Arthur Kroker and David Cook, The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988).
In one of their introductory theses on the postmodern scene, called "Panic Sex: Processed Feminism," Arthur Kroker and David Cook in The Postmodern Scene,  have this to say:
In Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un, Luce Irigaray warned that the limit of feminism would be reached when a feminist ecriture of jouissance equal to the full geneocentric critique of phallocentric logic managed to reduce itself to a mirrored-reversal of male-stream discourse. Perhaps it was this desperate attempt to escape Irigaray's trap of the mirrored-reversal which led ... [Kristeva] to theorise a real bodily difference between somatic experience (the child's experience of nonsense play, of laughter) and the verbal saturation of the body in the ideological simulacra of the thetic symbolic experience. Against the trap of a feminist ecriture which subordinates itself to an opposite, but equal, replication of phallocentric logic, Kristeva takes refuge in an extralinguistic vision of the subject and in the transcendent ego of the somatic subject. (pp. 22-23)
It is Kroker & Cook's argument, ". . .against the privileging of the extralinguistic domain of pre-oedipalised experience (somatic experience), that the tension between somatic and thetic experience ... has already been absorbed by promotional culture in the form of the recyclage of all forms of sign struggles" (p. 23). Put bluntly, as the electronic, simulation machine eats up the images of women, even the images of feminist emancipation - which is experienced "simultaneously as domination and freedom" - the fate of feminism is to be a "processed feminism."
Just one of the alarming things about these passages is the way Kristeva, and indeed, the body, or somatic experience/experimentation, gets disarmed by Kroker & Cook's mediascape inspired analysis. Of course, what should be pointed out here, against their extreme Oedipal/pre-Oedipal, and linguistic/extra-linguistic, separations, is that the "tension" between the thetic and somatic experience in Kristeva' work (in the form of the "semiotic," or the "chora") operates in the Symbolic as a condition of its existence, and is not solely pre-Oedipal. This is because "the subject is both semiotic and symbolic." To quote Kristeva again: "Our discourse - all discourse - moves with and against the chora in the sense that it simultaneously depends upon and refuses it." 2 But, having noted these "lapses," the burning question remains, why would such a fundamental, and obvious, piece of much feminist, and other, writing as the body be bypassed? What could provoke such drastic measures? An answer comes handily in the preface to the second edition. In short, The Postmodern Scene ...
is a panic book: panic sex, panic art, panic ideology, panic noise, and panic theory ... if the writing moves at hyper-speed to the point of trying to achieve escape velocity from the language of positivist sociology and conventional ideological discourse, that is because The Postmodern Scene also seeks to evoke a certain literary mood - panic reading - as a way of participating directly in the ruins within and without of late twentieth-century experience. (pp. i-ii)
That the body gets blitzed in The Postmodern Scene is also explained by Kroker & Cook's belief "that hyper-pessimism today is the only realistic basis for a raging will to political action .... We seek to create a theoretical manoeuvre in which hyper-modernism implodes into the detritus of its own panic scenes" (p. vi).
To give a brief description of the text, in The Postmodern Scene part of this manoeuvre involves discussing the classic depictions of this social decline/decline of the social: the work of painters like Rene Magritte, Edward Hopper, Alex Colville, and Eric Fischl; and the photography of Francesca Woodman. Historically, Kroker & Cook situate the beginning of the postmodern scene in the fourth century with the Augustinian refusal of embodied power. They speak at length on the work of Barthes and Baudrillard, via thinkers like Marx, Nietzsche, Maurice Blanchot, and Georges Bataille; while Michel Serres, Charles Norris Cochrane, and Jurgen Habermas get a chapter each. As well as referring to a host of other theorists and artists, there are fragments throughout the text on Bataille's "pineal eye," advertising, TV, rock video, and music - all in the desire to "trace key continuities and ruptures in contemporary and classical negotiations of the postmodern condition" (p. 7).
This "re-view" attempts to give a reading of some of the major aspects of The Postmodern Scene. One of its aims will be to outline a few of the ways in which the work of Jean Baudrillard is used, extended, and problematised, in the book. In this context, the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (D+G) will serve to provide an alternative viewpoint to Kroker & Cook's discussion, a viewpoint which will also be used to comment on aspects of their Baudrillardian approach. In this sense, it could be seen as something of an attempt at a "Deleuzian" reading of the text. What should be pointed out however, is that as D+G's terminology is itself a theoretical rhizome - i.e. an assemblage of decentred concept/images which often find multiple usages and sites of connection - many of the concepts used here will be defined in-process. There are other introductions to D+G's writings which spend more time explaining the terminology, 3 perhaps too many, which is why the aim here will also be to point out some ways in which D+G's work might be useful in tackling the issues which The Postmodern Scene raises.
Part of my own strategy will be to use The Postmodern Scene - as self-acknowledged panic book - as a paradigm example of a certain privileging of the visual aspects of postmodern texts that is common in much of the work connected with postmodernism, an approach best associated with Baudrillard's work on the fascination of the simulacrum. If, as a number of "feminist" critiques have shown, it is the body that is often positioned as the object of the gaze, as that which is read or surveyed, then I want to explore some of the ways in which the body - in the form of the body without organs (BwO) of D+G - might "read" texts, or rather, how this "visual" approach can be seen to suppress an alternative reading of postmodernism which is more sympathetic to the "body." A reading which would want to upset the fascination for surfaces, visual pleasures, and fragmentation, which seems to be the defining feature of much of the work done on/in the topic; and which also seems to be tending toward a position that wants, as in the case of Kroker & Cook, and (if his distinction between object-strategies and subject-strategies discussed below is anything to go by) Baudrillard, to discount the body, or somatic experience, as a site of political resistance.
On this point, the idea of a "politics of pleasure" seems to have already suffered a similar kind of "dismissal," or at least, scepticism. Perhaps some of the difficulties surrounding the theorisation of pleasure as a political issue or instrument lie in the problems associated with thinking pleasure in terms of static, "passive" bodies: i.e. bodies whose pleasures are ideologically ambivalent to the extent that they enjoy, and are thus swayed (?), by consumer culture? As Fredric Jameson puts it, "How do you distinguish ... between real pleasure and mere diversion - the degradation of free time into that very different commodity called 'leisure,' the form of commodity consumption stamped on the most intimate of former pleasures from sexuality to reading?" 4 In the same article, Jameson pegs another central critical problem by asking, "who has the authority - and in the name of what?..." to make an assessment, for the subject, between an "authentic" pleasure, and a commodity-fix: i.e. to tell the people that "their conscious 'pleasure' in consumption ... is in reality nothing but false consciousness."
These questions and problems are too overdetermined by Jameson's marxist problematic, and paranoia, to be answered here. Nevertheless, I do want to suggest that the beginnings of an "ethics of pleasure(s)" can be found in thinking the "semiotic," and the "body," as "processes," and not as products or entities (thus the inverted commas that will qualify these terms, these theoretical areas, throughout the piece). In other words, this means thinking somatic experience in terms of somatic experimentation. In this sense we can distinguish the passive bodies mentioned above, from more "active" agents/fields of pleasure like D+G's BwO, which is defined on one level by its experimentation with the real, its process, and construction. 5
But this latter definition of the BwO is one that goes against the grain of many of the accepted ways in which the BwO is currently being (non)handled in the postmodern scene. Which prompts the point, that this discussion of D+G's perhaps unfamiliar and even difficult work is doubly important here, not only because their ideas offer an alternative, and less pessimistic, account of many of the issues of interest to (post-)marxists like Baudrillard and Jameson - and it is perhaps unfortunate that D+G's work tends to be dismissed as "postmodern theory," as an apologia for postmodernism Jameson), before it even gets regarded as a theorisation of the postmodern - but also because the BwO itself has been a case in point of the kind of "passive" production I mean. So hr, the main types of BwO to have emerged in contemporary theoretical circles have been cases where the BwO (as a theoretical concept/image) is produced as an entity, and not as a process. One example is the "organless" BwO, aligned with the pleasureless or "decapitated" (castrated) state of "woman" in certain phallocentric (psychoanalytic) discourses.6 Another is the radically ungraspable BwO which serves as an catatonic/autistic symbol of the postmodern scene; a part of the same nihilism that promotes the schizophrenic as the postmodern hero.
What I don't want to suggest is that these uses of the BwO are somehow misinformed or inferior, as in many ways the concept has no existence outside of its definition/production, and thus has no fixed definition, apart from its nomadism. What I do want to argue however is that the BwO can also be produced in terms of a process that can lift the BwO out of its position as the persecuted "victim" of the desiring-machines, and into an active, liberating framework of production. Thus, against the background of the broad theoretical area centred around the body and pleasure, this writing seeks to play the work of D+G off against the panic philosophy of Kroker & Cook, and by experimenting with "active bodies," it hopes to open up some different and, I think, not often seen, views of the postmodern scene.
Finally, to put it yet another way, this re-view attempts to address an apparent paradox in The Postmodern Scene. Namely the theoretical "schizophrenia" which "sees" Kroker & Cook (and others) quite happy to (re-)announce "the closing of the eye of the flesh" (p. 74), at a time when the vitality of aerobics culture seems beyond question, and Elle "The Body" Macpherson is fast embodying a new kind of (post-)colonial, postmodern, international, and - according to the cover story in Time magazine, which described Elle as "superbly contemporary architecture"7 - post-feminist, Australia. Not content with The Postmodern Scene's hyper-simulation of the latest range of processed feminisms, processed sex, designer bodies, and schizophrenias, to hit the shelves, or the screen, this re-view attempts to engage with the panic philosophy of the text by countering Kroker ~ Cook's processed bodies, with some schizophrenic, and often preposterous, bodies-in-process of its own . Which is perhaps why an alternative title to this piece could have been "Schizophrenia and the Preposterous - Bodies in Process." 8
Central to The Postmodern Scene is the processing, the "estheticised recommodification" that promotional culture achieves. The processing or coding of feminism as both "domination and freedom" is just one example of this phenomenon, exemplified for Kroker & Cook by the "emancipated" heroines of the cachet world of fashion and advertising, a world of "sex without secretions" (p. 23). This kind of processing will be related to the stratification/oedipalisation that is inherent to late capitalism as outlined by D+G in Anti-Oedipus.
According to D+G, capitalism defers the absolute limit towards which it tends (i.e. its schizophrenia), and limits its own deterritorialisations by making a simultaneous, counteracting, reterritorialisation.9 In a process which gets a more thorough discussion below, capitalist production, like Kristeva's notion of discourse, both depends upon and "refuses" the BwO, i.e. the fluid schizophrenic body (of capital) upon which its flows circulate. (The terms "deterritorialisation" and "reterritorialisation" reflect the regulation of this full and fluid body that capitalism must achieve.) What results from this neurotic dependency are molar territorialisations that striate flows and spaces so that they can be utilised as "a means of communication, of production, in the service of striated space.'' 10 Molar production thus codes or, as D+G demonstrate, oedipalises, flows in order to harness their energy, and bind them to production. In a similar fashion to Foucault's definition of power, molar production simultaneously constrains and enables.
In this context, the "molar" designates a symbolic ordering of the semiotic, molecular flow. (Or, to put it in Foucault's terms once again, the "molar" can be seen as a juridical ordering/formation of the individual, while the "molecular" can be aligned with a definition of the subject on the level of the (micro-)techniques involved in its production.)ll It should be noted however that these Deleuzian terms don't translate directly with their Kristevan counterparts, and that the difference between D+G and Kristeva in this case resides in the fact that the terms "molar" and the "molecular" are based on, and are oriented towards, a flow which produces, and is produced by, the BwO, which is itself (of) the "semiotic." These terms can be described as "pre-post"-erous 12 in the sense that they reconceptualise Kristeva's already radical (already "pre-posterous"?) problematisation of the Symbolic realm (the "post"-Oedipal) in the name of the ("pre-Oedipal") semiotic, rhythmic, polylogic text: i.e. the text "which is neither poem or novel but polylogue, both pulverising and multiplying unity through rhythm, [where] the unpunctuated but metrical sentence finds its justification." It would be unjust to describe the polylogic text as a merely "schizophrenic" l3 text, or rather, what I describe below as a "schizoid-phrenic" text. Indeed, in "The Novel as Polylogue," Kristeva seems most interested in the new rhythmic and somatic relations, and emergent subjectivities, that are the central features of the polylogic text: features which place the polylogue in opposition to the schizoid-phrenic text whose fetish is the fragmentation/breakdown of the text/subject.
Like the polylogue, the molar and the molecular are concerned with process. For instance, unlike the "Symbolic," the molar could perhaps even be described as a "semiotic" term, as it incorporates a notion of the BwO, of process or fluidity, into its very definition; which is why it is useful in terms of Kroker & Cook's blitzing of the body, and gross separation of somatic experience from thetic experience. By placing the "semiotic" in quotation marks throughout this piece, and aligning it with the "molecular," I'm trying to suggest a (preposterous) way of thinking about somatic experience, about the body, in terms of process, and an experimentation with the real, which doesn't produce the somatic as product, as a "passive" body. In short, I'm trying to lift the somatic out of the romanticism which reduces it to "the child's experience of nonsense play, of laughter" (p. 22).
The BwO here can best be understood as the producer/product of the process/flow just mentioned which, via the "disjunctive-synthesis" (again, see below), enables a counterflow that can become one of two things: either a recording surface which works in the (re)production of flows, and in the experimentation with the real mentioned above or, an "organless" barrier which repels the flows, thus producing the catatonic BwO as product, as an entity (as a body of capital, for instance) and not a process. This distinction is the equivalent to the important one D+G make between schizophrenia-as-a-process and the schizophrenic-as-an-entity. 14 Like Kristeva's semiotic, the BwO is both central to, and excluded, from the Symbolic/molar economy; although again I think it's difficult to transpose these sets of terms on top on each other, mainly because the "molar" and the BwO are already defined in semiotic terms, i.e. defined in-process - the frameworks thus aren't totally commensurable. The fact that these Deleuzian terms are, in a sense, already semiotic, already in-process (and nomadic), perhaps helps in understanding that the two types of BwO are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as the BwO-as product can also provide a smooth surface for use in desiring-production.15 There is no opposition between product and (re-)production in this case, as they have already been "deconstructed" by the BwO. In this sense, the BwO works as a kind of molecular, "deconstructing" agent or process.
Following the definition of molar production as an ordering of the "semiotic," molecular flows, the simultaneous "domination and freedom" that Kroker & Cook predict for the women's movement, where the stereotypes of femininity and feminism are put in the service of the state-patriarchal-machine, could be seen as an example of molar stratification: i.e. a recycling (reterritorialisation) of stereotypes on the recording surface of the territorialised, BwO (as product, or capital) - working, in this context, not unlike Barthes' notion of the doxa, as a stockpile of lisible recordings. The important thing about this re-vision of Kroker & Cook's idea of a processed feminism is that it upsets the panic reductionism, or TV formalism, which lines feminism up against advertising and limits the sign struggles of women to a secretionless, masculine, promotional economy. The concept of molarity, by disrupting this closed economy, and foregrounding the slippages that often occur between (gendered) viewers and "their" representation, could perhaps then help in extending the notion of processed feminism, as it already has been, into the more productive terrain of the way the figure of "woman" is put into discourse and "processed" in the work of Derrida, Deleuze, or perhaps even Kroker & Cook - a process or, as Alice Jardine has argued, a gynesis, which is "at the interior of those [master-]narratives which are today experiencing a crisis in legitimation." 16
The concept of molarity thus offers the beginnings for a different perspective on the processing that promotional culture, according to Kroker & Cook, achieves; a processing which remains topical in the debate surrounding postmodernism. For lurking behind Kroker & Cook's term is Baudrillard's work on the simulacrum, the political economy of signs, and the "silent majority;"' the fascination for which seems strong. The discussion that has centred around MTV is I think a good example of this. 17 A measure of Baudrillard's influence is Kroker & Cook's willingness to dismiss (Kristeva's) somatic experience. As well as being part of a textual panic-strategy, this by-passing of the body could be read in broader terms as part of that aspect of Baudrillard's work which theorises the "masses" as the fluid and silent majority who are "gradually relegated to a position of non-marked terms by the structuration of the system as a code." 18
On this code, Baudrillard uses a variety of terms to describe it, none of which seem to be able to define it to any great extent. Within a few pages of the definition just given, it becomes "the logic of the system," "the rules of the game," "the process of the centralisation and pyramidalisation of the system," the imploded simulacrum as perceived by the viewer, and finally, a "differential mark." The breadth of its definition seems matched only by the extent to which the political economy of signs, for Baudrillard, has infiltrated, and broken down, our position as subjects, and our avenues of resistance. Below, I begin the argument that this (general) code contributes to an "epochism" in Baudrillard's work which seems to diminish the specificity of minority struggles of all types - against racist and sexist inscriptions for example - in favour of the one code, and the one "revolutionary" non-marked position: that of the silent majorities. In doing so however, it could be argued that this code disempowers these specific struggles, and their specific sites/contexts (the body for instance). Once homogenised, these struggles are then fed back into the indifferent, yet "collective," a struggle of the silent majorities - the mass(es). It is in this way that Baudrillard's system perpetuates itself.
Nonetheless, for Baudrillard, the identification of the "non-marked" position of the masses is political. It accepts the masses for "what they are," neither led astray nor mystified. This position seeks to affirm - against political interpretations which condemn the masses as apathetic, or neutralised by the "culture industry" - the indifference which Baudrillard sees as the resistance strategy of the mass(es): i.e. a hypersimulation which "amounts to turning the system's logic back on itself by duplicating it, reflecting meaning, as in a mirror, without absorbing it."'9 By comparing D+G's work with Baudrillard's the aim here will be to outline some possibility-spaces that often get obscured in the implosions, and nihilism/ panic, of the postmodernism debate, as well as the epochism of the Baudrillardian position.
To return to a previous point, what should be noted about capitalism's "molar dilemma," i.e. its dependence upon but necessary refusal of the BwO, is that capitalism stratifies itself and becomes neurotically "self-reflexive;" with the result being that its "molar stratifications" begin to function as the limit of its own production. These stratifications become limiting in the sense that spaces and flows can't just be shut down at will, but have to be channelled and regulated according to different ideas of productivity, profit, and the reproduction of social relations. D+G argue that late capitalism is the heir to an empire built on the ruins of a despotic state whose main aim was the codification of all flows, and that faced with a totally stratified system, capitalism must now exercise the reverse and decode flows. In other words, the fluid BwO once had to be stratified in order to become a socius (a coded, socialised, body), now the socius has to be deterritorialised and reterritorialised (i.e. undergo molar production) in order to produce a productive fluid body, or surface.
In short, this means dealing in schizophrenia, and producing (the smooth surface of) the BwO, as the only way of generating flows: "Capitalism tends towards a threshold of decoding that will destroy the socius in order to make it into a body without organs and unleash the flows of desire on this body as a deterritorialised field."20 As D+G's readings of schizophrenia attempt to show, the danger for capitalism - its neurosis - is in producing a BwO that will no longer function as a field for deterritorialisation. D+G try to take capitalism to this inadmissable limit, this nightmare-point, in their attempt to mobilise (destratify) the BwO as a site of rebellion against late capitalism.
The significance of this account is that the idea of a molar stratification can be coupled with Kroker & Cook's belief that the button, Are We Having Fun Yet ? "is the truth-sayer of a culture of altered minds" (p.16). Likewise is Andy Warhol's observation that the current mood of the times is "bored but hyper" (p. 22). Both of these phrases are marked by a simultaneous awareness and "numbness," a schizoid-phrenia, or dis-junctivity, that is important to molar-production, and at the same time typical of The Postmodern Scene because it is at the very source of its panic - a point which will be returned to. To this "list" we can also add the features which Kroker & Cook see as characteristic of TV as "serial culture." Originally used by Sartre, "serial culture" is a mode of being constituted by "beings outside of themselves in the passive unity of the object." 21 For Kroker & Cook, the TV audience is Sartre's serial culture par excellence: i.e. constituted around "its relation to an object and its reaction to it," and based on a relationship of "alterity" or "exterior separation." "Serial unity is [thus] experienced as a negative totality" (p. 271). Although Sartre's humanism puts a different emphasis on the alienation of this "seriality," these characteristics can be identified as molar in the sense that "the practico-inert object [TV] not only produces a unity of individuals outside themselves in inorganic matter, but it also determines their isolation and ... ensures their communication through alterity" (p. 271).
After reading Kroker & Cook however, two things seem clear, both of them related. The first is the inadequacy of what can loosely be termed a "Sartrean" account of the alterity, or "alienation" /disorientation (Jameson), of the postmodern condition which leaves the "autonomous historical subject" thoroughly imploded and pathetic, i.e. fodder for the nihilists, but that's it. After all, in the age of schizophrenia, how far can alterity, "exterior separation," and fragmentation, be productively pushed? There seems to be another nausea on the scene - and "existentialism" is perhaps part of problem - which, for the moment can be called a molar alienation. The strangeness of this term is an indication of the nature of the beast its trying to describe. It is intentionally contradictory as there is no "centre" for alienation in D+G's work (the subject is nomadic). Instead, it is the alienation of a theoretical position - a conception of postmodern "schizophrenia" such as Fredric Jameson's, for example - that refuses to decentre; to the extent that, for Kroker & Cook, panic has to be (re)produced as part of its analysis.
This leads on to the second point, which is that the "nausea" of molar alienation is produced out of the inability of this alienation to comprehend its very molarity. In other words, the "Sartrean" position flounders in the postmodern because it fails to grasp a disjunctivity that is central to the postmodern experience. A discussion of this disjunctivity appears in the last section of this article, but for the moment it might be useful to differentiate between two types of disjunctivity and "schizophrenia:" on the one hand, the postmodern (Lacanian) schizophrenia of Jameson, characterised by a breakdown of the signifying-chain, and of temporality, as well as a fragmentation of the subject, 22 which will be referred to as a schizoid-phrenia typified by a disjunctivity; and, on the other hand, the "subjectless" schizophrenia of D+G, a schizophrenia based on the schizoflow, or process, of the BwO, which functions thanks to a disjunctive-synthesis. The main point of difference I want to emphasise between these two types is the centred subject of disjunctive schizoid-phrenia, in contrast to D+G's schizo-flow. However, it's not necessarily the "subject" that I want to focus on here, but rather the formalism which often equates this subject with the (centred) text to the extent that a "cut" in the text becomes a schizoid-phrenic element for both the reader and the text, where - to play with the Anglo-American New Critical maxim - the wor(l)d exists "on the page." 23
In terms of Kroker & Cook, I want to argue that they fail to theorise any notion of a disjunctive-synthesis, a schizophrenic logic that bridges the schizoid-chasm, that is suggested throughout The Postmodern Scene but never acknowledged or theorised, especially in terms of their panic philosophy - where, in a double refusal, "neither Socratic wonderment nor Derrida's ecriture, neither the dialectic nor the dialogue [satisfies], but rather the pleasurable voyage under the sign of 'viciousness for fun"' (p. 27). This panic can be classed as a form of nausea produced by molar alienation, whereby it fetishises a fashionable schizoid-phrenia of the cut - "Roses are red; violets are blue/ I'm schizophrenic and so am I" (p.12) - of the schism, and accelerates along its surface; the "schism" becomes a site of pleasure, and the "subject" remains locked in a "blind" schizoid-phrenic (molar) coding/economy which becomes central to Kroker & Cook's panic, as well as the postmodern scene. Hyperreality, in this sense, draws its energy from the smooth surface of the schism, just as it does from the implosion of the simulacrum, seduced by "the void," which, I'd want to suggest, occupies the position of a disjunctive-synthesis that Kroker & Cook never admit into their text. Baudrillard's "dead power" that seduces can I think also be read in terms of this disjunctive-synthesis.
From this "Deleuzian" perspective, Kroker & Cook's attempt to exhaust, to out panic, postmodernism could well appear counter-productive, if only because the same "inversion" that problematises existentialism, tums this perpetuation of panic into just another spectacle. After all, panic isn't what it used to be, now its disconnected, "schizmatic" - and this is part of the panic. Harrison Ford is brilliant in this respect when he plays with calmness, and utilises this disconnected panic, and its varying speeds and shifts, in Polanski's Frantic. These days panic happens while everything else proceeds normally, as if in another dimension. Normality provokes it. Kroker & Cook hint at this dis-junctivity when they write, "it is our conviction that the catastrophe has already happened, and that we are living in a waiting period, a dead space" (p. vii). If this is so, then what supports, or excites, Warhol's "bored but hyper"? If the answer is the superabundant stimuli of the promotional spectacle, then one has to wonder how effective Kroker & Cook's (dis-connected?) parody actually is (as well as how radical hyper-pessimism can actually be), when the same dis-junctivity that is behind Warhol's witticism, that makes the postmodern spectacle "boring but hyper," can also mean that we're hyper, but bored.
But panic of Kroker & Cook's kind is intrinsic to schizoid-phrenia, mainly because, having perceived this void, it feeds the schism back into the system of its perception, where it then proliferates. For the chief characteristic of this schizoid-phrenic system/pedagogy is a despotic coupling of the eye with the "I", of the ontological and the textual, as illustrated in this example from Brian McHale's Postmodernist Fiction:
[In split, or glossed, texts] ... we are forced to choose which to read first, main text or footnotes; we must improvise an order - Jump from the main text to gloss whenever we encounter a footnote? Or read forward through the main text to a certain point, then back track to read all the footnotes?... We are forced to manipulate the book as physical object, thus never losing sight of the ontological 'cut' between the projected world and the material book. 24
In this account of what he calls "schizoid texts," McHale derives/produces an existential nausea (i.e. postmodernism) out of this reading-situation. Indeed, by so doing he recuperates the entire "anti-realist" impulse of much postmodernist fiction back into the "mimetic" or "reflective" theory of fiction which much of this writing is I think working against; and which, in the case of "Magic Realism" - the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Jorge Luis Borges, and others - subordinates the magic to the realism, the non-discursive to the textual.
The significance of this coupling of the "I"/eye, shouldn't be underestimated. For Kroker & Cook, the "floating eye" is the perfect "metaphor" for postmodern culture. In their long discussion of Magritte's and Bataille's fascination with the "I"/eye they decide that "the fascination of the floating eye is also that it is an 'image-reservoir' of the liquidation, the cycle of exterminism, which is the grammar of postmodern experience" (p. 92). Elsewhere it becomes "the DNA of modern experience" (p. 80). Yet it is typical of The Postmodern Scene that the speculum which this schizoidphrenic economy of the "I"/eye inserts is never refracted.25
To summarise so far, this "Deleuzian" reading of The Postmodern Scene holds that in tracing the consummated nihilism of "schizophrenic," postmodern culture, and thus serving as a chronicle of "the triumph of an empty signifying culture" (p. 268), The Postmodern Scene is at the same time a study of the radical, disjunctive, and molar alienation of a postmodernism that resists definition, that often runs despite, and in spite of "itself:" as Kroker & Cook ask, "Why go to the theorists? TV advertisers and programmers are much better" (p. 269). "Postmodernism" thus functions like one of D+G's machines, achieving a production-process that is a production, consumption, and a recording at the same time.26 Indeed, D+G define 'process' as a production, consumption and recording at the same time, in an attempt to think process in terms of process, and not as a product. If Kroker & Cook lack this stabilising "horizon" in their work, this 'line of flight," it is because their schizoid-phrenia remains dis-connected from a ("semiotic"?) flow, a process or synthesis, which in their postmodern panic is produced as a void.
Kroker & Cook' s work on the "virtual real," under the sub-heading "Oublier Baudrillard," is presented as the latest up-date on the state of the simulacrum, where "the language of estheticised re-commodification is that of virtual images/virtual technology'' (p. 20). A bottom line to this is that ..
Jean Baudrillard's insight in Simulations that the 'real is that of which it is possible to give an equivalent production' is now rendered obsolescent by the actual transformation of the simulacrum with its hyperreality effects into its opposite: a virtual technology mediated with designer bodies processed through computerised imaging-systems. (p.15)
Because this technology works through a hyper-imaging that puts a substitute, and user-friendly, (non)real into operation, Kroker & Cook are able to make the announcement that Lyotard was wrong about the death of the "master-narratives." On the contrary, it's just the opposite: "We're living through a great story - an historical moment of implosion, cancellation, and reversal . . .[that] traces a great arc of reversal, connecting again to an almost mythic sense of primitivism as the primal of technological society" (p.15).
We may not have a master-narrative, but Kroker & Cook want to suggest that the mediascape provides a spectacular site of legitimation for our TV culture (p. 277). TV thus becomes the (simulated) real world, the legitimating identity-principle of culture where "... it's not TV as the mirror of society, but just the reverse: it's society as the mirror of television" (p. 268). This is the real through a TV screen, with no apologies made, nor, it begins to seem, if we plot the direction that The Postmodern Scene is headed, necessary. For the death of the "social" is completed, Baudrillard has taken care of that - "Ours is a society modelled on the image of the atopic, social text: A plunging, circular motion into the infinity of . . . a 'semantic cancellation' (Baudrillard), a 'neutering' (Barthes) of the real" (p. 108). But what the completion of the mediascape heralds, and what is radical about Kroker & Cook's virtual real, indeed, what is radical about the notion of a mediascape, is the arrival of a substitute stratified "body" (socius?), or imaging-system, which functions in the real's place as a cancelled, or stratified real. An advertiser's designer-real. In making this move, Kroker & Cook can be said to extend Baudrillard in two ways:
1. Firstly in the sense that TV emerges from the implosion of the simulacrum as a "medium." In a discussion of McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message," Baudrillard radicalises McLuhan by observing that "'The Medium is the Message' does not mean the end of the message, but the end of the medium. There are no more media, in the literal sense of the term . . . that is to say, in the sense of mediating in between one state of reality and another, and that is true for both form and content."27
Yet, in The Postmodern Scene, TV regains a sense of "the box" - not like "before," as an object, nor simply as a hyperreal surface, but as hyperreality - as a "lifestyle medium" (p. 278) with a new social language of signification that borders on allegory, or rather, the ideogram: "Cars are, horses; Computers are galaxies, tombstones, or heartbeats; beer is friendship" (p. 275). This "return" is the fulfilment of Baudrillard's main point in regard to McLuhan, which is that this "implosion" means the obliteration of the distinction between the medium and the real. For what has happened is that the virtual imagery of the "real" has re-introduced a "sense of form" by producing, or rather, composing a mediascape upon the simulacrum: "It's TV then, not just as a technical object which we can hold apart from ourselves, but as a full technical ensemble, a social apparatus ... which works as a simulacrum of electronic images recomposing everything into the semiurgical world of advertising and power" (p. 267). The "mediascape" becomes an ultra-Baudrillardian concept by allowing us to speak of a "social," while still working against a naive mode of signification operable only in terms of an "autonomous historical subject," and TV as technical "object." If the third phase of the political economy, according to the precession of simulacra outlined in Simulations, represents the complete negation of symbolism, then the "mediascape" is part of the implied fourth phase where we return to symbolism, a return that could hold problems for Baudrillard's project.
2. What the idea of the virtual real also does is modify what can be considered a "classic" Baudrillardian/formalist position: whereby it is the implosion of meaning that the simulacrum - or, as some would have it, MTV - represents that excludes and silences the masses. In doing so it will be argued that Kroker ~ Cook's work exposes some possible cracks in Baudrillard's The Mirror of Production. For it is in this book that Baudrillard denies the possibility of any "symbolic exchange" between the coding of the political economy and its "subject." He proposes that capitalism's problem is not its incapacity to reproduce itself economically and politically, but its inability to reproduce itself symbolically.
For Baudrillard, symbolic exchange is typical of the artistic or artisanal mode of production: "The work of art and to a certain extent the artisanal work bear in them the inscription of the loss of the finality of the subject and the object, the radical compatibility of life and death, the play of ambivalence that the product of labour as such does not bear since it has inscribed in it the finality of value." 28 By disrupting social exchange, and speaking in such a way as to "exclude any response anywhere," the media feeds its own monopoly: "... power belongs to the one who can give and cannot be repaid." The media is thus defined as "what always prevents response, by making all processes of exchange impossible . . . except in the various forms of response simulation."29
Kroker & Cook's work poses a "challenge" to Baudrillard precisely because the mediascape, the virtual real, by breaking down Baudrillard's "classic" formalism of the simulacrum, implies a kind of symbolic exchange. For instance, the problem is no longer one of the code determining social categories, of structuring the masses, but of the code adjusting to such groups. One example being the shaping of advertising to fit VAL's - i.e. groups with particular "values and lifestyles" (p. 278). Likewise, though from the viewer's end, Kroker & Cook discuss the TV self who gets everything there is to get from the media spectacle: "... a market identity as a consumer in the society of the spectacle; a galaxy of hyperfibrillated moods." Furthermore, this TV self has other TV friends who all go together to form Sartre's "serial culture," which Kroker & Cook describe as an "anticommunity," or "social anti-matter" (p. 274).
What the virtual real implies however is that this TV self also has a TV imagination - where "beer is friendship" - via which the viewer participates in the media message. Here, I'm presenting this TV self as more than just the perfect super-reader, or implied reader, of promotional culture, which is the only way s/he gets discussed by Kroker & Cook. Once again, as for processed feminism, here Kroker & Cook enact a TV/media formalism that denies any chance of participation, any possibility for symbolic exchange, or of replying to the media's implosion of meaning. The idea of a TV imagination, beyond that required by a Lacanian conception of the subject/TV self in relation to the chain of consumer goods, remains conspicuously absent in their work. Along these lines, and going back to a point already taken from Baudrillard, that exchange is possible only in the various forms of response simulation, it can be argued that this "simulation" is more than an appendix to the media message, an after-thought supplied by a redundant viewer who is denied meaningful participation in the centred spectacle/ implosion. To illustrate this point with a well known example, it would be strange to think that Madonna "Wanna Be's" only copy, or mirror, Madonna, for it's obvious that there is a more significant exchange of values and attitudes, of emotions and rhythms - a becoming Madonna, or molecular, for both Madonna and her fans - as well as the whole question of the use-value of Madonna, of the politics of the image, socially, and in the home.
But while I may be over-simplifying Baudrillard's concept of hypersimulation for my own ends here, and thus, by limiting it to a "mirroring," denying some of its more politically useful aspects - whereby, according to Fiske and Watts, the player of video games is able to capitalise on/over "capitalism," albeit temporarily, by simulating the logic of the system without absorbing it, and thus gaining her or his own pleasure30 - what I don't want to understress is the fact that, in Baudrillard's work, hypersimulation itself opens out onto an implosion, a logic of the system, that is the neutering weight of everything. Even Fiske and Watts are enlisting the masses into a "subject-strategy" that runs against the silence or the indifference, of the mass(es). In Baudrillard's work, the localised resistance of what Fiske and Watts call "inverted pleasures" - i.e. pleasures gained from an inversion of social relations - would, as I see it, be lost, or perhaps imploded to the nth degree, in a political economy which is utterly reversible, where reversibility doesn't count. One of the aims of reading Baudrillard in terms of Deleuze, of reading Baudrillard and Deleuze together, is to swing the odds a little more in favour of political action by theorising the indifference of the silent majorities in different terms to those Baudrillard prefers, and thus uncovering object-strategies (of the BwO) beneath, or behind, those of the mass(es) - a conception of the masses which can itself be viewed as a kind of ungraspable body, without organs.
To return to the TV imagination, another way of stating this idea is that "TV is thinking thoughts for us." Put this way, both Baudrillard and D+G would have something to say on this phenomenon, and it's worth comparing the two, if only to note how, depending on the type of "subject" involved, the idea of a TV imagination gets varying responses. Baudrillard's version goes something like this: "Instead of facilitating communication, it [the media] exhausts itself in the staging of communication. Instead of producing meaning, it wears itself out staging it.... Thus both the social and communication function in a closed circuit...."31 The viewer of the media text is thus relegated to a position of non-marked terms, an onlooker to the already constructed, already thought and staged, message/spectacle. But "TV imagination" can have a more positive aspect, and a "Deleuzian" view would want to take into account the new assemblages (types of "collective" subjectivities) that this staging of communication puts into place. Because D+G theorise "subjects" on the level of "machines," or perhaps more relevant, on the level of "group assemblages," the implosion of the social in the masses is less of a major concern than it is for Baudrillard's "existential" project. In the same way, schizoidphrenic fragmentation is no longer such a problem because D+G's concept of schizophrenia affirms the disjunctive-synthesis, the flow, that they identify at its source. It is in this way that schizophrenia becomes a "creative" force in Anti-Oedipus.
For D+G however, the question of symbolic exchange perhaps becomes outdated, as TV no longer works in terms of individual subjects, but of assemblages which achieve a different kind of (disjunctive) participation in the media spectacle/imagination; and it is these new ways of reading/ viewing that I'd want to emphasise. It could perhaps even be said that the idea of a viewing-assemblage gives us a different perspective, and the disjunctive flipside, to Baudrillard's statement that "the mass realises that paradox of not being an subject, a group-subject, but of not being an object either,"32 where here the mass(es) remain in a disjunctive, non-marked, position. Indeed, from the perspective of this last quote, making the medium, the implosion, into the only possible message (aside from response simulations), or over stressing the point by making simulation an end in-itself, would seem a strange step which serves only to preserve the hulk of the communications model (Transmitter-Message-Receiver) which Baudrillard deconstructs, as well as fan the formalist panic that Kroker & Cook enact.
One of the reasons why Kroker & Cook are able to problematise Baudrillard at the same time as furthering his ideas, i.e. why they are able to forward a notion a symbolic exchange without cracking Baudrillard's mirror, can be found in their belief that consummated nihilism is the dominant mood of the times: "A 'dead power' has dispensed with the 'old position of authority ('incomplete' nihilism), substituting the void itself as the truth effect of postmodern existence" (p. 101). In this instance, "dead power" refers to the loss of the social, and with it, the "reality" of power in the simulacrum. In short, as Kroker & Cook put it, we leave the image of the prison (panopticon), only to enter the prison of the image. As Baudrillard writes in reference to Foucault, talking about power has an intrinsic uselessness to it, as it already forms part of the horizon of appearances: "It is itself only there to hide that there is no more of it, or rather, that the apogee of the political having been exceeded, the other side of the cycle begins - the reversion of power in its own simulacrum."33
Faced with the void as our cultural truth, Nietzsche's "will to power" is transformed into the "will to will:" "For at the 'centre' of the dead will, there exists in seductive, but paradoxical, form, a 'plenitude of the void;' and only outside of the seduction of the void does there exist that now real lack: the emptiness of being. The will as only a 'space of simulation' works its optical effect through a reversal of nothingness..." (p. 100). The principle of superabundant life is central to the will to will: "Having no existence 'in itself,' this is a power that takes on the simulated life of a changing order of significations" (p. 103); and the will to will itself becomes "the ground of a superabundant life" (p. 102). In this life, the spectacle of the mediascape provides a simulated, superabundant, horizon for existence; a substitute virtual real that "screens off any sense of technology as deprival" (p. 273). Thus, in the radical dis-junctive existence of postmodernism, ruled by dead power, the symbolic exchange which might have threatened Baudrillard's position is neutralised in an empty space of simulation and plenitude.
Everywhere in The Postmodern Scene a familiar phrase recurs, namely that TV, and the postmodern, 'like a trompe l'oeil ... functions as 'spectacle' to divert the eye from the radical impoverishment of life in technological society" (p. 273) . The mediascape recomposes a real in terms of advertising and power which in fact works (by some trompe l'oeil, in a deception of the eye) to conceal, or screen, the absence, or presence, of a void, of a "dead power" which is "pure instrumentality without signification" (p. 101).
Above, the point was made that Baudrillard's "dead power" operates, seduces, by some disjunctive-synthesis that it never acknowledges. And I want to begin to explore the idea that a kind of a Deleuzian disjunctive-synthesis is central to this "dead power." For on many levels, the relation between seduction and production is like that between the BwO and the stratifications of capitalist production which produce the socius. For instance, "... seduction is everywhere and always what is opposed to production. Seduction withdraws something from the order of the visible; it runs contrary to production, whose enterprise is to establish [stratify] everything in evidence, be it an object, a number or a concept...."34 "Production" must codify everything. The relation that production has with seduction, or whatever seduces, is utterly neurotic, as it both depends upon and refuses this entity, this "body without organs:" "There is a void between power, at the very heart of power, at the heart of production, and it is this void which today gives them the last glimmer of reality. Without what reverses them, annuls them, seduces them, they would never have taken on the force of reality."35
Examples like this are common in Baudrillard's work, and perhaps the best strategy will be to give an example of how the BwO can be theorised in terms of dead power. Aside from references to the will to will, and dead power, D+G offer another way of looking at this trompe l'oeil in their concept of translation-betrayal, which works on the level of reading reception; and, to return to a point made much earlier, it is precisely because D+G take a "contextualist" view of this "deception" that the idea of translation-betrayal undermines the "epochal" nature of Kroker & Cook's consummated nihilism, and indeed, much of Baudrillard's work. Or, to put it another way, it is because D+G emphasise the BwO, over the visuals of this deception, that the scale of Kroker & Cook's panic is brought down to size. This visual/epochal over-view of the problem, can be sensed in the neat reversals (mirrorings) of this passage from Oublier Foucault - "Everything wants to exchange, reverse, abolish itself in a cycle (this is why in effect there is no psychic repression or unconscious: the reversibility is already there). This alone seduces utterly, this alone is jouissance, while power satisfies only a hegemonic logic of reason. But seduction is elsewhere."36
Although Baudrillard's denial of psychic repression here may appear drastic - remembering that, in his critique of Foucault, Baudrillard seeks to render Foucault's own critique of the machinery of repression (in the name of the "micro-techniques of power") obsolete from the beginning - it should be pointed out that although he doesn't hold, for example, with the simplistic idea of a sexual repression that works in the service of increased productivity, the issue hasn't been totally dismissed. Rather, Baudrillard wants it enlarged, and he goes on to underline ". . . a repression that has come from much further than the horizon of manufacture, simultaneously englobing the entire horizon of sexuality."
That seduction is elsewhere, somewhere over the horizon, and only perceptible thanks to a deception of the eye, is an argument that D+G would I think agree with and disagree with at the same time. Certainly they wouldn't want to talk about repression solely in terms of material production, or even on a strictly individual, or class basis, but likewise they wouldn't want to deny the "personal" nature of oedipalisation and the coding of the subject, the whole discourse of strategies and techniques, that Oedipus puts into place. D+G's approach, by centring on the BwO/ socius as a "social" as well as "individual" recording surface, could be said to function both below and "beyond" Baudrillard's horizon.
D+G's work on repression explores the relationship between "social" and "psychic repression" where, despite the fact that psychic repression is usually situated in the realm of the unconscious, a real autonomy from social production cannot be concluded from this:
Psychic repression is such that social repression becomes desired; it induces a consequent desire, a faked image of the object, on which it bestows the appearance of independence. Strictly speaking, psychic repression is a means in the service of social repression. What it bears on is also the object of social repression.... Psychic repression is delegated by the social formation, while the desiring formation is disfigured, displaced by psychic repression. 37
It is in this sense that D+G would be hesitant to completely dismiss the "naive" view of repression that Baudrillard discounts by looking elsewhere. For it is here, in the "faked image of the object" that D+G have found their own "screening" of the truth. In the case of social production and Oedipus, it is the family that performs a displacement and inscribes its repressive message, as well as shelter the desiring-formation:
That is why psychic repression in the strict sense does not content itself with repressing real desiring-production, but offers a displaced apparent image of the repressed, by substituting a familial recording of desire. Desiring-production taken as a whole does not assume the well known Oedipal figure except in the familial translation of its recording. Translation-betrayal. 38
Translation-betrayal thus employs a very different type of deception, and seduction, than the trompe l'oeil of Kroker & Cook, or Baudrillard. Kroker & Cook's re-vision of Baudrillard is significant however, in that it bridges the chasm between the masses and the implosion that takes place in the simulacrum. For Baudrillard's code often switches places with the simulacrum, whereby it is the simulacrum, the 'logic of the system," that excludes or seduces the masses. The code now can no longer fall back on the simulacrum as back-up, i.e. on its "hyperreal" nature. The significant thing about the virtual real, and the consummated nihilism which Kroker & Cook use as a new site of legitimation for the structuring of the masses, is that by breaking down a strict formalism of "the medium is the message," it re-opens the question of symbolic exchange in Baudrillard's work.
To put this another way, the virtual real begins to look like the socius: i.e. the stratified BwO of the social. Not the socius of which Baudrillard has spoken of (which is more suited to Kroker & Cook's "serial culture" ) - ie. society as a "sociality of contact," made up of a "transhistoricised network of millions of molecules and particles maintained in a random gravitational field, magnetised by constant circulation and the thousands of tactical combinations which electrify them"39 - for here Baudrillard expounds upon the "tactical combinations" of the grid (sec below), or the social as an institutional circuit/network, while at the same time containing the position, and process, of the BwO, which could be seen as the support of this grid, as a "random gravitational field ." Baudrillard thus, in a sense, cuts the BwO/socius off from being read in-process. But, to make a general theoretical point, this is just one instance of a larger suppression of the "Deleuzian" position in Baudrillard's work. For as with the socius, so too with the molecular (and I'm thinking here of Baudrillard's warning, "Beware the molecular!," in Oublier Foucault), and the 'line of flight."
For Baudrillard these terms seem to represent an always futile escape into the infinitesimal world of micro-politics. Nowhere is the disjunctive-synthesis which turns the micro into the molecular (a "semiotic" counter-value to the macro molar ("symbolic") workings of State apparatuses); or the marginal into the minoritarian (which can be understood as a reconceptualisation of the marginal, which seeks to break down the despotic unities of the major, marginalising discourse 40 ) ever allowed to surface. Characterised in this way the "line of flight" becomes a line of "escape" into the "micro," the infinitesimal. These unmentioned aspects of D+G's work form the concealed depths to Baudrillard's fascinating, hyperreal surfaces. On this point, the extent to which a predominantly visual-orientated approach dominates Baudrillard's work is well illustrated when he writes, "In Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka the transcendent law of The Castle is opposed to the immanence of desire in the contiguity of offices. How could one not see that the law of the castle has its own "rhizomes" in the corridors and offices? ... Desire is only the molecular version of the Law." 41
What this criticism fails to point out however - as part of a "mirroring," or a fetish for symmetry, on Baudrillard's part, that wants to turn D+G's desire into the molecular version of the Law, and thus re write the Nomad as Monad - is that the discovery that desire, whether individual or bureaucratic, expresses itself in a rhizome is only "revolutionary," and non-symmetrical, to the extent that a rhizome-logic is present to affirm the "schizophrenic" potential of the rhizome, and thus make it into a rhizome. By restricting the rhizome to its value as an image, Baudrillard's critical-machine traces, or takes a photo of the rhizome. For D+G however, the rhizome is much more than an image, it is a "map;" and "mapping" is more than the charting of an already constructed real, rather, it is defined by an experiment in contact with the real, an experimentation which is itself part of the "map." 42 D+G's "maps" are opposed to "photos," precisely because photos limit the rhizome, and tend to fix the real, as well as protect or insulate the interpretive position of the "photo-grapher," in this case Baudrillard.
This is the difference between D+G and Baudrillard as theorists against interpretation. On the one hand Baudrillard fixes the silent majority as a mass which is indifferent, adjacent to, or beyond, any interpretation, "neither led astray nor mystified;" and criticises those strategies which seek to enlist the masses as a cause, or denounce them. But if the mass(es) are thus politically without organs, i.e. a "BwO" - in the sense that they resist any appropriation - it is significant that D+G's position is denied its own specificity in a discourse which has similar aspirations, but works in a psychopathological regime where this move isn't possible. For Baudrillard, the rules of this regime can only be disrupted in an act of terrorism, which once again ends up in the "nebulous fluid" of the silent majority.43 It is in this sense that Baudrillard remains firmly placed in a realm of commentary, or "visual" experience, that, in a criticism that could be imagined coming from McLuhan, fails to capitalise on the tactile, and other, sensory planes (active bodies) which give us a more direct line to our technological/cultural environment.44
Serial Culture. Dead Power. Consummated nihilism. At the intersection point of these three concepts stands the socius of translation-betrayal, and the "disjunctive-synthesis."
In the case of Sartre and serial culture, the socius can be said to occupy the position of the milieu, whereby it is the milieu that functions "as an inert conducting medium," or "linking force which unites everyone to everyone without distance," a social bonding which Kroker & Cook only refer to as "false sociality." Sartre writes: 'Incapable of changing the Other's indignation (when I witness a scene that some people find shocking), this indignation, lived in [the impotence of seriality] . . . becomes for me an other indignation, in which the Other in me is angered and guides my action." Sartre emphasises that the milieu is more than just a collective of individuals. Rather, "the true structures of the milieu, those which produce its real force in the practico-inert [TV] field, are in fact structures of alterity." 45 In this sense, Kroker & Cook's conclusion that the TV audience is the perfect "anti-community" (p. 274) could be criticised for stereotyping the "social," and playing on a certain hyperreal hysteria which conveniently "forgets" Sartre's "affirmation" of alterity.
However, it could be argued that it is precisely because of postmodernism's consummated nihilism that the milieu, and this existentialist position, has been cancelled out: i.e. made obsolete by the loss of the old position of authority, and the dead power that has taken its place. But again, if power has been hyperrealised in simulation, and left us with a redoubled simulation that screens its absence, then I'd want to ask why it is that this deception couldn't be seen as a translation-betrayal, or, why an entity/process like the BwO/socius couldn't be seen in place of that "void" which functions as our truth-effect, the source of the panic/molar alienation described in The Postmodern Scene.
The main point at issue here is this disjunctivity. As the melancholy of Baudrillard's work on the simulacrum is well known, it's worth quoting an account of Deleuze's version:
...the account that Deleuze gives of the simulacrum in Difference et repetition, whilst retaining the formal structure of the Platonic model, cuts it off from its ties to a lost original, and cuts it off, too, from Baudrillard's melancholy. The world we inhabit is one in which identity is simulated in the play of difference and repetition, but this simulation carries no sense of loss. Instead, freeing ourselves of the Platonic ontology means denying the priority of an original over the copy, of a model over the image. It means glorifying the reign of simulacra, and affirming that any original is itself already a copy, divided in its very origin. The simulacrum 'is that system in which the different is related to the different through difference itself.' 46
It is Deleuze's principle of the disjunctive-synthesis that makes his account of the simulacrum so different from Baudrillard's, for it is because of the disjunctive-synthesis that the BwO makes possible, that the different can be "related to the different through difference," so that "...two things or two determinations are affirmed by their difference . . . [in order] to affirm their difference as that which relates them to each other as 'different'." 47 In this latter quote it is the BwO, by providing a recording surface that works in the position of the trace, that enables "differents" to be affirmed by their difference: in short, it is the BwO that different-iates.
To pick up from what's already been said about translation-betrayal, in Anti-Oedipus D+G describe the disjunctive-synthesis in these terms: "machines [desiring-formations] attach themselves to the body without organs as so many points of disjunction, between which an entire network of new syntheses is now woven, marking off the surface into co-ordinates, like a grid." 48 This synthesis can be described in terms of D+G's account of the "catatonic" body of the schizophrenic in psychoanalysis, whereby the "schizophrenic" as an entity is marked off into a grid, but what is in fact coded by the institution is this "catatonia" or autism, this institutional/ psychotic category.
Indeed, it is the grid, this "catatonia"/autism which facilitates communication, for essentially, the schizophrenic cannot be "interpreted" on his/ her own terms. In the same way, because a totally de-territorialised BwO would damage the system, and expose its exploits, the BwO as a "semiotic" process or flow is made into a "catatonic body," or smooth surface, in the name of Symbolic production; just as the socius/BwO must undergo a molar-coding, or a translation-betrayal, to allow production flows to circulate. The BwO/grid (Baudrillard speaks only of the grid) thus provides the surface for the disjunctive-synthesis to occur, it allows the translation of "semiotic" or molecular energy into the Symbolic economy. Despite its role in the exploitation of the "semiotic" as capital, the value of the disjunctive-synthesis as a concept lies in the fact that it preserves the specificity of the semiotic/molecular in the Symbolic. The BwO thus serves as an agent, or as evidence, of the (betrayed) "semiotic" in a system which seeks to hide (reterritorialise) its existence.
What is interesting to note is that the BwO, having been "contained" or coded by production, could be seen as "silent" - i.e., as occupying a position of "non marked" terms within the system, just as schizophrenia does in capitalist production - a silence which is nevertheless crucial to the functioning of the system. And here we reach the point where the Baudrillard and Deleuze of the title begins to carry some emphasis. A conjunction which could be valuable in this kind of no-win situation:
The media carry meaning and nonsense, they manipulate in every sense simultaneously. The process cannot be controlled, hr the media convey the simulation internal to the system and the simulation destructive of the system according to a logic that is absolutely moebian and circular - and this is exactly what it is like. There is no alternative to it, no logical resolution. Only a logical exacerbation and a catastrophic resolution. (p. 176) 49
Kroker & Cook conclude, for obvious reasons, that any intervention based on the "liberating claims of subjecthood" is inadequate and, as it reflects the system's previous phase, obsolete. But Kroker & Cook, after Baudrillard, also point out an alternative strategy, namely "resistance as object." From Baudrillard:
The current strategy of the system is to inflate utterance to produce the maximum of meaning. Thus the appropriate strategic resistance is to refuse meaning and utterance, to simulate in a hyper-conformist manner the very mechanisms of the system .... It amounts to turning the system's logic back on itself by duplicating it, reflecting meaning, as in a mirror, without absorbing it. (pp. 177-178) 50
In making the object-strategies/subject-strategies distinction, Baudrillard warns against "revolutionary" strategies based on the raising of consciousness, and the historical individual: "This is to ignore the equal, doubtless even greater, impact of object-strategies, of renunciation of the position of the subject and of meaning - precisely the strategy of the masses, which we bury contemptuously under the labels of alienation and passivity." 51 But, as I've tried to argue here, it may be that the spaces for intervention aren't as narrow as Kroker & Cook make them seem: i.e. limited to a hyperconformist "ironic detachment" (p. 178). Nor as catastrophic as Baudrillard might like to think. For there are also the object-strategies of D+G which, by developing an alternative mode of revolutionary discourse, and logic, based on the disjunctive-synthesis of the BwO, provide an alternative way of speaking and theorising this object-position (a primary concern for Baudrillard), while at the same time exposing the system (or gaze) which seeks to construct it as object.
One important thing to note however is that D+G upset Baudrillard's subject strategies/object strategies distinction, and questions the "neutrality," or non-marked position, of the mass(es). Their concept of the disjunctive-synthesis short-circuits the paradoxical relationship of seduction that the mass(es) have with "dead power," as the BwO - by stressing the "semiotic" /molecular/process - provides a way of disrupting the strangely active, yet implicitly passive, relationship of "indifferent fascination" that the mass(es) have with the media. From this view, where the idea of translation-betrayal is lined up against the trompe l'oeil, Kroker ~c Cook's trompe l'oeil becomes a version of this betrayal which fails to assimilate its disjunctive nature.
What D+G's position also does is upset Baudrillard's formulation of the masses in terms of his formalism of the simulacrum. If, for Baudrillard, all strategies can be divided into subject-strategies and object-strategies, strategies which function by the raising of consciousness, and those which affirm the indifference of the masses, then D+G cut a diagonal across such a distinction by pointing out that theorising the disjunctive-synthesis employs both of these strategies, that working with the BwO as "object" also entails a "raising of consciousness" - in terms of the way in which "semiotic," molecular flows and processes are exploited - which not only problematises the autonomous historical subject, but also questions the panic that The Postmodern Scene uses to fill "the void."
1. Arthur Kroker and David Cook, The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and HyperAesthetics (New York: St Martin's Press, 1988). All page numbers appear in text.
2. Julia Kristeva, "Revolution in Poetic Language," The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 93-94.
3. Paul Patton, "Deleuze and Guattari: Ethics and Postmodernity," Intervention 20/ Left Wright (1988), pp. 24-34. Stephen Muecke, "The Discourse of Nomadology: Phylums in Flux," Art & Text 14 (1984), pp. 24-40. Also Substance 44/45 (1984), a special issue on Deleuze and Guattari.
4. Fredric Jameson, ""Pleasure: A Political Issue," Formations of Pleasure (London: Routledge ~c Kegan Paul, 1983), p. 3.
5. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, "How To Make Yourself a Body Without Organs," Semiotext(e) 4~ 98l), pp. 265 270.
6. See Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 90. Also Alice A. Jardine, Gynesis: Configurations of Women and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp 208 223.
7. Michael Gawenda, "The Big Elle," Time Australia January 30 1989), p. 44.
8. It should be noted that the discussion of schizophrenia in this review remains somewhat detached from medical/psychiatric definitions of schizophrenia.
9. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, trans. Helen R. Lane, Robert Hurley, and Mark Seem (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 246. Also Vincent Descombes, Modern French Philosophy (Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 176-177.
10. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (London: The Athlone Press, 1988), p. 385. My Italics.
11. Michel Foucault, 'Truth and Power,' in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, Ed. Colin Gordon (London: Harvester Press, 1980), pp. 120-121.
12. A term which can be found in Rajagopalan Radhakrishnan, "Ethnic Identity and PostStructuralist Differance," Cultural Critique no. 6 (Spring 1987), p. 199; and which is also being used by Dick Hebdige.
13. Julia Kristeva, "The Novel as Polylogue," Desire in Language, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), p. 175.
14. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 379.
15. Ibid., p. 9. On the two types of body without organs see Paul Patton, "Deleuze and Guattari: Ethics and Postmodernity," Intervention 20/Left Wright (1988), pp. 2~25.
16. Alice A. Jardine, Gynesis: Configurations of Women and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 24.
17. See the MTV issue of Journal of communication Inquiry 101(1986), pp. 70-91.
18. Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production, trans. Mark Poster (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1975), p.134.
19. Jean Baudrillard, "The Implosion of Meaning in the Media, and The Implosion of the Social in the Masses," The Myths of Information: Technology and PostIndustrial Culture, ed. Kathleen Woodward (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980), p. 148. Also in Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities.
20. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 33. My Italics.
21. Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason: A Theory of Practical Ensembles, volume one (London: Verso/NLB, 1981), p. 271.
22. Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," New Left Review 146 (1984), p. 70.
23. See Brian McHale, Postmodernist Fiction (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 190-192.
24. Ibid., pp. 19~192.
25. See Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 145.
26. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 4.
27. Jean Baudrillard, "The Implosion of Meaning," pp. 141-142.
28. Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production, p. 99.
29. Jean Baudrillard, "Requiem for the Media," For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, trans. Charles Levin (St Louis: Telos Press, 1981), p. 170.
30. John Fiske and Jon Watts, "Video Games: Inverted Pleasures," Australian Journal of Cultural Studies 3:1(1985), pp. 89-104.
31. Jean Baudrillard, "The Implosion of Meaning," p. 139.
32. Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and John Johnston (New York: Jean Baudrillard and Semiotext(e), 1983), p. 30.
33. Jean Baudrillard, "Oublier Foucault," Theoretical Strategies, ed. Peter Botsman (Sydney: Local Consumption Publications, 1982), p. 206.
34. Ibid., p. 194.
35. Ibid., p. 203.
36. Ibid., p. 203.
37. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 119. My Italics.
38: Ibid., p. 121 .
39. Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, p. 48.
40. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 16 27.
41. Jean Baudrillard, "Oublier Foucault," p. 199.
42. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 12.
43. Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, p. 48.
44. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, War and Peace in the Global Village (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), pp. 16-17.
45. Jean-Paul Sartre, op. cit., pp. 277-280.
46. John Frow, "The Last Things Before Last: Notes on White Noise," unpublished paper. See also Brian Massumi, "Realer Than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari", Copywrite I (1987), pp. 90-97.
47. Cited in Alex Callinicos, Is There A Future for Marxism? (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 89.
48. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 12.
49. Jean Baudrillard, "The Implosion of Meaning," p. 147.
50. Ibid., p. 148.
51 . Ibid., p. 147.
New: 18 February, 1996 | Now: 11 March, 2015