Preliminary Conclusions: Cultural Labour - Cultural Value in a Comparative Frame
ABSTRACT In his concluding essay of his unpublished explorations on Comparative Film Studies, Willemen posits a series of bold strategies to arrive at a theory of value, which would enable him to claim relevance to all geopolitical frameworks which are beset both directly and indirectly by the workings of Euro-American capitalism. Willemen recognizes that the historical frame within which questions of value have to be located is a little different from the historical narrative most often deployed when addressing culture. To understand value in this area, we need to first recognize that distinct and co-existing modes of production exist in any social formation, and that contemporary ideological and political constellations within societies “like our own” reveals overwhelming evidence that premodernity is still very much with us. A “pre-modern” ideological frame which aligned god-given social status with power (both physical and political), wealth, wisdom and virtue, finds a productive afterlife within the confusion between money and aesthetic value by mystifying the difference between the two. However, given that there is no such thing as “cultural capital,” there is only capital, the ownership of congealed labour/value, the essay asks, how can we imagine the elaboration of a responsible mode of intellectuality? How are we to distinguish between valuable work and the production of cultural fertiliser or raw material, or allow for the possibility that both kinds of work may well coexist inextricably intertwined within the same product? The essay provides tentative answers, and the author provides his own test of value: namely, whether a work is orchestrated in such a way as to promote the best possible insight into the dynamics (historical and political as well as economic) which format cultural practice as a specific if not a quasi-autonomous sector within or in relation to capitalism.
Keywords: Capitalism, globalization, labour power, value, modernity/premodernity