Category Archives: Literature

*Feed*, not food

A colleague recommended M. T. Anderson’s book Feed a while back, while I was still taking courses, and I really did not have time to read it, or research it at all. The situation changed last month, when I was doing some research into novels tackling what I’ve variously termed “corporationism” or “corporatism.” You see, I wanted to give my literature chapter some depth. I also wanted to find out what’s new in the area. Turns out, there’s so many novels that have to do with corporations, that one could probably spend years reading them.

Most of these novels are pretty predictable, in a “oh, look what the evil corporations are doing to us now” kind of way. You know, the usual me=good, corporations=bad routine, where the triumphal humanist end sees a hero prevail against all odds. I’d like to think my thesis is more sophisticated than that. But then again, sometimes I enjoy deluding myself. It’s the masochist in me. Continue reading

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Negotiating Deleuze

Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations, 1972-1990. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia UP, 1995. This is the kind of book that one could go to for some plain-speak explanations of Deleuzian (and Guattarian to a certain point) concepts. I’ve chosen to read part one (from AO to 1000 P), and part five (Politics), and skim through part three (Foucault). I’ll be looking at part four (Philosophy) after/while reading his/their other books. Basically, there is a lot of doubling, since the aim seems to be to reflect back and explicate further some of the more salient notions developed by D(&G). The reason I had bought this book in the first place was the very last essay, “Postscript on Control Societies,” in which Deleuze describes his view of corporatism. In no particular order, and with no claim to coherence, I’m just going to jot down things that I found interesting.

The role of philosophy: “Everyone knows that philosophy deals with concepts. A system’s a set of concepts. And it’s an open system when the concepts relate to circumstances rather than essences. But concepts don’t, first of all, turn up ready-made, they don’t preexist: you have to invent, create concepts, and this involves just as much creation and invention as you find in art and science. Philosophy’s job has always been to create new concepts, with their own necessity… A concept sometimes needs a new word to express it, sometimes is uses an everyday word that it gives a singular sense” (32). Well, I feel justified in creating new concepts out of existing words now (because it’s all about me and my project, of course).

And again: “I see philosophy as a logic of multiplicities (I feel, on this point, close to Michel Serres). Creating concepts is creating some area in the plane, adding a new area to existing ones, exploring a new area, filling in what’s missing. Concepts are composites, amalgams of lines, curves. If new concepts have to be brought in all the time, it’s just because the plane of immanence has to be constructed area by area, constructed locally, going from one point to the next. That’s why it comes in bursts: in A Thousand Plateaus each plateau was supposed to be that sort of burst. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be taken up again and treated systematically. Quite the reverse: a concept’s power comes from the way it’s repeated, as one area links up with another. And this linkage is an essential, ceaseless activity: the word as patchwork” (147).

On political philosophy: “Anti-Oedipus was from beginning to end a book of political philosophy” (170). “I think FĂ©lix Guattari and I have remained Marxists, in our two different ways, perhaps, but both of us. You see, we think any political philosophy must turn on the analysis of capitalism and the ways it has developed. What we find most interesting in Marx is his analysis of capitalism as an immanent system that’s constantly overcoming its own limitations, and they coming up against them once more in a broader form, because its fundamental limit is Capital itself” (171, my emphasis). Can one disagree with the master? I’m afraid I don’t see Marx’s analysis of capital as immanent, and I wish Deleuze had said more about it in this conversation with Antonio Negri – in which, btw, one can read the germs of Empire taking form, in 1990 – or elsewhere. They sure don’t say or even suggest Marx’s immanence anywhere in Capitalism and Schizophrenia. On the contrary, one gets the impression that they’re talking back to Marx.

On control societies: “We’re definitely moving toward ‘control’ societies that are no longer exactly disciplinary… New kinds of punishment, education, health care are being stealthily introduced… One can envisage education becoming less and less a closed site differentiated from the workspace [lifelong learning, team building, and other corporate pet activities] as another closed site and giving way to frightful continual training, to continual monitoring of worker-schoolkids or bureaucrat-students” (174-75). Can the increase in home-schooling be attributed to the same tendency? After all, the patriarchal family does not afford to fade away with the disciplinary society, and what makes it more interesting is that home schooling becomes yet another non-remunerated task that women have to undertake. In the plane of immanence of corporatism, no direct connection can immediately be made between corporate appropriation of biopower and home schooling, but one can see how home schooling can eventually undermine the public school system and universalize itself as yet another of a good, responsible mother’s duties.

“Are you happy?”

Alice Butler, the protagonist of PopCo, receives this question from a mysterious correspondent, and it constitutes the gesture that brings on the entire narrative development (the technical word escapes me – is it ‘intrigue’?). What does it mean to be happy? This question seems to be very widely discussed, even if indirectly, as in ‘Should I have plastic surgery or not?’ can be read as ‘Am I going to be happier with myself afterwards?’. The responses seem equally readily available, especially in advertising. Would I be oversimplifying if I said ‘all advertising is about happiness’? Probably – this kind of statement would never fly in academic writing. However, ‘advertising directly or indirectly links its promises to happiness’ would (I hope). However, the problem is the steps that need to be undertaken for that happiness to be achieved, and here’s where the more complex problem arises: sure, I would be sooo much happier with that Lexus SUV in my garage, but I can’t quite afford it right now. Oh, but wait, there’s an answer to your dilemma, and it comes by way of endlessly delayed gratification, and endlessly deferred happiness. The linchpin of advertising is the aspiration toward happiness, rather than happiness itself. The promise of endlessly tending to happiness (excuse the redundancy), just as in ‘x tends to zero’, but never actually reaching it. The promise of happiness is what keeps corporate subjects going. The problem is they never ask themselves: “Am I happy now?”.