[iDC] iDC Digest, Vol 55, Issue 31

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Jul 17 22:41:09 UTC 2009

Hi -

I hesitate to say anything here; I'm simply too ignorant, haven't written 
on the topic, and so forth. But Jonathan's letter raises a number of 
questions that bother me although I'm definitely in agreement with its 
direction and tenor.

My main problems deal with essentialism - i.e. Jonathan's experience and 
life-world is somehow more attuned to a production of consciousness that 
my experience is not (since I would, I assume, operate, from his point of 
view, under the rubrik of 'high media theory' or some such), and that his 
production/of/thru consciousness vis-a-vis his experience is somehow more 
authentic, truer than mine. I won't disagree for a second re: the horrific 
economics he describes and "our" (in quotes, because who are we here?) 
abject ignoring of the situation, but I don't understand what "production 
of consciousness" is. I do understand consciousness-of, i.e. intentional- 
ity, for example, consciousness of being-Jewish, but "production of 
consciousness" per se seems problematic to me, as does consciousness _as_ 
production or _a_ production - consciousness as _that object_ subject to 
creation vis-a-vis radical alterity (in which case where does responsib- 
ility lie?). This isn't trivial; if consciousness is indeed separable from 
economy (in one form or another, and I know I'm laying open to all sorts 
of charges here), then those Adornamental issues of authenticity and its 
problematic do come to the foreground.

I do feel doubly sensitive to Jonathan's letter, which is why I'm respond- 
ing in such a convoluted fashion - obviously (hopefully) sensitive to the 
issues described (which I bring up in my teaching) but also sensitive in a 
somewhat negative way to his fundamental put-down of anyone doing theory 
here and dealing with the same. I'm from Wilkes-Barre and have written on 
the brutal conditions of anthracite mining there, but I'm Jewish/mercan- 
tile on the other hand, so my authenticity is questionable all over the 
map - which for me problematizes authenticity in the first place, hence 

I think there's a need to embrace queer/marx/feminist/whatever/hightheory/ 
lowtheory/ and work with/through these and through education through these 
- not talk through consciousness produced elsewhere. Jonathan asks how to 
be adequate to such a reality and I would think one would want to be open 
to _all_ realities, sensitive to their interrelationships and political 
economies, and deal, for example, with where one's students might be 
"coming-from," rather than create situations of guilt and dispossession 
(i.e. my consciousness is not my own because you educate me to believe 
otherwise). I've see what happens in the classroom in those cases, and 
they're disasterous.

I feel I should also apologize here; as I said, I'm way over my head and 
am not an economist; I also may be misreading, for which apologies as 

Good Rushkoff interview w/ Colbert by the way - it's amazing when dialog 
actually seeps thru -

- Alan

On Fri, 17 Jul 2009, Jonathan Beller wrote:

> Hi all,
> Sorry for the abrupt entry into this discussion -- i'm finally getting 
> set up again after two weeks gone -- but i've got to weigh in on Michael 
> Bauwen's side here in this very brilliant exchange. As someone who wrote 
> one book on the emergence of new media as a technology of value 
> extraction and then a second book that was a direct response to the 
> challenges I felt by years of living and working in the Philippines to 
> make my what is now called media theory relevant in a third world/global 
> south context, i have to agree that the (world-) systemic dimensions of 
> exploitation are on par in terms of importance with the violent 
> instances of the most recognizeable and brutal expressions of 
> exploititive practices: defacto agrarian slavery, the radical 
> dispossesion of casual workers in the slums, the captured bodies of 
> prostitutes, etc. To hypostasize: each is a condition of the other.
> For what its worth, I think that one of the great problems of our time 
> is to make manifest the myriad links between the pleasures available in 
> global society -- pleasure which certainly include but are not limited 
> to screen pleasures -- and systemic murder, i.e., the 
> willed/automatic/unconscious deprivation of life (it is all of these) 
> that is the sine qua non of global capitalist perpetuity. What are the 
> mediations?
> In my own experience of exchanges with members of the radical left, if 
> you will, in the Philippines (exchanges which I feel at once humbled by 
> and honored to partake in), there is great interest in terms of strategy 
> and tactics to understand the logistics of media-exploitation as well as 
> possible. This interest is manifest by those who organize protests and 
> public actions against, for example, disappearances sometimes called 
> political killings launched illegally by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime in 
> the Philippines in order to preserve the rule of law by assassinating 
> those who threaten its legitimacy (more than 800 since GMA took office), 
> as well as protests in solidarity with Jeepney drivers against 
> escalating gasoline prices, and many many other forms of protest. This 
> interest in a mediological analysis of sociality has deep roots in the 
> university and in the long-term anti-fascist and anti-imperialist 
> struggles and it informs scholarship, pedagogy, cultural theory, 
> filmmaking, art practice, and political strategy.
> I'll close this all too brief account with two points: first, the 
> expropriation of the cognitive-linguistic as well as the sensual by 
> media-capital means that the struggle for the production of 
> consciousness as a moment in the overall struggle for the democratic 
> control of the means of production that informs the very possibilty of 
> social justice is at least as important as it has been in the past, if 
> not more so. Second, the high theory of media studies, academic marxism 
> (to use a pejorative term), feminist and queer theory, like the wealth 
> and culture of the great Western metropoles, rightfully belongs to the 
> third world/ global south. All these terms ("rightfully," "belongs," 
> "global south") are subject to modification, but you get my drift -- 
> consciousness itself, and the world that sustains it, is produced on the 
> backs of those who are most radically dispossessed. Personally, I am 
> haunted by an enduring question: how to be adequate to such a reality?
> Best,
> Jon
> Jonathan Beller
> Professor
> Humanities and Media Studies
> and Critical and Visual Studies
> Pratt Institute
> jbeller at pratt.edu
> 718-636-3573 fax

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