Re: [-empyre-] what is to be done?
Obviously, each time that a field of human activity becomes more
industrialized, the question of what is left for humans pops up again. But,
linked to that, a new question also arises: are we reaching limitations of
the world-system that are not only "external" (like ecological disasters)
but also "internal"? This is actually the thin cut where I try to maintain
my artistic activity...
As far as I seem to understand the historical process of capitalism, it has
evolved in different breakthroughs in the production and exchange modes that
allowed scale savings (economies d'echelles in french) and displacements of
the surplusvalue, among other things (if I trust the recent books I've read,
these breakthroughs can be more or less localized in space and time
according to the following "hubs": Bruges in 1200, Venice, Anvers, Genova,
Amsterdam, London (industrial revolution), Boston (taylorism, fordism),
New-York and L.A. (silicon) from 1980 to nowadays...). These breakthroughs
depend on many factors but the relation with science and technology is
crucial of course. From the beginning the fate of the production modes was
mechanisation, getting rid of the workers by replacing them with technology
and coping more or less with what was left to humans, ie non-mechanisable
tasks in a very broad sense...
The network is the last breakthrough that allowed to make new tasks
profitables and industrializable: like finance, administration, marketing
(Google), democracy and information (e-vote, pools, news circulation...)
etc... tasks that were once made by humans only. As the world-system reaches
its limitations (depletion of natural resources, expected end of low-cost
labour, the end of the ideology of liberalism, etc.), capitalism uses the
irony of history to try to relaunch its paradoxical machinery by pushing
back its internal limits: freedom of speech promoted by Google et al. is
revealed to be the prerequisite for the scientific colonization of intimacy;
global terrorism and reality TV feed a spectacle regulated by the panoptical
enslavement mechanism of the blogosphere and of the web 2.0. (Actually I
do'nt know if the web 2.0 belongs to the L.A. phase, maybe the L.A. phase
ends in 2001). Speech or democracy for instance are too expensive for a
state at the age of hypercapitalism so we expect here big changes, more
generally the very idea of state might become too expensive at some point...
... But surplusvalue is a concept for humans only, linked to the
indestructibily of desire. How interesting and ironic! since the web 2.0 is
an attempt of scientific monitoring of this very desire for maximizing the
Maybe there are new territories to colonize : intimacy...
Maybe there are new slaves : bloggers that extract freely their intimacy for
the only profit of Google...
Maybe there are new martyrs willing to sacrifice themselves for the beauty
of the machinery : hackers...
Maybe there are new proletarians : NGOs...
Of course there are still proletarians of the former phase that make the
whole thing work, in China etc... Quantitatively, the former phase is much
more important and the suffering is much greater in the old phase that in
the new one
Artists do not escape this evolution.
There is a schizophrenia among artists and inside artists which probably
reflect somehow the old lutte des classes and the different pulsions at
play, from pop art to hacktivists ....
Art does not escape this evolution but at the same time, it has to escape it
somehow, as we all have to. As an artist I don't consider myself as a hacker
in the sense of McKenzie Wark manifesto for instance... Unfortunately I feel
more delocalized as far as my desire is concerned. Delocalized between the
"external" and the "internal" and between pop and hacktivism.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brian Holmes" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2007 5:05 PM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] what is to be done?
What is to be done with a process that helped create our
perception of the metaphysical, but whose operations, whose forms and
sometimes even content are now within the control of machines? When most
of what art produces today ignores humanity’s need for the transcendent,
when what most of what art produces today responds to machine’s
perceptions of the world?
This is a great text, with interesting references and a clear relation to
present reality. But I think the onus is on you to give some initial ideas
of what is to be done. There is, effectively, nothing in the Western
philosophical tradition that will help respond.
I am currently reading a philosopher from that retrograde country, France,
one who writes in the minor imperial language most of them still use over
there, his name is Bernard Stiegler. He thinks that the entire European
production of technological writing machines in the enlarged sense - the
kind of machines with which we cultivate ourselves, along the lines
sketched out by Foucault in his text "writing of the self" - should be
reoriented so as to basically save the inhabitants of Europe and perhaps
elsewhere from a threatening reduction of human singularity, and with it,
of any possible ethics. He thinks that capitalism, in the advanced
economies, is now primarily cultural, focused around the different devices
whereby memory and creativity of all kinds is exteriorized into objects
and traces. He thinks such machines are essential, a basic part of the
human experience in time, but that care needs to be taken with their
production, so that persons can go on becoming individuals
("individuating") in a relation of creative tension with societies which
are also constantly individuating. If this care for the social and psychic
self cannot be translated into a change in the kinds of machines which are
produced, he believes that a generalized disenchantment with democracy
will grow more widespread, leading to a collapse of desire into
gregarious, instinctual outbursts of destructive violence. His latest
book, Reenchanter le monde: La valeur esprit contre le populisme
industriel, begins precisely with a chapter entitled "What is to be done?"
However, if I have understood the post you sent, this whole approach and
anything like it is already obsolete. So I am quite curious what you think
is to be done.
all the best, Brian Holmes
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