Capitalist Casey?

Casey’s analysis of the Che image is unique among our readings in that it does not derive from a complete critique of capitalism.  Though Casey is quick to point out the contradictory and ironic ways people have used the Che image, turning it into a Che himself into a commodity, he is not illuminating these instances to show how capitalism is evil and awful and must be overcome but is impossible to overcome, as many of our other readings have.  Instead, Casey, particularly in his descriptions of Cuba’s current political and economic situation, is quick to criticize anti-communist ideals.  On page 284, he calls Che “hyperidealistic” and shows the ways his ideas decreased productivity.  Casey goes on to cite economists who claim that “society pays a high cost for suppressing the individual’s drive for material betterment,” a mainstay of capitalist dogma.

He goes on to describe those who “agitate for social change” as “idealists” and asks “Why can’t we believe that human beings can change?” (284-285).  Casey does not seem concerned with finding real, material ways to promote societal change, instead (in a rather Hegel-like move) taking the discussion back to grand questions of human beings and the human spirit.

This was confusing and rather unsatisfying to me.  I have, because of the way we have discussed the evolution of cultural studies, assumed that cultural studies must be based in a critique of capitalism and the desire for material change.  But is this really the case?  Can a work like Casey’s instead make capitalism seem inevitable and – gasp – beneficial?

5 responses to “Capitalist Casey?

  1. I thought this was interesting as well, and maybe even enlightening. Cuba showed us that communism is not really feasible. There is still an “elite” that benefits, and the country is still centered around the fetishization of the expensive American goods.

    By showing how capitalism may be inevitable, especially with the economic and political conditions today, it may be possible to discuss real opportunities for change, perhaps within the system. Instead of postulating about abstract ideas that can never come into fruition, namely a full revolution against capitalism, perhaps we should think of ways to make the system work for us. You’ll have to get back to me on how we should actually go about that…

  2. I agree that Casey moves from the Marxist perspective we have been studying all semester but I want to point out that Cuba may not necessarily be the best example of Marxism.
    I don’t think that Marx would support the version of communism practiced by nations, like Cuba today. Marx promoted an ideology of equality, yet it would be difficult to achieve in the heterogenous and populous conditions of today.
    I don’t agree that capitalism is inevitable, this sounds very much like a absolutist dichotomy. Capitalism is the system we have been condition to operate under, and it is not completely bad. June Nash (anthropology professor) promotes a balanced capitalism for it to be functional. I think both communism and capitalism when corrupted by humans are bound to fail.

  3. This post brings up an interesting point, which is that because this class was focused on “cultural studies” I feel like we kind of missed out on learning about communism and capitalism as means of government. Marx’s critique of capitalism was great, but we haven’t really studies proposed alternatives. I feel like this class is a little bit like the Obama poster in that we’re all about change, but change to what exactly. Of course I’m sure I could come up with somethings we all agree on, but I wish we had discussed particular ideological problems that need to be addressed…or maybe this should just be accomplished in other calsses

  4. Qwertyuiop – I have been struggling with exactly these questions. While writing my paper about green consumerism, I realized how many ways there were to approach the issue – and how the way I felt like I should approach it in terms of cultural studies, though theoretically rich, was perhaps lacking in substance (is my claim that green consumerism is ideologically problematic more or less helpful than a report talking about the reduction in emissions that result from producing paper towels with recycled materials?). Granted, this is probably more a reflection of my own writing and thinking than anything else. But I think it also shows that simply looking at theory – without having a background in economics, or history, without digging into the meat of an actual real-life situation (which we started to do with our papers, but which one paper doesn’t allow you to complete)- can result in a pretty shallow understanding. That’s not meant to reflect poorly on our class; rather, I’m agreeing with your final thought that a class like this needs to be complimented with other classes, other forms of knowledge (classes that I, an English major, have yet to take…hmm…). Being able to throw around the word ideology, though providing a useful theoretical framework, doesn’t help all that much in changing the world. I am yet another liberal arts student, using big words to attempt to convey a sense that something isn’t quite right – but ask me to pin down that something, and all I have to fall back on are my big words…or at least that’s how I feel sometimes.

  5. Bravo, Erin! Thanks for articulating the way I feel about, well, more or less everything right now.

    I agree that theory is only ever useful in relation to practice, and that all the big-picture stuff can seem pointless and exhausting without corroborating evidence. But if there’s one idea that’s really been hammered down in this class, it’s that everything you’re doing right now has practical consequences, and with some knowledge of the big-picture consequences of your mundane choices, and the limits within which your mundane choices are made, it becomes evident that the mundanity of said choices is totally relative. (The president thinks: “Today I will drink coffee, read the paper, and authorize an air strike in Afghanistan.”)

    Perhaps you find that knowledge paralyzing, but you can’t not choose, because not choosing is also a choice. Dig? Subjective agency and all that.