Capitalism and SFF

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“Capitalism is often interpreted as a religion. However, if religion is understood in terms of Religare, as something that binds, then capitalism is anything but a religion because it lacks any force to assemble, to create community…And what is essential to religion is contemplative rest, but this is the antithesis of Capital. Capital never rests. It is in its nature that it must always work and continue moving. To the extent that they lose the capacity for contemplative rest, humans conform to Capital. The distinction between the sacred and profane is also an essential characteristic of religion. The sacred unites those things and values that give validity to a community. The formation of community is its essential trait. Capitalism, by contrast, erases the distinction between the sacred and the profane by totalizing the profane. It makes everything comparable to everything else and thus equal to everything else. Capitalism brings forth a hell of the same.

— Byung-Chul Han, The Disappearance of Rituals, October 26, 2020

I like the quote from Byung-Chul Han and am thinking it might be a good idea to read his book. Otherwise, I found the essay I have linked to above dark, maybe too dark.

And I wonder if science fiction and fantasy are a way of dealing with “the hell of the same.” They provide us with myths. They are set in time, rather than an endless, chaotic present. At their best, they help us see the present and imagine a future that is different.

I think the author of this essay confuses the tendency of capitalism with the current reality. The complete breakdown of society has not yet happened. This society would have a hard time operating without a lot of unpaid or underpaid social labor, which happens because people still feel connected to each other: caring for families, doing community work, putting on SFF cons… A perfect capitalist society would require feral children and old people dying in the streets. (Read Dickens. Those things happen in his books. In some ways, Victorian England was more perfectly capitalist than our current society.) I would say we are still engaged in a struggle with capitalism, still trying to maintain a society in the face of Thatcher’s famous quote: “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” She is wrong. We only function with cooperation, including cooperation with people we don’t know