The Future

Reading Todd McGowan’s article in the most recent issue of Film-Philosophy it is clear that Hegelians have a radically different conception of the future than I do, and I guess I am a Deleuzian. McGowan argues that the representation of the future in science fiction cinema can not be but an expression of the present ideologies. I agree. So the future of science fiction is not the future at all, but an ideological representation of the present. What, then, is the future?

Brian Massumi has best explored what I would call the actuality of the future, which is another way of saying, in the first instance (pun intended), the actualised virtuality of the present. The virtual can not be represented as such, only actualised. Does this therefore mean that the future can not be actual or is only ever actual? Otherwise the future would be, without any becoming. The futurity of the present, that which is to come but has not yet been actualised, is both present and in the future. The present is not this instant, the first or otherwise, but what is happening contemporaneously now. That is to say, the present duration does not merely exist within the contemporary now; rather, the contemporary exists beyond the present. The virtual exists as the contemporary that is not present, but in the future. Think of events that you are part. Your marriage, it is happening now, so stop reading this infernal internet, but it is also yet to happen. Your marriage has a future, I hope. The happening has not yet been exhausted.

The actual future, that of the present that has not yet been actualised and that of the contemporary, that is not yet present, has little to do with representations of the future in science fiction. I am very interested in the future, because capitalism functions most demonstratively in this space, in what Negri and Hardt called the passage from the virtual to the actual. My interest is specifically in thinking a Deleuzian conception of the spectacle. I agree with every critique in Guy Debord’s masterwork, The Society of the Spectacle, except for his assumptions regarding time, for his assumptions are far too Hegelian. I’ve written about this somewhere, I need to find it.

My primary example, at this stage, is of the ‘rewards’ card — the frequent shopper card, the Fly Buys card, the ‘points’ card, and most telling, the ‘loyalty’ card. ‘Loyalty’ examined through the lens of the Kantian imperative is a question of moral duty. ‘Loyalty’ examined by way of a Deleuzian event mechanics is an effect of modulating the field of possibility in the passage from the virtual to the actual. It is not a question of identity, but a constriction of the field of action. We are all Pavlov’s dogs, it is the character of the reward that defines us and whether or not we are worthy of it. Some of us are more worthy dogs than others.

The loyalty card operates within the space of the contemporary that is never present. There is a deferral of an actualised present that hums with an affective tension. It is pure ideology in the way a closure and contradiction is represented as an escape, a reward. To invert Derrida’s hauntology, capitalism haunts the present with the future while never escaping the contemporary. A perverted eschatology, the deferral of the present is its own reward.