for the free use of mankind, classless k

March 6th, 2009 § 0 comments

If it is true that capital alienates us from our language, two questions spring to mind. Who are we? And: What are we saying? Regarding the objective of this call, both ultimately ask after the status of mankind. The first does so directly; the second, more importantly, with a detour bearing directly upon the call’s explanatory statement that our entire formal language system is bourgeois.
Especially for a design call, that is quite an accusation. For who make up the new bourgeoisie of our society, if not designers, academics and engineers? And yet, even if the formal language system itself is bourgeois, meaning closely connected to the means of the production of value, in principle everybody has access to those means; to language. A paradox in need of reflection.
Everybody uses, manipulates and changes language. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if the question of the alienation of language can still be answered in terms of class at all. If so, it is a hysteric answer – of a married couple, husband and wife always finding proof the other is a petit(e) bourgeois(e). Empty accusations in a society where the production of value hinges primarily on information and therefore precisely on the manipulation of symbols.
Language fluctuates, and as De Saussure has undeniably shown, the meaning assigned to a symbol can shift per situation. The only clear, one-dimensional messages are ordnances, prohibitions, warnings, advertisements, logos and traffic signs. And how did this simplification-through-imperatives ever help mankind? The fetish of transparency, of directly understandable symbols, is old hat for us denizens of control society. If anything, it is capitalism’s hyper-clarity that is alienating, because exactly what is still intangible (underground or avant-garde) has a potential value which capital needs to unearth.klasseloze k
Here we come to the point where what we are saying is no longer just the language of the market. The potential of language is forever bigger than capitalism, even if it can only actualize itself on the market. This is what Karl Marx talks about in the Grundrisse when he mentions the general intellect, meaning “the aggregate of the knowledge acquired by the species” and also “the faculty of thinking; potentiality as such,” according to the post-Marxist philosopher Paolo Virno. And now, we have reached the first question of this text, namely who we are.
If mankind with its classes designates the sphere of the suffering masses and the happy few under capitalism, it does not match up with this potential of the general intellect. Therefore we call themultitude that which produces the general intellect and is the source of all value.
It is capital’s appropriation of language that alienates us from its use. It does so by restricting access to ideas and innovations through copyrights, border control and property regimes: its real formal appearance. Value must be taken back from this empty Kapital. The general intellect, portrayed by us as a license overreaching even copyleft, directly interferes with exclusivity by nullifying intellectual rights as well as artificial borders between parts of the multitude. Itself going beyond a license, it can function as a ubiquitous brand that gives back to itself everything it graces, free for the use and free from the market, to the interest of all. Aetzel Griffioen

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