January 06, 2005

The anti-Carrie Bradshaws


Is The Wrong Side of Capitalism a figment of my Fantasmatic economy?

Can it be possible that a blog can consistently provide such jouissance ... and all with such elegantly fanged political bite too?

Come now, what else could I possibly say about a weblog which argues that Girls Aloud - 'the anti-Carrie Bradshaws' - are the harbingers of a new punk revolution?

Read the whole site, but especially all of this post on The Girls, in which Tim perfectly identifies the erotopolitics of GA.

'It’s occurred to me recently that what I find most attractive about Girls Aloud is their apparent apathy. “Big brother’s watching me, and I don’t really mind,” that is, they mind a bit, but not enough to actually do anything about it. Their expressions of generalised boredom (at which Kimberly is the best, with Nadine a close second) are more alluring than come-hither looks or, to put it another way, sulky pouts are better than sultry ones (which is why Cheryl always looks better in the videos than in photo shoots).'

Yes, isn't that why 'The Show' was a perfect song for them: i.e. 'Shoulda known, shoulda cared' - but actually didn't? And why 'I'll Stand By You' strikes such a false note: please, let us hope that the machine behind GA realises that we do not need more submissive, simpering females in Pop, and that what the Girls excel at is a kind of imperiously languorous Ladytronic indifference? 'Jump' worked because it was an expression of icy hauteur and ostentatious caprice, the Lady laying down a hypothetical imperative without in any way suggesting that compiance would guarantee reward. 'If you want my kisses in the night, then.....' you should attend to my every whim. Even then, though, there is no categorical guarantee that I will choose you, you worm.

In their best, most Girls Aloud moments - i.e. those when they have been coralled into the unconditional lurv model that is the genre default for charity records (remember that 'I'll Stand By You' was recorded for Children in Need) - GA do return, Tim is right, to boredom, the quintessential punk emotion.

'The politics of boredom' are genuinely revolutionary because they make libido, not need, the central problem. The decisive move of all the major theoretical moves in the post 68 libidinal theory of the seventies - D/G, Lyotard, Foucault, Irigaray, Baudrillard - was to reject need. (How they differ is in their view of what should replace desire: for D/G, it's desire, for Foucault pleasure, for Irigaray female auto-erotic pleasure, for Baudrillard seduction/ symbolic exchange).

Although now the most maligned and derided on this august list, it is Baudrillard, in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, who makes the case against need most cogently and clearly. (The other key works - Anti-Oedipus, Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality 1, Speculum, This Sex Which is Not One, Libidinal Economy - presuppose the attack on need, but Baudrillard actually makes the arguments).

'Need' is an ideological construct through and through, and as long as politics is articulated through need, it will serve the logic of Kapital, i.e. it won't be political at all. If there are needs, they are precisely those of the system: it needs you to be alive (to reproduce itself), but you do not need to be alive. Your life is, from the start, a traumatic excess not an organic sufficiency. This latter thought is such a scandal because it cannot but avoid opening up the only really important political questions, those concerning how we can use life better (as opposed to how we subordinate ourselves to the existing order so as to maximise available 'gain').

If, to use the formula Lyotard subverts in Libidinal Economy, it is 'That or Die' then there is no necessary reason to choose 'That' (i.e. what the Reality principle determines - using an allegedly utilitarian calculus that is already deeply ideological - to be possible). Moreover, the opposition is essentially a false dichotomy, since all it offers you is a choice of deaths: organic death versus intensive death. Therefore, willed organic death, far from releasing you from this economy, could not do more to confirm it. Look what happens if you don't work... If you're not sensible...

All of this is compacted into the still-definitive GA anthem, 'No Good Advice', which Marcello and Burchill were right to unqualifiedly celebrate when it came out. (I was way too sick to appreciate it then.) Like 'Pretty Vacant' and 'School's Out', its obvious precursors in the Glamasochist continuum, 'No Good Advice' is a total refusal of the logic of security. In refusing to think about (what the system has laid down for them as) their 'future', in conspicuously squandering what the system's administrator-analysts like to call 'life chances', in dong, that is, exactly what Simon called for in his epochal 'Against Health and Efficiency', GA reclaim the 'white space' of pure potentiality that is the only basis for libidinal political insurgency.

The great Security swindle and the great vitalist con - human life is inherently valuable - interlock perfectly in providing the bio-ideological material for the 'air-conditioned totalitarianism' (Lyotard) in which we are incarcerated. 'Caring Kapital' requires us, first and foremost, to take care of ourselves, that is to say, to preserve our potential for exploitability (how could Kapital continue to expand unless it had us zombie consumer-workers to feed upon?) To sqaunder this, and to celebrate such squandering, ('I'm already wasted') can of course be nothing more than a gesture of self-destructive hedonism, but it can also open up EVERYTHING.

One of the most annoying cliches that Kapital-apologists produce about communism is that 'it doesn't work'. Let's not rush to the obvious refutation of this - regimes calling themselves communist weren't in fact communist, they were corrupt bureaucracies - even if that is true. What's interesting about that line is what is implicit in it, i.e. that Kapitalism is working. But this 'working' seems only to amount to brute survivalism. No matter that mental illness is endemic amongst Kapital's consumer-slaves, that Kapital is depleting the planet's natural resources at an unsustainable rate... Kapitalism is 'working'. Because it is still here.

But, as Scanshifts said to me a couple of days ago, that is because Kapital is the only the most stable form of the disaster.

What lies beyond the kingdom of ends, Kapital's purposelessness with final purpose, the SecuroBiodrome? All kinds of perils, catastrophes, traps, litter this Waste Land for sure... but also, potential, the blank space in which reality can be reconstructed bottom up. If we can still use the language of 'the revolution' - and I am sceptical about its continuing functionality - then any revolution can only take place from this ground(lessness), the abgrund on which only those who are 'already wasted' can live....

'The revolution is not simply an option we can choose; rather, the essence of the revolution is that it is created by its participants. To choose from a selection of options is the opposite of self-determined action, and so choice is the enemy of the revolution, that is to say, the enemy of freedom. The first thing the revolution will abolish is choice, not by preventing people from making choices but by enabling them to create their own lives, rendering choice irrelevant. In their brave moments of boredom, Girls Aloud create a genuine crack in bourgeois ideology. They really are dangerous and lazy: they hold out the promise of a free world – what could be more attractive than that?'

Posted by mark at January 6, 2005 02:03 PM | TrackBack