Today's phrase is one I've noticed so often lately that I think it's becoming a cliche, even though it really makes no sense - at least not yet. It is 'late capitalism' or 'late capitalist' - as used in this griping Overland piece. Perhaps I've just been reading the wrong kinds of articles, but the phrase seems suddenly to be everywhere I look (well, no, admittedly, not in the catalogue of this week's specials from the supermarket, fair point).
Despite their ubiquity, however, 'late capitalism' and 'late capitalist' strike me as equally silly terms, given that we have no idea how long capitalism will last and therefore cannot tell whether this moment is actually 'late'. We can talk about the works Mozart wrote when he was 31 as late works, because we know now that he died while still in his thirties. Capitalism, however, may go on for two or three thousand more years in the West, (stop blubbing up the back there - I'll send you to North Korea for a couple of days and then you'll really have something to cry about) for all we know. If Frank Zappa ("people like to own stuff") was right about human nature, it may even last forever. And, if it does, or even if it only endures for a very long time into the future, this period will not be classifiable as part of 'late capitalism'. Furthermore, until capitalism ends we won't know which period will be entitled to call itself late capitalist.
For my part, I wish I could call this period the age of late twaddle, but sadly I don't know when the twaddle will end either. No time soon, I fear.
Back from Oregon
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