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December 30, 2006

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glen

jodi, this may be perihperal to your interests, if so, just ignore. ;)

I am interested in your thoughts on this structural insecurity in the context of what could be called a hegelian expressive causality. (I am only asking this because of the zizek-hegel thing.) like were all the old technologists (ellul, mumford, marcuse, etc) wrong when they argued for a mechanistic spirit expressed in the totality of social relations? Isn't there a different temporal relation between the expression of, for example, a particular mechanistic essence, and the conditioning of the present by a possible future (threat)? Instead of ellul's "technique" you would probably have zizek's "enjoyment", but would this change in light of the temporal relation of futurity which expresses the current totality of insecurity?

Jodi

Glen--your question and idea is fascinating, but I don't have anything even slightly interesting to add. I might first have a question--when you link Marcuse into 'mechanistic spirit' do you have in mind instrumental reason or something else? Also, I see a kind of interesting tension in the temporality of 'threat'--but I don't think I can even pose a question well here, your comment just hits for me a tension between present and future, that is, threat as an element of insecurity, gap, antagonism, in the present that is displaced into the future. Can you say more about what you have in mind?

pebird

Should we thank feminism that it's not called the "Department of Fatherland Security"?

glen

jodi, ok some rough thoughts.

i admit to working from a book by Jennifer Daryl Slack with the long title _Communication Technologies & Society: COnceptions of Causality & the politics of technological intervention_ pages 64-80 on expressive causality. She mentions marcuse on p72 where she writes that technology according to her reading of marcuse is the 'vehicle of reification'. In search of competitive efficiency industry builds a highly mechanized, rationalized technology. Media produces populations that are expressions of this same spirit rationality. So yes i think a version of instrumental reason of a reified mechanism.

The argument is a bit weak though, especially when it comes to the post-welfare state governmental machinations that work in synergistic concert with industry to produce (in)secure populations serving as a pool of labour. The excess labour that Marx wrote of in absolute terms has become temporally dislodged so in absolute terms (employment figures, etc) it appears as if there is a low labour pool, but in real terms because of the continual labour movement and lack of strucutral security as the impetus of such movements the absolute excess of labour may not represent the real conditions of labour.

I would read it in more bergsonian-deleuzian terms ;) of the difference between the actualised multiplicity of 'actually existing labour conditions' (stati(sti)cally represented) and the duration of the virtual multiplcities of labour's becoming as it continually shifts and starts across the topological job market. However, this produces two disjunctures or gaps, perhaps in the sense you would use the term. 1) the conditions of security between the static representation of labour conditions and the duration of the movement of labour, 2) the feedback loop or relation of futurity between the lived present and the possible futures lived as a result of insecurity. The possible futures are used to condition the present (think of risk assessments, etc) and is an example of what Deleuze and later Massumi would call quasi-cause. Massumi has written a lot about this, and so have I in my own way on my blog.

The paradox, that I think you are pointing out, is that governmental iniatives actually harness these relations of futurity, not by working in the present to produce a hopeful future, but by forecasting contingent events that then used to condition the present. The present is conditioned in such a way of course to reproduce and excerbate lines of privilge, etc. The social expectations that rest on a crux of statistics fill the void left by excavation of Truth. The little-t truth of expectation becomes reified through governmental discourse and is deployed across the social field to break durable social assemblages. This might be read psychoanalytically perhaps? The avoidance of contingent events could be a version of the death drive (while living life worthy of contingent events or a series of them would be the ubermensch alternative).

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