An Introduction to Simonist Politics

A lecture by David Simon on the worldview of The Wire:

Via Unemployed Negativity

June 16, 2008 6:37 PM | | Comments (5)



My problem is that this isn't news. Marx said the General Law of Capitalist Accumulation was that working people became more and more dispensable; John dos Passos' comment on the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti ended "All right we are two nations." I'm not trying to discount what Simon is saying, just to contextualize it. How have we managed to avoid catastrophe for so long--or have we not managed at all, and this is what catastrophe (as foretold by Marx et al.) looks like?

Well, what is news, or rather historic in its way, is that Simon translated his understanding of those tendencies into a work of popular culture that resembles Balzac (M&E's favorite novelist, as I recall) in both its scope and attention to the inner workings of everyday life....

I don't take it all that seriously when Simon announces that he is not a Marxist. He's far more so (and in a much more meaningful way) than an awful lot of people who make a big point of attaching that label to themselves. If all the radicals in the MLA were raptured away tomorrow, it'd make not very much difference at all. Loss of The Wire would be another matter entirely.

Hey, was that a deal being offered? I'll take it.

Sorry, both my capitalist instincts and Wire fan's heart leapt at the possibility: If Scott makes all the MLA radicals vanish tomorrow, we'll get The Wire back.



If only it were that easy.

Something I read the other day pointed out that between them, Deadwood, The Sopranos, and The Wire were kind of a trilogy about the rise, consolidation, and decline of capital. (That was either on a blog or I dreamt it.) Seemed like an interesting point anyway.

Two quibbles. One, the productivity surge in the 1990s expansion came with full employment. Full employment strengthens the position of working Americans, who during that time saw more gains in earnings than at any other time since the economic tumult of the 1970s. Second, I don't understand how a society can be both post-industrial and exacerbate global warming.

I think Doug Henwood was right when he wrote this response to the fear of a jobless future a decade ago:

Yes; mechanization does allow fewer workers to produce more stuff. To lubricate his move from this noncontroversial point to the apocalyptic mode, Rifkin quotes Marx's prediction (from the Grundrisse) of the "last...metamorphosis of labor ...when an automatic system of machinery" replaces the living worker. Rifkin seems not to have learned much from the passage that surrounds that quotation. To Marx, machinery renders workers dependent, makes them into watchmen and regulators rather than direct producers; the social knowledge and coordination behind technological production could make possible a more leisurely and humane way of life, but instead is used for the accumulation of money. But machines don't render human workers obsolete; on the contrary, Marx said, they "presuppose masses of workers."

None of which is said to dismiss David Simon--in one clip he surpasses most of the commentariat. Rather, I suspect the rot of our "political infrastructure" explains more than technological change. If we're post anything, we're post-Reagan (in a larger sense than the simply partisan).

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