Monday, September 05, 2011

Burning Man: The Ultimate Celebration of Capitalism

» Burning Man: The Ultimate Celebration of Capitalism - Big Government
I suggested that my Marxist friend might have things exactly backwards. I proposed that there is no such thing as “excess” in a capitalist system; what he had identified was actually “surplus.” And it is the very concept of surplus that enables events like Burning Man. Around the country, Burners are productive enough fifty-one weeks a year to spend the fifty-second “gifting” the bounty that they have accumulated. No one leaves for Burning Man, I noted, wondering whether the gifts they are distributing would render them incapable of affording food or rent upon their return. Furthermore, I suggested that the manner in which Burning Man motivated artists to conceptualize grand installations, trained numerous organizers in logistics, and promoted the professional development of event planners, DJs, and lighting specialists throughout the year, was precisely the capitalist system in action.

My Marxist friend hung his head. It seems that at no point in his academic career had anyone ever suggested that capitalism did any of these things. But to my surprise, my survey of the crowd—heavier in sex educators, radical lesbians, aficionados of fine pharmaceuticals, and spiritual healers than academics—revealed a fair amount of head nodding. While they may not have characterized it as such, they all seemed to possess an inherent understanding of the importance of motivation and surplus.

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