Presentation on theme: "Culture, Power & Image Poli 110DA 22 This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing."— Presentation transcript:
Culture, Power & Image Poli 110DA 22 This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing
The unrealistic sound of these propositions is indicative, not of their utopian character, but of the strength of forces which prevent their realization. (4)
The unification of opposing forces Political parties – In the name of profit and against the Enemy – Applies both to US & USSR Classes – To maintain the comfortable society Labor & industry – A shared interest in long-term corporate profitability Is this stabilization temporary, painting over the roots of conflict, or is it permanent, having transformed the very basis of social conflict? – Systematic effects – The elimination of negative potential
Nullification of Labor Laborers, who once lived in contradiction & negation of the system, are now integrated – Sticks: Technological unemployment, outsourcing, speed-up – Carrots: Lifelong benefits (retirement, etc.) cause workers to identify their own interests WITH the company Even to the extent that they will surrender increased wages to ensure continued profitability – Co-optation of labor interests
Revolution: Impossible In order for fundamental social change (revolution) to occur, the laboring classes must be alienated from this universe in their very existence, that their consciousness is that of the total impossibility to continue to exist in this universe… Thus, the negation exists prior to the change itself… (25) – Labor no longer alienated; its critical (negative) dimension is gone
Revolution: Impossible The promise of an ever-more-comfortable existence for some and brutality for others makes it impossible to imagine a qualitatively different universe of discourse & action The current system is supremely able to contain & manipulate subversive thought & action
Incorporating the professionals Professionals are integrated ever more systematically – Interdependence of professions Striking has no effect – Reliance on machines Computers store the knowledge once held by humans – Proletarianization Example: store clerks
The Bosses Vanish Even owners and bosses are integrated, becoming less makers of decisions than corporate administrators – Behind the veil of vast corporate & government administration, responsibility dissolves and there is no place to affix responsibility, resentment, or anger – Who governs? Who leads?
Life as a thing Labor, organizers, administrators, management all lose negative potential – They plan, they administrate, but the decisions over life and death, over personal and national security are made at places over which the individuals have no control. (32) No one decides, no one chooses, they only function.
Life as a thing The insanity of the whole absolves the particular insanities and turns the crimes against humanity into a rational enterprise. (52) – 5 million deaths is rationally preferable to 10 million. But this is only a single insanity within a greater system of insanity.
Life as a thing The growing productivity of labor creates an increasing surplus-product which... allows an increased consumptionnotwithstanding the increased diversion of productivity. – Work Consume Work
Life as a thing As long as this constellation prevails, it reduces the use-value of freedom: there is no reason to insist on self-determination if the administered life is the comfortable and even the good life. (49) – Use-value of freedom? Efficiency Freedom not good for anything – Who defines good?
Life as a thing This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing. It doesnt matter if the thing is animated and chooses its material and intellectual food, if it does not feel its being-a-thing, if it is a pretty, clean, mobile thing. (33) – The human administered, managed like equipment
Freudian terms Id/ego/superego Eros/erotic – joining together, not necessarily sexual Pleasure Principle – the id seeks pleasure above all Reality Principle –the ids pleasure-seeking is thwarted by the external conditions in the world Sublimationerotic energy redirected away from sex due to reality principle Thanatosthe drive to destroy, aggression
High culture is dead This is good: it was based in an unjust distribution of wealth and power This is bad: with it, another source of negative thought has been lost
The problem with the Classics The mass distribution of the classics is good, but the context changes their meaning, no longer high culture They are no longer works of penetrating analysis, criticism, or protest. They become classics – Coming to life as classics, they come to life as other than themselves; they are deprived of their antagonistic force, of the estrangement which was the very dimension of their truth. (64)
The Architecture of Domination Architecture reflects this: the places of what is left of high culture are no longer set apart. Rather, they are fully integrated, a fitting part of the shopping center… Domination has its own aesthetics, and democratic domination has its democratic aesthetics. (65)
By Contrast No matter how close and familiar the temple or cathedral were to the people who lived around them, they remained in terrifying or elevating contrast to the daily life of the slave, the peasant, and the artisanand perhaps even to that of their masters. (63)
The Great Refusal in Art Art is fundamentally about negation: Literature and art were essentially alienation, sustaining and protecting the contradiction the unhappy consciousness of the divided world, the defeated possibilities, the hopes unfulfilled, the promises betrayed. (61)
The Great Refusal in Art To live ones love and hatred, to live that which one is means defeat, resignation, and death. The crimes of society, the hell that man has made for man become unconquerable cosmic forces. (61) – Romanticism
The Great Refusal in Art Fiction calls the facts by their name and their reign collapses; fiction subverts everyday experience and shows it to be mutilated and false. (62) This incompatibility is the token of their truth. (60)
Refusal Refused But now: What has been invalidated is their subversive force, their destructive content their truth. (61) The absorbent power of society depletes the artistic dimension by assimilating its antagonistic contents.
Refusal Refused The works of alienation are themselves incorporated into this society and circulate as part and parcel of the equipment which adorns and psychoanalyzes the prevailing state of affairs. Thus they become commercialsthey sell, comfort, or excite. (64) – He meant this metaphorically – All You Need is Love and car insurance
Refusal Refused In the realm of culture, the new totalitarianism manifests itself precisely in a harmonizing pluralism, where the most contradictory works and truths peacefully coexist in indifference. (61) – 31 flavors of teenage rebellion The death of punk Tolerance? As modern classics, the avant-garde and the beatniks share in the function of entertaining without endangering the good conscience of men of good will (70)
Sex & the Totalitarian Like art, sex is liberalized but controlled: Society can afford to grant more than before because its interests have become the innermost drives of its citizens, and because the joys which it grants promote social cohesion and contentment. (72)
Sex & the Totalitarian The current society limits the scope of sublimation. It also reduces the need for sublimation. – Trades repression for a limited pleasure, which reinforces the one-dimensional unfreedom of society
Sex & the Totalitarian Sexual display & relationships are acceptable in the workplace, but the body remains, and sex become, an instrument of labor which is made more susceptible to (controlled) satisfaction. (74-75)
The power of Eros While the liberation of sexuality lessens unhappiness, it also renders love, art, & sex non-critical. The sublimated sexuality gains power & focus beyond the body, It is beyond good and evil, beyond social morality, and thus it remains beyond the reaches of the established Reality Principle, which this Eros refuses and explodes. (77) – Love, sex, art
Totalitarian-style When sex need no longer be sublimated, What happens is surely wild and obscene, virile and tasty, quite immoraland precisely because of that, perfectly harmless. (77) – The Happy Consciousness is unaware that it is not free, that it is not capable of imagining a better, or even a different world. – That which was socially subversive now reinforces society