Posts tagged Capitalism.
The problem of education is not an ideological problem, but a problem of the organization of power: it is the specificity of educational power that makes it appear to be an ideology, but it’s pure illusion. Power in the primary schools, that means something, it affects all children…
So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘arch priestess of the sightless,’ ‘wonder woman,’ and a ‘modern miracle.’ But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics—that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world—that is a different matter! It is laudable to give aid to the handicapped. Superficial charities make smooth the way of the prosperous; but to advocate that all human beings should have leisure and comfort, the decencies and refinements of life, is a Utopian dream, and one who seriously contemplates its realization indeed must be deaf, dumb, and blind.
“Every fundamentally new, pioneering creation of demands will carry beyond its goal. Dadaism did so to the extent that it sacrificed the market values which are so characteristic of the film in favor of higher ambitions – though of course it was not conscious of such intentions as here described. The Dadaists attached much less importance to the sales value of their work than to its uselessness for contemplative immersion. The studied degradation of their material was not the least of their means to achieve this uselessness. Their poems are “word salad” containing obscenities and every imaginable waste product of language. The same is true of their paintings, on which they mounted buttons and tickets. What they intended and achieved was a relentless destruction of the aura of their creations, which they branded as reproductions with the very means of production. Before a painting of Arp’s or a poem by August Stramm it is impossible to take time for contemplation and evaluation as one would before a canvas of Derain’s or a poem by Rilke. In the decline of middle-class society, contemplation became a school for asocial behavior; it was countered by distraction as a variant of social conduct. Dadaistic activities actually assured a rather vehement distraction by making works of art the center of scandal. One requirement was foremost: to outrage the public.”
“One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind. Both processes are intimately connected with the contemporary mass movements. Their most powerful agent is the film. Its social significance, particularly in its most positive form, is inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect, that is, the liquidation of the traditional value of the cultural heritage. ”
— Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
The term hegemony refers to a situation in which a provisional alliance of certain social groups can exert ‘total social authority’ over other subordinate groups, not simply by coercion or by the direct imposition of ruling ideas, but by ‘winning and shaping consent so that the power of the dominant classes appears both legitimate and natural’ (Hall, 1977). Hegemony can only be maintained so long as the dominant classes ‘succeed in framing all competing definitions within their range’ (Hall, 1977), so that subordinate groups are, if not controlled; then at least contained within an ideological space which does not seem at all ‘ideological’: which appears instead to be permanent and ‘natural’, to lie outside history, to be beyond particular interests.
American TV ads are particularly interesting as they tend to feature a combination of rapid montage editing—ironically, borrowed from early Soviet films—where the juxtaposition of image A (say, a car) and image B (an attractive man or woman or both) produces idea C (the right car will make you sexy, desirable, and fulfilled), with a great deal of camera movement. As Alfred Hitchcock so tellingly observed in conversation with fellow filmmaker Francois Truffaut, “A moving camera is an emotional camera.” Movement produces energy and an emotional surge, which are thus associated with the product we are being told we need in order to lead satisfying lives. Magic, indeed!
Exemplary are those [narrative ads] of the iconic Tim Horton’s chain, where the consumption of coffee and lunch is always figured as a break from work, or in the stories that another national icon, the Canadian Tire chain, tells us, particularly in such examples as the unusually long-running and nostalgic ad in which the presumably hard-working farmer dad buys his young son the red bicycle he covets in the Canadian Tire catalogue. Interesting in this ad, and strongly supporting Williams’s [sic] argument, is the fact that you could buy neither that red bicycle nor parts fo the father’s truck at today’s Canadian Tire. Clearly, they are not really selling products directly in this ad: they are selling families, nostalgia, and national identity.
The varying speeds at which I have been trained to consume and process information has provided significant challenges to both my artistic, occupational and interpersonal lives. The speed at which my generation’s learned to consume and process information is directly proportional to our medially saturated culture in which the acquisition of a fast informational digestive track is crucial for surviving in a competitive market. The ability to parse through information rapidly and efficiently—being able to quickly sort between what is good and what is not, between “this” and “that”—is simultaneously a recent advent of our culture’s commercialization and a basic primitive response; the ability to sort between the good and the bad, and to do so quickly and correctly, without fail, is a natural adaptation to dangerous, threatening environments—those with poisons, predators, and harsh conditions abound. The current medial context plays off of this basic response, sublimating this primitive drive into the basic functioning of most social interaction.
Tumblr and Twitter, for instance, through their dashboard features, necessitate you scroll through a diverse assortment of images, sounds and text with relative speed, digesting them with a discerning eye for what is and is not personally appealing and possibly worth adding to your own page. Since we are not in control necessarily of what others post and add to our dashboards, having scroll through offensive, grotesque, triggering and otherwise unappealing content becomes a necessary symptom and condition of the consumption process. This process itself engenders a continuous negotiation of self-anesthesia and deliberate stimulating fixation, oscillating between the two in order to accurately perceive and evaluate without internalizing the collateral, negative concomitants of our fast-paced read-through.
This is hardly a new or particularly interesting phenomenon, but I’ve been curious about the extent to which this adaptive process has carried over into my interpersonal and academic environments. In the interpersonal sphere, the rapid consumption of information regarding the relative benefits and detriments to engaging with particular individuals often proves an insufficient measure of viability and its opposite. People, rife with grief, longing, and histories that haunt, are often contaminated in latent, covert ways that defy our most shallow and instinctive perceptions. When applied to individuals— complex, internally contradicting, competitive and historical—the process of rapid consumption can become a trap affixing us to those who have been rendered commoditized goods to be digested quickly as opposed to holistically. In an academic context, I have an entrenched aversion to texts that don’t immediately read as particularly piquing, resulting my identifying with texts and ideas which already satisfy my pre-existing biases and judgements. The medial context—and the rapidness that facilitates its smooth functioning—renders necessarily the complex living into the object, those objects to be consumed and discarded. In the case of love, and true friendship, the effects of this mental restructuring and re-alignment might wrongly tether us to reductive understandings about the complexity of human identity, the nature of desire, and our means of developing empathy; that is, aligning with what is most immediately “good” might be a necessary survival mechanism, but it is one that should be constantly reevaluated and revamped to adapt to changing and complex discourses.
And so how do we cultivate empathy when a cursory overlook of individual human identity is as easy as scrolling through a dashboard? How do we re-equip ourselves with the tools necessary to both recognize and deconstruct the manifold constituent pieces of human identity—races, histories, trauma, genders, desires and horrors, both those latent, distorted and suppressed—with respect for the time they necessitate and the difficulty of the challenges doing so presents. It seems as if medial discourse has unnecessarily heightened the stakes perceived by the survival instinct, and has primed us to be distrustful, to align most immediately with those who we liken ourselves to on the most basic, visual and surface levels, discarding the rest for fear of possible harm. Considering the fact that the media is here to stay, our goal should be to construct new structures in which consumption is slowed and deliberate, in ways that demand our intention, a true and holistic evaluation of benefit and danger; that deconstructs notions of likeness and norm between objects and subjects alike, that relies as much on reason, introspection and speculative contemplation as means of determining beneficial or detrimental returns—one in which the object returns as much attention as it is given. If the media necessitates the objectification of these desires, images and people, then it ought to be our prerogative to reshape the structure to allow for new methods of understanding and identifying, new means of broadening our definition of human—new ways of understanding “sight.”
Neoliberalism is a philosophy which construes profit making as the essence of democracy and consuming as the only operable form of citizenship. It also provides a rationale for a handful of private interests to control as much as possible of social, economic, and political life in order to maximize their personal profit. Neoliberalism is marked by a shift from the manufacturing to the service sector, the rise of temporary and part-time work, growth of the financial sphere and speculative activity, the spread of mass consumerism, the commodification of practically everything. Neoliberalism combines free market ideology with the privatization of public wealth, the elimination of the social state and social protections, and the deregulation of economic activity. Core narratives of neoliberalism are: privatization, deregulation, commodification, and the selling off of state functions. Neoliberalism advocates lifting the government oversight of free enterprise/trade thereby not providing checks and balances to prevent or mitigate social damage that might occur as a result of the policy of “no governmental interference”; eliminating public funding of social services; deregulating governmental involvement in anything that could cut into the profits of private enterprise; privatizing such enterprises as schools, hospitals, community-based organizations, and other entities traditionally held in the public trust; and eradicating the concept of “the public good” or “community” in favor of “individual responsibility.
AT THE CLOSE OF MY FRESHMAN YEAR I’VE REALIZED JUST HOW MUCH WE’RE CONDITIONED TO CONSUME; AND ADDITIONALLY, HOW CONDITIONED WE ARE TO WANT TO CONSUME, AND TO SEE CONSUMPTION AS THE IDEAL, DESIRABLE, AND PREFERRED DEFAULT STATE. I AT FIRST THOUGHT OF THIS WHEN THINKING ABOUT MY COLLEGE’S CORE CURRICULUM, BUT THAT SEEMED TOO EASY; THOSE COURSES, WHILE FORCE-FEEDING BY DEFINITION, CAN, IN THE RIGHT CONTEXTS—AS WERE MINE—BE CATALYSTS FOR SELF-REFLECTION, CAN INSPIRE REFLEXES AGAINST PASSIVE CONSUMPTION, AND CAN ENCOURAGE ANALYTICAL THOUGHT. MY PROBLEMS WITH CONSUMPTION HAVE MAINLY COME IN THE WAY I’VE SEEN SOCIAL MEDIA EVOLVE FROM A PARTICIPATORY ENTERPRISE TO A VAGUELY CAPITALISTIC ONE, BUILT OFF OF THE IDEA THAT WE ARE ONLY RELEVANT INSOFAR AS WE ARE CONSTANTLY PRODUCING—SOMETHING, ANYTHING—AS OPPOSED TO SOMETHING MEANINGFULLY TELLING ABOUT OURSELVES, SOMETHING THAT CONTRIBUTES TO LARGER PUBLIC DISCOURSE, OR SAYS SOMETHING IMPORTANT ABOUT HOW WE FUNCTION, OR WHERE WE’RE HEADING. TUMBLR, INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, FLICKR—ALL OF THESE MEDIAL SERVICES ESSENTIALLY HAVE SHIFTED IN PURPOSE FROM INSPIRERS OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE TO PROMOTERS OF SELF INDULGENCE, AND PASSIVE, UNCRITICAL CONSUMPTION. “LOOK AT MY FRIENDS,” “SEE ME,” “THESE ARE MY TASTES,” “THIS MAKES ME LAUGH THOUGH I DON’T QUITE CARE WHY”—AND BY VIRTUE OF THEM BEING MEDIAL, AND THEREFORE A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT—THEY CREATE A BUFFER THAT REPELS ANY SORT OF ATTEMPT AT INTROSPECTION OR SELF-CRITICALNESS (LEST WE RUIN EVERYONE’S FUN). I’D LIKE TO SEE PEOPLE PRODUCE LESS IN THE HOPES OF CONSUMING MORE FOR MORE’S SAKE, AND INSTEAD SEE PEOPLE PRODUCE THOUGHTFULLY SO WE CAN CONSUME THINGS THAT ARE BETTER, AND BETTER FOR US. NOT TO BE A DIDACTIC ASSHOLE OR ANYTHING.
“Capitalism did not arise by a set of natural laws which stem from human nature: it was spread by the organised violence of the elite. The concept of private property of land and means of production might seem now like the natural state of things, however we should remember it is a man-made concept enforced by conquest. Similarly, the existence of a class of people with nothing to sell but their labour power is not something which has always been the case - common land shared by all was seized by force, and the dispossessed forced to work for a wage under the threat of starvation or even execution. As capital expanded, it created a global working class consisting of the majority of the world’s population whom it exploits but also depends on.”