Saturday, February 6, 2010

Contrast 1

We are making explicit the intertext that results when we put into dialogue our Theory (D&G) with our Contrast (Marchand). First some reminders of context: the apparatus of electracy dates from the rise of the industrial city, the hegemony of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, with Paris as our “Athens” – the site of invention, the opening of a new space for a practice of pure aesthetics (Bohemia), crystallizing a new lifestyle, a new subject formation. The practices of image metaphysics are created here through the movements of modernist and vanguard arts. The invention includes the emergence of mass popular culture, with entertainment as a new institution facilitating the adaptation to the rising social order in which function replaces hierarchy, personality replaces character.

D&G designate Commerce as the problem articulating their plane of immanence, and we read Marchand’s account of the advertising in the United States from 1920-1940 to document the site of intervention. The key to focusing the CATTt is to note that D&G acknowledge that Commerce has replaced philosophy as source of concept construction today. Marchand as Contrast provides a double lesson: how to construct concepts, but (taking direction from D&G) concepts that counter the commercial stand of the commodity form.

The first part of our inventory of Marchand then covers what Commerce got right, understanding that the emergence of electracy in a Capitalist society is a contingency of history. D&G note the importance of milieu, and credit the survival of philosophy to its association with the Greek innovations in the forms of city, state, and capital. Marchand describes advertising as the discourse primarily responsible for converting the citizens of the industrial city to the worldview of the new apparatus. The commodity form, separating exchange value from use, desire from product, allowed the pedagogy of aesthetic judgment to operate autonomously. The ad discourse disseminated throughout America the inventions of Paris, including the new logic of taste, and the design styles of modernist arts. The appropriation in ad practices of popular culture forms from tabloid magazines to celebrity gossip and movies contributed to the didactic value, assisting the public in internalizing the new native discourse of the apparatus.

Within this general frame of Commerce as a consultancy on modernization, the ads specifically demonstrated how to construct concepts in the emerging mass media discourse. An important point of alignment between D&G and Marchand is precisely here. The philosophical concept includes a conceptual persona to mediate between the “concept” (the position of the thought) and the problem plane (between the general and the particular so to speak). Everything that Marchand describes about the strategies of ad campaigns is relevant to the design of conceptual personae: social tableaux, great parables, visual clich├ęs, fantasies and icons. Betty Crocker and her peers are to Commerce what Pascal's gambler, Kierkegaard’s knight, or Nietzsche’s priest are to philosophy. Adversion is a conceptual stand of reassurance, crystallizing majority opinion around a few key figures (scenes).

The next step in tuning the CATTt is to inventory WIP? relative to the features of Commerce, to see how the philosophical concept differs from the advertising concept. How might the inventions of advertising be diverted to the service of philosophy?

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