Outside of the Factory: The Homogenizing Movement of Present-Day Capitalism

04/27/2021

In his essay The Psychological Structure of Fascism, Georges Bataille says that “workers fall within the framework of the social order” but they fall within the “homogeneous reduction” of the social order only when they are engaging in “wage-earning activity” [emphasis mine] “as a rule”.[1] For Bataille, “[o]ustide of the factory,” the worker is, “with regard to a homogeneous person” someone outside the grips of social homogeneity or, as Bataille says, “a man of another nature, of a non-reduced, non subjugated nature”.[2] I am not here to dispute the validity of Bataille’s latter claim because, for his time, he was correct. Rather, I am only here to update Bataille’s analysis, just as he updated the Marxist theory of base-superstructure in the aforementioned essay.

So, does social homogenization take place outside of the factory?

I. The Bourgeois Class, the Appropriation of Surplus Value, and Social Homogeneity

He also states that the bourgeois class determines how social homogeneity functions as they are not workers but rather the ones who “appropriates the products” i.e. the surplus-value from the worker and therefore, the bourgeois class becomes the “function of the products” and therefore also the ones who found social homogeneity.[3] The bourgeois class has “essential ties” to social homogeneity.[4]

So why does this matter? What is the big deal with social homogeneity? Well, simply, “[h]omogeneous society is also productive society, namely, useful society”.[5] This has a huge implication: our current society which is stuck within the profane realm of project, has as one of its “pillars” or maybe as its “foundation” social homogeneity.

II. Production, Alienation, and the Psychology of the Present-Day Proletarian

Bataille says that production is at the very basis of social homogeneity.[6] The productive activity, production, is an action which reduces the individual proletarian to the ontological level of a tool, of a thing. The isolated proletarian is now also isolated from himself as the production process entails a certain level of socio-ontological alienation. The psychological effects continue, though Bataille does say that the proletarian is “integrated into the psychological homogeneity in terms of their behavior on the job, but not generally as men”.[7] Again, in terms of his time, Bataille was correct, but I would say that he needs an “update” here as well.

The proletarian which undergoes alienation only has the negatives of being within the world of project not only further perpetuated, but also exacerbated. Teleology becomes ingrained into our heads and restricted economy becomes a psychological condition which functions a lot like ‘ideology’ does for the bourgeois class. This ‘restricted psychology’ makes it impossible to see the inherent abundance of the general economy. This functions a lot like Amy E. Wendling’s description of the psychology of our bourgeois society in their essay “Sovereign Consumption as a Species of Commuist Theory” found within the book Reading Bataille Now. It diverts our attention away from excess and towards necessity. So, not only does production lead to alienation and socio-ontological reduction but also lasting psychological effects which reinforce the restricted economy.

III. When do we Actually Leave the Factory?

Bataille, as he expressed earlier in this essay, believes that we actually do leave the factory, we do stop laboring, but I would say that in the present-day, this no longer holds true.

Using things such as our phones and scrolling on the internet, we generate revenue for the bourgeois class by way of watching videos and getting ads, streaming things, etc.

I think the borders between home and work also break down early in the realm of the school. To condition the rising generation, schools break down the distinction between the home (the place of leisure) and the school (the factory). We have our homework due tomorrow you know.

Bibliography

Bataille, Georges. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939. Edited by Allan Stoekl. Translated by Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie Jr.. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

References

[1–3]: Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, ed. Allan Stoekl, trans. Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie Jr. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 138.

[4]: Ibid., 139.

[5–7]: Ibid., 138.

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille