All these liberations provide the ideal content for the system to devour in its successive revolutions, and which it brings subtly back to life as mere phantasmas of revolution. These revolutions are only transitions towards generalised manipulation. At the stage of the aleatory processes of control, even revolution becomes meaningless. The rational, referential, historical and functional machines of consciousness correspond to industrial machines.
The aleatory, non-referential, transferential, indeterminate and floating machines of the unconscious respond to the aleatory machines of the code. But even the unconscious is reabsorbed by this operation, and it has long since lost its own reality principle to become an operational simulacrum. At the precise point that its psychical reality principle merges into its psychoanalytic reality principle, the unconscious, like political economy, also becomes a model of simulation. The systemic strategy is merely to invoke a number of floating values in this hyperreality.
This is as true of the unconscious as it is of money and theories. Value rules according to the indiscernible order of generation by means of models, according to the infinite chains of simulation. Cybernetic operativity, the genetic code, the aleatory order of mutation, the uncertainty principle, etc. Even critical theory, along with the revolution, turns into a second-order simulacrum, as do all determinate processes. The deployment of third-order simulacra sweeps all this away, and to attempt to reinstate dialectics, 'objective' contradictions, and so on, against them would be a futile political regression.
You can't fight the aleatory by imposing finalities, you can't fight against programmed and molecular dispersion with prises de conscience and dialectical sublation, you can't fight the code with political economy, nor with 'revolution'. All these outdated weapons including those we find in first- order simulacra, in the ethics and metaphysics of man and nature, use-value, and other liberatory systems of reference are gradually neutralised by a higher-order general system. This is the well known effect of recuperation, manipulation, of circulating and recycling at every level.
Is it at least possible to find an even match to oppose third-order simulacra? Is there a theory or a practice which is subversive because it is more aleatory than the system itself, an indeterminate subversion which would be to the order of the code what the revolution was to the order of political economy? Can we fight DNA? Certainly not by means of the class struggle. Perhaps simulacra of a higher logical or illogical order could be invented: beyond the current third order, beyond determinacy and indeterminacy.
But would they still be simulacra? Perhaps death and death alone, the reversibility of death, belongs to a higher order than the code. Only symbolic disorder can bring about an interruption in the code. Every system that approaches perfect operativity simultaneously approaches its downfall. When the system says 'A is A', or 'two times two equals four', it approaches absolute power and total absurdity; that is, immediate and probable subversion.
A gentle push in the right place is enough to bring it crashing down. We know the potential of tautology when it reinforces the system's claim to perfect sphericity Ubu Roi's belly. Identity is untenable: it is death, since it fails to inscribe its own death. Every closed or metastable, functional or cybernetic system is shadowed by mockery and instantaneous subversion which no longer takes the detour through long dialectical labour , because all the system's inertia acts against it.
Ambivalence awaits the most advanced systems, that, like Leibniz's binary God, have deified their functional principle. The fascination they exert, because it derives from a profound denial such as we find in fetishism, can be instantaneously reversed. Hence their fragility increases in proportion to their ideal coherence. These systems, even when they are based on radical indeterminacy the loss of meaning , fall prey, once more, to meaning. They collapse under the weight of their own monstrosity, like fossilised dinosaurs, and immediately decompose.
This is the fatality of every system committed by its own logic to total perfection and therefore to a total defectiveness, to absolute infallibility and therefore irrevocable breakdown: the aim of all bound energies is their own death. This is why the only strategy is catastrophic, and not dialectical at all. Things must be pushed to the limit, where quite naturally they collapse and are inverted. At the peak of value we are closest to ambivalence, at the pinnacle of coherence we are closest to the abyss of corruption which haunts the reduplicated signs of the code.
Simulation must go further than the system. Death must be played against death: a radical tautology that makes the system's own logic the ultimate weapon. Ex-terminate every term, abolish value in the term's revolution against itself: that is the only symbolic violence equivalent to and triumphant over the structural violence of the code. A revolutionary dialectic corresponded to the commodity law of value and its equivalents; only the scrupulous reversion of death corresponds to the code's indeterminacy and the structural law of value.
All that remains for us is theoretical violence speculation to the death, whose only method is the radicalisation of hypotheses. Even the code and the symbolic remain terms of simulation: it must be possible to extract them, one by one, from discourse. Notes 1. Death is always equally what waits at the term of the system, and the symbolic extermination that stalks the system itself. It is not that there are two words to designate the finality of death internal to the system, the one in- scribed everywhere in its operational logic, and the other a radical counter- finality ex- scribed on the system as such, but which haunts it everywhere: only the term of death, and it alone, figures on both sides.
This ambiguity can already be discerned in the Freudian death-drive. Rather than an ambiguity, however, it simply translates the proximity of complete perfection and immediate defectiveness. Death ought never to be understood as the real event that affects a subject or a body, but as a. The demand of reversibility puts an end to determinacy and indeterminacy at the same time. It puts an end to bound energies in stable oppositions, and is therefore in substantial agreement with theories of flows and intensities, whether libidinal or schizo. The unbinding of energies is, however, the very form of the current system, which consists in a strategic drift of value.
The system can be connected and disconnected, but all the freed energies will one day return to it: this is how the concepts of energy and intensity come about. Capital is an energetic and intense system. Hence the impossibility of distinguishing the libidinal economy from the political economy see Jean-Frangois Lyotard, Libidinal Economy [tr.
Grant, London: Athlone, ] of the system of value; and the impossibility of distinguishing capitalist schizzes from revolutionary schizzes see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti- Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia I [tr. Hurley, M. Seem and H. Lane, London: Athlone, ]. For the system is master: like God it can bind or unbind energies; what it is incapable of and what it can no longer avoid is reversibility. Reversibility alone therefore, rather than unbinding or drifting, is fatal to it. This is exactly what the term symbolic 'exchange' means.
A given coin must be exchangeable against a real good of some value, while on the other hand it must be possible to relate it to all the other terms in the monetary system. More and more, Saussure reserves the term value for this second aspect of the system: every term can be related to every other, their relativity, internal to the system and constituted by binary oppositions. This definition is opposed to the other possible definition of value: the relation of every term to what it designates, of each signifier to its signified, like the relation of every coin with what it can be exchanged against.
The first aspect corresponds to the structural dimension of language, the second to its functional dimension. This coherence is characteristic of the 'classical' configuration of the linguistic sign, under the rule of the commodity law of value, where designation always appears as the finality of the structural operation of the langue. The parallel between this 'classical' stage of signification and the mechanics of value in material production is absolute, as in Marx's analysis: use- value plays the role of the horizon and finality of the system of exchange-values.
The first qualifies the concrete operation of the commodity in consumption a moment parallel to designation in the sign , the second relates to the exchangeability of any commodity for any other under the law of equivalence a moment parallel to the structural organisation of the sign. Both are dialectically linked throughout Marx's analyses and define a rational configuration of production, governed by political economy.
A revolution has put an end to this 'classical' economics of value, a revolution of value itself, which carries value beyond its commodity form into its radical form. This revolution consists in the dislocation of the two aspects of the law of value, which were thought to be coherent and eternally bound as if by a natural law. Referential value is annihilated, giving the structural play of value the upper hand.
The structural dimension becomes autonomous by excluding the referential dimension, and is instituted upon the death of reference. Now the other stage of value has the upper hand, a total relativity, general commutation, combination and simulation simulation, in the sense that, from now on, signs are exchanged against each other rather than against the real it is not that they just happen to be exchanged against each other, they do so on condition that they are no longer exchanged against the real.
The emancipation of the sign: remove this 'archaic' obligation to designate something and it finally becomes free, indifferent and totally indeterminate, in the structural or combinatory play which succeeds the previous rule of determinate equivalence. The same operation takes place at the level of labour power and the production process: the annihilation of any goal as regards the contents of production allows the latter to function as a code, and the monetary sign, for example, to escape into infinite speculation, beyond all reference to a real of production, or even to a gold- standard.
The flotation of money and signs, the flotation of 'needs' and ends of production, the flotation of labour itself the commutability of every term is accompanied by speculation and a limitless inflation and we really have total liberty no duties, disaffection and general disenchantment; but this remains a magic, a sort of magical obligation which keeps the sign chained up to the real, capital has freed signs from this 'naiivety' in order to deliver them into pure circulation. Neither Saussure nor Marx had any presentiment of all this: they were still in the golden age of the dialectic of the sign and the real, which is at the same time the 'classical' period of capital and value.
Their dialectic is in shreds, and the real has died of the shock of value acquiring this fantastic autonomy. Determinacy is dead, indeterminacy holds sway. There has been an extermination in the literal sense of the word of the real of production and the real of signification. Does this remain a political- economic question? Yes, in that it is always a question of value and the law of value. However, the mutation that affects it is so profound and so decisive, the content of political economy so thoroughly changed, indeed annihilated, that the term is nothing more than an allusion.
Moreover, it is precisely political to the extent that it is always the destruction of social relations governed by the relevant value. For a long time, however, it has been a matter of something entirely different from economics. The term 'sign' has itself only an allusive value. Since the structural law of value affects signification as much as it does everything else, its form is not that of the sign in general, but that of a certain organisation which is that of the code.
The code only governs certain signs however. This illusion derives from the fact that Marx developed the one in the shadow of the commodity, while Saussure developed the other in the shadow of the linguistic sign. But this illusion must be shattered. The commodity law of value is a law of equivalences, and this law operates throughout every sphere: it equally designates the equivalence in the configuration of the sign, where one signifier and one signified facilitate the regulated exchange of a referential content the other parallel modality being the linearity of the signifier, contemporaneous with the linear and cumulative time of production.
The classical law of value then operates simultaneously in every instance language, production, etc. Conversely, the structural law of value signifies the indeterminacy of every sphere in relation to every other, and to their proper content also therefore the passage from the determinant sphere of signs to the indeterminacy of the code. To say that the sphere of material production and that of signs exchange their respective contents is still too wide of the mark: they literally disappear as such and lose their specificity along with their determinacy, to the benefit of a form of value, of a much more general assemblage, where designation and production are annihilated.
The 'political economy of the sign' was also consequent upon an extension of the commodity law of value and its confirmation at the level of signs, whereas the structural configuration of value simply and simultaneously puts an end to the regimes of production, political economy, representation and signs. With the code, all this collapses into simulation. Strictly speaking, neither the 'classical' economy nor the political economy of the sign ceases to exist: they lead a secondary existence, becoming a sort of phantom principle of dissuasion. The end of labour. The end of production.
The end of political economy. The end of the linear dimension of discourse. The end of the linear dimension of the commodity. The end of the classical era of the sign. The end of the era of production. It is not the revolution which puts an end to all this, it is capital itself which abolishes the determination of the social according to the means of production, substitutes the structural form for the commodity form of value, and currently controls every aspect of the system's strategy. This historical and social mutation is legible at every level. In this way the era of simulation is announced everywhere by the commutability of formerly contradictory or dialectically opposed terms.
All the great humanist criteria of value, the whole civilisation of moral, aesthetic and practical judgement are effaced in our system of images and signs. Everything becomes undecidable, the characteristic effect of the domination of the code, which everywhere rests on the principle of neutralisation, of indifference. This process, which has for a long time been at work in culture, art, politics, and even in sexuality in the so-called 'superstructural' domains , today affects the economy itself, the whole so-called 'infrastructure field.
Here the same indeterminacy holds sway. And, of course, with the loss of determination of the economic, we also lose any possibility of conceiving it as the determinant agency. Since for two centuries historical determination has been built up around the economic since Marx in any case , it is there that it is important to grasp the interruption of the code. The End of Production We are at the end of production.
In the West, this form coincides with the proclamation of the commodity law of value, that is to say, with the reign of political economy. Value emanates from the reign of divine or natural qualities which for us have become retrospectively confused. The Physiocrats still saw the cycles of land and labour in this way, as having no value of their own. We may wonder, then, whether there is a genuine law of value, since this law is dispatch without attaining rational expression. Its form cannot be separated from the inexhaustible referential substance to which it is bound.
If there is a law here, it is, in contrast to the commodity law, a natural law of value. A mutation shakes this edifice of a natural distribution or dispensing of wealth as soon as value is produced, as its reference becomes labour, and its law of equivalence is generalised to every type of labour. Value is now assigned to the distinct and rational operation of human social labour.
It is measurable, and, in consequence, so is surplus -value. The critique of political economy begins with social production or the mode of production as its reference. The concept of production alone allows us, by means of an analysis of that unique commodity called labour power, to extract a surplus a surplus-value which controls the rational dynamics of capital as well as its beyond, the revolution. Today everything has changed again.
Production, the commodity form, labour power, equivalence and surplus -value, which together formed the outline of a quantitative, material and measurable configuration, are now things of the past. An aspect of production still supports both a social form called capital and its internal critique called Marxism. Now, revolutionary demands are based on the abolition of the commodity law of value. Now we have passed from the commodity law of value to the structural law of value, and this coincides with the obliteration of the social form known as production.
Given this, are we still within a capitalist mode? It may be that we are in a hyper- capitalist mode, or in a very different order. Is the form of capital bound to the law of value in general, or to some specific form of the law of value perhaps we are really already within a socialist mode? Perhaps this metamorphosis of capital under the sign of the structural law of value is merely its socialist outcome? Oh dear. If the life and death of capital are staked on the commodity law of value, if the revolution is staked on the mode of production, then we are within neither capital nor revolution.
If this latter consists in a liberation of the social and generic production of man, then there is no longer any prospect of a revolution since there is no more production. If, on the other hand, capital is a mode of domination, then we are always in its midst.
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This is because the structural law of value is the purest, most illegible form of social domination, like surplus-value. It no longer has any references within a dominant class or a relation of forces, it works without violence, entirely reabsorbed without any trace of bloodshed into the signs which surround us, operative everywhere in the code in which capital finally holds its purest discourses, beyond the dialects of industry, trade and finance, beyond the dialects of class which it held in its 'productive' phase a symbolic violence inscribed everywhere in signs, even in the signs of the revolution.
The structural revolution of value eliminated the basis of the 'Revolution'. The loss of reference fatally affected first the revolutionary systems of reference, which can no longer be found in any social substance of production, nor in the certainty of a reversal in any truth of labour power. This is because labour is not a power, it has become one sign amongst many. Like every other sign, it produces and consumes itself.
It is exchanged against non-labour, leisure, in accordance with a total equivalence, it is commutable with every other sector of everyday life. No more or less 'alienated', it is no longer a unique, historical 'praxis' giving rise to unique social relations. Like most practices, it is now only a set of signing operations. It becomes part of contemporary life in general, that is, it is framed by signs. It is no longer even the suffering of historical prostitution which used to play the role of the contrary promise of final emancipation or, as in Lyotard, as the space of the workers' enjoyment [jouissance] which fulfils an unremitting desire in the abjection of value and the rule of capital.
In the past, labour was used to designate the reality of a social production and a social objective of accumulating wealth. Even capital and surplus-value exploited it precisely where it retained a use- value for the expanded reproduction of capital and its final destruction. It was shot through with finality anyway if the worker is absorbed in the pure and simple reproduction of his labour power, it is not true that the process of production is experienced as senseless repetition.
Labour revolutionises society through its very abjection, as a commodity whose potential always exceeds pure and simple reproduction of value. Today this is no longer the case since labour is no longer productive but has become reproductive of the assignation to labour which is the general habit of a society which no longer knows whether or not it wishes to produce. No more myths of production and no more contents of production: national balance sheets now merely retrace a numerical and statistical growth devoid of meaning, an inflation of the signs of accountancy over which we can no longer even project the phantasy of the collective will.
The pathos of growth itself is dead, since no-one believes any longer in the pathos of production, whose final, paranoid and panic-stricken tumescence it was. Today these codes are detumescent. It remains, however, more necessary than ever to reproduce labour as a social ritual [affectation], as a reflex, as morality, as consensus, as regulation, as the reality principle.
The reality principle of the code, that is: an immense ritual of the signs of labour extends over society in general since it reproduces itself, it matters little whether or not it produces.
It is much more effective to socialise by means of rituals and signs than by the bound energies of production. You are asked only to become socialised, not to produce or to excel yourself this classical ethic now arouses suspicion instead. You are asked only to consider value, according to the structural definition which here takes on its full social significance, as one term in relation to others, to function as a sign in the general scenario of production, just as labour and production now function only as signs, as terms commutable with non-labour, consumption, communication, etc.
Labour, once voided of its energy and substance and generally disinvested , is given a new role as the model of social simulation, bringing all the other categories along with it into the aleatory sphere of the code. An unnervingly strange state of affairs: this sudden plunge into a sort of secondary existence, separated from you by all the opacity of a previous life, where there was a familiarity and an intimacy in the traditional process of labour.
Even the concrete reality of exploitation, the violent sociality of labour, is familiar. This has all gone now, and is due not so much to the operative abstraction of the process of labour, so often described, as to the passage of every signification of labour into an operational field where it becomes a floating variable, dragging the whole imaginary of a previous life along with it.
This is the dimension things are taking on today, at the end of a 'materialist' history which has succeeded in authenticating it as the real movement of society. Art, religion and duty have no real history for Marx only production has a history, or, rather, it is history, it grounds history. An incredible fabrication of labour and production as historical reason and, the generic model of fulfilment. The end of this religious autonomisation of production allows us to see that all of this could equally have been produced this time in the sense of a stage- production and a scenario fairly recently, with totally different goals than the internal finalities that is, the revolution secreted away within production.
To analyse production as a code cuts across both the material evidence of machines, factories, labour time, the product, salaries and money, and the more formal, but equally 'objective', evidence of surplus -value, the market, capital, to discover the rule of the game which is to destroy the logical network of the agencies of capital, and even the critical network of the Marxian categories which analyse it which categories are again only an appearance at the second degree of capital, its critical appearance , in order to discover the elementary signifiers of production, the social relations it establishes, buried away forever beneath the historical illusion of the producers and the theoreticians.
Labour Labour power is not a 'power', it is a definition, an axiom, and its 'real' operation in the labour process, its 'use-value', is only the reduplication of this definition in the operation of the code. It is at the level of the sign, never at the level of energy, that violence is fundamental. Even if the two were equivalent, even if salaries were abolished for the sale of labour power , man would still be marked by this axiom, by this destiny of production, by this sacrament of labour which sets him apart like a sex.
The worker is no longer a man, nor even a woman: it has its own sex, it is assigned this labour power as an end, and marked by it as a woman is marked by her sex her sexual definition , as a Black is by the colour of his or her skin all signs and nothing but signs.
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We must distinguish what belongs to the mode and what belongs to the code of production. Before becoming an element of the commodity law of value, labour power is initially a status, a structure of obedience to a code. Before becoming exchange -value or use-value, it is already, like any other commodity, the sign of the operation of nature as value, which defines production and is the basic axiom of our culture and no other.
This is confirmed in the constructionist mania for bulldozers, motorways, 'infrastructures', and in the civilising mania of the era of production, a mania for leaving no fragment unproduced, for countersigning everything with production, without even the hope of an excess of wealth. Producing in order to mark, producing in order to reproduce the marked man. What is production today apart from this terrorism of the code? This is as clear for us as it was for the first industrial generations, who dealt with machines as with an absolute enemy, harbingers of total destructuration, before the comforting dream of a historical dialectic of production developed.
The Luddite practices which arose everywhere to some extent, the savagery of attacking the instrument of production primarily attacking itself as the productive force , endemic sabotage and defection bear lengthy testimony to the fragility of the productive order.
Smashing machines is an aberrant act if they are the means of production, if any ambiguity remains over their future use- value. If, however, the ends of this production collapse, then the respect due to the means of production also collapses, and the machines appear as their true end, as direct and immediate operational signs of the social relation to death on which capital is nourished. Nothing then stands in the way of their destruction. In this sense, the Luddites were much clearer than Marx on the impact of the irruption of the industrial order, and today, at the catastrophic end of this process, to which Marx himself has misled us in the dialectical euphoria of productive forces, they have in some sense exacted their revenge.
We do not mean to invoke the prestige that may attach to a particular type of labour when we say that labour is a sign, nor even the sense of improvement signified by wage labour for the Algerian immigrant in relation to his tribal community, or for the Moroccan kid from the High Atlas Mountains whose only dream is to work for Simca, or for women in our own society. In this case, labour refers to a strict value: betterment or a different status.
On the contemporary stage, labour no longer emerges from this referential definition of the sign. There is no longer any proper signification of a particular type of labour or of labour in general, but a system of labour where jobs are exchanged. No more 'right man in the right place', 5 an old adage of the scientific idealism of production. There are no more interchangeable but indispensable individuals in a determinate labour process, since the labour process itself has become interchangeable: mobile, polyvalent and intermittent structures of absorption, indifferent to every object and even to labour itself, when understood according to its classical operation and applied solely to localise each individual within a social nexus where nothing converges except perhaps within the immanence of this operational matrix, an indifferent paradigm which identifies every individual according to a shared radical, or a syntagma which links them into an indefinite combinatory mode.
Wherever there are people, they must be fixed, whether in schools, factories, on the beach, in front of the TV, or being retrained. Generalised and permanent mobilisation. Such labour is not, however, productive in the sense of 'original': it is nothing more than the mirror of society, its imaginary, its fantastic reality principle.
Perhaps its death drive. Your quotidian roots are no longer savagely ripped up in order to hand you over to the machine you, your childhood, your habits, your relationships, your unconscious drives, and even your refusal to work are integrated into it. You will easily find a place for yourself amongst all of this, a personalised job, or, failing that, there is a welfare provision calculated according to your personal needs.
In any case, you will no longer be abandoned, since it is essential that everyone be a terminal for the entire system, an insignificant terminal, but a term none the less not an inarticulate cry, but a term of the langue and at the terminus of the entire structural network of the language. The very choice of work, the Utopia of a tailor-made job, signifies that the die is cast, that the structure of absorption is total. Labour power is no longer brutally bought and sold, it is designed, marketed and turned into a commodity production re- enters the sign system of consumption.
An initial step of this analysis was to conceive the sphere of consumption as an extension of the sphere of the forces of production. We must now do the reverse. The entire sphere of production, labour and the forces of production must be conceived as collapsing into the sphere of 'consumption', understood as the sphere of a generalised axiomatic, a coded exchange of signs, a general lifestyle.
In this way knowledge, the sciences, attitudes D. Verres, he discours du capitalisme [Paris: L'herne, ], p. We must put a stop to this waste. The imagination should be realised as a force of production, it should be invested. The slogan of technocracy is: 'Power to the Imagination! The same goes for the unconscious, the revolution, and so on. True, all this is in the process of being 'invested' and absorbed into the sphere of value, but not so much market value as accountable value; that is, it is not mobilised for the sake of production, but indexed, allocated, summoned to play the part of a functional variable.
It has become not so much a force of production as several pieces on the chessboard of the code, caught in the same game-rules. The axiom of production now tends to be reduced to factors, the axiom of the code reduces everything to a variable. This goes much further than Taylorism, or the Scientific Organisation of Labour SOL , but its spectre marks an essential milestone of investment by the code. Two phases can be distinguished.
The 'pre-scientific' phase of the industrial system, characterised by maximum exploitation of labour power, is succeeded by the phase of machinery and the preponderance of fixed capital, where 'objectified labour appears not only in the form of product, or of the product employed as the means of labour, but in the form of the force of production itself Marx, Grundrisse [tr.
Martin Nicolaus, Harmonds worth: Penguin, ], p. This accumulation of objectified labour which supplants living labour as a force of production is subsequently multiplied to infinity by the accumulation of knowledge: 'The accumulation of knowledge and of skill, of the general productive forces of the social brain, is thus absorbed into capital, as opposed to labour, and hence appears as an attribute of capital, and more specifically of fixed capital' ibid.
In the phase of machinery, the scientific apparatus, the collective labourer and the SOL, the 'production process has ceased to be a labour process in the sense of a process dominated by labour as its governing unity' ibid. There is no longer any 'original' force of production, only a general machinery transforming the forces of production into capital; or, rather, a machinery which manufactures both the force of production and labour power. The whole social apparatus of labour is forestalled by this operation. The collective machinery has begun to produce social goals directly, and this is what produces production.
As I propelled the car at fifty miles an hour along the open deck of the overpass Vaughan arched his back and lifted the young woman into the full glare of the headlamps behind us. Her sharp breasts flashed within the chromium and glass cage of the speeding car.
Vaughan's strong pelvic spasms coincided with the thudding passage of the lamp standards anchored in the overpass at hundred-yard intervals. As each one approached his hips kicked into the girl, driving his penis into her vagina, his hands splaying her buttocks to reveal her anus as the yellow light filled the car. Here, all the erotic vocabulary is technical: not ass, prick, or cunt, but anus, rectum, penis, vulva.
No slang, no intimacy in the sexual violence, only functional language: equivalency of chrome and mucous membranes. And it is the same with the congruity of death and sex: rather than being described with pleasure, they are melded together into a kind of highly technical construct. No sexual pleasure, just discharge, plain and simple.
And the copulations and semen which fill this book have no more sensual value than the outlines of wounds have the value of violence, even metaphorical. They are only signatures. In the final scene, the narrator imprints a number of wrecked cars with his semen-soaked hand. Sexual pleasure perverse or not has always been mediated by a technical apparatus, by a mechanical process, of real objects but most often of fantasies; it always involves an intermediary manipulation of scenes or gadgets.
Here, sexual pleasure is only climax; in other words, it operates on the same wave-length as the violence of a technical apparatus; the two are homogenized by technology and encapsulated into one object: the automobile. We had entered an immense traffic jam. From the junction of the motorway and Western Avenue to the ascent ramp of the flyover the traffic lanes were packed with vehicles, windshields leaching out the molten colours of the sun setting above the western suburbs of London.
Brake-lights flared in the evening air, glowing in the huge pool of cellulosed bodies. Vaughan sat with one arm out of the passenger window. He slapped the door impatiently, pounding the panel with his fist. To our right the high wall of a double-decker airline coach formed a cliff of faces. The passengers at the windows resembled rows of the dead looking down at us from the galleries of a columbarium.
The enormous energy of the twentieth century, enough to drive the planet into a new orbit around a happier star, was being expended to maintain this immense motionless pause. Around me, down the entire length of Western Avenue, along both ramps of the flyover, stretched an immense congestion of traffic held up by the accident.
Standing in the centre of this paralyzed hurricane, I felt completely at ease, as if my obsessions with the endlessly multiplying vehicles had at last been relieved. However, there exists another dimension in Crash which is inseparable from those mixing the technical and the sexual united in this mourning-less work of death : the dimension of photography and cinema.
The shining, saturated surface of traffic patterns and accidents is without depth, but it always takes on depth in the lens of Vaughan's movie camera. He collects and classifies stills of accidents, like ID cards. The continual rehearsal of the crucial event that he is plotting his automotive death and the simulated death of the movie star Elizabeth Taylor in a crash involving her, a crash meticulously simulated and perfected during the course of months takes place within the focus of the cinematographic.
This universe would be nothing without this hyper-realistic detached long-shot viewing angle. The added depth and the raising of the visual medium to the second order can, by itself, suffice to fuse together technology, sex, and death. But in fact, the photo here is neither a medium nor an order of representation. It is neither a "supplementary" abstraction of the image, nor a compulsion for spectacle, and the position of Vaughan is never that of a voyeur or a pervert. The roll of film like transistorized music in cars and apartments is part of the universal film of life, hyperreal, metallic, and corporal, made up of movement and flux.
The photo is no more a medium than is the technology or the body—all are simultaneous in this universe where the anticipation of an event coincides with its reproduction, and even with its "real" occurrence. Depth of time is abolished as well: much like the past, the future ceases to exist. Actually, it is the camera-eye which replaces time, along with all other expressions of depth like affectivity, space, language.
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- Seven Angels for Seven Days: A True Story of Mystery, Grief, Healing and Gods Amazing Faithfulness.
- Jean Baudrillard;
It is not an alternate dimension; it simply signifies that this universe is without secrets. The mannequin rider sat well back, the onrushing air lifting his chin. His hands were shackled to the handlebars like a kamikaze pilot's. His long thorax was plastered with metering devices. In front of him, their expressions equally vacant, the family of four manniquins sat in their vehicle. Their faces were marked with cryptic symbols. A harsh whipping noise came towards us, the sound of the metering coils skating across the grass beside the rail.
Jean Baudrillard and the Death of God
There was a violent metal explosion as the motorcycle struck the front of the saloon car. The two vehicles veered sideways towards the line of startled spectators. I regained my balance, involuntarily holding Vaughan's shoulder, as the motorcycle and its driver sailed over the bonnet of the car and struck the windshield, then careened across the roof in a black mass of fragments. The car plunged ten feet back on its hawsers. It came to rest astride the rails. The bonnet, windshield and roof had been crushed by the impact. Inside the cabin, the lopsided family lurched across each other, the decapitated torso of the front-seat woman passenger embedded in the fractured windshield.
The engineers waved to the crowd reassuringly and moved towards the motorcycle, which lay in its side fifty yards behind the car. They began to pick up the sections of the cyclist's body, tucking the legs and head under their arms. Shavings of fiberglass from its face and shoulders speckled the glass around the test car like silver snow, a death confetti Helen Remington held my arm.
She smiled at me, nodding encouragingly as if urging a child across some mental hurdle. They're showing it in slow-motion. In Crash , everything is hyper-functional: traffic and accidents, technology and death, sex and simulation are all like one single, huge synchronous machine.
It is the same universe as the hyper-market , where merchandise becomes hyper-merchandise—in other words, it and the entire atmosphere surrounding it are always already caught up in the continuous figures of circulation. But at the same time, the functionalism of Crash devours its own rationality, since it does not treat the dysfunctional. It is a radicalized functionalism, a functionalism that reaches its paradoxal limits and then burns them away. Thus, it becomes an undefinable object, and hence fascinating. Not good, not bad: ambivalent. Fiction going beyond reality or the inverse , but according to the same rules of the game.
In Crash , there is neither fiction nor reality—a kind of hyper-reality has abolished both. Even critical regression is no longer possible. This mutating and commutating world of simulation and death, this violently sexualized world totally lacking in desire, full of violent and violated bodies but curiously neutered, this chromatic and intensely metallic world empty of the sensorial, a world of hyper-technology without finality—is it good or bad? We can't say. It is simply fascinating, without this fascination implying any kind of value judgment whatsoever. And this is the miracle of Crash.
The moral gaze—the critical judgmentalism that is still a part of the old world's functionality—cannot touch it. Crash is hypercritical, in the sense of being beyond the critical and even beyond its own author, who, in the introduction, speaks of this novel as "cautionary, a warning against that brutal, erotic and overlit realm that beckons more and more persuasively to us from the margins of the technological landscape": Introduction to Crash 6.
Few books, few films attain this level of absence of all finality and critical negativity, this unpolished splendor of ordinariness and violence: Nashville , A Clockwork Orange. After Borges, but in a totally different register, Crash is the first great novel of the universe of simulation, the world that we will be dealing with from now on: a non-symbolic universe but one which, by a kind of reversal of its mass-mediated substance neon, concrete, cars, mechanical eroticism , seems truly saturated with an intense initiatory power.
The last of the ambulances drove away, its siren wailing. The spectators returned to their cars, or climbed the embankment to break in the wire fence. He thinks that such a liberation will keep certain elements of the repression of desire active. Baudrillard argues that the processes which operate collectively in indigenous groups are repressed into the unconscious in metropolitan societies. This leads to the autonomy of the psyche as a separate sphere. It is only after this repression has occurred that a politics of desire becomes conceivable.
He professes broad agreement with the Deleuzian project of unbinding energies from fixed categories and encouraging flows and intensities. However, he is concerned that capitalism can recuperate such releases of energy, disconnecting them so they can eventually reconnect to it. Unbinding and drifting are not fatal to capitalism, because capitalism itself unbinds things, and re-binds things which are unbound.
What is fatal to it is, rather, reversibility. Capitalism continues to be haunted by the forces it has repressed. Separation does not destroy the remainder. Quite the opposite. The remainder continues to exist, and gains power from its repression. This turns the double or shadow into something unquiet, vampiric, and threatening. It becomes an image of the forgotten dead.
Anything which reminds us of the repressed aspects excluded from the subject is experienced as uncanny and threatening. This is different from theories of lack, such as the Lacanian Real. It is the carrier of the force of symbolic exchange. Modern culture dreams of radical difference. The reason for this is that it exterminated radical difference by simulating it. The energy of production, the unconscious, and signification all in fact come from the repressed remainder.
Our culture is dead from having broken the pact with monstrosity, with radical difference. The West continues to perpetrate genocide on indigenous groups. But for Baudrillard, it did the same thing to itself first — destroying its own indigenous logics of symbolic exchange. Indigenous groups have also increasingly lost the symbolic dimension, as modern forms of life have been imported or imposed.
This according to Baudrillard produces chronic confusion and instability. Gift-exchange is radically subversive of the system. This is not because it is rebellious. Baudrillard thinks the system can survive defections or exodus. According to Baudrillard, the mediations of capitalism exist so that nobody has the opportunity to offer a symbolic challenge or an irreversible gift.
They exist to keep the symbolic at bay. The Church and State also exist based on the elimination of symbolic exchange. Baudrillard is highly critical of Christianity for what he takes to be a cult of suffering, solitude and death. He sees the Church as central to the destruction of earlier forms of community based on symbolic exchange. Baudrillard seems to think that earlier forms of the state and capitalism retained some degree of symbolic exchange, but in an alienated, partially repressed form.
In psychoanalysis, symbolic exchange is displaced onto the relationship to the master-signifier. Nonetheless, it retains some of its intensity and energy. Art, theatre and language have worked to maintain a minimum of ceremonial power. It is the reason older orders did not suffer the particular malaise of the present. It is easy to read certain passages in Baudrillard as if he is bemoaning the loss of these kinds of strong significations. But on closer inspection, this seems to be a misreading. Baudrillard is nostalgic for repression only to the extent that the repressed continued to carry symbolic force as a referential.
He is nostalgic for the return of symbolic exchange, as an aspect of diffuse, autonomous, dis-alienated social groups. According to Baudrillard, what we have lost above all in the transition to alienated society is the ability to engage in exchanges with death. Death should not be seen here in purely literal terms. Baudrillard specifies early on that he does not mean an event affecting a body, but rather, a form which destroys the determinacy of the subject and of value — which returns things to a state of indeterminacy.
Baudrillard certainly discusses actual deaths, risk-taking, suicide and so on. For instance, eroticism or sexuality is related to death, because it leads to fusion and communication between bodies. Sexual reproduction carries shades of death because one generation replaces another. Death refers to metamorphosis, reversibility, unexpected mutations, social change, subjective transformation, as well as physical death. According to Baudrillard, indigenous groups see death as social, not natural or biological. They see it as an effect of an adversarial will, which they must absorb.
And they mark it with feasting and rituals. This is a way of preventing death from becoming an event which does not signify. Such a non-signifying event is absolute disorder from the standpoint of symbolic exchange. For Baudrillard, the division between life and death is the original, founding opposition on which the others are founded. Today, nearly everyone belongs to one or another marked or deviant category. The original exclusion was of the dead — it is defined as abnormal to be dead.
This first split and exclusion forms the basis, or archetype, for all the other splits and exclusions — along lines of gender, disability, species, class, and so on. This discrimination against the dead brings into being the modern experience of death. Baudrillard suggests that death as we know it does not exist outside of this separation between living and dead.
The modern view of death is constructed on the model of the machine and the function. A machine either functions or it does not.