4 Ways Spongebob Promotes Filthy Marxist Class Propaganda


Co-written with Conner Kennedy.

Spongebob Squarepants has been accused of being many things. Dr. James Dobson thought it was homosexual propaganda (although, to be fair to Spongebob, Dobson thinks just about everything is homosexual propaganda) aimed at promoting diversity (because to Dobson, diversity is bad). 

A 2011 University of Virginia study found that Spongebob makes kids dumber. Fans have decried the decline in the quality of the show (a phenomenon largely due to what scientists call "growing up").

But as of yet, a Google search of "Spongebob and Marx" reveals nothing substantive, which means no one has discovered the true meaning of Spongebob.

1. Mr. Krabs and Commodity Fetishism

In Marxist economics, the capitalist mode of production produces what is called commodity fetishism (it's not like your uncle's foot fetish). Commodity fetishism occurs when social relationships become purely economic. In that case, Mr. Krabs is the ultimate commodity fetishist: For him there are no social relationships, he sees everything in terms of economic value . Stephen Hillenberg takes commodity fetishism to its logical extreme: in addition to seeing humans as capital, he sees capital as human!

2. The Chum Bucket

While classical and Austrian economists view the capitalist system as inherently competitive, Marx saw it as entirely uncompetitive. Bikini Bottom clearly resembles the latter. Competition doesn't lead to innovation; there is no creative destruction. Rather there is one monopoly firm (The Krusty Krab) and another firm (The Chum Bucket), constantly trying to siphon customers not with a better product but by theft. Spongebob shows the capitalist mode of production, with its fealty to "competition," to be entirely farcical. In Marxist economics, competition eventually leads to one firm which exploits workers and customers ... sound familiar?

3. Spongebob

Speaking of exploitation, in Spongebob's world, production follows the labor theory of value that Marxism predicts, rather than the marginal theory of value predicted by Austrian economists. Spongebob is the greatest fry cook in the universe, yet he is paid almost nothing! The marginal theory of value predicts that a worker will be paid according to the value they add to the good. But look at Spongebob, whose marginal productivity is nearly infinite. Spongebob is invaluable: whenever someone attempts to replace him, it ends in catastrophe. Spongebob's wages are nothing (the Spongebob wiki confirms that Spongebob makes less than the minimum wage) and his only attempt to obtain a raise ends in failure. This is what Marx's labor theory of value predicts: workers will be squeezed, they will never reap the full value of their contribution to the final product. Since the capitalist and the landlord input nothing, all their profits must come at the expense of the worker, and further, the more product the worker produces, the less value he has. Mr. Krabs definitely has enough money to pay Spongebob more. He’s a millionaire who at one point buys a massive hotel, yet he refuses to increase wages even slightly, like the 1920s robber barons.

Spongebob comes straight out of an Oscar Wildian post-capitalist utopia (and not just because Dobson hates them both for being gay). Spongebob exemplifies another part of the "Soul of Man Under Socialism": he loves his job and prefers cooperation to competition.He eschews a life of labor for a life of art, his "job" isn't drugery, but rather joy. Freed from the bonds of the capitalist mode of production, he can pursue a life of friendship, cooperation, and love.

4. Patrick

Patrick, by far the poorest member of Bikini Bottom, lives securely, yet has never been incredibly successful or held a job. He lives under the motto "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." For further proof of this assertion, take a look at Mr. Krabs's houseHere's Cher's house. I rest my case.

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Sean McElwee

Sean McElwee is a Research Associate at Demos.

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