Culture

Convenience and Neoliberalism

Jodi Dean makes an interesting point in this post about "neoliberal appetites." At issue is the question of whether the neoliberal regime we are all familiar with now -- deregulated markets and post-Fordist production processes and so on -- allows individuals to assume more responsibility and have more flexibility with regard to how they fit into economic relations. Bosses are less domineering, workers are more autonomous and collaborative, and self-regulation dictates the terms of self-exploitation. This is sometimes discussed in terms of "bioproduction" and "governmentality" -- terms from Foucault's later work. Occasionally, left-leaning types will celebrate this development as empowering a deterritorialized "multitude" that is paving the way for a postcapitalist world.

But the aggressive brand of individualism promoted by neoliberalism -- the sorts of subjects it requires -- doesn't allow for personal development so much as it indoctrinates us into a myopic insatiability. Dean argues:

The very incentive structure that would be necessary for competition to replace something like normalization is missing. The internet, pay for view, video on demand, DVR, instant messaging -- our entire media habitat conditions us to immediate gratification rather than self-discipline, self-control, self-governance. Fast food and convenience -- again, we focus on what we want now, not what we might need or use later. The neoliberal attitude is that markets and competition induce certain behaviors (laws of supply and demand) and that this is sufficient for self-governance on its own. It isn't--as Hegel and Adam Smith already knew.

The way I interpret this situation is that neoliberalism necessarily promotes convenience and expediency as its values to accelerate the circulation of commodities, the consumption of goods and services, as a consumerism-based economy requires. Repressive desublimation, to use Marcuse's phrase, characterizes neoliberal subjectivity more than any sort of internalized self-control. Consumers work better for the system when they have outsourced self-control, seek it in further acts of consumption -- buying diet books and exercise books, subscribing to magazines that preach simplifying your life, etc. Dean notes that "the culture of immediacy, of communicative capitalism, dissolves these sorts of mechanisms [of self-governance] and instead provides instant tidbits (lichettes) that entrap us in circuits of drive." My translation: the emphasis on real-time applications and technology short-circuits the possibility of reflexivity; we become too focused instead on updating and refreshing the content available to us instead of governing our own output and intake. As a result, we become to incompetent to be trusted with power, and democracy, as Dean points out, begins to seem impossible.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.