Rotary Refugees

I’ve collected the first three years or so (with a few exceptions) of one of the first non-V8-based mass-enthusiast magazines of the contemporary period of modified-car culture in Australia, Fast Fours and Rotaries. Here is one of the more interesting magazine covers:

Rotary powered cars were understood by the largely anglo-Australian modified-car enthusiast circles as not ‘proper’ modified cars and owned by ‘wogs’, ie non-anglos.

Thesis Troubles # 1

I am having trouble with the third and final section of my introductory chapter. In this section I set up the general relation between markets, scenes, and what I am calling at this stage ‘potential’. (I am writing this up here, as is the case with all the seemingly crazy esoteric stuff I write here sometimes, to help with the intellectual digestion process. My blog is a mind stomach!)

I have briefly written about or mentioned Paul Corrigan’s piece “Doing Nothing” in Resistance Through Rituals before. He is the only person in or associated with ‘the’ BCCCS cohort that writes about affect. He frames it in terms of youth, acts of deviance, and the ‘potentialisation’ of found objects in the ‘street’ as a way to combat ‘boredom’. I take this as an example of the limit case of the ‘ontological creativity of poverty’ (Negri) or ‘cramped spaces’ (D&G; Thoburn).

There is a conjunctural dimension to this process of potentialisation. Gomart and Hennion’s work on amatuers and the sociology of attachment is useful here. It allows me to think a little further along an emerging continuum between immanence (random/deviant ‘potentialisation’) and the hegemonic cultural industry captivation of attention. The immaculate active preparations taken by Gomart and Hennion’s drug users and music amatuers enables the participation in a ‘passing’ whereby one’s disposition (‘dispositif’) becomes passive for the sake of participation in a conjunctural event with others (musicians) or a state (drug users). The willed aspect to this preparation and participation is what I call enthusiasm.

Lastly, on the other end of the spectrum is the manipulation and captivation of attention what Beller calls the labour of looking or what Negri has called the economy of attention. This thesis is a rich extension of Adorno’s pessimistic account of the ‘effects’ economy of ‘mass-culture’ produced by the culture industry. (An example of this and some early thinking of mine here.)

I am mostly interested in what happens between the two limits of the potentialisation of anything to combat boredom and the willed subsumption of the subject for the sake of stimulation in the culture industry. Both of these limits actually become part of the single process whereby the culture industry exhausts the reserves for stimulation/attention in consumer subjects and produces the false differences in mas-cultural commodities that Adorno complained about.

Adorno describes what the people in the middle — between the boredom/simulation of expelled/subsumed subjectivities — as carrying out ‘pseudo-activity’. There is much ‘pseudo-activity’, much more than existed at the time of Adorno’s writings on the subject. it would be tempting to reinscribe a moralising dialect here of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pseudo-activities, along production and productive consumption lines, however that would soon become untenable.

The way I am currently thinking about it is in terms of ‘scenes’ as the space that enables ‘pseudo-activity’. Or, rather, it is not so much a ‘space’ but a particular affective mapping of all spaces in terms of their relation to an enthusiasm (all spaces in terms of Lefebvre’s three spaces). I am extending Geof Stahl’s concept of a ‘music scene’ in Montreal, to think ‘scene’ as a particular enthusiasm-based affective mapping of all spaces. Without a sense of ‘scene’ collectively shared by those who inhabit Gomart and Hennion’s worlds of amatuers and addicts, then the amatuers and addicts could not carry out their practices of ‘passing’ and participate in the conjuntural aspects of their respective events.

The workings of the scene has a temporality and rhythm. For musicians this would be different to that of drug addicts. Again, the limit cases are the economy of attention — with the regularity of the rhythm of the cultural industry’s ‘blockbuster’ events, the pre-event ‘teasers’ to the post-event stream of ‘bonus’ releases — and ‘doing nothing’, or the weapons against boredom — the irregularity of spontaneous acts (perhaps akin to the Situationist detourment? dunno).

One of the overall arguments of my thesis is that certain elements of the culture industry, those which service an enthusiasm, and between the two limit cases, the (subcultural) media manipulate/cultivate and sustain the consistency of the affective relations that constitute an enthusiasm.

There is a weird mediation here around affect, the ‘image’, and discourse that I have yet to figure out, and I think it belongs specifically to magazines, or magazine content ‘remediated’ in an online format or in tabloid newspapers. This is where is becomes specifically about modified-car culture as the arrangement of images and text is perculiar to the car magazines. The discourse stuff I have been thinking via D&G’s discussion of Kafka and the legislation of sense into reference through the ‘juridical statement’, ie the actualisation of ‘social discourse’ in the production of ‘order words’. The images in the magazines I think highlight the arrangements of technology (and everything else) that the modifiers themselves accentuate (potentialise). I may just leave it like that for now. I need to get it to my long suffering supervisors.

France ’06: ¥€$ to Futurity

Why is the rest of the world, including Australia, so stupid? Is it because, in Australia at least, we are currently experiencing a resource boom and because Australia is a net energy exporter the high price of oil and global socio-economic precarity is actually to someone’s benefit?

In the past fortnight, France has seen the growth of a protest movement that many thought impossible in the individualistic world so often decried here. ‘Our country has options,’ said 22-year-old medical student Raphaelle Delpech, who had lipsticked the words ‘CPE non’ across her face for the Paris demonstration yesterday. ‘Last week, it was announced that the French multinationals had made a profit in 2005 of €84 billion. It is a politician’s trick to try to convince us that we need to make sacrifices so those companies can become even richer.’ (from)

The same questions might be asked of Qantas or of Telstra.

However, there is a problem with the young medicine student’s thinking. Economic success is no longer measured in terms of profit, but rather the percentage growth of profit. Hence Telstra’s failure, even while it turns a massive profit. Oh, I am sorry? Regulation? $20 Billion in revenue? Watch any ‘respectable’ nightly news broadcast. But why growth and not profit?

The stock market functions on the speculation of future value of companies. Growth in rates of profit is the strongest indicator that a company will be strong in the future. Actual profit margins do not matter when economies are driven by massive private investment companies that produce funds for superanuation and public investment companies like the Reserve Bank that seeks to produce a stable dollar (unit of exchange) and control inflation (‘ground’ of future value).

The reproduction of the conditions which allow for the properly machinic accumulation of capital (Empire) or a brake to be put on the cycles of the machine? A kind of viral dissonace?

Even the notorious FOXNews gets part of what is at stake:

The law would allow businesses to fire young workers in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees.
Companies are often reluctant to add employees because it is hard to let them go if business conditions worsen. Students see a subtext in the new law: make it easier to hire and fire to help France compete in a globalizing world economy.

‘Compete’ means to be properly subsumed into the machinery of global capital and the culture of liquidation.

Adorno on Weber

“Within the economic sector, Weber asks whether the understanding of the administration for the objective problems which they have to solve is equal to the powers which they weild. This is so because precise factual knowledge in their field is a matter of immediate economic existence: ‘errors in official statistics bring no direct consequences for the guilt official; errors in the calculation of capitalist concern result in losses to the firm, indeed, perhaps even in the loss of its existence’ (p. 673). However, the question regarding the competence of bureaucracies, formulated by Weber in regard to economics, has in the meantime magnified in scope to the same degree as has administration itself within society. This question becomes critical in the cultural sphere. Weber touches upon what is coming in a parenthetical remark without realizing the significance of his observation, made over forty years ago during the conception of his great work. Within the highly-specialised context of the educational-sociological annotation to this chapter on bureaucracy he mentions that the possession of educational patents increasingly represents talent — or ‘charisma’, for the spiritual cost of educational patents is always slight and does not particularly decrease with mass production (p.676). According to this thought, the irrational mission which is not planned progressively withdraws from the spirit itself, while this remains a mission for which the spirit is uniquely suited according to the traditional views. [...] Inseperable from this, however, is the obligatory increase of administrative control in regions in which administration is without objective competence. Specialists must exercise authority in fields in which they cannot be professionally qualified, while their particular aptitude in abstractly technical matters of administration is needed in order that the organization continue to function.”

– Adorno, “Culture and Administration” (1978[1972))