Marxs theory of labor is explained with this battery.
  • Warner Bros.
  • Marx's theory of labor is explained with this battery.

Almost overnight, Greece has become one of the most interesting places on this planet. The election last weekend ended with a convincing victory for Syriza (or the Coalition of the Radical Left). Right after the leader of that party, Aexis Tsipras, became prime minister, he went to visit to a war memorial for 200 Greek soldiers killed by the Nazis in 1944 (that sent a message to Berlin), became best buddies with Putin (that sent a message to the Eurozone), and made an economist with a background in Marxism the finance minister (that sent a message to the markets).

The story gets more interesting. The new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, is a blogger, and close to a man I consider to be the most brilliant leftist economist in the US, James K. Galbraith, who, by the way, speaks tomorrow at Town Hall. (Here is the PDF of their paper "A Modest Proposal for Resolving the Eurozone Crisis.") Finally, during the sixth Subversive Festival in Zagreb, Croatia, Varoufakis made the bold claim that the science-fiction film The Matrix was not actually science fiction but a documentary about capitalism and its main contradiction: It wants to transform humans into complete commodities, but the complete commodification of humans would result in the destruction of capitalism.

If humans were like vacuum cleaners, a situation that would be ideal for the bosses of this world, then there would be no source of value, let alone surplus value (the ur-stuff of the system). Only free humans can be exploited. This is the problem, Varoufakis says, at the heart of The Matrix. The system can only work if it has some room for rebels. The new finance minister of Greece might have a point, but some thought on the matter soon reveals that it's not a very bright one—we are, it seems, condemned to rebel for the benefit of the system. It's also a very strange (and an almost spiritual) reading of Marx's controversial theory of labor, which claims that all value in capitalism is derived from labor. You can watch the lecture here.