Monday, June 1, 2009


In Marxian economics, the sole source of profit in capitalist production is the exploitation of workers - taking the surplus value of their unpaid surplus labor. Exploitation exists because of the unequal distribution of property in society. A small minority in society, the capitalists, are in possession of the majority of capital, hence the means of production (the subjects of labor, such as raw materials; and instruments of labor, such as tools and machines). The non-property-owners (the workers, proletarians) cannot survive without selling their labor-power to the capitalists (in other words, without being employed as wage laborers).

In the world of architecture, what do you need as means of production to start your own office? Very few basic instruments: a computer, some model-making tools, maybe a printer - that's it. You can probably just do it from home. But the subjects of labor is the key. You need projects to work on. But it seems right now the majority of good projects are in the hands of a minority of starchitects. It's not wealth that determines who gets the project (some interns may come from a much more loaded family than the bosses). It's fame that draws in the projects. The non-famous cannot survive without selling their labor-power to the stars. That's why the low employees have to follow the game and endure exploitation.

Fame represents the non-monetary side of power. It's the practice of control and a monopolization of decision-making. The saddest fact is, power increases with the exploitation of the workers. Just as exploitation maximizes profit in capitalism, the hard work of the lower majority expedite the growth of fame of the few in the architectural practice of fameism.


andrewbags said...

Hi Human. First let me say that I like your blog.
Thinking about fameism and good projects: seems that starchitects are now victims of their own status, being used by developers to get building permissions for massive speculations then removed from their position (look at Gehry-Ratner's Atlantic Yards tale or Libeskind at Ground Zero).
It could be said that is always frustrating to be an architect, no matter if you're anonimous or a star.
That's why I suggest to incorporate disciplines such as "frustration management" or "self control improvement" into architecture programs.

Human said...

haha good point! it seems most stars are very bad at handling stress. see all the whining and yelling in the office? i guess "frustration management" is necessary for us people at the bottom as well - we are the ones who take the hit all the time!