Monday, May 11, 2009

What is depthlessness for Fredric Jamson?

Jamson works through the Marxist heritage to keep alive the idea of oppositional critique while also recognizing the force of economic and social transformations. He argues “postmodernism in culture stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today.” For him the kinds of postmodernism in art, literature, and general culture come of the transformations that have taken place in capitalism during the second half of the twentieth century. This transformation he calls “cultural logic”. Meaning the cultural superstructures of postmodernism is determined by a transformation of the economic basis of society in late capitalist post modernity. In other words, as the economic society develops the culture surrounding it changes.
Jamson borrows the term “late capitalism” from Ernest Mandel, who splits the development of modern capitalism into three major periods. First, market capitalism, developed from factories and workshop of the Industrial Revolution during the nineteenth century. Second, monopoly capitalism, this emerged with the growth of the large scale businesses that took place over the whole markets at the end of the ninetieth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Third, late capitalism marks the era of multinational corporations and deregulated markets in which trade barriers between different countries broke. For Jamson, the third stage is “… a vision of a world capitalist system fundamentally distinct from the older imperialism… its features include the new international division of labour, a vertiginous new dynamic in international banking and stock exchanges… new forms of media interrelationship … computers and automation…” For Jamson, late capitalism is a new vision of the world capitalism in which the system that governed spread throughout the world as boarders are broken down and new markets are found.
For Jamson the basis of postmodern consumer culture is the new depthlessness. This new vision produces a loss of reality; we become no more than the sum total of our purchases. This puts the critique in no space. Jamson says to reject the late capitalist consumer culture and to try to generate a postmodern vision of critique that resists this depthlessness. He wants “a postmodern Marxism to challenge postmodern” and to do this we have to go through a process called “cognitive mapping”, which is a re-conquest and a reconstruction of era. So he argues a critique must under-take a process pf mapping that articulates the mass of objects, how they emerge from, fit into and disrupt the apparently universal systems of contemporary capitalism; generating a map that provides context and depth for the subject’s experience of consumer culture. This mapping can be produced through theory and postmodern art.

The passages above are excerpted from “Politics,” chapter 5 in Simsom Malpas, The Postmodern: The New Critical Idiom: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture: United States of America, 2005 (105-120).

(The photo above is the Diamond Dust Shoes, 1980 (Lilac, Blue, Green). It was designed by Andy Warhol in 1980s. Starting his career as a successful commercial artist, Warhol’s acclaim escalated when he drew imaginative images of shoes for retail store I. Miller. Warhol, who adored jewels, intended to use a powder made from real diamond dust to create the “Diamond Dust Shoes” series. However, the diamond dust was too chalky, so Warhol embedded sparkling, pulverized glass in its place.)


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