extraction of surplus value has become the ultimate ethical horizon

From that same term paper:

If these moral arguments for authenticity, leveled against the profit motive, held sway during a time when art and commerce had a more fraught relationship (roughly the same period during which Adorno was publishing his screeds against the cultural commodity system), under neoliberalism any ethical appeal must carry an economic logic with it as well. Those fighting against the culture industry definitions of property do so in the name of increased profits, not necessarily increased freedom. Lawrence Lessig defends certain types of copyright infringement as creative use, positing that an ebbing of certain copyright provisions could increase income. “Less control here could mean more profit” (283). Matt Mason argues that “Pirates are taking over the good ship capitalism” in order to “plug the holes, keep it afloat, and propel it forward” (239). Profit, the extraction of surplus value, has become the ultimate ethical horizon. These writers, postmodern combinations of activist and business guru, propose that the authenticity of commodities, the horizon of significance, follow potential profits, not established law. Their only difference from the culture industry discourse occurs when they speculate about where the largest profits might lay, and their books are devoted to convincing the culture industry that surplus value will be best realized through actions currently considered piratical, inauthentic. They feel the pressure of a new constellation of economic and technological forces, and they hope to shape the general will, the social contract, and thus the contract that establishes the authenticity of the commodity. In the work of Lessig and Mason, the commodity stands in for values such as transparency, free speech, creativity. It is a fetish.

I think that this actually might be a tactical move by Lessig, since he’s constantly trying new initiatives and approaches to change IP law. Unfortunately, he seems cursed to continually, perhaps compulsively, repeat his failure before the Supreme Court: an enlightened courtesan vainly appealing elites for reforms. Here he’s trying to convince CEOs that piracy will help their companies, but I’m not sure he actually cares about such things. His latest project, Change Congress, drastically widens his scope as it deepens the hole in which he finds himself — choosing institutional channels that undercut his goals. Of all his organizations, this one is at once the most ambitious and the least likely to meet with any kind of success. I kind of feel bad for the guy.


3 Responses to extraction of surplus value has become the ultimate ethical horizon

  1. Ripley says:

    Nice! I’m with you on this so far, for sure. Courtesan may be a bit harsh, but the relentless focus on appealing to elites, yeah…

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