Saturday, September 22, 2007

Luhmann’s reasoning is similar to Nietzsche’s

In The Reality of the Mass Media Niklas Luhmann claims that media technology has the capacity to make certain events seem more frequent and omnipresent than in fact they are, by perpetually drawing attention to instances of these events. Thus, when an idiotic public school teacher prevents a student from reading the Bible because he doesn’t understand the first amendment and that it prevent him from leading students in prayer, religious affairs, etc., not students, this story is picked up in the news and creates the impression that such things are going on everywhere. Similarly, when a child is kidnapped or molested, the omnipresence of reporting on this event creates the impression that there is an epidemic of such occurrences.
According to Luhmann, this phenomenon serves a moralizing function for the social system, by steering the system to create legislation and other acts that prevent these occurrences. Luhmann’s reasoning is similar to Nietzsche’s in Beyond Good and Evil (or is it The Gay Science) where he argues that the criminal actually serves the morally useful function of reproducing morality.
Is this what is really going on? Is the world really this ugly, stupid, unjust? Or is this a sort of illusion produced by the magnifying effect of media technologies. At this point, tending to my garden looks like a fairly good option.

The Material Unconscious Posted by larvalsubjects August 12, 2015
Perhaps we would do best to call it the material unconscious. Freud famously said that there had been three blows to human narcissism: Copernicus and his decentering of the Earth, Darwin and his theory of evolution, and psychoanalysis and its discovery of the unconscious. 
  • With the first humanity learns that it is not at the center of the universe. 
  • With the second, humanity learns it is not markedly different from animals. 
  • With the third, humanity learns that it’s interiority is not in charge. 
  • With thingly thought, the thought of the object, we perhaps encounter a fourth blow to our narcissism: the way in which we are mediated by things. We dwell within a milieu of things, objects, or what I have elsewhere called machines. What we take to be our own agency, our own free choice, instead turns out in so many instances to be the agency of these things or machines acting upon us. 
The commodity, of course, captures us in the entire system of exploitation so brilliantly analyzed by Marx. Yet, as Baudrillard taught us, it is also a lure for desire that manages our desire, taming those desires that would be anarchic lines of flight, while also functioning as semiotic markers of identity, status, class, and so on, thereby functioning as sites in a politics of self and social relations. As Zizek suggests, the urban executive that drives the Land Rover does not simply display a practical, utilitarian mind set, but rather a certain unconscious fantasy that perhaps allows him to tolerate the world of capital. The commodity displays itself as a sort of shine to the Other, signaling certain social relations; even those commodities that claim to be transgressive and counter-cultural. Here, also, we might think of the pathologies that arise around the commodity such as hoarding, so well analyzed by Jane Bennett. There are also the terrifying hybrid objects created by the sciences, so beautifully explored by theorists such as Stacy Alaimo.

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