Kickstarter is, not at all on purpose, saying some interesting things about this moment in the history of capitalism and about this moment in terms of the availability of disposable income.
About capitalism, I think this: people will give to Kickstarter even more than what they’d pay for the delivery of the product they’re backing if the product were available on a store shelf. Kickstarter is being used to signal desire. What’s striking is that it shows that consumer capitalism is in some sense just as hamstrung as the modernist state in its ability to deliver what people want and will pay for. All our institutions and organizations, of all kinds, are now tangled up in their own complexity, all of them are increasingly built to collect tolls rather than build bridges.
All that money spent on market research, on product development, on vice-presidents of this and that, and what you have, especially in the culture industry, is a giant apparatus that is less accurate than random chance in creating the entertainment or products that consumers can quite clearly describe their desire for. So clearly that the consumers are giving money to people they like who have no intention of or ability to make what the donors say they want. Because, rather like the lottery, at least you can imagine the chance of the thing you want coming into being. Waiting around for Sony or EA or Microsoft or Ubisoft to make it feels like an even bigger longshot.
Which also says something about money and its circulation. The crisis of accumulation isn’t just visible in the irrepressible return of subprime loans, or in the constant quest of financiers to find more ways to make money by speculating on the making of money by people who are making money. It’s even visible in more middle-class precincts. Who wants to invest a bit of spare cash in the long-term deal or the soberly considered opportunity now? It’s like waiting in line to deposit a small check while the bank gets robbed repeatedly.