By Jameson, Fredric; Jameson, Fredric; Buchanan, Ian
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Additional resources for Jameson on Jameson : conversations on cultural Marxism
The work of art can therefore never heal this fundamental “distance”; but it can do something else, and better—it can stage the very tension between the two dimensions in such a way that we are made to live within that tension and to affirm its reality. This has always seemed to me an extraordinarily suggestive conception of the inaugural “poetic” act, which Heidegger goes on to assimilate to the comparable philosophical act (the deconcealment of Being) and to the act of political revolution (the inauguration of a new society, the production or invention of radically new social relations).
What people like Mandel have shown is that very far from amounting to an untheorized deviation from the analyses in Marx’s Capital itself, this new or third moment of capital can on the contrary be theorized as its purest realization, as a moment in which the Marxian dynamics are more global and operate in a far more classical fashion than in any of the earlier stages. What follows, for the realm of culture, is something that can be described in two distinct formulations. We could say, following the initial Frankfurt School account of the “Culture Industry,” that capital is in the process of colonizing that most remote part of the mind—the aesthetic—that traditionally seemed to resist its logic (being governed, as classical aesthetics taught us, by “purposefulness without a purpose”): on Mandel’s account, then, consumer society would be a thoroughgoing push into this area of the mind—culture, the unconscious, whatever you want to call it—and a final rationalizing, modernizing, industrializing, commodifying, colonizing, of the non- or precapitalist enclave left surviving there.
The anxiety is a significant one, which should be looked at in some detail. It would be too facile (but not wrong) to return the compliment by replying that Balzac, of all writers, has a privileged and symbolic position in the traditional debates of Marxist aesthetics: so that to propose a new reading of Balzac is to modify those debates (symbolically much more central in Marxism than in other ones, and involving political and epistemological consequences which it might be best to spell out more substantively in my response to your second question).