Wednesday, May 27, 2009
"[T]he greatest compatibility, the greatest coordination, the most vivid of possible affinities seems to be asserting itself, today, between what appears to be most alive, move live, and the differance or delay, the time it takes to exploit, broadcast, or distribute it. When a scribe or an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century writer wrote, the moment of inscription was not kept alive. The material support, the forms of inscription were preserved, but no 'living' or supposedly living trace of the writer, of his face, his voice, his hand, etc. At the opposite extreme, now, at this very instant, we are living a very singular, unrepeatable moment, which you and I will remember as a contingent moment, which took place only once, of something that was live, that is live, that we think is simply live, but that will be reproduced as live, with a reference to this present and this moment anywhere and anytime, weeks or years from now, reinscribed in other frames or 'contexts.' A maximum of 'tele,' that is to say, of distance, lag, or delay, will convey what will continue to stay alive, or rather, the immediate image, the living image of the living." In this transcription of a filmed interview, Bernard Stiegler, who has generated a deconstructionist media theory through the combination of grammatology and Leroi-Gourhan's anthropology, questions Derrida about the specificity of new media. If, as Stiegler gets Derrida to admit, writing has always been a kind of teletechnology, what is new about the new media? Can the deconstruction of the distinction between speech and writing account for what is happening with new teletechnologies such as television and the internet? Stiegler pushes Derrida on these kinds of questions, but Derrida remains within the established terrain of deconstruction. Derrida takes up the question of the specificity of teletechnologies by explaining that writing entails "an original expropriation" (rather than an originary presence), but that does not mean there cannot be a "struggle . . . between multiple movements of appropriation, or of exappropriation." Just because the self has no "proper" does not mean it needs to be indifferent to distinct modes of appropriation and exappropriation. Like writing, new teletechnologies entail "an original expropriation," but there may be something unique, even politically undesirable, in their mode of exappropriation. The idea of "modality" appears regularly in Derrida's responses - there are different modalities of archivization, modalities of openness to the future, etc. - and Derrida seems to use the term to mark differences in differance, though these differences can only exist through differance. His use of the term can be frustrating since it allows him to deflect Stiegler's questions. Teletechnological "real time" and "liveness" is a persistent theme of the interview. Derrida singles out the ability of new teletechnologies to reproduce a maximum of liveness over great distances and time. Yet Derrida adds that "this 'live' is not an absolute 'live,' but only a live effect, an allegation of 'live'." The live is always what Derrida calls "artifactual," always occurring through the intervention of selection, "framing, rhythm, borders, form, contextualization." Indeed, much of the interview involves Derrida reflexively "inspecting" the conditions of the interview being filmed, transmitted, and archived. These are the weakest points in the book, since an investigation of the conditions of media production should be the standard critical operating procedure these days. Stiegler introduces his concerns about the "industrialization of memory" (and the particular problem of access to copyrighted materials) and the division between cultural producers and consumers. Stiegler argues that reading and writing are always paired: to know how to do one is to know how to do the other. But new teletechnologies have not made their consumers into producers (to watch television is not necessarily to know how to make television programs). Stiegler and Derrida agree that consumers need to participate more greatly in cultural production, and Derrida even mentions in scare quotes the idea of "interactivity." While this faith in participation is no doubt sound on some levels, it does seem to reflect a certain political naivety about the effect of a supposedly "active" use of the media. Stiegler's questions about the politics of memory, and especially the politics of media archives, leads Derrida to repeat the discussion of "inheritance" and "spectrality" from his recently published Specters of Marx. Those two ideas haunted even Derrida's first book, Husserl's The Origin of Geometry, and Stiegler heavily relies on that earlier work's analysis of the constitution of objective idealities and the tradition of geometry. Stiegler argues spectrality always relies on technicity, and I think his argument shows why the terms from Specters of Marx that have become critically popular are not nearly as precise and rigorous as those developed in Derrida's earlier work (this is just to say that early Derrida is better than later Derrida). Stiegler argues that new teletechnologies and new "modalities of archivization" increase the "exactitude of recording," making recording more "orthotetic." As he does in Technics & Time 2, Stiegler turns to Barthes' Camera Lucida to make this point about exactitude. Barthes' account of photography's presentation of the "this was" makes apparent the exactitude that has existed since the creation of alphabetic writing. Stiegler claims the growing capacity for forms of exactitude leads to a new modality of relation to the future, an increasing feeling that there is "No Future." Derrida responds by revising Stiegler's argument, claiming that the feeling of "no future" can also correspond to a "greater opening [of the future], to an indetermination, to a wide-openness, even to a chaos, a chasm." In one more denial of media specificity, Derrida responds to Stiegler's question about whether contemporary media "real time" might be a barrier to spectrality by claiming differance is always at work, that "there is never an absolutely real time. . . . What we call real time is simply an extremely reduced 'differance.'" He adds, "The real-time effect is itself a particular effect of 'differance.'"
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
"I make no comment, lost in my own private maze, thinking about other things: warrants, stock offerings, ESOPs, LBOs, IPOs, finances, refinances, debentures, converts, proxy statements, 8-Ks, 10-Qs, zero coupons, PiKs, GNPs, the IMF, hot executive gadgets, billionaires, Kenkichi Nakajima, infinity, Infinity, how fast a luxury car should go, bailouts, junk bonds, whether to cancel my subscription to The Economist, the Christmas Eve when I was fourteen and had raped one of our maids, Inclusivity, envying someone's life, whether someone could survive a fractured skull, waiting in airports, stifling a scream, credit cards and someone's passport and a book of matches from La Cote Basque splattered with blood, surface surface surface, a Rolls is a Rolls is a Rolls." A satire of wealth that figures the yuppie businessman as a serial killer, Ellis' American Psycho is one of the best novels ever written about the 1980s. The book is narrated by Patrick Bateman, who works on Wall Street during the day and spends his evenings either eating with friends at Manhattan's latest hot spot or killing (and sometimes eating) the homeless and women. Constructed to provoke a visceral response (and quite successful on that count), Ellis' novel contains some of the most gruesome descriptions of "the old ultraviolence" to be found anywhere, covering rape, murder, dismemberment, cannibalism, and necrophilia (don't even ask about the scene with the starving rat). Film (both popular and art) these days is obsessed with shocking its audience with graphic violence (just check out the reports from this year's Cannes film festival), but Ellis is able to create an equivalent "traumatizating" of his audience through words alone. The identification of the sociopathy of the serial killer with the sociopathy of the capitalist might appear all too easy or confused, and being scandalous is not necessarily an achievement. Yet Ellis links Bateman's violent impulses to tear open human bodies to the growing importance of corporate brands and the increased autonomy of finance capital in the 1980s. In the novel, brands distinguish individual bodies more than personalities. Bateman identifies the designer clothes worn by every single character he meets (with the exception of a few bums and "hardbody" waitresses), so almost every page of the book is filled with observations of Oliver Peoples glasses, Armani ties, Hugo Boss shirts, etc. GQ must have been a necessary research aid in writing the novel, and the narration of Bateman's non-murderous nightlife reproduces the glimmering surfaces of a glossy magazine. In one sex scene, the characters all leave one item of designer clothing on, as if the human body unmarked by a brand would be true nudity or mere flesh, bare life that might be killed (or worse) without concern. Bateman and his friends are always searching for the most elite restaurant in New York (those Donald Trump approves of are especially valued), their culinary taste - to which only their wealth and prestige gives them access - also functioning like a brand that distinguishes them. His colleagues regularly complain that the Japanese - assisted by the rise of Tokyo in the 1980s as a global financial center - are buying up all of Manhattan. These comments as well as their jobs on Wall Street highlight the growing flexibility and autonomy of finance capital during that decade. Indeed, the combination of expanding speculation and decreasing production drove the gentrification of New York City and growth of social inequality that is apparent everywhere in the novel. There is no middle class in the book, only investors and the homeless, and Bateman and his friends visit nightclubs in regions of lower Manhattan that only a few years before would have been off-limits to those of their class. Bateman's work on Wall Street is glaringly absent from the novel. Ellis describes Bateman's conversations with his secretary at the office but not what he actually does in financial investments. Bateman is wealthy by inheritance, but he admits he works on Wall Street in order to "fit in," finance being the new norm for the upper class. At one point, Bateman responds to a question about what he does for a living by playing on the phrase "mergers and acquisitions" and saying, "I'm into, oh, murder and executions." Just as Wall Street investors treat corporations as pieces of paper that can be cut to pieces through liquidation in order to turn a profit, Bateman coldly dismembers human bodies. His murderous desires, which are never explained, at times seem driven by a hatred for any "body (either human or corporate) that resists him. Ellis scatters enough details throughout the book to leave open the possibility that Bateman has only imagined his crimes. Indeed, Bateman seems psychotically trapped within his head and unable to communicate with others, his admissions of murder being taken as jokes or simply not heard. As a specialist of what Marx once termed "fictitious capital" (i.e. stocks and bonds), Bateman's crime may very well be private speculations, personal fictions that do not affect the goods to which they refer.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
"The history of metaphysics . . . can be expressed as the unfolding of the structure or schema of an absolute will-to-hear-oneself-speak. This history is closed when this infinite absolute appears to itself as its own death. A voice without differance, a voice without writing, is at once absolutely alive and absolutely dead." Derrida's introduction to Husserl's Origin of Geometry chose to follow the paths of Husserl's argument, noting contradictions as they occurred but remaining oriented by Husserl's project. In Speech and Phenomena, deconstruction is operative in full force as Derrida accuses Husserl of concealing - despite phenomenology's claims of starting without metaphysical assumptions - a metaphysics of presence. Derrida claims, "our intention is to begin to confirm that the recourse to phenomenological critique is metaphysics itself, restored to its original purity in its historical achievement." Derrida fixates on the problem of language in phenomenology and deconstructs Husserl's central distinction between the meaning of "sign" as "expression" (the presence of meaning in the sign) and "indication" (a sign that indicates something else, something not present). Derrida argues the guarantee of value in Husserl's phenomenology remains a kind of presence, "the original self-giving evidence, the present or presence of sense to a full and primordial intuition." According to Derrida, phenomenology is a "philosophy of life." Even when everything bodily or physical is bracketed out by analysis, phenomenology still "thematizes the concept of life." For Husserl, the "living present" is present to itself, is self-presence. But as Derrida will show, because of temporalization and auto-affection, the living present always includes "an irreducible nonpresence," a "nonlife, a nonpresence or nonself-belonging of the living present, an ineradicable nonprimordiality." Whereas Husserl will attempt to protect the living present from the impurities of language and especially writing, Derrida will show how the living present is necessarily supplemented by them. According to Derrida, Husserl wants to preserve "an originally silent, 'pre-expressive' stratum of experience," a kind of self-relation that does not need to pass through language. However, a problem arises for Husserl when he introduces his theory of ideal objectivities. Ideal objects are historical products that must retain their identity while being indefinitely repeatable. Ideal objects depend upon consciousness and language for their existence, but consciousness and language therefore come to threaten the pure self-presence Husserl attempts to isolate. Husserl's solution to this conflict is an idea of the voice as what Derrida calls the simulated "conservation of presence." For Husserl, the voice allows the expression and repetition of ideal objectivities while only minimally disrupting the living present's self-presence. Husserl's privileging of the voice depends upon the distinction between expression and indication. Husserl grants to the voice the function of the expression of meaning, the making present of self-evidence. In contrast, indication includes writing and all those other forms of inscription that point towards what is not present in them. It "is what moves something such as a 'thinking being' to pass by thought from something to something else." Indication functions through a play of presence-absence. Expression and indication are always entangled - expressions are often inscribed and indicated - yet Husserl continues to make a rigorous distinction between their essences. This is possible because Husserl believes their relation to be asymmetric: "Every expression would . . . be caught up, despite itself, in an indicative process. But the reverse, Husserl recognizes, is not true." Husserl has to be on the defensive since his entire project would be threatened if "indication were essentially internal to the movement of expression rather than being only conjoined to it." For Husserl, the indicative sign comes to cover the worldly things that the phenomenological reduction brackets out, and therefore the distinction indication/expression in many ways parallels or founds all of the distinctions of phenomenology, such as "worldliness/transcendentality." To maintain this distinction, Husserl also has to extract expression from communication. Communication implies a relation with "the other as nonpresence" and therefore would not be pure expression, the "pure active intention that animates a speech whose content is present." To analyze expression, Husserl therefore has to privilege a model of the soliloquy, the interior monologue. "'Solitary mental life' would prove that . . . an expression without indication is possible." This interior monologue relies upon a phenomenological voice that is different from the physical one: "The phenomenological voice would be this spiritual flesh that continues to speak and be present to itself - to hear itself - in the absence of the world." In the interior monologue, the word is not dependent on any empirical existence or unreliable mediation and therefore it can be perfectly repeated, ensuring the existence of ideal objects: "While in real communication existing signs indicate other existences which are only probably and mediately evoked, in the monologue, when expression is full, nonexistent signs show significations that are ideal (and thus non-existent) and certain (for they are presented to intuition)." In one sense it is improper to even think of the internal monologue as involving language or voice since the certitude of inner existence has no need for signs. In the interior monologue, nothing really is communicated since everything is already present: indication could serve no function here since everything is immediately self-present, certain, and necessary. Derrida again references Husserl's The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness to argue that the perceived present is always "compounded with a nonpresence and nonperception, with primary memory and expectation (retention and protention)." Yet this is to admit alterity into the living-present's self-relation. Indeed, the self-presence that Husserl has described is only possible by time that allows "auto-affection," which "produces sameness as self-relation within self-difference; it produces sameness as the nonidentical." Whereas Husserl was able to avoid the question of the sign in the silent interior monologue, which seemed to continuously eliminate the phenomenological body of the signifier, writing (needed for the existence of ideal objectivities) forces everything Husserl represses to the surface. In the contrast to the interior monologue, writing appears "outside," "in the world," it adds a question of space. When "hearing oneself speak" in the interior monologue, auto-affection seems to not need to pass through the outside. Indeed, the specific auto-affection of hearing oneself speak seems to even eliminate the spatiality of the interior: its "self-proximity . . . would in fact be the absolute reduction of space in general." Yet Derrida argues that "Hearing oneself speak is not the inwardness of an inside that is closed in upon itself; it is the irreducible openness in the inside. . . . Phenomenological reduction is a scene, a theater stage." Everything that writing makes visible is already operative in the living present. If "indication - for example writing in the everyday sense - must necessarily be 'added' to speech to complete the constitution of the ideal object, if speech must be 'added' to the thought identity of the object, it is because the 'presence' of sense and speech had already from the start fallen short of itself."
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Derrida's first published book contains his (secondary) dissertation on Husserl's Origin of Geometry, a short text included as an appendix to The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Throughout this difficult book Derrida utilizes the language of phenomenology, though something like the deconstructive discourse of differance arrives on the scene in the text's final pages. Husserl's book is not interested in any historical/empirical origin of geometry such as who was the first geometer. His "regressive inquiry" seeks out "the most original sense in which geometry once arose" (that is, how it was constituted by transcendental subjectivity) and the mechanism that has led it to be passed down to contemporary geometers. In Husserl's earlier works the transcendental reduction routinely bracketed out history, so Husserl's strategy here is no surprise. But as Derrida notes, by the time of Crisis and Origin of Geometry, "history itself breaks through into phenomenology," becoming more and more of a problem that Husserl is forced to explicitly address. Indeed, the problem of history in Origin of Geometry is probably what attracted Derrida to the text and what makes it so influential for deconstruction. Husserl considers the objects of geometry as ideal objects: their "being is thoroughly transparent and exhausted by [their] phenomenality." They each exist only once (despite its different manifestations, there is only one circle as an ideal object) but are accessible to everyone and at all times since their institution (geometry is universal for Husserl). Ideal objects (though the term "ideal objectivity" might be more appropriate) must be infinitely repeatable while remaining identical to themselves: they remain the same through different repetitions. Language and writing are therefore necessary for the identity through difference that sustains Ideal objects. Derrida emphasizes that Husserl conceives of the ideal objects of geometry quite differently than Kant or Plato did. He notes that for Husserl such ideal objects are constituted and created - they did not always exist - whereas for Kant they are merely revealed, having been something the subject always already possesses: "if there is a birth of geometry for Kant, it seems to be only the extrinsic circumstance for the emergence of truth (which is itself always already constituted for any factual consciousness)." Derrida also contrasts Husserl's conception of the historical (and perhaps contingent) creation of ideal objects with a certain form of Platonism that makes Ideas supratemporal entities that always already exist and are only imperfectly actualized in reality. For Husserl, lived experience perceives sensible things, singular factualities, and derives from them ideal objects (Derrida notes that this transition from self-evidence to ideality contains numerous problems Husserl avoids). From the confrontation with the object's roundness, the idea of a circle is created. But how is it possible to move from this intrapsychic creation of an objective ideality to the geometry that has survived down to the present and that has an axiomatics that has been routinely expanded? It is the tradition of geometry that has allowed the present era to inherit and add to the innovations of earlier geometers. Like cultural traditions, the tradition of geometry allows it to traverse time and individual finitude: "Traditional sedimentation in the communal world will have the function of going beyond the retentional finitude of individual consciousness." This "going beyond . . . retentional finitude" is precisely to introduce the question of history, though rather than turn to empirical history Husserl will attempt to create a theory of tradition from within the confines of his transcendental phenomenology. In particular, it is language that grounds tradition for Husserl. According to Husserl, the sense of an ideal object is able to be sedimented in language and then reactivated by another subject. Through language, the identity of the ideal objects of geometry is able to be repeated across time and different individuals. For example, the word "circle" allows the repetition of the sense of its corresponding ideal object. Through language, ideal objectivity is no longer a private thing because it has gone through the process of "the production of a common object, i.e., of an object whose original owner is thus dispossessed." Yet for Husserl there is a risk here, since the ideal object is not identical to its word. Indeed, the ideal objects of geometry should be infinitely translatable and therefore free of any incarnation in a specific word. Having identified the importance of language for tradition, Husserl then argues that writing in particular is necessary to mediate and support the existence of ideal objects. Ideal objects must perdure even when no one gazes upon them. Consequently, oral communication such as a subject speaking to himself or to others is not capable of "absolutely grounding the ideal Objectivity of sense" because ideal objects in such a case would remain too dependent for their existence on the contingent fact of being present in subjectivity. However, "The possibility of writing will assure the absolute traditionalization of the object, its absolute ideal Objectivity." "By absolutely virtualizing dialogue, writing creates a kind of autonomous transcendental field from which every present subject can be absent." Yet writing creates a paradoxical combination of embodiment and ideality. The ideal objects of geometry come to need the "flesh" of the written word in order to exist ideally: "the ability of sense to be linguistically embodied is the only means by which sense becomes nonspatiotemporal." The sedimenting of sense in the written word makes possible the reactivation of that sense at a different time and place. In discussing Husserl's idea of reactivation, Derrida works through many of the questions that become key concerns of deconstruction. The reactivation of sense cannot be total because it would prevent geometry from having a history: the tradition of geometry would not be one that could be added to, or its history never would have been able to start. In such a total reactivation, geometry would lose its horizon. The tradition of geometry therefore must not prevent the historicity of geometry. Husserl, ever wary of language, fears that writing may pass on the tradition of geometry as a set of objects/statements without reactivating their primordial sense of objectivity for intentional consciousness, resulting in the crisis of science such as the spread of positivism. In the final section of his commentary, Derrida moves from Husserl's description of geometry's ideal objectivity to an analysis of the "process of idealization" and the idea of the Idea (in the Kantian sense) itself, something he claims Husserl was unable to do: "there is no phenomenology of the Idea." From the moment of its constitution by transcendental subjectivity, geometry is ideal in the sense of having a unified space/identity, but its ideality is really an "invariant pole" that each reactivation only approximates. But "A secondary idealizing operation then comes to relieve the reactivative ability of its finitude and lets it get beyond itself." This is "the passage to the infinite limit of a finite and qualitative sensible intuition." The origin of geometry creates an infinite task to be carried out, a progression towards an infinite Idea that only ever appears in the finite form to which transcendental subjectivity is limited access. It is important to not consider this Idea as having being, as having a full presence that is imperfectly manifested to the subject: "In transcendental subjectivity's disclosure of the Idea, progressivity is not an extrinsic contingency that affects the Idea but the imperative prescription of its essence. The Idea is not an Absolute that first exists in the plenitude of its essence and then descends into history or becomes disclosed in a subjectivity." Geometry's historical Telos towards the Idea overlaps with the problem of internal time and intentionality. Derrida makes reference to Husserl's lectures on the Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness and the description of transcendental subjectivity as a Living Present. The Living Present is not a homogeneous Absolute, but rather the dialectical (Derrida still relies on Hegel's terminology at this time) play of retention and protention. The Living Present always involves a present that is fading into the past but not absent and an anticipation of the future that is not yet. The reactivation of sense/self-evidence in the Living Present therefore always includes an orientation towards the future, a project. Intentionality towards the Idea is "the pure movement of phenomenological temporalization as the going out from self to self of the Absolute of the Living Present - intentionality is the root of historicity." The infinite passage of geometry (caught between its removed origin and its unobtainable Telos) ultimately is the same as the infinite displacement of the finite Living Present (that is to say, an-as-yet-unnamed differance): "The impossibility of resting in the simple maintenance of a Living Present . . . the inability to live enclosed in the innocent undividedness of the primordial Absolute, because the Absolute is present only in being deferred-delayed without respite, this impotence and this impossibility are given in a primordial and pure consciousness of Difference."
Monday, May 18, 2009
"You see them on the bus in the morning: girls reading the newspaper, girls with lending-library novels and girls simply staring off into space. If it is not a rainy day and the bus is not crowded with strap-hangers pushing one another up the aisle you can see each face clearly. Each of them is a self-contained little mask, decorated with cosmetics, keeping its private thoughts secluded in a public vehicle. Some of these girls are going to their offices because each day is another step to the success they dream of, and others are going to work because they cannot live without the money, and some are going because that's where they go on weekdays and they never give it another thought. They go to their typing pool or their calculating machines as to a waiting place, a limbo for single girls who are waiting for love and marriage." Rona Jaffe's novel describes the lives of a group of young women who live in New York and work for a publishing corporation in the early 1950s. Unlike most other corporate fictions (see my blogs on Cameron Hawley below), the book is narrated from the perspective of its female characters. All of the principle characters work in the typing pool of Fabian books, though a few manage to cross over into editorial positions, and the book's narrative scope is as narrow as their careers. In contrast to the freedom of Hawley's masculine executive heroes, the women of Jaffe's novel fight out unseen conflicts within the micro-hierarchy of secretaries and find pleasure in unofficial communication channels (i.e., gossip). The novel functions as both a manual and model for single women working in the city. Most of the characters are new to New York, coming either from the Midwest or a private women's college, so each has to be educated about the peculiar nature of urban existence, from fashion tips to apartment-dwelling to the protocols of nightlife. The reader is also invited to learn the fine distinctions of Manhattan living and like the novel's characters to rise in her sense of social superiority. Yet education can serve as vicarious experience, and surely many of the novel's readers found in the novel, despite the hardships faced by its characters, a life of which they could only dream. All of this is simply to say that Jaffe's book is pretty much the Sex and the City of the 1950s. Indeed, as the narrative progresses romantic intrigues and disappointments largely replace details about office work. Jaffe's protagonists fair badly in the romantic and sexual marketplace of New York: office jobs in the city provide women in the novel an unheard of amount of freedom - financial, geographic, social - yet the city and the corporation also dissolve the social customs that would help these women secure a "good" marriage. This is a well-known result of urbanism and capitalism, but the postwar flight to the suburbs complicates it. The novel's single working women move to the city just as middle-class families are moving out of it. With this new geographic divide between home and work, the city was transformed into a kind of sexual playground for the commuter executive. It is no surprise, then, that at the same time a certain level of sexual license with employees seemed to become a tacit work bonus for corporate management. More than just a reflection of corporate culture prior to sexual harassment laws, the novel describes the specific "sexual economy" of corporations in New York in the 1950s.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
“Just as he was an Elk, a Booster, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce, just as the priests of the Presbyterian Church determined his every religious belief and the senators who controlled the Republican Party decided in little smoky rooms in Washington what he should think about disarmament, tariff, and Germany, so did the large national advertisers fix the surface of his life, fix what he believed to be his individuality. These standard advertised wares – toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot-water heaters – were his symbols and proofs of excellence; at first the signs, then the substitutes, for joy and passion and wisdom.” Sinclair Lewis satirizes the supposedly "modern" business class in this story of real estate man George F. Babbitt. Living with his family in the suburbs of Zenith (an imaginary Midwest city), Babbitt is popular among the other prosperous business men of the city, whom he meets and schmoozes with at Booster meetings and at their private social Club. He spends his days using insider information to buy lucrative pieces of real estate or assisting his business-class brothers Boost the city and their pocketbooks. Lewis relentlessly takes aim at Babbitt's hypocrisy, emphasizing the gulf between Babbitt's self-image and his actual actions. Lewis writes: "Babbitt was virtuous. He advocated, though he did not practice, the prohibition of alcohol; he praised, though he did not obey, the laws against motor-speeding; he paid his debts; he contributed to the church, the Red Cross, and the Y.M.C.A.; he followed the custom of his clan and cheated only as it was sanctified by precedent." Babbitt is largely able to maintain such an elevated image of himself because he prides himself on having acquired Culture, Science, and all of the trappings of the Modern. Lewis uses Babbitt's conversations with his fellow business men to mock the conceits of their class by comically contrasting their soaring vocabulary with their mundane interests. Indeed, perhaps the most important thing the novel does is amplify and expose the emptiness of the language of capitalism. Babbitt is able to incorporate ideas and language from the arts and sciences, but only by rendering them in a business discourse that is full of empty metaphysical Concepts. For example, Lewis writes, “They went profoundly into the science of business, and indicated that the purpose of manufacturing a plow or a brick was so that it might be sold. To them, the Romantic Hero was no longer the knight, the wandering poet, the cowpuncher, the aviator, nor the brave young district attorney, but the great sales-manager, who had an Analysis of Merchandizing Problems on his glass-topped desk, whose title of nobility was ‘Go-getter,’ and who devoted himself and all his young samurai to the cosmic purpose of Selling – not of selling anything in particular, for or to anybody in particular, but pure Selling.” Lewis obviously found in the character of Babbitt a perfect instrument for exposing all manner of capitalist hypocrisies. Most of the narrative is therefore composed of loosely related episodes that demonstrate Babbitt's shady business dealings or the self-serving activities of various community groups composed of business men. In the final third of the novel, a plot does finally develop when Babbitt, ever desiring to be thought highly of by his fellow man, befriends a socialist leader with whom he once went to college. Babbitt enters into a period of decadence, bohemianism, and liberalism, taking a lover, objecting to his friend's attacks on socialism, and spending long nights boozing around town while his wife is away. Turning to the left for the most superficial of reasons, Babbitt soon finds his way back into the right-wing business class, fortunately just before the newly-formed "Good Citizens League" is able to completely cut him off from the insider business deals from which he handsomely profits. At home, Babbitt appears as a standardized member of the middle class, one who fights with his nagging wife, worries about his son's college education, and is proud about how he looks in his automobile. That this part of Lewis' book could have taken place at almost any time during the last century reveals just how impervious the American middle class, despite its new models of commodities, has been to history. Indeed, Babbitt demonstrates how the story of the American middle class was a cliché from its first telling, a cliché always already accompanied by a critical-satirical commentary.
"One of the great reasons avant garde music needs to exist is that it does not need to exist. It defies, momentarily, the glum, onward and upward propulsion of Western society into which the majority of us are whipped or whip ourselves, on a daily basis. It fails, successfully, to be commandeered into the ranks of function. It posits and evokes entirely alternative modes, worlds, possibilities, stepping off the tramlines and running aground on new, virgin territory. It goes nowhere. It repeats. It radiates energy wastefully, into the air. It leaks out from the grid." In this short work published by Zero Books, music journalist David Stubbs argues that experimental music remains unfairly and unnecessarily marginalized in contemporary culture. In contrast to the popular and financial success of visual art (the former exemplified for Stubbs by the hordes of tourists that visit the Tate Modern, the latter by the astronomical prices Francis Bacon's paintings are fetching), experimental music continues to be underground, underfunded, and under-appreciated. Worst of all, it has become acceptable to dismiss experimental music as insane and to openly display both contempt for and ignorance of it. Most of Stubbs' book is a survey of 20th-century experimental music that situates it next to the more well-known history of different visual arts movements, from abstraction to Futurism to Dada to Fluxus. He begins of course with Schoenberg's invention of the 12-tone system, moves on to Edgard Varese's conception of music as "organised sound," and explores the split in the European avant garde after WW II between the musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer and the electronic music of Herbert Eimert (the two groups would soon be reconciled). Stubbs then moves beyond the realm of classical music, discussing bebop, free jazz, John Cage, AMM, and Derek Bailey. He then traces an alternative history of rock, which runs through Krautrock - Can, Faust, and Kraftwerk are presented - as well as post-punk and ambient music. There certainly can't be anything wrong with discussing these figures and disseminating information about their music. Yet any issue of the experimental music magazine The Wire (for which Stubbs writes) assumes its readers have alread mastered this history. So I wonder if those who are likely to read this book are those who probably don't need to read it? I also think the parallel history of the visual arts and experimental music could have been put to better use. Stubbs is totally right to point out how many (most?) individuals who claim a critical interest in avant garde art are completely ignorant of experimental music. But rather than merely emphasize that this is an unjustifiable omission in their knowledge, why not make the stronger argument that you can't fully understand these other art forms - whether painting, poetry, dance, or film - without a stronger background in experimental music? This may not be universally true, but certainly there is an abundance of cases to support such a claim. Stubb's history of experimental music also could have done more to explain why such music has remained underground at different historical moments (surely there have been at least relative differences in the mainstream's hatred of it). Only in his conclusion does he get around to the second part of the book's title, "why people get Rothko but don't get Stockhausen." But even then he juxtaposes a number of existing explanations for experimental music's unpopularity rather than providing his own compelling argument. Among the reasons for the marginality of experimental music, he lists: it lacks the Aura of the original masterpiece to attract both an audience and investors, it is a much stronger and less controllable assault on the audience (who can't exactly close their ears), and it is a "disorienting" "erasure of boundaries". Stubbs final and best point is that it is useful to think of experimental music as useless, as functionless, something that remains un-co opted by the financial interests of the artworld and media industries as well as the propaganda purposes of the state.
Monday, May 4, 2009
“At different stages in the development of capitalism in the United States, liberal ideology has been revised and adapted (through the law and political thought) to justify the rise and the consolidation of corporate power. Corporate enterprise could not have secured its extraordinary legal privileges or achieved ideological acceptance so readily without assuming the guise of personhood in a market economy. The accommodation of the corporation (a collective form of enterprise) to the individualist precepts of Anglo-American law stands as one of the salient achievements of nineteenth-century American jurisprudence. In the twentieth century, corporate citizens and statesmen have joined entrepreneurial actors in the theater of economic life.” This work of political science traces how the ideology of 19th-century liberal economics came to accommodate the growth of corporate capitalism. Bowman's book works primarily on two levels: First, a history of corporate law that charts the legal codification and regulation of the institution of the corporation. Second, an interpretation of a number of relatively neglected American thinkers who by attempting to reconcile liberalism and the modern corporation produced a paradoxical "corporate liberalism." Far more than the liberal myth of economic man, the modern corporation is an artificial construct with which the law has always had difficulties dealing. Bowman traces how the British concept of the corporation as an instrument of the state was exported to America in the colonial era. Up until the last decades of the 19th century, the corporation in the United States was not a common form of business enterprise since incorporation was granted by the government on a case-by-case basis only to those industries that could claim to serve the social good. The inner organization and decisions of those businesses that were granted incorporation also were heavily regulated (this is to say, at the high point of 19th-century liberalism the corporation was subject to quite anti-liberal government control). But over the course of the 19th century, the courts slowly developed a concept of corporate individualism which culminated in the constitutional treatment of the corporation as a person, with the rights to property and autonomy that entailed. In the 1890s, states also began to more freely grant incorporation, changing it from a special privilege to a general right and decreasing the amount of state regulation. Bowman concludes, “By 1900, the rights, privileges, and capacities of the corporate entity that secure and enable the external dimension of corporate power had a solid constitutional foundation.” With the exception of the antitrust laws, the legal foundations of the corporate form were relatively stable throughout the 20th century (though it seems that post-Fordist, networked firms will need a new legal code). There was a wave of regulatory reforms in the 1960s and 1970s - regarding the environment, discrimination, etc. - but these reforms did not change the basic legal form of the corporation, which has become reified and naturalized today. In fact, those reform efforts revealed a general paradox of government regulation of the corporation: by creating stricter external controls (many of which have since been removed), such reforms also sanctioned and legitimated everything they did not regulate. Bowman argues that government regulation of the corporation adheres to the ideology of liberal economics by refusing to interfere with the "autonomy" of the inner-workings of the corporation. Bowman concludes, “the law of corporations shields and fortifies the private structure of [corporate] power under the theory that, barring fraud or illegal acts, the internal decision-making process of the corporation should be governed by the discretionary principle of sound business judgment. . . . Indeed, there seems to be almost an inverse relationship between regulation of the internal and external dimensions of corporate power.” Take the current financial crisis as an example: according to this neo/corporate-liberalism, the state can determine what general financial practices are legal, but internal decisions about what a good financial investment is are not to be interfered with or condemned so long as they conform to the general "appearance" of good business practice. Bowman then turns to three thinkers from the Progressive Era who first attempted to theorize the impact of the rise of corporate capitalism on American politics: Weyl, Croly, and Veblen. In their convoluted arguments that were equal parts criticism and accommodation, these three thinkers first articulated the idea of "corporate liberalism" that moved to the center of postwar economic thought. Bowman also singles out and analyzes three major postwar thinkers of corporate capitalism: Peter Drucker, Adolf Berle, and John Kenneth Galbraith. As I've discussed before, Drucker believed the economic functions of the corporation could be "harmonized" with the desires of individuals and the needs of society. Bowman argues Drucker had an intellectual debt to “Burkean conservatism” and eliminated the question of corporate power. Bowman claims that "By positing a functional harmony between an objective social interest and the interests of the corporation, Drucker largely eliminated the problematic character of corporate social responsibility.” Adolf Berle with Gardiner Means popularized in the 1930s the "managerial thesis" which posited a separation of ownership and control in modern corporate capitalism. Because those who ran businesses - the managers - were no longer those who owned businesses - the stockholders - both the nature of property and the corporation became ambiguous (traditionally, to own something means being free to do what one wants with it, but stockholders clearly cannot do this with a publicly-held firm). Berle's famous question was “in whose interest should the corporation be managed?” Though Berle was more ambivalent than Drucker, he ultimately also attributed to the corporation a superior power of economic performance that was thoroughly ideological. Bowman explans, "the ‘laws of industrial society’ defended corporate autonomy in much the same manner that the ‘natural laws of the marketplace’ justified entrepreneurial freedom in the era of competitive capitalism.” Bowman then turns to John Kenneth Galbraith, who by attempting to critically analyze the corporation ended up producing a defense for it. Galbraith's version of the managerial thesis was his concept of the "technostructure," the quasi-totalitarian coordination of corporate interests and planning that allowed postwar corporate capitalism to function. The harmony Drucker strived to create was simply assumed as already existing by Galbraith, and his linking of the corporation to the production of high technology led him to equate technological modernity with corporate capitalism (to reductively summarize: if you like your Mac laptop, you better renounce your contempt of corporate capitalism). Though I don't believe Bowman's final analysis of corporate power is successful, it is admirable for its attempt to go beyond Marxist theory - which is often too limited by its account of class domination - in laying out the numerous political, legal, organizational, and ideological arms of contemporary corporate power.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
“We already know, or will soon know, how to construct machines capable of remembering everything and of judging the most complex situations without error. What this means is that our cerebral cortex, however admirable, is inadequate, just as our hands and eyes are inadequate; that it can be supplemented by electronic analysis methods; and that the evolution of the human being . . . must eventually follow a path other than the neuronic one if it is to continue. Putting it more positively, we could say that if humans are to take the greatest possible advantage of the freedom they gained by evading the risk of organic overspecialization, they must eventually go even further in exteriorizing their faculties.” In this classic work of structuralist anthropology, André Leroi-Gourhan investigates the prehistorical coupling of humanity and technics, the complex transfer of the functions of mankind's biological evolution to the evolution of its sociotechnical systems. Responding to the emergence of cybernetics and computers that promise to replace humans, Leroi-Gourhan speculates on the archaeological traces of humanity's past in order to explain why mankind has been so successful in the development of technology and such a failure in controlling it. He begins with what might be considered structuralist evolutionary theory, looking at the earliest forms of life and identifying a small range of "functional types." Whereas organisms that are passive and sedentary tend to exhibit radial symmetry, organisms that move in order to obtain food evolve an anterior field and bilateral symmetry. This organic law of form follows function (illustrated in the text by numerous diagrams) is recapitulated later on in the book in Leroi-Gourhan's analysis of the development of cutting tools (accompanied by images that resemble the earlier organic ones). Playing a rather dubious game of pattern recognition, the book traces numerous continuities between the forms/types of organic and technical evolution. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze & Guattari, whose own theory of language and faciality was influenced by Gesture and Speech, praise Leroi-Gourhan by saying he "has gone the farthest toward a technological vitalism taking biological evolution in general as the model for technical evolution." In the line of species that led to humans, the anterior field fortuitously developed into the functional type that has both a face and forelimbs, which work together in the acquisition of food. He suggests that if forelimbs had not developed, the face would have been subjected to a functional specialization allowing it to grasp food, and therefore might not have been available at a later point for the evolution of speech capabilities. The pairing of face and hand is supported by the evolution of erect posture that frees the hand from the responsibility for locomotion and a more developed brain that allows the exploration of the possible uses of the free hand. One of Leroi-Gourhan's most immediate aims, which he discusses at the book's beginning, is to refute the general belief that cerebration - human intellect - drove the process of early human evolution, that our superior brains generated the development of man's distinct physical characteristics and decision to adopt tools. Without an existing functional harmony of erect posture, flattened skull, and free hands, there would have been no evolutionary context to take advantage of an increase of brain power. According to Leroi-Gourhan, the hand functions as a kind of "technical instrument." The invention of actual tools - the first perhaps being flint cutting tools - is therefore continuous with organic evolution. He claims, “We perceive our intelligence as being a single entity and our tools as the noble fruit of our thought, whereas the Australanthropians, by contrast, seem to have possessed their tools in much the same way as an animal has claws. They appear to have acquired them, not through some flash of genius which, one fine day, led them to pick up a sharp-edged pebble and use it as an extension of their fist . . . but as if their brains and their bodies had gradually exuded them." This is the first example of many in which mankind "exteriorizes" one of its functions, the first step towards the total automation that today appears to make our organic bodies obsolete. Leroi-Gourhan argues that the "basic equipment" of the brain that allows for the coordination of the hand and the use of tools also makes possible language: “as soon as there are prehistoric tools, there is a possibility of a prehistoric language, for tools and language are neurologically linked and cannot be dissociated within the social structure of humankind.” Technics and language have evolved in parallel, with each enabling and responding to the other. With what Leroi-Gourhan calls the "prefrontal event," human biological evolution comes to a dramatic halt: "In Homo sapiens technicity is no longer geared to cell development but seems to exteriorize itself completely – to lead, as it were, a life of its own.” From then on, the biological body does not change but mankind's sociotechnical systems do, and at a far greater rate than biological evolution had ever occurred. The semi-autonomous evolution of technics and society sweeps up mankind as a biological organism in a current that it can no longer control because, as Leroi-Gourhan explains, by transferring its evolutionary functions to technics, man is no longer "equipped" to control them. At best, the resistance of the social edifice and the morality of religion and ideologies have worked to mediate the swift evolution of technics, but today they are failing. Leroi-Gourhan sees the industrial revolution and the creation of the computer as direct consequences of humanity's coupling with technics (as happens too often, Leroi-Gourhan's broad historical generalizations and unique brand of technological determinism leaps over important questions, in this case seeming to argue that capitalism was an evolutionary functional necessity). Having described the path of technics, he goes back and traces the development of language and writing. Because the increase in man's reflective capabilities occurred alongside the creation of tools, at the same time as human speech began developing humans began creating abstract, non-phonetic symbols. At first, speech and abstract written inscriptions were separate activities: “With the emergence of graphic figurative representation. . . . The hand has its language, with a sight-related form of expression, and the face has its own, which relates to hearing. Between the two is the halo that confers a special character upon human thought before the invention of writing proper: The gesture interprets the word, and the word comments upon graphic expression.” But Leroi-Gourhan goes on, “At the linear graphism stage that characterizes writing, the relationship between the two fields undergoes yet another development: Written language, phoneticized and linear in space, becomes completely subordinated to spoken language, which is phonetic and linear in time. The dualism between graphic and verbal disappears, and the whole of human linguistic apparatus becomes a single instrument for expressing and preserving thought – which itself is channeled increasingly toward reasoning.” According to Leroi-Gourhan, for most of its history writing served as a supplement to, not a complete replacement for, memory. But with the invention of the printing press mankind exteriorized the function of memory as well, starting the process that today has resulted in immense computer databases that contain infinitely more information than a human ever could. The computer is also the product of the exteriorization of what Leroi-Gourhan calls the behavioral "programs" used to manipulate tools. Tools have evolved from requiring humans for both motive force and guidance to needing humans for only guidance to having transcended the need for humans at all. The next step is for humans to exteriorize intellectual thought, and “Once Homo sapiens had equipped such machines with the mechanical ability to reproduce themselves, there would be nothing left for the human to do but withdraw into the paleontological twilight.” Having arrived at this pessimistic conclusion, which at times resembles an "end of history" argument, Leroi-Gourhan turns to what so far has not been overtaken by technics: aesthetics (in the most general, cultural sense of the term). Unfortunately, this section exhibits the kind of reductive logic that gave structuralism its bad reputation. Discussing things like "functional aesthetics," social symbolism, and figurative representation, Leroi-Gourhan makes sweeping arguments about the evolution of aesthetics, culture, and ethnicity. Though nominally grounded in the previous discussion's wide prehistorical and historical scope, the argument of the last section reveals how completely a real sense of history - whether of politics, economics, or art systems - has been absent from the entire book. The only event that qualifies as history in Gesture and Speech is the prehistorical coupling of humanity and technics, which is marked as a contingent occurrence. Everything since has followed a blatantly teleological course, which at the end of the book makes for some ridiculous art-historical arguments. In one sense, all contemporary aesthetic developments were prefigured in prehistory for Leroi-Gourhan. For example, he makes the interesting argument that abstract art, by rejecting the figurative essence of humanity, is a "return to pre-Homo sapiens structures" and doomed to fail. The deep anthropological perspective is striking, but hopelessly unwilling to consider (as someone like Pierre Bourdieu might) how the structural forces Leroi-Gourhan maintains were inflected by changes in the postwar system of art. Leroi-Gourhan does, however, attend to the problem of globalization (which he sees but doesn't articulate in our contemporary terms), which seems to make the technical system universal and produce the end of ethnic difference. He wonders whether this will result in a collapse of all differences between societies and within them, or increase the conflicts between ethnic groups. Bernard Stiegler's Technics and Time v. 1 rereads (that is, re-writes) Leroi-Gourhan's book, using Heidegger on temporal anticipation to explain the coupling of tool and brain and Derrida on the gramme to understand tools as memory. Despite his considerably more sophisticated theoretical framework, Stiegler - at least in the first two volumes of Technics and Time - largely remains within the conceptual territory marked out by Leroi-Gourhan, especially in his cautionary warnings about contemporary technics being out of control. By demonstrating the importance of Leroi-Gourhan's anthropological approach to deconstruction and unpacking those elusive passages on Leroi-Gourhan from Derrida's Of Grammatology, Stiegler has both recovered and rendered superfluous Leroi-Gourhan's book (at least for deconstruction: Deleuzians and the recent work in neuroscience and theory may prove otherwise).
Saturday, May 2, 2009
"A possible conclusion, and one that I want to avoid, is that this is all we can do now - sift through past battles, past styles, make out of them some sort of composite, fashionable for a fortnight or two. Journey through the picturesque ruins, enjoy the naivete and idealism of the recent past, then return refreshed to a world without politics, a world without what used to be called a counter-culture. Because really, that (tainted as it is by association with the late 1960s to the point where it now evokes a sort of Easy Rider flag-and-dick-waving rather than any real attempt at counter-hegemony) is what this book is essentially about. Not the idea that possessing the right clothes and the right books makes you a political initiate, but rather Modernism itself as counter-culture, drawing on sexual politics, industrial aesthetics, critical theory, a new urbanism, in order to suggest - 'as a tradition and as a vision' - the possible outlines of a world after capitalism." In this short work released by Zero Books, Owen Hatherley rejects the contemporary dogma that asserts that modernism (which he uses loosely to refer to aesthetic experimentation of the late 1920s/early 1930s and its brief reappearances in subsequent decades) was a shameful failure that is best not repeated. Hatherley argues that "Left Modernisms of the 20th century continue to be useful: a potential index of ideas, successful or failed, tried, untried or broken on the wheel of the market or the state. Even in their ruinous condition, they can still offer a sense of possibility which decades of being told that 'There is No Alternative' has almost beaten out of us." The spirit of Walter Benjamin looms large over the book, which surveys the detritus of modernism in search of surviving utopian impulses that could blast us into a new historical continuum (that is to say, a new economic system). In contrast to the image of modernism as an elitist aesthetic - in the case of architectural modernism an aesthetic imposed on the public - Hatherley asks his readers to imagine a time "in which we might have welcomed Modernism, and in fact approached it as part of a specific collective project." The first chapter on British architectural modernism is the best, taking aim both at Europe's conservative nostalgia for pre-20th-century architecture and at the timidity of what Hatherley calls "Ikea Modernism." It has become doxa that architectural modernism was a total failure, producing inhuman spaces and disfunctional communities that in the public imagination is illustrated by the slum of the public housing project. In England this argument takes dramatic form through the Thatcheresque attack since the 1980s on the buildings of Social Democracy from the previous era. Hatherley does not accept this dismissal in the least, and presents a favorable account of Britain's Brutalist architecture of the 1950s, a long needed reappraisal of the undeniable harshness of modernist architecture. For Hatherley, the most interesting buildings in England are precisely those supposedly ugly concrete blocks that are in the process of being torn down. According to Hatherley, brutalism's use of reinforced concrete and reworking of the modernism of the 1920s was paradoxical: "its intent to at once produce an earthy, everyday style for the use of the proletariat (one where they wouldn't have to mind their manners inside) and at the same time create avant-garde, shocking images, to be 'a brick-bat flung in the public's face.'" He adds that though Brutalism - as a product of the Welfare State - was often aimed at the poor, it also desired to be "glamorous" and at times worked towards a "permissive society" and a new kind of architectural sexuality (On this point Hatherley cites J. G. Ballard, the other major influence on the book). Although built in the 1950s and 1960s, Brutalist architecture had a delayed cultural effect, emerging in the late 1970s in music such as post-punk (and in subsequent styles) as a source of contradictory imagery. The derelicts of Brutalism remain spaces of "crime and intrigue," but they are "the only thing standing in the way of gentrification's purge of undesirables from urban space." The next chapter focuses largely on Richard Pare's book of photography, The Lost Vanguard, which "is a documentation of Modernist architecture in the USSR from 1922 to 1932." Contrasting the marginalization of Russian modernism in architectural histories (the MOMA's articulation of the International Style was thoroughly ideological in its exclusions), Pare's book tracks down the ruins of this forgotten Russian avant-garde, which flourished in the years prior to Stalinism. Discussing Russian science fiction and the estrangement effect, Hatherley concludes that the decaying buildings of modernism "are remnants of something as alien and incomprehensible to the seamless mallscape of 21st century Capital, or the heritage Disneyland of European Urbanism, as Shklovsky's Futurist Martians were to their contemporaries." The third chapter analyzes the relation of sexual and political revolution, claiming we currently "suffer from a sort of degeneration of the sexual-utopian imaginary: here it is no easier to imagine the end of jealousy or marriage than it is for us to imagine the end of capitalism." To counteract this tendency, he examines Russian architectural experiments in communal living as well as Russian flapper fashion, identifying a socialist belief that demystified love did not entail the abandonment of love itself, a choice between modernism and sexuality. Hatherley spends time summarizing Wilhelm Reich's earlier books on socialist sexuality, explaining that, for Reich, socialism created "the possibility of sexual freedom without an attendant hypersexualisation, a direct inverse of the puritan prurience of contemporary society. Reich saw a partial fulfilment of his ideas that sexual irrationalism was directly correlative to the economic irrationalism of capital." Hatherley concludes the chapter by examining the films of Yugoslavian director Dusan Makavejev from the late 1960s, experiments in "Sexpol" that reveal the limitations of our current approach to sexuality. The final chapter on Brecht is the least innovative, describing as it does Brecht's decline in popularity over the years. Whereas Brechtian techniques have been absorbed into the culture industry, Brechtian Productivism is currently operative in musical culture that aims at the "creation of a collectivist, oppositional culture." He concludes that the "dormant Socialist Modernism can, if nothing else, offer spectral blueprints for such a future." Interested in the utopian potential of science fiction and the critical power of the detritus of history, Hatherley produces an argument that resonates with that of Fredric Jameson in A Singular Modernity and Archeologies of the Future (both Jameson and Hatherley cite Darko Suvin as an important influence). But whereas Jameson ultimately decides that modernism can no longer serve as a source of radical alternatives to capitalist reality, Hatherley holds to its promises. Yet the contemporary culture that seems to best extend the legacy of modernism for Hatherley appears to be the British music scene, which he admits isn't "necessarily revolutionary." I'm not convinced the new Prolecult (Proletarian Culture) he calls for will be found in the music scene's obsession with the minutiae of changing musical styles.