Baudrillard - LeisureArts - Labor/Value

Jean Baudrillard's The Mirror of Production is an important work in establishing the LeisureArts sensibility. It is, essentially, a radical critique of the notions of labor and value as foundations of social theory. A comprehensive summary is beyond the scope of a blog post, so we might have to re-visit it at some other time. The biggest target for this critique is Marxist theory. Baudrillard, provocatively, sees Marxism as being merely a mirror of capitalist ideology. "The critical theory of the mode of production does not touch the principle of production." Or to put it bluntly, "Failing to conceive of a mode of social wealth other than that founded on labor and production, Marxism no longer furnishes in the long run a real alternative to capitalism."

Baudrillard insists that privileging use value over exchange value, as he claims Marxism does, merely accepts the structural logic of capital. Value itself escapes critique, "...the truth of capital culminates in this 'evidence' of man [sic] as producer of value." Following this through leads to one of the more compelling ideas offered by Baudrillard:

"And in this Marxism assists in the cunning of capital. It convinces men [sic] that they are alienated by the sale of their labor power, thus censoring the much more radical hypothesis that they might be alienated AS [emphasis ours] labor power, as the 'inalienable' power of creating value by their labor." [The entire quote is italicized in the original]

It is easy to see then how things like "relational art" and "post-studio art" can be subjected to a similar analysis. In their alleged criticality on the mode of artistic production, art itself escapes as a given. Thus, (paraphrasing Baudrillard as he writes about Marxist anthropology) what could have been a radical perspective on the very idea of art production, exists merely as an internal critique. This internal critique is part of the structural logic of the art system and only serves to broaden its reproduction rather than challenging it in any substantive way.