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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mapping of the essay by Rohit S Nair

Rohit S Nair
MEL 132
Western Aesthetics
July 15, 2010

A Map of Terry Eagleton’s “Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism”

Frederick Jameson argues in his article ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’-‘Pastiche is the appropriate mode of postmodernist culture-not parody. Pastiche is-imitation of a peculiar mask-speech in dead language-is a neutral practice of such mimicry sans parody’s ulterior motives (satiric impulse, laughter, etc.)’. Terry Eagleton says-excellent point but parody –not alien to postmodernist culture-does exist but not very consciously. What postmodernist culture parodies (with art dissolved into forms of commodity production)- is avant-garde. It is as though postmodernism-a sick joke at the expense of the revolutionary avant-garde. Avant-garde major impulses are-dismantle institutional autonomy of art-erase culture-political society frontiers- return aesthetic production to its humble place-social practices. In postmodernist artifacts-avant-garde dream of art-society integration returns in monstrously caricatured form. Appears as though postmodernism is-cynical revenge wreaked by bourgeois culture upon revolutionary antagonists. Postmodernism-mimes formal resolution of art and society attempted by avant-garde-but sans the political content.
Aesthetics of Post Modernism
Productivist aesthetics of twentieth century avant-garde spurned the notion of-art which would be more material intervention, than ‘reflection’. The aesthetic of postmodernism-a dark parody of anti-representationalism. If art no longer reflects-its because there is no reality that is itself not an image/gratuitous fiction. Social reality- commodified, textured, fetishized. Hence for art to reflect itself-is doing no more than mirroring itself. Commodity-less a reflection-more an image of itself-devoted to self-representation. If artistic unreality mirrors societal unreality-then it does not mirror at all-mirrors nothing real. The point behind this paradox is the historical truth-the thorough integration off postmodernist artefact into an economic system where commodity fetish is the order of the day.
To see art from avant-garde’s vantage point (as practice, strategy, performance, production) is ridiculed by late capitalism-Lyotard points out ‘performativity principle’ is all that counts here. He also points out-capitalism’s massive subordination of cognitive statements to finality of best possible performance. The games of scientific language ‘whoever is rich has a greater chance of being right. Hence it is not difficult to see relation between J L Austin and IBM, etc. Classical models of truth/cognition are out of favour-what matters in whether you deliver commercial or rhetorical goods. Everywhere-goal is no longer truth-but performativity is and also power not reason. Lyotard –having outlined the most oppressive facts of capitalism- has nothing to offer here. It amounts to guerrilla skirmishes of a paralogism which might from time to time rupture-cause instabilities, paradoxes. Good pragmatics turned against bad one-but will lose-because it has abandoned Enlightenment’s grand narrative of human emancipation-which is disreputably metaphysical.

History and Modernity
With all such anarchistic/camusian revolt-modernism can never die-has resurfaced in our own time as paralogical science. Reason modernity can never be worsted, the fact that it does not occupy same temporal terrain/logical space as its antagonists-is exactly why it can never defeat the system. The characteristic post-structuralist blend of pesissism/euphoria springs from this paradox. History and modernity-play endless cat and mouse game-neither able to slay each other-as they occupy different ontological sites. Modernity-really means active forgetting of History-the healthy spontaneous amnesia of an animal who has wilfully let go of its sordid determinations and so is free.Modernity-exact opposite of Walter Benjamin’s ‘revolutionary nostalgia’-the power of active remembrance as ritual summoning-invocation of the traditions of oppressed in violent constellation with political present. No wonder –Lyotard against historical consciousness-celebrates narrative as eternal present not revolutionary recollection of the unjustly supressed. If Lyotard remembered in the Benjaminisque mode-he’d realise that class struggle can’t be rooted out all that easily. Nor can a simplistic binary opposition-the narratives of enlightenment and the paralogistic-be polarized. Benjamin’s difficult-to-be-understood thoughts on history throw such binary post-structuralist scheme into disarray. Benjamin’s tradition-totality exists-but detotalizes a triumphant ruling class history-is always from the pint of view of the present-deconstructs hegemonic ideologies of history-yet is a totalizing movement within which sudden affinities, correspondences, constellations-are fashioned between different struggles.
Defining the concept
Modernism gives rise to-crisis and change. Signifies-portentous, confused yet curiously heightens the three selfs- self-consciousness, self-doubting and self-congratulatory. Suggests-an arresting, denial of history in the immediate present. If modernism lives its history as present-then the present moment is somehowof the future-to future present is just an orientation. The idea of Now-eclipsed by the idea of present as deferment-as an empty openness to the future-which may or may not have yet come. Modern-is to catch up with. The fact that futuristic is used-to donate modernist experiment-issymptomatic of this fact. Modernism is-revaluation of time-the significant shift in temporality(both the meaning and modality). What’s moving-not history but-what’s unleashed by its rupture and suspension. Benjaminisqueness- spatializes and constellalites history-bringing it to a standstill & shimmering with all the silence of crisis/catastrophe.
High modernism-born with a state of mass commodity culture-fact about its internal form and not just external history.Modernism-where art resists commodification-holds out against social forces that degrade it into an exchangeable object. Modernist works-contradict their own material status-deny their shabby economic reality. Modernist work-brackets off real historical world-manipulates to draw instant consumability -draws its own language protectively around it-becoming a mysterious self-explaining object-with no connections with the real. Modernist work-always a form of commodification or other.

The Social World Bracketed
When modernism brackets off real world-it must bracket itself from the political forces too-as they seek to transform the social order. Political modernism exists- but is not characteristic of the movement. When modernist work removes itself from society-paradoxically it reproduces/intensifies aesthetic autonomy- which marks the bourgeois order modernism protests against! Modernist works are works-all free play within them-bourgeois art institutions understand the same. Avant garde-defeated by political history. Post modernism takes another way out. If art is commodity then admit it. Hence commodity-mechanically producible ousts commodity as magical aura. If artifacts-appropriated by ruling order-then pre-empt this fate-don’t suffer. Only commodity can resist commodification.If high modernism-institutionalized-post modernism reacts to such eliticism-it places itself at the base. Like Brecht remarked ‘better start from bad new things than good old ones’.
Post modernism stops there. Brecht’s comment-hints the Marxist habit-extracting progressive moments from an ambivalent reality-very much like avant-garde’s espousal of technology-both to emancipate and to enslave. At later stage of technological capitalism-postmodernism says-bad does not contain good-bad is good- these are metaphysical terms-they don’t have to be affirmed-only accepted.

A Desiring Machine
In some postmodernist theory-injunction to glimpse good in bad-pursued with vengeance. Capitalist technology-desires machines-an enormous circuit of messages-pluralistic idioms multiply-as a result random objects come to glow with intensity.
If we kick metaphysical nostalgia for truth-we’d realize desire is here,now-in fragments and surface-kitsch is quite as good as real thing-because there is no real thing at all! Old fashioned modernism-refuses to abandon the struggle for meaning-caught up in metaphysical depth/wretchedness-mortgaged to the very bourgeois humanism it seeks to subvert.
Modernism-interesting as it struggles for meaning. This drives towards-unacceptable,incapable classical styles of sense making. Traditional ideology of representation-in crisis-yet search of truth-not abandoned. Postmodernism believes-discrediting the representational epistemology is the death of truth-just as how they mistake disintegration of certain ideologies for the subject’s final disappearance. Post modernism persuades-to relinquishepistemological paranoia-embrace the brute objectivity of random subjectivity. Modernism-torn by contradictions between bourgeois humanism and a new anonymous rationality. Modernism’s underminings of traditional humanism-anguished and exhilarate-because there are more problems in the modern epoch. It’s a choice-between feminism and fascism. Western ideologies-of reason and humanities-undecidable. There is difference between meaninglessness by some postmodernist and meaninglessness by some trends of avant-garde injected into bourgeois society.

The Bourgeois Humanist Society
The subject of late capitalism-amalgamation of self regulating synthetic agent posted by classical humanist ideology and a decentered network of desire.Its constitution at ethical, juridical, political levels-not continuous with its mass cultural unit image.Eclecticism-degree zero of contemporary general culture-one listens to reggae, watches western, eats at McDonald’s. Some others-educate their children, vote, withdraw their labour. Many live at the intersection between these two.
Postmodernism-mixes benefits of modernism and avant-garde. From modernism-it inherits “self”-from avant-garde-dissolution of art into social life-rejection of tradition-opposition of high culture. Exposes-residual formalism of radical art form.Contradictions of modernistic work-political in character. Modernist culture-self-reflexive-can explore key ideological issues-at the same stroke render its products unavailable to the public. Art casts-contradictions of modernism-explicitly-politically. To do so effectively-has to learn from modernism-i.e., if it does not present the question of ‘political’-will still seem part of the tradition, modern wants to free itself from.

Work Cited:
Eagleton, Terry: Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism. Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts. Eds: Franscina, Francis and Jonathan Harris. London New York: Phaidon, 1992. Print.

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