“Something for Nothing” (The O’Jays)

Both Rush and Joni Mitchell are worried that others, who have done nothing, desire to have “something” or “everything.” These are the takers, and they aspire to grab it from the song makers. Dire Straights wrote about these folks, too, but with a hint of masculinist satire: laboring men want “money for nothing,” just like the “little faggot” on MTV. But let’s step back a moment and remember that once upon a time all property came from nothing. One day everything was held in common, and the next–poof!–there was stuff. “Something from nothing,” as the Foo Fighters say. And once there was stuff, property became “theft” as Proudhon’s famous, “perfect” maxim reminds. Anyone who had anything was now a robber. Yet the O’Jays remind us that the capitalists still dream of “something for nothing” like Twain’s Tom Sawyer at the whitewashed fence, producing pure surplus value. We might say of this stack of trax that they finally have little in common. But they do have “nothing” in common, which in all these cases stands in for the communal–both missing and forgotten.


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