A Twist on Marxism by Casey

Throughout the semester we have been exposed to various texts by Marx and his followers, such as Gramsci, Althusser, Fanon, and Said which heavily criticize or at least question the effects of capitalism and colonization. Yet, now we move a bit away from the criticism of capitalism to an understanding of its relevance in marketing iconic images of subversion, such as “El Che.” In his analysis of Che Guevara Casey reflects on the irony of what Che stood, which was an opposition to the predatory spread of capitalism, and the way that his image has now become part of its consumerist system.

The strength of Casey’s book centers on the symbolism and re-appropriation of the image of Che. Why do people use this icon or symbol by wearing the logos? I would argue that many people who consume Che do not really know who he is. I personally have experienced this when I asked people who wear this logo if they know who he is and most do not, nor what he stood for. I think what is important is to explore the appeal to Che. Casey does this by discussing the sexy image of a young virile Latino revolutionary man. This also reminded me of the way that Marcos (Zapatista subcommander) has become an icon through the media. Could it be for the same reasons?

I also thought it was interesting the way that Casey included alternative versions of Che’s image from the voice of the son of a man who was assassinated by Che. I thought this was interesting because I have actually read about Che and watched the various films about his life, and this idea of his murderous side has not been something I reflected on.

I think Casey’s book is very interesting and a nice conclusion to our analysis of Marxism and Cultural Studies in the sense that it makes the theory relevant to our (U.S.) society today. I found myself really enjoying this book. I think that what makes his book interesting is really the appeal that figures like Che have for us.

2 responses to “A Twist on Marxism by Casey

  1. I found your interpretation of Casey’s analysis of Che to be very interesting. I was especially intrigued by your mention of the fact that many people who wear his image are unaware of what it really stands for. This reminded me of the Shephard Fairey image of Obama in that people wear this image and claim to support what it stands for but in reality, what does the image even represent? Yes We Can…what? I think that the popularity of the image plays a bigger role than what it actually means and people support it because it is trendy.

  2. It seems like the issue isn’t that people don’t know what it stands for as that it stands for something different for different people. For some, the symbol is completely disconnected from the historical reality of Che as a human being, whereas for others it is only the negative reality of his life (i.e. his murderous qualities). But it seems like Casey is first exploring all the components of the image and the potential influences each has, then he is finding that people have very specific associations with the image. The comparison with the Fairey image is interesting. Maybe in both cases people have a general affinity to these images and have some vague sense of their representing something having to do with change or revolution or justice. On the other hand, I think Casey’s book is about how people actually each have a specific meaning. Nobody just wears the image, though everyone may wear it for a different reason. The reason it’s appealing is because it’s never neutral. I’m not sure if the same can be said of the Fairey image. I think that is because every possible version of Che is at least a complete symbol. For example, the guerilla fighter was a moral, disciplined person who can be taken as a hero to be emulated. On the other hand, the Fairey image is only representative of Obama’s polital persona, which is not nearly as definitive as Che’s guerilla persona. Che may represent many things, but each of those things is concrete. Obama represents many things as well, but they are all jumbled up and mixed together is some “yes we can” quote that means nothing or everything, but never one thing in particular.