After the Еnd of Reason, What?
НСА „Васил Левски” , Учителски факултет, сектор "Философия и социология"
Концептът за края на разума се въвежда от Хоркхаймер, според когото разумното съществуване е на път да изчезне. Разумът е в състояние да разпознае неправдите и фалшификациите, като се дистанцира от тях, но това не се случва. Прогресът на рационалното мислене и самооценка е към своя край, следователно, без Разум, отбелязва Хоркхаймер, нищо друго не остава за хората, освен живот вместо в свобода във варварство.
Consumer society is deprived of reason, and as a consequence this society is dispossessed of the possibility to enjoy the real work of art, to have high culture, and basically to be free. The fuller the eclipse of reason, the stronger he repressive means of control. This artical is trying to show the rise of the end of reason, the historical and social prerequisites for this, and the consequences for the consumerist society.
The Reason of the Enlightenment
Consumer society is deprived of reason, and as a consequence this society is dispossessed of the possibility to enjoy the real work of art, to have high culture, and basically to be free. The fuller the eclipse of reason, the stronger the repressive means of control. This article is trying to show the rise of the end of reason, the historical and social prerequisites for this, and the consequences for the consumerist society. There are three elements which are on focus in this work. The first is regarding consumerist society – its problems and weaknesses.What is wrong with this type society?The second group of problems is concentrated on the reason why this type of society is losing its rational way of life and become one-dimensional. The third group is concentrated on the consequences of the eclipse of reason, some futuristic theories are presented as well.
The best explanation of the concept “end of reason” is given in Horkheimer’s essay The End of Reason, accordingly: 'What remains of reason in its contemporary decline, however, is not just the perseverance of self-preservation and the persistence of that horror in which it culminates. The age-old definition of reason in terms of self-preservation already implied the curtailment of reason itself. The propositions of idealistic philosophy that reason distinguishes man from the animal (propositions in which the animal is humiliated just as man is in the converse propositions of the materialist doctors) contain the truth that through reason man frees himself of the fetters of nature. This liberation, however, does not entitle man to dominate nature (as the philosophers held) but to comprehend it. Society, governed by the self-preserving rationality of élites, has always also preserved the life of the masses, although in a wrong and accidental form. Reason has borne a true relation not only to one’s own existence but to living as such; this function of transcending self-preservation is concomitant with self-preservation, with obeying and adapting to objective ends. Reason could recognize and denounce the forms of injustice and thus emancipate itself from them. As the faculty of calling things by their name, reason is more than the alienated life that preserves itself in the destruction of others and of itself. To be sure, reason cannot hope to keep aloof from history and to intuit the true order of things, as ontological ideologies contend. In the inferno to which triumphant reason has reduced the world it loses its illusions, but in doing so it becomes capable of facing this inferno and recognizing it for what it is [...]. Mutilated as men are, in the duration of a brief moment they can become aware that in the world which has been thoroughly rationalized they can dispense with the interests of self-preservation which still set them one against the other. The terror which pushes reason is at the same time the last means of stopping it, so close has truth come. If the atomized and disintegrating men of today have become capable of living without property, without location, without time, they also have abandoned the ego in which all prudence and all stupidity of historical reason as well as its compliance with domination was sustained. The progress of reason that leads to its self-determination has come to an end; there is nothing left but barbarism or freedom' (Horkhaimer 2004: 32).
According to Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Benjamin, and Baudrillard, the developments in science, technology, and production have increased the range of possibilities facing human beings. But as has turned out, the developments only led to a 'real hell' (Адорно 2002: 327) and the world has been depraved of these opportunities. The disappearance of reason is not something spontaneous, it is a historical process, which is on focus in this article. The major questions here are the following: how the consumer society is created; how much this society is manipulated; which are the main means of control, etc. All these questions are analyzed against the theoretical background built by the above mentioned authors.
The Frankfurt theorists find out that the reason for these changes in the society can be found in the Enlightenment. Moreover, the end of reason is a consequence of the Enlightenment reason which makes possible the rise of the cultural industry and the mass media, which in their own turn become a means of control and domination of the society. The end of reason is the end of the freedom.
The Enlightenment is, of course, associated by the Adorno and Horkheimer with a variety of the intellectual currents which informed and helped stimulate the political upheavals in Europe in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. The notion of “enlightenment” which is channeled in Dialectic of Enlightenment does not refer to a definite period or to a particular set of intellectual currents, but to more encompassing principles. Contradictions are revealed between the philosophy of the Enlightenment and ‘enlightenment’. In examining the importance of instrumental reason in this context, Horkheimer and Adorno hoped to prepare the way for a positive, emancipatory notion of enlightenment ‘released from enlightenment in blind domination’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 25).
They did not define the concept of domination. However, as a minimal condition for its application, they suggested a situation in which the thoughts, wants and purposes of those affected by it would have been radically different, if it had not been for the effects created by domination. This view is shared by Marcuse as well. According to him, domination is in effect whenever the individual’s goals and purposes and the means of striving for and attaining them are prescribed to him and performed by him as something prescribed. Domination can be exercised by men, by nature, by things - it can also be internal, exercised by the individual on himself, and appear in the form of autonomy (Marcuse 1970: 1-2).
Capitalist exploitation is seen as only one specific, historical form of domination. The history of civilization reveals, all three authors contended, a threefold pattern of domination: First, domination over one’s self, over one’s own nature, second, domination of the labour achieved by such discipline and controlled individuals; and third, domination of outward nature, science and technology (Marcuse 1970: 12). In the Dialectic, the history of domination is traced back to the ‘turning points’ of Western civilization - from the first articles of Genesis and Olympian religion to the Reformation and bourgeois atheism and to the cultural industry and the authoritarian state, Horkheimer and Adorno were concerned to show how 'the rational domination of nature comes increasingly to win the day, in spite of all deviations and resistance, and integrates to win the day, in spite of all deviations and resistance, and integrates all human characteristics' (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 30). This can be seen in the ideological components of the Enlightenment and in positivist thinking which arises in the Enlightenment.
The ideological components of the Enlightenment can be revealed most clearly, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, in the thought of Kant, the Marquis de Sade and Nietzshe. In their works we can see how the radical separation of subject and object, humanity and nature, legitimizes the subjugation of the natural world and the treatment of men and women as objects. Continuity exists, Horkheimer and Adorno maintained, between elements of liberalism, developed and exemplified by Sade, and Kant's conservatism (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002). Nietzsche’s contributions lie between these poles. The moral teachings of these figures reveal a desperate attempt to replace ‘enfeebled religion’ with some raison d’être. As a consequence, the Enlightenment came to its fulfillment with the foundation of modern science – withthe mathematization of nature. The new science established a purely rational, ideational world as the only true reality. It understood the world as a scientific universe which could be systematically comprehended only by science itself. Within this world every object, represented by means of mathematical theorems, became a possible focus of study. The development of a universal mathematically formulated science and its emergence as the model for all science and knowledge represents a culmination of the Enlightenment project. Although such a notion of science predates the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment gave an enormous impetus to it. With these events, European thought entered, as Marcuse put it, an ‘age of positivism' (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002). The ‘age’ made itself known, in part, though systems of positive philosophy.
Adorno and Horkheimer developed this thesis in their Dialectic of Enlightenment. The dialectic of enlightenment can be characterized in two short theses: ‘myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 53). In the Dialectic of Enlightenment Horkheimer and Adorno hoped to reassess many of the traditional problems posed by German idealist thought (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002). Their analysis is indebted to Hegel. Hegel’s claim that there is an internal relationship between Enlightenment and an ethic of utility and terror (especially the Terror of the French Revolution) is parallel in their own discussion of the relationship between scientific consciousness (based on instrumental reason), pragmatism and ethical decisionism, and barbarism (especially the barbarism of totalitarianism). Moreover, the concept of science Hegel had in mind, was Francis Bacon’s, for whom scientific knowledge is potential power – the instrument or tool which can be used to master nature. Science is the key to the control of nature and (as Bacon well recognized) of human beings. In drawing on Bacon, Horkheimer and Adorno sought to indicate that ‘what men want to learn from the nature is how to use it in order to fully dominate it and other men’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 66). The domination of nature, they contended, is at the basis of the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The transformation of what was once liberating reason into a repressive orthodoxy, of the Enlightenment into totalitarianism, can be understood as a result of elements integral to this very form of enlightenment itself.
As a main problem, Horkheimer and Adorno pint at the Enlightenment concept of nature. The concept suggests a ‘radical disjunction between subjective and nature’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 67). In contradiction to the Greek concept of nature which did not sharply distinguish mind or subjectivity from the world of objects, the Enlightenment concept refers to nature as essential pure matter, structured according to laws and capable of being known through a mathematically formulated universal science. Another feature of the Enlightenment is the concept of “useful” which follows almost naturally from the Enlightenment perspective. Nature is not valuable in and for itself; therefore, if it is to have significance, it must serve the ends and purpose of another (human beings and /or God). Utility becomes, as Hegel noted, the ethic of the Enlightenment. Acts and ideas are judged according to their usefulness which is assessed in terms of their consequences for some (variously set) goal or aim. And as we will see later in this article, this is characteristic for the attitudes of society toward culture as well.
Instrumental reason is characteristic for the Renaissance and Reformation, which gave an impetus to these ideas. Instrumental reason came to penetrate an increasing number of areas of everyday life. The impetus to these ideas was reinforced, of course, by economic pressures. The development of capitalism institutionalized economic growth and led to the systematic exploitation of the new forms of knowledge. Bacon’s ‘formula’ was easily secularized. Scientific and technical development became independent. Science was transformed into an important productive force. The domination of nature became an interest of the whole economic system.
As a consequence of all that, nature has meaning in so far as its utility – in so far as it is instrumental to human purposes. Matter is defined as a possible object of manipulation. People, embodying the natural; and it become also potentially controllable. ‘Domination is potentially all embracing’. There is a ‘necessary relation’, on Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s account, ‘between our concept of nature and the domination of nature (and, therefore, of human beings)’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002). The history of the concept is to a large extent the history of the ‘coming-to-be’ of the relationship that it posits.
Both mythology and enlightenment find their roots in the same basic needs: survival, self-preservation and fear. Fear of the unknown in an environment which threatens survival is, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, the root of the desire to dominate nature and the basis of both ancient and modern systems of thought.
The Crisis of Modernity and of Postmodernity
This subarticle aims to emphasize the prerequisites for the end of reason. There are processes in the society which make the disappearance of reason easier. These processes are the crisis of Modernity and Postmodernity.
For Adorno, there are four elements characteristic of the crisis of modernism: the first one is the thesis of the tangential elimination of autonomy of art under the condition of the progressive commodification of culture; the second one, the thesis of the inherently degenerative character of the dialectic of aesthetic modernism that is generated in defensive reaction to the erosion of the autonomy of art; the third one, an insistence upon the autonomy of art as a condition of the possibility of authentic aesthetic experience; and the fourth one, an interpretation of authentic aesthetic experience as the bearer of the promise of the idea of truth and a prefigurative anticipation of a state of reconciliation and a transformed subjectivity (Adorno 1981).
Of these four elements, it is the way in which the historical process represented by the first two erodes the conditions for the possibility of the form of experience specified by the second two, that produces the historical blockage that simultaneously gives rise to the idea of the necessity for, but denies the actual possibility of, a postmodern art. It is the dual and contradictory pathos of the autonomy of art that underlies this process. For art gains its autonomy as ‘an entity unto itself’, an independent sphere of value, only through its commodification. Commodification, however, simultaneously provides the conditions of the subversion of this autonomy by the values of the market – the progressive domination of use-value by exchange value characteristic of the development of capitalism as a whole. In this respect, art may be understood, as Terry Eagleton put it, as ‘the commodity as fetish resisting the commodity as exchange, its solution to reification, part of that very problem’ (Adorno 1981: 45).
Postmodernism, in its epochal interpretation, appears from within this respective as a problem essentially to do with the commodity status of art. More specifically, it appears as a result of an erosion of the traditional distinction between ‘high’ art and mass culture – a separation referred to by Adorno as the ‘torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up’ (Adorno 1981:35). Adorno, however, considered it romantic to attempt to overcome this opposition within the framework of a society dominated by capitalist relation of production.
It is for its account of the progressive ‘neutralization’ of culture by commodification, and of modernism as an aesthetic response to this situation which nevertheless remains trapped within its terms, that Adorno’s aesthetics is best known. Within this account, it is its descriptive aspect that critics have generally been most prepared to accept. What has provoked more resistance has been Adorno’s continued defense of the project of furthering the dialectic of aesthetic modernism as the sole hope of authentic aesthetic experience within a commodified culture, despite his recognition (indeed, his theorization) of its essentially degenerative character. As in his epistemology (negative dialectic), so too in his aesthetics (modernism) it is increasingly suggested that Adorno has argued himself into a dead end. What is at issue here is the inherent traditionalism of Adorno’s concept of aesthetic experience (however modified this may be by his account of modernism); and correspondingly, the underlying metaphysical basis of his understanding of art. It is with this metaphysical ground of Adorno’s aesthetics that the rest of this essay is primarily concerned in its presentation of Aesthetic Theory as a materialist metaphysic of modernism. For only through a detailed consideration of the metaphysical substance of Adorno’s aesthetic is it possible to comprehend, and thus to criticize, his intransigent modernism (Benjamin 1989: 25-27).
The crisis of modernism, and thereby of art, is the direct result, for Adorno, of the rationalization of the mimetic and the correspondingly increased significance and role of subjective, constructive moment with the productive rationale of the work. For, as was argued above, art’s capacity to express critically the truth of the present is dependent first, upon the ultimately irreconcilable difference between the rational and the mimetic, and second, originally at least, upon the structural priority of the latter within the work, since it is the principle of subjective rationality that it is one of the main functions of art to criticize. From the standpoint of philosophical aesthetics, there is thus a deepening contradiction at the heart of the radical nominalism of modern art. For it is increasingly forced to rely, as the tool of its critical function, upon precisely that which it is its function to criticize: ‘The new wills non-identity but, by willing, inevitably wills identity’. Modern art is constantly practising the impossible trick of trying to identify the non-identical. Its increased self-consciousness is not so much an advantage as a curse. Yet it is inescapable. Art’s ‘elective affinity’ to conceptuality is in danger of dissolving into equivalence.
Two things should be noted about this process. One is the idea of ‘desubstantialization’- the loss of art’s capacity to act as a medium of historical possibilities. The other concerns the concrete aesthetic ground of this process: the erosion of the aesthetic significance of sensuousness. Sensuousness is an essential aspect of mimesis and thereby of art. More specifically, it is through the ‘spiritualization’ of the sensuous (which is the product of the expression of the mimetic through the rational) that art takes on the appearance of being a free object, and is thereby able to become, simultaneously, an image of reconciliation and a medium of truth. There is an essential non-sensuous moment within the sensuous structure of all works which cannot appear except through that structure. It is through this dialectic of the sensuous and non-sensuous that art acquires its peculiar ontological status as something that is simultaneously conceptual and sensuous: a vision of the non-visual...similar to a concept, which makes that content true, Adorno argues, is tied up with its sensuousness. The socially determined, declining aesthetic significance of mimesis, however, appears as a proscription against sensuousness. This is the real crisis of art. Art will not survive if it forgets sensuousness, just as it will not survive if it gives itself over to an external sensuousness that is divorced from its real structure.
This is a ‘desubstantialization’ of art in two senses. First, in the immediate sense of the erosion of art’s materiality. Second, in the mediated sense of the loss of the possibilities for the expression of truth associated with this materiality. Such a loss is endemic to modernism because, in its increasing nominalism, it is increasingly, as a will to irreconcilability, rather than concretely, through its classical, integrative moment. This is maintained as a condition of the possibility of art in even the most modernist work, but it declines in aesthetic significance proportionally to the rationalization of the mimetic. The desubstantialization of art is thus both ‘a stage in the liquidation of art’ and an essential part of its ‘logical development'.
Modernism, for Adorno, has turned out to be a dead-end street (Adorno 1992а: 75); not so much for intra-aesthetic reason, as because of objective social determinants. Is there then nothing left for Adorno’s aesthetics to contribute dialectic to an idea of a postmodern art, except for a knowing reification of its impossibility?
Post-modernity is ruled by the magical thinking, which “overcomes the limits of understanding by openly involving the absurd and creating perceptions of a different world which Jean Baudrillard sees as ‘hyperreality’. The logical inconsistency, paradoxes, and transgression of all logical rules do not cause any worries, just the opposite, they impress and make the proposed statements even more convincing and acceptable” (Гънгов 2009: 35). Post-modernity is dead end street, as Adorno characterized modernity, the key element in the post-modernity, according to Baudrillard, is seduction. People voluntary give their souls to the seductive media, and popular arts.
The Problem with Values
The lack of higher values in the consumer society is obvious, and it is exactly this lack that predetermines the end of reason. The theory of the Frankfurt School was based on some of Marx’s ideas, despite its divergence from certain fundamental principles of classical Marxism. These ideas have played their part in the Frankfurtian interpretation of the development of modern capitalism, and in Adorno’s formulation of the concept of the culture industry. Adorno wrote that ‘the real secret of success…is the mere reflection of what one pays in the market for the product. The consumer is really worshipping the money that he himself has paid for the ticket to the Toscanini concert’ (Adorno 1991). Marx’s theory lies behind Adorno’s theory of culture industry. Marx’s discussion of commodity fetishism is, for Adorno and the Frankfurt School, the basis of a theory of how cultural forms like popular music can function to secure the continuing economic, political and ideological domination of capital.
The immediate inspiration for Adorno’s notion that money - the price of commodities or goods, including a ticket to a concert - defines and dominates social relations in capitalist societies is Marx’s famous statement on the origins of commodity fetishism.
The mystery of the commodity form, therefore, consists in the fact that in it the social character of human labour appears to humans as an objective chatacteristic, a social natural quality of the labour product itself, and that consequently the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. Through this transfer the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. It is simply a definite social relation between men that assumes in their eyes the fantastic form of a relation between things. This is the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities (Marx 1975: 183).
According to Adorno, ‘this is the real secret of success’, since it can show how ‘exchange value exerts its power in a special way in the realm of cultural goods’ (Adorno 1991: 65). Marx had made a distinction between the exchange value and use value of the commodities circulating in capitalist societies. Exchange value refers to the money that a commodity can command on the market; the price it can be bought and sold for, while use value refers to the usefulness of the good for the consumer, its practical value or utility as commodity. With capitalism, according to Marx, exchange value will always dominate use value since the capitalist economic cycle involving the production, marketing and consumption of commodities will always dominate people’s real needs. This idea is central to Adorno’s theory of capitalist culture. It links commodity fetishism with the predominance of exchange value in that money is both the exemplar of how one social relation is defined by a ‘thing’, that is money, and the basic means by which the value of commodities is supposed to venerate the price we pay for the ticket to the concert rather than the concert itself.
What Adorno has in fact done, is to extend Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism and exchange to the sphere of cultural goods or commodities. In the example cited, this concerns the market for music, and he accordingly elaborates a ‘concept of musical fetishism’. Adorno argues that ‘all contemporary musical life is dominated by the commodity form; the last pre-capitalist residues have been eliminated’ (Adorno 1991: 34). This means that what Marx said about commodities in general also applies, for Adorno, to cultural commodities: they ‘fall completely in the world of commodities, are produced for the market, and are aimed at the market. They become tainted by commodity fetishism, and dominated by their exchange value, as both are defined and realized by the medium of money. What is, however, unique to cultural commodities is that ‘exchange value deceptively takes over the function of use value. The specific fetish character of music lies in this ‘quid pro quo’. With other commodities, exchange value both obscures and dominates use value. Exchange values, and not use values, determine the production and circulation of those commodities. However, with cultural commodities such as music, because they bring us into an ‘immediate’ relation with what we buy – the musical experience – their use value becomes their exchange value, so that that the latter can ‘disguise itself as the object of enjoyment’ (Adorno 1991: 45).
In Baudrillard’s theory main problem for this phenomenon is the lack of values. Value, according to Baudrillard, emerges only with capitalism which distinguished between use value and exchange value in its system of political economy. This socioeconomic system constitutes a fundamental rupture with the complex system of symbolic exchange and inaugurates an exchange of goods according to the laws of the market, governed by quantitative measures of exchange. Political economy thus replaces the concreteness of symbolic exchange with the abstractions of exchange value in which money and market economy constitute a new realm of value. Henceforth, value is determined by the laws of political economy and as the system of political economy expands, the entire world is rationalized and functionalized in accordance with the imperatives of capital accumulation. These abstract values – money, capital, exchange value – rule society and reduce complex symbolic systems to the nexus of the cash register and its quantitative measures. With the system of political economy, value is articulated as use value (untility of objects), exchange value (monetary worth, commercial value), and statutory value, or what Baudrillard calls “sign value” (Baudrillard 1970).
Cultural Industry and the Organization of Free Time
So far this work has described some of the problems and preconditions for the end of reason and its disappearance in modernity and postmodernity, i.e. in the consumer society. In this subarticle the interest is toward the necessity of explanation of what happens with the consumer society after the end of reason.
According to the Frankfurt School, culture industry reflects the consolidation of commodity fetishism, the domination of exchange value and the ascendancy of state monopoly capitalism. It shapes the tastes and preferences of the masses, thereby molding their consciousness by including the desire for false needs. It therefore works to exclude real or true needs, alternative and radical concepts or theories, and politically oppositional ways of thinking and acting. It is so effective in doing this that the people do not realize what is going on.
In a reconsideration of the concept of the cultural industry first published in 1975, Adorno reiterated his endorsement of these ideas. He clearly distinguished the idea of culture industry from that of mass culture, since the latter concept assumes the masses bear some genuine responsibility for the culture they consume, that it is determined by the preferences of the masses themselves. More than the theorists of mass culture, Adorno saw this culture as something which has been imposed upon the masses, and which makes them prepared to welcome it given they do not realize it is an imposition (Strinati 1995: 62)
In all its branches, products which are tailored for consumption by masses, and which to a greater extent determine the nature of that consumption, are manufactured more or less according to plan. The individual branches are similar in structure or at least fit into each other, ordering themselves into a system almost without gap. This is made possible by contemporary technical capabilities as well as by economic and administrative consumers from above. To the determent of both it forces together the spheres of high art and low art, separated for thousands of years. The seriousness of high art is destroyed in the speculation about its efficiency; the seriousness of the lower perishes with the civilization constraints imposed on the rebellious resistance inherent within it as long as social control was not yet total. Thus, although the culture industry undeniably speculates on the conscious and unconscious state of the millions towards which it is directed, the masses are not primary but secondary, they are an object of calculation, an appendage of the machinery. The customer is not king, as the culture industry would have us believe, not its subject but its object (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 85).
The commodities produced by the cultural industry are governed by the need to realize their value on the market. The profit motive determines the nature of cultural forms. Industrially, cultural production is a process of standardization whereby the products acquire the form common to all commodities – like ‘the Western, familiar to every movie-goer’. But it also confers a sense of individuality in that each product ‘affects and individual air’.This attribution of individuality to each product, and therefore to each consumer, serves to obscure the standardization and manipulation of consciousness practiced by the cultural industry. This means that the more cultural products are actually standardized the more they appear to be individualized. Individualization is an ideological process which hides the process of standardization. The Hollywood star system is cited as an example: ‘The more dehumanaised its method of operation and content, the more diligently and successfully the culture industry propagates supposedly great personalities and operates with heart throbs’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 47).
In response to the claims that modern mass culture is a relatively harmless form of entertainment, and a democratic response to consumer demand, and that critics like himself adopt elitist intellectual positions, Adorno stresses the vacuity, banality, and conformity fostered by the cultural industry. He sees it as a highly destructive force. As he puts it: “the colour film demolishes the genial old tavern to a greater extent than bombs ever could….No homeland can survive being processed by the films which celebrate it, and which thereby turn the unique character on which it thrives into an interchangeable sameness (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 89). To ignore the nature of the cultural industry, as Adorno defines it, is to succumb to its ideology.
This ideology is corrupting and manipulative, underpinning the dominance of the market and commodity fetishism. It is equally conformist and mind-numbing, enforcing the general acceptance of the capitalist order. For Adorno, ‘the concepts of order which it (the cultural industry) hammers into human beings are always those of the status quo’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 90). Its effects are profound and far-reaching: ‘the power of the cultural industry’s ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness’. This drive to conformity tolerates no deviation form, or opposition to, nor an alternative vision of, the existing social order. Deviant, oppositional and alternative ways of thinking and acting become increasingly impossible to envisage as the power of the cultural industry is extended over people’s mind. The cultural industry deals in falsehoods, not truths, in false needs and false solutions, rather than real needs and real solutions. It solves problems ‘only in appearance’, not as they should be resolved in the real world. It offers the semblance, not the substance of resolving problems, the false satisfaction of false needs as a substitute for the real solution of real problems. In doing this, it takes over the consciousness of the masses.
These masses, in Adorno’s eyes, become completely powerless. Power lies with the culture industry. Its products encourage conformity and consensus which ensure obedience to authority, and the stability of the capitalist system. The ability of the culture industry to ‘replace’ the consciousness of the masses with automatic conformity is more or less complete. Its effectiveness, according to Adorno: ‘lies in the promotion and exploitation of the ego-weakness to which the powerless member of contemporary society, with its concentration of power, are condemned. Their consciousness is further developed retrogressively. It is no coincidence that cynical American film producers are heard to say that their pictures must take into consideration the level of the eleven-year-old. In doing so they would very much like to make adults eleven-year-olds’(Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 91).
The power of cultural industry to secure the dominance and continuity of capitalism resides, for Adorno, in its capacity to shape and perpetuate a ‘repressive’ audience, a dependent, passive, and servile consuming public.
The cultural industry, which involves the production of works for reproduction and mass consumption, thereby organizing the ‘free time’, the remnant domain of freedom under capital in accordance with the same principles of exchange and equivalence that reign in the sphere of production outside the leisure, presents culture as the realization of the right of all to the gratification of desire while in reality continuing the negative integration of society. While Adorno nowhere identifies the cultural industry with the political triumph of fascism, he does imply, both directly and indirectly, that the culture industry’s effective integration of society marks an equivalent triumph of repressive unification in liberal democratic states to that which was achieved politically under fascism. This analogical interpretation of the cultural industry itself requires the terms of reference provided by the idea of ‘integral freedom’.
Capital is concentrated on the people's free time; all advertisements, movies etc. oblige people to do certain activities during their free time. According to Adorno in his article Free Time free time is organized by the cultural industry as a result, people do not have the time to listen to music, to read books, which could increase their reflexive thinking, their creativity, and open their horizons; but are obliged to organize their free time according to clichés such as: to tan under the sun, to have a hobby, etc. (Adorno 1991: 188). As a result, people are deprived even of the choice what to do in their free time. Free time is a parody of free time. Everyone should have a hobby: if he or she does not, then their CV would not be complete. Moreover, if employees return from their holiday without having acquired the mandatory skin tone, they can be sure that their colleagues will ask them ‘Have you not been on holiday then?’. To behave like that, and to torture their bodies in such a way, people should rationalize their actions. Adorno gives many examples, such as the girls that think their body would be sexier with sun tan, or people who spend their entire free time in the fitness, etc. He finds out that this behavior is a fetish: just like cultural industry converts all kinds of gadgets into fetish, in the same way cultural industry transforms free time into fetish too. Free time is organized and is for sale. As a result Adorno observes the atrophy of imagination. Imagination is suspected to be only sexual curiosity and longing for the forbidden by the spirit of a science which is no longer spirit. Thus, whoever wants to adapt, must learn increasingly to curb their imagination. The lack of imagination which is cultivated and inculcated by society renders people helpless in their free time. The impertinent question of what people should do with the vast amount of free time now at their disposal, as if it was a question of alms and not human rights, is based upon this very unimaginativeness. The reason why people can do so little with their free time is that the truncation of their imagination deprives them of the faculty which made the state of freedom pleasurable in the first place. Adorno describes these activities as pseudo-activities which is another means of control. Pseudo-activities are misguided spontaneity. In such a way people prefer to be distracted by spurious and illusory activities, by institutionalized vicarious satisfaction, than to face up the awareness of how little access they have to the possibilities to change today. Moreover, Adorno stresses, free time is organized in the same way as culture is. Production regulates consumption in the process of mental life, just as it does in that of material life, especially where the former has so closely approximated the latter, as it has in the cultural industry. Cultural industry is perfectly adapted to its consumers. But since cultural industry is total - itself a phenomenon of the ever same from which it promises temporality to divert people – it is doubtful whether the cultural industry and consumer consciousness can be simply equated with one another.
As in all spheres in contemporary society, in the organization of free time again subsumptive or instrumental rationality disregards the intrinsic properties of things, those properties that give each thing its sensuous, social and historical particularity, for the sake of the goals and purposes of the subject – originally self-preservation itself. Thus, such a rationality must treat unlike (unequal) things as like (equal), and subsume objects under (the unreflective drives of) subjects. Subsumption, then, is domination in the conceptual realm. The purpose of subsumption is to allow for conceptual and technical mastery. When instrumental rationality came to be considered the whole of reason, then the possibility of cognition of the particular in its own right and ends for the sake of which the path of enlightened rationality was undertaken became occluded. Without the possibility of judging particulars and rationally considering ends and goals, the reason which was to be the means to satisfying human ends becomes its own end, and thereby turns against the true aims of the Enlightenment: freedom and happiness.
The economic organization of modern capitalist society provides for this realization of the instrumental reason and self-destruction of the Enlightenment. Under capitalism all production is for the market; goods are produced not in order to meet human needs and desires, but for the sake of profit, for the sake of acquiring further capital. While production for exchange is rather a feature of most economic forms, what uniquely characterizes capitalist economies is the tendential universality of production for exchange rather than use. This too is a procedure for making and treating unlike things as identical, for displacing the intrinsic properties of things for the sake of ends (capital accumulation) extrinsic to them. The domination of use value by exchange value thus realizes and duplicates the tendencies of enlightened reason: as enlightened rationality occludes production for use; and as enlightened rationality subsumes particulars under universals indifferent and insensitive to sensuous particularity, so capitalist production subsumes the use value of things under exchange value. Enlightened rationality and capital production preclude reification: Enlightenment’s irresistible progress in the domination of nature and the securing of the means for the possible realization of happiness come, in fact, to entail an irresistible regression.
Throughout their genealogy of reason, Adorno and Horkheimer mark out the role of art and culture in the presumptive progress of the Enlightenment. Art is an emphatic assertion of what is excluded from Enlightenment’s instrumental rationality; the claim of sensuous particularly and rational ends. Art is the cognition of ends and sensuous particularly cut off from practice. Pre-modern art hoped to alter reality, while autonomous art is the quintessence of the division between mental and manual labour in a class society. Cultural production is an integrated component of the capitalist economy as a whole. Culture is no longer the repository of a reflective comprehension of the present in terms of a redeemed future; the cultural industry forsakes the promise of happiness in the name of the degraded utopia of the present. This is the ironic presentation of the present. The effectiveness of the cultural industry depends not on its parading an ideology, on disguising the true nature of things, but in removing the thought that there is any alternative to the status quo. “Pleasure always means not to think about anything to forget suffering even where it is shown”. Hence pleasure is always a flight ‘from the last remaining thought of resistance’, the liberation promised by amusement ‘is freedom from though and negation'. (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 144) This is why the consideration of the cultural industry is embedded in a fragmentary genealogy of reason: the telos of instrumental rationality, the rationality first licensed by the drive for self-preservation, is the silencing of reflection industry. Instrumental rationality in the form of the cultural industry thus turns against reason and the reasoning subject. This silencing of reflection is the substantial irrationality of enlightened reason.
The cultural industry is the social realization of the defeat of reflection; it is the realization of subsumptive reason, the unification of the many under the one. In The Scheme of Mass Culture Adorno continues his work on the cultural industry. He draws attention to the collapse of the difference between culture and practical life, which here is the same as the false aesthetization of the empirical world, an aesthetization of the empirical life that does not transform it in accordance with the ideals of sensuous happiness and freedom, but rather secures the illusion that empirical life realizes those ends to the degree to which such is possible. Since this false transformation is carried out through the self-same procedures of the cultural industry, these ends are not realized at all, but the illusion of success suppresses the thinking that could claim that this is the case.
Adorno pursues his theme, again, trough fragments, through a series of analyses and analogies that seeks to reveal how the culture industry schematization (in Kant’s term) works and what its content it. He finds that even modernist art is shown to be infected by the scheme of mass culture; here the cultural negativity which resists universality is even more severely marginalized that it would be if it were merely a product of autonomous high culture. At the end of the essay Adorno shows how the form of behavior the cultural industry offers to people has the perverse character of making them practice on themselves the ‘magic’ that is already worked upon them. The human is now only a secret writing, a hieroglyph beneath the masks culture offers: “In every peal of laugher we hear the menacing voice of extortion and the comic types are legible signs which represent the controlled bodies of revolutionaries. Participation in mass culture stands under the sign of terror.” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002: 77).
Those same conclusions we can find in Baudrillard’s work The Consumer Society and despite that they never quoted each other, the two texts The Drama of Leisure or the Impossibility of Wasting One’s Time by Baudrillard and Adorno’s text Free Time, discussed above, are very similar. Baudrillard, just as Adorno, finds that free time is organized and is for sale. Again he stresses that it is a means of control which serves to a mass-media culture, Baudrillard's equivalent to the cultural industry. Baudrillard points out that the idea of free time is put in the system of manipulation and the slogan that everybody is equal is absurd, because free time is consumable. The old adage that ‘all men are equal before time and death’, which once encapsulated in its entirety the demand for social justice, today lives on in the carefully tended myth that all are equal in leisure (Baudrillard 1968: 151). The myth according to Baudrillard is visualized in the advertisements of the Club Mediteranee and it involves several metaphysical postulates:
1) Leisure is the realm of freedom;
2) Every man is, by nature, in substance free and equal to others: he has only to be put back in a state of ‘nature’ to recover this substantial liberty, equality and fraternity. Thus, the Greek island and the underwater depths are heirs to the ideals of the French Revolution.
3) Time is an a priori, transcendent dimension, which pre-exists its contents. It is there waiting for you. If it is alienated and subjugated in work, then ‘you don’t have time’. When you are away from work or unconstrained, ’you have time.’ As an absolute, inalienable dimension, like air or water, in leisure it once again becomes everyone’s private property (Baudrillard 1998: 151-152).
By means of this advertisement Baudrillard shows how free time is put into a certain mode of production. It becomes necessarily subject to the same status as all the goods produced or available within the framework of that system of production: that of property, private or public, that of appropriation, that of the object, possessed and alienable, alienated or free, and, like all objects produced by that systematic mode, partaking of the reified abstraction of exchange-value. It is already, therefore, no longer in fact ‘free’, since it is governed in its chronometry by the total abstraction which is that of the system of production.
In the consumer society Appollinaire’s quotation ‘When I speak of time, it is already gone’ is ‘When you 'have' time, it is no longer free’. The contradiction is not one of terms, but of substance. According to Baudrillard, this is the tragic paradox of consumption (Baudrillard 1998). Everyone wants to put believes and desire into every object possessed, consumed, and into every satisfaction achieved, and from every “available minute”, the desire is already absent, necessarily absent. All that remains is the consummation of desire. ‘Our’ time is actually that significant break between working time and free time. This is a crucial break since the basic options of consumer society are based upon it. ‘Time is money’: this slogan etched in letters of fire on Remington typewriters is also written above the factory gates, and inscribed in the subjugated time of daily life, in the increasingly important notion of the time-budget. It even governs - and it is this which concerns us here - leisure and free time. And it is this slogan too which defines empty time and is etched on the beach sundials and over the entrances to the holiday village.
Time is a rare and precious commodity, subject to the laws of exchange-value. This is clearly true of working time, since it is bought and sold. But, increasingly, free time itself has to be directly or indirectly purchased before it can be ‘consumed’. In this way, the consumer’s own free time is being sold to him. And there is logic in this, since ‘free’ time is in fact time ‘earned’; it is capital on which a return can be had, potential productive power, which has therefore to be bought if one is to have control of it. One could only be amazed or indignant at this if one still held to the naive hypothesis of a ‘neutral’ time, ideally neutral and available to all. Baudrillard gives an example with the juke-box and the option ‘buy back’ and the possibility to buy two minutes of silence, which illustrates his idea. The washing machine buys free time for the housewife but this free time is usually used by the housewife to watch TV (Baudrillard 1968).
This law of time as exchange-value and as productive force does not stop at the doorstep of leisure, as though leisure miraculously escaped all the constraints that rule working time. Time becomes productive force. Baudrillard stresses that the apparent division into working time and leisure time - the latter ushering in the transcendent sphere of liberty - is a myth (Baudrillard 1968).Free time and working, this is an artificial opposition. The same logic as in the working process is transferred to the free time and its contents.
According to Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1968: 151) there is a leisure ideology. In this ideology, rest, relaxation, escape, and distraction are in fact ‘needs’ but they do not in themselves define the specific exigency of leisure, which is the consumption of time. Free time is the entire ludic activity, i.e. the freedom to waste one’s time and possibility even to “kill” it, to expend it as pure loss (this is why it is insufficient to say that leisure is ‘alienated’ because it is merely the time necessary to reproduce labour power. The alienation of leisure is more profound: it does not relate to the direct subordination to working time, but is linked to the very impossibility of wasting one’s time. In our system of production and productive forces, one can only earn one’s time: this fatality weighs upon leisure as it does upon work. One can only ‘exploit one’s time’, if only by making a spectacularly empty use of it. The free time of the holidays remains the private property of the holiday-maker. Those attitudes are so strong that Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1968) gives example with Sisyphus, Tantalus, and Prometheus: all the existential myths of ‘absurd freedom’ are reasonably accurate representations of the holiday-maker in his setting, with all his desperate efforts to imitate ‘vacation’, gratuitousness, a total disposition, a void, a loss of himself and of his time which he cannot achieve, being, as he is, an object caught up in a definitively objectivised dimension of time. We are in an age when men will never manage to waste enough time to be rid of the inevitability of spending their lives earning it. As a consequence people have become the excrement of money; it is people who have become the excrement of time. Everywhere in spite of the fiction of freedom in leisure, ‘free’ time is logically impossible: there can only be constrained time. The time of consumption is that of production. At the same time it is not characterized by creative activities: creating, artistically or otherwise activities of a type pre-dating modern forms of work (pottery, handicraft, collecting, fishing). The guiding model for free time is the only one experienced up to that point: the model of childhood. The keyword in all activities is irresponsibility. Now this irresponsibility in leisure is homologous with, and structurally complementary to, irresponsibility in work. ‘Freedom’ on the one hand, constraint on the other: the structure is, in fact, the same.
Just as Adorno, Baudrillard gives example with the obsession of getting tan, the bewildered whirl in which tourist ‘do’ Italy, Spain and all the art galleries, the gymnastics and nudity which are de rigueur under an obligatory sun and, most important of all, the smiles and unfailing joie de vivre all attest to the fact that the holiday-maker conforms in every detail to the principles of duty, sacrifice and asceticism. This is the ‘fun-morality’ Riesman speaks of, the properly ethical dimension of salvation in leisure and pleasure which no one can now escape, except by finding their salvation in other criteria of accomplishment. In fact leisure still remains very unequally distributed in our democratic societies, a factor of cultural dimension and selection. So the slogan ‘holiday for everybody’ is not fully correct. To the extent that work is preferred to free time, that it meets a ‘neurotic’ demand, and that the excess of it is a mark of prestige, we are in the field of the consumption of work. But we know that anything can become a consumer object. Leisure is not, therefore, so much a function of enjoyment of free time, satisfaction and functional repose. This time, which is economically unproductive, is the time of a production of value - distinctive value, status value, prestige value. Doing nothing (or doing nothing productive) is, in this regard, a specific activity. Producing value (signs, etc.) is an obligatory social pretention; it is the very opposite of passivity, even if the letter forms the manifest discourse of leisure. In fact, time is not ‘free’ in leisure; it is expended and not as pure loss, because it is the moment, for the social individual, of the production of status. No one needs leisure, but all are charged to prove their freedom not to perform productive labour.
The consumption of empty time is, therefore, a kind of potlatch, in which free time serves as a material of signification and sign-exchange (in parallel with all the activities subsidiary and internal lo leisure). Today, what the average individual seeks in his holidays and free time is not the ‘freedom to fulfil himself’, but to demonstrate the uselessness of his time, the excess of time he possesses as sumptuary capital, as wealth. Leisure time, like consumption time in general, is becoming the highly charged part of social time, the part productive of value – a dimension not of economic survival, but of social salvation.
We can see now what, ultimately, is the basis of the ‘freedom’ of free time. This is akin to the ‘freedom’ to work and the ‘freedom’ to consume. Just as labour has to be ‘freed’ as labour power to be able to assume economic exchange-value, and just as the consumer must be ‘freed’ as such, that is to say, left (formally) free to choose and establish preferences for the system of consumption to be established, so time has to be ‘freed’. That is to say, extracted from its (symbolic, ritual) implication to become: not only a commodity (in labour time) in the cycle of economic exchange); but also, a sign material assuming, in leisure, a social exchange-value (ludic prestige value).
Towards Stronger Means of Control
In the mid 1990s two projects impact on the world. The Human Genome Project and the sheep Dolly – the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer - turned upside down the scientific world and brought forth new philosophical and moral attitudes. Baudrillard analyzed these projects and concluded that they only offered future possibilities for a further, stronger means of control (Baudrillard 1994).
People are organized in their free time, on their work places, and everywhere. According to Baudrillard, soon people will be artificially created as clones. Cloning, Baudrillardpoints out, is the last stage of the history and modelling of the body, the one at which, reduced to its abstract and genetic formula, the individual is destined to serial propagation (Baudrillard 1994).
Baudrillard revisits what Walter Benjamin said in his article The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Of course Benjamin in the mid-1920s could not imagine his theory would be related to the human beings, and there would be propositions that animate objects be mechanically reproduced, but in fact it is happening: nowadays with animals, tomorrow maybe with people.
What is lost in the work that is serially reproduced, is its aura, its singular quality of the here and now, its aesthetic form (it had already lost its ritual form, in its aesthetic quality), and, according to Benjamin and Baudrillard, it takes on, in its ineluctable destiny of reproduction, a political form. What is lost is the original, which only a history itself nostalgic and retrospective can reconstitute as ‘authentic’. The most advanced, the most modern form of this development, which Benjamin described in cinema, photography, and contemporary mass media, is one in which the original no longer even exists, since things are conceived from the beginning as a function of their unlimited reproduction.
This is what happens to us with cloning, summarized Baudrillard, no longer at the level of messages, but at the level of individuals (Baudrillard 2005). In fact this is what happens to the body when it ceases to be conceived as anything but a message, as a stockpile of information and of messages, as a folder for data processing. Thus nothing is opposed to the body being serially reproduced in the same way that Benjamin describes the reproduction of industrial objects and the images of the mass media. There is a precession of the genetic model over production, a precession of the genetic model over all possible bodies. It is the eruption of technology that controls this reversal, of a technology that Benjamin was already describing, in its total consequences, as a total medium, but one still of the industrial age - a gigantic prosthesis that controlled the generation of objects and identical images, in which nothing could be differentiated any longer from anything else - but still without imagining the current sophistication of this technology, which renders the generation of identical beings possible, though there is no possibility of a return to an original being. The prostheses of the industrial age are still external, exotechnical, those that we know have been subdivided and internalized: esotechnical. We are in the age of soft technologies - genetic and mental software.
As long as the of the old industrial golden age were mechanical, they still returned to the body in order to modify its image - conversely, they themselves were metabolized in the imaginary, and this technological metabolism was also part of the image of the body. But when one reaches a point of no return (dead end) in simulation, that is to say when the prosthesis goes deeper, is interiorized in, infiltrates the anonymous and micromolecular heart of the body, as soon as it is imposed on the body itself as the ‘original’ model, burning all the previous symbolic circuits, the only possible body, of its history, and of its vicissitude. The individual is no longer anything but a cancerous metastasis of its base formula.
The stage of the body changes in the course of an irreversible technological ‘progression’: from tanning in the sun, which already corresponds to an artificial use of the natural medium, that is to say to making it a prosthesis of the body (itself becoming a simulated body, but where lies the truth of the body?) - to domestic tanning with an iodine lamp (yet another good old mechanical technique) - to tanning with pills and hormones (chemical and ingested prosthesis) - and finally to tanning by intervening in the genetic formula (an incomparably more advanced stage, but a prosthesis nonetheless, that is, it is simply definitively integrated, it no longer even passes through either the surface or the orifices of the body), one passes by different bodies. It is the scheme of the whole that is metamorphosed. The traditional prosthesis which serves to repair a failing organ, changes nothing in the general model of the body. Organ transplants are still of this order. But what should be said of mental modelling via psychotropic agents and drugs, Baudrillard asks (Baudrillard 2005)? It is the stage of the body that is changed by them. The psychotropic body is a body modelled ‘from the inside’, no longer passing through the perspective space of representation, of the mirror, and of discourse. A silent, mental, already molecular (and no longer specular) body, a body metabolized directly, without the mediation of the act or the gaze, an imminent body, without already, without a mise en scene, without transcendence, a body consecrated to the implosive metabolism of cerebral, endocrinal flows, a sensory, but not sensible, body because it is connected only to its internal terminals, and not to objects of perception (the reason why one can enclose it in a ‘white’, blank sensorality - disconnecting it from its own sensorial extremities, without touching the world that surround it, suffices), a body already homogeneous, at this stage of plastic tactility, of mental malleability, of psychotrophism at every level, already close to nuclear and genetic manipulation, that is to say to the absolute loss of the image, bodies that cannot be represented, either to others or to themselves, bodies enucleated of their being and of their meaning by being transfigured into a genetic formula or through biochemical instability: point of no return, apotheosis of a technology that has itself become interstitial and molecular (Baudrillard 1994: 95).
Even if the technological revolution remains uncompleted and the clone story described by Baudrillard proves to be just a fiction, in the mid 20th century Marcuse pretend that consumer society exists in a totalitarian system. There are too many problems in the consumer society which already exist. In this vein of thought Marcuse continues his analysis on the contemporary society, stressing the role of culture. In an essay from 1930 he analyzed the cultural forces and tendencies that contributed to the triumph of fascism in Germany. He and his associates are certain that the fascist society and totalitarian violence and totalitarian reason came from the structure of the existing society (Marcuse 1968a: 13). Moreover, according to them, contemporary society is a totalitarian society.
Frankfurt scholars accept the orthodox Marxian theory that fascism is a product of capitalist society: its economic system, institutions, ideology, and culture. The Institute assumed ‘the task of identifying the tendencies that linked the liberal past with its totalitarian abolition’ (Marcuse 1968a: 14). They perceive the roots of fascism in: a) socioeconomic crisis that was given a totalitarian solution in order to protect the capitalist relations of production and to secure the control of the ruling class; b) institutions such as the bourgeois family and repressive socialization processes which created authoritarian personalities who conformed to and accepted socially imposed domination; c) culture and ideologies that defended, or transfigured, the existing society while mystifying rule on the entire economic, social, political, and cultural system. Marcuse adds to these conclusions that the totalitarian state and its ideology respond to a new era of monopoly capitalism and provide a defense of capitalism against opposition to the system (i.e. the working class parties). Fascism was not seen, in this interpretation, as a monstrous rupture with the liberal past; rather, Marcuse demonstrates the continuities between liberalism and fascism and shows how liberalism’s unquestioned allegiance to the capitalist economic system prepared the way for the fascist-totalitarian order and with it the abolition of liberalism itself.
After the End of Reason – Simulacrum
Baudrillard developed some of Marcuse’s ideas about reification and the end of reason, and summarized that mechanisms of control and manipulation are even stronger nowadays.
Baudrillard draws readers’ attention to the other important part that Marcuse hints but does not develop: the topic about the total simulacra, which characterizes our ‘reality’ (Baudrillard 1970). According to him the world nowadays is without opposition, even critical theory is useless, because there is no society anymore, so the critic is just part of this simulacrum. Our world, according to Baudrillard, is generated by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. In human history an example of such simulacrum is the imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation. But something has disappeared nowadays and this is the sovereign difference, between one and the other, that constituted the charm of abstraction. Of course the means of control are main in this simulacrum, which is consequence of the end of reason as described by Marcuse. After the end of reason there is simulacrum. In the contemporary society the real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks - models of control - according to Baudrillard, and it can be reproduced an indefinite numbers of times from these. This means of control no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either and ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. It is a hypperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.
What the simulacrum does is therefore pretending , or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the ‘true’ and the ‘false’, the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’. When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a plethora of truth, of secondary objectivity, and authenticity. Escalation of the true, of lived experience, resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. Panic-stricken production of the real and of the referential, parallel to and greater than the panic of material production: this is how simulation appears in the phase that is analyzed in this article - a strategy of the real, of the neoreal and the hyperreal that everywhere is the double of a strategy of deterrence. As a result all people, Baudrillard stresses, ‘become living specimens in the spectral light of ethnology, which is nothing but the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead difference, and of the resurrection of differences. It is thus very naive to look for ethnology in the Savage or in some Third World, everywhere, in the metropolises, in the White community, in a world completely catalogued and analyzed, then artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation, of the hallucination of truth, of the blackmail of the real, of the murderer of every symbolic form and its hysterical retrospection –a murder of which the Savages, noblesse oblige, were the first victim, but that or a long time has extended to all Western societies’ (Baudrillard 1970: 9).
Even science serves to the simulacra, finds Baudrillard, science is repairing the mummy, requiring a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible order. New York, Champs Elysees are artificial mosaic of all cultures, following a logic of the capitalist centralization of value, their reimportation to the original site is even more artificial: it is a total simulacrum that links up with ‘reality’ through a complete circumvolution. Our universe is artificial; it is strangely similar to the original - things are doubled by their scenario, but this scenario is already dead – it does not exist anymore and is not adequate, because it is simulacrum.
Baudrillard's theory about the simulacrum claims that the simulacrum here is neither real nor unreal. The impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real is of the same order as the impossibility of staring illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation. Baudrillard gives example with the repressive apparatus , whether it would react more violently to a simulated holdup. Because the latter does nothing but disturb the order of things, the right to property, whereas the former attacks the reality principle itself. Transgression and violence are less serious because they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous because it always leaves open to supposition that, above and beyond its object, law and order themselves might be nothing but simulation. In the simulacra the fake holdup is organized. It happened by verification for example that a given weapon is harmless and is kept in the most trustworthy hostage, implying that human life is in danger, in this way a situation close to the ‘truth’ is established, in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. ‘The challenge of simulation is never admitted by power. How can the simulation of virtue be punished?’ asks Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1994). It is as serious as the simulation of crime. This parody renders submission and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, because it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based. The established order can do nothing against it, because the law is a simulacrum of the second order, whereas simulation is of the third order, beyond true and false, beyond equivalences, beyond rational distinctions upon which the whole of the social and power depend. Thus, lacking the real, it is there that we must aim at order. At the end it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real. Holdups, airplane hijacking etc. are simulations but this does not make them harmless. The historical events: strikes, demonstrations, crises etc, cannot be controlled by an order that can only exert itself on the real and the rational, on cause and ends, a referential order that can only reign over a determined world, ‘but that cannot do anything against this indefinite recurrence of simulation, against this nebula whose weight no longer obeys the laws of gravitation of the real, power itself ends by being dismantled in this space and becoming a simulation of power (disconnected from its ends and its objectives, and its objectives, and dedicated to the effects of power and mass simulation)’ (Baudrillard 1994: 22). What this is all about is that hyperreality and simulation, in every principle and in every objective, turn against power the deterrent that it used so well for such a long time. Because at the end, throughout its history it was capital that first fed on the destructuration of every referential, of every human objective, that shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. Today, Baudrillard points out, the danger comes at it from simulation (that of being dissolved in the play of signs), power plays at the real, plays at crisis, plays at remanufacturing artificial, social, economic, and political stakes. For power, it is a question of life and death. But it is too late. Power itself has for a long time produced nothing but the signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for sign of power - a holy union that is reconstructed around its disappearance. The whole world adheres to it more of less in terror of the collapse of the political.The power, Baudrillard stresses, disappears. The mechanisms by which it happens are ideological. Ideology only corresponds to a corruption of reality through signs; simulation corresponds to a short circuit of reality and to its duplication through signs. It is always the goal of the ideological analysis to restore the objective process, it is always a false problem to wish to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum. This is why in the end power is so much in tune with ideology, that is they are discourse of truth-always good for countering the moral blows of simulation, even and especially if they are revolutionary.
In his essay The Precession of Simulacra (Baudrillard 1994), Baudrillard develops Michel Foucault's idea about the panoptic means of control. The mechanism of control is different nowadays: it is realized by the synoptic. This is a tendency analyzed by Zygmunt Bauman, he points out that the panoptic system of control is classical: the minority watches the majority, be it composed of prisoners or just ordinary people. In the synoptic system the majority watches the minority – celebrities, TV stars, etc. In this way people become very obedient, they voluntarily gives their bodies and souls to be controlled and manipulated. This tendency can be witnessed from the mid-20th century onwards: after the 8-hour working day had been established as a norm, people have too much “free” time on their hands, and the effort is to appropriate this time as a consumerist commodity, as discussed above. The TV and the Internet are involved in this appropriation. The Internet, according to Bauman (and Baudrillard would agree) creates the impression of mobility: with one click of the mouse we could be virtually transported to any corner of the world; yet we remain local and this is just another amusement engaging our consciousness. Today's social networks as Facebook or Twitter can serve as examples.
The end of the panoptic system, Baudrillard claims, is because the eye of the TV is no longer the source of an absolute gaze, and the idea of control is no longer that of transparency. This still presupposes an objective space (that of the Renaissance) and the omnipotence of the despotic gaze. It is still, if not a system of confinement, at least a system of mapping, more subtly, but always externally, playing on the opposition of seeing and being seen, even if the panoptic focal point may be blind. In Discipline and Punish (Фуко 1998) by Foucault, the panoptic mechanism of surveillance switches to a system of deterrence, in which the distinction between the passive and the active is abolished. There is no longer any imperative of submission to the model, or to the gaze: ‘you are the model!’, ‘you are the majority!’ (Baudrillard 1994). Such is the watershed of a hyperreal sociality, in which the real is confused with the model, as the statistical operation, or with the medium. Such is the last stage of the social relation, ours, which is no longer one of persuasion (the classical age of propaganda, of ideology, of publicity, etc.). But one of deterrence: ‘you are information, you are the social, you are the event, you are involved, you have the world’ etc.
According to Baudrillard, we are witnessing the end of perspective and panoptic space (which remains a moral hypothesis bound up with all the classical analyses on the spectacular). Television is no longer a spectacular medium. Our society is no longer spectacular in the discussed situation nor in the specific kinds of alienation and repression that it implied. The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the confusion of the medium and the message, as McLuhan said, is the first great formula of this new era. There is no longer a medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffused, and diffracted in the real, and one can no longer even say that the medium is altered by it.
Nowadays the whole traditional world of causality is under question: the perspectives, the determinist mode, the ‘active’, critical mode, the analytic mode, the distinction between cause and effect, between active and passive, between subject and object, between the end and the means. It is in this sense that one can say the TV watches us, the TV alienates us, TV manipulates us, TV infirm us.... In all this, one remains dependent on the analytical conception of the media, on an external active and effective agent, on ‘perspectival’ information with the horizon of the real and of meaning as the vanishing point.
What is hatched in the shadow of this mechanism with the pretext of a maximal, ‘objective’ threat – Damocles’ nuclear sword - is the perfection of the best system of control that has ever existed. And the progressive satelization of the whole planet through this hypermodel of security (Baudrillard 1994).
The end of reason described by the Frankfurt School theorists is followed by the total repression and manipulation which has no analogue in world history. The futuristic theory of Baudrillard is also very pessimistic: nuclear danger and the end of humankind.
Pacification, in the consumerist society, Baudrillard stresses, does not distinguish between the civil and the military: wherever irreversible apparatuses of control are elaborated, wherever the notion of security becomes omnipotent, wherever norms replace the old arsenal of laws and violence (including war), it is the system of deterrence that grows, and around it grows the historical, social, and political desert (Baudrillard 1970). A gigantic involution that makes every conflict, every finality, every confrontation contract in proportion to this blackmail that interrupts, neutralizes, freezes them all. No longer can any revolt, any story be deployed according to its own logic because it risks annihilation. No strategy is possible any longer, and escalation is only a puerile game over to the military. The political stake is dead, only simulacra of conflicts and carefully circumscribed stakes remain.
In the space race, nothing can be left to contingencies, this is the total universe of the norm, the law no longer exists, in the age without reason, emphasizes Baudrillard, it is the operational immanence of every detail that is law (Baudrillard 2007). If the law with its aura of transgression, if order, with its aura of violence, still taps a perverse imaginary involute. One no longer fantasizes about the minutiae of a program. Just watching it produces vertigo. The vertigo of a world without flaws.
In Baudrillard's opinion, the truth in the consumer society is to be models of simulation, the model vectors of a system of planetary control where even the superpowers of this scenario are not free – the whole world is satelized (Baudrillard 1994). The paradox is the following: all bombs are clean, their only pollution is the system of security and control they radiate as long as they don’t explode.
War is peace, Orwell said. There also, the two differential poles implode into each other, or recycle one another - a simultaneity of contradiction that is at once the parody and the end of every dialectic. Thus one can completely miss the truth of war: namely, that it has finished well before it started, that there was end to war at the heart of the war itself, and that perhaps it never started.
The media and the official news service are only there to maintain the illusion of an actuality, of the reality of the stakes, of the objectivity of the facts.
Control by threats will be replaced by the more effective strategy of pacification through the bomb and trough the possession of the bomb. Consumer society lacks reason and as a result all this is happening, despite the warnings of the Frankfurt scholars and Baudrillard.
Jay, Martin. 1970. The dialectical imagination: A history of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (Weimar and now: German cultural criticism). Little, Brown and Company.
Kellner, Douglas. 2006. Jean Baudrillard after modernity: Provocations on a provocateur and challenger. International Journal of Baudrillards Studies 3(1). http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol3_1/kellner.htm (12 January 2012).
Лиотар, Жан-Франсоа. 1996. Постмодерната ситуация. София http://www.litclub.bg/library/kritika/lyotard/postmoderne/index.htm (13 януари 2012).
Боряна Ангелова е доктор по философия на СУ „Климент Охридски“. Настоящият текст е част от дисертацията й на тема „Потребителското общество от Франкфуртската школа до Жан Бодрияр. Основни проблеми на културата“. По настоящем авторът е главен асистент по философия в НСА „Васил Левски“.
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