only in charge of stitching the soles instead of making the entire shoe from scratch. On the other hand, this specialization in labor also create the mechanical management of time, as time becomes the only factor that would affect the amount of payment a worker would receive. The factories would therefore devise ways that could maximize the amount of production in a minimum time frame. Hence, under this condition, workers become a fixed piece of gear that has its specialized function in the system of a factory, spinning nonstop in the most precise way.

When the entire production process is broken down into mechanical elements, not only all the commodities produced will become homogeneous, but also all those who work to produce the commodities. In order to achieve maximum efficiency, the factory will require each worker to strictly adhere to the specific tasks assigned to him. Even an extra tooth of the gear would stop the entire capitalist engine from running. Therefore, every deviate from the rationalized and pre-calculated regulations through the potential venting of workers’ individual characteristics is intolerable, and will be suppressed and eliminated. In other words, the final objectification of human labor power gives rise to inconspicuous laws that governs human who originally gave rise to these laws, working against the worker’s individual and unique personality. This is therefore the power of Res: it reifies everything, including the social relations among people, which eventually engender the confinement of human psychology within the systems that it dominates.

The Second Monster, Famulavaritia, and the Repressive Affluence

In this section, I will discuss Marcuse’s theory on liberation and repression, and its connection to Famulavaritia. In the preface to his Eros and Civilization, Marcuse starts by pointing out a certain level of optimism in the contemporary scientifically driven society, that people believe that with the help of “gay science”, humans are able to shape their own world in ways that can satisfy their primal life instincts (Eros) amidst of the constant threat imposed by the death instinct (Thanatos; Marcuse, 227). However, Marcuse argues that what makes fulfilling instinctual needs so easy is the force that prevents humans from satisfying their actual needs.

Subsequently, I will present how this system actually functions. In the society, people have various commodities at affordable prices to purchase and potential threats and enemies from overseas to berate and attack. People no longer need to satisfy their need for pleasure through biological means; they began to purchase commodities in the market, using them as “objects of the libido” (Marcuse, 227). Meanwhile, it has also become unnecessary for the superego to torture the ego to satisfy the aggressiveness; instead, the communists, and now the Arabic, have become the public enemy of the entire society under justifiable reasons, onto which people unleash their aggression. Moreover, within the system where people have the freedom to choose the stuff to buy and enemy to attack,they also have the rights to choose their government and even to participate into the government. It is as if people at this day and age enjoy the kind of freedom that has never been presented ever before in the historical past, and that their quality of life has never reached thus high.

Nevertheless, the happy scene of gaining freedom and higher life quality is merely the result of something that goes deeper than it, under a tremendous amount of cost that that is so inconspicuous that people are merely blinded by the comfort they are having. The commodities, public enemies, and political freedom are merely the incomplete substitutes for people’s actual instinctual needs. Even though they provide people with comfort, they also numb the senses of people, making them satisfied and content about the material world while forgetting their needs in the organic world. What is worse is that the system itself makes the gain of pleasure too easy to the extent that people become addicted to it. They no longer could risk not having the things they originally do not need. Therefore they submit to the system, allowing the system to take total dominance over their lives as long as their needs could continue to be satisfied by the system. In this way, the submissiveness to the system is no longer being imposed to the people, but rather is “introjected” to them (Marcuse, 228).

This is therefore the second monster, Famulavaritia. It gives rise to the unchecked growth of desire under unlimited servitude to the system that leads to the satisfaction of these desires. This appears in what Marcuse would call the “affluent society”, where all desires and instincts are satisfied through a different outlet than the original ones (Marcuse, 228). However, this system is fundamentally repressive, as the government would make the people so busy engaging with the alternative instinctual outlets that it provides that they lose their autonomy in expressing and achieving their own needs. However, the loss of autonomy has never been as rewarding as such. Therefore, people just accept it, or even worse, they do not even want to think about it or they do not even know the presence of such repressive satisfaction, or Famulavaritia.

Res and Famulavaritia, One Plus One Is Greater Than Two

In this section, I will combine the analyses of Res and Famulavaritia and discuss their confluence on humanity. One thing needs to be noticed in this section regarding Famulavaritia is that, although Marcuse talks about the repressive satisfaction in terms of the government, it is not the case here for Famulavaritia to also be the product of the government. On the contrary, like Res, Famulavaritia is the product of people, of humanity, that eventually broke loose from the control of people and became the master itself, assuming total control over human. It emerged from the clash between the instinctual needs humans all share and the comforts that modern day commodities provide. The government did not create it; it merely discovered and utilized Famulavaritia to its own advantage. In that sense, Famulavaritia has the same attribute as Res: created by human but create sufferings onto human. In this process, the government or the big enterprises are merely the people who take advantage of the sufferings Famulavaritia and Res created. So how do they work together?

The concepts that will be used here is what I would call mutual facilitation. Mutual facilitation stands for the process that one system’s embryonic development and subsequent existence relies on the development and existence of the other. In the current case, as we could see from the emergence of Res, commodities have been dominating the society at large, led to the reification of human relations. However, a crucial step during that process was intentionally neglected in my previous discussion, which is related to economics. Under the classic economic model, supply and demand is intimately connected with one another. Thus, it is only possible for the commodities, as objects for exchange, to spread to every corner of the society if there is a strong demand for them. Such high demand for commodities, in the meantime, arises from Famulavaritia. It was the commodity that provides people with an alternative outlet to satisfy their instinctual needs that people find comfort in, which subsequently make people submissive to the system. Therefore, Famulavaritia actually facilitated the domination of Res. On the other hand, with the development of the variety and quantity and reduction of price of commodities through Res, people have increasingly more options to choose from, to satisfy their channeled needs. Therefore, Res also facilitates the development of Famulavaritia.

However, as our readers are smart intellectuals, they must have noticed the logical gap in the previous argument. Their concern lies in the chronological order of events. As I mentioned in the first section, the economic rules, especially that of supply and demand, are the laws of commodity that emerged after the dominion of commodities. In other words, Res has to exist before there was any economic rule. However, my argument in the previous paragraph implies that the domination of commodities, and subsequently the emergence of Res are based on the economic rules that facilitate Famulavaritia. In other words, the laws of commodity have to exist prior to both Res and Famulavaritia. This question in fact leaves the relationship between Res and Famulavaritia vague and incomprehensible, because if one still keeps thinking about it, he will discover that, then, the emergence of Famulavaritia is based on a commodity-based economy, which again, assumes that commodity has already prevailed in the society, and Res has already surfaced. There are also many other ways that one can argue, but the point is that the problem gets ever more complex and I have not presented any argument to illustrate this complex system.

The readers’ criticism on my argument is valid, to the extent that they assume that there is a correct and fixed chronological as to which comes first, Res or Famulavaritia. In fact, just based on previous arguments, both Res and Famulavaritia may come first in this fixed chronological sequence, creating a paradox. However, I would argue that the thinking of fixed temporal sequence of the development of Res and Famulavaritia is problematic, and should be discarded when discussing mutual facilitation. There is no, and should not be any fixed sequence in development during the process of mutual facilitation. The adoption of exchange values and the tendency that using material objects to satisfy one’s needs surfaced at the same time, if one has to put it that way, setting forth the development of Res and Famulavaritia simultaneously. This process is thus the formation of the monarchy of Res and Famulavaritia.

Regarding the power of such monarchy, I have briefly mentioned it in the previous sections. Res deprives people of their personality to work like gears in a machine. When people get off their work in the factory with the wage they earned from hours of tedious works, they go to the malls to purchase stuff that they do not necessarily need to satisfy their repressed Eros; they turn on the TV to see news on another Muslim attack and commentators harangue about the evil people from the other side of the Earth to release their aggressiveness. Feeling relaxed and relieved, they wake up the next morning and start working in the same product line. Even though their wage is scant and the working condition is poor, they are still repeating what they have been doing for the past five or ten years.

Of course there will be complaints or even rebellions in the factory as efforts against Res. Nevertheless, in the end those who complain and rebel will still go to the malls to buy stuff, turn on their TV to attack the Muslims. With unlimited desire to satisfy, these people will still be submitted to the reign of Famulavaritia even though they decide to fight against Res. On the other hand, it will be even easier for this monarchy to respond to people who try to fight against Famulavaritia. If the protest or rebellion is mild that would not create any impact on the system, the protest or rebellion would just proceed without any interference. In fact, it would actually act as a positive reinforcement to the idea of freedom that the system promotes and further strengthen the domination of the system. If the rebellion were too strong to the extent to overthrow the government that represents Famulavaritia, then the government would act as Famulavaritia’s “hitman”. It will suppress the deviants that went across the boarder with military means. If the government failed to protect itself, Famulavaritia will still be intact because the new government that succeeds the previous one would still act as the safeguard. This is therefore the beauty of this oligarchy: it provides people an easy way to be stuck in the homeostasis, in which they are being exploited as machines, satisfied as pigs, and ignorant as children.

Thus far, I have discussed two hideous monsters that the humanity is facing, Res and Famulavaritia. Res emerged from the prevailing of commodities, which trend reifies everything, including social relationships. As a consequence of reification, workers in the factory start to work like a piece of machine. Their individual characteristics are suppressed and eliminated to ensure the smooth and efficient functioning of the system. Famulavaritia emerged from the transference of libidinal outlet. Physical and organic drives and desires are vented towards commodities and enemies across the Seven Seas. People are satisfied to the extent that they stopped thinking about what they really want. By joining together, Res and Famulavaritia formed the strongest allies that humans have never seen. Their strength does not only lie in the kind of thing that they transform humans into, but rather in the homeostasis that it pushes the entire system into. Being in this state, there is nothing that humans can do to change it, because everything they attempt to would only reinforce the power of the system.