“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pop Focauldianism as Repressive Desublimation

…or in other words, cynical reason activation devices, on your screens, courtesy of the British.

What the heck is wrong with Britain right now? Is it just a reaction to the unshakable (so far) predominance of the Tories?

Or is it like Britart? Finally the mainstream gets theory, forty years too late? Just as finally the Brits got French and American modernism, also forty years too late?

What is it with these dark, Satanic documentaries?

Adam Curtis: “Shock horror! We are all slaves to consumerism!” “We live inside a machine!”

“Let me use the muscle of the BBC to patronize you about how you have been patronized! And to yearn for the good old patronization against the hippie pleasure!”

And now this one, The Lottery of Birth. I had a visceral negative reaction to this decades-out-of-date pop Foucault plus Althusser.

The voice over goes something like this:

“You are completely programmed from birth to fit a predestined social niche.”

It talks quietly, not reassuringly. Dark images of people on escalators.

This is a lie in the form of the truth. A particularly British version: the dominant ideology there is the enforcement of feudalism within capitalism. “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”

Deep pacification. Now courtesy of pouvoir and interpellation!

It's based on a rigid and self-defeating conception of metalanguages (dead since 1973! You've been dead now, wait a minute let me see…). “Every sentence except this sentence is totally corrupted by ideology.”

The documentaries tell you that you can see behind the facade. On mainstream TV. You are begin coerced to feel in the know. And utterly powerless. And smug.

It's beautiful soul syndrome in a box.

It's the new way official reality is enforced! Through the top way of being right in modernity: cynical reason. Anything you can do I can do meta. 

It's like what Blake was aiming to unmask in Songs of Experience. They tell the truth--social reality is shit. But in such a way that the message is utterly disempowering.

I wonder whether Vandana Shiva knew what she was signing up for. It's nice to see her and I'm sure she doesn't agree with the way the little interviews are framed as voices that confirm the invisible voice of/about oppression.

The whole thing is what the Frankfurters used to call repressive desublimation in the form of knowledge. Mainstream TV juices your will to know, to go meta, to be cynical, to see through things. “So things really are as bad as I suspected! Even worse!”

1 comment:

Nick Guetti said...

(chuckle) I had to translate what you meant by Focaultism. Familiar with Adam Curtis, so I had something to go on. Read about Focault, and realized we have that in the states too, but in a less refined form: we call it hipsterism. Citizen Radio calls it being an "apathetic hipster douchebag". You should listen to them: very refreshing.