Why has there been so much interest in “surplus value” in recent years? In “The Outside Can't Go Outside”, artist Merlin Carpenter considers how this term has been inserted into contemporary art theory following the financial crisis of 2007/8.
The book focuses on the idea that the value of art is located in unpaid mental, educational, and communicational labor that is gradually accrued and then exploited according to the logic of Marx's central thesis on exploitation. This much-hyped view is rejected in favor of a more rigorous Marxist interpretation of the nature of surplus value, and its role in a systematic law of value.
Carpenter counterposes value to what exists outside of it—a dream, an imaginary, what he describes as a “trance” or the location of revolutionary thought and desires. The outside, however, is not proposed as a physical location, but as an outside inside the body that functions as a line of control within. Moreover, the author suggests that the new revolutionary subjects might be the new groups that form in order to push against control networks, in a reordering of class struggles.
Born 1967 in Pembury (UK), Merlin Carpenter lives and works in London.