The essay/book contains the following paragraph:

"The manufactured object, as opposed to (natural) useful goods, though it may still hold some habitual meaning (for instance depending on how metals are used, which can have emblematic meaning), loses its character as its manufacturing becomes more complex and diversified. The act of manufacturing, which becomes more diversified as it progressively gains complexity, replaces the use of goods (natural or cultural) with the efficient utilization of objects. Since manufacturable efficiency wins out on the profit level, the use of natural or cultural goods, which defines those goods according to an interpretation to do with their customary usage, is seen as sterile; use, that is, enjoyment, is sterile - since actual goods are considered unproductive in the manufacturable efficiency circuit. [...] In the industrial era, utensil manufacturing definitely broke with the world of sterile usage to set up the world of manufacturable efficiency, relative to which every natural or cultural good - both human bodies and the earth itself - is appraisable in turn."

It may be my unfamiliarity with the terminology, which a fairly involved google search provides no clear answers regarding, but I'm a bit confused about exactly what he's saying. The natural, useful good, is defined as a good and as useful by the use human beings habitually make of it; that, I understand. His contrast between the 'efficient utilization of objects' and 'the use of goods' I find to be a little less clear.

We have, within the habitual/cultural sphere, a finite amount of goods which have a finite number of uses: hence a set demand which is constant, does not 'reproduce'. In other words, the goods themselves don't produce demand, but a 'real'/'natural' demand motivates the production of the goods. These goods not having the ability to produce demand in and of themselves being what qualifies them as sterile? Or does he mean something else entirely?

At the end of the book he makes reference to the production of simulacra, which being only means of evoking fantasies, are not bound by a set of 'natural' uses and can thus be priced arbitrarily, seeing as an experience cannot be quantified in terms of the cost of producing it. I see how the production of fantasies and their simulacra is not sterile-if my interpretation is correct- because the experience the simulacra is capable of evoking is the source of the demand; and also, every fantasy produced allows the conception of still more fantasies, or more simulacra corresponding to those fantasies, which is productive of more possible products to a theoretically infinite degree. He phrases this with complicated references to physiology and perversion-the usurpation of physiological instincts by the imaginative psyche being the lifeblood of fantasy and perversion (?)-, so even that interpretation could be off.

Any interpretive aid would be appreciated, even if only in the form of a reference to things I might need to read to understand this work. Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    It's a later work, but maybe Baudrillard's en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulacra_and_Simulation – CriglCragl May 14 '18 at 23:20
  • Basically, there are three ingredient : marxism (goods and exchange); the influence of structuralism and French semiotics (the exchange has a symbolic value, it has "meaning"); and sexuality (see late Foucault). Thus, the human body is a sort of good that is exchanged (sometimes for money). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 15 '18 at 8:19
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA In the last section of the essay, he talks about how the producer's presence can be wholly monetized and thus becomes a sort of currency. Presence, the human being, itself becomes currency as presence has been entered into the system of exchange as a fixed value: "As soon as the bodily presence of the industrial slave is absolutely included in what he or she can produce, it is specious to draw a distinction between a person and their activity."(Klossowski, Living Currency, 32) That the human body, which already is a good, becomes instead a symbol seems more to the text. – Ethan NOPE May 16 '18 at 15:51

Lyotard (Libidinal Economy), Baudrillard (System of Objects, Simulacra and Simulation), Deleuze (Difference and Repetition) all seem relevant and could make useful preparatory or parallel reading.

  • Much obliged! :) – Ethan NOPE May 15 '18 at 2:51

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