Archive for Postmodern 2.0

Divine Subjects and Liberal Capitalism’s Collapse

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , , on June 18, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Let’s face it: every economist who is not an idiot knows very well that today’s global market no longer functions in the standard simple supply and demand chain they teach in high schools. On the contrary, global capitalism relies on inherently unstable speculations. The dark side of this is that, even if they know, not many economist would admit it. Of course, the notion that there is an invisible hand controlling the market is comforting to capitalists. But there is no invisible hand — the tiniest speculation in the capital market can spark a trend that can destroy national economies within hours, as they destroyed mine and so many others in 1998, leaving us with a permanent scar. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, Friedmanite capitalism does not work. But sadly, it is precisely this logic of unfettered market that governs today’s capitalism in the global range.

Our actions today have so much more consequences than we can imagine. With informatics, we have become so much more powerful, as our embodiments shift towards more fluidity and our private and social spaces are altered fundamentally. Even a simple daily act of seeing and socializing is radically revolutionized with Web 2.0. Now, we are practically divine, viewing ourselves as not only omniscient subjects but also omnipotent ones. The connection? Postmodern 2.0 simply has no room for invisible hands — anybody can do anything and effect everybody else. Its history is not a Hegelian self-correcting history. Capitalism is not built for this. Even today’s intellectual commodities have a radically different structure of reification than its original ones. As Slavoj Žižek has noted, some cultural phenomena today simply could not be solved within the framework of capitalism.

As a theorist, my approach would be a fundamental one I draw from Lacanian psychoanalysis and various branches of informatics. But it does not take a philosopher to understand the fall of capitalism. It does not take an economist to understand how intellectual property is highly problematic to capitalism. It does not take a psychoanalyst to grok our perceived posthuman divinity. The very notion of the subject is changing, and our current economic-political framework has not taken this new subject into account.

This is far from a positive attitude. What will come after a liberal-democratic global capitalism collapses? Following Naomi Klein, I believe we may be, in fact, seeing the answer at this very moment: disaster capitalism. Soon, disaster capitalism may not only be a complex, but a primary mode, since disasters may very well be the only event in which the subject returns to its primal state of non-divinity, a powerless human subject that fits perfectly into the framework of capitalism. If the postmodern is a cultural logic of late capitalism, I see Postmodern 2.0 as a cultural logic of the collapse of capitalism, but which may very well also be a logic of the rise of global disaster capitalism. We already have the scenarios for that — Iran, Palestine, global Muslim rage, climate change…

This time is crucial. We must act fast and think of economic-political alternatives that acknowledge the novel free-flowing, global-reaching, informational subject and, as with Žižek, resist the trap of hasty socio-political actions. We must realize that the implications of our actions in this day and age are great, and a lot of the time, irreversible. Without a clear cognitive mapping of what is going on, wisdom will not be possible.

Hello, World!

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

“Hello, World!” is the standard opening template of the WordPress blog. It is also the standard template for test runs of computer language. It is fascinating – to me, this statement is precisely the mark of the beginning of the posthuman. Humans greeting the entirety of the world using a computer – precisely such is the beginning of how we became posthuman. “Hello World!” shifts the subject of action of saying “Hello” not only to the other side of the screen, but also a paradigm that this other side of the screen is so much more superior than our biological side, perhaps even divinely so, seeing the grandeur of the object. If “Enjoy!” is the superego of the postmodern society, as Slavoj Žižek put it, I would argue that “Hello, World!” is the superego of a society of the Postmodern 2.0, with all its trends of user-generated content and increasing connectivity and user-friendliness. It is not even an understatement, I am tempted to claim, that “Hello World!” is, simply, pure ideology. In a Marxist definition that ideology is what society does without realizing that they are doing it, does this simple sentence not precisely reflect today’s injunction to be connected, to say “Hello” to the world? It is no longer a voyeuristic society, as Baudrillard put it, but an exhibitionist one – not a consumerist society, but – to use Don Tapscott’s term – a prosumerist one. Where do we lie in this society? What does “Hello, World!” promise us? If the postmodern presents false freedom and false cynicism, does Postmodern 2.0 give us a false sense of social connectivity and open public sphere? More fundamentally, in Lacanian speak, to what imaginary world are we saying “Hello,” using what kind of imaginary self? Are we still living in the same postmodern world of simulacra, or has the proliferation of interactive New Media shifted us into yet another different world, a new stage of culture, one of New Simulacra? And, more importantly, what subject position does the famed simple sentence “Hello, World!” assume? What are its implications for our cultural, political, and biological life? What are we?

Hello, World, and welcome to the age of the posthuman :)