Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Bog Standard Capitalism and the Price of the Hobby: What Would Jurgen Habermas Do?
My last post apparently attracted the attention of some people on a certain forum site you may be aware of (traffic source stats are a wonderful thing). The discussion is actually perfectly reasonable for the most part, but I was intrigued by the post I pasted in above.
"Bog standard capitalism" is here defined as "setting the retail price of your product at the upper end of what your customers would be willing to pay but not so high that they don't cough up". I would quibble that this is not exactly what I wrote in the post. And I would also quibble that this is an accurate definition of "bog standard capitalism" - it sounds more like a description of "bog standard pricing in circumstances of oligopolistic competition" to me. But then what do I know? Noisms' thoughts on the OSR publishing as oligopoly will have to wait for another day.
The reason why this post intrigued me is what it says about modern geekdom and its "intensely relaxed" attitude to what Habermas would probably call the colonisation of their lifeworld by market rationality.
Let me put it in less pretentious terms. A hobby is a deeply human experience of shared communal values and respect for craftsmanship and skill. It is the endeavour of amateurs who do what they do for the love of it and out of a desire to collaborate with peers who feel the same way. When it is subject to the forces of "bog standard capitalism" much is gained but much is also lost. Its hobbyish nature is denuded and is replaced by price-based considerations which distort existing relationships forever.
It is hypocritical of me to complain about this for many reasons. First, I am in the lucky position of having gainful employment which pays me comparatively well and gives me quite a bit of free time to write stuff about elf games. Second, I have released RPG materials for money. Third, I did that in such a way that, it seemed to me, reflected a fair approach to pricing - a luxury I would not necessarily have been able to afford if I was doing it professionally.
But be that as it may, none of us is without sin. My desire is only to point out that it's good that people can now make money and support themselves independently as professional producers of amazing stuff. Yet it has its downsides. Just look at what has happened to "the OSR" in the period 2008-2019 if you don't believe me.