I am not very sophisticated in some ways. Games of distinction are tedious circle jerks, organised around the events and activities that most people find interesting and which have had so much commercial investment injected into them that they feel as exciting as getting an enema from a mechanical car wash.
While those that intuit the intensive dimension to the production of culture, and therefore have the capacity to appreciate how interests are managed, are either swept up by the cultural industries (including the academic cultural industry) as creative or intellectual workers, or they maintain bouyancy in a sea of mediocrity by expounding a soft-left libertarianism devoid of critical content and becoming talking heads for the abject stupidities of consumers.
Both of these stupid and smart positions require a disavowal of the regular injustices and cultural palsy of a society hell bent on maintaining the conditions of the good life, the easy life, the life where girls (and boys) just wanna have fun.
The rest are like the missing left socks that once upon a time were found under the bed (with the communists and other boogie people (M Jackson)). They are always left, because the right socks are on the feet in the boots that are used to kick you in the head to break your quaint adolescent dreams.
In other ways I am hyper-sophisticated, almost to the point of paralysis. Flailing from the constant stupor of cynical anticipation, not of what people will actually do, which of course is thankfully contingent, but the sets of expectations used within situations to guide behaviour and so on.
Social situations are therefore very tough. I mostly ignore people who define themselves according to marketable-based interests, because, you know, I’m cooler than capitalism (“YOU COULD SELL THAT T-SHIRT!” “…”). Not only capitalism but the markets of cultural capital that range from the comical innocence of hyper-commodified masculinity expressed through ‘surf’ branded clothing to the high-minded bourgie fucks wallowing in their self-righteous malaise of nothing to do after the novelty of perfect hair and the right books has worn off. I would say ‘Get a life’ but they have an investment in a lifesyle franchise and a severe deficit of curiousity that precludes having an opening on the world not modulated according to the affects of their mortgaged expectations.
Assuming a subject position organised around ‘resistance’ to these expectations in a big FUCK YOU is simply fulfilling the destiny of yet another expectation. It may make the little left socks feel better, because such resistance is congruent with their libidinal investments, but this makes them no different to those wildly excited about the brand and pleasant aroma of the soap used in the car wash. Resistance is futile; only because it is part of the apparatus of control. You need to be more sophisticated than that. Expectations are empty sqares in a game of constantly shifting hopscotch. They are there to be skipped over.
Where now for the lost left socks? In some forgotten bag in the cupboard under the stairs plotting with secret desires? Cleaned so they are wearable again, then hung out to dry?
This post annoys me. Aren’t you enacting just another kind of ‘resistance’ by sketching yourself in this scene as a more self-aware and “sophisticated” actor than everyone else?
What do you hope to achieve by making people like me feel stupid and unsophisticated for participating in the culture you yourself admit is inescapable?
Hi Mel, I was trying to point to different kinds of sophistication, not just one scale. One type of sophistication (that belonging to ‘taste cultures’) isn’t critiqued due to the culture itself being tasteful or distasteful, for then I would be measuring it according to my own reason for critiquing it.
Is there a meta-sophisitication, a sophisitication of sophistications (ie as a function of ‘self-awareness’ and ‘sophstication’)? Only if we fall up the rabbit hole of our own arses.
Rather, the sophistication I was talking about is expressed (from the popular Foucault 2.0 post) in the quote from Foucault:
â€œConstantin Guys is not a flÃ¢neur; what makes him the modern painter par excellence in Baudelaireâ€™s eyes is that, just when the whole world is falling asleep, he begins to work, and he transfigures that world. His transfiguration does not entail an annulling of reality, but a difficult interplay between the truth of what is real and the exercise of freedom; â€˜naturalâ€™ things become â€˜more than natural,â€™ â€˜beautifulâ€™ things become â€˜more than beautiful,â€™ and individual objects appear â€˜endowed with an impulsive life like the soul of their creator.â€™ For the attitude of modernity, the high value of the present is indissociable from a desperate eagerness to imagine it, to imagine it otherwise than it is, and to transform it not by destroying it but by grasping it in what it is. Baudelairean modernity is an exercise in which extreme attention to what is real is confronted with the practice of a liberty that simultaneously respects this reality and violates it.â€
Mel, you are a perfect example of someone who does precisely what Foucault is talking about. ‘Reality’ in my above post is ‘expectation’. I prefer ‘expectation’ in the sense that Massumi talks about ‘anticipation’ in Parables of the Virtual as a relation of superposed futurity. Do you allow yourself to be interpellated into given markets of cultural capital, or do you go off and create your own? I feel as though you often frame it in terms of belonging and romance (two separate things) on your blog. You push sophistication to its limits until it becomes transformed.
The other faintly whinging dimension to the post (ooh, the poor little left socks) was actually meant to be less an angsty lament about this sort of existential displacement, than a siren song for others (hiding under the bed with the communists).
I have found plenty of socks – I am not sure whether they are the left socks or the right socks – but lots of “one” only socks!
thanks mum. send them over to sydney
Are the communists still hiding under the bed?
Also, I’m pretty sure that my missing laundry is stolen by the cockroaches that live in my washing machine for nefarious purposes all of their own. Now what do you suppose that is all about?
Can you see anyone from that high on your hobby horse Glen? This post comes across as arrogant and far too dismissive.
The post appears to mark the terms of resistance from your own privileged position of what Foucault would have [or arguments by Foucault theorists over what he means. See the exchange with Eric Paras]?
Personally I get turned away from Foucault by the claims in this post, even though he could offer much.
So what are you suggesting?
Do people need to create their own expectations [and become enlightened like to mess with whats on offer] and not be fooled by the expectations offered to them?
What assumed or ‘expected’ agency is marked out here; or access to ‘tools’ and assumed?
Re: consumption: What of the kids I work with who fulfill certain ‘expectations’ not simply because they are fooled by capitalism – ‘cooler than capitalism’ – but because it offers moments of pleasure in use and cultural capital in some cases that for a moments at least sidelines the war and trauma and struggling they have experienced. Are they simply apologists? As they abject stupid consumers?
It’s amazing the people who get swept up in such sweeping condemnations.
I see people who have no idea about Foucault – out on the street practicing a ‘foucauldian ethics’ – eg some community workers I have met.
Are they doing it ‘right’ according to interpreters of Foucault [or his apologists?] Who cares, if that is, it is the contingency that matters? What expectations are being set up by the theorists of Foucault?
And don’t tell me it is all potential, virtual etc.
Rather than just high theory and ridicule of people because of it where are the actual enacted strategies for people to do things differently?
Or is that not the concern? And lets not go to the theorised states of being like ‘potentiality’ or to ‘be virtuality’; as if these are possible states of being to consider when I am simply trying to feed and clothe my family, get to work, etc.
This is where I get frustrated, when people are alienated and ridiculed just because we are ‘interpellated into cultural capital markets’. People are more often than not just trying to get by … mortgage or no mortgage.
So what happens to ethics when people are by and large condemned as stupid or fooled? Or even, needing someone who ‘really’ knows Foucault and how the cultural industry works to show them the way?
Just ‘trying to get by’ is not good enough, but of course I can say that because I am privileged. I am very aware that I am privileged. But it needs to be said and said more often.
The work you do with the refugee kids is again another example of the “extreme attention to what is real is confronted with the practice of a liberty that simultaneously respects this reality and violates it.” Yeah, the reality of the trauma etc is not used as a resource of ressentiment to fuel acts of wanton juvenile stupidity, as is the case for those kids in Glebe who are traumatised because of the housing commission-based class prejudice, but turned towards something new and positive, built by the kids into their sporting activities. ‘Sport’ is not a monolithic ideal-type or category.
The level of expectation I am talking about begins on the immediate inter-personal level and cuts across to much larger social aggregates. Like when a co-worker and I caught some little kid ‘popping the window’ on my co-worker’s car. His mate was riding around on a pushy when we were waiting for the cops, pointing at a sign that warned people of smash and grabs, he was saying “didn’t you see the sign?” He was pointing to the stupidity of my co-worker for not recognising the expectation of smash and grabs, like there was a sign, it is going to happen, don’t park there, but you did park there, so you are fucking stupid. The cops came and they did not acted surprised, they were all 100% expectation and completely immersed in their ‘reality’. The kid carried on not as if he should be shocked or upset, but as if this was also normal and expected. There was nothing here to deviate the course of events from the spirals of expectation, to someting otherwise.
My post was full of anger, for many reasons.
NPB, under? Communists are in my bed
And what alternative is suggested?
‘just trying to get by’ has to be good enough.It’s the reality of many people’s state of expectation. People do not need to be moralised too by being told ‘that just trying to get by’ is not good enough. they know it isn’t, but feel trapped. regardless. It does not have to be said and said more often.
What has to be done is an accommodation of this state-of-being to allow expectations of otherwise to become more readily visible without certain cultural capital. What has to be developed are strategies congruent to working within the ‘trying to get by’ ethos to shatter its assumptions, and make visible the violence of its expectations. A strategy of proposing movement through this ethos rather than asking people disavow what they see as their state-of-being rightfully or wrongfully.
‘just trying to get by’, in the sense of a constant struggle that has been rpdocued by forces which are largely beyond their control, may be a reality for some people, but there is another reality, the flip-side to the consumerist logic of ‘choices’. A single mum bringing up a kid struggles in a different way to the happily married economically over-extended couple trying to pay off the mortgage. That is why ‘trying to get by’ is not good enough because as a notion it is too easily appropriated. The question is one of the distribution of ‘struggle’, and the authenticity of struggle. Those that easily fall into markets of consumer taste and social expectation struggle in a different way to those trying to move away from them.
Therefore, I have no interest in valorising a model of the subject premised on the adolescent sense of belonging or a lack of belonging; the double articulation of I-wanna-be-like-them so they-can-be-like-us ethos. To accept the conditions of the franchised ‘good life’ in the suburbs distributes the struggle into already established social expectations. Do people will this? Yes, they fucking do! Hence, our munted federal government. I am under no illusions about the fact I am being critical of most people in Australia in the above post.
So how to redirect the struggle of existence away from the social expectations of the market (cultural, social, economic)? It depends on the context.
Here is an admittedly radical suggestion: There has to be new forms of dwelling and mobility; they go hand in hand. The catastrophe of Sydney transport is also the catastrophe of the suburbs. I orginally though that people would need to have access to middle-range forms of ownership, mobility and dwelling, so between rent and home ownership. As most people commute for work however, perhaps a good first step is for a much more intelligent model for the spatial distribution of work/dwelling needs to be configured. Instead of workplaces being determined by abstract and material configurations of power (such as the city) it should be determined from the bottom-up. Where are the workers? Literally map the distribution of workers across sydney and minimise transport costs by moving centres of business according to to the reduction of resources for transport. Tax-breaks for businesses if they move. Penalties for businesses if they make workers move. This will become easier the more businesses become part of the service economy. I am not sure why no one has suggested this idea because it is clearly ‘market’ driven (by the housing market), and it would be a popularist winner in the suburbs. If businesses want to be located in the city then they should be punished for increasing transport costs and the consumption of resources.
lovely suggestion but
how do I do/enable that?
how does this ‘radical suggestion’ become viable/enacted/eventualised?
how does mum and dad and the kids and mortgage come on board to become part of the event? How does your strategy convince them to?
how does the single mother enable this radical venture and therefore take part? Who will be the agent of this suggestion and it concomitant expectations?
The problem could be that this suggestion will only remain a suggestion – and thereby does not alter expectations – because it is a theoretical anecdote rather than something that could, or would, happen.
Well my suggestion is of a certain outcome. Expectations of dwelling/mobility will therefore have to be changed. How do you change expectations? Offering suggestions, in the form of other ways of thinking about a given reality, will not on their own change expectations. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of suggestion served to reinforce the coalition of desires that give expectations their unthinking common sense resonance.
In terms of answering your questions (with an answer provided by the skills I have):
1) a comparative quantitative and qualitative study of different relations of mobility and dwelling from different urban and suburban contexts from around the world. These would be indexed against social, cultural, economic, and environmental costs (SCEEC). It would be a very good first step in providing a resource of already existing examples. Call it the ‘Mobile Cities’ research project. (Much of this work has been done, or could be deduced from already existing work, by the way.)
2) do various forms of mathematical modeling based on the examples and taking into account the sets of index variables (SCEEC). What is of interest here are social singularities. (An example of a social singularity is the difference between having the automobile as a technology, and even a few automobiles driving around, to society becoming automobilised where there is an expectation that people will drive.) Where are the tipping points? How can these tipping points be encouraged?
3) get the ear of sympathetic local government and state government politicians to try an experiment with the mobile city paradigm; perhaps of a certain scale city.
It all seems very preposterous, but don’t forget much larger endeavours have been attempted over the course of the previous century.
Yes, but first I am going to finish my PhD.
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