Post-Mortemism

Using the term “subject” refers to subjectivity. Subjectivity, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The quality of existing in … mind rather than the external world.” [1] This definition implies an “interior space” closed from the “external world,” yet this interior spaces still engages in the world. Closely linked to a Cartesian, Kantian and Hegelian being summoning itself against the world, this type of subjectivity’s development has been European. Common understandings of subjectivity, especially in the United States, Europe, Australia, etc. show that what was once an obscure philosophical conjecture has become popularized consensus. Indeed, a consensus based on the already interpellated. Interpellation is a concept developed by Louis Althusser, who “goes further to argue that “all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects” and emphasizes that “ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it … ‘transforms’ the individual into subjects.” [2]

hirst-and-his-99m-skull-the-making-of
Hirst with 8601 top-grade diamonds, totaling 11006.18 karats including one veritable rock, a platinum to-scale skull, and real teeth from the 7th century. Courtesy: http://blog.artviva.com/2010/12/14/keeping-a-head-of-art-in-florence/

Ideology is present before the individual’s birth, during its baby-hood, childhood and onto in adulthood. Functioning ceaselessly it operates in handshakes, smiles, talk of the weather, even intimate discussion, etc; Althusser states in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, that ideology is “a material ritual practice … in everyday life.” [3] The subject is an effect of a systematic, ceaseless and ritualized practice. The “interior space” of the subject is subjectivity, another effect of the processes mentioned. Building states requires an inward devotion on the part of individuals committed to an abstract entity; building race requires a similar devotion to an abstract entity. These entities are categories, for example “men/women,” “Black/white,” “civilized/savage,” etc. Every entity is coded with a mental category. Is the category objective? The debate, mainly among analytical philosophers, is outside the purview of this article.

Whether or not a mental category is subjective or objective it functions. Constituting lived reality, the category “wife” and “mother” may designate a specific person, for you. While this person’s existence may not be dependent on these categories, they still operate as such for others. Furthermore, highly abstracted and broad categories apply to subject without their consent, because consent is not required. The post-modern idea of increasing the number of categories, simply creates more abstracted, less broad, mental entities that are applied to the subject for others. While the subject’s categories may be for others, these categories can also be accepted by, celebrated and embraced by the subject. However, for the purposes of this article it is irrelevant what category a subject accepts or declines, for the subject is always already categorized.

Semiotics is, in short, “The study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.” [4] Within semiotics there is a difference between the signifier and the signified. For example, the signifier would be the word “tree,” whereas the signified would be the actually existing “tree.” Noting this difference is crucial, for when we think “man” (signifier) upon seeing a man (signified), many operations are at work. First the a priori category or signifier is always there, and second through our interior processes of cogitation, we carve out of a plethora of phenomena a phenomenon: man. The thought may be congruent with the subject viewed, or it may be incorrect. Categories exist purely abstracted, yet there application is messy and contingent.

Through the ubiquity of language, a unity arises, coming a great price. Abstracted concepts applied mismatch, etc. Yet they are empirically, or without logic but based on observation, both useful and dangerous. Historically mediated obsessions with classifications began during the European Enlightenment, a mixed bag of scientific, philosophical, literary and social developments, especially against the established Churches, and colonialism, racism and slavery. In the Dialectic of Enlightenment, “The history of … societies, as well as that of the formation of individual ego or self, is re-evaluated from the standpoint of what Horkheimer and Adorno perceived at the time as the ultimate outcome of this history: the collapse or “regression” of reason, with the rise of National Socialism, into something (referred to as merely “enlightenment” for the majority of the text) resembling the very forms of superstition and myth out of which reason had supposedly emerged as a result of historical progress or development.” [5]

Horkheimer and Adorno write,

If, in the absence of the social subject, the
volume of goods took the form of so-called overproduction in domestic
economic crises in the preceding period, today, thanks to the enthrone-
ment of powerful groups as that social subject, it is producing the inter-
national threat of fascism: progress is reverting to regression. That the
hygienic factory and everything pertaining to it, Volkswagen* and the
sports palace, are obtusely liquidating metaphysics does not matter in
itself, but that these things are themselves becoming metaphysics, an ide-
ological curtain,* within the social whole, behind which real doom is gath-

ering, does matter. (Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1944/1947 pr xviii)

The real doom does matter. Mass extinction of species created by the industries above, a far-right on the march in in West (and elsewhere), and attempts at reducing the social subject to “powerful groups.” I would contend that even these powerful groups have lost their social subjectivity. Witness the vapid tweeting president of the United States. Donald Trump represents the apogee of the death of social subject. An ever denser mass of nothingness sits at the center of swirling images, texts, tweets, Fox News, etc. In the post-subject world the “ideological curtain” has blown off, all is bare, and it is clear to see that nothing exists there. There are no saviors, not from the Left and not from Right. Post-modernism attempted to break some of the links between the signifier and the signified, yet the project failed. Capitalism overwhelmed all, diversified itself, grew into a nebulous, post-national/international circuit board, whizzing endlessly. 01010101. Beyond that quantum computing and non-binary artificial subjectivity. So while the middle class subjects lose their interior capability of reflective consciousness, a key element of dissent, in the hum of their iPhone connected temperature controlled yoga mats, the working class aspire to that same level of comfort, and the poor fall under the clouds built by the Silicon Gods, the ever swirling mass of numbers, contracts, crypto-currencies, emanate from the deadening body of the planet’s biosphere. Welcome to post-mortemism.

Subjectivity remains slightly intact and in connection with the post-subjective, yet it takes energy, resources, stability and time to maintain this crucial link. Working endlessly at minimum wage jobs, being incarcerated, struggmaslowling to survive in the slums of South America, Africa, in many cases on less than $1 a day, requires a great deal of skill, ability, time and energy. It’s taxing. The highest tax on the working-class, the poor and incarcerated is time. The second is bodily integrity. Maslow identified a hierarchy of needs that must be met for what he called self-actualization.
Food, water, warmth and rest are essential, along with security and safety, intimate relationships and friends, and a feeling of accomplishment. These are all essential to what I would call subjectivity beyond being-subject. Post-subjectivity is salubrious for those that can afford it, especially the Silicon Gods. Sergey Brin, of Google, is estimated to have $22.8 billion, this is Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 19.36.01roughly the same as the Gross National Income of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to some 82 million people, with a life expectancy of 48 years.

However, it must not be argued that people in places where Maslow’s needs are hard to fulfill have less or subjectivity. It is often in struggle that the greatest subjectivities are born, and these places have their rich, non-European histories, epistemological and ontological frameworks for developing self-actualization, subjectivity and “interior space”. Yet the process of capitalism is universal, and it affects everyone from Silicontopia to Kinshasa, from Lagos to London, from Lhasa to Lisbon, etc. Ignoring the social, cultural, affective, economic and physical realities of capitalism’s global reach is irresponsible. Cultural importation, a desire for the Silicon Gods’ powers, is everywhere; who wouldn’t want that type of mobility, access to extremely advanced healthcare from screening and prevention to early treatment if necessary, and freedom? False consciousness is not at work, what is at work is a desire to remove oneself from oneself and be in the clouds. Plutocracy is too simplistic a word, we live in the age of Techno-Deities. The post-subject God desires and wills itself into a friction-less being capable of giving time and resources to themselves for massive creative generation.

Deleuze writes,

“The technocrat is the natural friend of the dictator—computers and dictatorship; but the revolutionary lives in the gap which separates technical progress from social totality, and inscribed there his dream of permanent revolution. This dream, therefore, is itself action, reality, and an effective menace to all established order; it renders possible what it dreams about.” [6]

Yes, there are revolutionaries in the Silicon Heights; perhaps even in the US White House (if the drip drop of leaks means anything), so let us not forget that revolutionaries don’t always fit in the right place. They live in folds. What is a revolutionary? In the age of post-mortemism it is first and foremost: someone who undermines the legitimacy of the Ideological State & Corporate Apparatuses; secondly, someone who organizes others to do the same; thirdly, someone who studies the past which has fallen to the bottom of the cup of the present like dirt in water. We must muddy the waters. Capitalism forms a infinite, recursive triangle, ∞ ∴ – a forever “therefore.” Subject —> Desire/Product —-> Post-Subject —-> Subject —-> Desire/Product, etc. Articulating itself as the only way, and being the only way (where are the alternatives? look at SYRIZA’s failure in Greece!)

I haven’t the answers, only the beginning of an autopsy.

….

 

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