CAPITALISM AND MEDIA TECHNOLOGY
PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION AND INSCRIPTION.
I promised myself that I would take up philosophy again if it where ever needed. I was born in 1964 and have never seen anything but economical growth and peace on my territory, so it’s always been a bit difficult to be really pessimistic. As I write this in 2016 I have a deep fear that I might have waited too long and that we are in a very precarious situation. But than again if philosophy should end up being what saves us from ourselves I’ll be as surprised as anyone. I wrote my master thesis in 1999 and named it “Capitalism and Media Technology”. This where some 8 years before the financial crisis. The financial crisis would have been a good entry point to take up my praxis again, but being a Norwegian resident the financial crisis did not mean much regression at all. We where rich and getting steadily richer as a consequence of being an oil nation in a restless and fearful world with high oil price. This leaves the question of why I ever stopped doing philosophy. No one really wanted to hear the word capitalism around the millennium in Norway. If I remember correctly, the one who out competed me for the right to a ph d would write about gender in Plato’s writing. This line of philosophy would eventually end in a small national scandal in Norway. The Norwegian sociologist Harald Eia made a TV series called “Brainwash” where a lot of Norwegian science and philosophy about gender would be debunked as state financed politics, not science. If I where to cry for myself, I would call it a double scandal as all this preoccupation with gender and European gender history left us more or less totally unprepared for the ravages of financial capitalism and the machinic enslavement of media technology that are bringing us down today. So I have decided to rewrite my master degree text in a 2.0 version. In the process I will translate it to English in an effort to reach a few more people.
Before we move forward I will offer a little background for my book. Where do I come from as a thinker? Well if you are to enjoy or learn from this text you need to know my starting point as a thinker. I wholly reject any kind of transcendentalism or religion. I view particular any monotheistic religion as dangerous and degrading, so the starting point for my philosophical praxis is Nietzsche’s “The genealogy of Morals”. I consider this to be a therapeutic text that has the potential to release you from a religious subjectivation and prepare you for autonomous thinking. I’m not a romantic myself and having completed and understood “The genealogy of Morals” my next field of interest where the foundation of western institutions and the creation of the modern subject. I found Michel Foucault’s text indispensable in this work. Hence my use of the word subjectivation to describe the making of a human being. Foucault also made me respect a historical approach as a foundation for critical thinking. Looking back I should have made a career out of criticizing the oppressing state and it’s hopeless subjectivation of it’s residents. They would have needed this critic and it would be about something that I understood quite well. But I never really thought subjectivation would kill anybody. Now a lot of people would beg to differ with post humanism on the rice. So what did I think would kill us in 1999? A deadly combination of financial capitalism and the technology that it spawned. But we are not dead yet. But our hope of survival is steadily diminishing.
I write about “we” and “us” and survival and this must be qualified. “We” are the ones who made it out of the middle ages and through the renaissance. Passed through Enlightenment and created the egalitarian democracy. “We” who said that science should trump religion. “We” who liberated our slaves and our women and started to protect and school our children. “We” who said that the future might be better for all, not only “us”. “We” who stopped being racist, sexist and colonizing. The list could probably be long. “We” are not identifiable to a set of individuals, a gender, a race or a nation. All those things are identity and are probably as dangerous as any evil. The thing I talk about is a style. A style that is rich enough, clever enough, liberated enough to train and educate a black woman and send her as an astronaut to Mars. I never thought that sending her would be any more difficult then sending anybody else. But we are now in an age where long beards an white male supremacy are lining each other up and countless people are becoming unable to go through regular school and acquire enough knowledge to help themselves. We suddenly find ourselves stuck between monotheism, financial capitalism and enslaving technologies. Our “style” is severely threatened and post-humanism is upon us. My book won’t change much of this, but at least I made a little squeak before they took me to the gallows.
“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the message. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.” (McLuhan 1997, s26) When McLuhan writes these words in 1967, little of what we understand as media has developed. That makes McLuhan extremely far sighted or it is easier to understand the ramifications of new technology as they emerge. Later, media revolution, information society and information economy has become household names and most of us straddle the user interfaces of technologies created in this paradigm on a daily basis. Most of us are confident in our practical manipulation of these technologies. This confidence and self explanatory feeling refers to the content side of this technology and speaks little of the retroactive force that the technology affect on the users.
The retroactive force is not open to immediate experience when the experience in it self alters and manipulates our sensory and functionally composition. The user changes with the media and, over time, the technology effectuates changes in our structure. We have to work on our self understanding to grasp the relative strength pertaining to the environment (milieu) created by media technology. If we are to achieve this it is a precondition that we can untangle ourselves from some anthropocentric notions. In stead of viewing man as the measure of all things, as inventors, producers and consumers of their own culture, like Protagoras, I will try to use modern theoreticians to turn everything around and try to see man as a product of technology and economy. My main focus will be on autonomization of non-human forces which are released by the techno-economic evolution. In this autonomization I see a potential for totalizing environments that bears little resemblance to the goals and wishes that where presented when the technology or economic system where “introduced”. This division decides whether technology and economics can be contained within politics or if politics is contained by technology and economics.
“The true axiomatic is that of the social machine itself, which takes the place of the old codings and organizes all the decoded flows, including the flows of scientific and technical code, for the benefit of the capitalist system and in the service of its ends.” (Deleuze/Guattari 1983, s.233). Deleuze and Guattari are the first theoreticians who offer a theory that understands capitalism as an axiomatic process in society. This way of thinking capitalism gave them a head start in understanding globalization and finance capitalism. By understanding language as something more than information and communication they avoided nominalizing the different elements that constitute their theory of the social. In Deleuze and Guattari economy, technology and politics are not independent phenomena that exist beside any given society. Based on this premise they where able to predict that with the establishment of a world market and the subsequent electronic integration of world trade, it would trigger an axiomatic that in turn would constitute the social. When the axioms, that where taken from neoliberal economical theory, came in to contact with different sectors in different societies, existing codes and regulations would be degraded and replaced with the functions of the axiomatic. I would like compare and connect this economizing of the social with the developments in media technology to see whether this spells the end of alternative development in the social and individual sphere.
“Capitalism institutes or restores all sorts of residual and artificial, imaginary, or symbolic territorialities, thereby attempting, as best as it can, to recode, to rechannel persons who have been defined in terms of abstract quantities.” (Deleuze/Guattari 1983, s 34) Abstract quantities, like money, is on par with the medium of light, they are forms without content. That means that they can convey any kind of content, without discriminating between them. That does not mean that the content remains unaltered with regard to its existence, quality or quantity. Abstract quantities enters into abstract machines, or machine of miracle, that connect themselves to social machines. The main reason to name the abstract machines and the social as machines are to stress the fact that these are productive entities. This is not production connected to a specific level, like the production of goods, but exist also in individuation and in the relation between individuals and production per see. Whats special with Deleuze/Guattari and McLuhans positions is that they illuminate the elements that mediates and develops the relation between form and content in late capitalism and late modernism. I will try, with the help of these theories to loosen the knot that lets production become instant consumption, inscribed on every level of the social. These four concepts will guide our thinking. The social, production, consumption and inscription. Each will have a dedicated chapter, but all four concept will be repeated on all the levels of the text.
SOSIAL MACHINES AND ABSTRACT MACHINES
2.1 THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT