March 2009

… consuming is no joke, well-wishing and helpful, the whole of society is with you, and considerate into the bargain, for it thinks of you, personally, it prepares for you specially pesonalized items; or better still, these items are delivered to your personalizing free will to be used at your leisure: this armchair, these assembled elements, this bed-linen, this underwear; this and not that. We had misjudged society; all of us; it is maternal and fraternal; our visible family is duplicated by this invisible one, better and especially more efficient, the society of consumption that showers its consideration and protective charms on everybody. Who can be ungrateful enough to be uneasy?

The swivels turn at ground level. Consuming of displays, displays of consuming, consuming of displays of consuming, consuming of signs and signs of consuming; each sub-system, as it tries to close the circuit, gives another self-destructive twist, at the level of everyday life.

– Henri Lefebvre. Everyday Life in the Modern World. New York: Harper & Row, 1971: 108-109.

The power of superior intelligence rests upon the communistic character of its quality: because, in terms of its content, intelligence is universally valid and everywhere effective and recognized, the mere quantity of intellectual endowment of the individual confers a more unconditional advantage than can any more individual possession, which, because of its individuality, cannot be universally used or cannot find some domain for itself anywhere in the practical world.

– Georg Simmel. The Philosophy of Money. Trans. David Frisby.  3rd enl. ed. London ; New York: Routledge, 2004: 438.

Writing has never been capitalism’s thing. Capitalism is profoundly illiterate…. Writing typically plays the role of an archaism in capitalism, the Gutenberg press being the element that confers on the archaism a current function. But the capitalist use of language is different in nature; it is realized or becomes concrete within the field of immanence peculiar to capitalism itself, with the appearance of the technical means of expression that correspond to the generalized decoding of flows, instead of still referring in a direct or indirect form to despotic overcoding.

This seems to us to be the significance of McLuhan’s analyses: to have shown what a language of decoded flows is, as opposed to a signifier that strangles and overcodes the flows. In the first place, for nonsignifying language anything will do: whether it be phonic, graphic, gestural, etc., no flow is privileged in this language, which remains indifferent to its substance or its support, inasmuch as the latter is an amorphous continuum. The electric flow can be considered as the realization of such a flow that is indeterminate as such. But a substance is said to be formed when a flow enters into a relatioship with another flow, such that the first defines a content and the second, an expression.

Electric language does not go by way of the voice or writing; data processing does without them both … Michael Serres defines in this sense the correlation of the break and the flow in the signs of the new technical language machines, where production is narrowly determined by information …

– Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983: 240-241.

[Oedipal stories are] very powerful cannibalizers because they’re very good stories…. At a certain point you ask if there isn’t another set of stories you need to tell, another account of an unconscious. One that does a better job accounting for the subjects of history.

– Donna Haraway in Penley, Constance, Ross, Andrew, and Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs At Large: Interview With Donna Haraway.” Social Text (1990): 14-15.

I know that there’s a lot going on in technoscience discourses and practices that’s not about the devil, that’s a source of remarkable pleasure, that promises interesting kinds of human relationships … not always oppositional, but something often more creative and playful and positive than that. And I want myself and others to learn how to describe those possibilities. And … even technoscience worlds are full of resources for contesting inequality and arbitrary authority.

– Donna Haraway in Penley, Constance, Ross, Andrew, and Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs At Large: Interview With Donna Haraway.” Social Text (1990): 13.

We can’t afford the versions of the “one-dimensional-man” critique of technological rationality, which is to say, we can’t turn scientific discourses into the Other, and make them into the enemy, while still contesting what nature will be for us. We have to engage in those terms of practice, and resist the temptation to remain pure.

– Donna Haraway in Penley, Constance, Ross, Andrew, and Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs At Large: Interview With Donna Haraway.” Social Text (1990): 11.

Each profession makes progress, but it is progress in its own groove. Now to be mentally in a groove is to live in contemplating a given set of abstractions. The groove prevents straying across country, and the abstraction abstracts from something to which no further attention is paid. But there is no groove of abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension of human life.

… The leading intellects lack balance. They see this set of circumstances, or that set; but not both sets together. The task of coordination is left to those who lack either the force or the character to succeed in some definite career.

… Wisdom is the fruit of a balanced development.

… professional training can only touch one side of education. Its centre of gravity lies in the intellect, and its chief tool is the printed book. The centre of gravity of the other side of training should lie in intuition without an analytical divorce from the total environment. Its object is immediate apprehension with the minimum of eviscerating analysis. The type of generality, which above all is wanted, is the appreciation of a variety of value. I mean aesthetic growth. There is something between the gross specialised values of the mere practical man, and the thin specialised values of the mere scholar. Both types have missed something; and if you add together the two sets of values, you do not obtain the missing elements. What is wanted is an appreciation of the infinite variety of vivid values achieved by an organism in its proper environment. When you understand all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all about the rotation of the earth  you may still miss the radiance of the sunset. There is no substitute for the direct perception of the concrete achievement of a thing in its actuality. We want concrete fact with a high light thrown on what is relevant to its preciousness.

… But … art concerns more than sunsets. A factory, with its machinery, its community of operatives, its social service to the general population, its dependence upon organising and designing genius, its potentialities as a source of wealth to the holders of its stock is an organism exhibiting a variety of vivid values. What we want to train is the habit of apprehending such an organism in its completeness. It is very arguable that the science of political economy, as studied in its first period after the death of Adam Smith (1790), did more harm than good…. it riveted on men a certain set of abstractions which were disastrous in their influence on modern mentality. It de-humanised industry.

– Alfred North Whitehead. Science and the Modern World. Lowell Lectures, 1925. New York: The Macmillan company, 1925: 282-288.

Modern science has imposed on humanity the necessity for wandering. Its progressive thought and its progressive technology make the transition through time, from generation to generation, a true migration into uncharted seas of adventure. The very benefit of wandering is that it is dangerous and needs skill to avert evils. We must expect therefore, that the future will disclose dangers. It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties. The prosperous middle classes, who ruled the nineteenth century, placed an excessive value upon placidity of existence. They refused to face the necessities for social reform imposed by the new industrial system, and they are now refusing to face the necessities for intellectual reform imposed by the new knowledge. The middle class pessimism over the future of the world comes from a confusion between civilisation and security. In the immediate future there will be less security than in the immediate past, less stability. It must be admitted that there is a degree of instability which is inconsistent with civilisation. But, on the whole, the great ages have been unstable ages.

Alfred North Whitehead. Science and the Modern World. Lowell Lectures, 1925. New York: The Macmillan company, 1925: 298-299.

Heightening the oral-aural element in a culture does much more than merely de-emphasize vision. It subtly heightens the personalist element in a culture. For the plenary development of sound, the human voice, is a manifestation of the person. Even more than it is a manifestation of an understanding of objects, speech is a calling of one person to another, of an interior to an interior. Sight presents always surfaces, presents even depth as a lamination of surfaces, whereas sound presents always interiors, for sound is impossible without some resonance.

– Walter J. Ong. “Wired for Sound: Teaching, Communications, and Technological Culture.” College English 21, no. 5 (1960): 248.