Sunday, February 17, 2008

Can't Resist These Sock Puppets

Incredible film of two sock puppets discussing work and working conditions in the modern, white collar, "neoliberal" market. Its really funny to watch these Sock Puppets discuss Marx, Foucault, and everything in between. ( h/t Crooked Timber who linked to the original posting over at a marvellous site called Wicked Anomie.)

Its really worth watching because some issues we've been talking around politically (about how much any politically active individual can recognize their own agency, or lack of it, in a political contest) come up in the context of the sock puppets discussion of labor and work in the modern world. What struck me most was the sock puppet's explanation of the necessity for the creation of internal controls like anxiety, fear, and guilt in the modern white collar worker to take the place of brute force oppression in the regular factory worker. In a democracy we can see this issue being played out in this election with people encouraged to imagine themselves "freely choosing" among a variety of competing candidates offering them a smorgasbrod of policy choices. But are they really "freely choosing?" when the candiates and the issues and the coverage have been constrained and limited by authorities and powers beyond the control, or even the ken, of the individual voter? As Incontinentia Buttocks pointed out over at LGM the battle between Obama and HRC is, in reality, largely a battle over minute and even trivial differences in the delivery of the same product (she calls it the "narcissism of small differences"). And even where there are actual policy differences for voters to choose among they are encouraged or deluded into regarding the political/policy battle as being one of taste. Even worse, they are misled entirely as to the nature of the choices before them--see e.g. Kristof's skin crawlingly meretricious but utterly standard paen to McCain's honesty in today's Times.

Where this hits me is actually somewhere different--in my role as a parent. Anyone out there raising young children to be part of the ideas creating and marketing middle and upper classes will slowly come to recognize, in the sock puppet's discussion of labor and capitol some very interesting similiarities between child rearing and worker castration. The "ownership society" relies heavily on creating an anxious, frightened, submissive, self repressive "owner" who willingly and even eagerly performs his function as a cog in a machine that offers him (or her) the mere right to compete with other owners for basic necessities. That training starts very, very, young and much to my chagrin I recognize that I play an important part in it. Too gloomy for you? Watch the vid and laugh...and then cry.