30 May 2011

Jean via Max and Franco

Max sent me the following quote from Jean Baudrillard after reading my musings "around the question between a possibility of alternative economies or the possibility of an alternative to 'economy'" (Max's words).

'Everything began with objects, yet there is no longer a system of objects. The critique of objects was based on signs saturated with meaning, along with their phantasies and unconscious logic as well as their prestigious differential logic. Behind this dual logic lies the anthropological dream: the dream of the object as existing beyond and above exchange and use, above and beyond equivalence; the dream of a sacrificial logic, of gift, expenditure, potlatch, "devil's share" consumption, symbolic exchange.

All this still exists, and simultaneously it is disappearing. The description of this projective imaginary and symbolic universe was still the one of the object as the mirror of the subject. The opposition of the subject and the object was still significant, as was the profound imaginary of the mirror and the scene. The scene of history as well as the scene of the everyday emerge in the shadow of history as it is progressively divested of politics. Today the scene and the mirror have given way to a screen and a network. There is no longer any transcendence or depth, but only the immanent surface of operations unfolding, the smooth and functional surface of communication.'

The text, The Ecstasy of Communication, was first published in 1987, just before effectively the entire globe (and not just the US and UK, who had by this stage already well and truly gotten their heavy deregulated balls rolling thanks to the Reagan and Thatcher regimes) entered into its current deal with what Franco "Bifo" Berardi calls 'aggressive neoliberalism', 'the central dogma of global politics, the very same force that is plunging us ever deeper into mass depression.'

Berardi in fact makes interesting use of Baudrillard's theories in his brilliant book The Soul At Work (2009), which I am currently reading (more to come!), so Max's comments were somehow very fortuitous. Berardi writes in relation to the simulacra and 'derealisation' produced by commodities that 'Baudrillard foresees the tendency that would become dominant in the next decades: in his analysis, simulation modifies the relation between subject and object, forcing the subject to accept the subaltern position of the seduced. The active party is not the subject, but the object.'

The question, then, is no longer about the objectification of the subject through alienating labour, nor the resultant exploitation, but rather the subjectivisation of the object enabled via the technological developments of the last thirty years and the unprecedented effect this has had and continues to have not only on humanity's (dis)relation with reality (read: Baudrillard's 'desert of the real'), but also on our communicative, affective and sensual capabilities as a species.

Semiocapitalist ideology is not just under our skin but it's eating out our souls.


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