On the question of life’s value we will see in Nietzsche’s writing every ‘no’ of Schopenhauer’s answered by an emphatic ‘yes’. Schopenhauer’s will, dread and defiling, something that makes life not worth living, becomes with Nietzsche the ‘will to power’, the basis of all striving and life. We see each gloomy and pessimistic metaphysical notion of Schopenhauer’s answered by a ‘gay science’ and a ‘dancing with light feet’ as Nietzsche dismisses metaphysics and embraces life even if it is the expression of the will to power. For Schopenhauer’s distaste for life, for his preference that it didn’t exist at all, Nietzsche affirms not only life in general, but life in particular -fatality. With the concept of the eternal recurrence he invites us to think of living a life so great, and embracing our fate to such a degree, that we would live it again indefinitely. Nietzsche says ‘yes’. Even though we agree with him we must say ‘no’…
Nietzsche was born in an age where the greatest enemies of life, reason, and knowledge (at least in his eyes it seems) were Christianity and romantic pessimism. These beasts by our time are long gone -only the ruins of their doctrines remain, much of the rubble re-incorporated into heterodox edifices. In our age who are the greatest enemies to our pursuit? Who are the greatest enemies to life, reason, and knowledge? It seems that the triumphant antagonists of knowledge today are sensualists and materialists -seemingly the yea-sayers! We live in a time in which the dominant mode of production requires massive ideological mobilization to reproduce itself. This ideology uses as its primary energy ‘the animal spirits’ or if you will, the libidinal drives of the populace.
Capitalist economies require a continuous and ever-expanding flow of value. Labor and physical materials are the means by which concrete value is added to the production process; but, the commodities produced must also be consumed, without this accumulation would cease and the surrounding social relations would fall apart. The consumer must crave the commodity for society to persist. This craving must be pseudo-religious in nature and each consumption act must realize within the consumer some sort of addition to his being -it must be the means to becoming.
This society is structured such that one is constantly presented with the choice ‘yes’ or ‘no’: consume or do not consume. Marx used the commodity in his writing as a means to move from the particular to the universal. Both obscured and communicated within the single commodity was contained for Marx the whole of capitalist relations. Ideologically, and in our time the same holds. Not merely as rhetoric but as a form of pseudo-religious allegiance the whole of capitalist society may is affirmed in the consumption of the single commodity. In line with this it is implied that one may asserts their refusal of the capitalist worldview through refusing the single commodity.
Capitalist society is no longer a world of simple commodities. The electronic representations that flood the market and our minds do not merely reflect commodity fetishism, but seem to be the technical realization of commodity metaphysics. These images form a seeming multiplicity. For example, they are either news or entertainment, and many of the instances represent world-views that are at odds with each other. Nevertheless, it is most instructive to consider these representations as a totality, a single representation of society -the spectacle. Again, we are offered the choice of yes and no on many levels: will you consume electronic entertainment? Will you allow yourself to affirm these representations? Will the spectacle mediate your reality?
In the production of the commodity we must see an appropriation of the workers’ labor by the capitalist class. In its fetishistic consumption, we must see the assumption of the commodity metaphysic of becoming, an unconscious affirmation of individual expropriation, and an unconscious affirmation of the expropriation of an entire class by another. In the feverish worship of the spectacle we cannot help but witness the active pursuit of indoctrination. Precisely here we find the locus of our contemporary quandary: to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. How can we say yes to life when life is presented as an accumulation of spectacles? How can we say no when we don’t have a place to seek metaphysical refuge?
Instead of claiming the afterworld, the abstract and the divine, today ideology has claimed the profane, it has claimed this life, the individual’s needs, desires, and egotism. What it allegedly delivers us, it in fact alienates from us. The immediate needs and qualities of our being are not handed over to us, they are not made easier for us, they are claimed by the commodity and the spectacle. The labor-power of the worker is alienated from him under the present conditions of production and it is manifested in the commodity itself. Ideologically, the commodity performs a second alienation where it divorces from the consumer of the commodities his essential properties. The needs and qualities are alienated from the consumer, through the advertisement or the manufacture of desire, and magically retained within the commodity. With the entertainment spectacle, the same spell is cast, the needs and qualities of the consumer may only by reclaimed by consumption.
Yes or no?
…If we are to be philosophers we mustn’t get caught in these labyrinthine dichotomies, for we do not want only one or the other. We must never concede this life to the ideology of consumer capitalism. Spectacular society has presented life as a vast accumulation of images. Don’t permit your self-alienation before the spectacle, claim your own life.