“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying, and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid diseases appear.”—Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks. (via bustakay)
Rahel Jaeggi rewrites the concept of Alienation in non-essentialist terms, in doing this she reuses this old and lovely concept to show its linkage to current and ongoing ethical and thus political concerns…
"…The idea of Alienation contains two different but intertwined diagnoses. On the one hand the idea of a loss of power, which we experience when alienated, in relation to ourselves and to a world that has become alien to us: alienated relations are those in which we are dis-empowered as subjects; on the other hand, the diagnosis of a loss of meaning, which characterizes a world that appears alien to us, as well as our relation to the world and to ourselves. An Alienated world is a meaningless world, that is not experienced as a meaningful whole. Thus alienation refers at once to both heteronomy - having ones properties determined by an other - and the complete absence of essential properties or purposes; moreover, it seems to be one of the main points of the phenomenon described as alienation that bin these two problems - power’s being turned into impotence and the loss of meaningful involvement in the world - are intertwined…" Rahel Jaeggi (2014).
This notion of alienation interests me because without it I have limited concepts to deal with friends who argue for extinction and loss except the oppositional binary pair optimism/pessimism - alienation it seems to me gives us a concept that frees us from such notions.
"The concept of appropriation refers to a comprehensive conception of practical relations to self and world. It includes a broadly understood capacity of knowing and dealing with oneself: having access to or command over oneself and the world. This can be explicated as the capacity to make the life one leads, or what ones wills and does; in other words, as the ability to realize oneself in what ones does." Rahel Jaeggi (2014)
The concept of appropriation in this context refers to a specific relationship between the world and self. Between individuals and objects, what does this relationship look like ? Appropriation assumes that something is not merely passively taken up but actively worked through and assimilated. In other words within Jaeggi’s understanding - appropriating a role means more that we have identified with it, "something we appropriate does not remain external to ourselves” In short then we can say then that the relations of appropriation are charecterised by specific features: it is a form of practice, a way of relating practically to the world. The appropriative relation is one of penetration, assimilation and internalisation, processes in which what is appropriated and which appropriates in turn are altered, structured and formed.
I am of course split - between the Steigler and Hegelian-Marxist distrust of the spectacle, mass-consumption. From this position we can see that everything can be and has in some sense been commodified. The reduction of meaning, the replacement of authenticity with commodities bought and sold. Whilst this position takes a position founded on negation and critique there is another line which addresses this in an affirmative fashion…
"…. Since the 1950s, computer science and ICTs have exercised both an extrovert and and introvert influence, changing not only our interactions with the world but also or self-understanding. In many respects we are not standalone entities, but rather interconnected informational organisms or inforgs, sharing with biological agents and engineered artefacts a global environment ultimately made up of information, the infosphere. This is the informational environment constituted by all informational processes, services and entities, thus informational agents as well as their properties, interactions, and mutual relations. If we need a representational scientist for the fourth revolution , this should definitely be Alan Turin…” Floridi (2010)
The spread of industrial hypomnesic apparatus.. (aka Spectacle)
(Plato ) “Now, what Socrates describes in Phaedrus, namely that the extiorisation of memory is the loss of memory and knowledge, has today become the stuff of everyday experience in all asepcts of our existance, and more and more often, in the feeling of our powerlessness, in not our impotence, indeed of our obsolescence - at the very moment when the extraordinary mnesic power of digital networlks makes us aware of the immensity of human memory, which appears to have become infintiely recoverable and accessible.
The spread of industrial hypomensic apparatuses causes our memories to pass into machines, in such a way that, for example, we no longer know the telephone numbers of those close to us - whilst the spread of spell checkers causes fear of the end of orthographic consciousness and the literary hypomensic knowledge of language…
Now this amounts to the everyday and perceptible aspect of what I would like to present her as a vast process of cognitive and affective proletarianization -and a vast process of the loss of knowledges: savoir faire, savoir vivre, theoretical knowledge, in the absence of which all savor is lost…” Bernard Steigler (2009/2010) p29/30
“As they become more affordable and application programming becomes easier with more sophisticated user interfaces, robots are making small-batch production economically more feasible, because line changeovers are much faster. Given that product life cycles are getting shorter and just-in-time manufacturing helps minimize the need for inventory, robotic flexibility and responsiveness are important benefits. And since many of the new robots have multiple arms, they can multitask with ease—and without losing focus. In the Netherlands, Philips uses 128 robots to make razors. The only humans are the nine workers who perform quality checks.
Robots can also do without lighting, heat, air conditioning, supervision, food, and bathroom breaks. As a result, ‘lights out’ manufacturing plants that offer significant cost and energy savings are emerging. At some factories, robots are even building other robots, producing about 50 robots per 24-hour shift and operating unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time.”—The Rise of Robotics « Boston Consulting Group (via writingcapital)
In Jakob Burckhardt’s (mostly forgotten) ’Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy it is said that at one time there were no fashions in the dress of Florence; individual taste was so well thought of that everyone preferred to invent a personal style of his own…’ (Stark)
“Well, we’re stuck with the word “sustainability” because it’s clearly something we have to strive for. But we had better be a little humble about it, because we Americans have not sustained anything for very long. And the stuff that we have sustained, we haven’t done it deliberately until the last few years. So this issue of sustainability requires a lot of careful thought about ways of work and kinds of materials and it’s a conversation that we’ve just begun. The thing that we’re most needing to sustain is the health of the ecosphere, which is a big job. It then divides itself naturally into the need to sustain local ecosystems. The great fact of our time is that while our conversation about sustainability is trying to get started, we’re destroying the health of the local ecosystems.”—
Fetishism (14) equivalence and difference (pre-introduction)
"…Our global network is all about you…" The advert informs us, in an ambivalent dialectical gesture that assumes the reader knows that information can have no meaning in the spectacle, which they probably do not.
To be affirmative towards the mass and social media then, we can perhaps say that it believes, from its pole of sovereignty, that its keeps society in a state of uncertainty. The media generates an everyday willingness to be “prepared for surprises and disruptions…. ” The mass and social media then belong within the "accelerated auto-dynamic of other function systems such as the economy, science and politics, which constantly confront society with new problems". It is worth noting how and why the media supplanted religion and the priesthood as thejuridical pole of sovereignty. How could it not given that its predecessor, (no matter what religion) is always reaction…
"…Just as in other function systems, the precondition for the differentiation of a particular function system of society is a special code. Differentiation means the emergence of a particular subsystem of society by which the characteristics of system formation, especially auto-poetic self-reproduction, self-organisation, structural determination, and along with all these, operational closure itself are realised. In such a case, we are not simply dealing with a phenomenon which a distinguished observer can distinguish. Rather, the system distinguishes itself.Analysis of the system of the mass media thus occurs at the same level of analysis as the economic system, the legal system, the political system etc. of society, and is concerned with paying attention to comparability, despite all differences….” ( Luhmann - The reality of the mass media)
Luhmann, risk, constructivism and the end of falsification in research projects...
The risk of a research project lies especially in the initial hypothesis proving untenable, or even this finding proving impossible to determine with any degree of certainty. This risk comes to a dramatic head because science is expected to produce new knowledge and for this reason assessments of the truth value of new developments diverge strongly…. It is typical to see protection against this by designing research in any case to generate with a high degree of probability data worth reporting. The refutation of hitherto accepted knowledge can also count as a research success, especially if it has to do with knowledge of great theoretical import,. …. These considerations of risk management within science modify the thesis that the risk of scientific research lies in not discovering the truth. If, however, we look not at individual projects but at larger research context, we realize that science cannot very well live by self-criticism or falsification alone, for this would rapidly exhausts all suitable store of knowledge. In the long run sustainable truths must continuously be generated, and the risk run by certain research complexes or entire disciplines lies not in not being able to do just that…. Luhmann (2008) Risk - And Science
In these notes on (commodity) fetishism the starting point has been where Marx speaks of social relationships which are taken to be things, objects, the fetishism of commodities. But here we are speaking not of simple commodities but of human relations as commodities. Relations as things. Accepting that “…this fetishism of commodities has its origins… in the peculiar social character of the labor that produces them…” In the society we have lived in this has been reproduced in all aspects of our society, from the products traveling in the slow network of container ships to the concepts zooming around on the fast networks. In the attempt to avoid this understanding - which assumes that the modernity is liquid, that within capital everything that is solid will melt… It seems to me that the clearest example of this tendency of fetishized concepts to zoom around is nihilism….
Nihilism, the devaluation of all values, is for many thinkers the most important consequence of modernity and thus post-modernity. What is fetished here is the very notion of values for what is avoided by those most invested in nihilism is the central issue of responses to political economy… all that is solid melts into air….Perhaps then we can name one or two fetishised responses to the present and recent past - the first one is nihilism, the varieties of this particular fetishism in its contemporary postmodern form, touched on here are those delineated by Deleuze and Lyotard. Both at their most Nietzschean and at their most liberal.. Initially nihilism was proposed not simply as a matter of belief, and nor could it be reduced to a mere doctrine. Nietzsche understood Western culture to be inherently nihilistic, and understood nihilism as the historical process shaping the fate of the West, a process In which the highest values devalued themselves. Values which he understood as having historically (its the 19th Century) provided Europe with its aim and purpose but which had lost their binding power and force… leaving human lives lacking direction or truth, life as nothing beyond its empty self perpetuation. Deleuze reads this as follows "…thus we can see that the relation between nihilism and transmutation is deeper than was initially suggested. Nihilism expresses the quality of the negative as aratio cognoscendi of the will to power; but it cannot be brought to completion without transmuting itself into the opposite quality, into affirmation asratio essendi of this same will… destruction becomes active at the moment when, with the alliance between reactive forces and the will to nothingness broken, the will to nothingness is converted and crosses over to the side of affirmation…”(from Deleuze- Nietzsche 1983).
In the specific context being drawn out here the concept of affirmation is fetishised within the nihilistic turn, within which it is accepted that to say ‘nihilist’ in the affirmative sense of the above is imagined as being meaningful. To resolve the nihilistic crisis at the heart of western culture is to complete the turn and reproduce the positive role of nihilism in a philosophy of affirmation, an affirmative life. In the process avoiding the alternative which is the nihilistic descent into passivity, the will to nothingness. To be specific, both affirmation and passivity are aspects of nihilism. It is not surprising that Deleuze presents creativity/the creator as the destroyer of nihilism through the use of the fetishised taxonomy of Nietzsche’s characters (aristocrat, artist etc), These conceptual personae are assumed to be the way out of the radical passivity, the will to nothingness of nihilism. Nihilism is negated, values are destroyed… ‘Destruction as the active destruction of the man who wants to perish and to be overcome announces the creator’… destruction of all known values is the trail of the creator…’ (Deleuze Nietzsche) Here then affirmation is defined in otherwords not as nihilism but as its resolution… Creativity is the other fetishised term which interests me in this ideology and discourse - ‘creativity’, both elitist and foolish, it is the initial moment when, through its very fetishisation, the discourse enables the rightwing to appropriate the text. The third fetishised term here is values…. In our times nihilists tend to follow Lyotard’s related approach, seeing nihilism as creating new persona…. semioticians, scientists … and placing them in new institutions, theories and situations. The simplest way to understand Lyotard’s focus on nihilism is in the difference between the signifier and what it represents/signifies, between the philosophical representation and the thing represented. The division holds the material sign away from its meaning, hence the drift from the material, to sensation and affect and finally to meaning and understanding. This trajectory is a phantasm, never a complete process. For science is always a work in process, and meaning has no origin. For Lyotard it is a small step to suggest that science maintains a devaluation of matter (and affect) in favour of understanding and that it is a nihilism because in denying matter in favour of understanding they are following a line which can never end. Lyotard defines the task of understanding as nihilistic. This misunderstanding of science as nihilism has haunted us throughout recent decades, haunted by the death, extinction and where probability ends.
Do I need to speak of the elitism of nihilism, which begins with the original Nietzschean critique of egalitarianism, from the recognition that value presumes inequality and that equality must undermine value. Even whilst equality is according to this a form of nihilism, not all nihilisms are egalitarian. It is this latter which is referenced in the resolution of nihilism proposed above. Nihilism as such then is a way of avoiding the necessity of socialism as a pure critique of the capitalist mode of production… And yet the absence of those who do not exist in this affirmative moment, those who are nothing, makes this look like a pathetic gesture, trapped in the sign system, between the theoretical and religious representation and what is represented. Everyday life is excluded, implicitly defined as nothing… nihilism as fetish.
“Printed books and humanistic scholarship have a shared history. For centuries, humanists have worked with formats—the printed page, the bound codex—that have remained essentially consistent. But communication in digital environments has required the invention of new forms, tools, and schemata. The lack of conventions and the opportunity to imagine formats with very different affordances than print have not only brought about recognition of the socio-cultural construction and cognitive implications of standard print formats, but have also highlighted the role of design in communication. Modeling knowledge in digital environments requires the perspectives of humanists, designers, and technologists.”—Digital_Humanities, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp (2012)
… the understanding of technology as simplification indeed does not mean that the world even in its basic structures is simple and that this fact would have to be discovered. Science is not discovery but construction.Nor is it necessary to break through the surface of the phenomenal world and unmask it as mere appearance in order to discern the mathematical or categorical framework that carries the world.These are the theories of the premodern world. On the contrary science … tries out simplifications, incorporates them into a given world, and seeks to determine whether isolations necessary for such experiments are successful…. (Luhmann)
"… the specificity of modernity must be sought in the differences that are produced when an observer designates something and thereby makes a distinction. We infer this insight from the observation that important statements about modern science take the form of a critique that does not start from the perspective immanent to science with the view towards possible improvements but, in principle, complains about the fact that modern science, as science, leaves something essential out of consideration….. What is at stake in such a critique is the form of modern science - that is, the difference made by the fact that science exists…. … another description of science, equally critical of modernity, that targets its centre. It takes aim at a one-sided tendency towards formalisation idealisation, technicalisation, accounting and so on. In this sense, Edmund Husserl, as has already been discussed elsewhere, spoke of the crisis of the modern sciences. What is at stake here is not the dependency of technology on science but the dependency of science on technology - and not in the sense of a simple ‘finalising debate' that takes only goals into account. We are leaving open the question of whether anything is to be criticised, improved and avoided. We are only asking: in what sense is technicalisation (we continue to use the word) a form? And what is the other side of this form? ….. According to Husserl - and many have reiterated his view - technicalisation forgets the ‘lifeworld’, the always already employed, concrete foundation of meaning for subjective intentions, whether in the form of a naive ‘putting-into-it’ or of a reflexive attitude. Against this forgetting, Husserl reminds us of a special telos of European history: the complete self-realisation of reason under the guidance of philosophy. Accordingly, the other side is the concrete actualisation of meaningful human life under the guidance of reason…” ( Niklas Luhman p68/9 Theories of Distinction (1995/92)
"….The tacit assumption that truth is not possible without reference to an external world (because this is precisely what is meant by ‘truth’) has led to endless and unproductive discussions of the problem of realism. If the very operation of referring …… must be understood as a real operation, one can seriously think that only what it designates (refers to) is real. On the other hand it is not sufficient simply to change over to the opposite position and maintain the reality of the referring operation. The operation is inaccessible to itself, and for the observer it could be referred to only as something he designates. This way, one is left only with the existing controversy between realism and constructivism - as if these were incompatible positions….."
This may be considered as understating the opposition between realist and anti-realist/constructivist positions, but at the same time as Luhmann points out “…the impossibility of solving a problem posed in this way indicates that modern society needs to formulate its epistemological problems differently…” To put it in suitably blunt terms no realist position can satisfactorily address the problems of reference and truth….
"… a bivalent logic has forced people to conflate the two perspectives. It’s only positive value, truth, designated being and therefore articulated reference. The countervalue untruth only served to control the act of referring (designation, claiming, recognizing). Under these presuppositions, the loss of reference had to appear as a loss of truth resulting in the paradox of nihilism, which states that consequently only the untrue could be truth. Logic was not structurally rich enough to represent more complex relations, and this condition was sufficient for social relations that went along with a world described in a monocontextual fashion…" Nikolas Luhmann Theories of Distinction (1995)
Nihilism, the devaluation of all values, is for many thinkers the most important consequence of modern and thus post-modernity. The way Luhmann puts it above describes the central issue with all analyses which begin from an understanding of ‘nihilism’. The fetishism of value…
In 1995 Luhmann could say … ” Transformation that are just spectacular can be named at the macro-level. The tremendously rapid development of international financial markets, the appearance of ever newer financial instruments, and the concomitant volatility of all monetary investments have literally swept from the market more or less profound attempts at a socialist politics motivated by social ethics, reducing them in politics itself to residues of rhetorical controversies...” That this is not a sustainable argument, that it is not reasonably rationality 20 years on … is crucial.
The data economy—the growth of mass data collection and tracking—is changing how power is perceived, Schneier said in his keynote speech. The Internet and technology has changed the impact a group can have on others, where dissidents can use the Internet to amplify their voices and extend their reach. Governments already have a lot of power to begin with, so when they take advantage of technology, their power is magnified, he said.
“That’s how you get weird situations where Syrian dissidents use Facebook to organize, and the government uses Facebook to arrest its citizens,” Schneier said.
Over the past few years, it’s become easier and cheaper to store data and search for the necessary item rather than to sort and delete. Email is a very good example of this shift in behavior. This change, spurred by the popularity of mobile devices and the push to move more data and services to the cloud has also made it easier to track user behavior. When corporations track users for marketing purposes, it seems benign, but the same actions come across as sinister when it’s the government…
…The government didn’t tell anyone they have to carry around a tracking device, but people now carry mobile devices. The government doesn’t require users to notify any agency about their relationships. Users will tell Facebook soon enough, Schneier noted. “Fundamentally, we have reached the golden age of surveillance because we are all being surveilled ubiquitously.”
[The ruling] ideology fulfils a perfect function in the social system, constructing the myths, the pseudo-reality and the joy of the social coercion that is so loved throughout the world. A pure fetishism. For individual people (singularities) inscribed into our current system, ideology and thus fetishism is a lived experience, one that we live without knowing “the motivating forces which set it in action”. The mode of operation charecteristic of the ideological process is here, in the final instance, to ensure that the real motivating forces are forgotten or operate silently, with the intention of making sure that individuals and collectives cannot see, except in exceptional circumstances, the origins of the existing social order and instead individuals experience it as a natural order.That it succeeds in obscuring as in a ‘camera obscura’ the instruments of social coercion, the social media and the mass media. The machines and technological instruments are always already social, always ideological. The fetishisized technological instruments are inseperable from the ideological processes of commodification, consumption and production etc: [“Our tourism, our television, our changes of fashion, alcoholism and drug addiction and sexism, our consumerism under a barrage of advertising, etc., reveal an immense boredness in our society. What has brought this about? A society that produces death as never before, but death without the transcendental, and without the transcendental which is the only present, to be more precise: our life as a fleeting moment of emptiness before death…”]
We can most simply say that any analyst of the ruling ideology,of the fetishisms it generates is going to be a partial critique because criticism and most forms of critique are parasitic forms. In this sense then the parasite is a microbe, an insiduous infection that takes without giving and weakens without killing. The parasite is also a guest, who exchanges his talk, praise and flattery for food. The parasite is noise as well, static in the system or interference in the communicatin channel. In these three variants criticism, analysis exists.
In the sense touched on here there is little difference in the nature of the analysts critique. Whether its the partial critique of an identity politics, the partial structural critique of democracy and political economy, or the postmodern critique of actors and networks. The analyst is a parasite… Consider an analyst…(a parasite obviously) Perhaps for the moment the example of the bourgeois discourse on youth which if the analyst disentangles the actuality of youthful existence, the framework from the myths, the analyst will discover a refusal on the part of the majority of readers to accept the the results of the analysis. That is to say they will refuse to accept that the naked structures (of oppression) appear on the surface. For instance, the mass and social media presents (problem) a polarized opposition between young people and adults, concluding after producing a series of false binary structures: immaturity-maturity, irresponsibility-responsibility, male-female, homosexual-heterosexual, subordination-hierarchy, submission-coercion — which will generate explicit calls for either repression or an implicit/explicit call for rebellion by the citizens, who are urged by the ideological apparatus to demand respect and subservience from youth because of its status of dependence and subordination. They are called university students if they are fighting for university reform, rioters if they protest on the streets, hipsters if they occupy the reactionary flanuerist positions inherited from the 19th century, or extremists if arguing for non-liberal positions against the dominant social order. Those who refuse to accept that the naked structures appear on the surface, will argue that the analysis, the construction, places representations in such a way as to reveal, foregrounds a mechanosphere that cannot be a true reflection of reality, primarily because it is the reality too which they are accustomed. The individuals and communities cannot admit that the strategies of social domination are revealed in the analysts texts. It requires too much of them. They cannot accept that the messages being circulated can be subjected to multiple methods of reading which can arrive at diametrically opposing de-codifications. For example there is the decoding which they carry out daily, a superficial one made up of all the information that is handed out to them, then from the other side there is the reading carried out by the analyst with the pure critique of the spectacle, searching for the lines of connection, the bond which is both in the unconscious and submerged in the unified discourse and that situates the discourse in the interests of the upper classes. The principal also applies to the sender, the creator of the messages, who in refusing the analysts reading will offer as a fact that they always act in complete freedom from coercion.
In other forms of communication, a novel, film, social media blog, in which the communicator wishes to be ‘subversive’ ( to the right or left, though i am biased towards left-parasites) the communication may well be recuperable by the system through the very apparatus of domination which it seeks to subvert through its representation. The communication will be appropriated because the (ideological) structures, representations and meanings, are what enables the objects meaning to re-present the structures of the system which it aims to subvert. It is this which defines the difficulty of radical creativity within a social and historical space that is still owned by the upper classes. In this sense every act of creation which aims to question the apparatus of domination is at risk of expressing and maintaining the nature of the system in which the producer finds themselves. … Consequently then for a body of signs, of work used by a subversive writer (sender) we must go beyond the surface meanings of the message or the form itself to establish the relations between this layer of meaning and the the the the unintentional structures of the production. (What spectacular noise is reproduced? does it matter what cannot be appropriated?) . These are the means we have of discovering how the social and historical occurrences and the structures interface with the created object. This disclose the fetishes, the fundamental structures of the mode of operation of the ideological structures of the system. The analyst suggest that the singularities, the individuals who experience these representations are living within a system whose rules they cannot know. The aim may be to make the dominated aware of this to enable them to discover the rules.
The message sender forms a part of a (information) system in which they are both an operator and submissive reproducer. Their position within the the structure is brought about by a framework of images and concepts (spectacle) which exist as much in their opinions as in the essence of the things produced. To determine the mechanisms of social domination (for example the laws of montage, the grammatical structure of texts, the matheme, the mytheme of intersection, the machinary of authorless theatre)… which is to say how the singularity participates in the continuation of the system of exploitation and how they (individuals) are created as agents of their own exploitatin and alienation it will be necessary to take a few extra steps. Let us then accept that its not about the intentions of the group, for the upper classes do not think out the structures of domination, it experiences them just as the dominated group absorbs and obeys the structures… [To repeat myself edlessly…] The ideological processes being touched on here are not the abstract constructions of an individual human subject or a class. It is rather that it is closely related with the mode of production and a given social formation. It is functional to the social formation and permits its continued existance and the the the continued domination of the class and classes that support this mode. So that we should not be talking of the creation of myths by this class, but rather of their management. Rather than sender and receiver we are parasites, the noise in the system…. a few extra steps…
Analia Hounie: But philosophy isn’t democratic| for a philosopher there is no equality of opinions and, even more, opinion is a different thing from truth, the proper theme of philosophy. There are, however, philosophers like Rorty, Habermas, and even Derrida, who search for the philosophical grounds for democracy - does this mean they abandon philosophy?
Alain Badiou: Not exactly. We have to distinguish between a democratic state as a historical condition for the birth of philosophy and the political consequences of philosophy, which are not democratic by themselves. Surely we can find some philosophers that approve the democratic form of the state, but this is not a philosophical necessity at all. The strict philosophical necessity is to think the relationships between political activities and something like truth or justice which in no way requires the validation of a democratic state, The philosophical conception of politics isn’t a democratic one… (Lacanian Ink no 28)
The situation for readers of philosophy is different, for whilst this seems like an acute observation of the situation in which philosophers exist, it does not describe the situation of readers. For example reading Catherine Malabou and Adrian Johnsons ‘Self and emotional life’ it is utterly impossible for both to be true. Indeed the two texts can scarcely be in the same book together without coming to blows. The key phrase in understanding the situation for philosophers is that there can be ‘no equality of opinions’ and the proposition that ‘truth’ is the theme, and that the purpose of philosophy is to delineate impossible goals. Whereas for readers whilst it describes a broad enough meaning to be acceptable, I(we) can perhaps suggest that this is an inaccurate understanding… for readers of philosophy there is always a sense in which philosophy maintains an equivalence, an equality of opinions.
Fetishism (10) The parasite and a hint of appropriation...
Michel Serres middle period epistemological work uses concepts of information theory, which is to say Serres makes notable use of the mathematical expressions of probability theory to structure the relationship of message and noise in the communication channels between sender and recipient. It is the noise which especially interests us here, notably the question of how much any noise enhances or diminishes the informational value of the message as its is communicated. Michel Serres interest, which is our interest here, focuses on the channels where information and noise merge into a new unintended message. The mix of anticipated and unanticipated information, including of course ideology, myth and social coercion… The logic which is of particular interest is from The Parasite, which models the fluidity of noise though the notion of the excluded middle (introducing the fuzziness of logic) where the middle/noise is no longer to be excluded. The excluded middle/third is analysed from the perspective of a parasite who intrudes and disrupts… in this specific understanding disrupting the ruling ideology…
We can most simply say that any analysis of the ruling ideology,of the fetishisms it generates is going to be a partial critique because criticism and most forms of critique are parasitic forms. In this sense then the parasite is like a microbe, an insiduous infection that takes without giving and weakens without killing. The parasite is also a guest, who exchanges his talk, praise and flattery for food. The parasite is noise as well, static in the system or interference in the communication channel. In these three variants criticism, analysis exists.
If you read the word myth in contemporary terms it is as Barthes indicated so many years ago that; Myth empties any social occurrence/event of any real content, leaving the systems innocent and purified. The obvious extent to which it degrades the events, emptying them of their historical meaning and makes them part of the always already ideological ‘nature of things’. The myth therefore directly tames reality and appropriates it for the benefit of the pseudo-reality required by the mode of production, the reality imposed by the system. This reality foregrounds the premises on which the ruling ideology is constructed. Which we might say at base is the myth that the upper classes are a universal…. From this universal we can understand that one of the consequences of the recognition of myth and mythology is that we should not restrict ourselves to merely describing the relation of the systematic technologies and the ideological models to the society…
I do like Badiou’s Cinema text. This I hope explains why… “The general logic is different these writings are texts of political intervention. In terms of the the general logic of the spectacle, we organized a group…” “…philosophy is not a reflection on anything whatsover. There is philosophy, there can only be philosophy, when there are are pradoxical relationships, ruptures, descisions, distances and events…”
You don’t need to know of Badiou’s complex philosophical system to enjoy these writings on the cinema, indeed it may even encourage people to explore the increasingly deep history of the cinema. It is an artform that helps us to partially understand the stereotypes, images and words and into the world of ideas. Cinema as thought. Cinema as a Truth-event, and who going regularly to the cinema doesn’t see the truth of Mizoguchi’s Crucified Lovers or Wender’s Alice in the Cities ? Perhaps its precisely because writing on Cinema is always a reflection on representation, a representational system that a philosopher like Badiou who believes that “…philosophy is not a reflection on anything whatsoever. There is philosophy, there can only be philosophy, when there are are paradoxical relationships, ruptures, decisions, distances and events…” Within this text there is some fine writing on films and cinema whether it is writing admirably about the films of Debord Godard and Duras, a recognizably productive engagement with their cinema, to the equally useful writing on Schlondourf, Wenders, Antonioni and the standard misunderstanding of Hollywood cinema, why do people imagine it is so much better than it is ? It produces those odd moments when you think ‘i really must see x ’ when reading of a particular shot sequence or… Reading a book that touches on the experimental process of cinema as you’ve lived it, recognized it as related to your own experience of cinema is quite bizarre. Touching even. The cinema which Badiou describes and which addresses our impure world and the situations (Sartrean reference intended by Badiou) is more familiar than i imagined, but shouldn’t have been surprised and then beyond the relationship with the cinema described, the films seen, the cinemas attended, perhaps in that obvious synergy it’s merely a matter of how much i like the book. There is no need when reading Badiou’s Cinema to discuss or even understand the ‘democratic materialism’ logic, the philosophical logic of Being and Event or Logic of Worlds. I don’t think this is at all relevant to this text, for the implicit critique of the spectacle contained in the text (the partial critique of clichés and stereotypes, images supplanting thought and individual and collective particularisms) contradicts and refuses any reference to democratic materialism. Just as the admirably clear, accurate and sympathetic analysis of the cinema work of Debord and Godard refuses any such use of the concept. What emerges from the text is the importance of cinema as thinking, and perhaps equally importantly cinema as pleasure. From these moments Badiou uses cinema philosophically, and even (i hesitate to say it) autobiographically. Using Cinema as a way of thinking was quite normal for his generation of philosophically minded intellectuals. It seems almost banal to say that it’s an aspect of thought that has been superseded and made redundant by the eighth art of television, the ninth of games and so on. It is unknowable perhaps. And yet, the introduction is warm, caring and somehow so deeply humane it is important. Badiou presents the seventh art of cinema as somehow more appropriate as an art to describe and present (represent) our world, the situations (Sartrean reference intended by Badiou) and decisions we must make. I could speak of the confusions he suffers between ‘the standard plot of a terrifying exteriority, against which the hero rises up…’ and ‘Godard suddenly shows us the beautiful indifference of the outside world’, ‘the indifference of nature’. For Badiou though cinema is a ‘democratic emblem’, how cinema became educational, a bottom-up pedagogy “… an education in the contemporary, cinema introduces a certain number of young people - to something having to do with their orientation in the contemporary world, the world and its exaltation, its vitality but also its difficulty, it’s complexity…” The logical and irreconcilable contradiction that runs between the “general logic of the spectacle” and an “education in the contemporary” hardly needs to be pointed out or stated, but still we live within that contradiction at all times. Even whilst the logic of the spectacle is exposed we love aspects of it. The contradiction is exposed in full when Badiou says “Cinema tells philosophers,’All is not lost…’ precisely because it deals with the greatest abjection”. Badiou unknowingly exposes the tragedy of writing on the more recent arts, for within the spectacle to write of what you love is to condemn it…
The perception of the end of history corresponds to the the perception of a transition from a life based on a stable identity and the institutional safeguards of the life course regime and organized according to a life-plan to one that is open playful, open and unpredictable, that is experienced as a game or is endless drifting, depending on individual or cultural temperament….. In this way the situational politics of late modernity is reflected in a new form of situational identity. In concrete contexts. both prove very capable of acting, making choices, and finding some kind of orientation, but in virtue of a contraction of the present defined by an intragenerational pace of social change. they are trans-situationally directionless. Decisions no longer unfold a morally binding effect or radiate into the future or the past. The events they bring about remain episodic in both individual and collective experience and no longer solidify into (life-)historically embedded and narratively connectable experiences… (Rosa 2005/13)
…our era, writes Agamben is one in which all reality has been turned into its image. Glamorous and alienating the spectacle has totalized itself and forever seperated human life from possibility of a common good… The word, has acquired its own materiality and has become a commodity. With the result that Language has been taken from us and and revealed only the nothingness of all things
We live in exceedingly dark times, the accusations made by Marx in the 19th century against capitalism, its sheer wastefulness and moral iniquity has lost none of its truthfulness…(Truth). Only the scope and the level of injustice has changed, both have now become planetary or arguably even greater in size. The days when we could speak meaningfully of a first, second or third world have long passed, the world has changed in this moment of globalization, issues of how peoples are produced through nations, ethnicities, races, genders, even species look like trivial identities in the face of capital, and so do concepts like ideological state apparatus, at least if by state you mean your local national state… In this sense then the scale of the task of human emancipation has become greater than the size of the planet itself, the urgency grows.. ’… to avoid possible misunderstandings I have not painted a rosy picture of either capitalism or the landowner, but here we are not dealing with people insofar as they are the personification of economic groups and the support of class interests and specific class relationships….’ To say that ideology as a system of representations is indistinguishable from experience as lived by individuals, is to say that for the vast majority this experience is lived without the foundations of the system surfacing to the conscious level. It is the state which these individuals experience as the social reality, which is imposed on them by the mode of production which impregnates all social relationships. It is the living process of an axiom. Human beings experience a system and representation, an ideology not at all as a form of consciousness but as an object of their world. Representations are experienced without seeing the organising principles behind them, without being able to comprehend the system as a coherent whole. The problematic of ideology is consequently different from one of a conscious subject, ideology is inscribed into the very fabric of social reality. This is as true for the dominant classes as for the dominated classes… Let us consider a current example, it is highly probable that anyone having revealed the structures of the social media aspects of the spectacle, their relations to the dominant ideologies, ownership, still the framework of ideology and myths will still have to confront the refusal of the Readers to accept the meanings of the analysis… They will refuse to accept that the structures that are being spoken of appear on the surface (meaning is on the surface). That in the social media, identies are continuously invented, that struggling binary systems are invented and presented as real.
We used to live in the shadow of the call ”thinking globally and acting locally”. This closely aligned as it was with forms of identity, socialism and Marxism failed in the face of the neoliberal counter-reformation and we imagined that there must be something better to construct an adequate response to neoliberalism. As the years passed and globalisation and the network society grew ever stronger we began to think that Bauman’s transcendent axiom “… thinking and acting globally…” might supply a means of resistance and change. But we forgot the meaning of the modern (liquid, post or not - ’ all that is solid melts into air’) and most importantly the practical problem that identity politics and its relative lack of meaning in relation to emancipation, for in the search for identity, to legitimate an identity, there is no class, no necessity for place (as PHd students follow the flows of liquid modernity, the flows of capital, places are left.) If you live in the arena of the global - then your identity, whatever the hybrid identity is not going to remain local founded on a territory, it will be reterritorialized by capital as the network demonstrates as the social media constructs a vast array of fetishistic behaviour… tribes, groups, identities squabbling over nothing but their hybrid identities … for an identity is a fetish, commodified… So here we are in the midst of the axiom ”… thinking and acting globally…” and yet nothing has changed for the global it turns out is more fetishised than anyone imagined. Why the endless construction of identities which within capitalism are merely commodity forms, good for the generation of exchange value. Why the endless belief that your identity resists or is oppressed by capital when in truth it only cares about exchange value?
Hartmut Rosa (1) ...A little over Two Hundred and Fifty years
"The bourgeoisie, during the rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all the preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground - what earlier presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour…" (Marx and Engels - quoted in Hartmut Rosa - Social Acceleration… 2013)
fetishism (6) ... value as a sociopolitical concept...
In the middle of Bidet’s chapter ‘Value as Sociopolitical concept’ he says… “…Capital thus unpicks the explosive charge that is attached to the commodity relationship in the Grundisse, and translated there into the anthropological discourse of alienation and reification. In my view, as i shall go onto show, the discourse of ‘fetishism’ that is substituted for 'reification' is something quite different: no longer a discourse on man, but rather a discourse on ideology, on the ideological form specific to commodity relations. It is not a discourse on human nature, but rather on the representations of exchangers… (Bidet p 61 Exploring Marx’s Capital 1985/2009)
"… about identity, the knowledge classes, who nowadays also happen to form the articulated and self-reflexive core of the emerging global extra-territorial elite, tend to wax lyrical. Their members are busy composing , decomposing and recomposing their identities and cannot but be pleasantly impressed by the facility and relative cheapness with which the job is being done daily. Writers on culture tend to call such activity hybridisation, and its practitioners cultural hybrids….freed from their local ties and travelling easily through the networks of cyber connections, the knowledge classes wonder why others don’t follow their example…”
The image being presented is an “…ideological gloss on achieved or claimed extraterritoriality. It is, essentially, about a hard won and cherished freedom of trespass and free exit in a world criss-crossed by fences and sliced into territorially fixed sovereignties. Just as in the extraterritorial networks traversed and the ‘nowwherevilles' inhabited by the global elite…”
Identity is inevitably understood as heterogeneous and mutable, but the global elite here should not be understood as being restricted to the global ruling classes; for the cultural elites, the knowledge classes, think of the overseas PHd students working in universities and institutions that are increasingly extraterritorial are… As they pronounce on the hybrid identities they support and rarely critique - "…vaccinating themselves against the vicious bacteria of domesticity…" … and … "… as long as identity jigsaw puzzles come solely in commodity forms and can be found nowhere except in the shopping malls, the future of the market is assured… Those among us who have been drilled to mix identity cocktails and trained to delight in tasting them, and are in addition able to secure all the currently recommended (read: fashionable) cocktail ingredients, feel at home in the society of consumers...” (Bauman - Liquid life)
Against whom can we revolt if power is vacant and values corrupt?
“…Against whom can we revolt if power is vacant and values corrupt? Or, to put it more gravely, who can revolt if man has become a simple conglomeration of organs, who can revolt if man has become a patrimonial person, a person belonging to the patrimony, financially, genetically, and physiologically, a person barely free enough to use a remore control to choose his channel. I am oversimplifying and darkening this depiction of our current state in order to highlight what we all sense: not only that political revolt is being mired in compromise between parties whose differences are less and less obvious to us but especially that an essential component of European culture – a culture fashioned by doubt and critique – is losing its moral and aesthetic impact. This moral and aesthetic dimension finds itself marginalized and exists only as a decorative alibi tolerated buy the society of the spectacle, when it is not simply submerged, made impossible by entertainment culture, performance culture and show culture…” Julia Kristeva’s - Intimate Revolt.
when there is a reordering of the system/structure of hegemonic representations and images it occurs in the past. the action is carried out now on the past. Benjamin warned us long ago that the dead where not safe from the enemy.
Multinational Corporations and the control of culture....
Multinational Corporations and the control of culture. Some approximate market capitalization figures for fourteen of the biggest media multinational corporations in the media industries. (2102/2013 figurrs)
… class cohesion is the basis of the common interest and not of secret agreements and conspiracies. Besides I neither imagine nor show monsters. Bankers, generals, management consultants, as everyone knows, are not heroes of the Frankenstein -style strip cartoons, but are as well brought up and pleasant gentlemen as one could ever have met in Germany in the 1930s. Neither chamber music nor charitable impulses are strange to them. Their moral insanity does not proceed from their individual character not from their social function…’ H.M. Enzensberger.
The most controversial element of Hegel’s systematic treatment is a deep suspicion of the ontology often predisposed as an unquestioned matter of course in modern discussions of action, agency and freedom - the isolation of subjects as ontologically distinct individuals and of a subjects reasons as episodic or dispositional and perhaps uniquely causal mental states. As we shall see, for Hegel, by contrasts, a certain sort of mindfulness is constitutive of and so inseparable from the action itself, and being an individual subject is something like a collective or social normative achievement and the putative independence of of such subjects is thus always intertwined with a distinct sort of profound, even ontological dependence… (Robert Pippin (2008) Hegel’s Practical Philosophy - from the introduction)
…From here then its a small step to grasp why the multiple mediums of social and mass communications media are fetishized as they are considered as autonomous with an independent ‘will and soul of its own’, something which is said to have the ability to transcend the society in which they are constructed, inscribed. The media have been transformed into an actor in the world in which the dominant form is mass-consumptive and technologically rationalistic. This is the contemporary version of what were once natural and theocractic and explains why the upper classes can at times have the luxury of denouncing the actions of the media over which it generates monopolistic and sovereign control.The primary range of fetishes belonging to the social and mass and (communications) media can be considered through the following: the media as manipulated by the upper classes has been transformed into a fetishistized state through the use of such concepts as the network society, internet, free speech, content. This may lead you to consider this state as a series of myths, fetishes, some of which are so appalling… So lets end one or two here and now..
In the near future the fetishized differences between the new and old media will have vanished, instead we will be speaking and thinking once again of the media as a singular system which is closer to its actuality. A multiplicity of message bearing systems that can never escape from the modus operandi that is characteristic of the ideological process, which exists in the final instance (always already there), to ensure that the real forces that motivate it are either forgotten or silent, these forces aim to make us lose sight of the origins of the existing social order in such a way that individuals can, and usually do understand it as a natural order. The communications media is in this sense the great actor in our (always-already-consumptive) technological universe. It is proposed as the most dynamic aspect of the mass-consumptive society and that it demonstrates a certain social mobility. Enshrined in its core it has a concept of consumptive and productive revolution, one of false expectations whose origin is hidden and which ensures that the fetishized concept replaces all others. The communications media are consequently fetishized because it generates pseudo-causes, frequently using moral panics, which are then misunderstood as actual causes which are processed in an undifferentiated way. This masks the identity of the manipulators and the actual function of the ideas and concepts which support the requirements of the upper classes. This erases all signs of the systems of social stratification and presents the image of a headless society, one where the upper classes are subject to a universal undifferentiating determinism just as all other classes are. As part of this the concepts of consumerism, mass society, post-modern and modern society, opinion and so on, in all these concepts the constructs of social domination are hidden. These concepts when used around the communications media are used as an alibi for the apparatus of domination, the fetishism of modernity, consumption, advertising in the mass and social media. … In this way opinions circulate in the name of ‘public opinion’ around the mass and social media, once we would have said newspaper but now we speak of the media as the combination of new media and the mass media, which endlessly demands the repression of social movements and justifies the emptiness of structural change… This is the social imaginary of the media, the imaginary collective which deludes the human subject into imagining that the society in which they live occur within the sign of social harmony and that their is little need for the dialectic and conflict. What conflicts and antagonisms exist are marginalized into cultural and political conflicts between unchangeable and unquestionable cultures, such fantasies as the west, islam, (islamaphobia and islamaphilia) imperialism, finance, celebrity, human rights… some of these constructing micro-fascisms others macro-totalitarian gestures. The tendency is to explain away the conflicts and antagonisms either through natural law or through the use of ideological misunderstandings (the state, celebrity…(recent events such as Saville, Brand and Webb, Leveson demonstrating this well)) The reception of these media-events is the same operation across all the various types of media, from newspapers and magazines to twitter and facebook. In the mass communications media, the spectacle, every myth fulfills a determinate function restricting the forces capable of exposing or opposing the deception of the upper classes and the system that enables them to exist. When the representation occurs that exposes the contradictions in the system, the myths and fetishes do not suppress the empirical facts but instead masks the implication that it might have for social reality, by supplying an explanation which hides the contradictions in the system by making them individual.
If we look at the attitudes adopted by the right towards the processes of social change such as media reform there are many examples. The reforms are explained as being restrictions on a free press, according to the media, and consequently in the minds of the upper classes any pressure for media reform will be explained away as being the results of agitators, the selfish protests of celebrities. The causes can never be considered as being the results of real conditions of ownership, backwardness due to historical reasons, real oppression of people by the media and so on. The mythology developed by the media is that free speech in the media means that it is inconceivable that it is really in the publics interest to reform the media. This is a systematic attitude which excuses the structure which makes up the system of domination.
Myth, fetishism empties the social of any real content leaving the media systems innocent, endlessly pure, whilst concepts like ideology and discourse strip away the innocence and return us to what we can recognize as reality. Placing historical reality and objects and things before us. Thus reality is untamed and released from the pseudo-reality as the media represents it… The media, especially in its new extended forms is a product of the new technologies which being always already social aim to create and maintain normality… (the upper classes as a parameter of objectivity and universality) … The fetishistic behavior of the regular users of the social folds directly back into this model, a simple example will suffice: repeating the seemingly endless chain of moral panics, the ‘evils’ they inherit which leads to the invention on a daily basis of (banal) new monsters, beyond the monsters (delusions) of our parents and ancestors, but these monsters never existed either, for they never do. For what we can see, is that the monsters and delusions that matter are those we cannot see, because in some way we believe in them as true, whether its free speech, scientism, celebrities or the everyday apocalypses, these are mere fetishes…. Fetishes can never be tested…
Scientism has crippled our capacity to to think through and adapt our ideology to different political conditions…. The tendency is to think of ideology through a notion of false consciousness which assumes that we can differentiate between forms of social consciousness as true or false representations of reality. In denying that ideology was false consciousness the tendency towards making historical materialism a Marxist science, a practice with a decisive autonomy from the social formation as Hirst puts it. This then assumes knowledge of social relations as being able to direct mass practices based on imaginary lived relations to those relations.( Except however many words one uses the imaginary remains finally equivalent to a false consciousness just without true or false…) Rather we should understand that truth cannot be assigned to political ideologies no matter how scientific they are thought to be. There is no autonomy of theoretical knowledge and the representational nature of socially conditioned experience can only help us approach questions of (political and personal (everything is political)) ideology and knowledge in a more constructive fashion. So to understand this is to reference the imaginary which is always a false consciousness… The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas: hence of the relationships which make one class the ruling one, the ideas of its dominance… (Marx and Engels) Still its clear nothing is inevitable because the epistemological distinction between science, truth and ideology is very very slight indeed … [insufficiently structural] In this then the indifference should be apparent and the equivalence between them is clear.
In Psychohistorical terms, the New European principles of constant progress and general enrichment, which became amenable to politicisation from the 19th C onwards, are essentially projections of team visions from the early days of nautical globalisation back onto the national and social horizon. The constitute attempts to transfer the categorical forwards of seafaring back onto the circumstances of settled life. One can read Ernst Bloch’s writing - to name one example of generalised progressivism- as if he had reformulated socialism from the position of the seaside and recommended it as a dream of emigration to mew worlds filtered through reason. Progress is emigration in time; as if it were wisdom to make people believe that, with the aid of productive forces freed from greed for property, one could turn the entire world into a south seas paradise. For this reason, the party of objectively fulfillable wishes must always be right… Peter Sloterdijk (2005/2013)