A guest post from Brother G on capitalism and vampires in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Fangs for the post comrade, this issue's been driving me batty.
Much has been said about the cultural phenomenon that is the Twilight series. Literary critics have snubbed the books for their turgid, uninspired prose. Feminists have attacked the plot as demeaning claptrap which digs up the helpless damsel cliche to stand alongside its undead love interest. And horror fans bemoan the decline of the vampire from demonic creatures of the night to glittering, emo pansies. Despite the assaults that Stephenie Meyer’s novels attract from all sides, shelves continue to empty and cinemas fill up as hordes of teenage girls and the occasional adult who should know better lap up Hollywood's favourite inter-species love triangle.
But amongst all of this, there lies a possibility that remains unexplored. Many have been quick to attack such minor literary misdemeanors as writing style and plot, that the most important point has been lost. I speak, of course, of the fact that Twilight is not merely a teenage gothic romance, but a deep and scathing allegorical critique of capitalist ideology.
It was Karl Marx himself who once said that ‘Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks’. Like the nocturnal miscreants who feed off the inhabitants of Forks, capitalism preys upon the working class for their labour power in order to prolong its survival. It is through the reification of human beings, their descent into mere cogs in the machine (or mere flesh in the diet) that advanced capitalism reaches its exploitative apex.
However, capitalism has evolved significantly since the days of the industrial revolution. The creation of the welfare state, the erosion of collective industry and compact workplaces, all these factors have altered the dynamic of labour relations. Paulo Virno, in A Grammar Of The Multitude describes this new dynamic of labour relations as post-Fordist. In the post-Fordist world of advanced capitalism, the division of life and production has become blurred to the point that in many ways life is the very outcome of production. This is exacerbated by the rise of immaterial labour, in which the ‘product’ of labour is no longer a physical product but rather immaterial products such as knowledge, information, a relationship or an emotional response.
One effect of this is to obscure the exploitation inherent to capitalism, by negating the traditional imagery of factories and mines for the soft, flexible labour relations of the 21st century. While theorists such as Virno and Negri have documented this transition within the narrow confines of academia, it was left to the genius of Stephenie Meyer to demonstrate this transformation in simple imagery.
After 100 days of a coalition government intent on slashing public services and reasserting the dominance of the ruling class, it is easy for socialists to be downhearted. But despite our woes, we can sleep easy in the knowledge that the shallow rhetoric of the Big Society will never grace the Teenage Bestseller chart of Waterstones. And as Stephenie Meyer takes her rightful place alongside Marx, Lenin et al., we in the
Join me again next week when I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of appointing Dan Brown as the new ambassador to the Vatican.