Sorry, one more. I’m having trouble shutting down tonight. The central triad in Marx is production, distribution, and consumption. This should be understood to apply– in my opinion –ontologically to all entities and not just society and economy. Somewhere early in Grundrisse Marx proposes that these three dimensions be coded against one another. I can’t reproduce the table here, but basically you would have a table composed of four columns and rows with production, distribution, and consumption as the heading of the columns and production, distribution, and consumption labeling each of the rows. Marx’s point is that you get a combination of each. So you would get the following:
Production of Production.
Production of Distribution.
Production of Consumption.
Distribution of Production.
Distribution of Distribution.
Distribution of Consumption.
Consumption of Production.
Consumption of Consumption.
Consumption of Distribution.
I’m not sure what to do with all these combinations (some of them are mind bending to me), but some brief suggestions.
1a. Production of Production: Production doesn’t come ready made but must be produced. In economic terms, production of production wouldn’t be the production that takes place in a factory, but rather would be the production of the condition of production in the first place. For example, in socio-economic terms this would be science, technology, the building of infrastructure (e.g. the factory), the formation of workers, etc. In the natural world, the production of production would be the emergence of conditions that allow certain types of minerals and lifeforms to exist. I guess it would also include production of products. I have to think through this more.
2a. Production of distribution: Production of distribution would be the work required to build distribution networks. This would include both literal shipping routes (the formation of real connections), but also would include– in the socio-economic world –all sorts of media elements that get awareness of the product “out there”.
3a. Production of Consumption: This is probably the most interesting for cultural theorists. Early in Capital Marx is quite clear that needs do not come ready-made but have to be produced. Production of consumption would be all those subjectifying processes that create needs or desires. We can think about Baudrillard’s work in The System of Objects here, but also Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring-machines. Lack does not precede desire/consumption, but requires a prior set of formations to come into being.
1a. Distribution of Production: This probably comes closest to what we think of when we think of economy and production. Products have to somehow be distributed. The “primitive”, feudal, and capitalistic are all various delivery mechanisms through which products are circulated. This requires time, real connections, and infrastructures. Moreover, the distribution of production applies at both the physical level and the semiotic level. Ideas, signs, and linguistic elements (which are themselves products) must be distributed as much as products like cheeseburgers and cars.
2b. Distribution of Consumption: I really have no idea where to go with this combinatorial. Perhaps distributions of consumption refer to class and identity distributions. In other words, there would here be some process by which who/what consumes what comes to be sorted. Bourdieu’s analysis of taste would be helpful here as he shows how class differences structure taste. The beer your drink and the fact that you drink beer at all would not be a personal decision but the result of a distribution of consumption.
3b. Distribution of Distribution: What would distribution of distribution be? I’m not sure. Perhaps distribution of distribution would refer to the networks of distribution that are formed throughout the world… Their continuities and discontinuities. Distribution has to itself be distributed. Think about airline flight paths in and out of cities. Some cities are highly distributed in the sense that they are hubs (Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, etc.), while others are largely undistributed or only reachable through transfer flights (Lynchburg, for instance). Likewise with economy. If this is the case we should avoid the temptation to speak of The Market (as DeLanda notes in his misguided criticisms of Marxism). Because there are distributions of distributions there is not one market but a variety of different distribution mechanisms, some of which indirectly converge, others which are probably entirely discontinuous.
1c. Consumption of Production: This would be exactly like it sounds: A real connection between a sender/producer and a receiver in which a product (effect) is consumed. Consumption of production would require production of consumption. Consumers don’t come ready made, but need to be produced (part of the mistake of Stalinist Socialism in assuming that need is “natural” or pre-given). You have to have consumers that can consume productions. So in a very real sense, consumption of production is very far down in the line of production. Protevi’s “political affect” is important here.
2c. Consumption of Distribution: Again, I’m not sure what to do with this combination. Perhaps consumption of distribution would be the symbolic-value (Baudrillard, Bourdieu) skimmed off distributions of distributions? In other words, consumption of distribution would be the excess consumption we get from our various class positions; and this from the lowest to the highest as there’s a jouissance in each.
3c. Consumption of Consumption: This makes my head break when I try to think about it. I guess this would be one place where we locate surplus-value and surplus-jouissance? I’ll leave it at that.