Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scarlett Johansson and the Super Bowl Ad as a Marxist Analysis

The recent uproar over Ms. Johansson's partnership with Israeli-based SodaStream is quite unique from several points of view, so there will be several digressions, as follows, which may reveal further insights when held against Marx's notions of wage-labor and capital.
Recently the Israeli-based SodaStream Corporation hired Ms. Johansson as a brand ambassador that will be launched with an advertisement during the Super Bowl.  SodaStream is a popular family-friendly water carbonation system for the production of homemade soda pop drinks.  The factory itself is located in Ma'ale Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement that bisects the West Bank, legally Palestinian land under international jurisdiction.  Writes the Jewish Daily Forward:
To be clear, SodaStream’s factory is not located in a radical settlement; it is located a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem in an industrial park next to one of the largest settlement blocs — Ma’aleh Adumim — which will likely be incorporated into Israel in any future deal. But it does exploit the commercial benefits of its location, essentially profiting from occupation, and contributes to the slow closing of the E1 corridor that is necessary for the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
However, Finklestein further elaborates a point that even JDF fails to grasp:
But it is striking that in all of the discussion over the last several weeks, Ma’ale Adumim — i.e., the largest settlement bloc that effectively bisects the West Bank — has never even come up. Because it’s already been resolved, in Israel’s favor.
The actress herself says in a statement:
While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I'd like to clear the air.
I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day. As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive.
I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future. 
It is key now to recall Engels:
Since the historical appearance of the capitalist mode of production, the appropriation by society of all the means of production has often been dreamed of, more or less vaguely, by individuals, as well as by sects, as the ideal of the future. But it could become possible, could become a historical necessity, only when the actual conditions for its realization were there. Like every other social advance, it becomes practicable, not by men understanding that the existence of classes is in contradiction to justice, equality, etc., not by the mere willingness to abolish these classes, but by virtue of certain new economic conditions. The separation of society into an exploiting and an exploited class, a ruling and an oppressed class, was the necessary consequences of the deficient and restricted development of production in former times. So long as the total social labor only yields a produce which but slightly exceeds that barely necessary for the existence of all; so long, therefore, as labor engages all or almost all the time of the great majority of the members of society — so long, of necessity, this society is divided into classes. Side by side with the great majority, exclusively bond slaves to labor, arises a class freed from directly productive labor, which looks after the general affairs of society: the direction of labor, State business, law, science, art, etc. It is, therefore, the law of division of labor that lies at the basis of the division into classes. But this does not prevent this division into classes from being carried out by means of violence and robbery, trickery and fraud. it does not prevent the ruling class, once having the upper hand, from consolidating its power at the expense of the working-class, from turning its social leadership into an intensified exploitation of the masses.  -Frederich Engels, SOCIALISM: UTOPIAN AND SCIENTIFIC, CHAPTER 3 
What Johansson's obviously prepared statement does is reflect, in essence, the conclusion Engels discusses above.  Her proposed notion of neo-liberal capitalism that can transcend ethnic and national boundaries reflects a pure charade.  The lives of Palestinian workers in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, in Gaza, all these varieties share one common denominator, dispossession and persecution of a native indigenous people in their homeland, while being differentiated by the web of laws and regulations made to diversify and stratify the population.  The Palestinian of Gaza has a completely different set of circumstances than his cousin in the West Bank, just as they both differ from the circumstances for Palestinians inside Israel.  As a result, hierarchical values and notions of inter-class strife are created, preventing any sort of unity and cohesion as envisioned by the actress's statement.  The division of labor via laws applied to different Palestinians based on different circumstances is a further engine of division.  Marx himself wrote earlier:
In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness...  It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.  -PREFACE TO A CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Ergo, the continuation of this sort of intrusion and negation of any sort of Palestinian state is inherent in the continuation of SodaStream as an allegedly guilt-free product

No comments:

Post a Comment