'Woke capitalism' in 2020

martin

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My first WTF encounter with this happened last year, at DSEI (disclaimer: I wasn't dealing weapons): I saw a big missile company's promo video, churning out the usual "Innovation...dedication" buzzwords but, instead of showcasing the actual miltech, they were accompanied by footage of a Pride march and MLK.

Thing is, if Mark Zuckerberg donates a mil to BLM, he's technically an anti-racist activist. Right? You couldn't even dream of collecting that amount through Bandcamp fundraisers. So, are we down with Yorkshire Tea and Sainsbury's now? Are they on our side? No doubt much of this is the equivalent of tacking a "BLACK-OWNED BUSINESS" sign to your shopfront - I'm sure McDonalds would love the Black Bloc to unwind with a vanilla milkshake instead of trashing their windows - but it seems to have gone from 0-90 in the last week, and I'm wondering where it's heading.

My very possibly wrong and not-all-that-exciting take on this is that it's partly due to the shifting nature of corporate PR firms. They mainly employ young / out-of-college types who hop around from firm to firm, as they're very cheap to pay and it really doesn't take much experience. You don't even need to know much about the client, or what they do or produce, these days: you tell them what's trending, write up a release and get them to put their name on it.

So, in the early 2000s, 'corporate responsibility' was the big in-thing; you'd get these stories about the 50-year old guy who's worked there since he was a teenager and how the company supported him in his hour of yadda yadda, and how they added a wheelchair ramp. Later came the 'green' angle: the offshore sector's plagued by incidents of seafarers dying in onboard enclosed spaces, but you'd get this endless churn of releases about how some oil drilling company had installed solar panels on the roof of its HQ, demonstrating its commitment to the planet. I've heard ferry operators stressing the need to get behind Greta Thunberg, recognising her as a "valuable opportunity" when it comes to competing with budget/short-haul air travel.

Perhaps it makes sense that BLM's the next bandwagon. Young people entering the PR biz will be familiar enough with the jargon to convince CEOs to issue statements about 'dismantling white supremacy'. Where this leaves the likes of, say, Southall Black Sisters, or anti-capitalists in general, is anyone's guess, while we've got #solidaritea trending (assume this applies to the Indian workers picking it too?)

And then on to defunding the cops, and replacing them with community-based, progressive programmes. Are we going to see CEOs of these corporations invited to offer their opinions and contribute to policies? I mean, they did say they loathe the patriarchy, and they donated a hell of a lot of money through their new charitable tax dod...foundation. Are we heading into whacked out PKD territory, with Ben & Jerry-sponsored, privatised police agencies?

Be interested to hear anyone's thoughts. By the way, I'm no expert on this and am pretty much thinking out loud, so don't take any of the above as a statement or conspiracy theory.
 

entertainment

Well-known member
Yaldrin would say something like that it's capitalism selling neo-liberal guilt therapy to keep us content and complacent.

I posted this at one point: https://carcel.co/pages/about to get people's take and he deemed it slavery, no question.

The line between exploitation and empowerment probably lies a different place for all of us.

I don't know how to get at this from a good angle. But you can ask yourself something like: Will the next generation, growing up with rainbow flags on candy bars, be more accepting of the lgbt community on account of that? Probably not.

Will black people feel a sense of solidarity and support from profit-seeking corporations donating to their cause? I don't know, probably not. Can they use the money to build their communities, fund lawyers to fight mass incarceration. Yeah.

In doing so, are you also interrupting and dissipating the fight for fundamental structural change. Probably yes.

I agree it can feel like a some dystopian joke being played.
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
This has got very visible, irritating and comical with the COVID-themed TV adverts: Dominoes Pizzas delivering free pizzas to nurses; Natwest worrying about your mental health; McCain Oven Chips making sure we know that we're all in this together and they are here for us when things get tough.
 
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WashYourHands

Well-known member
Never got on the Facebucks. Too many strange conceptions of self and didn’t want to be found.

Concur with branding, pr, age of participating agencies. It’s the veneer that’s so beguiling to some, but that’s all it is. The same system of dystopian dreams. We’re all technically accounts. Data, finances, addresses, purchase history, facial recognition tagging. If big money can sell the idea of change, it’s already won, as it tends to do long term.

I haven’t given up though, just going to keep cleaning and polishing my guns in the woods, until the rapture.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Say what you like about the 19th century, but at least you knew where you stood when capitalists wore top hats and monocles, smoked expensive cigars and went around kicking orphans.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
it's just good business - no doubt driven by market research - that coincides with trailing (well) behind the cutting edge of the right side of history

anything legitimately challenging is de facto authentic, hence easily commodified and highly marketable, especially to that treasured demographic, young people

when it comes to social change, nothing is surer than that someone will immediately find a way to sell a watered-down version of it back to you

the marketing apparatus now is vastly more dystopian than anything Bernays could have imagined, but it's not fundamentally different

woke capitalism does often provoke a simultaneously utopian/dystopian uncanny valley feeling
 

sufi

lala
In a way it shows that we have them on the run, perhaps. Injecting wokeness into their marketing is a last gasp rearguard ploy, desperately reaching for the ethical space,
That theory will not fly if someone points out a parrallel alt-r marketing trend though, is that a thing too?
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
In a way it shows that we have them on the run, perhaps
careful with that kind of thinking. that's exactly the moment you discover everything you care about being sold back to you in a nice package.

there is no us and them. advertising is full of clever woke people.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
or maybe it's better to ask questions: who exactly is "them"? where would they be on the run to? what would that rear-guard be guarding?

I don't think it's desperate at all. I think it's just good business sense. that's how this all works.

unless you/anyone thinks this historical moment is headed to a world without capitalism? which seems, to put it mildly, unlikely.
 

sufi

lala
It's become good business sense to appeal to wokeness though, that was not inevitable and shows a shift in the right direction. hard to know if its a fad, how superficial it is, etc
 

sufi

lala
I think that if the historical moment is headed for a world without capitalism, then there's gonna be a titanic struggle, and this is part of that, as is the cops situation - they are the rear guard digging in to resist mass social justice and protect babylon, which is shrinking but concentrating/intensifying
i was seeing some tweets about the pendulum swinging back - trumpism perhaps reaching its limit
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
that was not inevitable
it wasn't, and that reflects actual positive social change. it equally represents of the inevitable commodification of cultural space.

superficiality or not doesn't matter. all marketing is superficial. whatever it is, it is and that's all it is.
 

sufi

lala
so you don't think that some bsinesses will fail because they are inherently too unethical to survive in this new climate?
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
this is part of that, as is the cops situation
you have an infinitely more optimistic view of this moment and what it means going forward

there is no "babylon" in that literal sense, certainly no binary us and them

it may be a high-water mark for right-wing populism - I don't think so, but feasible

either way, that's not at all synonymous with capitalism

and capitalism, woke or otherwise, by definition can't dismantle the relations of production (capitalist social relations)
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
HSBC chucking out 'woke' ads then supporting China's new "security" laws for Hong Kong comes to mind. Also Nike and various NBA figures being fine with speaking up on American issues then keeping their heads down on Hong Kong because they actually stand to lose money over there.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Hollywood going on about diversity then editing characters and actors out of films and posters in less liberal countries.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I get the impression woke capitalism is essentially capitalism throwing the public a bone on social issues to create the illusion that genuine progress can be made without looking at economics.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
so you don't think that some bsinesses will fail because they are inherently too unethical to survive in this new climate?
did I say that? or anything like that? rebranding is much more likely than failure, but sure, it will force some adjustments.

(unlike massive economic dislocation, which will cause many, many businesses to fail)

that's not what we're talking about

every disruption is equally an opportunity to be seized. that is the resilient genius of capitalism.
 
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