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in Filmmaking
on Jan 18, 2010

Well, not really but sort of…

While researching an article I’m writing, I came across this trenchant passage by critical theorist Frederic Jameson in the foreword to the U.S. edition of Jacques Attali’s 1977 music manifesto Noise: The Political Economy of Music:

“Not the least challenging challenging of Attali’s thought lies in his tough-minded insistence on the ambiguity, or better still, the profound ambivalence, of the new social, economic and organizational possibilities, which he often describes in terms of autosurveillance. From one perspective, autosurveillance marks the penetration of information technology within the body and the psyche of the individual subject: it implies a diffusion of computers on a generalized scale and a kind of passive replication of their programs by the individual, most visibly in the areas of education and medicine. Under autosurveillance, capital and the state no longer have anything to do with you, because you have learned to do it to yourself.

But “doing it to yourself” also implies knowing how to “do it for yourself,” and the new technology is at least neutral to the degree that it could also, conceivably, be used for a collective political project of emancipation. Both dystopia and utopia are thus contained in the new forms as possibilities that only political praxis can decide. For Attali’s sense of social transformation is informed by the idea that radical change, the emergence of radically new social relations, is possible only as a result of the preexistence and the coincidence of three basic factors: “a new technology capable of reducing the costs of reorganization, financial resources (or an accumulation of new capital) available for the latter’s utilization, and the existence of a social group with both the interest and the power to utlizize such financial resources and to put the new technology to work.” The more properly socialist or political component of what might otherwise pass for a technolocratic vision of change is secured by the stress on this last factor — on the existence and praxis of a new groupe moteur, or “subject of history.”

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