Wealth, Value, and a Sense of their Difference

John Holloway reminds us in his new article that history has differentiated Wealth and Value, and that that difference is what sets in motion _Capital_

“Once we read that account of wealth in the Grundrisse,the first sentence of
Capital takes on much more vivid colours. Wealth is ‘the universality of human
needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces etc., created through universal
exchange’. It is collective, it is social, the product of human interaction – the
richness of what is often referred to as ‘the common’. It is in movement: ‘the
absolute working-out of [humanity’s] creative potentialities’, ‘the absolute
movement of becoming’. It is diverse: ‘the development of all human powers
as [an] end in itself’. Richness, the richness of a street filled with different
traditions and ways of living, the richness of the turn of the seasons in the
countryside, the richness of a voice raised in song, be it human or of a bird.
The potentially unlimited richness of richnesses: that is what appears in our
society as an immense collection of commodities.

“Read Capital: The First Sentence Or, Capital Starts with Wealth, not with the Commodity”
Historical Materialism 23:1, 2015

When we understand wealth as the richness of life, it is easier to see how the senses- and one’s sense of judgment have been yoked into service in the aesthetic economy.The human senses are cultivated across history, if they were once developed to correspond to Wealth, they are today cultivated to correspond to Value.

In the _Dialectic of Taste_, I outline how this shift occurs in relation to the fall of mass production and consumption from 1970-present, the mode of production or consumption I call the aesthetic economy.

I also forecast the demise of this unsustainable arrangement, a demise Holloway contends Marx sought to coax in the opening line of _Capital_

“This first sentence [of Capital] is no innocuous curtain-raiser. Marx is opening up a world of tension. He invites our indignation, our sense of dignity damaged.”

For the dialectic of taste to maintain its immanent movement, the sense of taste must be sensitive enough to sense this sense of indignation.


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