To Afford Polyvalence

You use the heading “Dialectic of Modernization” to describe how society’s empty center is filled with illusionary images of a center.

In Spheres III, I attempt to explain why we should not only purge the two portentous words revolution and mass from our vocabulary, but also the concept of “society.” It suggests a coherence that could only be achieved by violent asserting conformism. The conglomerate of humans that has, since the 18th century, called itself “society” is precisely not based on the atomic dots that we tend to call individuals. Instead, it is a patchwork of milieus that are structured as subcultures. Just think of the world of horse lovers—a huge subculture in which you could lose yourself for the duration of your life but which is as good as invisible if you are not a member of it. There are hundreds if not thousands of milieus in the current social terrain that all have the tendency from their own viewpoint to form the center of the world and yet are as good as nonexistent for the others. I term them inter-ignorant systems. And, among other things, they exist by virtue of a blindness rule. They may not know of one another, since otherwise their members would be robbed of the enjoyment of being specialized members of a select few. In terms of their profession, there are only two or three types of humans who can afford polyvalence in dealing with milieus. The first are architects who (at least virtually) build containers for all; the second are the novelists, who insert persons from all walks of life into their novels; finally come the priests who speak at the burials of all possible classes of the dead. But that is probably the entire list. Although, no, I forgot the new sociologists à la Latour.

In other words, the multiple personality on the one hand and the single networker on the other— those are the two options I see open to individualized populations. The way homo sapiens is influenced by the dowry from the days of hording is no doubt insurmountable, but because the explication of that old heritage continues simultaneously in various directions, the proto-social elements of the life of sapiens can be reworked. They lead to an electronic tribalism. In the dyadic motifs, by contrast, the intimate relationships are explicated to such a degree that intimacy can quite literally be played through with the technical media of self-supplementation. In the long run, human types arise that are fairly unlike what we have known to date.

Power Quote / 5 Comments
November 20th, 2011 / 8:23 pm

Unresolved Latency

One important aspect of resolving the background in the cultural field is the attempt to destroy the art-industry consensus between producers and receivers in order to free events of “showing” in their radical specificity. It explicates the absoluteness of the act of production as well as the proper value of the act of reception. Such interventions have a combat value as acts of enlightenment against provincialism and cultural narcissism. It was not for nothing that the surrealists, in the early waves of their offensive, defined the art of baffling the bourgeois as a sui generis form of action: on the one hand, because it helped its innovators to distinguish between the ingroup and the outgroup; and, on the other, because it permitted protests from the public to be interpreted as a sign of success in dismantling the established system. Whoever scandalizes the bourgeois professes his progressive iconoclasm; he wields terror against symbols to explode positions of mystified latency and uses ever explicit techniques to force breakthroughs. The premise of symbolic aggression lies in the legitimate assumption that the cultural closets are overly filled with corpses and that it is high time that the latency-protected links between armament and edification be ruptured. If the early avant-garde fell into fallacy, however, this is because the bourgeoisie they set out to horrify always learned its lesson much faster than any of the aesthetic bogeymen had predicted. After only a few rounds of the match between the provokers and the provoked, it was almost inevitable that the bourgeoisie, loosened up by mass culture, would take the lead role in matters of explicating art, culture and signification through the activities of marketing, design and autohypnosis; meanwhile some artists continued on playing the public bogeymen, failing to notice that their methods were past their use-by date, while other artists negotiated a shift to neo-romanticism, renewing their pact with depth. Before long many moderns appeared to have forgotten Hegel’s fundamental principle of modern philosophy, whose analogue in aesthetic production would be: that the depth of a thought can be measured only by its power of elaboration–otherwise depth is no more than an empty symbol of unresolved latency.

–Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air p 74-75
Power Quote / 24 Comments
October 19th, 2011 / 12:10 pm