The interviewee is a college age musician. Their background is fairly typical, two married parents and a low income home. First generation college attendee. The most relevant excepts of the answers given are quoted below.
Question 1: How would you define capitalism?
“Capitalism I would say is an economic system that is centered around the ‘free market.’ And will essentially do just about anything to sort of make money. Expand neo-liberal interests in the name of the free market, etc.”
Question 2: What differentiates capitalism from other modes of production?
“Capitalism is sort of a hungry beast. It is always consuming. It always has to consume something in order for it to survive and not crumble. If we compare it to stuff like feudalism for example obviously the tech difference is there but as an economic system capitalism can only survive with mass amounts of consumption. Other systems may be more stable.”
Question 3: How do you think capitalism has changed over the years, if at all?
“In my point of view, to go off the need for consumption, we can see that capitalism will go to any sort of lengths or environments in order to consume more things. To chase profit. Nowadays we literally have private companies and billionaires rocketing people into space for tourism. When in the sixties getting a person on the moon was a national government thing. Now it’s so everyday because it’s marketable. We can see that development of capitalism constantly adapting to new spaces. We have like cyberspace and such. The whole NFTs and Metaverse thing. Capitalism is making up and creating realms of existence for profit and to consume from that is outside the tangible.”
Question 4: What is your role in capitalism?
“My role in capitalism is the same as anyone else who isn’t a capitalist. I am going to be exploited for my labor (making music) and I will never most likely see a lot of success or fame regardless of how good I am. Not that that’s something we should strive for, I think capitalism has ingrained that in my head. I mean I’ll be exploited like everyone else. Just a part of the system doing their best to survive.”
Question 5: How do you think capitalism influences the arts?
“I mean looping back to the thing I just said. I am aware of the ingrained idea I have as a musician which is the ‘live fast, die young, make it big’ mentality. That’s how capitalism treats artists. Especially musicians. Artists either make it big or they don’t. There is no living comfortably with the arts. It’s not something you can devote your life to. You have to pick up a day job. What should be their passion and the thing that they devote their entire life to is always always always referred to as a side gig. Under capitalism if it is not making something tangible or routinely exploitable, a resource or labor that is infinitely exploitable, it is not useful to capitalism. That’s why the image of the starving artist is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says they want to major in an art. Beauty is not sustainable under capitalism.”
The interviewee has a fairly coherent view of capitalism. They seem to understand it as a system that is not natural but tied to a historical and technological context. The musician understands capitalism as a rapacious thing that requires expansion to grow, even going as far as to invent things to commodify. The interviewee also posits that capitalism views labor as an exploitable resource and imagines the perfect resource from a capitalist perspective is one that is infinite. This is interesting as it is essentially an admission that capitalism is unsustainable as few resources are infinite and those are mostly conceptual resources.
Unlike other interviewees, there is no mention of social mobility. The interviewee is an artist and understands art in capitalism as essentially a lottery. One “makes it and dies young” or toils in obscurity. The understanding of capitalism as something that intrinsically devalues art is quite interesting as it is a criticism that many levy even if they do not realize that capitalism is the root cause, as this interviewee does. Take for example complaints about micro-transactions in video games or low-quality Netflix shows.
Capitalism is also understood by this person as inherently unstable due to the inherent greediness of the system. They explain that even things like war and space travel are permissible for profit. There is the implied understanding of capitalism as amoral while other systems are potentially moral. There is one unifying trait with the other interviewees that I have interviewed, and that is the concept that the driving force behind negative aspects of capitalism is the rich. This interviewee understands the rich as symptomatic of a system, however. Not the origin of the negative associations.