Category Archives: Technology
Posted by El Mono Liso
McKenzie Wark is originally from Newcastle, Australia, but moved to New York City in 2000. He is Professor of Media and Culture at Eugene Lang College the New School for the Liberal Arts and Professor of Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of several books including The Beach Beneath the Street.
C. Derick Varn: Recently, you mentioned in an interview on Douglas Lain’s Diet Soap that you didn’t think Marx had an understanding of theories of Information, such as that of McLuhan, and that limits a lot of Marxist answers to fundamental problems. However, there is something similar to information theory in the idea of the objectification of the commodity fetish (the abstract idea that is given material manifestation and then thus drives material production). Do you see a relationship between this theory of reification and information theory?
McKenzie Wark: Well, you could get a theory of anything out of reading Marx, or any other classic text, if you want to. You could get a theory of information out of Aristotle. You could get a theory of fly fishing out of The German Ideology. But my method is to ask: what would Marx do? I think he would read the technical literature on the subject, like Shannon and Weaver. I think he would read equivalent of the political economy journals of his time, like the Macy Conference proceedings. I think he would look for something like the Parliamentary reports on factory conditions, which in our time probably only comes out in court cases, and so on. He wasn’t just making notes on Hegel in his voluminous journals, he was also drawing steam engines. So I think we have to get away a bit from this text-grubbing approach to Marx, which is so utterly unmarxist, and study the forces at work in the class struggles of our time. We need the spirit of Marx to do that as well as the letter. Central here is the rise of a whole techne that barely existed in his time, the control technologies of the information age, which have so fundamentally reshaped the production process, not to mention its spatial distribution over the planet. Its what Norbert Weiner called the second industrial revolution.
C.D.V.: You have no argument from me on the focus of current conditions of life and its empirics. Why do you think Marxists have gotten away from going through the hard numbers? Furthermore, do you see this shift as a sign of developments within what you see as the information economy itself? Or to be put it simpler, is there something about the text focus that shows us something about our political reality today?
M.W.: The problem is more that the theoretical and empirical sides of Marxist work drifted too far away from each other. The intellectual division of labor as the university defines it edged out any other way of organizing the production of knowledge, such as around a common sense of struggle.
Perhaps the beginning of the end was Althusser. The doctrine of the ‘relative autonomy’ of the superstructures legitimated working on just one, and using the conceptual tools of a given discipline: economics, politics, culture. And of course in his universe philosophy retained a policing role overall in relation to method. For a while it was enabling, but then each of the separate bodies of Marxist work were absorbed by their respective disciplines.
I am of course in favor of a close reading of Marxist classics, but they have to be understood now as classics, as works of another time. They cannot be read philosophically, as Althusser did in his own disingenuous way. They are texts from a project that has to be re-imagiend in all its components.
First of all: I just don’t think we can assume that we are living in ‘capitalism’ as Marx defined it. Just exactly what kinds of mutations occurred in its form between the 1850s and our time? But to frame such a question one has to overcome the tremendous unthinking insistence by — of all people — ‘Marxists’ that nothing much has changed. Ironic given that “all that is solid melts into air.” And note that all I want is to ask the question; and yet the alleged Marxists keep telling me the answer in advance. This is scholasticism. It isn’t method.
C.D.V.: What can we learn about capitalism from information theory?
M.W.: If one were to root this in Marx it would be in something he mentions occasionally but does not yet grasp conceptually — the telegraph. He sees how it is part of an extension of the turbulence of capital in space, but he does not quite see its distinctiveness as part of the ensemble of technological changes going on around him in the mid to late nineteenth century.
The telegraph is really the first time that information can be mobilized at a different, and faster, speed, to any other kind of ‘thing’. Labor, commodities, munitions — all those things are moving rapidly by the railway age, at least along those vectors where there is a railway or a steamer. But information is suddenly moving even faster. Its the real beginning of the ‘market’ as an abstract, non-localized place. What Marx presciently describes as the ‘world market.’ But one not based on ‘adventure’, which was when merchants set off with stock not even knowing who or what they would trade with. The telegraph closes the era of adventure.
But the concept of information is not really going to appear until after world war two. And its connected to another dimension of information. The telegraph is what I would call an extensive vector. It enables information to move across broad spaces. It enables commodity markets to exist that are uncoupled from space yet still based on calculation rather than adventure. But there is also the intensive vector, which is the capacity to process information rather than merely compile it.
One of the first forms of which was the modern newspaper. Marx himself is a journalist of the telegraph era.Techniques of sorting and ordering these vast flows of information from remote sites is a nineteenth century invention. But the quantitative evaluation of information is another side to the intensive vector, and it takes a big step forward due to war time logistics and code breaking. People start using machines to find patterns in information.
Information theory arises out of the needs of managing production and distribution at new scales of complexity and over unprecedented territories. Control is vested much more in information than in the design of physical plant. The design of the labor process within the factory to extract maximum value was at the center of nineteenth century capitalism, and this is still being refined into the twentieth century. But the new kind of production and distribution circuits take full advantage of the intensive and extensive vector together. To the point where ownership and direct control of the factory becomes optional. (Samsung runs its own factories, but Apple does not).
C.D.V.: What do you think you can seem about possible post-capitalist futures through information theory?
M.W.: Like anything that emerges out of the development of the forces of production, one has to separate out the actual and potential powers of a technology. The tendency in what Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron used to call the “California Ideology” is to talk only of a potential, and to make that potential equivalent to some sort of free market libertarianism. The tendency on the left is to take those people at their word, and to merely address the negative side of that rather narrow understanding of potential. Its really striking how critics on the left often just take the Silicon valley mouthpieces at their word about the shiny free market future.
But I think there’s another way to go about it. And its to ask: who are the organic intellectuals of these new developments in the forces of production? One has to seek out people actively exploring the hidden potentials of information based technology. Yes, overall it is being used to control the labor process in ever widening and deepening patterns. Yes, it is being used to extract information from people’s nonwork activities and valorize it. But those uses are not identical to the potential of the technology itself. So in short, its about reconnecting Marxist thought with the leading sectors of workers, or as one might also call them — hackers.
For those who think everything about information technology is always evil, just remember that the only reason we know about climate change is because of the bringing together of the intensive and extensive vector. Its messy big data sets massaged via computer and put through models which simulate the laws of physics. And the result is robust science. We have a pretty good idea of what after Marx we could call the “metabolic rift” opening up through the displacement of carbon into the atmosphere.
At another scale altogether, if you look at Occupy Sandy, it turns out the be a counter-logitics exercise. Can we use mutual aid to start learning how to run infrastructure where both capital and the state are failing? But for that mutual aid to be effective takes a whole lot of information-based tools. Its a small thing, obviously, and does not confront the totality of — call it what you like — neoliberal or vectoral commodity production in all its flailing glory. But points to the kind of praxis we might need to develop when the current infrastructure starts to really fail. I think we’re going to need every tool we can get, no matter how embedded it is in the old regimes of accumulation, to start putting together coalitions of those who work with their hands and those who work with their heads in a common front to build again in the ruins of the old commodity economy.
C.D.V.: Do you think these counter-logistics movements could be scaled up to deal with problems the size of the ecological problems we have now?
M.W.: Well, we’ll see! In one way not. We really are sitting on top of a massive infrastructure that was built for a mode of production for which we are simply running out of planet. If you have ever seen an open-cut coal mine or a steel plant or have flown over the midwest and seen industrial agriculture — the scale of these things pretty reliably produces the feeling of the technological sublime. And we need not just other technologies but another mode of production — or maybe modes. So scale is a major problem for our times.
The importance of something like Occupy Sandy is on the one hand that it reveals the scale of that problem in negative. The gap between what can be done and what is to be done is always the space where critical thought happens. And its a school for techniques of organizing life and labor and the everyday otherwise.
And also — who knows? — the future might actually be about a more finely distributed network of finer links and nodes, rather than the massive hub-and-spoke approach of late capitalism. But one would want to sever that technical and geographic imagination from some of the ideological baggage that currently comes with it.
There’s always a difference between the space of possibility that a technology implies and its actual deployment within a given economic and cultural context. Technologies are usually brought out of the lab into the world to fight some war or other, be it actual war or economic war. But these things exceed their instrumentalization.
The tools for the kind of cybernetic socialism imagined, say, by Bogdanov in Red Star now actually exist. But it is as if we are caught in an additional regime of surplus extraction. The extraction of surplus information, and not just from labor, but from non-labor as well, from everyday life. At least a part of what is distinctive about Google for example as a business is the capture of surplus information.
But that’s not all these sorts of tools could do, and a different, more livable, more equitable organization of life is certainly an affordance of what half a century of information technology might enable. Classic case of the forces bumping up against the fetters of obsolete relations of production, although not quite as Marx imagined.
C.D.V.: To shift gears for a moment, I would like to ask you about what do you see as the limitations of left-wing imagination since Occupy?
W.M.:I’m a bit tired of ‘critiques’ of occupy by people who were not even there. I was myself only one of the crowd, a body, and only ‘part time’, as it were. Actually I spent more time writing in Zoccotti Park than anything — all three of my pieces where actually written there! That’s why they are rather abrupt — the battery does not last forever! And particularly in ‘This Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit’, which ended up in my book Telesthesia but circulates pretty freely as well, I wanted to concentrate on the ‘glass half full.’
I went to the launch of the latest issue of Tidal just last week, and I was impressed with some of the directions people were pressing an activist analysis. Looking at how the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian people, are increasingly controlled by debt. And I was particularly interested in the attempt to reach out to comrades in Detroit who have many decades now of organizing in the ruins of the old capitalist mode of production. What Grace Lee Boggs calls visionary organizing rather than protest organizing.
But I think one forward step would be to join up critical energies coming from the humanities and the technical fields again. It Happens intermittently: in the thirties, again in the seventies, and it needs to happen now. The mutual suspicion of these two domains is an effect of reification itself. So I would like to see something like Mike Cooley’s work, and the Lucas Aerospace Plan, but imagined for this whole, emerging, post-capitalist but still commodity and exploitative economy we are entering upon. Given current productive capacities, what other totality could this be? That strikes me as a key question for the times.
C.D.V.: Why do you think there is much more interest in Humanities on the academic spectrum of the left and seemingly less interest in sciences in the theoretical discourse? Do you think this is a large part of why there has been less thinking and writing on information theory in Marxist and post-Marxist circles?
M.W.: Its good to have a knowledge of Marxist philosophy, but one can only get so far reading ‘classical’ texts and interpreting the world through them. That way you end up often seeing what is old about the present moment and not what is new. You see how it still conforms in a large part to the analysis Marx makes in the 1850s. But then he was talking about emerging tendencies. You do this now and you see the residual ones more clearly than the new ones. And one is certainly not going to have much clarity on forces of production that did not exist in his time. One is in short going to see the thermodynamic economy rather than the information economy.
There’s several historical twists where the interest Marx and Engels had in all things technical gets downplayed and we end up with a Marxism of the residual superstructures (culture, politics, art, literature) rather than of the emerging technical forms.
One is Lenin seeing of his rival Bogdanov, and opting for Plekhanov’s rather dogmatic materialism rather than Bogdnaov’s open-ended critical theory of science — his ‘tektology’. Another is Lukacs’ polemics against ‘reified’ scientific knowledge — about which he actually knew very little. He does not see, dialectically, how his knowledge of the totality is also reification, in negative. There’s Althusser’s return, not to science but to the philosophy of science, and the ‘high’ sciences at that. And where incidentally philosophy still claims for itself a regulatory role.
Perhaps most important for our historical moment is that I think we are still in the shadow of the ‘western Marxism’ put together after the failure of the moment of ’68. A western Marxism that retreats to the superstructures. It curious how Perry Anderson can claim with a straight face that outside of historiography there is no English Marxism. He pretty much totally ignores the great anglophone marxist science culture of the 30s and 40s. It was rather Stalinist, so there were good reasons to slight them at the time. But those reasons no longer apply to us.
And, unfortunately, a ‘one-dimensional’ romantic anti-scientism took hold. This was not without its merits, but in our era of climate change denial and evolution denial, it is definitely time to ‘bend the stick’ (as Lenin would say!) back the other way. Of course actually existing science and technology are homologous with the commodity form, but so very obviously are culture and philosophy. Its time for the dissenters on both sides of the ‘two cultures’ to find each other. One step towards that might be a revisionist history of what i would prefer to call ‘Northern Marxism’, some of which i just sketched.
And that might clear some space. Not to go off and obsess about Cantorian set theory or magically withdrawing objects or some other distraction, but to look at the sciences and technologies that really did reshape both the world and our perception of it in the late twentieth century, of which information science is an element. There are some elements of this already, but the task would be i think to reimagine Marx’s 19th century critique of political economy as a 20th century critique of information science.
C.D.V.: Do you think that the last say five years and the reemergence of popular forms of Marxian discourse could open up a way out of the current malaise?
M.W.: I think its good that there’s been a revival of interest in Marxian discourse. There has also been a renewal that you can see going on in several directions. The critique of university, of precarious labor, of finance and debt, even of the new post-culture industry media. There’s also new theoretical work going on and also some interesting engagements with various past thinkers. There’s a more practical discourse going on connected to occupations as well. Its all good.
On the other hand there are some more etiolated philosophical trends that may not be so helpful. The task is to get out of philosophy, not to endlessly return to it. After Lukacs and Sartre, there may be diminishing returns in yet another return to Hegel, for instance.
Some future paths to explore might include looking back through the archive for paths not taken, which might be useful now in ways they did not appear to be at the time. Why did Merleau-Ponty have to say about nature? How can the ecological and the informational components of marxian critique be brought together? But I think in the end its the vitality of social movements that leads to the vitality of theory, and not the other way around.
Posted by El Mono Liso
I appreciate the many thoughtful responses to my quirky first post regarding reading Zerzan prior to going shopping at a big box store, especially skepoet2’s post. There is a lot to chew on there, and rather than spiral into back and forth contretemps, I thought I would try to clarify a little more what I meant in the initial post, and perhaps show my own hand concerning my opinions if they have not been sufficiently articulated.
First of all, some of my points concerning the division of labor should have highlighted better the problem at the international level, rather than just hypothetical questions as to who takes out the garbage. I think, for example, of Bolivian president Evo Morales’s overly simplified but still rather intriguing description of the causes of the economic crisis in the “developed world”:
There’s a crisis in the United States, there is a crisis in some countries of Europe. What conclusion do I reach: since they are not robbing us, since they are not looting us, there is crisis in the capitalist European countries, and we are lifting ourselves up… Now that they can’t steal, they are having an economic and fiscal crisis.
Read the rest of this entry →
Posted by stalinwasarobot
“You don’t know it, but you’re doing it.” – Karl Marx
“For example, in painting the form arises from abstract elements of line and color, while in cinema the material concreteness of the image within the frame presents – as an element – the greatest difficulty in manipulation.” -Eisenstein
Among the necessary tasks which communists must undertake in this wild, untamed new time is a renewal of critiques leveled at all art and media which is produced within the framework of bourgeois hegemony; in particular, we must begin a renewed campaign against literature and film — which undoubtedly act as one of the major sources of cultural interpellation. While this may be a conscious or unconscious effort, I have concerned here myself with establishing the beginnings of a critique towards film, and hope to expand upon it in greater detail throughout the works that will come after this one. It is a subject which, when time is permitting, has held a great deal of my recreational interest (specifically in those dreamy, prepolitical years of my adolescence). My main concern revolving around this cultural critique is that film is not only something which an enormous portion of the American masses come into contact with, it is something by which the whole of the Earth knows us by (especially with regards to our blockbuster films). This subject, of course, should be of immense interest to anyone looking to uphold or anyone looking to cast asunder said bourgeois cultural hegemony, and the fact that this hegemony exists at all should be considered a priori when moving forward with this particular intro, as well as the future works which I contribute in relation to this series
The school of thought from which I approach this work is, first and foremost, heavily influenced by mostly French thinkers (Barthes, Lacan with a heavier emphasis upon materialism, and Althusser) as the discipline in question, Apparatus Film theory, is almost entirely composed of such thinkers. Firstly, within the sphere of historical dialectical materialist thinking the goal of later pieces will surely be an effort at constructing a larger body of work which, eventually culminating in to what I hope will be a worthwhile indictment on the use of none other than the protagonist itself.
You see, being that individualism (or at least, selective individualism) is the dominant segment of thinking within the sphere of bourgeois cultural hegemony, I think it is no wonder that the exceedingly vast majority of film, and literature for that matter, requires the irrational protagonist (that is, the hero, in all it’s manifestations, flawed or otherwise) as a main vehicle for narrative. Insofar as ones mind is driven towards the establishment of collective living, I think it neccessary that Communists begin the task of dissecting, and ultimately, destroying the protagonist as one of the sole means of narrative. It is a daunting task, of course, one which I shall spend a great deal of time upon, and shall attentively study what topics I encounter before posting further works on the matter, yet like this is the case with all tasks lying at the forefront of all which radical thinkers must contend with. And more than a mere critique of the modern film industry, I hope to comb through the historical tendencies in film (those which have persisted through the years, those that have been discarded) in order to try and firmly grasp an understanding of the medium of film as it currently exists.
First, to establish the tone of this and future works, I will maintain the Althusserian view that film, of course, is apart of the vast network of ideological tools which inoculates the masses for a certain mode of thinking.
To quote Althusser, film is a part of the system in which “…all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects”.
Viewing the phenomena of film through this prism, one is almost certainly going to find themselves at odds with the orthodox, petty-bourgeois view of film historians who’s historical logic is quite mired in formalism and Auteuristic thinking. As such, the view that, whether consciously or unconsciously, film produced in a bourgeois framework is inevitably gong to produce reactionary sentiments will always clash with the old guard of film theory (which, in the Western world, is vigilantly watching over the camp of formalist narrative). In an effort to unearth the many reactionary social relations which are exemplified in film, the tool which is the protagonist appears to us as among the most important.
I maintain this because the near-universal prevalence of the individual protagonist epitomizes the grotesquely American mentality of ”rugged individualism”, which daily haunts the efforts of proletarian artistic ambition — along with many other material factors (namely, economic opportunity, but that is a discussion for another time). Communists who are seeking to combat the cultural hegemony at work should not be bashful in their ambitions or in stating their intentions; rather, we should throw ourselves headfirst into the vast sea of historical tendencies towards reaction, which is heavily strewn throughout the pathos of cinema. With this, we should of course be reexamining our understanding of the Lacanian ”gaze”, and beyond the hopelessly amorphous Zizekian reasoning towards it.
The notion of the lone, individual hero, while almost omnipresent, is not a universal phenomena (for instance, in the television series the Wire there was not a heavy emphasis upon an individual protagonist, placing emphasis instead upon the totality of the city of Baltimore itself). There have been numerous and noteworthy examples coming from early Russian and Soviet cinema, particularly in the literary tradition of Ostrovsky as well as the cinematic tradition of earlier Eisenstein, all the way to the achievements in Chinese cinema under the pre-Dengist CCP. Elsewhere, there were some minute attempts towards protagonist deconstruction or even outright destruction in the Situationist movement, albeit with often mixed to mediocre results in terms of conveying this kind of thinking to the spectator (the subject, after all).
However, as we all surely understand, the vast majority of cinema, and quite nearly a hundred percent of what comes out of the West, depends upon narratives which are entirely driven by the tragedy and triumph of the individual, even when the suffering of the masses is present in the backdrop. It is nearly an inescapable phenomena, even in the most beautiful of cinematic pieces; from Delluc’s La Femme de nulle part, to Kuleshov’s We From the Urals, all the way up to a modern masterpiece such as Children of Men. Such a thing may very well help compose the essence of art under the hegemony of bourgeois reaction, wherein art (like all things) can very rarely escape the cultural artifacts which to make up the fabric of our interpersonal relations. Knowing this, it is simply a matter of nitpicking films which seem to speak to a revolutionary collective mindset (which would require the employ of opinionated metaphysics) and we instead must take up this sword of Democles against all cinema which has been produced in correspondence with the capitalist mode of production. We must do so with the full knowledge that destruction of the protagonist has only been done in the guise of experimentation, applied in practice with a ”touch-and-go” mentality — without ever once piercing the hull of mainstream, philistine cinema.
No doubt we shall encounter those more or less unversed in the now all too esoteric radical modes of thinking who will ask, ”Why is this, the destruction of the protagonist, of such artistic importance?”
Really, we must answer as honestly as we can by acknowledging, as I have stated, the fundamental use of film as an apparatus, especially in the context of this era. The fascistic drive towards focusing upon the individual hero, of the Overman protagonist, relies upon several subjective human experiences which, in turn, give it potency (various emotional responses, particularly pride, fear and anger). It can often be strange phenomena which, as Laura Mulvey has pointed out, can induce a sort of transsexual identification in the case of female protagonists in films geared towards male demographics, or vice versa (whenever the particular plot or target audience demands this be the case).
This is due not only to the conscious efforts of the studio itself seeking to convey a certain feeling upon the spectator (mostly in the name of profit and Capital, something which destroys the notion of total Auteuristic validity) but it is also due in part to the condition of individualism which is already present in the spectator. In this way, cinema and spectator (object and subject) can very often influence one another while the axis of ”the gaze” remains present. What film produced in bourgeois society does is to (again, consciously or unconsciously) come to terms with the condition of atomization which all those living in modernity experience. This is part of the Althusserian assertion of bourgeois hegemony being conveyed through film, i.e. the hero overcoming the adverse conditions which befall them, often or always upon the basis of their own merit. This should be a familiar mantra, something which the bourgeois state and cultural apparatus daily instills into our heads from the second we enter schooling to the second we are no longer a viable source of producing surplus value.’ And what a convenient narrative it is — and in film, it is forced upon the spectator in the form of that archetypical Ubermenschian who breathes ”the thinnest air of the highest peaks” (to paraphrase Nietzsche) in order to see above the rabble, and the struggle to do so almost always forms the fictional narrative itself. Shouldering this burden, however, are the masses who week-after-week spend countless man hours upon film, flocking into crowded theaters, or increasingly, hiding away in their living rooms or in front of their computer screens, to witness film after film made up almost entirely of grandiose fiction about (obviously) unrealistic heroic peaks. Perhaps this ethos of cinema is most apparent at the moment in the highly entertaining but nevertheless fascistic Django Unchained.
While this piece is intended to be a mere introduction to further periodicals on this subject, I think it’s important to begin the dialogue on this matter. In order to ascertain a bold, new and unflinching proletarian outlook upon the development of film, we who are captivated by this topic must go back through the annals of cinematic history — to the beginning, and back up again. Yet, it is not merely enough to draw upon hitherto established tendencies from the early Eisensteinian (breaking with films such as Ivan the Terrible for both it’s reactionary nationalism as well as raw individualism) or other traditions in the same vein (although that is of critical importance) but we must also travel down new, untested roads which confront the ever-present struggle betwixt the object and subject in the context of cinema. Our (that is to say, we Communists) central task being the confrontation of all things stemming from bourgeois hegemony, then a critical dialectical understanding of film in all its manifestations (film being at the forefront of consumable media) requires our immediate attention. In turn, the cultural vanguard elements, moving along with the masses, must gaze suspiciously unto the hero who confronts us with his harsh individualism. From the director to the protagonist, this sentiment, along with it’s callous disregard for the masses who inevitably are the source of all materials, must eventually be set aside and left at the door for broader horizons to open up before us. The fictional hero, who spreads his wings and soars overhead of the narrative (apart of it, but somehow, also above it) must be done away with. Whether this process is apart of the revolution itself or it forms the way in which the masses prepare for such an event is of no consequence. What matters is that it eventually reach a quantitative-qualitative conclusion, departing from the current (and now, increasingly artistically destructive) way in which a story is told.
These things being said, one of the central tasks of these coming pieces will not only be the opening up dialogue on the destruction of the protagonist of modernity but differentiating it from the hero-myths of past narrative — albeit, the latter is not something we can return to. However, as I will explore in later pieces, I think there is a stark difference between the cultural functions of the Achilles or Liu Bei archetypes, and the John McLeans or Jason Bournes (to name but two philistine examples). Of the former, it can be said that whether or not the character in question is derived from actuality (which very often they were) is of no consequence; rather, we must look at individual heros of antiquity as cultural summations which reflect not only a different mode of production (all cultural activity inevitably correspond with this) but also a different outlook on existence altogether. The hero of Hellenic or Asiatic antiquity does not work in spite of the environment from which he is produced, and when the hero does undertake such folly, it often leads to their demise. This is opposed to the modern incarnation of heroism, where in the realm of cinema, the role is taken one step further, and all things are done in spite of the environment from which the narrative is produced. Again, this struggle may compose the very story itself.
I highlight this difference and will continue to do so because it reflects the essential point of this piece; ideology, and it’s inevitable place spellbinding us in various artistic mediums. While I do not harbor any reactionary sentiment towards the heroic culture of old, understanding the contrasting functions which these two manifestations of story-telling is essential to understanding that cinema has become a medium of irrational individualism, as have most artistic ambitions in the framework of Capital.
If we are not yet prepared to begin the task of destroying the protagonist, which is something I would not hesitate to admit, then we must at least be honest with ourselves relative to the function of the protagonist in modern cinema. The pieces which will follow this, I hope, can serve as a catalyst for this necessary dialogue, which has considerably waned in intensity since the days of Lacan and Althusser, having only been recently employed by the likes of Slavoj Zizek, who’s clumsy analysis of it all has sent us looking further into the darkness. And while one has to begrudgingly admire Zizek for such efforts amidst the grim, lifeless state which academic study towards the subject is in, we simply have to push further towards a new, proletarian understanding of film, and art in general.