In the current society, labour and consumption are constituted as two distinct stages belonging to a single process, imposed on man/woman to meet the demands set by the needs of life. While the emancipation of the working classes might have been viewed as an advance in terms of nonviolence, with respect to the forms of oppression and exploitation that they faced, the truth is that the distance which separated the worker from real freedom remained intact.
In The Human Condition, published in 1958, Hannah Arendt predicted the potential dangers that future society could face. For Arendt, the emancipation of workers from the form of practical necessity entailed by their oppression in a system of labour and socioeconomic power relations would not dispel the yoke of necessity per se and, therefore, argued that revolution should focus specifically on the emancipation of man/woman from labour. Marx described the emancipation of labour as the liberation of need and, therefore, also referred to consumption. In the words of Arendt, “progress, in addition, has been overvalued, because it was compared with the exceptionally inhuman condition of exploitation that prevailed during the first stages of capitalism, having as final objectives, the concept of active life, which aims to achieve wealth, abundance and happiness for the greatest number of people”.
As a consequence, the illusion of the abundance of an increasing fertility and the good functioning of endless automatic processes, obscured the judgment capacity of man/woman, that fed the desire to consume in excess of the demands of basic necessity. At that moment, technology was put at the disposal of capitalism, creating new needs that temporarily satisfied the unfounded desires of the consumer.
In the agriculture industry, this trend finds its maximum peak with the appearance of the first models of intense agriculture. These types of agricultural systems have as a central objective, the capitalisation of their products and, therefore, their efforts are focused on their products’ profitability. For this reason, it is necessary an additional investment of means of production and work to obtain in the same cultivated area an additional profit. The fundamental procedures needed to intensify agricultural production are: the application of chemistry in agriculture, the mechanization of production processes in every aspect, proper irrigation of the land, genetic modification in the appearance of new varieties, and considerable increase in labour force.
The labour of our body and the work of our hands, is the first chapter of Code of Conduct, a long-term project that aims to investigate, in not only visual terms, the consequences of the intensive agricultural model used in the southwest of Spain in the town of Huelva. It also seeks to look at consumer involvement by taking into account the system of commodity flows and migration of workers, within the political context of the EU.
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