Lets face it, the economy of collective desire goes both ways, in the direction of transformation and liberation, and in the direction of paranoiac wills to power. From this vantage point it is clear that the left, and the Socialists above all, have understood nothing. Look at what they did with the movement "SOS Racism": they think that they've changed something with their million buttons, but they didn't even consider talking to the people at stake. Has this publicity campaign changed anything in social practice, in the neighborhoods or in the factories? I know some "beurs," AlgerianFrench people who have been rubbed the wrong way by this new kind of paternalism-fraternalism. I don't deny the positive aspects of that campaign, but it's so far off the mark!
The passion for existence is short-circuited by the immersion of individuals into a network of ever more infantile relations of dependence. This corresponds to the way production machines, instruments of the media, social ensembles and public assistance institutions are being used to capitalize human subjectivity so that it disciplines itself and works toward sustaining an old social order, an order composed of hierarchies that are sometimes inherited from the middle ages. It's stupid, but that's how it is !
What's miraculous about this new capitalism, which is as prevalent in the East as in the West, is that these values, these insipid systems of sensibility, these flattened-out conceptions of the world, are internalized, are consciously and unconsciously adopted by most people. This makes for the unpalatable ambiance that spreads over just about everything, and for the massive and loathsome increase in religiousness.
Meanwhile, infantilizations of immense proportions are underway. These are really the top priorities, the key enterprises. In a manner which I hope is humoristic, I see the history of human subjectivity as a tremendous succession of collapses. In comparison to ours, Neolithic societies were certainly richer, being extraordinarily capable of perceiving elements of the cosmos and of poetry; the sketch marks of Lascaux, body painting, dance—all amazing.
And yet, parallel to this impoverishment of content in individuals as producers of subjective singularities, there is an absolutely fantastic expansion of machinic phylums, that is to say, of all the processes of selection, elimination and generation of machines by machines, which never cease producing new, artistic as well as scientific and technical possibilities. Thus, on the one hand there is the infantilization of the production of subjectivity, with the intense binarization of messages, uniformization and unidimensionization of relations to the world and, on the other, expansion of other non-denotative functions of language: the composition of rhythms and the unprecedented production of relations to the world.
I have always been bothered by the din made about the theme of "science without conscience." This is foolish, since it is only because of this very same subjectivity and its ever-accelerating, irreversible degeneration that machinic systems are able to take off the way they do. And isn't it also kind of stupid to hope to improve the condition of the human, one of the most vulgar, mean and aggressive of all species? I am not afraid of machines as long as they enlarge the scope of perception and complexity of human behavior. What bothers me is when people try to bring them down to the level of human stupidity.
I am not a postmodernist. I don't think that scientific and technological progress must necessarily bring about a "schiz" in relation to desire and creativity. On the contrary, I think that machines must be used—and all kinds of machines, whether concrete or abstract, technical, scientific or artistic. Machines do more than revolutionize the world: they completely recreate it.
Subjectivity works the same way. It is increasingly manufactured on a worldwide scale. I don't only mean to say that representations of sociality and social hierarchy tend toward a general unification. Actually, the fabrication of subjectivity also concerns very varied models of submission to productive processes, like particular relations to abstractions of the economic order. And it goes much further than that. From infancy, the intelligence, sensibility, behavior and fantasy of children are shaped so as to make them productive and compatible to social conditions. And I insist that this takes place not only on representational and emotional levels: a six-month-old put in front of a television will structure his perception, at that stage of development, by fixing his eyes on the television screen. The concentration of attention upon a certain kind of object is part of the production of subjectivity.
Thus we get beyond the simple domain of ideology, of ideological submission. Subjectivity from this point of view has nothing to do with Althusser's notion of the ideological apparatus, because it is produced in its entirety and, particularly, its components involve what I call a-signifying elements, which sustain relations to time, to rhythm, to space, to the body, to colors, to sexuality...
From there all kinds of attitudes are possible. For instance, after 1968, people were filled with nostalgia when Illich's ideas about returning to the smallest units of production, about conviviality, etc., became popular. Or there were those of American neo-liberals like Milton Friedman & Co., who cynically disagreed: you can say whatever you want, however you want,but the transformations of capitalism are irreversible. While it is true that capitalism has wreaked havoc all over the world, taking into account demographic pressures it would have been much worse without it.
However disgusting these guys are, one can't always cling to the past. I am completely in favor of defending the environment, of course. Only it must be admitted that technico-scientific expansion is irreversible. The real question is to bring about molecular and molar revolutions capable of radically altering its finalities since—and this has to be said again and again—a mutation does not have to be catastrophic. The ever-more artificial processes of subjective production can very well be associated with new social and creative forms. That's where the cursor of molecular revolutions is located.
This whole business of reclaiming cartographic references of individual and collective subjectivity is not just a matter for psychologists, analysts, educators, media or publicity people, etc. It involves fundamental political questions, which are even more urgent today than they were twenty years ago. But our heads are still in the clouds. The hardheadedness that characterized the social critique during the period of the "new culture" seems to have collapsed. The only thing that the culture values is competition— in sports, business and politics.
Perhaps I am a naive and incorrigible optimist, but I am convinced that one day there will be a return to collective judgment, and these last few years will be considered the most stupid and barbaric in a long time; barbarity of the mind and in representations, but also in reality. What is happening to the Third World and with the environment is truly monstrous, yet people continue to view things through the calm perspectives of actors, journalists and media personalities. Nobody wants to know too much or think too much: "It's going badly, but it's still moving ahead. Progress marches on, so all we have to do is wait. It'll all work out."
It appears to me essential not to let things fizzle out, but to reestablish, as fast as possible, a social practice. A practice—a militant stance, even if that makes people laugh or gnash their teeth—that would not be cut off or specialized, but would establish a continuum between political, social and economic questions, technico-scientific transformations, artistic creations, and the management of everyday problems, with the reinvention of a singular existence. From such a vantage point, the present crisis could be considered a dysfunction in social semiotization. It is obvious that the mechanics of semiotic and institutional management in the flux of production and circulation correspond less and less to the evolution of productive forces and collective investments. Even the most narrow-minded economists are stunned to discover a sort of craziness in these systems and feel the urgent need to find alternatives.
But what? There is no answer if the analysis keeps focusing on dysfunction. Because what prevents the possible elaboration of alternatives—the old idea of a "New International Order"—is not only the "selfishness of oligarchies"—even when this exists—nor even their congenital idiocy. Instead, you come up against another phenomenon, linked precisely to the worldwide production of subjectivity and its ever-greater integration into every human or machinic function: what I call WIC, World Integrated Capitalism.
Let's take the case of Iran.. This ancient Third World country had the means to produce a fabulous economic take-off, becoming an international power of the first order. And then a mutation in collective subjectivity occurred which completely upset that system, plunging the country into a complex—at once revolutionary and reactionary—situation, with the return to fundamentalist Shiism and its awesome archaic values. What took precedence there was not the interests of workers, peasants or intellectuals. A passion seized a large portion of the Iranian people, led them to choose to exist through a charismatic leader, through a religious and ethnic difference akin to a collective orgasm.
Today, all political systems, in varying degrees, are confronted with the question of subjective identity. This is what sometimes makes international relations so maddening, since they depend less on arms, on the opposition between East and West, etc., than on these kinds of questions, which seem aberrant. The Palestinian or Irish problems, the national claims of the Basques, Poles or Afghanis actually express the need for human collectivities to reappropriate their own lives, their own destinies through what I call a process of singularization. This emergence of dissident subjectivities calls for a new theory of archaisms. Just one remark on this subject; let's look at the question from a lower point on the ladder. Does infantile regression, in the behavior of an individual, automatically indicate that the person has "returned to childhood"? No. What is really at stake is a different use of preexistent elements, of behavior or representations, in order to construct another life surface, or another affective space, laying out another existential territory. When the Basques, the Irish or the Corsicans fight to reconstruct their land, they have the conviction that they are fighting to defend something inscribed in tradition, they believe that they are relying on historical legitimacy. I think that they reemploy representations, monuments and historical emblems in order to make a new collective subjectivity for themselves. Surely their struggle is facilitated by the staying power of these traditional elements—to the point that they can lead to xenophobic passions. But, in reality, they are pretty much on the same level as the people who live in French industrial or residential suburbs, who also aspire to restore collective ways of life for themselves.
Not everyone has the good luck, or the bad luck, to be Irish, Basque or Corsican. But the problem is comparable: how to reinvent existential coordinates and acceptable social territories? Is it necessary to launch the Liberation Front of Seine-et-Oise [a Parisian suburb], as Godard did in Weekend, a new Picardie, a new Belfort territory, and so many Disneylands in metallurgical basins? What else can spring up in our industrial deserts? I say, new territories of reference. And not only in people's minds, also in the workplace, in the possibility of finding their way through social and economic mechanisms. A territory is the ensemble of projects or representations where a whole series of behaviors and investments can pragmatically emerge, in time and in social, cultural, esthetic and cognitive space.
How does one go about producing, on a large scale, a desire to create a collective generosity with the tenacity, the intelligence and the sensibility which are found in the arts and sciences? If you want to invent new molecules in organic chemistry, or new music, it doesn't just happen: they don't fall from the sky. It takes work, research, experiment—as it must with society. Capitalism is not a fair nor a foul weather friend, no more than Marxist determinism or spontaneous anarchy are. The old references are dead, and so much the better. New ones must be invented. Under today's conditions, which are different from those of the nineteenth century, with six or seven billion inhabitants on the globe and the entire technico-scientific revolution, how can human relations be organized without automatically reinforcing hierarchies, segregations, racism, and the erosion of particularities? How to release an inventive, machinic collective passion that would proliferate, as the case in Japan seems to be—without crushing people under an infernal discipline? Oppressed minorities exist in Japan, women continue to be treated as inferiors, childhood is torture. But it is true that the hypermodern cocktail, the high-tech current, and the return of archaic structures found there are fascinating! Perhaps not enough attention has been paid to certain theoreticians, like Akira Asada, who perceive that capitalism in Japan does not function on the same bases as it does in the West. Oligarchies do not have the same privileges, class is not delimited in the same way, the work contract is not experienced in the same way...
I say all this to indicate that it is possible to envision different formulas organizing social life, work and culture. Models of political economy are not universal. They can be made to bend, and others can be invented. At the root of all this is life itself and collective desire.
Felix Guattari, SOFT SUBVERSIONS,So What, p. 71 -80
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