October 23, 2008

"Frankensteinian surgeon of the cities"

Ben with more on acclerationism... He's right to nominate the Lyotard of Libidinal Economy as the principal champion of accelerationist capital. Libidinal Economy might itself be characterised as an acceleration of Deleuze and Guattari. It was Lyotard's diabolical, scandalous book, and his whole subsequent career could be construed as a retreat from its incendiary jouissance, an attempt at pious recantation (or re-Kantation, perhaps - for a discussion of which, see Iain Hamilton Grant's introduction to his own translation). Libidinal Economy described capital as a "Frankensteinian surgeon of the cities", the cybergothic lab from which a modernist proletariat would grow, a constructivist proletariat whose heroism consisted in its capacity to machine a new inorganic body for itself, capable of not only enduring but enjoying the inhuman conditions of the factory; an amnesiac proletariat that, absolutely devoid of nostalgia for the earthy cyclicity of peasant life, enjoyed its anonymous pubs, concrete arcades, and synthetic foods.

Yet, in the end, it is was Deleuze and Guattari who proved to have the better handle on capitalism, precisely because they insisted on reterritorialization as the necessary counterpart of capitalist deterritorialization. D/G anticipated the postmodern condition, not the informatic model proffered by the later, insouciant, "mature" Lyotard, but the impasse described by Jameson: capitalism as a future shock absorber as well as a scorched earth terminator of all traditions and archaisms, operating in a time of anachronistic conjunctions (genetic engineering labs next to lovingly reconstructed nineteenth century village greens). The Frankensteinian surgeon of the cities would eventually disguise its hideous suturings and improbable juxtapositions behind all manner of airbrushings and recyclings.

Which brings us back to the question of hauntology. There's no a priori claim that nothing could happen. Rather, there's an empirical claim that nothing is happening. I defy anyone to gainsay this, to provide examples of culture (popular or otherwise) hurtling forward, and I'll be the first to give up the ghost. The sense that that nothing could ever happen (and, by depressive extension, the mordant conviction that nothing ever happened) are more affective responses to this inertia than actual prognoses. In other words, one of my problem with Alex's post was that it too hastily conflated hauntology with postmodernism (whereas Alex's claim was, precisely, that hauntology is too close to postmodernism). Postmodernism is, of course, the dead end from which hauntology starts - but one of its role is to denaturalise what postmodernism has taken for granted, to conceive of postmodernism as a condition in the sense of a sickness.

Posted by mark at October 23, 2008 12:43 PM | TrackBack