Friday, 7 October 2011

Capitalism in a turtle-neck.

In my little bubble of the graphics / media world the death of Apple's Steve Jobs seems to being treated as somewhere up there with the loss of JFK and Martin Luther King. 

So this is a plea for a bit of fucking perspective: He wasn't the messiah -although he was undeniably a design visionary. I'll readily admit I've become one of those medja-wanka fashion victims who thinks that macs are for cool people and PC's er ... aren't. And I defy anyone who has used both not to come to the same conclusion.

Jobs was a vegetarian Buddhist and may well have been a very nice man. I'm sure he was a much nicer man than Rupert Murdoch, Philip Green or that knob-head trader who had his 15 minutes of  fame when he told the BBC that capitalists can benefit from recessions. He also made his millions by designing stuff that was  genuinely new and marketing it brilliantly - rather than on the roulette tables of the world's markets. So in a very limited sense he represented a rather less morally bankrupt version of capitalism.

But one of the turning points in Apple's history was the closing down of their manufacturing in the USA along with the 'downsizing' of about half the workforce and their replacement by cheap off-shored labour in China. Where there have since been repeated reports of appalling working conditions and abuses. 

And possibly more than any other compnay, Apple is the personification of the age of 'the brand' - where consumers are manipulated to have relationships with brands to fill the aspirational spaces which were once filled by ideology, belief and community. To the point where so long as you prefixed it with a lower case 'i' and put it in a frosted white box with a minimalist logo - you could literally package and sell a dog-turd.

In other words capitalism is still capitalism - even when it's funky.

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