By Jim McGuigan
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Extra resources for Cool Capitalism
His whole thesis points towards the consumer’s engagement with cultural capitalism, and in that sense it complements Boltanski and Chiapello’s thesis. If we want to understand the new culture of capitalism – here, ‘cool capitalism’ – it should be examined from both the production and the consumption moments in the circuit. In fact, capitalism has a history of consumption as well as production that contributes to the characterisation of its different phases or ‘spirits’. Moreover, while it is important to register the succession of capitalist modes of production and consumption, it should also be noted that each successive spirit remains in play simultaneously and, to a degree, remains in contestation, despite the current dominance of ‘the new spirit of capitalism’.
He seems to regret the closing of the gap between art and capitalism by which, arguably, the arts are absorbed into capitalism and critical distance is lost. It is not only that capitalism reduces the independence of art but that it also seeks to encompass the whole of lived experience as well as artistic culture. All of this is captured by the metaphor of enclosing the cultural commons. 105 Later in the book, Rifkin discusses the depletion of cultural resources by their incessant mining, paralleling the ruthless and unsustainable exploitation of nature: Not surprisingly, as cultural production becomes the high-end sector of the economic value chain, marketing assumes an importance that extends well beyond the commercial realm.
Rifkin’s The Age of Access is a curiously ambivalent and, indeed, internally conflicted book. It is divided into two parts. Part I is entitled, ‘The New Capitalist Frontier’; Part II, ‘Enclosing the Cultural Commons’. The frontier metaphor is apt in that the first half of the book sets out an exciting and inspiring scenario for the young capitalist to take off into. The metaphor of a cultural commons, derived from the common land of pre-capitalism, being enclosed by the capitalist seizure and commodification of everything, problematises the whole process and links up with various sources of criticism: green politics, anti-capitalism, and so on.