I covered quite a bit of ground in last week’s essay. Let me start with the bearded sage. Marx was an eclectic thinker and his subsequent fame makes it hard to disentangle the curious mind from the prophet of capital. The best place to start might be his fragment on machines in the Grundrisse, where he says:
Once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery (system of machinery: the automatic one is merely its most complete, most adequate form, and alone transforms machinery into a system), set in motion by an automaton. a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.
Sounds an awful lot like he anticipated our cybernetic era isn’t it?
I wish we had an encyclopedia of dystopias. Or refrigerator magnets where you can arrange words to reflect the apocalypse of the moment. A couple of my favorites:
Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrik’s masterpiece on the cold war. It permanently introduced ‘precious bodily fluids’ into my vocabulary.
Growing up in India, the cold war was more of a shadow than the main event. Not that we could escape its wake; much of contemporary Indian history can be read through a cold war lens. An excellent introduction to the main ideas is in a new book by my friend Srinath Raghavan:
That’s it for this week.