"A warning from Marx regarding the cinema: "Though private property appears to be the source, the cause of alienated labor it is really its consequence, just as the gods in the beginning are not the cause but the effect of man's intellectual confusion" (Marx/Engels 1978: 79). This self-same relation is paramount in the formation and power of images. Though today it may appear that images are the cause of "man's intellectual confusion," the alienation of our senses; they are really its consequence. Such is the reason, for example, that Americans do not know or did not see or did not feel the deaths of all those Iraqis, do not dwell on the poverty and prostitution of Asia, do not rise up to help ameliorate the disease and famine imposed upon Africa, do not reckon the consequences of their intervention in Latin America. Images are the alienated, objectified sensuality of humanity becoming conscious for itself through the organization of consciousness and sense. They are an intensification of separation, capital's consciousness, that is, human consciousness (accumulated subjective practices) that now belongs to capital. Because our senses don't belong to us, images are not conscious for us. Or rather, they are conscious "for us" in another sense, that is, they are conscious in place of us. As the prosthetic consciousness of the world system, these new sites of sensuous production serve someone or something else. Entering through the eyes, these images envelop their hosts, positing worlds, bodily configurations and aspirations, utilizing the bio-power of concrete individuals to confer upon their propositions the aspect of reality. In realizing the image, spectators create the world.
"In my discussion above of the continuity between objects and images in capitalist circulation it was implied that exchange-value is the spectre in manufactured objects; their abstract equivalence in money as price is a proto-image. When a quantity of money is given for an object, the object is in effect photo-graphed, its impression is taken in the abstract medium of money. What is received in return for money is not, at the moment of exchange, the object itself but the commodity with its fetish-character, its affective, qualitative image component that corresponds to that quantity known as price. We have money given for affect, affect for money.
"This system functions by virtue of the conversion of labor time to exchange value (by capital), and the corresponding conversion of money into productive power (by the consumer). Exchange-value is sensuous labor, subjectivity, shunted into an alien(ating) system. When humans' production is alienated production, that is, when their product is produced for exchange and taken away from them at a socially leveraged discount, work becomes not a satisfaction of workers' needs but a means to their satisfaction. Marx told us that labor's "alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague" (Marx/Engels 1978: 74). To properly understand visual culture the "other compulsions" not specified by Marx must necessarily be part of our investigations. Why do we want to watch TV or be on the computer? In what sense are these compulsory? If the image is a development in the relations of production, a new site of dyssemetrical exchange between "labor" and "capital" and therefore a machine for the production of value itself, how do we explain the hold, that is the entrenchment, of the image? Put another way, how is the desire for television a development in expression of the desire for money? The desire of money?"
-- Jonathan Beller, excerpted from here (reprinted also in The Cinematic Mode of Production).