chapter  3
16 Pages

The commodification of abstinence

WithJustin Kotzé

Various modes of ‘resistance’ to capitalism assume one of two broad forms, active or passive. However, capitalism effortlessly assimilates this resistance into its circuitry and thrives precisely because it allows it to take place. This theoretical chapter focuses on the commodification of passive forms of resistance. It claims that periodic gestures of ‘protest abstinence’ become yet another form of micro-rebellion that simply represent a new opportunity for commodification. Various commodities, often produced in exploitative conditions, easily present themselves as suitable replacements for ‘abstained objects’ during difficult periods of abstinence. In an act of pure sociosymbolic interpassivity the new ‘thing’ allows politically passive subjects to imagine themselves as rebellious and virtuous heroes. The replacement is enjoyed just the same as any other consumer experience, but the imaginary resistance it represents does nothing to ameliorate the real harms precipitated by our current social arrangements. Furthermore, its ostensible ‘appearance’ of change only serves to negate real transformation. Accordingly, this chapter makes a case for participation in a gesture of refusal towards becoming absorbed in the latest micro-revolution and stresses the need for an enlightened catastrophism.