the vampire’s university

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.

Karl Marx, Capital 

David Blacker has a piece at with the title “The Vampire Squid Turns to Education.” David’s title draws from a piece in which Matt Taibi writes:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

The specific sense in which Marx viewed capital as dead labor which, “vampire-like,” sucks the life from living labor, is amazingly (for a work in American popular culture) dramatized by one scene in the movie Breaking Away, written by Steve Tesich. The issue at hand is whether the young Dave Stohler (Dennis Christopher) will go to the University (and whether people like him — with his family and class background) belong in the university.

The dialogue is dramatically poignant. Click here or the image below for a slide-show with the subtitles:

It ends with an amazingly freighted but unspoken line . . .  :

What was it that the Dad was about to say, when he started “Well your mom …”

The story is not mentioned ever in the movie, but in this context, it seems that Dave’s father was about to tell him that his mother was accepted to get into the university. We remember the scene where Dave’s mom shows him her passport — which she has never used except for cashing checks in local stores in Bloomington — and tells him he should not give up his dreams. So, although she got admitted to the University, she gave up her chance when she chose instead to marry David’s Dad, who still carries the ineffable burden of knowing that she never was able to pursue her dream of higher education.

So the Limestone University, erected by the toil of the limestone cutters and other laborers (including labor represented in the taxes paid by wage earners in all fields of work), stands as a barrier to the destiny of members of the class whose labor is the stuff of which its walls are made.



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