I’m toying with the idea of changing the speculative end of my thesis. Instead of what I have–which was my attempt to use Higher education as the contemporary confluence of the trinity formula and the insights of Lukacs, Adorno and Lefebvre–I’m thinking of adding a spiel on PR. I’m not sure if this is because the example of PR is better, whether I’ve become one of those people who interprets everything in terms of what they are studying, or if my contrarian temperament just wants to have a go at what I’m currently toiling with, rather then what I used to be toiling on. In any case here’s some thoughts on what I think is an interesting relation between value, PR and domination.
The first point that can be made is that such a theory isn’t addressed in the numerous post-Fordist or culturalist accounts of PR. As I have previously mentioned these analyses rely on the productive straw man account of Marx’s theory of value, contending that it is solely interested in production. By stressing that Marx has a monetary theory of value that unities production and circulation it seems to me that PR can be conceived of as necessary component of the realization of value in exchange. This means I will make the argument that PR practitioners can be considered as productive labor since their work is an integral component of valorization. As a result, they can be slotted into the schema of constitution, social reproduction and domination in what I propose can be seen as the contemporary version of the trinity formula.
It furthermore seems to me that such a schematization is also a fruitful way of incorporating an account of culture into an account of social constitution and the fetish characteristic constituent properties of capitalist domination. This because it seems to me that the work of PR provides a good prism for accounting how culture is actively subordinated and subsumed within the valorization process by the creation and appropriation of different cultures in marketing and PR campaigns. This makes culture an integral aspect of whether or not value is realized in exchange. It means that this type of culture might be said to be an autonomous entity that functions in a historically specific way in accordance with the prerogative of capitalist valorization.
In addition the role of PR practitioner is an interesting example of personification in contemporary capitalism. Like the capitalist they personify the rationality of economic categories but they so in a way that seems to be a recent development– as the voice of the socially responsible commercial corporate institution. In what might be a bit of stretch it might be argued that this type of personification fleshes out the interpretation of capital as a (neo-liberal)subject because PR practitioners vocalize capital as humane and socially responsible. Even if this is a bit of a stretch such a personification could still be set to possess the attributes of abstraction, autonomy and inversion compelling the practice of PR practitioners and forming their subjectivity.
Finally, the matrix of PR, branding and advertising as these integral components of value realization can be said to be empirical instantiation of Lefebvre’s idea of abstract space. For the space they inhabit fits Lefebvre’s designation of abstract space as the counterpart to the space commodities inhabit. Only here in conjunction with these notions of subsumption and subordination it could get rid of his problematic internal opposition between quantity and quality. For it seems that such a conception of abstract space as embodied in these social practices also pervades and functions through the qualities of culture, responsibility etc.
What I’m still pondering is how to align this account with an account of crisis in terms of instability, the failure of reproduction, i.e. the break down in valorization/social reproduction currently going on. This is perhaps where I could use Lukacs’ conception of crisis as the breakdown of the functional whole in the relation between the rationalized parts.
This new speculative bit could also allow me to have a dig at the many stupid uses of fetishism in cultural and media studies which thoroughly conflate the Freudian and Marxian concept.