Toward the Thing After Occupy: Pastiche, Parodic Capitalism, and the Need For New Resistances

There is great divide in the world. This divide is between the people who consider a large portion of the population disposable and everyone else.

These are the lines on which we must resist.

There is a great divide in the left. This divide is between those embracing the tactics of structuralism and those embracing the tactics of post-structuralism.

This is a false divide with many subdivisions mostly borne out of a failure of those on either broadly defined post of this division to do their homework, or the sentimental attachment to old or new ideas.
I write to the Marxists: are the old tactics actually working right now or are they the rain god you’re hoping will return?

I write to the post-structuralists: are the theoretical contributions of Judith Butler/Jacques Derrida really a thing to be constrained to discussions of gender?

And in structuring these replies I realize I’m making something of a false equivalency-in my experience, having performed both roles in these repetitive arguments at separate times, the greater pushback has been from the old guard. This pushback, driven by a false nostalgic desire for a return to the old lines of resistance or possibly the more selfish reason of wanting to seem “correct” in conversation, creates dialectic pushback from the oppressed groups (LGBTQ etc.) that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, have not always been well-served by the economically self-defining factions of the left.

The LGBTQ actors have adapted their tactics to the cultural logic of the present and as such have been racking up victories all over. We ignore their readings and lessons only if we wish to remain stuck in the same bars with the same dull Trotsky-ites until the last bit of capital is consolidated and accumulated.

PRECURSORS TOWARD POST-FORDIST MARXISM(S)

Some of the groundwork toward the synthesis I’m attempting to reach in this essay has already been done by academics like David Harvey in his essential The Condition of Postmodernity and in numerous essays by Fredric Jameson. Both are firmly academics and as such have a tendency in their writing to limit themselves, for better or worse, to the descriptive. However, both are excellent at describing things, and we must use what we can figure out how to use in their work.

The thing I want to use here is Harvey’s macro-economic transliteration of the ground rules of postmodern society-Post-Fordism. The concept being:

The old industrialism was based in the mass production of a limited number of items to be sold to a broad audience (Fordism). The new industrialism focuses on the small-scale production of a wide variety of niche items for specialized buyers (Post-Fordism).

The tech industry is thoroughly Post-Fordist, though the parts we engage with most frequently would seem more given over to Fordism. That the tech-industry seems to be the only growth industry in the country besides surveillance/security and various pop-up markets catering to the niche desires of the rich creates a problem for the traditional means towards Marxist revolution-there is no factory left to create a geographically proximate massing of the workers.

In fact, almost the inverse of what was predicted has happened. Many of the anxieties of the United States regarding Soviet communism-that the architecture would all be bland and samey, the emergence of mass incarceration and a totalistic surveillance state, even the bread line has reemerged in parodic form in the consumer frenzy surrounding the opening nights of superhero films. In neoliberal USA, the aesthetics of Stalinism are the privilege of the ruling class.

The takeaways from Post-Fordism as a construct are twofold:

1) Neoliberalism is the economic and urban planning rollout of the internal logic of the post-modern period of history in which we are all enmeshed. Late capitalism in Marxist terms and the stuff Baudrillard was talking about in Simulacra and Simulation are different descriptions of the same phenomena.
2) The factory as the locus of organized resistance and the forms of organization that stem from that aren’t gonna cut it right now.

POSSIBLE POST-STRUCTURALIST FORMS OF LABOR RESISTANCE

The genius of Judith Butler’s theoretical writing that can be applied here is the assertion that the performative identity can function as a form of revolt.

So it would seem the next logical steps are to assert that work is performative and to ask then “How do you perform labor in a way that resists?”

Except for the fact that tons of people are un(der)employed or otherwise marginalized. We want them in the revolution too. So the question expands to “How do we subvert work/un(der)employment/categories I’m probably forgetting through subversive acts of said reified categories as performance?”

I’ll go into that in Pt. 2. Obviously this is a lot of new ground to cover. Any ideas/thoughts/suggestions complaints will be taken generously in the spirit of the dialectic. Until then, see y’all tomorrow.

Guest post by Daniel Levine. Photo by Daniel Levine. Etc etc. He has a book out. He lives on rice cooker food. For the price of said book, he eats out of his rice cooker another day. You should buy it so he can keep writing this stuff. 

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3 comments

  1. “Many of the anxieties of the United States regarding Soviet communism-that the architecture would all be bland and samey” Anyone who thinks this has never been to Coop City.

    Excellent piece

  2. srtnnrnn · · Reply

    I’m not sure where pastiche or parody fit in here yet (maybe part 2 will cover them), but a preliminary word of caution on those points. I’ve never been very taken with the idea of comic or performative resistance (thinking here of Orange Alternative and the like) because, as Sloterdijk has shown, exposing the absurdities at the heart of totalitarian ideology will no longer work because cynical reason no longer relies on even a pretension to truth in grounding its assertion of power. The performative absurdity of global totalitarian capitalism is openly proclaimed by global totalitarian capitalism itself. The ironic detachment of cynical totalitarianism takes any and all possible exposures into account in advance by flaunting its own insanity. As Zizek puts the point in his reading of Sloterdijk “[Totalitarian ideology] is no longer meant, even by its authors, to be taken seriously…” Ideology no longer fits Adorno’s frame of the lie experienced as truth, or the lie pretending to be taken seriously. Rather, what we have now is ideology as an ironic detachment, the sigh of “I know very well, but…” is what defines ideology. The problem is not that people are being lied to and don’t know, it is that everybody knows, but nobody cares. I think this is a challenge that parody and pastiche are not equipped to meet.

    1. There’re a lot of different ways one can perform a lack of taking things seriously. Too many. Recursive infinities. It makes me take a long time to write Pt.2s to articles like this. (It’ll happen though.)

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