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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Glory becomes indiscernable from economy and governance

Acclamations from Fido the Yak by Fido the Yak
The Power and the Glory Mikhail points to a lecture by Giorgio Agamben in which he speaks of a phenomenon of acclamation or glory.
Schmitt claims that in modern democracies this original phenomenon survives in the form of public opinion. That is to say that public opinion is the modern form of acclamation. . . . So if this be true, then the sphere of glory does not disappear in modern democracy, but, rather, it is simply displaced in another and wider sphere. And if the media are so important in modern democracy– technically, juridically important–this is not simply because they allow to control and govern by public opinion, but also because in this way they distribute and bestow glory. We could even say that modern society is a glorious society, the most glorious society ever in . . . history, in which the function of glory frees itself from its traditional link with liturgy and spreads over every aspect of social life. Liturgies and ceremonies in the ancien régime were limited to a certain moment, but now the media spread the glory in every moment of social life. And from this point of view what Guy Debord calls société du spectacle, spectacular society. . . is a society in which glory becomes indiscernable from economy and governance. The identification of economy and glory in the acclamatory form of media and consensus is in this sense the salient feature of contemporary democracy. . . .
Through this theological pattern of economy, I tried to cast some light on the modern figure of power, that is to say governance. But, in the end, this figure showed itself to be inseperable from glory, and even to be essentially the same as glory. The relationship between economy and glory is in this sense the very core of the Western governmental machine. The ultimate figure of power is therefore not government and action, but rather, inoperativity and inaction. And what glory has to cover with its splendor, what power can neither think nor accept, is the end of government, is divine inaction or leisure. Or, to put it differently, the aim of glory is perhaps to capture and control this inactivity and to transform it into the secret and precious nourishment of power.
The function of a blogger is to dish out glory and inglory. (How do internet acclamations differ from old media acclamations? Are they even more diffuse, more covering?) Is the function of the blogger also to dish out criticism? To begin to criticize, I believe that the phenomena of acclamation under discussion differ greatly. The similarity Agamben sees between "modern" totalitarian states and "modern" democracies can partially be explained by "modern" technologies, which have had political import, but may not have been the decisive forces Agamben thinks they are. The juridical similarities seem superficial. In any event, the "modern" technologies of mass media are going the way of the dodo bird, and perhaps along with them public opinion–but I want to tread gingerly around the idea of mass communications because in many ways to speak of the masses is to hold them in contempt. I see a country of dead televisions on the horizon, and in the far distance, the dissolution of nation states. For all that I can't deny there are historical continuities, or that Agamben hasn't identified a salient feature of contemporary democracies, even as they enter into the new millenium and the distributions of glory become more decentralized.
"I power Blogger." Is there anything secret about this nourishment of power? There may be something exaggerated about it. Blogging for me is like washing the dishes; I do it every day despite the fact it's not economically valued. Some bloggers receive economic rewards for their blogging, and dishing out glory and inglory can influence elections and what is called public opinion, though possibly there are signs of growing fragmentation. For Ambagen, however, dishing out criticism (or inglory) isn't part of the picture. My complaint against media in relation to politics would be that they have too often reveled in glory and inglory instead of providing proper criticism, so I halfway appreciate Agamben's argument. However, I struggle with the meaning of proper criticism. It means deflating glory and inglory as well, I reckon, but beyond that I struggle with its meaning.
Even though my leisure may seem different from Agamben's divine inactivity, it's good to think about it and the kinds of nourishment I should or should not want it to provide. The question of inoperativity, however, gives me pause. Is that also what Agamben means by leisure, or is inoperativity part of the cover up of leisure? What should I do about inoperativity?

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