Capitalism through a Sloterdijkian Spectacle

Prof. Dr. Peter Sloterdijk, deutscher Philosoph, TV-Moderator, Kulturwissenschaftler und Essayist, Portrait, Kultur, Philosophie, Medien, Europa, Deutschland, Karlsruhe, 27.02.2003; QF; (Bildtechnik: sRGB, 20.82 MByte vorhanden)
Prof. Dr. Peter Sloterdijk, deutscher Philosoph, TV-Moderator, Kulturwissenschaftler und Essayist, Portrait, Kultur, Philosophie, Medien, Europa, Deutschland, Karlsruhe  Credit: Il Sole 24 Ore

The iconic philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk, especially famous among the German-speaking world, is known for his comprehensive and provocative critique of globalisation in his Spheres Trilogy, in which he postulated a spheres theory or a spherological approach to the study of globalization, capitalism vis-a-vis communism, world politics, cultural evolution and world history. In his 2005 book, Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals: Für eine philosophische Theorie der Globalaisierung (EN – In the Global Inner Space of Capital: For a Philosophical Theory of Globalization), he dissects the conventional diagnosis of globalization, employing two metaphorical literary implements: Walter Benjamin‘s interpretation of Parisian arcades and Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s crystal palace metaphor (reminiscent of The Crystal Palace, an architectural edifice constructed in the fall of 1850 in London’s Hyde Park according to the plans of horticulture expert Joseph Paxton).

In Chapter 33 of this book, a chapter exclusively dedicated to “The Crystal Palace” (bearing the same title) he heralds the posthumously dominant arrival of a consumerist culture. As such, he describes the contemporary, “post-historical“, consumerist culture (an outpost of capitalism) which gave way to a modern version of evil (the subject of his critique) as follows:

Modern evil is unemployed negativity-an unmistakeable product of the post-historical situation. Its popular edition is sadomasochism in the middle-class household, where harmless people mutually bind themselves to the bedposts to experience something new; its version of luxury is aesthetic snobbism, which professes the primacy of accidental preference.

Expanding further, with relative breadth and depth, he characterizes contemporary capitalist systems as species of ideology that are not just restricted to the traditional domain of “relations of production“, rather as new modes of life that possess an irresistibly influential power he termed, Prägckraft (defined as imprinting force). To quote the whole paragraph with all its elements:

Of capitalism…one can only say now that it always already meant more than simply a production relation; its imprinting force [Prägckraft] always went much further than the figure of thought “world market” is able to indicate. It implies the project of transposing the entire life of work, wishes, and expression of the people that it has captured into the immanence of purchasing power.

In conclusion, for him or for me personally, capitalism (or the notion of free market political economy), is not just what I have been told when I was in prep school seven years ago or political science and international relations class five years ago, that capitalism must be defined with reference to its rival, socialism – a strand of political philosophy that defines, categorises and criticises competing ideologies with one size fits all approach. That is to say, an ideology or a political philosophy is so only when it can be put under the microscope of “relations of production” (the eternal object of fixation for socialists from Marx and Engels to Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek, though to varying degrees depending on from where they are coming).

Published by Hibamo Ayalew

Very recently I've come to the decision that I've to say what I've to say in ways I wanted to say irrespective of the "feelings" of the mediocre creatures out there crawling the earth in search of solace where there's none. Seeking wisdom in the Desert of the Real.

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