Art, Enrichment and Sumptuary Value 3/3

by Olivier Quintyn


One of capitalism’s major characteristics consists in the limitless, overall dynamics of accumulation and enrichment: the only aim of these dynamics is their own perpetuation, by shifting the quest for profit towards new pools of wealth once the chances of making a profit from a given economic site or established merchandise format have been exhausted. This characteristic is infinite (since the movement of capital’s accumulation is endless) and mobile (since one of its main operating principles is the shifting and constant renewal of the sources of profit), and represents both the strength and weakness of capitalism. Strength, because this integral form of capitalism proceeds by progressively enrolling what used to be subtracted from trade and merchandizing, by the commercial sphere’s progressive colonisation of the entire realm of existence; weakness, because the self-referential dynamics of enrichment pursued for itself have to find normative and political support from society in order to be acceptable, even though they never stop producing inequality and social suffering for the many. Enrichment can hardly constitute an autonomous moral grandeur liable to trigger the approval of the overwhelming majority of people who are not capital-rich, and yet whose work is indispensable for the valorisation of this same capital.

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