Adult Themes: Synergies

Asking questions about adulthood is a way for those of the generation to which I belong to frame and engage with a number of contemporary problems we face. USyd scholar, Kate Crawford, has addressed a number of these questions in her new book, Adult Themes. She is ‘in conversation’ at Gleebooks tomorrow (Wednesday). I am not working that night, but I’ll rock up to have a look.

In all honesty, I was not too keen on the idea of someone writing a book that allegedly represents the generation to which I belong. In fact, I was thinking far stronger thoughts. I think the reviewer for the Australian thought the same thing. That is, until I got to the last two paragraphs of the review:

Sure, Crawford makes the obvious point that Australia is clinging to traditional, conservative notions of adulthood, demonstrated by the bulk of protectionist, discriminatory legislation enacted in the past decade. And she makes the more sophisticated argument that marriage and home ownership have become synonyms for maturity — a good point. But if you’re going to discuss industrial relations or gay marriage laws, perhaps some responsibility needs to be ascribed to Australia’s avowed capital-L Liberal leader, John Howard, who prefers stay-at-home mums, autonomous employers, heterosexual marriage and nuclear families. He has legislated to bolster these, and the majority has voted for the changes.

Adult Themes may have been too hastily written. Born of two years of research, it cobbles together volumes of media reports. But instead of criticising the mainstream media for its failure to “attempt a deeper engagement with social, cultural or economic circumstances” perhaps Crawford might have taken the time to learn to understand the media as a reflection of the dominant wisdom and then relied on her powers of analysis to fill in the bigger picture.


“[Take] the time to learn to understand the media as a reflection of the dominant wisdom”!! WTF! So we can read the book reviews in the Australian as ‘reflections of the dominant wisdom’? ahaha lol.. roflao…


::shaking head::

::getting angry::

The stupidity of conservative intellectual peanuts, especially of ‘my generation’, is breath-taking. Here we have the crux of what I understand to be a whole range of issues: 1) The Australian public re-elected neo-conservative John Howard. 2) The Australian media ‘reflects’ the ‘dominant wisdom’ of this neo-conservative ascendency. 3) Therefore it is the job of scholars to understand how the media reflects the ‘dominant wisdom’ of what? Neo-conservative Australia? And then fill in the rest for the ‘bigger picture’? THAT IS THE BIGGER PICTURE! The old-fashioned complicity of ‘big media’.

A scholar’s job is literally ‘learning’, ie doing research, so telling a scholar to ‘learn’ how to do something is an obvious indication that what actually needs to be (re)learnt is one’s ideological underpinnings. Yes, ‘learn’ like totalitarian governments ‘teach’.

“[John Howard] has legislated to bolster these, and the majority has voted for the changes.”

This needs much more analysis. The production of synergies across traditional social registers. Howard’s middle-class welfare is scandalous. I would describe these synergies as ‘biopolitical assemblages’ but that means nothing to most people. ‘Automobility’ is one of the dominant synergies at present. It allows and requires particular spatial arrangements of the urban; particular material and social infrastructures that enable mobility; political economies of energy; and so on. There is also ‘automobility’ on another scale, beyond the suburbs, of wandering global nomads using up far too many natural resources to take a second trip around the world. Bourgie indulgence.

The ‘sedentary lifestyle’ involves another synergy. The rise of ‘couch potatos’ as true representative of national identity. When the reviewer suggests that a “fickle generation that is bored easily is emerging” what she is actually noting is that mechanisms for the capturing of attention and the production ‘nervous’ or ‘twitchy’ subjectivities are becoming dominant. That is, it is not the rise of a singular sociological class of a ‘bored’ population, but the arrangement of subjectivities, technologies, actions and events that require the biological and social mechanisms of ‘boredom’ to function.

Anyway, it will be good to see what Crawford says tomorrow night.

6 replies on “Adult Themes: Synergies”

  1. A scholar’s job is literally ‘learning’, ie doing research, so telling a scholar to ‘learn’ how to do something is an obvious indication that what actually needs to be (re)learnt is one’s ideological underpinnings.

    Similarly, a conservative opinion writer’s job is to say illogical and illiberal inanities (if you’ll excuse the alliteration), so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the reviewer in question even to understand, let alone to affirm, your point about the becoming-dominant of the set of discourses and techniques which produce a hyper-attentive subjecivity.

    Better (in my opinion, and I think in yours too) to expose the conservative ideologues for the self-interested empty-headed, under-handed pricks that they are — for which purpose one would want to give serious thought to attending the following, alternative event:

  2. you’re right that does look very interesting! It will be a big event so I may be working that night (at Gleebooks as part of the event staff).

    Lucy is something of an enigma on my scholarly horizon as he was mentioned a few times by my honours supervisor as the ‘guy who had his PhD marked by Derrida’. Derrida and the whole literary enterprise of critical engagement has kind of always felt too weird for my liking. I tried reading Lucy’s book (beyond semiotics) but couldn’t get into it for some reason that now escapes me (must be a derridean event! lol!)

  3. Ha! Don’t know who your Hons supervisor was, but the story of Derrida marking Niall Lucy’s PhD isn’t true — though he did agree to be Niall’s referee for any job applications. Or if it is true, Niall’s worked hard to keep it under wraps.

    Beyond Semiotics is a fabulous book, though given your ambivalence (shall we say?) with regard to Derrida, it’s perhaps not surprising if it didn’t grab you. The same would apply, most likely, in the case of Niall’s other books, despite the fact that his A Derrida Dictionary is very D&G (performatively speaking) and that his Debating Derrida is probably the best “introduction” to D’s work you’ll ever read.

    And of course there’s the fact that his Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction has a couple of chapters on Deleuze & Guittari which are (IMO) wonderful, but which venture on occasion towards a certain (largely affirming) critique of their work.

    At any rate, I’m hoping that minor differences in theoretical allegiance (I’m speaking generally here, not aiming anything at you) will be put aside for the sake of getting behind what seems to me to be the only forceful, public critique of contemporary conservativism.

Comments are closed.