Topic of the Week: Prosumer Politics

  • Posted on: 15 August 2016
  • By: thecollective

The notion that we are living in a Consumer Society has been a fundamental piece of post-1950s social theory. This has been the case for anarchists and other anti-authoritarians/anti-capitalists; but it has also been the case for neo-Conservatives and other right-wingers who blame the Consumer Society for cultural decadence, moral relativism, etc. As the economy becomes ever-more global and items of mass-production continue to be the sorts of things we import, it is clear that our assigned roles in the social order are closer to the Consumer Society model than the Industrial Proletariat model. The old justification for anti-capitalist revolution seems otherworldly at this point: ie, that there is an industrial working class who are the true creators of society's wealth, though exploited by capitalists, having every right to expropriate the expropriators and organize society without any sort of authority. At the same time, it doesn't seem accurate to say that we have merely transformed into a society of consumers, exploiting industrial workers in other countries through free-trade agreements, skating on the thin ice of cheap credit to drive the reproduction of everyday oppression.

Regardless, the proposed solution to such a society of consumers often comes in the form of returning to some sort of producer society. In many ways, this has now happened. Beyond do-it-yourself hobbies and growing/cooking one's own food, a good portion of the economy functions by transforming our social lives into products. The familiar example is the extraction, packaging, and selling of data that we generate while using Facebook, searching Google, or tweeting Twitter. A term for this role that we play when we are giving such companies data to sell is "prosumer". Prosumers participate in various sharing economies. They are consumers, but they are consumers who also produce the products that are sold to them. Not just in the sense of class alienation, but in the immediate sense of writing, drawing, painting, building, and maintaining products individually that companies sell back to them collectively, or manage the distribution of within networks. Though the term "prosumer" is usually used to talk about media-related industries, the application can be more general.

The examples of prosumption that I gave underlie various services we use supposedly for free. However, there are also many jobs that put workers into the prosumer role: Uber and AirBnB are two of them. Understanding how capital (and governments) use individuals who value independence, do-it-yourself approaches, flexi-schedules, etc. as a means to their own ends ought to be a decent part of contemporary anarchist critique. But often, it seems like older models of the Consumer Society and even still older models of a producer society are at the heart of contemporary critique.

In an effort to update our comprehension and critique of society (and our revolt against authority), this week's topic is on the problems we face when confronting prosumer roles and prosumer life. This week's topic is on Prosumer Politics ...and if you'd like, any variation using "anti-": anti-Prosumer Politics, Prosumer anti-Politics, etc.

If you thought this topic intro was tl;dr - here's a lecture on prosumption and prosumers that is probably tl;dw



Let's be clear about what is meant by production and consumption: extracting resources, processing resources, moving resources, making stuff people don't even remotely need, and selling them.

And let's be clear about what 'selling' is.

And let's be clear about who is actually doing the grunt work.

And let's be clear about the environmental and human devastation that is being wrought by this whole smeggy system.

If you want to oppose all forms of oppression, then you need to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. Modern industrial society is an unprecedented tragedy, whether or not it is run according to capitalistic or anarchistic principles.

So rather than frame a discussion based on consumers, and trendy crap like AirBnB and Uber, can't we actually have a degree of honesty on this forum from the pro-civ people about the true cost of the modernist utopia they want to have?

as an anarchist, i admit you are right about civ being inherently oppressive, but answer this:

why is it ok to oppress animals in a hunt but not ok through civilization?

either way it is oppression -- your survival does not making oppression ethical it just excuses it so ppl can feel better about themselves.

in conclusion im ok with civ to a certain extent (anarchist society) just like you are ok with killing animals in a hunt

before I created an actual account.

I'm afraid you're making a mistake. I don't advocate hunting. I am a forager, and encourage others to do the same.

Could you tell me more about what you mean by 'anarchist society' ? Could you describe it?

"why is it ok to oppress animals in a hunt but not ok through civilization?"

seriously? i am not the poster you are responding to, but that is some shallow thinking there, imo.

an individual (or even a few) killing an animal - or a plant for that matter, no difference to me - in order to survive, is a massively different scenario than establishing a network of authoritarian institutions for the purpose of controlling every living being and usable resource on the planet. the latter is civilization, the former is living.

can you really see no difference?

i dont know if hunting would be a good example of oppression. i mean you cant really say that hunting is anything like subjugation (unless we rounded up a bunch of deer or cattle,put them in a confined area and hunted them as a systemic endevour, in which we forced them to live lives they did not choose in a place they did not want to be, or need to be) I would think farming/raising animals to eat would be a good example, but hunting is natural. would a pack of wolves be oppressive?

Meat addiction is a major problem in affluent societies by folk who would not survive in the wild and allows for the passing on of inferior genes, whereas they would have died from starvation

yes I'm a neo-Social Darwinist swine!!!

if living in a HG society. Yes, lets return to the basics about diet and return dining to its roots, i.e. One must capture and kill ones own food by whatever means OR DIE!!

holy crap thats bad music

Insurrection happening in the US this week and this is the topic US anarchists would like to discuss

"Insurrection happening in the US this week"

wow, who'da thunk it.

Come on now... Anews is not "the US anarchists". Sure there's the usual essayists and platformists who're as disconnected from reality as bureaucrats in the Vatican, but still the sites gets to cover real-life stuff happening, only sometimes with a bit of delay.

As intelligent political prosumers, I'm sure we can critique reactionary attacks on consumerism & chew gum at the same time.

Where is there anything pro-civ in this ToTW? What type of discussion should US anarchists be having about the ongoing police murders and responses to them? I'm so bored with these fucking non-sequiter comments.

Did you read the news? Non sequitur is the next level of smug. 130% more aggressive and positively nihillist and full gay of course. Get the hood on d-fense mode as non sequitur hipsterisms arre comingto your town!

Maybe they were referring to the fact that regardless of the balance between production and consumption, and regardless of whether the left wing of capital or the right wing of capital is en vogue, industrial society doesn't care. The title of the TOTW, therefore contains, pro-civ assumptions. Maybe that's what they meant.

No, it assumes civilization as a reference point. There's no reason to take the next step and assume that a reference is automatically a promotion, unless you believe that ignoring things makes them go away.

Just to get this out of the way, I'll take it piece by piece and explain my frustration:

"Let's be clear about what is meant by production and consumption: extracting resources, processing resources, moving resources, making stuff people don't even remotely need, and selling them."

And let's be clear about what 'selling' is.

And let's be clear about who is actually doing the grunt work."

...this is what is irritating. One of the big points about the "prosumer" thing is that it involves a lot of people who are working for free, making profit for companies, without even realizing they're doing it. Here is a topic about "grunt work" and as you'll see later, it is dismissed.

"And let's be clear about the environmental and human devastation that is being wrought by this whole smeggy system."

This is a contribution to the annals of human devastation that civilization brings.

"If you want to oppose all forms of oppression, then you need to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. Modern industrial society is an unprecedented tragedy, whether or not it is run according to capitalistic or anarchistic principles."'s like I said that anarchists should start a union, but really if there's an implication for what the topic of the week is, it is that DIY and such is not enough.

"So rather than frame a discussion based on consumers, and trendy crap like AirBnB and Uber, can't we actually have a degree of honesty on this forum from the pro-civ people about the true cost of the modernist utopia they want to have?"

This is where I think the misunderstanding is. A misunderstanding I assume comes from skimming what was written and picking out AirBnB and Uber to focus on. One of the tells is "a discussion based on consumers". That is the actual anti-thesis of the frame for the discussion. The topic is explicitly about the flaws in thinking of society as a society of consumers. In other words it's an attempt to get past this very, very popular model of society that comes out of post-WWII social theory.

Fully automated luxury communism. Robots will mine the shit we need. Emma Goldman claimed that we all deserve decadence in our lives. Also, if I can't buy vinyl records then it's not my revolution.

"If I can't get laid it's not my revolution"

- Jacques Ellul or something

Okay so I finally found an English translation of "The Religion of Capital", out of nowhere,so now I look like a fool for wanting to translate it without knowing it already existed... Life is so beautiful when it makes fun of you (or when I turn myself into a joke since I'm just a freaking clown on two wheels, just prancing 'round in the over-civilized streets of Montreal 'till I get bored, crazy, or killed by a truck!).

Here you go...

The whole prosumer thing is all about extracting value from the masses. Why hire a staff to create and curate a news site or whatever when you can just get random people on the internet to do it for free? If you do this, your operations cost are lower than your competitors, which allows you to charge a little bit less for advertising (in this example). So your competitors are FORCED to adopt your business model, or go out of business. It's relatively simple, capitalism 101, same as it ever was. Airbnb and Uber are both companies that have succeeded by dodging the taxes and regulations that their competitors are subject to. Most cities in NA charge crazy high hotel taxes. These taxes make up a significant percentage of the price of a hotel room. Airbnb (or, i guess it would be the Airbnb prosumer) doesn't pay these taxes, so Airbnb rooms are cheaper. Same thing with Uber, who's drivers aren't required to drive cars with expensive taxi medallions or purchase special insurance.
BTW, I think the analysis that our (by "our" I guess I mean the NA working class) role in capitalism shifted in the late 20th century from producers to consumers. Everyone knows about deindustrialization, and yes people in NA consumed a lot of products produce overseas during that time, but I don't think that was our "role". What I mean is, the capitalists classes weren't intentionally or unintentionally keeping the NA people liquid so they could keep consuming and keep capitalism running. Capital was just doing what it always does, extracting as much value from people as possible (in this case, Capital was doing this by convincing people in NA to buys stuff they didn't really want through advertising). Anyway, since deindustrialization more and more of us are working as servants for the ruling class (or, sometimes, servants for the servants of the ruling class). This is possible because agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and other production related industries are more efficient than they used to be. This means that the goods the people of the world consume can be produced by a smaller and smaller percentage of the global population. So we all have to work as servants instead.

We are made into servants for exactly of the ruling class, but to the Commodity. That is held and managed by the ruling class.

Hence we must retake the commodity system by going into marketing and management studies so to put it under full dictatorship of the proletariat. Vote union!

meant to write "not exaclty or directly for the ruling class".

Many anarchists end up being used as free labor by the non-profit industrial complex.
Pro-sumer politics of anarchism. Lol.

Having just come back from a long and tiresome involvement at the local community bike shop, I can confirm this. And laugh it all up I don't care at this point. Society is one bad fucking movie.

It's capitalism 101, but don't you think that emphasis is important when it comes to thinking about our capacities? Sure, capitalism has always depended on extremely cheap and/or unpaid labor. At the same time, what that looks like changes. The reproduction of the industrial working class relied upon a lot of unpaid home and childcare labor, for example. Along with that configuration were the roles of the time and a resistance that was a response to those roles. Then with deindustrialization there comes the resistance to "consumer society" ...often more a resistance to the roles than to capitalism generally. The differences between these forms of capitalism seem significant to me, even if it is still just capitalism doing what it does. I think it's a big deal when anarchists go from heavily focusing on labor issues to heavily focusing on consumer issues ...what some have called lifestylism.

I'd make the same arguments for the configuration of capitalism favoring emphasis on consumer/office worker roles to this "prosumer"/precarious worker configuration, where what may have formerly been considered resistance has become a model for profits ...not just as an employee, but also as a customer. If for any reason at all, at least because this shift implies different forms of resistance that seek to undermine different forms of value extraction. For instance, creating "situations" (a response to the consumer society a.k.a. the Spectacle) doesn't seem like it would challenge much of anything about contemporary capitalism, even though it had challenged the atomized society held together by the consumption of idealized images of what it lacked. Going on and on about consumer issues, like Nike's crimes against humanity ...what would that even mean now? So the prosumer will just go off and custom design some 3D-printed shoes they'll pay some techie startup for and no one will think less of them for rejecting name brands.

Ok - yeah so there's the service/servant sector bit, there's the ongoing automation helping these changes along, the State is also loving the citizen/community participation game for their power, there are a lot of tensions to put pressure on.

When I wrote "BTW, I think the analysis that our (by "our" I guess I mean the NA working class) role in capitalism shifted in the late 20th century from producers to consumers" I meant to write "BTW, I think the analysis that our (by "our" I guess I mean the NA working class) role in capitalism shifted in the late 20th century from producers to consumers IS FLAWED." That fucked up my entire point, so sorry. Anyway, I agree with you. The tactics used to rebel against consumer society (such as boycotting companies like Nike and the No Logo thing, which has morphed into "conscious" consumerism), were ineffective. I guess my point is that even though people's roles within capitalism are changing, capitalism is still doing what it has always done (extracting value). Getting people to work for free is a great way to do this.

pre-colonial people acknowledged their inhabitant-habitat non-duality. peoples with relational language architectures continue to acknowledge that in the natural world of our actual experience, inhabitant and habitat are a non-duality.

colonialism sprang from an agreement between the Christian Church and the kings of Europe to split apart authority over the spiritual and temporal realms, thus notionally splitting apart people and land, creating a notional 'independence' between 'inhabitant' and 'habitat' (a dualist worldview).

in the dualist view, man is seen as an independent machine with inputs and outputs; i.e. he consumes and produces. picturing biota as 'independent systems' forces upon us the adjunct logic of 'pro-ducer' and 'con-sumer' that is unnecessary until we impose 'independent being' on relational forms.

in the non-dualist view, the relational space that includes man in the manner that the flow includes a storm-cell is the source of inflowent and outflowent circulation that constitutes the 'inhabitants' in the 'habitat'; i.e. inhabitant and habitat are a non-duality.

as schroedinger and the relational understanding of the world would have it, 'consuming' and 'producing' are conjugate aspects of the one dynamic of transformation; i.e. the world is given only once and dualist separations are illusion set up by noun-and-verb language-and-grammar and the language games this offers. 'production' and 'consumption' and not two separate dynamics as in the dualist view [the semantic reality we construct] of a world of machines, they are one circular dynamic. the storm-cell does not CONSUME thermal energy and PRODUCE winds, that is just a semantic word-play depiction deriving from the use of noun-and-verb constructs to impute 'independent being' to relational forms in the flow, and then having to impute to the now notionally 'independent' forms, 'input/consumption' and 'output/production' to explain the world [the transforming relational continuum] in the reduced terms of 'things' and 'what things do'. in non-euclidian (relational) space, the fish and snails and plants in the aquarium persist by consuming what they are producing within a relational food-web. it is only noun-and-verb language that imputes independent being to them that stops us from acknowledging that these forms ARE relational features in a flow-field; i.e. they are the nexus of inflowence and outflowence [epigenetic inductive influence that actualizes genetic expression] as in Lamarck's understanding of biota. In a fluid dynamic, consumption/inflowence and production/outflowence are a non-duality (a circulation or circling); that is what things in general are; energy in transformation.

so, consider this. some powerful people convince the masses that 'land' and 'people' are two separate and independent things, so that one powerful person can 'own' vast tracts of land and fence people off from it, extorting labours from them so as to extract nurturances from the land, most of which is hoarded by the landowner who use it to extort services out of others and to trade goods with other extortionists. the powerful make use of sovereigntism with its flags and anthems and its pledges of allegiance to perpetuate this abstract separation of inhabitant and habitat [the independently existing 'land' is deified in sovereigntism], keeping people mentally conditioned and thus continuously prey to such extortion. it is all sprachspiele or language games.

as moonhawk, MIT linguist observes, in affirming the sapir-whorf conjecture, the 'operative reality' that we are living in is a semantic reality deriving from our sprachspiele;

"“What are these academics so afraid of that they can’t face and contemplate and answer student’s questions about Whorf’s actual text? Why the smoke and mirrors? I suspect that they fear, and rightly so, that the entire Western worldview — logic, reason, science, philosophy, categories — the entire ‘civilization’ enterprise of which academia is a part, in fact, is at stake; or at least the superior attitude that often accompanies it. It may be a fear that what we’re culturally heir to is ‘just another worldview and its langscapes’ rather than exemplifying, as we tend to want to believe, eternal and universal human logic, which we’re simply ‘better at’ than people who speak other languages outside of the Indo-European language family. As John Lucy says, relativity “challenges assumptions which lie at the heart of much modern social and behavior research — namely its claim to be discovering general laws and to be truly scientific.” – Dan (Moonhawk) Alford, MIT

it is from the logical separation of inhabitant and habitat by way of imputing 'independent being' to the inhabitants that we get the binary duality of 'production' and 'consumption'. this TWO (binary duo) dynamics are artefacts of a semantic reality that departs radically from the physical reality of our actual experience, a semantic reality that is the institutionalized underpinning of 'Western society'.

in the inhabitant-habitat non-duality of pre-literate people as well as the relational theorists and philosophers of modern physics, the duality of 'consumption/inflowence' and 'production/outflowence' disappears as the matter-space duality disappears, giving way to the 'energy-charged plenum' aka 'transforming relational continuum' which is continually gathering within itself relational forms as inhabitant-habitat non-dualities, not popping them out as independent machines that function/live by 'consuming' and 'producing'.

as Wittgenstein observed, we, as noun-and-verb language-and-grammar users, are making ourselves captive of sprachspiele that "bewitch our understanding".

evidently, we can't 'talk ourselves out of it'.

'prosumer', meanwhile, is a term that reflects the physical reality of the non-duality of pro-ducer and con-sumer, as the aquatic food web in the aquarium where the network of biotic forms are energy-in-relational-transformation rather than a collection of independent machines as in the semantic reality of Western dualist sprachspiele.

thought you would notice that

the message in 'prosumer' is that the physical reality of our actual experience is of participation in an inhabitant-habitat non-duality. that means that consumption and production are not two separate processes but the very basis of 'being'. 'being' being the [space versus matter] 'duality' arising from noun-and-verb language-and-grammar, a 'convenient, economy-of-thought delivering abstraction that allows us to RE-PRESENT dynamics in terms of independent things and what things do.

this is bullshit, but guess what, it is used to construct dualist semantic realities that are stuff of politics and the institutionalized 'operative reality' of Western society. if you don't like how Western capitalist, colonialist society functions, than you'd do well to examine how language is 'bewitching our understanding' [Wittgenstein].

so long as we continue to trust noun-and-verb language-and-grammar, we're fucked. people get momentarily interested in this; e.g. in the manner in which logical propositions are subjective and incomplete; "Osama bin Ladin is the source of problems which we can fix by eliminating Osama bin Ladin". as Nietzsche says, this sort of 'subject and predicate' thinking is a 'great stupidity'. The noun-and-verb based 'dualist' semantic realities, which politicians propose as 'operative realities' and which are the foundations of Western discourse such as are debated in discussion forums such as this one, are predominantly subject and predicate 'great stupidities'. Osama bin Ladin was the product of Euro-American colonialism. Grammatically (semantically), he may be a subject that inflects a verb that is deemed responsible for authoring some nasty act, just as the child-soldier and disillusioned youths who slaughter their teachers and fellow students are said to be the authors of their own actions. this is transparent bullshit arising from nothing other than noun-and-verb Indo-European language-and-grammar which has no connection with the physical reality of our actual experience.

we seem to agree that Western society is fucked up. what the hell is this all about then, this blaming the individuals that are fucked up as the jumpstart authors of problems? this is pure grammatical abstraction, the source of the problem is relational social dysfunction and that comes directly from confusing language [semantic constructions] for 'reality'.

if you blame 'nouns' [i.e. 'independently-existing individuals, nations, categories (races, genders)] for problem issues, your head is being fucked with by language and grammar. your understanding is being bewitched by language and grammar and logic which is inherently subjective and incomplete. you are contributing to a relational social dynamic founded on 'great stupidity'.

in acknowledging that consumption and production are one 'prosumer' dynamic, we are removing the dualism based on 'being' [agents that consume and produce] and implicitly acknowledging that a human 'being' [noun] is an 'activity' within the larger activity as in relational languages which have no nouns and no subject-predicate 'great stupidities'.

every time we butt-up a verb behind a being-based noun [convenient, yes, because of how it simplifies by ignoring relational complexity] and argue in logical cause-and-effect terms as to whose semantic reality is 'the real one', we put ourselves in that condition of 'great stupidity'. there is no 'real one' and all kinds of semantic realities can be 'proven true' because they are ALL inherently subjective and incomplete. the physical reality of our actual experience is beyond articulation in terms of 'what being-based subjects do'.

Osama bin Ladin's behaviours (organizing terrorist attacks) are, as we intuit from our real-world experience, 'pushback' from the oppression and humiliation imposed through Euro-American colonialism. This pretense of 'good' in a battle with 'evil' [coming from the religions traditions of Islam and Christianity] is total bullshit, based on Creationist beliefs [God created men as independent beings with their own free will who are the full and sole authors of their own behaviour' --- BULLSHIT]. meanwhile, this bullshit is the foundation of Western justice, which interprets rebellion from any oppressed minority as jumpstarting from internal evil.

'production' and 'consumption' are constructed from the bullshit notion of the independently existing jumpstart author of cause-effect action [subject-verb-predicate 'great stupidity' endorsed by science and Western religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism)]

the emergent term 'prosumer' signals that the physical reality of our actual experience [wherein rebellion is natural pushback against oppression rather than jumpstart authored actions of evil people] is beginning to 'show' through the facade of great-stupidity based semantic realities.

More like prosumer websites amirite?

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