One may have a Marx-on-Capital, Ollivander-on-Voldemort appreciation of the achievements and greatness of popular culture without this in any way having to constitute a 'guilty pleasure'. What appeals to us appeals to us for a reason, and often that reason lies precisely in the promise of how much better it might be outside of relations of commodity, in some different system of social mediation.
Just a few hurried notes.
Firstly, why the shock? Did anyone ever seriously doubt that neoliberalism was deeply criminogenic with respect to its supply chains? You can't keep food prices 'competitively' low--further legitimating, by the way, the lowest possible wage for working consumers--without the use of extreme exploitation somewhere in the production process (including of course 'technical' production, distribution, exchange and consumption). Everyone already knew this, or at the very least deeply suspected it. By now we've become adept at disavowing our own sense of complicity, while individual expressions of guilt really do achieve nothing.
So this is going to be one of those in-betweeny, not-much-to-say updates with dribs and drabs of filler material. These take the form of a number of observations.
We continue to enjoy the rule of the coalition government: a government that lays waste to social and public networks of support and co-operation, mercilessly cutting away infrastructure and institution, slash-and-burning the fabric of collective socialisation while complaining that Britain is 'broken'; holding fire-sales of public institutions and commons to ridiculously underprice their value for private investors to gobble up; bemoaning all the while the bureaucracy and waste of state, public and civil resources while installing at every level a new and highly punitive authoritarianism intended to ensure the ubiquity of competitive, marketised behaviour. There is nothing streamlined, 'lean', or regulation-lite about austerity neoliberalism, when it comes to implementing and enforcing market 'logic', and nor is there anything personally liberating or individually self-realising about considering all persons to be autonomous entrepreneurs. Already-existing entrepreneurs, which is to say, hereditary millionaires who had the ingenious idea of being born into the right family, exhibit behaviours which are of course as phenomenally under-regulated as those of the financial sector, whose exploits triggered a global economic collapse (later blamed on state expenditure, and of course the Labour party). But for everyone else, for 'the 99%' (why not), all aspects of life must be strictly regulated by the intervention of competitive market mechanisms, from education to decisions about how to die.
Q: can/should the colour blue be reclaimed for the left? pic.twitter.com/yiIynDgoBW
— bat020 (@bat020) February 13, 2014
In answering this question, I want to contextualise the political aesthetics of blue, so to speak. This won't even touch anything like a fully-considered genealogy of the aesthetic usage of blue, but constitutes what I would consider to be a paradigmatic 'sampling'.
What I find interesting is that all social movements, from 1968 onwards, tend to confidently assert that they are 'not a unified social movement'. This even goes for the latest neoreactionary groups like the 'Dark Enlightenment'. Indeed the fact that a deep unease over asserting any kind of unity, long used as a kind of shibboleth for the new social movements, can so easily be accommodated to the new political Right, is deeply troubling. After this point, whatever was distinctly politically Leftist about the systematic rejection of 'totalising' forms of social unity, especially when the rhetoric is uncritically and unthinkingly reproduced by groups on the Left, begins to evaporate. How many accounts of social movements and groups begin by including the disclaimer, 'of course, _____ is not, and never was, a unified social force'? In this ubiquitous and flippant usage, not even functioning as a token Deleuzean valorisation of 'difference' over 'dialectic', it risks meaning virtually nothing. It risks shading into continuity with late capitalism, which has itself functioned perfectly 'through the management and distribution of differences' (Noys 2010:x)
A few select quotations from the late Stuart Hall:
“By enabling us to think about different levels and different kinds of determination, For Marx gave us what Reading Capital did not: the ability to theorize about real historical events, or particular texts (The German Ideology, Marx & Engels, 1970), or particular ideological formations (humanism) as determined by more than one structure (i.e., to think the process of overdetermination). I think ‘contradiction’ and ‘overdetermination’ are very rich theoretical concepts—one of Althusser’s happier ‘loans’ from Freud and Marx; it is not the case, in my view, that their richness has been exhausted by the ways in which they were applied by Althusser himself.
Posted on facebook recently, this early 1990s 'Viz.' parody of the red-top / tabloid hatred of benefits recipients during the last Tory recession leads me to make several points. In fact I think that realistically I could write all day and possibly all week about it, but I will limit myself to just three:
Yet another 'thread' or topical conversation between members of a revolutionary group on social media (to which I was not actually a party at the time, although being and remain a member) chronicling various responses to two hyperlinks--firstly, the Rich Russian Socialite Who Likes to Sit on People-shaped Chairs, the Pictured One Being Black to Provoke Reaction and Publicity; and secondly, The Perverted Negress, A Black Woman Specialising in BDSM Subordination, or 'Bottoming'--led recently to another of those débâcles which increasingly seem to characterise the British Left. Taking 'full transparency' at its word, here is reproduced one of the outcomes, in the form of the email meted out to members:
So, a brief pause in What I Am Supposed To Be Doing allows me a little time now.
Christmas, New Year, taking stock, serial visitations by the retinue of the dead...
Psychoanalysis theorises the process by which the renunciation of pleasure spontaneously reverses into the pleasure of renunciation. I've always felt this particular perversion was a very British Thing, and if so it would explain why something like 'austerity' can be so readily accepted and unopposed in the UK.
You know that book you are reading that gets you feeling "I should have read this one first, before I tackled ... [insert difficult work of Hegel / Kant / Irigaray / Lacan / whoever]"? Well, if you had actually read it first, it wouldn't have worked in that way at all. Its precise role is to retroactively organise the material content you had already won in the fire of intellectual struggle but never registered at a formal level. That struggle for content can't simply be skipped even though it appears fruitless at the time.