The Economics of Immiseration, the Politics of Seduction

By Joseph Natoli

Photo: Pen Waggener, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Pen Waggener, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The economics of immiseration would be impossible without the politics of seduction, and capitalism’s appeal to our unconscious will to power and domination is not easily countered.

“The domain of seduction is the sacred horizon of appearances.”
Jean Baudrillard, On Seduction

” ‘[I]mmiseration’ concerns not just the wages workers’ receive, but how long and how hard they have to work in order to get them.”
Frances Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography

“[C]apitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.”
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century

The genius of the internal combustion engine engineered by Etienne Lenoir in 1860 was to release the pressure of such combustion to pistons, rotation and movement. Explosion was controlled and detoured; ignition could be repeated and catastrophe avoided each time. Rising pressure and calibrated release equals relief. Psychology responds to this analogy, as does politics. Increased pressure on low-wage workers makes headlines: “The Walls Close In: Low Wage Workers Finding It’s Easier to Fall into Poverty, and Harder to Get Out.” But all wage earners, underclass or middle class, are feeling the pressure. Thom Hartmann reports, “wages have gone down almost seven percent since the recession. And, that decline followed more than three decades of stagnant wages thanks to Reaganomics.”

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