Surrealpolitik

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  1. "What do you expect -- for me to send him our condolences, invite him for coffee, tell him how much I regret his having implored us to swallow him before anyone else did? Zummerling, for instance? The fact is that Blume prefers to be swallowed by us. He won't be short of money, he can even keep the old family house. Only his work, the liberal tradition -- that I can't give back to him, no one can give it back to him...Disgrace, yes, of course, it's a disgrace, but just ask the two Amplangers whether the feel any disgrace. Young Amplanger will tell you: 'Is it a disgrace for a chicken to pick up a grain thrown to it?'

    Source: The Safety Net, p. 109
  2. 'Being realistic' may once have meant coming to terms with a reality experienced as solid and immovable. Capitalist realism, however, entails subordinating oneself to a reality that is infinitely plastic, capable of reconfiguring itself at any moment. We are confronted with what Jameson, in his essay 'The Antinomies of the Postmodern', calls 'a purely fungible present in which space and psyches alike can be processed and remade at will'...How could it ever be possible for us to believe successive or even co-extensive stories that so obviously contradict one another? Yet we know from Kant, Nietzsche and psychoanalysis that waking, as much as dreaming, experience, depends upon just such screening narratives. If the Real is unbearable, any reality we construct must be a tissue of inconsistencies. What differentiates Kant, Nietzsche and Freud from the tiresome cliché that 'life is but a dream' is the sense that the confabulations we live are consensual. The idea that the world we experience is a solipsistic delusion projected from the interior of our mind consoles rather than disturbs us, since it conforms with our infantile fantasies of omnipotence; but the thought that our so-called interiority owes its existence to a fictionalized consensus will always carry an uncanny charge.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 54-56
  3. The victim is a surplus taken from the mass of useful wealth. And he can only be withdrawn from it in order to be consumed profitlessly, and therefore utterly destroyed. Once chosen, he is the accursed share, destined for violent consumption. But the curse tears him away from the order of things; it gives him a recognizable figure, which now radiates intimacy, anguish, the profundity of living beings.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 59
  4. A second secret element is the clandestine headquarters, which should consist of a 'tiny number of men' who were willing and prepared to undertake 'more or less concerted action' (Mariën, 1989: 67). As a first task, the group should produce a basic liquid capital required for initiating the campaign. To this purpose, Mariën’s (1989) envisages 'real' terrorist acts:

    "[T]he single opportunity to procure that money obviously consists in getting it there, where it is. [...] A blade against the throat, the threat of some Asian torture as well as hostage-taking would make each bank manager a precious and entirely compliant auxiliary tool. [...] Employees and customers [...] are not at all prepared to resist the onslaught of machine pistols, hand grenades, teargas or, if necessary, flamethrowers." (pp.122, 127)

    Source: Surrealistic communication as symbolic terrorism: The example of Marcel Mariën’s theory of political campaigning, p. 197
  5. After the rupture with the PCF as recorded in the still magnificent document 'Du temps que les surréalistes avaient raison' (1935), the Surrealists joined with Georges Bataille in 1935 to form a radical left non-party formation named Contre-Attaque: Union de luttes des intellectuels révolutionnaires, not only to challenge the Party but to explore 'the continuation of politics by other means' (Bataille). in so doing, both Bataille and Beton are clear that the creation of the Front Popular in 1935 would not in itself be sufficient to bring about the kind of radical transformation of values that would alone suffice: it is not merely a rejection of capitalism and the bourgeoisie that would be required, but a fundamental change in the values and conceptions of reason that had informed Western and European self-understanding, the very values which, Nietasche and Valéry had argued in a manner definitive for the Surrealist generation, were also the basis of European nihilism.

    From chapter: Failure and Community: Preliminary Questions on the Political in the Culture of Surrealism, M. Stone-Richards
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 302
  6. Alienation defines the totality whose perpetuation rests on turning people into things -- or reification. Capitalism increasingly strips human being soy their humanity. It treats the real subject engaged in the production of commodities (the proletariat) as an object even as it turns the real object of its productive activity (capital) into the fictive subject of modern life. Inverting this "inverted world" -- an idea that Marx borrowed from Hegel -- is possible only by abolishing what in Das Kapital is termed "commodity fetishism." Or putting it somewhat differently, abolishing alienation calls for abolishing reification.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 40
  7. Amplanger senior had long been representing Bleibl's interests. He was no longer himself, he was merely the image of himself: irreplaceable as an image; had allowed himself to be deceived by an ever-increasing income, by a proliferating fortune -- there must be something very mysterious in Blurtmehl's hands for him to arrive at such insights under those hands, whereas Grebnitzer, even during long sessions of questioning, never penetrated to the heart of the problem. After all, there was nothing organic to discover, he had never had a heart attack, even his blood count was excellent -- ad yet there was that lead, that chill, in his limbs. Sometimes he actually feared a total paralysis when seated there t his desk powerless "at the power center, at the very heart of capitalism," while his fortune proliferated and he was anxiously concerned not to let a single cigarette "go to waste."

    Source: The Safety Net, p. 44
  8. An embittered traveling textile salesman who had been imprisoned by the Jacobins and later spied on by the secret police apparatuses of Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration, Fourier felt that he understood the ways that the Enlightenment's revolutionary ideals could be hijacked to serve tyrants and capitalists. The alienating tedium of work, the criminal waste of overproduction, and the ugly violence of destitution and class oppression seemed to multiply rather than diminish under this new world order. Fourier was disgusted by the degree to which people's lives could be ruined by an emerging class of professional profiteers and financial speculators and prophetically foretold of a coming age of inequity and misery built by the opaque mechanisms of a so-called 'free' market.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 272
  9. Breton...raises the stakes of Nadja's momentary recourse to cold-blooded murder in stating that "the simplest surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd."...The difficult part of revolution is not its violence; indeed, Breton suggests that violence is all too simple. What is difficult is the full realization of a project of emancipation that extends to all facets of life, and that places the most extreme demands on its practitioners. Revolution, Breton writes in the Second Manifesto, requires the kind of commitment to the overthrow of bourgeois capitalism that can be experienced only as a despair so strong as to render extremism imaginable...Breton's most notorious statement, in other words, invokes murder not as an extension of surrealism's alleged methodism into the field of political violence, but as the hypothetical extreme that Breton claims to be the measure of surrealism's refusal to operate simply as a method, whether aesthetic, epistemological, or political.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 149-150
  10. But now as they decelerate down the last stretch of Route 27, she can only feel the narrowing of options -- it's all converging here, all Long Island, the defense factories, the homicidal traffic, the history of Republican sin forever unremitted, the relentless suburbanizing, miles of mowed yards, contractor hardpan, beaverboard and asphalt shingling, treeless acres, all concentrating, all collapsing, into this terminal toehold before the long Atlantic wilderness.

    Source: Bleeding Edge, p. 191
  11. But the reduction of "that which is" to the order of things is not limited to slavery. Slavery is abolished, but we ourselves our aware of the aspects of social life in which man is relegated to the level of things, and we should know that this relegation did not await slavery. From the start, the introduction of labor into the world replaced intimacy, the depth of desire and its free outbreaks, with rational progression, where what matters is no longer the truth of the present moment, but, rather, the subsequent results of operations. The first labor established the world of things, to which the profane world of the Ancients generally corresponds. Once the world of things was posited, man himself became one of the things of this world, at least for the time in which he labored. It is this degradation that man has always tried to escape. In his strange myths, in his cruel rites, man is in search of a lost intimacy from the first.

    Religion is this long effort and this anguished quest: It is always a matter of detaching from the real order, from the poverty of things, and of restoring the divine order.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 57
  12. Capitalism is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 4
  13. Capitalism, bureaucracy, and science -- all expressions of instrumental rationality -- constitute the real core of Enlightenment. They turn nature into an object of use, progress into alienation, and freedom into control. Autonomy is a nuisance and critique is a threat. Enlightenment may be associated with such ideals. But its real goal is standardization and control. In the name of liberation, its advocates wound up fostering a rationality of technical domination. The irrational beliefs that the Enlightenment originally sought to destroy thus reappeared as its own products.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 55
  14. Classical economy imagined the first exchanges in the form of barter. Why would it have thought that in the beginning a mode of acquisition such as exchange had not answered the need to acquire, but rather the contrary need to lose or squander? The classical conception is now questionable in a sense.

    The "merchants" of Mexico practiced the paradoxical system of exchanges that I have described as a regular sequence of gifts; these customs, not barter, in fact constituted the archaic organization of exchange. Potlatch, still practiced by the Indians of the Northwest Coast of America, is its typical form...Potlatch is, like commerce, a means of circulating wealth, but it excludes bargaining. More often than not it is the solemn giving of considerable riches, offered by a chief to his rival for the purpose of humiliating, challenging and obligating him. The recipient has to erase the humiliation and take up the challenge; he must satisfy the obligation that was contracted by accepting. He can only reply, a short time later, by means of a new potlatch, more generous than the first: He must pay back with interest.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 67-68
  15. Corporate anti-capitalism wouldn't matter if it could be differentiated from an authentic anti-capitalist movement. Yet, even before its momentum was stalled by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the so-called anti-capitalist movement seemed also to have conceded too much to capitalist realism. Since it was unable to posit a coherent alternative political-economic model to capitalism, the suspicion was that the actual aim was not to replace capitalism but to mitigate its worst excesses; and, since the form of its activities tended to be the staging of protests rather than political organization, there was a sense that the anti-capitalism movement consisted of making a series of hysterical demands which it didn't expect to be met. Protests have formed a kind of carnivalesque background noise to capitalist realism, and the anti-capitalist protests share rather too much with hyper-corporate events like 2005's Live 8, with their exorbitant demands that politicians legislate away poverty.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 14
  16. Deleuze is right to argue that Kafka is the prophet of distributed, cybernetic power that is typical of Control societies. In The Trial, Kafka importantly distinguishes between two types of acquittal available to the accused. Definite acquittal is no longer possible, if it ever was ("we have only legendary accounts of ancient cases [which] provide instances of acquittal'). The two remaining options, then, are (1) 'Ostensible acquittal', in which the accused is to all intents and purposes acquitted, but may later, at some unspecified time, face the charges in full, or (2) 'Indefinite postponement', in which the accused engages in (what they hope is an infinitely) protracted process of legal wrangling, so that the dreaded ultimate judgement is unlikely to be forthcoming. Deleuze observes that the Control societies delineated by Kafka himself, but also by Foucault and Burroughs operate using indefinite postponement: Education is a lifelong process..Training that persists for as long as your working life continues...Work you take home with you... Working from home, homing from work. A consequence of this 'indefinite' mode of power is that external surveillance is succeeded by internal policing. Control only works if you are complicit with it.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 22
  17. Democracy is more than voting; it's having the information to vote.

    Source: Vulture's Picnic, p. 110
  18. Despite [Breton and Trotsky's] effort to find a common platform in 'For An Independent Revolutionary Art', one that would combine theory and practice, what begins to emerge instead, both in the manifesto and in other related essays, are the fundamental differences in their basic conceptions of imperialist capitalism and how to combat it in order to set up a socialist sate...[Surrealism's] interactions with trotskyist groups...stem back to the heated arguments between Breton and Pierre Naville in the mid-1920s. Saville, originally a member of Breton's coterie, left Surrealism for the Communist Party in 1926 after experiencing one of Breton's notorious personal attacks. That year he published a pamphlet, La Révolution et les intellectuals. Que peuvent-faire les Surréalistes?, in which he argued that Surrealism and Marxism were incompatible, as the Surrealists were too individualist and bourgeois to contribute to the collective, 'disciplined action of class struggle' necessary to overthrow capitalism. Breton responded in December 1926 with Légitime défense, which rebutted not only Naville's attack but also the refusal of the entire Communist Party to take Surrealism seriously.

    From chapter: Robin Adele Greeley, For an Independent Revolutionary Art: Breton, Trotsky and Cárdenas's Mexico
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 205-206
  19. Discussions of Operation Gladio, the JFK assassination, and 9/11 and similar "conspiracy" discussions are like the dark matter of public discourse. We know they are there, but we can't find them. They're hidden. It's the one part of oppositional discourse that has not been integrated. Instead it is marginalized. This is why I'm studying it. Find the thing the system cannot tolerate. Show why it should be discussed, discuss why it cannot be discussed.

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  20. False choice in spectacular abundance...develops into a struggle of vaporous qualities meant to stimulate loyalty to quantitative triviality.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 62
  21. For Lacan, the Real is what any 'reality' must suppress; indeed, reality constitutes itself through just this repression. The Real is an unrepresentable X, a traumatic void that can only be glimpsed in the fractures and inconsistencies in the field of apparent reality. So one strategy against capitalist realism could involve invoking the Real(s) underlying the reality that capitalism presents to us.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 18
  22. Foucault famously observes that there is no need for the place of surveillance to actually be occupied. The effect of not knowing whether you will be observed or not produces an introjection of the surveillance apparatus. You constantly act as if you are always about to be observed.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 52
  23. Gift-giving has the virtue of a surpassing of the subject who gives, but in exchange for the object given, the subject appropriates the surpassing: He regards his virtue, that which he had the capacity for, as an asset, as a power that he now possesses. he enriches himself with a contempt for riches, and what he proves to be miserly of is in fact his generosity.

    But he would not be able by himself to acquire a power constituted by a relinquishment of power: IF he destroyed the object in solitude, in silence, no sort of power would result from the act; there would not be anything for the subject but a separation fro power without any compensation. But if he destroys the object in from of another person or if he gives it away, the one who gives has actually acquired, in the other's eyes, the power of giving or destroying...He is rich for having ostentatiously consumed what is wealth only if it is consumed.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 69
  24. Gift-giving is not the only form of potlatch: A rival is challenged by a solemn destruction of riches. In principle, the destruction is offered to the mythical ancestors of the donee; it is little different from a sacrifice. As recently as the nineteenth century a Tlingit chieftain would sometimes go before a rival and cut the throats of slaves in his presence. At the proper time, the destruction was repaid by the killing of a large number of slaves. The Chukchee of the Siberian Northeast have related institutions. They slaughter highly valuable dog teams, for it is necessary for them to startle, to stifle the rival group. The Indians of the Northwest Coast would set fire to their villages or break their canoes to pieces. They have emblazoned copper bars possessing a fictive value (depending on how famous or how old the coppers are): Sometimes these bars are worth a fortune. They throw them into the sea or shatter them.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 68
  25. Hyperreality and simulation are deterrents of every principle and every objective, they turn against power the deterrent that it used so well for such a long time. Because in the end, throughout its history it was capital that first fed on the destructuration of every referential, of every human objective, that shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. Capital was the first to play at deterrence, abstraction, disconnection, deterritorialization, etc., and if it is the one that fostered reality, the reality principle, it was also the first to liquidate it by exterminating all use value, all real equivalence of production and wealth, in the very sense we have of the unreality of the stakes and the omnipotence of manipulation. Well, today is is this same logic that is even more set against capital. And as soon as it wishes to combat this disastrous spiral by secreting a last glimmer of reality, on which to establish a last glimmer of power, it does nothing but multiply the signs and accelerate the play of simulation.

    Source: Simulacra and Simulation, p. 22
  26. I learned that, at Fukushima, at least two of the diesels failed before the tsunami hit. What destroyed those diesels was turning them on. In other words, the diesels are junk, are crap, are not capable of getting up to full power in seconds, then run continuously for days. They're decorations attached to nuclear plants so people will think these radioactive tea kettles are safe.

    Just testing them can damage them. There are alternatives to snap, crackle, pop diesels, but they can cost a billion dollars per station. And the operators have decided you're just not worth it.

    Sometimes the diesels work, sometimes they don't. It's meltdown roulette.

    'So, you're saying emergency diesels can't work in an emergency?'

    'Actually, they're just not designed for it.'

    Failure is in the design, the design of the political system, the corporate system. Instead of diesels, they might as well surround the plant with tin foil and Christmas wrapping. They are decorative, there to reassure a snoozy public that all is well. Much like BP's Clean-up Theater, this is the nuclear industry's Safety Showtime.

    Source: Vulture's Picnic, p. 344
  27. I want to emphasize that I view my main construction, "inverted totalitarianism," as tentative, hypothetical, although I am convinced that certain tendencies in our society point in a direction away from self-government, the rule of law, egalitarianism, and thoughtful public discussion, and toward what I have called "managed democracy," the smiley face of inverted totalitarianism.

    Source: Democracy Inc., p. xxiv
  28. If capitalist realism is so seamless, and if current forms of resistance are so hopeless and impotent, where can an effective challenge come from? A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalist realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism's ostensible 'realism' turns out to be nothing of the sort.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 16
  29. If the figure of discipline was the worker-prisoner, the figure of control is the debtor-addict...If, then, something like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a pathology, it is a pathology of late capitalism -- a consequence of being wired into the entertainment-control circuits of hypermediated consumer culture.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 25
  30. Imperialism, militarism, economic exploitation, patriarchal family structures, religious dogmatism, and the false needs generated by consumerism all render it irrational. Only a kind of primal guilt maintains the identification with its values and institutions.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 70
  31. In fact, capitalist realism is very far from precluding a certain anti-capitalism. After all, and as Žižek has provocatively pointed out, anti-capitalism is widely disseminated in capitalism. Time after time, the villain in Hollywood films will turn out to be the 'evil corporation'. Far from undermining capitalist realism, this gestural anti-capitalism actually reinforces it...What we have here is a vision of control and communication much as Jean Baudrillard understood it in which subjugation no longer takes the form of a subordination to an extrinsic spectacle, but rather invites us to interact and participate...A film like Wall-E exemplifies what Robert Pfaller has called 'interpassivity': the film performs our anti-capitalism for us, allowing us to continue to consume with impunity.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 12
  32. Instead of a Marxist view opposing a non-Marxist account as [historian Alan] Rose argues, what we have are two different modes of conceptualizing Marxism itself. On the one hand, Trotsky focused almost exclusively on the purportedly objective problem of economic exploitation, giving little thought to (among other things) exactly how culture or individual agency might actively be incorporated into Marxist theory. Breton and Surrealism, on the other hand, formed part of a Western Marxist tradition that saw true revolution as occurring on the level of culture as much as any other.

    From chapter: Robin Adele Greeley, For An Independent Revolutionary Art: Breton, Trotsky, and Cárdenas's Mexico
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 222-223
  33. It is necessary at this point to note a dual origin of moral judgments. In former times value was given to unproductive glory, whereas in our day it is measured in terms of production: Precedence is given to energy acquisition over energy expenditure. Glory itself is justified by the consequences of a glorious deed in the sphere of utility. But, dominated though it is by practical judgment and Christian morality, the archaic sensibility is still alive: In particular it reappears in the romantic protest against the bourgeois world; only in the classical conceptions of the economy does it lose its rights entirely.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 29
  34. It would be dangerous and misleading to imagine that the near past was some prelapsarian state rife with political potentials, so it's as well to remember the role that commodification played in the production of culture throughout the twentieth century. Yet the old struggle between detournement and recuperation, between subversion and incorporation, seems to have been played out. What we are dealing with now is not the incorporation of materials that previously seemed to possess subversive potentials, but instead, their precorporation: the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture. Witness, for instance, the establishment of settled 'alternative' or 'independent' cultural zones, which endlessly repeat older gestures of rebellion and contestation as if for the first time. 'Alternative' and 'independent' don't designate something outside mainstream culture; rather they are styles, in fact the dominant styles, within the mainstream.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 9
  35. Jameson famously claimed that postmodernism is the 'cultural logic of late capitalism'. He argued that the failure of the future was constitutive of a postmodern cultural scene which, as he correctly prophesied, would become dominated by pastiche and revivalism. Given that Jameson has made a convincing case for the relationship between postmodern culture and certain tendencies in consumer (or post-Fordist) capitalism, it could appear that there is no need for the concept of capitalist realism at all. In some ways, this is true. What I'm calling capitalist realism can be subsumed under the rubric of postmodernism as theorized by Jameson. Yet, despite Jameson's heroic work of clarification, postmodernism remains a hugely contested term, its meanings, appropriately but unhelpfully, unsettled and multiple. More importantly, I would want to argue that some of the processes which Jameson described and analyzed have now become so aggravated and chronic that they have gone through a change in kind.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 7
  36. Kafka was the greatest writer on bureaucracy because he saw that this structure of disavowal was inherent to bureaucracy. The quest to reach the ultimate authority who will finally resolve K's official status can never end, because the big Other cannot be encountered in itself: there are only officials, more or less hostile, engaged in acts of interpretation about...the big Other's intentions. And these acts of interpretation, these deferrals of responsibility, are all that the big Other is.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 49
  37. Like Freud's depiction of the dream-work as the condensed and distorted projection of unconscious wishes, Desnos's poetic and cinematic marvelous eluded the conventional censorship of commercial narratives. It described instead a space beyond good and evil that Desnos attempted, in turn, to reconcile with the real. This reconciliation, he argues in a 1924 essay, is the "revolutionary" goal of surrealism, and, more specifically, of surrealist ethics as "the sense of life and not the observance of human laws." Yet whereas Breton argued for the inextricability of socioeconomic revolution from a surrealist liberation of the mind, Desnos's understanding of revolution privileged the latter aim...Desnos writes:

    "They are a gang -- from the priest to the professor -- who invoke the spirit, who make a living from it, and who make it serve the lowest ends. It's against them, and against this deformed spirit, that the surrealists mean to fight. 'You claim to ruin bourgeois painting and yet you make paintings. Go and destroy the Louvre,' people told me on the way out of the surrealist exhibition. If we destroyed the paintings in the Louvre we would be individualists. Likewise you don't just go out and shoot fascist delegates. But you fight the capitalist spirit. Right now it's less a matter of carrying out revolution than of preparing for a battle of opinion."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 128-129
  38. Maxine can't avoid feeling nauseous at the possibility of some stupefied consensus about what life is to be, taking over this whole city without mercy, a tightening Noose of Horror, multiplexes and malls and big-box stores it only makes sense to shop at if you have a car and a driveway and a garage next to a house out in the burbs.

    Source: Bleeding Edge, p. 51
  39. Much of Baudrillard's work was a commentary on...the way in which the abolition of the Symbolic [i.e. in postmodernism] led not to a direct encounter with the Real, but to a kind of hemorrhaging of the Real...We ourselves occupy the empty seat of power, phoning and clicking in our responses. TV's Big Brother had superseded Orwell's Big Brother. We the audience are not subjected to a power that comes from outside; rather, we are integrated into a control circuit that has our desires and preferences as its only mandate -- but those desires and preferences are returned to us, no longer as ours, but as the desires of the big Other.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 48-49
  40. Once connected with the critique of religious prejudices and political authority, experimentation and the exercise of judgment, tolerance has turned into a bulwark for the status quo. Marcuse's argument once again relies on the idea that the medium is the message. Insofar as the culture industry presents all positions on any issue in a public forum, they all ultimately appear as having equal value. Tolerance as exhibited by the culture industry thus renders all truth claims relative -- or, better, turns their acceptance into a matter of taste. Now it is not just beauty but truth that lies in the eye of the beholder. What happened to art has happened to the discourse. Both become subordinate to the commodity form whereby qualitative turns into merely quantitative differences. When considering imperialism and war, or assaults on the welfare state and creationism, one stance is as good as another. The mass media renders resistance no more legitimate than support.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 85
  41. One might even say that potlatch is the specific manifestation, the meaningful form of luxury. Beyond the archaic forms, luxury has actually retained the functional value of potlatch, creative of rank. Luxury still determines the rank of the one who displays it, and there is no exalted rank that does not require a display. But the petty calculations of those who enjoy luxury are surpassed in every way. In wealth, what shines through the defects extends the brilliance of the sun and provokes passion. It is not what is imagined by those who have reduced it to their poverty; it is the return of life's immensity to the truth of exuberance. This truth destroys those who have taken it for what it is not; the least that one can say is that the present forms of wealth make a shambles and a human mockery of those who think they own it. In this respect, present-day society is huge counterfeit, where this truth of wealth has underhandedly slipped into extreme poverty. The true luxury and the real potlatch of our times falls to the poverty-stricken, that is, to the individual who lies down and scoffs. A genuine luxury requires the complete contempt for riches, the somber indifference of the individual who refuses work and makes his life on the one hand an infinitely ruined splendor, and on the other, a silent insult to the laborious lie of the rich. Beyond a military exploitation, a religious mystification and a capitalist misappropriation, henceforth no one can rediscover the meaning of wealth, the explosiveness that it heralds, unless it is in the splendor of rags and the somber challenge of indifference. One might say, finally, that the lie destines life's exuberance to revolt.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 76-77
  42. Over the past thirty years, capitalist realism has successfully installed a 'business ontology' in which it is simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business. As any number of radical theorists from Brecht through to Foucault and Badiou have maintained, emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a 'natural order', must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 17
  43. Really Existing Capitalism is marked by the same division which characterized Really Existing Socialism, between, on the one hand, an official culture in which capitalist enterprises are presented as socially responsible and caring, and, on the other, a widespread awareness that companies are actually corrupt, ruthless, etc...But postmodernism's supposed gestures of demystification do not evince sophistication so much as a certain naivety, a conviction that there were others, in the past, who really believed in the Symbolic. [now quoting Zizek:] ...those who do not allow themselves to be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction, who continue to believe their eyes, are the ones who err most. A cynic who 'believes only his eyes' misses the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, and how it structures our experience of reality.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 47-48
  44. Reification is...undermining the capacity of individuals to exercise moral judgment...Not merely capitalism requires interrogation, therefore, but civilization itself. Thus, the critical theory of society takes an anthropological form in which resistance relies upon an increasingly imperiled subjectivity.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 53
  45. So long as we believe (in our hearts) that capitalism is bad, we are free to continue to participate in capitalist exchange...We believe that money is only a meaningless token of no intrinsic worth, yet we act as if it has a holy value. Moreover, this behavior precisely depends upon the prior disavowal -- we are able to fetishize money in our actions only because we have already taken an ironic distance towards money in our heads.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 13
  46. The Aztecs, about whom I will speak first, are poles apart from us morally. As a civilization is judged by its works, their civilization seems wretched to us. They used writings and were versed in astronomy, but all their important undertakings were useless: Their science of architecture enabled them to construct pyramids on top of which they immolated human beings.

    Their world view is singularly and diametrically opposed to the activity-oriented perspective that we have. Consumption loomed just as large in their thinking as production does in ours. They were just as concerned about sacrificing as we are about working.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 46
  47. The call center experience distills the political phenomenology of late capitalism: the boredom and frustration punctuated by cheerily piped PR, the repeating of the same dreary details many times to different poorly trained and badly informed operatives, the building rage that must remain impotent because it can have no legitimate object, since -- as is very quickly clear to the caller -- there is no-one who knows, and no-one who could do anything even if they could. Anger can only be a matter of venting; it is aggression in a vacuum, directed at someone who is a fellow victim of the system but with whom there is no possibility of communality. Just as the anger has no proper object, it will have no effect. In this experience of a system that is unresponsive, impersonal, centerless, abstract and fragmentary, you are as close as you can be to confronting the artificial stupidity of Capital in itself.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 64
  48. The economic system founded on isolation is a circular production of isolation. The technology is based on isolation, and the technical process isolates in turn. From the automobile to television, all the goods selected by the spectacular system are also its weapons for a constant reinforcement of the conditions of isolation of "lonely crowds."

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 28
  49. The first phase of the domination of the economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the obvious degradation of being into having. The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual "having" must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 17
  50. The Frankfurt School...knew that mass media tends to champion right-wing causes. But they also knew that the culture industry can also produce works of a seemingly progressive slant. Mass media had already often bashed capitalism, intolerance, and the power elite. Even then, however, it seems to standardize experience and undermine critical reflection. According to the Frankfurt School, the culture industry integrates all opposition by its very nature. The impotence of a work is a direct function of its popularity.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 79
  51. The idealized market was supposed to deliver 'friction free' exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to quantification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy. What we have is not a direct comparison of workers' performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output. Inevitably, a short-circuiting occurs, and work becomes geared towards the generation and massaging of representations rather than to the official goals of the work itself.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 42
  52. The only valid excess was one that went beyond the bounds, and one whose consumption appeared worthy of the gods. This was the price men paid to escape their downfall and remove the weight introduced in them by the avarice and cold calculation of the real order.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 61
  53. The value of warfare in Mexican society cannot mislead us: It was not a military society. Religion remained the obvious key to its workings. If the Aztecs must be situated, they belong among the warrior societies, in which pure, uncalculated violence and the ostentatious forms of combat held sway. The reasoned organization of war and conquest as unknown to them. A truly military society is a venture society, for which war means a development of power, an orderly progression of empire. It is a relatively mild society; it makes a custom of the rational principles of enterprise, whose purpose is given in the future, and it excludes the madness of sacrifice. There is nothing more contrary to military organization than these squanderings of wealth represented by hecatombs of slaves.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 54-55
  54. The way value is generated on the stock exchange depends of course less on what a company 'really does', and more on perceptions of, and beliefs about, its (future) performance. In capitalism, that is to say, all that is solid melts into PR, and late capitalism is defined at least as much by this ubiquitous tendency towards PR-production as it is by the imposition of market mechanisms.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 44
  55. The White Man's Tools of Power, Crime, and Mystification: legislative lobbying, community organizing, international law, petroleum geology, political philosophy.

    Source: Vulture's Picnic, p. 125
  56. The writings by the young Marx evidence a utopian quality. They give precedence to the anthropological and existential elements of human misery rather than capitalist exploitation of a purely economic sort.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 35
  57. Then the persecuted surrealists will be found in cafés chantants, taking advantage of the confusion to peddle their recipes for infecting images. An attitude, a reflex action, a sudden betrayal of irritability on the part of certain customers will suffice for them to be suspected of surrealism by the police who are keeping them under observation. I can already visualize the law's agents provocateurs with their wiles and their tarps. The right of individuals to forge their own destiny will yet again be restricted and challenged. Public peril will be invoked, or the general interest, or even the preservation of humanity itself...Young people will plunge passionately into this serious, unprofitable game. It will pervert the course of their lives. The Faculties will be deserted, the laboratories closed down. The very idea of armies, families, professions will become inconceivable. Then, in the face of this ever-increasing disaffection of social life, a great conspiracy of all the dogmatic and realist forces of the world will be organized against the phantom of illusions. It will win...

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 66
  58. This law of physical reciprocity which we call charity the Indians observe naturally, and without a trace of pity. Those who have nothing because they lost their harvest, because their corn has burned, because their father left them nothing, or for whatever reason which they have no need to explain, arrive at dawn at the houses of those who have something. Immediately the mistress of the house brings them whatever she has. No one looks at anyone, neither the one who gives nor the one who receives. After he has eaten, the beggar leaves without thanking or looking at anyone.

    Source: The Peyote Dance, p. 5
  59. This nonfiction fable has a moral to it: 'Power, Crime, Mystification, Mr. Palast,' Etok said. 'That's how they do it. Power, Crime, Mystification.'

    Etok walked me through the three steps on 'How to Take Oil That Isn’t Yours.'

    1. POWER: The expression of the conqueror's strength or, more often, the weakness of the conquered.     It's not wild coincidence that Bob Malone, who headed BP's Alaska and Gulf operations, was simultaneously co-chair of the George W. Bush re-election campaign.

    2. CRIME: Making promises you don't intend to keep is fraudulent inducement. Do it three times and it's racketeering.

    3. MYSTIFICATION: The web of rituals, usually legalistic -- including treaties, land deeds, and laws -- imposed by conquerors to legitimize their crime. In the fog of legalismo, the victims often acquiesce to the terms imposed.

    Source: Vulture's Picnic, p. 285-286
  60. Ultimately, there are three reasons that I prefer the term capitalist realism to postmodernism. In the 1980s, when Jameson first advanced his thesis about postmodernism, there were still, in name at least, political alternatives to capitalism. What we are dealing with now, however, is a deeper, far more pervasive, sense of exhaustion, of cultural and political sterility...

    Secondly, postmodernism involved some relationship to modernism. Jameson's work on postmodernism began with an interrogation of the idea, cherished by the likes of Adorno, that modernism possessed revolutionary potentials by virtue of its formal innovations alone. What Jameson saw happening instead was the incorporation of modernist motifs into popular culture (suddenly, for example, Surrealist techniques would appear in advertising). At the same time as particular modernist forms were absorbed and commodified, modernism's credos -- its supposed belief in elitism and its monological, top-down model of culture -- were challenged and rejected in the name of 'difference', 'diversity' and 'multiplicity'. Capitalist realism no longer stages this kind of confrontation with modernism. On the contrary, it takes the vanquishing of modernism for granted: modernism is now something that can periodically return, but only as a frozen aesthetic style, never as an ideal for living.

    Thirdly, a whole generation has passed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In the 1960s and 1970s, capitalism had to face the problem of how to contain and absorb energies from outside. It now, in fact, has the opposite problem; having all-too successfully incorporated externality, how can it function without an outside it can colonize and appropriate?...Capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable. Jameson used to report in horror about the ways that capitalism had seeped into the very unconscious; now, the fact that capitalism has colonized the dreaming life of the population is so taken for granted that it is no longer worthy of comment.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 8-9
  61. V. S. Naipaul, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature (and Bitterness), once wrote that imperial powers 'don't lie, they elide.' That is, they leave shit out. Caspian Man says BP left out that the gas was leaking from under the rig, and it was ready to blow sky high.

    Source: Vulture's Picnic, p. 103
  62. Watching Children of Men, we are inevitably reminded of the phrase attributed to Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. That slogan captures precisely what I mean by 'capitalist realism': the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 2
  63. We do not need to wait for Children of Men's near-future to arrive to see this transformation of culture into museum pieces. The power of capitalist realism derives in part from the way that capitalism subsumes and consumes all of previous history: one effect of its 'system of equivalence' which can assign all cultural objects, whether they are religious iconography, pornography, or Das Kapital, a monetary value. Walk around the British Museum, where you see objects torn from their lifeworlds and assembled as if on the deck of some Predator spacecraft, and you have a powerful image of this process at work. In the conversion of practices and rituals into merely aesthetic objects, the beliefs of previous cultures are objectively ironized, transformed into artifacts. Capitalist realism is therefore not a particular type of realism; it is more like realism in itself.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 4
  64. When economic necessity is replaced by the necessity for boundless economic development, the satisfaction of primary human needs is replaced by an uninterrupted fabrication of pseudo-needs which are reduced to the single pseudo-need of maintaining the reign of the autonomous economy.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 51
  65. When the lost children of this still immobile army reappear on this battleground which was altered and yet remains the same, they follow a new "General Ludd" who, this time, urges them to destroy the machines of permitted consumption.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 115
  66. With the triumph of fascism, the degeneration of communism, and the integration of social democracy, [Enlightenment] ideals were seen as having lost their cachet and, as a consequence, this kind of political critique as having lost its appeal. Auschwitz had punctured the aura associated with progress and modernity. Old-fashioned criteria for making judgements, constructing narratives and understanding reality thus became anachronistic. The postmodern appears avant la letter. Enlightenment and modernity find their fulfillment in a concentration camp universe run by an unaccountable bureaucracy, fueled by an instrumental rationality run amok, and expressed in the unleashing of an unimaginable rage.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 52
  67. [A]fter ten years of seeing Europe crushed under the boots of fascist murderers and their self-serving political collaborators, the time had come for an even more revolutionary flavor of liberation that had exceeded the fantasies of Marx and Engels -- there was a need for a set of ideas that would totally reorder the very fabric of the universe in the service of freedom, and the Surrealists saw this as the best reason for a renaissance of Romantic socialism and Fourierist poetics. In a postwar political climate dominated by the viciously cynical Jesuit device of 'ends justify means', talk of Fourier introduced two things that were sorely lacking: a blackly humorous critical (and therefore revolutionary) spark and an unwavering dedication to the complete emancipation of human beings. 'Action, even in the rigorous and unquestioned form it takes today for those who fight in the name of liberty, will only be valuable so long as our interpretation of the world...will not have the brakes slammed on it', Breton thundered. The revolutionary poetry of Fourier's socialism was exactly the kind of critical extravagance that a truly free and freedom-respecting society should be able to tolerate and welcome.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 279-280
  68. [Dialectic of Enlightenment] investigates how scientific (or instrumental) rationality expels freedom from the historical process and enables reification to penetrate every aspect of society. Even art turns into just another commodity and loses its critical character...Horkheimer and Adorno respond to the "totally administered society" with a systematic assault on systematic thinking.

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 51
  69. [Fourier's] Theory of the Four Movements offers detailed accounts of life following this cataclysmic transmogrification. The auroras of the northern and southern circumpolar regions become more active and more frequent, eventually expanding to link together like the rings of Saturn and filling the earth's skies with rippling curtains of colour, light and heat. Over time, the outer edge of the earth's aurora-ring will extend to the corona of the sun, and the ensuing radiation will trigger a magical change in the natural world -- animals will learn to play musical instruments, stars will copulate and spray us all with their sexual fluids, weather patterns will shift, new moons begin to revolve the earth, and the chemical composition of the world's oceans change to 'aigresel', a tart, potable liquid. Even the human body mutates under the rays of the 'northern crown' as human beings overcome the need for sleep and grow taller. Humans will also sprout an 'archibras' ('ancient arm'), a prehensile tail with a sensory organ at its tip that will act as a fifth limb and enable one 'to swim as fast as a fish', to 'reach a branch twelve feet high', to triple one's natural leaping velocity, and to form a revolving, conelike 'inverted parachute by means of which one can fall from a considerable height without risking more than a bruise'.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 274-275
  70. [T]he society of the spectacle...offers false models of revolution to local revolutionaries.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 57
  71. [With regard to swallowing newspapers] So, after Blume, we'll swallow Küster, then Bobering, and it will all turn into a gray, horrible newspaper mush, with a few tiny dashes of liberalism. I have allowed our little paper to decay, I have allowed it to die..."

    Source: The Safety Net, p. 227
  72. [W]hen surrealism put forward the idea of myth, it was in response to a vibrant nostalgia in the mind of contemporary peoples, which has been alive not only since Nietzsche but even since German Romanticism. Moreover, religion is constituted by the connection to the myth of rituals. No one, then, can fail to know that the clearest certainty of surrealism is to manage to rediscover the attitudes of mind that allowed primitive man to combine in ritual and, more precisely, to find in ritual the most incisive and tangible forms of poetic life...it is simply a question of exploring all that can be explored by man, it is a question of reconstituting all that was fundamental to man before human nature had been enslaved by the necessity for technical work.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 75