[iDC] Periodizing cinematic production2

Jonathan Beller jbeller at pratt.edu
Thu Sep 3 17:06:06 UTC 2009

Part 2 (Part 1 was posted yesterday and is below):

So, on the continuing relevance of cinematics: One of the key points,  
I think, is that cinema brings the industrial revolution to the eye.  
This claim, in certain respects, is an exaggeration since assembly- 
line commodities were already visible and thus, contained within  
themselves, as reifications, a visible iteration of assembly line  
process that obviously had a visual and psychological impact. These  
objects quickly saturated the  built environment -- Simmel is very  
instructive here. However, more even than Eisenstein, who famously  
stated that "a film is a tractor ploughing the audiences psyche," it  
was Vertov who decoded the visible world, that is, the very structure  
of industrial society such that it could be understood in its  
component parts as process. His masterpiece, Man with a Movie Camera,  
aspires to at once occupy and record the entire surface of the socius  
such that its inner manufacturing logic is visible, that is, legible.  
It also posits cinema as the culmination of the industrial revolution  
in as much as it alone is capable of registering the material  
complexity of global production and its social relations.  
Additionally, the verisimilitude of the "factory of facts," as Vertov  
called his cinema, allowed the producer to be an author in as much as  
workers' labor was no longer fully subsumed in the objectified product  
but legible as a corporeal-subjective creation that left an  
intelligible historical trace in the film-object. Thus cinema, for  
Vertov, meant the humanization of the senses and of the objective  
world. Cinema  is the result of the history of human creativity (the  
sedimentation of labor) that allows for the prosthetic extension of  
the "biological" senses, such that reification can be overcome,  
literally seen through, and human sociality can be visible in the  
objective (objectified) world.

That of course was the upside of cinema, the utopian dimensions of a  
new kind of object. The downside was that the apparatus could "lead to  
the processing of data in the fascist sense," as Benjamin put it,  
giving the masses "not the right, but the chance to represent  
themselves." This of course, was an illusion to celebrity culture and  
the star system, which creates its icons by virtue of the non- 
representation of everyone else. To identify with the celebrity one  
must embrace one's own non-existence. The film-object as a commodity  
depended upon the same totality of relations that Vertov had decoded  
(the sum total of the history of technology, as well as the daily  
activities of human beings to make and remake the world), and yet it  
produced not community but Debordian separation -- like the commodity  
itself, the celebrity produced its objective value through the  
subsumption of its producer and the annihilation of the history of its  
production: in this case, the wholesale labor and existence of the  
masses, those of us who are excluded from the spectacle but  
nonetheless provide the energy and context for its burn.

While this leveraged relation of what appears (what appears in the  
spectacle is good, what is good appears -- as I think Debord said) is  
of tremendous importance, I want to pause for just a moment, to  
emphasize my first point about cinema bringing the industrial  
revolution to the eye. Even though I am making certain arguments here  
in abridged and necessarily simplified form we can see that in the  
bigger picture cinema, which was a development of photography, was the  
technology that inaugurated the large scale assault on the visual.  
Whether as decodification/truth-making (Vertov's kino-pravda) or as  
recodification/mythmaking, the really significant feature here is that  
the visual was at a crossroads and indeed became the new arena for the  
battle over consciousness (Not just Eisenstein and Vertov, but Stalin,  
Hitler, Hollywood... Gates). It was this sea-change in cultural  
production, a consequence it must be noted of techno-capitalist  
production, that in my view inaugurated a fundamental retrenchment of  
the sensorium and indeed a transformation in the character of  
consciousness itself. There is ample evidence for this: modernism(s)  
for one, psychoanalysis for another -- and of course, the increasing  
market for visual production, the history of advertising, etc. The  
disappearance of traditional society now included not just forms of  
life but forms of mental life. As I think I said in the CMP, all that  
is solid melts into film. Indeed in my own view, this penetration of  
the life world by visual technologies is so far-reaching that one  
could plot out revisions of aesthetic and intellectual history (to say  
nothing of economic history) based upon an index of its increase. It  
is this continuity -- the vertiginous development of visuality -- that  
at once achieves and follows upon a fundamental rupture with the reign  
of the signifier, that lead me to some of those abrupt and perhaps  
shocking statements in which the industrialization of the visual (the  
rise of visuality in its strong form) leads directly to post- 
industrial society.

As I mentioned earlier, the cinema, marked the intensive development  
of a certain aspect of the commodity, it's appearance. Vertov's cinema  
attempted to combat the appearance of the commodified objective world  
with decodification, but the majority of cinema was content to go with  
the flow, that is, to cultivate and develop a fetishistic relation  
with the spectator that quite literally short-circuited the rational  
processes that were the conditions of possibility for the appearance  
of the image. This short-circuiting of rationality and language  
function turns out to be a distinguishing feature of capitalist  
visuality. This is not to say that the deployment of images was/is not  
undertaken rationally or with carefully reasoned intentions (I call  
this the calculus of the image), it is just a recognition that as an  
interface, the image operates on levels that are profoundly  
unconscious -- hence the development of new forms of desire, of  
"theater of the mind," etc.-- even if they can deliver statistically  
predictable results.

What's more, and here I will only allude to a larger argument, it is  
arguable that the penetration of the life-world by the visual, is  
indeed the social phenomenon that instantiates the modern unconscious.  
It was precisely the short-circuiting of language function (the  
Freudian slip, for example) that occasioned the emergence of the  
unconscious through the structure of the gap. There is a long history  
of analysis regarding the challenges that images pose to rational- 
linguistic thought. What I ended up arguing in the CMP was that at the  
basis of the ostensibly natural form that was said to be the human  
psyche was this history of technology -- in other words, that the  
unconscious of the unconscious was cinema.

All of which is to say that the new perceptual pyrotechnics of the  
commodity, its ability (along with audio-recording) to overcome "the  
bottleneck of the signifier" (as Kittler brilliantlly puts it) by  
creating data streams on non-linguistic band-withs, radically  
transforms subjectivity, and with it all forms of knowledge that  
depended upon that subject-form. It is for this reason that we can  
trace postmodern constructions of intensity, affect, structure of  
feeling, etc. to this techno-material transformation. They are the  
result of the entry of what we have been calling technology into the  
very fabric of our being, such that we are indistinguishable from our  
machines. For me, it was the opening of the sensual pathways to  
vectors of industrial scale that made this transformation complete.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly for the purposes of our  
upcoming conference, these fundamental shifts in the machine-body  
interface that are inaugurated by the cinema and intensively developed  
by legacy screen technologies, fundamentally transform not only labor  
processes but the value-form itself. There are many on this list-serve  
who also work on this transformation, but one of the problems we seem  
to be facing is a new level of instability in the general form of  
social wealth, which during the first four hundred years of  
capitalism, could reliably be thought to be money. I have always  
maintained (to the distaste of film studies folks, cinephiles, and  
(some) marxists alike) that spectators engage in value-productive  
labor in the cinema. The interface with the screen (in which  
spectators assemble the pieces, and today, "write" their own content)  
does not simply resemble a deterritorialized factory but in fact is.  
Furthermore I have maintained that, following what I call the  
attention theory of value, spectators simultaneously valorize media  
pathways and modify themselves -- both of which are value-productive  
activities that Marx and then Negri/Hardt/Virno would recognize as  
social cooperation. The real subsumption of society by capital means  
that relations that were once outside of or marginal to the process of  
economic valuation have become internal and/or central to it (the  
intersubjective, visual, imaginative and cognitive). This situation,  
which in my view we don't get to without cinema, implies that their  
are many more mediations in the process of valuation than in a prior  
historical moment -- monetization, as it is now called, is today a  
more complex affair than ever before. Additionally, people are willing  
to work for forms of compensation they themselves may not be able to  
directly monetize even if they are able to spend them-- think style,  
for example, or cache. That does not mean in any way (despite what  
some may claim) that such intermediate forms are outside of the  
capitalist system or that capital is necessarily on the wane, only  
that we are at a crisis point that once again will require a  
revolutionizing of the means of production because the former means of  
production (which includes not just technologies, demographics, and  
representations, but people's mind-sets) have become a hinderance.

We would not want to miss out here in the fact that such crises are  
also opportunities. The current instability of the capitalist system  
has been manifest, but where was/is the Marxist alternative?  
Personally I was deeply disappointed in my own/our degree of  
preparedness during the financial bailout. For a moment capitalism was  
threatening to off itself, to crumble under the weight of its own  
contradictions, contradictions that no amount of imaginary inflation  
could any longer sustain. And yet our imaginations have been so  
throughly colonized that the best the collectivity could come up with  
was to mortgage our own future in order to preserve the fundamental  
hierarchies amenable to bankers, hierarchies that sustain themselves  
through the ruthless exploitation of this, "our," planet.

This real failure on the part of the people, the masses, the  
multitudes, this world-historical failure, is a question not only for  
economists, but for cultural theorists, social justice activists, and  
all of us who would have the audacity to speculate against capitalist  
speculators. I know from my own experience that film studies people  
think that these kinds of cinematic questions are way beyond the  
purview of the field. Even though I have gone home without a job on  
too many unpleasant occasions to recall, I find myself guided by the  
now old adage that if you are not part of the solution you are part of  
the problem. Probably there is a little bit of both (being the  
problem, being the solution) in most of us, but it up to us (you know  
who you are, in a speculative sort of way) to shift the ratios in a  
progressive direction on every occasion at every level. Because if for  
the foreseeable future labor and value are everywhen and everywhere,  
so too is struggle. And it is with struggle in mind that we should  
make our tools.

Jonathan Beller
Humanities and Media Studies
and Critical and Visual Studies
Pratt Institute
jbeller at pratt.edu
718-636-3573 fax

Part 1:

On Sep 2, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Jonathan Beller wrote:

> Thanks Brian, for that astonishing post: brilliant, provocative,  
> erudite and above all, useful, for fleshing out what you call "the  
> reconstruction of an unfinished dialectical history of the  
> development of communicational commodities in their relation to the  
> transformations of both productive machinery and management  
> science." Your call for precision and subtlety here with respect to  
> discourse on mediation feels entirely appropriate and the  
> periodizations that you suggest, if I understand them right, offer  
> excellent points of rupture (and continuity) for us to think with.
> So roughly, 19th c. liberal capitalism, the rise of the nation-state  
> in its strong form along with assembly-line production, monopoly and  
> inter-imperialist wars quickly requires Taylorization and  
> behaviorism for the organization and management of what would  
> otherwise be the increasing autonomy of workers. If I follow you  
> correctly, it is precisely here that cinema has its world-historical  
> role in as much as it is an industry for the reforging of the  
> psyche, and the programming of perception and affect. There was a  
> question here about the expansion of markets and the role of  
> consumption. In the interwar period the psychological character of  
> consumption and advertising is at once discovered and vertiginously  
> developed, and as you point out, postwar paradigms shifted away from  
> behaviorism (although frames of coca-cola logos cut into film  
> narratives and erotic figures swiriling in scotch covered ice-cubes  
> were still being developed) to cybernetics and what you beautifully  
> label as Neilsenism. And as Neilsenism, with its feedback loops and  
> its informational calculus, supercedes Fordism, Television  
> supercedes cinema. I might want to mention Hitchcock here as a place  
> holder, in as much as his work indexes the emergence of  
> psychoanalysis as a kind of vernacular, and foregrounds new dynamics  
> of the visual in the construction of gender and subjectivity. In  
> another vein, which I will return to later, I would want to also  
> consider the scientific development of the medium of torture,  
> particularly the emergence of "no touch" torture as part of the  
> overall mo of psy-war. Then there is the 30 year period following  
> the crises from 1967-1973 characterized by the replacement of a  
> cybernetic paradigm with chaos theory, complexity theory and  
> governmentality, all of which are there to at once authorize and  
> regulate the increasing "(psuedo)-autonomy", as you nicely put it,  
> of the individual (here the paradigmatic media would be hand held  
> tape and video recorders), and finally, we arrive in "risk society,"  
> which you again beautifully characterize as "a meta-reflexive  
> situation where everyone who is still included in the system is  
> highly aware of the arbitrary nature of each new rule-set, and  
> avidly looking to exploit all the changing rules to their personal  
> advantage." Ken Wark has written on aspects of this in Gamer Theory  
> as has Randy Martin in Empire of Indifference. Here the paradigmatic  
> media would be, I suppose, the computer, the internet, and, now,  
> clearly, the iphone).
> This highly schematic rendition of your more nuanced account of  
> paradigm shifts in social organization and the simultaneous  
> transformations in "communicational commodities" strikes me as  
> highly useful. In the CMP I also suggested that a similar kind of  
> periodization could be undertaken by comparing the evolution of  
> dominant media forms with the evoloution of money-forms, that is, of  
> credit, where photography corresponds to the gold standard and the  
> idea of a real referent, etc. all the way, i suppose to derivatives  
> and what? Reality-TV (which, i insist, must always be written with a  
> hyphen)?
> I have to confess that I am still undecided with respect to the  
> ultimate explanatory power of cinema in relation to what I still  
> think of as its legacy technologies -- tv, hand-helds, computing,  
> internet, mobile phone. When I started the book, there was actually  
> no internet and the first desk-tops had only been around for five  
> years. Of course TV had been a fixture of childhood and my interest  
> in cinema with its material celluloid substrate was a direct assault  
> on the dematerialization-effect that TV programming seemed to have  
> with its radical decontextualizations and its electronic  
> signalization.
> I have to go teach now but what I will do in my next post is to  
> outline some of the cinematic transformations that characterized a  
> shift in the organization of capitalist society in ways that still  
> seem to be operative if not quite paradigmatic. Briefly these are  
> 1)the rise of visuality (the visual turn), 2)the transformation of  
> Marxian sensual labor to a labor of the senses in what was  
> effectively a deterritorialized factory, 3) a fundamental shift in  
> the value form and therefore in the forms of production, value- 
> extraction and remuneration, and 4)new forms of meaning, affect,  
> intensity and interiority that are markedly distinct from those  
> characteristic of the bourgeois subject -- who Marx taught us was  
> the subject of exchange. Also, there is 5)the emergence of the  
> unconscious and 6)the radical marginalization/subsumption of natural  
> language by the logistics of production to contend with. For me,  
> these are part of what the cinema is, cinema, which as I think I say  
> in the book must be distinguished from the technical apparatus, or  
> even from the set of social institutions that bear its name. These  
> latter are reifications, technologies and social formations that  
> interface political economy with corporeality and consciousness (as  
> well as with race, gender, nation, proprioception) and that, in  
> their objectification, congeal a set of dynamic social relations  
> that have radically altered the both the significance and the  
> character of "human being."
> Thanks for such a great set of comments and provocations!
> More soon,
> Jon
> Jonathan Beller
> Professor
> Humanities and Media Studies
> and Critical and Visual Studies
> Pratt Institute
> jbeller at pratt.edu
> 718-636-3573 fax
> On Sep 1, 2009, at 8:12 PM, Brian Holmes wrote:
>> [In my previous post, in reply to Arnim Medosch, I developed some  
>> ideas about the historical interpretation of media forms,  
>> particularly in their aspect as commodities. Here I am hoping to  
>> launch a new discussion along somewhat similar lines, beginning  
>> this time from the aspect of production in the industrial  
>> economies. Hope there is some interest! - BH]
>> "How do you get capitalism into the psyche, and how do you get the  
>> psyche into capital?" asks the philosopher Jean-Joseph Goux.  
>> Drawing on key insights from Gramsci, Simmel and Benjamin -- and  
>> radicalizing the work of film critic Christian Metz in the process  
>> -- Jonathan Beller gives this quite astonishing reply:
>> "Materially speaking, industrialization enters the visual as  
>> follows: Early cinematic montage extended the logic of the assembly  
>> line (the sequencing of discreet, programmatic machine-orchestrated  
>> human operations) to the sensorium and brought the industrial  
>> revolution to the eye.... It is only by tracing the trajectory of  
>> the capitalized image and the introjection of its logic into the  
>> sensorium that we may observe the full consequences of the dominant  
>> mode of production (assembly-line capitalism) becoming 'the  
>> dominant mode of representation' (cinema). Cinema implies the  
>> tendency toward the automation of the subject by the laws of  
>> exchange.... Understood as a precursor to television, computing,  
>> email, and the World Wide Web, cinema can be seen as part of an  
>> emerging cybernetic complex, which, from the standpoint of an  
>> emergent global labor force, functions as a technology for the  
>> capture and redirection of global labor's revolutionary social  
>> agency and potentiality."
>> Beller's book, The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy  
>> and the Society of the Spectacle, develops the thesis that filmic  
>> montage was instrumental in reshaping the "psycho-social nexus" of  
>> entire populations, in order to meet the needs of Fordist  
>> manufacturing in the early twentieth century. This thesis is  
>> principally developed in a chapter on, of all things, Eisenstein's  
>> film The Strike, which he sees less as an exploration of workers'  
>> autonomy than as an exercise in "the organization of the masses  
>> through organized material" and "the development of the eye as a  
>> pathway for the regulation of the body." To convince the reader of  
>> cinema's disciplinary function -- crucial to economic development  
>> in the industrially backward Soviet Union of the mid-1920s -- he  
>> quotes Eisenstein's brutally explicit declaration: "Reforging  
>> someone else's psyche is no less difficult and considerable a task  
>> than forging iron." It is in this instrumental and frankly  
>> manipulative sense that cinema is "a technology of affect." Thus it  
>> is Eisenstein himself who can restate Beller's thesis with the  
>> utmost precision:
>> "An attraction is in our understanding any demonstrable fact (an  
>> action, an object, a phenomenon, a conscious combination and so on)  
>> that is known and proven to exercise a definite effect on the  
>> attention and emotions of the audience and that combined with  
>> others possesses the characteristics of concentrating the  
>> audience's emotions in any direction dictated by the production's  
>> purpose.... The method of agitation through spectacle consists in  
>> the creation of a new chain of conditioned reflexes by associating  
>> selected phenomena with the unconditioned reflexes they produce."
>> Following Eisenstein, Beller relates the techniques of early  
>> cinematic montage to the behavioral psychology of Pavlov, with his  
>> theory of conditioned reflexes, and also to the management science  
>> of Taylor, who analyzed actual labor practices in view of isolating  
>> the most efficient gestures and then imposing them on workers both  
>> by disciplinary training and by the very configuration and cadences  
>> of the machines which they were henceforth to serve. Filmic editing  
>> was the representational and affective analogue of this Pavlovian  
>> and Taylorist reconditioning of human labor: and even more, it was  
>> the essential aesthetic mediator of the physiological learning  
>> process whereby, as Gramsci wrote, "the memory of the trade,  
>> reduced to simple gestures repeated at an intense rhythm, 'nestles'  
>> in the muscular and nervous centers." By carefully weaving this web  
>> of connections between Pavlovian psychology, Taylorist management  
>> science and filmic aesthetics, Beller comes closer than anyone else  
>> I have ever read to justifying Benjamin's insight into the  
>> historical role of cinema in the early twentieth century, stated in  
>> "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction":
>> "Film serves to train human beings in the practice of those  
>> apperceptions and reactions required by the frequentation of an  
>> apparatus whose role in their daily life ever inceases. To make  
>> this whole enormous technological apparatus of our time into the  
>> object of human interiorization and appropriation [Innervation] --  
>> that is the historic task in whose service film has its true  
>> meaning."
>> It is, however, precisely at the point where Jonathan has succeded  
>> in fully developing Benjamin's brilliant insight that I feel the  
>> need for a number of historical remarks, touching on the issues of  
>> periodization, crisis and societal change. The problem as I see it  
>> is not a nit-picking academic one, adding footnotes and detail to a  
>> basic concept that remains unaltered; nor even less is it a matter  
>> of debunking an otherwise excellent argument by pointing out  
>> occasional anachronisms in the use of words like "cybernetics."  
>> What's at stake is the reconstruction of an unfinished dialectical  
>> history of the development of communicational commodities in their  
>> relation to the transformations of both productive machinery and  
>> management science - shifts occasioned, each time, by major crises  
>> of capitalism, involving social conflicts in which workers'  
>> autonomy cannot simply be discounted. The passage around which it  
>> seems like we could have a real dialogue comes around the first  
>> third of the chapter on Eisenstein and production. It reads like  
>> this:
>> "In cinema lies a key to the structure and relations, the physics  
>> and the metaphysics, the subjectivity and objectivity, in short the  
>> underlying logic of post-industrial society. The organization of  
>> consciousness is coextensive with the organization of  
>> postindustrial society, and the media are the belts that forge  
>> these underlying connections. Cinema inaugurates a shift in the  
>> economics of social production, and if it can be shown that such a  
>> shift achieves critical mass in cinema and in its legacies of  
>> television, computer, internet, then it can be argued that cinema  
>> is not merely a specific phenomenon in which the sensorium becomes  
>> subject (subjugated) to a code existing beyond itself and indeed  
>> beyond 'natural language,' but the general case -- the culmination  
>> and the paradigm of a historical epoch that supersedes the  
>> bourgeois mode of production by introjecting capitalized industrial  
>> process directly into the mindscape." (Beller, p. 106)
>> Yes and no! While I deeply appreciate the relations you draw  
>> between filmic montage and assembly-line manufacturing, my big  
>> question is: How do we jump so fast to post-industrial society?
>> I'd agree with you, Jon, that the early development of cinema fits  
>> perfectly into the transition from nineteenth-century liberal  
>> capitalism, with its multiplicity of freely competing bourgeois  
>> capitals, to the incipient monopoly capitalism of the century's  
>> end, marked in the US by vertically integrated corporations like  
>> Standard Oil or Carneige Steel (or by "concerns" like Krupp in  
>> Germany). I'd date the crisis of liberal capitalism from the Long  
>> Depression of 1873-79, and I'd understand the consolidation of the  
>> leading nation-states around that time (US civil war, German and  
>> Italian unification, Meiji restoration) as a prerequisite for  
>> industrial expansion and the emergence of assembly-line production.  
>> The kind of industrial regimentation that Gramsci talks about in  
>> Americanism and Fordism, and that is such a central concern for  
>> you, is uniquely characteristic of this era; and you're definitely  
>> right to associate it with Taylor's scientific management and the  
>> reflex-arc psychology of Pavlov, Watson and Skinner. From this  
>> perspective cinema appears as a stimulant to production, a psychic  
>> shock unleashing biological energy.
>> What's missing from all this is a treatment of cinema consumption  
>> and its role in the broader expansion of mass-consumer markets in  
>> the years from its invention until the 1930s -- and yet the whole  
>> originality of your book is to insist, against the grain, on the  
>> links between cinema and productive discipline, so that the absence  
>> of any real treatment of consumption here could be taken as the  
>> polemical thrust of your work. What I think is crucial, however, is  
>> that capitalism changed definitively in the wake of the crisis of  
>> '29 and the Great Depression, and the functions of the mass media  
>> changed along with it. The state ceased to be merely a kind of ad- 
>> hoc executive committee of the bourgeoisie in its struggle to  
>> exploit the working class, as Marx had conceived it (and as far too  
>> many Marxists still conceive it). Instead, the crisis tendencies of  
>> capitalist and inter-imperialist competition forced the complete  
>> integration of capital and the state in the centralized industrial  
>> planning of WWII; and at the same time, in response to the  
>> political threat represented by the Soviet revolution and the  
>> proletarian movements that sprung up in its wake throughout the  
>> West, the new Keynesian conception of the workers as the source of  
>> effective demand brought them entirely within the state capitalist  
>> construction. With the Keynesian logic and the emergence of the  
>> welfare state against a backdrop of economic crisis, a fundamental  
>> political conflict changed the course of both economic and media  
>> history. When theorists say there is no longer any "outside"  to  
>> capitalism, they are really referring to this integrative phase  
>> that runs, in the US, from Roosevelt's New Deal to Johnson's Great  
>> Society. And this integrative era, marking the pinnacle of the  
>> industrial economies, is the age of cybernetics: the closed-loop,  
>> total planning system. It is at this point, I think, that you can  
>> really speak of the "automation of the subject by the laws of  
>> exchange."
>> The disciplines of psychology and management science changed  
>> entirely during the war. Cyberneticists explicitly saw the  
>> behaviorists as their enemies and soon made them obsolete. Instead  
>> of reducing men and women to mechanisms functioning on cause-effect  
>> principles, they wanted to compose larger, self-equilibrating  
>> systems out of human beings and machines, where the crucial input  
>> was not energy (that was now easily available) but instead,  
>> information serving to correct any imbalance in the productive  
>> process. Constructing a system that would correct itself in  
>> response to the right information, and only the right information,  
>> was now the task of both industrial and social design. The  
>> management of labor within the plant now consisted in making the  
>> wage the only relevant information for the worker: conflicts over  
>> wages were legitimate, because they could always lead to the  
>> extraction of higher productivity, and never to workers' autonomy  
>> or self-management, much less free time away from the machines. Yet  
>> the other crucial variable of capitalist development remained  
>> consumer demand, which had failed so dangerously in the 1930s; and  
>> here, the crucial media invention was television, which emerged on  
>> the broad consumer market in the 1950s.
>> The key thing is to see that television was managed cybernetically:  
>> the Neilsen rating system, first applied to radio from 1942 onward,  
>> was immediately extended to television in order to close the  
>> informational loop between the production and consumption of mass- 
>> consumption goods. Now the industrialists could be sure what people  
>> were watching, and how their desires were being shaped by  
>> entertainment and advertising. Rather than flooding the market  
>> anarchically and instinctively, without any certainty of finding a  
>> buyer, they could scientifically manage consumer desire, even while  
>> the state was managing the availability of disposable income for  
>> consumption. That's a fundamental change, and it's really striking  
>> how little attention is paid to the feedback loops of television in  
>> the American-style development of the planned economy. We should  
>> speak of "Neilsenism" for this epoch, the way Gramsci spoke of  
>> Fordism in the earlier period. And, I think, we should clearly  
>> distinguish between the social function of television in the  
>> postwar period, and cinema in the previous one.
>> Similar remarks can be made about the advent of micromedia (tape  
>> and video recorders, hand-held video cameras) and then interactive  
>> networks, in the course of the thirty-year period following the  
>> crisis of 1967-73. Of course this is the major discussion in my own  
>> work, in texts like The Flexible Personality, Future Map or  
>> Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies, so I won't go into too  
>> much detail. What's important to stress, though, is that just as  
>> three-cornered wage bargaining between labor, capital and the state  
>> tends to disappear in this period, so do the closed-loop planning  
>> processes of cybernetics. What emerges instead is the notion of the  
>> innnovative individual, whose freely evolving behavior should be  
>> mapped out and predicted by data-gathering and channeled by urban  
>> and architectural design. Cybernetics is replaced by chaos and  
>> complexity theories and management becomes a subtle exercise in  
>> governmentality and "incentivization."
>> Of course, the new stress on the (pseudo-)autonomy of the  
>> individual by motivated by the falling rate of profit in the 1970s,  
>> due in part to the emergence of new production centers (Germany,  
>> Japan, then the Asian Tigers and China) and the consequent  
>> saturation of consumer markets; so the innovative and autonomous  
>> individual is, from the capitalist viewpoint, just a necessary  
>> corollary to the new idea of small-batch, customized goods and the  
>> inflation of purely semiotic products and lifestyles which can  
>> almost immediately go obsolete, clearing the way for further  
>> production and sales. Only a networked media system could at once  
>> contribute to the hyper-individualization of the consumer, and his  
>> or her continuous access to the market. But I also think that the  
>> conflicts of late 60s and early 70s were real, and that many  
>> features of the new production, consumption and media system  
>> respond directly to the demands for autonomy that were expressed at  
>> that time. The problem is the way those demands were twisted into  
>> the new appetitive and predatory behaviors of today's social game.
>> What emerges in the so-called "risk society" of neoliberalism is  
>> really a meta-reflexive situation where everyone who is still  
>> included in the system is highly aware of the arbitrary nature of  
>> each new rule-set, and avidly looking to exploit all the changing  
>> rules to their personal advantage; while at the same time, the  
>> crisis-ridden system continually throws more people outside, it  
>> excludes them. In this way, the outside of capitalism both beckons  
>> and terrifies in the present period. The forms of the networked  
>> technologies, their highly individualized functions, their  
>> particular fetishistic attractiveness and the kinds of productive  
>> stimulation they offer are all shaped by the very unique  
>> characteristic of the current phase of our political-economy. We  
>> are now all supposed to produce our own little films, with the  
>> speculative hope that there may be a pot of gold at the end of our  
>> personal, pixellated rainbows. Which is a far different situation,  
>> I think, from that of a worker in a Ford plant or a Soviet factory...
>> ***
>> Well, this is a terribly long post and still a very sketchy one, to  
>> the point where it probably appears somewhat delirious! The reason  
>> why is that I am at once tremendously excited by the breakthroughs  
>> of The Cinematic Mode of Production, and at the same time, inspired  
>> and daunted by the challenges of using those breakthroughs to  
>> construct a new kind of media theory, one that responds to the  
>> dialectical transformations of our societies. While writing this  
>> post today I have looked more than once at the tableau of three  
>> major periods of capitalist development and their corresponding  
>> crises, assembled by Alex Foti and published here: www.leftcurve.org/LC31WebPages/Grid&ForkTable.pdf 
>> . I have also thought a good deal about French regulation-school  
>> theory, which Alex draws upon heavily and which tries to establish  
>> a correlation between a regime of capitalist accumulation and a  
>> mode of social regulation (or governance). Though they are not much  
>> discussed by the theorists of the economy, cinema, television and  
>> the networked communications devices all have a role to play in  
>> both the regime of accumulation and the mode of regulation. The  
>> difficulty for the cultural critic is how to describe those  
>> different roles, as well as the overlaps, prefigurations and  
>> continuities between them.
>> Probably I give the impression that I see each new form of media- 
>> regulation superceding and replacing the others, but in reality I  
>> think they layer onto each other, just as the most archaic  
>> religions and rigid forms of authority continue to exist in our  
>> time. While concentrating on the early twentieth century, The  
>> Cinematic Mode of Production is full of insights into what I might  
>> think of as the televisual and networked eras, precisely because it  
>> very often deals with all three periods at once, using the  
>> mobilizing paradigm of cinema to understand the additional forms of  
>> complexity, integration, contradiction and psychopathology that are  
>> continually piled up along with the other ruins of the capitalist  
>> disaster. In particular, the developments of this decade have made  
>> it clear that contemporary control is in no way limited to the  
>> vagaries of "governmentality." By dealing simultaneously with what  
>> I often describe as three distinct periods, the book does a lot to  
>> show how capitalism got into the psyche, and how the psyche got  
>> into capitalism... What I'm curious about, Jon, is whether you  
>> would see any value in the sequence of dialectical breaks that I  
>> use to understand the evolution of both media and the political- 
>> economic orders into which they are inserted; or whether you would  
>> insist on the paradigmatic nature of cinematic montage, even for  
>> postindustrial society.
>> Whatever the answer, the book's a great read!
>> best, Brian
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