Capitalism is the Parasite; Capitalism is the Virus

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2154 ... July 26, 2020
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Capitalism is the Parasite; Capitalism is the Virus

Matthew Flisfeder

With hindsight, a few years from now, it may well appear to us that the year 2020, the beginning of the third decade of the twenty-first century, marked the dawn of a new parasitic age. We can tell this much even by looking at one of the year’s most popular films. Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019) tells the story of the poor Kim family living in a basement apartment of a decrepit house (a banjiha) in a Seoul ghetto. Both parents, Ki-taek and Chung-sook, as well as their young adult children, Ki-woo and Ki-jung, are all precarious gig workers. They scramble together to make ends meet, taking on every and any odd job they can find.

The apartment sits mostly below ground, but a window pane in the kitchen breaches the surface somewhat, giving them a ground level perspective of the outside world. The space, in this way, is an apt metaphor for the subordination (sub-ordination) of the poor, festering below the surface of... ordinary life.

One day, the family is visited by Ki-woo’s friend, Min-hyuk, a university student who is about to go abroad for a study trip. Min works as a tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family and he invites Ki (who also goes by the name Kevin) to take over in his absence. But in order to work as a tutor, Ki must forge documents proving his credibility. After being accepted as a legitimate tutor and gaining the trust of the Park family, Ki recommends his sister as an art therapy tutor for the young son of the Park family. Jung, however, must also hide her identity and forge her credentials. The Kims further encroach upon the Park family as the children recommend their parents (again, hiding their real identities) to work for the household to replace the current chauffer and the trusted family housekeeper, whom the children frame in order to have them fired and replaced. Far from a dubious act, their scam is seen more as a necessary strategy of subsistence for precarious workers, an effect of the "entrepreneurialization" of labour and new competitive struggles of workers amongst each other over scarce temporary jobs. Meanwhile, Mr. Park, the patriarch of the family, works in the field of "legitimate"/capitalist scamming, otherwise known as high finance. The contrast between the Kims and Parks in this way evokes the vast cleavages between the precariat class and the wealthy, in whose favour the system is undoubtedly rigged.

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