Homo Economicus or Life in the Magic Kingdom

Janine Antoni

“The desired outcomes in the case of the generic Disney narrative include: brand loyalty; return to point of origin (ideal/americanized childhood); return to point of sale, serial selling (the integration syntactically of thematically linked products: films, soundtracks, merchandizing, vacations, etc.). At a more abstract level, those outcomes extend to the suburbanization of the global imaginary, the Taylorization of leisure, compliance with the overall mission (e.g. internalization of the performance goals and obsequious behavioral norms of a hyperconformist service economy) and something close to ‘disenstrangement’ – the domestication of all otherness, the subtraction of risk from pleasure.”
Dick Hebdige (Dis-Gnosis, Disney and the Re-tooling of Knowledge, Art, Culture, Life Etc.)

“Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”
Jean Baudrillard (Simulations)

“To that out of which their birth is, their destruction returns, according to debt ; for they give justice and payment to each other for their injustice according to the order of time.”

One of the things that the last two years has made clear is that an entire set of societal pre-conditions existed in the West. And that lockdowns, and social restrictions, pseudo medical rituals and a massive government (and media) propaganda campaign have exacerbated these psychic schisms in huge numbers of the population.

Dick Hebdige’s excellent monograph on the aesthetic and cultural influence of the Disney empire touches on several things that are worth noting before going any further. There is the obvious bowlderization of classic material, and one could pick a dozen examples but Hebdige picks Hercules. Such strip mining of the classic canon no longer raises even an eyebrow.

“…in the ancient Greek original, of a one-night stand between Zeus and Alcmene, Queen of Thebes – is portrayed in the Disney version as the legitimate heir of faithful marrieds, Zeus and Hera, happily nesting in an exclusive resort community sited on Mount Olympus. Hercules’ tortured destiny, motivated in the myth by Hera’s unrelenting spite, becomes, in Disney’s hands, an uplifting tale of kidnap, evil overcome and, in the final reunion with Megara, monogamy eternally triumphant. (Needless to say, Hercules’s subsequent abandonment of Megara following his incineration of the couple’s children in a fit of Hera-induced (hence heaven-sent) madness is tactfully omitted.)
Dick Hebdige (Ibid)

But what is more interesting is that the animus directed toward Disney by the counter culture in the sixties has waned and even become an animus toward that original animus. This is partly just the generalized anti-intellectualism that has spiked over the last twenty five years. It is also the product of camp aesthetics and its transition into a ratification of the infantile. Hebdige writes “The generalization of the surveillance model (reality TV, security video, email tracking software, consumer profiling by banks, etc.), together with the
decay of public/private distinctions and of the fragile discretionary etiquettes that made those distinctions viable, threatens to project the recalcitrant opacity of human existence into its inimical opposite – what Henry Giroux (1999: 34) describes as ‘a world of clean, well-lighted places, a world in which adult preoccupations with complexity and moral responsibility appear . . . out of place, or, perhaps, simply irrelevant’.”

Steven Shearer (detail)

The infantile is firstly the un-serious. But here is an interesting side bar to the Disney cosmology. Parentage is erased in Disney cartoons. There is also, as Hebdige notes, a disproportionate fixation on twins and triplets. This is the echo of cloning as a future model for reproduction. It is always a sort of unconscious condemnation of diversity. There are also far more Aunts and Uncles and cousins than parents in the Disney universe. Direct genesis is too, well, unclean, too fraught with desire. And remember, no other than the American Medical Association observed that (back in 1999) that the largest single chunk of time in the waking lives of children is that time spent staring at a screen. The missing parents of the screen habituated child are reflected back at them in the Disney universe where parents have also gone missing.

“In this sense, Disney can be thought of as an “immense nostalgia machine whose staging and specific attractions are generationally coded to strike a chord with the various age categories of its guests. Disney’s power lies, in part, in its ability to tap into the lost hopes, abortive dreams, and utopian potential of popular culture.”
Henry Giroux (The Mouse that Roared)

“ In Disney, the two strata—adult and child—are not to be considered as antagonistic; they fuse in a single embrace, and history becomes biology. The identity of parent and child inhibits the emergence of true generational conflicts. The pure child will replace the corrupt father, preserving the latter’s values. The future (the child) reaffirms the present (the adult), which, in turn, transmits the past. The apparent independence which the father benevolently bestows upon this little territory of his creation, is the very means of assuring his supremacy.”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic)

Astrid Kruse Jensen, photography.

Now looking at some of this from the perspective of the Pandemic (or near post pandemic) reveals the entire propaganda apparatus has worked, to some degree, as a Disney cartoon, erasing the actual material suffering for abstract stats and models, and promoting a kind of child-like vision of what the Great Reset future might look like.

“Mass culture has granted to contemporary man, in his constant need to visualize the reality about him, the means of feeding on his own problems without having to encounter all the difficulties of form and content presented by the modern art and literature of the elite. Man is offered knowledge without commitment, a self-colonization of his own imagination. By dominating the child, the father dominates himself. The relationship is a sado-masochistic one, not unlike that established between Donald and his nephews.”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

I have read two different reviews of the Titian show at the National Gallery in Scotland. Both reviews took a very critical perspective on Titian because of, well, how un-woke he was.

“In fact, the whole cycle, with its repeated images of gender-based power plays and exposed female flesh, invites #MeToo evaluation, and raises doubts about whether any art, however “great,” can be considered exempt from moral scrutiny.”
Holland Cotter (NY Times)

I doubt anyone thinks any artist is exempt from moral scrutiny. The question is who’s moral scrutiny, and, more the historical context in which, in this case Titian, worked, and which mythic narrative he was depicting. This sort of simplistic nod to pop consensus is where art criticism lives today. But I digress. The point of mentioning the Titian exhibition was to underscore the Disneyfication of culture, for work such as Titian’s would never find its way into the Magic Kingdom.

Titian (Flaying of Marsyas, 1570)

“Disney’s utopia points beyond the given while remaining firmly within it. As the philosopher Ernst Bloch points out, genuine wishes are felt here at the start, but these are often siphoned off within constructions of nostalgia, fun, and childhood innocence that undercut the utopian dream of “something else-that which extends beyond what the market and a commodity-crazed society can offer.”
Henry Giroux (Ibid)

The entire cultural distraction of wokeness now serves to both titillate and occupy the educated classes (much as the earlier culture wars did) from the actual and urgent issues of the moment.

“The world of Disney is a nineteenth century orphanage. ”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

An orphanage without an outside. One cannot flee it. Again, rather like the pandemic. The lack of birth and death, let alone of aging, is a conceit of the comics in general. Lois Lane never aged, and neither do Beavis and Butthead. But in Disney, the conceit is obscured by the frantic creation of entire worlds divorced from contemporary life, while ratifying the propagandized version of real life. Disney invites his audience to ‘live’ in Disneyland, and to see this manufactured innocence as the lodestar for virtue.

Valentin Carron

“Disney inflicts upon his heroes the punishment that Origenes inflicted upon himself. He emasculates them, and deprives them of their true organs of relation to the universe: perception and generation. By means of this unconscious stratagem, the comics systematically and artfully reduce real people to abstractions. ”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

For the digital age, everything is code. Disney’s severing of earth and blood reality from his universe of ‘innocence’ anticipated the digital abstracting of life overall. Worth remembering (as Hebdige does) that the opposite of innocence is guilt.

This abstracting of experience has been marketed as ‘progress’. Today of course, in the shadow of the pandemic the shut-in populace (still almost total in Canada and Australia) is encouraged to see such restrictions on movement as actually beneficial, healthy even, and a chance to rest and rethink their lives. Clearly the target audience for such marketing are not people who actually work. Of course the real engine driving the marketing of this virus ‘other’ (and the unclean, the untouchables, or more commonly the unvaccinated) is the further consolidation of wealth at the very top of the food chain. And this unprecedented accumulation of wealth in a very few hands is something media goes to great lengths to never mention. This is the drivetrain for the Reset and Pandemic in toto. Better to applaud the idiotic billionaire space race then think, wait,I’ll never get a seat on Branson or Musk space-express. But one thing is clear, and that is that men like Musk and Prince Harry, and Bezos, or like Mark Zukerberg were shaped in childhood by a Disney aesthetic (actually Zuk had a Star Wars themed bar mitzvah when he turned 13).

The whole ‘metaverse’ fantasy, like much of AI, is pure Disney. Transhumanism is a marketing term, but it does serve to point toward an ideology of Orwellian Imperialism. And as I noted last blog post, there were precursors throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Rudolph Steiner, for one, and much of the theosophy movement, and later new age thinking). This stuff was sampled by National Socialism, as was eugenics and a kind of kitsch science. In one sense the science of eugenics (and its precursors like phrenology) were the start of the validating of junk science. The image for ‘science’ is now one that would not be out of place in a Disney Holiday Special.

Emilio Vedova

“Donald (talking to a witch doctor in Africa): “I see you’re an up to date nation! Have you got telephones?”
Witch doctor: “Have we gottee telephones! … All colors, all shapes … only trouble is only one has wires. It’s a hot line to the world loan bank.”
{ Donald Duck cartoon, 1964}
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

Perhaps the most relevant paragraph in the Dorfman and Mattelart book (which was published first in Chile, under Allende. When Pinochet was put in power by the CIA, the book was banned and its authors sent into exile) is this…

“The historical nostalgia of the bourgeoisie, so much the product of its objective contradictions—its conflicts with the proletariat, the difficulties arising from the industrial revolution, as the myth was always belied and always renewed—this nostalgia took upon itself a twofold disguise, one geographical: the lost paradise which it could not enjoy, and the other biological: the child who would serve to legitimize its plans for human emancipation. There was no other place to flee, unless it was to that other nature, technology.”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

The Great Reset (and to a lesser degree The Green New Deal) have tapped into exactly this nostalgia, only updated to the digital age. For the ruling class, the nostalgia is tied into a more Romanticized nostalgia, the lost paradise is more Edenic and also more grounded in a colonial plantation system with happy slaves (or at least obedient). Voices such as David Attenborough, a darling of white liberals, is openly expressing a Disney like view of the third world as populated with adult children. And for such voices, technology is more tool than place. It is the haute bourgeoisie which have attached technology to an idea of future paradises. Technology for them IS a place. This is seen in their applause for Elon Musk and his SpaceX fantasy. Its in the marketing, certainly, of all transhumanist and AI projects.

František Dostál, photography.

In those early Disney comic strips, the Duck family are always off on adventures searching for the treasures of antiquity. In a sense the contemporary version of this is Indiana Jones (and no surprise because Spielberg is the contemporary Disney). The other version is found in the novels of Dan Brown. (there is now a TV series The Lost Symbol, based on Brown’s books). This is nostalgia steeped in colonial style and taste. It is replete with gentlemen’s clubs and secret societies, and contented servants. It is particularly British, of course, for the American public has never quite felt comfortable with French colonial taste, or Spanish.

“This brings us back to the curious Disney family structure with the absence of natural paternity. The simultaneous lack of direct biological production and direct economic production, is not coincidental. They both coincide and reinforce a dominant ideological structure which also seeks to eliminate the working class, the true producer of objects. And with it, the class struggle.”
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart (Ibid)

This tied together the eugenics of Klaus Schwab, the AI/transhumanist fantasies of test tube babies …the removal of the messy trappings of sex and birth, with an instant manufacturing of value– value production in the form of laboratory heirs. The working class is fetishized, if present at all. The implications of these films and TV shows is that wealth if naturally a matter of lineage and if, occasionally, work is present at all it is nearly always something dirty (shoveling coal etc. Steam punk aesthetics abound) and being done by bestial ape like men suited to no better task. Or, there is the rare appearance of a factory; but one with invariably a single caretaker, alone and watching over it. There is resonance here with Kafka, the great anticipator of contemporary interior psychic maps. Writing of this factory watchman, Dorfman and Mattelart observe…

“His role appears to be little more than that of a policeman protecting the autonomous and automated factory of his boss. This is the world the bourgeoisie have always dreamed of.”

Helena Almeida

Automated and autonomous. The Great Reset. It becomes ever clearer that the subjectivity of today’s bourgeoisie is one that is keenly attracted to the values and vision of Klaus Schwab. The bourgeoisie are not ever going to recoil from fascism. It is essential to their ideas of self development. When I was a boy, the colonial idea was still very much a staple of Hollywood. Ramar of the Jungle was a favorite of mine when I was six or seven. The Disney aesthetic and value system were an enormous presence on the cultural scene of the time. And as Henry Giroux noted, Disney is like a nostalgia machine. It is perhaps worth pondering the nature of nostalgia here, because the pandemic has been presented in clear storylines that beg for historical revisionism. Nostalgia and science…these are the cornerstones of the Covid story.

“The connection between money thinking and rational thinking is so deeply ingrained in our practical lives that it seems impossible to question it; our practical experience is articulated in one whole school of economic theorists who define economics as the “science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.” ”
Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death)

Brown notes Simmel’s description of science as a kind of thinking that is “abstract, impersonal, objective, and quantitative.” Prudential calculation is an expression of anality. And anality is not the expression of any extreme economic form, such as the miser, it is the expression of all capitalists.

“What is being probed, and found to be in some sense morbid, is not knowledge as such, but the unconscious schemata governing the pursuit of knowledge in modern civilization, specifically the aim of possession or mastery over objects (Freud), and the principle of economizing in the means (Ferenczi). And the morbidity imputed to these schemata, if interpreted in the context of the whole libido theory, amounts to this: possessive mastery over nature and rigorously economical thinking are partial impulses in the human being (the human body) which in modern civilization have become tyrant organizers of the whole of human life; abstraction from the reality of the whole body and substitution of the abstracted impulse for the whole reality are inherent in Homo economicus. “
Norman O. Brown (Ibid)

Marcuse said we cant know what an unrepressed society would like. We cannot know either what an exuberance and non possessive science would look like, but one might guess at an embrace of the erotic and an abandonment of ideas predicated upon prediction and mastery. Science may well predict certain outcomes in limited experiments, that is its great virtue, I think. But that belief in prediction today colours all advanced capitalist dreams. Except they are not really dreams, but nightmares. There has been a growing fixation in the bourgeois collective built around the term and idea of ‘evidence’. It carries, of course, a judicial and policing quality, but it also traces its origin back (in today’s version) the birth of the microscope and the detective novel. It is often invisible to the naked eye.

“The great economist von Mises tried to refute socialism by demonstrating that, in abolishing exchange, socialism made economic calculation, and hence economic rationality, impossible. “Just because no production good will ever become the object of exchange, it will be impossible to determine its monetary value. . . . Money could never fill in a socialist state the role it fills in a competitive society in determining the value of production goods. Calculation in terms of money will here be impossible. . . . There would be no means of determining what was rational, and hence it is obvious that production could never be directed by economic considerations.”
Norman O.Brown (Ibid)

Indeed. So, the growth of a kitsch culture, of sentimentality and bathos, is one that aligns quite well with the rational anal sadistic character of the captains of industry. Nostalgia seems inherently drawn to superficial emotions. Nostalgia is just kitsch memory. It is also (and I remember Bachelard said something like this) a regression to the womb, or nest. But today it is a nest drawn by Disney cartoonists.

Brown’s famous chapter on Luther and ‘filthy lucre’ is worth a read again, if you have forgotten it. The devil is a gaping anus, the world a pile of shit. The devil is the fascist leader. Allow me one more quote from Brown…relevant to the Pandemic particularly:

“The members of the body must not wait till filth says and decrees whether the body is healthy or not. We are determined to learn this from the members themselves and not from the urine, excrement and filth. In the same way we shall not wait for the Pope and bishops in Council to say: This is right. For they are no part of the body, or clean and healthy members but merely the filth of squiredom, merci spattered on the sleeve and veritable ordure, for they persecute the true Evangel, well knowing it to be the Word of God. Therefore we can see they are but filth, stench and limbs of Satan.”

Hannah Hoech

Looked at from Brown’s perspective (Freudian, but a very specific Freud) Capitalism and science are both tied together with sadism and the death instinct. The sickness that has been foregrounded throughout the last two years is an expression of the deep unconscious of the ruling class. I suspect the goals of the Reset could have been achieved (in their mind because I don’t believe they will be achieved) with other events than a pandemic. But that science could literally dictate the fate of millions of lives (but lives of adult children, much as Scrooge McDuck dictated the futures of the natives he encountered on his search for treasure) with an impersonal, anti human rationality, divorced from emotions and the body — is the expression of the madness of these new Emperors. The czars of digital capital, another degree even removed from actual life. This is the death rattle of a science that has reached absolute exhaustion. Its possible the idea of doing away with hospitals, or metropolitan hospitals is because medical science may now be making more people unwell than well. So abstract, so computer modeled and so mediated by Big Pharma, by the military, with a kind of economizing of means, that many doctors are taking early retirement rather than live with the insanity of the Covid story. Worth noting that it was Ferenczi that saw thought itself, at least in certain contexts, as preventing a squandering of energy through action. Thought, as an economizing of means. In other words, anal and repressive. Under capitalism, whose very foundation was alienation and reification, exchange as unhealthy repetition (at a certain point) this form of thought is indeed toxic and marinated in death. Or ‘space tourism’, another big adolescent fantasy from men/children whose imaginations are so atrophied that they can think of nothing better to do with their wealth then make and play with even bigger toys than they did as children. Imagine if you will, if you made literally billions of dollars a day, as Bezos does, or Zukerberg or Musk or Gates. Imagine what you could do with that, what transformative programs you could create and give to the poor, to the global south, the elimination of worry and want for billions of human beings. But no, they create programs to make more money, and they look to control. To control and master those they deem beneath them. Why? Because capitalism has poisoned them, their minds and souls.

Achille Funi (frescos 1930s, The Arengo Hall, scenes from Orlando Furioso)

If you go back to Whitehead, writing about the materialism of Newton or the sensationalist principles of Hume, you find he was very critical of science and the direction it was taking. This is the in the early thirties.

“Newton’s methodology for physics was an overwhelming success. But the forces which he introduced left Nature still without meaning or value. In the essence of a material body—in its mass, motion, and shape—there was no reason for the law of gravitation.”
Alfred North Whitehead (Nature and Life, 1934)

He added that these theories were highly problematic, they were …“gravely defective. They are right as far as they go. But they omit … our intuitive modes of understanding.”

Now if you talked to one of the pitchmen for Covid and Pfizer, the talking heads representing science and vaccines, the idea of intuition would not play a part. In fact that sort of trust in what can’t be weighed or measured is usually mocked.

Luca Giodornno (Head of Marysas, 1660)

Science was wed to economism early on, they were birth twins in a sense.

“Economic relations are impersonal. It is the market, the exchange opportunity, which is functionally real, not the other human beings; these are not even means to action. The relation is neither one of cooperation nor one of mutual exploitation, but is completely non-moral, non-human.”
F.H. Knight (The Ethics of Competition)

“But this static contrast of the sacred and the secular as mutually exclusive opposites is misleading, because it is undialectical. The secular is the negation of the sacred, and both Freud’s and Hegel’s negation affirms its own opposite. The psychological realities here are best grasped in terms of theology, and were already grasped by Luther. Modern secularism, and its companion Protestantism, do not usher in an era in which human consciousness is liberated from inhuman powers, or the natural world is liberated from supernatural manifestations; the essence of the Protestant (or capitalist) era is that the power over this world has passed from God to God’s negation, God’s ape, the Devil.”
Norman O. Brown (Ibid)

This is another version of the Dialectic of Enlightenment. The escape from the inhuman cage of capitalism is an escape that must recognize that learning what liberation looks like is the first step. The escape is the escape from economism.

“We have emphasized that the term {aesthetics} originally designated “pertaining to the senses,” with stress on their cognitive function. Under the predominance of rationalism, the cognitive function of sensuousness has been constantly minimized . In line with the repressive concept of reason, cognition became the ultimate concern of the “higher,” non-sensuous faculties of the mind; aesthetics were absorbed by logic and metaphysics. Sensuousness, as the “lower” and even “lowest” faculty, furnished at best the mere stuff, the raw material, for cognition, to be organized by the higher faculties of the intellect. The content and validity of the aesthetic function were whittled down. Sensuousness retained a measure of philosophical dignity in a subordinate epistemological position; those of its processes that did not fit into the rationalistic epistemology — that is, those that went beyond the passive perception of data — became homeless. Foremost among these homeless contents and values were those of imagination: free, creative, or reproductive intuition of objects which are not directly “given” — the faculty to represent objects without their being “present.” 8 There was no aesthetics as the science of sensuousness to correspond to logic as the science of conceptual understanding.”
Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization- A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud)

Bartolomeo Manfredi (Apollo and Marsyas) 1620.

As Marcuse added a bit later, the idea of aesthetics counteracted the repressive rule of reason. A reason that had become repressive. And that repressive quality included compulsion. I think the economic laws of capital, of money, gold, filthy lucre, cannot be treated except compulsively. Marcuse writes “In Schiller’ s Letters on the Aesthetic Education, the stress is on the impulsive, instinctual character of the aesthetic function.” Instinct and intuition. In children this is what play offers. And western education, institutional education, is designed to eradicate play. It is a long single issue concern almost. Play is only for recess, for limited and increasingly controlled periods of time under the watchful eye of authority. The reality principle.

Art is always going to follow gratification and hence contradict control. Art that does not work against or run counter to repression is not really art. And the erotic always plays a part in all creativity. Industrial civilization is predicated on controlling the impulses toward gratification and play. The erotic becomes only a fetishized genital sexuality (pornography). And as a side bar, its not a secret that Wall St traders constituted the hugest consumer of Escort Services by a wide margin.

“…enjoyment is separated from labor, the means from the end, exertion from recompense. Eternally fettered only to a single little fragment of the whole, man fashions himself only as a fragment; ever hearing only the monotonous whirl of the wheel which he turns, he never develops the harmony of his being, and, instead of shaping the humanity that lies in his nature, he becomes a mere imprint of his occupation, his science.”
Erich Fromm (Man for Himself)

Florian Maier-Aichen, photography.

I have added several other painted versions of the Apollo and Marysas story besides Titian’s. What is worth looking at … and there are several more, Jose de Ribala, Filippo Lauri, David Teniers, and Johann Liss …in all of them is the depiction of Apollo. The icy cold sadism of pure white Apollo vs the earth ugly sensuality of the satyr. It is the story of aesthetics itself.

The real question, and Norman O. Brown was very cogent on this, is to see clearly the nature of repression. Force is postulated in most thinking, because otherwise one is left with the question of why humans would repress themselves. But it is not that simple. The crude explanation is that slaves love their chains, but this is, of course, not true.

“Classical economic theorists, assuming the basic rationality of economic activity, assumed likewise that archaic economic activity was a core of secular rationalism in an otherwise rude and superstitious milieu. They assumed that economic activity was always and everywhere essentially the same in the fundamental motivation; economic activities were governed by economic motives that is, by economizing calculation. Assuming the psychology of economizing calculation, they correctly postulated its sociological correlate, the institution of ownership (property).”
Norman O. Brown (Ibid)

Without going into a long discussion of archaic economics, on the invention of mediums of exchange, there remains the real question of origins here. And those origins are magical. And sacred. And, I would argue, aesthetic…but in a very particular sense.

“Money is something visible and invisible at the same time. A “real abstraction,” in Marx’s terms. You can hold a coin in your hand and yet not touch its value. That which makes this thing “money” is not what you see.”
Anne Carson (Economy of the Unlost)

“If we recognize the essentially sacred character of archaic money, we shall be in a position to recognize the essentially sacred character of certain specific features of modern money certainly the gold standard, and almost certainly also the rate of interest. As far as gold and silver are concerned it is obvious to the eye of common sense that their salient characteristic is their absolute uselessness for all practical purposes. John Locke put his finger on the essential point with his formula of “mankind having consented to put an imaginary value upon gold and silver.”
Norman O. Brown (Ibid)

Charles Andre van Loo (Marsyas Flayed on Order of Apollo) 1735

“The magical properties, with which the Egyptian priestcraft anciently imbued the yellow metal, it has never altogether lost.”
John Maynard Keynes (Treatise on Money)

Theatre precedes religion, something I have argued before. For theatre is really all art, all creativity, but it is also, more importantly, the site of subjectivity. The stage –the theatrical space– IS subjectivity. Man’s earliest instincts about himself took place in a cave, I suspect, in a space of mostly darkness, in which he or she found themselves in a *space*, and there was a gaze toward them, and that *space* was one they recognized from their own dreams but had no language for, no text. That was the primal ‘play’. The ur-play.

It is in another sense this is the site of the primal crime, the very origin of space. Great artists never let go of this fact. Kafka, again, is the poster boy for primal space. I believe all great art recreates the experience of that originary space.

“Marx notes the operation of a “desire after hoarding” which clings to the money form, and is therefore a “greed for gold”and which is an intrinsic factor in capitalism inherited from the precapitalist stage: “With the very earliest development of the circulation of commodities, there is also developed the necessity, and the passionate desire, to hold fast to the product of the first metamorphosis . . . its gold-chrysalis.”
Norman O. Brown (Ibid)

Prestige, and power. This is what wealth provides those who have it. The essence of money is not found in exchange (however profound that concept) but in power. And social power, per Marx, becomes private power. Today everything is code, another invisible currency– and Anne Carson (in a particularly brilliant book) returns to this invisibility again and again. And in the context of poetics. Negation is something. The invisible is still there.

“But how are gold and silver distinguished from other forms of wealth? Not by the magnitude of their value, for this is determined by the quantity of labor materialized in them; but by the fact that they represent independent incarnations, expressions of the social character of wealth.”
Karl Marx (Capital)

Jennifer Guidi

Aesthetic Resistance is not an idle concept. Nor ironic. The demand and the project is to discover the inner laws of aesthetics, to reclaim its history, certainly, but to understand its relationship to advanced capital, to digitalization, to the new counter project of this class of unprecedented billionaires who live outside all petty questions of democracy or international law. The emergence of social privilege is tied into private property, this still begs questions of what psychic architecture permitted such emergence. As Freud noted, money is not an infantile wish, hence it, in the end, brings little happiness.

“Painting is philosophy”
Leonardo Da Vinci

“Marx describes a handloom weaver who works ten hours but (like Simonides) finds his work viewed in the marketplace as worth only half that. Ten hours of life become five hours of pay. What is striking in Marx’s analysis of the issue is this insight: that to value a piece of work is to price the mortal span. When commodities present themselves to us for evaluation and exchange, Marx insists, what we are really measuring in them is time.”
Anne Carson (Ibid)

“Schiller states that, in order to solve the political problem, “one must pass through the aesthetic, since it is beauty that leads to freedom.”
Herbert Marcuse (Ibid)

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  1. One of the most brilliant analyses we’ve ever read, and it will take us days to fully comprehend its various perspectives. Thank you for your profound and eloquent elucidation of a number of subtle important truths. We look forward to devouring and sharing more.

  2. Thank you so very much for this. Profound.

  3. “I envisage the time […] when all creative artists will remove themselves and their activities as far as possible from the common herd, like the great enclosed Orders of the Catholic Church, they will pursue their work apart and away from all contact with a world whose touch becomes increasingly foul and defiling, whose ideas go on becoming even baser and baser, whose taste ever and ever more corrupt and vitiated. Almost I would like to see all creative artists organized into quasi Monastic Orders under a rigid discipline (by common consent)[;] the very exceptional and outstanding artists will as always work in almost anchorite isolation, in [h]eremitical detachment. We are in for a Dark Age as compared with which the so-called Dark Ages will be marvels of enlightened intelligence—a Dark Age of mechanization and Robotism à outrance until the final grand SMASH. The Artists will be then the only ones to keep the Lamp of Civilization alight as the Monasteries and the Church (at its best) did in the Middle Ages, through the welter and chaos to come.”

    – K. S. Sorabji

  4. John Steppling says:

    thanks for that.

  5. Regino Robainas says:

    regret to, at least partially, differ. To become
    totally isolated and monastic would, while surely
    overcoming the infantile, plastic Magic Kingdom, split
    us from the world that we have a sacred duty to engage.
    Maybe this path will be similar to that of Sophocles’
    Antigone or Socrates or Che, but a complete Budha-like
    retreat would only please the forces of Death.

    I believe that your intent is to combine Aesthetics
    with true Science and Ethics for a shining triad.

  6. Regino Robainas says:

    Yeah, tenuous bros and sisters, , I’ve
    learned to live, with some animation, in
    this kafkaesque cartoon.

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