Ray Birdwhistell's Microcultural Incidents in Ten Zoos is an amazing anthropological film, up there with other social science films like Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority; social science documentation that transforms into experimental film making. It would be interesting to use Birdwhistell’s format from Zoos as a way to tell a fictional narrative. I have yet to see Birdwhistell’s other film TDR-009, a 16mm film taken in a hotel bar in London.
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.
These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.
Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.”
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
”—Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World Constitution
“As the history of class struggle demonstrates, privileging one sector of the working class over others is the surest road to defeat. Undoubtedly, certain types of workers have played a crucial role in certain historical phases of capitalist development. But the working class has paid a very high price to a revolutionary logic that established hierarchies of revolutionary subjects, patterned on the hierarchies of the capitalist organization of work. Marxist/socialist activists in Europe lost sight of the revolutionary power of the world’s ‘peasantry.’ More than that, peasant movements have been destroyed (see the case of the ELAS in Greece) by communists who considered only the factory worker as organizable and ‘truly revolutionary.’ Socialists/marxists also lost sight of the immense (house) work that was being done to produce and reproduce industrial workers. The huge ‘iceberg’ of labour in capitalism (to use Maria Mies’ metaphor) was made invisible by the tendency to look at the tip of the iceberg, industrial labour, while the labour involved in the reproduction of labour-power went unseen, with the result that the feminist movement was often fought against and seen as something outside the class struggle.”—
George Caffentzis & Sylvia Federici, “Notes on the Edu-Factory and Cognitive Capitalism,” in Toward a Global Autonomous University (p. 128). (via mandescending)
“The global village of McLuhan’s dream is universal capitalism, with the new electronic galaxy allowing for a geographic deispersal which is regrouped in the computer. He carries on at length about decentralization, the sine qua non of the new technology. Under the prevailing organisation of life, the new technology, at the service of capitalism, dominates centrally, and imparts the illusion of decentralization. The truth of that illusion is dispersal, centrally controlled. Geographic dispersal is the continuation of the parcellization which he had seen as the source of rule by the bourgeois (Machiavellian and merchant) mind.”—
A common yet curious point regarding the reception of Marshall McLuhan’s work is despite its resemblance to admired thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Jean Baudrillard and Vilém Flusser, McLuhan is often discounted even derided by critics on the left. He is often accused of a reactionary naiveté and complicity with existing power when in reality his writings consistently analyze the structures of media power and suggest methods for uncovering the functioning of that power in order to change it. It would seem this situation requires an investigation and even a subsequent rehabilitation of McLuhan’s work. The Gutenberg Galaxy provides the opportunity to observe McLuhan’s method in probing the structures and influence of media specifically the transformations involved in moving from oral to alphabetic to print cultures. What is often overlooked with McLuhan’s work is that it theorizes the manner in which new technologies undermine and destabilize established institutional, cultural, epistemological and psychic forms.
For example The Gutenberg Galaxy is an example of Walter Benjamin’s vision for a book comprised of quotations. McLuhan’s “mosaic or field approach” of numerous quotations from varied scholars brings in multiple viewpoints to the point that McLuhan seems to go beyond compiling evidence for his claims and intends more to diminish his own presence. Furthermore McLuhan attempts — surely part of Benjamin’s goal – to reduce not only the authorial presence, but to break up the unitary viewpoint associated with print
Unfortunately the Situationist critique of McLuhan is full of misunderstandings and shallow readings. In the same essay they trash Herbert Marcuse. I would suggest that you pick up Understanding Media and One-Dimensional Man and read them together. They were both published in 1964 and both deal with the problems of technology but from different sensibilities.
What often confuses McLuhan’s critics is his oscillation between hard media determinism (which we should be wary of) and soft media determinism in relation to media’s impact on culture. McLuhan’s hard determinism seems to operate beyond any influence of social relationships, economic structures or cultural values. This hard determinism however usually occurs alongside his pronouncements of our collective somnambulism regarding technology; our habitual immersion in these technologies produces unawareness in its users. McLuhan may take the “servomechanism” aspect of this too far but there is a point to be made here; our unreflective habitual use of media, their insertion into our everyday lives where there is little time or space to disengage from them, increases their power over us.