Manufacturing Discontent

The World Association for Political Economy gave 8 awards for outstanding achievement in political economy in the 21st century.  My book, Manufacturing Discontent, received one of them.  Here is the brief note, which I wrote for the occasion:

Manufacturing Discontent is a study of social relations, not Marx’s social relations of production, but the social relations — real or imagined — of the people who live and work under the yoke of capitalism.  In this sense, the book is meant as a modest supplement to Kapital, which was a deep analysis of the social relations of the extraction of surplus value from the working class.

A longstanding project of capital is to shape virtually every aspect of people’s lives in order to meet its needs.  For example, as part of the management of the interaction of social relations inside and outside the workplace, spokesmen of capital tell workers that they should identify themselves as consumers instead of as workers.  Rebellion against degrading and debilitating exploitation at the workplace is foolish; instead, intelligent workers should embrace their jobs, by identifying their work as a welcome opportunity to enjoy the benefits of consumption.  In effect, the circuits of consumption and reproduction become harnessed to the social relations of production.

These social relations also help to determine the quantity of surplus value.  For example, one dimension of this process is the management of the burdens of risk.  Today we are reminded that when crises break out, out the same workers are told that their wages, their consumption, or their pensions are problems that must be corrected.


5 comments so far

  1. Mike on


    I haven’t read the book yet but have read and enjoyed Transcending The Economy.

    Do you happen to know which books received the other awards?

    • mperelman on

      I am embarrassed to to say that I don’t. None of us actually spoke about the book in question, but about other work.

  2. Igabiba on

    Today is Sunday and I am rereading your book Manufacturing Discontent that I have accidentaly bought in a book store in Slovenia/Ljubljana, I think 2 years ago. This book is so logical and clear and it enabled me to better articulate some of my thinking on the subject. I often speak to my friend about this book as I feel it gives good clarifications, and what I appreciate good analyses and well supported arguments.

    Greeting from Slovenia and congratulations on your achivements ! I will get some more books from you, as I feel you are very interesting author.

  3. mperelman on

    Thank you very much. The book never got much attention. Hearing that it had a positive effect is very gratifying.

  4. Ian Angus on

    Congratulations, Michael. I bought Manufacturing Discontent a couple of years ago and have read several times since, and frequently turn to it when I’m debating with people who defend some variation of the consumer sovereignty or only individual action can save the world argument. It’s a fine work — I hope this award gets it more attention.

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