Follow-up to Fucking Utopia

The warm afterglow….

Looking back over what I wrote, it occurred to me that my frustration with the use of the term ‘utopia’ in contemporary theory, politics, etc. is the same problem I have with the use of the term ‘political.’

This is Fredric Jameson on utopia in culture and politics:

At this point in the argument, then, the hypothesis is that the works of mass culture cannot be ideological without at one and the same time being implicitly or explicitly Utopian as well: they cannot manipulate unless they offer some genuine shred of content as a fantasy bribe to the public about to be so manipulated. Even the ‘false consciousness’ of so monstrous a phenomenon as Nazism was nourished by collective fantasies of a Utopian type, in ‘socialist’ as well as in nationalist guises. Our proposition about the drawing power in the works of mass culture has implied that such works cannot manage anxieties about the social order unless they have first revived them and given them some rudimentary expression; we will now suggest that anxiety and hope are two faces of the same collective consciousness, so that the works of mass culture, even if their function lies in the legitimation of the existing order — or some worse one — cannot do their job without deflecting in the latter’s service the deepest and most fundamental hopes and fantasies of the collectivity, to which they can therefore, no matter in how distorted a fashion, be found to have given voice.

We therefore need a method capable of doing justice to both the ideological and the Utopian or transcendent functions of mass culture simultaneously. Nothing less will do, as the suppression of either of these terms may testify: we have already commented on the sterility of the older kind of ideological analysis, which, ignoring the Utopian components of mass culture, ends up with the empty denunciation of the latter’s manipulatory function and degraded status. But it is equally obvious that the complementary extreme — a method that would celebrate Utopian impulses in the absence of any conception or mention of the ideological vocation of mass culture — simply reproduces the litanies of myth criticism at its most academic and aestheticizing and impoverishes the texts of their semantic content at the same time that it abstracts them from their concrete and historical situation.

…all contemporary works of art — whether those of high culture and modernism or mass culture and commercial culture — have as their underlying impulse — albeit in what is often distorted and repressed, unconscious form — our deepest fantasies about the nature of social life, both as we live it now, and as we feel in our bones it ought rather to be lived. To reawaken, in the midst of a privatized and psychologizing society, obsessed with commodities and bombarded by the ideological slogans of big business, some sense of the ineradicable drive towards collectivity that can be detected, no matter how faintly and feebly, in the most degraded works of mass culture just as surely as in the classics of modernism — is surely an indispensable precondition for any meaningful Marxist intervention in contemporary culture.

I find nothing to disagree with in this excerpt (from “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture”) except for the two programmatic statements (first sentence of graph two and last sentence of graph three). They transform utopia into the basis of a project for its revelation, and give critics a fairly specific — and indispensable — task, the last thing a critic should be happy with. It’s cultural criticism as therapy, or the balancing of extreme states (utopia vs. ideology) through negative dialectics.

And what bothers me most is the dialectical move. In “Politics of Utopia,” Jameson writes that “utopia emerges at the moment of the suspension of the political.” It appears as an impossible solution, analogous to the emergence of wish-fulfillment fantasy in dreams. “Its function lies not in helping us to imagine a better future but rather in demonstrating our utter incapacity to imagine such a future—our imprisonment in a non-utopian present without historicity or futurity—so as to reveal the ideological closure of the system in which we are somehow trapped and confined.” The point of critique is neither to side with nor adjust any particular form the utopian ideal takes, but rather to set them off against each other, their dialectical negation revealing the truth of their collective desire. The impossibility of every utopian ideal and its imbrication in ideology must be asserted at the same time as its persistence must be affirmed.

As Jameson tries to establish that all utopias express the same desire — the will to collectivity — and as he argues that this will-to-utopia is present everywhere, then why does it need to be analytically mapped by the critic? Why does it need to be continually clarified? Why couldn’t it just be taken for granted? What makes it so important given that its every manifestation is impossible? It should first be noted that to use ‘collectivity’ as a placeholder for the underlying wish that manifests in all ideological fantasy is itself ideological (Marxist, obviously). Perhaps the psychoanalytic perspective is the most useful here after all, that the appearance of the imaginary always performs the same function: the doomed but well-nigh mechanical attempt to reconcile the symbolic (i.e. language and the status quo) with the real (i.e. that which is beyond language and the status quo), or heal the psychic split.

But before we can ally with psychoanalysis we have to ask ourselves another question: is it even possible to ‘map’ the utopian urge in the same way one can map the structure of ideology? Isn’t the (dialectical) form this attempt takes itself ideological? What escapes its grasp? Another quotation from Jameson, from Archaeologies of the Future, will be instructive here:

We must therefore conclude that the search for a minimal Utopian demand, a universally acknowledged zero degree of Utopian realization — even so seemingly obvious one as ‘that no one shall go hungry any more’ — cannot escape the force field of ideology and class-situatedness. The fallback position, then, confronted with the multiplicity of Utopian concerns which we have discovered to be in violent opposition to each other, is evidently the pluralist one, in which we acknowledge the authenticity of the Utopian impulse invested in each option, no matter how distorted it may be, while at the same time seeking to identify its ‘moment of truth’ and to isolate and appropriate its specific Utopian energy.

Yet this apparent capitulation to common sense and liberal or humanist pluralism may demand a more complicated method than the usual non-dialectical sorting out and picking and choosing. What changes everything is the way in which truth and its ‘moment’ are conceived…The mistake is…to imagine that non-error, truth, even whatever minimal truth is alleged to persist in the so-called ‘moment of truth,’ is a positive phenomenon. We do not use this concept properly unless we grasp its critical negativity as a conceptual instrument designed, not to produce some full representation, but rather to discredit and demystify the claims to full representation of its opposite number. The ‘moment of truth’ is thus not a substantive one, not some conceptual nugget we can extract and store away, with a view towards using it as a building block of some future system. Rather its function lies not in itself, but in its capability radically to negate its alternative.

Jameson makes of ‘utopia’ one of those special words for Theory, like différance, a word that does not refer, but rather marks the function of dialectical negation. To ‘work’ it must be surrounded by disclaimers, reminders that the word does not ‘simply’ do x, y, or z, it is not grammatically fixed like the other words but stands for a whole process, that being the writer’s interpretation of Hegel (thankfully Jameson, unlike Derrida, trusts the reader to handle this on their own after the first lengthy exegesis). The fantasy seems to be that the word not really exist there on the page, that it become Absolute Spirit.

So the term ‘utopia’ is itself meant to be a utopia (no-place) of language, immune to reification; but regardless of how negatively it is defined, like all words it has some minimal positive content. And like every other utopia, that content is its ideological function. An example from more popular discourse would be the equally vague term ‘political.’ Consider the special status a film or a novel is granted when it can be called ‘political.’ Like the familiar stereotype of the self-righteous yuppie activist (the cause doesn’t matter), you don’t even have to like it, just admit that, yes, it is political isn’t it, and all other criticisms fade into irrelevance. Higher forces are at work. By the same art of transubstantiation, material written about the film (or whatever) can also become political, and must if it is to remain relevant. Even better if one can identify something as political that was not political before, or push a few ambiguous or allegorical references into a full-on manifesto. Throw in a bit of half-assed Lacan, defer to the specter of Marx, and all of a sudden Texas Chain-Saw Massacre is political theory of the highest importance.

Ultimately utopia as a critical trope has as its objective the ratifying of cultural criticism, Marxist in Jameson’s formulation but not necessarily so, as authentically political. The theorization of utopia is even the “precondition” for “any Marxist intervention in contemporary culture.” But because I agree with Jameson’s argument that something we could call the utopian will is present in every ideological formation, I don’t think it warrants special analytical status, or that it should be held (in whatever six-times-negated form) apart from ideology critique. Just as the slogan ‘everything is political’ only reveals the inadequacy of the term for its intended use, so too does ‘everything is utopian.’ ‘Everything is ideological’ as well, so maybe what we mean by ‘ideology’ is just ‘positive content.’

By ‘Fuck Utopia’ then I mean to carry Jameson’s project of negation another step further, by negating utopia, and negating its dialectical function. Obviously I didn’t succeed. That will take some time. I may give up. But even if I had followed through completely, there would be something left over, a remainder, that thing the French so prettily call désire. As parodycenter noted in the comments, from my leftovers one can indeed augur another utopia — I would call it the death of abstraction. But to use this as the summation of my argument would be the first step of its critique, and by no means its repetition or valorization. One cannot steal another’s desire (and I am also an other). If, as Jameson argues, the fear of utopia is the fear of death and the fear of the other’s desire, the idea that utopia represents the end of everything that is excluded from it, then the fear of fucking utopia is the fear of life, and the fear of that elusive, extra-moral desire which one only after the fact remembers as one’s own.

For me the question of utopia that Jameson and others reach for is best answered in music, or failing that by the poets, who have no choice but to treat language as a craft. I leave you with a few pieces of an essay by the inimitable Leonard Cohen, expressing an ideal that I can’t even approach:

What is the expression that the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans in the extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet.

Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because you know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them. Do not force a dry entry. That is bad sex. If you show the lines of your genitals, then deliver what you promise.

The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not art.

Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever.

52 Responses to “Follow-up to Fucking Utopia”

  1. From your FU post: “i’m going to post about this again, maybe tomorrow, in response to some of these comments as well as my own differences with myself.”

    I thought I knew what you were talking about in that post, but in this one I don’t. Nor do I follow the trajectory leading from the prior post, through the comments, to this one. So I’ll not clutter up teh comment box further.

  2. traxus4420 Says:

    er — sorry?……what did you think the last one was about? i need more clutter to properly respond.

  3. though i haven’t been keeping up with your blog, i like this entry, partly because i think it’s cool that you’re arguign that utopia has no special standing, but mostly because of the quoted Cohen stuff at the end–as someone feeling tired and doubtful, remembering that we look good at our worst takes a way a bit of the weight

  4. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks jaro — utopia is a biz buzzword in my little corner of intellectual-land — maybe this is why it was confusing for you ktis, i concentrate more on that particular jargon-version of it in this post, though i don’t think it’s fundamentally different than how utopia appears in other less intellectualized contexts (religious, political, etc.).

    i’m really happy i found that bit from cohen too.

  5. Okay, maybe I wasn’t concentrating hard enough — I’ll try again.

    Jameson links ideology with implicit utopianism, saying that an ideologue can’t manipulate the audience without offering a “fantasy bribe.” I presume he means that, if we individually and severally come to embrace this ideology, we will usher in that particular utopia toward which the ideology points — Imagine all the people sharing all the world, yoo-oooo may say… Then Jameson says that “anxiety and hope are two faces of the same collective consciousness.” So in order for the ideologically-induced utopia to become compelling, it’s necessary for the ideologue to induce a sense of anxiety about the status quo. That anxiety points toward an imminent and immanent future dystopia — something’s gotta change or we’ll really be in the shit. Jameson contends that mass culture already links together ideology and utopian fantasy, and this coupling must be acknowledged — and, I presume, manipulated — if “we” are to make any headway. The works of art paragraph evaded me: perhaps it’s the idea that cultural artifacts reveal the implicit utopian fantasies of mass culture if you look for them. So ideological Marxist artists ought to be able to embed the Marxian utopian vision in such a way that it stimulates a resonance with this alternative fantasy in the audience’s unconscious.

    “Graph” = paragraph: I was looking for a link to the illustrations.

    You interpret Jameson as saying that ideology and utopia oppose one another; I thought he meant that they invariably hang together. The task of the theorist isn’t to destroy the link but rather to expose it, to reverse engineer it: what implicit utopia do we see here, and what ideology would lead to its fantasized realization? Then, on the constructive side, what fantastic and attractive utopia can we reveal that might manipulate the unconscious sympathetic resonance with the ideology we’d like to promote?

    Says Jameson, ““utopia emerges at the moment of the suspension of the political.” Ideology can move in two directions: realistically, toward political action; and idealistically, toward utopian fantasy. It’s about here that I lose the plot. Jameson says that the function of an imagined utopia is to demonstrate “our utter incapacity to imagine such a future.” Is he saying that we can’t envision the everyday reality in which we exert ourselves ever turning into this imagined future reality toward which we’re presumably striving? And this alienates ideology from its forward-leaning trajectory by locking it in its present futility?

    You say that Jameson wants to set off one utopia against another in order to reveal the object of all utopian desire, which he says is collectivity. You wonder why bother then to decode utopian strivings with such rigor. And then you quote Jameson again, and I again find myself lost at sea for a time, until you make a summary remark I can grasp: “But because I agree with Jameson’s argument that something we could call the utopian will is present in every ideological formation, I don’t think it warrants special analytical status, or that it should be held (in whatever six-times-negated form) apart from ideology critique.” And that makes sense based on the way I understood Jameson at the beginning, that ideology contains within itself a utopian future toward which it is always pointing. Part of an ideology critique is a critique of its implicit utopia; critiquing a utopia points backward to the ideology that generates it.

    “By ‘Fuck Utopia’ then I mean to carry Jameson’s project of negation another step further, by negating utopia.” Yes, I think I understood that point. But you seemed mired in stasis powered only by necessity and everyday reality. That would make sense in Jameson’s interpretation: if ideology and utopian hopes are inextricably linked, then destroying utopia means also destroying ideology, like an explosion backing up to the gas tank that fuels it.

    So then you suggest that, if utopian thinking goes away (and by my implication also ideological thinking), then maybe something like desire will have a chance to express itself. And is this Jameson’s imputed desire for collectivity deterritorialized from its symbolic structuration, a reconfiguring of the symbolic ideological order in such a way as to free it from ideals of some Big Collective Other that doesn’t really exist? And maybe this freed desire will express itself in music, in science, in silence, in fatigue, in something like rebirth…

    Any of this sound like what you’re talking about, albeit expressed in a more plodding fashion? Any elaboration possible of that middle part I couldn’t get, when Jameson starts talking about the negative moment of truth and so on?

  6. “ideology contains within itself a utopian future toward which it is always pointing. Part of an ideology critique is a critique of its implicit utopia; critiquing a utopia points backward to the ideology that generates it.”

    yeah, i think this is the short version of the analytical model we’re all working from.

    “if ideology and utopian hopes are inextricably linked, then destroying utopia means also destroying ideology, like an explosion backing up to the gas tank that fuels it.”

    but this isn’t the case i think. no one’s talking about ‘destroying’ utopia — jameson is arguing against the old-school orthodox marxists who wanted to interpret everything as bad ideology and essentially ignore art as human labor, as an expression (however warped) of collective desire. he’s arguing that the utopian desire as expressed in culture is always ideological (and therefore compromised), but that it is always in some sense the same universal desire for a social world healed of its contradictions, and that this desire is a necessary precondition for collectivist, marxist, or anti-capitalist political change. the critic’s job is to bring this latent desire into conscious awareness while at the same time recognizing its manifestations as ideological (so in other words affirm the truth of the desire while/through negating all its positive content). so although he does think the utopian wish is always present in ideology he doesn’t think you can ever be free of either; trying to forget/deny either is bad.

    i gotta run, i’ll get back to this later on.

  7. traxus4420 Says:

    “is this Jameson’s imputed desire for collectivity deterritorialized from its symbolic structuration, a reconfiguring of the symbolic ideological order in such a way as to free it from ideals of some Big Collective Other that doesn’t really exist? And maybe this freed desire will express itself in music, in science, in silence, in fatigue, in something like rebirth…”

    while i agree with the idea that utopia-as-wish-fulfillment manifests, explicitly or latently, in pretty much anything people create, and that the desire is directed toward healing some perceived hole in the social fabric (so ‘collectivity’ is one way of putting it), i don’t think that understanding them differently than one might understand other possible observations about culture is helpful really.

    jameson wants to have this strictly negational version of utopia, where any given utopian instance has its value “not in itself, but in its capability radically to negate its alternative.” i don’t object to this definition, just the importance he seems to want to give to its function. first off, i don’t think a term or a theory for ‘utopia’ can be purely negative. through his elaboration of this concept, he’s making a positive claim for how grand-scale politics should be thought — that some sort of recognition, or consciousness-raising, of this ineradicable drive to collectivity needs to happen before radical social change can take place.

    whereas i think that what people most need to be conscious of is their position within the world — the facts of their situation (put too simply) and their consequences. i don’t think people need to be made consciously aware of what is apparently (according to the analyst/critic) the true source of their desire. i think far too much weight is put on desire in contemporary political discourse, as if it were a cause in itself. what do ‘the people’ REALLY want, etc. it’s not materialist, for one thing. utopia then becomes this series of incompatible, impossible ideals (even if we say with jameson that individually they are only good for negating each other he still reduces them to a kernel of collective desire), and every political act is inevitably a disappointment, a half-measure, a compromise, even though utopia/desire provides no consistent standard by which to evaluate these judgments. and then disappointment becomes the definition of politics.

    in other words i don’t think that this ‘kernel’ of utopia/desire (what’s left over after negation of all positive prescriptions, etc.) leads to action, it’s immanent with action. the sort of utopia/desire jameson is talking about as a precondition seems to me more like the result of interpretation, or a recognition of failure. planning works with different material.

  8. traxus4420 Says:

    you know, if it helps at all i’m a ‘spinozan’ about most of these things, philosophically (not politically) speaking.

    if you haven’t read ‘ethics’ you should, it’s a grand old time.

  9. nice post….

    “jameson is arguing against the old-school orthodox marxists who wanted to interpret everything as bad ideology and essentially ignore art as human labor, as an expression (however warped) of collective desire. ”

    but…who were they? not lukacs, evidently, not gramsci, not adorno, not james, not chris caudwell, not brecht nor benjamin, nor césaire, nor neruda, nor sartre. nor raymond williams. not marx surely. not timpanaro, moravia, sciascia, pasolini. Is he arguing against Stalin? Does anybody consider Stalin an authority on literature today?

    One thing you can say about orthodox marxist intellectuals – as a group they were rather sensitive to literature and art. Moreso than the intellectuals of any other approach to political economy. As a group. Wouldn’t it be lovely if once and for all we could get rid of this stereotype of the philistine, robotic, childishly utilitarian commie? Ninotchka, model for star trek goils from dessicated utopias, who has to be taught what kissing is? But I guess it serves as springboard. Though one could use something less fanciful instead.

    This orthodox marxist who is a cartoon character: ironically today it’s image is usually Jameson himself (which he does not deserve, but must be aware of, having been the target of Markel’s The Marxian Imagination wherein he is chided for insisting the text is politically unconscious). Maybe it derives from the ladies of the jury trying humbert humbert, or the moralists addressed by Gautier’s intro to mademoiselle de maupin, or flaubert’s prosecutors. Art is always defending itself, in a sun-kingly way, through it’s attornies and ambassadors, against affronts to its autonomy and divine right. More and more these defences of l’art pour l’art have the sound and vocab of anti-piracy campaigns. I think this vulgar orthodox marxist’s simplemindedness is a projection, launched by the adherents of various romanticisms, of l’art pour l’art, against an imagined critic who is also a political and economic threat, and following a pattern established for aestheticising defences of the status quo against criticism based in the obvious in general, outside art-production specifically.

    But this Eutopian impulse. Sure, it’s always been understood, for literature and art. The sort of thing that “goes without saying”. What Jameson is advancing however is that this holds for corporate culture product, that is, for the mass produced commodities of for-profit institutions rather than “artists”, as well. This is a more interesting statement, because we haven’t already just accepted that it’s true and obvious, although at the extreme end – advertisements – of course we have accepted that, it’s obvious that a pitch and branding involves the manipulation of a utopian longing – see the long Nike ad climax in What Women Want – and one can easily see in advertisements the lineaments of the dominant forms and terms which corporate mass culture produces out of the raw material of the utopian fantasies of the commons. “Drivers wanted”.

    But then he sort of makes this disclaimer, he’s not going to get all Northrup Frye…well. This is not so easily shaken off this kind of claim for mass culture commodities. Because either it is imported with these forms or there is no accounting for how it gets in the mass culture commodities. The days of cheap b movies, John Howard Lawson, Du Riffiffi chez les hommes and such are past….

    But…as you say there’s utopia and utopia. I haven’t read the book about sci-fi, just some of it from NLR, but in elite literature one very obvious thing is that eutopia is immanent mainly, part of the existing world, a feature of humanity, for some hundreds of years, and at some point between 1848 and 1945 utopia is basically completely expelled from this world and the present, (and ends up in “Nike” etc).

    I’m thinking of two literary masterpieces today which are a nice pair to run through a critical machine: Capital and The Posthumous Memoirs of Bràs Cubas. Both have this “posthumous” structure – the life of capitalism, like the life of bras cubas, told as a memoir from beyond the grave….”capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, it’s own negation….The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labour, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process, incomparably more protracted, violent and difficult, than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically rsting of socialised production, into socialised property.”… “the main defect of this book is you, reader.”…”the conlusion, therefore, is that there are two capital forces: love, which multiplies the species, and the nose, which subordinates it to the individual. Procreation, equilibrium.”

    It’s later that eutopia becomes utopian. That is, it’s later that this thing Jameson notices has this function he gives it (“not in helping us to imagine a better future but rather in demonstrating our utter incapacity to imagine such a future”). One can’t call renaissance pastorals “utopian” (that these works are eutopian but not not utopian, that More’s work stands in conflict with them, is plain) though that thing that Jameson is labelling utopian now is very strong in them. (therabbiteater.blogspot.com had some great posts a few months ago on pastoral, empson, falstaff…) So two elements of what he is designating the utopian grow more starkly distinct as one traces them back (so that the important ideological feature of their wedding – ‘easier to imagine end of world than end of capitalism’ – emerges visibly) – land of cockaigne or happiness, on the one hand, and the prohibiting and alienating frame the term “utopian” places this in, as otherwordly dream and place-specific, a state, geographical, isolated/island, individually designed, a foil for what exists. I think the dominant thing up to modernity is utopia in the first sense is not matched to the second sense; that impulse does not express itself as a foil (More’s work is situated against the dominant expressions of the “eutopian” impulse, which are not typically fantasies of colonies and states, or allegories of the individual). And still in Capital and Bràs Cubas, in the 1880s, eutopia is not utopian, it is sought in the process of production of what exists. In Le Nozze di Figaro, it’s on the Almaviva estate – eutopia is other people (for all that). At some point, eutopia becomes utopia, an alternative and a dream, a static structure without personalities or production, which requires, first and foremost, the replacement of the human species by something at once better and entirely abstract. That is, there is a focus shift from dreams of human happiness to dreams of design perfection requiring the replacement of people by wraiths.

    Jameson’s assertion that capitalist mass culture commodities have this same feature as art and literature invites an investigation, but from what bits I have seen he seems to accept some uninvestigated assumptions and myths, ground in “psychoanalytic” culture interpretation, regarding how these texts come to be, ignoring how they function economically. Mark Bould wrote some fine things (“The Dreadful Credibility of Absurd Things: A Tendency in Fantasy Theory “) about this bad habit which is so entrenched in academic interpretation of mass culture product.

  10. for along time the “utopian” – the fantasy state as foil – is a tradition of strongly anti-eutopian fantasy of control and exploitation. Adam Smith’s pin factory qualifies as one.

  11. …what are the consequences of placing the Undershaft plant, the terrorist fasion models of Glamorama, Sin City’s hot ho’s, Song of the South, and the land of cockaigne under the banner of “collectivity”, insisting on a kind of common substance lubricating art emission worked up differently through ideology? The fantasy of stable happy productive collectivities which would be easy to exploit is not exactly rare. The shared longing is not ‘not there’ at all I guess, but where one places the emphasis really matters.

  12. Traxus, you say that “no one’s talking about ‘destroying’ utopia,” but you talk about “negating utopia.” How do these two ideas differ? “We’re fucked” seems like an attempt to abandon utopian imaginings altogether, but maybe not.

    “it is always in some sense the same universal desire for a social world healed of its contradictions, and that this desire is a necessary precondition for collectivist, marxist, or anti-capitalist political change.”

    What I thought you were proposing was to negate utopia in order to allow this desire to express itself in some way that doesn’t get short-circuited by the perceived impossibility of transforming the actual fucked-up world into any one of the utopian variants on offer. But maybe ideology isn’t destroyed; maybe it survives without utopia. The challenge (I’m inferring) is to propose an ideology that responds to collectivist desire but that doesn’t either purposefully or spontaneously generate an unattainable future utopic fantasy that gets in the way of concrete action in this world. And then the next challenge is to allow this sort of de-utopianized ideology to work in minds that spontaneously dream forward. Is a present-oriented ideology enough to capture imaginations and to cause the desire for collectivity to be activated? Or have I drifted off into my own imaginings here?

    “jameson wants to have this strictly negational version of utopia, where any given utopian instance has its value “not in itself, but in its capability radically to negate its alternative.””

    This part I don’t get. If all utopian fantasies essentially carry within them the same longing for collectivity, then don’t all utopias eventually have to occupy the same imaginary positive space? The paths leading there may differ, but (per Jameson, I thought) the utopia itself always must satisfy the longing for all the people to live together in harmony. So maybe I understand your disagreement with Jameson’s negative utopia idea. The desire for collectivity is the same, and it’s a positive aim.

    But now you propose to go upstream, before the imaginary utopia to the desire that shapes it. You want actually to discount or to negate that desire, replacing “what I want” with “what I have and where I am now.” So you preserve ideology but remove the future-oriented desires that generate utopian imaginings that actually immobilize instead of motivating action. To achieve this implies… what? Action that is instrumental not in moving toward an imagined future state, but in moving through the present state S into an incrementally different or better S+1? And it’s this sort of present-oriented desire that’s “immanent with action”?

  13. So does this striving for transition from S to S+! require some drive toward a better state that actually seems achievable, a “eutopia” as Chabert expresses it? Jameson does acknowledge a desire for a better future in the works of mass culture, but he seems to assume that this eutopia inevitably turns into a paralyzing utopia. I think Chabert is right about commercial eutopias — they motivate a desire that leads to action, namely to buy something. Capitalist mass culture is fueled by a eutopic desire that leads to concrete action but that can never be satisfied. Is it possible to see some alternative motivation that’s eutopically incremental like this but that isn’t intrinsically neurotic, motivated by an ever-present lack as much as by an ever-receding better life?

  14. I think it would be pertinent to examine Logan’s Run and The Island (remake) in lieu of the Cobra’s proposal to test modern capitalist product against literature.

  15. I don’t know either Logan’s Run or The Island, but in reading Wikidescriptions it seems that both stories are embedded in a societal dystopia, from which the hope of a budding utopia arises, available only to the few who are be able to escape. It’s a familiar enough idea, and one with lasting power over the imagination. In The Island, though, even the utopia operates in service of the larger dystopia in which it’s embedded — a less common paranoiac variant story line. It makes one wonder whether a fantasized utopia depends on its contrast with a fantasized dystopia to generate at least some of its power. The dystopias, like the utopias, are almost always collectives — hence the paralyzing ambivalence.

  16. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks chabert,

    “but…who were they?”

    yes, you caught me being too quick — believe i was assuming forgotten MLA advocates/followers/bad readers of marx/debord/maybe dworkin. a caricature, it’s true, but then weren’t there a few of them in the ’70s, especially in the U.S./Britain? some of the time, of course, and from the perspective of those who did not share their taste. the jameson comment is rhetorical strategy, “springboard” as you say, to moderate polemicists against mass culture as well as the canon-bashers. he doesn’t name anyone in the essay and he’s obviously quite fond of all the people you mentioned. i agree though, it’s time to be more conscious of the production of this stereotype.

    thanks for the eutopia/utopia research project — the basic argument is very helpful and i may actually have some time to follow up on this: “at some point between 1848 and 1945 utopia is basically completely expelled from this world and the present, (and ends up in “Nike” etc).” do you know anything about how more’s version was received? did it not take on its significance until this 1848-1945 period that you’ve marked as the turning point?

    “he seems to accept some uninvestigated assumptions and myths, ground in “psychoanalytic” culture interpretation, regarding how these texts come to be, ignoring how they function economically.”

    i think philosophically he uses sartre/lacan/hegel to justify these assumptions, so existentialism/psychoanalysis/dialectical philosophy, kind of the holy trinity, or fallback at least, for commenting on human nature (and by extension the ‘ultimate’ origins and aims of culture) in this region of the humanities. jameson does pretty clearly pay a lot of attention to how economic factors condition culture production, but no, not on how they function exactly. are there in fact any good models for this? more specific than beller? i’ll check out the bould.

  17. parodycenter Says:

    well i think what is presented in the island is what traxus is talking about but additionally i am interested in why the narrative has been changed to become totally nihilistic

  18. traxus4420 Says:

    kitsmatics -

    “no one’s talking about ‘destroying’ utopia,” but you talk about “negating utopia.” How do these two ideas differ?”

    utopia doesn’t exist — you can’t destroy something that doesn’t exist. utopia is a concept, and a concept can be ‘negated’ or ‘rejected’ if you prefer.

    “What I thought you were proposing was to negate utopia in order to allow this desire to express itself in some way that doesn’t get short-circuited by the perceived impossibility of transforming the actual fucked-up world into any one of the utopian variants on offer.”

    this is basically true — but i think where we’re running into confusion here is that your language suggests you think we’re brainstorming things to believe, what kind of ‘good ideology’ should be foisted upon people in whatever form (art, propaganda, etc.). these two posts are more about rejecting this frame of mind, and suggesting that maybe mutual necessity is a better basis for making political choices than this figment ‘desire.’ and determining what that necessity is doesn’t involve mapping ideology or becoming conscious of its (so-called) utopian kernel. it doesn’t have self-reflection and speculations inspired by that self-reflection as its basis. not to say these things are worthless, just they shouldn’t be a BASIS for political thought, and trying to force them into some reified version of ‘politics’ just makes them seem worthless and alienating.

  19. traxus4420 Says:

    “worthless and alienating.”

    and as chabert argues here (and i riffed in the last utopia post), useful as manipulative tools: make the abstract spirit-entity ‘desire’ central, alienate and manipulate that desire, manipulate the person.

  20. traxus4420 Says:

    dejan -

    “I think it would be pertinent to examine Logan’s Run and The Island (remake) in lieu of the Cobra’s proposal to test modern capitalist product against literature.”

    when did she propose this? maybe i understand what you mean, but maybe i don’t. a parodypost on the two movies might give me a better idea.

    i saw logan’s run (which is also being remade), haven’t seen the island. memory of both is shoddy.

    ktismatics -

    “This part I don’t get. If all utopian fantasies essentially carry within them the same longing for collectivity, then don’t all utopias eventually have to occupy the same imaginary positive space?”

    jameson’s idea is that the ‘collectivity’ spirit is not something that ‘exists’ propositionally. it’s a remainder left over after all the negations. so it’s not a thing ‘within’ the fantasy, it’s more like the structural function or the emotional aftereffect of the fantasy. jameson isn’t positing a correct, practical, or workable utopia, he’s saying they are all ideological fantasies, useful for revealing the flaws in their alternatives. ‘utopia’ is his name for this process of mutual negation, which he thinks reveals a shared desire (conscious or unconscious) for collectivity, though none of the individual fantasies are actual solutions.

  21. parodycenter Says:

    when did she propose this?

    she proposed this somewhere in the comments when talking about utopian literature, which of course is far far superior to any capitalist putchist product consumed by brainwashed M tee vee rape victim boys like me, but still I thought I’d try…

    I found this in THE ISLAND trivia # Scarlett Johansson wanted to go nude (sic!) during the sex scene between her character and Ewan McGregor’s. Director Michael Bay decided against it, thus Scarlett is shown wearing a bra during the scene.[8]

    Actresses usually shy away from going nude, but our Scarlett WANTED TO…

    The thing with THE ISLAND is that it creates a double bind by its own material substrate, because it’s like a long advertisement for various product placements, while as a narrative it builds an anti-utopia where people are living solipsistically under an (advertising) dome – this is exactly what Jameson said, and you can critisize it from your perspective as outlined here.

  22. “the ‘collectivity’ spirit is not something that ‘exists’ propositionally. it’s a remainder left over after all the negations. so it’s not a thing ‘within’ the fantasy, it’s more like the structural function or the emotional aftereffect of the fantasy.”

    Yeah I got that part: that the specific content of the utopian fantasy is one among many interchangeable expressions of the communal desire that is the cause of, or perhaps the object of, the fantasy. I guess I just didn’t think of this integral relationship between a generic communal longing and the specific features of a given utopia as one of “negation.” But okay.

    “your language suggests you think we’re brainstorming things to believe, what kind of ‘good ideology’ should be foisted upon people”

    You know Traxus, I’m not sure we’ve established a beautiful enough relationship to warrant your ascribing this sort of scheming to me. Maybe you think you know me better than I know myself. Anyhow, here’s what I consciously thought I was doing: You wondered why people spent so much time exploring links between desire, ideology and utopian fantasies. I was speculating that this “foisting” action might be one motivation for bothering to interpret the links among these concepts, and that certainly popular culture and advertisement have systematically exploited these links. I was following your move outside of the utopian imaginary as it links to desire — a link that (as I understood your Jameson quote) is almost automatic for the consumer of cultural product. I didn’t understand that you wanted to negate desire as well, that you regard it as a figment, that in political terms only necessity is a reality. Thanks for that clarification.

    As I said before, at first I wasn’t sure what you were talking about in this post, nor could I see how comments to your prior utopia post were reflected in this one. So I’ve been struggling to grasp what you’ve said more clearly and to contribute to a mutually worthwhile multi-party discussion of an important topic that interests me a great deal. Clearly I’ve failed on both counts, and you seem to be getting frustrated with the effort to achieve attunement to the same frequency. So I’ll quit bugging you for now. Maybe something else will come up in discussion that doesn’t require these contortions on both our parts.

  23. parodycenter Says:

    I didn’t understand that you wanted to negate desire as well, that you regard it as a figment, that in political terms only necessity is a reality. Thanks for that clarification.

    Dad pretty soon he’s going to be thinking that there’s nothing else but hard matter in the world, and he’ll be going RADICAL as well – that’s what happens when you get bitten by Le Cobra Radicalis, Parisian subspecies. The Cobra praises his youthful nihillation; it makes him feel like a man.

  24. parodycenter Says:

    Traxus, just don’t let her get you to wear the klompen. That’s the worst part. Once you put them on, you can’t take them off. And don’t say things like ”I am ordinary”.

  25. traxus4420 Says:

    ktismatics, sorry about that. i wasn’t really frustrated, it was meant to be a joke. bad joke? i’ll promise to hold off on them until after our relationship has attained beautifulness.

    this was the phrase that triggered it:

    “The challenge (I’m inferring) is to propose an ideology that responds to collectivist desire but that doesn’t either purposefully or spontaneously generate an unattainable future utopic fantasy that gets in the way of concrete action in this world.”

    so no proposals of ideology! i don’t think ideology is something that can be ‘proposed’ anyway.

    “you wanted to negate desire as well, that you regard it as a figment, that in political terms only necessity is a reality. Thanks for that clarification.”

    i don’t want to negate desire in the sense i think you mean. i am suspicious of its use as a philosophical/political concept, and also of making it serve as an ontological (i.e. deleuze) or political (i.e. just about every articulation i’ve ever seen) foundation. i got the sense that the frame you were approaching these matters in is ‘what do we do’ or ‘how do we do it better’ whereas i’m struggling to critique the terms in which that question is asked. it’s hard, and that’s why i’m so confusing. your comments help me clarify.

    it seems that after comments there are three different concepts at work: 1. utopia (an imaginary paradise) 2. ‘utopia’ (jameson’s version – utopia as a negative, critical function) 3. eutopia (something like the immanent presence/expression of desire and human creativity that manifests in activity and does not culminate in a future or imaginary state).

    “that’s what happens when you get bitten by Le Cobra Radicalis, Parisian subspecies. The Cobra praises his youthful nihillation; it makes him feel like a man.”

    BAH! all of you steenking idealists!!!

    i think if i were really full of ‘youthful nihilation’ i would feel like a man all by myself. a big black hole of a melancholy man.

  26. traxus4420 Says:

    ktismatics, what do you think about all this?

    what is utopia to you?

    parodycenter, i am kind of afraid to ask you that question. i imagine there would be a lot of penises involved.

  27. traxus4420 Says:

    “a generic communal longing and the specific features of a given utopia”

    well there is no direct relationship between these two things. negation, or criticism of what presently exists, immanently is that ‘generic communal longing,’ according to jameson. it’s a valorization of criticism as such, in a way.

    dialectics is complicated.

  28. “jameson does pretty clearly pay a lot of attention to how economic factors condition culture production,”

    I meant, he certainly pays attention to how the mode of production and the economic impact on texts and forms, but he ‘reads’ all texts as if the conditions of means of production, and the producer, were subordinate features which need to be taken into account to serve the interpretation of the text (a camera, a pen, a computer, a writer, a studio); basically the assumption is that it’s fundamentally the same, an artist in conditions with tools, only for a hollywood movie that artist is under more constraints and pressures. Thus this continuity of utopia – a person, with training, skills, instruments and in conditions, expressing a constant longing. So Paramount-dreamworks making the umpteenth Trek movie is Dante Alighieri but with even more clearly defined external pressures consciously accomodated. We can look at the trek movie and read it for this eutopia/utopia, and that’s the end product of our machine. Certainly capital’s fantasy eutopia is not the same as humanity’s. Maybe Utopia belongs to capital all along. But anyway, the assumption that this is still a text of roughly the same sort as Orlando Furioso doesn’t seem adequate to me. Maybe one could read spec scripts like that, but not movies. A medieval poem, though written under heaps of constraints – formal, aesthetic, political, social – currently in the public domain is not a videogame, in many significant ways. This is not to reject the postmodern levelling of “values” of genres, but to question the postmodern blindness to material distinctions. Adorno discovered the commodity form in modernism, but only the better to read the art as art – it was still a secondary feature, a quality of the art. Being a commodity is not simply a feature or quality among many of the new Indiana Jones artwork. Commodity is not the adjective and Art the noun.

    Jameson actually stresses this by insisting on directing analysis to movements and broad themes, genres and forms, rather than isolating specific texts of the “postmodern”. But even so, he only goes halfway, because he still is just reading texts (not the case when he writes about architecture actually) as discrete texts.

    As for what’s good to read, that bould is just a little essay kind of reviewing the tradition of theory of the fantastic, but he makes key points. But I think the real problem is still the one of isolated disciplines – literature, culture studies, they mix, but media studies remains distant (kittler etc). I liked this Richard Dienst book Still Life in Real Time, about television and “theory”, it’s sort of an example of how to put approaches together, but not quite doing it, as its only a collection of essays really, and some are mainly in the “interpreting text” genre and others mediological.

  29. i man obviously there are a lot of things about Marshall McLuhan that marxists cannot accept. Obviously there is a lot that is naive etc. But still, one has to really grasp what it means to say the medium is the message. Basically even Jameson is still looking at culture product as diverse messages. He looks at a disaster movie and says oh look, this is a fantasy about work, about elite workers doing rewarding and meaningful work. Sure. But this is not the end of ideology production. If that’s the end product of our machine, there’s not much we can do with it, we’ve found something that we had already in the commons, feelings, themes, narrative, images, ideas. That we found it not in the commons, but in the spectacle, in this form, in this context, received this way, as part of a huge industry, alongside innumerable other fantasies and narratives and images from the commons – these facts are the start of a marxist analysis of that product. It is not that the text is irrelevant or that its content is irrelevant – absolutely to the contrary. The specific articulations and enunciations are hugely important, but simply determining their message is not doing very much; there can’t be more than minor disagreements about this sort of thing (three stars, five stars, thumbs up, thumbs down, that’s what even the most ornate academic interpretations of the texts of films come down to); and the fact of this kind of professional consumption itself, its economic and political function, needs to be investigated.

  30. oh, sorry, fill in gaps: so when Jameson asserts that there is utopian impulse even in mass culture products, the assertion is not really important. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. The thing is this assertion is only intelligible resting atop a mountain of assumptions about what mass culture products are, and how they speak, how they would speak this message of the negation of whatever is given. And who would transmit and who would receive this cry of longing for utopian collectivity. And what the upshot would be of this transmission and reception. Or maybe it is just reception, created in and by reception. Maybe mass culture consumers perform this negation on anything. Maybe mass culture producers have discovered this. In more or less conscious ways. So the framework of the question implied – here we have some commodities, they are messages and texts, they express – is too far ahead already to begin. And then the vector points in the wrong direction perhaps for discovering or explaining anything relevant to this project of “intervention” in culture by critique (and more).

  31. i mean coz if you strip away this hegelian upholstery here, is Jameson’s assertion about the utopian in entertainment commodities saying anything more than that one subtext of every fiction product is its own inadequacy to a reality assumed and accessible to the consciousness of the consumer?

  32. i mean:

    “But it is equally obvious that the complementary extreme — a method that would celebrate Utopian impulses in the absence of any conception or mention of the ideological vocation of mass culture”

    it’s just as if he thought the primary or indeed sole “vocation” of mass culture was ideological.

  33. parodycenter Says:

    Maybe one could read spec scripts like that, but not movies. A medieval poem, though written under heaps of constraints – formal, aesthetic, political, social – currently in the public domain is not a videogame, in many significant ways.

    Would you care to list those many significant ways, madam? In this way it is not quite clear how you mean it. It would help if while listing it you didn’t pretend to be owning some arcane knowledge of the poetic science – unavailable to us idealistic psychoanalytic oafs – and delivered your explanation in a clear, accessible and populist fashion. Merci beaucop, mon cheri.

    Traxus my utopia-eutopia would certainly involve a lot of throbbing cocks and cunts, but I think my comments already indicate that I’m in favor of what you describe under (3) – a ”permanent revolution” – while I find (2) useful as a methodology of research, which I think Jameson used well in his lovely book.

  34. parodycenter Says:

    I meant, he certainly pays attention to how the mode of production and the economic impact on texts and forms, but he ‘reads’ all texts as if the conditions of means of production, and the producer, were subordinate features which need to be taken into account to serve the interp. of the text

    You can claim this legitimately mademoiselle only on condition that you’re not about to perform a materialist-reductionist operation by which the film’s conditions of production become the only thing that matters; much as I feel that you’re about to perform just such an operation, I give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Traxus your last few comments are approaching adumbration territory, and this is why I proposed that we take some examples to test your theses (it doesn’t have to be the movies you haven’t seen, but can be Blade Runner or something)

  35. “Would you care to list those many significant ways, madam?”

    I wouldn’t. There’s no need, since these comments are intended for people who already know what they are.

  36. parodycenter Says:

    I wouldn’t. There’s no need, since these comments are intended for people who already know what they are.

    Aren’t you being elitarian? What about the masses, the proles?

  37. parodycenter Says:

    Traxus, being stuck in her aunty’s 18th century corset, her tits pressed together so hard she can barely breathe, your Mistress still doesn’t understand that there was a paradigmatic shift in the 21st century involving non-linear poetic figures such as the oft-quoted Moebius strip (but there are others) which Lacan started studying in his later career and which are scattered all over Deleuze’s work; they are unique for being able to generate a third element – the fourth dimension – from their 3D components. In this context it’s not just preposterous but also, uninformed, to keep blathering about the ”material conditions of production” in the orthodox Marxist mode: the new poetic form transcended them a long time ago, hence ”transcendental materialism”. Now truthfully, you won’t learn that from a dumb Halliwud film – you need to look at smarter movies or books. My proposed analysis is to take two films (like the logan’s run and island but there are other possibilities) and SUPERIMPOSE them. Then we might see the features of that third element emerging. Just as an intellectual experiment.

    I also wanted to tell your Mistress (maybe you can translate for her because we obviously speak foreign languages respectively)that the Haitian black voodoo mantras she’s throwing at me through her Egyptian hieroglyphic code doesn’t seem to have the desired effect of causing paralysis.

  38. parodycenter Says:

    Traxus, this is what Lynch, as you noted yourself, accomplished by recording his masterpiece with a simple home video camera – he noted the fact that the material conditions of production have been rendered largely irrelevant by these topological findings. (A French critic of Lynch’s expo in Paris rendered it wonderfully: your images conjure up a COSMOS) Now just because corporate dorks and ludique materialists like your Mistress don’t understand this, persisting with their megalomaniacal productions, doesn’t mean that the borders have not collapsed.

  39. I wonder whether my inability to parse isn’t attributable to the fragmentation of discourse communities. Even this sentence I just wrote, where I use “isn’t attributable” when I could just as meaningfully have said “is attributable” — the use of ne without the pas — points to an internal split in me, suggesting that while I say the one thing my unconscious is trying to say its opposite. This observation is meaningful only in theLacanian analynguistic community, which likewise is arcane and insular, obfuscating as much as it reveals, establishing a kind of gnostic presence-in-absence that mystifies the uninitiated, suggesting higher and deeper levels beyond reckoning which signify transcendence. Maybe the juxtaposition of specific linguistic contents (“is attributable” versus “isn’t attributable”) serves to negate (technical term?) all content, revealing in the dialectical remainder something else, something hidden, a kind of longing for community that reveals itself in the manner of speaking, the joint participation in idiosyncratic syntax and cryptic allusions and citations of a heterodox canon of “elite literature” being what the conversation is really about. It’s a kind of utopian communication that leaves the uninitiated paralyzed in spellbound despair.

    There are many types of gnostic sects among us — the religious of course, the empirical, the psychoanalytic, the aesthetic, the political, the pop-cultural, the corporate… Each one demands a baptism by immersion and teaches a secret linguistic handshake by which strangers might recognize one another as members of the society. Each is a kind of market sector attracted to particular varieties of cultural product. Emerging, immanent synergies are possible within each community, but they lead the separate intellectual galaxies ever farther apart from each other in a perpetual blue-shifting of the expanding cultural cosmos.

  40. Oops, in that last rhetorical flourish I meant “red-shifting” not blue. Although maybe unconsciously I meant what I said…

  41. …a deep-space longing for the blue-shifting of a universe that’s coming ever closer together.

  42. …which in turn reflects a nostalgic yearning for a time shortly after the first explosion but before the inevitable progressive alienation characterizing all forward temporal movement.

  43. parodycenter Says:

    Dad, let’s not get back to the old discussion where I already told you that what appears as a consciously obfuscatory and elitist discours in Lacan is in fact a direct expression of the way the Unconscious is structured like language. I will illustrate yet again with David Lynch: when the lesbian of Mulholland is sitting at the party being humiliated by her narcissistic ex-beau, who is about to get married to another narcissistic corporate slug, she talks about ”trouble”; the wise old mother looks at her significantly. The significant look is only decipherable if you consider that in the previous life she witnessed the lesbian ”getting in trouble”. It’s not that you have to be INITIATED into Lacan’s discours, to understand: you have to become aware (conscious) of the repressed link between events. This is all a bit clearer in clinical practice, where the LacANALyst doesn’t use the same language you find in theory books.

    However the Egyptian Cobra’s cryptograms are something entirely different. She casts herself in the position of the Subject-supposed-to-know without even giving you clues in the form of riddles. ”I know things you don’t about 18th century poetry” and ”Only fully formed adults, not infantile brats, are initiated into my ivy league sort of elitist culture with baroque decorations”. When this position is accidentally usurped, she lashes out in irrational rage and bites you. Because dad you have to remember, this is the Anubis Cobra we’re dealing with here; the Queen of Marxist Theory. Another strategy she uses is quoting 12,760 pages of text that you don’t have time to read in between comments, then reprimanding you for not taking the time and the effort to read it. (occasionally you will also get reprimanded for being a young M-TEE-VEE addict who can only deal with visual language and whose attention span is shockingly short)

  44. All these rarified forms of discourse seem self-explanatory from the inside but virtually impenetrable from the outside. Lacan is no exception. I do, however, appreciate your (Dejan’s) efforts to help me cross the membrane.

  45. traxus4420 Says:

    parodycenter –

    “I’m in favor of what you describe under (3) – a ”permanent revolution” – while I find (2) useful as a methodology of research, which I think Jameson used well in his lovely book.”

    i probably said this before, but (2) is closer to ‘permanent revolution’ than (3). according to marx, capitalism functions via permanent revolution, therefore its critique has to be capable of representing that movement in thought. (3) is just a high you get from doing things, and perhaps its memory.

    ktismatics -

    “I wonder whether my inability to parse isn’t attributable to the fragmentation of discourse communities.”

    you know, sometimes i don’t understand what you’re saying either, this is communication, no need to get dramatic about it. it’s hard, that’s all.

  46. chabert,

    thanks for the analysis. the problem with this mountain of assumptions you refer to is that some of them seem impossible to investigate as adequately as a scientifically minded person might want. this isn’t about asking the critic to answer different questions in the same way as he answered the old ones, it sounds like you’re asking for a completely different methodology to be introduced, one that minimizes interpretation. but how do you really determine details of reception (beyond like/dislike popular/unpopular), and especially certain details about what the creators know, without creative interpretive leaps? questionnaires? psych exams? these seem too limited considering what you’re asking. kittler for example takes a heavily researched medialogical approach but he can’t really make claims without psychoanalytic arguments and a narrative structure that is basically romantic (complete with Woman in distress, liberated throughout the ages by subversive technology). this closes off some directions, just as jameson’s utopia focus closes off directions. but how do you really avoid this? it starts to seem like evidence for jameson’s utopia theory, that in the form of its ideological fantasies all cultural product carries a ‘human touch.’

    “i mean coz if you strip away this hegelian upholstery here, is Jameson’s assertion about the utopian in entertainment commodities saying anything more than that one subtext of every fiction product is its own inadequacy to a reality assumed and accessible to the consciousness of the consumer?”

    i’m going to think about this one some more.

  47. thans traxus, I just mean that if the question is ideology, then given that the observation about the character of the commodity mass culture texts in isolation as texts (and as texts considered just like other texts, which are not mass produced commodities) is accurate (all express utopian longings), the obvious next necessary investigation, if we want to say something about ideology, in capitalism, can be no other than looking into the possible ideological function of buying utopian longings out of vending machines.

  48. I think, personally for me, I would want to seperate Jameson’s readings and analysis of the sci-fi genre and related – traditional lit crit and really great as usual from what I have read, from the verne stuff in political unconscious onward – from the specific propositions about and issue of the utopian/eutopian in mass produced entertainment products, some of which might be adaptations of the popular quasi-mass culture stuff he reads. My reservation is about the consequences of treating all these objects as instances of a single, discrete kind of discursive/ideological object, the model for the kind of thing it is being genre literature (genres, forms, and discrete works) of the mid-late 19th century.

  49. “no need to get dramatic about it.”

    Not necessary; just kind of fun sometimes.

  50. parodycenter Says:

    chabert the coke commercial does suggest capitalist reproduction as an utopian perpetuum mobile, but why do you keep going back to examples like that which are created by large multinationals?

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