A Spectre is Haunting the World; The Spectre of Piracy

“Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and of its rule.”

Marx & Engels: The Communist Manifesto

Marx and Engels saw that capitalist society had already developed and would go on to develop new and more powerful means of production and consumption far quicker than the legal and authoritarian institutions & structure of Bourgeois society could cope with and formally and officially regulate. Consider the productive force of the Internet and Web and the impossible task faced by the bourgeois state in the control, limitation and regulation of these astonishing technologies. The response of the state (which is the response of capital) is nowhere more obvious, shocking or brutally and broadly authoritarian than in the case of the Culture Industry and its products. The Culture Industry was confronted by the reproducibility of it’s products that Benjamin identified from the very beginning and the various ‘intellectual’ property rights that grew up to safeguard the capital of The Culture Industry (and the imaginings of industry more generally) were a first attempt to regulate and control through the state. Every new ‘productive force’ ripped up the state’s regulation of the people use of the products of the Culture Industry and the greater the intensity and extensity of those new ‘productive forces’ the more authoritarianly draconian the states regulation of it’s use by the people becomes all in the effort to police the profit of a tiny handful of transnational corporations that are the Culture Industry. The spying on peoples’ use of of the Internet, the criminalisation of cultural reproduction and hence cultural production (Derrida was right about the universality of bricolage), the disciplining of digital society, all are the response of capital to it’s own ‘productive forces’. This ironic shock to the democracy of digital reproducibility caused by it confrontation by the forces of the state and capital is already ‘politicising’ people towards communistic modes of thought without them even realising it. For what this ironic shock has done is confront the vast majority of the richer people in the rich nations with the realisation that transnational capital is above them and the states they live in. Where once, before the processes of globalisation had become obvious, the dominated-dominant (to use Bourdieu’s formulation) of any particular place could comfort themselves with the illusion that they were part of the leading faction of society and on the inside of, and thus insulated from the worst of, authoritarian power. The culture industry’s appropriation of state power for it’s own factional interest shows that what Marx and Engels wrote of ‘Bourgeois jurisprudence’ – that it “is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class” – now applied to them! That ‘the law’ was no longer ‘their law’ and that they had been pushed down into the rank of the proletariat by that transnational bourgeoise, by the force of that transnational capital, so that people once considered amongst the wealthiest capitalist in a national society where now but the subalterns of transnational capital and their state’s action against them on behalf of the transnational Culture Industry, in a pointless struggle that the culture industry cannot win, is the clearest mark yet of their status as the newest members of the proletariat.



“Unlike those who are labelled “structuralists”, I’m not really interested in the formal possibilities afforded by a system such as language. Personally, I am more intrigued by the existence of discourses, by the fact that words were spoken. Those events functioned in relation to their original situation, they left traces behind them, they continue to exist, and they exercise, in that very subsistence in history, a certain number of manifest or secret functions.”
From ‘On the ways of Writing History’, in Aesthetics, Method & Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Vol2, Penguin, 1998.