Perhaps one of the elements I appreciated most about Marx’s arguments is that his explanations address meaningful connections between people living within a capitalist system. As Chandler points out, on surface, the dialectic is apparently tidy. I, however, was taken by the complexity and careful articulation of the interrelatedness and interdependence of such a system: “Production, then, is also immediately consumption, consumption is also immediately production. Each is immediately its opposite.” It is in identifying how each stage is unique and interrelated that we are able to begin to understand the complex workings of a capitalist system. This understanding allows us to consider where chinks in the system’s armor are weakest.
The conclusion we reach is not that production, distribution, exchange, and consumption are identical, but that they all form the members of a totality, distinctions within a unity. . Mutual interaction takes place between the different moments. This the case with every organic whole (Exchange and Production para. 4)
Such understanding is key to progress—or dare I say, Revolution. The true nature of the political economy lies disguised within these mutually perpetuating, bi-directional relationships. The distinction between each element is reified within public discourse; each element is examined as unique and unrelated. What is more, individuals are separated from each other, unable to see their relationships to others. While individuals are constrained by their individually situated conditions, we can understand and exploit the interrelatedness of the system.
This understanding has to come in some sort of general intellect. It is not enough that a few recognize this interconnectedness, but rather such knowledge must compose some sort of communal doxa. While prophetic in some regards, Marx surely had little conception of the extent to which contemporary life would be governed by machinery and technology. Although, in some regards, his conversations concerning machinery condemn society to a spiraling, capitalist hell have come true, in others, we might find the seeds of revolutionary potential.
Within popular culture, I thought NPR’s T-Shirt Project did a great job of exposing the interconnectedness of our chains of supply and demand, tracing the production of a T-Shirt from cotton field to Western store to an “after-life” in sub-Saharan Africa
Dyer-Witheford, N. (19991). Cyber-Marx. University of Illinois Press: Champaign, IL