Amplifying Value: Materialism & Collective Production

Amplifying Value: Materialism & Collective Production

In the world of live concerts, the spotlight often shines brightest on the performers who captivate audiences with their talent. Yet, behind the scenes, a dedicated crew of concert event workers orchestrates every detail, from sound and lighting to stage setup and tear-down. These unsung heroes, vital to the success of any show, face a myriad of challenges - inconsistent work schedules, fluctuating pay, and a lack of benefits, to name a few. Amid these challenges, a beacon of hope emerges: the concept of collectivization. By banding together to form a collective or cooperative, concert event workers can amplify their voices, negotiate better terms, and ultimately, reclaim the value of their labor in the concert production industry.  By changing our material conditions and how we relate to the businesses we work for, we can create changes cultural and social changes.

The power of collective action cannot be overstated.  Firstly, it allows for a more equitable distribution of profits. In a traditional company, profits often flow to the top, leaving workers with only a fraction of the value they create. In a cooperative, however, each member is a part-owner, meaning that profits are shared more equitably among those who actually do the work. Secondly, a cooperative can provide greater job security. Rather than being at the mercy of a volatile job market, members of a cooperative have a direct say in the decisions that affect their livelihoods. This includes everything from deciding which gigs to take on, to setting fair and sustainable rates for their services. Lastly, a cooperative can foster a sense of community and solidarity among its members. In an industry where work can often feel isolating, this sense of collective identity and mutual support can be invaluable. In essence, forming a cooperative can change how we relate to the enterprises and platforms that we work for, we can transform concert event work from a series of one-off gigs into a sustainable and rewarding career.

Introduction to Materialism

Materialism is a philosophical view that asserts that matter is the fundamental substance that composes everything in the universe, including minds and consciousness. It stands in contrast to idealism, which holds that the mind or spirit is the basis of reality. There are several key tenets and types of materialism:

  • Dialectical materialism is the philosophy holding that material conditions fundamentally determine sociopolitical developments. It sees material circumstances and economic factors as the driving forces of history.


  • Historical materialism applies materialist dialectics to history, analyzing the material conditions underlying the historical process and societal changes.


  • Economic determinism is the view that economic factors are the primary determinant of social structure and cultural values, arguing that the economic base shapes the cultural superstructure of society.


  • Physicalism is a form of materialism that asserts that everything in the universe can be explained in terms of physics and physical processes. It reduces mental states to physical brain states.

The core premise uniting these different strands of materialism is that matter is fundamentally real, and that physical nature is primary. Materialists argue that even consciousness derives from material interactions rather than supernatural forces. Materialist perspectives stand in contrast to dualist and idealist conceptions of reality.


Materialism is a philosophical view that claims that everything, including mental states, is caused by physical matter. It rejects dualism, the idea that the mind is somehow separate or distinct from the physical world.

There are two main forms of materialism:


  • Reductive Materialism

Reductive materialism is the more common view. It claims that mental states do exist but can be entirely reduced to and explained by physical brain states. A mental state like a desire for food can be wholly reduced to a complicated brain process involving neurotransmitters, electrical signals between neurons, etc.

Reductive materialism argues that all mental states are caused by and can be reduced to physical brain states, even if we don't yet fully understand how to do so. No mental state exists independently of the physical brain.


  • Eliminative Materialism

Eliminative materialism takes an extreme view, arguing that mental states like beliefs, desires, and sensations do not actually exist. According to eliminative materialists, what we think of as mental states will eventually be explained purely in terms of physical processes in the brain. Concepts like belief and desire will be eliminated from scientific discourse.


Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical materialism is a philosophy which provides a framework for understanding society. It is rooted in Hegel's dialectics and Feuerbach's materialism.

This materialist dialectical method emphasizes internal contradictions as the motor of change. Society moves through thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The current system (thesis) contains contradictions that give rise to an opposition (antithesis), leading to a new social order (synthesis) that contains and resolves some of the contradictions. But this too will eventually develop new contradictions, continuing the dialectical process.

The fusing of dialectics with materialism argues the material world shapes society's forms of consciousness. Material conditions like technology and economic systems determine social relations and ideas. This is called the base and superstructure model - the economic base shapes the ideological and political superstructure.

Historical materialism sees humanity progressing through economic stages: from slave society to feudalism to capitalism and so on. Changes in the material conditions of our society drive the transitions between the various modes of production. As the productive forces advance, the relations of production (property relations) impede their development, causing social revolutions to create new economic systems.

Dialectical materialism helps explain the dynamic interplay between material forces, class conflicts, and ideological transformations in history. It provides a radical new tool for analyzing & understanding our society and the dialectical relationship between our culture and our economic model.


Economic Determinism

Dialectical materialism proposes that the economic base shapes the cultural superstructure of society in a dialectical relationship. This view emphasizes the primacy of economic relations over culture.

The mode of production refers to both productive forces of a society and the social relations people enter into in order to produce goods to survive. This includes both relations of production and means of production. The economic base of society consists of these relations. As the economic base changes, it transforms the superstructure of society including its culture, political structures, social institutions and the state.

For example, a society organized around serfdom will have a different superstructure than one organized around wage labor. As new productive forces like machinery emerge, the relations of production must change as well, leading to changes in the superstructure. The cultural beliefs, social values and political institutions will shift.

The superstructure is dependent and affected by the economic base. The cultural superstructure arises from and reflects the economic base. This is an economically deterministic perspective that privileges economic relations as the prime driver of social change and cultural transformation throughout history, as the super structure of society acts to reinforce the economic base.

Historical materialism emphasizes the fundamental influence of modes of production on cultural development.  It allows for interplay between the economic base and superstructure, recognizing that material conditions merely shape (but do not wholly determine) consciousness, and provides a useful explanatory framework, even if its predictions are not foolproof.


Means of Production

The means of production refers to the facilities and resources used to produce goods and services in an economy. This includes:

  • Raw materials - such as wood, metals, oil etc that are used to create products.


  • Tools and machinery - the equipment and technology used in manufacturing and production processes. For example, robots on an assembly line.


  • Facilities - the buildings and property used in production, like factories, farms, offices.


  • Human labor power - the physical and mental effort of human workers.


  • Knowledge and skills - the expertise, education and training needed to perform productive work.

The means of production are central to a principled materialist analysis of society and social change. Historical Materialism argues that the way the means of production are owned and controlled determines a society's material conditions and culture.

For instance, in feudal societies the means of production like farmland were owned by lords and nobles. Peasants and serfs who worked the land had little control over production and were exploited. With the rise of capitalism, the means of production became privately owned by capitalists. Workers sold their labor-value to capitalists in exchange for wages.

This creates an unequal, exploitative economic system, dividing society into classes of owner and employee.  A change in the relations of production by putting the means of production under collective ownership could establish a classless society without economic exploitation based on class division. Private control over the means of production concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a minority owning class. Changing ownership to shared control by workers or society would have both profound economic and cultural impacts.


Cooperatives are organizations that are owned and democratically controlled by their members. The members often contribute financially to the cooperative and share in the profits and decision making.

Cooperatives differ from traditional capitalist businesses in that they are not controlled by private owners or shareholders looking to maximize profits. Instead, cooperatives aim to meet the needs of their members and the community.

Some examples of cooperatives include:

  • Credit unions - Financial cooperatives owned by their account holders


  • Food co-ops - Grocery stores owned by customers and employees


  • Worker cooperatives - Businesses owned and managed by their employees


  • Housing cooperatives - Residential buildings owned by residents


  • Agricultural cooperatives - Farming operations owned by farmers

Cooperatives demonstrate an alternative to traditional capitalist notions of private ownership over the means of production. They allow for democratic participation in economic decisions that affect people's lives. The cooperative model challenges the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small number of owners or shareholders.

By giving members ownership and control over the means of production, cooperatives provide a way for people to meet their needs, support their community, and gain economic empowerment. The cooperative movement has shown that democratization of workplaces and the economy is possible.


The history of materialism shows the development of theories that see material and economic factors as shaping society and culture.

Dialectical materialism, for instance, sees the means of production and class relations as determining the cultural superstructure of society. A revolutionary change was needed to shift the economic base in order to change the emergent cultural superstructure.
With nuance, materialist theories continue to offer relevant models for understanding society and social change.

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