The Null Device

Marxist chic

Flyer seen in an inner Melbourne café:
Melbourne Ukelele Kollective

Colour me cynical, but I have some doubts about just how deeply the "Melbourne Ukelele Kollective" is informed by Marxist-Leninist ideology, as the name suggests. Granted, they could, by coincidence, be all committed socialists who gather to play the Internationale and other ideologically sound anthems of the radical proletariat on their ukeleles in North Korean-like unison, from each according to his playing ability; though, somehow, I doubt that. What's more likely is that they're just another group who decided to call themselves a "collective" because it's fashionable, in that apolitically consumeristic, Che-Guevara-T-shirt way.

This trend of calling everything collectives has been happening on university campuses for the past decade, as students eke out ways to be revolutionaries and radicals until getting that job at the accountancy firm; now, it seems to have spread to the mainstream, and appears to be losing most of its Red trappings, with "collective" becoming just the trendy replacement for daggy old words like "club" or "society".

What's next: The Chess Collective? The Red Rebel Motorcycle Collective? Celebrity fan collectives?

There are 10 comments on "Marxist chic":

Posted by: Ed Sat Apr 17 23:34:17 2004

linguistic weirdness indeed: being a native portuguese speaker, i never associated 'collective' with leftist ideology, as in fact 'colectivo' is a daily use word devoid of ideology - and actually present in the name of neofascist associations.

for a marxist-sounding synonym in the portuguese language, look at 'cooperativa' which translates as 'cooperative' (although it can also mean an association).

Posted by: acb Sun Apr 18 13:39:22 2004

Here, "cooperative" is fairly moderate, and can mean any group of individuals voluntarily associating for common benefits (like, for example, non-profit secondhand bookshops at universities). Whereas "collective" suggests a much tighter coupling of efforts, usually to the exclusion of separate individual interests in favour of a single common interest, usually under the influence of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Or else, a bunch of trendy wankers trying to appropriate Soviet retro chic. or somesuch.

Posted by: Ben-Gurion http:// Sun Apr 18 13:47:12 2004

And then there are expressions like 'collective arseholes I have worked with' etc.

Still, time to dust off my ukelele!

Posted by: mark Sun Apr 18 13:47:18 2004

Like the Borg! Y'all love the Borg, right? Right? *cough*

(I was just thinking it'd be an amusing thingy to name something completely un-Marxist a "kollective" {well, "kollektive", actually, because the more k's the more Kommie...}, but this lot {and probably thousands of others} have beaten me to it. It's hard to imagine something as far from revolution as a ukelele player, after all.)

Posted by: acb Sun Apr 18 14:12:39 2004

Libertarian-Objectivist Collective, anyone?

Posted by: dj Mon Apr 19 05:52:12 2004

As long as you spell it with a capital 'l'. The collectives i've been in have not been Marxist but more libertarian socialist or anarchist. I have seen it thrown around a bit in music circles though.

Posted by: acb Mon Apr 19 07:04:29 2004

The term "collective" seems somewhat Leninist in its tone.

Anyway, is something really a collective if the members are in it for their own individual goals rather than submerging their differences and pulling together for a shared mission? Which is why a ukelele collective (or a tai chi collective, or a university student collective) sounds somewhat absurd and pretentious.

Posted by: acb Mon Apr 19 07:06:37 2004

btw, "Objectivism" is the cult of Ayn Rand; to an Objectivist, the word collective (regardless of context) would be about as welcome as a pork chop at a bar mitzvah.

Posted by: dj Mon Apr 19 07:38:45 2004

Oh, i've no doubt it sounds a bit wanky, but maybe they are aiming for that? Yeah, unfortunately i know all about Objectivism. I even made myself read 'The Fountainhead' once.

Posted by: gjw Mon Apr 19 13:03:55 2004

Anyone remember the Urban Cookie Collective?

"Is something really a collective if the members are in it for their own individual goals rather than submerging their differences and pulling together for a shared mission?"

I'm not aware of many Marxist organisations that welcome individual contributions of theory, whether they call themselves a collective or not. Maybe it's time to steal back the word.