metablue.jpg (14625 bytes)


November 15, 2006, Volume 14 Nr. 3, Issue 222

Industrial Warfare.  Industrial Matrimony.
Neo-liberalism's Big Products

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

Neo-liberalism is big business.  Big business is big profit.  War is big business.  Volker Schneider and Marc Tenbuecken writing in Business and the State: Mapping the Theoretical Landscape (2002) write that the demands created by the free market are enforced by,

The state and the political system function as a form of an 'ideal all-around capitalist', who must uphold not just the society as such, but the 'capitalist element'.

The United States' exporting of "democracy" is the dissemination of global capitalism.  Global capitalism, what much of the world calls neo-liberalism, demands huge and continued exploitation of natural resources.  The mass production of goods and services for the purpose of ever-increasing profits requires that commodities be quickly available so that they may be exchanged for more excess capital, i.e.,  surplus value or profit.  This cycle must be repeated  over and over for profits to not only continue, but to increase.  Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo García, writing in "What is neo-liberalism?  A brief definition" (Global Economy 101, 2000) point out the five aspects of neo-liberalism:

  • The rule of the market.

  • Cutting expenditure for social services.

  • Deregulation.

  • Privatisation

  • Eliminating the concept of "the public good" or "community".

The process of transforming money into commodities, then commodities into money necessitates that there exist a continual demand for the commodity.  It does not matter whether the commodity is needed, only that that it be sold.  That is, there needs to be a demand for the product.  It does not matter whether the demand is real or contrived.  The continuous demand for commodities requires that the consumption of the natural resources that make it possible not only continue, but that the rate of consumption continues to increase along with it.  It does not matter that people die as a consequence of the commodity-money-commodity exchange.  

War is a commodity as are the weapons that make it possible.  It is inconsequential that civilians die in a war like Iraq which has been going in since 1991.  "Shock and awe" showed the world that people are of little concern to neo-liberalism.  What matters is that the supply of products that make war possible be consumed so that more war products can be produced.  More war goods produced and sold means more profit.  Fighting a nebulous unending war on "terrorism" insures that war and profit continue in perpetuity.  "Terrorism" has replaced "communism" as a reason to continue the military industrial complex humming.  Nations with economies that survive on for-profit war making are not bothered by the consequences of war, the collateral damage.  It does not matter if one-half million Iraqi children die as a result of sanctions.  It does not matter that people become contaminated with depleted uranium?  It does not matter that  hundreds-of-thousands, or millions of civilians die.  It does not matter that US  war casualties come home in boxes in the darkness of night.  People who do not serve the neo-liberalism system are impediments to the continuous process of the commodity exchange system.  Surplus value matters. Human beings do not.

Neo-liberalism establishes governing institutions that do will away with laws that present barriers to exploitation and profit.  When resources are consumed or otherwise disappear, then neo-liberalism places maximum priority in finding other resources.  Acquiring new natural resources is often, difficult.  If need be, neo-liberalism will take what it needs.  While exploitation of resources, including human beings, is not new, the extent of its worldwide scope is now unprecedented.   Once a commodity, whatever it is, be it a depleted uranium shell, television set, or a meal, is sold, nothing else matters except the sale of the next depleted uranium shell, TV or meal.  This is the case even if the shell causes death and destruction or the meal is not nutritious.  Globalization is about dominating the globe's natural resources with few or no barriers.  Neo-liberalism is about dominating everything so that the quest for capital becomes the universal human value.  Human beings either acquiesce or perish.  

Neo-liberalism is the industrialization of everything.  From industrialized warfare to agriculture, from industrialized prisons and the "justice" system to the pharmaceutical and "health care" system, neo-liberalism creates a bland narrow band of products designed to control consumer's options while cleverly masquerading as choice.  People insisting on alternatives to the "free-market" are considered as being out of the mainstream.  They are viewed as not being normal.  "If you are not with us, you are against us", is neo-liberalism's mantra.  Neo-liberalism demands that people do not  question nor complain.  And so, we accept the advertising lies and claims, the proclamations of the "news" industry.  We accept the fraud that products are not as advertised, or of poor quality.  Free people do not accept the lies of the established order.  Nor do they obediently accept their exploitation under the guise of patriotism.  So why do we put up with neo-liberalism?  Why do we accept the lies?  Why do we accept the industrialization of everything?  Why do we quietly accept the product that we purchase when it is inferior, broken, repulsive, dangerous or contrary to our own interests?

Matrimony.  Just one more product.

JeanneE and I, like most couples. attend weddings.  Most of them are cookie cutter productions, expensive corporate rites of passage that the bride and groom could, for the most part, do without.  For the cost of these poorly staged events, the newlyweds or civil union couple could have a nice down payment on a house.  Instead, cultural operative prevails.  Just as we are indoctrinated into the mindset that the war will never be done away with, we think we cannot have a wedding outside the corporate model.  The cultural operative dictates a public ceremony, typically including a minister, a reception with an obligatory meal, a bubbly toast, booze, a band, a DJ, a wedding cake and some kind of favor for the guests.  A corporate recipe for yet another commodity.  Like other commodities, the typical mass produced wedding is riddled with exploitation.  Like unexploded ordnance that fails to deliver, the corporate wedding products that fail to deliver leave the buyers with little or no recourse.  What to do if the wedding reception meal is so poor that guests cannot not eat it?  What to do if the service is poor?  For the most part, the guests, not wanting to offend the couple, say nothing.  The bride and groom also have little recourse.  Let the reader not doubt that wedding reception meals can be inedible.  JeanneE and I have attended weddings where that is the case, not because we are vegetarians and there is no vegetarian option which happens often, but because both the meat and non-meat eaters cannot stomach the food.  

The same industrial mindset that produces weapons of war produces wedding receptions.  The business of war is selling products that people cannot use.  The business of matrimony is selling couples the products they can do without.  Matrimony, like war, is big business.

The Wedding Report reports that the "online wedding market" alone "is worth more than $7.9 billion".  It further reports that the 2006 market is 2.3 million weddings at an individual wedding cost of $26,800.  The cost of this average wedding would make a nice 10% down payment on the average house.  The Wedding Report states that,

In 2006 consumers will spend $1,841.00 on Wedding Attire, $2,337.00 on their Wedding Ceremony, $1,104.00 on Wedding Favors & Gifts, $1,136.00 on Wedding Flowers, $1,739.00 on Wedding Jewelry, $922.00 on Wedding Music, $2,659.00 on Wedding Photography & Video, $13,692.00 on their Wedding Reception, $809.00 on Wedding Stationery, and $563.00 on Wedding Transportation.

In the past 26 years, JeanneE and I have attended weddings ranging from  extreme excess costing $100,000 or more to simple weddings in living rooms or front porches, food ranging from potluck to chef catered, from delicious and beautiful, to where the food was unworthy of human consumption.  What these affairs have in common is the notion that the weddings and receptions, as advertised in the matrimony marketplace, are necessities people cannot do without.  Those that can afford the "necessities" often commit to excess, while those that cannot commit to a minimalist version of the wedding industry's standard.  Why not reject both?  Why let neo-liberalism control the blueprint for such a special event.  It is just as possible to have a $0.00 budget wedding as it is to buy nothing on Buy Nothing Day (each year the Friday after Thanksgiving).  While saying no to the military industry may involve risk, saying no to the corporate matrimony industry does not.  All is takes is making the decision to do so.  

Neil Shister, in "Queen for a Day", writes about the typical US wedding being an illusion for the pot of gold at the end of the neo-liberal rainbow.

This drama, I claim, stages a conventional, though suspect, cultural aspiration to upward mobility, disguising it as "high romance." Not everyone agrees. I've tried my theory out on several women, and they tend to object. One insisted that it's more about control, the wedding being the one day in her life the bride gets to call all the shots. Perhaps. But why these shots? The language is overwhelmingly about "taste and style," code words for class; "control," I suspect, is a subtext in a grander conversation about upward mobility...The popular fantasy is that on her wedding day, every bride is a member of that [uppermost leisure] class.

Neo-liberalism creates a world where if we don't spent money, we feel that we are getting our money's worth: nothing.  Marketers convince us that we are cheating ourselves and our friends and family if we do not provide the best, or at least, the minimum, of wedding accommodations.  This thinking comes from the same people who bring us war as the means of conflict resolution.  These are the same people who convince us that just taking another pharmaceutical will make us whole, or erectile.  The neo-liberal merchants and their propaganda will sell us anything and everything.  Why not reject the sale for the sale's sake?  If we do this, there might be fewer couples in debt over their weddings.  There would be many more newlyweds living in their own homes.  And perhaps, there might be fewer of neo-liberalism's wars for profit for our children to fight for and die in.  

JeanneE and I were legally married on October 11, 1981 on the hearth in front of our woodstove in a small bungalow in Rumson, New Jersey.  This was the same house in which our daughter was born.  We were both barefoot.  I wore white overalls and a marigold, my favorite flower.  JeanneE wore a homemade gown that I sewed from a sheet the night before.  If we had to do it all over again, we would do it the same way.  We would also spend the next twenty-six years opposing neo-liberalism's militarism and war making just as we have.  

They weren't really weddings, just long costume parties. (on three of her weddings). - Peggy Lee

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski is co-editor and co-publisher of Metaphoria along with his life partner and wife, JeanneE.  He is 30-year veteran retired teacher and a member of Veterans For Peace.  His writings have appeared in Metaphoria, After Downing Street, Buzzflash, Counterpunch, Thomas Paine's Corner,, Omni Center, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, and others.  

©2006 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

Return to Homepage