Posts Tagged ‘alienation’

SWILL: Economy But One Strata In Whole Geology Of Troubles


23 Feb

economides

Economides

samplex

To: sworg-talk@scenewash.org
Date: 23 Feb 2001 03:07:35 +0000

BEGIN ANOTHER SWILL, THIS ONE WON'T LAST FOREVER

Reading more from Article 3:

The SI also inherited a nineteenth century conception of materialism from the same sources. This legacy prevented SI critique from appreciating the complex alchemical processes which take place between subjective and objective facts (specifically the potent and complex role of existentialism and human psychological necessities which ensue from it). It is specifically this incomplete conception of materialism which gives rise to the naive revolutionism which anticipates that revolution follows dutifully on the heels of revelation—that human belief, perceptions and will follow meekly behind a radical description of the world. The uncomfortably ill-defined relationship of situationism with communist and anarchist blocs also derives from this unfinished work. This discomfort with other leftist bedfellows is in fact serious enough to raise questions about whether situationism is in fact compatible with these other traditions at all (or rather—vice versa).

Rebunk: I might caution against the use of the term "existentialism" in this instance, evoking as it does yer Sartres, Camus', Merleau-Pontys and the rest of yer "Temps Modernes" gang, especially when I think you're referring more to Keirkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky et.al. (have we discussed Heidegger ever?)

Ghe word Existentialism should definitely appear in the said declaration because it is a word which we cannot afford to lose to the enemy. However, I shall try to think of a phrase to add which briefly defines what is meant by it so that, as you say, it is distanced from the dreary likes of Sartre and Camus. As for Heidegger—wot a friggin kraut wanker he woz, eh? A genius without doubt but I'd sooner not have to actually go mince myself in any of that shit if it can possibly be avoided. (shoulda mentioned Husserl in there somewhere too—just to annoy the "antifascists").

Rebunk: These thinkers also have something in common with the young Marx, pre-autocritique Lukacs, and all of Korsch in the centrality that the notion of alienation holds within their work. If we can find some form of unification here—whose seeds exist in the work of the Frankfurt School; Kube has already mentioned Reich and Fromm, and I'd like to add Adorno and Benjamin...

Now my metaphor is this—suppose the handful of degrees of initial chill is equivalent to the relative deprivation induced by material shortages, by the exploitations of captalism. It sets up a chain reaction of social relationships which may in their turn worsen such shortages or in some other way worsen social cruelties or suppress consciousness.
Not happy with this. "Alienation" is a very much parenthesised version of angst. It tends to constrain the idea, once again, in the dated and inadequate conception that only the issue of production, of capitalist class relations, is what matters in the attempt to realize a better way of life. It tends to distract from the notion of SIN—of the root of alienation in an imperfect response to inherited (and personal) karma (to use no-doubt wholly unacceptable terms to convey a virtually indigestible idea). Reich and Fromm, for all their fine points, did precious little to redress this either, although the psychoanalytic school has certainly come out with some juicy stuff in recent years (such as 'Sexual Personae' and some of its very dubious political conclusions, which I plan to discuss sometime soon). Moreover—what kind of people think of themselves as "alienated" these days? Iffy kinds of people. The fact is that a LACK of alienation is no guide whatever as to whether a person is living a good life or not, and nor, basically, is alienation. All we see in this phenomenon is whether some particular individual is currently relatively successful or unsuccessful in losing him or herself in activity / whether LUCK (as much as anything else) is providing an adequate supply of options at a particular moment.

Rebunk: Then we can relocate revolutionary nihilism in the drama of everyday existence. From this I would tentatively argue that radical change takes place not after revelation, either through the presentation of a utopian ideology or pointing out the poverty of current conditions of existence, but after grasping the mechanisms of real social relations and locating the energies capable of transforming them.

Jahwohl. We are not so far apart on this at all, but to hell with the "tentatively" part. However whilst I do not dismiss the role of capital (therefore would not neglect to pay cheques into my bank account if I had any) the nature of those energies which do indeed transform real social relations is incredibly more subtle, and enduring, than the fixation on mere class-economics has long suggested. A prog on tonights TV suggests to me an example—600 million years ago, the earth for some reason suffered a smallish dip in average temperatures severe enough that in time the sea began to freeze over as far down as Texas. Because the frozen snowy wastes were WHITE, they reflected a substantial proportion of the suns heat back into space thereby making the chill increase geometrically. As a result the entire world was soon frozen solid EVERYWHERE. This flipping of state was basically irreversible—even at the equator there is estimated to have been a kilometre of ice. No free water, no rain—just one big snowball planet under a cold blue sky. (in fact this condition probably lasted for 10 million years until volcanic greenhouse gases flipped it back out). Now my metaphor is this—suppose the handful of degrees of initial chill is equivalent to the relative deprivation induced by material shortages, by the exploitations of captalism. It sets up a chain reaction of social relationships which may in their turn worsen such shortages or in some other way worsen social cruelties or suppress consciousness. It is entirely conceivable for the consequent social conditions to not only perpetuate unnecessary material scarcities even after the technological means of ending them altogether has been brought into existence, but even of increasing atrocities of various kinds as well as denuding life of warmth in general and replacing it with ever-growing suspicion, or hedonistic distractions from emptiness and the rest. The world could be trapped in such conditions for ten million years after the original economic cause has long since been irrelevant. Oh yes it could.

We must eliminate the assumption that reversing such a scenario hinges upon crude mechanisms, or else (at least) to prosper within it we must. The economy is but one strata in a whole geology of troubles—all of which are entirely REAL.

—kubhlai

********* END OF THIS SWORG SWILL TRANSMISSION *********

SWILL: Trading Comforts For Prison Cells And Rivers Of Blood


23 Feb

Blood and Guts

Blood and Guts

samplex

To: sworg-talk@scenewash.org
Date: 23 Feb 2001 03:07:35 +0000

BEGIN ANOTHER SWILL, THIS ONE WON'T LAST FOREVER
Article 3:

Again from the same root causes, the SI constrained their critique, their explanations and their strategies to the Economy and its material manifestations. Vaneigem himself has clearly moved away from this inadequate and dated position in identifying the underlying processes of human delusion and repression at work in medieval and middle-age periods of history (the Free Spirit). However in a nutshell this shortfall in critique may be defined as an absence of ecological sensibility.

Rebunk: Developing at the precise moment the economy began its current domination of all social life, it was inevitable that as a theory of social totality, the SI's critique would focus on commodity fetishism and the alienated labor behind the production of desire. Unlike most so-called Marxist thinkers, the SI did not limit their thought to pure ECONOMIC CRITIQUE, but rather concentrated on a CRITIQUE OF THE ECONOMY (the two terms are markedly different). They were thus able to predict the content and motivation of the May 68 insurrection. This lay not in material privation, whose elimination from the lives of most workers through trade union compromises had led many Leftist theorists to believe that the proletariat had all but disappeared, but in social and cultural alienation, where the relations of production described by Marx had invaded every level of existence, spreading beyond the factory into the classroom, the living room and the bedroom. Nevertheless, the SI did not elaborate extensively enough the motivations of those in power, and were thus unable to foresee the reaction that prevented the rebellion from turning into a full scale revolution. Despite a few formal considerations, the situationist critique of the economy's occupation of all spheres of life has maintained its relevance. With this crucial labor out of the way, we are in a position to examine those elements of the SI's work that could not be fully developed until now.

But this GUT revulsion was TYPICAL then and it is NOT typical now. I don't see it in my own kids even though their exposure is many times higher than mine was. The fact is—homo sapiens ADAPTS—the direct disgust which was normal in the 1960s is not even comprehensible to most people today, it is not even REMEMBERED.
Well put, but. The omissions of the SI are substantially greater than the phrase "those elements of the SI's work" suggests. Actually its a pretty damn big omission not to have considered "the motivations of those in power" for a start. Absurd in fact. Actually, of course, the SI were "unable to foresee" mostly because they had not sufficiently understood (although Vaneigem surely had his suspicions) the motivations of those on the street, and the fact that they would no way trade in their comforts for prison cells and rivers of blood.

One could say, that Vaneigem's latest book focused on the moment in history when mercantilism was emerging, but the savagery with which he describes the suppression of joy in that historical epoch makes 1960s capitalism look damn cosy by comparison. Foucaults historical work is far more balanced than anything offered by the SI and in effect spans ALL cultures in (almost) ALL historical phases. In this far far bigger light, is it reasonable to say that we are dotting the I's left by the SI? I think not—on the contrary I think it fairer to say they were the I-dotters for focussing so narrowly (and that narrowness ensues primarily from their constraint within mechanistic Marxist traditions whether it was economic critique or critique of economics).

There is too a sense in which the SI is simply out of date because of its focus on commodity fetishism. I can remember (along with mother's pride, tricycles and Watch with Mother) when my own disgust with the modern world discovered an echo of itself in a couple of books called SOS and ROEL. For years leading up to that moment the ADVERT had made me sick. Wherever I wandered, wherever they found me—the billboards, the commercial, the circular, the neon in Picadilly, the radio-drivel...I felt seriously oppressed by the evergrowing incitement for men to wear perfume and women to shave their legs and kids to drink Cresta and old men to utilize cunning technological gadgets to rid themselves of unwanted nasal hair and housewives to have blue white shirts and electric this that and the other. But this GUT revulsion was TYPICAL then and it is NOT typical now. I don't see it in my own kids even though their exposure is many times higher than mine was. The fact is—homo sapiens ADAPTS—the direct disgust which was normal in the 1960s is not even comprehensible to most people today, it is not even REMEMBERED. I don't even feel it myself—I have acquired an immunity, and my kids were born with it, inoculated at an early age.

For example, since the beginning of the 90s we have no longer been subject to the same pressure to be A-LA-MODE, fashionable, a member of a certain subculture that we were throughout the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. "Post-modernist" consumerism is, in that sense, far less overtly authoritarian than previous commodity-fetishist decades (why could The New Avengers never attain the charisma of the original?).
This wee anecdote is surely incredibly important. The SI felt as I felt : I knew that even as a child; but today it is thought of as an intellectual theory simply because it requires an effort of the mind (for the average person) to see their point of view which in actual fact it did NOT require at the time—in a postwar world which suddenly found itself subjected to a barrage of oppressive and exploitive technology-powered communication.

Re-analyzing and re-adapting to the 21st century is hardly a mere continuation of the SI of the 1960s, because we no longer live in the 1960s—we have instead a whole new world to deal with which they could barely have conceived of....

Now this might hardly matter if indeed we still had similar "social and cultural alienation" albeit manifesting in different cultural guises, but in fact there has been a major shift in the nature of the game, from class based alienation to alienations which infect us on much more Individualistic levels on the one hand, or to other disatisfactions and anxieties which hardly merit the word "alienation" at all but which require us to dig back down to that more general quality of human nature—existentialism—in search of an understanding...Moreover the idea that "the economy began its current domination of all social life" may also be past its moment. For example, since the beginning of the 90s we have no longer been subject to the same pressure to be A-LA-MODE, fashionable, a member of a certain subculture that we were throughout the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. "Post-modernist" consumerism is, in that sense, far less overtly authoritarian than previous commodity-fetishist decades (why could The New Avengers never attain the charisma of the original?). Isn't the explosive increase of "beggars" on the streets of western cities in the same recent period (late 80s to present) also a sign that refusal of commodities (or the public appearance of it) is more tolerable than it was? More people are willing to be beggars because rejecting consumerism is itself trendy: well what kind of market is that?! One, I would say, that blows the whistle on the notion that the economy dictates the plot rather than being merely a plot dictated by REAL power which is no longer clearly economic if it ever were (which is to say that economic relations are UNDER a pre-existing control—that they are derivative of other material forces and never really were primary).

Okay—this is just a difference in stress. But it is the point of Article 3 to break out of the notion that everyday life can be reduced to a side issue of Economics.

—kubhlai

S A M P L E X

"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""


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