Deja vu is a phenomenon created by modern times. Still, no one suspects that decades of homogeneous architectural manufacturing could have such a profound psychological effect. Nonetheless the first accounts of deja vu occur, unsurprisingly, in the 19th century, during the early days of mass production. In a philosophical sense, industrial society came about as the material emergence of Western metaphysics up to that point in time; in particular, the supremacy of essence over existence. Plato’s desire to understand individual objects through mastery of the forms was now finally realized: mass production allows a person to see an individual object and understand it through his preexisting idea of that object, through its essence. So when I see endless roofs zigzagging through entire regions with the most unamusing flow, as is common in most suburban neighborhoods, each house appears to me as a mere example of the true essence, the true form, of a house. As if I had already seen it somewhere before. Each house becomes just another possibility, and most likely an insufficient possibility, since the essence of a house is always portrayed by the Spectacle as superior to a single house. In this way, deja vu was created.
So in response to the phenomenon of deja vu, which loses its original excitement once it is induced constantly and turned into a hellish boredom, existentialism spread as a philosophy (again unsurprisingly in the 19th century), as in “existence precedes essence.” This line of thought was primarily a response to capital’s ability to trivialize everyday life, which in modern times has become the ability to commodify everyday life. This is why Soren Kierkegaard encouraged people to live an “authentic” life: because he understood that there was nothing authentic about commodity society.
So the police can also be analyzed from this perspective. One of their larger goals is to secure the supremacy of essence, a supremacy which is already continuously reinforced by mass production and the Spectacle. This is why, when people pursue their own existence vigorously enough, and reject the boring “possibilities” already imposed onto them, they are suppressed in a seemingly unnecessary way. This is why graffiti is outlawed, or why it is quite literally illegal to be homeless; it's the reason why physical and social presentability, or employment at a high-paying job, or even avarice are all considered to be important virtues. It isn’t because a hoard of disgruntled youths or vagabonds pose an actual threat to anyone; instead, it is because their uninhibited desire to exist -- first and foremost -- is the biggest menace against which commoditism must fight. They refuse, even if only because they can, to give into the supremacy of essence: the youth, by not working; and the homeless, by not consuming.
But what form does this supremacy take today? What essence is our existence ideally supposed to follow? It seems obvious that the dominant mode of production would have us all become the most efficient producers, and the most greedy consumers. Hence the constant repetition of the phrase “humans are naturally selfish” (as if such a statement could relieve the modern citizen of his guilt). And this effectively sums up all of the “self-fulfillment” that capital can provide for us: fulfillment of one’s supposed essence, which only ever amounts to slavery. So when Forbes compiled a list of “Ideas for Self-Fulfillment” it should not come as a shock that one of the items on the list states that “if you don’t like what you do, you won’t love YOU, and the job won’t last.” What they fail to realize is that love is not the same as a lack of hatred. After all, no one really loves their job. Some people just don’t hate it.
Simultaneously, capitalism refuses us the possibility of reaching our own authentic existence. Even the citizen who flees any sort of prescribed essence, always jumping from individuality to individuality, digs his own grave; thus the temp is born, the temporary worker, the most flexible producer. Surely we have all realized by now that the temp is the future of all work in the West. Therefore, even the citizen who appears most unpredictable is recuperated into the workforce, and capital even has an incentive to keep people in this permanent limbo. The ideal existence which has always been sought by capitalism, the ultimate essence, is represented in the subject that has no existence -- not meaning non-existent, but meaning an existence of nothingness, of pure adaptability.
However the “ideal” existence is not only achieved through working. Consuming is also a major aspect, and “the consumer” is one side of capitalism’s phantom essence, an essence with which we are all supposed to match our individual existences. Thus Microsoft’s recent advertisement which describes its latest tablet as “one experience for everything in your life.” This slogan perfectly describes the allure of commodities and their simultaneous attempt to quench our thirst for existence. By pursuing the individualities and pseudo-existences provided by commodities, one actually throws away his authentic existence in favor of commodity society’s solitary essence. In this way, the single experience of consuming can replace all other true desires and literally become the “one experience for everything in your life.”
Of course when we speak of production and consumption so negatively, we are not underestimating the power of creation and fulfillment. From this perspective, an Existentialist Marxism can be developed. Within the dichotomy of essence and existence, it seems obvious that the homogeneous commodity, so easily mass produced, takes the form of the essence, the thing that all competitors must match, the ultimate form of that use-object. On the other hand, existence is that which is not mass produced, the use-object that is made in a DIY fashion, and furthermore, it is the impulse to create. It is the desire to access the means of production in a direct, collective way. In this sense, the socialist revolution coincides with the social insurrection. In fighting for existence, the ultimate enemy is commodification.