Culture, Commodity, and Inclusion

by Caleb Roberts

The breaking down of cultural hierarchies is clearly to be welcomed.  For the most part, however, it is less the upshot of a genuinely democratic spirit than an effect of the commodity form, which levels existing values rather than contesting them in the name of alternative priorities.  Indeed, it represents an assault less on cultural supremacism than on the notion of values as such.  The very act of discrimination becomes suspect.  Not only does it involve exclusion, but it must inevitably imply the possibility of a superior vantage-point, which seems offensive to the egalitarian spirit.

[…]

The bogus populism of the commodity, its warm-hearted refusal to rank, exclude and discriminate, is based on a blank indifference to absolutely everyone.  Careless for the most part of distinction of class, race and gender, impeccably even-handed in its favours, it will yield itself, in the spirit of a whore-house, to anyone with the cash to buy it.  A similar indifference underlies the historic advance of multiculturalism.  If the human species now has a chance, for the first time in its history, to become thoroughly hybrid, it is largely because the capitalist market will buy the labour-power of anyone willing to sell it, whatever their cultural origins. (156-157)

Terry Eagleton | Culture

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