The Performance of Production and Consumption
Social Text, No. 54, pp. 25-61, Spring 1998
38 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2010
Date Written: Spring 1998
The core of this essay offers a reading of several of Marx's central arguments, showing the continuity of production with signification and performativity. I bring the insights of poststructuralism with regard to the performativity, constructedness, and discursivity of identity together with a modified but nonetheless substantially Marxist view that social organization is implicit in the organization of production, broadly construed. The argument moves in two directions, showing the performativity of production and the productivity of performance. On the one hand, I expand the definition of production to include a range of activities not normally considered production; on the other hand, I am concerned with the central role of corporate production and of products that flow through the marketplace in producing identity and community. At the conclusion of the essay, I shift focus from Marx's texts to a set of texts that argue an opposing view, that try to distinguish performativity from production. These antiproductivist theories see production as only reproductive, not dialectical or dynamic, and locate freedom and liberation (from production) in an exterior space, a representational excess frequently named performance. Through a critique of these texts I mean to point to what I hope will be a more useful emancipatory strategy, a strategy of participation.
Keywords: production, performance, performativity, poststructuralism, identity, community
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