The New Vision: To Live Without Money
The question of how to live is something that is nearest to us as people. What do we do, and who are we? Today we are used to conceiving these things as questions for individual and introspective life, yet it is really only within a larger social structure that they begin to make sense and to admit of answers. This social structure forms a boundary point which we must understand if we are to find meaning in our lives.
The situation of today is capitalism. Since the collapse of the socialist states of the last century, the world has seen the extension of capitalist power to practically every region of the globe. Capitalism is reaching new forms of intensity, invading practically every aspect of our lives, as mass media and snapchat sociality assure us that our consumer-being is, or should be, our only being. Politically, governments are revealing themselves to be the handmaidens of capital, and regulative measurements against them arguably will never be extreme enough to solve the problem.
Of course many people are content to live in this system. Even as the power of capital grows, how can we tell those people who assure us that they are happy that indeed they are not? And are we ourselves not happy? Should we shun happiness in order to believe there is a deeper happiness waiting for us on the other side? We must come back to this question of happiness. For the moment, we must instead define meaning, understanding this as separate from happiness, though only provisionally.
What makes human life meaningful? I ascertain that what makes human life meaningful is to truly live as a human; it is “to feel authentically human.” But the authentically human, what makes a human a human, is nothing but human creativity. Yet we must clarify what we mean by human creativity. In fact, capitalism seems to abound in human creativity: at every moment it demands new innovations in tech, marketing, and business; the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that seem to understand people, what makes them click, and can always stay one step ahead of the game.
Yet is this really human creativity in the deeper sense we must assign to it? To answer this we must understand what capitalism is in truth. Capitalism involves the maximation of profits through the exploitation of workers under the system of wage-labor. Since the bourgeoisie own the means of production, the only way workers can survive is to sell their labor in the forms of wages, while the capitalist makes a return by making the laborer work extra hours than is truly necessary, thereby accumulating a surplus value, a profit. On top of this, capitalism involves competition, and thus various market forces that drive forward the development of profit.
It’s these technical conditions that ensure that business and technological innovation are actually inscribed into the system at a basic level: they are the cog of the system’s functioning without which it wouldn’t work. If there weren't developments in technology to drive forward the efficiency of commodity production, or innovations that open new markets and produce new selling-points, how would the maximization of profits continue? It is really the system itself that is acting, for the very relationships in which we find ourselves in the economy are determined by the requirement of the maximization of profit: money. It is money, the inhuman numerical value, that ultimately runs the show. To “innovate” within capitalism is not to create, to draw from one’s own irreducible human existence new and unheard-of possibilities; it is actually to be ruled by an inhuman mechanism. Money in the end is not even in need of humanity at all, if humanity ultimately means more than physical bodies who will consume, produce, and profit.
Within Money strictly speaking, no creativity is possible. That is why the closure of all our social activities within Money is so dangerous. Returning to the question of happiness, what we are begin to see more and more, objectively and statistically, is the appearance of mass depression and suicide, as well as the undeniable and growing prevalence of apathy and cynicism in everyday life. Though as we said, we cannot impose this interpretation upon everyone, especially those who assure us that they are happy.
What we are reaching, however, is an ontological truth. This happiness, in so far as it will more and more coexist with the closure of creativity in Money, is in essence just contentment; for without creativity, there is no meaning to life. The human being is just an animal lost in the wind of the flurry of commodities and media, which more and more begin to feel like bizarre, disconnected versions of real life.
What are the solutions? Unfortunately, those who oppose the sorts of domination that exist today tend to be lost in either reformism or multiculturalism. Reformism, whose icon today is Bernie Sanders, tells us that what we really must do is make a kinder capitalism, more heavily regulated, and to some extent more in the hands of the people. Who could deny that this is a good thing? The austerity policies of neoliberalism and finance capitalism are a form of vicious domination and class warfare against both the impoverished and the diminishing middle class. But how will reform stop Money? Will reform make our lives meaningful? Will it teach us how to live?
On the other hand, multiculturalism has become obsessed with resisting forms of domination by emphasizing the diversity of different oppressed cultures, their right to have a voice, and the rejection of continued cultural stigmas that are levied against them. Again, who could deny that this is a good thing? Yet in the end this approach is equally futile in the face of Money. What does sexual liberation mean when it has become an Abercrombie and Fitch ad? What will trans liberation mean when even its success could just mean new trans commodities? We don’t deny that these movements have legitimate demands. But how do they face up to the essential problem of the world today: Money?
It is this essential commitment to meaning that makes our political approach fundamentally different from the two aforementioned. First of all, equality for us does not mean just the attempt to create more equivalences among wealth and access to economic opportunity. Nor does it just mean to create equivalences amongst the relative value of the voices of various oppressed groups. Equality means that aspect of collective consciousness where it becomes possible for people to live in a space beyond domination, because all that matters is the pure creation whereby human beings transcend themselves toward their own nature.
Our emphasis on meaning means that ultimately what we require is an anthropological revolution in totality. We need a new vision of our own selves and our own humanity. This also allows us, finally, to understand how our new society will differ from the state socialisms and communist attempts of the last century, many of which ended in disaster.
First of all, though those societies sought to destroy capitalism, they did this through revolutions which aimed to take control of state and military power and then to re-organize society after the fact from the top-down. The point here is not simply to emphasize that we need more bottom-up participation to avoid new sorts of power and inequality. The point is that in conceiving of the movement towards communism as essentially a form of management, they did not understand the idea of the anthropological revolution as the destruction of Money pure and simple. It is not about organizing or managing a new society, but the very collective process of transformation in which Money is dissolved in and through revolution, in and through the transformation of humanity.
Yet we must also make clear, this anthropological revolution is not just a cultural phenomenon, but it must be a material one too. We will never destroy Money while the bourgeoisie own the means of production and control the state. Ultimately they must be defeated in battle, expropriated, and the means of labor and social relations of production must be returned to the collective. Yet this will only be a true victory if at the same time we are in the process of reinventing ourselves.
What does it mean today to live? It means to live without Money, and to be beyond the inhuman machine that might convince us that we are being creative or might convince us that we are happy beyond mere contentment. Why do we say “live without Money”? Many people “live without Money.” They are poor and do not have money. But really they are forced to live within Money, for it is Money that circumscribes and dominates them. To live without money is to live without Money, it is to live on the outside of the inhuman, to be somewhere else than it, in the constant form of creativity and self-reinvention. To live today is exactly the same as "to have a project," which means that one is always on the look out for new and exciting forms of existence, and always living beyond the bounds of what might be immediately socially acceptable. This is ultimately a form of radical self-definition, a form of life that also takes obsessive discipline and practice. It is what Nietzsche called the “Ubermensch,” the one who creates his own values, his own truth, his own form of existence, in a form of love that calls others to do the same, without condescension.
Our new vision is the communist love of art as human creativity. It is the denial of snapchat sociality. It is the courage to be one's own true self against all odds. It is the obsessive determination to always be creating, to be feeling, and to be experimenting. It is to step into the public and declare one's hatred for Money and one's love for human existence. It is to live with meaning, and as such to truly be happy.